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Adiyaman-Mt. Nemrut National Park-Commagene Kingdom

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
























 

Nemrud: Throne of the Gods

The Nemrud is a mountain of the Taurus Range, in Adiyaman. From a height of 2,150 metres it dominates the entire landscape. From whatever side you approach it, its distinctive peak can be seen. The mountain is only accessible during the summer months. The rest of the year it is covered by snow and ice.
The last priest of Kommagene probably left the sanctuary on Mount Nemrud in 72 A.D., after the rebelling King Antiochus IV had lost the war with Rome. For almost two thousand years, only the wailing of the wind disturbed the rest of the three kings who are buried here.

The Christian population, which came later to live here, knew nothing of the origins of the sanctuary. They thought that it had to be the work of the legendary Nimrod from the Old Testament. Therefore they called the mountain after the first powerful ruler on earth, Nemrud.

It was not until the nineteenth century, that the German, Karl Sester, discovered the sanctuary on Mount Nemrud. He was less astonished by the impressive ruins than by the total absence of them on any map of Asia Minor.

After his discovery, the Turkish archeologist, Hamdi Bey, began the first excavations on the mountain. German and American archeologists took over the work and continued it to this day. The work of Professor D?ner and Professor Sahin is worthy of note.

The builder of the sanctuary, King Antiochus, wanted it not only to be his Hierothesion, but also the centre of his new religion. This religion had to unite in a peaceful fashion, the Persian Parthian world with the Greek Roman world. From the top of Mount Nemrud his new religion would radiate over the whole world.

Three terraces were built on the mountain. The East, West and North Terrace. To make these terraces large enough, the builders of Kommagene had to cut away almost the whole mountain top. For the East Terrace alone 1,500 cubic metres of solid rock had to be cut away. On the West Terrace, you can see from a ten metre high rock face, left of the summit, what an enormous undertaking it must have been.

The tumulus, which covers the top of Mount Nemrud, was built from the innumerable pieces of angular and sharp stones thus produced. The tumulus has a height of 50 metres and at the base a diameter of 150 metres. An ancient processional way surrounds the tumulus.

The East Terrace

The worn treads of a rock stairway lead you to the East Terrace. The first thing you see, as you reach the square, is a row of five enormous statues. Massive and lifeless, they look down on you from their thrones. They are in perfect harmony with the surrounding mountain landscape.The fallen heads of the statues have been set in front of them.

Originally the statues were 8 to 10 metres high. They are made of limestone, now dull and weathered. Formerly, when the sun shone on their smooth, polished surface, their brilliance must have been visible from a great distance.

The statues tower over two raised platforms cut from the rock. On the lower, stood five steles, four showing the king welcoming the gods and one stele, depicting a horoscope. Little has remained of these steles, but on the West errace they are quite well reserved.

The court was originally paved with white slabs. A number of these have been found and set by the pedestal of the Lion Horoscope on the West Terrace.

Opposite the statues, at the other side of the court, there is a stepped platform. This is the restored fire altar.

If you stand with your back to the statues, you see to your left and right, a long row of pedestals with the remnants of steles. On each of those steles was portrayed an ancestor of Antiochus. To the left, were the Persian ancestors, led by the King of Kings, Darius I. To the right were the Greek ancestors, led by Alexander the Great.

The Nomos: The Holy Law of Antiochus

If you stand behind the statue of Zeus, you can read the letters "N O M O [ " (Nomos). Here, the Holy Law of Antiochus begins. The Nomos of the Nemrud can be regarded as the testament of Antiochus.

To guide the people Antiochus initiated the Nomos, the Holy Law. Maybe, as part of his education, Antiochus in his younger years, undertook a long journey to the east to visit some of the cities which were founded by his famous ancestor, Alexander the Great, such as Bucephala and Alexandra along the river Indus. It is possible that during this travel he learned about of Buddha. And maybe this impressed Antiochus so much that from the Holy Law of Buddha, Antiochus developed the Holy Law or the Nomos.

Whatever has been the cause, in all the sanctuaries in Kommagene the Nomos is inscribed. At Mount Nemrud, Antiochus carved the Nomos on the back of the gigantic statues.

In the Nomos, he tells the people how and when they have to honour the Great Gods. Antiochus says: "This Nomos is proclaimed by me, but it is the power of the gods that makes it law." Further, Antiochus says that it is his intention to reveal this law to : "Kommagenians and foreigners, kings, rulers, freemen, slaves, all who are part of humanity and only differ by birth or fate."

Antiochus requested firmly that everybody would act according to this law. He also included the people of future times: "All the future generations of humans who will possess this land in the cause of the endless times, are asked to follow the holy law."

His reference to future people is remarkable. Antiochus understood that after him and after his people, others will come to live in this region. How humble and how wise.

In the Nomos of the Nemrud, we can read his testimony at the end of his life : "I have come to the conviction that being pure and just is not only the most certain possession we humans can gain, but also gives us the deepest joy we can have."

