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ANTIOCH (ăn'tĭ-ŏk, Gr. Antiocheia). 1. Antioch in Syria, the capital of Syria, built in 301 b.c. by Seleucus Nicator, founder of the Seleucid Empire, which had been the Asiatic part of the vast empire of Alexander the Great. It was the greatest of sixteen Antiochs he founded in honor of his father Antiochus. It was a great commercial center. Caravan roads converged on it from the east, and its situation on the Orontes River, fifteen navigable miles (twenty-five km.) from the Mediterranean, made it readily available to ships as well. The city was set in a broad and fertile valley, shielded by majestic snow-covered mountains, and was called “Antioch the Beautiful and the Golden.” In 65 the Romans took the city and made it the capital of the Roman province of Syria. Seleucid kings and early Roman emperors extended and adorned the city until it became the third largest in the Roman Empire (after Rome and Alexandria), with a population in the first century a.d. of about 500,000. A cosmopolitan city from its foundation, its inhabitants included many Jews, who were given privileges similar to those of the Greeks. Its citizens were a vigorous and aggressive race, famous for their commercial aptitude, their licentiousness, and their biting wit.

Antioch gave rise to a school of thought distinguished by literal interpretation of the Scriptures. Between a.d. 252 and 380, ten church councils were held there. The city was taken and destroyed in 538 by the Persians, rebuilt by the Roman emperor Justinian shortly afterward, and in 635 was taken by the Muslims, by whom it has since, except for a brief period, been retained. The place, now called Antakiyeh, is unimportant today, with a population of about 42,000.

In 1916 an announcement was made that Arabs in or near Antioch had found what has come to be known as “The Chalice of Antioch.” It is a plain silver cup surrounded by an outer shell decorated with vines and the figures of Christ and the apostles and is set on a solid silver base. The cup was vigorously claimed to be the Holy Grail, used by Jesus at the Last Supper, the figures on the shell interpreted as first-century portraits. But the authenticity of the chalice has been called into question. Serious scholars have virtually proved that at most the cup is a piece of early Christian silver from the fourth or fifth century and had nothing to do with the Last Supper in Jerusalem.

2. Antioch near Pisidia, a town in southern Asia Minor, founded by Seleucus Nicator, and named in honor of his father Antiochus. It was situated in Phrygia, not far from Pisidia, and was therefore called Antioch toward Pisidia and Pisidian Antioch to distinguish it from the other cities of the same name. In 25 b.c. it became a part of the Roman province of Galatia. Soon after, it was made the capital of southern Galatia, and a Roman colony. The Romans made it a strong garrison center to hold down the surrounding wild tribes. Paul and Barnabas preached in the synagogue there on their first missionary journey; but the Jews, jealous of the many Gentile converts that were made, drove the missionaries from the city to Iconium and followed them even to Lystra (Acts.13.14-Acts.14.19). On Paul’s return journey he revisited Antioch to establish the disciples and probably returned on his second (Acts.16.6) and third journeys as well (Acts.18.23).——SB

syrian. A Hellenistic city in NW Syria (modern Antakya), it was situated on the Orontes River some twenty miles from the sea. As the third of the greatest cities in the Greco-Roman world, it had been founded about 300 b.c. by Seleucus Nicator in honor of his father-one of some sixteen cities of that name. Its main outlet to the sea was Seleucia Pieria, one of the finest harbors on the coast. Antioch also lay on the most important land route between Asia Minor, Syria, and Palestine. As a royal city it had a splendid palace, with spacious boulevards, parks, and gardens. It was the only city of its time that had street lighting at night. The population of early Antioch is not known, but by the end of the fourth century a.d. it was estimated as high as 800,000. It had a mixed ethnic character, with large numbers of Jews. Its interest in mystery cults also gave it an eclectic intellectual spirit and an interest in religious inquiry. After the persecution of Stephen some followers of Jesus fled as far as Antioch (Acts 11:19), and many of its inhabitants were converted (Acts 11:21); it was here that the followers of Christ were first called “Christians” (Acts 11:26) following the year's ministry of Paul and Barnabas. The conversion of these Gentiles raised the question of the application of the Jewish law (Acts 15:1ff.) and some understanding was reached (Acts 15:19-35; Gal. 2:1-10). Following the visit of Judas Barsabbas and Silas as emissaries of James, who sought to win over the Gentile converts to the view that the law must be enforced, Peter and Barnabas disputed and broke away from Paul (Acts 15:22-29; Gal. 2:11-13). In time, the Jewish Christian community in Antioch disappeared. In subsequent debates over Roman primacy, it has been said that Peter was “the founder” and “the first bishop” of the church at Antioch. But the problem of his episcopacy is obscure, as is the rabbinical character of the Antiochene School of Theology (see Antiochene Theoogy).

See Downey and Glanville, Ancient Antioch (1963).

Antioch (in Syria)

an’-ti-ok, (Antiocheia).

