“Discovery” of the civilization of Urartu
The history of Transcaucasia in antiquity is one of the most interesting pages in world culture. It was here that the oldest state formation on the territory of the CIS countries arose – the Urartian kingdom. Later, peculiar civilizations of Colchis, Iberia, Armenia, Caucasian Albania were formed here.
The origins of the intensive development of the Transcaucasian cultures go back to the 6th-5th millennia BC, when small settlements of sedentary farmers and pastoralists existed in the valleys of the Kura and Araks rivers. Their inhabitants lived in adobe houses that had a round plan, used flint, stone and bone tools. Later, copper products appeared. Further cultural and economic progress was noted in the III millennium BC, when the culture of the Early Bronze Age, which was called the Kuro-Arak culture, spread in the Armenian Highlands and in the Transcaucasus.
The process of decomposition of primitive relations was intensively developed among the tribes that lived in the area of Lake Van and were called Urarts. Eight countries under the general name Uruatri are mentioned in this region in Assyrian sources already in the 13th century. BC. In the documents of the reign of the Assyrian king Ashurnasirpal II, instead of numerous small possessions, a country named Urartu is mentioned. Another state union of the Urartian tribes was formed to the southwest of the lake. Urmia was called Mutsatsir. The Urartian cult center was located here. Unfortunately, Urartu for a long time remained a little explored civilization of the ancient East. Russian and Soviet orientalists M. V. Nikolsky, I. N. Meshchaninov, N. Ya. Marr, I. A. Orbeli, G. A. Melikishvili published and analyzed in detail the Urartian written texts, which was a reliable basis for the study of this “forgotten kingdom”. The excavations of the Urartian city of Teishebaini, the ruins of which bear the name Karmir-Blur and are located not far from Yerevan, carried out under the leadership of academician B. B. Piotrovsky, essentially rediscovered many aspects of the Urartian civilization.
The exceptional significance of these studies is determined by the fact that these were the first strictly scientific excavations of the Urartian city. Thanks to them, a huge material material was obtained, which became the basis for understanding the history of the material culture of Urartu, and, more importantly, the excavations and study of the results obtained allowed for the first time to understand the true place of the Urartian civilization among the ancient Eastern civilizations and the role of its heritage for the further destinies of the culture of the entire Transcaucasia, to create scientific periodization of the Urartian state and its culture, to reveal the social nature of the Urartian society. In addition, the excavations of Teishebaini “pushed” to study other monuments of Urartu both on the territory of Armenia and beyond its borders (in Turkey and Iran).
The emergence and development of the state of Urartu
Unification of the state
The reign of the Urartian king Ishpuini (825-810 BC) was marked by active activity. If the inscriptions of Sarduri were written in Assyrian, now the official texts are drawn up in the Urartian language, for which a slightly modified Assyrian cuneiform was used. The young state was increasingly asserting its independence. The borders of the ruler Tushpa’s possessions expand to the lake. Urmia, and the second Urartian formation – Mutsatsir – becomes one of the dependent possessions.
For the ideological cohesion of the new state, religious reform was carried out – a special role was given to three main deities:
- Khaldi to the sky god
- Teishebs to the god of thunder and rain
- Shivini – to the sun god.
The influence of the ancient religious center of the Urartian tribes Mutsatsira, where the main temple of the supreme god of the Urartian pantheon – Khaldi was located, was strengthened. Intensive construction activities cover almost the entire territory of the state. Numerous inscriptions of Ishpuini tell about it, they also tell about numerous campaigns.
The reign of King Menua
The real creator of Urartian power was King Menua. Some of the official annals have survived, describing the activities of this ruler year after year (such annals in Urartu were also one of Menua’s innovations). Menua’s military campaigns went in two directions – to the south, towards Syria, where his troops captured the left bank of the Euphrates, and to the north, towards Transcaucasia. At the same time, special attention was paid to the organization of subordinate territories. Apparently, in a number of cases the power of local kings remained, but at the same time representatives of the central government were appointed – the heads of the regions.
Apparently, the time of Menua also includes an administrative reform – the division of the Urartian state into regions ruled by representatives of the central government.
