Armenian mythology

History of the Mother goddess

History of the Bull in Mythology

Mesopotamian religion refers to the religious beliefs and practices followed by the Sumerian and East Semitic Akkadian, Assyrian, Babylonian and Chaldean peoples living in Mesopotamia (approximately the area of modern Iraq and north east Syria) that dominated the region for a period of 4,200 years from the fourth millennium BC throughout Mesopotamia to approximately the 10th century CE. in Assyria.

The first evidence for what is recognisably Mesopotamian religion can be seen with the invention in Mesopotamia of writing ca. 3500 BC. The Sumerians were not originally one united nation, but members of various different city-states.

The Sumerians, who migrated from the north and settled in southern Mesopotamia, which became known as Sumer, were not originally one united nation, but members of various different city-states such as Uruk, Ur, Lagash, Isin, Umma, Eridu, Nippur and Larsa.

The Sumerians were incredibly advanced: as well as inventing writing, they also invented early forms of mathematics, early wheeled vehicles, astronomy, astrology and the calendar. They had a huge influence over the East Semitic Akkadians (later to be known as Assyrians and Babylonians) that came to the area ca. 3000 BC.

Akkadian Semitic names first appear in king lists of these states circa 2800 BCE. Sumerians (who spoke a language isolate) remained largely dominant in this synthesised Sumero-Akkadian culture however, until the rise of the Akkadian Empire under Sargon of Akkad in 2334 BC which united all of Mesopotamia under one ruler, ia, the world’s first empire, though this Akkadian Empire collapsed after two centuries.

Gradually there was increasing syncreticism between the Sumerian and Akkadian cultures and deities, with the Akkadians typically preferring to worship fewer deities but elevating them to greater positions of power.

Following a brief Sumerian revival the empire broke up into two Akkadian states, Assyria reasserted itself in the north, and in 1894 BC Babylonia was founded the south (although Babylon was founded by invading West Semitic Amorites, and was rarely ruled by native dynasties throughout its history).

Some time after this the Sumerians disappeared, becoming wholly absorbed into the Assyrio-Babylonian population. Assyrian kings are attested from the late 25th century BC, and dominated northern Mesopotamia and parts of Asia Minor.

Babylon was founded as an independent state in 1894 BC. In around 1750 BC, the Amorite ruler of Babylon, King Hammurabi, conquered much of Mesopotamia, but this Babylonian empire collapsed after his death due to attacks from mountain-dwelling people known as the Kassites from Asia Minor, who went on to rule Babylon for over 500 years.

The Mesopotamian religion was polytheistic, worshipping over 2,100 different deities, many of which were associated with a specific city or state within Mesopotamia such as Sumer, Akkad, Assyria, Assur, Nineveh, Ur, Uruk, Mari and Babylon. Some of the most significant of these deities were Anu, Ea, Enlil, Ishtar (Astarte), Ashur, Shamash, Shulmanu, Tammuz, Adad/Hadad, Sin (Nanna), Dagan, Ninurta, Nisroch, Nergal, Tiamat, Bel and Marduk.

Polytheism was the only religion in ancient Mesopotamia for thousands of years before entering a period of gradual decline beginning in the 1st century CE. This decline happened in the face of the introduction of native Eastern Rite forms of Christianity, as well as Manicheanism and Gnosticism, and continued for approximately three to four centuries, until most of the original religious traditions of the area died out, with the final traces existing among some Assyrian communities until the 10th century CE.

As with most dead religions, many aspects of the common practices and intricacies of the doctrine have been lost and forgotten over time. Fortunately, much of the information and knowledge has survived, and great work has been done by historians and scientists, with the help of religious scholars and translators, to re-construct a working knowledge of the religious history, customs, and the role these beliefs played in everyday life in Sumer, Akkad, Assyria and Babylonia during this time.

What we know about Mesopotamian religion comes from archaeological evidence uncovered in the region, particularly literary sources, which are usually written in cuneiform on clay tablets and which describe both mythology and cultic practices. Other artifacts can also be useful when reconstructing Mesopotamian religion.

As is common with most ancient civilizations, the objects made of the most durable and precious materials, and thus more likely to survive, were associated with religious beliefs and practices. This has prompted one scholar to make the claim that the Mesopotamians’ “entire existence was infused by their religiosity, just about everything they have passed on to us can be used as a source of knowledge about their religion.”

