National Geographic : 1920 Aug
ANTIOCH THE GLORIOUS on the island in the Orontes, or watch with breathless interest as the hero guides the four fleet Arab steeds through the mazes of the chariot race, Antioch seems a fabled city of ancient times, living in story only. It is hard to come to reality and think of American Fords and Italian Fiats rushing along the roads where Ben Hur guided his matchless Arab steeds, or of great motor lorries trundling across the plain where the long trains of camels brought their caravans of riches from the East. The hippodrome where Ben Hur, the Jew, contested with Messala, the Roman, is in ruins, but the East and the West are just as surely in conflict today. The purpose of this story is to place again before the reader a city that has been the capital of the Nearer East, and that in the near future may again become a controlling factor in the trade of the Levant. It is the story of Antioch the Glorious. SELEUCUS VISITS A SHRINE ON MOUNT CASIUS Fleeing for his life across the Syrian Desert, with scarcely fifty horsemen at his back, was not an auspicious opening for a young man ambitious to found a kingdom of his own. But such is the picture of Seleucus Nicator, favorite of Alexander the Great, commander of the Macedonian Horse, Governor of Baby lon, and finally head of the House of Seleucus, which for nearly three hundred years ruled an empire stretching at times from India to the AEgean Sea. The break up of Alexander's empire brought two decades of strife, resulting in the emergence of four great divi sions-Egypt at the south, Macedonia and Greece to the west, Asia Minor in the north, and Syria, with Mesopotamia, in the center and east. Victory at the Battle of Ipsus, in 301 B. C., gave Seleu cus control over this Syrian kingdom. Almost the first act of Seleucus after his victory was to proceed to a sacred shrine on the summit of Mount Casius, and there offer sacrifices of thanksgiving to Zeus. Of all the splendid mountains in Syria, none is more beautiful, more dignified, more mysterious, than Mount Casius of the ancients, Jebal Akra of the Arabs, Bald Mountain as it would be in simple English. From whatever side it is viewed, it is a regular cone, 6,ooo feet in height, so steep that it can be ascended only from the eastern side, and then with difficulty. From its summit to the sea on the west and the Orontes River on the north, the sides are so unbroken by foothills and valleys that it seems as if a boulder started at the top would roll without hindrance to the sea. To the mariner steering for the harbor of Seleucia, and from the plains to the east, even from the city of Aleppo, 70 miles away, the splendid conical peak is a guiding landmark. It is no wonder, then, that this moun tain was looked upon as the home of the gods. Often gossamer white clouds veil its summit with the mystery befitting an abode of those divine. Again, the dark storm-clouds gather, the thunders roll, and Jupiter launches his thunderbolts of anger from his throne on high. When the lights and shadows play over the rug ged slopes and the sun glows warm on the mountain side, the gods are at peace and all the world is gay. A FLIGHT OF BIRDS DETERMINED THE LOCATION OF SELEUCIA Following his religious devotions on Mount Casius, the flight of a flock of birds guided the victorious Seleucus to the founding of a Mediterranean seaport for his new kingdom. This city of Seleucia became large and flourishing, with a harbor protected by artificial breakwaters and a large inclosed basin, where the Greek and Roman galleys could load and unload directly at the wharves. From this harbor, in later years, the Apostles Barnabas and Saul sailed away to bear their gospel message to the Ro man world. The ancient breakwaters, the rock cita del guarding the harbor entrance, and the outlines of the inner basin can still be traced. This same site was surveyed recently by an American syndicate as a possible location for a port and the terminus of a railway from Asia Minor to the Mediterranean, tapping the rich mineral regions of the interior.