The city's original foundation dates back to 307 BC, when Alexander the Great, the chief commander of Roman Armies declared it as such. Compared to the present, the early settlement was located a bit northwise to today's setting, and had not quite good development rate during its initial years. Seleucus Nicator (305 - 280 BC), who took over the chief command after Alexander the Great, established the city in its current setting and today's sense, naming it after his late father Antiocheia. By location, this city was quite conventient for settlement, as the trade carts of the historical Silk Road had to pass through the city before gaining access to the Seleuca Seaport. It is reported that the city's population hit half a million during the 1st century, before the rise of Jesus Christ. The city was at least two or three times bigger than its current size, with reference to historical documents. It had a few kilometres long and fairly wide causeways adorned with pillars at sides and fully illuminated, accompanied by a couple of lengthy water trenches, which all added on to the qualty of life in the city.
This city gained fame also because of the races organised as part of celebration ceremonies of Apollo. The Romans took over the city in 64 BC. As this destination was regularly visited by Apostle Paul as part of his missionary journeys (Apostle: 11,26; 14, 26; 15, 30, 35; 18, 22), this place is a unique location of particular importance for Christianity. This ancient metropolitan city is also renowned for its being the first location spelling the name of Jesus Christ (Christianos). The Holy Bible descibes this event at verses 18 and 22, where history of apostles are told. However, Christians were not allowed to freely worship and perform rituals, since they were closely watched and their temples destroyed, during the Diocletian era. During the reign of Constantine, Christianity became the official religion of the state, which entailed to rebuilding of churches. Yet the throne of the Patriarch was consigned to Antioch. Between 252 and 380 A.D., more than ten ecumenic councils opened. The darkest times of the city ever were when earthquakes thrilled it from its foundations, completely ruining anything on the way. Of these, the earthquake of 525 AD was the worst, which caused all buildings to collapse on ground. Persians took over the city in 538 AD, which set the entire city population on exile to Mesopotamia. Once it was reclaimed by Justinian, the city was renamed as "The City of Gods". Arabs took over the control of the city in 638 AD, for the first time in history. However, Byzantians managed to reclaim rule of the city a short while before merger of the millenium turn. Until that time, the city was a major trade centre, living in wealth and prosperity attributable to processing of goods transshipped over the Silk Road. Silk, glass, soap and copper tools were among the products which the city earned reputation with. Seljuks and following them, Crusaders arrived at the city, in 1084 and 1098 AD, in order of chronology. They determined the fate of the city for 170 years, until its conquest by Mameleks in the 13th century. After a long record of destruction through the medieval times and Antioch port's becoming useless as a result of excessive sanding, the city lost all its worth. In 1516, the city was made part of the Ottoman Empire, by Selim I. Another huge earthquake shook the city, ripping it off the ground on which it stood, in 1872. When the calendar hit 20th century, a couple of major events occurred in the world's political scenery. A group of Armenians resisted against Turks who chased after to deport them on Mount Moses which has a clear sight from Antioch, with a spectacular defensive action. This event inspired Franz Werfel to write his celebrated novel "Fourty Days on Mount Moses", which brought worldwide reputation to its author. In 1918, the city was brought under protective custody of Syria, following the World War I. A public poll took place in 1939, that would affect the future of the region, laying a big question mark over it, which was highly influenced so that, its results would change, by Turkish soldiers. Antioch subsequently joined the Turkish Republic, as a result of this poll.
Iskenderun is a neoteric town administratively attached to the Province of Hatay, extending ashore a gulf named after it. It lies as a green and all-times hot travel destination and a busy seaport just behind the coasts framing the gulf, resting its back upon the Mountains of Light (Nur) which rise up to the sky as if a huge wall.
Mosques and Churches
In Hatay, which is a major destination for faith travellers, the first Catholic Church the world had ever seen exists, dedicated to the holy name of Saint Pierre. Hatay, which has a significant place in history of Christianity is one of the four largest patriarchates, as well.
The Stylite Monestry of St. Simon, Barleam Monastery of Yayladag and Barleam Monestry of Keldagi stand as the notable locations of Christian faith and wisdom.
The Habeb Najjar Mosque, Sheikh Ahmad Quseir Mosque and Mausoleum, Sokullu Mehmet Pasha Social Complex, Payas Sokullu Social Complex and the Holy Mosque are the sanctuaries of muslim worshippers, worthy of visiting.
