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The Euphrates ( ) is the longest and historically one of the most important rivers of Southwest Asia. Together with the Tigrismarker, the Euphrates is one of the two defining rivers of Mesopotamia. The river – originating in the Taurus Mountainsmarker – flows through Syriamarker and Iraqmarker to join the Tigris in the Shatt al-Arabmarker, which flows into the Persian Gulfmarker.

Etymology

Modern names for the Euphrates may have been derived by popular etymology from the Sumerian and Akkadian names, respectively Buranun and Pu-rat-tu. The former appears in an inscription from the 22nd century BC associated with King Gudea.

Etymologically, the name "Euphrates" is the Greek form of the original name, Phrat, which means "fertilizing" or "fruitful".

Alternatively, the second half of the word Euphrates may also derive from either the Persian Ferat or the Greek φέρω (pronounced [fero]), both of which mean "to carry" or "to bring forward".

Avestan hu-pərəθwa 'good to cross over' has been proposed as the etymology of Euphrates. It derives from PIE *su- 'good' (a cognate of Sanskrit su-, Greek eu-) + *per- 'to pass over' (a cognate of English ferry and ford).

Language Name for Euphrates
Akkadian Pu-rat-tu
Arabic Al-Furāt
Aramaic ,
Armenian Yeṗrat
Greek Euphrátēs
Hebrew
Kurdish Firat, Ferat
Persian Forat
Sumerian Buranun
Turkish Fırat


Geography

The Euphrates emerges from the confluence of the Murat Sumarker and the Kara Su. The Murat Su rises 70 km northeast of Lake Vanmarker, about midway between Lake Van and Mount Araratmarker, whereas the Kara Su rises about 30 km northeast of Erzurummarker, in the Kargapazari Mountains. The courses of the Kara Su and the Murat Nehri run fairly parallel in a westerly direction until they unite near the city of Keban. From this point on, the combined streams form the Euphrates proper.

The length of the Euphrates from the confluence of the Marat Su and the Kara Su to its mouth in the Shatt al-Arab is estimated at 2289 km. The river flows through three countries; Turkey, Syria and Iraq. The length of the Turkish Euphrates is approximately 526 km, whereas the Syrian and Iraqi parts of the river are estimated at 604 and 1159 km, respectively.

Turkey

In its upper reaches, the Euphrates flows through steep canyons and gorges. The river enters Syria at the location of the ancient site of Carchemishmarker, which is located exactly on the Syro-Turkish border.

Syria

The Euphrates enters Syria near ancient Carchemishmarker on the Syro-Turkish border and leaves Syrian territory near the modern town of Abu Kemalmarker. The river generally flows in a southeasterly direction. The Syrian Euphrates has three tributaries: the Sajur northeast of modern Manbijmarker, the Balikh near Ar-Raqqahmarker, and the Khabur upstream of Deir ez-Zormarker. The Euphrates has created a wide and deep valley, except for the narrow gap near Halabiyehmarker.

Iraq

North of Basramarker, in southern Iraq, the river merges with the Tigris to form the Shatt al-Arab, which in turn empties into the Persian Gulf. According to Pliny and other ancient historians, the Euphrates originally had its outlet into the sea separate from that of the Tigris. It is thought by some that the silt deposited by the two rivers has built up the delta region at the head of the Persian Gulf and that the original coastline extended much farther north, perhaps reaching as far as the ancient city of Urmarker of the Chaldeans.

The river used to divide into many channels at Basra, forming an extensive marshland, but the marshes were largely drained by the Saddam Hussein government in the 1990s as a means of driving out the rebellious Marsh Arabs. Since the 2003 invasion of Iraq, the drainage policy has been reversed, but it remains to be seen whether the marshes will recover.

The Euphrates is navigable by only very shallow-draft boats, which can reach as far as the Iraqi city of Hītmarker, located upstream and only 60 metres (200 ft) above sea level. Above Hīt, however, shoals and rapids make the river commercially unnavigable. Its annual flooding, caused by snow melt in the mountains of northeastern Turkey, has been partly checked by new dams and reservoirs in the upper reaches. An 885-kilometre (550 mi) canal links the Euphrates to the Tigris to serve as a route for river barges.

History

The Euphrates provided the water that led to the first flowering of civilization in Sumer, dating from about the 4th millennium BCE. Many important ancient cities were located on or near the riverside, including Marimarker, Sipparmarker, Nippurmarker, Shuruppakmarker, Urukmarker, Urmarker and Eridumarker. The river valley formed the heartlands of the later empires of Babylonia and Assyria. For several centuries, the river formed the eastern limit of effective Egyptianmarker and Roman control and western regions of the Persian Empire.Also, the Battle of Karbala occurred at the banks of Euphrates river, where Imam Hussain – along with his family and friends – were killed.

