Euphemites SEE MESSALIANS. Euphra'tes is the Greek form (Εὐφράτης) of the river designated in Hebrews by the name PHRATH or Perath' (פּרָת, which Gesenius regards as i.q. "sweet water," referring to the present Arabic name Frah as having that signify; but Furst refers to an obsolete root indicating the impetuous character of the stream), and is probably a word of Arian origin, the initial element being 'u, which is in Sanscrit su, in Zend ha, and in Greek ε῏υ; and the second element being fra, the particle of abundance. The Euphrates is thus "the good and abounding river." It is not improbable that in common parlance the name was soon shortened to its modern form of Frat, which is almost exactly what the Hebrew Uiteration expresses. But it is most frequently denoted in the Bible by the tearn הִנָּהָר, han-nahar', i.e., "the river," the river of Asia, in grand contrast with the shortlived torrents of Palestine, being by far the most considerable stream in that part of the continent. Thus, in Ex 23:3, we read, "from the desert unto the river" (comp. Isa 8:7). In like manner, it is termed in De 1:7 "the great river." The Euphrates is named in the cuneiform inscriptions (q.v.).
1. It is first mentioned in Ge 2:14, where the Euphrates is stated to be the fourth of the riflers which flowed from a common stream in the garden of Eden. Its celebrity is there sufficiently indicated by the absence of any explanatory phrase, such as accompanies the names of the other streams. SEE EDEN. We next hear of it in the covenant made with Abraham (Ge 15:18), where the whole country from "the great river, the river Euphrates," to the river of Egypt is promised to the chosen race. In Deuteronomy and Joshua we find that this promise was borne in mind at the time of the settlement in Canaan (De 1:7; De 11:24; Jos 1:4); and from an important passage in the first book of Chronicles it appears that the tribe of Reuben did actually extend itself to the Euphrates in the times anterior to Saul (1Ch 5:9). Here they came in contact with the Hagarites, who appear upon the Middle Euphrates in the Assyrian inscriptions of the later empire. It is David, however, who seems for the first time to have entered on the full enjoyment of the promise by the victories which he gained over Headadezer, king of Zobab, and his allies, the Syrians of Damascus (2Sa 8:3-8; 1Ch 18:3). The object of his expedition was "to recover his border," and "to stablish his dominion by the river Euphrateas;" and in this object he appears to have been altogether successful, in so much that Solomon, his son, who was not a man of war, but only inherited his father's dominions, is said to have "reigned over all kingdoms from the river (i.e., the Euphrates) unto the land of the Philistines and unto the border of Egypt" (1Ki 4:21; comp. 2Ch 9:26). Thus, during the reigns of David and Solomon, the dominion of Israel actually attained to the full extent both ways of the original promise, the Euphrates forming the boundary of their empire to the northeast, and the river of Egypt to the south-west. This wide-spread dominion was lost, upon the disruption of the empire under Rehoboam; and no more is heard in Scripture of the Euphrates until the expedition of Necho against the Babylonians in the reign of Josiah. The "Great River" had meanwhile served for some time as a boundary between Assyria and the country of the Hittites, SEE ASSYRIA, but had repeatedly been crossed by the armies of the Ninevite kings, who gradually established their sway over the countries upon its right bank. The crossing of the river, was always difficult, and at the point where certain natural facilities fixed the ordinary passage the strong fort of Carchemish had been built, probably in very early times, to command the position. SEE CARCHEMISH. Hence, when Necho determined to attempt the permanent conquest of Syria, his march was directed upon "Carchencish by Euphrates" (2Ch 35:20), which he captured and held, thus extending the dominion of Egypt to the Euphrates, and renewing the old glories of the Ramesside kings. His triumph, however, was short-lived. Three years afterwards the Babylonians — who had inherited the Assyrian dominion in these parts — made an expedition under Nebuchadnezzar against Necho, defeated his army, "which was by the river Euphrates in Carchemish" (Jer 46:2), and recovered all Syria and Palestine. Then "the king of Egypt came no mire out of his land, for the king of Babylon had taken from the river of Egypt unto the river Euphrates all that pertained to the king of Egypt" (2Ki 24:7).
