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New excavations continue to tell the story of an ancient city located where east and west meet.

Saving Zeugma did not happen thanks to a good plan. It was thanks to telling a good story. In 2000, with the construction of the huge Birecik Dam on the Euphrates River in Southeastern Anatolia, not even a kilometer away from the protected area, the entire region began to be flooded. News that the waters, which rose by an average of ten centimeters a day for six months, were like a ticking bomb, announced the seriousness of Zeugma's situation to the world. The waters that were about to swallow the archaeological remains necessitated the acceleration of rescue efforts and emergency excavations that have been going on for the last year in the site, which is approximately 1000 km away from Istanbul. The interest shown to Zeugma by the press brought with it generous aid from both private and state sources. Particular importance was given to transporting the Zeugma mosaics, one of the most extraordinary works that have survived from the ancient world. Soon, the world's best restoration experts arrived from Italy to save the mosaics from the floodwaters. The interest shown in Zeugma also attracted many foreign tourists - and even more money - to the region; In September 2011 Gaziantep30 million dollar modern building opened in Zeugma Mosaic Museum It does not remain without visitors today either.

However, the story of Zeugma began thousands of years before the construction of the dam. Seleucus I Nicator, one of Alexander the Great's generals in the third century BC, west of the river Selevkaya He founded a settlement called military-city or military colony. On the east side, named after his wife of Persian origin, Apamea He founded another city named. These two cities were connected by a pontoon bridge, but it is not known whether their administrations were separate. Today, nothing remains of ancient Apamea and the bridge. In 64 BC, the Romans conquered Selevkaya and called the city, in ancient Greek: "bridge" or "passage" They named it Zeugma, which means: Seleucid Empire After its collapse, the Romans annexed Zeugma to the territory of Commagene Antiochus I Theos as a reward for his support to General Pompey during the conquest.

1Roman legions in Zeugma during the imperial period increased the strategic value of the city and contributed to the cosmopolitan culture. Due to its high traffic volume and geographical location, Zeugma became a point where road fees were collected. Political and commercial routes converged here, and the city was the last stop in the Greco-Roman world before the Persian Empire. Zeugma prospered over the centuries as both an important trading city and a military and religious center, reaching its peak population of approximately 20,000-30,000 inhabitants. During the imperial period, Zeugma became both the largest and most strategically and economically important city on the eastern border of the empire.

However, with the fate of the Roman Empire, Zeugma's good days began to come to an end. Coming from Iran in 253 AD Sassanids When they attacked the city, the luxurious houses in the city turned into ruins and began to be used as animal shelters. Most of the city's new inhabitants were peasants who used non-durable, simple building materials. The magnificence and importance of Zeugma was forgotten and not remembered for more than 1,700 years.

Although it is hard to believe considering that at least twenty-five percent of the western side of the ancient city is currently under approximately 60 meters of water and the eastern side is completely submerged, there is still much to see and excavate in Zeugma. After the threat posed by rising waters was eliminated, he became the head of the work in Zeugma since 2005, from Ankara University. Kutalmış Görkay Archaeologists such as have focused on the protection and preservation of what remains above the water with new projects.

Görkay explains how this multicultural city connects East and West, Persian and Greco-Roman worlds. gate mission looking for more evidence of what he saw. It also tries to understand how the transition from the Hellenistic Greek world to the rule of the Roman Empire affected the city. “There is no other major city in the same region that we know of that transformed from a Hellenistic city to a Roman garrison city with such an important geopolitical position, making it an ideal place to investigate cultural changes between the two.” says Görkay.

Located about 50 meters from the shore of the large reservoir, the shiny, $1.5 million steel and polycarbonate structure provides a striking contrast against the desolation of the landscape. Thanks to the multi-storey structure of the building, which was built to protect the ruins of five Roman houses, visitors can see the buildings and streets that were carefully excavated and unearthed. Most of the structures under the roof were built during the Roman Empire in the first and second centuries AD. The inhabitants of this once luxurious neighborhood were most likely high-ranking civilians and military officials, as well as merchants who became rich through trade. There is ample evidence to suggest that they used a sophisticated sewage and water supply system. The canals opening to the stone streets were once the highest point of the city. Belkis HillThere were pipes with bronze lion-headed taps at the ends, carrying water from the four tanks and cisterns in . Sunny courtyards in the middle of the houses allowed fresh air to enter. It is built in some houses to collect rainwater and cool the air entering the house. impluvium There were shallow pools called These courtyards once housed Zeugma's most famous mosaics. The theme in most of the mosaics was related to water: Dolphin on Erosrescued by fishermen off the coast of Seriphos danae And perseus, god of the seas Poseidon and other water gods and water creatures.

