Tushpa (Armenian: Տոսպ Tosp, Assyrian: Turuspa, Turkish: Tuşpa) was the 9th-century BC capital of Urartu, later becoming known as Van which is derived from Biainili the native name of Urartu. The ancient ruins are located just west of Van and east of Lake Van in the Van Province of Turkey.[1] In 2016 it was inscribed in the Tentative list of World Heritage Sites in Turkey.[2]

It was possibly pronounced as "Tospa" in ancient times as there was no symbolic O equivalent in Akkadian cuneiform so the symbol used for U was frequently substituted.

Van castle, Turkey
The citadel of Van and the ruins of Tushpa below
Tushpa is located in Turkey
Shown within Turkey
RegionVan Province
Coordinates38°29′59″N 43°20′30″E / 38.499667°N 43.341601°ECoordinates: 38°29′59″N 43°20′30″E / 38.499667°N 43.341601°E


Archaeological excavations and surveys carried out in the Van Province indicate that the history of human settlement in this region dates back at least as far as 5000 BC. The Tilkitepe Mound located along the shores of Lake Van and a few kilometres to the south of the citadel of Van, is the only known source of information about the oldest cultures of Van predating the founding of Tushpa.

Urartian Kingdom

Tushpa was the capital of the Urartian kingdom in the 9th century BC. The early settlement was centered upon the steep-sided bluff now referred to as Van Fortress (Van Kalesi), not far from the shores of Lake Van and a few kilometers west of the modern city of Van.

The fortress of Van is a massive stone fortification built by the ancient kingdom of Urartu and held from the 9th to 7th centuries BC. It overlooks Tushpa, and is the largest example of this kind of complex. A number of similar fortifications were built throughout the Urartian kingdom, usually cut into hillsides and outcrops in places where modern-day Armenia, Turkey and Iran meet. Successive groups such as the Armenians, Romans, Medes, Achaemenid and Sassanid Persians, Arabs, Seljuqs, Ottomans and Russians each controlled the fortress at one time or another.

The lower parts of the walls of Van Citadel were constructed of unmortared basalt, while the rest was built from mud-bricks. Such fortresses were used for regional control, rather than as a defense against foreign armies. The ancient ruins of the fortress support walls constructed during the medieval era. Other cuneiform inscriptions have been found at the site and are typically off limits unless to large tour groups due to vandalism.[3]

In the trilingual Behistun inscription, carved in the order of Darius the Great of Persia, the country referred to as Urartu in Babylonian is called Armenia in Old Persian.

Orontid Dynasty of Armenia and Persian Empire

The region came under the control of the Orontid dynasty of Armenia in the 7th century BC and later Persians in the mid-6th century BC.

A stereotyped trilingual inscription of Xerxes the Great of the 5th century BC is inscribed upon a smoothed section of the rock face, some 20 metres (66 feet) above the ground near the fortress of Van. The niche was originally carved out by Xerxes' father King Darius in the 6th–5th century, but left the surface blank. The inscription is written in 27 lines in Old Persian, Babylonian, and Elamite.[4][5] The inscription reads:[4][6][7]

A great god is Ahuramazda, the greatest of the gods, who created this earth, who created yonder sky, who created man, created happiness for man, who made Xerxes king, one king of many, one lord of many.

I (am) Xerxes, the great king, king of kings, king of all kinds of people, king on this earth far and wide, the son of Darius the king, the Achaemenid.
Xerxes the great king proclaims: King Darius, my father, by the favor of Ahuramazda, made much that is good, and this niche he ordered to be cut; as he did not have an inscription written, then I ordered that this inscription be written.
Me may Ahuramazda protect, together with the gods, and my kingdom and what I have done.

