Stone Heads of Mount Nemrut


Location: Mount Nemrut Map

Constructed: 62 BC by King Antiochus I Theos of Commagene


The Nemrut Dağı, also Nemrut Dağ or Nemrud Dağı (Armenian Նեմրութ Nemrut, Kurdish Çiyayê Nemrûdê), is a mountain in southeastern Turkey, not far from the upper reaches of the Euphrates. It belongs to the Taurus Mountains and is located 86 kilometers northeast of Adıyaman in the province of the same name. At 2,150 meters high, it is one of the highest peaks in northern Mesopotamia. The region was declared a national park in 1988.

This mountain should not be confused with the Nemrut crater, Nemrut Dağı (Bitlis), a 3050 meter high (the height information varies between 2865 m and 3300 m depending on the source), now dormant volcano in Turkey near Tatvan on Lake Van.

At its summit rises a monumental combination of sanctuary and burial site. It was built by the late Hellenistic king Antiochus I Theos (69–36 BC) of Commagene, who coined the term hierothesion (Greek ἱεροθέσιον) for it. The sanctuary was intended to be the center of a new religion that combined Persian and Greek mythology. Shortly after his coronation, Antiochus himself gave himself the suffix Theos (God), a form of self-deification that was unusual even in the context of the Hellenistic ruler cult. In two long Greek inscriptions, the king specified how exactly he should be worshiped during his lifetime and after his death. He traced his ancestry back to the Achaemenid kings Darius I and Xerxes I on his father's side and to the Seleucids with Alexander the Great as ancestors on his mother's side.

The place of worship was rediscovered in 1881 by the German engineer Karl Sester. Since then, Turkish, American and German archaeologists have carried out excavations here. The first researchers of the Hierothesion were Otto Puchstein and Carl Humann in 1882/83; they were followed in the 1950s and 1960s by a German-American excavation team with Friedrich Karl Dörner and Theresa Goell from the American Schools of Oriental Research. In 1987 the burial shrine was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List. Since then, various groups, including the International Nemrud Foundation and most recently members of the Commagene Nemrut Conservation and Development Program from the Middle East Technical University, have worked on the mountain.

The tomb consists of a rubble embankment with a diameter of 150 and a height of 45 meters above the natural summit of the mountain. The gravel hill is surrounded by three terraces to the north, west and east. Large statues of gods depicting King Antiochus in the company of Greco-Persian gods can be seen on the western and eastern terraces. There are also various rows of relief steles depicting the king's ancestral gallery and other relatives, as well as depictions of ritual acts. To make space for the construction of the sanctuary, around 300,000 m³ of solid rock was moved. Processional paths lead up the mountain from three directions.

Over time, earthquakes, storms and numerous visitors have contributed to the destruction of a large part of the reliefs and the once 8-10 m high statues are now headless. The heads are placed in front of the statues. It is believed that there was a burial chamber in the hill, but despite many attempts to penetrate into the interior of the hill, this has not yet been proven.

The monumental statues with the altar and the reliefs offer an impressive picture, especially at sunrise and sunset. The complex is considered unfinished and no traces of cult rituals were found.

The current Turkish name of the mountain refers to the legendary King Nimrod, who appears in the Bible and the Koran.



Nemrut Dağı is located in the north of Kâhta County in Adıyaman Province, Turkey. It belongs to the Ankar Dağları, the western foothills of the Maden Dağları, which belongs to the Taurus Mountains; to the north are the Malatya Dağları, which formed the Kommagenes border. The latter leads to pass roads into the Malatya area, which were used militarily and as caravan routes and some of which are still in use today. Even though some of the mountains in the border mountains in the northwest are higher, Nemrut Dağı is a landmark visible from almost all directions. It overlooks northern Mesopotamia and the Euphrates Valley to the southeast, the river Kahta Çayı (also Cendere Çayı, ancient name Chabinas) and Adıyaman to the southwest, and Samosata, which has now disappeared into the Atatürk reservoir, and the Euphrates crossing atzeugma to the south. A processional route led from the southwestern residential town of Arsameia on Nymphaios to the Nemrut Dağı.

Today you can reach Nemrut Dağı from Kahta via the D-360, from which a signposted road branches off to the north near Narince. It is initially asphalted, then paved in the last, steep part and leads to a parking lot with a tourist center below the summit, from where the terraces with the monumental statues can be reached after a climb of about 25 minutes.



The formations of the Ankar Dağları were formed from numerous different types of rock in the course of mountain formation. Only Eocene limestones were crucial for the summit and the surrounding area of Nemrut Dağı. This formation process began over 35 million years ago in the Eocene and continued in the Oligocene. The rugged landscape at the foot of the mountain was created by weathering during this period and in the subsequent Pliocene. The folded limestone layers emerge on the slopes of the Nemrut in the form of breakthroughs; in the deeper zones they are covered by topsoil. In the southeast there are typical forms of a karst surface. These include depressions that were created by collapsed cavities in the limestone beneath the topsoil and which the surveying engineer in Goell's team Heinrich Brokamp, who created a topographic map of the mountain, calls ice caves. Remnants of solidified corn snow remain there all year round and are used for animals to drink in the summer. In the northeast, about two kilometers down the slope, individual layers of gray-green sandstone occur. In contrast to the limestone slabs that are pushed on at an angle, they lie horizontally. As a result, a spring arises at this interface between the two types of rock, which has served as a water supply since the Hellenistic period, but also today.

The craftsmen who created the sanctuary on the mountain top only used stones from the immediate area. In addition to sandstone from the area surrounding the spring, limestone was used, which was quarried from the openings on the mountain slopes. Material from the eroded top of the mountain may also have been processed.


Flora and fauna

The sparse vegetation of the high mountain landscape includes neither trees nor bushes. In a 2009 study by Ahmet Zafer, 250 species of seed plants were counted, including 14% composites, 10% mints, 9.2% sweet grasses, 7.6% crucifers and 7.2% legumes. The national park's wildlife includes species of bears, wolves, jackals, foxes and badgers. Among the bird species that can be observed are the white-throated warbler, the wheatear, the middle wheatear and the rusty-rumped wheatear, as well as the snowfinch, the lark and the curlew pipit.


Research history

The Nemrut Dağı was mapped in the early 19th century by Helmuth von Moltke, who was a military advisor in the Ottoman Empire. Although he paid close attention to the evidence of antiquity and used the mountain as a landmark in his land surveys, he had missed the sanctuary on the summit. In 1881, the road engineer Karl Sester reported in a letter to the Royal Prussian Academy of Sciences in Berlin about Assyrian monuments on the mountain. The archaeologist Otto Puchstein was then commissioned in 1882 by Alexander Conze, the general secretary of the German Archaeological Institute, on behalf of the academy to travel with the engineer to the Nemrut Dağı. On May 4, 1882, they arrived on the mountain for the first time, which they found still covered in deep snow. Puchstein still found the Greek inscription on the back of the statues and began copying it. Because of the weather, which hampered their investigations, they soon left and Puchstein returned in June of the same year. On October 19, he gave a report to the academy's philosophical-historical class. The following year, Carl Humann traveled to the Nemrut Dağı on behalf of the academy, accompanied by Puchstein and Felix von Luschan. From June 8th to 23rd, 1883, they created drawings and photographs of the monuments and brought numerous plaster casts to the Royal Museums in Berlin. On their way they also visited and explored other Commagene sites, including the Hierothesia of Karakuş and Sesönk, Samosata, Perrhe and the late Hittite sites of Sakçagözü and Zincirli. The Turkish archaeologist Osman Hamdi Bey, who had heard about the venture and also wanted to get to know Kommagene, was already on the mountain in May, accompanied by the sculptor Osgan Efendi, and carried out research work despite heavy snow. The Imperial Ottoman Museum, founded by Osman Hamdi Bey, published its report Le tumulus de Nemroud-Dagh: Voyages, description, inscriptions in the fall of 1883. Humann and Puchstein's research results appeared in 1890 under the title Travels in Asia Minor and Northern Syria.

