Updated: Nov 20, 2019
In the province Adıyaman, a remarkable treasure lays nestled in the eastern Taurus Mountains. This ancient wonder is found on Mount Nemrut and is a testament to the Kingdom of Commagene and their most famous king, Antiochus I. Mount Nemrut is a funerary mound with numerous statues of Persian, Armenian, and Greek gods to appease the people of his ethnically diverse kingdom and secure dynastic authority.
King Antiochus I called Mount Nemrut hierothesion, or the ‘common dwelling place of all the gods next to their heavenly thrones.’ Based on the inscriptions on the bottom of each statue, archaeologists were able to identify most of the statues. The most prominent ones are of Antiochus himself, Zeus-Oromasdes, Apollo-Mithras-Helios-Hermes and Ares-Artagnes-Hercules. The Commagenians began adopting Hellenistic religious rituals so the presence of Hellenistic deities like Zeus, Apollo, and Ares reinforced this aspect of their culture. Simultaneously, the presence of Zoroastrian deities like Mithras and Oromasdes are together with their Hellenistic counterparts. This mix of gods served as a symbolic marriage between Eastern and Western religious practices.
The deities are an impressive sight and because Mount Nemrut is 2,100 meters high, the view of the Taurus Mountains provides an incredibly scenic background. There are five gods on both the eastern and western sides facing outward from the tumulus with guardian animal statues flanking both sides, a lion on one end and an eagle on the other end. The tomb itself was built in 62 BC and was a pyramid shaped mound of stone that was approximately 145 meters wide and 50 meters high. Just looking at the sheer size of the structure and all of the stone that it was built with, one can’t help but appreciate how much labor it must have taken to build such an immense monument on this mountain.
Antiochus’ funerary mound was forgotten for centuries until it was re-discovered by a German archaeologist in 1883. Mount Nemrut was named a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1987 so that its artifacts and legacy will be protected for years to come. The cultural assimilation of deities depicted in this structure is incomparable to any other monument from this time period. Although it is only open from May to October, it is the perfect destination for visitors to begin their trip to Adıyaman. Mount Nemrut serves as an ideal landmark for amateur historians, hikers, and everyone in between.