Author Topic: Foundation and Rise of Antiochia Agora Polis  (Read 2396 times)


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Foundation and Rise of Antiochia Agora Polis
« on: December 08, 2014, 10:54:42 AM »

I. Origins

In the beginning, there was pristine water. Later, land emerged, and shaped itself around the water to create a exceptional natural harbor dominated by a majestic hill guarding its entrance. And so it remained...

... until around 5000 BC, when a first human settlement appeared at the mouth of the river - a small, wooden fishing village, of which nothing remains today. But ever since, Antiochia has been inhabited by successive waves of settlers who added their own creativity and artistry and genius to it - until it became what it is today.

II. Phoenician Foundations

The first great civilisation to claim Antiochia as it own were the Phoenicians, around 2500 BC. They expanded the harbor, and used the nearby mountains as burial grounds. A Phoenician tomb can still be found in the forests north-east of the sim, as well as another burial site in the middle of a forest lake, that was transformed into a beautiful fountain. These are the only two man-made sites that still persist from those ancient times - but together, they mark the sources of the life-giving water theme that traverses the entire physical space and temporal eras of the sim, from the waterfalls in mountains in the north, through the great river Orontes flowing though it, and down to the port and sea, to the south.

Around 1300 BC Antiochia was already a growing commercial centre, at the start of the road east, to Persia and the mythical lands of Indus the Hymalayas. It trade with Egypt in particular thrived - as evidenced by the Egyptian obelisk that dominates the sim's central plaza to this day. It is from here that many Phoenicians left to colonise the Western Mediterranean and found the great cities of the Iberian Peninsula (Tartessus and Gadeira), the Tyrreanian sea (Marseilles and Sardinia), Sicily and North Africa- with its crown jewel, the Great Carthage. it is even said some of them sailed up north to the mist-enveloped Hiberian Islands, with their huge Mollosian dogs bred in the highlands of Assyria. Antiochia even resisted a 10-year long siege by Nabuchadennezzar, the King of the Babylonians, who failed to breach its fortress walls and finally withdrew, in 873.

The long Phoenician era ended abuptly in 540 BC, when the Persian led by Cyrus the Great marched to the Sea after conquering Babylon and Niniveh. Only two large Persian votive vases remain, though, from these times, tucked away in Tyche's Temple on the side of the Mountain Sylpius.

III. Hellenic Era and Early Roman Period

The reason all Persian vestiges have disappeared can be summed up in a name: Alexander the Great. In 332 the great Greek conqueror took the city and razed it all to the ground. That is why so few vestiges from the previous era still remain in existence. But Alexander died, in 323 BC, and two of his generals, Antigonus and Seleucus, fought over Syria, the province surrounding what had been once a great Phoenician city. It is even rumored that Alexander's long-lost Mausoleum might be found in the surrooundings of the city, but no one has been yet able to prove that for sure.

When Seleucus I  Nicator finally defeated Antigonus and consolidated his rule over most of Alexander's empire by founding his own, Seleucid Empire, he re-founded Antiochia and named it after his son, Antiochus. Seleucus founded Antiochia on a site chosen through ritual means. An eagle, the bird of Zeus, had been given a piece of sacrificial meat and the city was founded on the site to which the eagle carried the offering. Seleucus did this in the twelfth year of his reign. Antiochia on the Orontes soon became the Syrian capital.

The entire lower town of Antiochia, from the Lighthouse in the harbour, to the port, docks, market place, and ring road around Mount Sylpius, all the way to the great pier and the small temple of Tyche of Tyche, located out side the city walls on the western side of the hill, date from these Hellenic times. Tyche (the Goddess of Fortune, wearing a crown shaped like the city's fortress walls and resting  her feet on the body of the river god Orontes, rising from the waters bearing his name), remains the Pagan Goddess of the City, in front of whose statue burns an eternal Zoroastrian flame from Persian times. A small lookout situated at the extreme south-western point of the land, guarded by two statues of Athena, also dates from these times.
The original city of Seleucus was laid out in imitation of the grid plan of Alexandria by the architect Xenarius. The citadel was on Mt. Sylpius and the city lay mainly on the low ground to the north, fringing the river. A great Colonnaded Street dating from the times of the Romans, who conquered Antiochia during the time of Pompeius the Great, in about 60 BC, connects the Oval Forum to the central Nymphaeum Plaza, where a beautiful Nymphaeum Fountain can be admired, and the elegant Bridge across the Orontes, with a Triumphal Arch at its entrance - all which date from the times of the Late Roman Republic and Early Empire. Under the  Colonnade Street runs the city’s sewer system. But all this came later. Shortly after its Greek re-founding, a second quarter was laid out, probably on the east and by Antiochus I, which, from an expression of Strabo, appears to have been the native Arabic and Aramaic, as contrasted with the Greek, town. It was enclosed by a wall of its own. This is Starlab’s palace, and it fits perfectly in the city’s history.

In the Orontes, north of the city, lay a large island, and on this Seleucus II Callinicus began a third walled "city," which was finished by Antiochus III. A fourth and last quarter was added by Antiochus IV Epiphanes (175-164 BC); thenceforth Antiochia was known as Tetrapolis. From west to east the whole was about 6 kilometres (4 miles) in diameter and a little less from north to south. This area including many large gardens. This area is not currently represented in this sim, but will be should we eventually expand.

