Last updated
Tigris River in Baghdad (2016).jpg
Tigris river in Baghdad
Country Turkey, Syria, Iraq
Source region Armenian Highlands
Cities Elazig, Diyarbakır, Mosul, Baghdad
Physical characteristics
Source Lake Hazar [1]
  coordinates 38°29′0″N39°25′0″E / 38.48333°N 39.41667°E / 38.48333; 39.41667
  elevation1,150 m (3,770 ft)
Mouth Shatt al-Arab
Al-Qurnah, Basra Governorate, Iraq
38°26′0″N39°46′22″E / 38.43333°N 39.77278°E / 38.43333; 39.77278 Coordinates: 38°26′0″N39°46′22″E / 38.43333°N 39.77278°E / 38.43333; 39.77278
Length1,900 km (1,200 mi)
Basin size375,000 km2 (145,000 sq mi)
  location Baghdad
  average1,014 m3/s (35,800 cu ft/s)
  minimum337 m3/s (11,900 cu ft/s)
  maximum2,779 m3/s (98,100 cu ft/s)
Basin features
River system Tigris–Euphrates river system
  left Garzan, Botan, Khabur, Greater Zab, Lesser Zab, 'Adhaim, Cizre, Diyala
  right Wadi Tharthar
[2] [3]
Mosul, on the bank of the Tigris, 1861 Le Tour du monde-04-p065.jpg
Mosul, on the bank of the Tigris, 1861

The Tigris ( /ˈtɡrɪs/ ) is the easternmost of the two great rivers that define Mesopotamia, the other being the Euphrates. The river flows south from the mountains of the Armenian Highlands through the Syrian and Arabian Deserts, and empties into the Persian Gulf.



The Tigris is 1,750 km (1,090 mi) long, rising in the Taurus Mountains of eastern Turkey about 25 km (16 mi) southeast of the city of Elazig and about 30 km (20 mi) from the headwaters of the Euphrates. The river then flows for 400 km (250 mi) through Southeastern Turkey before becoming part of the Syria-Turkey border. This stretch of 44 km (27 mi) is the only part of the river that is located in Syria. [2] Some of its affluences are Garzan, Anbarçayi, Batman, and the Great and the Little Zab. [4]

Close to its confluence with the Euphrates, the Tigris splits into several channels. First, the artificial Shatt al-Hayy branches off, to join the Euphrates near Nasiriyah. Second, the Shatt al-Muminah and Majar al-Kabir branch off to feed the Central Marshes. Further downstream, two other distributary channels branch off (the Al-Musharrah and Al-Kahla), to feed the Hawizeh Marshes. The main channel continues southwards and is joined by the Al-Kassarah, which drains the Hawizeh Marshes. Finally, the Tigris joins the Euphrates near al-Qurnah to form the Shatt-al-Arab. According to Pliny and other ancient historians, the Euphrates originally had its outlet into the sea separate from that of the Tigris. [5]

Baghdad, the capital of Iraq, stands on the banks of the Tigris. The port city of Basra straddles the Shatt al-Arab. In ancient times, many of the great cities of Mesopotamia stood on or near the Tigris, drawing water from it to irrigate the civilization of the Sumerians. Notable Tigris-side cities included Nineveh, Ctesiphon, and Seleucia, while the city of Lagash was irrigated by the Tigris via a canal dug around 2900 B.C.

The Tigris has long been an important transport route in a largely desert country. Shallow-draft vessels can go as far as Baghdad, but rafts are needed for transport upstream to Mosul.

General Francis Rawdon Chesney hauled two steamers overland through Syria in 1836 to explore the possibility of an overland and river route to India. One steamer, the Tigris, was wrecked in a storm which sank and killed twenty. Chesney proved the river navigable to powered craft. In 1855, a convoy of rafts carrying antiquities from Victor Place's expedition to Khorsabad, Rawlinson's to Kuyunjik and Fresnel's to Babylon was sunk by local tribes near Al-Qurnah. [6] [7] Later, the Euphrates and Tigris Steam Navigation Company was established in 1861 by the Lynch Brothers trading company, who had two steamers in service. By 1908 ten steamers were on the river. Tourists boarded steam yachts to venture inland as this was the first age of archaeological tourism, and the sites of Ur and Ctesiphon became popular with European travellers.

