Erebuni excavation

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Erebuni 3: History

 Erebuni Fortress City – History

Erebuni is a fortress city from the ancient kingdom of Urartu. It was one of several fortress-cities built along the northern Urartu state border and one of its most important political, economic and cultural centers. The name Yerevan itself is believed to have derived from the word Erebuni.

Erebuni was founded by King Argishti I in 782 BCE. It was built on top of a hill called Arin Berd overlooking the Arax River Valley to serve as a strategic military center and royal residence. Argishti (r. ca. 785–753) began the construction of Erebuni after conquering the territories north of Yerevan and west of Lake Sevan, where the town of Abovian is currently located. The men and women captured in these campaigns were used to help build his town.

In the autumn of 1950, an archaeological expedition led by Constantine Hovhannisyan discovered a cuneiform inscription at Arin Berd dedicated to the city's founding which was carved for Argishti:

"By the grace of the God Khaldi, Argishti, son of Menua, built this mighty stronghold and proclaimed it Erebuni for the greatness of Biainili (Urartu) and to instill fear among the enemy countries. Argishti says: The land was a desert, great works I accomplished upon it. By the will of Khaldi, Argishti, son of Menua, is a mighty king, king of Biainili land, and ruler of Tushpa city."

Two other identical inscriptions have been found at Erebuni. A similar inscription at the Urartian capital of Tushpa (current-day Van) states that he brought 6,600 prisoners of war from Khateh and Tsupani to populate his new city.

Erebuni was one of the most important military centers in Urartu, from where Argishti I and his successors led their military campaigns against northwestern invaders. During their campaigns Urartian kings resided in Erebuni and continued to beef up fortress defenses. Kings Sardur II and Rusa I used Erebuni as a base site for new campaigns of conquest against the north. Constant warfare exhausted the Urartian kingdom and in the early 6th century it collapsed.

The region soon fell under the control of the Achaemenid (Persian) Empire. Erebuni's strategic importance did not diminish and it became the center of the 18th Persian satrapy on the Armenian highland.

Despite numerous invasions by successive foreign powers, the city was never truly abandoned and was continually inhabited over the following centuries, eventually branching out to become the city of Yerevan. Erebuni will celebrate its 2800th anniversary as the birthplace of Yerevan in 2018.

 

 Original text edited by Erebuni Historical and Archaeological Museum-Preserve and the Armenian National Committee of the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS-AM).