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Episode 8: Antioch: A History with Professors Asa Eger, Andrea De Giorgi, and Reyhan Durmaz

For our July podcast, we were joined by Professors Asa Eger (University of North Carolina at Greensboro), Andrea De Giorgi (Florida State University), and Reyhan Durmaz (University of Pennsylvania) for a discussion of a new volume just published by Routledge, entitled Antioch: A History, coauthored by Asa Eger and Andrea De Giorgi, covering the history of the city from the 4th century BCE to the present.

Anna Stavrakopoulou: Welcome to the eighth episode of the Dumbarton Oaks Byzantine Podcast series. I am Anna Stavrakopoulou, the program director in Byzantine Studies at Dumbarton Oaks, and we are joined today by Asa Eger.

Asa Eger: Hi, I’m Asa Eger.

Anna: Andrea De Giorgi.

Andrea De Giorgi: Hello, I’m Andrea De Giorgi.

Anna: Reyhan Durmaz.

Reyhan Durmaz: Hello, I’m Reyhan Durmaz.

Anna: Asa Eger is an associate professor in the Department of History at the University of North Carolina, at Greensboro. He has a doctorate from the University of Chicago in Islamic archaeology. He is the author of four books and 30 articles and essays on Islamic and Byzantine archaeology and history, focusing primarily on the 6th to 12th centuries.

Dr. Eger has excavated and surveyed in Turkey, Israel, Cyprus, and Greece for the past 25 years and conducted archeological analysis on legacy and spatial data in Syria and Iraq. He works on issues of frontiers and borders, environmental history, the relationship of cities and their hinterlands, Islamic ceramics, tribes and the state, and gender and sexuality. He was also a fellow in Byzantine Studies at Dumbarton Oaks in the spring of 2012.

Andrea De Giorgi is associate professor of classical studies at Florida State University. He specializes in Roman urbanism and visual culture, from the origins to late antiquity, with emphasis on the Greek East. He is the author of Ancient Antioch: From the Seleucid Era to the Islamic Conquest (Cambridge University Press, 2016), editor of Cosa and the Colonial Landscape of Republican Italy (2019), and coeditor of Cosa/Orbetello. Archaeological Itineraries (2016).

Dr. De Giorgi has directed excavations and surveys in Turkey, Syria, Georgia, Jordan, and the United Arab Emirates. Since 2013, he has codirected the Cosa excavations in Italy and currently studies the 1930s Antioch collections at the Princeton University Art Museum. He has received numerous fellowships, both from American and German institutions.

And last, Reyhan Durmaz is assistant professor of religious studies at the University of Pennsylvania. Her research interests include Syriac Christianity, religion and society in late antiquity, hagiography, and Christian-Muslim relations in the Middle Ages. Her first monograph, tentatively titled Beyond Hagiography: Stories between Christianity and Islam in the Middle Ages, under contract at the University of California Press, examines the transmission of nonbiblical saints’ stories and cults from Christianity to Islam.

Her other research projects include study of rural Christianities in the Middle Ages in the eastern Mediterranean. She received her PhD from Brown University in 2019, with a Joukowsky Outstanding Dissertation Award in Humanities. She was a junior fellow in Byzantine Studies at the Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection in 2018–19. Her research has also been supported by the Woodrow Wilson Foundation.

They will be discussing a new volume just published by Routledge, entitled Antioch: A History, coauthored by Asa Eger and Andrea De Giorgi, covering the history of the city from the 4th century BCE to the present. They’ll answer questions like: What is special about Antioch? Which methodological approaches have the authors used to write the biography of the city? Last, but not least, how can we rethink of the renowned Antioch mosaics?

We are very happy to be discussing Antioch: A History by Andrea De Giorgi and Asa Eger. The book was just published by Routledge in 2021 and it covers the city of Antioch from the 4th century BCE all the way to the 21st century. I would like to ask our speakers, the authors of the book, to start with, Andrea and Asa. How did the two of you work and how did you create the methodological structure of your book?