The construction activity of Menua was also on a large scale. In the area of the capital city of Tushpa, a canal with a length of about 70 km was laid, and in some places water was thrown along stone-built aqueducts, reaching a height of 10-15 m. areas of the kingdom.
Under Menua’s son and successor Argishti (786-764 BC), Urartu reached the zenith of its power. The Urartian troops penetrate into Northern Syria, where they win over the local rulers. In the southeast, having included the Kingdom of Mannaeus in the orbit of their influence, the Urarts descend along the mountain valleys to the Diala basin, practically reaching the borders of Babylonia. As a result, Assyria is, as it were, enveloped from three sides by the possessions of Urartu and its allies.
Argishti also attached great importance to the advancement in the Transcaucasus. Urartian troops reach Colchis in Western Georgia, force the Araks and seize a vast territory on its left bank up to the lake. Sevan. An extensive program of economic and construction activities is being carried out in the newly annexed regions. Near Armavir in 776 BC a large urban center Argishtikhinili is under construction. On the site of modern Yerevan in 782 BC another city is being built – Erebuni. In the Argishtikhinili region, four canals are laid, vineyards and orchards are laid. In the fortress cities, giant granaries are being set up, where state grain reserves are concentrated. The policy of creating the second important economic center of the Urartian state in Transcaucasia, in an area remote from the main theater of military operations, fully justified itself in the course of subsequent events. The work of his father was continued by the son of Argishti Sarduri II (764-735 BC).
However, a certain internal stabilization is taking place in Assyria – Tiglagpalasar III comes to power, strengthening the combat power of the Assyrian army. In 734 BC. Assyrian armed forces engage in battle with the Urartu-led coalition in northern Syria near the city of Arpad. The allies are defeated, and Sarduri retreats to the native lands of his power. In 735 BC. Tiglatpalasar III strikes at the very heart of the Urartian state, in the area of the lake. Wang. A number of central areas were devoted to fire and sword.
Strengthening of the state by Tsar Rus
But the struggle was not over. Tsar Rusa I (735-713 BC) sought to revive the power of Urartu. In foreign policy, he tried to avoid open confrontation with Assyria, while maintaining anti-Assyrian sentiments everywhere. An active policy in the south also made it difficult for the Cimmerian nomads to invade the northern regions of Urartu. But the Urartian possessions in Transcaucasia were systematically expanded, new cities were founded. Large work on the creation of a powerful economic complex was carried out by Rusoy I in the area north of the city of Urmia. The king did not forget the traditional center of his state – the area of the lake. Wang. An extensive reservoir was built there, vineyards and fields appeared, and a new city called Rusakhinili arose.
Assyrian strike again
Seeing the energy with which Rusa I strengthens the might of Urartu, Assyria hastened to strike again. The trek was carefully prepared. In 714 BC. Assyrian troops, led by Sargon II, moved in the area east of the lake. Urmia against the local rulers, skillfully set against Assyria by the Urartian king. But Rusa I also found the moment convenient for a decisive battle and tried with his army to go to the rear of the army of Sargon II. The battle ended with the defeat of the Urarts. As a result of this campaign, Urartu was defeated in the struggle for political hegemony in Western Asia and ceded this role to Assyria.
However, in the future, both sides avoided direct clashes. Under these conditions, Argishti II (713-685 BC) sent his campaigns eastward, reaching the coast of the Caspian Sea. Here the traditional policy of the Urartian kings continued – the conquered regions were not ruined, but obeyed on the terms of payment of tribute. Argishti II carried out irrigation work in the central regions of the Urartian state – near the lake. Wang. This stable situation continued under Ruse II (685-645 BC).
The arrival of the Scythians and the end of the independence of Urartu
Apparently, Ruse II managed to conclude an alliance with the Cimmerians, together with whom he makes successful campaigns in Asia Minor. In Transcaucasia, he carried out extensive irrigation work and built the aforementioned city of Teishebaini. However, the threat to the Urartian power lay in a new force – in the Scythian nomadic tribes that penetrated into Western Asia and created in the 670s. BC. own “kingdom”. The Scythians defeated the allies of Urartu – the Cimmerians. Apparently, a number of regions of Urartu suffered at the same time.