These are the chief events which Scripture distinctly connects with the "Great River." The prophets made use of the Euphrates as a figurative description of the Assyrian power, as the Nile with them represented the power of Egypt; thus, in Isa 8:7, "The Lord bringeth up upon them the waters of the river, strong and many, even the king of Assyria" (Jer 2:18; comp. Re 9:14; Re 16:12). It is probably included among the "rivers of Babylon," by the side of which the Jewish captives "remembered Zion" and "wept" (Ps 137:1); and no doubt is glanced at in the threats of Jeremiah against the Chaldaean "waters" and "springs," upon which there was to be a "drought" that should "dry them up" (Jeremiah 1:38; 513:26). The fulfillment of these prophecies has been noticed under the head of CHALDAEA. The river still brings down as much water as of old, but the precious element is wasted by the neglect of man; the various water-courses along which it was in former times conveyed are dry, the main channel has shrunk, and the Water stagnates in unwholesome marshes.
It is remarkable that Scripture contains no clear and distinct reference to that striking occasion when, according to profane historians (Herod. 1:191; Xenoph. Caqrop. 7:5), the Euphrates was turned against its mistress, and used to effect the ruin of Babylon. The brevity of Daniel (5:30, 31) is perhaps sufficient to account for his silence on the point; but it might have been expected from the fullness of Jeremiah (chapter 1 and 51) that so remarkable a feature of the siege would not have escaped mention. We must, however, remember, in the first place, that a clear prophecy may have been purposely withheld, in order that the Babylonians might not be put upon their guard. And, secondly, we may notice that there does seem to be at least one reference to the circumstance, though it is covert, as it was necessary that it should be. In immediate conjunction with the passage which most clearly declares the taking of the city by a surprise is found an expression which reads very obscurely in our version — "the passages are stopped" (Jer 51:32). Here the Hebrew term used (מִעבָּרוֹת) applies most properly to "fords or ferries over rivers" (comp. Jg 3:28); and the whole passage may best be translated, "the ferries are seized" or "occupied;" which agrees very well with the entrance of the Persians by the rivers and with the ordinary mode of transit in the place, where there was but one bridge (Herod. 1:186). The fords were at Thapsacus (Xenoph. Asab. 1:4, 11).
2. The Euphrates is the largest, the longest, and by far the most important of the rivers of Western Asia. It rises from two chief sources in the Armenian mountains, one of them at Domli. 25 miles N.E. of Erzeroum, and little more than a degree from the Black Sea; the other on the northern slope of the mountain range called Ala-Tagh, near the village of Diyadin, and not far from Mount Ararat. The former, or Northern Euphrates, has the name Frat from the first, but is known also as the Kara-Su (Black River); the latter, or Southern Euphrates, is not called the Frat, but the Murad Chai, yet it is in reality the main river. Both branches flow at the first towards the west or south-west, passing through the wildest mountain districts of Armenia; they meet at Kebban-Maden, nearly in long. 390 E. from Greenwich, having run respectively 400 and 270 miles. Here the stream formed by their combined waters is 120 yards wide, rapid, and very deep; it now flows nearly southward, but in a tortuous course, forcing a way through the ranges of Taurus and and-Taurus, and still seeming as if it would empty itself in the Mediterranean, but prevented from so doing by the longitudinal ranges of Amanus and Lebanon, which here run parallel to the Syrian coast, and at no great distance from it; the river at last desists from its endeavor, and in about lat. 360 turns towards the south-east, and proceeds in this direction for above 1000 miles to its embouchure in the Persian Gulf (Herod. 1:180; Strabo, 2:521; Ptolem. 5:13; Pliny, Hist. Nat.
