Zerzevan Castle, which was built by the Eastern Roman Empire (Byzantine Empire) as a military base on the ancient trade route between Diyarbakır and Mardin, and which was in service for more than 300 years, fascinates with its beauty and mysteries. Due to its historical importance, Zerzevan castle was included in the UNESCO World Heritage Tentative List in 2020.
With the ongoing excavations, definitive information will be reached about the period when the settlement, whose name is “Samachi” or ”Samancı” with the local form in Rome, was first built. Excavations focusing on the castle will continue for 12 months from this year. Excavations and researches continue to work in an area of approximately 1,000 decares which includes the outer part of the city walls.
Zerzevan Castle is one of the structures that attract the attention of those who want to shed light on the history and who love to visit historical buildings with deep mysteries. Zerzevan Castle is one of the most famous structures of Diyarbakır city in Turkey today. Zerzevan Castle, which has survived to the present day, is believed to be around 3 thousand years old. It has been used for many purposes due to its strategic location throughout history. At the same time, this castle, located between Diyarbakır and Mardin, welcomes many local and foreign tourists.
It is a building that was used for military settlement during the Roman Empire and spread over a wide area. At the same time, this structure has hosted many empires in history. The presence of the Mithras Temple next to the castle is one of its greatest features. The value of the castle has gradually increased with the Mithras Temple, which was first discovered in 2014.
Mithraeum Under the Zerzevan Castle
The Temple of Mithras which is also known as Mithraeum was discovered during the excavations carried out in the castle in 2014. Mithraeum awakens curiosity with its secret passages, churches, walls, villas, water cisterns, rock tombs, and water channels. This Mithraeum was able to hold 400 people at the same time which indicates that there was a big community of the Mithras believers in this area. The historical structures and artifacts need an estimated time of 60 years to be fully unearthed. Zerzevan Castle is visited by many people from abroad and Turkey every day. Entrance is free of charge and it can be visited during working hours.
The Temple of Mithras was dedicated to the god Mithras, the most mysterious god of the Roman Empire. All rituals were performed in secret and all the temples of Mithras were built underground. There are not many of these temples left in the world today. This attracts the attention of many cultists and tourists who are interested in esoteric attractions. Mithras being the sun god believed to control the entire universe. The secret execution of their rituals adds great mystery. The temple here is the only Mithras temple that was discovered on Rome’s eastern border so far.
In addition, the god Mithras was also the symbol of light, war, justice, and faith. His teaching was used on the creation of the world and he is also known as the god who controls the universe. A person who would join the religion of Mithras had to suffer twelve torments. Those who join this religion, where only men are accepted, go through seven stages or steps to learn the whole mysteries of Mithras.
Mithras Temple has several inscriptions and symbols located at the entrance of it. Mithras temple is 7 meters long, 5 meters wide, and 2.5 meters high. On one of the walls of the temple a rayed crown, one of the symbols of Mithras, was engraved and still visible. In the area, there are 4 binding places where the bulls were hung from their feet, a bowl from which blood flows, and a pool. It is believed that people who drink this blood and bathe with it were purified from their sins and entered the religion of Mithras. It was not easy to enter the religion of Mithras, which became widespread especially among soldiers and aristocrats in the lands under Roman rule. It is known that it is very difficult to enter this religion, and all ceremonies are held in secrecy.
Mithra belief was born in Iran in the 5th century BC. Mithras, of Persian origin, is known as the sun god who controls the universe. It is also a symbol of justice, light, faith, and war. Mithras, who is also the god of the concepts of agreement and friendship, means “mediator”. Mithrasians are all astronomers. All traces of the sacrificial ritual were found here in the Mithraeum of Zerzevan. There are also some traces of frescoes on the walls which probably showed 7 stages of Mithras, each symbolizing a planet from Mercury to Saturn
An Unexpected Discovery
An American badge with the inscription “E Pluribus Unum” in Latin was found in the Zerzevan Castle recently. Archaeometry analyzes show that the badge remained under the ground for approximately 250-300 years so it can be originating from the 18th century. How the badge came to Zerzevan Castle is still unknown and creates a lot of speculations on the attraction
1600 Years Old Bone Flute
During the 2021 excavation season at Zerzevan Castle, some more very unusual discoveries are being made. During the latest excavations, a 1600-year-old bone flute was found in Zerzevan Castle.
Discovery of the 3,000-year-old Assyrian Seal
During the excavations carried out in Zerzevan Castle a 3,000-year-old seal from the Assyrian period was found. The fact that there is a hole in the seal for a rope to go through indicates that the person who was using it hung it around her neck.
Hire a Tour Guide for Visiting Zerzevan Castle and the Temple of Mithras in Zerzevan
Eastern Turkey has always been called people with its rich culture, deep history, and great mysteries. It is hard not to fall in love with the Zerzavan Castle during your visit to Diyarbakır. Also, Mithraeum will make you learn a part of history that is not still very well discovered and shrouded with great mysteries. Contact me to hire a tour guide for visiting Zerzavan Castle and Mithraeum underneath it. See you soon, Hasan Gülday.