Located 86 km / 53 miles north-east from Adıyaman and 50 km / 31 miles from Kahta, Nemrut Dağı, a peak (2,150 m / 7,000 ft) in the Ankar Mountains which belongs to the eastern Taurus Chain, is a fascinating natural wonder. In addition to the beauty of the site, Nemrut Dağı is a unique Archaeoligical treasury.

In 1880, Karl Sester, who was a German engineer assigned to investigate transportation routes which could connect eastern Anatolia to the centre of the country and the Mediterranean harbours, learnt about gigantic statues to be found on the top of Nemrut Dağ. He informed the German Consul in İzmir who himself informed the Prussian Royal Academy of Science on the discovery of what they thought to be Assyrian monuments. In May-June 1882, archaeologist Otto Puchstein and Karl Sester carried out the first research and excavations, and at the back of the thrones of the statues, they found a long inscription in Greek language which says:
"Great King Antiochos Theos Dikaios, Epiphanes, Philoromaios and Philhellene, son of Mithridates Kallinikos and of Queen Laodice Thea Philadelphos, daughter of King Antiochos Epiphanes Philometor Kallinikos... recorded on consacrated bases in inviolate letters the works of his benevolence for eternity... I have planned to prepare this monument, secure from the ravages of times near the celestial thrones of my almighty gods, where my divinely loved soul will sleep for eternity... and that this very spot might be a witness to my piety. As you see, I have these wondrous statues erected which are really worth of gods: the statues of Zeus-Oromasdes, Apollo-Mithras-Helios-Hermes, Artagnes-Heracles-Ares and that of my fatherland, my all nurturing Commagene. Just next to the gods who listen to prayer, and carved out of the same stone, I have my own statue erected, representing me sitting enthroned, and a New Fortune, a companion of the great gods...". (Adapted from the translation by Stanley Burstein).
Puchstein deciphered that the person who had won immortality by refering to himself as an equal to the gods was Antiochos I (69-34 BC), the King of Commagene.
In 1883, a Turkish team including Osman Hamdi Bey, who was the Director of the Imperial Museum in Istanbul, made further studies on the Nemrut Dağ. From 1938, German Karl Dörner and Rudolph Neumann made excavations in the area and discovered Arsameia. In 1951, they were joined by American Theresa Goell who devoted the rest of her life to Nemrut Dağ until her death in 1985. Since then, excavation works have been carried out periodically. In July 2001, the International Nemrut Foundation in co-operation with the Ministry of Culture and Turkish Democracy Foundation started the Nemrut Project for the protection, restoration and excavation of the site.
In 1987, Nemrut Dağ has been declared by the UNESCO to be one of the Eminent Cultural Heritages of the World.

From the terraces located at the top of Nemrut, the panorama over the region is gorgeous. This fascinating scenery has an exceptional beauty especially at sunrise (for the most courageous) and at sunset, which should not be missed!
The best time to visit Nemrut Dağ is between May and early October. From the entrance of the National Park, inside which Nemrut is located, a mountain road leads to the site. From the car park to the top, it takes about 15 minutes to walk up the stony path.
The International Kahta-Commagene Festival is held every year between June 25-27.

The site:

King Antiochos I had a sanctuary built where he was venerated like a god, and where he was buried. Worshippers from all over the Commagene kingdom were expected to attend the anniversary of the king's birth on the 16th of Audnaios , and his accession to the throne on the 10th of Loos. This sanctuary is called "Hierothesion", a term peculiar to Commagene and which means either " a place hiding something sacred within it", a monumental tomb or the burial sancturay of the royal family. Due to the early death of Antiochos I, the Hierothesion could not be completed.
The Hierothesion consists of a tumulus surrounded on three sides by terraces with monumental statues.

The Tumulus, which is a mound made by heaped small stones, is placed right in the middle of the peak. It has a diameter of 150 m / 492 ft and a height of 50 m / 164 ft. Originally it was 75 m / 246 ft high, but Theresa Goell, in search of Antiochos' grave, used dynamite (!) which decreases the height considerably. Recent studies have determined that the grave chamber lies within the rock formation under the tumulus, but the exact place has not been located yet.