Antioch was entirely surrounded by tall and large fortification walls throughout its whole perimeter, during the Seleukan Era. Stood on these strong walls of hard rock were 360 guard towers, watching over an inner citadel, the remains of which survived until today, on the highest and steepest hill of Mount Habeb Najjar.
The Iron Gate (Demirkapi): This is a tall and rigid wall structure built in succession of the fortification walls over a deep and narrow canyon that splits Mount Habeb Najjar from Hacdagi, with the purpose of holding the aggressive flows of water originating from the Hacikurus stream off the perimeter. This wall stands still after all the centuries that have long begone, serving as an entrance gate to the city.
The Iron Bridge (Demirkopru): Located on the River Asi, connecting Antioch to today's Reyhanli District. It is a historical bridge that played a major role in defense of Antioch and served as one of the most important passes of the region, during the medieval age. Made of pure rock and with towers rising at both ends, each fitted with solid gates to control access both in and out, the bridge no longer has its towers, but is still functional.
Dana Ahmetli Bridge: Extends over the River Karasu, on Kirikhan Plains. It is a stone bridge built with 6 arches. It is supposed that it was built by Sinan the Architect somewhere in 16th century.
Koz Stronghold: (a.k.a. Kurshad's Stronghold) Dated by prediction to the rule of the Antioch Princedom, the castle was built using huge blocks of hard rock and two bastions of it have survived until today.
Bakras Stronghold: Found at Km 27 of the motorway segment linking Antioch (Antakya) to Alexandretta (Iskenderun) but falling about 4 km inwards with reference to the road, this multi-storey structure, which was erected on a cliff, has many of its original spaces safe and intact.
Payas Stronghold: An Ottoman military stronghold retrofitted in 1567 with its dyke. In the last century, it was used as a prison.
The Trebuchette Castle (Mancinik Kalesi): Founded on a steepy hill located between Payas and Dortyol counties, this was built in 1290. It has little of its parts remaining at present.
The Djinni Tower (Cin Kulesi): A station tower built in 1577 to protect the harbour area in between the citadel and the port.
Hillside Pass Stronghold (Darb-i Sak): Extends on a hill that is located between Kirikhan and Hassa counties, within 4 km reach of Kirikhan. The Serenity Court of Sultan Beyazid is on the Stronghold. A mosque and a mausoleum was built at this location during late 19th century. The place is visited by thousands of people every year.
Inns, Public Baths
There are several inns and public baths almost entirely built to the order of charity organisations during the past centuries, inside Antioch. Still in operation, these inns and public baths have successfully carried the cultural traces and architectural implements of the past, into the present. Cindi, Saka, Meydan and Yeni Public Baths as well as Kursunlu and Sokullu Inns are among the still operational examples.
Reyhanli Public Bath Hot-Springs: found within the territorial boundaries of Kumlu District, along the Reyhanli-Antioch motorway segment. This complex is the largest hot-spring area of the locality and is rumoured to cure many diseases.
Erzin, Baslamis Hot-Springs and Healing Waters: Rumour has it that the hot-springs and healing waters of this facility cures a diverse range of diseases. They are naturaly sprung at various spots of the rocky heaps in Village Baslamis of the Erzin District. Erzin's drinkable water is slightly salty and brakish, containing bicarbonates, while soil has high alkalinity and carbon dioxide content. Also found is bromine in this part of the country.
Reyhanli Public Bath: Located 20 km far to the Reyhanli District. The hot-spring is located too close to the Turkish-Syrian border and has 5 live springs. The water, which is eligible for consumption by drinking as well, is proven to cure a variety of rheumatic diseases.
Healing Water of Village Kisecik: Found inside the Village Kisecik, attached to the Central District. It increases the motility of the stomach, namely, facilitates for its easier emptying. When consumed in large quantities, it helps removal of tiny grains of renal calculi through and facilitates for cleansing of inflammations of the urinary tract. The warmth of the waters is as high as classifiable under hot waters category and heals neuritis, neuralgia and acute rheumatic diseases.
Museums and Historical Ruins
The Hatay City Museum of Archaeology (Antakya Mosaic Museum): ranks in second position with its rich collection of mosaics and in the third position for its collection of coins, in the world. Among the exhibited items in this museum included are various ornamental items, figurines and scarphaguses found in time of digs performed at various sites in Harbiye, Antakya, Accana, Cevlik and Iskenderun.