In the First World War, during the British conquest of Ottoman Mesopotamia, Indian and Thames River paddlers were used to supply General Charles Townsend's army, in the Siege of Kut and the Fall of Baghdad (1917). [8] The Tigris Flotilla included vessels Clio, Espiegle, Lawrence, Odin, armed tug Comet, armed launches Lewis Pelly, Miner, Shaitan, Sumana, and sternwheelers Muzaffari/Muzaffar. These were joined by Royal Navy Fly-class gunboats Butterfly, Cranefly, Dragonfly, Mayfly, Sawfly, Snakefly, and Mantis, Moth, and Tarantula.

After the war, river trade declined in importance during the 20th century as the Basra-Baghdad-Mosul railway, a previously unfinished portion of the Baghdad Railway, was completed and roads took over much of the freight traffic.


Bedouin crossing the river Tigris with plunder (c.1860) USSHER(1865) p477 BEDOWEEN CROSSING THE TIGRIS WITH PLUNDER.jpg
Bedouin crossing the river Tigris with plunder (c.1860)

The Ancient Greek form Tigris (Τίγρις) is an alternative form of Tígrēs (Τίγρης), which was adapted from Old Persian 𐎫𐎡𐎥𐎼𐎠 (t-i-g-r-a /Tigrā/), itself from Elamite Tigra, itself from Sumerian 𒀀𒇉𒈦𒄘𒃼 (Idigna or Idigina, probably derived from *id (i)gina "running water"). [9] The Sumerian term, which can be interpreted as "the swift river", contrasts the Tigris to its neighbour, the Euphrates, whose leisurely pace caused it to deposit more silt and build up a higher bed than the Tigris. The Sumerian form was borrowed into Akkadian as Idiqlat and from there into the other Semitic languages (compare Hebrew Ḥîddeqel, Syriac Deqlaṯ, Arabic Dijlah).[ citation needed ]

Another name for the Tigris used in Middle Persian was Arvand Rud, literally "swift river". Today, however, Arvand Rud (New Persian: اروند رود) refers to the confluence of the Euphrates and Tigris rivers, known in Arabic as the Shatt al-Arab . In Kurdish, it is known as Ava Mezin, "the Great Water".[ citation needed ]

Mosul, Iraq Tigris river Mosul.jpg
Mosul, Iraq
Outside of Mosul, Iraq TigrisRiver.JPG
Outside of Mosul, Iraq

The name of the Tigris in languages that have been important in the region:

LanguageName for Tigris
Akkadian 𒁇𒄘𒃼, Idiqlat
Arabic دجلة, Dijlah; حداقل, Ḥudaqil
Aramaic דיגלת, Diglath
Armenian Տիգրիս, Tigris, Դգլաթ, Dglatʿ
Greek ἡ Τίγρης, -ητος, hē Tígrēs, -ētos;

ἡ, ὁ Τίγρις, -ιδος, hē, ho Tígris, -idos

Hebrew חידקל , Ḥîddeqel, biblical חִדֶּקֶל, Ḥiddeqel [10]
Hurrian Aranzah [11]
Persian Old Persian: 𐎫𐎡𐎥𐎼𐎠Tigrā; Middle Persian: Tigr; Modern Persian:دجلهDejle
Sumerian 𒁇𒄘𒃼Idigna/Idigina B124ellst.png
Syriac ܕܸܩܠܵܬܼDeqlaṯ
Turkish Dicle
Baghdad Haifa street, as seen from the medical city hospital across the tigres.jpg

Management and water quality

Batman River Tigris 2015.jpg
Batman River

The Tigris is heavily dammed in Iraq and Turkey to provide water for irrigating the arid and semi-desert regions bordering the river valley. Damming has also been important for averting floods in Iraq, to which the Tigris has historically been notoriously prone following April melting of snow in the Turkish mountains.

Recent Turkish damming of the river has been the subject of some controversy, for both its environmental effects within Turkey and its potential to reduce the flow of water downstream. Mosul Dam is the largest dam in Iraq.

