Zerzevan Castle and Mithraeum (Temple of Mithras)

Zerzevan Castle and Mithraeum (Temple of Mithras)

Zerzevan, also known as Samachi Castle, is a recently discovered archaeological site located in southeastern Turkey. Official excavation work began in 2014, and the site is situated on a hilltop that dominates the surrounding area. It is located 45 km (28 mi) from the province center and was strategically positioned at the easternmost border of the Roman Empire, where a large Roman garrison controlled the important trade route.

Zerzevan has historical significance for the Parthian and Sasanian civilizations as well, and its history dates back to the Assyrian period around the 9th century BC when it was located on the Royal Road of the Persians. Archaeological evidence shows that Roman soldiers settled in this area in the 3rd century AD, and there were also civilian settlements on top of the hill, with an overall population of around 1200. The site was inhabited until the 6th century during Byzantine rule, but it was destroyed when the Arabs raided the area in 639 AD, and it was never rebuilt. This has helped preserve the buildings, which have been buried for centuries. Exploring the higher slopes of the hill, visitors will notice that some parts of the walls were up to 12 meters high and 1.2 kilometers in length. The pathways can be narrow, and while some portions of the towers remain intact, caution should be exercised due to the possibility of falling from a significant height.

Zerzevan Castle and Mithraeum (Temple of Mithras)

Zerzevan, a relatively new archaeological site in southeastern Turkey, has been the subject of official excavation since 2014. The site, located 45 km (28 mi) from the provincial center on a hilltop overlooking the area, played a crucial role as the easternmost border of the Roman Empire and was strategically located along a significant trade route. However, the historical importance of Zerzevan predates the Roman period, with archaeological evidence indicating that the site was located on the Royal Road of the Persians as early as the 9th century BC.

The remains at Zerzevan offer a glimpse into the site's past as a Roman garrison town, complete with small and large cisterns for water storage, canals designed to transport water from nearby springs during times of drought, and various types of tombs dating back to the 3rd-7th centuries AD. Additionally, the site contains the ruins of a Christian church from the 6th century and an underground church dating to 300 AD, as well as stone altars.

One of the most significant structures at Zerzevan is the Mithraeum, which was carved into the north end of the walls. The entrance to the Mithraeum features inscriptions and symbols, and the eastern wall contains columns with niches. One of the large niches displays a carving of the bull sacrifice scene, with remnants of paint on the belt that rises above two columns surrounding it. The eastern wall also contains the crown beam motif of Mithras.

In one of the smaller niches, visitors can see a bull blood bowl and pool connected by a channel through the wall, suggesting that water was used in Mithras religious ceremonies. The ceiling contains four symmetrical points for suspending animals during rituals, which were likely used during bull sacrifices.

In 2020, Zerzevan was added to UNESCO's Tentative List of World Heritage sites, and it has since become a popular destination for visitors intrigued by the mystery religion of Mithras.