thumb|300px|right| A view of Birecik district Birecik (Greek and Latin: ''Birtha'', ; ar|translit=al-Bīrah|البيرة; ku|Bêrecûk, ota|بيره جك), also formerly known as ''Bir'', ''Biré'', ''Biradjik'' 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".William Smith, ''Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography'' (1854)


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.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

Ancient city

The 1911 ''Encyclopædia Britannica'' identified Birecik with ancient Apamea or its suburb Seleucia 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". 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) 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.Christina Phelps Grant, ''The Syrian Desert''
(Routledge 2013 ), p. 165, footnote
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." 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; 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", the province on the right/west bank of the river. The name "Birtha" is found in no ancient Greek or Roman writer, although ''Bithra'' (Greek: ) (probably meant for "Birtha") appears in the account by Zosimus of the invasion of Mesopotamia by Roman Emperor Julian in AD 363. 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".


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, which assigns to it the first place among the suffragans.Louis Petit, "Birtha"
in ''Catholic Encyclopedia'' (New York 1907)
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.G. Levencq, v. ''Birtha'' i
''Dictionnaire d'Histoire et de Géographie ecclésiastiques''
vol. VIII, Paris 1935, coll. 1538-1539
The work was completed by Justinian. No longer a residential bishopric, Birtha is today listed by the Catholic Church as a titular see.

Modern history

Timur Leng destroyed the town in the 14th century. Birecik was the scene of an unusually cruel massacre and persecution of Armenians in 1895. 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

*Birecik Bridge *Birecik Dam


External links

District Governor's OfficePicture gallery of this town
{{Authority control Category:Greek colonies in Anatolia Category:Ancient Greek archaeological sites in Turkey Category:Roman towns and cities in Turkey Category:Populated places in Şanlıurfa Province Category:Populated places on the Euphrates River Category:Districts of Şanlıurfa Province Category:Catholic titular sees in Asia Category:Aleppo Vilayet Category:Kurdish settlements in Turkey