Tuesday, 26 August 2014

The Crusader castle of Cursat



About twenty kilometres south of Antakya (Antioch) you find the ruins of the crusader castle Cursat. It is located southeast to the waterfalls at Harbiye (Daphne) off the road going to Yayladağ. You pass the small village of Sofular and continue to the village of Kozkalesi, which is also the name of Cursat in Turkish.[i]
 
 
Cursat is in the centre of the picture, the waterfalls at Harbiye at the upper left.
  

The first time we hear of this castles was in AD 1133, thirty five years after the crusaders took Antioch. In that year the Cursat was taken by King Fulk, the crusader king of Jerusalem in connection with the king's controversy with Alice of Antioch, Pons of Tripoli and Josquelin II of Edessa (Urfa).
  
 
As seen on the picture Cursat was surrounded by ravines and easy to defend.
 
 
About twenty years later Cursat was used as a treasury by the Roman Catholic Patriarch of Antioch, Aimery of Limoges. In fact, in AD 1165 he settled there as the Byzantine Emperor Manuel forced Bohemund III of Antioch to reinstate the Greek Orthodox Patriarch. It was very likely a wise move, as the Patriarch had imposed interdict on Antioch before he left.
 
 
However, the Roman Catholic Patriarch of Antioch did not last long. During the big earthquake in AD 1170 part of the Church of St. Peter collapsed over the Orthodox patriarch and Aimery could return to his city.[ii]

Nevertheless, in AD 1180 Aimery again had to take refuge in Cursat. He had fallen out with Bohemund, who, in fact, came and besieged Cursat.

In 1188 Saladin passed by, but did not harm the castle.

Around the middle of the thirteenth century the Mamluks became a threat to the Principality of Antioch. The Mamluk Sultan Baibars sent soldier to take Cursat, but it resisted and Baibars proceeded to Antioch and utterly destroyed the city. Eventually the defenders of Cursat surrendered to the Mamluks.
 
 

  

  
 
 
 
 




[i] For details, please see T. A. Sinclair, Eastern Turkey: An Architectural & Archeological Survey, Volume IV (London: The Pindar Press, 1990), 261.
[ii] E. S. Bouchier, A Short History of Antioch: 300 B.C – 1268 A.D. (Oxford, Basil Blackwell, 1921), 262. Notice, please, that the Church of St. Peter evidently was a building and not a cave. The cave now called the Church of St. Peter would have been rather safe. See also Jørgen Christensen-Ernst, Antioch on the Orontes – A History and a Guide (Maryland: Hamilton Books 2012), 175, 176.

Monday, 2 June 2014

Usama ibn Munqidh and the Crusaders



 
The fortress of Shaizar[i]

 
     When the Crusaders arrived at Antioch, they and the peoples the subjugated were in for a cultural shock. The newcomers had had their experiences during their march through Eastern Europe and Asia Minor. Especially Constantinople (Istanbul) must have made the Westerners wonder. No city in the West was like it. It was simply glorious. However, they had never had the Muslims and Eastern Christians as their neighbours.
     To the inhabitants of Antioch the Europeans or Franks, as they called them, were different from earlier invaders. They were familiar with Persians, Arabs, and Turks, and they had at least heard about the Huns, but the Franks were different.
     The Easterners had their intellectual inheritance from ancient civilizations. The Franks had in their head a curious mixture of Catholicism, Central European feudal culture, and Norse aggressiveness. After all, many of them were Normans, descendants of the Vikings.
     It would be a mistake to believe that the conflict was between culture and Barbary. The nobility on both sides were to a large extent cultured people with the sort of education offered then. That European Middle Ages were not altogether dark is understood from philosophers as Roger Bacon (Doctor Mirabilis), from the builders of the great cathedrals and from musicians like Walter von der Vogelweide and Bernart de Ventadorn. However, the common soldier, Muslim and Catholic alike, were mostly driven by a blind faith, teaching them that ‘the end justifies the means.’
     It is therefore not surprising to see educated Muslims and Catholics understanding one another, while the common soldier, who until that point had had no contact with the enemy, acted in visionless fanaticism.
     One of the educated Muslims at that time was Usama ibn Munqidh, who was born in 1095, three years before the arrival of the Franks.  He was born in Shaizar, about 100 miles south of Antioch. When the Crusaders after taking Antioch proceeded south towards Jerusalem the emir of Shaizar assisted the Crusaders and helped them on their way.
     The young Usama was well educated. Besides learning the Qur’an by heart, he was trained by scholars and learned the martial arts as well. As an adult he became a diplomat and travelled extensively in the Arabic lands. There he got acquainted with the Crusaders and their strange culture.
     Here he tells us about a Frank he met in Palestine and wonders at the Europeans’ relaxed approach to sex:

