Saturday, August 30, 2008

From Michael's Perspective

I always find it amazing that Linda can talk about going to a really incredible place without actually talking about the place. She talks about parks and hotels and magical chickens found in gas stations but not the actual place. So as usual the job of informing ya'll about where we went falls to me.

Mt. Nemrut is a burial tumulus (fancy name for a big pile of rocks) that was raised over the body of King Antiochos I of Kommagene, who ruled from 69 to 36 B.C. The Kommagene Kingdom was founded by King Mithridates at the upper reaches of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers in about 80 BC. It had arisen out of the ashes of the Seleucid Empire (which had been founded by Seleucus I Nicator in 312 BC out of the ashes of the Greek Empire following the death of Alexander the Great who had carved his Empire out of the Persian Empire which...... As I have said before- we live in a place rich in history. Interestingly it appears in the maps in the LDS edition of the KJV Bible- maps 13 (grid E3), Map 20 (grid F2) and Map 21 (Grid F2)).

King Mithridates and his son King Antiochus I created a small empire in south central Turkey under a state religion that mixed Greek and Persian Gods to unite a mixed people. King Antiochus claimed descent from both Greece and Persian through his father Mithridates from Darius I (522-486 B.C.) and, through his mother Laodike, from Alexander the Great (356-323 B.C.). The height of the Kommagene Empire occurred under Antiochus with the Kingdom becoming rich as a buffer state between the Kingdom of Rome and the Parthian Empire on the east.

The site at Mt. Nemrut (elevation 2,134 m/7,001 ft) includes the burial mound (a giant heap of limestone moved to the peak of the mountain by hand), 2 ceremonial platforms- the east (public area) with a dias for the sunrise ceremony where a sacred fire would have burned and west (for the Nobles only). At each platform were statues- 5 giant seated statues of the king and the Gods (from left to right in the following order: King Antiochos, the fertility goddess Kommagene, Zeus-Oromasdes- the god of the sky (the central and largest statue), Apollo-Mithras, and Herakles-Ares). On the flanks are 4 smaller statues of guardian eagles and lions. On the north was also a series of stellae representing the royal genealogy. In a cult inscription, King Antiochos declares that he had the site built for the ages and generations that were to follow him "as a debt of thanks to the gods and to his deified ancestors for their manifest assistance."

The kingdom's independence came to an end in 72 AD with its defeat by Roman legions in the last of the Kommagene wars and it became part of the Roman province of Syria. The Roman Legions at that time destroyed many of the cultural accomplishments of the Kingdom and the site at Mount Nemrut was no exception. The heads were toppled and many of the stellae destroyed. No reference is made to it in ancient sources and it essentially disappeared from history until Karl Sester, a German road engineer, rediscovered it in 1881. Mount Nemrut has been declared as World Culture heritage by UNESCO is one of the important National Parks of Turkey.

The east platform is where we watched the sun rise and it really was a neat experience. We sat next to the fire altar (which was too crowded) and waited for the sun to come up over the horizon. The haze sitting low to the ground blocks a lot of the suns light and you can literally look straight at it as it climbs. It was a far more interesting experience than I was expecting. We didn't get many pictures on the east terrace as it was swarming with people and any picture of the statues would have included a bunch of strangers milling about. We had better luck with the west platform due to the smaller and more polite crowds. The heads are better preserved on the west side as well. Here are some pictures.

The heads behind me are (from L to R) Zeus, Kommagene (a local fertility goddess), Apollo (behind my head), Ares, and a guardian Eagle.

Dallen with (L to R) Guardian Eagle, King Antiochos, and Kommagene.

Bennett with Zeus.

Maryn had by this time boycotted all pictures so she is not seen.

There is a lot of good information on this at .

After watching the sun rise at Mount Nemrut we went to old Kahta village there stands the remains of the ancient site of Arsameia, which was a capitol city of Commagene's nobility. Here are a few hand cut tombs as well as a really well preserved relief of King Antiochus shaking hands with Herculese as well as a long inscription in Greek describing the founding of the kingdom.

Yes of course it was all Greek to me. HA HA HA

After that we traveled to the Caydere river and the single arched Candere Bridge built where the river exits a narrow gully and spreads out onto the flood plain. The bridge was built to the honour of the Roman Empire Septimus Severius(193-211 AD) and was built between A.D. 198 and 200 by the 16th Legion "Flavia firma". There were originally 4 dedicatory columns (to Septimus Severus, his wife Lulia Domna and their sons Caracalla and Geta) but the one to Geta was taken down in A.D. 212, part of an attempt by Caracalla to obliterate any references to his brother whom he had removed from power.

