Ani Archaeological Site




Location: 44 km (27 mi) East of Kars, Kars province Map

Open: 9am- 5pm daily

Info: (0474) 212 6817


Ani Archaeological Site is a medieval Armenian city situated 44 km (27 mi) East of Kars, Kars province of Turkey. It is famous for its majestic ruins of the Christian churches. Many still preserve colorful frescoes of saints and apostles.


In the period from 961 to 1045, Ani was the capital of the Kingdom of the same name, whose borders occupied a large part of modern Armenia and Eastern Turkey. The city stands on a triangular hill formed by the gorge of the Akhuryan river and the Bostanlar valley, its location served as a natural protection. Ani is called the city of 1001 churches, several trade routes ran through it, and its religious buildings, palaces and fortifications were among the most technically and artistically advanced in the world.

Arab historian of the XIII century Sibt Ibn al-jauzi reported that before the destruction of the city by the Turks in 1064, the population of the Armenian capital reached 1 million people, of which some were cut out, and of those who survived, 500 thousand were taken prisoner. According to other sources, in the XI century, at the height of the city's development, 100-200 thousand people lived in Ani, and the city competed with Constantinople, Baghdad and Damascus. In the XII century Ani was rebuilt by the Armenian princely family Zakarian and again became the center of Armenian culture. Ani was abandoned after the earthquake of 1319. The anian Armenians established a number of colonies far beyond the borders of Armenia.


Armenian historians, in particular, Yeghishe and Lazar Parpetsi first mentioned Ani in the V century. They described Ani as a Kamsarakan impregnable fortress on a hill. The city got its name from the fortress and the pagan settlement of Ani-Camargue, located in the region of karinska Taranaki. Ani was also known for a time as Hnmk (arm. Խնամք), although there is no consensus among historians as to why it was so called. Henry Hubschman, a German linguist who studied the Armenian language, suggested that this word may derive from the word "namely" (arm. խնամել), a verb with the meaning "to care".

The capital of the Armenian Bagratuni Kingdom
By the beginning of the ninth century, the former territories of the Kamsarakans in Arsharunik and Shirak, including Ani, were included in the lands of the Bagratid dynasty. Their suzerain, Ashot IV Msaker (806-827) received the title ishkhanats Ishkhan (Prince of princes) of Armenia from the Caliphate in 804. The first Bagratid capital was Bagaran, located about 40 km South of Ani, the second was Shirakavan, 25 km from Ani, and in 929 Kars became the capital. In 961, Ashot III (953-977) made Ani the capital. In the reign of Smbat II (977-989), Ani grew rapidly. In 992 the Armenian Catholicosate of the also moved to this city. In the X century, the population of the city was from 50 to 100 thousand people.

The peak of the city's development occurred during the long reign of Gagik I (989-1020). After his death, a power struggle developed between the two heirs, and the eldest, Hovhannes-Smbat (1020-1041), gained power over Ani. Fearing an attack by the Byzantine Empire, he proclaimed the Byzantine Emperor Basil II as his heir. In January 1022, the Catholicos Peter went to Basil to deliver him a letter from Hovhannes-Smbat, in which he asked Basil to ascend the throne after him. After the death of Hovhannes-Smbat (1041), Basil's heir, Michael IV, proclaimed authority over Ani, but the new king of Ani, Gagik II (1042-1045), did not obey him. Several Byzantine armies tried to take the city, but all their attacks were repulsed. In 1045, at the instigation of the Pro-Byzantine citizens, Ani surrendered to Byzantium and was ruled by a Greek Governor.

Cultural and economic center
Ani initially lay away from trade routes, but due to its size, power and wealth became an important trading hub. The city's main trading partners were the Byzantine and Persian empires, Arabs, and small Nations in Central Asia and Russia. Ani became one of the largest cities in the world of its time.

The looting and devastation
Ani was attacked by the Byzantine army and sacked by the Turks. On the Byzantine attack in 1044, the Armenian historian Vardapet Aristakes wrote: "in these days the romaic troops in their onslaught invaded Armenia four times, until by sword, fire and capture in polon they turned the whole country into desolation. When I recollect these calamities, my spirit is troubled, my thoughts stop, terror makes my hands tremble, and I am unable to continue the narrative, for my story is bitter, it is worthy of great tears!»