The Mosaics Of Antakya

J and I found Antakya, the principal city of Hatay, SE Turkey, to be an astonishingly cosmopolitan place. Laid back, Istanbul fashions everywhere, and barely a headscarf to be seen. The old parts of the town are not extensive but are a delight to explore – the people, as everywhere in Turkey, are open and warm-hearted. If that is not enough for you then there is always the local specialty dessert, Künefe.

Künefe can be found all over Turkey, but the stuff that masquerades under that name elsewhere pales into mediocrity when compared with the real thing that is served in Antakya. Although künefe shops are very common throughout Hatay, Kilis, Adana, Mersin and Gaziantep provinces, Antakya is known for the best künefe in Turkey. What distinguishes Antakya’s künefe from others is the freshly made, elastic cheese that only comes from Hatay region. The kadayıf (shredded phyllo dough) is also made from scratch at small künefe shops on almost every corner in Antakya. Watching it being made is a form of street entertainment in its own right!

Sitting at a künefe shop, observing the world walk by whilst savouring a plate of this wondrous stuff, topped off with ice cream, should be high on your ‘bucket list’ – in fact, it is almost worth dying for! Almost!

Anyway, enough of that! This post is about feeding the mind, not the belly; and just across the river from where J and I were stuffing ourselves lies the rather sad looking Museum of Archaeology. Had we not had an inkling of what lay inside we might well have given it a miss and that would have been a mistake. There are the usual marble tombs, busts and statues of long departed emperors, governors and their ladies – gods and goddesses, nymphs and shepherds (coming away), etc. There is also one of the most remarkable collections of Roman wall and floor mosaics to be found outside Ankara or Rome.

Here are just some of them together with a bit of information about what you are looking at. The pictures are not the greatest as there was a ‘no photography’ policy at the time and trying to be discreet with an SLR is not easy! I have ‘enhanced’ some to bring out the colours more, otherwise they are ‘as is’.

Oceanus & Thetis – 4th cent. ME – Daphne one of the most photographed mosaics ever


Iphigleneia in Aulis (detail) – 3rd cent. ME – Antioc

Iphigleneia, daughter of Agamemnon with her mother

 The Happy Hunchback (one can see why) – 2nd cent. ME – Antioc


Hercules Strangling Serpents – 2nd cent. ME – Antioc

Personification of Soteria (Salvation) – 5th cent. ME – Narlıca, Antakya

this is an astonishing mosaic in the Escher-esque effect of the geometric shapes

Narcissus & Echo – 3rd cent. ME – Daphne

Narcissus & Echo (detail bottom left corner)

Boat of the Pysches (with Eros) – 3rd cent. ME – Daphne

 Orpheus and the Beasts – 3rd cent ME – Tarsus

. . and so many more! To finish off, here’s a couple of general shots around town.

Antakya backstreet

. . not to mention one of those marble tomb things!

. . and finally, a pair of basalt lions from the Temple at Tainat – 8th cent. BME

Alan Fenn, Okçular Köyü

26 thoughts on “The Mosaics Of Antakya

  1. @Alan – Lovely! Late mosaics (we saw the newly exhibited ones at Bergama a couple of years back) but those lions… We want to see the lions.

  2. It just turns out that our visit to Antakya last year was one of our most memorable trips. We really fell in love with the city. We went to the same künefe place that you did! And the museum is spectacular. Your pics, as always, are wonderful. And so we’re all the more heartbroken about what’s happening so close by.

    1. . . it was amazing to sit there and hear Turkish and Arabic being spoken – a friend from a village just out of town was home to visit his mum (who spoke mostly Arabic) so we spent a wonderful day with the family – they were hanging on our arms begging us to stay at least one night – such good memories.

  3. Awww, just love, love, love all the mosaics. This post has made me a bit sad as we were hoping to head to the Hatay region next month. However, it’ll keep. A change of plans and we’ll still be doing a bit of exploring elsewhere. Your photos have convinced us that this area is the right decision for our next trip, though! 🙂

    1. . . glad to have whetted your appetite for the ‘other’ end of Turkey – plan on a lot more than one trip, there is so much to take in.

  4. nice photos as usual 🙂
    i hope you drove from arsuz to samandag along a narrow dirt road, following the sea to o to hatay.
    give a big hug to j.

    1. Samandağ was in an awful state – I’ve never seen such dirt and dilapidation and the road was a mass of potholes. After hearing that it was a favoured holiday spot I couldn’t understand why. Lovely to hear from you.

    1. Hi there M! No, we came to Antakya from the east so missed that lovely road – will have to include it on our next visit as well as other places we missed. Thanks for this link to the blog – never knew about it so I’m happily exploring your explorations (so to speak).

  5. One word: JEALOUS! Kunefe is one of my favorite desserts! Also, love all the mosaics….reminds me of the Zeugma Museum in Gaziantep, which I still need to share photos from. 😉

    1. . . interesting how every part of Turkey is famous for something – Aydin for figs; Malatya for apricots, etc – I heard that the best pastry cooks all came from the Hemşin area, but that is obviously not so 😀

  6. Hi Alan, delighted to see you found my home town:) My grandmother’s old house was a few mins to Uzun Carsi, Long Market, I can almost see it at your fist photo – many happy memories there and thanks to you.

  7. Hello to you; have to say that your home town is a delightful place, J and I were really taken with it. Just like you, I suspect, we’ll be back!

  8. Alan– What a lovely post and how could Mozzarella Mamma not comment on a post that has a photo of a guy manipulating cheese in a large dish– it looks a little bit like mozzarella making. But what is really amazing are those Roman mosaics. Fabulous! The Romans were amazing! This August I have to work and I am sitting here in a torrid Roman heat wave that the Italian weathercasters have decided to name Caligula, so I decided to look up some info on that Roman Emperor. Quite a beastly fellow. And I had the TV on the other night and there was a documentary on the Terme di Caracalla, the ancient Roman baths, it was fascinating. I have discovered that there is a treasure trove of postable material on the Romans out there. Glad you’ve shown some of it. Antakya looks lovely and I can’t wait to visit someday and spend the whole time eating kunefe and checking out mosaics!

    1. It’s a great area to explore Trisha (ask E&M), nice people, etc. Unfortunately it is now right at the heart of this governments’ crazy jihad against Syria and is crawling with CIA/Mossad/Salafist jihadis. Sane voices are raised but the sultan seeks his immor(t)al place in history. The chickens are massing and will come home to roost at some point soon.

  9. These works are so magnificent! That’s really a great talent of the artists.
    and those stone walls are so beautiful.

  10. Kunefe……this is my husband’s favourite dish. Love those tiles……just amazing with all the work the talented artist’s put in. I’ve never been here before but have seen some gorgeous tiles else where in Turkish museums……..
    Thank you for sharing.

    1. Hi Erica, a very warm welcome to Archers – lovely to have your comment. Antakya and Hatay are a wonderful place to visit – just lately things have become very difficult for people there with the problems Turkey is involved with causing in Syria.
      Hope I can do enough to keep you interested in reading the blog 🙂

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