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Travel: Mount Nemrut, Commagene Southeast Turkey, Oct 14th/2022

Part 2 of a trip to Southeast Turkey and Cappadocia which started on Oct 12th (Part 1)



Departing Sanli-Urfa


On the way to Mt . Nemrut

The long 3.5 hours drive North of Sanli-_Urfa ( first place stayed in) through the Anatolia's regenerated agricultural plain, started as early as 7:30am and was interrupted by 2 stops and cruising across 2 periphery towns, subjected to a "steroid" development rise.


The Course of the Trip




First Stop by the Euphrates (Perat)

As I heard about this legendary river since my school days, at geography and history classes, I was excited to finally witness this miraculous water source which has facilitated life and rise to so many important empires, throughout the course of history, and which control over its destiny, has been the cause of endless disputes between rivals till present times.



It is the longest and one of the most historically important rivers of Western Asia. Together with the Tigris, (Hidekel) it is one of the 2 defining rivers of Mesopotamia -the "Land Between the Rivers" - the Fertile Crest



So it was uplifting to stop on one of the highway's many bridges (and another just in the process of being built) over the great river, at its upper basin, and watch the tranquil flow of the amazingly clean clear water.

Along the way, bluish body mass of the 3rd largest lake, which was created by the

Southeastern Anatolia Project (GAP) could be seen. There are 22 GAP related lakes




Adiyman Province



The 2 emerging regional towns, in Adıyaman Province, the bus passed through were

- Adiyaman and Kahta (see map) in which just few years ago, small marginal rural farm-land of mostly Kurdis communities., characterized them.


The Water brought life to the vast area and since has transformed it


Recently these towns have gone through a massive housing development boom thanks to the water GAP Project, Cotton textile plants and facilities processing feed, fish culture, milk and meat, have gained weight in the province.


Building constructions now cover, what was an arid dissolute desert land, not long ago, Affordable housing to diverted population from other congested areas, is now possible, as a wide range of job opportunities have opened, in this up and coming part of the state.


Second Stop -Karakush Tumulous -Black Bird


This holly burial monument on top of an artificial mound—a hierothesion—for Queen Isias and Princesses Antiochis and Aka I of the Commagene Kingdom which was built by Mithridates II , in 1-2 BC, of Iranian and Greek descent, one of the sons of King Antiochus I Theos of Commagene. When his father died in c. 31 BC, he succeeded his father and reigned until his death)

The site is located near the modern village of Çukurtaş in Kâhta Adıyaman Province,



The tumulous is surrounded by groups of 3 Doric columns, (each about 9 m high) and are topped with stales, reliefs and statues of a bull, lion and eagle,

The bird gave the site its name to the place.. An inscription indicates the presence of a Royal tomb that housed 3 women. The vault of that tomb, however, was looted.


The view from the Site


Commagene Kingdom (light Pink)


While Commagene was originally a small Syro-Hittite kingdom it emerged as

one out of several ancient Greco-Iranian kingdoms, around 2nd BC ,of which the

ancient city of Samosata, served as its capital,

Alexander the Great conquered the territory in the 4th C, BC. and after the break up of its empire, the region became part of the Hellenistic Seleucids, Commagene emerged in about 163 BC as a state and province in the Greco-Syrian Seleucid Empire.

that was ruled by a Hellenized branch of the IranianOrontid dynasty which had

ruled over Armenia.

The kingdom (Map- pink) emerged as a Buffer State between the Roman in the West and between Armenia, Parthia, Syria, in the East.

Culturally, it was correspondingly a mix of both the East and West The small kingdom gained and lost its independence several time in the wars between the Eastern/Western empires until 72 AD, when the Emperor Vespasian finally and definitively made it part of the Roman Empire.

One of the kingdom's most lasting visible remains which are a World Hermitage

is the archaeological site on Mount Nemrut,- a sanctuary dedicated by King Antiochus Theos to a number of syncretistic Graeco-Iranian deities as well as to himself and the deified land of Commagene.


On the drive up the mountain, a short walk over an ancient Roman Bridge,


Third Stop - Roman Bridge


Located off the road leading from Kahta to the famous Mount Nemrut, near the ancient city of Arsameia is

Cendere bridge - It spans the Cendere Çayı (Chabinas Creek), a tributary of Kâhta Creek,one of the Euphrates' brooks - the river Cendere.


It is a perfect intact Roman stone bridge from 2nd AD build during the reign of the Roman Emperor Ceptimius Ceverus (193 - 211 AD).

