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Written by Kleanthis Zouboulakis, Ph.D cand.


The Governor of Erbil Mr. Nawzad Hadi Mawlood invited a team of the University of Athens to conduct a research concerning the location of the Gaugamela battlefield. As a result of this invitation, Dr. Athanasios Sideris, Director of the Department for Archaeology of the Foundation of the Greek World, and Mr. Kleanthis Zouboulakis, Postgraduate Student of the University of Athens, conducted a preliminary topographical survey in April 2011.

Historical background

The wider Erbil area is identified with ancient Adiabene. It was one of the stations of Xenophon’s march, known as Anabasis, that took place in 401 B.C. After the death of Alexander the Great Adiabene became a province of the Seleucid kingdom. At the beginning of the 1st century A.D. it became an independent principality subordinate to the Parthians and later to the Sassanids. For a short period during the reign of Trajan, namely 116-117 A.D., it became a Roman province and was named Assyria. The administrative boundaries of the principality, the relations with its Greek neighbors, and its role as a buffer zone between the Graeco-Roman world and the Persian sphere of influence are questions that require further research.

Aims of the historical research

The most important historical event that took place in the wider area of Arbela (mod. Erbil) was the Gaugamela battle (also known as Battle of Arbela), which was fought in 331 B.C. between the armies of Alexander the Great and Darius III. Its exact location is still disputed.

The most commonly accepted opinion on the location of the Gaugamela battlefield is Tell Gomel east of Mosul, in the plain of modern Keremlis, as was first proposed by Sir Aurel Stein. A slightly different location for the battlefield was proposed by Schachermeyer further north of Jabal Maqlub, in Tell Gomel

Two alternative locations for the Gaugamela battlefield have been suggested to us. The first location is Gird-a Mamik, east of the river Great Zab, and approximately 35 km west of Erbil, as suggested by the Governor of Erbil, Mr. Nawzad Hadi Mawlood. The second location was Bardarash, west of Great Zab, as suggested by the Vice-Governor of Erbil.

Our team visited the wider area of Tell Gomel up to the Mor Matti Monastery. This inspection led to some preliminary observations, but a more detailed survey is needed in order to reach a safe conclusion. The key factors are to identify the ancient river Boumelos and to locate the point of crossing of Tigris by Alexander’s troops.