An overview of the eastern terrace. To the left is a small terrace with a lion.
Five giant seated limestone statues, identified by their inscriptions as deities, face outwards from the tumulus on the upper level of the east and west terraces. These are flanked by a pair of guardian animal statues – a lion and eagle – at each end. On this terrace, which is larger than the one on the west side, stood an altar of burnt offering. Two series of orthostats describe Antiochus’ ascendance, and his joining of the gods.
The Hierotheseion (temple-tomb) of Antiochos I is one of the most ambitious constructions of the Hellenistic period. Its complex design and colossal scale combined to create a project unequalled in the ancient world. A highly developed technology was used to build the colossal statues and orthostats (stelae), the equal of which has not been found anywhere else for this period.
King Antiochus I Theos (69-34 BC) claimed to be a descendant from both the Persian king Darius I and Alexander the Great. He certainly was half Armenian, and half Greek. Antiochus’ father Mithridates was the son of King of Commagene Sames II, who in descent was related to the kings of Parthia and probably also a descendant from the family of King Darius I of Persia.
Antiochus’ mother, Laodice VII Thea, was a Greek Princess of the Seleucid Empire. So, his grandfather was the Seleucid King Antiochus VIII Grypus who married the Ptolemaic Princess (later Seleucid Queen) Tryphaena.
Thus, Antiochus was a direct descendant of both Seleucus I Nicator of the Seleucid Empire and Ptolemy I Soter of Egypt. Moreover, as a consequence of the marriages between the Diadoci kingdoms (as part of peace alliances), Antiochus I was also related to Antigonus I of Macedonia, Lysimachus of Thrace and the Macedonian regent, Antipater. The five men had served as generals under Alexander the Great and had divided his empire between themselves after his death. Thus, even if Antiochus’ descendance from Alexander the Great is improbable (in terms of bloodline), it is certainly true in the spirit.
Antiochus’ double origin (Persian and Macedonian/Greek) is reflected in the appearances of the gods on his Hierotheseion (temple-tomb).
Correspondent: J.M.Criel, Antwerpen.
Sources: (amongst others) File 448: ‘Nemrut Dağı’ – World Heritage List, Unesco (see: whc.unesco.org)
Wikipedia & Personal visits (1983, 1987, 1994).