imposing fortress built by the Crusaders on
a hill to command the passage towards the south
of the Mediterranean region and the entrance
to the plain of Issus (Dörtyol), where
in 333 BC Alexander
the Great crushed the Persian army of Darius
III, thus opening the way to Syria and Egypt.
Mosaic of Alexander the Great at the Battle of Issus
Payas (Yakacık) is an old Genoese
port which, after the Ottoman conquest,
remained a thriving place until the 18C,
when it fell into the hands of the pirate
Küçük Ali who exacted a ransom from ships
and caravans. The punitive expedition
send against him partly destroyed the
city. However some fine examples of 16C
Ottoman architecture are well preserved:
Sokullu Mehmet Pasha complex which
was built by famous architect Sinan,
comprises a Mosque and Medrese, a hamam,
a caravanserai and a bazaar. There is
also the Cinkulesi (the Tower of the Djinns).
İskenderun was founded, after his victory
over the Persians, by Alexander
the Great who gave the name Alexandretta
to the place (in Turkish İskenderun
means Alexander). Today İskenderun is
an important trading port-city. Also
an active, modern and pleasant city
with avenues lined with palm-trees,
it is situated at the foot of Mounts
Amanos. The culinary specialities
of Iskenderun are the "humus"
a meze made
of pureed chickpeas, garlic and paprika,
and the "künefe", a
melted cheese which must be eaten hot.
The best prawns in Turkey are found
Beautiful beaches stretch south of the
city. Located 31 km / 19 miles of Iskenderun,
Arsuz is the most important holiday
resort of the region.
Nikator, who was a general in the army of
the Great, after the death of the latter,
was given the control of Phrygia, Commagene
and Cilicia where, in 300 BC, he buit a city
at a strategic point in the fertile plain
of the Orontes River (Asi
Nehri). The city probably took the name
of Antiochus I who was the son of Seleucos.
In the 2C BC, the city was both a business
and a leisure center where people lived in
exuberant luxury. In 64 BC, the region was
taken by Pompey and became a Roman province.
Antioch remained an extremely important place.
It played a great role in the spread
of Christianity, because lots of Jews
expelled from Palestine came to catechize
the Jewish community of the city (who had
come and settled at the time of the Seleucid
prosperity , as well as the pagan population.
Barnabas, later assisted by Paul,
became the leader of this community whose
members were called "christians"
here for the first time. Peter also spent
a few years in the city. Antioch witnessed
some periods of persecution like the one that
occured under the rule of Docletian. Under
emperor Constantine, as christianity was now
the official State religion, the Bishop of
Antioch was at the time considered one of
the spiritual leaders of the Church of Orient.
In 526 and 528 an earthquake considerably
damaged the city. As the Byzantines were unable
to keep the city under their control, Antioch
came in turn under the domination of the Arabs,
the Armenians, the Seljuks,
the Crusaders, the Mamelukes, then the Ottomans
After the First World War, Antioch was placed
by the League of Nations as a mandated territory
under French supervision. In 1920, it was
united to the autonomous Sanjak of Alexandretta
before being incorporated to the Republic
of Turkey in 1939.
Today Antioch is a quiet and picturesque city
that holds one of the richest collections
of Roman and Byzantine Mosaics in the world.
The Mosaic Museum exhibits beautiful
Roman and Byzantine mosaics from the 1st to
the 5C AD.
Narcissus and the Echo (3C AD)
Drunk Dionysos held by a Menad and a Satyr (2C AD)
The Birds and the Kantharos (3C AD)
Places of interest
old town and the Bazaar.
The Habib Neccar Mosque,a Frankish
church transformed into a mosque.
The Roman Bridge
Haghios Petros Paulos is a charming
19C Syrian-Orthodox sanctuary.
The Citadel from where there is a beautiful
panorama over the city and the valley.
The Grotto of St Peter, where the
Apostle Peter is believed to have preached
and where the first Christians
met in secret, is considered to be one of
the very first places of Christian cult.
This unique place, which dates back to the
very beginning of the spread of the New
Faith, is holly for the Christian world.
The Vatican designated the site as a place
of pilgrimage and also as the first cathedral
in the world. Every year on June 29, a special
mass is celebrated here with the participation
of clergymen and the faithful from all over
Facade and Altar of the
Grotto of St Peter
The surroundings of Antakya :
Harbiye Waterfalls are located
in the south of Antakya on the site
of ancient Daphne among cypress and
laurel trees. The place was known
as the "delights of Antioch"
and there was a temple and a holly
wood dedicated to Apollo. It was forbidden
to cut the trees because according
to mythology, the wood nymph Daphne
had been transformed into a laurel-tree
by her father, as she was trying to
escape from the grasp of Apollo who
had fallen in love with her.
Monastery of St Simeon Stylite the
Younger, where in the 6C AD the
hermit spent about 25 years of his
life on the top of a column, is situated
on mount Samandağ.
Samandağ is the small seaside
resort of Antakya. Very near is the
archaeological site of Seleucia
of Pieria (Çevlik), which was
the ancient port of Antioch from which
Peter and Paul
set sail for Cyprus on their 1st missionary
journey. The ancient city was built
by Seleucos Nikator in 310 BC and
was located at the mouth of the Orontes
River (Asi Nehri) which, at the time,
The visit of the ruins is a good opportunity
to a bucolic stroll along the stream,
and to enjoy a nice panorama over
the plain and the sea.
The ruins of Seleucia of Pieria
include: -The Walls -The Monumental Gate -The Temple of Zeus -The remarkable Water Tunnel
which now is dry and where it is possible
to take a walk. It was meant to divert
the waters of the stream in case of
flood. An inscription attributes the
construction to Vespasian and to Titus. -The rock-cut Necropolis
roads lead from Antakya to the Syrian border :
one goes east through Cilvegözü (Reyhanlı)
to Aleppo, the other one goes south through Yayladağı
to Lattaquié and Lebanon
Located in the north-west of Gaziantep, ancient
Markasi was a Hittite
capital in the 12C BC. Hittite sculptures are displayed
in the new Archaeoligical Museum on the Adana
The other important monuments in the area are: Ulu
Camii (Grand Mosque) and Taş Medrese dating back
to the 15th century, Hatuniye and Beyazit Mosques
from the 16th century.
The original name of the city is Maraş. Having shown
such valor during the War
of Independence by resisting the French , Maraş
was later given the title of "kahraman"
which means "hero".
The speciality of Maraş is the "MaraşDondurması" ice-cream, thickened
and enriched with "salep"
(orchis roots powder) which gives it a very nice
taste. Its other particularity is that it is beaten
with a paddle. This ice cream is much appreciated
troughout Turkey. It really is worth trying!