The Temple of Garni is the only standing Greco-Roman colonnaded building in Armenia and the former Soviet Union. An Ionic pagan temple located in the village of Garni, Armenia, it is the best-known structure and symbol of pre-Christian Armenia.
The structure was probably built by king Tiridates I in the first century AD as a temple to the sun god Mihr. After Armenia's conversion to Christianity in the early fourth century, it was converted into a royal summer house of Khosrovidukht, the sister of Tiridates III. According to some scholars it was not a temple but a tomb and thus survived the universal destruction of pagan structures. It collapsed in a 1679 earthquake. Renewed interest in the 19th century led to excavations at the site in early and mid-20th century, and its eventual reconstruction between 1969 and 1975, using the anastylosis method. It is one of the main tourist attractions in Armenia and the central shrine of Armenian neopaganism.
The temple is at the edge of a triangular cliff which overlooks the ravine of the Azat River and the Gegham mountains.It is a part of the fortress of Garni,one of the oldest fortresses in Armenia,that was strategically significant for the defense of the major cities in the Ararat plain.It is mentioned as Gorneas in the first-century Annals of Tacitus.The site is in the village of Garni, in Armenia's Kotayk Province and includes the temple, a Roman bath with a partly preserved mosaic floor with a Greek inscription,a royal summer palace, the seventh century church of St. Sion and other minor items (e.g., medieval khachkars).
The precise construction date of the temple is unknown and is subject to debate. The dominant view is that it was built in 77 AD, during the reign of king Tiridates I of Armenia.The date is calculated based on a Greek inscription,[c] discovered by artist Martiros Saryan in July 1945 at the Garni cemetery, recently brought from a nearby water mill.It names Tiridates the Sun (Helios Tiridates) as the founder of the temple.The following includes an image of the inscription as it stands near the temple today, its textual reconstruction by Ashot G. Abrahamian, the Greek text reading by Abrahamian,an English translation by James R. Russell,an alternative reading and translation by Poghos Ananian, as cited by Vrej Nersessian.
Most scholars now attribute the inscription to Tiridates I. Considering that the inscription says the temple was built in the eleventh year of reign of Tiridates I, the temple is believed to have been completed in 77 AD.The date is primarily linked to Tiridates I's visit to Rome in 66 AD, where he was crowned by Roman emperor Nero.To rebuild the city of Artaxata, destroyed by the Roman general Gnaeus Domitius Corbulo, Nero gave Tiridates 50 million drachmas and provided him with Roman craftsmen. Upon his return to Armenia Tiridates began a major project of reconstruction, which included rebuilding the fortified city of Garni. It is during this period that the temple is thought to have been built.
The temple is commonly attributed to Mihr,the sun god in the Zoroastrian-influenced Armenian mythology and the equivalent of Mithra. Tiridates, like other Armenian monarchs, considered Mihr their patron. Some scholars have argued that, given the historical context during which the temple was built, i.e. after returning from Rome as king, it is natural that Tiridates dedicated the temple to his patron god.Furthermore, white marble sculptures of bull hooves have been discovered some 20 metres (66 ft) from the temple which could possibly be the remains of a sculpture of the god Mihr, who was often portrayed in a fight with a bull.