One day this Frank went home and found a man with his wife in the same bed. He asked him, “What could have made thee enter into my wife’s room?” The man replied, “I was tired, so I went in to rest.” “But how,” asked he, “did thou get into my bed?” The other replied, “Well, I found a bed that was spread, so I slept in it.” “But,” said he, “My wife was sleeping together with thee!” The other replied, “Well, the bed is hers. How could I therefore have prevented her from using her own bed?” “By the truth of my religion,” said the husband, “if thou should do it again, thou and I would have a quarrel.”  Such was for the Frank the entire expression of his disapproval and the limit of his jealousy.[ii]

 
     Today the Muslim part of the world regards the Western sexual mores as promiscuity and resent its cultural imperialism. They may admit that they have the same vices as people in the West, but admitting to it publicly is a disgrace.
     Naturally, neither the Europeans nor the Muslims understood the religion of the other part. And, as it is today, they hardly did any effort to try.
     Usama relates:

I saw one of the Franks come to al-Amir Mu’in-al-Din (may Allah’s mercy rest upon his soul!) when he was in the Dome of the Rock, and say to him, “Dost thou want to see God as a child?” Mu’in al-Din said, “Yes.” The Frank walked ahead of us until he showed us a picture of Mary with Christ (may peace be upon him!) as an infant in her lap. He said, “This is God as a child.” But Allah is exalted far above what the infidels say about him![iii]

 
     We may wonder at the stupid insensivity of the Frank. The Middle East has a word for it: jehâle (Turkish: cehalet), oafish obscurantism. The same mindset is often seen today when people are confronted with a religion they do not understand.
     The following story of Usama beautifully illustrates how mutual understanding prevents confrontation and how lack of understanding acts the opposite way:


Whenever I visited Jerusalem I always entered the Aqsa Mosque, besides which stood a small mosque which the Franks had converted into a church. When I used to enter the al-Aqsa Mosque , which was occupied by the Templars[iv] . . . who were my friends, the Templars would evacuate the little adjoining mosque so that I might pray in it. One day, I entered this mosque, repeated the first formula, “Allah is great,” and stood up in the act of praying, upon which one of the Franks rushed on me, got hold of me and turned my face eastward saying, “This is the way you shouldst pray!” A group of Templars hastened to him, seized him, and repelled him from me. I resumed my prayer. The same man, while the others were otherwise busy, rushed once more on me and turned my face eastward, saying, “This is the way you shouldst pray!” The Templars again came in to him and expelled him. They apologized to me, saying, “This is a stranger who has only recently arrived from the land of the Franks and he has never before seen anyone praying except eastward.” Thereupon I said to myself, “I have had enough prayer.” So I went out and have ever been surprised at the conduct of this devil of a man, at the change of his colour of his face, his trembling and his sentiment at the sight of one praying towards the qiblah.[v]

    
     The Crusaders stayed in Antioch until they were defeated by the Mameluke Sultan Baybars in 1268.  Usama’s account illustrates beautifully how the educated had respect for one another and the lack of understanding that prevailed between common Muslims and Crusaders.
     Unfortunately we find the same attitude among certain religio-nationalistic people today.

 




[i] “Shaizar,” Wikipedia, accessed June 2, 2014, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shaizar
[ii] James Bruce Ross & Mary Martin McLaughlin ed. The Portable Medieval Reader (Kingsport, Tenessee: Penguin Books, 1977), 451, 452.
[iii] Ibid.
[iv] A Catholic military order.
[v] Ross & McLaughlin ed. The Portable Medieval Reader, 450.
qiblah is the direction towards Mecca in Saudi Arabia.

