The name Euphrates may have originated from Old Persian Ufratu, as it were from Avestan *hu-perethuua, meaning “good to cross over” (from hu-, meaning “good”, and peretu, meaning “ford”).
The river is approximately 2,780 kilometers (1,730 miles) long. It is formed by the union of two branches, the Kara (the western Euphrates), which rises in the Armenian highlands of today’s eastern Turkey north of Erzurum and the Murat (the eastern Euphrates), which issues from an area southwest of Mount Ararat, north of Lake Van. The upper reaches of the Euphrates flow through steep canyons and gorges, southeast across Syria, and through Iraq. The Khabur and the Balikh River join the Euphrates in eastern Syria.
The Euphrates provided the water that led to the first flowering of civilisation in Sumeria, dating from about the 4th millennium BC. Many important ancient cities were located on or near the riverside, including Mari, Sippar, Nippur, Shuruppak, Uruk, Ur and Eridu. The river valley formed the heartlands of the later empires of Babylonia and Assyria. For several centuries, the river formed the eastern limit of effective Egyptian and Roman control and western regions of the Persian Empire.