After all, these strikes were all the more dangerous because they touched the deep rear of the Urartian state, which remained practically inaccessible to the Assyrian army. Urartu is noticeably weakening and losing its previously strong positions in the international arena. Construction activity continues in the Van region and in the Transcaucasus, but its scale is decreasing. At the beginning of the VI century. BC. Urartu falls into vassal dependence on the powerful new state of the ancient East – Media, and by 590 BC. ceases to exist as an independent state.
Inner life of Urartu
The Urartian state paid great attention to the development of the economy, especially taking care of the construction of irrigation canals and the construction of reservoirs. Tsarist farms played a significant role in the economy. During the construction of Teishebaini, Rusa II simultaneously drew a canal and created extensive agricultural land. According to rough estimates, Teishebaini’s granaries and wine warehouses were designed for products obtained on an area of 4-5 thousand hectares. According to the cuneiform inscriptions, the staff of the tsarist economy in Rusakhinili numbered 5500 people. In the tsarist farms, the processing of agricultural products was carried out, craft workshops worked. Temple farms were of much lesser importance.
The achievements of the Urarts in the field of culture were remarkable. The history of Urartu is the history of the urbanization of the Caucasus. The territory of cities is usually quite large – from 200 to 300 hectares (Argishtikhinili even 400-500 hectares). Cities, as a rule, were created at the foot of high hills, the tops of which were occupied by citadels. The planning of some Urartian cities was regular, for example, in Zernakitep. Apparently, a rectangular planning system also existed in Teishebaini. City builders strove to ensure that the boundaries of urban development coincided with natural obstacles (river, sheer hillsides, etc.). The defensive systems of cities consisted of one, more often two, and sometimes three lines of walls. City walls 3.5-4 m thick were usually equipped with buttresses and massive protruding square towers.
Urartian palaces were of two types. The composition of the palace in Erebuni is based on two courtyards, around which there are premises for various purposes. One of the courtyards is surrounded by a colonnade, and all the most important rooms of the palace are grouped around it. Column halls are the core of the palaces of the second type. The palace complex of the western citadel of Argishtikhinili was divided into two parts: ceremonial and residential and economic. The center of the front part was a large columned hall (two rows of ten columns). The temple architecture of Urartu is very diverse. The temple of the god Khaldi in Erebuni consists of a main oblong hall with a columned portico in front of it and two square rooms, one of which is a tower. This type is close to the Hurrian-Mitanni structures. The most common, however, is another type of temple: a one-room building with a square plan, erected on a platform, with angular projections and hip-shaped crosshair. Another type of temple is known only from its reproduction in relief. This is the famous Assyrian relief depicting the capture of Mutsatsir. The temple in Mutsatsir resembles the ancient ones.
Sculpture and painting
The monumental art of Urartu is represented by stone reliefs, round sculptures, and wall paintings. The stone sculpture is divided into two distinct groups. One of them is the monuments of the Urartian sculpture proper, connected with the art traditions of the ancient Near East. True, the finds of this sculpture are very rare. Preserved, in particular, a damaged statue of gray basalt found in Van and apparently depicting one of the first Urartian kings. Much more common is folk sculpture of the “traditional-conventional style”, continuing the traditions of sculpture of the Bronze Age. The monumental reliefs are best known from the finds at Adyljevaz, where, apparently, a procession of the gods was represented.
The most studied Urartian wall painting. Picturesque panels were arranged in the form of often alternating horizontal stripes – ornamental and pictorial. Urartian murals are included in the general circle of the Near Asian ancient monumental painting. They are characterized by great conventionality and canonicity, which affect the use of certain stereotypes when depicting living creatures and plants, the use of a certain, strictly limited set of themes (images of deities, kings, ritual scenes predominate), very strong symbolism, linking together both pictorial and ornamental motives.
The Urartans achieved great mastery in applied arts, especially in the production of artistic works from bronze. This was achieved, in particular, due to the high technical level of Urartian metalworking.