Andrea: I’ll get started. Thank you for the kind introduction, Anna. Well, Asa and I go a long way. Actually, we hit it off back in 2002 when we were fortunate enough to be part of this remarkable survey of the territory of Antioch, a survey that was directed by University of Chicago. We had this incredible fortune to put our hands on the territory of Antioch and I think we got the bug. Things were never the same after that.

We got to experience the magic of the city and also the importance of this place that changed the ancient world in fundamental ways. Basically, we’ve had this chemistry for many years and even after field work together, we’ve been collaborating on articles, on various initiatives that are seeking to restore this idea of Antioch’s centrality, Antioch being this entity that is important in spite of being extremely elusive.

In that vein, we’ve promoted a number of initiatives at Princeton University, seeking to go back to the old archeological collections from Antioch, we’ve published a great deal. Basically, this is a long-term relationship that keeps on working real well and churning out new scholarship. I think this last book is very much a testament of our commitment to Antioch. Right, Asa?

Asa: Absolutely. I would say also that methodologically, the book very much reflects our experiences with the city and also our relationship in doing work. That very first year, we lived in this beautiful old Ottoman house, very much in the heart of the city, the heart of the modern city. We surveyed the countryside. Our first experiences really, archeologically, were of the country, not of the city, but we lived in the city. Every day, we went out in the fields, literally, to work.

I think, over the years, we’ve worked on so many projects around Antioch and we’ve closed in more and more and more, and so it was really an honor and a pleasure to be able to just write this history of the city. The methodology is informed by that because we always tapped into the landscape. What’s going on around the city? What’s the going on with the connections to the outside?

We are archeologists, but we wanted to make this book as accessible as possible to everyone. We include the politics, we include all the religious communities. That was very important to us. We foreground very much the physicality of the city itself, but always are trying to weave in all the other aspects of the city.

Anna: Thank you very much. Nonetheless, the contents of the book reveal a chronological sort of structure. Now, Reyhan, would you like to ask your question about this part of the book?

Reyhan: Of course. First of all, thank you very much for having me here today. It’s such a pleasure and honor to be discussing this wonderful book with the two of you. My first question when I was reading this book was, whether we can speak more about the chronologies and temporalities and periodization, in general because, I realized that one of the major interventions of this book is basically connecting the pre-Islamic and post-Islamic history of a city, which is rarely done and rarely well done in scholarship.

I was wondering, first of all, what do you think about that divide and furthermore, when you look at the different chapters, I see a periodization based on political rule, right? The Seljuk period, then the Crusader period, Byzantine period, Mamluk, etc. I was wondering how else we can think about the life of a city, alternative to this political periodization. Thank you very much for your thoughts about this because this is something I’ve been thinking about in my own research.

Asa: Thank you so much for the question and it’s great to have you here too, Reyhan. Thank you for joining. This is an excellent question, especially to archeologists who resist specific periodizations and political periodizations. We dwell in the world more of 4th century or 7th century, rather than specific dates and numbers. Nevertheless, we did make this commitment for several reasons. One, we very much wanted to present an entire history of the city, because really, the predecessor of the history of Antioch is Glanville Downey’s History of Antioch from the early ’60s. He, like many others, draws a fine line when the history is done. It’s a very arbitrary line. History is done with an earthquake, with the conquest. That later story has never been told.

Within that story, one of the most fascinating aspects is what does a classical city look like as an Islamic city or as a medieval city? Many of the classical cities in the Near East are abandoned eventually by the medieval period, but this one is not, it’s continuously inhabited. We have that ability. Nevertheless, we could have made choices to say the “early Islamic period” or the “middle Byzantine period” in these—I realize we still did that, but in a way that groups together things like Seljuks and Mamluks and Crusaders, and doesn’t have separate narratives for them.

I think we found it very useful to go with a traditional [approach]: who are the occupants or the occupiers of Antioch? I’m sure Andrea can add a lot more here. It also tells a different story because the city was always desired. People always wanted to own it and claim it, and that sequence of events and that occupancy was not always loved by its people as we found out, so the tension [existed] between occupying it politically and resistance by its people.

