Antiochus I had the temple site at Nemrut Dag constructed on the anniversary of his coronation as king. But what else did he have in mind besides a celebration of his greatness? Perhaps there is a deeper mystery here – one handed down through the ages, hidden in plain sight, and one to which most of mankind is not privy.
Commagene – A Confluence of Persian, Babylonian and Macedonian Traditions
The Kingdom of Commagene was a Greco-Persian state which resided along the headwaters of the Euphrates River in modern-day Turkey, both during and before the times of the early Roman Empire. By 60
BCE Commagene had been a Greek vassal state since the collapse of The Neo-Assyrian Empire about 609
BCE and the rise of the Seleucid Empire around 312
BCE.1 2 Although the Seleuicid Empire was regarded as a Hellenistic State, it ruled under its own authority and controlled much of the former lands spanning Anatolia, Persia, the Levant, Mesopotamia, and Indus River region.3 After the Battle of Actium in 31
BCE, Commagene transferred authority to reside under the Roman Empire.4 Nonetheless, the Kingdom maintained its autonomy as a culture descended from the Uartu (Ararat) peoples of the Old Assyrian Empire (2600
BCE – 609
BCE), which included Sumer, Persia (Parthian Empire in the lower right quadrant of the map above), the Akkadian Empire, and Babylon. Its most ancient roots formed from the city-state of Ur, circa 3800
BCE. Commagene was situated in a sub-region of modern Turkey called Anatolia, a name which is derived from the Greek term ἀνατολῇ (anatolē), meaning ‘the East’.5 6
Located inside the eastern extent of the ancient state of Commagene is a tall mountain called by various names, including Nemrut Dag (which I will use herein). ‘Nemrut Dağ’ (Mount Nemrut/Nemrud), at 7000 ft is one of the highest peaks in the east of the Taurus Mountains (which range east through Cilicia on the map above). It maintains one of the best views of the eastern sky in the entire region. The mountain is located in modern day Turkey (see Exhibit 1 below), about 85 km directly north of another UNESCO World Heritage Site and site of the World’s first temple, Göbekli Tepe.7 8
Antiochus I Theos Epiphanes of Commagene
Basileus Megas was the title of the great king and inheritor of the sole rule handed down from the Seleucid Empire. Antiochus of Commagene (full title Theos Dikaios Epiphanes Philoromaios Philhellen, with ‘Theos’ signifying his divinity), was a Seleucid ruler and Basileus Megas from 69 (or, less probably, 64) to ca. 31
BCE, the son of Mithradates Callinicos and Laodice, the daughter of the Seleucid king Antiochus VIII Grypos. He reigned from the seat of the fomer Empire in Commagene.9 Antiochus, as ‘Theos Epiphanes’ was the ruling keeper of the ancient wisdom of the Magicians (Persian, Babylonian and Macedonian tradition ‘Magi’). Accordingly, Antiochus I had the Hierothesion (temple-observatory) site at Nemrut Dag constructed on the anniversary of his coronation as king (see Exhibit 2 below – click on image to enlarge in a separate window).
Specially designated days are the birthday of “the king’s body” and his coronation. Antiochus dedicated these two days, to the revelations of demons (daimones), which led him during the successful reign over the kingdom. At this point it is worth noting that in ancient times the term “demon” was ambivalent and defined both positive and negative superhuman beings – in this sense, demons often served as guardian spirits, to which role Antiochus clearly referred.~ Turkish Archaeological News, Mount Nemrut, 5 Feb 201810
Antiochus I Observatory at Mount Nimrut (Nimrod)
The Hierothesion at Nemrut, also called in various languages ‘Nimrud/Nimrut/Nemrud/Nemrut Dag/Dagh’ or ‘Nemrut Dağ/Daği’ as an historical site (distinct from the Turkish dormant volcano named Mount Nemrut) comes replete with its own mountain of crushed stone (the Tumulus), backing the observatory itself. The reader should note that the observatory is built to observe the morning eastern sky in the late summer (August) time frame of each year, and is as a result, aligned at 65° to 70° azimuth from true north (as outlined in Figure B later in this article).11 This is the average azimuth of the rising celestial ecliptic (the average path of the sun moon and planets across the sky) during that time of the year. The persons who built this observatory, apparently knew a little something about what they were looking for. It is also constructed so as to observe the western sky as that same yearly time frame’s ecliptic sets below the horizon.12 (The reader should note that the ecliptic, is the pathway which the Sun takes through our sky. All the planets and our Moon loosely follow this line as they make their journey from east to west each day and night. Throughout this article, you will notice the ecliptic as a thin line placed below Leo’s paws.)
