When, why as a result of what historical changes did the centre of Yerevan have to be moved from Erebuni – Arinberd

Institute of Oriental Studies of the RA NAS

The problem of modern historiography is to find the answer to the question: when, why as a result of what historical changes did the centre of Yerevan have to be moved from Erebuni – Arinberd to the present-day centre? The answers are certainly to be found-at least to dispel the “doubts” of Azerbaijani and Turkish historians that Erebuni and subsequent Yerevan (the surroundings of Yerevan fortress) are not the same cities. Currently it can be noted that according to our analysis of the whole materials, the unique Yerevan fortress (Arinberd-Erebon fortress founded by the order of the powerful King of BiainiliArgishti I in 782 BC 4 km away from Erebuni) being located on the bank of the Hrazdan canyon was protected only from its western sideand it could have been built at the end of the 6th century BC as a result of the second division of Armenia between Sassanid Iran and Byzantine.

The historian Sebeos who wrote his history in three stages (in 643, in 650 and in 659), describing in the first part the borderline of the first separation of the Kingdom of Armenia (Mets Hayk) in 591 marked the Hrazdan river, then the Kotayk province (in Byzantian part) up to Garni town (geographically in Mazaz province) which was in the Persian part as everyone believed. This is added with the information from the Armenian Chalcedonian source “Naratzio” preserved in Greek and the information of a Georgian writing by Arsen Sapareli related to it, according which, at the end of the VII century Armenian Catholicos Moses of Yeghvard (574-604) said that he wouldn’t cross the Azat river and go to knee before Horomians (Romans). And according to Hovhannes Draskhanakertsi’s evidence, Emperor Maurice ordered to build a settlement on the Greek part to patriarch John (Hovhannes) of Bagaran and to flourish this settlement called Avan. And patriarch Abraham was set to flourish Dvin settlement on the Persian part and this way the Azat river became the borderline between Byzantine and Persia. In their maps Academicians Suren Yeremyan and Babken Harutyunyan unfortunately didn’t pay proper attention to Sebeos’s evidence and marked the border between Kotayk (where was located Avan village with the Catholicosate founded by Byzantine-ruled Armenians) and Vostan Hayots province (also called Vostan of Dvin with Dvin and Artashat capitals) only along the Azat river, from Arax to Garni. While it is clear that the border was to be drawn along the Hrazdan (its lower course), some part of the Azat and then reach the Geghama Mountains (which separated Ayrarat state from Syunik)
Thus, at which point of the Hrazdan bank was the border of Vostan Hayots province to turn to the east and go along the valley of the Azat river? Here we face the problem of Yerevan Fortress which was 4 km north-west from the same name Erebuni-Yerevan. Actually, it is obvious that the fortress was built at some time in a corner of community area of Erebuni-Yerevan settlement (at least the latter was a large town in the Biaina and Achaemenid periods which in the II century BC was known as Terova (Τερούα) to Claudius Ptolemy, and at the end of the V century was known to the unknown author of a small story called “Old and New History of David and Movses Khorenatsi’’, according to Anzhela Teryan and others), due towhichitgot the samename. The population of the town didn’t move gradually from Erebuni – Arinberd to the present-day centre (‘because of spreading to one side’ as Karo Ghafadaryan insisted erroneously). Accordingly, the border between two provinces couldn’t have passed between Erebuni and the new fortress and the whole area of the settlement was to be either in one province or in the other.

The mentioned above scientists followed the XIII century Armenian fable writer and priest Vardan Aygektsi who wrote in his “Geography” about Kotayk province that there were Dzagavank and Yerevan located. However, we had a more trustworthy source from the beginning of the XIV century-the evidence of Tiratsi chronicler who in his copied book of Vardan Aygektsi (made in 1336,in Surkhat) wrote “I am the humble Tiratsu from Arshat province, town of Yerevan, son of Sargis the priest who came from foreign lands, from the town of Crimea… wrote this book of Vardan” (approximate literal translation). The written Arshat means Artashat and refers geographically to Ostan Hayots province (it is known that Vardan Aygektsioften took into account changed situations of his time and presented provinces with more coverage than it was in the “Geography” of unknown author of the VII century. This, if we imagine Yerevan with its mentioned areas in Ostan Hayots province (more precisely, its north-west corner) we reach the old riverbed of the Getar which is the left big tributary of the Hrazdan. The fact is that as the study of geographical horizontals shows, the present day riverbed of the Getar beginning from the area adjacent to the eastern part of Abovyan square is only a canal installed from Nork – Marsh and Aygestan slopes with the aim of irrigation of the centre of Yerevan with its gardens and its south to reach the Jrvezh river (opposite “Hayreniq” cinema). In accordance with those lines, old Getar flowed along Abovyan square up to “Politechnik”, turned towards France square then between Mashtots avenue and Koghbatsi street reached the Municipality square and in front of the Wine factory joined the Hrazdan with a small canyon going down Red Bridge built in medieval: it can be well seen in general plans of V. Nazarev,1858; A. Stotski, 1865, Gh, Alishan, 1880 and others.In these plans we can clearly see the 19th century horizontals outlining the historical riverbed of the Getar which used to flow from the north-east to the south-west of the city centre (I am very grateful to the geologists and architects who in details discussed this issue with me, particularly to Hayk Melik – Adamyan and to eminent chief architect of Yerevan Gurgen Musheghyan), as well as the southern, probably the fortress height of Kond – Kozern hill.

