The temple of Garni

The pagan temple of Garni is located in the Kotayk Province of Armenia, 25 km south of the city of Yerevan. It is the only pagan temple preserved on the territory of the former USSR. According to a manuscript from the 14th century, the fortress of Garni was founded as
early as 2166 BC. This is not an exaggeration, as during excavations, a settlement from the early Bronze Age with square house structures was discovered here. The fortress was first mentioned under the name of Gorina by the Roman historian Tacitus. The names of the settlement and fortress, Khorenatsi, are associated with the name of Garnik, the greatgrandson of Hayk Nahapet. Even in the times of the Artaxiad dynasty, the Garni fortress was one of the most important strongholds in Armenia. Later, it was rebuilt by Tiridates I of the Arsacid dynasty. The total length of the fortress walls is 180 m. The fortress was destroyed during the Arab invasions but was later rebuilt during the rule of the Bagratuni dynasty. During this time, Garni was a large settlement. The fortress was built on a triangular-shaped promontory, which was protected on three sides by deep gorges and on the fourth side by a line of walls reinforced with 14 rectangular towers.

Garni had a temple from ancient times. The present temple was built by Armenian King Tiridates I of the Arsacid dynasty in 78 AD. There is a mistaken version that Tiridates I built the Garni temple in honor of Emperor Nero with his donations. Emperor Nero did not make any donations to King Tiridates I. Following Tiridates I’s victory over Rome, he exacted tribute from Nero, and Garni was not built in honor of the Roman Emperor. The temple was dedicated to the god Mihr. It is commonly believed that Garni temple is of Greco-Roman style, but this is not the case. The Garni temple belongs to the style of Musasir. Musasir was a spiritual center of the Kingdom of Urartu. The Musasir temple was destroyed as early as 713 BC by the Assyrian King Sargon II. The layout of the Musasir temple has been preserved, and Garni was built in this style. Such Greco-Roman temples were not built in the 8th century BC. Furthermore, the History Museum of Armenia exhibits a small model of a temple from the 16th century BC discovered during archaeological excavations. This twostory temple is very similar to the Garni temple, except that it was two-story and without columns. The Garni style is an authentic Armenian style that later spread to Europe. The temple was destroyed during an earthquake in 1679. In the 1930s, Professor Buniatian reconstructed its model. From 1969 to 1974, the temple was completely restored by architect A. Saghinyan. The temple walls were constructed from finely hewn basalt without mortar. They were attached to each other with iron structures. The bathhouse consists of four adjacent rooms. The first room served as a vestibule-dressing room. The second room was a bath for cold water, the third for warm water, and the fourth for hot water. In the northwest part, there was a reservoir, under the bathhouse was a shrine where the water was heated. The mosaic of the first hall has been preserved, decorated with 15 natural stones. It depicts the sea, maritime scenes, mermaids, various epic characters: ichthyanders – humanoids with horse bodies and fish tails, fish, fishermen, etc. Also depicted are various phrases: “sea calm,” “sea depth,” names of various deities: Eros, Thetis, Glaukos, etc. In the center are busts of a man and a woman, as well as the phrase “Did not work without getting anything.” It is likely that the mosaic also depicted fragments from ancient epic poems that have not survived to our time. Many researchers believe that the Garni bathhouse was built in the late 3rd century by King Tiridates III of the Arsacid dynasty. Overall, after the adoption of Christianity, Garni became a dacha (country house) for Khosrovanuysh, the sister of Tiridates III. The circular church is a structure from the 9th century. Four
semicircular altars are circularly arranged on a two-step pedestal, each with straight front parts containing an apse with a semi-circular form on the eastern side.

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