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The word “dikilitaş” in Turkish means “stone that is perpendicular,” or better, an obelisk. While most Turks (and travellers to Turkey for that matter) know of the famous obelisks in Istanbul outside of the Blue Mosque (also known as Sultanahmet Camii), you might not know that there is an obelisk just outside of Mersin…in the middle of an orchard.

Mersin’s Dikilitaş is 5 kilometers north of the port, and 2.5 kilometers south of the village of Dikilitaş. If you plan on visiting the more than 6 meters tall stone sticking up out of the ground, you will do well to follow the map included below, or, if you have a GPS capable device, to follow the coordinates that I’ve included as waypoints for getting to the location. While officially in the village of Dikilitaş, the stone itself is not easily found.

Cultural note: when travelling in many cultures, Turkish culture included, be aware that while most people will want to help you get where you are going, it is shameful to not give you an answer, even if the answer is, “I don’t know.” So, if you ask for directions, you may want to stop and ask a few more people and see if the answers corroborate, otherwise you may end up far, far away from where you want to go. Not that happened to me. Or maybe it did. Anyway…

Now, where were we. Yes, Dikilitaş, the obelisk, not the village.

A couple of thousand years ago, this obelisk was erected on a Roman road that stretched from Tarsus to Silifke, two important cities in Cilicia. The stone itself is over 6 meters tall, and as can be seen in the pictures, it is a porous stone with neither an inscription nor markings. Some scholars think that it may have originally been covered in a marble covering that has now been lost to the centuries.

There are two stories that have been attached to this obelisk.

1. As the Hebrews set up memorial stone structures, says Şahin Özkan, other cultures would set up memorial stones to honor important leaders, as well. In 696 B.C., the Assyrian king Sennacherib made a campaign into Cilicia to fight back the Greeks. He is said to have built, or at least captured, the cities of Tarsus and Anchiale (the ruins of Karaduvar). To commemorate his victory, Sennacherib is thought to have set up this monument, which would have originally had his statue on top.*

2. The second story as to the origins of this obilisk is known well by the local peoples, though as it is an oral history, there is no corroborating texts to give credence as to its truth in history. The story goes as follows: There were two tribes, one in Tarsus and the other in Silifke, that had a blood feud. Eventually the families decided to end the feud, but culturally they needed to mark the end of the feud with a symbolic wedding. It was decided that the Silifke family’s daugher and the Tarsus family’s son would be wed. So, the Tarsus family sent their son to Silifke with a present for the engagement with instructions to stay three days and then return, but after 15 days, he still had not returned. The boy had actually died at the girl’s house, and the Silifke family’s father was afraid that the blood feud would start up again. Finally, took to the road to Tarsus to tell the boy’s father what had happened. The two father’s ended up meeting at the place of the obelisk. The girl’s father explained what had happened, and surprisingly, the boy’s father believed him at his word. He then erected this obelisk to memorialize his son, according to the legend. [from: Mersin: Tarihi ve Gezi Rehberi by Yıldırım Akpınar ]

Visiting:

Follow the waypoints on the map below to go directly to the obelisk.

While here:

If you’re here in the fall or winter, grab an orange or lemon off the trees you’ll drive through to get to the obelisk.