Many people get a divine feeling when they are on top of my mountain at sunrise, a feeling of being close to a higher body. The bearded stranger was no exception, sitting with his eyes closed, wrapped in a couple of warm blankets and surrounded by carved gods, as the huge orange sun peeked out and rose quickly above the distant horizon. He certainly felt it, what he called ‘godhead’.
He had started from Kahta at 1.30am, being driven through my old kingdom, now in the middle of Turkey. He crossed the elegant Roman bridge at Eski Kale, and then, at 4am, began the climb up the mountain to see me.
My name is Antiochus. I was the last king-emperor of the Commagene kingdom (first century AD) and its my mountain, my ruins which the stranger had come to see. On top of Nemrut Dagh I built a tumulus 49 metres high and 152 metres around. At the base of this massive mound lie scattered the ruins of my mausoleum. Carved heads the size of humans are separated from their bodies now, while the thrones stand empty of their statues. Friezes of lions lie shattered and the fire temple is now a helipad. If you are better at recognising signs of syncretic religions than the bearded stranger then you will find Zeus and Hercules from the Greek tradition, Ahuramazda from the Ancient Persian religion, even Vahagn the Armenian God of War. From up here these gods can see for miles – and everyone can see them.
But surely none of these are the gods that the bearded stranger felt as he sat there watching the sun rise. For I, Antiochus, declared myself a God before I died and this unique and beautiful spot exists for the worship of me.