At the junction of the East and West civilisations, Nemrut Dagi (Mount Nemrut) is one of the most astounding sites in Turkey: A collection of colossal statues on a remote mountain 2150m high, adorning the temple and tomb of King Antiochus. Unknown until 1881 when an Ottoman geologist discovered these 10 metre-high stone heads, archaeological work began in 1953 to uncover their history. Nemrut Dağı has since been a significant attraction, with thousands sunrise and sunset visitors to see the stones in the best possible light. It has been designated a World Cultural Heritage site by UNESCO, and is one of the most important National Parks in the country. In addition to the statues, the entire site includes art from the Commagene civilisation, the Eskikale (Old Castle), Yenikale (New Castle), Karakus Hill and Cendere Bridge. Most people use the nearby towns of Malatya, Kahta or Adıyaman as a base, and the road to the summit is only open from mid-April to mid-October because of heavy snow the rest of the year. History Lying between the Seleucid and the Parthian Empires from 250 BC, this area has had a strategic location, and has benefited from a rich and fertile land, and a succession of independent thinking rulers. Breaking away from the Seleucid Empire, Mithridates I Callinicus founded the independent Commagene Kingdom in 109 BC, and set up his capital in Arsameia. He was the son of a prince, and claims ancestry with Alexander the Great and Darius the Great, King of Persia. The Commagene Kingdom was a powerful one, priding itself on having religions, culture and traditions of the Greek and Persian cultures blended into one. He died in 64 BC, and was succeeded by his son Antiochus I Epiphanes, who showed his ability early on as a statesman by declaring a non-aggression treaty with the Romans. After a financially and politically successful start to his rule, Antiochus deemed himself worthy of god-like status, and ordered the building of a temple and funerary mound in his honour. Its size and location was a reflection of his ego and thoughts of his immortality, and he declared that when he died his spirit would join the god Zeus in heaven. But the huge statues of Antiochus and the gods are all that remain of his reign, as his short-lived rule ended in 38 BC after he sided with the Parthians and fell out with the Romans, who later deposed him. The Commagene Kingdom was then taken over by the Romans. Antiochus and his statues were all but forgotten for centuries until Karl Puchstein, a German engineer, stumbled across them whilst surveying the site in 1881. Two years later he returned with Karl Humann for a closer inspection, but is was not until 1953 that a team of American archaeologists returned and did a thorough survey. Since then, the site has been one of the most popular attractions in Turkey, despite its remote location Climate For visitors hiking to the top of Nemrut Dagi, the top of the mountain gets very cold at sunrise and sunset, even in summer. The higher land is snow covered for nearly half the year. Otherwise, the summer daytime temperature of the plains is extremely hot and dry reaching over 30 degrees, with winters cold and wet and plummeting well below freezing point. Where to Visit Mount Nemrut Tumulus The entire site lies between the villages of Sincik, Tepehan, Gerger and Eski Kahta, and the whole area has many different points of interest. Beyond the entrance to the site is a 50m high tumulus with a diameter of 150m made up of small rocks, which dates back to the 1st century BC. The Commagene King Antiochus I constructed this magnificent monument for himself; a grave chamber and holy areas surrounding it on three sides giving perfect views of the sunrise and sunset, as well as panoramic views of hundreds of kilometres. He purposely selected such a high peak in order to gain the maximum impact.
It is surrounded by three terraces, on which ceremonies were organised in memory of the late King. The east and west terraces have a similar layout, with statues of the seated gods.
Eastern Terrace Antiochus put his own statue within the row of gods, displaying his assumption of being equal with his ‘ancestors’. The others are Apollo, son of the leader of the gods; Fortuna, meaning luck or abundance in Latin; Zeus in the centre, leader of the gods and ruler of the sky; King Antiochus himself; and Hercules, the symbol of power and might. The lion is at the end of each, that the king of animals and symbolising the power in the world, and the eagle, which is the messenger of gods and represents celestial power. Each of them is several metres high, the heads alone measuring two metres. The figures are mainly decapitated, having been damaged by earthquakes, and lying rather eerily on the ground are the heads and fragments of the lion and eagle. North Terrace It is a 10 meters long ceremonial road which connects west and east terraces. There are 80 meters long uncompleted steel pedestals.
Western Terrace The gallery of the gods is similar to that on the eastern terrace, but the main difference being five sandstone reliefs. These have been well preserved and depict Antiochus shaking hands with Apollo, Zeus and Hercules, as befitting his rather over-inflated ego. The names of the gods are written in both Greek and Persian, mainly because of his claims of being descended from Alexander the Great (Greek/Macedonian), and Darius the Great (King of ancient Persia). He positioned the faces of the gods to the west and east, in order to unite the ethnic difference of his ancestors and enhance its cultural richness. Kommagene Pieces Of Arts
Arsameia Ruins (Nymphaios Arsameia) According to inscriptions by Antiochus, Arsameia was the summer capital and administrative centre of the Kingdom, founded at the beginning of the 2nd century BC by Arsemez, a descendent of Kommadenes. An embossed pillar of Mitras is at the ceremonial road at the south, and an undamaged relief of Mithridates I shaking hands with Heracles. In front of this is the largest known Greek inscription in Anatolia, and to the right is a tunnel descending to a depth of 158m through the rock. On the platform over the hill is a monument and palace of Mithridates I, the foundations of the capital, and excavations revealed numerous statue remains including a queen and the head of Antiochus. New Castle Near the village of Kocahisar (Eski Kahta), Yeni Kale was constructed by the Commagenes and used alongside Arsameia, opposite. The castle, which was restored by the Romans and then the Mamluks, had its most recent renovations in the 1970s. Within the site are a bazaar, mosque, dungeon, aqueducts, dovecote ruins and various inscriptions. The aqueduct, which descends from the castle to Nymphois, is connected to Arsameia via a tunnel, with water reachable via this 80m route.
Karakuş Tumulus (Women Monument) This 35m high monument was constructed by Mithridates II, as a memorial to his mother Isas. Situated 10km north of Kahta at the entrance to Nemrut Dagi, it was created to hold the royal ladies of Commagene. Four columns surround the site, each around 10m high, and surmounted by the large figures of an eagle and a lion. Cendere Bridge Northeast of Karakus tumulus, this surviving Roman bridge spans the Kahta river in one single arch at its narrowest point and contains 92 course cut stones each weighing around 10 tons. There are a total of three columns at the entrance and exit of the bridge, around 10m high. It was constructed in early 200 AD by the 16th Roman Legion, which established its headquarters in Samsat further south. According to inscriptions the Roman ruler Septumus Severus built it in the name of his wife, Julia Domna.