Antioch | Encyclopedia.com (2024)

The ancient city situated on the Orontes in what is now Syria. The word comes from the Greek 'Aντιόχεια (Latin Antiochia ). It was "the first place in which the disciples were called Christians" (Acts 11.26), and was especially fitted to be the center of the mission to the Gentiles.

The Apostles. Founded in 300 b.c. by Seleucus, a general of Alexander the Great, Antioch was a center of communications by land and also by sea through its port, Seleucia Pieria. The population was cosmopolitan and judaism was familiar to some of the people because of the presence of an important Jewish colony, which provided an opportunity for Gentiles to hear the Old Testament read in Greek at synagogue services. Nicholas, one of the seven deacons in Jerusalem, was a proselyte from Antioch (Acts 6.5). Thus when some Greek-speaking Christians fled to Antioch from persecution in Jerusalem, they were able to preach to Greeks (Acts 11.1921), some

of whom may have already been acquainted with Judaism. Barnabas and Paul converted "a great multitude," and there were five "prophets and teachers" at the head of the local communityBarnabas, Simon Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manahen, and Paul (Acts 13.1). The presence of both Jewish and Gentile Christians raised the question of whether the Jewish law (e.g., concerning food and circumcision) should be extended to Gentile converts. The famous dispute between Peter and Paul (Galatians 2) resulted, and Paul devoted himself to the Gentile mission, using Antioch as the base for his journeys. The ultimate fate of the Jewish Christian community is not known. According to tradition, Peter was the founder of the Church at Antioch and its first bishop. Luke the Evangelist was said to be from Antioch. The Gnostic teachers Menander, Basilides, and Satornilus were active there.

Pagans and Arians. The first figure in the post-Apostolic Church at Antioch known in any detail is Bishop ignatius of antioch, martyred at Rome under Trajan (98117). His letters are important evidence for the development and emergence of the episcopate, showing

the function and authority of the bishop at the head of the threefold ministry of bishop, presbyters, and deacons. Prominent figures in the early Church at Antioch were Babylas, a bishop martyred in the persecution of Decius (24951), and paul of samosata (26072), a heretical bishop deposed by a local council for his Christological doctrine. By the time of the persecution of Diocletian, the Christian community at Antioch was sufficiently large to have a number of martyrs, including Saint romanus, one of the most important local saints. In the Arian controversy, local councils (325, 341) formulated anti-Arian creeds, but Antiochene theologians were inclined to accept Arian ideas; Arian or crypto-Arian bishops came into power and a council in 361 issued an extreme Arian creed. Often during this period there were two rival bishops of Antioch: one Arian, supported by the local congregation; the other orthodox, supported by the imperial government. In addition, there was for a time a schism within the orthodox, "Nicene," party, so that at times there were two "Nicene" bishops.

The Emperor julian the apostate (36163) made Antioch the headquarters of his campaign to suppress Christianity and restore paganism, and a number of Christians, especially in the army, were martyred at Antioch. Julian's efforts, though unsuccessful, made such an impression on the Christians that they joined to seek a solution of their doctrinal differences. The Arian emperor Valens in 365 inaugurated a persecution of the orthodox Christians at Antioch which continued until 376. Peace was made within the Church at Antioch when Valens's successor, Gratianus, in 378 issued a rescript of toleration. The restoration of orthodoxy was celebrated by a council in 379 and by the construction of the cruciform church of Saint Babylas, which was found in the excavations. Saint Jerome visited Antioch in 374 to 375. After a period of retirement in the desert east of Chalcis, he returned to Antioch and was ordained there. The latter part of the 4th century is one of the best-known periods of the Christian history of Antioch, thanks to the writings of Saint john chrysostom, a leading figure in the local community from his ordination as deacon in 381 until his departure in 398 to become archbishop of Constantinople. Like many Christians, Chrysostom studied Greek literature and rhetoric under Libanius, the celebrated pagan teacher who at this time was the leading citizen of the city. The simultaneous careers of teacher and pupil exemplify the interaction between paganism and Christianity at Antioch at this period.

Patriarchate Rivalry, Nestorius. The status of Antioch among the great churches was altered by the Council of Constantinople in 381. Since Nicaea (325) Antioch and Alexandria had been recognized as preeminent in the East. Now Constantinople sought recognition for its see corresponding to its political prestige as imperial capital, and in 381 the Church of Constantinople was given first place after that of Rome. One purpose of the pronouncement was to put down the pretensions of Alexandria, but it also had the effect of reducing the prestige of Antioch.

