"The 2000 Excavations at Zeugma , Turkey "
Jennifer Tobin
University of Illinois , Chicago

The twin cities of Zeugma, Seleucia and Apamea, straddled the Euphrates River , the former located on the Syrian side of the river, and the latter on the eastern, or Mesopotamian shore.   Founded by Seleucus I around 300 BC and named for himself and his Persian wife, they were united by a bridge, the only permanent crossing of the Euphrates between the Taurus Mountains and Babylonia .  The importance of this bridge, bonding east to west, can be recognized in the fact that the two cities eventually became known as Zeugma, or Bridgetown .  Surrounded by water and rich fields, and controlling the crossing of a mighty river, Zeugma became one of the more significant urban centers of the Seleucid Empire.  Falling briefly under the control of the small Kingdom of Commagene in the 1st century BC, the twin cities became part of the Roman province of Syria , early in the 1st century AD.   As a Roman outpost, Zeugma hosted one of the Syrian legions, Legio IIII Scythica, and the influx of soldiers as well as 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.  Although portions of Zeugma were rebuilt, the late Roman settlement was a shadow of its former greatness.  Subject to further invasions from the east throughout the fifth and sixth centuries, Zeugma fell to Islam in the seventh century, although it maintained a bishopric as late as 1048.

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.