The forgotten city.




DVIN (“hill” in middle Persian, classical name was Duin, or Dwin/Duin in ancient Armenian primary sources. Arabs referred to the city as Dabil; Greek: Δουσιος, Τισιον) is shockingly neglected for being one of the country’s most important historic cities; for almost 1000 years Dvin was the capital of the aspirations of Armenians, Arabs, Byzantines, Seljuks, Persians, Ottomans and Georgian kings; each of which ruled over a part of its history.

They fought over its commerce and lusted after its treasures; it was invaded by legions and captured the imaginations of kings, emperors, shahs and Emirs.

Its fate was recorded by Arab, Greek and European historians and in its heyday it was one of the largest cities in the Near East, eclipsing the caliphate in Syria and Iraq, and nearly so Cairo and Constantinople.

One of the most important cities in medieval times, little of its grandness will be found in the dusty hill and poorly kept excavations that lie on the edge of the Geghama Lehr. This is not to say you should skip Dvin; absolutely not! You simply need a little imagination to bring to life what was once one of the greatest cities on earth.

There is a small, worn museum with knowledgeable and friendly guides that somehow eke out a living at the site and are fanatic about protecting its remains. There are good artifacts from Dvin’s Bronze Age, and enough fragments and broken columns to allow you to conjure a pretty good idea of how sophisticated the city once was.

Combine this with a visit to the Dvin Gallery at the State History Museum in Yerevan and you will be able to appreciate the size of this ancient city that reached upwards of 150,000 inhabitants, most of them craftsmen and artisans that enriched the Near East with their art.

During its entire history, the city was repeatedly destroyed (twice by earthquake) and rebuilt, creating a strata of history 7-8 meters thick; each layer of which was rich with examples of the way the people lived. Perhaps more than any other, the excavation at Dvin revealed a detailed picture of life at each step of its 1000 year history, from the lowly dweller and craftsmen to the caravans that enriched the city with trade and the loftiest pretensions of the ruling class and clergy.

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