Alexandria's founded by Alexander

Alexandria's founded by Alexander the Great (by year BC): 334 Alexandria in Troia (Turkey) - 333 Alexandria at Issus/Alexandrette (Iskenderun, Turkey) - 332 Alexandria of Caria/by the Latmos (Alinda, Turkey) - 331 Alexandria Mygdoniae - 331 Alexandria (Egypt) - 330 Alexandria in Areia (Herat, Afghanistan) - 330 Alexandria of the Prophthasia/in Drangiana/Phrada (Farah, Afghanistan) - 330 Alexandria in Arachosia (Kandahar, Afghanistan) - 330 Alexandria in Caucasus (Begram, Afghanistan) - 329 Alexandria of the Paropanisades (Ghazni, Afghanistan) - 329 Alexandria Eschate or Ultima (Khodjend, Tajikistan) - 329 Alexandria on the Oxus (Ai-Khanoum OR Termez, Afghanistan) - 328 Alexandria in Margiana (Merv, Turkmenistan) - 326 Alexandria Nicaea (on the Hydaspes, India) - 326 Alexandria Bucephala (on the Hydaspes, India) - 325 Alexandria Sogdia - 325 Alexandria Rambacia (Bela, Pakistan) - 325 Alexandria Oreitide - 325 Alexandria in Opiene (confluence of Indus & Acesines, India) - 325 Alexandria on the Indus - 325 Alexandria Xylinepolis (Patala, India) - 325 Alexandria in Carminia (Gulashkird, Iran) - 324 Alexandria-on-the-Tigris/Antiochia-in-Susiana/Charax (Spasinou Charax on the Tigris, Iraq) - ?Alexandria of Carmahle? (Kahnu)

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Eye witnesses of an earthquake in Antioch-on-the-Orontes

Antioch-on-the-Orontes is known today as Antakya and the earthquake happened 1900 years ago. It made headlines because Hadrian who had been campaigning in Syria had set up his headquarters at Antioch and Emperor Trajan returning from his campaign in Armenia spent the winter in the city as well.

The devastating earthquake with a magnitude of 7.5 hit Antioch in the morning of 13 December 115 AD (although some scholars think it happened in January 115) and nearly erased the city from the map together with Apamea, Daphne and three other towns. The seismic effect was felt as far as Rhodes and triggered a tsunami along the Lebanese coastline.


Antioch-on-the-Orontes had been founded by Seleucos, one of Alexander’s generals and successors, to become one of the Seleucid’s capitals. It was erected at a very strategic location, on the eastern bank of the Orontes River at the end of the caravan route (to become the Silk Road) where merchants from India, Persia and parts of Asia Minor brought their goods in order to exchange them against products from the western Mediterranean. After being conquered by Rome in 64 BC, Antioch was soon converted to Roman standards with the construction of a great colonnaded street, the Via Triumphalis, and appropriate buildings like a theater, an amphitheater, a hippodrome, and a forum. A new aqueduct carried water to the bath complexes and the many fountains and villas. Antioch became a stronghold and truly deserved its title “Queen of the East”.  By 115 AD when the earthquake occurred, it had as many as 500,000 inhabitants, not counting the visitors.

The catastrophic event has been recorded by Cassius Dio who paints a picture of an over-crowded city because Emperor Trajan was overwintering there with his entire retinue. Beside his soldiers, many civilians had been attracted for business or tourism as well, and embassies from abroad took the opportunity to plead their cause with the emperor.

Cassius Dio tells about a sudden great bellowing roar announcing the tremendous quake itself. He speaks of buildings and people being projected into the air. Buildings were tossed around randomly; people were killed by the falling debris and the aftershocks that followed for several days making more victims, while others who were crushed by the falling buildings died with those that were trapped.

Trajan was lucky. He suffered only minor injuries and escaped through a window of the room in which he was staying. Together with other survivors, he lived outdoors in the hippodrome for several days while the city was still rocked by repeated aftershocks. No report has been found about the survival of Hadrian but he apparently made it through. In total 260,000 people seem to have perished and many sections of the city were abandoned.

Trajan soon started to restore Antioch. The aqueduct that had been seriously damaged took serious priority and the emperor either repaired the damaged one or started the construction of a totally new water supply. Eventually, the project was finished by his successor, Hadrian.

To commemorate the rebuilding of the city, Trajan erected a gilded copy of the Tyche in the theater since she was the patron goddess of Antioch, presiding over the city’s prosperity. This bronze statue had been made by Eutychides, a pupil of Lysippos especially for Antioch in the third century BC. One striking copy of this statue has survived and can be seen in the Museum of the Vatican.

After Trajan’s death, on 11 August 117 AD, Hadrian was proclaimed emperor by the army in Antioch. In the footsteps of his predecessor, he continued to repair and improve the city. In September of 117 AD, he finally left for Rome.

Most of the antique city, however, is still buried underneath modern Antakya and it will be interesting to discover more remains of this once so important site.

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