By R Bosworth Smith

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The presence of fortifications on or near the river north from Zeugma not only allowed Roman troops easier access to Armenia but offered better protection to Cappadocia and Syria in the event of a major invasion. Osrhoene and Mesopotamia could be attacked by the Romans using the bridge crossing at Zeugma, but Zeugma was itself seen as providing security against Parthian attacks. The fortifications that had been placed on the upper and middle Euphrates under Vespasian had considerably strengthened Rome’s hand in Armenia, while the section of the Euphrates from Europos to Sura had seen heavy fighting under Lucius Verus.

Lucian, a contemporary from Samosata, just upstream from where a majority of the fighting took place, complained of the limited knowledge of the war against the Parthians under Verus. 105 Thanks to Lucian and Fronto, however, there is enough evidence to show that a major war with the Parthians had exposed the vulnerability of Antioch to attacks directed from the Euphrates where it turned to the north above Sura. The Parthian concentration of troops on this section of the river may have occurred due to the considerable Roman fortification that had taken place further up the river from Zeugma during and after the reign of Vespasian.

34 The Yale excavation team to Dura Europos in the 1920s and 1930s appears to have used Isidore’s observations as evidence for a Roman frontier established on the Khabur river resulting from the peace agreement with Parthia in 20/19 BC. Their conclusions were strongly influenced by a desire to explain what they thought were Parthian changes to the walls at Dura in the last half of the first century BC. 65–20 BC. 37 As noted earlier, the smaller fortifications of Djazla, Nouhaila and Siffin, on the right bank of the Euphrates, are thought to have been constructed by the Seleucids in the last half of the second century BC, at a similar time to the wall circuit at Dura, when the Parthian threat to Seleucid possessions in Mesopotamia and eastern Syria became significant.

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