The works of the Urartian toreutics were extremely popular. Their findings were recorded in Asia Minor (in particular, in Gordion), on a number of islands in the Aegean Sea (Rhodes, Samos), in mainland Greece (Delphi, Olympia), even in Etruria. Vivid examples of Urartu art are ceremonial shields, helmets, and quivers that served as offerings to temples. They were decorated with relief scenes (images of horsemen, war chariots , sometimes sacred scenes). During the excavations, a large number of gold and silver jewelry of a high artistic level was also found.
The Urartian culture played an exceptional role in the subsequent destinies of the culture of the entire Near East. Its greatest achievements were perceived by the Media, then by Achaemenid Iran, and spread widely throughout the Near and Middle East.
New states in post-Urartian times
In the post-Urartian time, the formation of class society and statehood was completed in three more Transcaucasian centers: Colchis, Iberia and Albania. Here, as well as in the historical successor of Urartu – the ancient Armenian kingdom, a powerful impulse coming from the ancient civilization is added to the local and ancient Eastern cultural traditions. This general pattern of historical and cultural development was realized in the difficult political situation of the formation and disintegration of new states, military campaigns and diplomatic alliances.
Thus, in general terms, the periodization of the civilizations of Transcaucasia is currently as follows:
- in the first centuries of the 1st millennium BC here there is one center of statehood and class society – Urartu;
- then the Black Sea coast of Transcaucasia – ancient Colchis is included in the zone of statehood formation;
- in Hellenistic times – the rest of the region – Iberia (modern Eastern Georgia) and Caucasian Albania (regions of modern Azerbaijan and part of Dagestan).
A significant part of the former Urartian possessions became part of the Median state, and then the Achaemenid empire. They were included in several satrapies, paid a tax to the central government, supplying armed contingents to the Achaemenid army. Within the framework of such satrapies in the VI-V centuries. BC. the formation of the ancient Armenian nationality takes place, which gradually included the descendants of the Urarts and some other tribal groups. The Achaemenids were widely involved in the management of the local nobility. Soon the representatives of the ancient Armenian nobility – Ervandida (Orontida in the Greek transmission) – became the rulers of one of the satrapies. The culture and life of the satrap and his entourage followed the Achaemenid models. In Erebuni, the Urartian buildings were redesigned in such a way that they formed a large 30-column hall – a local echo of the royal ceremonial halls of Persepolis and Susa. Cultural and trade ties are expanding – during the excavations of Erebuni, Greek coins of the 5th century were found. BC. Ancient Iranian religious ideas, and in particular, apparently, Zoroastrianism, have a significant impact on ancient Armenia. However, mass, folk culture in many respects continues the Urartian traditions.
Dependence of Armenia on the Seleucids and the formation of Sophene
Armavir, located on the territory of the earlier Urartian center, became the capital of the Yervandid possessions. The relatively short independence of Armenia came to an end in 220 BC, when Antiochus III annexed this state to the so-called Great Armenia, created by him within the Seleucid state. In the II century. BC, during the weakening of this state, in the areas west of the lake. Van an independent state of Sophena was formed, headed by Zariadr (Armenian Zarekh), between Van and Sevan another state was formed, officially called Armenia. Its first king was Artashes I (Greek Artaxios), the founder of a new dynasty – Artashesids. Artashes I himself (189-161 BC) paid a lot of attention to the improvement of the new state, under him, in particular, a new capital, Artashat, was founded not far from Armavir.
The Ups and Downs of Armenia
Around 95 BC The Parthians contributed to the accession to the throne of the Artashesids of Tigran II, but he turned out to be a skillful and far-sighted politician and soon pushed the Parthians himself. The short “rise” of the ancient Armenian kingdom begins. In Syria, Tigran II subjugated part of the former possessions of the Seleucids to his power and south-west of the lake. Van, in the foothills of the Armenian Taurus, founded a new capital – Tigranokert, created according to the type of the Hellenistic Greek city-states. The title “king of kings”, which Tigran II soon assumed, was quite logical – under him Armenia really turned into a major power.
