Alexandria's founded by Alexander

Alexandria's founded by Alexander the Great (by year BC): 334 Alexandria in Troia (Turkey) - 333 Alexandria at Issus/Alexandrette (Iskenderun, Turkey) - 332 Alexandria of Caria/by the Latmos (Alinda, Turkey) - 331 Alexandria Mygdoniae - 331 Alexandria (Egypt) - 330 Alexandria in Areia (Herat, Afghanistan) - 330 Alexandria of the Prophthasia/in Dragiana/Phrada (Farah, Afghanistan) - 330 Alexandria in Arachosia (Kandahar, Afghanistan) - 330 Alexandria in Caucasus (Begram, Afghanistan) - 329 Alexandria of the Paropanisades (Ghazni, Afghanistan) - 329 Alexandria Eschate or Ultima (Khodjend, Tajikistan) - 329 Alexandria on the Oxus (Ai-Khanoum OR Termez, Afghanistan) - 328 Alexandria in Margiana (Merv, Turkmenistan) - 326 Alexandria Nicaea (on the Hydaspes, India) - 326 Alexandria Bucephala (on the Hydaspes, India) - 325 Alexandria Sogdia - 325 Alexandria Oreitide - 325 Alexandria in Opiene / Alexandria on the Indus (confluence of Indus & Acesines, India) - 325 Alexandria Rambacia (Bela, Pakistan) - 325 Alexandria Xylinepolis (Patala, India) - 325 Alexandria in Carminia (Gulashkird, Iran) - 324 Alexandria-on-the-Tigris/Antiochia-in-Susiana/Charax (Spasinou Charax on the Tigris, Iraq) - ?Alexandria of Carmahle? (Kahnu)

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Arsemia, the summer capital of the Commagene Kingdom

Very few people have heard of the Commagene Kingdom, and even less of Arsemia. Well, to be honest, I hadn’t either till I visited Mount Nemrud (see: Nemrud, as close as you can come to the gods) a few years ago.
Arsemia, once the summer residence of the Commagene kings, is located sixty kilometers from Adiyaman. At the foot of this ancient city there is a magnificent relief representing Heracles (or maybe Artagnes, a Persian deity whom the Greeks identified with Heracles) shaking hands with King Mithridates of Commagene from around 50 BC and next to it is located the greatest Greek inscription of Anatolia. This sounds interesting enough for anyone to make the detour to visit the place, I would say.

There is a special path, once used for religious ceremonies that leads up the mountain with a statue pointing towards the temple. About one hundred meters farther stands what is called a Dexiosis relief, i.e. the abovementioned handshake. Nearby are several rooms cut from the rocky cliffs that were used for religious ceremonies. Further uphill still, one discovers the large Greek inscription telling about the political intentions and the religious beliefs of the Commagene Kingdom and mentioning Arsemia as its capital. It also states that Mithridates, the father of King Antiochus I, was buried here. Just beneath this inscription is a stairway running 158 meters down into the depth of the rocks and this once was the entrance to Arsemia which is now blocked. It would be interesting to learn what future excavations may reveal. Above the inscription, another path runs up the mountainside towards the remains of the Arsemia Palace and its mosaic floors.
It was King Antiochus I (Theos – signifying his divinity -  Dikaios Epiphanes Philoromaios Philhellen of Commagene) who built the city in honor of this father, King Mithridates I Callinicus. Due to its location, it soon became a military fortress, now to be found next to the modern town of Eski Kale and still showing well preserved walls and parapets. Antiochus’ mother was nobody less than Laodike, daughter of the Seleucid King Antiochus VII Grypos who ruled Commagene from around 69 to ca 31 BC.
About a mile outside Arsemia there are the remains of a Roman bridge built in honor of Septimus Severus around 200 AD. Here I can pick up the link for I crossed this very bridge on my way to Mount Nemrud. It has been erected at the narrowest point of the River Cedere and it is said that its 112 feet clear span makes it the second largest extant arch bridge ever built by the Romans.
There must be a second Arsemia on the Euphrates, at the modern location of Gerger, where Antiochus I set up a similar religious centre in honor of his father. Gee, there is still so much to discover and to see!

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