Tuesday, 13 May 2014

Cavafy, Julian the Apostate and Antioch

 

THE Greek poet Constantine P. Cavafy [Κωνσταντίνος Π. Καβάφης] was born in Alexandria, Egypt, in 1863 and died there in 1933. In the meantime he spent some years of his childhood and adolescence in Liverpool, England, and Istanbul, Turkey; but from 1885 and to his death he stayed in Alexandria.
     Although a member of the Greek Orthodox Church, Cavafy was an admirer of the ancient pagan Hellenic culture. Most of his historical poems have their setting in ancient Alexandria, but he also has poems on Antioch. It seems that he especially found the Roman Emperor Julian the Apostate (d. 363) interesting.
     This is slightly odd. Julian had been brought up in the Orthodox Faith, but after growing up he started to live a life of a pagan Greek philosopher. His style was so strict that even pagans found him unbearable. Thus, the lifestyle advocated by Julian hardly matched the one Cavafy chose for his private life. Neither was Julian’s criticism of the Church shared by Cavafy.
     In 362 Julian arrived at Antioch to make preparations for his campaign against Persia. Evidently he hoped that his pagan propaganda would find a hearing ear at Antioch as it was one of the most important Hellenic cities with a considerable number of pagans among the well-to-do. However, the church members did not agree with his paganism, and the pagans did not like his austerity. The Antiochenes, Christian and pagan alike, were a sybaritic lot.
     In this poem Cavafy describes the clash between Julian and the church members:
      
UNDERSTOOD NOT
  
Concerning our religious beliefs-
the empty-headed Julian said: “I read, I understood,
I condemned.” As if the most ludicrous man
had annihilated us, with his “I condemned.”
  
However such cleverness carry no weight with us
Christians. “You read, but understood not; for if you had understood
  
you would not have condemned,” we retorted at once.[i]
     
     Julian also complained about his co-religionists, the pagans of Antioch. They were far too complacent and indifferent to his taste.
      At Daphne [now Harbiye] some 5 miles south of Antioch, there was a temple to the Greek god Apollo. It had been built shortly after the founding of Antioch. Daphne is a place with springs and waterfalls and, at least today, lots of laurels. According to Greek mythology, Apollo chased a nymph called Daphne (laurel) who consequently was transformed into a tree.[ii] One can imagine that the temple was located between the city center and the waterfalls, not too far from the Olympic Stadium.
      Whatever, Julian – devout as he was – wanted to visit the place. In a writing called Misopogon he himself describes what he experienced:
  
In the tenth month, according to your reckoning, - Loos I think you call it - there is a festival founded by your forefathers in honour of this god, and it was your duty to be zealous in visiting Daphne. Accordingly I hastened thither from the temple of Zeus Casius, thinking that at Daphne, if anywhere, I should enjoy the sight of your wealth and public spirit. And I imagined in my own mind the sort of procession it would be, like a man seeing visions in a dream, beasts for sacrifice, libations, choruses in honour of the god, incense, and the youths of your city there surrounding the shrine, their souls adorned with all holiness and themselves attired in white and splendid raiment. But when I entered the shrine I found there no incense, not so much as a cake, not a single beast for sacrifice. For that moment I was amazed and thought that I was still outside the shrine and that you were waiting the signal from me, doing me that honour because I am supreme pontiff. But when I began to inquire what sacrifice the city intended to offer to celebrate the annual festival in honour of the god, the priest answered, "I have brought with me from my own house a goose as an offering to the god, but the city this time has made no preparations.”[iii]
  
      We can imagine how scandalized Julian was. He must have been stunned by the indifference of his fellow pagans. Cavafy writes:
    
JULIAN SEEING INDIFFERENCE
   
“Considering then that there is much indifference
on our part toward the gods” – he speaks with grave mien.
Indifference. Well, but then what did he expect?
He could organize religion to his heart’s content,
he could write to the High Priest of Galatia to his heart’s content,
or to others such as these, exhorting and guiding.
His friends were not Christians;
that was positive. But they were not able as he was
(nurtured in Christianity) to give performance
in a system of a new church,
as ridiculous in conception as in application.
They were Greeks after all. Nothing in excess, Augustus.[iv]
     
     The quotation of Julian above from the text called Misopogon [the Beard-hater] is a satirical essay written against the people of Antioch. The mutual dislike was total!  It is described in this poem of Cavafy:
     
JULIAN AND THE PEOPLE OF ANTIOCH
  
The CHI,[v] they say, had never harmed the city, nor the
KAPPA.[vi] And we, finding the explanation by chance,
were taught that these were the initial letters of two
names; one stood for Christ, the other for Con-
stantinius
JULIAN’S Misopôgôn
  
Was it ever possible that they should renounce
their lovely way of life; the variety of their
daily amusement; their magnificent theater
where a union of the Arts was taking place
with the amorous tendencies of the flesh!
  
