The ancient city of Zeugma is situated about 50 km from Gaziantep city, on the banks of the Euphrates. The name “Zeugma” derives from the bridge of boats that in ancient times connected the river banks in this place, forming one of the three major river crossings of the region.
Zeugma started its existence as a Greek town, founded by Seleucus I Nicator, one of the Diadochi, the friends of Alexander the Great who fought for control over his empire after his death in 323 BCE.
The city was incorporated into the Roman Empire in 64 BC and soon gained importance as a commercial centre with its geo-strategic location on the Silk Road. It was also situated at the eastern border of the empire while the Persian Empire occupied the vast lands to the east of Euphrates. During the first two centuries of the first millennium AD, Zeugma was also the military base of Legio IV Scythica. Soldiers, officers, and high-ranking officials of the Roman Empire significantly contributed to the city’s development and prosperity.
The city was invaded and destroyed by its eastern neighbors in 256 AD when the Sassanid king, Shapur I, attacked it. A massive earthquake helped to put an end to Zeugma’s wealth and affluence, and the city never restored its previous prosperity. During the early Eastern Roman Empire period, Zeugma was still inhabited. Zeugma was abandoned in the 7th century because of the Arab raids.
As because of a very big dam project, the significant part of this archaeological site is now lost under the water. But, just before the flood, a large rescue excavations have been done, and its most spectacular artifacts – the extraordinary mosaics – are now displayed in the magnificent Zeugma Mosaic Museum in Gaziantep. The museum is the biggest mosaic museum in Turkey and in the world as well.
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