(2) Antioch in Syria.--In 301 BC, shortly after the battle of Ipsus, which made him master of Syria, Seleucus Nicator rounded the city of Antioch, naming it after his father Antiochus. Guided, it was said, by the flight of an eagle, he fixed its site on the left bank of the Orontes (the El-`Asi) about 15 miles from the sea. He also rounded and fortified Seleucia to be the port of his new capital.

The city was enlarged and embellished by successive kings of the Seleucid Dynasty, notably by Seleucus Callinicus (246-226 BC), and Antiochus Epiphanes (175-164 BC). In 83 BC, on the collapse of the Seleucid monarchy, Antioch fell into the hands of Tigranes, king of Armenia, who held Syria until his defeat by the Romans fourteen years later. In 64 BC the country was definitely annexed to Rome by Pompey, who granted considerable privileges to Antioch, which now became the capital of the Roman province of Syria. In the civil wars which terminated in the establishment of the Roman principate, Antioch succeeded in attaching itself constantly to the winning side, declaring for Caesar after the fall of Pompey, and for Augustus after the battle of Actium. A Roman element was added to its population, and several of the emperors contributed to its adornment. Already a splendid city under the Seleucids, Antioch was made still more splendid by its Roman patrons and masters. It was the "queen of the East," the third city, after Rome and Alexandria, of the Roman world. About five miles distant from the city was the suburb of Daphne, a spot sacred to Apollo and Artemis.

This suburb, beautified by groves and fountains, and embellished by the Seleucids and the Romans with temples and baths, was the pleasure resort of the city, and "Daphnic morals" became a by-word. From its foundation Antioch was a cosmopolitan city. Though not a seaport, its situation was favorable to commercial development, and it absorbed much of the trade of the Levant. Seleucus Nicator had settled numbers of Jews in it, granting them equal rights with the Greeks (Ant., XII, iii, 1). Syrians, Greeks, Jews, and in later days, Romans, constituted the main elements of the population. The citizens were a vigorous, turbulent and pushing race, notorious for their commercial aptitude, the licentiousness of their pleasures, and the scurrility of their wit. Literature and the arts, however, were not neglected.

Antioch in Syria

ANTIOCH IN SYRIA ăn’ tĭ ŏk ĭn sĭ’ re ə (̓Αντιόχεια τη̂ς Συρίας, the city of Antiochus in Syria, regularly referred to simply as Antioch). Capital of Syria in Seleucid and Roman times, now Antakya in SE Turkey.

Site and origin.

Antioch’s particular location, about fifteen m. from the Mediterranean on the Orontes River, was hardly advantageous. It was earthquake prone, subject to sudden flooding and exposed to attack across the crest of Mt. Silpius, below which it was built. The good water supply brought by aqueduct from the hillside resort of Daphne, five m. away, presumably determined the site. Antioch’s ninehundred-year history as one of the greatest cities of the Graeco-Roman era was however shaped by its larger setting. Alexander’s conquest of the Pers. empire put Syria at the center of the Hel. world, strategically placed between the three great centers of power, Macedonia, Egypt and Babylonia. With the revival of Pers. strength under the Parthian and Sassanid rulers of Rom. times, Antioch retained its pre-eminence as the main base for the whole Euphrates frontier.

The city’s foundation (in 300 b.c.) marks the emergence of the three-sided concert of Hel. powers after the generation of upheavals that followed Alexander’s death. Seleucus, one of the victors at Ipsus (301 b.c.), extended his eastern kingdom into the territory Antigonus had held along the Mediterranean in Syria. He founded a new capital, Seleucia, on the coast, and Antioch (named presumably after his father rather than his son) as its counterpart, a day’s journey inland from it. This second city was to prove more secure against attack from the sea, and better related to the network of land communications. During the reign of Antiochus I (281/0-261 b.c.), the son of Seleucus, it displaced Seleucia as the Seleucid capital. Antioch was laid out on the standard Hel. gridiron pattern which can still be detected in the street plan of the modern city, while the existing bazaar apparently preserves the site of the original agora.

The inhabitants of the new city were mainly Greeks and Macedonians, discharged soldiers of Seleucus’ army or settlers from Antigoneia, the nearby capital of the former ruler, which was broken up. In later times Antioch prided itself on the Athenian element in its makeup. Some Jews were no doubt present from the beginning, though it is doubtful whether Josephus can be right in thinking they enjoyed full citizen privileges. The difficulty of Jews participating in the Gr. cults must have led them into forming their own community life, as at Alexandria. Syrians were also settled in the city, but not with rights of citizenship. The purpose of the strong Graeco-Macedonian settlement would have been to establish the usual Hel. style of life and provide a bastion of loyal support for the Seleucids. The original number of adult men with citizen rights seems to have been 5,300.

Seleucid Antioch.

On the death of Antiochus II in 247/6 b.c., the attempt of his second wife Berenice, a Ptolemaic princess, to claim the succession for her son led to the occupation of Antioch by an Egyp. force. Although Seleucus II, the heir of the first marriage, recovered the city in 244, the port of Seleucia remained in Ptolemaic hands until 219 b.c. In the reign of Antiochus III (the Greek) the last known influx of Gr. settlers took place, no doubt veterans of the war in the Aegean against the Romans. After his defeat at Magnesia in 190 b.c., the Seleucid empire was cut off from the old homelands. Antioch was thrown into greater prominence as a metropolis, and under Antiochus IV (Epiphanes) (175-163 b.c.) was of unprecedented magnificence. His efforts to consolidate the empire included accentuation of the Hellenic religion and ruler cult, setting the stage for the Maccabean revolt. Antioch was dazzlingly adorned with the proceeds of provincial temple treasuries such as that of Jerusalem.

