Tigris

TIGRIS (tī'grĭs, Assyr. Idigalat, arrow, Heb. hiddeqel). One of the two great rivers of the Mesopotamian area. It originates in the Taurus Mountains of Armenia; in its 1,150 miles (1,917 km.) it receives three principal tributaries from the east, the Great Zab, the Little Zab, and the Diyala. It is difficult for navigation, since for some months it is very shallow, yet it is subject to flooding and during the rainy season ranges outside its banks. In antiquity the Tigris and the Euphrates entered the Persian Gulf by separate mouths, but today the Tigris joins the Euphrates at Kurna to form the Shatt el-Arab. The rivers of Iran also have been an important factor in the formation of the delta. Through what was Assyria and Babylonia the Tigris flows past famous cities, living and dead: Mosul, on the west bank, looks across the river to the mounds of Nineveh; farther downstream are Asshur, Samarra, and Baghdad. In the Bible the Tigris is mentioned with the Euphrates and two other streams as rivers that watered the Garden of Eden (Gen.2.14). Dan.10.4 states that it was while the prophet “was standing on the bank of the great river, the Tigris” that he saw the vision he subsequently recorded.——CEDV


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TIGRIS, the eastern river of ancient Iraq, which together with the Euphrates formed the alluvial plain of Mesopotamia, “The Land of the Two Rivers.” The Tigris arises in the Zagros mountains of western Kurdistan and flows with many tributaries such as the Greater and Lesser Zab and the Diyala, from NW to SE some 700 m. until it empties into the Persian Gulf. It was for centuries the easternmost boundary of the Sumer. peoples and the meeting place of Elamite, Indo-European and Sumer. The snows of the Zagros melt and flow S causing the Tigris to reach full flood stage in May and June. The mysterious “protoeuphratean” peoples, whose character is only vaguely known, apparently named the stream. The name Idiglat, which they used, was handed down by the Sumerians and later Babylonians for millennia.

The overall length of the Tigris, nearly 1200 m. in all, was dotted in antiquity by the towns of many lost civilizations. In the far N lived the Urartu who lent their name to Mt. Ararat, the Cimmerians and centuries later the Guti. In the foothills of the Zagros are the remains of such ancient pre-neolithic sites as S̆anidar and Tepe Gawra, while the Sumerians built Ešnunna, Lagaš and the towns which once flourished at the sites of Samarra and Khafaje. The S became dominated after the end of the third millennium by the Sem. Akkadians and their rulers of Sumer and Agade. In the northern reaches the Assyrian empire arose. Their capital cities of Nineveh, Aššur and Nimrud are located on its banks. The plain between the northern reaches of the Tigris and Euphrates which was settled by the Aramaeans and called by the psalmist, Aram Naḥaraim (Ps 60:1 KJV) “Aram by (the) twin rivers,” this name was used in later times for other parts of the Iraqi water shed. The ancient alterations of the course of the Tigris are as yet imperfectly understood and work of surface surveying has been going on for many years. It is known that in recorded history these rivers changed channels more than once, often leaving once verdant marshes and grass lands to become parched deserts. The long caravan route from North India which crossed over to the Syro-Palestinian coast followed the course of the Tigris for hundreds of m., finally veering off toward the Euphrates at Nineveh, a reason for that city’s great wealth and power. The difficulty of the terrain, the harshness of the climate and the capricious nature of the water supply, demanded close knit and elaborate social systems for men to survive, and for townships to flourish on the banks of the Tigris. Perhaps this inhospitable topography more than any other factor encouraged the rise of Mesopotamian civilization.

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)

One of the rivers of Eden going "eastward to Assyria" (Ge 2:14 margin), called the Great River (Da 10:4), elsewhere mentioned in the apocryphal books, as in Tob 6:1; Judith 1:6; Ecclesiasticus 24:25, called Diglath in Josephus, and Diglit in Pliny, now called in Mesopotamia Dijleh, generally supposed to be a Semitic corruption of Tigra, meaning originally an arrow, which from its rapidity of motion is symbolized. The Tigris rises in the mountains of Armenia, latitude 38 degrees 10 minutes, longitude 39 degrees 20 minutes, only a few miles from the main branch of the Euphrates. After pursuing a tortuous southeasterly course for 150 miles, it is joined by the east branch at Osman Kieui, some distance below Diarbekr. Here the stream is 450 ft. wide and 3 or 4 ft. deep. Passing through numerous mountain gorges for another 150 miles, it emerges into the region of low hills about Nineveh, and a little below into the great alluvial plain of Mesopotamia. Thence in its course to Bagdad it is joined by the Great Zab, the Lesser Zab, the Adhem, and the Diyaleh rivers, bringing a large amount of water from the Zagros Mountains. At Bagdad the overflows from the Euphrates in high water often increase the inundations. The flood season begins early in the month of March, reaching its climax about May 1, declining to its natural level by midsummer. In October and November, the volume of water increases considerably, but not so much as to overflow its banks. Below Bagdad, throughout the region of Babylonia proper, the Tigris joins with the Euphrates in furnishing the water for irrigation so successfully used in ancient times. English engineers are at present with great promise of success aiming to restore the irrigating systems of the region and the prosperity of ancient times. The total length of the river is 1,146 miles. It now joins the Euphrates about 40 miles Northwest of the Persian Gulf, the two streams there forming the Shat el Arab, but in early historical times they entered the Persian Gulf by separate mouths, the Gulf then extending a considerable distance above the present junction of the rivers, the sediment of the streams having silted up the head of the Gulf to that distance.

See also EDEN.