Map of the Roman Empire - Antioch

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Antioch Located on the southern coast of Asia Minor, Antioch was the capital of the Seleucid Empire and later became a major metropolis in the Roman Empire.

Antiochia  (Aντιόχεια). The capital of the Greek kingdom of Syria, and long the chief city of Asia. It stood on the left bank of the Orontes, about twenty miles from the sea, in a beautiful valley. It was built by Seleucus Nicator, about B.C. 300, who called it Antiochia in honour of his father, Antiochus, and peopled it chiefly from the neighbouring city of Antigonia. It was one of the earliest strongholds of the Christian faith; the first place where the Christian name was used (Acts xi. 26); and the see of one of the four chief bishops, who were called patriarchs.

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ANTIOCHEIA or--EA (Aντιόχεια: Eth. Aντιοχεύς, Aντιόχειος, Antiochensis: Adj. Aντιοχικός, Antiochenus), the capital of the Greek kings of Syria, situated in the angle where the southern coast of Asia Minor, running eastwards, and the coast of Phoenicia, running northwards, are brought to an abrupt meeting, and in the opening formed by the river Orontes between the ranges of Mount Taurus and Mount Lebanon. Its position is nearly where the 36th parallel of latitude intersects the 36th meridian of longitude, and it is about 20 miles distant from the sea, about 40 W. of Aleppo, and about 20 S. of Scanderoon. [See Map, p. 115.] It is now a subordinate town in the pachalik of Aleppo, and its modern name is still Antakieh. It was anciently distinguished as Antioch by the Orontes (Ἀ. ἐπί Ὀρόντῃ), because it was situated on the left bank of that river, where its course turns abruptly to the west, after running northwards between the ranges of Lebanon and Antilebanon [ORONTES]; and also Antioch by Daphne (Ἀ ἐπὶ Δ̓άφνῃ, Strab. xvi. pp. 749--751; Plut. Lucull.21; ἡ πρὸς Δάφνην, Hierocl. p. 711; A. Epidaphnes, Plin. Nat. 5.18. s. 21), because of the celebrated grove of Daphne which was consecrated to Apollo in the immediate neigh-bourhood. [DAPHNE]

The physical characteristics of this situation may be briefly described. To the south, and rather to the west, the cone of Mount Casius (Jebel-el-Akrab; see Col. Chesney, in the Journal of the Roy. Geog. Soc. vol. viii. p. 228) rises symmetrically from the sea to the elevation of more than 5000 feet. [CASIUS] To the north, the heights of Mount AMANUS are connected with the range of Taurus; and the Beilan pass [AMANIDES PYLAE] opens a communication with Cilicia and the rest of Asia Minor. In the interval is the valley (ἀυλὼν, Malala, p. 136), or rather the plain of Antioch (τὸ τῶν Ἀντιοχέων πέιον, Strab. l.c.), which is a level space about 5 miles in breadth between the mountains, and about 10 miles in length. Through this plain the river Orontes sweeps from a northerly to a westerly course, receiving, at the bend, a tributary from a lake which was about a mile distant from the ancient city (Gul. Tyr. 4.10), and emptying itself into the bay of Antioch near the base of Mount Casius. “The windings (from the city to the mouth) give a distance of about 41 miles, whilst the journey by land is only 16 1/2 miles.” (Chesney, l.c. p. 230.) Where the river passes by the city, its breadth is said by the traveller Niebuhr to be 125 feet; but great changes have taken place in its bed. An important part of ancient Antioch stood upon an island; but whether the channel which insulated that section of the city was artificial, or changes have been produced by earthquakes or more gradual causes, there is now no island of appreciable magnitude, nor does there appear to have been any in the time of the Crusades. The distance between the bend of the river and the mountain on the south is from one to two miles; and the city stood partly on the level, and partly where the ground rises in abrupt and precipitous forms, towards Mount Casius. The heights with which we are concerned are the two summits of Mount Silpius (Mal. passim; and Suid. s. v. Ἰώ.), the easternmost of which fell in a more gradual slope to the plain, so as to admit of the cultivation of vineyards, while the other was higher and more abrupt. (See the Plan.) Between them was a deep ravine, down which a mischievous torrent ran in winter (Phyrminus or Parmenius, τοῦ ῥύακος τοῦ λεγομένου φυρμίνου, Mal. p. 346; Παρμενίου χειμάρρου, pp. 233, 339; cf. Procop. de Aedif. 2.10). Along the crags on these heights broken masses of ancient walls are still conspicuous, while the modern habitations are on the level near the river. The appearance of the ground has doubtless been much altered by earthquakes, which have been in all ages the scourge of Antioch. Yet a very good notion may be obtained, from the descriptions of modern travellers, of the aspect of the ancient city. The advantages of its position are very evident. By its harbour of SELEUCEIA it was in communication with all the trade of the Mediterranean; and, through the open country behind Lebanon, it was conveniently approached by the caravans from Mesopotamia and Arabia. To these advantages of mere position must be added the facilities afforded by its river, which brought down timber and vegetable produce and fish from the lake (Liban. Antioch. pp. 360, 361), and was navigable below the city to the mouth, and is believed to be capable of being made navigable again. (Roy. Geog. Soc. vol. viii. p. 230; cf. Strab. l.c.; Paus. 8.29.3.) The fertility of the neighbourhood is evident now in its unassisted vegetation. The Orontes has been compared to the Wye. It does not, like many Eastern rivers, vary between a winter-torrent and a dry watercourse; and its deep and rapid waters are described as winding round the bases of high and precipitous cliffs, or by richly cultivated banks, where the vine and the fig-tree, the myrtle, the bay, the ilex, and the arbutus are mingled with dwarf oak and sycamore. For descriptions of the scenery, with views, the reader may consult Camne's Syria (1.5, 19, 77, 2.28.). We can well understand the charming residence which the Seleucid princes and the wealthy Romans found in “beautiful Antioch” (Ἀ. ἡ καλή, Athen. 1.20; Orientis apex pulcher, Ammian. 22.9), with its climate tempered with the west wind (Liban. p. 346; cf. Herodian. 6.6), and where the salubrious waters were so abundant, that not only the public baths, but, as in modern Damascus, almost every house, had its fountain.