However, the general situation in Western Asia continued to remain tense. Tigran II was forced to succumb to the Roman onslaught, and in 66 BC. in Artashat a peace treaty was signed with Pompey. The borders of “Great Armenia” were cut, the “king of kings” recognized himself as “a friend and ally of the Roman people”.
The successes of the Parthians, and in particular the decisive victory over Crassus under Carrhae in 53 BC, contributed to some strengthening of the independence of the Armenian state, but soon the campaigns of Anthony again reduced the country to the position of a Roman vassal.
The adoption of Christianity
The revitalization of Rome in the east almost primarily affected Armenia. In 114 A.D. under Trajan, Armenia, albeit for a short time, was generally declared a Roman province. Numerous uprisings and pressure from Parthia forced Hadrian to withdraw the Roman garrisons, and from the second half of the II century. AD Armenia is becoming practically independent. The Sassanids, who replaced Parthia, tried to subjugate Armenia, but met with a firm rebuff. The state with ancient traditions strove to establish ideological independence, which was, in particular, connected with the adoption under Tiridates III (287-330 AD) as the state religion of Christianity, which began to spread in Transcaucasia from the II century. AD
Armenia in the last centuries BC and the first centuries AD was a country of high culture. A striking indicator of this is the process of urbanization. Ancient Armenian cities were founded according to all the rules of Hellenistic town planning. Typical, in particular, is the regular layout of city blocks.
Culture of ancient Armenia
The rise of urban planning, naturally, contributed to the development of architecture. The advanced Hellenistic and Roman construction techniques and types of buildings were borrowed. The temple in Garni, recently completely restored, is widely known. It is a peripter (24 columns) of the Ionic order, standing on a high podium. The roof was gable, the facade was decorated with a pediment. During the restoration work, it was found out that the ceiling of the naos of the temple was vaulted. The temple, apparently, was built in the 1st century. AD and is dedicated to the god Mihr. The Garni bathhouse is also very interesting, the floor of one of the rooms of which was decorated with mosaics.
The sculpture of Armenia is characterized by great variety. Here were found magnificent imported works of Hellenistic sculpture, and very simple, schematic statues – a continuation of the previous folk tradition. But the most popular was the artistic movement, which was an organic fusion of Hellenic and local artistic principles.
Armenian coroplasty was a striking phenomenon. The terracotta figurines found in Armavir and Artashat are female and male figurines, images of horsemen, musicians, etc. The coroplastic of Armenia resembles the coroplastic of Mesopotamia of the Parthian time, but differs in a number of peculiar and distinctive features. The level of metalworking and related branches of art was high: toreutics and jewelry.
The spiritual life of Armenia in ancient times is less known. It can be assumed that during this period there was a significant difference between the nature of the culture of the royal court and the top of the ruling class, on the one hand, and the culture of the bulk of the population of Armenia, on the other. While the former proved to be highly susceptible to Hellenistic and Parthian cultural influences, the latter remained true to local centuries-old traditions. In the spiritual culture of the people, apparently, an important role was played by the heroic epic, the echoes of which were preserved by Movses Khorenatsi and in the epic cycle about David of Sasun.
The religion of Armenia was characterized by syncretism; ancient local cults and Iranian influences merged in it.
The most important place in the pantheon was occupied by the deities Mihr, Anahit and Vahagn. The kings sought to create and widely disseminate the cult of the dynasty, which was to serve as a means of uniting the population under the rule of the Armenian rulers.
Colchis occupied a special place in the history of Transcaucasia. The history of Colchis in antiquity is illuminated by ancient written sources, significant information is provided by archaeological research (the works of O.D. Lordkipanidze and G.A.Lordkipanidze should be especially noted), and epigraphic finds have been made recently. Unlike other areas of this region, it was more closely associated with the world of Mediterranean cultures and in the VI century. BC. became the object of Greek colonization.
The problem of Greek colonization in Colchis is one of the most controversial in modern science. There are three points of view –
- Some scholars argued that the “model” of Greek colonization in this area is no different, for example, from the North Black Sea, where the Greeks created their policies and developed a vast agricultural territory.
- According to another point of view, the Greeks who settled here did not create their own policies, but settled in local cities.
