The Colonnaded Street / Kurtuluş Caddesi

            Antioch was founded in 300 B.C. by the Seleucid king Seleucus I (d. ca. 281 B.C.). The city was built according to the so-called Hippodamian plan where the streets were straight and met at right angles. The city was fairly rectangular. To the one side a long wall followed the river Orontes and parallel to this there was a wall following the present streets of Kurtuluş Caddesi and Süreyya Halefoğlu Caddesi from the point where the street Kırk Asırlık Türk Yurdu Caddesi meets Kurtuluş Caddesi to the point close where Süreyya Halefoğlu Caddesi meets İzmir Caddesi. At this point a road is coming in from Beroea (today: Aleppo). This road most likely continued along the city wall towards the south. Most travellers very likely entered Antioch through the Eastern Gate (later changed to the Middle Gate as the city grew towards the north).

            The ill-famed king Antiochus Epiphanes (175-163 B.C.) incorporated the city quarters between the wall and Mount Silpius into the city calling it Epiphaneia after himself. A new gate was built close to the present junction of Kurtuluş Caddesi and Kırk Asırlık Türk Yurdu Caddesi. This gate was later called the Cherubim Gate as the Roman general Titus is said to have put up cherubs from the Jewish temple in Jerusalem at this gate.

            With this new addition to the city, the road from Beroea (Aleppo) to Daphne (Harbiye) some kilometres further south went right through the city.

           As mentioned above, the city had grown towards the north and a big bean-shaped island in the middle of the river Orontes had been incorporated. The Eastern Gate was now situated close to where Mount Staurin meet Antakya Reyhanlı Yolu near its junction with Atatürk Caddesi. This made the thoroughfare through Antioch more or less three kilometres long.

            As time went by, this street was to grow in importance. Herod the Great, the ruler of Judaea, financed some improvement of the street, and also the Roman Emperor Tiberius (A.D. 14-37) has been credited with some contribution. When the street was finished it was 27 metres wide: nine metres for the street itself and nine metres for the colonnades on each side of the street where shops of various sorts were located. The saying goes that the Roman Emperor Anthonius Pius (A.D. 138-161) had the street paved with Theban granite.

 On the picture above we see the course of the Colonnaded Street from the Cherubim Gate (that was located at the crossroad near the bottom of the pictures) up to Mount Staurin (the small mountain just beside the street). The densely populated area to the left used to be the original Seleucid city. The populated area to the right, up the slopes of Mount Silpius, is roughly equivalent to Epiphaneia. On the left side of the street, opposite Mount Staurin, there is a green area. This is where the bean-shaped island used to be. Today there is no island as the eastern branch of the Orontes has dried up.

            During the reign of the Byzantine Emperor Theodosius II (A.D. 408-450) the street was extended towards the south and a new wall was built from a point close to the present waterworks on the slopes of Mount Silpius to a point close to where the streets Kurtuluş Caddesi and Hastane Caddesi meet. There a new gate called the Daphne Gate, or the Golden Gate, was built. Thus the quarters of Rhodion (today probably the quarter of Güllü Bahçe: Rose Garden) and Kerateion were incorporated into the city.

The picture above shows the quarters that were added to the city by Theodosius II. The Daphne Gate was located just behind the building with the white roof in the foreground. The quarter of Kerateion was somewhere in the area to the right of Kurtuluş Caddesi and Rhodion most likely to the left. The torrent of Phyrminus came down through a gorge in Mount Silpius. Now it is hidden under the street that is entering our picture above the barracks in the front. It is continuing down towards the Orontes under the houses between the two curved streets in the left side of the picture.

            Today the part of Antioch or Antakya that is situated east of the river Orontes has shrunk. Consequently, only about half of what used to be the Colonnaded Street runs through densely populated parts of town. In the downtown area the old street is hidden several metres under the present level. Furthermore, Kurtuluş Caddesi is a very narrow street compared to the Colonnaded Street, measuring only about a third of the old street.

Nearly a hundred years ago and during the time of the French occupation in the thirties, beautiful houses were built in this street. Later ugly concrete boxes were put up beside them.

            Lately some renovation of the Kurtuluş Caddesi has begun. At least the facades of the old houses are being renovated and it is said that also the shops eventually will have a front similar to that of old.

            Some discussion has been going on about closing the street to traffic turning it into a sort of pedestrian street as has been done with Hürriyet Caddesi (popularly called Saray Caddesi) close to the Bridge. It has been suggested that a “nostalgic” tram like the one in İstiklal Caddesi in Istanbul should run along the street. Also horse drawn gigs like those on the islands across from Istanbul have been suggested. [i] However, this solution would leave the city with the same stench as that on the island Büyükada.

            It is sad that Antakya, like many other Turkish cities, has suffered from the widespread lack of appreciation for history. Nevertheless, it is good to see that many locals now try to preserve the values they have inherited from the past.

 Kurtuluş Caddesi towards the south


Kurtuluş Caddesi, the southern extension

[i] “Antakya tarihi ve kentsel SİT alanları sürdürülebilir koruma-geliştirme planı,” Güney Rüzgarı, sayı 140, August 2011, pages 9-12.

About Antiochene

Writer and translatorliving in Antioch on the Orontes (Antakya, Turkey) and Copenhagen.
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