June 7, 2000
To the Editor of The New York Times:
Stephen Kinzer’s article on Turkey’s flooding of Zeugma -- a valuable archeological site -- for a hydroelectric dam project (“A Race to Save Roman Splendors From Drowning”, 7/3, Foreign Desk) was a timely piece about cultural destruction. Yet improperly identifying Zeugma as a Roman city merely serves to compound this erasing of historical memory, and misses an opportunity to examine Turkey’s motives.
Founded as a pair of Greek cities on opposite banks of the Euphrates by Seleucus Nicator in 300 B.C., Seleucia and Apamea were later called Zeugma (Greek for “yoke”). As with Zeugma, Asia Minor was largely Greek in culture and population before and during the Roman Empire. Likewise, the Times has also mischaracterized Ephesus, a major center of ancient Greek civilization in present-day Turkey, as Roman. That Ephesus, Jerusalem, Athens, Alexandria, Babylon, Carthage and scores of other ancient cities were ruled by Rome for a period of time does not make them Roman cities.
Turkey’s policy of identifying Hellenic cities, art and other archeological finds as anything but Greek to expunge the area’s Hellenic past has uncritically been ratified by the Times and other major US periodicals.
Moreover, Mr. Kinzer’s article failed to consider the fact that the premature flooding of the site is part of a long-standing pattern of the neglect, looting and destruction of Turkey’s Greek past. Thus a tragic dimension to Zeugma’s flooding is that a valuable part of mankind’s cultural heritage was sacrificed for reasons that may have had more to do with short-sighted nationalism than energy.
Very truly yours,
American Hellenic Media Project
PO Box 1150
New York, NY 10028-0008
The American Hellenic Media Project is a non-profit organization created to address inaccuracy and bias in the media and encourage independent, ethical and responsible journalism.