The Roman Near East, 31 B.C.-A.D. 337

By Fergus Millar | Go to book overview

CHAPTER
12
THE EUPHRATES AND
MESOPOTAMIA

12.1. GEOGRAPHY, CULTURE AND LANGUAGE

From the beginning of the Imperial period the Roman presence in the Near East extended as far as Seleucia on the Euphrates, more often called Zeugma, 'the bridge', where the river now marked the border between the Roman and the Parthian Empires.1 It was only by successive stages that that presence was greatly extended. First it came to reach further along the river, both north and then south. To the north, the conquest of Commagene in the early 70s meant that Rome now occupied directly all of the cultivable area of northern Syria up to the Taurus Mountains. As far as the hinterland, stretching west to the borders of Cilicia and the meeting-point of the Taurus and Mount Amanus, is concerned, so little is known that nothing more need, or can, be said. But the capital of the kingdom, Samosata, lay directly on the Euphrates. In one direction, from the tell, or acropolis, of Samosata one could look northwards across the fertile plain where a succession of royal monuments were erected in the first century BC, to the mountainous skyline where the artificial royal tumulus on the summit of Nemrud Dag, at a height of over 2000 m, was visible 60 km away. In the other direction, one could look across the river to the rolling, and also fertile, plain of Osrhoene, a small kingdom which until the mid-second century was part of the Parthian Empire. It is not entirely surprising that the last king of Commagene, Antiochus IV, could be accused of dubious loyalty to Rome.2

Southwards, or south-eastwards, down the Euphrates, Roman control

____________________
1
2.1 above.
2
3.1 above.

-437-

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