Antioch, however, with all these advantages of situation, is not, like Damascus, one of the oldest cities of the world. It is a mere imagination to identify it (as is done by Jerome and some Jewish commentators) with the Riblah of the Old Testament. Antioch, like Alexandreia, is a monument of the Macedonian age, and was the most famous of sixteen Asiatic cities built by Seleucus Nicator, and called after the name of his father or (as some say) of his son Antiochus. The situation was evidently well chosen, for communicating both with his possessions on the Mediterranean and those in Mesopotamia, with which Antioch was connected by a road leading to Zeugma on the Euphrates. This was not the first city founded by a Macedonian prince near this place. Antigonus, in B.C. 307, founded Antigonia, a short distance further up the river, for the purpose of commanding both Egypt and Babylonia. (Diod. xx. p.758.) But after the battle of Ipsus, B.C. 301, the city of Antigonus was left unfinished, and Antioch was founded by his successful rival. The sanction of auguries was sought for the establishment of the new metropolis. Like Romulus on the Palatine, Seleucus is said to have watched the flight [1.143] of birds from the summit of Mount Casius. An eagle carried a fragment of the flesh of the sacrifice to a point on the sea-shore, a little to the north of the mouth of the Orontes; and there Seleuceia was built. Soon after, an eagle decided in the same manner that the metropolis of Seleucus was not to be Antigonia, by carrying the flesh to the hill Silpius. Between this hill and the river the city of Antioch was founded in the spring of the year 300 B.C., the 12th of the era of the Seleuidae. This legend is often represented on coins of Antioch by an eagle, which sometimes carries the thigh of a victim. On many coins (as that engraved below) we see a ram, which is often combined with a star, thus indicating the vernal sign of the zodiac, under which the city was founded, and reminding us at the same time of the astrological propensities of the people of Antioch. (See Eckhel, Descriptio Numorum Antiochiae Syriae, Vienna, 1786 ; Vaillant, Seleucidarum Imperium, sive Historia Regum Syriae, ad fidem numismatum accommodate. Paris, 1681.)

