Lying between the Seleucid and the Parthian Empires from 250 BC, this area has had a strategic location, and has benefited from a rich and fertile land, and a succession of independent thinking rulers. Breaking away from the Seleucid Empire, Mithridates I Callinicus founded the independent Commagene Kingdom in 109 BC, and set up his capital in Arsameia. He was the son of a prince, and claims ancestry with Alexander the Great and Darius the Great, King of Persia.
The Commagene Kingdom was a powerful one, priding itself on having religions, culture and traditions of the Greek and Persian cultures blended into one. He died in 64 BC, and was succeeded by his son Antiochus I Epiphanes, who showed his ability early on as a statesman by declaring a non-aggression treaty with the Romans.
After a financially and politically successful start to his rule, Antiochus deemed himself worthy of god-like status, and ordered the building of a temple and funerary mound in his honour. Its size and location was a reflection of his ego and thoughts of his immortality, and he declared that when he died his spirit would join the god Zeus in heaven.
But the huge statues of Antiochus and the gods are all that remain of his reign, as his short-lived rule ended in 38 BC after he sided with the Parthians and fell out with the Romans, who later deposed him. The Commagene Kingdom was then taken over by the Romans.
Antiochus and his statues were all but forgotten for centuries until Karl Puchstein, a German engineer, stumbled across them whilst surveying the site in 1881. Two years later he returned with Karl Humann for a closer inspection, but is was not until 1953 that a team of American archaeologists returned and did a thorough survey. Since then, the site has been one of the most popular attractions in Turkey, despite its remote location.