In 1938, the German ancient historian Friedrich Karl Dörner set off on a research trip through the Commagene landscape with the building researcher and architect Rudolf Naumann and visited the sanctuary, but was initially unable to continue his planned work due to the outbreak of the Second World War. It was not until 1951 that he traveled there again with the intention of exploring the possibilities of excavations on the Nemrut Dağı. On the way from Kahta to the town of Horik, which was supposed to be the base station for the work on the Nemrut Dağı, he received information about an image stone from a resident in a village. This led to the discovery of the Commagene residence city of Arsameia on Nymphaios with the Hierothesion and the large cult inscription there. The American archaeologist Theresa Goell had also studied the Nemrut Dağı in 1939 and visited it for the first time in 1947. In 1951, with the support of the American Schools of Oriental Research, she was on her way there again, together with the German ancient orientalist Albrecht Götze, without meeting Dörner. When Goell and Dörner found out about each other, they decided, after two years of correspondence, to carry out the investigations in Kommagene together. After Dörner received permission from the Turkish Republic to excavate in Arsameia in 1953, Goell worked as an architect in Arsameia from 1953 to 1956, while Dörner was involved in the research at the summit as an epigraphist. The excavations continued until 1964. Afterwards, Goell returned a few more times, for example in 1967, measuring and photographing work was carried out and in 1973 the main altar was restored. Radar surveys of the tumulus and the rock beneath the gravel were planned for 1976 by the Stanford Research Institute with the aim of finding the king's burial chamber, but they failed due to funding problems.

Friedrich Karl Dörner returned to Nemrut Dağı in 1984 to carry out restoration work on the west terrace, but was unable to continue the work for health reasons. Under the leadership of Dörner's students Sencer Şahin, Jörg Wagner and Elmar Schwertheim, who later headed the Asia Minor research center founded by Dörner, the German-Turkish Nemrut Dağı project worked from 1987 to 1991 to research and secure the monuments. In 1998, the Dutch architect Maurice Crijns founded the International Nemrud Foundation (INF) in collaboration with Herman A. G. Brijder from the University of Amsterdam. She dedicated herself to working on the mountain until 2003. The Turkish Ministry of Culture and Tourism withdrew the INF's excavation permit in 2004 and in 2005 the Commagene Nemrut Conservation and Development Program was launched at the Middle East Technical University in Ankara under the direction of architect Şahin Güçhan. The aim of the project is not only further archaeological investigation and maintenance of the sanctuary, but also the improvement of the tourist and general infrastructure in the area of the national park around Nemrut Dağı. The plans also include building a museum below the summit. According to Sencer Şahin's suggestions, it should contain a tumulus simulation under a domed structure, where the monuments will be placed, protected from the dangers of the weather. On the mountain itself, the originals are to be replaced by replicas.


Historical background

The historical landscape of Commagene lies in today's southeastern Turkey in the angle between the Euphrates in the east and the Antitaurus with the Malatya Dağları in the northwest. In the south it extends to the Euphrates crossing atzeugma, near today's Birecik, and to Doliche near modern Gaziantep. After the end of the Iron Age Luwian kingdom of Kummuḫ, the country was an Assyrian, later Babylonian province, until the conquest of Babylon by the Persian Achaemenid Empire in 539 BC. After two centuries of belonging to the Persian Empire, the rule of Alexander the Great, the Armenians and finally the Seleucids followed. In 163 B.C. In the 4th century BC, the governor Ptolemy broke away from the Seleucid Empire and founded the independent kingdom of Commagene. During the reign of his successors Mithridates Kallinikos and his son Antiochus I, Commagene lay between the areas of interest of the Roman Empire in the west and the Parthians in the east. Influences from this prehistory and the current situation in an area of tension were decisive for the royal cult that Antiochus introduced, and thus also for the design of the hierothesion that he probably founded towards the end of his rule in the second half of the 1st century BC. BC on which Nemrut Dağı was built.


Royal cult and art religion of Antiochus I.

After beginning his reign in 69 BC. In the 4th century BC, Antiochus I significantly expanded the Commagene royal cult that his father had already introduced and initiated a syncretic artificial religion. In numerous places in his empire he built or expanded hierothesia or temene, which served the practice of this cult and thus his veneration. According to Friedrich Karl Dörner, hierothesia were “sepulchral places of worship”, i.e. shrines in connection with the gravesites of members of the ruling family. Temene referred to smaller places of worship without graves. In addition to the Nemrut Dağı, sanctuaries existed, among others, in Arsameia on Nymphaios with the grave of Antiochos' father Mithridates Kallinikos, in Arsameia on the Euphrates (today's Gerger) for his grandfather Samos II, on Karakuş, where Antiochos' wife Isias and other females were probably Relatives are buried in Sesönk, another burial mound, in which the grave of a high-ranking family, possibly also Mithridates II, the son of Antiochus, is suspected, as well as at Sofraz Köy,zeugma and Samosata. Inscriptions were found at all locations in which he gave some very detailed instructions for practicing his cult. Furthermore, conclusions can be drawn from the texts about the development of the cult and the accompanying religion.

The population of the country of Commagene at the time consisted of an Iranian upper class who followed the Persian tradition, but also of a Greek elite who had come to the country as part of Alexander's Macedonian conquests. The country also lay in the tension area between the Roman Empire in the west and the Parthian Empire in the east. Antiochus wanted to unite these two western and eastern cultural trends in the cult of himself and in the art religion that he created for this purpose. On the one hand, he traced his ancestry on his father's side back to the Achaemenids up to Xerxes I and Darius I, and on his mother's side via the Seleucids up to Alexander the Great. On the other hand, he positioned himself as a god in the company of other divine figures, which he represented as syncretic associations of oriental and Hellenistic gods, and added the suffix Theos (Greek θεός for god) to his name.

The supreme god, corresponding to the Greek Zeus, bears the name Zeus-Oromasdes (Ζεύς Ώρομάσδης), after the ancient Persian sky god Ahura Mazda, a high god in the Zoroastrian religion, whom Darius had chosen as his personal patron god.
He united the Greek Apollo with three other gods to form Apollo-Mithras-Helios-Hermes (Ἀπόλλων Μίθρας Ἥλιος Ἑρμῆς). Mithridates had already introduced the combinations Mithras-Apollon and Helios-Hermes, with a sun god represented in both combinations. On the one hand, the Greek sun god Helios is linked to the Hellenistic messenger of the gods Hermes, and on the other hand, Apollo is linked to Mithras, the latter referring to the ancient Persian Mitra. This developed in the Achaemenid period from the guardian of human relationships to the sun god, who had an outstanding function in ancient Persian religion.
The third god is Artagnes-Heracles-Ares (Ἀρτάγνης Ἡρακλῆς Ἄρης). While Heracles is the Greek hero who was admitted to Olympus and Ares is the well-known god of war, Artagnes is the Greek rendering of the ancient Iranian god's name Verethragna. Artagnes does not appear in Achaemenid sources, only in a few scattered writings are Heracles or Ares mentioned as an interpretatio Graeca of a god in the western Iranian area, so it can be assumed that he played at most a subordinate role in Achaemenid religion. His appearance in a prominent place in Commagene can probably only be explained by a later surge in popularity that he also experienced in Khuzistan, where he was also identified with Heracles.
The only female deity in Antiochus' pantheon is the all-nourishing Commagene (παντρόφος Κομμαγηνή), the national goddess. She is identified with the Greek goddess of fate Tyche, although the name is not explicitly mentioned in the inscription on the back of her monumental statue.

What is striking here is that the Persian (Eastern) component of the names of the male gods only forms one of several components; the female deity is only referred to by her Greek name. The multiple names also only appear where the deities are to be made known to the visitor; in other places in the text only the Greek (Western) name is given. From this it is concluded that the intellectual starting point of the religion remains Greek-Hellenistic, the oriental part is only an addition.

