Fast Facts

  • Location: northeast of Kahta, near Adiayaman and south of Malatya, SE Turkey
  • Attraction Type: Archaeological Site
  • Significance: Ancient Tomb, Tumulus, Greek and Persian ruins
  • Best Time to visit: It is best to avoid the months between July and September because the temperature can soar up to 45 ºC. The months between November and March are the best time to visit.
  • How to Reach: Travel to Adiayaman by plane, and take a special tour to Kahta. From there travel to Mount Nemrut
  • Nearest Airport: Adiyaman Airport

Quietly hidden behind the lures of the public eye, history preserved itself on the picturesque peak of Nemrut Dagi in Turkey for close to two millennia. As you ascend this 2134 m mount to reach the top, you are greeted with an absolute proliferation of statues and heads, friezes and relief dating back to the 1st century BC, in states of ruin and decapitation. Somehow, these heaps of broken images appear to dovetail better with the stark background of the Mount Nemrut than complete statues in states of magnificent upkeep would have been.

Keeping in mind the historical and cultural value of the site, large scale preservation is now afoot in the region. The entire region is now part of the heavily protected Nemrut Dagi National Park.

History of Nemrut Dagi
The exact history of the Nemrut Dagi statues is yet unknown, and it is yet unknown whether it will be ever known. The site remained obscured from the view of the world until the end of the 19th century when historians found it with the help of local farmers. The site remained like that for many years, ever since sunk into oblivion in the 1st century AD, from the dissolution of the Commagene Empire.

Statues of Nemrut Dagi
The tomb on Mount Nemrut was built by King Antiochus I, Theos of Commagene. The kingdom of Commagene was situated on the border of the Seleucid Empire and the Parthian Empire. However, the Seleucid Empire was completely weakened by the end of 80 BC, and Commagene was fast in declaring its independence. Mithridates I, a Roman ally proclaimed himself the king of Commagene and also created his capital in Armenia. He was succeeded by his son Antiochus I Epiphanes who set up his kingdom and ruled for 26 years. He was ruled by Rome until the empire became completely incorporated within the Roman Empire in 72 AD. It was Antiochus I Epiphanes who built his tomb atop the picturesque Nemrut Mount.

The statues of Nemrut Dagi exhibit a high extent of syncretism. There are mythological and hieratic statues that have Greek, Roman as well as Persian and Armenian origins. There are two sets along which the statues are distributed — the tomb of the King Antiochus and the tumulus.

The tomb presented King Antioch seated flanked by lions, eagles and other beasts. There is a number of divinities of Greek, Armenian and Persian origins, although most of them are in a state of ruin. Heads lay scattered all over the region. The reason for this demolition is yet unknown, while a theory strongly states that an earthquake, quite common to this region, is the result of the decapitation of most of the statues, there are also clear signs of intentional defacing and iconoclasm, particularly in the broken noses of the various statues. There are statures of Appollo-Mithra, Zeus-Armazda (Ahura Mazda of Persian origin) and the fertility divinity of Tyche among the ruins. The statues were once seated, with the names of the respective god or goddess inscribed in stone. However, since their destruction, they have not been restored to their original state.

A similar group of divinities is also found around the 50 ft. tumulus of King Antioch. It represents the ancestors of Antioch, as well as the king himself, in close communion with the gods and the divinities. The figures wear traditional Persian dresses, although the features betray a Greek origin. It is inferred that originally this was a part of a frieze. There are numerous astrological and astronomical references in the slabs.

Astrological Symbols in Nemrut Dagi
The Lion of Antioch frieze is of singular importance. It represents a lion in a regal posture. There the entire frieze or what remains of it, is full of symbols of astronomical and esoteric worth. There is a crescent moon around the neck of the lion, and three planets are shown right behind it, representing Mars, Mercury, and Venus. Using the Skyglobe software, theorists have come to the conclusion that the data represented is the 6th of July in 67 or 68 BC. The exact significance of this date, however, remains a matter of conjecture. What is clear is that it represents a coronation of some sort: either the coronation of the king by the Roman Pompeii as the ruling chief of the region or some kind of esoteric coronation declaring him to be the monarch of the Armenian Persian region of the Roman Empire.

Accommodation in Nemrut Dagi National Park
Nemrut Dagi is steadily developing into one of the most popular tourist and heritage sites in Turkey. As a result, quite a few hotels and guest houses have come into the region over the last few months. Some of the most popular hotels in the region include Cesme Pension ve Lokantasi, Gunes Hotel, hotel Camp Tour and Hotel Euphrat. Camping in Nemrut Dagi is also a very popular activity. Some of the popular camping opportunities include Damlacik Garden Camping and Arsemia Kafeterya and Kamping.

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