View of the Tumulus from the Altar on the East Terrace

East Terrace consists of the Great Altar, a four stepped square fire altar with a statue of lion on one side, facing monumental statues 8 to 10 m / 26.2 to 33 ft high which are made of limestone blocks of 3 to 5.5 tons. These statues, dressed in Persian clothes, are all represented in a sitting position on a throne. All the heads of the statues have fallen down. They wear, except for the Commagene, a Persian tiara. The faces have been idealized in the late Hellenistic style. The height of the heads are about 2m / 6.5 ft high. The statues are defined as follows from left to right:
- Apollo, the Greek God of Beauty, Light, Arts and Divination, who was the son of Zeus and Leto, is the equal of Persian God of light Mithras, Greek Sun God Helios, and Greek Messenger of the Gods, Hermes.
- Commagene, embodied by Tyche-Fortuna symbolizing luck, fate and abundance, bears a headgear of fruits. A horn of plenty stood against her right shoulder. When Nemrut was discovered, it was the only head in place but like the others it fell down.
- Zeus is the Almighty Greek God and his statue is taller than the others. His Persian couterparts are Oromasdes-Ahura Mazda "the wise ruler of the creation". His head is bearded with a tiara decorated with stars.
- Antiochos I, the famest King of Commagene, has a paternal lineage which goes back to Persian King Darius the Great, and maternal lineage which goes back to Macedonian Alexander the Great. He is shown holding a sceptre. The upper part of the tiaras of the Zeus and Antiochos statues are lost.
- Heracles, demigod son of Zeus and Alcmene, and hero symbolizing strength and bravery, is represented with his attributes, the lion pelt and club. He is the equal of the Greek God of War Ares, and the Persian one Artagnes-Verethragna.
- The Eagle is the lord of the sky and the messenger of the gods.
- The Lion, king of the animals, together with the Eagle, is the guardian and protector of the Kingdom and gods.
On the northern side of the terrace there are reliefs (orthostates) showing Antiochos' Persian ancestors starting from Darius I, and on the southern side, his Macedonian ancestors starting from Alexandre, all with their names carved on them.

Statues on the East Terrace with the Heads of
Antiochos I, Heracles and the Eagle

Inscriptions in Greek at the back
of the thrones of the statues

The North Terrace was a place of assembly during the ceremonies, connecting the East Terrace to the West Terrace. This terrace was most probably intended for the new kings of Commagene, but the bases of the stelae show that the works were left uncompleted after the death of Antiochos I.

The West Terrace, which can be reached by walking aroud the tumulus, is more damaged but the heads are in a better condition. The sequence of the statues is the same as in the East Terrace. While almost no trace has survived from the "dexiosis reliefs" also called "handshake reliefs" on the East Terrace, here the series of reliefs showing Antiochos shaking hands with Commagene, Antiochos shaking hands with Apollo, Antiochos shaking hands with Zeus, Antiochos shaking hands with Heracles are well preserved. Handshake was an important part of the Persian ritual. Due to the topography of the mountain on this slope, the reliefs of the Persian ancestors stand on the southern side while the Macedonian ancestors are set opposite the statues.
The dexiosis reliefs are followed by the Horoscope Lion stela (which is under restoration at the present time). This 2.40 m / 7.9 ft long and 1.75 m / 5.75 ft high relief represents a lion with sixteen stars and eight beams on the body, and above it, three larger stars with sixteen beams. The inscriptions identify these stars as Jupiter, Mercury and Mars, the planets of Zeus-Oromasdes, Apollo-Mithras and Heracles-Artagnes-Ares. The crescent moon around the lion's neck symbolizes Commagene. This horoscope, which is thought to be related to the foundation of the sanctuary, is considered to be the first known horoscope. It discribes the position of these planets on July 7, 62 BC, a date that corresponds to the rise of the Star Regulus, the Star of the King. Thus King-star Antiochos I took his celestial place among the Gods.

