Travels with Papillon




The Narrative



The Narrative - Page index


Turkey - Page 7


Nemrud Dagi


Mount Nimrod


There are only a few places on this planet that are so compelling that they draw you like a magnet.  Spiritually or mystically or geophysically they call you.  And you answer, "I am coming." and you cannot explain why.  The Pyramids come to mind, as does Stonehenge and certain mountaintops.  And the more remote, the more inaccessible the better.  And if you add the requirement that your visit should be at dawn, well oh my goodness you have hit the lottery.

Nemrud Dagi is that kind of place.  And we had no earthly reason to go there.  But we went anyway, and for the sunrise too.




Kommagene was a Kingdom that was always on the Border.  Its eastern boundary was the Euphrates River, the dividing line between Mesopotamia and Persia to the east, and Anatolia and the Greeks and the Romans to the west.  Armies and cultures and traders all passed through at one time or another.  And the Kings always played it safe and bent with the winds as the Empires around them ebbed and flowed.

Antiochus Theos reigned from 69 to 38 BC, a time of rising tension between Roman west and Persian east.  Antiochus played both ends against the middle and survived to a ripe old age.  Antiochus was a distant relative of the Persian King of Kings, Darius the Great on his father's side, and a distant relative of the family of Alexander on his mother's side.  Thus his bloodline was that of both East and West.  And in the tradition of the Eastern Kings he began to believe in his own divinity.

And it came to pass that he started to plan and build his tomb.  And he selected the summit of Mount Nimrod, at over 7200 hundred feet, to crown his life on earth and house his remains.  There he had carved 3 terraces on the summit: on the east to greet the sun, on the west to say good night, and one on the north for an unknown reason.  The summit of the peak he had reshaped as a pyramid with millions of small stones piled 60 meters high.

But the crowning achievement was the statuary that he had set upon both the east and west terraces.  Mirror images of each other, it detailed his ancestry on relief panels and in a series of 30 foot tall statues it showed the major Greek and Roman Gods PLUS Antiochus Theos sitting amongst (and as one of) the divine.


But the tides turned for his son who sided with the Persians in a dispute and lost.  The Romans disposed him, and in the course of events learned of the "blasphemy" on the mountain and sent soldiers who toppled the heads off all the statues.

And there they laid for 1900 years.  Until a German engineer in the employ of the Sultan "discovered" them in 1880.  It wasn't until 1950 that work began on excavating the site to see what was there.  In time the heads were stood upright where they were found and not back on the torsos of the statues behind.





*            *            *


Getting There

Getting there does take some effort, and in the dark.  The path is about 600 meters in length but you are climbing up about 400-500 feet.  Again, in the dark, on a flat stone walk way with poor footing.  Our taxi came for us at 3:30 for the 30 minute journey of 15 kilometers from camping.  At a 12% up grade.

We are both still surprised that we made it.



A Joyous Noise

By shear happenstance we visited the same day as the Akad Folk Dance Club, and they came to DANCE!!!

Banging their drum and playing the Zurna this group of 20 or more enlivened our visit and made it even more memorable.

To see more of their dance click this pbase hyperlink and then click on slideshow.



You would have thought that I was running for Office

We then walked to the west terrace where a youngster of about twelve approached (with his mother's encouragement) and asked "Where are you from?"  When they heard the answer was "America" they lit up like a Christmas tree.  Suddenly we were surrounded by the happy smiling faces of the entire family.  Before you could say anything else a baby was thrust into my arms and the family gathered around me for a group photo.  Then the same action, sans baby, took place with Judy as the center of attention.

Judy had the presence of mind to snap a photo of the photo op

Afterwards Judy remarked that all the men posed with me and only ladies posed with her


Euphrates River barely visible in the upper left distance. 

*        *        *        *        *



Gaziantep Museum

Founded in 330's BC by a General in Alexander's army, Zeugma was built at the site of Alexander's bridge crossing of the Euphrates River.  As trade flourished during the Hellenistic age the city grew rich and beautiful.  During the Roman era that success continued as well as the city being a major jumping off point for military actions against the Persians/Parthians/Sassanids.

On the hills rising from the river a great many villas were built in the finest standards.  Most had the best of mosaic floors of the finest quality.   In 255 AD, at the height of its prosperity and upkeep, the city was destroyed by Sharpur I of the Sassanid dynasty in Persia.  The place was burned and the ashes and dirt covered the wreckage.


Bad for Zeugma, great for history.  The town was never really rebuilt and the perfect mosaics lay undisturbed for 1800 years.  With the construction of a river dam impending inundation forever of the site, the world did a crash excavation and found the lost treasures.  And today the bulk of them are on display in the city of Gaziantep Museum.  The boast is that this museum hosts the 2nd largest collection of mosaics in the world.


Right - the so called Gypsy Girl, signature piece of the collection.


The collection is housed in 2 floors with a number of separate galleries.  Four rooms were reconstructed as they were on site so that you can see the melding of floor mosaic with wall frescos.


We very much enjoy the art of the mosaics, especially good ones.





Seven thousand and ninety four miles (7094)

That is the number of miles we have put on Papillon since driving off the dock in Zeebrugge, Belgium.  We have generally traveled east by south.

We are now 1300 kilometers east of Istanbul.

We are further east than Jerusalem, Damascus or Kiev, Ukraine.

The Iraq border is 300 miles east.

We have been within 40 miles of Syria.

It is time to reverse direction and head back to Europe.  We look forward to new adventures.


Next - Turkey 8

The Narrative - Index