Giving Life To Anatolian Legends

EarnIng hIs country praIse In foreIgn art cIrcles for hIs contemporary art works, Ahmet GüneştekIn, whose works are exhIbIted In art museums abroad, Is a perfect AnatolIa afIcIonado. And we are brIngIng YOU the cultural treasures those lands have brought forth out of the mIllennIa as Interpreted by Ahmet Güneştekin Is hIs words and art. The fIrst legend Is from Adıyaman, cIty of a splendId past and splendId monuments.

The legend of the seven brave men: Adıyaman

Whenever Antiochus, proud kıng of the ancıent kıngdom of commagene, gazed upon hıs palace, he saw ıt standıng next to the majestıc Mount Nemrut, which seemed to dwarf and look down on it. and he would fly into a mad rage. The situation went on for days, months, years. One day when he was very angry, he summoned all his advisors and cried, “Nothing and no one may stand taller than my kingdom!”

The king’s advisers were speechless. “Destroy the mountain immediately!” Antiochus raged on. The advisors were stunned, the soothsayers and scholars frozen in fear. “But Your Highness,” they replied in a whisper, “How can we destroy an enormous mountain?”

“Do you dare to challenge me?” roared Antiochus. The king’s cruelty was legendary. No one uttered a word. “Your King,” he said, “is going to do what befits his person and his ancestors. He is going to build a temple to the sky, and you are going to help him.” And those were his last words on the subject.

The architects and sculptors who were going to build the temple tried to tell the king what a difficult task this would be. But Antiochus had his mind set on immortality, and nothing could dissuade him. Construction of the temple commenced as Antiochus had commanded. But the fashioning of the statue of the Commagene king had to be delegated to a master sculptor who was up to the job. So Sorgon, one of the most prominent sculptors in the land, was chosen.  “Great King,” Sorgon greeted Antiochus. “I am going to make such a sculpture that everyone will bow down before Antiochus.” Antiochus was very pleased by Sorgon’s words and asked him to start work immediately.

Sorgon was a cruel tyrant, ruthless and obsessed, and completely devoted to his king and his beliefs. At the same time he was also a very meticulous sculptor, who allowed no one other than his sons to work alongside him.

In this respect he was actually like Antiochus, the king to whom he was inseparably bound. While perhaps not as grand as that of the king, he had established his own little kingdom at home. As for the sons of the cruel Sorgon, they were young and as yet lacked the courage to stand up to their father’s tyranny. Until, that is, they began to work together on Antiochus’s magnificent temple.
As had been foreseen, hundreds of men were lost during the construction of the temple. One by one slaves and sculptors alike began to fall, some crushed under rocks, others of sheer exhaustion.

Utterly devoted to his king. Sorgon had little time of course to take an interest in these matters. Indeed, so preoccupied was he with completing the statue of the king he emulated and redoubling his fame that he was oblivious to the fact that his seven sons had run out of strength because they could not withstand the cold and the weight of the giant rocks and were at last on the brink of rebellion. As for the seven brothers, the time had finally come to rise up against their cruel father, Sorgon. Braver than the others, in the end it was Henon, the youngest son, who gave voice to their revolt.
“How much longer, my beloved brothers, are you going to bow your heads to Sorgon’s cruelty? Abandon your fear now. Let us light seven candles every night and pray that our god will see and help us!”

The seven brothers lit seven candles as Henun had bid them and began praying every night. Seeing that his older brothers had taken heart, Henun began to speak:

“No one, and especially not our father Sorgon, has the right to tyrannize over us! Our father may derive his strength from idols and from King Antiochus, but we have a strong and just god. Never forget that!”

The other brothers cheered Henun, who became even more bold:“When the work season is over and we return home, let us break and shatter the idols from which our father draws strength and courage. When our father sees that the helpless idols cannot even defend themselves, he will realize they have no more power and will put an end to his tyranny over us.”When the seven brothers got home, they smashed all the idols as planned, including the statue of their father, Sorgon. And afterwards, to celebrate the victory, scattering light to the skies they lit seven candles in the courtyard to show their gratitude to the gods who had given them this strength and courage.

When the cruel Sorgon came home he immediately noticed the seven candles burning in the courtyard and extinguished them in anger. When he went inside and saw that all the statues had been smashed he went mad with rage and began yelling and screaming and kicking at everything in sight. Realizing that his sons were not at home, he concluded that they had committed this act of destruction and, unable to help himself, he began to swear revenge. But the seven brothers were hiding far enough away as to be unable to hear their father’s voice, and they waited patiently for the time when Sorgon’s anger would pass. As for Sorgon, he searched for his sons for days. Finally realizing that he was not going to be able to find them, he spread a rumor among their close friends that he had forgiven his sons. Taken in by these beautiful words, and quickly forgetting that their father was a ruthless tyrant, the seven brothers soon returned home believing they had been forgiven. In honor of his sons’ return, their father, Sorgon, had a great feast prepared into which the palace cooks poured all their skills. Unaware of the bitter poison their father had instructed the cooks to add to the most delectable dishes, the seven brothers sat down at the table and ate with great gusto… Unfortunately they never rose again from that table.The people called those seven brothers the Seven Brave Men (Yedi Yaman in Turkish) and began lighting candles in their memory every year. In time this name was corrupted into Adıyaman and became the name of the city.

On the trail of legends
Anatolia is known around the world as the home of innumerable civilizations during its thousands of years of cultural development. Now painter Ahmet Güneştekin, who has toured all over Turkey countless times and made documentaries about each province as well as contributing to many social responsibility projects, is following the trail of those civilizations through legend. Collecting the Anatolian legends that have come down to our day, the artist is giving expression to them in his works and documentaries.