flesh and blood

Merhaba from Mount Nemrut,

Mount Nemrut

King Antiochus Ist wanted to live forever. Even though he was no more than a flesh and blood human like the rest of us, he believed he was destined to spend eternity with the gods. During his life as head of the kingdom of Commagene in south-eastern modern-day Türkiye, he planned for the eternity which, for him was a certainty.

As king of the Commagene during the first century BCE, Antiochus was a friend to the Greeks (one parent was Greek) and a friend to the Romans (according to an inscription on Mount Nemrut). The magnificent statue of Antiochus shaking hands with Heraklion was unfortunately damaged during this year’s massive earthquakes and is off limits to travellers.

In anticipation of his temporal demise, Antiochus decreed that his tomb be encased in a tumulus at the top of a hill. He wanted to be on a “high and holy” place, as close to the gods as possible and away from the general populace. The place he chose was Mount Nemrut.

Today, Mount Nemrut – from a distance at least – looks like a conical peak, something that an uneducated eye might regard as natural. The mound of broken rock at the top is actually man-made. When you get close, you realise that there is a huge mass of broken rock. That’s a lot of truckloads at a time when there were no trucks.

The tomb was built to allow large groups of people (handy for the tourists of today) to congregate at one side or another: on the east terrace or the west terrace. This was because Antiochus wanted all of the subjects as well as the military of the kingdom to gather twice a month for a festival. He allocated funds for the food and beverages from properties in the kingdom who had become legally bound to provide for such things. Every month on the 10th instance and every month on the 16th instance (his birthday anniversary) there were to be feast days. The rules for the feast days were that there were to be “no grudging attitudes” and that people were to enjoy themselves. As well as eating and drinking wine, they were to listen to sacred music.

Antiochus went to the trouble of appointing particular families to oversee the rituals and he decreed before dying that their descendants were to continue the traditions into perpetuity.

The dozens of rock statues stand today as a fairly remote but accessible tourist attraction. These are the kinds of things which inspired Erich Von Daniken to arrive at his strange (but popular) theories about extra-terrestrial visitors and the construction of rock monuments. They certainly do evoke questions about how the slaves of the kingdom got the rock up there and how they created the tumulus, but it’s probably safe to say they were created by terrestrial beings. All for the delusions of a king.

It’s tremendously gratifying to know that we don’t have anyone today who harbours such delusions of eternal grandeur, isn’t it?

Güle güle from Mount Nemrut


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