Tigris River


Tigris (tī´grĬs), river of SW Asia, c.1,150 mi (1,850 km) long, rising in the Taurus Mts., E Turkey, and flowing SE through Iraq to join the Euphrates River, with which it forms the Shatt al Arab. It flows swiftly and receives many tributaries, including the Diyala, originating in the Zagros Mts., and the Great and Little Zab. The lower Tigris is connected to the Euphrates by semipermanent natural channels and by ancient canals. Much of the marshland along the lower Tigris was drained in the early 1990s; restoration began in 2003. Dams across the river divert water for irrigation.

The Tigris is subject to sudden, devastating floods, and the Wadi Ath Tharthar Scheme, Iraq's largest flood-control project, protects Baghdad and vicinity from floods in addition to irrigating c.770,000 acres (311,600 hectares) of land. Since the 1990s a series of dams has been constructed on the Tigris and Euphrates in Turkey. The plans for the Southeast Anatolia Project ultimately call for 22 dams that altogether will provide water to irrigate more than 3,700,000 acres (1.5 million hectares) of land. A series of hydroelectric power stations is also being built; by 2014 more than half the dams had been completed. It is unclear to what degree the dams and irrigation may cause problems in countries downstream that rely on the river's resources.

The Tigris is navigable to Baghdad for shallow-draft vessels; above Baghdad, rafts carry much of the trade to Mosul. Its importance as a trade artery has declined with improved road and rail connections. Basra, at the junction of the Tigris and Euphrates, is Iraq's chief port.

In antiquity, some of the great cities of Mesopotamia, including Nineveh, Ctesiphon, and Seleucia, stood on the banks of the Tigris, and the river served as an important transportation route. The Tigris floodplain was cultivated by irrigation from the earliest times; the Sumerians dug a canal from the Tigris to Lagash c.2400 BC The Tigris is called the Hiddekil in the Bible.

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright© 2015, The Columbia University Press.

Tigris River: Selected full-text books and articles

Turkey's Approach to Utilization of the Euphrates and Tigris Rivers By Tomanbay, Mehmet Arab Studies Quarterly (ASQ), Vol. 22, No. 2, Spring 2000
Defining the Political/ecological Threshold for the Euphrates and Tigris Rivers By Kolars, John Arab Studies Quarterly (ASQ), Vol. 22, No. 2, Spring 2000
A New Challenge: Water Scarcity in the Arab World By Swain, Ashok Arab Studies Quarterly (ASQ), Vol. 20, No. 1, Winter 1998
The Fertile Crescent, 1800-1914: A Documentary Economic History By Charles Issawi Oxford University Press, 1988
Librarian’s tip: "The Year 1757: The Freezing of the River Tigris" begins on p. 96
FREE! A History of the Babylonians and Assyrians By George Stephen Goodspeed Charles Scribner's Sons, 1902
Librarian’s tip: Chap. I "The Lands of the Euphrates and Tigris"
The Middle East: A Geographical Study By Peter Beaumont; Gerald H. Blake; J. Malcolm Wagstaff David Fulton, 1988 (2nd edition)
Librarian’s tip: Includes discussion of the Tigris river in multiple chapters
Iraq, 1900 to 1950: A Political, Social, and Economic History By Stephen Hemsley Longrigg Oxford University Press, 1953
Librarian’s tip: Includes discussion of the Tigris river in multiple chapters
The Near East: A Modern History By William Yale University of Michigan Press, 1958
Librarian’s tip: "The Two Great Rivers" begins on p. 304
Area Handbook for Iraq By Harvey H. Smith; William Giloane; Nancy W. Al-Any; Irving Kaplan; Donald W. Bernier; Rinn-Sup Shinn; Frederica M. Bunge; Suzanne Teleki; Richard F. Nyrop; Newton B. Parker; Beryl L. Benderly US Government Printing Office, 1971
Librarian’s tip: "The River System" begins on p. 18
FREE! History of Babylonia and Assyria By Robert William Rogers Eaton & Mains, vol.1, 1901 (2nd edition)
Librarian’s tip: Discussion of the Tigris river begins on p. 267
The Reconstruction of Iraq, 1950-1957 By Fahim I. Qubain F.A. Praeger, 1958
Librarian’s tip: "Control over the Water Systems" begins on p. 54
FREE! Natural History of Pliny By John Bostock; H. T. Riley H. G. Bohn, vol.2, 1855
Librarian’s tip: "The Tigris" begins on p. 75
Iraq: Eastern Flank of the Arab World By Christine Moss Helms Brookings Institution, 1984
Librarian’s tip: Discussion of the Tigris river begins on p. 10
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