Water from both rivers is used as a means of pressure during conflicts. [12]

In 2014 a major breakthrough in developing consensus between multiple stakeholder representatives of Iraq and Turkey on a Plan of Action for promoting exchange and calibration of data and standards pertaining to Tigris river flows was achieved. The consensus which is referred to as the "Geneva Consensus On Tigris River" was reached at a meeting organized in Geneva by the think tank Strategic Foresight Group. [13]

In February 2016, the United States Embassy in Iraq as well as the Prime Minister of Iraq Haider al-Abadi issued warnings that Mosul Dam could collapse. [14] The United States warned people to evacuate the floodplain of the Tigris because between 500,000 and 1.5 million people were at risk of drowning due to flash flood if the dam collapses, and that the major Iraqi cities of Mosul, Tikrit, Samarra, and Baghdad were at risk. [15]

Religion and mythology

In Sumerian mythology, the Tigris was created by the god Enki, who filled the river with flowing water. [16]

In Hittite and Hurrian mythology, Aranzah (or Aranzahas in the Hittite nominative form) is the Hurrian name of the Tigris River, which was deified. He was the son of Kumarbi and the brother of Teshub and Tašmišu, one of the three gods spat out of Kumarbi's mouth onto Mount Kanzuras. Later he colluded with Anu and the Teshub to destroy Kumarbi (The Kumarbi Cycle).

The Tigris appears twice in the Old Testament. First, in the Book of Genesis, it is the third of the four rivers branching off the river issuing out of the Garden of Eden. [10] The second mention is in the Book of Daniel, wherein Daniel states he received one of his visions "when I was by that great river the Tigris". [17]

The Tigris River is also mentioned in Islam.[ citation needed ] The tomb of Imam Ahmad Bin Hanbal and Syed Abdul Razzaq Jilani is in Baghdad and the flow of Tigris restricts the number of visitors. [18]

Baháʼu'lláh, the founder of the Baháʼí Faith, also wrote The Hidden Words around 1858 while he walked along the banks of the Tigris river during his exile in Baghdad.

Coat of arms of the Kingdom of Iraq 1932-1959 depicting the two rivers, the confluence Shatt al-Arab and the date palm forest, which used to be the largest in the world Coat of arms of the Kingdom of Iraq.svg
Coat of arms of the Kingdom of Iraq 1932–1959 depicting the two rivers, the confluence Shatt al-Arab and the date palm forest, which used to be the largest in the world

The river featured on the coat of arms of Iraq from 1932–1959.

See also


  1. Nicoll, Kathleen. "Geomorphic Evolution of the Upper Basin of the Tigris River, Turkey". University of Utah.{{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  2. 1 2 Isaev, V.A.; Mikhailova, M.V. (2009). "The hydrology, evolution, and hydrological regime of the mouth area of the Shatt al-Arab River". Water Resources. 36 (4): 380–395. doi:10.1134/S0097807809040022. S2CID   129706440.
  3. Kolars, J.F.; Mitchell, W.A. (1991). The Euphrates River and the Southeast Anatolia Development Project. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press. pp.  6–8. ISBN   0-8093-1572-6.
  4. "Diyarbakir". europeanwalledtowns. Retrieved 2019-11-10.
  5. Pliny: Natural History, VI, XXVI, 128-131
  6. Namio Egami, "The Report of The Japan Mission For The Survey of Under-Water Antiquities At Qurnah: The First Season," (1971-72), 1-45, https://www.jstage.jst.go.jp/article/orient1960/8/0/8_0_1/_pdf.
  7. Larsen, M.T., The Conquest of Assyria: Excavations in an Antique Land, Routledge, 2014, pp 344-49
  8. "Mesopotamia, Tigris-Euphrates, 1914-1917, despatches, killed and died, medals". naval-history.net. Archived from the original on 19 November 2015. Retrieved 28 November 2015.
  9. F. Delitzsch, Sumerisches Glossar, Leipzig (1914), IV, 6, 21.
  10. 1 2 Genesis 2:14
  11. E. Laroche, Glossaire de la langue Hourrite, Paris (1980), p. 55.
  12. Vidal, John. "Water supply key to the outcome of conflicts in Iraq and Syria, experts warn" The Guardian , 2 July 2014.
  13. "Analysis & Water Agenda". ORSAM. Retrieved 2015-11-28.
  14. Borger, Julian (29 February 2016). "Iraqi PM and US issue warnings over threat of Mosul dam collapse". The Guardian . The Guardian. Retrieved 29 February 2016.
  15. "US warns of Mosul dam collapse in northern Iraq". BBC News . BBC. BBC. 29 February 2016. Retrieved 29 February 2016.
  16. Jeremy A. Black, The Literature of Ancient Sumer, Oxford University Press 2004, ISBN   0-19-926311-6 p. 220-221
  17. Daniel 10:4
  18. "Sunan Abi Dawud 4306 - Battles (Kitab Al-Malahim) - كتاب الملاحم - Sunnah.com - River of Dajal(Tigris)". sunnah.com. Retrieved 2021-02-10.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)