They were immoral to a point – and possibly to a great
degree. But they had the satisfaction of knowing
that their life was the much talked about life of Antioch,
rich in pleasures perfectly elegant in every way.
  
To renounce all these, to turn to what after all?
    
To his airy chatter about false gods;
to his tiresome self-centered chatter;
to his childish fear of the theater;
his graceless prudery; his ridiculous beard?
  
Ah most certainly they preferred the CHI,
ah most certainly they preferred the KAPPA; a hundred times.[vii]
  
     Here Cavafy is painting the attitude of the Christians of Antioch towards their philosophically minded and ascetic emperor. They did not like his looks, his beard and his – in their views – pretentiousness. They admitted that they were immoral but felt that the elegance of their lifestyle was an excuse.
     It seems that the Apollo temple in Daphne played quite a role in the confrontation between the pagan emperor and his Christian subjects. At an earlier date during the rule of Gallus Caesar (d. 354) the bones of a martyr named Babylas was moved to a martyrium close to the Apollo temple at Daphne to annoy the pagans. Such an action is in fact not unusual in the Middle East. Years before the Syrian civil war, the Muslims built a mosque in a Christian neighbourhood in Aleppo. The Christians gave it the nickname “The Mosque of Teasing.”[viii]
     Now the priest officiating complained to Julian that the presence and interference of the bones of Babylas had silenced the oracle of Apollo. Consequently Julian had the remains of the martyr removed, and the local congregation had them buried in a Christian cemetery outside Antioch, perhaps at the spot where the barracks are situated today.
     Then one day something happened that resulted in the ultimate clash between these two extremes. The magnificent temple of Apollo in Daphne burned down, the Apollo statue, the building, and all. The cause may have been a lightning or a turned over lamp, but Julian blamed the fire on the Christians, perhaps believing that they wanted to get even with him after the Babylas affair, or perhaps just using the occation to get the better of the Church. After all, something similar had happened in Rome during the reign of Nero (d. AD 68).
     Cavafy describes what may have been the reaction:
  
IN THE SUBURBS OF ANTIOCH
  
We are bewildered at Antioch on learning
of the latest doings of Julian.
  
Apollo had it out with his highness in Daphne!
He would not give an oracle (as if we were worried!),
he had no intention of speaking prophetically
until his temple in Daphne should first be purified.
The neighboring dead disturbed him, he said.
  
There were numerous graves in Daphne,
one of the dead who were buried there
was the marvelous, the glory of our church,
the saint, the victorious Martyr Babylas.
  
It was to him the false god alluded, the one he feared.
As long as he felt him near, he did not dare
to give out his oracles; he was mum.
(They are terrified of our martyrs, the false gods.)
  
The impious Julian rolled up his sleeves,
his nerves were on edge and he shouted: “Take him up, Take him away.
  
Carry this Babylas away at once.
Can you imagine? Apollo is annoyed.
Take him up, seize him immediately.
Unbury him, take him wherever you like.
Take him away, throw him out. Are we joking now?
Apollo said his temple had to be purified."
 
We took it, we carried the holy remains elsewhere,
we took it, we carried it with love and honor.
  
And truly the temple showed beautiful improvement.
With no less of time whatever,
a huge fire broke out: a raging fire:
and the temple was burnt and Apollo also.
  
The idols in ashes, to be swept away with the refuse.
 