5:20; Q. Curt. 1:13; Orbis Terrarum, C.. Kaercher Auct.). In conjunction with the Tigris, it forms the rich alluvial lands of Mesopotamia (q.v.), over which it flows or is carried by canals, and thus diffuses abroad fertility and beauty. At Bagdad and Hillah (Babylon), the Euphrates and Tigris approach comparatively near to each other, but separate again, forming a kind of ample basin, till they finally become one at Koorma. Under the Caesars the Euphrates was the eastern boundary of the Roman empire, as under David it was the natural limit of the Hebrew monarchy. SEE TIGRIS.
The last part of its course, from Hit downwards, is through a low, flat, and alluvial plain, over which it has a tendency to spread and stagnate; above Hit, and from thence to Sumeisat (Samosata), the country along its banks is for the most part open, but hilly; north of Sumeisat the stream runs in a narrow valley among high mountains, and is interrupted by numerous rapids. The entire course is calculated at 1780 miles, nearly 650 more than that of the Tigris, and only 200 short of that of the Indus; and of this distance more than two thirds (1200 miles) is navigable for boats, and even, as the expedition of colonel Chesney proved for small steamers. The width of the river is greatest at the distance of 700 or 800 miles from its mouth — that is to say, from its junction with the Khabour to the village of Werai. It there averages 400 yards, awhile lower down, from Werai to Lamlun, it continually decreases, until at the last-named place its width is not more than 120 yards, its depth having at the same time diminished from an average of 18 to one of 12 feet. The causes of this singular phenomenon are the entire lack of tributaries below the Khabour, and the employment of the water in irrigation. The river has also in this part of its course the tendency already noted, to run off and waste itself in vast marshes, which every year more and more cover the alluvial tract west and south of the stream. From this cause its lower course is continually varying, and it is doubted whether at present, except in the season of the inundation, any portion of the Euphrates water is poured into the Shat-el-Arab.
In point of current it is for the most part a sluggish stream; for, except in the height of the flooded season, when it approaches 5 miles an hour, it varies from 24 to 3½, with a much larger portion of its course ,under 3 than above. Its general description for some distance below Erzingan is that of a river of the first order, struggling through high hills, or rather low mountains, making an exceedingly tortuous course as it forces its way over a pebbly or rocky bed from one natural barrier to another. As it winds round its numerous barriers, it carries occasionally towards each of the cardinal points a considerable body of water, and is shallow enough in some places for loaded camels to pass in autumn, the water rising to their bellies, or about 4½ feet. The upper portion of the river is enclosed between two parallel ranges of hills, covered for the most part with high brushwood and timber of moderate size, having a succession of long, narrow islands, on several of which are moderate-sized towns; the borders of this ancient stream being still well inhabited, not only by Bedouins, but by permanent residents. The following towns may be named: Sumeisat, Haorum, Romkala, Bir, Giaber, Deir, Rava, Anna, Hadisa, El-Us, Jibba, Hit, Hillah, Lemlun, Korna, and Bussora. The scenery above Hit, in itself very picturesque, is greatly heightened by the frequent re-currence of ancient irrigating aqueducts, beautiful specimens of art, which are attributed by the Arabs to the Persians when fire-worshippers: they literally cover both banks, and prove that the borders of the Euphrates were once thickly inhabited by a highly-civilized people. They are of stone. Ten miles below Hit is. the last of these. The country now becomes flatter, with few hills; the river winds less; and the banks are covered with Arab villages of mats or tents, with beautiful mares, cattle, and numerous flocks of goats and sheep. From Hit to Babylon the black tent of the Bedouin is almost the only kind of habitation to be seen. This distance is cultivated only in part; the rest is desert, with the date-tree showing in occasional clusters. In descending, the irrigating cuts and canals become more frequent. Babylon is encircled by two streams, one above, the other below the principal ruin, beyond which they unite and produce abundance. For about thirty miles below Hillah both banks, have numerous mud villages, imbedded in date- trees: to these succeed huts formed