In the time of Chrysostom, Christians were being attracted to the Jewish cult at Antioch. The ceremonial, the fasts, the monotheistic teaching, and the reputed healing powers of the relics of Jewish martyrs, all drew Christians, especially women, to the synagogues. During the reign of Theodosius II (40850) Saint Simeon Stylites was a popular and influential figure in all the region of Antioch. On his death (459) his body was buried in a church built for the purpose at Antioch. Under Theodosius a council at Antioch (424) condemned Pelagius (see pelagius and pelagianism). Theodore of Mopsuestia, who had been trained at Antioch, continued his important Christological studies along the lines indicated by diodore of tarsus. Theodore's pupil at Antioch, nestorius, who became archbishop of Constantinople, carried the same line of investigation further, and a major controversy was precipitated, in which Antioch, supporting Nestorius's views that there were two separate Persons in the Incarnate Christ, came into conflict with alexandria, whose patriarch cyril became Nestorius's chief opponent. A council at Antioch in 430 warned Nestorius to avoid excess. At the Council of Ephesus in 431 Nestorius was deposed, the Antiochene party was defeated by Cyril of Alexandria, and the territorial jurisdiction of the Antiochene See was reduced in favor of the See of Jerusalem. At the end of the council Nestorius by imperial order was confined in his old monastery outside Antioch. Two synods were later held at Antioch at which peace with Alexandria was restored. The Nestorians remained influential in Syria and another council at Ephesus in 449 took such measures against them that it became known as the Latrocinium or Robber Council. Though the Council of Chalcedon (451) convened in order to undo the injustices of the Latrocinium, its definition of the faith only produced further dissension. Syria and Egypt, in reaction against the Chalcedonian formula for the nature of Christ, became predominantly Monophysite.

Monophysitism. The whole history of Antioch until the Arab conquest was colored by its being one of the strongholds of monophysitism. Some scholars have considered that the Monophysite heresy combined with Syrian and Egyptian nationalism to produce a heightened opposition to the imperial government as the representative of Chalcedonian orthodoxy. This hostility developed into a separatist movement which in time facilitated the conquest of Syria and Egypt by the Persians and the Arabs, who were welcomed by the dissident Monophysites as being less oppressive than the Constantinopolitan government.

The story of the remainder of the 5th and 6th century is dominated by the struggle between Chalcedonians and Monophysites for control of the Church at Antioch and in the rest of Syria. One of the prominent Monophysites, Peter the Fuller, was bishop of Antioch on four separate occasions. In 488 he brought to a head the old dispute about the ecclesiastical supremacy of Antioch over Cyprus. Antioch, as an apostolic foundation, claimed ecclesiastical jurisdiction over Cyprus, whose Church (Antioch asserted) was not of apostolic origin. However, the alleged discovery in Cyprus of the perfectly preserved body of Saint barnabas, holding on his chest a copy of the Gospel of Matthew written in Barnabas's own hand, was taken as proof that the Church in Cyprus was apostolic, and the Emperor Zeno pronounced it to be ecclesiastically autonomous. The accession of the Emperor Anastasius (491518), who favored the Monophysites, brought heightened disorders in Antioch, culminating in the election of the prominent Monophysite Severus as bishop. In addition to a permanent resident synod which Severus established, special synods convened at Antioch in 513 and 515 to enforce Severus's policies; but he had to flee when the orthodox Justin I (51827) succeeded Anastasius. The ecclesiastical fortunes of the Monophysites were reversed. The circus factions, which had become powerful political influences in all large cities, continued the street fighting which kept cities such as Antioch and Constantinople in continual unrest. The Green faction had been Monophysite; the Blue faction, orthodox. The government began a veritable persecution of the Monophysites, which continued with increased severity under Justinian (527565). All this time, however, the Monophysites managed to maintain an organized church, with a complete hierarchy, throughout Syria. This was a national Syrian church, known as the Jacobite Church from its leader, James baradai. Justinian's reign witnessed the remarkable series of disasters which marked the end of ancient Antioch. A devastating fire (525) was followed by two severe earthquakes (526, 528), all resulting in serious losses in population and economic activity. The culmination was the capture and sack of the city by the Persians (540). Antioch continued to exist until it was taken by the Persians (611) and the Arabs (638), but it never recovered its ancient greatness. Under the Arabs it soon shrank to a village.

Pagan Survivals. Reports of Justinian's vigorous persecution of pagans and heretics indicate that paganism survived to some extent at Antioch, as at other old pagan centers, such as Athens. Even after Justinian's death a number of pagan priests were discovered in Antioch and in 578 a bishop of Antioch was accused of taking part, with another Christian priest, in the sacrifice of a boy. He was able to clear himself before a court in Constantinople, but the fact that the charge could be made is significant of the strength of paganism.

