The south of Turkey is a vast region, infrequently visited and little known, teeming with monuments that carry the mark of a rather unique synthesis. The typically Oriental styles mix with a strong Greco-Roman influence, along with the many strange local traditions, all of which, yields a profound originality to the cultural testaments of this region. I am familiar with the region, yet on my most recent journey, during my travels with my friends Georges and Fivos, I discovered many marvels that had previously eluded me. This is always the case when I travel to Turkey.
The cafe of the Eurphrat Hotel. This hotel, isolated in the mountainous landscape is located at the base of the sacred mountain, the Nemrut. It is perhaps somewhat primitive, but very welcoming. We drank our coffee on the terrace before a prodigious panorama. With me are my two friends, Fivos and Georges, and our two guides, Can and Kan.
In the locality of Arsameia, the ancient center of worship in the region, a bas-relief depicts the local king Mithradates, in sumptuous armor, shaking the hand of the nude Hercules. “It’s the first handshake in history,” remarked Kan.
Arsameia houses many enthralling testaments, including this Greek inscription. It was the language of the entire region. In the Middle East, Greek was the language of the cultivated society. This inscription, along with two others, are the only existing accounts of the local kingdom of Commagene.
A subterranean path, beneath a long Greek inscription, winds its way deep into the earth. It goes down to the base of the mountain, passing under the river and opens once again on the other side next to the fortress of Yeni-Kale.
The fortress of Yeni-Kale at Arsameia, sprawling over many rocky peaks. Most of the towers date to the Ottoman era, although some of the imposing remains go back to the Middle Ages and, given the age of the tunnel, it is likely that its construction began in antiquity.
Beside the impressive remains from Antiquity and the Middle Ages, southern Turkey offers many wonderful sights, such as this field of intense green being crossed by a horse rider, photographed by Fivos.
The tumulus of Karakus, houses the tombs of princesses of the kingdom of Commagene. The burial mound was ransacked and looted by the Romans. In the four corners stand two columns, topped with mythological animals.
In the era of Emperor Septimus Severus, the Romans built a bridge across the Cendere river. At the two extremes are four columns dedicated to the emperor and his family. One of them, named in honor of his son Geta was knocked over on the order of his brother Caracalla, who hated him.
Sogmatar is a mysterious ancient site hidden in the folds of the immense plain that surrounds the town of Urfa. Nine protrusions, each topped with a temple dedicated to a planet, surround a central mound. The site is covered with many grottos that serve as temples, palaces, and tombs. Through the opening of one of them, we see part of the foreign countryside.
My friend Fivos, in the rain, jumping from rock to rock. To the left, a bas-relief of a human figure, representing the moon which, in Sogmatar, was a god rather than a goddess. The bas-relief to the right, represents the sun, which was a goddess rather than a god. A local curiosity, the origins of which experts continue to investigate.