In various inscriptions, including from Sofraz Köy, Arsameia am Nymphaios and the Nemrut Dağı, Antiochus stipulated that his subjects should hold the cult celebrations in his honor on the 10th and 16th of each month, the dates of his accession to the throne (10th Loos). and his birthday (16 Audnaeus). Public meals also took place on these occasions. From the ruler's possessions, Antiochos donated lands, called χῶραι, and entire villages, κῶμαι, were used to care for the sanctuaries. Hierodules, musicians, who were the property of the deity and therefore could not be enslaved, were appointed as the staff of the Hierothesia. This regulation also applied to their descendants, so that the staffing of the places of worship should be secured “in perpetuity”. Through the dense network of Hierothesia and Temene spread across the empire, he ensured that every resident had the opportunity to regularly take part in the celebrations.

In 1973, Helmut Waldmann put forward the thesis in his book The Commagene Cult Reforms under King Mithradates I Kallinikos and his son Antiochus I that religious syncretism had already been introduced by Antiochos' father Mithridates. The discovery of the stele and the inscription of Sofraz Köy by Jörg Wagner in 1974 refuted this theory. The inscription can certainly be classified as the earliest known of Antiochus, among other things because he describes himself as king (βασιλεύς) and not, as was later common practice, as great king (βασιλεύς μέγας). In addition, only the Greek gods Apollo and Artemis are mentioned in the inscription, without additional Iranian names. Therefore, it does not seem likely that the West-East art religion existed at this early time.

After Antiochus' death, the cult lost much of its importance. Sencer Şahin pointed out in 1991 that the shrine was not completed and, in all likelihood, Nemrut Dağı celebrations never took place. There are no planned statues on the north terrace as well as tables described in the inscription and the head of the monumental statue of the king on the east terrace is unfinished, but above all there are no small finds that would certainly be expected after the regular holding of cult activities.



Tumulus and terraces

Above the summit of the limestone mountain is a tumulus made of gravel stones with a diameter of around 150 meters and a height of 45 meters. Below this are three artificially created terraces in the northeast, southwest and northwest, briefly referred to as the east, west and north terraces. The east terrace is approximately rectangular, its central courtyard measures approximately 21 × 26 meters, including all monuments and the large altar it is approximately 50 × 50 meters. The west terrace, which is approximately ten meters lower, has overall dimensions of 50 × 30 meters and is partially artificially underpinned to the west in order to create space for the equipment. According to geologist Hans-Gert Bachmann's calculations, around 300,000 tons of rubble must have been moved to create the tumulus. Some of this was probably incurred when the terraces were carved out of the mountain; it is uncertain whether the summit itself was worked for this purpose. The monumental statues, the guardian animals and the bases of the steles are also made of local limestone; traces of quarry work can still be seen on the southeastern slope below the eastern terrace. Greenish sandstone was used for the relief steles of the ancestors, which was obtained from a spring northeast of the mountain, about an hour and a half away on foot.



The west and east terraces had almost the same equipment. There were each:
The series of monumental seated statues of the gods Antiochus, Commagene, Zeos-Oromasdes, Apollo-Mithras-Helios-Hermes and Heracles-Artagnes-Ares, plus the guardian animals lion and eagle on each side.
Two rows of pedestal reliefs of ancestors, 15 ancestors on the paternal Persian side and 17 on the maternal Greco-Macedonian side. Among the latter there are also female ancestors.
A series of dexiosis reliefs showing Antiochus shaking hands with the gods, next to the lion horoscope. This row is also framed by (smaller) guardian lions and eagles.
Two short rows of three reliefs each of contemporary members of the royal family, behind the ancestral galleries. Remains and bases were only found on the east terrace. However, the discovery of another relief on the west terrace, which according to the inscription can possibly be attributed to Antiochus' son and successor Mithridates II, shows that such rows may have been present there too.
A series with further reliefs, called the investiture group.

The arrangement of the statues, steles and the associated small altars varies depending on local conditions. A large, tiered altar is only present on the east terrace. There the Dexiosis reliefs are placed on a second podium below the colossal statues, on either side of which a staircase leads up to the monumental guardian animals. In between there is a block altar in front of the statues and reliefs, which probably had a counterpart on the west terrace.


Monumental statues

The monumental seated statues of the gods stood with their backs to the tumulus and overlooked each terrace. They were composed of limestone blocks in seven layers about one meter high. The top layer consisted only of a block 2.5 to 3 meters high, which formed the figure's head. The figures thus reached a height of over eight meters. The base area of the thrones, including the footstool in front of them, is just over three meters square. The Zeus figure occupying the central space, which also exceeded the others in height at 8.75 meters (west terrace 9.65 meters), also has the largest base at 3.82 × 3.32 meters. The bottom layer formed the base of the throne and the footstool, the next three formed the feet, lower legs and thighs of the figure. These layers consisted of a multi-part, rectangular frame, the hollow interior of which was filled with rubble stones up to a height of two meters. Layers 5 and 6 formed the god's torso and shoulders, with most having the shoulder layer as just one block. The head sat on top of this, and in some cases the upper part of the headgear was formed from a further, eighth layer.

The order of the gods from left to right is Antiochus, Commagene, Zeus-Oromasdes, Apollo-Mithras-Helios-Hermes and Heracles-Artagnes-Ares. They are flanked on both sides by a larger-than-life eagle and on the outside by a lion.

The clothing of the male gods consists of a cloak that is thrown over the east terrace and is held together on the right shoulder by a plate brooch. The coats are on on the west terrace. Underneath, the figures wear a long-sleeved robe, the fabric of which forms folds down the sides from the legs, as well as trousers. The feet are covered with double-laced boots with a tongue. On their heads sat a Persian tiara, a conical headgear derived from the Phrygian cap, the tip of which is bent forward. Ear and neck protection hang down to the shoulder layer. In contrast, Antiochus is the only one to wear an “Armenian” tiara. This is flattened on the sides and tapers towards the top, with five ray-like triangles visible at the top edge, of which only four remain today. The ears and neck parts are folded up. Over the tiaras, the gods wear a diadem about 15 centimeters wide, which is tied together at the back. On the front of the headgear, a ribbon with round discs runs from the bottom to the top as a decoration. Apollo, Zeus and Antiochus hold a barsom, a bundle of twigs tied together, in their left hand on their lap. Heracles holds an upright club in his left hand that reaches to his shoulders.

Kommagene wears a cloak (himation) over his shoulders, which covers half the back of the head, leaves the upper body and arms free and is gathered again on the lap and probably held with the left hand. The hem runs clearly over the lower legs. Her undergarment is a chiton that falls down the sides of her legs and is belted with two straps under her breasts. The footwear is difficult to interpret due to its poor state of preservation; it is probably sandals. Dörner and the art historian John H. Young interpret the cylindrical headgear as a calathos, while the Near Eastern archaeologist Bruno Jacobs believes they recognize a wreath made of fruits and ears of wheat. In her left hand the goddess holds a cornucopia which, when standing upright, reaches to shoulder height.

The pairs of guardian animals on both sides of the row of gods are also composed of several layers; there are five on the east terrace and six on the west terrace. The animal figures standing on a common base are between 4.5 and 5 meters tall, the lion towering over the eagle by a few centimeters. The hollow interior of the body is filled with gravel stones. The heads are made from one piece. The figure of the eagle is simply made; it has a powerful head with a strong upper beak, wide-open eyes and bushy eyebrows. The wings are folded against the body and the shoulders are stretched forward. The claws are spread into a semicircle. The lion is depicted sitting. The raised front paws have a stripe of fur on the back. The mighty mane consists of numerous tufts of hair lying one on top of the other. The nostrils are deeply cut above the slightly open mouth. The eyes are wide open and have knotty brows. Above this, a strip of finer hair can be seen in front of the base of the mane. The ears are only shown as holes in the mane. Theresa Goell sees clear similarities to Assyrian and Hittite, but also Achaemenid lion figures in these small ears, the symmetrical, flame-like mane, the schematic representation of the mouth, nose and whiskers and other features.

