Abstract: Ozymandias in Ararat: The Cities of the Near East's Least Known Great Monarch


From approximately 675-650 B.C., the last great king of Urartu, Rusa son of Argishti, conducted an ambitious program of constructing fortresses and cities in eastern Anatolia, northwest Iran, and Armenia, working on a scale that distinguished him as one of the most ambitious builders in the history of the ancient Near East. The cities in particular were something of a departure for an Urartian monarch, since few of Rusa’s predecessors had devoted much effort to creating them.  It has sometimes been suggested that the Urartians were pioneers in urban planning, but there has been little systematic research on the subject.  Ten years of work in the Outer Town at Ayanis, near Lake Van, reveal something of the character of a city that Rusa created, showing a mixture of planned and unplanned houses. Some people were settled in housing created by architects of the state and furnished with centrally produced goods, but others were not entirely assimilated to Urartian cultural norms. The motives behind Rusa’s great building program are obscure, and its consequences may ultimately have been disastrous: the kingdom was violently destroyed shortly after his death.  The lecture will investigate the enigma of Rusa’s reign through newly excavated materials from Ayanis and other Urartian sites.


Short bibliography and/or website on lecture topic (for lay reader):

Paul Zimansky, "An Urartian Ozymandias." Biblical Archaeologist 58/2 (June, 1995): 94-100.

Antonio Sagona and Paul Zimansky, “Chapter 8: A Kingdom of Fortresses,” in Ancient Turkey (Routledge, 2009).

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