The Horoscope of the Lion (Leo)
During my investigation into the site and the features of the Hierothesion it became clear to me that, while Nemrut Dag was a relatively new religious construction during this time of Roman ascendancy, the wisdoms upon which it was founded, were not new at all. They were ancient Uruk-Bablylonian in their heritage. Whether boast, shell game, or reality, nonetheless Antiochus I had set his mind and resources to the task of preserving, or acting upon those mystery school teachings. Thus, by means of mostly Exhibit 2 (and other resources which are not the focus of this article), we were able established four things regarding the very straightforward history of this relatively noteworthy UNESCO World Heritage Site.
- The site was commissioned to celebrate the anniversary of the crowning of Antiochus I,
- The site was to be used to monitor and commission festivals and celestial events,
- The site was declared to be the burial site for Antiochus I, and finally
- The site was observing a tradition which called for the attending (and wealthy) Magi Priests to monitor for a future event.
But what future event was that? The problem with most of the statues and engravings at the site, is that they celebrate the crowning of Antiochus I and Antiochus’s relationship with the Gods (although he appeared to be heavily hedging his bets as to which God was indeed a true God). It was an opportunity for him to boast of his success and honoring of the Gods. But there is one object which stands out among all the others, which is included in the observatory inventory without commentary by Antiochus I. That is the carving into a limestone slab of the constellation Leo adorned with 19 stars and 3 planets. This stela (upright carved limestone slab) was unearthed from the encroaching of the stone hill by Karl Humann and Otto Puchstein in 1882.14
This Leo stone slab depiction was not completed until after Antiochus I’s death, because it survives as a set of works completed after the destruction of the East Terrace.15 Thus it was not part of the inventory at the celebrations commemorated by Antiochus I in Exhibit 2 above.
Ancient historians are comfortable in associating the crafting of this Leo stela, with the 62
BCE 2nd anniversary of Antiochus I’s ascendancy to the throne of Commogene. In fact, the date of 6/7 July 62
BCE features a celestial alignment which is pretty darn close to the one depicted upon the Leo frieze slab shown in more detail in Exhibit 7 above.16 17 The reader can see the celestial alignment of 6/7 July 62
BCE as it rose in the morning sky in Exhibit 9 below. Each of the skycharts presented in this article were developed from Starry Night Pro Plus 8. The writer found that other stellar sky mapping products did not keep alignments correct for dates of medium to extreme antiquity. Starry Night has done a good job of keeping this type of data accurate for decades now.
But is this Assumed Horoscope Indeed Correct?
Since the orbit of Jupiter takes around 12 years to accomplish (and this is the regulating feature of viability inside the horoscope), there exist therefore, about a dozen other candidate dates upon which this horoscope, or one similar, would have manifested over the period immediately prior to, and after the construction of the temple observatory at Nemrut Dag. Namely, the period (for purposes of this article) from 110
BCE to 10
CE. This constitutes a 120 year period through which to search for alternative dates which might also have been commemorated by the Leo limestone frieze – encompassing fully both the reign and life of Antiochus I, as well as the four ensuing decades after his passing. Three of these dates, which includes the two most popular, suggested by authors Neugebauer and Crijns, are outlined in depth inside this article.
