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It is likely that Smbataberd was founded during the 5th century, but was better established and heavily fortified during the 9th to 10th centuries.

The fortress received water from an underground clay pipe from the monastery of Tsakhats Kar.
People call it Smbataberd, perhaps because the nearby village of Yeghegis has the grave of Smbat Orbelian. Another Smbat (buried in Noravank) is said to have rebuilt the castle. It is more likely, though, that the castle was named for the 10th century Siunik prince, Smbat.

Because of dates relating to the destruction of the Tsakhats Kar and its later restoration in 1221, and the destruction of the village of Yeghegis toward the end of the 11th century, it would be assumed that the fortress also fell to invading forces during the 11th century. There is some evidence though that suggests the fortress was defended until the 13th century, which would mean that it may have possibly been captured by Mongol forces rather than those of the Seljuq Turks.