Monumental heads of Apollo, Commagene, Zeus,
Antiochos I, Heracles and the Eagle

Lion with the Horoscope

Monumental head of Apollo

Monumental head of Commagene

Monumental head of Heracles

Monumental head of Zeus

Monumental heads of Antiochos (left) and Zeus (Est Terrace)

Other places to visit in the region of Nemrut Dağ:

Arsameia ad Nymphaios
spreads on two hilltops known as Eski Kale (Old Fortress) and Yeni Kale (New Fortress) separated by the Nymphaios River (Kahta Çayı). In 1951, Karl Dörner brought Arsameia to light with the discovery of inscriptions written in Greek where Antiochos I gives information about the city. His ancestor, Arsames, in the beginning of the 2C BC founded Arsameia, and used the place as a summer residence. In 80 BC, Mithridates I Kallinikos, the father of Antiochos I, had his monumental tomb built here. Changing its name into Arsameia on the Nymphaios to distinguish it from Arsameia on the Euphrates (see below), Antiochos I transformed the site which corresponds to Eski Kale, into a holy burial sanctuary (hierothesion) with cult buildings and monuments. All along the processional way inscriptions, caves and reliefs can be found such as:
- A 4.4 m / 14.4 ft high relief which is broken into two pieces. The remaining half represents the sun god Mithras-Helios with his beamed tiara, who was shaking hands (dexiosis) either with Antiochos or Mithridates. The relief was placed here in order to greet the guests coming to attend cult ceremonies.
- The domed room engraved into the rock is followed by a stepped tunnel ending 6 m / 19.7 ft below with an underground chamber whose function was related to the Mithras cult.

Mithras-Helios - dexiosis

Relief of Mithridates I with
cult inscription
- The broken reliefs depicting Antiochos I (on the right) and his father Mithridates I, stand in front of the entrance of the domed room. The relief of Mithridates I Kallinikos bears a well preserved cult inscription on the back.
- The tunnel, which becomes wider as it goes down reaching a depth of 158 m / 518 ft, leads to a 3 x 2 m / 9.9 ft x 6.6 ft. underground chamber. Above the entrance of the tunnel is a long inscription in Greek which deals with Arsameia on the Numphaios, starting from its foundation to the topography, the additions and restorations made by Antiochos and the tomb of Mithridates I Kallinikos.
- On the left of the entrance of the tunnel stands the outstanding Hellenistic style relief showing Antiochos I shaking hands with Heracles. This 3.30 x 1.80 m / 10.8 x 5.9 ft relief was carved out of the same limestone block as the wall inscription. The king, shown in a three quarter view, wears a fine Persian ceramonial costume consisting of trousers tucked into his shoes, a skirt gathered up with a cord in the manner of people accustomed to ride, a thin leather chest armour with geometrical designs over his shirt, a cloak fixed with a fibula, bracelets on his wrists, a sacrificial knife whose sheath is decorated with five lion heads and a tiara with the patterns of leaves, feathers and a lion. He holds a long sceptre in his left hand. On the contrary, thick and curly bearded Heracles, shown frontally, is idealized in the Greek style. He is represented nude holding the lion pelt and club.

Antiochos I shaking hands with Heracles

Entrance of tunnel with cult inscription above

- The processional way ends on top of the hill where a 7 m / 23 ft wide stairway open onto a platform. Here were the tomb-sanctuary, similar to the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus, and palace of Mithridates I. The heads of the statues of Antiochos I and his mother Laodice found here have been taken to Gaziantep Museum. Only the mosaic pavements of two large ceremony halls and ruins of a two storied building have survived. According to a late 12th century manuscript, the stones of these beautiful monuments were reused after 1166 in the enlargement of Mar Barsauma Monastery by Michael I who made it the new Syriac-Jacobite Patriarchal See (the remains of the church with three apses are located in the vicinity of Gerger).

