Armazi, a part of historical Greater Mtskheta, is a place where the ancient city of the same name and the original capital of the early Georgian kingdom of Kartli or Iberia was located. It particularly flourished in the early centuries CE and was destroyed by the Arab invasion in the 730s.
The three major cultural layers have been identified: the earliest dates back to the 4th-3rd century BC (Armazi I), the middle one is from the 3rd-1st century BC (Armazi II), and the relatively newer structure belongs to the 1st-6th century AD (Armazi III). Armazi I is constructed of massive stone blocks forming an impregnable base but were finished off by less durable mud brick. It also contains a great hall of six columns with a tiled roof. Armazi II is noted for a temple with an apse. Armazi III is the richest layer constructed of elegantly cut stone blocks, joined together with lime mortar and metal clamps. Among the surviving structures are the royal palace, several richly decorated tombs, a bathhouse and a small stone mausoleum.
Archaeological evidences testify that the ancient Armazi was far more extensive than it is today. Armazi's strategic situation was dictated by its ready access to the Daryal Pass, the main road over the Greater Caucasus, through which the Scythians invaded the ancient Near East. The name of the city and its dominant acropolis, Armaz-Tsikhe ('citadel of Armazi'), is usually taken to derive from Armazi, the chief deity of the pagan Iberian pantheon.
Even after the rise of Mtskheta as a capital of Iberia, Armazi remained the holy city of Iberian paganism and one of the defenses of Mtskheta. The fortress was captured by the Roman general Pompey during his 65 BC campaign against the Iberian king Artag. A ruined structure over the Mtkvari River dates from that time and is still called 'Pompey's bridge'. Armazi's heyday came when Iberia was allied with the Roman emperors. Armazi stele of Vespasian unearthed in 1867 reports that the Roman Emperor Vespasian fortified Armazi for the Iberian king Mithridates I in 75 AD. This defense wall constructed in a unique position to block the southern exit of the Daryal Pass before it widens into the plain of modern Tbilisi was presumably a preventive measure against the Alans who frequently raided the Roman frontiers from across the Caucasus.
During this period, Armazi was governed by a hereditary pitiakhsh, whose rank approximated to that of viceroy or satrap, and was second in the official Iberian hierarchy after the king. The excavations of the hereditary necropolis of this dynasty yielded engraved gems bearing portraits of two of these viceroys, Asparukh (probably the contemporary of the Roman emperor Hadrian, 117-138 AD) and Zevakh (fl. 150 AD), a rare example of authentic, pre-Christian Georgian portraiture.
Armazi played a central role in ancient Georgian cultural life and in the evolution of local epigraphy in Georgia, prior to the invention of the Georgian alphabet in the 5th century. Among a number of curious inscriptions found at Armazi, the most important is the bilingual Greco-Aramaic tombstone inscription commemorating the short-lived Serapita and her noble lineage. It contains an unusual, in its ductus and some of its forms, version of the Aramaic alphabet which came to be known as the 'Armazi script' although it can also be found outside Armazi, in other parts of Georgia.
With the transfer of the Georgian capital to Tbilisi in the late 5th or early 6th century, Armazi went into a gradual decline. It still had its own high-ranking commandant, a post held in A.D. 545 by a certain Wistam. The city was finally destroyed and razed to the ground in 736 by the Arab commander Marwan ibn Muhammad.
The city of Armazi has never been revived since then, but a Georgian Orthodox monastery of St. Nino was constructed there between 1150 and 1178. This is a six-apse hall church which, as well as its associated structures, is now largely in ruins and only some fragments of the 12th-century murals have survived.References:
Built around AD 90 to entertain the legionaries stationed at the fort of Caerleon (Isca), the impressive amphitheatre was the Roman equivalent of today’s multiplex cinema. Wooden benches provided seating for up to 6,000 spectators, who would gather to watch bloodthirsty displays featuring gladiatorial combat and exotic wild animals.
Long after the Romans left, the amphitheatre took on a new life in Arthurian legend. Geoffrey of Monmouth, the somewhat imaginative 12th-century scholar, wrote in his History of the Kings of Britain that Arthur was crowned in Caerleon and that the ruined amphitheatre was actually the remains of King Arthur’s Round Table.
Today it is the most complete Roman amphitheatre in Britain.