Tuesday, October 14, 2014

The Commagene Kingdom. Arsameia, Septimus Severus, and Karakus Tumulus.

At Arsameia.

Mount Nemrut. What an amazing place! How do you top it? You can't really and that's probably one of the reasons why the next three places we went to were such a blur for me. That and I had never heard of any of them and Denis's explanations were, well, okay except that by the time he got to the end of his spiel, I had completely forgotten what he had said. I think my attention span, which has always been short the begin with, is barely there these days. I blame it on old age :-)


It wasn't until after we wrapped up our visit to all three places that the common thread fell into place.  All three sites were landmarks in the Commagene Kingdom and all three sites, along with Mount Nemrut are located within the boundaries of the national park that exists to protect them.

From Mount Nemrut, we chugged our way down a very bumpy unpaved road.  Somehow I didn't remember it being so bumpy on the way up so perhaps we're descending via a different route.

In any event, it probably took us about 40 minutes or so to get to our next destination of the morning, Arsameia which is located within the boundaries of the national park that is also home to Mount Nemrut.  After we got out of the van, Denis gave us a very brief explanation and then set us loose, pointing the way up an unpaved path.  Before proceeding, I thought I would read the posted description.

Uh...okay.  I still have no idea what's ahead of me.

In a nutshell, Arsameia was the summer capital of the Comagene Kingdom.  Arsameia was founded in the 3rd century BC by the Armenian king Arsames (255–225 BC) and fell into Commagene hands at a later date.  I had no idea what to expect to see - perhaps ruins of a structures, monuments and other things that you would typically see in an ancient capital.


We set out as a group.  Denis stayed behind at the small teahouse that services tourists coming to Arsameia.  I just hoped someone knew where they were going....or perhaps, Denis set us loose on our own because you can't really get lost??

The path took us from where the van was parked to see several of the landmarks of this ancient capital.  From the path, we had a spectacular view of the valley below.  If nothing else, the Commagenes picked a wonderful spot with a view.


There were no signs marking any of the landmarks or other highlights of the site so if something looked interesting, I took a photo of it.  I figured I would research it later.

After Arsameia was claimed by the Commagenes, it became a military strong point and was the site of a mausoleum and sanctuary built by King Antiochus I Theos  in honor of his father King Mithridates I.

Greek inscriptions on a rock. 

Our path came to a dead end.  There, we came across a relief.

.Relief of King Mithridates I.

Further up the hill from the relief was a cave carved out of the hillside.  I didn't go up but apparently, there are steps inside leading to a room.  Archaeologists don't know what purpose the *cave* served.  Some believe it might be a temple dedicated to Mithridates while others believe it might be his burial site.

Turning back, we noticed the path forked in to two paths.  We had come from the lower path.  We headed to the upper.


The path once again dead ended at a tunnel of sorts.  On a hill above the tunnel, was this large relief.  I made Bro climb up and stand beside it so I could take a photo :-)

On the left is either Mithridates or Antiochus shaking hands with Hercules, recognized by
the club he's holding in his left hand.

After his photo op, Bro climbed further up the hill.  There were no ruins to see, just this stunning view!


None of us ventured inside the tunnel so we have no idea where it leads to.  The inscription around the opening of the tunnel describes how Arsameia was founded, how Antiochus built the sanctuary in honor of his father as well as detailed instructions about how to carry out the rites that needed to be performed.



After the tunnel, none of us saw any other paths to take so we decided to head back. I guess we covered all of Arsameia?  Seems so little for a place that used to be the summer capital of a kingdom.  Hmmm..

Next, it was off to see a bridge, the Septimus Severus Bridge to be exact.


The Septimus Severus Bridgis is an ancient Roman bridge that 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.


Originally, there were four Corinthian columns on the bridge, two columns on one side dedicated to Septimius Severus himself and his wife, and two more columns on the opposite side dedicated to Caracalla and Geta, all in 9–10 m in height. However, Geta's column was removed following his assassination by his brother Caracalla, who damned Geta's memory and ordered his name to be removed from all inscriptions. So much for brotherly love.



Dedicatory inscription.

To preserve the bridge, vehicular traffic is prohibited so our driver dropped us off.  While we walked across, he drove over a present day bridge to meet us on the other side.




More inscriptions.

The bridge spans Cendere Çayı (Chabinas Creek), a tributary of Kâhta Creek.



From Septimius Severus Bridge, we headed to Karakus Tumulus.  We rode through the arid valleys and up through the mountains.  Our van straddled the crest of a mountain before stopping outside another teahouse.


When I got out of the car, the first thing that struck me was the vastness of the landscape which you really don't get to appreciate when you're driving through it at *ground level*. It was pretty much craggy and barren for as far as I could see.....all the way around.

In the far distance, was a hill with a single column standing before it.  A large metal sign stood nearby.  I figured that's where we were heading.

Panorama Karakus Tumuls
Panoramic view of Karakus Tumulus. Use the scroll bars to pan to see the entire photo.


Denis introduced the place as Karakus and told us it was the burial site for members of the Commagene Kingdom.

The site is named after the eagle or black bird (karakuş) that sits atop one of the columns that surround the burial mound.


A tumulus is defined as a man made mound of earth and stones raised over a grave or graves.  Karakus Tumulus was constructed King Mithridates II of Commagene to bury and honor the lives of several members of his family.  The site was originally dedicated to his mother Isias.

Originally, there were four Doric columns in each east, west and south direction, surrounding the tumulus.  Today, only two at the east, one at the west and one at the south remain.  Of the remaining columns, one is topped with an eagle, one a lion, one a relief of two humans shaking hands and one is missing a topper. 

I didn't walk around the tumulus but you can get glimpses of the columns in the photo below.  On the left is the one topped with a stele with the relief of the two humans shaking hands.


We didn't spend a whole of time here.  Basically long enough for Denis to give his introduction and for folks to walk around the tumulus.  I opted to just take in the views from afar and to wander through the small garden adjacent to the teahouse.  Bro joined me there.  I was astonished by a teeny, weeny pomegranate bush that had more fruit hanging off its slender branches than should have been possible.

From here, we headed back to our hotel.  It was a very late breakfast, so late in fact that the kitchen had almost run out of food.  It was slim pickings.

View outside our hotel room window.  I chuckled at the way they park or not park their cars here. Angled is okay, especially if you're a van
and the space is only big enough for a compact car!

After we ate, we went back to our rooms and rested a bit before taking our luggage down to the lobby.  We're checking out today and moving on down the road.   The day is only half over and we have more places to see before night falls.

Goodbye from Adıyaman!