Argišti I, son of Minua

Argišti, Inušpua and the line of succession

In his inscriptions, Argišti calls himself "son of Minua" (or "descendant of Minua"). From this might be concluded that Argišti was the immediate successor of Minua. Some earlier inscriptions, however, suggest that Argišti was not intended as Minua's successor from the outset, but his brother Inušpua. How it came about that Argišti came into power is unclear. An usurpation of the throne cannot be excluded. It might, however, also be the case that Inušpua died young, probably before or soon after his ascession to the throne (for a more detailed discussion see portal page Išpuini, Minua, and Inušpua).

Map 08

Map showing the distribution of the stone inscriptions of Argišti. I., in: Mirjo Salvini, CTU I: 344

Royal Titles

Argišti, son of Minua, mighty king, great king, king Bia lands, king of kings, lord of the city Ṭušpa. (CTU A 8-1, obv. ll. 4-6)

The first annals in Urartian history

Among the Urartian rulers, Argišti is the first one who authored annalistic inscriptions that chronicle his annual military campaigns and their outcome as well as major building projects. In Urartian history, such annals are only known from Argišti and his son Sarduri.

The most detailed annalistic inscription of Argišti I is engraved into the entrance of Argišti's mausoleum, the rock chamber of Horhor in the southern cliff face of rock Van (A 8-3 []). The nearby rock-cut tomb probably once contained Argišti's burial.

08_Argishti_I_Van Kalesi_Horhor_caves_2.jpg

The caves of Horhor (Van Kalesi), photo: Köroğlu, Kemalettin and Erkan Konyar (eds.): Urartu: Doğu'da Değişim / Transformation in the East, İstanbul 2011: 209

08_Argishti_I_Van Kalesi_sketch.jpg

Sketch of the Annals of Argišti I (Van Kalesi) by A. Mancini, in: Mirjo Salvini, CTU III: 200.

The inscription is the longest Urartian text so far known and belongs to the most beautifully and meticuously engraved inscriptions. Unfortunately, the beginning of the text is lost. It can, however, be restored by a fragment of a shorter annalistic inscription which was also composed by Argišti and is engraved in a stele found in the church Surp Sahak in Van (A 08-01 []).

Both texts obviously refer to the same events. The stele inscription is, however, much shorter and less detailed than the Horhor annals which presumably have been composed at the end of Argišti's reign.

These annals are subdivided into several similar structured sections. Each of them reports the events of one year. In contrast to the annals of the Assyrian kings, the correlation to the years of rulership remains however unclear.

It can therefore not be excluded that some years of rulership have been left out. The structure of the text as well as the comparison with the stele inscription A 8-1 from Surp Sahak in Van indicates, however, that the sequence of the annual campaigns given in the report correlates with the actual sequence of events.

The description of the individual military actions is generally preceded by an introduction that gives a summary of the deeds achieved in one year and often refer to a prayer to the god Haldi and other deities. The following account of the successful campaigns is then portrayed as the answer to this prayer. It is followed by a list specifying the precise number of men and animals taken as booty and a closing formula.

In most cases the number of men and animals is extremely high. It is therefore questionable if it is trustworthy, although the accurate figures and the numerical proportion between various kinds of animals like sheep, oxen, horses and camels let the data appear more reliable than the rounded numbers that can be found in Assyrian inscriptions.

The major routes of Argišti's military campaigns

According to the Horhor annals as well as to his other annalistic inscriptions, Argišti conducted a great number of military campaigns in different regions, some of them far away from the Urartian capital Ṭušpa.

Overall, fifteen annual campaigns are recorded, which gives also the minimal period of Argišti's reign.

During the first year reported in the Horhor Annals Argišti conquered the territory of the population group Diauehi or, respectively, the people of the land Diaue/Diawe. This land is likely to be identified with the land Daiaeni mentioned in inscriptions of the Assyrian kings Tiglath-Pileser I and Shalmaneser III. Since the latter reports that he received the tribute of the king of the land Daiaeni after he had reached the source of the river Euphrates in his 15th year of power (A 08-01 []), the land was likely situated in the north of the modern Turkish city Erzurum.