On the head parts of all large statues, both gods and animals, square transport holes with a diameter of around 5–6 centimeters can be seen on the sides. They give rise to the assumption that the heads, unlike the bodies, were not finished on the object itself, but on the ground and only then placed on it.



Some of the thrones of the large sculptures have been preserved up to shoulder height on the east terrace; on the west terrace only the three lower layers are still in situ. The heads have all fallen down and lined up in front of the seats. The head of the eastern Commagene was the only one still in its place when Goell and Dörner began their investigations in 1953, but it also fell between 1961 and 1963 as a result of a lightning strike and was damaged. Most of the heads are missing the tops of the headgear, the tops of the tiaras are missing from the male deities, and the kalathos or basket is missing from Kommagene. Only the head of Antiochus on the west terrace has been preserved apart from cuts at the corners. Noses and lips are usually broken off due to the fall. Due to the uniformity of the fall, Otto Puchstein assumed that the destruction had occurred at the same time and therefore attributed it to an earthquake. Hans-Gert Bachmann, on the other hand, is of the opinion that weather influences over the centuries could have been enough to trigger the current situation.


Cult inscription

On the back of the thrones on both terraces there is the large cult inscription of Antiochus. After a heading given by the king himself, it is called the Nomos inscription (Greek Νόμος, German law). On the west terrace it includes two of the limestone blocks; on the east terrace the design is somewhat more monumental and fills the lower three of the blocks that form the throne of the gods. In terms of content, the two texts are identical, apart from individual letters; the western version is better preserved, so that smaller missing parts of the eastern text could be supplemented with it.

Antiochus first introduces himself in the inscription with his lineage and all titles and epithets:
«[Βασιλεύς μέ]γας ᾿Αντίοχος Θεὸς
Δίκαιος ᾿[Επιφ]αν[ὴς] Φιλορώμαιος καὶ
Φιλέ[λλ]ην, ὁ ἑκ βασιλέως Μιθραδά-
του Καλλινίκου καὶ βασιλίσσης Λαο-
δίκης θεᾶς Φιλαδέλφου τῆς ἐκ βασι-
λέω[ς] Αντιόχου ᾿Επιφανοῦς Φιλο-
μήτορος Καλλινίκου ἐπὶ καθω-
σιομένων βάσεων ασύλοις
γράμμασιν ἕργα χάριτος ἰδίας εἰς
χρόνον ἀνέργραφεν αἰώνιον»

“The great King Antiochus, God, the Just, Epiphanes, friend of the Romans and Hellenes, son of King Mithradates Kallinikos and Queen Laodice, goddess, the brother-loving, daughter of King Antiochus Epiphanes, the mother-loving, victorious, signed on sacred throne bases words of one's own favor in imperishable letters - for everlasting times."
– Antiochus I: Translation of the Greek text according to Helmut Waldmann

Below he describes his life, emphasizing above all his constant piety, which he considers “his most faithful defense and his inimitable joy.” For this reason he builds his tomb and a place of worship “around the summit of the gorges of Tauros”. He then gives instructions in the Nomos for carrying out the cult activities in the Hierothesion. The priest appointed by him should wear Persian robes on the designated holidays and crown his assistants with golden wreaths. Sacrifices of herbs, incense, wine and food should be made on the altars. The gathered crowd should be warmly welcomed and provided with food and drinks and entertained with music at an enjoyable festival. He further stipulates that the people he has designated for the celebrations may not be enslaved or otherwise sold by anyone for all time. The villages responsible for providing for the festivities, “which I have consecrated as the inviolable possessions of the gods,” must not be attacked or harmed. He concludes with the threat of the implacable wrath of the gods and the deified ancestors for anyone who violates this order. Likewise, the obedient should be assured of the eternal favor of the gods.

The classical philologist Eduard Norden describes the inscription as “the most important monument of Greek prose from a time from which almost nothing else has survived”.


Dexiosis reliefs

A row of five steles was located to the east in front of the monumental statues on a podium, in front of which stood a 0.85 meter high altar block measuring 2.50 × 1.50 meters. In the west, the corresponding sculptures adjoined the seated statues to the right (north). The first relief does not show the typical Dexioseis hand-out; rather, the goddess of the land extends her rights to the king with the fruits of the land. The next three are real dexiosis reliefs that show the builder Antiochus shaking hands with his fellow gods. The fifth, right stele is known as the Leo Horoscope. Like the large statues, the row is flanked by a lion and an eagle. Only a small number of small fragments of the steles and figures have been preserved on the eastern terrace, while in the west almost complete steles or at least more and larger fragments were found. The following description accordingly refers to the western reliefs. The steles were not visible in 2011, with the exception of a small part of Zeusdexiosis at Nemrut Dağı. All personal reliefs have an inscription on the back that names the king with his title and the deity depicted.



The first relief shows King Antiochus with the local goddess Commagene. It is about 2.65 meters high and 1.50 meters wide. The upper body of the king standing on the left is shown frontally, the head turned to the right in profile. Commagene's body is slightly turned towards him, the head is shown to the side. She stretches out her right hand and offers him the fruits of the land; in her left she holds her cornucopia. Antiochus wears the Armenian tiara, which is decorated with a lion surrounded by fruits, flowers and leaves and whose upper part is missing. The tilted ear flaps are also florally decorated, and the diadem worn over the tiara shows several striding lions. The upper body is dressed in a cloak, which is held on the right shoulder by two heart-shaped brooches decorated with an eagle. Below you can see an armor consisting of diamonds decorated with six-pointed stars. It is open at the front and is held together with strings. A shirt can be seen on the arms, a sash wrapped around the waist holds a skirt that extends to the Persian boots and is typical of Commagene rulers' clothing. Below you can see pants tucked into boots. On the right side the king carries his sword, the scabbard of which is decorated with four-leaf rosettes. Of the scepter held in the left hand, only the egg-shaped upper part, which is wrapped with leaves, has survived.

The goddess wears a chiton that reaches down to her knees and a himation on top. This leaves the right breast exposed and is tied in a knot over the left. From the combed back hair, curls fall over the ears and down to the shoulders. Above it she carries a heavy wreath of fruit, including grapes, apples and lemons, and a calathos rises above it. In her left arm she holds her cornucopia, which tapers downwards and fruit spills out of the top.

Part of the relief, which contains the body of the king and the head and top of the cornucopia of the Commagene, is in the Berlin museums. It was brought there by Humann and Puchstein, the first two Western archaeologists to explore the mountain, after they found the relief badly damaged a year after their first visit in 1882. Further parts, including the torso of the goddess and feet of Antiochus, were found and assembled by Goell and Dörner in 1954.



The relief, which is approximately 2.30 meters high, has largely been preserved apart from a strip between the two depicted figures; the handshake that was undoubtedly present is missing. The tiara is complete here, showing the five tips of the Armenian variant, each decorated with a ball at the top. The tips are decorated with palmettes, the tied side flaps with bundles of laurel. The sword is carried here on the left so that only the handle can be seen. The king holds the long scepter in his left hand. Its upper end, which can be seen behind his right shoulder, is decorated with a ball, and the lower end, in front of Apollo's feet, has pearl-like ornaments. The rest of the clothing and equipment is roughly the same as on the first Dexiosis.

Apollo's headgear is the Persian tiara with a tip tipped forward and hanging neck and side protection, decorated all over with stars. The diadem above has alternating circles and diamonds as decoration. Behind the head you can see a halo with a diameter of around 50 centimeters, which makes his function as a sun god clear. Some of the rays extend beyond the edge of the relief. His clothing consists of a tight-fitting shirt with a cape thrown over him, which is held together in front of the right shoulder by a round brooch. It leaves the chest exposed and is visible again between the legs up to ankle height. Pants and boots correspond to those of the king. There is a braided collar around the neck and a bracelet can be seen on the left wrist. The left hand holds the barsom.