Yeni Kale (New Fortress) is located near Kocahisar Village (Eski Kahta) and is separated from Eski Kale by the Nymphaios river (Kahta çayı).
According to an inscription on the walls at Eski Kale, it has been stated that the part of Arsameia located on the hilltop of Yeni Kale was also surrounded by walls. However no ruins from this period have remained. From the 12th century, the place was occupied in turn by the Artukids and the Seljuks of Rum. In the 13th century, the Mamelukes built the imposing fortress which was considered as one of the most powerful medieval construction in the region. It consists of an outer fortress and an inner fortress inside which are the ruins of two cisterns, a mosque, a hammam and a palace with a series of rooms and a hall. Under the pigeon house (pigeon post was one of the means of communications used by the Mamelukes), an underground passage beginning at the bottom of the cliff connects the fortress to the opposite bank of the river.
Cendere Bridge spans the ancient Chabinas river (Cendere çayı) at a point where it emerges from an impressive gorge and flows into the wide valley of the Kahta (Nymphaios) river of which it is an affluent. This bridge in perfect condition bears Latin inscriptions which indicate that it was built between 198 and 200 AD by the "legio XVI Flavia firma" (XVI Roman Legion) stationed at Samosata (Samsat) in place of a former bridge built under Vespasian (69-79 AD). A pair of columns were erected on both ends of the bridge. Inscriptions on the first pair mention that the columns were erected in the honour of Roman Emperor Septimus Severus (193-211) and his wife Julia Domna who was given the title Mater Kastrorum (Mother of the Soldiers). The other pair was dedicated to their two sons Geta and Marcus Aurelius Severus Antoninus. When the latter reigned as Emperor Caracalla (211-217), he had his brother killed and everything related to him disappeared. Thus he had the fourth column of the bridge removed.
The bridge is 120 m / 394 ft long and the width of the single vault is 35 m / 115 ft. The stone blocks laid as stairs serve as parapet.
Karakuş Tumulus, located 12 km / 7.5 miles from Kahta, was the burial sanctuary (hierothesion) of Mithridates II’s mother Isias, his sister Antiochis and his niece Aka. The tumulus was originally surrounded by groups of three Doric columns, some of which have survived. Each column was about 9 m / 29.5 ft high and was topped with steles, reliefs, statues of a bull, lion and eagle. From the group on the east side, only one column has survived: it is topped with a 2.54 m/ 8.3 ft high statue of an eagle which gave its name to the place (in Turkish karakuş means a black bird). From another group, two colums have remained standing. An inscription in Greek on the uppermost plinth and drum of the column which was in the middle, gives us information about this burial sanctuary. On top, it bears traces of a relief. On top of the other column stands a bull whose head has not survived. From the last group, only one column is still standing with a stele on top of it. It depicted a handshake scene (dexiosis) between Mithridates II (31-20 BC) and his sister Laodice.
The height of the tumulus is 21 m / 69 ft. The grave chamber, located inside, was plundered during the Roman period and the stone blocks were most probably reused in the construction of the first Cendere Bridge.

Samosata (Samsat), is located near the town of Yeni Samsat. The capital of the Commagene Kingdom was founded by Samos II in about 100 BC at the point where the trade routes between the East and the West crossed the Euphrates River. Under Antiochos I, a castle was built atop the hill. After Commagene was annexed by Rome, the "legio XVI Flavia firma" (XVI Roman Legion) was stationed in the city. Samosata is the birthplace of the Roman satirist Lucian (125-192) famous for his "True Story". Later, the place came in turn under Byzantine, Arab and Seljuk domination.
Because of its close location to the Euphrates, the site is now mostly submerged under the waters of the Atatürk Dam, south of Kahta. On top of the hill ruins dating from the Middle Age can be seen.

Arsameia on the Euphrates, today called Gerger Kalesi (Gerger Fortress), was founded by Arsames upon rocks overlooking the Euphrates River which constituted the natural border of the eastern part of the Commagene Kingdom. In the upper part of the site, originally stood the temple of Argandene who was a local goddess. Later, it became a sacred burial sanctuary (hierothesion), where a 4 x 2,70 m / 13 x 8.9 ft relief was engraved on the rock surface. Inscriptions mention that the relief was made on the order of Antiochos I for his grand-father, king Samos II. The relief, which shows Samos (Sames)looking in the direction of Mount Nemrut, was meant to be seen from the distance.
The lower part of Gerger Kalesi is formed by a medieval fortress.

The Necropolis of Pirin (Perre) is located 5 km / 3 miles north of Adiyaman. The remains of a Roman city and caves with 208 tombs carved into the rock can be seen.

<The Archaeological and Ethnographical Museum of Adiyaman completes the visit of the region.
Some objects and architectural fragments related with the Commagene Kingdom are also on display at the Gaziantep Archaeological Museum (Dexiosis Relief of Antiochos I shaking hands with Apollo from the cult site located at Sofraz Köy) and at the Ankara Anatolian Civilization Museum.



The Atatürk Barajı (dam), built on the Euphrates 40 km / 25 miles from Adiyaman, is the centerpiece of the Southern Anatolian development project called GAP. It ranks 4th among the world’s largest dams. The lake which has been formed, is becoming an important tourism center.

International Atatürk Dam Sailing Competition takes place every year in October on the lake.