The city of Seleucus was built in the plain (ἐν τῇ πεδιάδι τοῦ αὐλῶνος, Mal. p. 200) between the river and the hill, and at some distance from the latter, to avoid the danger to be apprehended from the torrents. Xenaeus was the architect who raised the walls, which skirted the river on the north, and did not reach so far as the base of the hill on the south. This was only the earliest part of the city. Three other parts were subsequently added, each surrounded by its own wall: so that Antioch became, as Strabo says (l.c.), a Tetrapolis. The first inhabitants (as indeed a great part of the materials) were brought from Antigonia. Besides these, the natives of the surrounding district were received in the new city; and Seleucus raised the Jews to the same political privileges with the Greeks. (J. AJ 12.31, c. Ap. 2.4.) Thus a second city was formed contiguous to the first. It is probable that the Jews had a separate quarter, as at Alexandreia. The citizens were divided into 18 tribes, distributed locally. There was an assembly of the people (δῆμος, Liban. p. 321), which used to meet in the theatre, even in the time of Vespasian and Titus. (Tac. Hist. 2.80; Joseph. B. J. 7.5.2, 3.3.) At a later period we read of a senate of two hundred. (Jul. Misopog. p. 367.) The character of the inhabitants of Antioch may be easily described. The climate made them effeminate and luxurious. A high Greek civilisation was mixed with various Oriental elements, and especially with the superstitions of Chaldaean astrology, to which Chrysostom complains that even the Christians of his day were addicted. The love of frivolous amusements became a passion in the contests of the Hippodrome. On these occasions, and on many others, the violent feelings of the people broke out into open factions, and caused even bloodshed. Another fault should be mentioned as a marked characteristic of Antioch. Her citizens were singularly addicted to ridicule and scurrilous wit, and the invention of nicknames. Julian, who was himself a sufferer from this cause, said that Antioch contained more buffoons than citizens. Apollonius of Tyana was treated in the same way; and the Antiochians provoked their own destruction by ridiculing the Persians in the invasion of Chosroes. (Procop. B. P. 2.8.) To the same cause must be referred the origin of the name “Christian,” which first came into existence in this city. (Acts, 11.26; Life, &c. of St. Paul, vol. i. p. 130. See page 146.)

There is no doubt that the city built by Seleucus was on a regular and magnificent plan; but we possess no details. Some temples and other buildings were due to his son Antiochus Soter. Seleucus Callinicus built the New City (τὴν νέαν, Liban. pp. 309, 356; τὴν καίνην, Evag. Hist. Eccl. 2.12) on the island, according to Strabo (l.c.), though Libanius assigns it to Antiochus the Great, who brought settlers from Greece during his war with the Romans (about 190 B.C.). To this writer, and to Evagrius, who describes what it suffered in the earthquake under Leo the Great, we owe a particular account of this part of the city. It was on an island (see below) which was joined to the old city by five bridges. Hence Polybius (5.69) and Pliny (5.21. s. 18) rightly speak of the Orontes as flowing through Antioch. The arrangement of the streets was simple and symmetrical. At their intersection was a fourfold arch (Tetrapylum). The magnificent Palace was on the north side, close upon the river, and commanded a prospect of the suburbs and the open country. Passing by Seleucus Philopator, of whose public works nothing is known, we come to the eighth of the Seleucidae, Antiochus Epiphanes. He was notoriously fond of building; and, by adding a fourth city to Antioch, he completed the Tetrapolis. (Strab. l.c.) The city of Epiphanes was between the old wall and Mount Silpius; and the new wall enclosed the citadel with many of the cliffs. (Procop. de Aedif. l.c.) This monarch erected a senate-house (Βουλευτήριον and a temple for the worship of Jupiter Capitolinus, which is described by Livy as magnificent with gold (Liv. 41.20); but his great work was a vast street with double colonnades, which ran from east to west for four miles through the whole length of the city, and was perfectly level, though the ground originally was rugged and uneven. Other streets crossed it at right angles, to the river on one side, and the groves and gardens of the hill on the other. At the intersection of the principal street was the Omphalus, with a statue of Apollo; and where this street touched the river was the Nymphaevm (Νυμφαῖον, Evag. Hist. Eccl. l.c.; Τρίνυφον, Mal. p. 244). The position of the Omphalus is shown to have been opposite the ravine Parmenius, by some allusions in the reign of Tiberius. No great change appears to have been made in the city during the interval between Epiphanes and Tigranes. When Tigranes was compelled to evacuate Syria, Antioch was restored by Lucullqs to Antiochus Philopator (Asiaticus), who was a mere puppet of the Romans. He built, near Mount Silpius, a Museum, like that in Alexandreia; and to this period belongs the literary eminence of Antioch, which is alluded to by Cicero in his speech for Archias. (Cic. pro Arch. 3, 4.)