The relief is relatively flat and the faces are noticeably smooth. A similar depiction of Antiochus with the same deity was found in Arsameia on Nymphaeus, but there the god is referred to as Mithras-Helios-Apollo-Hermes.



At over three meters, the Zeusdexiosis clearly towers over the row of relief steles. It has broken through to about a quarter of the total height, and there is a gap between the top and bottom parts. The surfaces of Zeus' body and Antiochus' face have largely broken away. On the left, the picture shows Antiochus standing and frontally, his head turned to the right, while Zeus sits on a throne, also shown frontally, turning his head towards the king and extending his hand. The depiction of the royal figure largely corresponds to that of the other Dexioseis. Differences can only be seen in the decoration of various items of clothing and equipment; the tiara and the diadem here are decorated with winged lightning bolts, and oak leaves and branches also often appear as ornaments. The scepter held on the left can be seen behind the shoulder in a good condition. The sword is hanging here on the right side; on the scabbard, Humann and Puchstein could see lion heads in addition to oak decorations.

Zeus's clothing is more difficult to reconstruct, but the forward-tilting, star-decorated Persian tiara and the diadem decorated with lightning bolts can be clearly recognized. The oak leaves described by Antiochus appear again here. While the headgear is more reminiscent of the ancient Persian Ahura Mazda, the outer clothing is clearly Greek. It is made of chiton and himation, with fitted trousers and boots underneath, again featuring the oak leaf motif. He sits on a throne with a footstool in front of it. The legs of the throne are depicted below as lion's paws, which end in a curly mane and lion heads at the top of the arms. The pillars, which are visible to the right and left of the backrest, are decorated with the obligatory oak leaves and are each crowned by an eagle, which sits upright with outstretched wings. The two birds turn their heads towards one another. In his left hand the god holds a scepter that stands on the footstool. The top end resembles that of the king.



The last Dexiosis has a height of 2.17 meters. It is quite well preserved, parts are missing between the two people, the right arm of Heracles and the left of the king as well as the handshake. The face of Antiochus has disappeared, but is known from a photo by Hamdi Bey. Small parts of Heracles' face are missing. Antiochus' clothing is comparable to that of the other reliefs. Here again, as with the Commagene and Apollo reliefs, the tiara is decorated with striding lion figures, as is the diadem. The cape, shirt, trousers and footwear correspond to the patterns described. There are also no noticeable differences between the scepter and the sword; the scabbard is decorated with flowers.

Heracles stands out from all the figures depicted in that he is completely naked. He has a bunch of vine leaves on his head and he wears his famous lion skin cloak over his left arm. The lion's drooping head and paws are worked out in great detail. In his left hand the god holds an upright gnarled club that rises to the height of his head. The body is muscular, the face is bearded.


Importance of Dexioseis

There is no complete clarity about the meaning of the dexiosis reliefs. From numerous examples that have existed since the 9th century BC. It is known that the main weight lies with the right person. This person has to give something to his counterpart with the handshake. Since in the Commagene reliefs it is always the deity who stands on the right, she seems to bestow her favor on the king, perhaps granting him his rule. These are certainly greeting scenes. Puchstein sees this as a sign of the king's apotheosis, as he is one by one welcomed by the gods as one of their equals and thus accepted into their ranks. Helmut Waldmann, who reworked and published the Commagene royal inscriptions in 1973, sees Antiochus in the role of the greeter, who announces through the Dexiosis reliefs in the country that he greets these very gods and with them forms the circle of gods of his religion. Theresa Goell sees parallels, among other things, to the older Hittite reliefs of Tudhalija IV in the embrace of his patron god Šarruma in Yazılıkaya or of King Warpalawa of Tuwana in İvriz, who faces the god Tarḫunna. In connection with the king's wish expressed in the inscriptions to be eternally accepted into the heavenly spheres, it therefore tends to be interpreted as an apotheosis.


Leo horoscope


The last relief in the Dexioseis series is the Leo horoscope. Only fragments of the stele on the east terrace have been found; it is estimated to be 2.32 meters wide and 1.70 meters high. The monument on the west terrace was found by Humann and Puchstein in almost undamaged condition; it measures 2.40–2.42 meters wide and 1.75–1.84 meters high. They took a print that is now in the State Museums in Berlin. The relief, which has been more severely damaged since then, was no longer installed on site in 2011, like the Dexiosis reliefs.

The picture shows a lion striding to the right, its head facing the viewer. In particular, the head and the strong, muscular legs protrude far out of the relief like a sculpture. The tongue hangs from the open mouth between two fangs over the chin, above which whiskers are engraved on the upper jaw. A massive mane surrounds the head above the wide-open eyes, and tufts of hair can also be seen on the legs and stomach. The tail hangs down on the right hind leg and curls up again. The entire body and parts of the background are covered with eight-pointed stars, and there is a crescent moon on the chest. Above the animal's back there is a row of three stars with 16 rays, which are named in inscriptions above.



The 19 stars distributed over the lion's body undoubtedly form the constellation of the lion. With one insignificant difference, it corresponds to the description in Eratosthenes' catasterisms (star formation legends). The crescent moon on the chest is therefore close to the main star Leonis α. called Regulus (Greek Βασιλίσκος, German little king) of the constellation, which is called the king star. The three stars above the lion's back are labeled as follows:
The left star is called Πϋρόεις ῾Ηρακλέους, “the fiery one of Heracles”, a name for the planet Mars. Since Mars is the Roman name of the war god Ares, the relationship to the god Artagnes-Heracles-Ares can be seen here.
On the middle star you can read the inscription Στίλβων ᾿Απόλλωνος, "the shining one of Apollo", which refers to the planet Mercury and is represented by the Greek name Hermes of the Roman god Mercury in the Commagenic god's name Apollon-Mithras-Helios-Hermes.
The inscription on the third star in the series reads Φαέθων Διός, “the shining one of Zeus”, pointing to the planet Jupiter and the main god Zeus-Oromasdes.

This leads to the unanimously held opinion that the relief depicts a star constellation in which both the moon, which was equated with the goddess Hera and later with the personification of the country Commagene, as well as the planets Mars, Mercury and Jupiter in the constellation of the lion and thus pass the royal star Regulus. Which of the possible times and which associated event should be presented here by Antiochus is controversial. Humann and Puchstein had the astronomer Friedrich Tietjen in Berlin and his colleague Paul Lehmann provide the possible dates in the first half of the 1st century BC. Lehmann kept July 17, 98 BC “for astronomical reasons”. Humann and Puchstein agreed with this assumption. Since July 17th could not match the birthday stated in the cult inscription on Audnaeus 16th (around December/January), they assumed the date of conception was the date shown. They thus placed the birth year at 97 BC, which was included in numerous publications for a long time. Friedrich Karl Dörner stated that Antiochus would then have been born as a seven-month-old child. In addition, it was unusual to publish the birth charts of rulers, as they provided the astrological key to calculating the end of life. During a recalculation commissioned by the excavation team in 1959, the astronomers Otto Neugebauer and H. B. van Hoesen found that the planets rose shortly before the sun on the assumed date and were therefore not visible in the sky. They therefore chose July 7, 62 BC. BC, when the group could already be seen shining brightly in the evening sky. Dörner and Goell agreed with this vote, as did the philologist Heinrich Dörrie. In their assessment, they also included the days before and after the calculated time on which Mars, Mercury, the Moon and Jupiter passed the royal star Regulus and thus recreated the king's greeting shown in the Dexioseis. The two astronomers assumed that the reason for this was a treaty between Antiochus and Pompey regarding a reorganization of the territory, which, however, is not otherwise mentioned by Antiochus in any of the numerous inscriptions. Therefore, Dörner and Goell instead assume that the relief should be interpreted as the founding horoscope of the hierothesion on Nemrut Dağı. In 1999, the Dutch architect Maurice Crijns, head of the International Nemrud Foundation (INF), which worked on site to research and preserve the monuments from 1998 to 2003, proposed July 14, 109 BC and considers this date to be the coronation day of Mithridates I, Antiochus' father, possible. This dating also remains controversial.


