Antakya (Antioch / Hatay)

Antakya or Hatay as its official name is today, was founded in 300 BC as Antioch-ad-Orontes by Seleucos Nicator one of Alexander's generals. Antakya grew quickly to become a city of half a million people and, under the Romans, became one of the centers of Christianity. The city survived a massive earthquake in the 5th century killing 250,000 people and was later fought over by Persians, Byzantines, Arabs, Armenians, Seljuks, Crusaders and Mamluks. The latter literally wiped out the city and it never regained its former glory. Antakya was part of the French protectorate of Syria until 1939, became independent as the Republic of Hatay for a short period and then joined the Republic of Turkey on 23 July 1939.

The relatively large number of churches still bear testimony of Antakya's importance to Christianity. The most important church is the tiny Cave church of St. Peter which is generally regarded as the world's first Christian church. In 1983, the church was declared a holy site by the Vatican. It was also in the ancient Antioch that the saints gave their new religion the name "Christianity".

Antakya was also the setting in some novels and films. It was in Antioch ad Orontes that Ben Hur had his famous wagon ride and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade had the Republic of Hatay with Alexandretta (Iskenderun) as historical setting.

The prime reason to visit Antakya is the Antakya Archeology Museum (Antakya Arkeoloji Müzesi) with its world famous collection of Roman and Byzantine mosaics. 


Cities and Regions


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