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At the Museums: Antioch in Antiquity Volume 53 Number 6, November/December 2000
by Angela M.H. Schuster

Exploring a cosmopolitan Mediterranean city

[image] The Tyche, or city goddess, of Antioch sits atop a male swimmer, a personification of the Orontes River, in this Roman copy of a Greek marble statue by Eutychides (Courtesy the Worcester Art Musuem) [LARGER IMAGE]

How could they ever give up their marvelous way of life, the range of their daily pleasures, their brilliant theatre, which consummated a union between art and the erotic proclivities of the flesh? ...they had the satisfaction of living the notorious life of Antioch, delectable, in absolute good taste.

--Constantine P. Cavafy,
Julian and the Antiochians, 1972

For nearly a millennium the city of Antioch, located on the Syrian border of southern Turkey, reigned as one of the ancient world's great cities, renowned for its sophistication, the opulence of its buildings and broad avenues, its markets filled with exotic and luxurious goods, and, perhaps more important, its artistic and intellectual life. The city boasted a diverse population of Greeks, Romans, Syrians, and Jews and was home to leaders of the early Christian church. It was here that the evangelist Matthew is believed to have written his gospel, where the first-century bishop Ignatius codified many of the tenets of the early church, and where the fourth-century orator John Chrysostom wrote his Easter Address, the benchmark by which modern clerics still judge their own sermons.

Antioch: The Lost Ancient City, which opened at the Worcester Art Museum in Massachusetts on October 8, examines the intellectual and artistic life of this most cosmopolitan of cities through more than 100 artifacts--mosaics, marble sculptures, jewelry, glass, and coins--brought together for the first time since their excavation in the 1930s. Presented in a suite of five galleries, the exhibition traces the development of the city from its founding in the fourth-century B.C. by Seleukos I, one of Alexander the Great's successors, to its near total abandonment following a devastating earthquake on May 29, A.D. 526.

Antioch: The Lost Ancient City, which is accompanied by an exquisite catalog with essays by more than a dozen scholars, will be at the Worcester Art Museum through February 4.

Angela M.H. Schuster is a senior editor of ARCHAEOLOGY.

* Click here for ARCHAEOLOGY's list of current exhibitions.

© 2000 by the Archaeological Institute of America