Building activities

Agricultural infrastructure and irrigation systems

Several inscriptions report the construction of canals. Thus, A 8-2 (obv. 42') and A 8-3 (iv 73) report the construction of a canal from the river Aras in the land of ʾAza to service Argištiḫinili, whereas A 8-3 (v 17) reports the construction of a canal dug from the river Dainalitini. According to A 8-16 the area of Argištiḫinili was developed by four canals as well as vineyards and orchards (ll. 8-9).


Among the fortresses built by Argišti I Argištiḫinili (Armavir; A 8-22) and Erebuni (A 8-17 to 20) were of the utmost importance. In both of them tower temples dedicated to the gods Haldi and Iubša were situated. Further fortifications are mentioned e.g. in A 8-3 (iii 23-25).

Other buildings

Argišti also reports the construction of other buildings such as stelae (A 8-44 from Arinçkus), a šiname-building (A 8-43 from Aznarvurtepe), and a uḫini-building made of šua-stone (A 8-41 from Kalecik). He further states the building of tower temples for the god Ḫaldi (A 8-22 from Armarvir/Argištiḫinili and most likely also A 8-23 as it is inscribed on a column base from Armarvir/Argištiḫinili; and presumably also A 8-24 which is engraved on a cylindrical stone from Nalbandyan in the Armenian province of Armarvir, and A 8-39 from Davti-blur/Argištiḫinili) and for the god Iubša (A 8-21 from Arin-berd/Erebuni).


Remains of a tower temple from Arinberd with two inscriptions, photo: Mirjo Salvini CTU III: 234.

08_Argishti_I_Arinberd_temple susi_inscription.jpg

Stone block with an inscription (A 8-21) reporting the building of a tower temple from Arinberd, photo: Mirjo Salvini, CTU III: 234.

Inscriptions on metall objects

Bronze objects were found in Ališar/Verhram (A 8-22), Karmir Blur/Teišebani (B 8-1 to 21, 24-25, 28-29) and Van (B 8-26 to 27). The origins of B 8-27A are unknown. Some inscriptions refer to the ownership of Argišti B 8-19 to 20 (cups), B 8-22 (bell of a horse harness), B 8-23 to 24 (saddle girths of horse harnesses), B 8-25 (pads of horse harnesses), B 8-26 to 27 (parts of corselets), B 8-27A (a plate) and B 8-29 (belt buckle), while the other inscriptions refer to votive offerings to Haldi B 8-1 to 9 (shields), B 8-10 to 13 (helmets), B 8-14 to 16 (quivers), B 8-17 (boutton/knob), B 8-18 (arrow head), B 8-21 (cylinder) and B 8-28 (silver lid).


Bronze shield of Argišti I, sketch from Pjotrovskij (1955), photo: Mirjo Salvini, CTU IV: 34


Decoration of a helmet of Argišti I, photo: Mirjo Salvini, CTU IV: 36


Bronze bell of Argišti I, photo: Mirjo Salvini, CTU IV: 40.

Food supply

Besides his military and building activities, Argišti I obviously took great efforts to ensure full supply of grain. Records of the filling of silos in various places such as Erebuni or Argištiḫinili are given in several inscriptions (A 8-27 to A 8-35).

Further reading

Fuchs, Andreas (2012): Urartu in der Zeit, in: Kroll, Stephan, Claudia Gruber, Ursula Hellwag, Michael Roaf and Paul Zimansky (eds.): Biainili-Urartu. The Proceedings of the Symposium Held in Munich 12.-14. October 2007 (Acta Iranica 51), Leuven: 135–161.
Kroll, Stephan et al. (2012), Introduction, in: Stephan Kroll, Claudia Gruber, Ursula Hellwag, Michael Roaf, and Paul Zimansky (eds.), Biainili-Urartu. The Proceedings of the Symposium Held in Munich 12-14. Oktober 2007 (Acta Iranica), Leuven, 1-38.
Salvini, Mirjo (1995): Geschichte und Kultur der Urartäer, Darmstadt.
Wartke, Ralf-Bernhard (1993): Urartu. Das Reich am Ararat, Mainz.
Zimansky, Paul (1995): The Kingdom of Urartu in Eastern Anatolia, in: Jack M. Sasson (ed.), Civilisations of the Ancient Near East, Vol. 2, New York, 1135–1146.

Birgit Christiansen

Birgit Christiansen, 'Argišti I, son of Minua', Electronic Corpus of Urartian Texts (eCUT) Project, The eCUT Project, 2019 []

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