Garni ("Գառնի" in Armenian) is a village in the Armenian province of Kotayk', situated approx. 32 km southeast from Yerevan, notable for its fortress complex. As it lies on the road to the well known monastery of Geghard (further 7 km southeast) it receives a large number of visitors. In the 3rd millennium BC the first fortification was constructed on an easily defendable terrain at one of the bends of the Azat river. It was conquered in the 8th century BC by the Urartian king Argishti I and the site became a military base and the king's summer residence. Several additional buildings were constructed since then, such as the king's palace, baths and the site's most famous and best preserved building, a Parthenon like temple. Of particular interest is the bathhouse, located in the northern part of the site which has a preserved heating reservoir. The interior floor is decorated with a colour mosaic with depictions of Greek mythological figures, such as Tethys. One of the intact inscriptions in Koine Greek reads: ΜΗΔΕΝ ΛΑΒΟΝΤΕΣ ΗΡΙΑΣΑΜΕΘΑ ΚΑΝΕΝΑ ΝΕΚΡΟ ΔΕ ΜΑΣ ΕΔΩΣΕ Η ΘΑΛΑΣΣΑ ΟΥΤΕ Ο ΩΚΕΑΝΟΣ (We receive no dead from the sea neither from the ocean).
The temple was constructed in the 1st century AD by the King Tiridates I of Armenia and probably funded with money the king received from emperorNero during his visit to Rome. The temple was most likely dedicated to the Hellenistic god Mithras. The roof is supported by 24 columns with Ionic capitals and Attic basements. Unlike other Greco-Roman temples, it is made of basalt. In 1679 it was destroyed by an earthquake. Most of the original pieces remained at the site until the 20th century, allowing the building to be reconstructed between 1969 and 1979. In recent years another theory arose among some archeologists. They claim that the temple was actually constructed as the tomb for an Armeno-Roman ruler, probably Sohaemus. In that case it should have been constructed around 175 AD and thus about a century younger than indicated by the first theory. After the adoption of Christianity some churches and a katholikos' palace were also constructed at the fortification site, but these are now in ruins like most of the other buildings except the temple. Other sites of Garni outside the fortification site include churches of Mother of God and St. Mashtots as well as ruins of the Havuts Tar monastery several killometers south east from the village.