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Zeugma (Commagene)

Parts of Zeugma have become submerged in the Euphrates River since the construction of the Birecik Dam
Zeugma (Commagene) is located in Turkey
Zeugma (Commagene)
Shown within Turkey
LocationBelkis, Gaziantep Province, Turkey
Coordinates37°3′31″N 37°51′57″E / 37.05861°N 37.86583°E / 37.05861; 37.86583
BuilderSeleucus I Nicator
Founded300 BC
Site notes
ConditionPartially submerged

Zeugma (Greek: Ζεῦγμα; Syriac: ܙܘܓܡܐ) was an ancient Hellenistic era Greek and then Roman city of Commagene; located in modern Gaziantep Province, Turkey. It was named for the bridge of boats, or zeugma,[1] that crossed the Euphrates at that location.[2] Zeugma Mosaic Museum contains mosaics from the site, and is one of the largest mosaic museums in the world.


Zeugma was founded in the early 3rd century BC as the city of Seleucia by Seleucus I Nicator, a Diadochus (successor) to Alexander the Great and Hellenistic Greek founder of the Seleucid Kingdom, on the site where he had the first bridge over the Euphrates built.[3] In 64 BC, the Roman Republic gained control of the city. Zeugma was of great importance to the Roman Empire as it was located at a strategically important place. Up to 70,000 people lived in the city, and it became a center for the military and commerce for the ancient Romans.[2] In 253 AD, it was destroyed by the Sassanids, but was later rebuilt.[3]

In late antiquity, Zeugma was a diocese of the early Roman church, but the place seems to have been abandoned in the 7th century due to Sassanid Persian and then Arab raids by the Umayyad Caliphate. Arabs lived there temporarily in the Middle Ages. By the 17th century the Ottoman Turkish village of Belkis was built near the ruins.


Initially the site was excavated sporadically, but in 2000, the site would be flooded due to construction of the Birecik Dam.[4] With only a fraction of the site excavated, archaeologists feared that many mosaics would be permanently lost.[5] After reading about it in The New York Times, and with only few months left, American philanthropist David W. Packard donated USD 5 million to fund an emergency excavation of the archaeological site, allowing archaeologists to preserve the mosaics that would otherwise be inundated by the dam.[6][7] The mosaics that were excavated were initially stored at the Gaziantep Museum, and are nowadays displayed at the Zeugma Mosaic Museum.[8]

Zeugma has been on the UNESCO World Heritage Site tentative list since 2012. Extant archaeological remains at the site include "the Hellenistic Agora, the Roman Agora, two sanctuaries, the stadium, the theatre, two bathhouses, the Roman legionary base, administrative structures of the Roman legion, the majority of the residential quarters, Hellenistic and Roman city walls, and the East, South and West necropoles."[9]

Three large glass mosaics were discovered at Zeugma in 2014, including one depicting the nine muses.[10]

In February 2020, it was reported that the Zeugma Mosaic Museum attracted a record 340,569 visitors in 2019, according to the Turkish Culture and Tourism Ministry.[11]


See also


  1. ^ ζεῦγμα. Liddell, Henry George; Scott, Robert; A Greek–English Lexicon at the Perseus Project.
  2. ^ a b "Museum of Roman Mosaics to Open in Turkey". Retrieved 2020-03-28.
  3. ^ a b "Remarkably Pristine Ancient Greek Mosaics Uncovered in Turkish City of Zeugma". 24 November 2014.
  4. ^ Kinzer, Stephen (2000-07-03). "A Race to Save Roman Splendors From Drowning". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2021-11-22.
  5. ^ Kinzer, Stephen (2000-05-07). "Dam in Turkey May Soon Flood A '2nd Pompeii'". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2021-11-22.
  6. ^ "Zeugma finds a "secret" patron". 2000-08-27. Retrieved 2021-11-22.
  7. ^ Packard, David W. (2013). "Excavations at Zeugma" (PDF).
  8. ^ Aylward, William (2013). Excavations at Zeugma: Conducted by Oxford Archaeology. Packard Humanities Institute. ISBN 978-1-938325-29-8.
  9. ^ "Archeological Site of Zeugma". UNESCO World Heritage Centre. Retrieved 2020-05-05.
  10. ^ "Stunning Mosaics Uncovered in Ancient City of Zeugma | Archaeology |". Breaking Science News | 28 November 2014. Retrieved 2020-05-05.
  11. ^ AA, Daily Sabah with (2020-01-22). "Record number of tourists visit Turkey's Zeugma Mosaic Museum". Daily Sabah. Retrieved 2020-05-05.

Further reading

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Zeugma (Commagene)
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