Concern for Seleucid era monuments

Concern for Seleucid era monuments

The region of southeastern Turkey and northern Syria affected by the massive earthquakes on Monday was a center of the Hellenistic, Roman, Byzantine and Muslim world with important archaeological sites.

UNESCO is examining the extent of the damage, concerned about the situation in Aleppo (with the city’s citadel, old wall and historic markets damaged), as well as the Diyarbakir Fortress, the Hevsel Gardens and other sites.

“As we focus on the human factor, we have not yet managed to reflect on what needs to be done about cultural heritage. The damage to [Hellenistic era] Zeugma [near the modern city of Gaziantep] is fortunately minimal, but I can’t say anything about the other monuments,” archaeologist Kutalmis Gorkay told Kathimerini. Some of them are housed in the Zeugma Mosaics Museum.

“The wider area is essentially the heart of the Hellenistic Seleucid kingdoms,” said archaeologist Panagiotis Iossif, a curator at the Museum of Cycladic Art and professor of numismatics at Radboud University in the Netherlands. “The heart of the Seleucid kingdom is very close by and has certainly been affected by the earthquake,” said Iossif.

The city of Gaziantep in particular saw damage to its castle, whose history peaked during the Muslim Ayyubid dynasty in the 11th-12th centuries AD.

The Ayyubids, said Iossif, minted coins imitating early Byzantine coins “and even more interestingly, those minted by Antiochus VII of the Seleucids around 130 BC.”

Another important site, which may have been affected is ancient Dolichi, a Thessalian colony that flourished in the Hellenistic period and became the center of the important cult of Zeus (Jupiter) Dolichenus in Roman times, popular among soldiers, which combined elements of the Semitic god Baal. Iossif said he is also concerned about Mount Nemrut, where the ruins of the tomb-sanctuary of Antiochus I of Commagene (Zeugma) are located.

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