After the fall of the Hittite
empire, at the beginning of the
first millennium B.C., a new kingdom was formed in eastern Anatolia, which was to survive
for three hundred years. This was the kingdom of the Urartu, who were related to the
Hurrians and were closely related to the Hittites in origin. However, the Urartu are
historically looked upon as a civilization that had its own particular set of
characteristics. The Urartu carried many of the customs and traditions of the Hittites
into the first millennium, and can be said to have been a typically Anatolian culture.
During the Early Urartu period, they were grouped in a series of emirates known as the
Nairi, but in 900 B.C., they formed a confederation under a central monarch.
We know from inscriptions that the first Urartu ruler was Aramu (860-840 B.C.),
followed by Sardur I (840-830 B.C.). Sardur I was responsible for adding a tower to the
fortress of Van, which was completed during his reign. The inscription refers to him as
the ruler of the Nairi, suggesting that the other emirates had rallied around him by this
time. During the reigns of Sardur I and his successor Ishpuinis, (830-810 B.C.) the
capital of Urartu was Van, which became steadily larger and more prosperous. Ishpuinis
appointed his son Menuas as co-administrator during his reign and extended the Urartu
frontiers, taking the city of Mushashir near Gevas. This made the Urartu a significant
threat to the Assyrians. King Ishpuinis died in 810 B.C. and was succeeded by his son
Menuas (810-780 B.C.). He was followed by Argishtish I (780-760 B.C.). The latter extended
the Urartu frontiers even further and built up a chain of fortresses against potential
After the death of Argishtish I, Sardur II came to the throne (760-730 B.C.), and it
was during his reign that the Urartu state reached its greatest proportions. Upon his
death, he was succeeded by Rusas I (730-713 B.C.), during whose reign the Urartu were
confronted with fierce opposition from the Assyrians. The frontiers of Urartu were
threatened on several occasions, and to combat this, the Urartu built buffer towns on the
edges of their territory that were abandoned in times of danger, and later inhabited.
Rusas I was succeeded by his son Argishtish II (713-685 B.C.) after whom Rusas II
(685-645 B.C.), Sardur III (645-625 B.C.), Erimena (625-605 B.C.), and Rusas III (605-590
B.C.) reigned in turn. He was followed by Sardur IV, who reigned between 590-585 B.C. The
Urartu were weakened by the constant raids of the Assyrians, Medes and
Scythians. In the
end, the state of Urartu was annihilated in 585 B.C. by the Scythian invasion. The
a tribe of powerful warriors in times of war, were farmers in times of peace. They were
ruled by monarchs who also bore the title of chief-priest or envoy of Haldi, the major
deity. Other deities in the Urartu pantheon included Teisiba, god of the heavens, who was
known as Teshub among the Hittites and the Hurrians, and Siwini, the sun goddess. Many
temples dedicated to Haldi, some of which were adjoining royal palaces, while others were
free-standing structures, have been unearthed in excavations at Altintepe,
Patnos and Cavustepe.
Urartu excavations have revealed not only palaces and temples of the Haldiye period,
but also houses of the period, complete with windows and balconies. The interiors of these
houses were decorated with various motifs. However far away the water source may have
been, each settlement had a complete water supply and drainage system. One feature of
Urartu architecture that was to be very influential in the Near East was the blind arch,
and we can see that the layout of Urartu buildings was the precursor to that of the
Iranian apadana layouts. Urartu fortresses, solid structures of dressed stone blocks were
thought to have numbered thirty in all. The most important of these were the fortresses at
Van, Anzaf, Cavustepe and Baskale. The art of metalwork was
certainly highly advanced in Urartu, and perhaps the greatest proof of this was the fact
that Urartu artifacts were exported to Phrygia and
Etruria. This is
how the magnificent bull-headed cauldrons of the Urartu came to be found in Italy.
Above text and pictures are from the book titled "Ancient Civilizations and Treasures of Turkey".
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