The singular importance
of Zeugma - an ancient metropolis founded around 300 BC - is due
to its location on one of the oldest and best crossing points of
the Euphrates river.
position of the dam and area of investigation.
It was here, beyond
the Anatolian mountains and through the narrow strip of the fertile
crescent, that the most important antique trade route between the
Mediterranean world, Mesopotamia and Anatolia passed by. As a gateway
and at the crossroads of cultures, Zeugma became an eminent and
flourishing settlement. Under Roman rule, the Euphrates River was
proclaimed the border between Rome and its only true rival, the
Empire of the Parthians and Persians.
Zeugma also played a
major strategic role. Near the city a great (hitherto undiscovered)
fortress was built as the garrison for an entire Roman legion, and
Zeugma became the hub for most Roman military operations in the
East. Zeugma then enjoyed both increased wealth and particular attention
by the political and military elite of the Roman Empire.
and pillage by Persian invaders in the mid 3rd c. AD, Zeugma remained
an important Roman military and economic centre well into the Byzantine
period. The altered political and strategic situation in the Near
East by the Arab conquest and the shift of the river crossing by
a few kilometres to the south lead to the final decline of the city
in the 11th century AD. Zeugma's history is therefore closely linked
to the political and military history of the entire Near East. The
development of this unique ancient site can be fully understood
only through a thorough investigation of its military history. Archaeology
provides the tools for such an undertaking.
Since 1996 the Swiss-lead
international team has been investigating Zeugma's military history
using the most modern archaeological methods available. These investigations
were part of an archaeological rescue project linked to the imminent
flooding of the Euphrates valley by the newly constructed Birecik
dam. The results hitherto achieved are of far reaching importance
for historical and archaeological research. Two Roman military camps
were discovered. They are the oldest Roman fortresses on the Euphrates
yet discovered, and shed important light on the historical developments
of the early Roman Empire in the East.
- Results - Goals
Research in the field
was preceded by a detailed study of all hitherto known sources concerning
ancient Zeugma. Furthermore, two intensive surveys were undertaken
by both project leaders in 1996, in order to localise possible Roman
garrisons at Zeugma in the area which was due to be flooded after
the completion of the Birecik dam. A detailed analysis of Russian
satellite photographs, which were acquired for this purpose, clearly
appeared to confirm our initial results, for they showed the typical
outlines of two large, overlapping Roman military camps at the very
spot identified by our team during the 1996 survey.
with the outlines of military camps.
Sondages opened in early
1997 further reinforced these results. In spring 1998 and 1999,
final proof was achieved by uncovering several large areas. Both
camps could be dated to the first century AD, and information on
the internal building structures and the length of occupation was
gained. The modern archaeological methods used here were, to the
best of our knowledge, employed for the first time during an excavation
of the Greco-Roman period in the Near East. This was unavoidable,
as there were no stone structures but only the remains of mudbrick
walls or of walls made of unfired condensed mud.
Area with position of the trenches and outlines of the Early
Roman Military Camps.
These results are of
far-reaching consequences for modern archaeology and history. For
the military building structures discovered are not only the first
Roman military camps on the Euphrates ever to be thoroughly investigated,
but they are also the earliest structures of this kind known in
this area. Important information was gained about the history of
Roman foreign and frontier policy on the eastern border of the Empire
in the first century AD.
and ditch of the later fortress.
One of the insights
gained is that - contrary to the generally held opinion - the large
fortress of legio IV Scythica was not situated within Zeugma itself
nor immediately close by the city on the banks of the Euphrates.
This large and famous legionary fortress of the 2nd and 3rd centuries
AD is most probably to be found somewhere in the hinterland of the
ancient city - an assumption that allows further conclusions to
be drawn for the history of the region but also beyond.
Our research into Zeugma's
military history continues even after the completion of the Birecik
dam. Sondages were carried out in May 2001, which helped to narrow
down the search for the legionary fortress of legio IIII Scythica.
For the next phase of work, we plan to carry out a geophysical survey
in the field "At Meydani" northwest of Belkis Tepe. Many
stamped tiles of the legio IV Scythica have been found in this field
over the last years, and the results of the planned geophysical
survey could serve as a very important basis for future investigations
in coming years.
during the year 2001 have been fully sponsored by the Packard Humanities
to top of page