Armenia lies in the highlands surrounding the Biblical mountains of Ararat, upon which Noah's Ark is said to have come to rest after the flood. (Bible, Gen. 8:4). There is evidence of an early civilization in Armenia in the Bronze Age and earlier, dating to about 4000 BC. Archaeological surveys in 2010 and 2011 at the Areni-1 cave complex have resulted in the discovery of the world's earliest known leather shoe, skirt, and wine-producing facility.
Several bronze-era states flourished in the area of Greater Armenia, including the Hittite Empire (at the height of its power), Mitanni (South-Western historical Armenia), and Hayasa-Azzi (1500–1200 BC). The Nairi people (12th to 9th centuries BC) and the Kingdom of Urartu (1000–600 BC) successively established their sovereignty over the Armenian Highland. Each of the aforementioned nations and tribes participated in the ethnogenesis of the Armenian people. A large cuneiform lapidary inscription found in Yerevan established that the modern capital of Armenia was founded in the summer of 782 BC by king Argishti I. Yerevan is the world's oldest city to have documented the exact date of its foundation.
Around 600 BC, the Kingdom of Armenia was established under the Orontid Dynasty. The kingdom reached its height between 95 and 66 BC under Tigranes the Great, becoming one of the most powerful kingdoms of its time within the region. In the next centuries Armenia was in the Persian Empire's sphere of influence. Throughout its history, the kingdom of Armenia enjoyed both periods of independence and periods of autonomy subject to contemporary empires. Its strategic location between two continents has subjected it to invasions by many peoples, including the Assyrians, Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, Arabs, Mongols, Persians, Ottoman Turks and Russians.
Religion in ancient Armenia was historically related to a set of beliefs which in Persia led to the emergence of Zoroastrianism. It particularly focused on the worship of Mihr (Avestan Mithra) and also included a pantheon of native Aryan gods, such as Aramazd, Vahagn, Anahit, and Astghik. The country used the solar Hayk Armenian calendar, which consisted of 12 months.
Christianity spread into the country as early as AD 40. King Tiridates III (AD 238–314) made Christianity the state religion in AD 301, becoming the first officially Christian state, ten years before the Roman Empire granted Christianity an official toleration under Galerius, and 36 years before Constantine the Great was baptized.
After the fall of the Armenian kingdom in AD 428, most of Armenia was incorporated as a marzpanate within the Sassanid Empire. Following an Armenian rebellion in AD 451, Christian Armenians maintained their religious freedom, while Armenia gained autonomy.