Erciyes, located to the southwest of Kayseri, is the tallest volcano in Central Anatolia and covers almost 1,500 square kilometers. The cessation of volcanic activity and the ensuing erosion of the central crater give Erciyes the appearance of being much older than other volcanoes in the region.
Because Erciyes was always snow-covered, the Hittites (second millennium to 1200 BC) called it "Harkasos" or "White Mountain." The Hittite pantheon included a number of mountain gods, including Erciyes. From the region of Imamkulu in Cappadocia, a 13th century BC Hittite rock carving depicting a storm god above three mountain gods, furnishes proof of the Hittite veneration of Cappadocian volcanoes. In fact, a man-made tunnel discovered near the summit of Erciyes might have been used for worshipping the mountain.
It is highly probable that a link exists between the Greek legend of Typhon and Zeus and the volcanoes of Cappadocia. According to the legend, Typhon was an enormous monster with horrible dragon heads, countless coiled serpents for legs and arms, and a mouth emitting flaming rocks. Volcanic eruptions were said to be the battle between Typhon and Zeus, the only god who stood firm against the monster from Cilicia (of which Cappadocia was a part). A Hittite bas-relief from Malatya dating from 1000 BC portrays the weather god (prototype of Zeus) slaying a coiled serpent. Flames and volcanic bombs issue from the serpent's body, which might symbolize volcanoes.
In ancient times Erciyes was known as "Argeus" and was mentioned by many historians, including the famous 1st century geographer Strabo, who claimed one could see the "Black Sea" and "Mediterranean Sea" from the top of Erciyes. Although Strabo erroneously identified these bodies of water, his comments nevertheless indicate that large lakes existed nearby in central Anatolia. He further described Erciyes and the surrounding area as having vast marshes emitting fire and smoke.
During Roman times most of the coins minted in Kayseri had images of Erciyes, since the early Hittite cult of mountain worship merged with the Roman veneration of their emperors and Zeus (Jupiter). Numerous statues from that area also depict Erciyes and demonstrate the degree to which it was venerated by the people of Cappadocia.
In much later times the renowned 16th century Turkish architect Sinan, a native of Kayseri, was inspired by Erciyes's conical form. This influence can be seen in his masterpiece, the Suleymaniye mosque in Istanbul, whose silhouette reflects the conical shape of Erciyes.