Also, as we found out, many of the decisions made in the city actually were autonomous and the city almost ran itself despite its occupants, but we found it a useful way to do that. We did divide up the Roman-Byzantine periods though in a slightly different way than is usually done. Andrea, I don’t know if you want to talk about where you decided to draw this line between what is Late Roman and Byzantine because I think that was something unique to Antioch itself basically.

Andrea: Well, we certainly had to come to terms with some kind of periodization that will make sense to the wider audience, because of course, we also have to remember that we’re pitching the book, not only to like a scholarly well-learned audience out there, but also to the enthusiast, to the archaeology enthusiast, and to the person who would like to know more about the early days of the Christian Church in Antioch. There is a very diverse clientele out there to which the book is being pitched.

We also had grudgingly to come to terms with this kind of periodization. For instance, with the Late Roman period, or let’s call it late antiquity for lack of a better term, we started one of the chapters with the Septimius Severus, which made a lot of sense from a strictly Antiochene perspective because, basically, that’s the moment when Antioch starts very much rising to plateaus that had not been hitherto hit by any city in the environs. That’s like the rise of Antioch, which starts very much at that time and we argue [that].

We had to again embrace these ideas especially when it comes down to the 4th century, so have a section that we’ll deal with the delayed antique phase. Considering, of course, the heap of information that we have about Antioch, talking essentially about the textual sources as we have so much and think about, John Chrysostom and Theodoret of Cyrrhus, and the list goes on and on and on.

Yes, on the one hand, that was this system of basically creating some boundaries as it were, but by the same token, we tried to very much place the emphasis on people rather than the emperors and the governors, like how people very much should have partook in this Antioch thing, how they basically created their own agency, how they voiced their anxieties, how they basically negotiated their existence with the powers that were. That basically helped us as also a model, all of these environmental complexities like famines, food crises, earthquakes, and the list goes on and on and on, since Antioch is a city that indeed suffered gazillion catastrophes.

I think that this dual approach on one hand, yes, some sense of tradition, a storyline that follows a typical chronology. Then, on the other hand, basically emphasizing people, their voices, their experiences that is what gave us a little bit of more latitude, say, when compared to Downey or any of the previous histories of Antioch.

Reyhan: If I can just follow up, this was very useful. You are right that within that overarching linear historical narrative, the book does a wonderful job of showing different temporalities. As you were just saying, the temporality of longstanding institutions, temporality of family, and multigenerational temporalities of families beyond individual members and the very timeframe of natural disasters or other natural phenomena that took, that shaped the history of the city. It’s wonderful to switch between or zoom in and out between these different time frames throughout this book. That was a feat.

That brings, of course, many other questions, because one of the recurring themes of this book is Antioch’s agency, Antioch’s character, and Antioch’s visions. We are talking about Antioch giving a lot of agency to the city, but when you think about these different temporalities, a question that raised in my mind was whose Antioch are we speaking about?

Antiochene is, of course, as the book mentions multiple times, not a homogenous group.

I was wondering if you could think out loud about whose Antioch we might think about. You, of course, mentioned Syrian Orthodox, Melkites, Armenians, and other religious groups, Jews, Muslims. Each one of them, while you’re giving synchronized historical views of the city that you very wonderfully wove together, they also reorient the city towards their own vision. I was just wondering if you could think out loud about this question of whose Antioch we are speaking about in this book and in various parts of this book.

Asa: Thank you, Reyhan, so much for the question. This is one of the questions that get right to the heart and it’s very incisive. One of the fascinating things about Antioch—this is almost a trope with so many cities, cosmopolitan, many groups, blah, blah, blah, but this is repeated so much for Antioch, even in the primary sources themselves. That is, it seems that not just we as 20th-, 21st-century scholars are doing it, but the actual visitors and people that live in Antioch themselves are always trying to point out all the various groups. It’s really known as this city of many cultures and different religious groups as well.

In the book, we were faced with this decision of what is Antiochene agency. Whenever possible, we did talk about groups and groups against groups and groups with groups.

This especially comes true when we talk about the various Christian groups in Antioch, the Miaphysites, the Chalcedonians, especially because there’s a lot of rivalry in certain periods. Less so, for example, with Muslims and Jews and Christians, but that does appear.

