Sites & cities that bear the name of Artaxata


Today in : Armenia
First trace of activity : 176 B.C.E
Last trace of activity : ca. 7th century C.E
Recorded names : Artashat, Արտաշատ, Ἀρτάξατα, Artaxiasata, Ἀρταξιάσατα, Neronia

Description : Artashat (Armenian: Արտաշատ); Hellenized as Artaxata (Greek: Ἀρτάξατα) and Artaxiasata (Ancient Greek: Ἀρταξιάσατα), was a large commercial city and the capital of ancient Armenia during the reign of king Artaxias I; the founder of the Artaxiad Dynasty of the ancient Kingdom of Armenia. The name of the city is derived from Iranian languages and means the "joy of Arta". Founded by King Artaxias I in 176 BC, Artaxata served as the capital of the Kingdom of Armenia from 185 BC until 120 AD, and was known as the "Vostan Hayots" ("court/seal of the Armenians"). King Artashes I founded Artashat in 176 BC in the Vostan Hayots canton within the historical province of Ayrarat, at the point where Araks river was joined by Metsamor river during that ancient eras, near the heights of Khor Virap. The story of the foundation is given by the Armenian historian Movses Khorenatsi of the fifth century: "Artashes traveled to the location of the confluence of the Yeraskh and Metsamor and taking a liking to the position of the hills , he chose it as the location of his new city, naming it after himself." According to the accounts given by Greek historians Plutarch and Strabo, Artashat is said to have been chosen and developed on the advice of the Carthaginian general Hannibal: It is said that Hannibal the Carthaginian, after Antiochus had been conquered by the Romans, left him and went to Artaxias the Armenian, to whom he gave many excellent suggestions and instructions. For instance, observing that a section of the country which had the greatest natural advantages and attractions was lying idle and neglected, he drew up a plan for a city there, and then brought Artaxias to the place and showed him its possibilities, and urged him to undertake the building. The king was delighted, and begged Hannibal to superintend the work himself, whereupon a very great and beautiful city arose there, which was named after the king, and proclaimed the capital of Armenia. However, modern historians argue that there is no direct evidence to support the above. Some sources have also indicated that Artashes built his city upon the remains of an old Urartian settlement. Strabo and Plutarch describe Artashat as a large and beautiful city and call it the "Armenian Carthage". A focal point of Hellenistic culture, Armenia's first theatre was built here. Movses Khorenatsi points that in addition to numerous copper pagan statues of the gods and goddesses of Anahit, Artemis and Tir brought from the religious center of Bagaran and other regions to the city, Jews from the former Armenian capital of Armavir were relocated to Artashat. Artashes also built a citadel (which was later named Khor Virap and gained prominence as the location where Gregory the Illuminator was to be imprisoned by Tiridates III of Armenia) and added other fortifications, including a moat. Given the city's strategic position on the Araks valley, Artashat soon became a center of bustling economic activity and thriving international trade, linking Persia and Mesopotamia with the Caucasus and Asia Minor. Its economic wealth can be gauged in the numerous bathhouses, markets, workshops administrative buildings that sprang up during the reign of Artashes I. The city had its own treasury and customs. The amphitheater of Artashat was built during the reign of king Artavasdes II (55-34 BC). The remains of the huge walls surrounding the city built by King Artashes I could be found in the area.

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