Abstract: The 2000 Excavations at Zeugma, Turkey


Around 300 BCE Seleucus I founded the twin cities of Seleucia and Apamea, each on opposite sides of the Euphrates River.  The bridge that united them, the only permanent crossing of the Euphrates between the Taurus Mountains and Babylonia, became so important that the two cities eventually became known as Zeugma, or “Bridgetown.”  Zeugma became one of the more significant urban centers of the Seleucid Empire, and when it became part of the Roman province of Syria early in the 1st century CE it hosted one of the Syrian legions, Legio IIII Scythica.  The influx of soldiers and civilians swelled the population of the two cities, causing a building boom of houses and shops.  In the mid-third century this thriving community was sacked by a Sasanid invasion led by Shapur I, and nearly every quarter of Zeugma was destroyed by fire.

Late in the 20th century, in order to improve the socio-economic climate of the Gaziantep region of Turkey, the Birecik Dam was constructed over the Euphrates River, just downstream from Zeugma.  The resulting artificial lake completely flooded Apamea, while approximately 30% of Seleucia was inundated.  As the flood waters rose over Seleucia emergency excavations were organized.  Funded by the Packard Humanities Institute, a multinational team raced against time to uncover the buried city.  The excavations yielded evidence for public life in the city, including several baths, a temple and a possible hall of records, but more spectacular were the results from the domestic quarters, which uncovered a number of houses, many sumptuously decorated with fine mosaics and elaborate wall paintings.  This lecture will present an overview of the Zeugma excavations, concentrating on the remains from the private sector of the settlement.


Short bibliography and/or website on lecture topic:

R. Early et al., Zeugma: Interim Reports, Journal of Roman Archaeology Supplementary Series 51 (2003)

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