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Between Yeghegis and Artabuynk villages, Vayots Dzor Province, Armenia
Exterior fortification walls of Smbataberd
Smbataberd Սմբատաբերդ is located in Armenia
Smbataberd Սմբատաբերդ
Smbataberd Սմբատաբերդ is located in Vayots Dzor
Smbataberd Սմբատաբերդ
Coordinates39°52′18″N 45°20′17″E / 39.871736°N 45.338113°E / 39.871736; 45.338113
Site information
Open to
the public
ConditionExterior fortification walls, towers and the keep are still intact
Site history
BuiltPossibly founded in the 5th century and fortified during the 9–10th and 13th centuries

Smbataberd (Armenian: Սմբատաբերդ Armenian pronunciation: [səmbɑtɑˈbɛɾtʰ]) is a medieval fortress located upon the crest of a hill between the villages of Artabuynk and Yeghegis in the Vayots Dzor Province of Armenia. It may have existed as early as the 5th century or earlier, although other sources date it to the 9th to 11th centuries. Its large basalt walls have been well preserved, but much less remains of the structures inside the fortress. It served as the main fortress of the Armenian princes of Syunik when Yeghegis was the seat of the rulers of that province. It was further expanded in the 13th century under the Orbelian dynasty. It is now a notable tourist site in Vayots Dzor.


Smbataberd means "fortress of Smbat" in Armenian and has traditionally been called by this name by the inhabitants of the area.[1][2] The construction and name of Smbataberd are traditionally connected with the 10th-century prince Smbat of the Syuni dynasty.[2][3] According to another view, the local inhabitants gave the fortress this name because the Orbelian ruler Smbat (r. 1251–1273) is buried nearby in the settlement of Yeghegis.[2] Scholar Ghevont Alishan considered the name to be purely folkloric in origin and referred to the fortress by the name of the nearby monastery of Tsaghats Kar.[4] The name Smbataberd has sometimes been used to refer to the fortress and Yeghegis taken together, although they are separated by 1–2 kilometers.[1]

Location and description[edit]

Smbataberd is located at the top of a mountain ridge to the east of the village of Artabuynk and to the west of Yeghegis, at a height of 2000 meters.[5][6] It was built in a very advantageous position, guarded by steep cliffs on its eastern, western and southern sides, which are further reinforced by the fortress walls.[7][8] The large, pyramidal defensive walls that completely surround the fortress are relatively well preserved.[4][7][8] The walls are made of large, wedge-shaped, hewn basalt stones as well as unworked stones, held together with lime mortar.[4][8][9] The walls are 2–3 meters thick,[8][10][9] and the semi-circular towers along the wall are 8–10 meters tall.[10] The fortress is divided by a wall into northern and southern sections, each of which had its own keep.[2][9] Within the confines of the fortress little remains except for the faint foundations of buildings near the fortification walls and the keep located at the highest point of the site.[7] Some ruins of habitable buildings and cisterns have been preserved.[9] Part of the structures within Smbataberd were probably special princely living quarters built during the 13h century.[4] The fortress has three entrances։ northern, eastern and western, but it can only be approached and entered from the northern, main entrance.[4][10] The northern and eastern entrances are hall-like, with ruins of guardhouses and watchtowers above them.[10] The fortress received its water supply from springs near Tsaghats Kar Monastery through a water pipe.[9]


Some sources write that Smbataberd was constructed during the 9th, 10th or 11th centuries,[1][9] although others suggest that it may have existed as early as the 5th century or earlier, and was extensively fortified in the 10th century.[2][5][11] Smbataberd served as the citadel for the settlement of Yeghegis, which was the seat of the Syuni princes of Syunik in the 9th and 10th centuries.[1] The construction and name of Smbataberd is traditionally connected with the 10th-century prince Smbat Syuni (mentioned by Stepanos Orbelian as living in 936).[2][3] In the 970s, with the foundation of the Kingdom of Syunik, the branch of the Syuni dynasty which ruled the kingdom made Kapan its capital, while a separate branch of the dynasty maintained its seat at Yeghegis.[3] In 1002 or 1003, the branch of the Syunis based in Yeghegis submitted to the rule of the Bagratid king Gagik I of Armenia.[3]

