Ancient country and region of eastern Anatolia, centered around Van lake (modern Turkey). For almost 300 years, from the middle of the 9th century until ca. 590 BCE, it formed its own kingdom. This kingdom was in the middle of the 8th century one of the most powerful in the Middle East.
||ca. 840-ca. 830
||ca. 830-ca. 810
||ca. 810-ca. 780
||ca. 780-ca. 755
||ca. 755-ca. 735
||ca. 685-ca. 645
The native name was Biainili, "Urartu" was the name used by the Assyrians. The etymological origins of Urartu corresponds with that of Mount Ararat.
The capital was Tushpa, corresponding to modern city of Van. At its largest the entire area of Urartu covered eastern modern Turkey, Armenia, parts of Georgia, parts of Transcaucasian Russia, northwestern Iran and at times even into parts of northern Syria and northern Iraq.
The best remains of Urartu have been found around the high lakes; Van and Cildir in Turkey, Orumiyeh in Iran and Sevan in Armenia. There are about 300 sites identified to Urartu, the best are fortresses. Many remains have been removed to museums around the world.
The Urartians are believed to be close to the Hurrians, but also the Assyrians. Urartu was conquered by Armenians in the 6th century; it is more than likely that the Urartians became part of the Armenian people.
The main language of the kingdom was Urartian. There are fairly few inscriptions left from the Urartians, but they can be read by scholars.
Urartu was ruled by a king, who also was the warrior leader. The elite of society were also warriors. Yet, other groups were influential, as much funds were allocated to the building of infrastructure.
War and power
Urartu was a very successful military nation, but with its conquests it also emerged as a force that Assyria had to neutralize.
The period in which Urartu was one of the mightiest powers in the Middle East lasted less than 40 years, beginning with great advances ca. 780, ending with the attacks from Assyria ca. 740. As Urartu reached its zenith in the middle of the 8th century, Assyria began to launch the campaigns that would destroy the imperial strength of Urartu.
Economy and Infrastructure
Farming was the main activity in Urartu. Skills in stone building and metal working became highly developed.
The lands that Urartu conquered were rich and important lands, in particular those around Aras river. Conquered territory was developed with infrastructure, buildings and irrigation. At times, tens of thousands of war prisoners worked in large scale development projects. Canals were built, and one that brought water to the southern parts of Tushpa, built during the reign of Meinua, is still working.
Urartian towns were well-developed, often with two-storied buildings. In addition to canals providing water, many had sewage systems.
13th century BCE: Assyria launches raids into Urartu. With this begins an era in which Assyria has great influence on Urartian society and culture.
Around 840: Urartu emerges as a regional force, and starts developing its own culture, based on many Assyrian patterns.
Around 800: Urartu makes great conquests into neighbouring lands.
780: Argishti 1 becomes king, Urartu enters its period of greatest military might.
777: Parts of the kingdom of Tabal is conquered.
745: Takes control of Commagene, subjugating King Kushtashpi. At this point, Urartian control is merely 30 km away from Aleppo.
743: King Tiglath-Pileser 3 of Assyria has Urartu defeated in a battle, this marking the shift of luck for Urartu.
735: Assyria threatens Tushpa, but do not take control of it.
714: Urartu's army is heavily defeated trying to stall advancing Cimmerians.
713: Exploiting Urartu's weakness, Sargon 2 of Assyria plunders the sanctuary at Ardini, taking away the statue of the god, Khaldi. Urartian king, Rusas 1, commits suicide from this disaster. Although Urartu survives as a kingdom, it is now reduced to a minor power.
Around 700: Much of Urartian force is restored, but remaining subject to Assyria.
590 or 585 BCE: Urartu is destroyed by the Armenian Orontids.