Investiture reliefs

On the west terrace, north of the Dexiosis row, approximately at right angles to it, another row of probably five pedestals was found. The associated steles have only been preserved in parts. In addition to two reliefs with presumably female figures, which occupied lateral positions in the row of bases and of which mainly the contours can be seen, more of the central stele has been preserved. This was found in fragments by Humann and Puchstein and brought to Berlin. On the east terrace there was a similar row of bases at the southern end below the row of monumental statues, west of the maternal ancestral gallery, where the excavation team led by Goell and Dörner found a comparable relief. The Western image shows two male figures facing each other in the usual posture, their bodies facing the viewer and their faces facing each other. The right figure wears the Armenian tiara, a cape over the breastplate, a shirt with a sash and boots. On the left there is a sword hanging in its scabbard. The surfaces of the clothing and equipment are not finished or decorated, meaning that the depictions have not been completed. The head, both arms and parts of the chest are missing from the left figure. Clothing and equipment, as far as can be seen, correspond to the right person. On the eastern counterpart you can see that the figures stretch their right hands towards each other and hold a diadem together. From this it can be concluded that it is an investiture scene, with the figure on the left being given royal dignity by the figure on the right. It cannot be clarified whether this is Antiochus I, who is introduced into office by his father Mithridates I, or whether Antiochus himself makes his son Mithridates II king. No traces of an inscription were discovered. One can only speculate about the identity of the female figures on the side.

Because of the diadem held together by the two people, the investiture scene is also referred to as “Stephanophoros” (crown bearer).


Ancestral Galleries


On both terraces there are two rows of relief steles, one showing the paternal Persian ancestors and the other the maternal Seleucid ancestors of King Antiochus. On the east side, both rows are set up at right angles to the monumental statues, facing each other, the Persian ancestors in the north and the Greek ancestors in the south. Due to the space available, the Persian line of ancestors is also set up at right angles to the thrones of the gods on the west side, in the south of the terrace, but the Macedonian line is in the west, facing the large statues. In front of each ancestral relief there was a small altar made of three stone blocks, two of which were placed side by side and the third on top, creating an approximate cube with an edge length between 0.75 and 1.0 meters. The back of each stele bore an inscription consisting of the name Antiochus in the nominative case with nicknames, titles and parents and the name of the person depicted in the accusative case along with the name of the father. All figures look to the left as viewed by the viewer, the first, oldest ancestor is at the left end. The sequence of paternal ancestors includes 15 people and that of maternal ancestors 17 people. Contrary to Puchstein's opinion, the eastern and western ancestral lines correspond completely to one another. The first excavators had missed a completely buried base in the northern row of stelae on the east terrace, which is why they mistakenly assumed only 14 ancestors here. The later excavation team in the 1950s was able to uncover the missing base and correct the error.

Only a few of the somewhat larger-than-life reliefs have survived. Contrary to what the name ancestral gallery suggests, the pictures do not show any individual, portrait-like features, but are rather structured schematically with only minor deviations. The first five of the Iranian ancestors represent Persian great kings. They wear the Persian tiara decorated with stars with the tip tipped forward and neck flap, and a diadem above. They are dressed in an ankle-length, long-sleeved Persian cloak (kandys), which is held together across the chest with ribbons and brooches. A full beard and a mustache can be seen on the face. With his right hand the king drinks from a round phial decorated with a four-leaf rosette. In his left hand he holds the barsom. A particularly beautiful example is the image of Darius I on the east terrace, which clearly shows the combination of Greek and oriental features. Theresa Goell describes the relief as follows:

“His face is modeled in superb Greek fashion suggesting cameo or goldsmith work. The style and technique is an excellent example of the eclecticism of the art of Antiochus, combining exquisite neo-classical Greek workmanship into face and calm expression with Persian raiment and twisting mustache.”

“His face is designed in an excellent Greek manner, reminiscent of cameo or goldsmith work. The style and technique are an excellent example of the eclecticism of the art of Antiochus, combining the extraordinary neo-classical Greek execution quality of the face and calm expression with Persian garb and twirled beard.”
– Theresa Goell

The following ten portraits initially show satraps, from the ninth stele onwards kings of Armenia and finally from 13 to 15 Commagenian rulers. As far as can be seen, they all wear the usual Commagen costume. This includes the pointed, non-tilted tiara with diadem as headgear. The upper body is dressed in a leather armor with a diamond pattern, over it a shirt and a cloak, which is held on the shoulder by brooches. There is a sash around the waist and a skirt underneath. The figures hold a scepter vertically in their left hand and a pointed object in their right, probably a dagger. Its sheath is attached to the sash on the left side of the body. The footwear is boots.

Of the Seleucid-Greek ancestors on the mother's side, the first 12 or 13 are male, and for the most part only very fragmented remains remain. As far as can be seen, they are bareheaded and beardless. The eighth stele on the west side, Seleucus IV Philopator, is in the best condition. It is preserved from knee to shoulder and provides the most information about the clothing and equipment of the male ancestors in this series. The person depicted wears a smooth leather armor that merges into flap-like stripes at the hip or into a military skirt. A chiton appears underneath, with a coat (himation) above it, which is held together by a brooch on the shoulder. The feet are dressed in sandals. The left hand holds the scepter, the right brings the libation from a rhyton, and a sword hangs in its scabbard on the left side of the body. A 13 centimeter wide decorated strap runs diagonally from the right shoulder across the upper body. What is notable is a medallion at waist level. It is round, has a diameter of 16 centimeters and shows a finely crafted portrait bust of Heracles, the deity Atragnes-Herakles-Ares. The god can be clearly identified by the club in his left hand. A corresponding piece was found from the next stele, Antiochus IV Epiphanes, here a young man with curly hair is depicted on the brooch. Since Heracles was undoubtedly the person depicted at Seleucus, it is assumed that Apollo, i.e. the deity Apollo-Mithras-Helios-Hermes, can be seen here. There are few usable remains of the other male Greek ancestors.

The last four or five of the ancestral reliefs show female figures. They are also dressed in chiton and himation. The chiton falls in folds to the floor, the coat above hangs to knee height and is pulled over the head like a headscarf. Above this there is a simple wreath (Stephane) on the forehead. The female ancestors hold a scepter in their left hand; unlike the male ancestors, it is held slightly at an angle. The right arm is bent, the hand rests at chest level. A pear-shaped earring and some locks of hair appear on the side. Sandals can be seen on the feet.


Assignment of the stelae to well-known rulers

The figures have few individual features, so a direct assignment to historical people can only be made via the inscriptions on the back. Since only parts of these have been preserved, additional sources must be consulted. Initially it was assumed that a sequence from father/mother to son/daughter could be assumed. The problem arose that the time periods available could not be reconciled with the number of people. There are around 450 years between Darius I and Antiochus, which would result in a generational average of 30 years that is too large for 15 people depicted. The Seleucid ancestors have 17 generations available over a period of 300 years, which seems extremely long. Friedrich Karl Dörner based himself on various possible solutions. On the one hand, he concluded from the known dates of reign of the Persian kings that the father-son principle had been observed for the first five, omitting Xerxes II, who reigned for only 45 days. After that, once between steles 5 and 6, it is passed on to the father-in-law instead of the father. For the others, Dörner either inferred the name of the previous ruler from the father's name on a stele if the inscription had not been preserved, or he reconstructed the Achaemenid ancestry from historiography.

