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Urartu (Armenia) - 1100 BC-610 BC

People first settled what is now Armenia in about 6000 B.C. The first major state in the region was the kingdom of Urartu, which appeared around Lake Van in the thirteenth century B.C. and reached its peak in the ninth century BC. Shortly after the fall of Urartu to the Assyrians, the Indo-European-speaking proto-Armenians migrated, probably from the west, onto the Armenian Plateau and mingled with the local people of the Hurrian civilization, which at that time extended into Anatolia (presentday Asian Turkey) from its center in Mesopotamia.

Urartu of the Assyrian inscriptions was the Ararat of the Bible. It seems originally to have been one of the countries of Nairi, and gradually gained superiority over the others. It extended northward from Lake Van, between the Upper Euphrates and Media. The Assyrians began their assaults on Urartu at the time of Tiglathpileser I (ca. 1100 B.C.). Asshurnazirpal marched through its southern districts, but made no attempt to annex it to his dominions.

In the ninth century Shalmaneser II, when he advanced on Armenia, and, starting from the Nairi country, which had been subjugated by Ashurbanipal, marched towards the north, struck the territory of King Arame of Urartu, whose dominion comprised mainly the district north of Lake Van. He was attacked by Assyria on the west and south-east of the lake, on the southern frontier of his country, somewhere on the Arsanias in the year 857 BC.

For some time very little is heard of Urartu, until, in 883 BC, towards the end of Shalmaneser's reign, a new expedition to that country is mentioned, in which Siduri, king of Urartu, after crossing the Arsanias, is said to have been defeated. Two inscriptions of this Siduri have been found at the foot of the fortress Of Van which record the erection of buildings by him. He styles himself in them Sarduri, son of Lutipri, king of Nairi. The inscriptions are composed in Assyrian, and even the titles of the king are copied from the contemporary Assyrian formulae.

Neither he nor any one of his successors styles himself king of Urartu - that was perhaps merely the designation adopted by the Assyrians from the name of the mother country. At this stage of things the sovereignty of this Sarduri (I.) followed a revolution in Urartu. Since the royal title is not given to his father, and, on the other hand, another king is recorded to have preceded him in Urartu, his reign may imply the rise of a new tribe among the large number of newly immigrated peoples which were still living in Urartu under their tribal constitution. Sarduri is the ancestor of the royal family, under which an important empire was developed, the most recent of all the empires of Hittite origin In it for the last time Hittites opposed the Assyrian empire with success.

The seat of this empire of Urartu was the district along Lake Van. With the exception of the southern shore, it stretched in an easterly direction as far as Musasir, the small state south-west of Lake Urumiya, and in a north-easterly direction right up to Lake Gok-cha, and was therefore watered by the Araxes. It can be traced from Sarduri onward the succession of its kings, chiefly from their own inscriptions, up to the Aryan immigration. Urartu, the natural opponent of Assyria, thus came into contact with Babylonian culture. Assyrian influence is evident at once in the character in which the kings of Urartu had their inscriptions written. While Sarduri I. had them written in Assyrian, his successors employed the vernacular, but in an alphabet which had been adapted, not from the Babylonian, but from the Assyrian form o{ writing.

They were imitators of the Assyrians even in their titles. Little is known of the new royal family or of its place of origin. Tuspa, or Turuspa, in the district of Biaina, the modern Van, was the capital of the empire. It does not appear to have been the original home of the royal family. The empire was formed by the subjugation of separate chiefs and princes, and that the kings were supported in the process by a strong dynastic, central power. By the annexation of the district of Biaina they came into possession of Tuspa. This district cannot have been subdued for the first time by Ispuinis. Sarduri I. had already built at Van.

The successor of Sarduri was Ispuinis, a contemporary of Shamshi-Adad, whose general, Mutarris-Ashur, encountered him on an expedition to Nairi. Thence the new empire was extended further towards the south-that is, into the regions which the Assyrians had traversed or seized. Ispuinis adopted his son Menuas as coregent. Owing to this fact, most of the inscriptions of this time bear the names of both these rulers. As an example we may cite the inscription in the pass of Kelishin, a sort of boundary stone set up in the district taken from Assyria, recording " the acquisition of the Biaina district and Tuspa, which henceforth served as the capital.

The successor of Menuas was Argistis I, who did most for the extension of the empire. He was contemporary with Shalmaneser III and Ashur-dan in Assyria, and the numerous campaigns against Urartu under the former, in combination with the condition of the country at a later time, show that Assyria was obliged to act on the defensive against the attacks of Argistis. Records of victories by Argistis were recorded in eight large panels upon the rocks of the fortress at Van. They contain a report of successes against Assyria, and of a conquest ot those regions which the Assyrians designated as the Nairi country.

During the period anterior to Tiglath-pileser IV, Sarduri II, the son of Argistis, who encroached further towards Syria, was the support of all the states in the east and west which attempted to revolt from Assyria. While he extended his influence as far as Arpad, he drove Urartu out of Syria and finally attacked that country itself. Even if this denotes an actual decline of the political power of Urartu and of all the kindred nations which leant upon it, yet, regarded from an ethnological standpoint, the result of the Urartean advance must be noted as an expansion of the kindred tribes and a retrogression of the Semitic population in the countries farthest to the north. The districts between the Upper Tigris and the Euphrates, which Shalmaneser I had occupied with Assyrian colonists, were once more lost, and their Assyrian population was dispersed, until under Esarhaddon a final attempt was made to reoccupy them with Assyrians.

