New discovery in Roman-era military garrison, Zerzevan Castle

New discovery in Roman-era military garrison, Zerzevan Castle

New discovery in Roman-era military garrison, Zerzevan Castle

The remains of the entrance gate to a temple, where Mithrasists are believed to have spent the night once a year, have been found in Diyarbakır.

The main entrance gate of the 1,900-year-old Temple of Mithras has come to light during the excavations at Zerzevan Castle in the southeastern province of Diyarbakır.

Excavations have been ongoing in Zerzevan Castle, the 3,000-year-old garrison of the Roman Empire, located 13 kilometers away from the city’s Çınar district.

Mithraism, also known as the Mithraic mysteries or the Cult of Mithras, was a Roman mystery religion centered on the god Mithras.

Following the discovery of the 1,900-year-old Temple of Mithras in the castle, which is one of the important tourism centers in the city, the main entrance of the temple has been found, too. The monumental entrance gate, through which Mithrasists entered the sacred area and held secret ceremonies, will answer the questions about the Temple of Mithras.

Mithrasists, the worshippers of Mithras, who are said to come to the temple from all over the world, are believed to spend the night once a year in the temple, according to archaeological data.

Stating that many mysteries will come to light once the excavation works are completed within a year, the head of the excavations, Associate Professor Aytaç Coşkun, said that with the emergence of the structures, the questions about the Temple of Mithras will be answered.

Coşkun stated that Zerzevan Castle is considered one of the best-preserved garrisons in the world, adding: “Zerzevan Castle was the military settlement of the Roman Empire. It is one of the best-preserved garrisons in the world. Excavations that started in 2014 still continue. As the Mithras sanctuary covers a wide area, the castle receives a huge influx of visitors. Because it is one of the best-preserved and last found Mithras sites in the world.”

Coşkun said they accelerated work to fully reveal the monumental main entrance gate discovered in the temple.

“We initiated excavations this year in this area and recently discovered the monumental main entrance gate. We are currently concentrating our work on revealing this gate, which is a large structure. It is where the ceremonies first begin. It is an important architectural structure where Mithrasists entered the sacred area and marked the beginning of the ceremonies. We will open this area."

"Currently, work is being carried out in another region, where mysterious rituals are performed and the Mithrashists, who came from all over the world and performed these rituals, stayed. We think they came here one night a year. These ceremonies were held secretly. In fact, the belief in Mithras is a mystery. All rituals were performed secretly and no information has been leaked. There is no written document about this. We can say this according to archaeological data or legends. When Mithrasists came from all over the ancient world, they did not stay in the garrison, they stayed in the sacred area. There were many places and residences where they stayed inside the sanctuary. We plan to finish our work in these residences this year,” he said.

Stating that the sacred area in Zerzevan Castle has found answers to many unknown questions about Mithraism and continues to do so, Coşkun said: “Georadar studies show that there was a large city under Zerzevan Castle. Again, during our work in a Mithras sanctuary, we detected underground galleries. These are the galleries connected to the sanctuary. Some of these secret, mysterious rituals were performed underground. When we uncover these structures, we will find answers to some questions about Mithras. Some of the most curious topics in the world right now are the Mithrasists and the Mithras ceremony, and much information will be revealed here.”

Stating the excavations in the temple area will be completed by 2024, Coşkun said: “Next year, most of the structures will be unearthed. Zerzevan Castle sheds light on the history and belief systems of the region and is also very important for tourism in the region. It is a place visited by an average of 400,000 people a year. Around 30-35 tour buses come to Zerzevan a day. Therefore, the number of visitors will increase here.”