of bundles of reeds. The country lower down towards Lemlun is level, and little elevated above the river; irrigation is therefore easy: in consequence, both banks are covered with productive cultivation, and fringed with a double and nearly continuous belt of luxuriant date-trees, extending down to the Persian Gulf. At one mile and a half above the town of Dewania is the first considerable deviation from this hitherto majestic river; another takes place 22 miles lower; and nine miles farther — at Lemlun — it again separates into two branches, forming a delta not unlike that of Damietta, and, when the river is swollen, inundating the country for a space of about 60 miles in width with a shallow sheet of water, forming the Lemlun marshes, nearly the whole of which is covered with rice and other grain the moment the river recedes (in June). Here mud villages are swept away by the water every year. Below Lemlun the Tigris sends a branch to the Euphrates, which is thus increased in its volume, and, turning to the east, receives the chief branch of the Tigris, thence running in one united stream, under the name of the Shat-el-Arab, as far as the sea (the Persian Gulf). In this last reach the river has a depth of from 3 to 5 fathoms, varies in breadth from 500 to 900 yards, and presents banks covered with villages and cultivation, having an appearance at once imposing and majestic. The length of that part of the river, reckoning from Bir to Bussora, navigable for large vessels at all times of the year, is 143 miles. It is very abundant in fish. The water is somewhat turbid, but, -when purified, is pleasant and salubrious. The Arabians set a high value on it, and name it Morad-Su that is, Water of desire, or longing.
The annual inundation of the Euphrates occurs in the month of May. The river begins to rise in March, and continues rising till the latter end of May. The consequent increase of its volume and rapidity is attributable to the early rains, which, falling in the Armenian mountains, swell its mountain tributaries; and also, in the main, to the melting of the winter snows in these lofty regions. About the middle of November the Euphrates has reached its lowest ebb, and, ceasing to decrease, becomes tranquil and sluggish. The greatest rise of the Tigris is earlier, since it drains the southern flank of the great Armenian chain. The Tigris scarcely ever overflows, SEE HIDDEKEL, but the Euphrates inundates large tracts on both sides of its course from Hit downwards. The great hydraulic works ascribed to Nebuchadnezzar (Abyden. Fr. 8) had for their great object to control the inundation by turning the waters through sluices into canals prepared for them, and distributing them in channels over a wide extent of country. "When the Euphrates," says Rich, "reaches its greatest elevation, it overflows the surrounding country, fills up, without the necessity of any human labor, the canals which are dug for the reception of its waters, and thus amazingly facilitates the operations of husbandry. The ruins of Babylon are then inundated, so as to render many parts inaccessible, the intermediate hollows being converted into marshes" (Babylon and Persepolis, page 54). Rauwolf observes, "The water of the Euphrates, being always troubled, and consequently unfit for drinking, is placed in earthen jars or pitchers for an hour or two, until the sand and other impurities sink to the bottom, where they are soon found lying to the thickness of a man's finger" (comp. Jer 2:18; Jer 13:4-7). Mr. Ainsworth says, "The period at which the waters of the Euphrates are most loaded with mud, are in the first floods of January; the gradual melting of the snows in early summer, which preserves the high level of the waters, does not at the same time contribute much sedimentary matter. From numerous experiments made at Bir in December and January, 1836, I found the maximum of sediment mechanically suspended in the waters to be equal to one eightieth part of the bulk of fluid, or every cubic inch of water contained one eightieth part of its bulk of suspended matters; and from similar experiments, instituted in the month of October of the same year, at the issue of the waters from the Lemlum marshes, I only obtained a maximum of one two hundredth part of a cubic inch of water (mean temp. 740). The sediments of the river Euphrates, which are not deposited in the upper part of the river's course, are finally deposited in the Lemlum marshes. In navigating the river in May, 1836, the water flowing into the marshes was colored deeply by mud, but left the marshes in a state of comparative purity" (Researches, pages 110, 111).
