Nemrut Dagi Eastern Terrace: The Astounding Heads Built by Antiochus I

It was finally time for the long awaited drive to Nemrut Dagi to visit the summit at sunset when the vast stone heads on the Western Terrace turn a golden color. If you prefer to get up before “the crack of dawn,” visit the Eastern Terrace for the same result. Nemrut Dagi (Mount Nemrut) is considered one of the “must see” sights in Southeastern Turkey. Neither of the terraces are visible until you reach the top.

Parked with all the other tour vans…View image, the group began walking up the rocky, man-made path that was steep at times to the Eastern Terrace with heads. There are two trails up. One heading to the Eastern Terrace and the other to the Western Terrace. If you are unable to walk, there are donkeys for hire.

Antiochus I, King of the Commagene empire, build this tomb-sanctuary in 62 B.C. with the intention of being worshiped as a god in his own lifetime. The Romans managed to foil those plans when they arrived into Anatolia, and smashed the temple to ruins. The Commagene kingdom was then ruled from Rome (or by puppet kings) until 72 A.D. when it was completely incorporated into the Roman Empire. Archaeologists have tunneled into the rocks looking for the burial remains of Antiochus, but have found nothing.

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approaching Nemrut Dagi from the distance, Southeastern Turkey
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it is possible to ride a donkey up to either terrace on Nemrut Dagi, Turkey
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Explore group beginning the uphill walk to the Eastern Terrace of Nemrut Dagi, Southeastern Turkey


Antiochus had the mountain top of Nemrut Dagi extensively contoured before building his two temple compounds and stone sculptures with white limestone. The terraces rise 2,150m/7,000′ and Oz kept insisting it was going to be very cold on top. ex-Marine (husband, Steve) and I found it pleasant while others dressed in North Face jackets. Once at the top, I was slightly disappointed, perhaps expecting more of a “Lord of The Rings” moment.

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the Eastern Terrace of King Antiochus I on Nemrut Dagi, Southeastern Turkey


In retrospect, the statues would have been more impressive with the heads on the seated figures rather than on the ground, scattered throughout the site. That, along with all the other tourists, didn’t quite do it for me. If you don’t mind getting up early, dawn on the statues may be more impressive since the majority of tourists do not go to that viewing.

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most of the chairs and feet (minus the heads) still remain on Nemrut Dagi, Turkey
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eagle and lion guardian heads on Mount Nemrut, Turkey


It is said that the huge statues range in height from 8-9m/26-30′ high but only one imposing lion appeared to be that tall…View image. Heads of an eagle…View image, lion, Hercules, Antiochus, Zeus…View image, Tyche…View image, Apollo sat on the ground. All the statues were once seated with names of each god inscribed on them. There were also stone slabs scattered here and there; bas-relief figures on both terraces. These slabs are thought to have formed a large frieze displaying the Greek and Persian ancestors of Antiochus.

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head of King Antiochus on Nemrut Dagi, Eastern Terrace
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head of Hercules on Nemrut Dagi, Eastern Terrace


A short and level walk led from the Eastern Terrace to the Western Terrace where the sun was already bathing the heads in a golden light…

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