Nestled on either side of the Kahtacay River the remains of Arsemia and Yeni Kale, offer travelers a glimpse of the ancient Commagene kingdom.
Established in the 3rd Century BCE by the Armenian king Arsames and later claimed by the Commagenian King Anthiochus, Arsemia, or Eski Kale (Old Fortress in Turkish), was the capital of the Commagene Kingdom and is the final resting place of King Mithridates I. Arsemia is notable for its rich archaeological remains. Today, travelers can hike up the mountainside following a winding path once used for religious ceremonies, along the way passing caves, tunnels, and portrayals of Commagene kings interacting with Greek and Persian gods. At the Altar of Mithradates, travelers can see a sculpture of Mithridates shaking hands with Hercules. Just below the statue is the largest rock inscription in Anatolia, which recounts Arsemia’s history. Nearby a tunnel, whose original purpose is still unknown, descends 58 steps into the mountain before fallen rock and debris block the way. Beyond the altar are the remains of buildings and walls that once made up the town of Arsemia, and from here hikers can continue to the peak of Mt. Nemrut where they can find statues of Persian and Greek gods erected around a royal Commagenian tomb.
Yeni Kale (New Forthress in Turkish) sits on the cliffs across the Kahtacay River opposite Arsemia. Today, travelers can see a 13th century Mamluk fortress, but before the construction of these fortifications, Commagenian palaces from the 3rd century BCE stood on this spot. Not far from Yeni Kale, along a path from the lower part of the castle is a small building called the “Pigeon Castle.” The building once housed homing pigeons which various military powers used for communication to monitor enemy movements.
The view of Yeni Kale is impressive, but travelers cannot currently visit the site, as it has been closed since 2005 for restoration.