The Seleucid line of ancestors begins with Alexander, who is given the nickname “the Great” for the first time in the known epigraphic and literary tradition. This fictional descent of the Seleucid family goes back to Seleucus I. The next three reliefs can be identified by their inscriptions, of the following only two directly and one by the father's name of the next. Dörner assumes that the stele of Antiochus VIII Grypos, which Puchstein assigned to the 12th base, is in 13th place. The following monuments depict female ancestors of Antiochus. When determining the missing names, Dörner takes into account the legitimacy and importance of the known rulers and deletes all usurpers and their descendants. Thomas Fischer, on the other hand, points out that after conflicts among the Seleucids the dynasty was split into an older and a younger line and only takes into account those who afterwards counted Antiochus VIII Grypos among his legitimate predecessors. Like Puchstein, he puts the latter in 12th place and thus assumes 13 female ancestors from the stele onwards. The following list includes both interpretations of the male family tree.

The name Cleopatra can be seen on stele 14 on the west terrace, and the inscription Isias Philostorgos on stele 16 can also be read. It is unclear whether this is identical to Isias, the wife of Antiochus, who is mentioned in an inscription to a Dexiosis at Karakuş. Dörner adds Tryphaina from the king's family tree for stele 15 and Antiochus' mother Laodice for 17. Bruno Jacobs published a different interpretation of the female figures, both of which are shown below.


Steles of relatives

On the east terrace, another three-part row was found behind both rows of ancestors. There were no altars in front of these reliefs. It is believed that living relatives of the king were depicted on it. Humann and Puchstein were able to find two partially preserved sculptures in the northern, paternal ancestral gallery. Goell and Dörner conclude from the depictions of two younger, beardless men in Commagene costume and from a few inscription fragments found that they are two sons of King Antiochus I, possibly Antiochus II and Mithridates II. From the third stele and the corresponding one In the southern row there are only sparse fragments that do not allow any conclusions to be drawn about the people depicted.

It is not clear whether such reliefs were also present on the western terrace. Humann and Puchstein found a stele with a partially preserved inscription near the southern ancestral gallery on the west terrace, which they assigned to the end of this series. From the inscription it was possible to deduce a Mithridates, whom they interpreted as the king's father. However, since the title of Antiochus here did not correspond to that on the other steles in the series, and Mithridates' nickname Kallinikos was missing, it is possible to conclude that this stele belongs to a second series, which, analogous to the eastern terrace, depicts members of the royal family living here perhaps Mithridates II, the son and successor of Antiochus.


Main altar

On the eastern edge of the eastern platform, in the direction of the monumental statues, there is a stepped platform measuring 13 × 13 meters. During their excavations, Humann and Puchstein dug a trench from west to east through the base in search of an entrance to the king's suspected burial chamber. In 1973, Goell's excavators were able to restore the truncated pyramid from existing sandstone blocks. It had five steps made of sandstone blocks on four sides and rose at least 1.50 meters above the surface of the courtyard. The second, wider step from below merged into the rock of the courtyard on the west side and thus formed a path that ran around the altar platform on all sides. A wall that Humann and Puchstein found on the east side of the slope and thought to be free-standing connects directly to the lowest step and forms a retaining wall. On the west side, towards the courtyard, they discovered two more walls that ran parallel for a few meters towards the hill. There was uncertainty about its function; they thought it was a later addition. The excavators in the 1950s then received information from their Kurdish workers that it was a trap set up in modern times for quail hunting and tore down the walls. On the surface of the platform stood an altar block, possibly a Persian fire altar, flanked by lions and eagles. The graves found one of these animals, a 1.78 meter high sitting lion, at the northwest corner of the dais and placed it there. Further guardian animals, a total of two lions and two eagles, came to light in fragments in the rubble around the platform that had been left behind by the first excavators' excavation work. The animals probably stood to the right and left of the fire altar. Some blocks with sloping surfaces were found among the rubble, which leads to the assumption that the altar may have had a gable. Goell and Donald H. Sanders, who published the collected research results in 1996, see similarities between the altar and depictions on the facades of the rock tombs of the Achaemenid kings Darius I, Darius II, Xerxes and Artaxerxes I in Naqsh-e Rostam. There is a stepped pyramid with a fire altar on which a king stands under a winged god Ahura Mazda.


North terrace

The northern terrace differs from the other two mainly in the absence of sculptural decoration. The main feature is an approximately 86 meter long row of stone bases, which delimits a wedge-shaped area 56 meters long and 32 meters wide between the tumulus and the slope towards the east terrace and, further to the west, a rectangle measuring 5 × 28 meters. This is followed by the gravelled path to the west terrace. The bases are without gaps except for a few places. Some of them are carved from the rock, the majority are made of sandstone blocks, some of which are underlined due to the unevenness of the terrain. Next to them are fallen orthostats with pegs that, like the ancestral and dexiosis reliefs, fit into a hole in the base. They are smooth and show no traces of reliefs or inscriptions.

There is no clarity about the function of the resulting wall. Humann and Puchstein assumed that the orthostats had never been erected and assumed that it was possible that they should either be decorated with images or serve as protection from northern storms. Based on traces of mortar in the bases, the excavators led by Goell and Dörner concluded that the stones actually used to stand there and were toppled by the same destructive force - vandalism or earthquake - as the other monuments. Since the stones are only an average of 30 centimeters thick and therefore, in their opinion, hardly suitable for reliefs, they considered the wall to be purely a demarcation of the northern terrace and the processional path surrounding the hill from the northern slope. Bruno Jacobs, on the other hand, thinks it is more likely that the row of pedestals was intended for further sculpture. Since the width of the stones is different, he suggests a procession of gods or a sacrificial procession with chariots, teams or sacrificial animals as motifs.

About 28 meters from the western end of the row of bases there is a passage almost one meter wide. To the north of this, a ramp can be seen on the slope, which forms the end of a northern access from the valley below. Remains of walls can be seen on both sides of the ramp, and on the eastern side there are traces of a wedge-shaped platform measuring roughly 3 × 3 meters. The excavations also uncovered fragments of an eagle figure that had stood here, similar to that at the eastern entrance.


Paths and entrances

Both Hamdi Bey and Humann and Puchstein expressed their surprise that Antiochus, who expected numerous visitors to his place of worship, had not created any access routes. However, excavations in the 1950s and 1960s showed that three processional paths, called Propylaia Odos (Greek προπύλαια ὁδός), led to the summit from different directions. To the east, two routes that came from Arsameia on the Euphrates (Gerger) and from the source of Nymphaios (Kahta Çayı) met at another source about an hour and a half's walk northeast of the summit sanctuary. From there the path, partly natural and partly carved into the rock, led uphill to the east terrace. About 300 meters below the Hierothesion, a base with a fallen inscription stele was found at the staircase. In the detailed and well-preserved text, Antiochus first introduces himself with ancestry, nicknames and titles and then warns the newcomer. Anyone who enters the place by mistake should turn back and purify themselves in a temple. Anyone who approaches the sanctuary with hostile intentions will be threatened with the unfailing arrows of Apollo and Heracles in his evil heart and with bitter pain within his being, which hates all that is good. The path continued past the stele to the northeast corner of the eastern terrace, where the entrance to the courtyard finally lay between the tiered altar and the paternal ancestral gallery. It was guarded by a sitting eagle on a platform, of which only the smallest fragments remain, apart from the outline of the talons on the base.

A second processional route came to the west from the Hierothesion of Mithridates Kallinikos in Arsameia on Nymphaios. He approached the summit from the southwest and passed the location of a corresponding stele, which was found in 1955, about 100 meters below the western terrace. Despite its very fragile condition, Dörner was able to determine that the text of the inscription was similar to that of the eastern Propylaia Odos. From there the path swung to the northwest and ran beneath the retaining wall of the Greek ancestral line, then led to the terrace with a bend at its northern end. At this entrance, a larger fragment of a seated, three-headed lion over two meters tall was unearthed, which probably stood there as a guardian figure.

