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 emperor Nero 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 archaeologists. 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 kilometers south east from the village.
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