Three rulers of the Kingdom of Van

Aram – the first ruler of the Armenian Kingdom of Van or Ararat Kingdom

Aram ruled from 859 BC to 844 BC. During Aram’s reign, the capital was the city of Arzashkun. Aram was a contemporary of the Assyrian king Shalmaneser III, who ruled the country from 858 to 824 BC.

In his chronicles, the Assyrian king mentioned Aram several times, and the country was called Urartu. Assyrian troops regularly raided the Kingdom of Van.

Aram was the ruler of the still-weak Kingdom of Van, and he simply could not offer serious resistance to the warlike Assyrians, who often penetrated deep into the country, plundering and destroying everything in their path.

As soon as Shalmaneser ascended the Assyrian throne in 858 BC, his first act was to organize a campaign against Aram, which ended in an unconditional victory for the Assyrians.

Shalmaneser’s success was achieved mainly because he managed to capture the fortress of Sugunia, which was located on the border of Assyria and the Kingdom of Van.

Even though the Assyrians destroyed Sugunia and plundered the central regions of the country, the Kingdom of Van managed to preserve its statehood, as Aram managed to survive.

Two years later, Shalmaneser again launched a campaign against the Kingdom of Van. The key battle took place near Arazashku.

Aram left the city before the impressive Assyrian army. Arazashku was destroyed. But this time, Shalmaneser failed to secure a final success.

He managed to conquer only one city. Aram’s soldiers could not repel the Assyrians in an open battle, so they had to retreat to the mountains, where they began to wage guerrilla warfare.

Thus, the Assyrians could freely rampage on the fertile lands of the Armenian Highlands. Clashes with Assyria contributed to the military development of the Kingdom of Van

The army gradually improved. Warriors increasingly used weapons made of iron. Monumental structures were built to protect against Assyrian raids.

Menua – Ruler of the Kingdom of Van

Menua was the son of Ispuini and the grandson of Sarduri I. He ruled the Kingdom of Van for twenty-nine years from 810 to 781 BC and, thanks to his efforts, the territory of the Kingdom of Van reached the western and southern shores of Lake Urmia.

As a result, the Kingdom of Van and Assyria came into contact. The northern border of the state passed between Lake Van and the Araks River. It was here that Menua fought against tribes coming from the north, from territories beyond the Araks.

In 800 BC, a war broke out between the Kingdom of Van and Assyria. The army of the Kingdom of Van achieved a grand victory, resulting in the Assyrians losing lands located in the upper reaches of the Euphrates.

After a successful start to the war between Assyria and the Kingdom of Van, Menua conquered the cities on the left bank of the Euphrates River, which once belonged to Assyria, including the country of Alzi.

Having subjugated most of the Assyrian territory, Menua entered the lands of Melitene or, as it was also called, the kingdom of “Hatti,” which was located on the right bank of the Euphrates River.

After subduing these territories and extending his rule over them, Menua organized a raid on Upper Mesopotamia, which was part of Assyria.

Menua then moved north, where he conquered the land of the Taochi.

There, he built a new administrative center on the right bank of the Araks River. In this city, he installed his governor on the throne. From this center, Menua’s warriors raided the Transcaucasian lands.

During his reign, Menua built numerous defensive and irrigation structures. In addition, irrigation channels were carved into the rocks.

Menua reorganized the cults of the gods and introduced mandatory sacrifices for the entire country.

Argishti I, son of Menua

Argishti I, son of Menua, ruled from 781 to 764 BC. He successfully repelled the attacks of Assyria, expanded the borders of the Kingdom of Van in the Transcaucasia region, and founded the city of Erebuni on the outskirts of modern-day Yerevan.

During the reign of Argishti I, the Kingdom of Van was at the zenith of its power. The conquests of Argishti I’s father, Menua, cut off strategic supply routes for iron and horses from Asia Minor to Assyria, giving the Kingdom of Van an important advantage over neighboring Assyria. As a result, the former power of Assyria in Western Asia shifted to Argishti.

Argishti I, however, did not attempt to conquer Assyria but only successfully repelled its attempts to regain the lost trade routes. In addition, Argishti I carried out a series of successful campaigns into the country of Mana, which fell under the influence of the Kingdom of Van for a long time, and significantly advanced the state’s borders in the Transcaucasian region.

During the reign of Argishti I, the city of Argishtikhinili was founded on the site of modern-day Armavir, and the fortress city of Erebuni was built on the Arin-Berd hill near present-day Yerevan. The Erebuni fortress was subsequently used by the Kingdom of Van’s troops for campaigns deep into the Lake Sevan region.

The strength of the weaponry during Argishti I’s reign ensured stability within the country. The immense volume of irrigation canal construction carried out by Argishti I’s father, Menua, and internal stability contributed to the development of agriculture and the enrichment of the country.

Argishti I’s primary focus was on the Transcaucasian region, in the territory of modern-day Armenia – it is here that twelve of the known nineteen inscriptions of Argishti I were discovered. It is possible that Argishti I had residences in the cities of Argishtikhinili and Erebuni.

In the Transcaucasian region, Argishti I continued his father’s activities – developing agriculture, planting vineyards, and constructing irrigation canals.

by Alexander Bakulin

Translated by Vigen Avetisyan

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