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x0x In war and peace The Urartians

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  • Turkish Radio Hour
    [ See the following links for more: http://www.geocities.com/oonderer_2000/historic/d14.html
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 23, 2005
      [ See the following links for more:
      http://www.aydingun.com/photo/fotogale/j11urartu.jpg ]
      http://www.geocities.com/anadolu_muzesi/urartu/urartu.html ]

      x0x In war and peace The Urartians


      Shalmaneser III, descendant of a race of kings, crossed the
      formidable mountain barrier to reach the 'upper sea of the land of
      Nairi,' where he washed his weapons in its waters. Before earth and
      water were hidden beneath the winter snow, he prayed for new strength
      in his spear and sword that had been blessed by the war gods. When he
      returned to his homeland of Assyria, he had the story of his victories
      and campaigns carved in stone. These inscriptions first heralded the
      emergence of a new kingdom uniting the seminomadic tribes of the
      mountainous northern lands that his ancestors had been raiding for


      King Shalmaneser of Assyria, who lived around 2850 years ago, speaks
      of a land he called Nairi or Uruatri, which stretched from the shores
      of the Caspian Sea to the Euphrates and encompassed the upper and
      lower seas (Lake Van in Turkey and Lake Urmiye in northwest Iran). He
      tells us the names of the first kings of the new Urartian kingdom,
      Aramu and Sarduri I (840-830 BC).

      The Urartians, who referred to themselves as Biainili, were
      to create the greatest metal industry of all time, but were also
      destined to be ceaselessly at war with their arch enemy Assyria, the
      most powerful empire of Mesopotamia and the Near East. Even though
      gaining a lasting foothold in this inhospitable mountain region seemed
      impossible, the Assyrians never tired of pitting their armies against
      the high peaks and fearsome passes of Urartu, counting themselves
      fortunate if they managed to conquer even one of the fortresses built
      on invincible rocky heights and carry off `bronze doors that shone
      like gold' and bronze shields as hard as steel.


      On the high plateaus guarded by high mountains, growing crops required
      unceasing efforts on soil from which the snow reluctantly receded for
      just a few months of the year. This was a region also subject to
      violent earthquakes, but which on the other hand possessed enormous
      deposits of metal ore, including iron, copper and silver.

      The Urartians mastered their inhospitable natural
      environment, and forged history's most splendid bronze and iron
      kingdom. In the hands of their craftsmen metals were transformed into
      strong weapons and tools, jewellery of dazzling beauty, and elegant
      artefacts. Urartian smiths were skilled at tempering iron to create
      steel, and shaping and decorating gold, brass, zinc and other metals.

      Men, women and children all wore metal ornaments of many kinds
      decorated with animals, plants, gods and goddesses. Necklaces,
      earrings, pins, hair ornaments, breast ornaments and belts, the
      variety was extraordinary. Above all the Urartians loved bracelets,
      particularly those adorned with the lion of their principal deity

      The scenes depicted on their shields, helmets and belts bring Urartian
      life and legend to life in astounding detail, with battles, hunting
      parties, religious ceremonies and castles. Then there are animals with
      symbolic meanings in Urartian mythology, such as lions, bulls, goats,
      birds, fish, scorpions, and fabulous creatures half-human and

      Votive plaques that they offered to their temples or wore as
      talismans attached to their clothing expressed the folk culture of the
      ordinary people. Designs on more than two thousand small bronze
      plaques found at Serbar Tepesi in the village of Giyimli (formerly
      Hirkanis) southeast of the city of Van reflect their beliefs, fears,
      desires, legends and social life, making them valuable historical
      documents. On some of these plaques we see some human faces portrayed
      full-face, indicating a new direction in art quite different from the
      profile portrayals of the classical period.


      The fine detail which lends such power of expression and animation to
      all these finds is striking evidence of the artistic and technical
      mastery of Urartian craftsmen. They themselves believed that the
      legendary beauty of their artefacts derived from the power of their
      war god Haldi, who enabled them to victor over nature and their

      Castles with high towers, roads stretching to the farthest frontiers
      of their land, and canals which carried life-giving

      water to their arid soil were all created under his
      guardianship. In gratitude they built splendid temples to him
      throughout the country. These temples, unlike anything else in
      Anatolia, had high towers, and their walls were decorated with the
      heavy shields which were such an important medium for Urartian art.

      Excavations at the fortress of Ayanis near Van have revealed
      spectacular gifts presented to Haldi: hundreds of bronze and iron
      spears, decorated helmets and shields with inscriptions. An Urartian
      shield with a lion's head, as known from descriptions in Assyrian
      documents, was discovered at Ayanis (673-72 BC). This was one of the
      few Urartian fortresses to have escaped plunder or destruction over
      the centuries.

      The city of Mushashir was not so fortunate. King Sargon II of Assyria
      sacked the temple here in the year 714, and the list of spoils is a
      breathtaking tribute to the wealth of Urartu and the people's faith in
      their god of war: `... six gold, twelve silver, and 25,212 bronze
      of unworked copper...'


      Urartians began every undertaking with the name of Haldi, as we see in
      King Menua's inscription for his great canal: 'Menua opened this canal
      with the power of the god Haldi. Its name is the Menua Canal. Menua,
      great king, king of the lands of Biainili, lord of the city of Tushpa.
      Whosoever erases this writing, whosoever damages it, whosoever
      storms and thunder]
      gods destroy him and deprive him of the light of the sun!' These words
      spoken by King Menua (810-785 BC) refer to the 50 km long canal, which
      even today is regarded as a marvel of hydraulic engineering. This
      irrigation canal which brought abundance to Van Plain, where the
      Urartian capital of Tushpa is situated, is still in working order
      after 2800 years!

      No other people in the world, whether in antiquity or the modern age,
      have constructed so many dams, reservoirs and canals as the Urartians.

      As Prof. Dr. Oktay Belli, the director of Istanbul University Eurasian
      Archeology Institute explains, so well did they understand the
      geography of their rugged land that these works of engineering have
      continued to function without interruption, despite earthquakes and
      the passage of thousands of years. Their fortified cities like Tushpa,
      Toprakkale and Cavustepe grafted skilfully onto the natural rock, and
      their roads built over the mountains are further proof of the
      remarkable engineering and construction skills of the Urartians.

      At the end of the 7th century BC, the Urartians and their arch enemies
      the Assyrians both faded from the stage of history.

      The legendary hanging gardens which Menua constructed for his daughter
      at Tariria have gone down in history not as his work, but instead
      attributed to the Assyrian princess Shamran or Semiramis. The canal,
      too, is remembered as the Shamran Canal.
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