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Garni, a fortress located on a cliff high above the right bank of the Azat River is said to have been originally founded around 2166 B.C. Historian Movses Khorenatsi attributes the founding of Garni to Gegham, the great grandson of Haik, the forefather of the Armenian Nation. According to tradition, Gegham is said to have named the fortress after his grandson Garnik, hence the name Garni.

The present fortress which lies in ruin today was rebuilt in the 2nd century B.C. by King Trdat I after having been destroyed by Roman forces. It was also called the “impregnable fortress.” It is assumed that the temple was dedicated to the sun god, Mihr, and that its 24 columns symbolized the hours of the day. Mihr, being the bearer of light, was usually pictured slaying a bull, the symbol of darkness.

Garni Temple

Garni Temple

The fortress is located on a beautiful triangular shaped promontory protected from two sides by narrow passages. The fortress includes the pagan temple, the remains of the royal bath and residential apartments. The temple was destroyed in a devastating earthquake in 1679. A small altar stands inside the temple where the floor is decorated with a mosaic of more than 15 different colorful stones depicting sea creatures.

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