According to historian and archaeologist Sedrak Barkhudaryan, Smbataberd, the settlement of Yeghegis, and the monastery of Tsaghats Kar formed "an architectural, spiritual and political whole" under the Yeghegis-based branch of the Syunis.[5] This branch lost much of its political importance after the fall of the Bagratid kingdom (1045) and were eventually replaced by the Orbelians, who came to rule most of Vayots Dzor and Syunik in the 13th century.[3] Yeghegis reached its zenith in the 13th century under the Orbelians, who made it their seat.[4] The Orbelian ruler Smbat (r. 1251–1273) restored and fortified Smbataberd.[12]

Smbataberd survived several sieges throughout its existence.[4] Notably, it was successfully defended against the Sajid general Nasr sent by Yusuf ibn Abi'l-Saj in the early 10th century.[4][13] According to one folk tradition, the Seljuks were able to capture the fortress by cutting off its water supply by using a thirsty mule or horse to find the source of the water.[6][7]

Restoration efforts and tourism[edit]

Restoration and cleaning work at Smbataberd began in 2011 at the initiative of the Ministry of Culture of Armenia.[5] The fortress walls were reinforced to prevent their collapse.[5][11] Traces of additional structures within the fortress were uncovered during the course of the restoration, which led to the halting of the restoration work.[5] In June 2018, the Armenian government declared Smbataberd a protected historical-cultural reserve.[6] Smbataberd has become a prominent tourist attraction in Armenia.[6]





  • Alishan, Ghevont (1893). Sisakan: Teghagrutʻiwn Siwneatsʻ ashkharhi [Sisakan: geography of the province of Syunik] (in Armenian). Venice.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: location missing publisher (link)
  • Yeghiazarian, H. (1955). Azizbekovi shrjani kulturayi hushardzannerě [The cultural monuments of Azizbekov district] (PDF) (in Armenian). Yerevan: Haypethrat. pp. 51–52.
  • Grigoryan, Anna (2018). "Smbataberdě: patmamshakutʻayin karevor nshanakutʻyan, naev zbosashrjayin vayr" [Smbataberd: a place of historical-cultural importance, also a tourist site]. Armenpress. Archived from the original on 20 June 2018. Retrieved 3 July 2023.
  • Hakobian, T. Kh.; Melik-Bakhshian, S. T.; Barseghian, H. Kh. (1988). "Eghegikʻ". Hayastani ev harakitsʻ shrjanneri teghanunneri baṛaran [Dictionary of toponymy of Armenia and adjacent territories] (in Armenian). Vol. 2. Erevani hamalsarani hratarakchʻutʻyun. pp. 182–183.
  • Hasratian, M. (1984). "Smbataberd". In Arzumanian, Makich (ed.). Haykakan sovetakan hanragitaran [Armenian Soviet Encyclopedia] (in Armenian). Vol. 10. Yerevan. p. 455.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: location missing publisher (link)
  • Holding, Deirdre (2014), Armenia with Nagorno Karabagh: The Bradt Travel Guide (4th ed.), Guilford, Connecticut: The Globe Pequot Press, ISBN 978-1-84162-555-3
  • "Smbataberd". 5 October 2016. Archived from the original on 9 February 2023. Retrieved 3 July 2023.
  • ""Smbataberd" patmamshakutʻayin argelotsʻ" ["Smbataberd" historical-cultural reserve]. 2018. Archived from the original on 23 March 2023. Retrieved 3 July 2023.
  • Stone, Michael E.; Topchyan, Aram (2022). Jews in Ancient and Medieval Armenia: First Century BCE to Fourteenth Century CE. Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780197582077.

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