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Travel: Anatakia- 3rd largest City in the Roman Empire, Turkey. Oct 16-17/2022

Part 4 of a trip to Southeast Turkey which started on Oct 12th (Part 1), Oct. 14 (part 2)

Oct 15 (part 3)

The Course of the Trip

Departing GaziAntep

The 5 hours morning drive from GaziAntep, South toward Anatakia, the city by the Mediterranean Sea, passed East of the Taurus mountains , which separate the Mediterranean coastal region from the central Anatolian Plateau.

The route lead via the beautiful agricultural Valley of Islahiye. and further south via the Valley of the Orontes . The historical valleys follow a North-South fault line between 2 mountain ranges, and it connects South-eastern Anatolia with Northern Syria .

The area is full of archeological mounds& monuments, but only few are excavated,

Furthermore, its long agricultural fertile farming landscape, is rich with growing crops , and many Syrian Refugees displaced at the 2011 Civil War, who labor and tend these valleys' vast fields, can be seen, with their provisional tents , along the way.

Turkey currently hosts around 4 million foreign refugees, including 3.6 million from Syria

Most Syrians currently residing in Turkey are protected from forcible return to Syria and also have access to basic public services, including health care and formal education,

Many are seasonally employed in farming and reside in provisional tents in the fields.

Stop at Yesemek Mound- a Neo Hittai Sculptering Site

Yesemek Open Air Museum is near Islahiye District, in the village known by the same name, at the Karatepe Hills.

An ancient Neo Hittai Sculpturing site

It is the largest open air sculpture workshop in the Near East - a Basalt and Limestone quarry, in operation, between the 2nd millennia B.C. and 8th B.C,. from where the sculptures to-order, for public places and temples, were initiated.

This sculpturing school, contains, on display, all stages from the extraction of stone off the quarry to preliminary carving and to the final work. A rich collection consisting of sphinx and sculptures of lions, mountain gods and various architectural erected pieces are dotting the quint forested hill, next to a rubble of crushed huge stones.

The partly completed pieces were sent to such centers as Islahiye, Zincirli and Sakcagozu for final works and completion, based on excavations found there.

It seems that the site was functional around 1375-1335 BC when the area was taken by the Hittites, and the Hittite King Suppilulluma started to employ Hurris, the native people of the area in quarries. A settlement was inhabited by masters working here, still during the late Bronze Age, and the time of the Romans.

On ancient Hittites and Neo-Hittites- 2 different set of People and Eras The Hittites were an ancient group of Indo-Europeans who moved into Asia Minor and formed an empire at Hattusa in Anatolia around 1600 BC. The Hittite Empire reached great heights during the mid-1300s BC, when it spread across Asia Minor, into the northern Levant and Upper Mesopotamia. and expanded their territories and empire which rivaled, and threatened, the established nation of Egypt.

They are repeatedly mentioned throughout the Hebrew Bible, as the adversaries of the Israelite and their God.

According to Genesis 10, they were the descendants of Heth, son of Canaan, who was the son of Ham, born of Noah (Genesis 10: 1-6)

They emerged, rise to fame, and disappeared throughout history several times and were associate with the Old Kingdom (1700-1500 BCE) While Neo -Hittite or the Syro-Hittite who developed a culture apparently from the indigenous Hatti and possibly the Hurrian and mix of other people, are associated with the New Kingdom,

In the transition from the Bronze Era (3300to 1200 BC) which collapsed, to the Iron Age,

(12 Bc - about 500Ad) the Hittite were the first to mine silver and iron, found in the Taurus Mountains, and had used heavy chariots as war vehicles.

The new Hittite Empire related to after 1200 BC which then, declined in 100 years following many natural disasters of sever droughts, tectonic activity, hunger, repeated attacks by the Sea Peoples and the Kaska tribe, then falling in the hands of the Assyrians, disappearing from history's Stage.