Maurice Crijns at the International Nemrud Foundation has suggested a very savvy alternative to the traditionally accepted date of 6/7 July 62
BCE. He and several associate authors have suggested that the date of 14 July 109
BCE fits the horoscope specifics better.18 19 In fact, this date is not a bad a fit. Even though the moon is somewhat out of the picture in this horoscope, and as well the scene could not be seen in the east morning sky (observable upon sunset however), the planets fit the putative horoscope juxtaposition probably better than any particular alignment in the 120-year survey timeframe.
However, this ‘better’ alternative left me unsatisfied, just as had the official 7 July 62
BCE narrative, as there was no crescent Moon showing in the morning sky. Set aside the fact that 109
BCE resided well outside the timeframe of Antiochus’ rule, but as well this was critical in that no Moon was indeed visible at all in either alternative (Exhibits 9 and 10).
Note for later, that any ‘novel star’ would also not be observable in both the 62
BCEscenarios – as daylight would have obscured its visibility in the eastern morning sky.
The stark potential (null hypothesis) therefore existed that the crescent Moon was essential to the message contained in the Leo stela iconography.
A further problem then presented itself as well with regard to the Leo stela. Why did the Magi priests carve the three planets of the alignment on the back of Leo, and not at his feet? The Moon was positioned correctly relative to the ecliptic, so why would the planets be purposely placed in a location which could never possibly show as correct? This matter bugged me for a long time.
Then one day two decades ago, a back part of my brain pondered this celestial issue in a long meeting while our team argued types of letters of credit – and suddenly it hit me. What if the three planets (Mars, Mercury, and Jupiter) were placed on the back of Leo, not in suggestion that this was the location of the celestial ecliptic (the path of the planets, which is always below Leo’s feet), which would be a ridiculous intimation, but rather because the artist Magician was attempting to communicate a conjunction of those three planets and not a literal alignment along the ecliptic (as they did in contrast correctly with the Moon)? I immediately set about testing this notion later that same evening.
Then it hit me: The three planets were not in a linear-ecliptic juxtaposition, they were a conjunction! This is why the Magician carved the planets well off the true ecliptic (which is below Leo’s paws) in apparent ‘error’. He had purposed a message in this.
I therefore locked my celestial software upon the planet Jupiter and recorded every date between 120
BCE and 10
CE upon which a the moon (not simply a crescent one) was resident in Leo at the same time as Jupiter, being careful to not miss the retrograde periods (where Jupiter appears to travel backwards in the sky and might dart into Virgo, only to return to Leo weeks or a month later).20 As a result, I found 14 total dates during the survey timeframe which matched the Leo horoscope to varying degrees (including the two generally accepted dates outlined in Exhibits 9 and 10 above). These fourteen candidates can be seen in Exhibit 15 later in this article.
To my surprise, only one of those 14 dates upon which this relationship between Jupiter, Mars, Mercury, and a crescent Moon existed – also happened to feature a conjunction of all three of the planets from the Leo horoscope as well! While this was not conclusive, it was deductive, and highly compelling.
However, this was not simply a three planet conjunction, but rather a four planet conjunction – a much more rare and compelling event. Venus was also in the conjunction with Mars Mercury and Jupiter, but was not observable (to the credit of the literal approach to interpreting the Leo horoscope) as it was showing its dark side to Earth on 27 August 2
BCE. The resulting star chart is shown in Figure A to the right. Was this conjunction, part of the exception which the Magi were highlighting in the frieze?
Thus, this was indeed now a four planet conjunction within a single degree of ecliptic – with a Mars-Jupiter apparent occultation (to the naked eye) to boot. This was a big celestial event, one which occurs once every 1,563 years itself (not even factoring in the chance of an occultation), and only every 18,755 years specifically in Leo (see calculation here).