Related Research Articles

Euphrates River in Turkey, Iraq, and Syria

The Euphrates is the longest and one of the most historically important rivers of Western Asia. Together with the Tigris, it is one of the two defining rivers of Mesopotamia. Originating in Turkey, the Euphrates flows through Syria and Iraq to join the Tigris in the Shatt al-Arab, which empties into the Persian Gulf.

Geography of Iraq Geographic features of Iraq

The geography of Iraq is diverse and falls into five main regions: the desert, Upper Mesopotamia, the northern highlands of Iraq, Lower Mesopotamia, and the alluvial plain extending from around Tikrit to the Persian Gulf.

Transport in Iraq consists of railways, highways, waterways, pipelines, ports and harbors, marines and airports.

Geography of Mesopotamia

The geography of Mesopotamia, encompassing its ethnology and history, centered on the two great rivers, the Tigris and Euphrates. While the southern is flat and marshy, the near approach of the two rivers to one another, at a spot where the undulating plateau of the north sinks suddenly into the Babylonian alluvium, tends to separate them still more completely. In the earliest recorded times, the northern portion was included in Mesopotamia; it was marked off as Assyria after the rise of the Assyrian monarchy. Apart from Assur, the original capital of Assyria, the chief cities of the country, Nineveh, Kalaḫ and Arbela, were all on the east bank of the Tigris. The reason was its abundant supply of water, whereas the great plain on the western side had to depend on streams flowing into the Euphrates.

Shatt al-Arab River in Western Asia

The Shatt al-Arab, sometimes called the Arvand Rud, is a river of some 200 kilometres (120 mi) in length that is formed at the confluence of the Euphrates and Tigris rivers in the town of al-Qurnah in the Basra Governorate of southern Iraq. The southern end of the river constitutes the Iran–Iraq border down to its mouth, where it discharges into the Persian Gulf. The Shatt al-Arab varies in width from about 232 metres (761 ft) at Basra to 800 metres (2,600 ft) at its mouth. It is thought that the waterway formed relatively recently in geological time, with the Tigris and Euphrates originally emptying into the Persian Gulf via a channel further to the west. Kuwait's Bubiyan Island is part of the Shatt al-Arab delta.

Tigris–Euphrates river system River system in the Middle East

The Tigris–Euphrates river system is a large river system in Western Asia which discharges into the Persian Gulf. Its principal rivers are the Tigris and Euphrates along with smaller tributaries.

Upper Mesopotamia Northern part of the region between Tigris and Euphrates rivers, now part of Iraq, Syria and Turkey

Upper Mesopotamia is the name used for the uplands and great outwash plain of northwestern Iraq, northeastern Syria and southeastern Turkey, in the northern Middle East. Since the early Muslim conquests of the mid-7th century, the region has been known by the traditional Arabic name of al-Jazira and the Syriac variant Gāzartā or Gozarto (ܓܙܪܬܐ). The Euphrates and Tigris rivers transform Mesopotamia into almost an island, as they are joined together at the Shatt al-Arab in the Basra Governorate of Iraq, and their sources in eastern Turkey are in close proximity.

Karun River in Iran

The Karun is the Iranian river with the highest water flow, and its only navigable river. It is 950 km (590 mi) long. It rises in the Zard Kuh mountains of the Bakhtiari district in the Zagros Range, receiving many tributaries, such as the Dez and the Kuhrang, before passing through the capital of the Khuzestan Province of Iran, the city of Ahvaz before emptying to its mouth into Arvand Rud.