I think what we found really fascinating is from the primary sources themselves. Many times when the people of Antioch are being referred to as the citizens of Antioch, there’s just as often no distinction. That is, they are called the Antiochenes in their own various languages. Often, that is set against the ruler. The ruler, and then the tax on the Antiochenes, or [the ruler] made them all provide food during a food crisis, or the Antiochenes kicked out this ruler. Often, these reactions or episodes that we see happen as a city, so we try to keep that a little bit.

Of course, I think in reality, we know about factionalism. What I think is also interesting, and I don’t know if we can really get to the heart of this so much but maybe for future research, but when there are disasters, I wonder just in modern examples of what happens when an earthquake hits a city or whatever, maybe at that point, citizens do come together. Maybe people of cities do come together regardless of [whether] you worship at the Syriac church and so I’m not going to pull you out of the rubble. I’m not trying to reduce it in this way, but often the city that is beset by conquest or natural disasters probably did come together maybe more times than not.

Andrea: Look under the umbrella of Antiochene, you can split so many characterizations and that is the remarkable aspect of this story. Empress Eudocia, upon visiting Antioch, calls the Antiochenes, “You are great people. You are sons of Athens. You basically continue this tradition.” Which is, of course, a pleasantry and a nicety that that’s been said. It however bespeaks this tradition of a city that really doesn’t have just one focal point. It actually comes from this cauldron of cultures and ethnicities and groups of basically—it literally built this thing.

Of course, the subquestion that you pose, Reyhan, is a sensible one. How does the built environment of Antioch inform this idea of multiple focal points?

That is one of the major issues that we had to grapple with, in that Antioch, in terms of this physicality, offers very little if anything to the beholder. We’ve tried to address a sense of physicality, a sense of materiality that is missing. Keep in mind that, for instance, I don’t need to tell you the churches of Antioch that we would read about, that we know so much about, however, are completely missing.

We only have a handful of sites that we can identify as churches, but it is very frustrating. All we have is massive perimeter of walls and not much else. It’s this vacuum that we try to fill with stories, information, and, again, this remarkable patchwork of communities where each negotiates their own Antioch.

However, in keeping with this idea of that sense of unity that occasionally comes to the surface, especially when it comes down to voice their disdain or their resentment or their hatred for emperors, for rulers, for governors. They do that time and again. They do that with a certain regularity starting with the days of Lucius Verus and beyond, so if they don’t like you, they don’t like you.

The example of Julian the emperor, the Misopogon and all that, is a gripping moment in the history of this city. A community that says no to this guy who had promised to create a pagan church in Antioch, who had promised to go out of his way for Antioch. He would have basically made Antioch one of the most important of all the cities and they say no to him, “We don’t like you. Get out of here.”

Asa: I would just add even a little bit. I really actually do love this question. I feel like we can have a whole podcast just on this question alone. I actually think future studies can tackle this subject of identity. Also, I was having dinner last night and we were talking about this with a colleague whose family is from Antioch and she’s Turkish. She grew up in Istanbul. And this [question] permeates today: how does Antioch almost market itself as a city of so many communities and different religions and tolerance which is wonderful, but also how do other places see Antioch?

I remember working in other provinces in Turkey. “Well, in Antioch today, they can wear shorts and it’s a liberal city.” It almost has its own will, an independence despite not willing to be yoked under everything, not willing to conform but willing to act in its own way even today.

I think in antiquity, there were several episodes that we can go to where Antioch was probably also seen externally, somewhat similarly: “God, Antioch, it’s nothing but pagans with their festivals and always marching through the streets. The rest of the Byzantine Empire has really embraced Christianity and they still have a temple to Apollo.” It’s just, I think, whose Antioch but also perspectives from the outside versus the inside.

Anna: Thank you. Thank you all very much. I had a question, which is a simple question: how conscious were the inhabitants of the city of the past of the city, all chronological stages? We can start from today because you mentioned Antioch today. How conscious are they and how do they handle the past? What does the past represent for them through the sources and from your own experience?

