ARMAVIR (Gk. Armaouira, Lat. Armavira), one of several cities of the plain of Ararat which successively served as the capital of ancient Armenia. Armavir (40° 50′ north latitude, 44° 03′ east longitude) was founded on a previously unoccupied hill overlooking the Araxes river by the Urartian King Argisti I (ca. 786-ca. 764 B.C.). Named Argistiḫinili “Argisti’s city,” it quickly became a second capital of Urartu and the chief city of its northern provinces. As a result of the Scythian incursions in the late 7th century B.C., Armavir lost its political importance and, subjected to repeated Scythian raids, was ultimately destroyed.
It appears that sometimes in the 4th century B.C. the Armenians expanded into the plain of Ararat, probably as a result of the conquest of the Persian empire by Alexander the Great. Thereupon the former Persian governors of Armenia of the Orontid house established the first Armenian kingdom and, probably because of its location in the trade route linking Iran with Colchis, chose Armavir as the site of their capital. In addition to being the political capital of the new state, Armavir was also its religious center (see Armenian Religion [in the Pre-Islamic Period]; Anušavan). At the end of the 3rd century B.C. the last Orontid king, Orontes (Eruand) IV (ca. 212-ca. 200 B.C.), transferred the capital to the newly founded city of Eruandašat, supposedly because the Araxes had altered its course. Thereafter, Armavir gradually declined, although it remained a city well into the Roman period. The rise of Artašat (Artaxata/Artaxiasata) as the new capital of Armenia in the 2nd century B.C. and its replacement by Valaršapat (Kainepolis) in the 2nd century A.D. must have led to the ultimate abandonment of Armavir. The reference to the city in the time of Aršak II (fl. 363 A.D.) by Moses of Chorene (3.31-32) appears to be an error, for the earlier Faustus of Buzanda (4.19) refers to Artagers in the same context. Limited excavations conducted fitfully on the site of Armavir have revealed that the city was walled. Three Greek inscriptions were found here in 1911, and four more in 1927, but nothing has been found at Armavir which would suggest a Hellenistic city.
V. Aruṭʿiwnyan, “K voprosu o gradostroitel’noĭ kul’ture drevneĭ Armenii” (On problems of the urban culture of ancient Armenia), Izvestiya Akademii Nauk Arm. S.S.R., Obshchestv. nauki 9, Erevan, 1955, pp. 47-54.
S. T. Eremyan, Hayastanə ast “Ašxarhacʿoycʿ”-i, Erevan, 1963, p. 40.
T. X. Hakobyan, Hayastani patmakan ašxarhagruṭʿyunə, 2nd ed., Erevan, 1968, pp. 143-44.
H. Hübschmann, Die altarmenischen Ortsnamen, Strassburg, 1904, repr. Amsterdam, 1966, p. 405.
Y. Manandyan, O torgovle i gorodakh Armenii . . ., Erevan, 1930, 2nd ed., 1954; tr. N. Garsoïan, Trade and Cities of Armenia . . ., Lisbon, 1965, pp. 36-38, 85.
Idem, Grecheskie nadpisi iz Armavira (The Greek inscriptions from Armavir), Erevan, 1946.
B. Sarkissyan, Ētudes sur la vallée de l’Araxe et ses trois villes anciennes, Venice, 1886, pp. 16-21.
K. V. Trever, Ocherki po istorii i kul’ture drevneĭ Armenii (Studies in the history and culture of ancient Armenia), Moscow and Leningrad, 1953, pp. 104-56.
(R. H. Hewsen)
Originally Published: December 15, 1986
Last Updated: August 12, 2011
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Vol. II, Fasc. 4, pp. 415-416