- In recent years, a third point of view has gained increasing recognition: the Greeks created their policies on the eastern coast of the Black Sea, but their main economic base was not agriculture (like most “colonial” policies), but intermediary trade.
The main obstacle to the wide expansion of the Greeks was the fact that by the time they arrived in Colchis, a local state formation had already been formed here. One of the most important prerequisites for its emergence was the rapid development of the productive forces in the early Iron Age. Colchis became one of the most important centers of iron metallurgy. A sharp social differentiation in Colchis is revealed in the materials of burials. So, only one female grave of the 5th century. BC. it contained over 1600 gold items, including magnificent tiaras depicting lions tormenting a bull and a gazelle.
Urban-type settlements are also formed in the mainland, far from the coast (Vani and others). The flourishing of Colchis was based on a variety of crafts and developed trade. The products of local craftsmen made of iron and gold were especially perfection. It is not for nothing that the idea of Colchis as the country of the “golden fleece” was established in the ancient world; the adventures of the Argonauts who came to Colchis for him is one of the most popular themes in the Greek epic.
Flax and hemp were exported, and, as ancient geographers, in particular Strabo, specially noted, the country was “remarkable for everything necessary for shipbuilding.” Trade was not only local, but also transit, and it was believed that representatives of 70 tribes and nationalities converged in Dioscuriada for trade. The early development of money circulation was also associated with this circumstance. Coins of various Greek cities were widely distributed along the coast, and in the interior of Colchis, coins of local issue prevailed, called by modern researchers “Colchis”. These coins depict a bust of the ruler on one side and a bull’s head on the other. Issue of “Kolkhidok” in the 5th – first half of the 3rd century. BC. testifies to the developed commodity-money relations and, according to a number of scientists, about the existence of an independent Colchis state. By the III century. BC. include gold coins minted on behalf of the local king Aka. Administratively, Colchis was divided into a number of provinces, headed by persons who bore the title of skeptics (“scepter-bearers”).
The most notable feature of the culture of ancient Colchis was the interaction of indigenous and Greek traditions. In the coastal centers, and possibly also in Vani, Greek artisans from Sinope, Heraclea and other centers worked. During excavations in Vani, many Greek amphorae and other imported items were discovered. Colchis also received highly artistic works of antique art: painted ceramics, marble sculptures, etc.
The most important materials for judging the nature of the culture of Colchis were provided by the excavations of Vani. The city consisted of two parts: the “acropolis”, located on a high triangular hill, and the “lower city”, which lay at the confluence of the Sulori and Rioni rivers. The Acropolis was beautifully fortified. The system of its fortifications testifies to a deep knowledge of the then advanced principles of Hellenistic fortification. At the same time, local features are also noticeable – a statue of the city’s guardian goddess was located on the outside of the city gates.
Several structures have been discovered on the territory of the acropolis. A study of the architectural monuments of Vani shows that local architects were well acquainted with the achievements of Hellenistic architecture and town planning. The influence of Greek architecture is primarily reflected in the construction technique (rusticated blocks, widespread use of roofing tiles, mosaic floors). Elements of order architecture are also being introduced (bases of the attic profile, capitals of the Corinthian order, architraves, sims in the form of lion heads, coffered ceilings).
The introduction of elements of the Greek order, however, did not change the essence of the local architecture. The order was perceived as a decorative system, while the designs themselves remained traditional. Tower-shaped sanctuaries dating back to ancient local prototypes are especially indicative in this respect.
Colchis was the center of a peculiar field of art. The presence of stone and bronze sculptures was recorded here, small figurines were found, including silver ones, there are monuments of coroplastics, toreutics, glyptics. All areas of art are characterized by the fusion of local and Greek artistic traditions.
Dependency on Rome
As the influence of Rome spreads in the east, Colchis also falls into the orbit of its influence. Included in the possessions of Mithridates VI of Pontic, after the defeat of this ardent enemy of the Romans, it becomes dependent on the victors. Roman garrisons are located in the coastal cities. In 63 BC. Pompey affirms a certain Aristarchus, who minted his own coin, as the “king of the Colchians”. In the 1st century. AD the coastal areas, called the Polemonov Pontus, form the Roman province.
