Explore The Mediterranean coast and the Hatay
From the Ata Köprüsü, it’s a quick hop across to the western side of the river and the Archeological Museum (Arkeoloji Müzesi), whose collection of locally unearthed Roman mosaics ranks among the best of its kind in the world. Laid out in the first four rooms of the museum, they are in a state of near immaculate preservation and mostly depict scenes from Greco-Roman mythology.
The majority were unearthed at the suburb of Daphne (now Harbiye), which was Antioch’s main holiday resort in Roman times, and this is reflected in the sense of leisured decadence that pervades many of the scenes. A good example is the so-called Buffet Mosaic (no. 4), a vivid depiction of the rape of Ganymede, abducted by Zeus in the form of an eagle, and a banquet scene showing different courses of fish, ham, eggs and artichokes. Memorable images in room 3 include a fine portrait of Thetis and Oceanus (no. 1), the latter recognizable by the lobster claws protruding from his wet hair, and a fascinating depiction of the Evil Eye – a superstition that still has remarkable resonance in modern Turkey – being attacked by a raven, dog, scorpion, snake, centipede, panther, sword and trident as a horned goblin looks away (no. 6). Room 4 continues with an inebriated Dionysos, too drunk to stand (no. 12) and Orpheus surrounded by animals entranced by the beauty of his music (no. 23). Climb the spiral staircase in the corner of the room for a bird’s-eye view of the floor mosaic showing hunters and dogs slaying lions, tigers and cheetahs.
After the mosaics, the rest of the museum seems a little mundane, though there are some stand-out pieces like the two stone lions, which were used as column bases during the eighth century BC, and the Antakya sarcophagus in a small chamber near the ticket office where the remains of two women and a man as well as the fine gold jewellery with which they were buried are displayed.