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A Little History

Ancient Mesopotamia : Mesopotamia, ancient Greek meaning ‘land between two rivers' ( Meso middle, potamos river ) the Tigris-Euphrates, the biblical land known as Ancient Mesopotamia, The Fertile Crescent, on The Silk Route, the rise of the first civilisation of the world, where time began, Sumerians : 60 parts. Babylonians : 60 seconds, 60 minutes, 360 degrees, The Map. Sumerians : the wheel, weaving cloth, the cart, the chariot, the sailboat, the plough, mathematics, architecture, sun-dried bricks, astronomy, astrology, agriculture, irrigation, cuneiform writing, monarchy, copper tools, arrowheads, razors, swords, harpoons, maces, slings and clubs.

First use of soap recorded on a cuneiform tablet, Girsu a city of ancient Sumer 2,500 BC used for removing lanolin from sheep, alkalis from burned wood and fats equals saponification, water absorbs the alkali from the ash 'leaching' creating impure soap. First known recipe of soap one quart of oil, six quarts of potash equals impure soap. The first evidence of soap being used  to clean the skin, cuneiform tablet found in the Hittite capital Boghazkoi. The first recorded evidence of soap production written in cuneiform on a clay tablet 2800 BC, Sumerians. 2200 BC, Sumerians (where oils in soap began), a formula of soap consisting of water, alkali (ash) and cassia oil (cinnamomum) was written on a clay tablet (two thousand years before The Silk Route opened) . King Nabonidus, Neo-Babylonian 6th century BC : ashes, cypress extract, sesame oil (antibacterial, antiviral) written on clay cylinders Ur.

Babylon : the eighth gate to the inner city, The Ishtar Gate 575 BC, one of the seven wonders of the world, 2500 acres, 11 miles of wall wrapped around the most famous city of Ancient Mesopotamia. Greek historian Herodotus, declaring 'Overwhelmingly opulent, the walls so broad chariots could race around them', later confirmed by architect Callimachus of Cyrene. Antipater of Sidon, Greek writer,Poet 2nd century BC begins the official listing replacing The Ishtar Gate for The Lighthouse of Alexandria.

The first handmade olive oil, pistachio oil, laurel berry oil and almond oil soaps traded on The Silk Route at a time when Jesus was born, Roman Emperors, Kings, Queens, Princesses, Pharaohs of Egypt reigned.

Galen of Pergamum : 130-200 AD, Philosopher, Greek Physician, Surgeon, Personal Physician of The Emperors (Marcus Aurelius, Commodus, Septimius Severus), Chief Physician for the treating of wounds to the gladiator school in Pergamum. Discoverer, that urine was formed in the kidney (as opposed to the bladder which, was common belief) and arteries carried blood. His theories dominated medicine for 1500 years. His journeys from Corinth (medical school), Pergamum (medical school), Cilicia, Antioch, Aleppo, Smyrna (medical school) to the greatest medical school of the Ancient World, Alexandria were frequent, 44 years old summoned to Rome, declaring to his patients the importance of hygiene and the healing powers of the oils in soap (antiseptic, anti-itching, antibacterial) Soap : the greatest medical discovery in human history. Galen collected plants with healing properties for debates of their uses. Historians now believe he died aged 87 years either in Pergamum or, Sicily. 

Zosimos of Panopolis 3rd century AD, Greek-Egyptian Alchemist, investigates the composition and chemical changes that occurred in the water and oils. Centuries later, still handmade today, remarkably, from the same historical areas, as the Soapmakers continue making history; hand-cut, dried stored for months being traditionally produced by hand through the generations of families, with only natural ingredients, unchanged throughout the centuries.

The Silk Route : The Merchants of Antioch earned their reputation for hundreds of years from the sale of silk, soap, glass, spices, cotton, dyeing, tanning, furs, wine, oil, bread ( barley for the poor, wheat for the wealthy) and copper tools trading under 1400 Roman columns and porticoes for more than two miles, using their vegetable oil filled lamps each night to light up The Colonnaded Street for more than 800 years. Hedonistic Antioch, 'Queen of the East' of the known Ancient World, the City of up to 500,000 people patrolled by Roman Legionaires, where residents used their oil filled lamps outside their homes increasing the illumination of the City at night. Persian Sogdian Traders travelled and spoke the language of Sogdiana for hundreds of years from Chang'an, (perpetual peace), Han Dynasty, Samarkand to Antioch the third largest city of The Roman Empire, where Hadrian was in command of the army of the East. Commissioned by the 9th Emperor Vespasian establishing The Praetorian Fleets : Classis  (Fleet Syriaca. Cassis (Fleet) Mesopotamica. Patrolling Antioch (Selucia, seaport) to Alexandria, reinforced, if necessary, with 200 ships from Classes Praetoriae. Emperor Hadrian (Imperator) nominated by his legions of the East. Antioch, 11th August 117 AD, 41 years old, 11 months later he journeyed to Rome (The Roman Empire, continuing Alexander the Great's expansionism of the known Ancient World).

