Ancient City: Apamea

The ancient city of Apamea is situated on the right bank of the Orontes River, and has a history that includes connections to the Bible. In this article, you will learn more about the history of the city and its connection to well-known figures, such as Alexander the Great.

One of the claims to fame for the ancient city is the rather long Roman street decorated with classical columns, but before it grew to become a major Hellenistic city, it was called Pharmake. This small town is believed to be the same location as the one mentioned in the Bible that was called Shepham.

The history of Apamea begins in 300 BC when Seleucus Nicator founded the city. He was one of Alexander the Great’s generals, and later became the first king of the Seleucids in Syria. He named the city after his Bactrian wife, Apame. The city was described as beautiful and the new destination started to flourish to where it became one of the three main cities of the Seleucid Empire.

At one point, the population reached half a million. In its heyday, the city was visited by a host of significant historical figures, including the mysterious Cleopatra and other leaders, such as Septimus Severus and the Emperor Caracalla. Throughout the years, an array of well-known historical figures have called Apamea their home, including the Greek physician Archigenes, philosopher Numenius of Apamea, Greek philosopher Posidonius, Iamblichus of Chalcis  a neo-Platonist philosopher),  and Evagrius Scholasticus , a church historian from the 6th century.

In 64 BC, Pompey made Apamea part of the Roman Empire. Today, it is the influence of the Romans that tourists see when they come to visit the ruins. With the outbreak of the Jewish Revolt during the 1st century AD, the people living in Apamea spared the lives of the Jews that lived in the community. They did not permit the killing or capture of the Jews in their city.

When the Christian era came, the city was known as a center for philosophers and theologists. It was here that the concept of monophysitism was embraced, which was the doctrine that “Christ has only one nature, which is essentially divine.”

The final construction done in Apamea took place during the 6th century after the Byzantines gained ownership from the Persians. In the 7th century, the city was conquered by Islamic rulers and would continue to decline.

In 1106, Apamea no longer belonged to the Fatimids, as Trancred took the city. The Crusaders (who referred to the city as Femia) kept a hold of it until 1149, where Nur Al Din reconquered the land. In 1157, Apamea fell to the destruction of a large earthquake. Despite the damage the city suffered, a great number of columns have managed to survive , giving a glimpse into how the ancient Roman street of Apamea once looked.