Museum Phone:(+90-326) 214 61 68
St. Pierre Church - Antakya / Kuruyer
Accana Historical Ruins - Reyhanli (Merruche) / Varisli Village
Cevlik Historical Ruins - Samandag / Kapısuyu Village
Harbiye (Daphne): located at a distance of 7 km to Antalya Province central district, this place is a beautiful site of nature ideal for picnic, all embraced by green. It is the famous Daphne city of the ancient ages. Legend has it that Apollon, the God of Light and son of Zeus falls in love with Daphne, a young and beautiful lady he sees at a river bank and wishes to have some word with her. He chases after Daphne. Daphne realises that there is no escape. So she sends a prayer saying "Holy mother earth cover me, hide me, protect me", in total dispair. At that sudden, Daphne turns into a bay tree, the first of its kind. Apollon gets surprised. Following this miracelous event, victories of poetry and battles are rewarded with a branch of the bay tree, with people starting to believe that tears of Daphne formed into the big falls of Harbiye. Daphne was renowned for the plurality of its glimmering mansions, divine temples and charming entertainment locations, especially leaving worldly memories of its mesmerizing falls, during the reign of Seleuka. The splendor of the olympic games held in her Stadium was legendary. But furious earthquakes punished this tiny beauty badly, turning it upside down, so that not much is left to see for her visitors today.
Nowadays, Harbiye is a major destination of travellers rich of souvenirs, sculptures and increasingly more attractive promenades, which are also used by local breeders as meadows for foddering livestock. The natural silk yarns produced at local looms have their name preceding them, both across the country and in the rest of the world.
Titus Rocky Pass: is an ancient town founded by Seleucus Nicator at high skirts located 5 km to the north of Samandag (Çevlik), fully covering oceanic view, that is named after its founding father. The City had an inner port, just about the mouths of streams flowing from the mountain. When the risk of flooding became imminent leaving the entire harbour at stake, it was decided to drill a tunnel to cross the entire length of the mountain, during the rule of Emperor Vespasianus. The tunnel was completed during the rule of Titus and the frontal part of the stream was sealed with a wall to keep flood waters out and have their flows redirected to a remote point of discharge through this tunnel, which was built 7 metres high and 6 metres wide, thus eliminating the risk of flooding at the harbour, to give a total constructed length of 1380 metres, from the tunnel's exit till Cevlik, with the extended part built as an open conduit.
There are sepulchres about 100 metres far to the right side of the Tunnel's seaward exit, where the most interesting thing appears to be a large cavern at the bottom of the pit. It contains numerous graves and is distinguished with a taller and more ostentatious resting place than the remainder, which is the reason why it is called "the Cavern with Craddle" among locals.
Tel Aççana: is located on the Antakya-Reyhanli motorway segment. The place hosts the remaints of two palaces dated back to 5 BC. It is found to have 17 layers of settlements overlain on one another, throughout time. Most artefacts found in here are exhibited in the Hatay City Museum of Archaeology.
Kinet Mound: is located in vicinity of Dortyol. In this mound where excavation efforts are still in progress, artefacts dated back to the iron age have hitherto been discovered.
Necropoles: The excavations carried out so far at Kuzuculu and Karakese dig sites have led to discoveries of catacombs made of rock and earth in the first place dated back to the 2nd and 3rd centuries BC and 4th and 5th centuries BC respectively, which were accompanied by scarphaguses, glass bottles and containers, pottery cups, candelas and seals.
Ceylanli: is a host of sepulchres with ancient epigraphs, which suggests that the place was a large settlement during the days of Byzantium and Gunduzoglu tribe.
Imma: is an ancient settlement, nowadays used as a picnic area, which is located on the road linking Antakya to Cilvegozu, close to Reyhanli.
Tainat: is the location of a recent discovery of a palace and temple belonging to the Hittites, the artefacts retrieved from which are put on exhibit in the Hatay City Museum of Archaeology.
Dorian Temple: Located in Kapisuyu locality, on top of a hill dominoating Cevlik territory, noticable with its pillar ruins.
Aqueducts: It is possible to see the remains of the aqueducts, as well as bridges, which are built to a length of 10 km for the purpose of supplying water into the city of Antioch, from the gracious falls of Harbiye (Daphne), during the rule of Seleukos. The only part of this network that falls within the boundaries of Antioch is named as Memekli Bridge.