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Titular see of Birtha

Ecclesial territory near Euphrates River

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Birtha, a titular see of Osrhaene, probably identical with Birejik (Zegma) on the left bank of the Euphrates, c. 62 miles west of Orfa (Edessa), and 95 miles north of Aleppo. Birtha (Aramaean, Birtha “castle”) is spoken of as a castle by ancient authors (Hierocles, 715, 2). There was also a see called by the Greeks Macedonopolis, the foundation of the city being attributed by legend to Alexander the Great (Amm. Marcell., XX, vii, 17). That Macedonopolis and Birtha are one see is proved by the subscriptions at the Council of Nica, where we see that Bjrt’ in both Syriac and Arabic lists corresponds with Macedonopolis in Greek and Latin lists (Gelzer, Patrum Nicaenorum nomina, 242). The true name of the bishop present at the council is Mareas, not Marcus. Daniel, Bishop of Macedonopolis, is said to have been present at the Council of Chalcedon (451). From the sixth century only the name Birtha survives (Georgius Cyprius, n. 899). Emperor Anastasius, after his victories over the Persians in 505, entrusted Sergius, Bishop of Births, with the work of repairing the city (Wright, ed., The Chronicle of Joshua the Stylite, XCI, lxxi), an undertaking that was completed by Justinian (Procop., De a ific. Just., II, 4). The oldest “Tacticon’l of the Patriarchate of Antioch, issued under Anastasius I (599) places Birtha first among the suffragan sees of Edessa (Kerameus, ed., Anekdota Hell?nika, lxv); the name is written Burt? in a later redaction (ibid., lxix), and Virchi in an old Latin translation (Tobler and Molinier, Itinera Hierosolymitana, I, 322). Birtha was destroyed by Timour-Leng in the fourteenth century. Birejik is today the chief town of a caza in the vilayet of Aleppo with 10,000 inhabitants, including 1,500 Christians, all Armenians, one-half of whom are Catholics.

Ptolemy (V, xviii, xix) speaks of a fortress Birtha on the Tigris in Southern Mesopotamia and of another in Arabia on the Euphrates below Thapsacus. The site of the first is unknown, the latter is at Ed-Deir (Ritter, Erdkunde, XI, 691), but perhaps both are the same as Birtha or Macedonopolis.

L. PETIT


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