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This tremendous mud brick fortress dates from the 9th-century BC kingdom of Urartu and rises above its capital, Tushpa, between Van and the lake. There are rock tombs to Urartrian kings, and, extraordinarily, a 5th-century BC inscription by Xerxes in Old Persian, Babylonian and Elamite that translates as ‘I am Xerxes, the great king, the king of kings, king of all kinds of peoples with all kinds of origins, king of this earth great and wide, son of King Darius, the Achaemenid… May Ahuramazda and the other gods protect me, my kingdom and what I have made.’ Its discovery in 1836 led the French archaeologist Eugène Burnouf to decipher Old Persian. Urartian cuneiform inscriptions in the rock extol the exploits of Sarduri II (764–35 BC) who captured swathes of territory from the Assyrians and brought prosperity to his kingdom.
In Cornucopia 54 Brian McKee reveals the secrets of getting the most out of a visit to the fortress. There is a fine view from its front but, he says, “It is at the back that the locals wander around the ruined buildings dwarfed by the Kale, yet each so secluded, so private, with a sense of the monumental and profound.”
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