Sep 282016
 

September 27, 2016

Karakuş Tümülüsü or the Tomb of Karakus

Karakuş Tümülüsü or the Tomb of Karakus.  This eagle sits on the Eastern Column of the tomb.

There are several important historical sites with Nemrut Daği.  One of these is the Tomb of Karakus, located on Karadag Mountain. Antiochis was the second daughter of King Antiochus I Theos of Commagene and Queen Isias Philostorgos. Unfortunately very little is known about Antiochis. The identity of her husband is unknown however, she did have a daughter called Aka, also known as Aka I of Commagene.

She appeared to have died of unknown causes sometime between the late 30s or early 20s BC. Antiochis was buried along with her mother and her daughter here at Karakus, also called The Black Bird. This burial sanctuary was constructed and built by her brother King Mithridates II of Commagene.

A lion and bull once sat on the eastern column

A lion and bull once sat on the eastern column

A relief, now too worn to see once held a relief showing King Mithridatees II having hands with his sister Laodike

A relief, now too worn to see, once held a relief showing King Mithridatees II shaking hands with his sister Laodike

Looking down into the valley from the tomb

Looking down into the Euphrates valley and Euphrates River from the Tomb of Karakus.

The Severan Bridge is a late ancient Roman bridge located near Mount Nemrut.

The Severan Bridge is a late ancient Roman bridge located near Mount Nemrut.

A few miles away from the Tomb of Karakus is the Severan bridge. It is constructed of 92 stones, each weighing about 10 tons, creating a simple, unadorned, single, majestic arch reaching from two rocks at the narrowest point of the river. A 112 feet clear span, the structure is quite possibly the second largest extant arch bridge built by the Romans. It is 390 feet long and 23 feet wide. Roads, as well as bridges had to handle a marching Roman army, the standard spacing of a Roman army legion is usually given at 3′ for each man. Allowing 1 foot between the edge of the road, marches required a minimum road width of 18 feet.

Severan BridgeThe bridge was built by four Commagenean cities in honor of the Roman Emperor Lucius Septimius Severus (193–211), his second wife Julia Domna, and their sons Caracalla and Publius Septimius Geta to whom the four columns of the bridge were dedicated. However,  Geta’s column was removed after Caracalla had his brother Geta murdered and had his memory damned or declared damnatio memoriae. This is the Latin phrase literally meaning “condemnation of memory”, stating that a person must not be remembered. A common practice of rulers throughout the ancient kingdoms.

Geta's column is gone on the Severan Bridge

Geta’s column is gone on the Severan Bridge

Roman inscriptions on the column

Roman inscriptions on the column

The most important find at Arsemia was this relief of the King shaking the hand of Hercules

The most important find at Arsemeia was this relief of the King shaking the hand of Hercules

Another site within Nemrut Daği is Arsemeia. Arsemeia was the summer capital of the Commagene Kingdom built by King Antiochus I Theos Dikaios Epiphanes Philoromaios Philhellen of Commagene in honor of his father King Mithridates I Callinicus. Its mountain location soon became a military stronghold and the site of a mausoleum and religious center.

You go to Arsemeia to see the bas relief depicting a meeting between King Mithradates and Hercules, carved in about 50 B.C. This area contains the oldest known images of two people shaking hands.

The largest rock inscription in all of Anatolya

The largest rock inscription in all of Anatolia sits just below the bas relief of the King and Hercules.  The entire flat surface is covered with writing. The cave is thought to be a temple, possibly to worship Hades, but it is not truly known. The water trough beside it may have been used for religious ablutions.

Some of the writing at Artemsia

Some of the writing at Arsemeia

The largest rock inscription in Anatolia tells of the political intentions and the religious beliefs of the Commagene Kingdom, that Arsemeia was its capital and that Mithridates, the father of Antioches I, was buried there.

Another relief showing hand shaking, sadly the second person is missing

Another relief showing hand shaking, sadly the second person is missing.

All of Anatolia is so rich with history of kingdoms, and people, throughout all of history.  It is quite a task to understand them, their interactions with other kingdoms and history itself.

Sep 272016
 

September 27, 2016

The day begins with sunrise on the top of the mountain

The day begins with sunrise on the top of the mountain

The Kingdom of Commagene was an ancient Armenian kingdom of the Hellenistic period (between 323 and 31 BC). Commagene has been characterized as a “buffer state” between Armenia, Parthia (north eastern Iran), Syria, and Rome.

The headless bodies on the Eastern Ridge

The headless bodies on the Eastern Terrace

Little is known of the region of Commagene prior to the beginning of the 2nd century BC. However, the Kingdom of Commagene maintained its independence until 17 AD, when it was made a Roman province by Emperor Tiberius. It reemerged as an independent kingdom when Antiochus IV of Commagene was reinstated to the throne by order of Caligula, then deprived of it by that same emperor (of course, Caligula was truly crazy and unstable, so granting and taking away kingdoms would have been normal for him).  The king was restored to his throne a couple of years later by Caligula’s successor, Claudius. The re-emergent state lasted until 72 AD, when the Emperor Vespasian finally and definitively made it part of the Roman Empire.

The Eastern Terrace with the heads shown near their respective bodies

The Eastern Terrace with the heads shown near their respective bodies

One of the kingdom’s most lasting visible remains is the archaeological site on Mount Nemrut, a sanctuary dedicated by and to King Antiochus Theos, (ruler of Commagene between 64 and 38 BC) (and obviously, quite an egotist). It holds a statue of the king himself, a number of Greco-Iranian deities and the deified land of Commagene.

The God Zeus

The God Zeus

Mount Nemrut is situated in Eastern Anatolya. It is famous for its large head statues. These statues were once seated, with names of each god inscribed on them. The heads of the statues have at some stage been removed from their bodies, and they are now scattered throughout the site.

