Monday, 14 June 2010




Antioch is not situated in a desert. It never was. In fact, during the winter a lot of rain falls in this area. And the rain does not come down in buckets, it comes in bathtubs. On the slopes of Mount Silpius over our heads waterfalls appear and some streets downtown are flooded. In good old days the torrent of Parmenius overflowed the centre of the city just beside the river-bed. Attempts were made to dam up the Donkey-Drowner, as Parmenius was called, but first with the Byzantine Emperor Justinian something effective was done about the nuisance. He built a big wall between Mount Staurin and Mount Cassius (Orocassias) to arrest the unruly river when it lost its temper. The ruins of the Iron Gate are still to be seen. (Procopius: Buildings – Book 2, Chapter 10:15, 16)

In summertime however the weather is dry. A couple of thousand years ago the Roman emperors saw to it that water was brought to Antioch by means of aqueducts. One of them was built by Julius Caesar, others by Trajan and Hadrian. Most of these aqueducts have disappeared, but a section of one of them is located in the village of Döver on the mountainside beyond the waterfall of Harbiye (in Arabic called Beit ul-Mai – the Water-House). Halfway between Harbiye and Antakya is another aqueduct called Kantra and inside Antakya over the street where the torrent of Phyrminus used to run stands a monumental ruin called Memekli Köprü.

Today Antakya is smaller than it was fifteen hundred years ago. Floods still occur. Sometimes people drown. Antakya naturally has a water supply, but it is not stable. Therefore nearly all buildings have a water tank on the roof and a hydrophore in the basement. If not, you risk leaving the taps open when you go out and the seeing your flat flooded when you return.

For some reason there is always water in the pipes under the streets – if the water gushing forth to the surface is not spring water from some unknown source.

Memekli Köprü