Our tour is named after Zeugma, which after 2300 years, was revived under the misty gaze of the Gypsy Girl. The first step of the Zeugma tour is the Zeugma Mosaic Museum, which has the largest display of mosiacs in the world (measured on a square meter basis). We will see mainly Roman remains on the tour, and our last stop will be the city of Zeugma, which was the artistic centre of the period.
On this route where coloured stones are given eloquent voice, we will behold many scenes of natural beauty, experience shrines to religious faiths, and discover the stone quarries that played a role in creating the richly artistic and cultural centre that was Zeugma.
In 2012, the Zeugma Ancient City and Mosaic Museum was honoured with the Presidential Grand Award in Culture and the Arts for exhibiting Turkey’s rich archaeological assets to standards that highlight their value as world heritage,
The Zeugma Mosaic Museum which brings to life the ancient city – the remains of which still reflect its magnificence despite the intervening millenia and ravages of war, is built on the E-400 (the Silk Road).
With actual-sized streets, fountains, walls and other elements, the exhibit aims to present a one-to-one architectural vision of the environment in which the people of the time, with their attendant beliefs and culture, lived their daily lives.
The museum is open to visitors year round, from 09:00-17:00 hours every day except Mondays.
Zeugma was founded as a Commagene settlement in 300 BC. It grew rapidly after being attached to the Roman Empire, becoming one of the largest and most vibrant cities of its day. The mosaics commissioned by its citizens as symbols of Zeugma’s wealth and power were buried under the rubble when the city was destroyed, remaining in a deep slumber until they were brought to light some 2300 years later to be admired by the whole world.
The museum is designed to give visitors a picture of the daily life, and artistic and cultural aspects of the magnificent ancient city of Zeugma, and is laid out accordingly. It has 3 separate buildings set on a total area of 30,000 m2. In addition to the 3-storey building containing 7,075 m2 of exhibition space, there are 5 conference rooms with a total capacity of 1,160 persons, as well as administrative offices. The museum complex has plenty to interest visitors of all ages.
The artifacts are placed according to their former location in ancient Zeugma. The mosaics found closest to the Euphrates are at the entrance of the museum, while the mosaics that rose towards the terraces of the city are displayed in sequence. The Roman Bath mosaics exhibited in the basement were found right below the Birecik Dam itself.
The statue of Athena, thought to be from the temple in the acropolis of ancient Zeugma, is now in the museum forecourt.
Just inside the entrance to the museum are steles depicting Heracles and Helios which the Commagene king Antiochus I had made to reinforce his sovereignty and establish a plan of rule.
Zeugma is actually a Commagene city. In BC 31, control of the city was ceded to the Roman Empire, which is why the route around the museum begins at the Handshake Steles of Antiochus I, since these steles document the agreement, which was to determine the subsequent fate of Zeugma.
The Poseidon and Euphrates Villas, known as the twin villas, have been faithfully recreated; with the original mosaics, wall frescoes, fountains, columns and walls placed in their former respective positions, giving us a profile of a scene from 2000 years ago.
One of the most striking artifacts in the museum is the statue of Mars, the god of war, which stands on a pedestalled column, just as it did in its former spot in the city. The Mars figure holds a spear in one hand, and branches in the other, thereby symbolizing both war and the bounty of spring. It is a very fine statue with brilliant workmanship. It was found in the Poseidon Villa during the excavations of 2000. The Statue of Mars has been placed so that it can be seen from every level of the museum – just as in ancient Zeugma, the central position reflecting its role as a symbol of protection. It is one of the most important exhibits in the museum display.
The Maenad Mosaic, known as the “Gypsy Girl”, which has become an iconic symbol of both Zeugma and Gaziantep, is exhibited in a special room in the first section of the second floor. The room is designed like a labyrinth, creating an atmosphere of mystery with the spotlight on the haunting gaze of the Gypsy Girl. The mosaic of which the Gypsy Girl fragment was a part, is on the wall of the same room. It has been damaged to a large extent by smugglers, and the space, which the Maenad occupied is indicated to show the kind of damage that smugglers of antique artifacts inflicted on these works.
After crossing the bridge, which affords a view of the villas from above, there is a section containing church mosaics from the Early East Roman (Byzantine) Period. The continuation of the Zeugma school can be seen in these mosaics, which were recovered from churches around Gaziantep.
Mosaics dating up to the 6th century A.D. are exhibited in the second section on the second floor of the museum, and in an annex building. The most important feature of the annex is the mosaic restoration laboratory in the central space. 350 m2 of mosaic can be restored at the same time here in this area covering roughly 1500 m2. The basement laboratory is walled with glass, enabling visitors to observe the work being carried out from the viewpoint on the ground and first floor levels.
The chronological order of the exibits in the museum allows visitors to trace the changes in the beliefs, culture and socioeconomic structure between the 1st and 6th centuries AD via the mosaics. With this feature, the museum offers a unique opportunity for a better analysis of the period.
Described as the world’s largest mosaic museum, with 2248 m2 of restored mosaics and 140m2 of wall frescoes on exhibit, as well as fountains, columns, sarcophagi and other architectural elements, the Zeugma Mosaic Museum is a vibrant exhibition area that brings to life Zeugma, one of the most renowned cities of its time.