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Article Info
published: 3/31/13

Seleucia in the Bible



Seleucia in the New Testament

paul raphael
Paul by Raphael

Seleucia was the seaport of Antioch from which it is 16 miles distant. It is situated 5 miles North of the mouth of the Orontes, in the northwestern corner of a fruitful plain at the base of Mt. Rhosus or Pieria, the modern Jebel Musa, a spur of the Amanus Range.

Built by Seleucus Nicator (died 280 BC) it was one of the Syrian Tetrapolis, the others being Apameia, Laodicea and Antioch. The city was protected by nature on the mountain side, and, being strongly fortified on the South and West, was considered invulnerable and the key to Syria (Strabo 751; Polyb. v.58).

It was taken, however, by Ptolemy Euergetes (1 Macc 11:8) and remained in his family till 219 BC, when it was recovered for the Seleucids by Antiochus the Great, who then richly adorned it. Captured again by Ptolemy Philometor in 146 BC, it remained for a short time in the hands of the Egyptians. Pompey made it a free city in 64 BC in return for its energy in resisting Tigranes (Pliny, NH, v.18), and it was then greatly improved by the Romans, so that in the 1st century AD it was in a most flourishing condition.

On their first missionary journey Paul and Barnabas passed through it (Acts 13:4; 14:26), and though it is not named in Acts 15:30,39, this route is again implied; while it is excluded in Acts 15:3.

The ruins are very extensive and cover the whole space within the line of the old walls, which shows a circuit of four miles.

The position of the Old Town, the Upper City and the suburbs may still be identified, as also that of the Antioch Gate, the Market Gate and the King's Gate, which last leads to the Upper City. There are rock-cut tombs, broken statuary and sarcophagi at the base of the Upper City, a position which probably represents the burial place of the Seleucids.

The outline of a circus or amphitheater can also be traced, while the inner harbor is in perfect condition and full of water. It is 2,000 ft. long by 1,200 ft. broad, and covers 47 acres, being oval or pear-shaped. The passage seaward, now silted up, was protected by two strong piers or moles, which are locally named after Barnabas and Paul.

The most remarkable of the remains, however, is the great water canal behind the city, which the emperor Constantius cut through the solid rock in 338 AD. It is 3,074 ft. long, has an average breadth of 20 ft., and is in some places 120 ft. deep.

Two portions of 102 and 293 ft. in length are tunneled. The object of the work was clearly to carry the mountain torrent direct to the sea, and so protect the city from the risk of flood during the wet season.

Church synods occasionally met in Seleucia in the early centuries, but it gradually sank into decay, and long before the advent of Islam it had lost all its significance.

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Source:

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, which is in the public domain (with minor edits).