One of the earliest Hellenistic city foundations in Syria, Apamea, situated on the Orontes ca. 90 km. south of Antioch, from the 2nd cent. onwards was an important center of Middle- and Neo-Platonist philosophy. Both Numenius (late 2nd cent.) and Iamblichus (early 4th cent.) taught here.

In the first half of the 5th cent., the region of Apamea was home to the ascetic circle around Yoḥannan Iḥidaya. An important bp. of Apamea during Yoḥannan’s lifetime was Polychronius, the brother of Theodore of Mopsuestia, whose biblical commentaries, written in Greek (not preserved) are sometimes quoted in the later Syriac tradition.

In the late 5th and the 6th cent., Apamea and the province of Syria Secunda, of which it was the capital, became divided between supporters and opponents of the Council of Chalcedon (451). The tension between the two groups can be clearly sensed from the correspondence of Severus of Antioch, who during his tenure as patr. (512–18) had difficulty imposing his authority on the diocese. Eventually Syria Secunda was instrumental in bringing about the restoration of Chalcedonian Orthodoxy in the Eastern Empire under the emperors Justin I (518–27) and Justinian (527–65). The Monastery of St. Maron, in the Apamea region (although the exact location is not known), which was perhaps at the head of a confederation of like-minded monasteries, played an important role in these 6th-cent. developments. The Chalcedonian convictions of the monks of Saint Maron gradually became disconnected from Melk. (Byzantine) orthodoxy and, from the 7th cent. onwards, gave rise to the emergence of an independent branch of Chalcedonian Syriac Christianity, which later became known as Maronite. For the Maronites, the Apamea region is their cultural and monastic homeland, from which several centuries later, they transferred their ecclesiastical center to Lebanon.

Apamea had several churches, along with a synagogue (uncovered below one of the churches). Parts of mosaic floors are preserved. While the primary language of Apamea was Greek, an important Syriac inscription, mentioning Bp. Peter of Apamea (and dated to the year 827 ‘in the reckoning of the Apamaeans’, i.e., 515/16) was discovered at Maʿar Zayta (a small town to the southwest of Maʿarrat al-Nuʿmān). At a short distance from Apamea lies the town of Huarte, in which several churches were uncovered, along with a Mithraeum, underneath one of the churches. Some 50 km. north of Apamea is the likely place of origin of the famous Rabbula Gospels, with their extraordinary illuminations.

Apamea was abandoned in the early Islamic period and later fell into ruins. In 1930, a team of Belgian archeologists started excavating it. Interrupted during World War II, and resumed only in 1965, the excavations during the past several years have been under the direction of J.-Ch. Balty.

See Fig. 6c.


  • J.-Ch. Balty, Guide d’Apamée (1981).
  • P. Donceel-Voûte, Les pavements des églises byzantines de Syrie et du Liban. Décor, archéologie et liturgie (Publications d’histoire de l’art et d’archéologie de l’Université Catholique de Louvain 69; 1988).
  • Fiey, Pour un Oriens christianus novus, 167.
  • A.  Harrak, ‘Notes on Syriac inscriptions, I. The inscription of Maʿar-zaytā (Syria)’, Orientalia 64 (1995), 110–19.
  • Honigmann, Évêques et évêchés monophysites, 54–63.
  • H.  Suermann, Die Gründungsgeschichte der Maronitischen Kirche (Orientalia Biblica et Christiana 10; 1998).

How to Cite This Entry

Lucas Van Rompay , “Apamea,” 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, https://gedsh.bethmardutho.org/Apamea.

Footnote Style Citation with Date:

Lucas Van Rompay , “Apamea,” 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), https://gedsh.bethmardutho.org/Apamea.

Bibliography Entry Citation:

Van Rompay, Lucas. “Apamea.” 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. https://gedsh.bethmardutho.org/Apamea.

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