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Arabia, above mentioned, has the cities of Edessa1, formerly called Antiochia, and, from the name of its fountain, Callirhoë2, and Carrhæ3, memorable for the defeat of Crassus there. Adjoining to this is the præfecture of Mesopotamia, which derives its origin from the Assyrians, and in which are the towns of Anthemusia4 and Nicephorium5; after which come the Arabians, known by the name of Prætavi, with Singara6 for their capital. Below Samosata, on the side of Syria, the river Marsyas7 flows into the Euphrates. At Cingilla ends the territory of Commagene, and the state of the Immei begins. The cities which are here washed by the river are those of Epiphania8 and Antiochia9, generally known as Epiphania and Antiochia on the Euphrates; also Zeugma, seventy-two miles distant from Samosata, famous for the passage there across the Euphrates. Opposite to it is Apamia10, which Seleucus, the founder of both cities, united by a bridge. The people who join up to Mesopotamia are called the Rhoali. Other towns in Syria are those of Europus11, and what was formerly Thapsa- cus12, now Amphipolis. We then come to the Arabian Scenitæ13. The Euphrates then proceeds in its course till it reaches the place called Ura14, at which, taking a turn to the east, it leaves the Syrian Deserts of Palmyra15, which extend as far as the city of Petra16 and the regions of Arabia Felix.

(25.) Palmyra is a city famous for the beauty of its site, the riches of its soil, and the delicious quality and abundance of its water. Its fields are surrounded by sands on every side, and are thus separated, as it were, by nature from the rest of the world. Though placed between the two great empires of Rome and Parthia, it still maintains17 its independence; never failing, at the very first moment that a rupture between them is threatened, to attract the careful attention of both. It is distant 337 miles from Seleucia18 of the Parthians, generally known as Seleucia on the Tigris, 203 from the nearest part of the Syrian coast, and twenty-seven less from Damascus.

(26.) Below the deserts of Palmyra is the region of Stelendene19, and Hierapolis, Berœa, and Chalcis, already mentioned20. Beyond Palmyra, Emesa21 takes to itself a portion of these deserts; also Elatium, nearer to Petra by one-half than Damascus. At no great distance from Sura22 is Philiscum, a town of the Parthians, on the Euphrates. From this place it is ten days' sail to Seleucia, and nearly as many to Babylon. At a distance of 594 miles beyond Zeugma, near the village of Massice, the Euphrates divides into two channels, the left one of which runs through Mesopotamia, past Seleucia, and falls into the Tigris as it flows around that city. Its channel on the right runs towards Babylon, the former capital of Chaldæa, and flows through the middle of it; and then through another city, the name of which is Otris23, after which it becomes lost in the marshes. Like the Nile, this river increases at stated times, and at much about the same period. When the sun has reached the twentieth degree of Cancer, it inundates24 Mesopotamia; and, after he has passed through Leo and entered Virgo, its waters begin to subside. By the time the sun has entered the twenty-ninth degree of Virgo, the river has fully regained its usual height.

1 In the district of Osrhoëne, in the northern part of Mesopotamia. It was situate on the Syrtus, now the Daisan, a small tributary of the Euphrates. Pliny speaks rather loosely when he places it in Arabia. It is supposed that it bore the name of Antiochia during the reign of the Syrian king, Antiochus IV. The modern town of Orfahor Uufah is supposed to represent its site.

2 "The beautiful stream." It is generally supposed that this was another name of Edessa.

3 Supposed to be the Haran, or Charan, of the Old Testament. It was here, as alluded to by Pliny, that Crassus was defeated and slain by the Parthian general, Surena. It was situate in Osroëne, in Mesopotamia, and not far from Edessa. According to Stephanus, it had its name from Carrha, a river of Syria, and was celebrated in ancient times for its temple of Luna, or Lunus.

4 According to Strabo, the Aborras, now the Khabur, flowed round this town. By Tacitus it is called Anthemusias. According to Isidorus of Charax, it lay between Edessa and the Euphrates.

5 Now Rakkah, a fortified town of Mesopotamia, on the Euphrates, near the mouth of the river Bilecha. It was built by order of Alexander the Great, and completed probably by Seleucus. It is supposed to have been the same place as Callinicum, the fortifications of which were repaired by Justinian. Its name was changed in later times to Leontopolis by the Emperor Leo.

6 Now called Sinjar, according to Brotier. Some writers imagine that this was the site of "the plain in the land of Shinar," on which the Tower of Babel was built, mentioned in the Book of Genesis, xi. 2.

7 Mentioned in C. 17 of the present Book.

8 Probably not that in the district of Cassiotis, and on the western bank of the Orontes, mentioned in C. 19 of the present Book. Of this locality nothing seems to be known, except that Dupinet states that it is now called Adelphe by the Turks.

9 Probably the "Antiochia ad Taurum" mentioned by the geographer Stephanus, and by Ptolemy. Some writers place it at the modern Aintab, seventy-five miles north-east of Aleppo.

10 Now called Roum-Cala, or the "Roman Castle." For Zeugma see p. 424.

11 In the north-east of the district of Astropatene, originally called Rhaga. It was rebuilt by Seleucus Nicator, and by him called Europus. Colonel Rawlinson has identified it with the present Veramin, at no great distance from the ancient Rhages.

12 Its ruins are to be seen at the ford of El Hamman, near the modern Rakkah. It stood on the banks of the Euphrates; and here was the usual, and, for a long time, the only ford of the Euphrates. It is supposed to have derived its name from the Aramean word "Thiphsach," signifying "a ford."

13 Or "Dwellers in Tents." See p. 422.

14 According to Ortelius and Hardouin, this is the place called Sura by Pliny, in C. 26 of the present Book; but Parisot differs from that opinion. Bochart suggests, that "Ur, of the Chaldees," is the place referred to under this name; but, as Hardouin observes, that place lay at a considerable distance to the south.

15 So called from the circumstance that Palmyra stood in the midst of them. It was built by King Solomon, in an oasis of the Desert, in the midst of palm groves, from which it received its Greek name, which was a translation also of the Hebrew "Tadmor," "the city of palm-trees." It lay at a considerable distance from the Euphrates. Its site presents considerable ruins; but they are all of the Roman period, and greatly inferior to those of Baalbec or Heliopolis.

16 The rock fortress of the Idumæans in Arabia Petræa, now called Wady-Musa, half-way between the head of the Gulf of Akabah and the Dead Sea.

17 Which it continued to do until it was conquered under its queen, Zenobia, by the Emperor Aurelian, in A.D. 270. It was partially destroyed by him, but was afterwards fortified by Justinian; though it never recovered its former greatness.

18 See B. vi. c. 30.

19 Pliny is the only author that makes mention of Stelendene.

20 In C. 19 of the present Book.

21 Previously mentioned by Pliny. See p. 439. Of Elatium nothing is known.

22 The same place that is also mentioned in history as Flavia Firms Sura. The site of Philiscum is totally unknown.

23 Nothing is known of this place.

24 Parisot remarks, that it is true that the Euphrates increases periodically, much in the same manner as the Nile; but that its increase does not arise from similar causes, nor are the same results produced by it, seeing that the river does not convey the same volume of water as the Nile, and that the country in the vicinity of its bed does not, like Egypt, form a valley pent up between two ranges of hills.

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  • Cross-references to this page (2):
    • Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography (1854), ANTIOCHEIA
    • Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography (1854), APAMEIA
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