Finding a good-looking Greco-Roman temple in
is quite a surprise for it is the only remaining such building in that country. Armenia
The Temple of Garni dates probably from 77 AD and based on the Greek inscription that has been recovered, it was supposedly built by King Tiridates I of Armenia. Originally, it was dedicated to the sun god Mihr (from the Zoroastrian mythology and related to Mithra) and in the early days of Christianity in the fourth century, it became the summer residence of Khosrovidukht, the sister of Tiridates III – not bad!
Unfortunately, the construction collapsed in 1679 when the region was hit by a severe earthquake and it was only about one hundred years ago that the ruins were discovered. Between 1969 and 1975, the remains were sorted out and put back together to become the tourist attraction we see today.
Temple of Garni was mentioned by Tacitus as belonging to a fortress overlooking the valley of the . The location was strategically very important as it was part of the defence of the Ararat Plain. Beside the temple, there are remains of a Roman bath including a mosaic floor with Greek inscription and a royal summer palace. Azat River
As to the Greek inscription belonging to the temple, scholars do not agree on the exact translation as the text has been damaged (for details, see Wikipedia).
There is, however, an other theory stating that this was not a temple but a mausoleum built around 175 AD. This idea is based on similar Greco-Roman constructions in Asia Minor like the
Nereid Monument in and the Mausoleum of Halikarnassos; and also the fact that it is surrounded by several tombs from that same period. When Xanthus Armenia converted to Christianity, pagan temples were systematically destroyed and it would be odd to find this as the sole survivor. As a grave, the construction was more plausible to have survived. Temple of Garni
Whatever the theory or the origins of this Temple of Garni, it is a very pleasant sanctuary to look at and still makes you wonder about the Hellenistic influence in that part of the world.