When it was published by Eugène Burnouf in 1836,[8] through his realization that it included a list of the satrapies of Darius (repeated by Xerxes in nearly identical language), he was able to identify and publish an alphabet of thirty letters, most of which he had correctly deciphered. Burnouf's reading of the Van trilingual inscription had made a significant contribution to the deciphering of Old Persian cuneiform.[9]

Alexander the Great, the Seleucid Empire and the Kingdom of Armenia

In 331 BC, Tushpa was conquered by Alexander the Great and after his death became part of the Seleucid Empire. By the early 2nd century BC it was part of the Kingdom of Armenia. It became an important center during the reign of the Artaxiad Armenian king, Tigranes II, who founded the city of Tigranakert in the 1st century BC.[10] This region was ruled by the Arsacid Dynasty of Armenia before the 4th century AD. In the History of Armenia attributed to Moses of Chorene, the city is called Tosp, from Urartian Tushpa.[1]

Byzantine Empire and Kingdom of Vaspurakan

The Byzantine Empire briefly held the region from 628 to 640, after which it was invaded by the Muslim Arabs, who consolidated their conquests as the province of Ermeniye. Decline in Arab power eventually allowed local Armenian rulers to re-emerge, with the Artsruni dynasty soon becoming the most powerful. Initially dependent on the rulers of the Kingdom of Ani, they declared their independence in 908, founding the kingdom of Vaspurakan. The kingdom had no specific capital: the court would move as the king transferred his residence from place to place, such as Van city, Vostan, Aghtamar, etc. In 1021 the last king of Vaspurakan, John-Senekerim Artsruni, ceded his entire kingdom to the Byzantine empire, who established the Vaspurakan theme on the former Artsruni territories.

Seljuq Empire

Incursions by the Seljuq Turks into Vaspurakan started in the 1050s. After their victory in 1071 at the battle of Manzikert the entire region fell under their control. After them, local Muslim rulers emerged, such as the Ahlatshahs and the Ayyubids (1207). For a 20-year period, Van was held by the Anatolian Seljuq Sultanate until the 1240s when it was conquered by the Mongols. In the 14th century, Van was held by the Kara Koyunlu, and later by the Timurids.

Ottoman Empire

The first half of the 15th century saw the Van region become a land of conflict as it was disputed by the Ottoman Empire and the Persian Safavid Empire. The Safavids captured Van in 1502. The Ottomans took the city in 1515 and held it for a short period. The Safavids took it again in 1520 and the Ottomans gained final and definite control of the city in 1548. They first made Van into a sanjak dependent on the Erzurum eyalet, and later into a separate Van eyalet in about 1570.

Towards the second half of the 19th century Van began to play an increased role in the politics of the Ottoman Empire due to its location near the borders of the Persian, Russian and Ottoman Empire, as well as its proximity to Mosul.


  1. ^ a b http://rbedrosian.com/Classic/kvan1.htm
  2. ^ "Tushpa/Van Fortress, the Mound and the Old City of Van". UNESCO World Heritage Centre. UNESCO. Retrieved 13 June 2018.
  3. ^ The Seventy Wonders of the Ancient World
  4. ^ a b Dusinberre 2013, p. 51.
  5. ^ Bachenheimer 2018, p. 23.
  6. ^ Khatchadourian 2016, p. 151.
  7. ^ Kuhrt 2007, p. 301.
  8. ^ Burnouf, Mémoire sur deux inscriptions cunéiformes trouvées près d'Hamadan et qui font partie des papiers du Dr Schulz, Paris, 1836; Schulz, an orientalist from Hesse, had been sent out by the French foreign ministry to copy inscriptions but had been murdered in 1829; see Arthur John Booth, The Discovery and Decipherment of the Trilingual Cuneiform Inscriptions 1902, esp. pp 95ff, 206.
  9. ^ Another photograph of the inscription.
  10. ^ The Journal of Roman Studies – Page 124 by Society for the Promotion of Roman Studies


  • Bachenheimer, Avi (2018). Old Persian: Dictionary, Glossary and Concordance. John Wiley & Sons.
  • Dusinberre, Elspeth R. M. (2013). Empire, Authority, and Autonomy in Achaemenid Anatolia. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-1107577152.
  • Khatchadourian, Lori (2016). Imperial Matter: Ancient Persia and the Archaeology of Empires. University of California Press. ISBN 978-0520964952.
  • Kuhrt, Amélie (2007). The Persian Empire: A Corpus of Sources from the Achaemenid Period. Routledge. ISBN 978-0415552790.

External links

Media related to Tushpa at Wikimedia Commons


Arzashkun was the capital of the early kingdom of Urartu in the 9th century BC, before Sarduri I moved it to Tushpa in 832 BC. Arzashkun had double walls and towers, but was captured by Shalmaneser III in the 840s BC.


