Armenia’s Ancient Smbataberd Fortress

The ancient Smbataberd Castle (or “fortress”) is located near the villages of Artabuynk and Yeghegis in the Vayots Dzor Province of Armenia. It is guarded by a long stretch of walls, which are 2-3 m (7-9 ft) thick and 8-10 m (26-33 ft) high, and a series of round towers. While first mentioned during the 5th century CE in connection to war between Armenians and the Sasanian Persians. Its heyday occurred while it was under the control of the princes of Syunik in the 9-11th century CE.

Situated between a narrow mountain top, the Smbataberd Fortress (or “castle”), located in southeastern Armenia, is shielded by the Artabuynk and Yeghegis canyons in the west, south, and east.

Well preserved, the ruins of citadels, barracks, water pools, and former dwellings for soldiers remain at Smbataberd Fortress. It was finally abandoned in the 17th century CE due to warfare between the Ottoman Empire and Safavid Persia.

Smbataberd Fortress endured as a major fortress in southeastern Armenia until the Ottoman-Safavid Wars in the 17th century CE.

With entrances from the north, northeast, and northwest, Smbataberd Fortress, was a strategic fortress high in the mountains. Used from the 5th-17th centuries, Smbataberd Fortress was used by the medieval princes of Syunik and the Oberlian princes in the defense of their territories from the Arabs, Seljuk Turks, and the Mongols from the 9th-13th century CE.

Fortress was built in a desirable position, guarded by three cliffs, high in the mountains. Although it was initially constructed in the 5th century CE, it was highly fortified in 9-11th centuries CE when it belonged to the princes of Syunik. It was refortified again in the 13th century CE when the Orbelian princes fought against the Seljuk Turks.

The Smbataberd Castle (or “fortress”) is also known as “Tsaghats Kar” because it faces a now abandoned monastery. The fortifications cover an area of 6.5 hectares (almost 700,000 sq ft or 16 acres) and is divided by walls on the northern and southern sides.

by James Blake Wiener World History Encyclopedia

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