The new Hellenic city was populated by a mix of local settlers that Athenians brought from the nearby city of Antigonia, Macedonians, and Jews (who were given full status from the beginning). The total free population of Antiochia at its foundation has been estimated at between 17,000 and 25,000, not including slaves and native settlers. During the late Hellenistic period and Early Roman period, Antiochia's population reached its peak of over 500,000 inhabitants (estimates vary from 400,000 to 600,000) and was the third largest city in the world after Rome and Alexandria. By the 4th century, Antiochia's declining population was about 200,000 according to Chrysostom, a figure which again does not include slaves.

About 6 kilometres (4 miles) west and beyond the suburb Heraclea lay the Paradise of Daphne, a park of woods and waters, in the midst of which rose a great temple to the Pythian Apollo, also founded by Seleucus I and enriched with a cult-statue of the god, as Musagetes, by Bryaxis. The temple of Apollo can be found in the north-east hills of the sim, whilst the Daphne gardens inspired  the Baths of Diana now located in the citadel.

 A companion Sanctuary of Hecate was constructed underground by Diocletian, and is situated under the Nymphauem Plaza, at the start of the underground sewer canal. The beauty and the lax morals of Daphne were celebrated all over the western world; and indeed Antiochia as a whole shared in both these titles to fame. Its amenities awoke both the enthusiasm and the scorn of many writers of antiquity. 

Antiochia became the capital and court-city of the western Seleucid empire under Antiochus I, but its paramount importance dates from the battle of Ancyra (240 BC), which shifted the Seleucid centre of gravity from Asia Minor. The Seleucids reigned from Antiochia. It enjoyed a reputation for being "a populous city, full of most erudite men and rich in the most liberal studies”, still reflected in the cultural and educational activities promoted to this day by Antiochia. The mass of the population seems to have been only superficially Hellenic, and to have spoken Aramaic in non-official life. The nicknames which they gave to their later kings were Aramaic; and, except Apollo and Daphne, the great divinities of north Syria seem to have remained essentially native.

IV. Imperial Re-Foundation

Antiochia experienced a “third foundation” under Constantine the Great, who also built the great city bearing his name,  Constantinopolis, on the foundations of the old Greek colony, Byzantium. The entire Acropolis dominating the city to this day, together with its fortified walls, impressive aqueduct crossing the city and connecting Mount Sylpius with the northern mountains, as well as the city gate – Porta Aurea -  date from his period, although an original aqueduct has already been build a century earlier, by emperor Hadrian, which is why it is still known today as Hadrian’s Aqueduct. Remains of his gigantic statue of Constantine can be found in the fortress  inner garden, where a secret entrance giving access to the fortress walls is also located. Antiochia became the capital of the Asian part of the Roman Empire, and one of its four major cities, with Rome, Alexandria, and Constantinople.

Diane’s Baths and neighbouring Bucoleon Palace, today a ruin, were also constructed during Constantine’s time. Influences of the local, Arabic culture can be found in both the exquisite mosaics of the Baths, as well as in the delicate water fountain and mosaics still standing in the ruins of Bucoleon Palace.

V. Byzantine Present - ca. 600 AD

The final layer of the city was laid out by Justinian the Great in the middle of the 6th Century AD, as the transition from Rome to Byzantium was well underway. The Great Cathedral of Hagia Sophia, with its unique coupla and splendid mosaics and frescae, as well as its hidden underground cistern, date from this time, as does the neighboring Magnaura (from Latin: Magna Aula: Great Hall), which remains the seat of Government of Antiochia, where the citizens (polites) of Antiochia meet as part of its Agora.

Antiochia then became a chief center of early Christianity. The city had a large population of Jewish origin in a quarter called the Kerateion, and so attracted the earliest missionaries. Evangelized, among others, by Peter himself, according to the tradition upon which the Antiochene patriarchate still rests its claim for primacy and certainly later by Barnabas and Paul during Paul's first missionary journey. Its converts were the first to be called Christians.

Georgia (Iberia) had been a part of the Patriarchate of Antiochia since the fourth century. A multitude of Georgians lived in Antiochia after the Byzantine victory side by side with the Greek population. Surroundings of the city there were a number of Greek, Syrian, Georgian, Armenian and Latin monasteries.  The Christian population was estimated by Chrysostom at about 100,000 people at the time of Theodosius I.

Between 252 and 300, ten assemblies of the church were held at Antiochia and it became the seat of one of the five original patriarchates, along with Constantinople, Jerusalem, Alexandria, and Rome.  One of the canonical Eastern Orthodox churches is still called the Antiochian Orthodox Church, and its prime bishop retains the title "Patriarch of Antiochia".

The story ends here, in the early 7th Century AD, during the time of Heraclius the Great, who introduced Greek as the Eastern Roman Empire's official language, which explains the name of the Community - Agora Polis Antiochia, as well as the name of its fortified city - the Acropolis, and main institutions: Agora, Areopagus, Boule, Prytaneis, Archons, and Basileus - all drawn from Athenian Greek history. Heraclius himself took the title of Basileus of the Roman Empire, reconquered many of the territories lost to the Sassanids, whom he finally defeated in 627 AD, at the battle of Niniveh.