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The temple of Garni is located in the village of Garni in central Armenia. This structure, built in the Greco-Roman style in 77 BC, is considered to be the best representation of the pre-Christian Armenia. After coronating Tiridates I as an Armenian king in 66 BC, Roman emperor Nero provided him with the resources to restore all the damage caused by the Roman general Gnaeus Corbulo. After returning to homeland, Tiridates began accomplishing his plan of repairing harmed areas, which also included the restoration of the city of Garni. Hence, the construction of the Garni temple was an outcome of that plan. 

Though its exact function remains unknown, one of the most popular theories claims, that it was built by king Tiridates I in order to serve as a temple for the God of the sun Mihr. This idea is also supported by the discovery of the remains of God Mihr’s marble sculpture, found near the temple. However, other theories state, that it could have been a royal tomb, as there were graves located in that area, which date to the same time period that the temple was constructed. It is also believed that it was built as a symbol of the declaration of Armenia as a Roman province. 

When in the 301 A.D. Armenia adopted Christianity as a state religion during Tiridates the third’s reign, most pagan worshipping temples were destroyed. Yet, the temple of Garni was the only Hellenistic structure that withstood those destructions. The exact reason behind that is unclear, but it is likely that its status of being an art masterpiece helped it circumvent demolition. Later, its purpose was changed, as it became a royal summer house for Tiridates the third’s sister Khosrovidukht. With its role altered, the temple of Garni also went through some moderations. The sacrificial altars and the cult statue were removed, the opening in the roof was closed and the entrance was transformed. 

After the temple of Garni was harmed by an earthquake in 1679, a plan of reconstruction was proposed. However, it got approved by the Soviet Armenian government only in the 1968. The plan was entirely completed by 1973. It was virtually fully rebuilt by its original stones. 

The Garni temple is now considered to be one of the main sites of modern Armenia. The temple is now a part of the Garni Historical and Cultural Museum Reserve, which was awarded by the UNESCO in 2011 with the Melina Mercouri international prize for the Safeguarding and Management of Cultural Landscapes. The area of the temple has been used for performing concerts, such as the concert of classical music held by the national Chamber Orchestra of Armenia and a concert dedicated to the 150th anniversaries of Hovhannes Tumanyan and Komitas.

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