Soon Colchis became part of the Roman province of Cappadocia.
Early states in Georgia
In the III-IV centuries. AD Western Georgia is called Lazika in ancient sources, although the locals called their country Egrisi. The capital was Archeopol. From the beginning of the IV century. here Christianity spreads.
Iberia was an important and peculiar state formation of the Transcaucasia of the ancient era. The Greco-Roman authors called Iberia the East Georgian kingdom of the ancient era (III century BC – III-IV centuries AD). Medieval Georgian sources call it Kartli. Iberia occupied mainly the present East and South Georgia. However, over time, she was able to take possession of some areas of Colchis. The history of Iberia is known to us from the reports of ancient authors, a few inscriptions. But in recent decades, large-scale archaeological work has been carried out, which has yielded a new richest material that is being actively studied (the studies of G.A. Melikishvili, O.D. Lordkipanidze, A.V. Bokhochadze, Yu.M. Gagoshidze seem to be very interesting in this regard. ).
In the Hellenistic era, the formation and strengthening of the state in Iberia took place. An interesting temple complex of that time (II-I centuries BC) was investigated in the area called Dedoplis-Mindori. Excavations have revealed a grandiose system of simultaneous buildings, which is a rectangle with an area of about 6 hectares, surrounded by a wall. Its longitudinal axis is oriented along the north-south line. In the southern part of the complex there was the main temple (46×30 m.) – a four-column square hall with a quadrangular platform for the altar in the center. The hall and the extensive portico leading to it are surrounded on three sides by a system of corridors. To the main rectangle of the temple from the north is adjoined by an aivan-type room – an open portico with two columns. A small temple is located 90 m north of the main temple.
Strictly symmetrical in relation to the temples are the eastern and western gates, which are vast propylaea with six columns, consisting of two unequal porticos – external and internal.
Researchers (in particular, the head of the excavations Yu.M. Gagoshidze) believe that this vast temple complex was dedicated to the gods of the Mazdeist circle, largely merged with the ancient local Georgian astral deities, and that the main temple was dedicated to a deity such as the Avestan Ardvisura Anahita.
Archaeological research in recent decades has made it possible to judge the nature of the cities of Iberia in the first centuries of our era. According to the ancient Georgian historical tradition preserved by Leonty Mroveli, the first king of Iberia – Parnavaz – began to build his residence on Mount Armazi, where he also erected an “idol” (ie, a statue) in his honor. According to the same tradition, subsequent kings continued building here. The mountain turned into an acropolis. The Georgian tradition is consistent with the data of such ancient authors as Strabo and Pliny the Younger. This city is localized on the Bagineti hill. Archaeological excavations have uncovered defensive walls, palace and public buildings, tombs. Archaeologists have uncovered the ruins of a number of other cities in Iberia (in Sarkin, Dzalisi, Urbnisi, etc.). There were also the so-called cave cities, for example Uplistsikhe.
Palace-type buildings are opened in Bagineti, Armaziskhavi, Dzalisi. Baths with a typical Roman design have been found in several places. Iberian architecture has reached a very high level of development. Already in the early centers (for example, in Samadlo) such a complex technique as terracing the hillsides was used. In the construction of buildings, a combination of stone and mud brick was the rule; from the very first centuries of our era, especially during the construction of thermal baths, burnt bricks. Tiles were widely used. Column structures and torus bases were popular in Iberian architecture.
Mosaics attract particular attention, among which the most interesting are panels from Dzalisi. In the baths there are plant subjects, images of fish, dolphins, shells. In the palace room, there are magnificent mosaic scenes depicting Dionysus and Ariadne, various characters of the Dionysian circle, rich floral and geometric ornament, explanatory inscriptions.
Dionysus and the Dionysian cult were very popular in Iberia. This is evidenced by many finds of works of art. For example, during the excavations of Sarkin, terracotta masks depicting Dionysus and Ariadne, and statuettes of the Dionysian circle were discovered of excellent quality. It is likely that terracotta masks served to decorate the interior of a building and were hung on the wall in one row: this is evidenced by small holes for the cord. Toreutics, glyptics, and jewelry also developed in Iberia.