Religion

Biblical references

A river named Perath (Hebrew for Euphrates) is one of the four rivers that flow from the Garden of Eden according to Genesis 2:14. This Hebrew word, derived from either the word "stream" or "to break forth", has been translated as Euphrates. It is the fourth river – after the Pishon, the Gihon, and the Tigris (Hebrew name is Hiddekel) – to form from the river flowing out of the garden. The river of the same name marked one of the boundaries of the land promised by God to Abraham and his descendants (Isaac, Jacob, etc). In the Hebrew Bible, it is often referred to simply as "The River" (ha-nahar). ( ).

  • God creates the Euphrates: "The name of the third river is Tigris, the one that flows east of Asshur. And the fourth river is the Euphrates." (Genesis 2:14).


  • The Euphrates marks the north-eastern border of the land God promises to Abraham: "To your descendants I give this land from the wadi of Egypt to the Great River, the river Euphrates." (Genesis 15:18 in The Jerusalem Bible)


  • God tells the Israelites to go to the Promised Land: "Start out and make your way to the hill country of the Amorites and to all their neighbors in the Arabah, the hill country, the Shephelah, the Negeb, the seacoast, the land of the Canaanites, and the Lebanon, as far as the Great River, the river Euphrates." (Deuteronomy 1:7)


  • God (through Moses) promises the Israelites the Promised Land: "Every place where you set the soles of your feet shall be yours. Your borders shall run from the wilderness to the Lebanon and from the River, the river Euphrates, to the western sea." (Deuteronomy 11:24)


  • The Lord says, "Your King will make peace among the nations;/He will rule from sea to sea,/from the Euphrates River to the ends of the earth." (Zachariah 9:10)


Christian prophesies

  • In , it is prophesied that the Euphrates will dry up in preparation for the Battle of Armageddon: "And the sixth angel poured out his vial upon the great river Euphrates; and the water thereof was dried up, that the way of the kings of the east might be prepared."


  • It said to the sixth angel who had the trumpet, "Release the four angels who are bound at the great river Euphrates." And the four angels who had been kept ready for this very hour and day and month and year were released to kill a third of mankind. The number of the mounted troops was two hundred million. I heard their number. ( )


Islamic prophecies

The town of Yeni Halfeti (New Halfeti) in Turkey, relocated to above the rising waters of the Birecik Dam.
In Islam, some of the hadiths of Muhammad suggest that the Euphrates will dry up (drop off), revealing unknown treasures that will be the cause of strife and war.
  • "Soon the river Euphrates will disclose the treasure [the mountain] of gold. So, whoever will be present at that time should not take anything of it." — Sahih Bukhari.
  • Muhammad said: "The Hour will not come to pass before the river Euphrates dries up to unveil the mountain of gold, for which people will fight. Ninety-nine out of one hundred will die [in the fighting], and every man among them will say: 'Perhaps I may be the only one to remain alive'." Sahih Bukhari, Sahih Muslim.
  • Muhammad said: "The Euphrates reveals the treasures within itself. Whoever sees it should not take anything from it".
  • "It [the Euphrates] will uncover a mountain of gold [under it]." — Sunan Abi Da'ud.


Controversial issues

An Iraqi city by the Euphrates river.
As with the Tigris, there is much controversy over rights and use of the river. The Southeastern Anatolia Project in Turkey involves the construction of 22 dams and 19 power plants by 2005, the biggest development project ever undertaken by Turkey. The first of the dams was completed in 1990, but attacks of the PKK terrorist organization have slowed down the project and caused significant delays. Southeast Turkey is still struggling economically, adding fuel to the discontent expressed by Turkey's Kurdish minority centered there. The Turkish authorities hope that the project will provide a boost to the region's economy, but domestic and foreign critics have disputed its benefits as well as attacking the social and environmental costs of the scheme.

In Syria, the Tabaqah Dam (completed in 1973 and sometimes known simply as the Euphrates Dam) forms a reservoir – Lake Assadmarker – that is used for irrigating cotton. Syria has dammed its two tributaries and is in the process of constructing another dam. Iraq has seven dams in operation, but water control lost priority during Saddam Hussein's regime. Since the collapse of Ba'ath Iraq in 2003, water use has come once again to the fore. The scarcity of water in the Middle East leaves Iraq in constant fear that Syria and Turkey will use up most of the water before it reaches Iraq. As it is, irrigation in southern Iraq leaves little water to join the Tigris at the Shatt-al-Arab. The potential for war over these waters is the subject of much diplomacy.

See also



References

  1. Harry Thurston Peck. " Euphrates", Harpers Dictionary of Classical Antiquities. New York. Harper and Brothers. 1898. Perseus Digital Library.
  2. euphrates. Dictionary.com. Online Etymology Dictionary. Douglas Harper, Historian. http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/euphrates (accessed: January 25, 2009).
  3. Pliny the Elder: Natural History, VI, XXVI, 128-131
  4. Al-Muttaqi al-Hindi, Al-Burhan fi `Alamat al-Mahdi Akhir az-Zaman, p. 28.


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