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
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
to himself as an equal to the gods was
I (69-34 BC), the King of Commagene.
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.
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.
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
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
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
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.
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 HoroscopeLion 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
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
- 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
- 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
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
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).
Kale (New Fortress) is located near
Kocahisar Village (Eski Kahta) and is separated
from Eski Kale by the Nymphaios river (Kahta
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
the 13th century,
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
mosque, a hammam and a
palace with a series of rooms and a hall.
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.
Bridge spans the ancient
a point where it emerges from an impressive
gorge and flows into the wide valley of
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"
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
(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
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.
Tumulus, located 12 km / 7.5 miles from
Kahta, was the burial sanctuary (hierothesion)
Mithridates IIs 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.
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.
(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,
XVI Flavia firma"
stationed in the city.
Samosata is the birthplace of the Roman satirist
Lucian (125-192) famous
for his "True Story". Later, the place
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.
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
the upper part of the site,
originally stood the temple
who was a local
goddess. Later, it became a sacred burial sanctuary
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
The relief, which
shows Samos (Sames)looking
in the direction of Mount Nemrut, was meant to
be seen from the distance. Thelower partofGerger
Kalesi is formed by a medieval
The Necropolisof 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.
Archaeological and EthnographicalMuseum
ofAdiyaman 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 DAM
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 worlds largest dams.
The lake which has been formed, is becoming
an important tourism center.
Atatürk Dam Sailing Competition takes place
every year in October on the lake.