There were other small kingdoms like Mari ( 2900 1759 BC a Semitic city-state in modern-day Syria) and

Ugarit (ancient port city in northern Syria, in the outskirts of modern Latakia, ) That Ugarit had close connections to the Hittite Empire and corresponded with Egypt.( 1450 BC) until its destruction in c. 1185 BC. This small enteties dismantled, during the upheaval transitional period of the Bronze Age Collapse - a time of widespread societal collapse during the 12th (.1200 and 1150). affecting also a large Near East area, being sudden, violent, and culturally disruptive for many civilizations, and it brought a sharp economic decline. With the rejuvenation of the next Civilization era, new Hebrew speaking communities popped up, and instead of the large weakened declining empires, bifger cities /city-state emerged, as new community settlements, and new people of new era like New Hittati, emerged, while using decorative elements ornamentation,and names.of old Hittite.

(more on the Hittati Culture and monuments in next published segments)

Nearing Anatakya the landscape became more dramatic, forested and much greener.

Anatakia - Antioch - Hatay - all names to one city with a Glorious Past Following Alexander the Great death (323 BC), his Hellenistic generals, the Diadochi, divided up the territory he had conquered.

Macedonian Greek Seleucus I Nicator, (358 – 281 BC), won the territory of Syria, founder of the eponymous Seleucid Empire and he proceeded to found

4 “sister cities” in northwestern Syria, one of which was Antioch, (300BC) a city named in honor of his father Antiochus. (16 cities were named in in honor of him),

Upon arrival at 2:30pm with grumble hungry stomach, lunch took place at a quaint garden restaurant in the elevated part of Anatakia suburb called Daphne

Greek rider seizing the cap of an Amazon warrior. Roman mosaic of marble and limestone from the 2nd half of the 4th AD; is from Daphne.

In Daphne, which is situated about 7 km west, on a steep forested hillside, rose a great temple to the Pythian Apollo, in a midst of its wood and water park, founded by Seleucus .

Mythology says it was the place where a horny Zeus, pursuing the nymph Daphne, finally caught her and turned her into a laurel tree.

To the Romans, Daphne was a resort place for the rich and powerful of Antioch-ad-Orontes (Antakya). They built sumptuous villas here with beautiful mosaics, some of which have survived, and are now on display in theHatay (Antakya) Archeology Museum.

Lunch at:

Kule Restaurant - in Daphne

+90 3262316464

So far it was the best meal we had in this guided trip was at this charming place,at a terrace overlooking great views.


The original city of Seleucus was laid out, in imitation of the grid plan of Alexandria by the architect Xenarius.

The charming town of Antioch sits on the Orontes river, (Asi) the chief river of the northern Levant, by which the town witnessed many battles and floods, and which is

the only one to follow the course from South to to North, starting in North Lebanon and flowing into the Mediterranean.

Humans have occupied the area of Antioch since the Calcolithic era (6th millennium BC), as revealed by archaeological excavations.

Antioch's population during the late Hellenistic and early Roman period may have reached a peak of over 500,000 inhabitants making the city the third largest and important, in the Empire, after Rome and Alexandria.

Home to a huge population, it was known as “The Second Rome” and subsequently

“the Cradle of Christianity” before it experienced so many cataclysmic earthquakes and military conquests, that it was reduced to a backwater.

6th AD earthquake destroyed the dams, caused floods and destroyed the city.

It had served as the capital of the Hellenistic Seleucid Empire from 240 until 63 BC, when the Romans took control,(64BC) making it the capital of the province of Syria.

Antioch reached its Golden Age under the Romans with its glorious buildings, markets full of exotic and luxury goods, its riches, prosperity ant intellectual backbone.

It became one of the most important cities in antiquity together with Rome, Alexandria and Constantinopole.

Its strategic location offered geographical, military, and economic benefits to its occupants; as it was heavily involved in the spice trade since it lays within easy reach of the Silk Road and the Royal Road.