At the beginning of the Roman period, it is probable that Antioch covered the full extent of ground which it occupied till the time of Justinian. In magnitude it was not much inferior to Paris (C. O. Müller, Antiq. Antioch.; see below), and the number and splendour of the public buildings were very great; for the Seleucid kings and queens (Mal. p. 312) had vied with each other in embellishing their metropolis. But it received still further embellishment from a long series of Roman emperors. In B.C. 64, when Syria was reduced to a province, Pompey gave to Antioch the privilege of autonomy. The same privilege was renewed by Julius Caesar in a public edict (B.C. 47), and it was retained till Antoninus Pius made it a colonia. The era of [1.144]


AA. City of Seleucus Nicator.
BB. New City of Seleucus Callinicus.
CC. City of Antiochus Epiphanes,
DD. Mount Silpius.
EE. Modern Town.
aa. River Orontes.
bb. Road to Seleuceia.
cc. Road to Daphne.
dd. Ravine Parmenius.
ee. Wall of Epiphanes and Tiberius.
ff. Wall of Theodosius.
gg. Wall of Justinian.
hh. Justinian's Ditch.
ii. Godfrey's Camp.
1. Altar of Jupiter.
2. Amphitheatre.
3. Theatre.
4. Citadel.
5. Castle of the Crusaders
6. Caesarium.
7. Omphalus.
8. Forum.
9. Senate House.
10. Museum.
11. Tancred's Castle.
12. Trajan's Aqueduct.
13. Hadrian's Aqueduct.
14. Caligula's Aqueduct.
15. Caesar's Aqueduct.
16. Xystus.
17. Herod's Colonnade.
18. Nymphaeum.
19. Palace.
20. Circus.

Pharsalia was introduced at Antioch in honour of Caesar, who erected many public works there: among others, a theatre under the rocks of Silpius (τὸ ὑπὸ τῷ ὄρει θέατρον) and an amphitheatre, besides an aqueduct and baths, and a basilica called Caesarium Augustus showed the same favour to the people of Antioch, and was similarly flattered by them, and the era of Actium was introduced into their system of chronology. In this reign Agrippa built a suburb, and Herod the Great contributed a road and a colonnade. (J. AJ 16.5.3, B. J. 1.21.11.) The most memorable event of the reign of Tiberius, connected with Antioch, was the death of Germanicus. A long catalogue of works erected by successive emperors might be given; but it is enough to refer to the Chronographia of Malala, which seems to be based on official documents1 and which may be easily consulted by means of the Index in the Bonn edition. We need only instance the baths of Caligula, Trajan, and Hadrian, the paving of the great street with Egyptian granite by Antoninus Pius, the Xystus or public walk built by Commodus, and the palace built by Diocletian, who also established there public stores and manufactures of arms. At Antioch two of the most striking calamities of the period were the earthquake of Trajan's reign, during which the emperor, who was then at Antioch, took refuge in the Circus: and the capture of the city by the Persians under Sapor in 260 A.D. On this occasion the citizens were intently occupied in the theatre, when the enemy surprised them from the rocks above. (Ammian. 23.5.)