This “third captivity” of the Jews must have added considerably to the numbers and problems of the Jewish community in Antioch. The refugee high priest Onias III resided at Daphne, and there was a synagogue (later a church) at Antioch dedicated to the Maccabean martyrs, apparently in the belief that they had died in the city that bore the name of their persecutor. During the civil war in the time of Demetrius II the Jewish leader Jonathan sent 3,000 troops to help him. They boasted of killing 100,000 Antiochenes (1 Macc 11:45-47), and surely did much to confirm anti-Jewish feeling in the city.

The last cent. of Seleucid rule is a time of great obscurity during which Antioch must have suffered considerably in the continued dynastic struggles. A severe earthquake is also recorded. The city’s coins give occasional evidence of independence, and a period of Armenian rule occurred before Pompey assumed control of Syria on behalf of the Romans in 64 b.c.

Roman Antioch.

The Parthians now became a source of fear or hope to the peoples of the Levant, according to their political alignments. In 53 b.c. the Rom. general Crassus was defeated and killed at Carrhae, leaving Antioch exposed to attack, and in 40 b.c. the Parthians occupied all Syria including Antioch for a brief period. But Rom. rule, though at first insecure, brought with it an influx of Italian businessmen, and a new era of prosperity for Antioch which was treated as a free city. Pompey, Caesar and Antony all contributed to its enhancement and Romanization, while the era of Augustan peace brought enlargement and much new building to the city.

A notable contributor to this expansion was Herod the Great, an enthusiastic client and collaborator of the Caesarian regime. Herod supplied the famous two-m. marble boulevards, to which under Tiberius Caesar there were added colonnades, monumental gates and statuary, the whole complex being some 90 ft. in breadth. By this stage Rom. Antioch had eclipsed the brilliance of the earlier Seleucid city. It was not only the capital of a flourishing province, but the hub of the whole eastern Rom. empire. A network of diplomatic connections held together the multitude of minor states and kingdoms embraced within the provincial system, and reached out across the Parthian frontier as far afield as India. The contemporary geographer Strabo reckons it not much smaller in size than Alexandria and Seleucia (the Parthian metropolis on the Tigris); it may well have had over half a million people.

In a.d. 40 an outbreak of rioting between the circus factions developed into a pogrom against the Jews. The high priest at Jerusalem, Phineas, is said (by Malalas) to have led a punitive expedition of thirty thousand men against Antioch, resulting in the recall and punishment of the representatives of the Rom. government. Although such an expedition must be apocryphal, the general situation fits the known history of serious trouble between Jews and Greeks at this time. From Claudius’ letter to Alexandria we know that the Jews there brought in agitators from Syria. a.d. 40 was also the year of the conflict in Jerusalem over the statue of Caligula which he himself ordered set up in the Temple. It was at this stage that Antioch witnessed an even more momentous shift in relations between Jews and Greeks.

The Christians at Antioch.

Among the seven “Hellenists” had been Nicolaus, distinguished as being both a convert to Judaism and coming from Antioch (Acts 6:5). He marks that interest of the Antiochenes in Judaism which led some of the refugee preachers there for the first time to open the Gospel to Greeks, as well as to Jews (11:20). Although the principle had already been established in the conversion of Cornelius, the mass movement of Gentiles at Antioch clearly took the church in Jerusalem by surprise. Perhaps sensing that much was at stake in such an influx they sent an emissary (Barnabas) who encouraged and taught the new church. Although the point was not yet spelled out, the iron curtain of the law had now been decisively dropped, with vast consequences for the whole Gentile world. At Antioch the Gospel threw open the door to the ends of the earth. Barnabas matched the man to the hour by seeking out the help of Saul, the converted archenemy, in following the new way forward (11:25). At Antioch, too, the phenomenon of Gentile believers first caught the attention of the general public, and called for a distinctive name (11:26). The term “Christian” is a Lat. form and is paralleled by other partisan labels coined by Romans. Jewish critics would hardly have devised a term that conceded the very point (the Messiahship of Jesus) that was at issue, while believers themselves in NT times clearly found no need for such a group name for themselves. Although the disciples at Antioch are said to have met as a church (11:26; 13:1; 14:27), the structure of the church at Jerusalem does not appear to have been repeated. Paul and Barnabas are not referred to as elders (nor were they subsequently claimed as bishops). The ministries in the church were teaching and prophecy, shared between a number of people. How this situation gave way to the fixed ministry of bishops, priests and deacons which appears in the epistles of Ignatius two generations later is unknown.

Antioch between Jerusalem and the West.


G. Downey, A History of Antioch in Syria from Seleucus to the Arab Conquest (1961), passim.