Ruins of the ancient capital city of Armenia Artashat

II c. B.C.

Artashat was the capital city of Armenia in 2-5cc.B.C. It is located in the Vostan Hayots district of the Great Hayk Ararat province, at a place where former river-beds of Eraskh and Metzamor were merged on the Khor-Virap hills and their surroundings (now 10km. south-west in the Ararat district).

Movses Khorenatsi wrote, «Artashes went to the area where Eraskh and Metsamor were merged, and was pleased by the hill, and that is where he started to build a city, which was to be named after him, «Artashat». The old city is surrounded from all three sides by river waters, and from the fourth side - with an artificial moat. Currently there still remain the remnants of the walls and the buildings of the old city.

The city was established on the site of the former Urartu settlement, during the reign of Artashes I in 180 B.C., at its time it was the city development of that civilization. As recounted by the Greek historians, Artashat was built by the advise and instructions of the Carthagen general Hannibal, even though many experts doubt this testimony. Armenian and foreign historians unanimously extolled the greatness and the beauty of Artashat. During the reign of the Arshakuni dynasty, Artashat faced countless destructions, because of the Roman and Persian invasions. The Roman army under the command of general Korbulon invaded Artashat in 58B.C., and in 59B.C. they destroyed Artashat - «the Armenian Carthagen». In 66 during the reign of Trdat I, the city’s reconstruction had began, with the financial help of the Roman emperor Neron. Because of this undertaking the city was renamed Neronia in 67, but that name was soon forgotten. The historian Dion Kassios named it «The New City». Neither the destructions, nor the other developed capital-cities were able to undermine the role of Artashat in social, economic and cultural life of Armenia. Artashat had great opportunities for the economic, professional handcrafting and agriculture developing.

The city was surrounded by arid irrigated lands, where the villages were located. Crafting was widely developed here. Artashat was one of the most important trading centers of the old world. Through this city stretched the commercial path from the Far East to the Middle Land shores, through which Chinese silk and other items had been imported. As it shows on the map of those times IVc., trading paths from Armazi (Georgia), Satagh (Pokr Hayk), Hamadan (Persia), Tigranakert (the south-west of Armenia) were merged here. The city was also famous as a transit merchandise storage. The city had remarkable construction and architectural monuments. It had a spacious complex for defense and a stronghold within the royal palace. The city had a famous «Artashat Kamurjh» - «bridge» on the Eraskh River. After some excavations the stronghold’s fortress with a black-smith weapon-maker’s workshop were found. Tigran II silver, Persian, Roman, Selevkian currency were also part of that discovery.

Artashat was the center of Armenian Hellenistic culture. According to Movses Khorenatsi, for the inauguration of Artashes I, Anahit-Artemissis and Tir-Apollo temples with their copper-golden statues were constructed. In 53 B.C. for the inauguration of Artavazd II, Evripid’s tragedy was staged.

In the second half of Vc. Artashat became the country town, and in the next century - subjugated to the rank of a village. The main reason for the fall of Artashat was due to the Metsamor River’s changing river-bed, and because of the swamps that were developed in the surrounding area. And due to the inauguration of Khosrov II, the royal court moved to Dvin.

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