Though it is fit and did carried all kind of vehicles in the past, it is only for pedestrian use now. and nor due to structural reasons , but for less prosaic ones.

It replaced an earlier bridge, built during the reign of Emperor Vespasian, (69-79 CE.)



The story tells that 4 subjugated cities raised funds to erect the 4 memorial columns, standing in pairs at both ends of the bridge, However one column is missing.

Another version 4 pillars are attributed to typical imperial Roman family, consisting of Emperor Ceptimius Ceverus, his wife -Julia Domna, and their 2 sons -

Marcus Aurelius Ceverus, (Antoninus Augustus Carcalla) and Publius Septimius Geta Augustus.

However, the story attests that the hatred between the brothers, which also eliminated Gette, had with him, banish the 4th column.


The New Bridge

This new modern fast HWY bridge, spanning over the same tributary river, and which

can be easily spotted off the Roman Bridge, meant to give faster solution to the larger volume and size of passing vehicles,

It was the cause to transforming the roman bridge into a pedestrian one. Taxi drivers' union that used to drive the incidental tourists over the narrow, only Roman bridge passage, put a pressure on the transportation authorities, when realizing that their livelihood would be curtailed, with the possibility of tourists, like our group, now are able to cross the river via the new bridge, on the way to Mt. Nemrut by large, less costly Buses,



From the bridge crossing, the drive climbing up through the Eastern Taurus mountains range, was slow, long, and not that interesting.

What broke up the monotony, prior to arriving to the Nemrut summit was lunch



Lunch Break:

Damlacik Restuarant

Kâhta/Adıyaman,

about 20 km from Mt Nemrut

at a quint mountainous restaurant's terrace (of a camp ground) surrounded by orchard fruit trees, apples, grape vines, and pomegranates on a background of some views,


The pool on Ground


Our guide Sefi took a special pleasure, when on a hike, marching the group up some steep roads or steps, on a full stomach right after an eaten a meal.

So was the case when climbing to Mt Nemrut summit.

Mt. Nemrut Site - A UNESCO World Hermitage


It is a 2,134-m-high Mountain, which its notable artificially elevated summit, - a 50 m high funerary mound of stone chips, is crowned with a pantheon of images,(human and animals) and lineage of its kings, represented in the form of erected giant impressive statues.

The stone sculpted images can be traced back through two sets of legends:

Greek and Persian, an evidence of the dual origin of Commagene kingdom's culture.


The Mausoleum or Hierotheseion (temple-tomb and house of the gods) was built by the late Hellenistic King Antiochos I (69-34 B.C.) who reigned over Commagene kingdom (founded north of Syria and the Euphrates) after the breakup of Alexander's empire, as a monument to himself, and is one of the most ambitious constructions of the Hellenistic period.


The mound is surrounded on 3 sides by terraces to the east, west and north directions.

Two separate antique processional routes run from the east and west

terraces



Five seated limestone statues, identified by their inscriptions as deities, face outwards from on the upper level of the east and west terraces. with their heads fallen off to the lower level.



On the west terrace there is an additional row of stelae representing the particular significance of Nemrut, the handshake scenes (dexiosis) showing Antiochos shaking hands with a deity and the stele with a lion horoscope, believed to be indicating the construction date of the cult area.


While the language used on public monuments was typically Greek, Commagene's rulers made no secret of their Persian affinities.


The walk up the many steps to the summit, was strenuous but took only 15-20 minutes


The king, whose grave wasn’t excavated, erected monumental statues of deities with mixed Greek and Iranian names, such as Zeus-Oromasdes, while celebrating his own descent from the royal families of Persia and Armenia in a Greek-language inscription.


The Commagenean rulers had Iranian and Greek names (Antiochus, Samos, Mithridates).[The various Iranian onomasticons located in Commagene demonstrate the extensive Iranization in the region.


The views from the Mountain's Summit at Sun Down


Coming down the mountain was a long anti climax, as the drive back south to the next town -Gazi -Antep, where we spent the next 2 nights, took almost 4 hours, and when we finally had arrived at pitch dark, it was almost midnight.

Dinner at Alim Sofrasi Restuarant

at Adiyaman - a passing tourist trade, town, whose its inhabitants (~t 200,000) are mostly Kurdish, and which was founded in the 8th century by the Umayyad Arabs. The city is a local market for the agricultural products




Tugcan Hotel in Gaziantep

A modern unremarkable hotel







From Mt. Nemrut to GaziAntep


To be continued....


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