Today, the only things visible in the site are geometric mosaics. Although archaeologists prefer to restore and leave mosaics on site so that visitors can understand their original location, preserving them against natural events is difficult and expensive. Theft is also a big problem in Zeugma; For poor local people, looting has long been considered a legitimate source of income. What archaeologists researched in 1998, Dionysus And AriadneAll pieces of the mosaic depicting 's wedding were stolen in one night. The Gaziantep museum moved all the figure mosaics that had been excavated after this incident, and there are now armed guards on duty at the site all day long.

According to Görkay, mosaics were an important part of the home environment and their functions were much more than just decorative. Most mosaics were chosen according to the intended use of the room. For example, in bedrooms Eros And Telete Stories of lovers such as these were depicted. The choice of images also reflected the homeowner's tastes and intellectual interests. “The mosaics were the product of the master's imagination. It wasn't like choosing from a catalogue. They would think of certain images to create a certain effect,” he explains.  “For example, if you have the knowledge to talk about literature, of the museums You could choose a picture where says Görkay. Museums were thought to be a source of inspiration for literature, science and art. “Muses are also the personification of good times. “When people drank next to this mosaic, the musicians were always there, accompanying the people while creating the atmosphere.” says. Other popular themes used in these reception and dining areas are love, wine and Dionysuswas. However, this was not the only important issue in the selection of mosaics. The location of the mosaics was also important. “In a dining room outside the courtyard, sofas where people sat or slept, drank and partied, were placed around the mosaics so that people could see the mosaics along with the courtyard and the pool.” explains Görkay. The order in which the mosaics are seen is also designed, he explains. When guests entered the house, they would first encounter an impressive mosaic placed to create an impression on those who came through the door. This mosaic could give guests a clue about the host's favorite topics, taste or themes. In the next room, guests were invited to sit back on couches to view other mosaics. After the guests were seated, the feast began.

Görkay and his team of 25 students are currently excavating two houses dating back to the first century AD, around 100 meters from the roof where the work was completed. Here the team will learn more about the private lives of Zeugma's former inhabitants. There is always hope of finding a magnificent mosaic waiting for them when they reach floor level in every room of every excavated house. The team also hopes to find paintings or writings on the building walls, which archaeologists call graffiti. Graffiti can be important evidence to determine the religion, occupation or ethnicity of a home's occupants. For example, in Zeugma, a painted or engraved name could indicate whether the occupant of the house was Semitic, Persian, Greek or Roman. Görkay also supervised the first works on the Hellenistic agora, the commercial and administrative center of the city, located approximately 90 meters from the roof. Not much excavation has been done there yet, but Görkay thinks that as the excavations continue, more things about Zeugma's urban identity will be unearthed. In 2000, a team excavating for a market structure in the agora unearthed an archive room containing hundreds of thousands of official stamps, and with this discovery, previously unknown information was obtained about the management of the military and commercial center. Other excavations at the site unearthed several bronze statues, thousands of coins and hundreds of kilograms of ceramics. As these are cataloged and researched, they will provide valuable information about the city's inhabitants, their customs, and the types of goods used and traded.

There is much more to be discovered about religious beliefs in Zeugma. Görkay wants to continue the excavations and examine the place of politics and nationality in religion during the transition periods in Zeugma's history. While archaeologists were excavating at Belkıs Tepe in 2008, Zeus, Athena and possibly heraThey discovered a temple and place of worship with three astonishing statues of , showing that it was one of the most important religious sites in the city. However, there are still many unanswered questions about how traditional Greco-Roman gods were worshiped together with the Persian gods accepted in the city. Similarly, says Görkay, “During the time of the Komagene rulers, Antiochus I blessed many places of worship and had his portrait hung in all of them.” There were also obelisks showing the king shaking hands with the gods. However, during the Roman period, these temples were stripped of their political characteristics and the gods were depicted alone, which indicates a change in the worship of the ruler. In the future, Görkay hopes to explore the civil, religious and special identities of the city and focus his excavations on the temples, civil buildings, houses and cemeteries that give Zeugma its cosmopolitan character. Although many of the mysteries of this ancient city have been trapped forever under the waters of the Euphrates, Görkay is confident that Zeugma is just beginning to tell its own story.

Writer: Matthew Brunwasser
Translator: Burçin İçdem
Source: archeology (The article was written on October 14, 2012.)

Belkıs/Zeugma Ancient City is located on the banks of the Euphrates River within the borders of Belkıs Village, Nizip District, Gaziantep Province. Built on approximately 20 thousand acres of land…