1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Thapsacus
THAPSACUS, the “ large and prosperous city ” on the Arabian side of the Euphrates where Cyrus the Younger revealed to the Greeks the object of his expedition (Xen. Anab. i. 4, II). No such place has yet been found mentioned in cuneiform texts. We may have a Semitic form of the name in the Hebrew Tiphsah; but it is impossible to determine whether the one phrase “from Tiphsah to Gaza” (1 Kings v. 4+iv. 24 in the English version), where the name seems to occur, is as early as the Persian period: the Greek text is quite discrepant. Thapsacus was the crossing-place of Darius Codomannus, before and after his defeat (Arrian ii. 13), and of Alexander (iii. 7), and in Strabo's time it was the usual crossing-place (xvi. 1, 21); but Tiglath-pileser I. and Assur-nasir-pal crossed considerably farther north, and we have no reason to suppose that they were not simply following the practice of those early times; and we do not know when the custom of crossing at Thapsacus which the Hebrew text of the passage in 1 Kings may presuppose sprang up. Xenophon's army had to be content with fording the stream. Alexander, however, effected his crossing (Arrian, iii. 7) by two connected bridges (of boats?), and it was from this place that later he had the material for his Beet sent down (Arrian vii. 19; Strabo xvi. 741) to Babylonia. His successors must also have valued the place, for according to Pliny (v. 87) it bore later the name of Amphipolis, perhaps bestowed on it (Steph. Byz., Appian Syr. 57) by Seleucus I., although the name, like so many others, probably failed to win acceptance; and in the time of Eratosthenes the position of Thapsacus had become so central that he chose it as the point from which to make his measurements for all Asia (Strabo ii. 79, 80), and in the time of Strabo himself it was there that goods were embarked for transport down the Euphrates (Q. Curt. x. 1), and landed after having come by stream from lower districts (Strabo xvi. 1, 23). After Pliny the city is not again mentioned.
After various attempts at identification (see Ritter, Erdkunde) it has apparently been correctly identified by J. P. Peters (Nation, May 23, 1889) and B. Moritz (Sita.-Bef. d. Berl. Akad., July 25, 1889). The name may survive in Kal’at Dibse, “ a small ruin 8 m. below Meskene, and 6 m. below the ancient Barbalissus.” See J. P. Peters, Nippur, 196 ff. (H. W. H.)
- 2 Kings xv. 16 cannot possibly refer to any place on the Euphrates.
- Stephanus of Byzantium gives it in a list of cities as a “Syrian town on the Euphrates,” quoting from Theopompus, without noting that he has already referred to it under the name Amphipolis.