Friday, 5 June 2009

The burial of the city of Antioch

You built a city renowned through history.

Its temples and palaces live on in the dusty chronicles; such carefully planned streets; aqueducts crossing mountains bringing water to every house. You made this city great: golden Antioch, a jewel, a wonder, fair crown of the Orient.

It was to you that St Paul first preached. Your cosmopolitan voice gave Christians their name. But you weren’t reverent; known for your sarcastic take on the world, you loved to fight and indulge in the delights of the flesh in Daphne’s Grove.

When you stood in the hill-top temples, did you ever worry how big the city had grown? How its sprawling metropolis filled the plain? How your insatiable need for more wood had stripped the hills of trees? Did you notice how the new farms quickly became barren? The rain running off their slopes heavy with mud? Perhaps you didn’t understand the fragile balance of root and tree, water and soil?

In the end you had no choice. The rains washed so much soil off the hills that the Orontes River silted up. You left in search of a better place, leaving behind the wondrous city you had built.

Today your ancient city of Antioch lies eleven metres under the plain