Julian was bursting with rage and he spread it abroad –
what else could he do? – that the fire had been started
by us Christians. Let him talk.
What really matters is that he was bursting with rage.[ix]
  
     The stand taken by Julian was clear, and so was that of the Antiochenes, pagans as well as Christians. Julian was an emperor, but also a pagan ascetic philosopher who wanted to impose his views on his subjects. The Antiochenes just wanted to keep to status quo, that is, their life “rich in pleasures perfectly elegant in every way,” as Caverfy puts it.
     But what about Caverfy himself? His poems reveal an admiration for the Hellenic past, but not in the austerity Julian promoted. On the other hand, he has a certain respect for the Church, but at the same time a liking for a life “rich in pleasures perfectly elegant in every way.” In the words of the modern Greek poet Georgios Seferis: “Like Julian, Cavafy longs for the return of the ancients, of their pleasure, but not like that puritan who is dedicated to an ideological cause.”[x]
     Evidently we have find Caverfy somewhere in between.

  




[i] The Complete Poems of Cavafy, tr. Rae Dalven (New York & London: A Havest / HBJ Book, 1976), 149.
[ii] Ovid, Metamorphoses, Book I (Harmondsworth, England: Penguin Books, 1968) 41-43.
[iii] Julian, Misopogon, accessed May 12, 2014, http://www.attalus.org/translate/misopogon.html.
[iv] The Complete Poems of Cavafy, 119.
[v] The Greek letter χ for Χριστος, Christ.
[vi] The Greek letter κ for Κονσταντιος, Constantios, the predecessor of Julian. In The Complete Poems of Cavafy the reading Constantinius has been preferred.
[vii] The Complete Poems of Cavafy, 137.
[viii] Jørgen Christenseen-Ernst, Antioch on the Orontes – A History and a Guide (Lanham, Maryland: Hamilton Books, 2012), 78, note 25. (جامع الجكارة).
[ix] The Complete Poems of Cavafy, 170, 171.
[x] Quoted in Curt Hopkins, Denying Julian, accessed May 13, 2014, http://www.lsa.umich.edu/UMICH/modgreek/Home/_TOPNAV_WTGC/C.P.%20Cavafy%20Forum/DenyingJulian_hopkins.pdf.

Monday, 31 March 2014

Antioch before the Macedonians


Antioch (modern Antakya) is located in the Turkish province of Hatay. This name seems to have been derived from minor Hittite princedoms that materialized along the present border to Syria after the demise of the Hittite Empire in central Anatolia.

The arrival of the Macedonians spelled the arrival of Hellenistic culture, and Antioch, when founded, became a center of Greek values. However, there are good reasons to believe that the neighbourhood of Antioch had been subjected to Greek influence before the arrival of the Macedonians.

The locals were Arameans, speaking a language similar to Hebrew and Arabic. But according to the philosopher Libanius (d. AD 392 or 393) there were two Greek townships at Mount Silpius, the mountain behind Antioch. The one was called Ione or Iopolis, the other Kasiotis.

In his oration to the praise of Antioch Libanius writes that Ione had been founded by men from Argos in Greece who had been sent out to find Io, who had been changed into a cow by the god Zeus. This is clearly a myth of origin.

About Kasiotis he writes:

Then the god [Zeus] according to whose desire the city was created, wishing it to be increased by the finest races, moved Kasos to leave Crete, a godly man, and brought him here, and the noblest of the Cretans followed him.

When they came, they found the Argives better than the people they had left at home. For Minos in jealousy had driven them out; but the Argives received them gladly, and gave them a share of the city and of the land and of whatever they possessed. Kasos indeed did not wish to receive in good treatment more than he gave in good works. And seeing that many of the laws of Triptolemus had been altered, he revived them, and he founded Kasiotis.[i]
 
  Very likely the location of Kasiotis
 
The idea that Greeks from the Minoan civilization once settled in Hatay may not be a myth at all. The Princeton Encyclopedia of Ancient Sites has this article:

AL MINA, TURKEY (Hatay province).  A site at the mouth of the Orontes, thought by some scholars to be the ancient Posideion. There are slight signs of Bronze Age occupation, with Mycenaean pottery, at a nearby hill site, Sabouni. The main period of occupation begins in the later 9th c. B.C., continuing with a break at about 700. In this period the finds indicate the existence of a trading post manned by Greeks (Euboians), Cypriots, and natives. In the 7th c. Greek interest is dominant, with plentiful East Greek and Corinthian pottery finds. The period of Babylonian supremacy in the 6th c. saw a recession, followed by reoccupation by Greeks until the later 4th c. and the eclipse of the site's prosperity by the foundation of Seleucia.[ii]

In her article “The Orontes Delta Survey” archeologist Hatice Pamir writes:

