The Urartians

I’ve recently read through Green Ronin’s Testament, a product designed for roleplaying in the world of the Old Testament (hence, the name). I’ve been thinking about running a couple adventures and drew this up…

Urartu was an ancient kingdom in the highlands of eastern Anatolia. With the decline of Hittite and Assyrian power, the tribes of the mountainous region around Lake Van united in the 9th century BCE to forge a civilization that would stretch from northern Mesopotamia through the southern Caucasus, challenging the armies of mighty Assyria. It was a land with an almost Arthurian atmosphere – terraced and turreted fortresses dominated the land, connected by roads over which troops of well-mounted horsemen road. Urartian visitors came to a land like no other in the ancient Near East – where deep gorges hid the ground below so that the rays of the sun did not penetrate, and raging rivers caused their camels and asses to leap like mountain goats in order to cross.

Some things that make Urartu an interesting and exciting place to adventure:

(1) Urartu was the home of Mount Ararat, where pilgrims would go to see the ark that saved mankind from the judgement of the Hebrew God.

(2) The Urartians, of all the nations in the Old World, seem to have taken a precocious interest in planting vineyards and making wine. The Biblical story of Noah’s drunkenness is traditionally associated with the mountains of ancient Urartu.

(3) Consummate horse breeders, the Urartian mounted archers were feared throughout the ancient Near East.

(4) Unlike their contemporaries to the south, who used reed and mud bricks for construction, the Urartians built their homes and fortresses of stone. Their magestic capital at Tushpa never fell to enemy forces, and even the mighty Assyrian armies learned to give it a wide berth.

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