Around the Ancient World with Pericles

By Heather Helinsky, Dramaturg


ANTIOCH: located on the Orontes River near the Amanus Mountains in Syria, central in the spice trade. It was a leading city in the rise of Christianity because of an ancient school for Biblical studies. Located on a major fault line, this heavily contested ancient city also fell to fires and earthquakes.

EPHESUS: Modern-day Turkey, the temple of Artemis is here, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, also a major trade hub.

MYTILENE: Part of Greece in the North Aegean Sea, the capital and port city for the island of Lesbos. The poets Sappho and Alcaeus were of Mytilene and Aristotle lived here when he was the tutor to Alexander the Great.

PENTAPOLIS: Actually in the north-eastern coast of Libya, Shakespeare takes dramatic liberty and moves it to Greece. It was a Greek colony founded in 7th century BCE and the city is actually named Cyrene, but the area became so prosperous it led to the foundation of four other cities in the region, so including Cyrene the Romans referred to it as Libya Pentapolis (five cities). A famous disciple of Socrates was born here and founded a 3rd century BCE school of philosophy called Cyreniacs. In the New Testament, Simon of Cyrene was forced to carry the cross for Jesus.

TARSUS: In modern-day Turkey. Anthony and Cleopatra famously met for the first time here. According to Luke in the New Testament, this is the birthplace of St. Paul. In the ancient world, also famous for its schools and library said to compete with those in Athens and Alexandria.

TYRE: In modern-day Lebanon; an ancient Phoenician port city, the name means ‘rock’ and the main trade center is on an island complex, constantly under attack for its prosperity. King Nebuchanezzar II of Babylon, Alexander the Great, and Egypt all had their ambitions set on Tyre. When Tyre fell to the siege of Alexander the Great, the survivors who escaped founded the city of Carthage in North Africa. Tyre was also known for creating a purple dye from shellfish used in making royal robes. In biblical references, King David had trade alliances with Tyre to help him build the Temple, and in the New Testament, both St. Paul and Jesus visited the city.

Map image courtesy of Isabel Smith-Bernstein, dramaturg, Oregon Shakespeare Festival