Caucasian Albania was located farther from the centers of the Greco-Roman world than other regions of Transcaucasia, and therefore its history and culture were poorly covered in the works of ancient authors. Epigraphic materials are almost completely absent. For this reason, archaeological finds are of particular importance. Among the rather numerous studies on the history of Caucasian Albania, a special place is occupied by the works of K.V. Trever, I. G. Aliev, I. A. Babayev, J. A. Khalilov, and others.
The problem of the time of the formation of statehood and class society on the territory of Caucasian Albania is still debatable, but it can be considered that the process mentioned ends in the Hellenistic era. Albania was less affected by the Roman expansion than other countries of Transcaucasia, although the Romans penetrated here in the 1st century. BC. (the campaigns of Pompey), and later. One of the evidence of this is the Latin inscription of the end of the 1st century, drawn up on behalf of the centurion of the XII Legion. AD, found in the mountains of Gobustan, not far from Baku. Later, the Arshakid dynasty seized power in Caucasian Albania. Albania, to one degree or another, was involved in the Roman-Parthian confrontation in the Transcaucasus.
Emergence of cities
The preconditions for the emergence of cities in Albania were formed by the middle of the 1st millennium BC. In the 1st century. AD Kabala became the largest urban center and capital of the country. Archaeological research has shown that the total area of the city reached 50 hectares. In addition, the city centers of ancient times were recorded in Shemakha, Mingechaur, Tazakent and in the northern part of the country, on the territory of Dagestan (Derbent, etc.).
During excavations, for example, in Kabala, ordinary dwellings and public buildings were examined. The construction used wood, raw brick, stone. Columns were popular in the construction of large buildings, the bases of which were usually made of stone, and the trunks of wood. Wealthy residential buildings as well as public buildings were covered with tiles. Agriculture, handicrafts and trade developed in Albania. The local coin, an imitation of the drachmas of Alexander the Great, served as the medium of circulation. The time of the beginning of the minting of these coins remains the subject of discussion.
Sculpture was a popular art form. A number of very conditionally executed statues were found, undoubtedly going back in their techniques to ancient prototypes. Apparently, they are of a cult character. Small bronze sculptures are quite widespread. Figured ceramics are unusually elegant. Ancient potters gave vessels anthropomorphic and zoomorphic forms in the form of a goat, rooster, deer, bull, etc. Anthropomorphic vessels are found only in the Shemakha region. Coroplasty developed in parallel. The most popular were images of naked women. During the excavations of Kabala, a large collection of clay bulls was found with images of both the Hellenistic (Hercules) and local types (horsemen, various animals). Glass, bronze vessels, jewelry, etc. penetrated from the Roman Empire into Caucasian Albania.
Religion played a significant role in the life of Albania. The supreme triad of gods included, according to Strabo, Selene, Helios and Zeus (Strabo calls the Greek equivalents of local deities). The high priest is the second person in the state after the king, “he stands at the head of a large and densely populated sacred region, and also disposes of the slaves of the temple.”
The importance of the civilizations of the Caucasus
The ancient civilizations of Transcaucasia, with all the originality of each of them, possessed a number of similar features, generated both by the proximity of the socio-economic system and by the common historical destinies and long-term mutual contacts. They have come a long way of historical development, interacting first with ancient Eastern civilizations, then with the Hellenistic world and, finally, with the Roman Empire and Parthian (and then Sassanid) Iran. History has entrusted them with a task of great importance – they served the civilizations of the Near East as a reliable shield from the north, protecting them from the numerous and warlike nomadic tribes that lived in the steppes beyond the Caucasian ridge and made repeated campaigns to the south.
Subject to constant pressure from both the south and the north, the peoples of Transcaucasia were nevertheless able to create, preserve and develop their deeply unique civilizations, in which both ancient cultural traditions and external influences organically merged, which were mastered and processed in this way, which became an important component in the common treasury of world culture.
The vitality of cultural traditions is one of the most striking and striking features of the civilizations that developed in ancient times in the Transcaucasus.