Coordinates: TR 37°01′30″N 37°58′37″E / 37.02500°N 37.97694°E / 37.02500; 37.97694Coordinates: TR 37°01′30″N 37°58′37″E / 37.02500°N 37.97694°E / 37.02500; 37.97694
Country  Turkey
Province Şanlıurfa
  Mayor Mehmet Faruk Pınarbaşı (AKP)
  District Governor Ozan Balcı
  District 789.72 km2 (304.91 sq mi)
Elevation 450 m (1,480 ft)
Population (2012)[2]
  Urban 48,706
  District 91,605
  District density 120/km2 (300/sq mi)

Birecik (Greek and Latin: Birtha, Βίρθα; Arabic: al-Bīrah البيرة; Kurdish: Bêrecûg, Ottoman Turkish: بيره جك), also formerly known as Bir and during the Crusades as Bile, is a town and district of Şanlıurfa Province of Turkey, on the River Euphrates.

Built on a limestone cliff 400 ft. high on the left/east bank of the Euphrates, "at the upper part of a reach of that river, which runs nearly north-south, and just below a sharp bend in the stream, where it follows that course after coming from a long reach flowing more from the west".[3]


Birecik Dam Cemetery is an Early Bronze Age cemetery near Birecik. It was used extensively for about 500 years at the beginning of the third millennium BC. More than 300 graves were excavated here in 1997 and 1998. The site was discovered during the building of the Birecik Dam as part of the GAP project.

The cemetery was used between 3100-2600 BC.[4]

Ancient city

The 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica identified Birecik with ancient Apamea[5] or its suburb Seleucia[6] and described it as opposite Zeugma, with which it was connected by a bridge of boats. At the same time, it added that "the place seems to have had a pre-Seleucid existence as Birtha, a name which revived under Roman rule".[5] Later discoveries have shown that the identification with Apamea and its Zeugma (the word zeugma meant junction and referred to a junction of roads at a point where a pontoon bridge crossed a river)[7] is false: Bali, some 17 kilometres upstream is now seen as the site of Zeugma, and there may have been no bridge of boats at Birtha/Birecik until the crossings at Zeugma and at Tell-Ahmar (further down) lost popularity.[8] These, rather than the crossing at Birecik/Birtha may therefore be what the 1911 publication said "was used from time immemorial in the passage from North Syria to Haran (Charrae), Edessa and North Mesopotamia, and was second in importance only to that at Thapsacus, by which crossed the route to Babylon and South Mesopotamia."[5]

The placing of Apamea-Zeugma further upstream and the identification of Birecik with Roman Birtha was already stated in the American Journal of Archaeology in 1917;[9] and William Smith's Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography (1854) clearly identified Birtha with Birecik, although at another point it seems to confuse it with "the Zeugma of Commagene",[3] the province on the right/west bank of the river.[3]

The name "Birtha" is found in no ancient Greek or Roman writer, although Bithra (Greek: Βίθρα) (probably meant for "Birtha")[10] appears in the account by Zosimus of the invasion of Mesopotamia by Roman Emperor Julian in AD 363.[3][5]

The Greeks at one stage called what is now Birecik by the name Macedonopolis (anglicized also as Makedonoupolis) The city represented by bishops at the First Council of Nicaea and the Council of Chalcedon is called by this name in Latin and Greek records, but Birtha in Syriac texts. A 6 AD inscription in Syriac found at Birecik contains an epitaph of Zarbian, "commander of Birtha".[8][11][12]


As an episcopal see, Birtha/Birecik was a suffragan of the metropolitan see of Edessa, the capital of the Roman province of Osrhoene. This is attested in a Notitia Episcopatuum of 599,[13] which assigns to it the first place among the suffragans.[14]

The names of three of its bishops are recorded in extant documents. Mareas signed the acts of the First Council of Nicaea in 325 as bishop of Macedonopolis, The chronicle of Michael the Syrian speaks of a Daniel of Birtha at the Council of Chalcedon in 451, while Giovanni Domenico Mansi calls him bishop of Macedonopolis. The Chronicle of Joshua the Stylite tells of a Bishop Sergius of Birtha who was entrusted by the Emperor Anastasius I Dicorus with refortifying the city, something that must have occurred after peace was made with the Persians in 504.[12] The work was completed by Justinian.</ref name=CE/>

No longer a residential bishopric, Birtha is today listed by the Catholic Church as a titular see.[15]

Modern history

Timur Leng destroyed the town in the 14th century.[14]

Birecik was the scene of an unusually cruel massacre and persecution of Armenians in 1895.[5]

Birecik Dam and hydroelectric power plant, part of the Southeastern Anatolia Project is situated within the district. The Roman city of Zeugma is now drowned in the reservoir behind the dam. Zeugma's famous mosaics, including the 'river god', have been taken to Gaziantep Museum, but some rescued remains of Zeugma are exhibited in Birecik. With its rich architectural heritage, Birecik is a member of the Norwich-based European Association of Historic Towns and Regions (EAHTR) .

The northern bald ibis used to nest here and winter in the deserts of Arabia, up to 1,000 pairs in the 1960s. Now a few dozen birds remain and these no longer migrate but remain protected year-round in Birecik.

Birecik is a bridge across the Euphrates and a useful stopping place on the road from Şanlıurfa to Gaziantep, with waterside restaurants.

See also


  1. "Area of regions (including lakes), km²". Regional Statistics Database. Turkish Statistical Institute. 2002. Retrieved 2013-03-05.
  2. "Population of province/district centers and towns/villages by districts - 2012". Address Based Population Registration System (ABPRS) Database. Turkish Statistical Institute. Retrieved 2013-02-27.
  3. 1 2 3 4 William Smith, Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography (1854)
  4. Sertok, K. and Ergeç, R. 1999. A New Early Bronze Age Cemetery: Excavation near the Birecik Dam, Southeastern Turkey. Preliminary Report (1997-98) Anatolica 25: 87-107
  5. 1 2 3 4 5  One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Birejik". Encyclopædia Britannica. 3 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 979.
  6.  One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Seleucia". Encyclopædia Britannica. 21 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 603.
  7. Christina Phelps Grant, The Syrian Desert (Routledge 2013 ISBN 978-1-13619271-5), p. 41, footnote
  8. 1 2 Christina Phelps Grant, The Syrian Desert (Routledge 2013 ISBN 978-1-13619271-5), p. 165, footnote
  9. American Journal of Archaeology, 1917, p. 453
  10. Glen Warren Bowersock, Julian the Apostate (Harvard University Press 1997 ISBN 978-0-67448882-3), p. 112
  11. Getzel M. Cohen, The Hellenistic Settlements in the East from Armenia and Mesopotamia to Bactria and India (University of California Press 2013 ISBN 978-0-52095356-7), pp. 81–82
  12. 1 2 G. Levencq, v. Birtha in Dictionnaire d'Histoire et de Géographie ecclésiastiques, vol. VIII, Paris 1935, coll. 1538-1539
  13. Siméon Vailhé in Echos d'Orient 1907, p. 94 and p. 145
  14. 1 2 Louis Petit, "Birtha" in Catholic Encyclopedia (New York 1907)
  15. Annuario Pontificio 2013 (Libreria Editrice Vaticana 2013 ISBN 978-88-209-9070-1), p. 850

Exrenal links

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