Two sites, Sabuniye (OS12) and al-Mina (OS11), were excavated in 1936, the latter of which was introduced by Wolley as the first major Greek colony in the Levant. The excavation of al-Mina yielded ten settlement levels that were dated between the second half of the eighth and the end of the fourth centuries B.C. The imported wares among the other finds from the site, emphasized a stron trading relationship with the Aegean, Cyprus, Egypt, and eastern Mediterranean coastal sites.[iii]

This said, it is admittedly very likely that traders continued up the river Orontes and unloaded their good at the spot where the Bridge [Köprü] in downtown Antakya is situated today. And some of them may have decided to stay.

Evidently, there was also a village at the bridge, opposite Ione and Kasiotis on the slopes of Mount Silpius. The Byzantine Chronographer Iohannes Malalas (d. ca. 570) writes:

… εν τη πεδιαδι του αυλωνος κατενατι του ορους πλησιον  του Δρακοντος ποταμου του μεγαλου του μετακληθεντος Οροντου οπου ην η κωμη η καλουμενη Βωττια αντικρυς της Ιωπολις. [… on the plain at the ravine, opposite the mountain close to the great river Drakon, which is called Orontes, where there is a village called Bottia, facing Iopolis.][iv]

As is understood from Malalas, the village of Bottia was located somewhere in the area between the Bridge and the present Street of Kurtuluş Caddesi, very likely under the narrow streets of the quarter Ulucami Mahalesi or under the shops of the covered bazar called Uzunçarşı.
 
Uzunçarşı
  
   The area where Bottia may have been located



[i] Libanius, “Oration in Praise of Antioch (Oration XI)”, Procedings of the American Philosophical Society , Vol. 103, no. 5 (1959), 656-580.
[ii] Richard Stillwell vb. ed. “Al Mina Turkey (Hatay province),” The Princeton Encyclopedia of Ancient Sites, http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=Perseus%3Atext%3A1999.04.0006%3Aalphabetic+letter%3DA%3Aentry+group%3D5%3Aentry%3Dal-mina.
[iii] Hatice Pamir, ”The Orontes Delta Survey,” Kutlu Aslıhan Yener ed. The Amuq Valley Regional Projects, Volume I, Surveys in the Plain of Antioch and Orontes Delta, Turkey 1995-2002, (Chicago: The Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago, Oriental Istıtute Publications no. 131, 2005), 67, 68.
[iv] Ioannis Malalas, Chronographia (Bonnae: İmpensis Ed. Weberi, 1831), 200.

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

Cindi Hamamı

 
  


One of the oldest buildings in Antakya is the Turkish bath called Cindi Hamamı. On the official website of the Governor of Hatay, we are told that it was built in 1517 by Sultan Selim the Grim. He was on a campain against Egypt and had bath built for the sake of his soldiers.[i] This was evidently how it got its name Cindi Hamamı, or Hamam-ı Jund as it may have been called. (jundi is Arabic meaning "soldier."
 
 
The fountain in the middle of the room with some modern stuff around it.
 
Some, however, suppose that the bath is even older, dating from the time of the Mameluke Sultan Baybar, who destroyed ancient Antioch in 1268.[ii] It may have got its water supply from one of the big waterwheels at the Orontes nearby.
  
 
  
I was told that the tiles on the wall are from the time of Selim the Grim
  
 
The Cindi Hamamı is to the right with its entrance just after the motorbikes. The street has the impressive name of Kırk asırlık Türk Yurdu Caddesi and runs from the mosque of Ulu Cami (earlier, the Church of the Forty Martyrs) up towards Kurtuluş Caddesi (earlier, The Colonnaded Street). The original Seleucid west wall of ancient Antioch more or less followed this street. Up in the background you see Mount Silpius.
  


[i] T.C. Hatay Valiliği, accessed March 4, 2014, http://www.hatay.gov.tr/IcerikDetay.aspx?IcerikId=264.
[ii] Antakya Tarihi, Memluklar Dönemi, accessed March 4, 2014, http://www.antakya.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=127:memluklar-doenemi&catid=44:tarihce&Itemid=124 and Jørgen Christensen-Ernst, Antioch on the Orontes – A History and a Guide (Maryland: Hamilton, 2012) 116.