ANCIENT DVIN On the territory of Ararat marz are the ruins of another ancient Armenian capital city – Dvin. Built on prehistoric foundations, Dvin's emergence into history begins in 330 AD, when Arsacid king Khosrov II Kotak (330-338 AD) founded the city on a hill not far from old capital at Artashat (the word “Dvin” is a middle Persian word for “Hill”). Some 150 years after its foundation, in 481 Lord Nerses Bagratuni proclaimed Dvin Armenia's capital. At its peak, Dvin's population may have reached 100,000, with Armenians, Jews, Arabs, Kurds, and others living together in reasonable harmony under a Muslim governor appointed by the Caliph in Baghdad. The Arab geographers reported that Dvin (called Dabil in Arabic) exported a wide range of wool and silk textiles, "Armenian wares" of a quality famous throughout the Muslim world, some elaborately figured and dyed with cochineal. Excavations at Dvin from the 1940s through 1970s revealed metal-working, glass-blowing, other luxury goods, and gorgeous glazed pottery, as well as coins from a mint that functioned at least until 930 AD. The city was walled, with multiple gates labelled for the roads they served: to Ani, Tbilisi, Nakhichevan and beyond. The citadel was once thought to be impregnable. The city was wracked by an earthquake in 863, rebuilt, and then almost destroyed by a second, more severe quake in 893, which buried alive 70,000 inhabitants. Rebuilt, Dvin continued as an administrative and religious centre. It was the Seat of the Catholicos from 475 to 914 (some sources claim till 918). Byzantium captured Dvin from the Bagratunis in 1045, then lost it to the Seljuks in 1064. Its last flowering was the Zakarian period, with the eviction of the Seljuks by a joint Armenian-Georgian army led by the Zakarian brothers, Ivaneh and Zakareh, in the late 12th century. Unfortunately, time has not been kind to the site, and the intact mudbrick structures exposed at the time of excavation have in most cases slumped into unexpressive heaps. Much of the ancient site is presumably unexcavated, spread out beneath the surrounding fields and villages. KAQAVABERT Kaqavaberd also known as Geghi Berd is a fortress located upon a ridge overlooking Azat River gorge at Khosrov State Reserve. The fortified walls of Kakavaberd are well preserved and crown a ridge within the Khosrov State Reserve. It is inaccessible from three of its sides because of the steep terrain. Towers at the north-eastern side are 8 to 10 meters tall. Within the fortress are the ruins of a church and other structures. The fortress was first mentioned by Hovhannes Draskhanakerttsi (John V the Historian) in the 9th-10th centuries as being controlled by an Armenian noble Bagratuni family. He wrote that in 924, after losing a battle at the island of Sevan, the Arab commander and chief Beshir went on to attack the fortress of Kakavaberd. He was later beaten by Armenian military leader Gevorg Marzpetuni. KHOR VIRAP MONASTERY Khor Virap is as much a popular travel destination as St. Echmiadzin Cathedral, pagan Garni temple and Geghard Monastery. It has its own place in the history of Armenia due to the legend about Grigor Lousavorich (St. Gregory the Illuminator) – the first Armenian Catholicos. Literally translated from Armenian, Khor Virap means “deep pit”, or “deep well”. The monastery has a rich history behind. During the reign of the king Tiridates III Great, Gregory the Illuminator was trying to spread Christianity in Armenia, which was not approved by the pagan ruler. But anyway Gregory did not obey the king and refused to worship pagan Gods. And the former ordered to tie his hands and throw him into a deep well. King Tiridates left him die in the dark dungeon imprisoned. He spent long 13 years in that dark, damp and small place, but finally survived. When Gregory the Illuminator was still in prison, the Tiridates cheerfully followed the lead of his friend the Emperor Diocletian in savagely persecuting Christians. God ultimately punished Tiridates' misdeeds by depriving him sanity. Tiridates III adopted the behaviour of a wild boar, aimlessly wandering around in the forest. In her sleep Khosrovidukht, Tiridates’ sister had a dream where appeared to her a vision from God telling her to get back from the prison Gregory who will teach you the remedy for your ills. This vision repeated five times. But no one believed that Gregory would be alive after so many years passed that he was put down there, at the very sight of the snakes. Ultimately Khosrovidukht dared to tell the brother her vision. The king immediately ordered to took Gregory out of the miserable dungeon. After Gregory was brought to Tiridates III, he was miraculously cured of his illness in 301. Thus, Gregory was rewarded with the official conversion of Armenia to Christianity. Thus Armenia became the first country to adopt Christianity as a state religionin 301 AD. Gregory was sent to Caesaria to be consecrated a bishop, and he and his children and descendants became the hereditary Catholicoses of Armenia. Sometime after Tiridates III’s baptism, Gregory baptised Tiridates III’s family including Ashkhen, his entire court and his army on the Euphrates River. Later in 642 Catholicos Nerses built a chapel over the jail-dungeon. From here the most wonderful view of the Mount Ararat can be admired. The monastery of Khor Virap is an attractive spot for a very large number of tourists throughout the whole world. The hill of Khor Virap and the territory adjoining it were the site of the important early Armenian capital city of ancient Artashat, built by King Artashes I, founder of the Artashesid dynasty, around 180 BC. According to legend, the Carthaginian general Hannibal, who spent his twilight years in flight from a vengeful Rome, inspired the founding of the city. On the upper slopes of the hills, extensive excavations have revealed the foundations of residential and other structures, along with Mediterranean-style art and other traces of a rich Hellenic culture. Ancient coins and potsherds can still be found, showing links with the whole ancient world. Gregory the Illuminator led the destruction of Artashat's famous pagan temples to the goddess Anahit and god Tir in AD 314.