Tabqa Dam Dam in Raqqa Governorate, Syria

The Tabqa Dam, or al-Thawra Dam as it is also named, most commonly known as Euphrates Dam, is an earthen dam on the Euphrates, located 40 kilometres (25 mi) upstream from the city of Raqqa in Raqqa Governorate, Syria. The city of Al-Thawrah is located immediately south of the dam. The dam is 60 metres (200 ft) high and 4.5 kilometres (2.8 mi) long and is the largest dam in Syria. Its construction led to the creation of Lake Assad, Syria's largest water reservoir. The dam was constructed between 1968 and 1973 with help from the Soviet Union. At the same time, an international effort was made to excavate and document as many archaeological remains as possible in the area of the future lake before they would be flooded by the rising water. When the flow of the Euphrates was reduced in 1974 to fill the lake behind the dam, a dispute broke out between Syria and Iraq that was settled by intervention from Saudi Arabia and the Soviet Union. The dam was originally built to generate hydroelectric power, as well as irrigate lands on both sides of the Euphrates. The dam has not reached its full potential in either of these objectives.

Iran–Iraq border International border

The Iran–Iraq border runs for 1,599 km (994 mi) from the tripoint with Turkey in the north down to the Shatt al-Arab waterway and out to the Persian Gulf in the south. Although the boundary was first determined in 1639, certain disputes continue, particularly surrounding navigation on the Shatt al-Arab.

Mesopotamian Marshes Wetland ecoregion located in southern Iraq and partially in southwestern Iran and Kuwait

The Mesopotamian Marshes, also known as the Iraqi Marshes, are a wetland area located in Southern Iraq and partially in southwestern Iran. The marshes are primarily located on the floodplains of the Euphrates and Tigris rivers bound by the cities of Basra, Nasiriyah, Amarah and a portion of southwestern Iran. Historically the marshlands, mainly composed of the separate but adjacent Central, Hawizeh and Hammar Marshes, used to be the largest wetland ecosystem of Western Eurasia. The unique wetland landscape is home to the Marsh people, descended from the Ur, Sumer and Babylon civilisations, who have developed a unique culture tightly coupled to the landscape – harvesting reeds and rice, fishing and herding water buffalo.

Al-Qurnah is a town in southern Iraq about 74 km northwest of Basra, that lies within the conglomeration of Nahairat. Qurna is located at the confluence point of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers to form the Shatt al-Arab waterway. Local folklore holds Qurnah to have been the original site of biblical paradise, the Garden of Eden and location of the Tree of Knowledge.

Iraq–Turkey relations Bilateral relations

Iraqi–Turkish relations are foreign relations between Iraq and Turkey. From late 2011 relations between the two countries have undergone strained turbulence. The two countries share a close historical and cultural heritage.

Draining of the Mesopotamian Marshes Saddam Husseins campaigns to drain marshes and force population transfer

The draining of the Mesopotamian Marshes occurred in Iraq and to a smaller degree in Iran between the 1950s and 1990s to clear large areas of the marshes in the Tigris-Euphrates river system. Formerly covering an area of around 20,000 km2 (7,700 sq mi), the main sub-marshes, the Hawizeh, Central, and Hammar marshes and all three were drained at different times for different reasons.

Hawizeh Marshes Marshes in Iran and Iraq; UNESCO World Heritage site

The Hawizeh Marshes are a complex of marshes that straddle the Iran–Iraq border. The marshes are fed by two branches of the Tigris River in Iraq and Karkheh River in Iran. The Hawizeh marsh is critical to the survival of the Central and Hammar marshes, which also make up the Mesopotamian Marshes, because they are a refuge for species that may recolonize or reproduce in the other marshlands. The Hawizeh Marshes are drained by the Al-Kassarah. This river plays a critical role in maintaining the marshes as a flow-through system and preventing it from becoming a closed saline basin.

Water supply and sanitation in Iraq is characterized by poor water and service quality. Three decades of war, combined with limited environmental awareness, have destroyed Iraq's water resources management system. Thus, Iraq faces difficulties to realize the target of 91% of households using safe drinking water supply by 2015. Currently, 16% of households report daily problems with supply and 20% use an unsafe drinking water source. Furthermore, animal waste and septic tanks pollute the drinking water network.(11)

Lower Mesopotamia is a historical region of Mesopotamia. It's located in the alluvial plain of Iraq from the Hamrin Mountains to the Faw Peninsula near the Persian Gulf.