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.

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