Ani: Caucasian Pompey

Ani: Caucasian Pompey

Yana Vinetskaya exclusively to Vestnik Kavkaza

The history of the monuments of Ani has several millennia, from ancient Urartu. The flourishing city of Ani was reached in the tentha nd elventh century, when Bagration dynasty chose it the capital of the Armenian state and the place of their residence. According to some accounts, the city's population at that time reached 100,000. The preserved inscriptions mention the ancient names of streets, markets and bridges. Flemish missionary Rubruck who visited Ani in the thirteenth century, reported that the city had 1,000 churches.


But, alas, thes prosperity was short - the future was preparing difficult times for the Armenian capital. A whole avalanche of invasions rolled across the land, sweeping and distorting the cultural shoots that with untiring patience were nurtured by the Armenian people.


At first the Byzantines inder Constantin Monomachos, then the Seljuks and the Kurds consistently seized the rich Armenian capital. In the twelth century, the struggle for the possession of Ani developed between the Persians and Georgians. In 1239, Ani was conquered and destroyed by the Mongols, and in 1319 a major earthquake completed the work of invasions and permanently buried the ancient city underground. A poor village remained where a lush capital used to stand, and the ruins of palaces and churches were used for the erection of wretched huts.Gradually, even these houses were abandoned, and Ani was forgotten for a long time until the nineteenth century, when the ruins attracted the attention of archaeologists. From 1878 to 1917, the territory of Ani belonged to the Russian Empire. A new era began for Ani, when connoisseur of Oriental History Professor Nikolai Marr started the excavations with the support of the St. Petersburg Academy of Sciences. Under his supervision, the excavations led to the reconstruction of an entire historical culture, that was not less interesting than the culture of Pompey. Numerous monuments and everyday objects found in excavations made it possible to resurrect an interesting picture of life. Thus, the excavations revealed the water supply system of the tenth century, consisting of iron pipes embedded in clay, and the inn of the twelth century, as well asseveral churches. A traveler Henry Tasteven described his impression of the site as follows: "Undoubtedly, the number of churches used to be impressive, because I counted at least 10 well-preserved churches. The remains of huge architectural structures: temples, palaces, acropolis, baths, city walls, bridges - all testify to the fact that there was a city with a large population."


In the early twentieth century an Archaeological Museum was created on the territory of the settlement . This museum presented valuable findings related to different historical periods. Despite the fact that access to Ani was not easy, the museum grew in popularity - in 1912, the museum was visited by 3,000 people, including foreigners. However, the history of the museum was short - in 1918, the territory was occupied by the Turks, the most valuable artifacts have been removed and all that remained was looted and destroyed.


A century later, the fate of monuments of Ani provokes great concern. The World Monuments Fund (WMF) placed Ani on its 1996, 1998, and 2000 Watch Lists of 100 Most Endangered Sites. In an October 2010 report titled Saving Our Vanishing Heritage, Global Heritage Fund identified Ani as one of 12 worldwide sites most "On the Verge" of irreparable loss and destruction, citing insufficient management and looting as primary causes.[ At the same time, the ruins of the ancient Armenian capital are among the three sites of historical heritage, which are most at risk of extinction.


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