Asa: This is also an amazing aspect of Antioch that I had not known before I started this project. Although I had inklings of, as you said, if we start from today, if you go to the mosque of Habib Neccar, there’s a tomb underneath. Actually, there’s two floors and Habib Al-Najjar is ostensibly buried there, as well as Sham’un Al-Safa, that is thought to be perhaps—there is not a consensus on who this might be but—Simon and perhaps Simon Peter.

Already we have this idea that we have perhaps a Christian apostle and a Muslim, let’s say saint, buried side by side. This is very much in keeping with the Qu’ran in general, but this is already more than a nod to the past. It’s literally entombed and set in place as the centerpiece for the entire city.

At various points, we found an on all levels on these macro levels where sources would recognize that Antioch is the place for the holy. It’s the place where Christianity first accrued, where the first church first accrued, where Habib al-Najjar, which is from the Qu’ran, if people will believe that the city referred to in the Quran where in some ways, the first citizen who claimed monotheism and shrugged off paganism and of course was killed because of it, also is there.

There are many anecdotes. There’s one anecdote I love and that is one of the biographers in, I believe it’s Salah ad-Din’s biographer who’s with him, and they’re at war with Antioch. They are camped outside, they’re negotiating war and truce. In the midst of all this, he says, “I’m just going to dip into the city that we’re at war with because I really want to visit this tomb. This tomb is really important. This has a lot of history.”

These aspects reverberate, I think, time and again. Many Islamic sources will always begin or reference the fact that . . . they’ll try to tell the foundation of Antioch, the story that it was founded by king, Antiochus. Of course, they get a little bit fuzzy on the details over the centuries, but that this is almost a badge of honor for the city.

Then, another aspect we will say is or we can talk about is this idea of talismans, which are almost—well, maybe we have the macro, the big, the mosque of Habib Neccar and his implications. Then, these tiny, tiny talismans that are dotted throughout the city where something like the Charonion, which is one of the oldest parts of Antioch, a relief carved in the side of the mountain, in much later sources, later Islamic sources, is a place where people might go to say prayers for the health of their children. Children who have colds because it’s thought that this might be a weeping woman. These ideas of more than superstitions. They’re almost little touchstones with the past.

Andrea, I don’t know if you want to add to this.

Andrea: No. As a matter of fact, I was going to add about the Charonion. The fact that there’s this big, monumental talisman that overlooks the city, and that is well recognized by the Antakyalı in the sense that they uphold this distant past, the early heyday of the Seleucid monarchy, and the foundation of the city that clearly lingers on. There’s that.

There’s certainly, in Antakya today, there’s a sense of pride. The folks who live there, they know they’re part of this remarkable history. No matter how small the archaeological evidence may be, but they understand that there’s a long story, an important one. Then, I think that investment of the other local government in terms of creating a very important new archeological museum, that is very much like a testament to show the legacy of the ancient city to show this extraordinary story, that very much fills the local population with pride in the sense of belonging. We’re part of the story. There’s a lot of pride and rightly so.

Reyhan: If I can just follow up on that, Andrea, really quickly, you multiple times mentioned the local pride and how that is not mutually exclusive to other identities. One can belong to a particular religious group, while still taking pride in their homeland. In this case, we’re talking about Antioch and that local pride of this place.

Of course, this automatically brings the question of the urban-rural divide. One of the interventions of this book is actually interweaving the hinterland and the countryside into the history of Antioch. I was wondering if we can dwell on that divide a little bit and how it loses meaning after a while to set rigid boundaries to a city and separate it from its hinterland.

I was curious if you could tell us a little bit more about your processes of doing that work methodologically and how you approach the countryside in general, and how we can apply these methods in other research. A lot of us are working on local this and local that, but how local is local is always a question. We can go from one building to an entire region. Yes, I was just wondering if we can dwell on that locality, especially in light of the urban-rural dichotomy a little bit.

Andrea: Well, this is another key point in our narrative. Of course, we treat it as Asa mentioned, we treated the hinterlands of Antioch very much as an extension of the city and we have numerous textual representations of the folks from Antioch basically commuting daily from the city into the field and back. Of course, Libanius does a great job in many of his orations in terms of illustrating this phenomenon of this flurry of movement to and from the city happening on a daily basis.