A recognizable Propylaia Odos also led up to the north terrace from the valley of Kahta Çayı. Especially in the last part before the entrance, as described above, it was clearly expanded and flanked by walls and a platform on which a guardian animal, here the eagle, also stood. A little below the entrance area, another stele was found in 1955 and a corresponding base not far from it. It showed no traces of inscription, but according to Goell and Sanders the site would be the logical place for a Propylaia inscription.

A gravel processional path led around the entire hill. In front of the two main terraces it divided and led both to the courtyards where the cult activities were to take place and behind the monumental statues where the large Nomos inscription could be read.


Burial chamber

It is clear from the large cult inscription of Antiochus that his body was to be buried on the summit of Nemrut Dağı. However, despite numerous attempts, his burial chamber has not yet been found. During their investigations, Humann and Puchstein found traces of previous excavation attempts at various parts of the tumulus. They suspected the entrance outside the gravel mound and opened the step altar on the east terrace, digging a trench from east to west through the platform in search of a dromos (entrance corridor). In 1956, Friedrich Karl Dörner successfully uncovered the large rock passage at Base II in Arsameia with the help of mining engineers from Siemens. Under their guidance, workers began to drive a tunnel into the hill behind the monumental statue of Zeus Oromasdes on the east side, but soon came across the overgrown rock. Excavation attempts at numerous other locations on the tumulus were also unsuccessful.

In 1963 and 1964, various geophysical methods were used in the search. First, the geologist and geophysicist Maurizio Girelli from the Fondazione Ing. C. M. Lerici del Politecnico di Milano examined the mountain peak using refraction seismic and geoelectrical resistance measurements. The next year, geophysicist Jeremy R. Hutt, with the support of DynaMetric Inc. of Pasadena, California, made further measurements, now regarding the earth's magnetic field and gravity, as well as seismic measurements again, this time under different conditions, and finally using metal detectors. Only the gravity and magnetic field measurements showed an anomaly in the area of the eastern terrace. However, during test drilling it turned out to be of natural origin. Although the seismic investigations provided an image of the rock that had grown under the piled gravel, there was no evidence of a dromos or a burial chamber. Radar surveys planned for 1976 were not carried out due to lack of funds. Sencer Şahin's Nemrut Dağı project conducted renewed geophysical surveys in the late 1980s, which yielded further information about the structure of the peak, but again no indication of the chamber sought. With the renewed review of the geophysical data in connection with the interpretation of architectural features, the geophysicists Tomm Utecht and Volker Schulz-Rincke, together with Adolf Grothkopf, were able to show in the early 2000s that the entrance to the burial chamber can be assumed to be in the gravel field on the south terrace. The burial chamber itself can most likely be found in the solid limestone 25 meters below the west terrace.



In the depictions of gods and people there are numerous iconographic elements that can be assigned to the Achaemenid or Iranian culture on the one hand and to the Macedonian, Greek or Seleucid culture on the other. These elements include clothing, equipment, weapons and jewelry.

Some of these characteristics can be attributed to both Western and Eastern culture at the same time. This includes, for example, the diadem worn by almost all people, male and female, rulers and gods. Differences can be seen in the ornamentation; the Iranian rulers used eagles, lions, bundles of lightning or simple discs as decoration, while the Seleucid and Hellenistic diadem, also known from coins, is smooth. The Persian tiara is worn over the tiara, while the Western one is worn directly on the hair or forehead. In all cases, the Heracles knot is used to fasten the back of the head. The sash around the stomach also appears in both cultures, decorated with, among other things, oak leaves for the Persians and unadorned for the Seleucids. The scepter, like the sword, is found among both the Greeks and the Persians, although the latter has decorative engravings and decorated handles among the Seleucids.

The Persian style of clothing includes boots, a cloak, the Persian tunic, trousers, tiara and armor. The simple boots, sometimes decorated with oak leaves by the gods, are of Achaemenid origin and are known from numerous images from Persepolis. The cloak used by the first five ancestors, the ancient Persian kings, was the Achaemenid cloak known as Kandy. The later ancestral figures as well as the monumental statues on the east side wear a heavy cloak, which is possibly based on Hellenistic models. The Persian tunic worn underneath by the seated statues on the east terrace is difficult to see, as are the trousers tucked into the boots. Headwear is the Persian tiara, with ears and neck flaps hanging down. It is usually decorated with star patterns. In the first five Achaemenid ancestors and the gods, the tip of the cap is tilted forward; in the later Iranian ancestors, the headgear is, as far as can be seen, straight. Antiochus is the only one wearing an Armenian tiara, which ends in five pointed triangles at the top. He is also depicted with it on coins and all other depictions. The Persian tiara is known from images from Persepolis and was a symbol of Persian royal dignity for the Greeks. The armor that the paternal ancestors wear from Stele 6 onwards is made of leather and completely decorated with stars or diamonds, and occasionally floral ones.

The Iranian side's jewelry and weapons consist of brooches, neck rings, a simple bracelet, phials and a dagger. The brooches hold the cloaks together and are usually present in duplicate, except in the western monumental statues. In the Old Persian ancestors (Stela 1 to 5) they are round or oval without ornament, in the later ones (6 to 15) they are heart-shaped and decorated with lightning bolts and eagles. Several Persian ancestors wear a neck ring (torques) that is open at the front. A similar piece of jewelry can be found with the Achaemenid king Darius III. can be seen on the Alexander mosaic from Pompeii. The oldest five Persian rulers hold a phial in their right hand, as is known from numerous finds, from which they offer libations. The later ones, as far as they survive, instead hold a dagger, the sheath of which hangs on the right hip. The final oriental element is the barsom, which comes from the Zoroastrian religion, a tied bundle of branches that the five ancient Persian ancestors hold in their left hands, as do the male god statues except Heracles, who holds his club.

Of the pieces of equipment that can be assigned to the western culture, some are Macedonian from the time of Alexander. Of the items of clothing, the armor should first be mentioned. It is a close-fitting piece made of leather that flows into a military skirt made of leather strips in several layers below the belt. The cloak worn over it is very similar to the Persian one. The Seleucid ancestors commonly wore sandals as footwear, with several strips of leather braided from the sole extending halfway up the lower leg. The most striking element of these depictions is a bandolier-like, wide belt running diagonally from the shoulder to the belt, which is held by a strikingly decorated brooch. The two surviving reliefs that show this brooch show artistic portraits of Heracles and Apollo respectively. All Seleucid rulers probably wore a belt with a buckle around their waist.

Purely Greek elements include the chiton, himation, belt and sandals on the female figures, the diadem, the corona and the kalathos on the head, and finally drop-shaped earrings and bracelets as jewelry. All the men, including the gods, also wear the chiton, although it is hardly visible under the armor. In place of the Phiale for the Achaemenid rulers, the Rhyton is used by the Greeks, from which libation is made. The most striking Greek attributes are the cornucopia of Commagene, according to John H. Young a variation of the rhyton, and the club of Heracles.



The 4th century Bishop Gregory of Nazianzus, one of the three Cappadocian Church Fathers, called “the huge tomb built on high” the eighth wonder of the world. The philologist Reinhold Merkelbach and the epigraphist Louis Robert are of the opinion that Gregor meant the Nemrut Dağı. Stones from the complex were later used to build a church.

As part of a documentary by a French television team in 1958, the Turkish-Armenian photographer Ara Güler came to Nemrut Dağı, where he took numerous pictures. These were published in over a hundred domestic and foreign art magazines, especially in Germany and France. The sanctuary was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1987. On December 7, 1988, the Turkish government declared the area around Nemrut Dağı, including the hill of Karakuş, Arsameia at Nymphaios and the Roman Chabinas Bridge, a national park. At the 2000 World Exhibition in Hanover, copies of the Dexiosis reliefs and the Leo horoscope were presented in the Turkish pavilion. In the same year, the World Monuments Fund placed Nemrut Dağı on its list of the 100 most endangered cultural monuments. After a restoration and rescue program was launched by the International Nemrud Foundation in association with scientists from the Middle East Technical University, the entry was withdrawn in 2002.