Apollo-Mithras The Gods were listed in the inscriptions with both their Greek and Carregene names

Apollo-Mithras The Gods were listed in the inscriptions with both their Greek and Persian names

The pattern of damage to the heads (notably to noses) suggests that they were deliberately damaged as a result of iconoclasm. The statues have not been restored to their original positions, although on the Eastern side they have been uprighted and arranged in front of their bodies. The site also preserves stone slabs with bas-relief figures that are thought to have formed a large frieze. These slabs display the ancestors of Antiochus, who included Armenians, Greeks and Persians.

nemrut

The eagle is the symbol of power in the sky

The site was excavated in 1881 by Karl Sester, a German engineer, while he was out assessing transport routes for the Ottomans, but it was not fully documented until the 1990s.

The bas-relief figures that are thought to have formed a large frieze.

The bas-relief figures that are thought to have formed a large frieze.

nemrut

The entire top of the hill is man made, and thought to hold the tomb of Antiochus. However, subsequent excavations (one of which included dynamiting parts of the hill) have failed to reveal the tomb of Antiochus, it is nevertheless still believed to be the site of his burial.

In 1987, Mount Nemrut was made a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.

dsc_7023 *dsc_7020

The inscriptions on the back of the seated figures

The inscriptions on the back of the seated figures

The lion is the symbol of power on earth

The lion is the symbol of power on earth

Nemrut

*Nemrut

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This woman wanted a picture with me, I thought it only fair I got one to. There were only 6 of us there to watch the sunrise, she and I, the only women. Believe me the climb was not easy in a skirt with our female shoes.

This woman wanted a picture with me, I thought it only fair I got one too. There were only 6 of us there to watch the sunrise, she and I, the only women. Believe me the climb was not easy in a skirt with our female shoes.

Sep 262016
 

September 26, 2016

Turkey is a vast country with lots and lots of open space between its cities. I am off to visit Mount Nemrut, but it is not easy, it includes long drives through the same scenery for hours.

A typical large town of Turkey with its high rise nondescript condos and apartments

A typical large town of Turkey with its high rise nondescript condos and apartments

The day began at 9:00 in the morning with a long drive from Kayseri. A stop for a fabulous fish lunch on a river, sitting on a boat, right next to the fish farm.

The boat crossed the 10 feet to the moored boat for lunch.

The flat bottomed boat crossed the 10 feet to the moored boat where lunch was served.

Lunch of trout cooked in a clay dish - It was perfect.

Lunch of trout cooked in a clay dish – It was perfect.

Our next stop was in the town of Marash for ice cream. This ice cream is different than anything you have encountered, and is specific to this region of Turkey.

First, it is made from goats milk. Second it is mixed with orchid root. The goats milk is not really noticeable unless you get the plain flavor, and then it has a touch of goat cheese flavor, if you have any other flavor, it is just a rich and creamy ice cream.

Advertising for the special ice cream of

Advertising for the special ice cream of Marash

The orchid root, however, changes the texture a bit. It gives it a slight gelatinous texture, and therefore keeps the shape of the ice cream considerably longer, so much longer in fact, that you need a knife and fork to eat it.

More ice cream street art

More ice cream street art

According to the Marash website: Many years ago, a natural food enthusiast from a mountainous village of Kahramanmaraş, Turkey, was attempting to make his own Salep, a popular Eastern European milky drink made from the powdered root of the orchid flower. He combined the roots of wild orchids together with the nutrient rich milk of the local mountain goats, and left it to cool. Alas, the Salep didn’t taste quite right but in its place, this creative connoisseur realized that he had in fact invented a new dessert all of its own! Refreshing, healthy, and strangely stretchy, the great taste and originality of this dessert soon spread across the country.

Plain ice cream served with Baklava

Plain ice cream served with Baklava. The ice cream, coincidentally is called Marash.

Caramel Ice Cream

Caramel Ice Cream

The countryside of Eastern Anatolya is similar to the central valley of California. It has its basis in a volcanic formation with rich soil and flat valleys leading up to copper oxide rich foothills and then mountains.

The entire area is agricultural and barely populated. There are a few large industrial cities as you travel along, but for the most part your hours of driving are spent looking at mother earth in various stages of farm or fallow.

We passed pistachios, tobacco, pumpkins (grown only for their seeds), potatoes, sugar beets, and obviously many other crops I did not recognize, as well as a substantial amount of sheep and cattle.

The entry to the caravansary

The entry to the caravansary

The one thing that this area has that California does not is Caravansaries. They were situated approximately every 25 miles and were there to protect the camel herds that carried all the goods traded along the spice routes, basically they served as Bed and Breakfast’s for you, your entourage and your camels, complete with a security system.

Most typically a caravanserai was a building with a square or rectangular walled exterior, with a single portal wide enough to permit large or heavily laden beasts such as camels to enter. The courtyard was almost always open to the sky, and the inside walls of the enclosure were outfitted with a number of identical stalls, bays, niches, or chambers to accommodate merchants and their servants, animals, and merchandise.

Caravanserais provided water for human and animal consumption, washing, and ritual ablutions. Sometimes they had elaborate baths. They also kept fodder for animals and had shops for travelers where they could acquire new supplies. In addition, some shops bought goods from the traveling merchants.

Notice the snakes over the doorway.

Notice the snakes over the doorway.

A few shots of the countryside

Turkish Countryside

*Turkish Countryside

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Grape Molasses for sale at a roadside stand

Grape Molasses for sale at a roadside stand

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Roadside stand, nuts and grapes with a small fruit that tastes just like an apple

Roadside stand, nuts and grapes with a small fruit that tastes just like an apple

Raisins for sale

Raisins for sale