There’s also this dilemma because many of the villages and the rural districts were semiautonomous, divorced from the city with their own local government. Even the textual sources very much augmented the sense of malaise in the sense that, for instance, John Chrysostom, in one of his homilies, he very much addresses the folks from the rural districts who come to the city on Sundays. They speak this language that we don’t understand, of course, being Syriac, but yet they’re brothers in Christ. Of course, there’s a religious perspective, but there’s also a sense of a divorce between the city and the rural districts in the distance.

Of course, Antioch is also a huge city that has a huge territory that basically straddles the plain—well, actually the Mediterranean coast, all the way into the Limestone Massif of Syria. We’re talking about a vast territory inhabited by countless communities, many very much—again, being the byproduct of Antioch’s expansion and very much being integrated in this economic system that supports and sustains the city.

But there is also, especially in the outlying districts, a great deal of communities that clearly were not that integrated. As a matter of fact, they were not affected by many of the catastrophes that hit the city, whether it was invasions of the Persians or some of those earthquakes that we’ve mentioned. Like, leaving the scene unscathed when things went bad for Antioch.

It’s a very interesting process. We tried to address this duality, on the one hand, again, great deal of integration. Then, on the other hand, is a series of districts and territories that were only liminal and, in that way, not fully integrated in this greater Antioch system.

Asa: I would add a little bit about our methodology as well, because we’re first and foremost trained as landscape archaeologists and began this whole process almost 20 years ago, doing a survey of its countryside. Very much we build on a lot of the scholarship that has discussed agrarian practices and economic practices and that kind of thing. We bring in the texts, but also the archaeology seems to support and also hold on its own that there is a strong link between town and country earlier.

Perhaps Antioch, during its heyday Roman period, is a bit of a parasite city, where all the goods come in and people utilize the markets, but it does very much change. That’s, I think, reflected archaeologically, where rural sites actually get bigger and become towns, and Antioch becomes smaller. It still uses these legendary Byzantine walls, but the city within them shrinks and shrinks.

We have references to this where people, instead of going out in the fields to the plains to garden and sow, and cultivate, harvest, they actually do it within the walls. Parts of the city actually just become ruralized, which I think is fascinating because I think from some perspectives, people might think, “Oh, it’s a city in decline, they’re growing in their own city. They’re not even utilizing all the space.” I think it can speak to far greater ideas of resilience, especially after all these disasters and catastrophes, to be able to be much more self-sufficient and not tied to huge markets and economies.

At the same time, we hear about traveling markets in the country that don’t even really need to stop in Antioch anymore, which I find fascinating. I think a lot of that continues to this day. Town and country go back and forth. I think as the centuries go on, one hears less and less about the country. Actually, the reverse, which I find fascinating, when disaster hits Antioch, of an epic scale like an earthquake, it creates a period of time where the citizens of the city become citizens of the country.

Often, they do it because they think the city is just too dangerous. We’ll read about that people just went out and lived in the fields and in the country because they didn’t want to live surrounded by four walls because that seemed the scariest thing to do at the time. We almost have an incident of people leaving the city to take on a country life that was probably temporary, though.

Reyhan: If I can just add one more note to that, I think in addition to these broader changes in pattern across a linear timeline, what the book highlights, or one of the things the book really wonderfully highlights, is seasonality and cyclicality of life. In certain times of the year, Antioch was just simply a more crowded place compared to other times of the year, of course, this changing with economic developments or religious festivals or other seasonalities. I think in any in any year, we can’t talk about one static Antioch, but we have to think about this as a moving, growing, and shrinking entity across time, which is really, I think, important.

In light of this book, I can tell it is a very important thing to keep in mind those different seasonalities of this city. It was really helpful for me to think about my material in that sense, as well.

Andrea: If I may add to just, my way in, and I’m glad you bring this aspect up because when we also look at the visual culture of Antioch and we think about the extraordinary repertoire of mosaics, many of these mosaics very much celebrate the seasons, that great moment in the history of Antioch and the foundation, the moment when the crops are in bloom and where the city, there’s all this abundance. The land is fertile. I think that there’s also a great visual connection with what you just said, that is very much part of this great story that we’re discussing here today.

