Zeugma – The most important outpost of Rome on the Euphrates River

This is not an Armenian coin, rather a Roman provincial coin honoring Otacilia Severa. She was the wife of Roman emperor Philip “the Arab”.

The reason I am posting this, however, is that it was minted in a very important and strategically significant city called Zeugma in ancient Commagene, which was a fringe kingdom partly populated by Armenians during the Artaxiat dynasty, one which Tigranes the Great occupied, and the city where the last Seleucid Queen and ruler Cleopatra Selene gave her last breath as his captive.

After Pompey’s reorganization of the East around 64 BC, the city became Rome’s most important outpost on the Euphrates river. Alexander the Great’s general Seleucus I had founded the city in 300 BC for the sole purpose of creating passage over the Euphrates, which was the main geographical and political boundary between East and West.

The northern Euphrates had always been the frontiers with Armenia, and the middle Euphrates the frontiers to Mesopotamia (and later Parthia) This passage was a bridge constructed of boats, also called a pontoon bridge. Basically it was the crossing point for armies invading the other side and whoever controlled it, had the upper hand.

The famous Roman legion Legio Scythica was stationed there. It was also a major center of commerce and boasted 70,000 inhabitants. Today, the adjacent modern city of Gazianteb has the largest mosaic museum in the world due to the wealth of mosaics constructed during the Hellenistic and Roman eras. The second reason I am posting this is etymological.

Zeugma is a Greek word ζεύγμα which means “joining” or “bridging” and the root word is ζευγ.. or ζευγνυμι which means “to join”. The modern Greek word ζευγάρι (zeugari) means “couple”. In Armenian the same root word is found as zouyg (զոյգ) which means “couple”. As we see, the main root ζευγ.. and զոյգ are one and the same.

by Joseph Sarkissian

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