The reason they had chosen the tallest mountain in the region for the Hierothesion was because in a lower position of observation, by the time they could see the horoscope rising in the east, the daylight (even if the Sun was not directly visible) would have already illuminated the atmosphere (risen) and obviated their ability to see the rising stars or even three planets in full phase. The mountain therefore, was essential to the anticipated observation – and the Magi knew this in advance. The platform looking east therefore, was also essential. This full set of realization hit me like a locomotive, and had me hooked.
The Journey Commences – Following a Superfluous Star
However, before we get to the exciting conclusion of this article, please forgive dear reader my wont to bury the lede a bit more. I want to offer more solid depth to my theory than simply the matter of a conjunction of three planets. The following constitutes my journey of logical prosecution around this argument.
I decided therefore to pull down better older imagery of the Leo Horoscope for which to use in my analysis. As it turned out, there were very few resources available on the matter. Just a couple old photos. Nonetheless, I found a sketch from the time period during which the limestone horoscope had been unearthed. What I found was that the Leo Horoscope originally depicted a total of 3 planets and 19 stars, many of which cannot be seen any longer as a result of the damage to the limestone slab over the decades since its discovery.
I then took the stars comprised by the Leo constellation in this drawing and compared them to the 19 star and 3 planet iconography depicted in the best photo of the horoscope stela I could muster. I then compared this composite to the actual array of stars in the constellation Leo. There was only one star for which I could not find a match. I highlighted this star in green (see Exhibits 12 and 13) so that I could keep track of it as my analysis progressed (an exception placeholder). I found it curious as well that my ‘placeholder’ star just happened to also be embedded inside the crescent Moon. Moreover, I could not shake the feeling that I had seen this icon before.
I carried along doing regular activity for weeks, realizing that I was acutely aware that I had seen this ‘Moon and green star’ symbol somewhere before, but for the life of me could not put my finger upon just where.
One afternoon as I was walking through my home office, my eye caught sight of a plaque on one of my bookshelves. A plaque which had been given to my command by Admiral Saeed Mohammad Khan, Chief of Pakistan’s Navy, as a ‘thank you’ after a series of joint operational exercises we had executed with the Pakistani Navy. On that plaque, was this star and crescent symbol. This ‘Star #12’ was no mere accidental nor superfluous symbol. This interloper into Leo, was a big deal. Perhaps even what the Magi had been commissioned to look for – given that it rose exactly on the azimuth to which the East Terrace observation platform was pointing. (Please note that one can click on any image to obtain an enlargement in a separate window.)
This interloper into Leo, this placeholder, this Star #12 – was a big deal. This superfluous star, was exactly what the Magi was attempting to point out.
Armed with this solved assignment match-up, I then conversely took the reverse approach of attempting to recreate the Leo horoscope in terms of an actual celestial chart. I was successful in matching each planet and star to its assigned role inside the Magician’s sculpture. Of course, the superfluous Star #12 still remained. Every solution I devised to eliminate the superfluous presence of this star, ended up displacing the rest of the assignment grid into incoherence. As one may notice in the celestial mock up below, there are really no other choices available to the analyst.
This being completed, the sole step which remained was to compare all fourteen horoscope candidate dates that we had previously identified, in order to find the most successful one in terms of its conformance to the celestial chart shown in Exhibit 14. How did each candidate date perform against key features of the horoscope, and which one bore the greatest explanatory power in terms of celestial and iconographic matchup? As is my habit, I assembled an argument table, and compared the 14 candidate horoscope dates to the key requisite features shown in Exhibit 14. I felt this to constitute a more rigorous process than was used by either Neugebauer or Crijns in Exhibits 8 or 9 respectively, above (no sleight on either of them as, were it not for their sapient work, I would not even be doing this).