The rising kingdom of Urartu was steadily encroaching upon Assyria all along the northern border as far as the Mediterranean, and the kings were being forced into a defensive attitude in spite of all their efforts. Thus Assyrian military pride was wounded, and mercantile prestige was crippled. A total eclipse of the sun occurring on June 15, 763 BC, was thought the favorable moment for raising the standard of rebellion in the city of Assur. A line drawn across the limu list at this year suggests the setting up of a rival king in that city. The revolt spread to Arbakha in the east, and Gozan in the west, but was finally subdued in 746 BC.

Tiglathpileser III ascended the Assyrian throne toward the last of April 745 BC. Nearly all of the eighteen years of the king's reign (745-727 B. c.) were marked by campaigns on the various borders of the realm. These expeditions were characterized, even more clearly than those of his predecessors, by imperial purposes. The world of Western Asia, in expanding its horizon, had become at the same time more simple in its political problems, owing to the disappearance of the multitudinous petty communities before the three or four greater racial or political unities that had come face to face with one another. In the south the Kaldi were becoming more eager to lay hold on Babylon. In the north Urartu was spreading out on every side to absorb the tribes that occupied the mountain valleys, and even to reach over into northern Syria.

The boundaries of Urartu were gradually narrowed to their original limits by the Assyrian conqueror about 735 BC. The capital, Turuspa (Van), was besieged, but not taken; the spirit of Urartu was now completely broken. Rusas I [Urea or Russia] succeeded Sarduris. Sargon II, of Assyria, had many conflicts with him. In Sargon's reign, Rusas I attempted a new attempt on Assyria, where the revolution and the change of kings in 722 BC seemed to furnish him with a favorable opportunity. But he, too, failed, and in despair he committed suicide in 714 BC. The power of Urartu was broken by his overthrow. When his son, Argiatis II, came to the throne, he had only a small territory around Lake Van left to rule over. Tigranea I was the contemporary of Cyrus.

At the same time, under Argistis II, an attack was made from the north by Aryans. The reports of Assyrian governors of the northern frontier in the period between 710 and 705 BC announce that heavy defeats were inflicted on Urartu by the Aryan tribes. These wild incomers lived for a time on the borders of Urartu and within its territory until, pushed forward by their neighbours on the east, the Ashkuza, and by other tribes which were pressing on, they moved further westward and overran the whole of Asia Minor. This took place between 670 and 660 BC, under one of the successors of Argistis II ; that is to say, under Rusas II, Erimenas, or Rusas III.

Only one episode in the period of Rusas III, the contemporary of Esarhaddon and Ashurbanipal, is recorded in detail. In the year 674 BC Esarhaddon records an expedition which he undertook against the country of Shupria in order to subdue a chief, without doubt of Urartean stock. The latter, calculating already on the confusion caused by the advance of the Cimmerians, had attempted in the universal disorder to found an independent state of his own. He was aided by fugitives both from Assyria and Urartu, whom he assiduously attracted to his country. All the demands of Esarhaddon and of Rusas that he should surrender their subjects were - rejected, so that Esarhaddon finally found himself compelled to take measures against him. Once more the fortresses of the country were occupied by Assyrian colonists, in order to form an Assyrian province.

These colonists at Urart no longer formed an actual population, but rather as consisted of foreigners who were transs-planted thither from other conquered districts. A very few years afterwards, in 668 or 667 BC, the same chief - or another ot the same country - in conjunction with the Cimmerians, attempted a sudden attack on the new province, but was killed in doing so. It is noteworthy throughout the whole affair how Assyria and Urartu were for once brought together by a common peril.

The last king of Urartu was probably Sarduri III [King of Urartu, son of RUSA II (640-610)], who voluntarily submitted to Ashurbanipal in order to obtain assistance from him against the Aryan tribes. It is not known whether before this an Aryan chief had raised himself to the throne of the Urartean empire, or whether the empire was only ended by the Medes.

After the fall of Assyria, Armenia became a portion of the Persian empire. Alexander the Great conquered it with the defeat of King Vahi, but the Macedonian yoke was thrown off in 317 B.C. Ardvatea was chosen king, but at his death the Seleucidte again gained possession. When Antiochus the Great was defeated by the Romans, Artaxlaa, the governor of Greater Armenia, made himself independent. It was with this prince that the exiled Hannibal found refuge. Zadriadea, in Lesser Armenia, followed the example of Artaxias, and his descendants maintained their position until the time of Tigranes II, when this country was annexed to Greater Armenia. About 150 B.C. the Parthians stepped in, and Mithridates I established his brother Valarsaoes in Armenia. Thus a new branch of the Arsacid dynasty was founded.

Tigranea II gave promise of making a great empire, but his father-in-law, Mithridates of Pontus, brought him in collision with the Romans. Pompey allowed him to keep Armenia, and made a new kingdom of Sophene and Gordyene, but another son, Artavaadea, tried to free himself from Rome, and Mark Antony carried him prisoner to Alexandria, where he was beheaded by Cleopatra (30 BC).

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Page last modified: 11-07-2011 03:06:51 ZULU