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DAPHNE (Δάφνη), a celebrated grove and sanctuary of Apollo, near Antioch in Syria. [ANTIOCHEIA] Both locally and historically it was so closely connected with the Syrian metropolis, that we can hardly consider the one without the other. We have seen that Antioch was frequently called A. ἐπὶ Δάφῃ and πρὸς Δάφνην, and conversely we find Daphne entitled Δ. πρὸς Ἀντιοχείαν. (Joseph. B. J. 1.12.5.) Though really distant a few miles from Antioch, it was called one of its suburbs (προάστειον, Dion. Cass. 51.7: “Amoenum illud et ambitiosum Antiochiae suburbanum,” Amm. Marc. 19.12, 19). If Antioch has been compared to Paris [see p. 143], Daphne may be called its Versailles.

It was situated to the west, or rather to the south-west, of Antioch, at a distance of about 5 miles, or 40 stadia, and on higher ground than the metropolis itself (ὑπέρκειται τετταράκοντα σταδίους Δάφνη, Strab. xvi. p.750; comp. the Jerusalem Itinerary, Wesseling, p. 581). The place was naturally of extreme beauty, with perennial fountains, and abundant wood. (Liban. Antioch. p. 356.) Here a sanctuary was established, with the privileges of asylum (2 Macc. 4.33; Polyaen. 8.50), which became famous throughout the heathen world, and remained for centuries a place of pilgrimage, and the scene of an almost perpetual festival of vice. The zeal with which Gibbon has described it, in his twenty-third chapter, is well known.

Daphne, like Antioch, owed its origin to Seleucus Nicator; and, as in the case of his metropolis [see pp. 142, 143], so he associated the religious suburb with mythological traditions, which were intended to glorify his family. The fame of Apollo was connected with his own. The fable of the river Peneus was appropriated; and the tree was even shown into which the nymph Daphne was transformed.1 One of the fountains received the name of the Castalian spring, and the chief honours of the new sanctuary were borrowed from Delphi. In the midst of a rich and deep grove of bay trees and cypresses (Procop. B. Pers. 2.14), with baths, gardens, and colonnades on every side, Seleucus built the temple of Apollo and Diana. The statue of the god was colossal: its material was partly marble, and partly wood; the artist was Bryaxis the Athenian, whose works were long celebrated at Rhodes and elsewhere. (Clem. Alex. Protr. § 47.) It is described at length by Libanius (Monod. de Daphnaeo Templo, 3.334), who states that the god was represented with a harp, and as if in the act of singing (ἐῴκει ᾁδοντι μέλος). With the worship of Apollo Antiochus Epiphanes associated that of Jupiter in the sanctuary of Daphne. This monarch erected here, in honour of that divinity (with whom he was singularly fond of identifying himself), a colossal statue of ivory and gold, resembling that of Phidias at Olympia. Games also. were established in his honour, as may be seen by extant coins of Antioch. (See Müller's Antiq. Antiochenae, p. 64, note 12.) The games of Daphne are described in Athenaeus. (Ibid. note 13.) What has been said may be enough to give the reader some notion of this celebrated place in the time of the Seleucidae, and in its relation to the Oriental Greeks before the Roman occupation of Syria. It ought to be added, that the road between Antioch and Daphne, which passed through the intermediate suburb of Heracleia, was bordered by gardens, fountains, and splendid buildings, suitable to the gay processions that thronged from the city gate to the scene of consecrated pleasure.

The celebrity of Daphne continued unimpaired for a long period under the Romans, from Pompey to Constantine. It seems to have been Pompey who enlarged the dimensions of the sacred enclosure to the circumference of 80 stadia, or 10 miles, mentioned by Strabo (l.c.; see Eutrop. 6.14). Some of the aqueducts erected for the use of Antioch by the Roman emperors were connected with the springs [p. 1.752]of Daphne. (Malala, pp. 243; 278.) The reign of Trajan was remarkable in the annals of the place for the restoration of the buildings destroyed by an earthquake. That of Commodus was still more memorable on account of the establishment (or rather the re-establishment) of periodical Olympian games at Antioch; for the stadium of Daphne was the scene of the festive contests. This was the time of that corruption of manners (the “Daphnici mores” of Marcus Antoninus) under which Roman soldiers and Roman emperors suffered so seriously in the Syrian metropolis.

The decay of Daphne must be dated from the reign of Julian, when the struggle between Heathenism and Christianity was decided in favour of the latter. Constantine erected a statue of Helena within the ancient sanctuary of Apollo and Jupiter, and the great church at Antioch was roofed with cypresswood from Daphne; which, about the reign of Zeno, fell into the condition of an ordinary Syrian town.

It is needless to pursue the history further. Among modern travellers, Pococke and Richter have fixed the site of Daphne at Beit-el-Maa, the distance of which from Antakia agrees with the ancient measurement, and where some poor remains are found near a number of abundant fountains. Forbiger (Alte Geographie, vol. ii. p. 657) thinks with Kinneir that the true position is at Babyla; but, though the apparent connection of this name with that of the martyr Babylas gives some ground for this opinion, the distance from Antioch is too great; and the former view is probably correct. No detailed account of the remains has been given. Poujoulat says (Corr. d'Orient. 8.38), “A côté de la plus profonde fontaine de Beit-el-moié, on remarque des débris massifs appartenant à un édifice des âges reculés: si jétais antiquaire et savant, je pourrais peut être prouver que ces restes sont ceux du Temple d'Apollon.”


1 Whence Antioch is called by Ausonius (Clar. Urb. ii.) Phoebeae lauri domus.

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    • Ammianus Marcellinus, Rerum Gestarum, 19.12
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