This 7,000-foot peak in the Ankar mountains commands sweeping views of the Euphrates River valley, the ripples of the Taurus mountain range, and valleys stretching toward the horizon. The site was developed as a temple in the first century BCE by the Commagene King Antiochus as a sanctuary to his own royal cult and a resting place for his tomb. Antiochus is the most famous of Commagene rulers, known for managing to maintain the area as a separate territory from the invading Roman Republic and for forging alliances with the Roman military ruler Pompey.
Along with a statue of himself and his royal tomb, Antiochus constructed statues of a mishmash of syncretistic gods, including Greek gods such as Hercules and Zeus as well as Armenian and Persian gods such as Oromasdes. Originally, these statues of the gods were seated on massive thrones; but at some point in history, the heads were removed from their bodies. These stone heads currently stand in front of their former thrones, where they can be seen today on the east terrace of the complex.
The steep rock mound behind the statues is known as a tumulus, and the tomb of Antiochus is believed to be buried under this heap of stones. The west terrace, accessed via a walkway around the tumulus, features more stone heads as well as reliefs carved into rock. One of these reliefs depicts a lion and several stars which represent planets, thought to be a horoscope. The planets’ placement indicates the date of July 6, 62 BCE, thought to be the date the complex was initiated.
The best time to visit the remote mountain sanctuary is at sunrise or sunset, when the statues seem to glow in the first and last gleams of sunlight. The mountain road is often closed due to snow from mid-October to May, so late spring to early fall are the best seasons for a visit.