The Garni architectural complex (3rd century B.C.) was once a mighty fortress which stood on a triangular plateau rising steeply for the river Azat. This was the summer residence of the Armenian kings. The mighty basalt walls testify to the power of the lords guarded, but even they were powerless in the face of trachery. The victim was King Mithidritades who died at the hans of his nephew. Though he had the support of the Roman Empire, the traitor did not reign long, and was ovethrown with the aid of Parthia, the rival of the Roman Empire, and the throne went to Tiridates I. The powerful empire could not ignore this affront and sent its legionsinto the Ararat valley. They razed Artashat, the capital of Armenia, to the ground. But soon fickle fortune changed sides and, quite unexpectedly, the troops of Tiridates I struck a devastating blow dissipating the Roman legions. But Tiridates realized that he would not survive unless he made his peace with the great Roman Empire, so he accepted Emperor Nero's offer to receive the crown of Armenia from his hands.
The voyage to Rome took nine months and was a spectacular affair - the Armenian king being accompanied by a retinue of three thousand. The mission almost ended in failure , because the proud Tiridates, in violation of court etiquette, refused to disarm in the presence of the Emperor. The conflict was finally smoothed over, and Tiridates returned to Armenia as crowned king, with the 150 million dinars he had received as gift from Nero, and with the artisans and builders whi were to decorate his residence.
On returning home Tiridates started building a beautiful pagan temple - the Sun Temple - on the territory of Garni Fortress (1st century A.D.). The temple graced the hillside for 17 centuries, evoking wonder and delight with its perfect form and ethereal beauty until a major earthquake destroyed it n 1679. Alost three centuries were to pass before the prominent Russian orientalist Nikolai MArr and his colleague Yakov Smirnov discovered the ruins of the Sun Temple. In the 1930s Professor Nikolai Buniatov made a faithful reconstruction of the templeafter a through study of the ruins. Restoration work was launched in 1966 and took ten years of hard work to complete.
Now let us take a look at the temple. The reize of the temple has leaves twined around lion masks which are so naturally rounded, that it is hard to beleve they are carved in stonne and not moulded. The architecture and the sculpture are inseparable here. The small square hall with the altar is surrounded by 24 columns with finely carved capitals. An intrincately ornament hipped roof tops this "temple of collness", which was used as the summer residence of the kings of Armenia after the cuntry was converted to Christianity.
The ruins of the huge palace and baths, built in the 3rd century in the Roman style, are very interesting. The baths were warmed by heated air which passed trough ceramic pipes laid under the floor. In the semi circular part of the anteroom, a section of the mosaic floor has remainded intact. A story from Greek mithology was taken for a design and was laid out in stones of 15 colors. There is an inscription in Greek which never fails to mystify visitors. It says: "We worked without remuneration".
Archeologists are still working on the Garni complex. They have discovered many interesting household items, fragments of antique marble statues, inscriptions in Greek, Aramaic and Armenian.