Antioch Antakya

City in the historical region of Syria (today in Turkey). Titular see of Syr. Orth., Syr. Catholic, Maron., Melk. Orth., Melk. Catholic (united with Alexandria and Jerusalem) and, until 1953, Latin patriarchs. Antioch is situated at the foot of Mt. Silpius in the valley of the Orontes, approximately 25 km. from the Mediterranean coast. Founded by Seleucus I Nicator ca. 300 BC and named after his father Antiochus, Antioch grew rapidly as the capital of the Seleucids. For the Romans who took it in 64 BC it was their largest and most prosperous city in Asia. Antioch was taken by the Sasanians for the first time in 256, when Shapur I deported many of its citizens and settled them in, among other places, the city he named ‘Better is the Antioch of Shapur’, the later Gondeshapur (Beth Lapaṭ). After its destruction by Khusrau I in 540, the city was rebuilt on a smaller scale by Justinian, only to be attacked again by the Persians at the beginning of the 7th cent. and occupied by them for over a decade from 611. Antioch was captured by the Arabs in 637/8. Under the Byzantines again in 969–1084, it was taken by the Crusaders in 1098. The Frankish Principality of Antioch lasted until 1268, when it was conquered by the Mamluks. A minor provincial town under the Ottomans and the French mandate, Antioch became the capital of the short-lived Republic of Hatay in 1938 before being incorporated, together with the rest of the former district (sancak) of Alexandretta, into the Republic of Turkey in 1939.

The Apostle St. Peter and St. Ignatius of Antioch are reckoned as the first and third bishops of Antioch, and it is after them that it later became customary for the Maron. patriarchs to adopt the name ‘Peter’ and the Syr. Orth. and Syr. Catholic patriarchs the name ‘Ignatius’. The city in which St. Paul preached and the followers of Jesus were first called ‘Christian’ soon became the most important center of Christianity in Asia, and its see was recognised as ranking alongside those of Rome and Alexandria at the Council of Nicaea. The area under the ecclesiastical jurisdiction of Antioch that later became known as ‘patriarchate’ largely coincided with the civil diocese of the ‘East’ (Oriens) — whence the title ‘of Antioch and All the East’ still born by the patriarchs  — corresponding roughly to the parts of today’s Turkey south of the Taurus, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, and the Holy Land, the last of which later formed a separate Patriarchate of Jerusalem (although this was recognized only by the Chalcedonian churches). The theological school at Antioch which flourished in the 4th and 5th  cent. was to have a major influence on the theology of the Ch. of E. through the writings of Theodore of Mopsuestia and others. Antioch was one of the major battlegrounds in the Christological controversies of the 5th and 6th cent. that led to the formation of the Syriac Churches as separate entities from the Imperial Church. Among the patriarchs of Antioch resident in Antioch, John I (428–42) was a supporter of Nestorius, while Peter the Fuller (468–86, with interruptions) and Severus of Antioch (512–18, d. 538) were important proponents of the Miaphysite teaching.

Since the expulsion of Severus by Emperor Justin the Syr. Orth. patriarchs have usually been unable to reside in, or even visit, their titular see, except on such occasions as when Caliph Yazīd II allowed Eliya  I (709–24) to make a solemn entry into the city and consecrate a new church there in 721, and during the Crusader period, when the Frankish rulers and Latin clergy of the city tended to favor the non-Chalcedonian Christians as their allies against Muslims and Melkites. From that period we know of a forced sojourn in Antioch of Athanasios (1090–1129) in ca. 1115, as well as of more friendly visits by Michael Rabo (1166–99), who is said to have been enthroned on the chair of St. Peter during one of his visits in 1168–69, by Ignatius III Dawid (1222–52), who built a residence for himself on the outskirts of the city some time before 1246, and by Yuḥanon bar Maʿdani (1252–63), who was enthroned on the ‘chair of Great Severus’ in 1253. The Syr. Orth. had three churches in the city in 1170 (Yoldat Aloho, Mor Giwargis and Mor Barṣawmo). The visit to Antioch by Patr. Ignatius Zakka Iwas in 2000 was probably the first by a Syr. Orth. patriarch since the 13th cent.

In the 1920s there was a small community of Maronites in Antioch, who together with the Latin rite Christians numbered about fifty, alongside larger communities of Melkites numbering some 4,500 and Armenians numbering 400 in a total population of 20,000–30,000. Today, the city still has functioning Melk. Orth. and Latin churches. St. Peter’s Church, or Grotto, the cave believed to be the site of the first church in Antioch, lies about 2 km. to the northeast of the town center.

The Black Mountain (the Amanus Range) to the northwest of Antioch was a renowned center of monasticism. A number of Syriac liturgical mss. copied there attest to the continued use of Syriac alongside Greek and Georgian by Melkite monks in the region in the 11th cent.


  • ‘Antioche de Syrie. Histoire, images et traces de la ville antique’, Topoi Supplément 5 (2004). (incl. several articles of relevance to the Syriac tradition in Antioch)
  • S. P.  Brock, ‘Syriac manuscripts copied on the Black Mountain, near Antioch’, in Lingua restituta orientalis. Festgabe für Julius Assfalg, ed. R. Schultz and M. Görg (1990), 59–67.
  • M. L.  Chaumont, in EIr , vol. 2 (1987), 119–25.
  • C. Karalevskij, in DHGE , vol. 3 (1924), 563–703.
  • T. Noujaim, in Encyclopédie Maronite, vol. 1 (1992), 337–54.
  • J. Rist, ‘Antiocheia am Orontes’, in KLCO , 92–3.
  • M. Streck and H. A. R. Gibb, in EI 2, vol. 1 (1960), 516–7.
  • D. S. Wallace-Hadrill, Christian Antioch. A study of early Christian thought in the East (1982).
  • D.  Weltecke, ‘The Syriac Orthodox in the Principality of Antioch during the Crusader period’, in East and West in the Medieval Eastern Mediterranean, vol. 1. Antioch from the Byzantine reconquest until the end of the Crusader principality, ed. K. N. Ciggaar and D. M. Metcalf (OLA 147; 2006), 95–124.

How to Cite This Entry

Hidemi Takahashi , “Antioch,” in Gorgias Encyclopedic Dictionary of the Syriac Heritage: Electronic Edition, edited by Sebastian P. Brock, Aaron M. Butts, George A. Kiraz and Lucas Van Rompay,

Footnote Style Citation with Date:

Hidemi Takahashi , “Antioch,” in Gorgias Encyclopedic Dictionary of the Syriac Heritage: Electronic Edition, edited by Sebastian P. Brock, Aaron M. Butts, George A. Kiraz and Lucas Van Rompay (Gorgias Press, 2011; online ed. Beth Mardutho, 2018),

Bibliography Entry Citation:

Takahashi, Hidemi. “Antioch.” In Gorgias Encyclopedic Dictionary of the Syriac Heritage: Electronic Edition. Edited by Sebastian P. Brock, Aaron M. Butts, George A. Kiraz and Lucas Van Rompay. Digital edition prepared by David Michelson, Ute Possekel, and Daniel L. Schwartz. Gorgias Press, 2011; online ed. Beth Mardutho, 2018.

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Front Matter A (73) B (53) C (26) D (36) E (27) F (5) G (30) H (22) I (31) J (15) K (11) L (12) M (56) N (19) O (3) P (28) Q (11) R (8) S (71) T (39) U (1) V (5) W (3) X (1) Y (41) Z (4) Back Matter
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