Khor Virap Monastery

Khor Virap stands on the left bank of the Arax River, in Ararat Valley, in the shadow of Mt. Ararat (5165 m. and 3925m.). It is located at the site of a pagan temple to goddess Anahit, on hill 6 of the upper city of Artashat.

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City Precincts

CITY PRECINCTS

To the northwest of Khor Virap is the tallest hill (70 meters) on top of which stood the acropolis of Old Artashat which had a palace and administrative buildings and a military garrison and arsenal. The citadel was double-walled and well protected. The remains of the palace located at the crest of the hill occupy an area of 2,750 square meters. It is said that Hannibal lived here while in attendance to the king.

Defenses

Great importance was attached to the city’s defenses. As described by Strabon and Tacitus, Artashat's fortress walls ran for over 10,000 meters, 5,000 of which were excavated. The walls surrounded all of the city hills. The second fortress wall in the acropolis was Urartian, reconstructed using Hellenistic military principles of defense; corner turrets were replaced by 13-15 meter diameter round towers. The inner walls had the form of a polyline. Adding to the city's defense was the erection of narrow walled passes between the hills, transforming them into separate defensive structures. Five of the city's gates were discovered, 1.5-2 meters in width, each with a pair of towers. The road to the gates passed near the walls, providing additional protection.

Layout

Artashat was sophisticated in other ways, with running water and public baths. The city received its drinking water from Vedi, via large (0,55x0,45 m) clay pipes. The water system was enough for 100,000 people. Smaller (0,1m diameter) pipes carried the water to the city's upper districts. Drenage chanels were uncovered in different parts of the city. Armenians were familiar with the construction techniques of a new type of structures – baths – quite common in the Greko-Roman world. Two private baths were discovered on Hill 8 and a third public thermal bath next to the Tir-Apollo temple, which used water from the Arax River.

Tigran II is known to have settled the city with captives from 12 Hellenistic cities. Artashat occupied about 400 hectares of territory and at its apex (2nd-1st centuries BCE) had a population of around 150,000, making it one of the largest cities of the Hellenistic world. Artashat remained Armenia’s capital for 600 years, as a symbol of its power and independence.

The hills made of black marble and quartz formed as a result of volcanic eruption. To mine marble, rock blasting works have been conducted on hills 6-7, 9, 11, 12 leaving the structures damaged and destroyed.

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This text was prepared with the assistance of 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.


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    How to reach From Yerevan drive 44 km to south. The trip will approximately take 40 minutes.

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