Khor Virap

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Khor Virap 5: Northwest mound. Temple to Tir-Apollo. The Baths.

Northwest mound

Closed to visitors, this section of the old city lies on the Turkish border, and has revealed some of the city's most important findings, including a newly discovered Temple to Tir-Apollo (Areg/Mher/Apollo/Hermes) and Roman baths. Also discovered was the location of (the 5th century historian) Agatangeghos' “Yerazamuin”.


Temple to Tir-Apollo

The site is located on the left bank of the Arax River, next to the Taperakan (Artashat) Bridge. An earlier temple complex (189/188 BC) was destroyed in the early 1st century, during the Roman campaign led by Domitius Corbulo, which sacked the city in 59.

A new platform was built over the old during the reign of T'rdat I (r. 53-60) and a new buildingwas built on top. . Both the platform and temple were made of limestone. Six wide steps (4.85m) led to the eastern entrance of the temple. The walls were decorated with bas relief sculptures. For a long time the locations of this site had been unknown and widely disputed.

Among the artifacts found were varying sizes and types of imported and locally-made pottery including a remarkable find, a polished red lion-headed lug bowl. Also found was an eagle head made from limestone with eyes and neck painted dark red. In ancient times the lion was the symbol of the summer sun and the eagle was the symbol of both the sun and a messenger of the gods.

After Christianity was adopted as state religion the new temple, too, was destroyed.


The Baths

Located to the northeast of the temple, the public baths used the Roman hypocaust system to heat the rooms and water, as the royal baths atGarni and Vagharshapat. Hot air from the furnace penetrated to the spaces between the walls and the floors through vaulted openings and heated the rooms. The air in rooms heated this way was believed to be healthier. They were located in a massive building of which only 7 rooms have been uncovered.
Clay pipes brought water from the Arax River to the bath and the heated water to the bath itself, while the fire also heated the basement of the building, where special clay stones and bricks radiated the heat up through the tile floor. A system of clay pipes were found in rooms six and seven. The sewage system was discovered here with toilet sinks.

The floors of the baths were coated with a waterproof mixture of concrete that was colored pink. Built at the end of the 2nd to the beginning of the 3rd centuries, the baths were ruined and rebuilt at the beginning of the 4th century. All rooms were covered with a stone mosaic floor made from felsite, the background in white with rectangular patterns made from smalt (opaque colored glass cubes). This particular mosaic was found in the second and part of the fifth rooms, with other rooms showing fragments or small sections of the same design.


This text was edited by Professor Zhores Khachatrian, Head of the Ancient Archeology Department of the Archeology and Ethnography Institute of the Academy of Sciences of the Republic of Armenia.