It was also the main center of Hellenistic Judaism at the end of the Second Temple period. 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,

Surrounding the city were a number of Greek, Syrian, Armenian, and Latin monasteries

Now, with modern-era buildings completely obscuring those from Hellenistic and Roman times, little is left of the glory that once was Antioch, as most was buried under the thick sediments layers deposited by the Oronhes River over the centuries

The city declined to relative insignificance during the Middle Ages due to warfare, repeated earthquakes, and a change in trade routes. North Syrian was ruled by French after. WWI. as part of the Mandate for Syria and the Lebanon, As of 1922 Ata Turk asked the UN that it be Turkish, when it was included in Syrian border and then became in 1930 an autonomy zone, though culturally it was completely Turkish In 1938 Turkish pressure, made it totally belonging to Turkey after which an exodus of Christians and Alawites from Antioch east to the French Mandate. was caused and most minorities left the town.

Staying 2 nights at:

Museum Hotel Antakya

This special 99 rooms hotel is a true homage to the amazing mosaics, baths, forum, and piazzas discovered during the first drills on the site.

The enormous beehive like structure is erected on a site of archaeological findings dating back to antiquity(2nd-4 thC)

It floats above the treasures buried several floors below ground, and which are now exposed to the public, and can be spectated from almost any corner within the hotel's spread out structure.

For those staying over night at the hotel entrance to the museum's excavated site is for free.

Shame that out of the 3 guides that accompanied the group's tour, non felt obliged to guide us around and through the ruins which the Hotel's museum offers, and which contain remains of the Forum square, Cardo main st, Bath complex, houses' walls and fragments and fantastic mosaics

These Hotel museum's photos (above) are attributed to the group member - Anat Dycian

Roman Ceramic Water Piping

On the Second day stay in Anatakia

On the climb up to the St Pierre Church

First Church of Saint Peter - Cave Church - UNESCO World Herritage

A cave carved into the mountainside on Mount Starius is one of Christianity's oldest churches, dating from at least the 4th or 5th c; The small space include some pieces of floor mosaics, and traces of frescoes on the right side of the altar. The tunnel inside which opens to the mountainside is thought to have served the Christians for evacuation of the church in case of sudden raids and attacks. Water which seeps from the nearby rocks was gathered inside to drink and to use for baptism.

St. Pierre church and its surroundings played a significant role in the period of the early Christianity and expansion of the belief.

Saint Peter whose real name was Shimon/ Simon and he was part of the larger Jewish community in the Hellenistic town, which attracted many intellectuals, missionaries and cults at the time, many who were persecuted if the authorities viewed them as traitors and threat to the ruling kingdom, if "Kingdom of Heaven" was elevated.

Pete was later recognized as one of twelve disciples of Jesus Christ and also the brother of St. Andrew, another disciple of Jesus. According to Christian Bible, St Peter used to be a fisherman before he took heed of Jesus’ call.

St. Pierre, to whom the church was dedicated, is the founder of the Antakya Church and the archpriest of the first Christian Community here and also the first Pope in the world.

Saint Lucas (a physician) who also from Anatakia was thought to be the owner of the cave who hosted the visitors to town, congregating the first Christians. Here the non Jews could join as not circumcised, and cpoud dine together Respect the other as diffident and became cosmopolitan.

Views from the Church site's Hill top

Museum Hotel

Second Stop :

Hatay Archeology Museum

2 hours. were spent at this amazing new building archaeology museum, which was opened in 2014 and contains the world's largest display area for Roman and Bizantine mosaics, dating from the 1st to 5th AD, recovered from Antioch ad Orontes(Antakya), the garden suburb of Daphne from Roman Mediterranean seaside villas, and from Tarsus

A sculpture of king Suppiluliuma unearthed in Tayinat Mound, late Hittite (9th BC)

Among the museum's highlight pieces (most found in Room 7) are the full-body mosaic of Oceanus & Thetis (2nd century) and the Buffet Mosaic (3rd century), with its depictions of dishes of chicken, fish, eggs and bread. Thalassa & the Nude Fishermen (5th century) shows children riding whales and dolphins, while the fabulous 3rd-century mosaics of Narcissus & Echo and the Drunken Dionysus depict stories from mythology

Bathing and Banquet Mosaic Scenes were depicted from the 3rd-4th AD, as the most

important activities of Roman socio-cultural life.