Drizipara (or Druzipara, Drousipara. Drusipara) now Karıştıran (Büyükkarıştıran) in Lüleburgaz district was a city and a residential episcopal see in the Roman province of Europa in the civil diocese of Thrace. It is now a titular see of the Catholic Church.

Economy of Urartu

The economy of Urartu refers to the principles of management of Urartu, the ancient state of Western Asia which existed from the thirteenth to the sixth century BC. It peaked around the eighth century BC but was destroyed with the fall of the state about a century later. The economy of Urartu was typical of ancient Middle East despotism and was closely associated with that of neighboring Assyria.

Erebuni Fortress

Erebuni Fortress (Armenian: Էրեբունի), also known as Arin Berd (Armenian: Արին Բերդ; meaning the "Fortress of Blood"), is an Urartian fortified city, located in Yerevan, Armenia. It is 1,017 metres (3,337 ft) above sea level. It was one of several fortresses built along the northern Urartian border and was one of the most important political, economic and cultural centers of the vast kingdom. The name Yerevan itself is derived from Erebuni.

Historical capitals of Armenia

A list of the historic and present capitals of Armenian states.

Ishpuini of Urartu

Ishpuini (also Ishpuinis) (ruled: 828–810 BC) was king of Urartu. He succeeded his father, Sarduri I, who moved the capital to Tushpa (Van). Ishpuini conquered the Mannaean city of Musasir, which was then made the religious center of the empire. The main temple for the war god Haldi was in Musasir. Ishpuinis and his nation were then attacked by the forces of the Assyrian King Shamshi-Adad V. Ishpuinis fought and defeated Shamshi-Adad. Ishpuini was so confident in his power that he began using names meaning everlasting glory, including, "King of the land of Nairi", "Glorious King", and "King of the Universe".

Ishpuini was succeeded by his son, Menua.

List of World Heritage Sites in Turkey (tentative list)

Below is the tentative list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Turkey. (For the criteria see the Selection criteria)

List of ancient settlements in Turkey

Below is the list of ancient settlements in Turkey. There are innumerable ruins of ancient settlements spread all over the country. While some ruins date back to Neolithic times, most of them were settlements of Hittites, Phrygians, Lydians, Ionians, Urartians, and so on.

List of kings of Urartu

This page lists the kings of Urartu (Ararat or Kingdom of Van), an Iron Age kingdom centered on Lake Van in eastern Asia Minor.


Lutipri was a 9th-century BC king of Urartu. Little is known about him except that Vannic inscriptions claim that he was the father of his successor as king, Sarduri I.

He appears to have ruled between 844 and 834 BC, in a period of obscurity after the destruction of the former capital Arzashkun by Shalmaneser III, and before Sarduri's foundation of the new capital at Tushpa.


Lyrbe (spelled Lyrba in the 1910 Catholic Encyclopedia; Ancient Greek: Λύρβη) was a city and episcopal see in the Roman province of Pamphylia Prima and is now a titular see.

Sarduri I

Sarduri I (Armenian: Սարդուրի Ա, ruled: 834 BC – 828 BC), also known as Sarduris, was a king of Urartu in Asia Minor. He was the son of Lutipri, the second monarch of Urartu.

Sarduri I is most known for moving the capital of the Urartu kingdom to Tushpa (Van). This proved to be significant as Tushpa became the focal point of politics in the Near East. He was succeeded by his son, Ishpuini of Urartu, who then expanded the kingdom.The title Sarduri used was 'King of the Four Quarters'.The name Sarduri has been connected to the Armenian name Zardur ("star-given").

Sarduri II

Sarduri II (ruled: 764–735 BC) was a King of Urartu, succeeding his father Argishti I to the throne. The Urartian Kingdom was at its peak during his reign, campaigning successfully against several neighbouring powers, including Assyria.

Sardur II was so confident in his power that he erected a massive wall at Tushpa (modern-day Van) with the following inscription:

"the magnificent king, the mighty king, king of the universe, king of the land of Nairi, a king having none equal to him, a shepherd to be wondered at, fearing no battle, a king who humbled those who would not submit to his authority."He was succeeded by his son, Rusa I.