Besides, it’s well known that being enemies, Sassanid Iran and Byzantine Empire were permanently building border fortresses between each other both during the first and the second separation of Armenia and Mesopotamia, and the one which succeeded used to destroy the fortress of the other (for example, Dara-Mtsbin, Kitarich-Apwum, Kghimar-Nprkert, in 591, on the borderline of Aghstafa river-Kaytson-Kayean, Haghartsin – Ashot Yerkat fortress which is also mentioned in “The Geography”: “..to go down from Armenian mountains first was seen Kaghirt river with Nprkert and Kghimar separating Romans and Persians” –approximate literal translation). It seems that Yerevan fortress was built on the borderline passing along the Hrazdan and Getar rivers at the Sassanian part ( actually, by the order of Khosrow Aparvez but as it used to be, by the hands of the best Armenian masters). By the way, on the top of the southern peak of the hill called Kozern or Kond ( favourable defensive position) the Emperor Maurice built his fortress (or maybe, just fortified: there is a version that the fortress used to bear a Greek name, like Koceron – Kozeron which later was renamed Kozern meaning “a baby camel”. By the way, in my opinion it is more likely that the name of vardapet Hovhannes Taronatsi Kozern (XI century) derived from the name of the place and not vice-versa).In this case it becomes clear at what historical moment it became important to build such a big fortress in actually open area to the south from St Sargis church in Kond (in fact, it was naturally defended only from east and a bit from north). In later centuries it was fortified many times (also in XVI-XVIII centuries by Moslem khans and pashas). In various sources and literature is mentioned the work done by the Ottoman commander Farhad pasha in 1583, who fortified it by building southern walls towards the center of Iran, as before it these parts were the weakest). Building of the fortress became a clear reason for Erebuni-Yerevan population in a well-organized way moved to the adjacent area, particularly to the bank of the old Getar, current center of the city, which previously was only a plot of gardens. By the way, the casemate walls having the depth of 4 floors preserved in the north-western corner of the fortress, give us the impression of medieval defensive architecture. To the north-east and south from these casemates there are a few-kilometer-long secret paths which attract tourists most of all. I think that the exit of the first of those secret paths likely turned into the so-called Mongol sepulchres dug in the earth (9 m deep) which were dated the XIV century and were discovered in the last decades near Stanislavski theater. The exit of the second secret path seems to be looming on the slope of the left bank canyon of Yerevanian Lake, in Koghb quarters.

At the beginning of the VII century, Yerevan mentioned in the letter of Catholicos Abraham Aghbatanetsi which is preserved in “Book of Letters” ( “David, the priest of Yerevan”) was certainly this settlement. I’d like to note that Yerevan fortress is also mentioned in later manuscripts of Sebeos’s writing (in more previous readings of two copyists it is pronounced ‘Herewan”). Before Ordspu and Artsap fortresses it was unsuccessfully surrounded by one of the Arab army units during the campaign of 647 or 648.However, as the route of that campaign didn’t reach Ayrarat the researchers tend to restore other probable place names instead of Yerevan for example, Tad.

Avdalbegyan- Arestavan near Berkri( presumably previous “Erastavan” variant), Gevorg Abgaryan – Her, Ed. Daniela- Herean village in Hark province (birthplace of David Anhaght). I’d like to mention that in the X century HovhannesDraskhanakertsi preserved an evidence about Yerevan dated the VII century referring to the chroniclers before him. “David of the Persian royal dynasty came to the great prince Grigor and asked him to baptize him so as he could adopt Christianity and Grigor ordered Catholicos Anastas to perform the ritual of Christening…Years later he became a martyr during the battle which was going on near a town-village called Erevan and the information on it was told to you by previous historians” (approximate literal translation from old Armenian). And the chronicler of the XII century Samuel Anetsi once mentioned the revolt of Erevan in 660. This mention of Samuel of Ani (Anetsi) was considered to be erroneous by bishop Mesrop Ter-Movsisyan, the publisher of “The History” by Pseudo-Shapuh Bagratuni, and Margarit Darbinyan – Melikyan referred the period of this revolt which is to be connected with the years of David of Dvin martyrdom (693 or 701) to the period of Arab campaign of 700-704 (maybe somewhat hastily).