"Eat and Drink and be Merry"

"The Evil Eye"

Oath Tablets which contain a long list of curses and warnings, against breaking an oath, most likely written in Assyria and served as a template, similar to what is found in Hebrew Bible,

The museum is enormous, and spread over 19 halls dedicated to other aspects of Roman and Byzantine culture, with exhibits of marble sarcophagi, coins, pots, tools, glassware and statuary. artifacts recovered from various mounds and tumuli (burial mounds) in the area,

Other archeological sites in the area

Driving for an hour to the Mediterranean Eastern Coast for lunch

Syria is Just at the low hills on the Right End Corner

The long Sea shore strip at this part of Turkey, is quite underdeveloped, neglected and very uninviting., Small patches of cultivated farm land stretch almost all the way toward the water line, The beach send is grayish in color, and the several restaurants along the beach line, where completely empty including the one we had lunch in,

Maybe the cloudy drizzly weather, contributed to this desolation, however, even in a good weather, I wouldn't recommend a "Beach Vacation" at this non-appealing

charm-less, beach shoreline strip.

Balikci Oscan In-Resistant

A Sea Food place the first one

we sampled on this trip,

There is a small model of the "Titanic" Ship erected on the restaurant's roof top, which ironically doesn't suggest a "safe dinning sail"

However, the "Food Passage Crossing" went OK, yet there was, nothing to write home about...

About another half an hour drive above the Sea Coast landed us at this site.

The 3 Roman Caesars Tunnel Project - UNESCO World Heritage

The project was built during the Roman period within the boundaries of the

ancient Harbor City of Seleuceia Pieria on the Mediterranean shore

The construction began in 1 A.D. during the reign of the Roman emperor Vespasianus (69-79 A.D.), continued under his son Titus (79-81 A.D.) and his successors, completed in 2. A.D. during

the reign of another Roman emperor, Antonius Pius

Since the city was under the threat of the floods descended from the mountains and flowed through the city and the harbor was silted up and became inoperative, the Roman emperor, Vespasianus ordered to build a tunnel by digging the mountain in order to divert the floodwaters, threatening the harbor.

The diversion system was built with the principle of closing the front of the small tributary stream with a deflection cover and transferring stream waters to the sea through an artificial canal and tunnel.

The diversion system, displaying a broken alignment, consists of: a dam to divert the river flow; a short approach channel; the first tunnel section; a short intermediary channel; the second tunnel section; a long discharge channel.

We walked through few section of this mega project, open to visitors and is now contained within a very green quint orchard like/park area.

Besikli Cave of Celeuceia Pieria,

100 m from the the tunnels, at the same visitors' site there is a Limestone rock cut Burial Cave -necropolis area, dating to the firstAD stretching out of the city, on the slops of the mountain probably used by the prominent residents of the ancient city of Celeuceia Pieria,

Carved decorations and vine branches

embellish the ceiling and burial chambers

Celeuceia Pieria, (later named Suedia)

Celeuceia Pieria is situated near the actual village Cevlik, 35 km to the southwest of Antakya .Founded towards the end of the 4. B.C. by Seleukos Nikator I, this ancient city was an Hellenistic town, the Seaport of Antioch, built slightly to the north of the estuary of the river Orontes, between small rivers on the western slopes of the Coryphaeus, one of the southern summits of the Amanus Mountains. in eastern Mediterranean coast

The city is separated from the lower one by steep rocky topography.

The Peutinger Map showing Syrian Antioch and Seleucia in the 4th AD

The city was reigned by the Ptolemaic during the second half of the 3. B.C., and flourished later during the Roman period, beginning in the second half of the 1.A.D., becoming one of the most important ports of the Eastern Mediterranean Region.

The Sea Port that operated until 6 AD got heavenly clogged for lack of continuous maintenance and became non-functional

Sun Set from the slopes of where once ancient Celeuceia Pieria florished

Te drive back to Anatakia at the end of this long tour day, took over an hour long

Dinner at a Restaurant in a very noisy Anatakia night life center.

To be continued....


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