The interval between Constantine and Justinian may be regarded as the Byzantine period of the history of Antioch. After the founding of Constantinople it ceased to be the principal city of the East. At the same time it it began to be prominent as a Christian city, ranking as a Patriarchal see with Constantinople and Alexandreia. With the former of these cities it was connected by the great road through Asia Minor, and with the latter, by the coast road through Caesarea. (See Wesseling, Ant. Itin. p. 147; Itin. Hieros. p. 581.) Ten councils were held at Antioch between the years 252 and 380; and it became distinguished by a new style of building, in connection with Christian worship. One church especially, begun by Constantine, and finished by his son, demands our notice. It was the same church which Julian closed and Jovian restored to Christian use, and the same in which Chrysostom preached. He [1.145] describes it as richly ornamented with Mosaic and statues. The roof was domical (σφαιροειδές), and of great height; and in its octagonal plan it was similar to the church of St. Vitalis at Ravenna. (See Euseb. Vit. Const. 3.50.) From the prevalence of early churches of this form in the East, we must suppose either that this edifice set the example, or that this mode of church-building was already in use. Among other buildings, Antioch owed to Constantine a basilica, a praetorium, for the residence of the Count of the East, built of the materials of the ancient Museum, and a xenon or hospice near the great church for the reception of travellers. Constantius spent much time at Antioch, so that the place received the temporary name of Constantia. His great works were at the harbour of Seleuceia, and the traces of them still remain. Julian took much pains to ingratiate himself with the people of Antioch. His disappointment is expressed in the Misopogon. Valens undertook great improvements at the time of his peace with the Persians, and opposite the ravine Parmenius he built a sumptuous forum, which was paved with marble, and decorated with Illyrian columns. Theodosius was compelled to adopt stringent measures against the citizens, in consequence of the sedition and the breaking of the statues (A.D. 387, 388), and Antioch was deprived of the rank of a metropolis. We are now brought to the time of Libanius, from whom we have so often quoted, and of Chrysostom, whose sermons contain so many incidental notices of his native city. Chrysostom gives the population at 200,000, of which 100,000 were Christians. In these numbers it is doubtful whether we are to include the children and the slaves. (See Gibbon, ch.xv. and Milman's note, vol. ii. p. 363.) For the detailed description of the public and private buildings of the city, we must refer the reader to Libanius. The increase of the suburb towards Daphne at this period induced Theodosius to build a new wall on this side. (See the Plan.) Passing over the reigns of Theodosius the Younger, who added new decorations to the city, and of Leo the Great, in whose time it was desolated by an earthquake, we come to, a period which was made disastrous by quarrels in the Hippodrome, massacres of the Jews, internal factions and war from without. After an earthquake in the reign of Justin, A.D. 526, the city was restored by Ephrem, who was Count of the East, and afterwards Patriarch. The reign of Justinian is one of the most important eras in the history of Antioch. It was rising under him into fresh splendour, when it was again injured by an earthquake, and soon afterwards (A.D. 538) utterly desolated by the invasion of the Persians under Chosroes. The ruin of the city was complete. The citizens could scarcely find the sites of their own houses. Thus an entirely new city (which received the new name of Theupolis) rose under Justinian. In dimensions it was considerably less than the former, the wall retiring from the river on the east, and touching it only at one point, and also including a smaller portion of the cliffs of Mount Silpius. This wall evidently corresponds with the notices of the fortifications in the times of the crusaders, if we make allowance for the inflated language of Procopius, who is our authority for the public works of Justinian.

The history of Antioch during the medieval period was one of varied fortunes, but, on the whole, of gradual decay. It was first lost to the Roman empire in the time of Heraclius (A.D. 635 and taken, with the whole of Syria, by the Saracens in the first burst of their military enthfuIsiasm. It was recovered in the 10th century under Nicephorus Phocas, by a surprise similar to that by which the Persians became masters of it; and its strength, population, and magnificence are celebrated by a writer of the period (Leo Diac. p. 73), though its appearance had doubtless undergone considerable changes during four centuries of Mahomedan occupation. It remained subject to the emperor of Constantinople till the time of the first Comneni, when it was taken by the Seljuks,, (A.D. 1084). Fourteen years later (A.D. 1098) it was besieged by the Latins in the first Crusade. Godfrey pitched his camp by the ditch which had been dug under Justinian, and Tancred erected a fort near the western wall. (See the Plan.) The city was taken on the 3d of June, 1098. Boemond I., the son of Robert Guiscard, became prince of Antioch; and its history was again Christian for nearly two centuries, till the time of Boemond VI., when it fell under the power of the Sultan of Egypt and his Mamelukes (A.D. 1268). From this time its declension seems to have been rapid and continuous: whereas, under the Franks, it appears to have been still a strong and splendid city. So it is described by Phocas (Acta Sanct. Mai. vol. v. p. 299), and by William of Tyre, who is the great Latin authority for its history during this period. (See especially 4.9--14, 5.23, 6.1, 15; and compare 16.26, 27.) It is unnecessary for our purpose to describe the various fortunes of the families through which the Frankish principality of Antioch was transmitted from the first to the seventh Boemond. A full account of them, and of the coins by which they are illustrated, will be found in De Saulcy, Numismatique des Croisades, pp. 1--27.