One date alone, became the clear champion across all 12 key requisites – that date was 27 August 2
Therefore, I inserted that date 27 August 2
BCE into my Starry Night Pro Plus 8 software, and derived a picture which likely has not been seen by human eyes since that very day. The morning sky, in the east, the morning of 27 August 2
BCE. Of course dear reader remember, this depiction in Exhibit 16 below includes a proposed, superfluous and interloping ‘Star #12’. A key differentiator here is that, because the sun is under the horizon, two things happen: 1) the moon takes a waning crescent (which is indeed part of the horoscope-snapshot), and 2) one can actually see the constellation and sky, as opposed to the other popular dates in which the Magi could not ‘see the star in the east’, and instead had to wait for the western view. The presence of the West Terrace indeed confirming that the Magi used the occulting of the sun by the horizon, as part of their observation discipline.
The problem introduced by the superfluous Star #12 is that it forces the horoscope to be observed with the Sun below the horizon. Otherwise one cannot ‘observe the star rising in the east’ at all (or really anything for that matter). And since Mercury is in Leo, the Sun by rule, must be close above or below. The only viable date which satisfied this constraint of having the Sun below the horizon, was 27 August 2
In Figure B below, one should notice that both the direct of gaze of the 5 statues of the East Terrace, as well as the observation platform at the east ledge of the terrace, bound the actual position upon which Regulus rose on 27 August 2
BCE (shown in Exhibit 16 above). The star name Regulus (cuneiform 𒀯𒌨𒄖𒆷) in Sumerian means ‘The constellation of the Great King who is to come’ (see end of article for recitations). I think there is no doubt that these Magicians knew in advance what they were looking for.
Below in Exhibit 17, one can observe the fully resolved Leo Horoscope, replete with Mercury residing above a line intersecting Mars and Jupiter (as we observe in Exhibits 12 and 14), along with its mysterious interloping ‘Star #12’. This stellar alignment surpasses by far, every stipulation entailed inside the Leo Horoscope assembled by the ancient Magi at the Nemrut Dag observatory.
While the Magicians who saw this knew generally what they were looking for in the 27 August 2
BCEeastern morning sky, the Leo stela was not a prediction in stone, nor a commemoration of the past.
This was a snapshot – and what was left out was as critically important as what was left in.
Given that the Magi did not include Venus (which was invisible) and included a slightly higher offset of Mercury above Mars and Jupiter – that means that this stela was made to depict an observed celestial state, and not merely one of a calculated horoscope, as is popularly thought. Hence all the mystery in trying to interpret this frieze – we maintained an incorrect assumption (as is the usual case).
At the completion of my analysis it became manifestly clear that the Magi at Nemrut Dag were not looking for a mere ‘horoscope’. Such a thing could be easily calculated and confirmed back in the palace city, at much less expense, and in a setting where the glory of Antiochus I’s monuments to himself would be on display for all to see, not just a few sturdy 7,000 ft mountain scrambling pilgrims.
No, Antiochus and his Wise Men were looking for a specific observation which could not be calculated nor seen from the capitol itself – the appearance of a foretold event of enormous importance to them, in the eastern morning sky – an anomalous star.
Such was not the outcome which I had come into the analysis expecting to see at all. However, the fact that something could be (purposely) hidden in plain sight, and through flawed assumption, is of course of no surprise to an ethical skeptic.
So Many Questions – So Little Time
As fate would have it, Antiochus’ celestial observatory was never completely finished, while the Magician priests apparently departed and abandoned the site sometime during the decade following the 2
BCE date. As is typical, an analysis of this type leaves many questions unanswered, and serves to introduce so many more.
- What were the Magicians looking for?
- Why did they cease their devotion to duty? Was their job done?
- What happened to this superfluous star?
- Why did Star #12 make its appearance already tightly affixed to our Sun’s ecliptic?
- Why did the gravity of ‘Star #12’ not disrupt the entire solar system in terms of planetary orbit eccentricity, inclination, and obliquity? Does this suggest it may have been a distant super nova? or a smaller object in full phase (which it would have been)? or that it was fabricated to begin with?
