Mount Nemrut


Mount Nemrut, also known as Nemrut Dagi is a 2134 metre high mountain in the south-east of Turkey.  The peak is amidst the Anti-Taurus Range, between the provincial capital of Malatya and Kahta. Southeastern Turkey is less frequented by tourists, most visitors flock to the sandy beaches of Izmir or sail on Blue Cruise along the Turquoise Coast,  however Mount Nemrut offers a fantastic opportunity to see an alternative side of this incredible country. The mountain is notable for its vast range of statues at a 1st-century tomb on its summit. These mysterious statues have become a symbol of Turkey, and when combined with the stunning scenery, make for a mystical visit.

From 250 BC Mt Nemrut lay between two regions, the Seleucid Empire and the Parthian Empire. It was a rich and fertile area, with a history of independent thinking. In 80 BC the Seleucid Empire was in disarray and Roman power spread into the region, with a Roman alley Mithridates I Callinicus declaring himself King of the region. In 64 BC he passed away, leaving the kingdom to Anticohus I Theos of Commagene as King. In 62 BC this King ordered the building of these temples and funerary mound on top of Mount Nemrut.

The summit was then created by cutting two ledges in the rock. These ledges were then filled with statues of gods and himself, before an artificial mountain peak of crushed rock, 50 metres high was piled around them. The statues included; two lions, two eagles and various Greek, Armenian and Persian gods, such as Hercules-Vahagn, Zeus-Aramazd, Tyche and Apollo-Mithras. These statues are thought to have been originally seated, with their names inscribed on each statue. Unfortunately, a combination of earthquakes and deliberate damage has left the heads and noses notably damaged. With most of the heads detached from the bodies, lying on the ground, around 2 metres in height. There are two terraces on the summit, the western and eastern terrace.

Nothing was known about Mount Nemrut until 1881, when Karl Sester, an engineer from Germany came across the statues when assessing the mountain for possible new transport routes. Archaeological work only began on the site in 1953. In 1987 the site was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.

It is thought that the tombs of King Anticohus I Theos of Commagene and three female relatives are concealed somewhere inside the burial mound, but nobody knows for sure.

The summit includes a combined tomb and temple. There is a man-made burial mound, surrounded by three spectacular terraces, the North, East and West. The site was to be approached by a ceremonial road and it is believed he constructed this extravagance to prove his faith in the gods, therefore resulting in his spirit joining the gods in heaven.

The north terrace is 80 metres long and lined with collapsed columns, which possibly served as a place for assembly or an arena for processions and rituals.

The eastern terrace has the best-preserved statues, composed of layers of rock. There is evidence of a walled pathway, which would have linked the eastern and western terraces from a path below the foot of Mount Nemrut. Either side of this terrace has statues of the king's ancestors, with paternal facing the north and maternal facing the south, both framing the figures of the gods. The bodies of these statues are largely intact, except for the badly weathered heads. There are Greek inscriptions on the back of the statues here.

The western terrace is around 10 metres lower than the eastern terrace and very similar, with the colossal statues in better condition. There is a temple, with a conical funerary mound of fist-sized stoned behind it. The statues sit in state, with most missing their heads and the bodies are partly crumbled.

The first sight on the ascent to Mount Nemrut is Karakus Tumulus. Similar to the terrace arrangement of the summit, there is an artificial burial mound, built in 36 BC. The mound is 49 metres tall and 152 metres in diameter. There are a handful of columns, which circle the mound. The same statues can be found throughout the Tumulus site as at the summit. The statues also have a likeness of Greek facial features, with Persian clothing and hairstyling. The western terrace has a large lion statue, showing the arrangement of the planets Jupiter, Mercury and Mars on the 7th of July 62 BC, the possible date the site was constructed. An eagle tops another column, with a third having an inscription slab explaining that the burial mound contains the bodies of female relatives of the late king.

Around 10 kilometres from Karakus Tumulus there is a bridge crossing the Cendere River. To the left of the modern Cendere Bridge lays a superb humpback Roman bridge, built in the 2nd century AD.  The bridge was built in honour of the Emperor Septimius Severus, his wife and sons. Three of the four original columns remain standing. 

Destinations in Mount Nemrut

Ruins of Arsemia Roman Bridge of Cendere Tumulus Tombs of Karakus

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