Erebuni Museum

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Erebuni Museum Lobby 1. Urartu or Kingdom of Van


The first unified state in the Armenian Highland was Urartu, mentioned in Armenian written records as the Land of Arartu or Araratian Kingdom (the Kingdom of Ararat). Formed in the Lake Van basin in the 9th c. BCE, it reached its zenith during the reigns of King Menua I, his son Argishti I and King Sarduri II, whom collectively expanded the borders of their kingdom north, south and east. In the early 8th c. Argishti crossed the Araxes River and conquered the Ararat Valley. To secure the northeastern regions of the country, in 782 BCE he founded Erebuni as an administrative and military stronghold.

Having secured the borders of the country in time of prosperity, Urartian kings then moved to the south and conquered a number of Assyrian provinces in an attempt to gain access to the Mediterranean Sea and control of the main commercial lines.

King Rusa I (735-713) unified the country and took measures to enhance its defence. Assyria closely watched its powerful northern neighbour but soon reacted.

In the summer of 714 the Assyrian king Sargon II attacked Rusa I, defeated him and plundered the country, confiscating as war booty 2 tons of gold, 10 tons of silver and a huge number of other valuables. He was unable to completely defeat Urartu but it became a secondary power in the Ancient Near East.

Argishti II (713-685) led a flexible policy: on the one hand he tried to coerce Assyria's neighbours to rebel against Assyria while on the other he tried to establish good relations between Urartu and Assyria.

His descendant, Rusa II (685-645), led a rebirth of Urartu: he undertook large-scale construction of fortresses, canals and towns. In the years following his reign, Urartu declined. Continuous attacks by the Medes and Scythian nomadic tribes, as well as internecine feuds, eventually lead to Urartu's collapse, most probably in the first half of the 6th c. BCE.