Anna: Yes, if I may follow up on mosaics, what is your 21st-century approach on the spectacular Antiochene mosaics? If you would like to address this, since this is a Dumbarton Oaks podcast and as we know, Dumbarton Oaks did participate, did fund some of the archeological digs in Antioch. I would like to hear your take on that.

Andrea: We have to pay our dues to Dumbarton Oaks and its extraordinary collection. Well, of course, the Antioch mosaics are hands down one of the most beautiful, extraordinary collections of mosaics ever garnered by an archaeological expedition. We’re talking about 300 plus mosaics that were lifted. However, now completely balkanized because, by the same token, this is a collection that is basically scattered all over the world from Cuba to Kansas to California, you name it. All the most important museums, especially in North America, have their halls lined up with these beautiful pavements.

Well, of course, Asa and I had to come to grips with the fact that for many decades, Antioch has been identified as the city of mosaics. Basically, just the place, the locus where all these mosaics embellish the houses of the wealthy and we very much sought to debunk this posture because we’re not clearly comfortable with it.

We recognize the importance of these mosaics because they’re extraordinary, they’re beautiful and all, but they very much tell stories that are important and are central. They very much inform the outlook of the patterns. They very much help us discuss, as we’re doing today with Reyhan, the idea of the memory. She suggested how can we talk about the memory of the early days of the foundation. Yes, those mosaics in many instances very much celebrate the glory days of Antioch’s foundation and the founders and this operation of Greek myths. A sense of being Hellenist, Greek, however, in Syria, also basically like this project of theirs, so we try not to dwell on the beauty, the aesthetical value that, of course, we’re not going to take away, but rather we try to integrate the visual stories, these tapestries, these tessellated surfaces into the voices of the Antiochenes of why they needed to surround themselves with this extravagant sometimes images or opulent representations of nature, Greek gods and all the great things in life.

Asa: I will add a little bit as well, and I very much appreciate those perspectives, Andrea. The mosaics I find are often, especially with Dumbarton Oaks, as this was the case for me, really my—outside of Antioch’s museum itself—my first touch with Antioch was through its mosaics in Dumbarton Oaks, especially the one that you walk over.

I think all the work that has been done on them is pretty incredible. Yet there’s more to do. I think we also felt that the mosaics have been a little bit of a bully in Antioch. They’re so pretty that they tend to just—they want the spotlight all the time and, “Oh, you’re talking about Antioch? Well, look at us. We are . . .” It’s like the beauty pageant of Antioch, but at the same time they represent one or two periods of the long history.

They usually are coming from contexts of elite villas, elite residences, less so some baths, one church. They’re not really representative of the picture of Antioch that we try to do, and we talked about earlier, of different communities, different social classes and so on. I think we treat them well and many people have treated them, but we also minimize them a bit because mosaics take all the attention.

I will add a little plug that many of them as mosaics come from the suburb of Daphne. One of our future projects that we are already embarking upon is to look at the archaeology above and below the mosaics, not just the mosaics themselves, but their archaeological contexts and just try to situate them beyond just their iconography.

Anna: Thank you very much. As we are moving towards the conclusion of our podcast, I would like to ask Reyhan about the use of this volume for your field, religious studies, and more broadly. If you would like to tell us more about how this book can make a difference, can be used in the classroom, beyond the classroom, just your opinion on the book.

Reyhan: Of course. I’ll just briefly tell, it will be difficult to summarize this book and its uses for me in a short podcast that deserves its own podcast, but I will be brief. First of all, as you mentioned, Anna, I’m a scholar of religious studies. A volume like this always brings that world into its own physical context. All of these communities that I studied, a Syrian Orthodox community, as well as Melkites and other Christian and Muslim communities that I do focus on in my research, all in a way fell into their physical spaces in this volume.

