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The area has been inhabited as far back as it is possible to discover. Research in the cave of Palanlı 10 km north of Adıyaman show occupation in 40,000 BC and other digs in Samsat reveal continuous occupation through the stone and Bronze Ages.
From 900BC onwards came waves of invasions from Assyrians, Persians, and Macedonians until theCommagene kingdom was founded in 69BC. This was the civilisation that built the statues on top of nearby Mount Nemrut. The capital was in Samsat (Samosata) but the town of Adıyaman was a walled city of the Commagenes. The city walls of Adıyaman have been restored and replaced many times since.
The Commagene kingdom lasted until the Romans came in 72AD. Yet more campaigns and invasions followed and Adıyaman was controlled by Byzantines 395-670, Ummayads from 670 and then Abbasids 758-926. Then the area returned to Byzantine control during 859-1114. The Arabs returned from 1114 to 1204 and finally came the arrival of the Turks. The Arabic name for the castle and town was Hısn-ı Mansur.
Turks moved into the area from 1114 onwards and for most of the 13th century was settled by the Selçuk Turks often disrupted byMongol invasions. From 1298 to 1516 the town was under the control of the Mameluks. Adıyaman was brought into the Ottoman Empire by Selim I in 1516, but local power often rested with the Dulkadiroğulları tribe of Turkmen people that settled
There is some passing tourist trade, the main tourist attraction being Mount Nemrut.
The ancient city of Arsemia, the summer retreat of the Kingdom of Commagene, can also be visited. Adiyaman is one of the fastest developing cities in Turkey, with many cafes, cinemas and shopping centers.