The gigantic monuments of Mount Nemrut are some of the most magnificent things that you’ll find anywhere in the world. Giant heads were built during 1st century B.C. under the Commagene Kingdom. These massive sculptures are one of a kind and they weigh at about 6 tons and they are almost ten meters long.
But where do these mysterious heads come from? What is the Commagene Kingdom? Who was King Antiochus I Theos? Why were they built? Is there any purpose behind them? And why were they erected at this specific spot? It’s one of the few examples in history where we have the remnants of the history and not the memory, so we will set the record correct and find out the history of this land all over again.
What exactly was the Commagene Kingdom?
The Commagene Kingdom was an ancient Armenian one and it was right between Rome and Persian. Moreover,it served as a buffer state in between these two empires. In fact, the kings of Commagene claimed ancestry from Darius I Persia. They were somehow related to the Persians.
Its capital was Samosata and nothing remained from that city. Today we know tiny little information about the place. The valley at the bottom of Mount Nemrut might have been the location for the city. As you can see, even the known history of the kingdom is a little shrouded in history, but it’s reckoned that the kingdom remained relatively independent until 17 AD, when it was conquered by the Roman emperor Tiberius. It regained independence for a couple decades before being incorporated in the Roman Empire once and for all in 72 AD by the emperor Vespasian.
The kings of the kingdom must have been super powerful and wealthy. One can get into this conclusion by looking at the sculptures.
What about the sculptures?
The sculptures were built by King Antiochus I Theos of Commagene as a tomb-sanctuary for himself. The sculptures are of himself, two lions, two eagles and various Greek, Armenian, and Medes gods, such as Zeus-Aramazd or Oromasdes (associated with Zoroastrian god Ahura Mazda), Hercules-Vahagn, Tyche-Bakht, and Apollo-Mihr-Mithras.
The sculptures themselves show the “East meets West” nature of the kingdom, as the facial features are Greek but the clothing they’re wearing is decidedly more Eastern. They are no longer standing in their original positions, but the scattered effect of the sculpture’s current positions is almost more jarring than if they were neatly in a row as they almost certainly were originally intended.
The site as a whole is massive, with a 49-meter-tall tumulus on site (mound of earth and stones raised over tombs).
Where exactly is this place?
Adiyaman and Malatya are two nearest neighbouring big cities to Mount Nemrut. If you want to see a spectacular sunrise and sunset, Mount Nemrut is definitely a must see since the massive sculptures are bathed in the dawn’s red light, reflect over the marvel of history and the passing empires over these lands. This place has a lot to tell you.
You can either drive there by car, which is the best option, or you can join a tour bus. There are also shared taxis that are called “Dolmuşes” and they will take you all the way to Mount Nemrut.