It’s important to outline the outstanding way the archaeological material was rendered. As it is well seen in the complete archaeological monography by St. Yesayan and further little reference ( Hayk Hakobyan, Frina Babayan, Aghavni Zhamkochyan), rare samples of the antique and early medieval periods were discovered in the centre of Yerevan only in the area of the Getar, on the western banks of its previous riverbed outlined by us, on the slopes of Kond-Kozern hill (under the building of the Opera house and nearby Hovhannes Tumanyan museum).

Up to now, the Kond fortress hasn’t been archaeologically documented. However, the hypothesis made by Karo Ghafadarean are highly noteworthy from the point of view of Kond hill being the place of the fortress location. Here are the examples to be outlined: “It can be supposed that the old church of Kond /in the place of St Hovhannes before the earthquake of 1679. -A.H/ was the church of the Armenian fortress in the early citadel”. Later there come more details: “In various times Yerevan had different fortresses… Meaning the living quarters of old Yerevan (particularly Shhar), we think that the town fortress was to be located on Kond hill, i.e.in the only convenient place of the town in that period, which was elevated on the area and located near the Hrazdan river”.

It’s well-known that beginning from 610 the Byzantines were defeated and banished to Constaninople gates and Egypt by the Sassanian King Khosrow Apavres’s army also included Armenian squads, probably under the commandership of the formerly eminent governor of Vrkan Smbat Bagratuni (who later, in 616/618, after the “Persian” assembly became the first “Armenian prince”). As a result Armenian people had the following favorable historical events: a) the two-century separation of the Great Hayq (since 385/387) disappeared; b) serious institution of Armenian sovereignty “Prince of Armenia” was created which furthermore was preserved by emperors and khalifas and at the end of the IX century grew into Bagratuni Kingdom (at that time the institutions of “ Prince of Georgia” and “Prince of Aghvank” were created too); c) on the decision of the “Persian” assembly conducted in Tizbon in 616/618 Armenian church got the highest status in the Sasanian Empire (on the event of that assembly was written the “Ashkharhatsuyts”-a document for the Armenian delegation which showed the location of the united Armenia and its borders in the context of the whole oikumene). At that time the old riverbed of the Getar lost its actuality as a borderline ( and probably the same was with badly damaged Kond-Kozern fortress): After taking the main amount of water towards Jrvezh tributary that riverbed was turned into a canal providing the gardens of the centre and the area of the fortress with water. And in 1864, on the decision of the Tsar government the fortress was dismantled (and in the 1950s, on its flatted ruins was built the fortress-like building of the Armenian wine factory designed by Raf. Israelyan), and the small canyon of the Getar emptied into the Hrazdan was lost forever with the construction of the canal of Noragavit passing under the Victory bridge, under the wide street leading to it from Mashtots avenue and St Sargis church and Wine factory. And because of the alignment of the northern clay walls of Yerevan fortress the present-day Argishti street is about 1.5 meters above its natural earth level.

Recently, while walking in Kond three times-once with the local residents, then with archaeologists Gagik Sargsyan and Frina Babayan I found the most impressive the fortress-like construction of 1-1.5-storeyed houses with a small star-shaped square on the top of the hill. And the guest houses in Khan or Melik style, the bathhouse standing in one semicircle row of half km which used to serve to the Mohamedan elite and in the present time were described by Marieta Gasparyan and the master program students of “Politechnik” S. Manasyan and M. Arakelyan (deserving the praises of F. Babayan and A. Zhamkochyan), in my opinion were built on the foundation of the walls remained from the old Byzantine fortress after the destructive earthquake of 1679 by khan-regent administration restoring Yerevan by the order of shah Stephan. This row is completed at the southernmost point, at the junction of Leo and Paronyan streets above which there are ruins of a Persian mosque built by Haji Novruz Alibek in 1687 (in the summary book of Yerevan monuments it is called Tapabashi mosque called after the residential quarter). A part of the mosque seemed to be built on the foundation of Yerevan Old or Antique Tower (“Tour antique a Irwan”) described by the French traveler Jean Chardin in 1672-1673. (His companion depicted it in two variants approximately from the height of Aygestan). May it be a preserved part of that “Byzantian” fortress of the of the VI century?
Chardin’s description is as follows: “Near the Bishop residence /later St Sargis or more likely St Zoravor church-A.H/ there is an old tower built of wrought stone. I wasn’t able to discover the date of its construction and who and why built it. Some inscriptions, letters which looked like Armenian can be seen on its walls but Armenians can’t read it. That tower is very old and has an architectural style. Inside it is completely empty and there are many ruins surrounding it: looking on their position one can conclude that there used to be a temple there and the tower was inside. Just opposite the Bishop residence a big market is situated…” A more recent translation (S. Bocholean) says, “There are numerous churches in the town. The main ones are: the patriarchal residence called IrkuEres/in French “Ircou-yerize, c’est à dire deux visages”-A.H./ and the Katoghike… Near the Bishop residence there is an ancient tower built of polished stone the picture of which I have placed here. I wasn’t able to know neither the date of its construction, or the constructor’s name and the goal it served. The are many inscriptions on outside walls which looked like Armenian letters but Armenians are unable to read it. The tower is antique work and peculiar with its architecture. It has external walls and internal area. /There are many ruins in the surroundings from the position of which it can be concluded that there used to be a church in the center of which the tower was erected/.