The Vespasianus - Titus Tunnel (The Dam), 1st century AD, Antoninus Pius completes, 2nd century AD (Unesco Tentative Listing) . 10th Legion Engineers, built by Roman Legionaries, Sailors and skilled Jewish Prisoners, more than three quarters of a mile digging into The Nur Mountains. The longest  handmade dug tunnel in history, preserved authenticity, without damage still today, ensuring Antioch's seaport Seleucia from silting-up, flooding and water supply during summer.

Silk : 2696 BC Lei Zu, daughter of Xi Ling, Empress, Wife of The Yellow Emperor, the implementer of silk; by chance a silkworm cocoon fell from a tree into her tea cup unwrapping the silk and strong but, soft thread. Yellow silk : a class distinction. 552 AD : Emperor Justinian Ist sends two emissaries (Nestorian monks) to China to smuggle silkworm eggs, hidden in rods of bamboo, tired of paying exorbitant silk prices. Later, sericulture (silk farming) began.


The Museum Hotel (Antioch), Hatay Province.

Centuries Later, Still Preserved Today, 10 year project, 8.5 metres below ground level, 4 acres of Antioch (Savonerrie, where the Soapmakers made history) excavating, authenticity preserved, still today.

30,000 objects dating back to the 3rd Century BC : The Necmi Asfuroğlu Archaeology Museum, Hatay Archaeology Museum overlooking Mt. Silpius. Peter digs the foundation of the first church, Mt. Starius, Antioch (Unesco Tentative Listing). His missionary's were his imperative, suffering martyrdom under Emperor Nero, Rome. The Marble Roman Forum, public meeting place 9000 sq ft. The Pegasus mosaic, 160 shades of plant dyed stone, Frescoes of Apollo and Nine Muses 2nd century AD. Eros : marble statue 200 AD. World's largest single floor Mosaic 11,302 sq ft, observing its undulating flow, subsidence, earthquakes 4th Century AD. Wildlife Mosaic 5th Century AD. Roman Baths 5th Century AD.

Mosaics, columns and walls of ancient Antioch, the third largest City of The Roman Empire after Rome and Alexandria, favoured by The Emperors, third century AD, The Imperial Palace residence of Queen Zenobia (Antiochia, the preference of Queen Zenobia, just a short walk from the Soapmakers), Queen of Palmyra Empire, Queen of Syria, Queen of Egypt (6 years, loved by her people), declaring ancestry with Cleopatra, educated in Greek, Latin, Egyptian and Aramaic, defeated by Emperor Aurelius, chained in gold chains, treated with humility for a life in Tivoli, Rome, died 34 years old, 4 children.

Antioch, the centre of literature, the royal library, theatre, temples, public squares, baths, palatial homes, churches, aqueducts (Hadrian's finest work). Theatre, Augustus Caesar, enlarged by Agrippa, Tiberius, Trajan, 1st Century BC - 2nd Century AD. Amphitheatre, from the Greek word  amphitheatron, spectators all around, on both sides, Julius Caesar 47 BC. Hippodrome, Circus, chariot racing, 80,000 spectators, spina divides the course, donated by Quintius Marcius Rex proconsul of Cilicia 67 BC.1400 Roman columns and porticoes for more than two miles, The Colonnaded Street, the surface of Egyptian granite, ordered by Emperor Antoninus Pius 138-161 AD paving the great east to west artery wide enough to accommodate caravans, as the merchants passed through buying and selling, until 3 a.m. Libanius, Antioch's celebrated Orator 314-393 AD 'Indeed, if a man had the idea of travelling all over the earth, not to see how cities looked, but to learn their ways, our city would fulfil his purpose and save him his journeying. If he sits in our market place he will sample every city, there will be so many from each place with whom he can talk. The city loves the virtues of those who come to it exactly as it does the virtues of its children, imitating the Athenians in this also.' The only Roman City illuminated at night for more than 800 years. The romantic magnet for scholars, writers, philosophers. Antioch, 64 BC a Roman Province. Antioch, where The Silk Route 200 BC, on The Mediterranean waters ended.

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