Antiochian Greeks are ethnic Greek members of the Greek Orthodox Church of Antioch and Greek Catholic Christians, who have resided in Syria, Lebanon, and the territory of contemporary Turkish province of Hatay, which includes the old city of Antioch or modern-day Antakya, and their descendants in the Middle East and the Americas.
The community has a long heritage that dates back to the establishment of Antioch in 323 BC by Seleucus I Nicator at the time of Alexander the Great's conquest of Asia. The majority of Antiochian Greeks are a mix of the earliest Macedonian settlers, Roman-era Greeks, Byzantine Greeks (Rûm), Hellenized Judeo-Christians and Syriacs. Some of those Aramaeans spoke Syriac and celebrated the liturgy in Old Syriac Aramaic. With Arabic becoming the lingua franca in the Levant today, the majority has become an Arabic-speaking Christian community, primarily speaking Levantine Arabic, although many also speak Greek and Turkish.
Historically, they were considered as a part of Rûm millet by the Ottoman authorities. The community had a notable tendency of immigration in early 20th century. As the Sanjak of Alexandretta was then a part of Syria, Greeks were not subject to population exchange of 1923. After Hatay State was annexed by Turkey in 1939, many emigrated to Syria and Lebanon. Following 1960s, a new wave of immigration has drawn Antiochian Greeks to Western countries.
Liturgical traditions and folklore
Some typically Greek Ancient Synagogal priestly rites and hymns that originated in Antioch have survived partially to the present in the distinct church services of the Melkite and Greek Orthodox communities of the Hatay Province of Southern Turkey, Syria, Lebanon and the Holy Land.
Population and ethnocultural heritage
In the narrowly defined geographic sense, according to a census conducted by the Patriarchate of Antioch in 1895, there were 50,000 Antiochian Greeks in the Alexandretta Sanjak itself i.e. residing in the Hatay Province of Southern Turkey, compared to about 30,000 in the 1930s. In 1995, their total population was estimated at 10,000.
But most members of the Greek Orthodox and Greek Catholic communities of Syria and Lebanon, commonly known as Northern-MENA “Melkites” or “Rûms”, can trace their ethnocultural heritage to the Greek and Macedonian settlers and Hellenized Judeo-Christians of the past, founders of the original “Antiochian Greek” communities of Cilicia and Northwestern Syria.
Counting members of the surviving minorities in the Hatay Province of Turkey and their relatives in the diaspora, there are more than 1.8 million Antiochite Greco-Melkite Christians residing in the Northern-MENA, the US, Canada and Latin America today.
A significant number of Antiochian Greeks in Turkey live in Istanbul. They are concentrated in İskenderun, Samandağ, and Altınözü in Hatay. There is also a community in Mersin. A case of intercommunal violence with Muslims in Altınözü was reported in 2005. The events were allegedly sparked by sexual harassment of a Christian girl by a Muslim barber's apprentice.
Notable Antiochian Greeks
- Luke the Evangelist
- John Chrysostom
- Aphthonius of Antioch
- John Malalas
- Evagrius Scholasticus
- Christianity in Syria
- Demographics of Syria
- Demographics of Turkey
- Greek Orthodox Church of Antioch
- Melkite Greek Catholic Church
- Orthodox Christianity in Syria