We may consider the modern history of Antioch as coincident with that of European travellers in the Levant. Beginning with De la Brocquière, in the 15th century, we find the city already sunk into a state of insignificance. He says that it contained only 300 houses, inhabited by a few Turks and Arabs. The modern Anstakieh is a poor town, situated in the north-western quarter of the ancient city, by the river, which is crossed by a substantial bridge. No accurate statement can be given of its population. One traveller states it at 4000, another at 10,000. In the census taken by Ibrahim Pasha in 1835, when he thought of making it again the capital of Syria, it was said to be 5600. The Christians have no church. The town occupies only a small portion (some say 1/3, some 1/5 some 1/1) of the ancient enclosure; and a wide space of unoccupied ground intervenes between it and the eastern or Aleppo gate (called, after St. Paul, Bab-Boulous), near which are the remains of ancient pavement.

The walls (doubtless those of Justinian) may be traced through a circuit of four miles. They are built partly of stone, and partly of Roman tiles, and were flanked by strong towers; and till the earthquake of 1822 some of them presented a magnificent appearance on the cliffs of Mount Silpius. The height of the wall differs in different places, and travellers are not agreed on the dimensions assigned to them. Among the recent travellers who have described Antioch, we may make particular mention of Pococke, Kinneir, Niebuhr, Buckingham, Richter (Wallfahrten im Morgenlande), and Michaud et Poujoulat (Correspondance d'Orient, &c.). Since the earthquake which has just been mentioned, the most important events at Antioch have been its [1.146] occupation by Ibrahim Pasha in 1832, and the Eu-phrates expedition, conducted by Col. Chesney. (See the recently published volumes, London, 1850.)

The annexed figure represents the Genius of Antioch,--for so with Ammianus Marcellinus (23.1), a native of the place, we may translate the Τύχη Ἀντιοχείας, or the famous allegorical statue, which personified the city. It was the work of

Eutychides of Sicyon, a pupil of Lysippus, whose school of art was closely connected with the Macedonian princes. It represented Antioch as a female figure, seated on the rock Silpius and crowned with towers, with ears of corn, and sometimes a palm branch in her hand, and with the river Orontes at her feet. This figure appears constantly on the later coins of Antioch; and it is said to have sometimes decorated the official chairs of the Roman praetors in the provinces, in conjunction with representations of Rome, Alexandreia, and Constantinople. The engraving here given is from a statue of the time of Septimius Severus in the Vatican. (Visconti, Museo Pio Clementino, 3.46.) The original statue was placed within a cell of four columns, open on all sides, near the river Orontes, and ultimately within the Nymphaeum.

A conjectural plan of the ancient city is given in Michaud's Histoire des Croisades (vol. ii.). But the best is in C. O. Müller's Antiquitates Antiochenae (Göttingen, 1839), from which ours is taken. Miller's work contains all the materials for the history of Antioch. A compendious account of this city is given in Conybeare and Howson's Life and Epistles of St. Paul (London, 1850--52), from which work some part of the present article has been taken.

Gibbon says: “We may distinguish his authentic information of domestic facts from his gross ignorance of general history.” Ch. li. vol. ix. p. 414, ed. Milman., - Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography, William Smith, LLD, Ed.


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The Roman Empire During the First Century AD

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Caesarea Philippi





















Danube River



Dniester River

Douro River


Ebro River


Emerita Augusta




Euphrates River

Fair Havens


Forum Appius





Garonne River





Greater Syrtis

Guadalquivir River

Guadiana River


Halys River



Heraclea Pontus

Hippo Regius









Jordan River


Kure Mountains




Leptis Magna

Lesser Syritis


Loire River









Mauritania Caesariensis

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Mediterranean Sea






Mount Sinai


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Nile River


Oceanus Atlanticus



Orontes River


















Po River



Pontus Euxinus

Porta Veneris


Prut River








Sahara Desert







Saonne River






Sea of Adria

Seine River





Sinus Arabicus






Tagus River




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Tiber River


Tisza River