Structure: Marr-Orbeli towers 1 to 7.
Other designations: Walls of the Old City.

History and Description

In the year 961 the Armenian Bagratid king Ashot III transferred his capital from Kars to Ani. Around the year 964 Ashot had a new city wall constructed across the narrowest point of the Ani site, below and a little to the north of the citadel. There was probably a pre-existing line of defenses at that location. This may have been an earthen rampart because Ashot's wall seems to have been built against an earth embankment.

Ani grew so quickly that much further to the north a longer set of ramparts, known as King Smbat's walls, were completed less than a generation later. It seems that Ashot's wall eventually went out of use and fell into ruin.

Ashot's wall had either six or seven semi-circular towers ¹; each tower is said to have had a chapel within it. The two towers at the eastern end of the wall, in front of the Minuchihr mosque, were larger and protruded further out from the wall than the rest, and between them was a gateway.

Nikolai Marr excavated the site of Ashot's wall in 1893. Before that time its location was visible above ground only as a series of low mounds. The excavations also discovered that, during a later period, houses had been constructed next to the towers. Marr considered that within these houses had lived some of the poorest of Ani's inhabitants since he found no traces of artisan, merchant, or other commercial activities within their ruins.

In 1910 Marr had intended to excavate the towers of Ashot's wall at the gateway down to their foundations, but he discovered that a system of water conduits ran through a level of embanked soil that covered over the lower parts of the wall. He decided to leave the conduits intact, and not excavate deeper. Excavations also revealed that near the gateway there was once a large open square that had later been covered over with buildings.

Marr refers to the section of Ani within Ashot's wall as "the inner city", or "the old city", and the area between Ashot's wall and the newer ramparts of Smbat as the "new city". This is useful for identification purposes. However, it is important to realise that Ani had extended into the area occupied by the "new city" long before the wall of Ashot had been constructed.

1. On the plan of Ani in Nikolai Marr's 1934 "Ani" book there are seven towers on Ashot's wall. The towers are numbered 1 to 7; numbers 1 and 2 are those that flank the gateway. The shape of tower 7, the westernmost tower, is not clear on Marr's plan - perhaps it was not excavated. However, in part 2, chapter 6, of the same book, he writes that the wall had six towers.

1.   Ashot's wall, with the citadel in the background

2.   One of the towers on King Ashot's wall

3.   Looking along part of the length of Ashot's wall