In relation to the Armenian letters inscripted on the wall of this tower, however unexplainable for Armenians, it is noteworthy to see the parallel with the bilingual inscription on the eastern external wall of the VII century church in Avan (in accordance with the final conclusion of decipherers, it was made in 633). In the origin, five of the words are in Armenian ( two of which are abbreviated), other three words are in Greek, and the next two ones are in Armenian code, therefore they can’t be understood by ordinary people. According to K. Ghafadarean’s description, “The inscription is made in ancient round iron letters and in the second line there are words in initial Greek letters. Many of the words written in Armenian letters are impossible to understand. The inscription starts with “Lord Ezra….” Then after five words in consonants there comes the word “Catholicos”, so it belongs to the 30s of the VII century, as Ezra was Catholicos from 630 till 641”. See in the latest summary of the work entitled “Bilingual enciphered inscription of Avan”: “the inscription was made by the Chalcedon monks without Ezra’s direct participation on the event of his apostasy…/therefore the inscription on Avan is to have been made in 633”. This lithography is deciphered as follows: “ՏԷՐԵԶՐՉՌԼԿԶ [=ՀԱՅՈՑ] ԿԱԹՈՂԻԿՈՍ, ՃՇՄԱ/ ՐԻՏΔΩΛΟΣΤΩΘΕΩ [=ԾԱՌԱՅԱՍՏՈՒԾՈՅ]: ՍԱՄԷՂՇՌԱ/ՌԼ [=ԾԱՌԱՅ]ՔՐԻՍՏՈՍԻ” which is translated as “Lord Ezra, Armenian Catholicos to virtually serve Christ”.

The fact that this unique tower hasn’t become the object of serious studies by the historians of Armenian art and architecture I can presumably explain with its certain similarity with Muslem tower-mausoleums (for example, the Momine Khatun Mausoleum of the XII century in Nakhchivan or the Mausoleum of Karakoyunlu Emir Pir-Huseyn built in 1413 in Argavand – Jafarabad). However the latter could not have had incription in Armenian letters (no matter that the Armenians Chardin asked were not able to decipher it) and such pictures of animals which can be seen in Chardin’s picture.

We think that the tower more resembles the so-called “Tower of winds” preserved in Athens which stands under Acropolis hill of the capital of Ellada and is dated as far back as the 1st century BC of the Roman period. We can also fully accept the detailed opinion of Armen Mikaelyan expressed in 2016, according to which the tower depicted in Chardin’s pictures was likely a water-tower.

In the end I’d like to add that the borderline of Abovyan and Artashat provinces (presently, Kotayk and Ararat marzes) stretching from a point of the Getar riverbed across the canyon of the Zoological garden to north-east towards the Azat river probably corresponds to the ancient borderline between Kotayk and Ostan Hayots provinces: the community plots of settlements of Jrvezh, Voghjaberd, Geghadir, Hatsavan villages were separated in the north, and Shorbulagh, Jrashen, Nubarashen, Bardzrashen villages in the south.

Summarizing, I’d like to say that my conclusions made on the basis of research studies and other circumstances are enough to claim that Yerevan fortress on the slop of the Hrazdan canyon was most likely built in 591, as a result of the second separation of Armenia becoming the basis for the formation of a new centre of Erebuni-Yerevan settlement. Actually, it would be very advisable to carry out testing excavations in deep layers of Yerevan fortress and Kond hill to find final and fundamental proofs of this hypothesis.