previous next


Mountain in the E Taurus range, in S Turkey near modern Adiyaman. It was the highest peak (2232 m) in the Hellenistic kingdom of Commagene, and at its very summit is the great monument of Antiochos I of Commagene (reigned ca. 69-ca. 38). It consists of four main parts: at the summit a huge tumulus ca. 50 m high and built of broken rock, flanked by leveled terraces to E and W, and at the E end of the E terrace the stepped platform of a great altar. Aside from tumulus and altar, the monuments consist of sculpture, usually inscribed. In what follows the E terrace sculptures are described, but these were duplicated on the W terrace in almost all (perhaps originally all) cases, with minor variations in disposition, style, wording, and of course preservation.

The sculptures are of five main groups: 1) a group of nine colossal figures backing against the tumulus; 2) a group of five huge stelae, four showing Antiochos being received by his gods, the fifth a horoscope; 3) flanking the terrace on the N, a row of fifteen stelae representing his Iranian (paternal) ancestors; 4) at the S, a similar row showing his Seleucid (maternal) ancestors; 5) supplementary stelae depicting (presumably) various relatives and, more important, one showing the king's investiture. The colossi, built of sculptured ashlar, represent, from N to S, lion and eagle; then, seated on sketchily indicated thrones, Artagnes (Verathragna) -Herakles-Ares, Apollo-Mithras-Helius-Hermes, Zeus-Oromasdes (Ahuramazda), Commagene (personified as a Tyche-Abundance figure), and Antiochos himself; finally eagle and lion. The height of Zeus-Oromasdes is ca. 9 m. The reception reliefs show Antiochos being received by each of the above gods.

The direct paternal ancestors of Antiochos were Iranians who had been satraps of Armenia in Achaemenid times, then moved down into Commagene (first as satraps, later as kings): the Orontids. But what especially impressed the king was that one of these (Aroandas Orontes) had married a daughter of Artaxerxes II, while his own father, Mithradates I, married a daughter of Antiochos VIII Grypos. Hence the ancestor reliefs. The Persian shows five Achaemenid kings, from Darius I to Artaxerxes II, then the Orontids down to Mithradates I, while the Seleucid line begins (perhaps) with Alexander the Great, goes on to Antiochos VIII, and ends with several queens. The supplementary reliefs are difficult to identify securely. Across the great ashlar wall formed by the backs of the thrones of the colossi is the long inscription of Antiochos, setting forth details of his life and aims and containing a sacred law. Finally, the horoscope shows a lion (Leo) in relief and studded with stars; it also shows three planets, presumably in conjunction, which are identified as Herakles, Apollo, and Zeus, i.e. Mars, Mercury, and Jupiter. It must commemorate an important event in the life of Antiochos, and also explains the three male gods he worshiped and their strange combinations of names.

All the inscriptions are in Greek. The style of the sculptures is also Greek in general, but the trappings of the male gods (with one exception) and of the Iranian ancestors is Persian. The exception is Herakles: when shown as a colossus he is depicted in his Iranian manifestation as Verathragna, but on the reliefs he is Herakles, stark naked save for lion-skin and contrasting strangely with the muffled Persian figures. Notable iconographically is the Armenian tiara of Antiochos (shown also on his coins), the pointed tiara of the Orontids, and the leather apron worn alike by Orontids and the Persian gods.


K. Humann & O. Puchstein, Reisen in Kleinasien und Nordsyrien (1890); L. Jalabert & R. Mouterde, Inscriptions Grecques et Latines de la Syrie I (1929).


hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: