lunedì 2 dicembre 2013

The Temple of Garni a Greco-Roman temple in Armenia


Written by Gayane Simonyan
The Temple of Garni (latin “Gorneas) is a first century Hellenic temple near Garni district and the only pagan temple in Armenia that survived the adoption of Christianity as its official religion in 301AD.
The fortress of Garni became the last refuge of Armenian king Mithridates where he and his family were killed by his son in law and his nephew Rhadamitus.
Several buildings and constructions have been identified within the appended space.

The earliest traces of habitation date back to the Neolithic time. A Bronze Age and a Classical layer followed by 3 distinct medieval layers complete the occupation history of the site. The fortification circuit is built of huge basalt blocks with the weight of up to 6 tonnes. The curtain wall has been cleared to a 314 meters length revealing a series of rectangular towers, two of which border the ancient gate of entrance.
The peristyle temple is located at the edge of the cliff. It was dug in 1909–1910 but the full recognition of its architecture appeared merely in 1933. It was assumed to be constructed in the first century AD by the Armenian King Tirdates I, presumably funded by the money the king received from emperor Nero when he visited Rome.
In 1945 there was found on the territory of local graveyard by Martiros Saryan, a Hellenic inscription about the construction of the temple. The superscription named Armenian king Tiridates who built this temple. Probably the inscription meant Tiridates I of Armenia, despite the fact that some historians assumed that the inscription indicated Armenian King Tirdates III.
The actual building is a peripteros temple- a special name given to a type of ancient Greek or Roman temple surrounded by a portico with columns- resting on an elevated podium and was most persumably dedicated to the god Mihr. The entablement is supported by 24 columns resting on Attic bases.
Unlike other Greco-Roman temples, this one is made of basalt. Due to a different interpretation of the existing literary testimonial and the witness provided by composure, “montage” of the temple started in AD 115. The pretext for its construction could be the declaration of Armenia as a Roman province and the temple would have housed the imperial effigy of Trajan. 
Recently another theory has been launched. According to it, the building must actually be recognized as the grave of an Armeno-Roman governor Gaius Sohaemus, a famous person in the Roman Empire in the 2nd century from the Syrian Roman Client Emesene Dynasty. If it is so, then the temple’s construction would be dated to AD 175.
The temple of Garni was ultimately sacked in 1386 by Lenk Temur. In 1679 it was destroyed by an earthquake. A vast majority of the original architectural members and building blocks stayed at the site until 20th century, letting the building to be reconstructed in 1969 - 1975.
After the adoption of Christianity, several churches and Catholicos’ palace were also constructed at the fortification site, but they are now ruined like most of the other constructions except the temple of Garni.


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