"This conviction has led to my prosperous power and the beneficial use of it. The whole of my life, I was standing in front of my subjects as a person who considers his respect to the gods as his most trustworthy defence weapon..... That is why I escaped, contrary to all expectation, the greatest dangers, I mastered unforeseen, hopeless situations and I passed my life, rich in years, in happiness."

Indeed, it is a historical fact, that Antiochus and his small kingdom were subjected to all kinds of dangers. From the west, the Romans were approaching and from the east, the Parthians. Under the reign of Antiochus, Kommagene became the centre of the ruthless struggle of both super powers. It is remarkable that Kommagene remained independent and even reached its most flourishing period !

The North Terrace

The pilgrims assembled at the foot of the mountain from the surrounding valleys. Here they were provided with food and drink by the servants of the priests. From there, two processional ways led to the sanctuary on the mountain. Both processional ways are marked with a stele close to the sanctuary. On these steles is carved a text. Here, Antiochus informs the visitors that they set foot on consecrated ground and should behave themselves as such.
The southern processional way was for the nobles of Kommagene and ended on the West Terrace. The northern was for the common people and led to the North Terrace.

At the North Terrace, in the forecourt of the sanctuary, the people were prepared for their meeting with the gods. With some difficulty you can find the worn ramp, where the people entered the North Terrace.

From there, they moved in procession to the East Terrace along the 85 metre long row of steles, which separates the North Terrace from the rest of the sanctuary. These steles bear neither portraits nor inscriptions, as Antiochus intended them for his descendants.

The West Terrace

Walking further round the tumulus, you reach the West Terrace, the most sacred place on the mountain. From this terrace, you look out on the edge of the plain of Mesopotamia, the cradle of our civilization. The sun, the moon and all stars of the zodiac rise on your left, reaching their zenith directly in front of you, and descending to your right.
The West Terrace was not accessible to the common people. The processional way, which led the nobles to this terrace, ended at the open place on the north side of the terrace. Here was the entrance to this terrace.

The entrance was guarded by a monstrous lion with three heads. Walking down, you will find the monster fallen, face down.

The statues on this terrace are the same as those on the East Terrace, but greatly surpass them in beauty. The statues are also in a less exalted position than those of the East Terrace which look down on the people from their raised platforms.

The fallen heads of the statues have been set in front of them. The resemblance between the head of Antiochus and the god Apollo is striking. Apollo was the only god to whom Antiochus assigned his own priest to celebrate his rites. What made this god so special ?

Apollo/Mithras is a combination of the Greek sun god, Apollo, and the Persian god, Mithras. About 1,400 B.C. the god Mithras is mentioned for the first time in a treaty of the Hitites. Further, he is mentioned in the Indian Vedas as a friend of the humans. He is the mediator between the Gods and the humans. In the Vedas we can read:"Mithras ! The mortal. This honourable and friendly Mithras is born as a wise ruling King." Mithras means literally Ally.

Each god bestowed a gift to the people of Kommagene. One of the gifts considered to be from Mithras was petroleum, for which people are searching nowadays in this region.

The Roman soldiers were so impressed by Mithras, that he became their favourite god. The legions propagated his worship throughout the whole of the ancient world. Finally, Mithras was even worshipped in England in underground sanctuaries. Without Christ, people would probably still worship Mithras.

Opposite the statues you see a long row of pedestals, on which stood the steles of the Greek ancestors of Antiochus. At a right angle to this row stood another row of steles, depicting his Persian ancestors. From these steles the ones of Darius and Xerxes are well preserved. In front of each stele is a small altar. Inscriptions have been found on two of those altars. They have, for a large part, been chiselled away. These inscriptions date from ealier times.

The steles form a great contrast to the massive forms of the rest of the complex. The soft sandstone from which they are made, appears anything but "imperishable", like Antiochus called it in the inscriptions. This material was suitable for i.e. Samosata but not for the harsh climate on top of the mountain.

Next to the statues are five large steles. They are equal to those from the lower platform of the East Terrace. On four of them King Mithridates I Kallinikos welcomes the gods. From left to right you see the Goddess of Kommagene, next Apollo, then Zeus and finally Herakles. Their name is carved at the back of the stele. Archaeologists have found that those names have been carved over an earlier text.

To honour the god he greets, the king wears on his tiara the stylized leafs of the plant dedicated to that god. For the Goddess of Kommagene the king wears the leaves of a pomegranate, for Apollo, laurel leaves, for Zeus oak leaves and for Herakles, vine leaves. Next to the stele ofHerakles, you see the fifth stele, known as the Lion Horoscope. Just like the row of 5 statues from Antiochus, the row of 5 steles of Mithridates, is flanked on both sides by an eagle and a lion.

The Tomb of the three Kings

Under the tumulus is hidden a tomb. Several attempts were made to find it by digging tunnels straight through the tumulus (burial mound). Many have tried, but neither Romans nor modern man have been able to disturb the rest of the dead.
The reason for this, is that the burial chamber lies in the massive rock of the mountain itself and not under the loose stones of the tumulus.

There is a theory that there exists a tunnel, cut from the living rock. First, you have to go down a few steps, after which the tunnel gradually descends to the interior of the mountain. After passing a side tunnel, you reach the burial chamber.

