The longest river of western Asia, and the more westerly of the Two Rivers of Mesopotamia. Originating in the Armenian highlands from its two headstreams Kara Su (Pyxurates) and Murad Su (Arsanias), which join above Melitene (Malatya), it flows south-west to the Taurus, then south-east. In the alluvial plain of Babylonia it was connected, in antiquity, with the Tigris by numerous navigation and irrigation canals. In classical times it was crossed by a number of bridges, for instance at Zeugma and Babylon. It served as a political boundary between Armenia and Cappadocia, Sophene and Commagene, and Upper Mesopotamia and Syria (Strabo 16. 746–9; Plin. HN 5. 83; Ptol. Geog. 5. 12). The Parthian empire reached the permanent limit of its expansion westwards at the Euphrates in 53 bce. After the Romans in ce 66 recognized the rule of an Arsacid king over Armenia they began the construction of a military limes along the upper and middle course of the river; forts along its right bank guarded for more than 500 years the imperial frontier against first the Parthian, later the Sasanid kings.
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