Satrapy of Armenia

The Satrapy of Armenia (Armenian: Սատրապական Հայաստան Satrapakan Hayastan; Old Persian: Armina or Arminiya, a region controlled by the Orontid Dynasty (Armenian: Երվանդունիներ Yervanduniner; 570–201 BC) was one of the satrapies of the Achaemenid Empire in the 6th century BC, which later became an independent kingdom. Its capitals were Tushpa and later Erebuni.

Shamiram Canal

The Shamiram canal also known as Semiramis canal previously Menua canal is a canal located east of Van that runs 45 miles long supplying a large region. King Menua built the Semiramis canal, according to his inscriptions, which are still visible by the canal. Menua's canal, which brought fresh water to the capital city of Tushpa, has survived to the present day and is known to the people of the Van region as the "canal of Semiramis,".


Tosp (Տոսպ in Armenian) is a district of Vaspurakan province of Historical Armenia.

The name came from the name Tushpa known as the capital of Araratian Kingdom aka Urartu. Tushpa was a name of Van city, and district called as Biaina or Biainili in the Urartu period, but after the Urartu gave the way to the Armenian Yervanduni Kingdom the district's name and the name of the city changed over. Biayna transformed to Van (city) and Tushpa to Tosp (district).

Tosp's lands were an indivisible part of Armenian culture and Armenian ethnicity since the Urartu era to the 1915-1923 Armenian Genocide.


Tushpuea is an Araratian (Urartian) goddess from which the city of Tushpa derived its name. She may have been the wife of the solar god Shivini as both are listed as third, in the list of male and female deities on the Mheri-Dur inscription. It is hypothesized that the winged female figures on Urartian ornaments and cauldrons depict this goddess.

Van, Turkey

Van (Turkish: Van; Armenian: Վան; Kurdish: Wan‎; Ottoman Turkish: فان‎; Medieval Greek: Εύα, Eua) is a city in eastern Turkey's Van Province, located on the eastern shore of Lake Van. The city has a long history as a major urban area. It has been a large city since the first millennium BC, initially as Tushpa, the capital of the kingdom of Urartu from the 9th century BC to the 6th century BC, and later as the center of the Armenian kingdom of Vaspurakan. Today, Van has a Kurdish majority and a sizeable Turkish minority.In 2010 the official population figure for Van was 367,419, but many estimates put it much higher with a 1996 estimate stating 500,000 and former Mayor Burhan Yengun is quoted as saying it may be as high as 600,000. The Van Central district stretches over 2,289 square kilometres (884 square miles).

Van Fortress

The Fortress of Van (Armenian: Վանի Բերդ, also known as Van Citadel, Turkish: Van Kalesi or Kurdish: Kela Wanê‎) is a massive stone fortification built by the ancient kingdom of Urartu during the 9th to 7th centuries BC, and is the largest example of its kind. It overlooks the ruins of Tushpa the ancient Urartian capital during the 9th century which was centered upon the steep-sided bluff where the fortress now sits. A number of similar fortifications were built throughout the Urartian kingdom, usually cut into hillsides and outcrops in places where modern-day Armenia, Turkey and Iran meet. Successive groups such as the Medes, Achaemenids, Armenians, Parthians, Romans, Sassanid Persians, Byzantines, Arabs, Seljuks, Safavids, Afsharids, Ottomans and Russians each controlled the fortress at one time or another. The ancient fortress is located just west of Van and east of Lake Van in the Van Province of Turkey.

Silva Tipple New Lake led an American expedition to the ruins in 1938-40.The lower parts of the walls of Van Citadel were constructed of unmortared basalt, while the rest was built from mud-bricks.

Such fortresses were used for regional control, rather than as a defense against foreign armies. The ruins of this fortress sit outside the modern city of Van, where they support walls built in the medieval era.

Cities and fortresses of Urartu (Kingdom of Van)
Black Sea
Central Anatolia
Eastern Anatolia


This page is based on a Wikipedia article written by authors (here).
Text is available under the CC BY-SA 3.0 license; additional terms may apply.
Images, videos and audio are available under their respective licenses.