In this chamber there are three tombs of marble. In the middle tomb lies King Antiochus and in the two other tombs, rest his father Mithridates and another king. Their bodies are still in good condition. The burial chamber measures about 5 x 9 metres with a height of 2.40 metres.

According to the inscriptions, one cannot enter the burial chamber without danger: "The face of a demon has been set as a guard, whom men can neither defy nor free themselves from."

The Manifestation of the Great Gods

There were two important annual celebrations. On the 16th of Audnaios, a day in January/December, the birth of Antiochus was celebrated. The 10th of Loos was not only the coronation day of Antiochus, but also the day of the "Manifestation of the Great Gods", as the inscriptions called it.

The daily life of Kommagene came to a halt then and for two days the people joined in the celebrations on Mount Nemrud or the temenos, the local sanctuaries built by King Mithridates I. All these ceremonies were recorded in detail in the Nomos, which Antiochus carved on the back of the statues of both the East and West Terraces.

If we had lived in that time, maybe we could have seen the long ribbon of bright lights climbing the mountain shortly before midnight. Hundreds of people assembled at the North Terrace. From there they proceeded to the East Terrace. They took their places on either side of the court.

The court was bathed in the soft light of the full moon. Motionless, the gods looked down on them, while the Moon sank slowly behind the tumulus. Fires burned in great metal dishes set on tripods. Fitful shadows danced over the lifeless figures of gods and humans.

It was completely silent. The king stood at the fire altar, awaiting the gods. His cloak billowed in the strong wind. The tension mounted. Suddenly the trumpets sounded, clear and shrill. A shudder ran through the mountain. It seemed as if the gods rose from their thrones of stone and their massive forms darkened the stars....

A few hours later the sun bathed everything in a golden glow. The ceremony was at an end and the citizens returned home satisfied. Once again it had been demonstrated that they were under the protection of the gods.

The tenth of Loos was not only the coronation day of Antiochus, but also the day of the "Manifestation of the Great Gods", as the inscriptions called it.

If we had lived in that time, maybe we could have seen the long ribbon of bright lights climbing the mountain shortly before midnight. Hundreds of people assembled at the North Terrace. From there they proceeded to the East Terrace. They took their places on either side of the court.

The court was bathed in the soft light of the full moon. Motionless, the gods looked down on them, while the Moon sank slowly behind the tumulus. Fires burned in great metal dishes set on tripods. Fitful shadows danced over the lifeless figures of gods and humans.

It was completely silent. The king stood at the fire altar, awaiting the gods. His cloak billowed in the strong wind. The tension mounted. Suddenly the trumpets sounded, clear and shrill. A shudder ran through the mountain. It seemed as if the gods rose from their thrones of stone and their massive forms darkened the stars....

A few hours later the sun bathed everything in a golden glow. The ceremony was at an end and the citizens returned home satisfied. Once again it had been demonstrated that they were under the protection of the gods.

The Legend of the White People

It is remarkable that simular to the Manifestation of the Great Gods in Kommagenian times, the local people have worshipped the manifestation of the so-called white people.
On a hot summers evening of July 1987, an old woman named Firat from the village of Eski Kâhta, told me following :

"Long ago, before the Prophet , there was a group of soldiers on their way to the town of Malatya. They were passing through the Taurus mountain range. At sunset they wearied. They had very little food. One of the soldiers saw in the distance a light. They went towards the light and came upon a house. The house was inhabited by an old man with white hair together with his daughter and a boy. The soldiers were given food.

After they had finished their meal they saw to their astonishment that there was as much food left as when they began. They did not understand this. They left the house and reached the town of Malatya without any further events. On their return from Malatya they decided to visit the house again. They refound the house and received hospitality again. The commander of the soldiers took a fancy to the daughter of the old man.

After the meal, the commander then asked the old man for the hand of his daughter in marriage. The old man did not want, but he was afraid that the soldiers would take his daughter by force. That's why he granted the request and the soldiers left with his daughter.

When they arrived at Eski Kâhta, at the same place where the holy house now stands , the girl asked them to stop for a moment. She descended into the dry streambed of a water course. She passed her hand lightly over the dry soil and magically a spring of water bubbled up.

That spring still exists. She drank the water and washed herself. Then she asked the earth to open and bury her. Before the soldiers knew what was happening, the earth opened and she disappeared. Since that time it is a holy place and the people built a house on her grave.

The girl, together with some friends appeared after some time to the people at this place and at three other places in the region. In spring at Eski Kâhta, in summer on a mountain nearby Malatya, in autumn at Gerger and in winter somewhere in the Taurus mountain range. At Eski Kâhta, the annual appearance took place at the holy house ."

The old woman said that when she was a child, each wednesday and friday in spring, the villagers gathered at the end of the day in front of the holy house. They lit candles in the holy house and prayed. After sunset the people had to return to their houses. Nobody should disturb the girl and her friends who came at night to pray in the holy house.

Only a few people were allowed to stay. The old woman told me that her parents have witnessed the appearance of the girl and her friends. She said that they were smaller than normal people and had white hair.



 

 

 

 

 


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