Erebuni Fortress: when History leaves its marks…

In the modern-day capital, where cars are moving in every direction, concrete buildings cut off views, where noises and movements seem to never stop, there is a land that rises up on a hill, 65 meters above the city.

​Laying on the Arin hill, this citadel built in the 8th century is an oasis of silence which commands your attention and cuts you off from the hustle and bustle of the city transporting you to another space and time.

As you slowly ascend the many steps leading your way, you get the feeling that you're on a sort of pilgrimage carrying you to a higher purpose. You’re gradually shutting off from the world around you as you carry on your path, increasing your efforts on the way to the top, and once you reach the end, you will understand that it was all worth it.

Around you, the basalt, tufa stones and clay plastered mud brick give a tone of warmth to the space, while the layers of vertical partitions provide the space with a multi dimensional depth allowing the eye to imagine what the place must’ve looked like centuries ago.

Getting there and looking over the city, its tiny buildings and narrow streets and colorful cars , marveling at the Ararat valley and the Armavir province, you understand that the effort was well worth it. However, what is captivating even more than the sights from the top, is the actual Erebuni citadelle, or shall we say what’s left of it.

As a matter of fact, we know that more than just a fortress, this was a highly sophisticated, self sufficient living city with its own palace, service quarter and temples. Considered to be one of the most powerful Uratian structures ever built, Erebuni was the beating heart of the vast kingdom and its religious, cultural and political center. Adding to this, the fortress played a strategic role on a military level and more than 6000 warriors resided within its walls.

The majority of this once imposing citadel is now erased. Luckily fragments have survived the test of time and stayed as a reminder of the existence of this majestic edifice. The remaining foundations and the fortified walls help you trace the layout of the citadel while some rooms here and there give you an idea of what the structure would have looked like, back in the day, in its time of glory. The rest is left to your imagination… and to the information provided by the History books, the excavations and the archaeological finds.

Therefore as you walk around, you attempt to rebuild in your mind what this majestic fortified city must’ve looked like in its heyday. Open courtyards filled with people, long corridors leading to spacious column halls and their vestibules. Walls decorated with carpets and frescoes detecting scenes of Nature and human life. Luckily some of these you can still witness with your own eyes, such as the opulent yellow and blue murals in the Outer Portico Post on the main entrance and in the temple of Khaldi, one of the most prominent Uratian gods.

It’s amazing how this citadel can express so much power in its silence. No wonder it is called ‘’The fortress of blood’’ (Arin Berd). The air on that hill is filled with mystery, secrets of the past, and victories. You can’t help but feel mesmerized by the prowess and skills of the people who have constructed it hundreds of years ago and called it their ‘’home’’.

Even though most of it doesn’t exist anymore, the legacy of the Erebuni fortress still goes on.

As a matter of fact, the modern day capital,was founded as the citadel was constructed, and its name ‘’Yerevan’’ derives from ‘’Erebuni’’.

As you visit the citadel, make sure to see the cuneiform stone inscription that states the exact date of the foundation of the fortress by the Uratian king Argishti I, in 782 BC. Meaning that Yerevan has its own birth certificate, engraved in stone, proving that it’s one of the oldest cities in the world, founded some 2802 years ago!

Author: Grace Jerejian
Images: Miqayel Badalyan 
Reconstruction image: Rouben Sargsyan

Walking Through History