Argišti II, son of Rusa


Argišti II was the son of a king named Rusa. He was a contemporary of the Assyrian king Sargon II and possibly also of Sennacherib. His reign probably began in 709 BCE, and its end date remains unknown (Fuchs 2013: 154-157). According to Fuchs (l. c.), Argišti II was the Urartian king who fought the Cimmerian invasion and suffered a crushing defeat while, according to Roaf, the most likely – but not the only possible – scenario was that Argišti II succeeded Rusa, son of Sarduri, after he was beaten by the Cimmerians. The following overview follows Roaf's interpretation (for further information, see the portal page "Urartian Rulers and Chronology").

Map 11

Map showing the distribution of the stone inscriptions of Argišti II, son of Rusa, in: Mirjo Salvini, CTU I: 534 .

Royal titles

(I am) Argišti, mighty king, king of the lands, king of the Bia lands, king of kings, lord of Ṭušpa-City. (A 11-4, lines 11-12)

Building activities

In his inscriptions, Argišti II presented himself as a builder and founder of fortresses and settlements, and as a king who put great effort into developing old and newly conquered territories. This also included the restoration of already existing buildings and infrastructure.

In an inscription engraved on a stelae found in the mosque of Çelebibağı in the northeast of Lake Van (11-1), and another stele inscription from the same region (A 11-2 from Hagi) Argišti reports having cultivated the land near the city NA₄.ANŠE (lit. "stone donkey") in front of Mount Quria. Like other Urartian rulers, he stressed that the land had been previously untouched "not even a field of grain, a vineyard or a fruit orchard ... no canal had (ever) been dug there". The region also lacked a certain amudi. In order to irrigate the land, Argišti built an artificial lake and a canal. Argišti further states that he received people from the city Argištiḫinili "in front of the land Artarapša" and founded settlements there (A 11-2 r. 1). In addition, A 11-1 contains an instruction for the performance of a sacrificial ritual in the region.

 Argishti II_Celebibagi_stele_CTU III_324a.jpg

Stele from the mosque of Çelebibaği with the inscription A 11-1, in: Mirjo Salvini, CTU III: 324.

Furthermore, an inscription on a stele from Bulutpınarı to the North of Lake Van records the construction of a bridge across the river Arṣiani and a road leading to the river (A 11-8 obv. lines 5b-24).

Argishti II_Bulutpinari_stele_CTU III_335b.jpg

Stele from Bulutpınarı with the inscription A 11-8, in: Mirjo Salvini, CTU III: 335.

Argisti was also active further east, in the region of Iranian Azerbaijan. According to a rock inscription from Razliq in Iranian Azerbaijan (A 11-4), Argišti conquered the lands Girdu, Gituḫani and Ṭuišdu, as well as the city Rudutarni and rebuilt the fortress there, renaming it "stronghold of Argišti" (A 11-4 lines 5-10).

Another rock inscription (A 11-6), located in Shisheh in Iranian Azerbaijan, informs us about the building of another fortress in the region named "fortress of the god Ḫaldi" (A 11-6 lines 9-12).

Argishti II_Shisheh_inscription_CTU III_334a.jpg

Rock inscription from Shisheh in Iranian Azerbaijan with the inscription A 11-6, in: Mirjo Salvini, CTU III: 334.

Argišti's most important building project was surely the settlement and the fortress on the hill of Altıntepe. Among the archaeological remains at this site are a well-preserved tower temple, a palace, and several tombs. The settlement is located on the westernmost edge of the territory controlled by the Urartians. Here some inscriptions in Neo-Hittite hieroglyphic writing have also come to light, indicating an interrelationship between the two cultures. Two fragments of bronze plaques (B 11-5) found in one of the tombs provide information about the dating of the buildings as they are engraved with inscriptions of Argišti, son of Rusa (Salvini 1995: 100-101, Seidl 2004: 40 with further literature).

In several of his stelae inscriptions, Argišti points out that he built them for the god Ḫaldi (A 11-1, A 11-2, A 11-3). The stela bearing the inscription A 11-3 was found in the ruin of the Armenian church of Thanahat where it was re-used as a hačkar, i.e. a Christian cross stone.


Stele from Tanahat (Sissian) with the inscription A 11-3, re-used as a Christian cross-stone (hačkar), in: Mirjo Salvini, CTU III: 328.

Agricultural infrastructure and irrigation systems

Reports of the establishment of agricultural infrastructure and irrigation systems are given in the inscriptions A 11-1, from Çelebibaği, and A 11-2, from Hagi on the northeastern shore of Lake Van (see further above).

Military activities

Argišti II turned to the northeast, conquering lands such as Buqu, situated in Northern Iran, as rock inscriptions at the foot of Mt. Sabalan state (A 11-4 and 5). There he built the fortress "stronghold of Argišti" to secure the region.

The stele of Thanahat bearing inscription A 11-3 in Armenia proves the presence of Urartu in this region during the reign of Argišti II, although the actual nature of Urartian activity there remains unclear, save for the conquest of some lands and settlements. The campaign reported in A 11-3 may have aimed for control of the mountain passes leading north to the region of Nagorno Karabach (Salvini 1995: 102).

Religious activities

The most important religious activity described in Argišti's inscriptions was the establishment of an extensive offering ritual, which was apparently intended to ensure divine support for the water supply and the fertility of the land that he cultivated northeast of Lake Van (A 11-1). Argisti also refers to the god Ḫaldi, the weather-god Teišeba, the sun-god Šiuini, and other deities of the Urartian pantheon in curse formulae employed to prevent harm to the inscriptions or inscribed objects (A 11-2, A 11-3, A 11-4, A 11-5, A 11-6, A 11-8)


A 11-7 mentions a "garden of Išpili", although this was not a royal building project but instead a landmark commemorating the king's abilities as a bowman.

Inscriptions on metal objects

Bronze objects were found in Altıntepe (B 11-5a-b), Ayanis (B 11-3 to 4) and Yukarı Anzaf (B 11-1 to 2). Four of these objects are votive offerings to the god Ḫaldi in the form of a quiver (B 11-1), two shields (B 11-2 and 4), and a helmet (B 11-3). As already mentioned, inscription B 11-5 (on two fragments of a bronze plaque found in tomb III at Altıntepe) refers to Argišti, son of Rusa, as its owner.

Further reading

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 51), Leuven, 1-38.
Salvini, Mirjo (1995): Geschichte und Kultur der Urartäer, Darmstadt.
Seidl (2004): Bronzekunst Urartus, Mainz 2004.
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 II, son of Rusa', Electronic Corpus of Urartian Texts (eCUT) Project, The eCUT Project, a sub-project of MOCCI, 2020 []

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