Mount Nemrut – A Magical Place
Mount Nemrut is a 2206 m (7237 ft.) high mountain, located in the Adiyaman Province in Southeastern Anatolia, Turkey, which is only accessible during the summer months, while the rest of the year the mountain is covered by ice and snow.
It is an impressive moment, when the sunrise begins on Mount Nemrut, when slowly spreads the first light across the fascinating landscape of mountains, then shining to the eastern terrace of the tomb sanctuary and the original stone heads of King Antiochos, Zeus and other gods figures from the Kommagene time in the 1st century BC.
It is amazing to be at this magical place, where 2000 years ago the people of Kommagene paid homage to their gods with cult celebrations at a fire altar.
Under the reign of King Antiochos I. Theos of Kommagene (86-38 BC) a tomb sanctuary with huge statues (8-9 m, 26-29 ft) was built on top of the mountain. Once seated, now the heads of the king (he called himself also Theos = God) and various Greek and Persian gods are standing more down.
King Antiochos, who was many times successful in the war against the Romans, wanted, that the sanctuary is the centre of his new religion.
Because of a mixed population in his country, he united the beliefs of the Persian Parthian with the Greek and Roman world. He thought, that from the top of Mount Nemrud his new religion would radiate all over the world.
The Holy Law of Antiochos is written behind the statue of Zeus:
“Whoever in the course of time takes over this reign as king or leader,
may he, if he respects this law and our honor,
enjoy through my intercession the grace of all deified ancestors and the gods … ”
(King Antiochos 50 BC)
To built the 3 terraces (eastern, western and northern) and the burial mound (Tumulus), the builders removed almost the whole mountains top and filled it up with small sharp stones.
To build the 50 metres high Tumulus with a diameter of 150 metres must have been an enormous undertaking. The last priest of Kommagene probably left the tomb sanctuary in the year 72 AD, after the rebelling King Antiochos IV had lost the war against the Roman Empire.
For almost 2000 years the tomb sanctuary, where 3 kings of Kommagene are buried, became a forgotton place. The christian population, which lived later in this region, knew nothing about the origins of the sanctuary and they thought, that it was connected with the legendary Nimrod from the Old Testament (see Urfa). Therefore they called the mountain: “Nemrud” or “Nemrut”. The sanctuary was dicovered in 1881 by the German railway engineer Karl Sester. After his discovery, the Turkish Ottoman archeologist Hamdi Bey began the first excavations on the mountain.
But until today all excavations have failed to reveal the tomb of Antiochos. In 1987 Mount Nemrud became a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.
The antique city of Arsameia near Eski Kahta was the summer residence palace of Kommagene Kings in 1st century BC. There is the grave of King Mithridates Kallinikos (69-62 BC), various cult places and reliefs.