The Euphrates has at all times been of some importance as furnishing a line of traffic between the East and the West. Herodotus speaks of persons, probably merchants, using it regularly on their passage from the Mediterranean to Babylon (Her. 1:185). He also describes the boats which were in use upon the stream (1:194), and mentions that their principal freight was wine, which he seems to have thought was furnished by Armenia. It was, however, more probably Syrian, as Armenia is too cold for the vine. Boats such as he describes, of wicker-work, and coated with bitumen, or sometimes covered with skins, still abound on the river (Chesney, Euphrates, 2:639-651). Men wishing to swim across or along the stream simply throw themselves upon an inflated skin and thus float, precisely in the manner described by ancient writers, and depicted of the Assyrian sculptures (Botta, Nineveh, page 238 sq.). Alexander appears to have brought to Babylon by the Euphrates route vessels of some considerable size, which he had had made in Cyprus and Phoenicia. They were so constructed that they could be taken to pieces, and were thus carried piecemeal to Thapsacus, where they were put together and launched (Aristobul. ap. Strab. 16:1, 11). The disadvantage of the route was the difficulty of conveying return cargoes against the current. According to Herodotus, the boats which descended the river were broken to pieces and sold at Babylon, and the owners returned on foot to Armenia, taking with them only the skins (1:194). Aristobulus, however, related (ap. Strab. 16:3, 3) that the Gerrhaeans ascended the river in their rafts not only to Babylon, but to Thapsacus, whence they carried their wares on foot in all directions. The spices and other products of Arabia formed their principal merchandise. On the whole, there are sufficient grounds for believing that throughout the Babylonian and Persian periods this route was made use of by the merchants of various nations, and that by it the east and west continually interchanged their most important products (see Layard's Nineveh and Babylon, pages 456, 457). Caravans were employed above Thapsacus (Haeren, Asiatic Nations, 1:429, 430). The emperor Trajan constructed a fleet in the mountains of Nisibis, and floated it down the Euphrates. The emperor Julian also came down the river from the same mountains with a fleet of not fewer than 1100 vessels. A great deal of navigation is still carried on from Bagdad to Hillah, the ancient Babylon, but the disturbed state of the country prevents any above the latter place. In the time of queen Elizabeth merchants from England went by this river; which was then the high road to India. There were anciently many canals which connected the Tigris with the Euphrates; many of them are still in being. The Euphrates steamer passed from the Euphrates to the Tigris by the Iva canal, which leaves the former a few miles above Felugo, and enters the latter a short way below Bagdad. The steam navigation of the Euphrates must be a question of considerable importance, and colonel Chesney has proved that it may be navigated as high as Bir by steamers drawing four feet of water; yet it can hardly be expected that it can ever be made available as an ordinary channel between Europe and India. Its navigation would undoubtedly confer the greatest advantages on the inhabitants of the vast and fertile countries through which it flows, should they once more be emancipated from the barbarism under which they have so long been oppressed.
3. See, for a general account of the Euphrates, colonel Chesney's Euphrates Expedition, volume 1; and, for the lower course of the stream, compare Loftus's Chaldma and Susiana. See also Rawlinson's Herodofus, volume 1, Essay 9; and Layard's Nineveh and Babylon, chapters 21 and 22; Wahl's Asien, page 700; Ritter's Erdk. 2:120; Traite Element. G ographique (Bruxelles, 1832), volume 2; Mannert's Geogr. 2:142; Reichard's Kl. Geogr. Schrif. page 210; Parliam. Rep. of Steans Navigation to India (1834); M'Culloch's Geograph. Dict. s.v.; Ainsworth's Travels in Asia Minor, etc. (1842); Ker Porter, Travels, 2:403; Forbiger, Alte Geographie, 2:69 sq.; Rosenmuller, Alterth. 1, 1:188 sq. SEE BABYLON.