The Garden Guide

Book: Journey and Embassy to Samarkand
Chapter: Ecmiadzin In Armenia

Armenian castles

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On Thursday, the 29th of May, at noon, they reached a great city called Calmarin {Etchmiazin}, and from it, distant about six leagues, they saw the great mountain on which the ark of Noah rested, after the flood. This city was in a plain, and on one side flowed the great river called Corras; and on the other there was a very deep and rocky valley, as broad as the flight of an arrow; and it encircled the city, until it united with the river. The valley and river made the city very strong, so that it could only be attacked where the river commenced; but at this place there was a very strong castle, with great towers, and it had two gates, one in front of the other. This city of Calmarin was the first city that was built in the world, after the flood, and it was built by the lineage of Noah. The people of the city said that, eight years ago, Tetani, Emperor of Tartary, besieged the city, and that they fought day and night for two days, and on the third there was a parley. They gave up the city, on condition that neither he, nor his people should enter it, but that the citizens should pay to him a certain annual tribute; with which the emperor was satisfied, but he demanded that half the people of the city should be given up to him, to go with him to the land of Jugania {Georgia}, where he was going to make war on the King Sorso. When the citizens had given up these men, the emperor attacked the city, entered it by force, pillaged and burnt it, making breaches in the walls, and killing many people. The greater part of the inhabitants were Armenians; but the land of Armenia has been taken from the Christians by the Moors, as I will relate to you, presently. In this city there are very great edifices; and throughout all this country, they gave the ambassadors and their people lodging, and food, and horses; for all the land belonged to Timur Beg. On Friday they departed, and passed the night at a castle, which was on the top of a rock, and belonged to a widow lady, who paid tribute to Timur Beg for this castle, as well as for other land which she held. In this castle there used to be robbers, and men who came out to plunder travellers on the road. Timur Beg marched against this castle, entered it by force, and killed the lord of it, who was the husband of this lady; and he ordered that malefactors should never be allowed to assemble in it again: and, that they might not be able to defend themselves, he caused the doors to be taken away, and ordered that they should never be replaced. He then gave it to this lady. The castle was, therefore, without doors, and was called Egida. This castle was at the foot of the lofty mountain of the ark of Noah; and all these mountain ranges, after leaving the land of Trebizond, were without woods. The lady received the ambassadors very well, and gave them all they required. On Saturday, the 13th of May, the road led along the foot of the mountain of the ark of Noah. It was very high, and the summit was covered with snow, and it was without woods; but there was much herbage upon it, and many streams. Near the road there were many edifices, and foundations of houses, of stone; and great quantities of rye was growing, as if it had been sown by man, but it was useless, and did not come to grain; and there was also plenty of water cresses. At the foot of this mountain they came to the ruins of a town long since deserted, which was a league in length; and the people of the country said that it was the first town that was built in the world, after the flood, and that it was founded by Noah and his sons. After leaving these ruins, they came to a great plain, in which there were many streams of water, and trees, and rose gardens, and fountains. The mountain had a very sharp peak, which was covered with snow, and they say that the snow never leaves this peak all the year round, either in winter or summer, and this is on account of its great height. On this day the ambassadors took their siesta by a beautiful fountain, near a stone arch; and while they were there, the clouds moved away, and the peak of the mountain appeared, but they suddenly returned, and the people said that it was very seldom visible. Next to this mountain, there was another, which also had a sharp peak, but not so high as the first, and between these two peaks there is one like a saddle, and they were all very high, and their summits were all covered with snow.