It was really wonderful to just fill in that gap with material culture and with their interactions in this very special place and geographical location in this landscape. That is number one, how a book like this, which ties texts and material culture together, can actually give the very essential background to religious studies. I think it’s a two-way dialogue. At the same time, I think religious studies can contribute greatly to works like this by highlighting how religious identities and formation of religious groups work in material contexts, like it is laid out in this book.

Secondly, my recent project is on the Syrian Orthodox communities in the countryside, especially in northern Mesopotamia. This book was an excellent comparison for me, and it helped me think about again that urban-rural binary, I’ve been challenging that binary in one of my recent articles and in other recent works. This book has been going to all kinds of footnotes because it’s a perfect conversation partner.

Broadly, I think, Anna, this will be a wonderful piece to read in the classroom. It’s very approachable, but it’s also very dense that it doesn’t leave you hungry for more. It really does a wonderful job of balancing theory and the hardcore data. That is one of the dream readings of any, I think, classroom, be it history, religious studies, or other relevant fields. I am, for example, teaching a course on material Christianities, the first millennium, in the spring term. I look forward to teaching that course partly through this book. I think it will be very useful.

These are only the ones that immediately come to my mind, but this has been a really delightful read and conversation.

Anna: Thank you. Thank you so much, Reyhan. I would like to ask now our two authors, if the book is going to be translated in Turkish, for instance, since Antakya is a Turkish city? Also, I would like to ask you both, if you feel that we should say something before we close our podcast about this book, your experience, how you see and envision any future research.

Asa: I would love for this book to be translated to Turkish. I think that’s really what has to be done for, yes, not only a Turkish city, but I think that just understanding its history and understanding these approaches and these methodologies in general for Turkish audiences and scholarship, as well as being able to have Antakyalı, people of Antioch, able to read about this city as well and for it to be maybe available in the gift shop of the Hatay Müzesi or something would be really wonderful. I’m pausing here like, “Whoa, this is going to be a big job,” but an important one, an absolutely important one.

Anna: Any future plans, Andrea? The two of you, are you continuing your work on Antioch?

Andrea: Well, Antioch, as a much as we try to place Antioch on the back burner, it always comes to get you. As a matter of fact, as Asa mentioned, we’re now poised to begin this project on Daphne, very much using this platform of the Antioch collections at the Princeton Museum of Art. That’s our next goal.

Certainly, we’re going to draw upon this incredible heap of work that we’ve done for this book. It’s going to make our life easy, but we’re very much eager on tackling this new story that Daphne, it is a place that no matter how close to Antioch, however, follows a very, very peculiar route. More often than not, that’s the place where everything happens, where even the fortunes and the destiny of Antioch were decided by the powers that were.

Yes, this is going to be exciting all the more as Harbiye (ancient Daphne) in a modern neighborhood that, has grown over the ancient Daphne, has grown to the extent that there’s nothing visible. We’re trying to like again, to produce a sense of visibility. This is Daphne and this is how it functioned, this is how it was experience inhabited and built by its constituents.

Asa: I would also add responding to your question about how we maybe view the book in the future. I think we both very much agree, and this is really in the first two sentences of the entire book, that what we really wanted to do, there was so much going on with Antioch and scholarship that we just really wanted to pause and say, “Okay, let’s take a breath, let’s pull all of this together, see what we can say about it.”

It’s no final remark about Antioch by any means. In fact, it’s just a redirection. What I would love is, okay, now all the scholars that work on Antioch or adjacent to Antioch, Reyhan, you included, let’s take it from there and then continue your scholarship, happy to revise this book time and time and time again, and know that it’s a city that’s not only constantly evolving, but its scholarship is constantly evolving. This is definitely not a final word, but we had to take a breath and just bring it all in for everyone.

Anna: Thank you. Thank you very much. As someone who has not visited the city yet, I have to say that it gives me a huge desire to buy a ticket and go there tomorrow. I would like to thank the three of you for a very interesting discussion. Thank you very much for this podcast.

Podcast musical theme is from the Concerto in E-flat “Dumbarton Oaks” by Igor Stravinsky, recorded by the Smithsonian Chamber Orchestra, Kenneth Slowik, conducting. As always, thank you for listening and we hope you join us again soon.