Antioch was an ancient site roughly located next to what is today’s Antakaya, Turkey. It was founded near the end of the 4th century BC by a general of Alexander the Great. It grew to be a metropolis of a half million people and rivaled eventually Alexandria for importance. Especially the Romans meant to make it their Rome of the East as it was much better located to rule over the Eastern provinces than Alexandria. It had a big Jewish population what attracted early missionaries and so Antioch became a center of early Christianity. So much so that it is called the cradle of Christianity. Yet, it declined to insignificance during the Middle Ages due to repeated earthquakes, Crusaders’ invasions and a shift in trading routes.
Archeological excavations of the city started between 1932 and 1939. They failed to find the major buildings they hoped to unearth. As Antakaya grows large proportions of the ancient city are exposed, yet they are rarely protected by the local museum.
Antioch is mentioned in Monty Python and the Holy Grail. A fictional weapon that is used and that bears a striking resemblance to the Sovereign’s Orb of the United Kingdom is called the Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch. It seems to be inspired by the Holy Spear of Antioch, one of the names of the spear or lance that pierced Jesus’ side as he hung on the cross. One theory was that this spear was on board of a German U-boat, which was the last u-boat that left the harbor of Kiel, Germany during the last days of WWII and that was sunk nearby the Danish island of Anholt by a Royal Air Force bomber on May 5, 1945. Yet, the claim has been disputed by a Danish business man who financed the salvage of the u-boat in 1993.