The Ancient Armenian State of Nairi

The Ancient Armenian State of Nairi

Nairi was an Armenian state which formed after the unification of Armenian tribes in the struggle against Assyria. In the ancient cuneiform tablets of that time, the king of Nairi was also often called the king of the Ararat kingdom. Thus, the term “Ararat kingdom” – or the Kingdom of Van (Urartu) – has been often used to refer to Nairi.

The kingdom of Van was located around Lake Van and was based on the tribal union Biaynili. Under King Arman, the capital of the Kingdom of Van was the city of Arjesh, also known as Arzashku.

According to 5th-century historian Movses Khorenatsi, the first royal dynasty of the Van rulers was represented by the Haykian family, which is considered to have descended from Hayk, the progenitor of Armenians. However, shortly after the rule of King Arman, the Haykian dynasty lost its authority due to political issues.

The power passed to the Nakharar (Armenian hereditary title) branch of the descendants of Hayk. This is how the Van (or Biayn) dynasty of Armenian kings was formed. The capital of this dynasty was in the city of Tushpa (or Tosp). The strengthening of the royal power was promoted by Assyrian raids, which the Armenian ethnic group could only oppose together.

King Sarduri I (the first king from the new dynasty) built a fortress near the capital Tosp in order to defend himself. His successor Ishpuini engaged in strengthening the southern borders of the kingdom.

Along with the reinforcement of military power, the centralization of the spiritual power of the kingdom occurred. The city of Musarir (Ardini) became the spiritual capital of the kingdom. It was here that the central temple of worship of Haldi, the main god of the ancient Armenian pantheon, was built.

Besides him, the pantheon included deified forces of nature. In addition, the priests included gods of all tribes that were part of the Armenian state in the Armenian pantheon. For this reason, the Armenian pantheon consisted of hundreds of different gods and goddesses.

The most respected and the most powerful of them were the following: chief deity Haldi, the god of the sky, as well as the patron saint of warriors; Arubani, the wife of Haldi, who was also the goddess of fertility; Teisheba, the master of lightning; and Shivini, the solar god of the life-giving sun.

Under King Menua, son of Ipushini, the Kingdom of Van reached the peak of its power. The economic infrastructure of the kingdom also rapidly developed under him. King Menua initiated numerous construction projects, the purpose of which was to improve the capital.

In addition to the buildings at the approaches to Van, on his orders, a 70 kilometers long water canal was constructed. It was designed to deliver drinking water from the Khoshab river basin to the capital. It is noteworthy that this channel, which was named after the king himself, still functions today.

In addition to the improvement of the capital, many other cities, fortresses, temples, and canals were built during the reign of Menua. Thus, on the right bank of the Yersakh River at the foot of Ararat, the fortress of Menuakhinili was erected, in which the sanctuary of the god Haldi was located. The northern and western borders of Armenia were strengthened as well.

With the next king, Argishti I, the Kingdom of Van became a dangerous opponent for Assyria, successfully competing for control over the region. Thus, the Kingdom of Van established control over the trade routes that linked Assyria and the Mediterranean. The Kingdom of Manea located southeast of the Kingdom of Van fell under its protectorate, allowing the troops of Argishti to approach the borders of Assyria and Babylon.

The Armenian kingdom also lead an active expansion to the north and northeast. In 782 BC, the second military-economic center of the state was founded by Argishti. It was the Erebuni fortress on the Arin-Berd hill – this is the place where Yerevan, the capital of Armenia, is located today.

And in 776 BC, another large city was also founded, which was Argishtikhinli (present-day Armavir). For the construction of cities were hired many workers and artisans. Prisoners of war were also used in building works.Planeta Armenia




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