Located in southeastern Turkey, about 87 km from Adıyaman, Mount Nemrut is one of the most fascinating ancient places in Turkey. It is a part of the Taurus Mountain range, above the Euphrates River valley and the extensive site of the ruins of the monumental resting place of King Antiochus I of the Commagene Kingdom.
Despite its modest size, the Commagene Kingdom, located between the Seleucid Empire in the west and Parthia in the East, played an important role in the period of Roman expansion to the east, into the area controlled by the Hellenistic states. King Antiochus I, who ruled for more than 30 years, was the most powerful ruler of the Commagene. It is considered that, probably he was the only son of King Mithridates I Callinicus from the Orontid Armenian dynasty and Princess Laodice VII Thea, a Greek - Syrian princess of the Seleucid Empire. Thus, he could boast as descend from two distinguished families. The 50 m high artificial mound of crushed rocks that he created on the top of the Mount Nemrut is a compelling proof of the pride and ego of this ruler, who thought himself equal to the gods. At the foot of the peak, he ordered to place his own gigantic statues surrounded by the gods.
The tomb sanctuary, considered as one of the most ambitious constructions of the Hellenistic period. It was flanked by 26 to 30 feet (8 to 9 m) high colossal statues of the king, along with two lions, two eagles and different Armenian, Persian and Greek gods.
There was a time, when those statues were seated, with names of each god inscribed on them. However, at some stage, the heads had been removed from their bodies and today, they are scattered throughout the site. From the pattern of damage to the heads, especially the noses, it seems that they were intentionally damaged.
Apart from the gigantic statues, the site also includes huge stone slabs with bas-relief figures that are thought to be the ancestors of King Antiochus, who appear to have Greek-style facial features, but Armenian clothing and hair-styling. The western terrace of the site contains a large slab, depicting a lion and showing an arrangement of stars and the planets like, Mars, Mercury and Jupiter. As the composition was considered to be a chart of the sky on 7 July 62 BC, it is assumed that probably the construction of the monument started on that day.
There is a square alter platform at the east side of the eastern terrace. This portion, which includes several layers of rock, is well preserved. The existence of a narrow path following the base of the mountain may be the evidence of a walled passageway, which once linked the eastern and western terraces. The west terrace is equipped with an additional row of stone slabs with bas-relief, one of which depicts Antiochus shaking hands with a deity.
The Giant Eagle Royal Karakus Tumulus, the burial place of female members of the Commagene royal family, was decorated with four tall pedestals, out of which only one stands erect today, with an eagle sculpture on top. Floor mosaics were unearthed in the Necropolis of Perre, situated in one of the largest settlements, near the Pirin Village.
In 1881, a German engineer named Karl Sester, assessing transport routes for the Ottomans, reported on the unusual structures in Nemrut. Motivated more by pure curiosity, Sester climbed to the top in the company of a Kurd named Bâko, to discover the monumental sculptures with his own eyes. Despite the sensational discovery, Mount Nemrut had to wait more than half a century, when in 1939, Friedrich Karl Dörner, the author of the doctoral dissertation on the Kingdom of Commagene, arrived in eastern Anatolia and began systematic research of the mountain. Apart from Friedrich Karl Dörner, American archaeologist Theresa Goell dedicated her life to find out the mysteries of the site, starting campaigns in 1954. It was made a World Heritage Site by UNESCO IN 1987.