- Why did Star #12 come through right when the five inner planets (Earth-(Moon)-Mars-Mercury-Jupiter-Venus) all just happened to be in a 1 in 18,755 year alignment, in direct axial harmony along the the very same axis upon which the interloper also arrived? How would one even calculate the odds of that?
- Why did Star #12 appear right where the Leonid meteors radiate from, under the chin of Leo?
- Why was this Star #12 placed in the frieze directly over the body of the Moon itself? Astrologers of the time would have known well that star and planetary fields lay behind the Moon at all times. Perhaps it was not then a ‘star’ per se?23
Moreover and more subjectively,
- why do flags of 24 nations and coins from as far back as 340
BCEcontain the star and crescent symbology? While this is a Turkish national symbol, it was not originally a symbol of Turkey nor Islam – and is generally rejected by Shia Islam.
- Why does this symbol predate both Islam and Turkey by more than 2600 years?
- Why did King Richard I and the Christian crusaders venerate the symbology on seals, shields, and coins?
- Why is it commonly taught in academia that this symbol did not exist until it was adopted ‘as a symbol of the Turks’, when it is obvious with the slightest research effort that this is false?
Regarding Regulus 𒌨𒄖𒆷 the star (or 𒀯 MUL ‘star group’),
- Why are the alchemical symbols for Regulus, the star which the Moon occulted in this horoscope, a star and crescent (🜳) and crown (🜲)?
- Why did the Babylonian MUL.APIN (1000 BCE) call Regulus, Lugal (The Great One)? – despite its being only the 21st brightest star in the sky?24
- Why did the ancient Sumerian teachings (3500+ BCE) call Regulus (cuneiform) 𒀯𒌨𒄖𒆷 or MULUR.GU.LA? Which translated means,
– MUL (MZL-247) ‘constellation of’25
– UR (MZL-828) ‘the Great One/Lion of’26
– GU (MZL-891) ‘by thread/chord’27
– LA (Adverb of lā, MZL-89) ‘is absently’.28
- The cuneiform character 𒆷 (LA, or U+121B7) is also a combination of
– 𒃲 GAL or ‘King/Highest/Chief/A Full Cup/Gallon’29,
whereas the left side of the cuneiform block
– 𒆷 LA, ŠIKA means ‘without’ or ‘left remaining’ (shy one part of four – a ‘GAL’)30
- Thus, no matter what combination, idiom, or even if one chooses the Babylonian LUGAL, this translates to ‘The constellation of the Great One (or Final King) who is to come’.
- The wise men of the Bible had seen their star ‘when it rose’31, and while in ‘the East’ (Greek ἀνατολῇ (anatolē) Anatolia, Turkey).
- Was it a mere coincidence that Star #12 appeared less than two years (1 year and 4 months – but in reality probably more like a year or less) before the traditionally celebrated birth of Christ? and 4 to 12 months before the various reputed dates for the death of Herod the Great?
- Was this connected at all with Herod’s purported slaying of all male children in Bethlehem, 2 years old and younger, after inquiring of the visiting Magi as to the timing of a new star they saw rise in the eastern sky?32
Perhaps indicating a more sinister attempt at hijacking the symbology for use in a counterfeit Priestly role – a kind of Anti-Magi if you will – Why does the World Economic Forum now entertain the symbol inside their brand iconography? As the WEF crescent Moon drifts into station in this horoscope, an iconic and perhaps even fanciful yet ominous message comes into focus.
As is frequently the case, which of course the experienced ethical skeptic recognizes, successfully answered questions inevitably give rise to even more pertinent critical path questions. One can only hope to be faithful of heart, and pursue them as best they can. This is wisdom.
The Ethical Skeptic, “A Curious Astrological Confluence”; The Ethical Skeptic, WordPress, 24 Feb 2022; Web, https://theethicalskeptic.com/?p=49624