03. Ancient Antioch
3D reconstruction of ancient Antioch, one of the four great metropolises of the Roman Empire.
For about sixteen centuries – from its founding by Seleucus I, one of Alexander the Great’s generals, around 320 BC, to its conquest in 1268 by Baibars, the Sultan of Syria and Egypt, Antiochia “the Golden” and its citadel, perched high above the river Orontes, on Mt. Silpius, dominated the Eastern Mediterranean. At its height, in the late Hellenistic and then Roman eras, it counted well above 600,000 inhabitants and was, next to Rome, Alexandria, and Constantinople, one of the four great metropolises of the Roman Empire. At its foundation, the city had around 20,000 people. At its peak, it had around 400,000 – 600,000. By the end of the 4th century, it had declined to 200,000. This 3D reconstruction doesn’t represent the city when it had 400,000-600,000 people.
Its cosmopolitan population made up of Greeks, Macedonians, Jews, Phoenicians, Armenians, Syrians, and Romans, made up one of the most diverse and cosmopolitan cities of Antiquity, in which all free men, irrespective of origin, held equal citizenship status. Most Antiochians spoke Aramaic and Greek and this, together with its geographical proximity to Jerusalem and its status as “capital of the East” explains why, in the first century AD, Antioch became the “cradle of Christianity” as the home of the first gentile Christian community in the world.
For nearly a millennium the city of Antioch, located on the Syrian border of southern Turkey, reigned as one of the ancient world’s great cities, renowned for its sophistication, the opulence of its buildings and broad avenues, its markets filled with exotic and luxurious goods, and, perhaps more important, its artistic and intellectual life. The city was home to leaders of the early Christian church. It was here that the evangelist Matthew is believed to have written his gospel, where the first-century bishop Ignatius codified many of the tenets of the early church, and where the fourth-century orator John Chrysostom wrote his Easter Address, the benchmark by which modern clerics still judge their own sermons.