DİYARBAKIR- Strategic Importance and Historical Significance 

The castle's location at the easternmost border of the Roman Empire was of paramount importance, as it dominated the entire valley and controlled a crucial trade and military route between Amida and Dara.  

This strategic position made it a key Roman garrison, witnessing significant struggles between the Romans and the Sassanians. The castle played a pivotal role in protecting the Roman Empire and marked the intersection and coalescence of cultures from the west and the east. 

Role in Roman-Sassanian Conflicts 

During its existence, Zerzevan Castle was the site of heavy fighting between the Byzantine Empire and the Sasanian Empire, reflecting its historical significance as a battleground between these two great Powers.  

Civilian and Military Coexistence 

Diyarbakır’da gezilecek tarihi yerler Diyarbakır’da gezilecek tarihi yerler

Jewelry found in the castle indicates that both the civilian population and military personnel resided together, with soldiers living alongside their family members. The castle was large enough to sustain a population of around one thousand. 

Restoration and Reconstruction 

Significant restoration and reconstruction works were undertaken during the reigns of Eastern Roman emperors Anastasius I Dicorus (r. 491–518) and Justinian I (r. 527–565), which saw the castle develop into its final state prior to its ruin. 

Archaeological Discoveries 

In recent years, archaeological excavations have unearthed fascinating artifacts and structures at Zerzevan Castle. In 2020, the entrance of the castle was discovered, and in 2021, a flute with six holes and a bronze ring with a key, dating back to the 4th and 5th centuries AD, were found.  

Additionally, ground-penetrating radar scans conducted underneath the castle revealed massive structures belonging to Rome's 3,000-year-old garrison, shedding light on the settlement's infrastructure and daily life of its inhabitants. 

End of Use and Historical Context 

The castle was most likely in use until 639, with the arrival of Arab Muslims marking the beginning of the Arab–Byzantine wars, signaling the end of its military significance. 

In summary, Zerzevan Castle stands as a testament to the historical and strategic significance of the Roman Empire's easternmost border, witnessing pivotal conflicts and serving as a key garrison settlement in the ancient world. 

  Castle

The Zerzevan Castle, with an aerial view dating back to 2016, is truly a marvel to behold. Spanning an impressive area of 5.7 hectares (14 acres), this ancient fortress boasts a rich history and an array of intriguing structures both above and below ground. The castle's walls, now in a state of captivating ruin, extend a staggering 1,200 meters (3,900 feet) in length and stand at a formidable height of 12 meters (39 feet). The crowning jewel of the castle, a watchtower soaring to a height of 21–22 meters (69–72 feet), adds a sense of grandeur to the already awe-inspiring landscape. 

Exploring within the castle's confines reveals a sprawling expanse of ruins, including a rock-necropolis, offering a glimpse into the lives of those who once inhabited this ancient stronghold. The north of the castle, situated at a lower elevation, bears the marks of residences and streets, while the southern region boasts an impressive array of public buildings constructed on higher ground. Notably, a church building oriented east to west stands as one of the most well-preserved public structures within the castle's grounds. This architectural marvel is accompanied by a host of other public edifices, such as a palace, administrative building, baths, cereal storage, arsenal, and an astounding 54 cisterns. 

Excavations within the castle's precincts have unearthed a treasure trove of historical artifacts, including military and medical materials, jewelry, ornaments, and even ancient bronze coins, providing invaluable insights into the lives of the castle's previous inhabitants. The year 2016 marked a significant discovery, as a subterranean church and a network of secret passageways were brought to light. Remarkably, the underground passageway had remained unused for approximately 3,000 years, while the subterranean church had been sealed off some 1,500 years ago. 

Further exploration yielded even more astonishing finds, including a Mithraic underground temple and a subterranean sanctuary capable of accommodating up to 400 individuals. In the subsequent year, 2017, the uncovering of four additional subterranean locations sparked excitement and anticipation for the extensive excavation works required to reveal their mysteries. 

The Zerzevan Castle stands as a testament to the ingenuity and architectural prowess of its creators, offering a captivating journey through time and a window into a world long past. As ongoing excavations continue to unravel its secrets, this ancient fortress remains a source of endless wonder and fascination for historians, archaeologists, and enthusiasts alike. 

Mithraeum of Zerzevan Castle  

The Mithraeum of Zerzevan Castle stands as a testament to the ancient mystery religion of Mithraism, a belief system that flourished in the Roman Empire from the 1st to the 4th century CE. Nestled within the castle, this remarkable structure has endured the passage of time, offering modern-day visitors a rare glimpse into the rituals and symbolism of Mithraism. 

Carved into the solid rock, the Mithraeum spans an impressive 35 square meters, with dimensions of 7 meters in length, 5 meters in width, and reaching a height of 2.5 meters. The craftsmanship and precision with which it was hewn into the rock are a testament to the skill and dedication of the ancient artisans who constructed it. 

As one steps inside, the eastern wall immediately draws attention, adorned with intricately carved columns and a striking focal point – a large niche flanked by two smaller ones. Here, the flaming crown, a powerful symbol synonymous with Mithraism, is etched into the rock, evoking the mystical and enigmatic allure of this ancient faith. 

A further intriguing feature within the Mithraeum is the presence of a carved pool, positioned directly in front of the left-hand small niche. This pool, with its enigmatic purpose, adds to the air of mystery that permeates the space, inviting contemplation and speculation about its significance in the rituals of the Mithraic cult. 

Moreover, as one approaches the entrance gate of the structure, inscriptions and symbols come into view, hinting at the esoteric knowledge and sacred lore that was once practiced within these hallowed walls. These markings serve as cryptic remnants of a belief system that has long since faded into the mists of time, yet continues to captivate the imagination of historians, archaeologists, and enthusiasts of ancient mysteries. 

The Mithraeum of Zerzevan Castle stands as a tangible link to a bygone era, offering a window into the spiritual and ceremonial practices of Mithraism. Its preservation and the intricate details carved into the rock serve as a testament to the enduring legacy of this ancient faith, igniting curiosity and fascination among those who seek to unravel the enigmatic tapestry of Mithraic beliefs and rituals. 

Visitors to the Mithraeum are transported back in time, standing in awe of the dedication and artistry of those who constructed this sacred space. The air is thick with the weight of history, and the whispers of a bygone faith seem to linger within its hallowed confines, inviting contemplation and reflection on the enigmatic world of Mithraism. 

Kaynak: Diyarbakir.Net