Yes of course those are my children throwing rocks into the water. They also played with a mangy dog. Not sure if they noticed the bridge. 2 of the dedicatory pillars can be seen on the left.
Then we went to Karakus Tepesi (Black Eagle Hill), a second tumulus where the women of the royal family had been interred. I toured this site alone as all the kids and Linda were pretty tired and refusing to exit the air conditioning of the tour bus into the afternoon heat.

Then we went back to the hotel, took a little nap, had lunch, gathered up our things, and started home.

Of course the kids were grumpy as they had not slept well due to the heat of the hotel and having awoke at 0200 to go to the mountain. And though we were surrounded by amazing historical artifacts the kids were more interested in other things. Maryn took it upon herself to save all the ladybugs on the mountain and Dallen and Bennet took turns throwing rocks (which had been moved into position by hand over 2000 years ago) down the mountain. Oh- and Dallen had to pee and took a wizz on the UNESCO world heritage site. (He has now peed on 2 UNESCO World Heritage Sights as he also wizzed at Cappadocia) They all got tired of me telling them to go stand at one place or another for pictures and eventually Maryn revolted and refused to pose for any more pictures. I have numerous pictures of her sitting with her back to me and refusing to smile. On the way home thankfully everyone fell asleep except me.

The only real gripe I have about the trip was the Hotel. Linda has discussed the difficulties the Turks seem to have in getting Hotels done right and the farther east you go in Turkey the more poor and removed from the luxuries of the west you get. For me it is the details. Yes the buildings are safe (aside from the death trap stairwell), the rooms spacious, and the beds OK but the little things are never right. It is like they got the room 90% done then gave up and just threw the rest together. In our Hotel room there were bare wires protruding from the ceiling where I assume a light fixture was going to be installed, the shower in the bathroom would fall off the wall, the toilet paper roll holder would fall off the wall if you pulled on the toilet paper, and the bathroom vent in the roof was for show (a vent cover mounted in a hole in the roofing tile with no fan behind it).

Turks all over the country seem to have the biggest problem with bathrooms. Most bathrooms are "squatty potties" where you just squat over a depression in the ground and then turn on a little water spout, wash your butt with your hand, and wash your poo down the hole. Most of them stink to high heaven due to a lack of sanitation (cleaning a bathroom is considered low work so many people wont do it) and (I have been told) by a lack of J-traps (a little plumbing piece that keeps the sewer smell from coming up into your house through the pipes).

And Linda mentioned the lack of air conditioning. Its not that there wasn't any air conditioning- it was just inadequate. The room was on the top (and hottest) floor since the sun was shinning on the concrete roof of our room and all the rest of the heat in the building had come up the open center of the building and, it seemed, come into our room. To save money the rooms AC is only turned on once the room is occupied so when we got there it was like walking into an oven. We turned the AC on and took turns sitting under the glorious cold air pouring from its vent. The kids literally had to sleep with wet towels from the bathroom over them to fall asleep. Of course by the time we left the AC had been on for about 24 hours and it was actually starting to get comfortable- the naps on day 2 were great.

Well that was our trip to Mount Nemrut. A "glad we did it but probably wont do it again" trip. Our next trip will be back to the states for Roberts Wedding. See many of you in about 2 weeks.


Corrie Lynne Player said...

Michael! As usual, your contributions complement Linda's--together, you guys are great!! I loved getting the whole perspective.

Tonight, Gary is with Eric, Dakota, Jonny, Abe, Caelan, Morgan, and Padraig, tenting up the canyon. The moutains look stormy from here and their preparations made this luxury loving mama shudder.

We're trying to get ready for our trip, starting Monday. First stop, dropping off Eric's three in Provo.

Looking forward to seeing you in a couple of weeks!!



Anonymous said...

How did the two of you actually get together? It's like night and day....
I love the history. Thanks for adding that.

Dolly said...

Cool info Michael! Love the pictures and history behind all the statues.

Dolly said...

LINDA- you'll be here in TWO weeks?! That is fabulous-yahoo!!!!! I cannot wait:) Thanks for dropping by my blog Sis!♥