PLACES IN THE ANCIENT WORLD: Vagharshapat (Ancient City in Armenia)
VAGHARSHAPAT (Valarsapat), located some 20 km west of modern Yerevan, was an ancient city in Armenia founded in the 2nd century CE. Serving as the capital, the city prospered and, under the new name of Echmiadzin, became the spiritual capital of Christian Armenia from the 4th century CE. Still an important pilgrimage site today, the building of the cathedral at Vagharshapat is attributed to Saint Gregory the Illuminator who was, in a vision, instructed by Christ to build it there after he descended and struck the ground at the very spot. The site is listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.
Vagharshapat was founded during the reign of the Arsacid king Vagharsh I (r. 117-140 CE), who gave his name to the new city, a common practice of the period. Artashat (Artaxata) remained the capital but Vagharshapat became the royal residence. The city was not entirely built from scratch but expanded upon the existing settlement of Vardgesavan. The city was protected by a new and encircling fortification wall.