Sunday, November 14, 2010


Zeugma, which was founded in the 3rd-4th century B.C. by Seleucus Nicator I, one of Alexander the Great’s commanding generals, is situated at one of the easiest fording places on the Euphrates. Maybe therefore its name, ‘Zeugma’, means ‘bridgehead’ or ‘crossing place’. Thanks to its strategic situation on an east-west axis,the city quickly grew and developed, becoming one of the four major cities of the Commagene Kingdom founded in the 1st century B.C. in the post-Hellenistic period. When the region came under Roman hegemony, one of the empire’s thirty legions was stationed here, the 4th Scythian. Its presence fuelled trade, trade in turn brought wealth, and when that wealth attracted artists, Zeugma became a metropolis of 70 thousand people. On the banks of the Euphrates merchants built villas with a perfect view of the sunset. And in the courtyards of those villas they added refreshing, mosaic-paved pools. With their mosaics depicting Poseidon, Oceanus, Tethys and the river gods, these villas on the banks of the Euphrates transformed Zeugma into a virtual fine arts museum. Swelling shortly to twice the size of London and three times that of Pompeii, the city rivalled the Athens of its day. Though archaeological research in Zeugma goes back to the 1970s, most of what is known from the site was discovered during the extensive salvage excavations in 2000. Before large portions of it disappeared in 2000 beneath the rising waters of a several dam constructions on the Euphrates River, the ancient city of Zeugma yielded one of the richest troves of Roman mosaics ever uncovered. Now exhibited at Gaziantep Museum in downtown Gaziantep, the well-preserved mosaics depict a wide variety of mythological scenes and individuals. Those mosaics soon to be moved to a newly built Zeugma Mosaics Museum, constructed close to the ancient Zeugma and which will be the world's largest mosaic museum. This blog is dedicated to inform its readers on this new Zeugma Mosaic Museum and its rich collections.


  1. Senem,
    You wrote that large portions of the city of Zeguma disappeared in 2000 when dams on the Euphrates River caused the water level to rise. Do you know if the decision to build the dams was controversial at the time because of the effects the dams would have on the ancient treasures? Were all of Zeguma's mosaics able to be preserved? Were other artifacts lost? This situation reminds me of the Three Gorges Dam that was built on the Yangtze River in China. The construction of this immense dam led to a huge furor, not only because so many historic sites were flooded, but because many people were displaced by the destruction of their villages. Even though attempts were made to remove artifacts, I believe that some things could not be saved due to factors like location, construction, and size.

  2. Ken, there was a huge controversy at the time. Many locals forced to relocate and most part of the amazing cultural heritage at the site was left under water. The salvaged mosaics are enough to fill the biggest mosaic museum in the world, but not all of them saved. This is is still a hot topic in Turkey. This dam building was a part of a larger development project going on more than 30 years. There are more historical sites in Turkey threatened by new dam building. I agree with you, the life of dams(using this technology) are less than 100 years, but the damage is irreversible.

  3. Astounding and tragic. What a remarkable place and history. What a loss to drown it to provide energy for an impossibly growing species.