Theological School. As an ancient center of Greek learning, Antioch offered excellent facilities for the study of Greek philosophy and rhetoric, and the terms of Greek philosophy and the methods of Greek speculation had an important influence on the thought of the Antiochene theologians. A regular "school" of theology was flourishing under lucian of antioch (martyred 312), if not earlier. Theologians trained in this school followed Aristotelian, historical, and philological methods, in contrast to the Platonic, mystical approach of the great rival school of Alexandria. Lucian's scientific study of the text of the Bible was the examplar of the famous Antiochene Biblical scholarship, which combined meticulous textual criticism with literal exegesis, as against the allegorical method popular at Alexandria. Prominent representatives of Antiochene theology were marcellus of ancyra; Chrysostom; Diodore, later bishop of Tarsus; Theodore of Mopsuestia; Nestorius; and theodoret of cyr. Beginning with the heretical teaching of Paul of Samosata on the Person of Christ, Antioch tended toward an insistence on the oneness of God, which in time made the city a stronghold of Arianism. In the Christological controversies of the 5th century, the Antiochene emphasis on the humanity of Christ clashed with the Alexandrian tendency to stress the Divine Nature of the Incarnate Christ.

Art and Archeology. Excavations conducted at Antioch, the suburb Daphne, and the seaport Seleucia Pieria (193239) obtained important results, but time did not allow extensive exploration and much remains to be excavated. Objects found in the excavations are preserved in the museum at Antioch, in the Louvre, and in museums in the United States. The city plan can be restored in its main features from surface indications, archeological evidence, literary testimonia, and air photography. Along with topographical evidence, many fine mosaic floors were found in houses, public baths, churches, and luxurious suburban villas. A unique discovery was the topographical border of a large mosaic floor in a villa at Daphne depicting a tour of Antioch and Daphne (late 5th century). The route illustrated corresponds with the itinerary described by Libanius in his encomium of Antioch (356). The scenes in the border are a precious source for contemporary architecture and daily life, illustrating dress, food, occupations, social life, recreations, and worship. This mosaic and Libanius's description of Antioch offer a view of Antiochene life that is not available for other cities in this epoch.

The city having suffered from frequent natural disasters and pillage, Christian archeological remains found in the excavations were not extensive, but the style of the local church architecture and liturgical silver is known from discoveries made elsewhere. Antioch and Constantinople were centers for the manufacture of gold and silver liturgical vessels and church ornaments, and numerous examples of silversmith work, both secular and religious, found in Syria illustrate the style and craftsmanship of the Antiochene workshops. The celebrated Chalice of Antioch is a fine example of 4th-century work.

No early house churches such as those at Ostia and dura-europos were found, but later Antiochene structures had an important influence on church architecture. The famous octagonal church of Constantine the Great, the Domus Aurea or Golden House, was the prototype of the great pilgrimage church of Saint Simeon Stylites in the mountains east of Antioch, and the Church of Saint Babylas was an important early example of the cruciform plan. Names of a number of churches are preserved in literary texts and the topographical border at Daphne illustrates "the ergasterion of the martyrium," evidently the workshop at the shrine of Saint Babylas at Daphne where religious objects and souvenirs for pilgrims were manufactured. The Greek and Latin inscriptions of Antioch and its vicinity contain a number of Christian texts recording the building of churches, dedications and offerings, and names of bishops, priests, and church officials. A number of Christian epitaphs also have been found.

Bibliography: g. downey, A History of Antioch in Syria from Seleucus to the Arab Conquest (Princeton 1961), bibliography; Ancient Antioch (Princeton 1963). l. a. jalabert and r. mouterde, eds., Inscriptions grecques et latines de la Syrie (Paris 1929), v.3 contains the inscriptions from Antioch, Daphne, and vicinity. c. h. kraeling, "The Jewish Community at Antioch," Journal of Biblical Literature 51 (1932) 13060. g. downey, tr., "Libanius' Oration in Praise of Antioch (Oration XI)," Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society 103 (1959) 65286. a. j. festugiÈre, Antioche païenne et chrétienne (Paris 1959). r. devreesse, Le Patriarcat d'Antioche (Paris 1945). m. h. sheperd, jr., "The Formation and Influence of the Antiochene Liturgy," Dumbarton Oaks Papers 15 (1961) 2544. Antioch-on-the-Orontes, v.14 (Princeton 193452), reports on the excavations. d. levi, Antioch Mosaic Pavements (Princeton 1947), complete publication and study of all floors discovered. h. h. arnason, "The History of the Chalice of Antioch," The Biblical Archaelogist 4 (1941) 4964; 5 (1942) 1016. g. downey, Antioch in the Age of Theodosius the Great (Norman, Okla. 1962). b. m. metzger, "The Lucianic Recension of the Greek Bible," Chapters in the History of New Testament Textual Criticism (Leiden 1963). e. c. dodd, Byzantine Silver Stamps (Washington 1961), on hallmarks used at Antioch and elsewhere.

[g. downey/eds.]

Antioch | Encyclopedia.com (2024)
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