Mesopotamian religion is thought to have been a major influence on subsequent religions throughout the world, including Canaanite, Aramean, ancient Greek, and Phoenician religions, and also monotheistic religions such as Judaism, Christianity and Islam. It has also inspired various contemporary neopagan groups to begin worshipping the Mesopotamian deities once more, albeit in a way often different from that of the Mesopotamian peoples.

It is known that the god Ashur was still worshipped in Assyria as late as the 4th century CE and it is rumoured that Ashurism was still practiced by tiny indigenous Assyrian minorities in northern Assyria (around Harran) until the 10th century CE.

Although it mostly died out 1,600 to 1,700 years ago, Mesopotamian religion has still had an influence on the modern world, predominantly because Biblical mythology that is today found in Judaism, Christianity, Islam and Mandeanism shares some overlapping consistency with ancient Mesopotamian myths, in particular the Creation Myth, the Garden of Eden, The Great Flood, Tower of Babel and figures such as Nimrod and Lilith (the Assyrian Lilitu). In addition the story of Moses’ origins shares a similarity with that of Sargon of Akkad, and the Ten Commandments mirror Assyrian-Babylonian legal codes to some degree.

Ancient Semitic religion encompasses the polytheistic religions of the Semitic speaking peoples of the ancient Near East and Northeast Africa. Its origins are intertwined with Mesopotamian mythology. As Semitic itself is a rough, categorical term (when referring to cultures, not languages), the definitive bounds of the term “ancient Semitic religion” are only approximate.

These traditions, and their pantheons, fall into regional categories: Canaanite religions of the Levant, Assyro-Babylonian religion influenced by Sumerian tradition, and Pre-Islamic Arabian polytheism. There is also a possible transition of Semitic polytheism into Abrahamic monotheism, by way of the god El, a word for “god” in Hebrew and cognate to Islam’s Allah.

Canaanite religion was the group of belief systems utilized by the people living in the ancient Levant throughout the Bronze Age and Iron Age. Canaanite religion was strongly influenced by their more powerful and populous neighbours, and shows clear influence of Mesopotamian and Egyptian religious practices.

Like other people of the ancient Near East, Canaanite religious beliefs were polytheistic, with families typically focusing worship on ancestral household gods and goddesses while acknowledging the existence of other deities such as Baal and El. Kings also played an important religious role and in certain ceremonies, such as the sacred marriage of the New Year Festival may have been revered as gods.

According to the pantheon, known in Ugarit as ‘ilhm (=Elohim) or the children of El (cf. the Biblical “sons of God”), supposedly obtained by Philo of Byblos from Sanchuniathon of Berythus (Beirut) the creator was known as Elion (Biblical El Elyon = God most High), who was the father of the divinities, and in the Greek sources he was married to Beruth (Beirut = the city).

This marriage of the divinity with the city would seem to have Biblical parallels too with the stories of the link between Melkart and Tyre; Yahweh and Jerusalem; Tanit and Baal Hammon in Carthage. El Elyon is mentioned as ‘God Most High’ occurs in Genesis 14.18–19 as the God whose priest was Melchizedek king of Salem.

Philo further states that from the union of El Elyon and his consort were born Uranus and Ge, Greek names for the “Heaven” and the “Earth”. This closely parallels the opening verse of Genesis 1:1 “In the beginning God (Elohim) created the Heavens (Shemayim) and the Earth (Eretz)”, and this would appear to be based upon this early Canaanite belief. This also has parallels with the story of the Babylonian Anunaki (i.e. = “Heaven and Earth”; Shamayim and Eretz) too.

I. J. Gelb and E. A. Speiser believed Semitic Subarians had been the linguistic and ethnic substratum of northern Mesopotamia, also known as the Armenian Highland, were the Sumerians once had their origin, since earliest times, while Hurrians and Urartians, later to become Armenians, were merely late arrivals.

That idea is at odds with a long-held belief among scholars that the Hurrians arrived much later from the Caucasus or some other distant region to the northeast, drawn to the fringes of civilization after the rise of the great southern Sumerian centers of Ur, Uruk, and Nippur. Scholars long assumed that the Hurrians arrived in the middle of the third millennium B.C., and eventually settled down and adopted cuneiform as a script and built their own cities. That theory is based on linguistic associations with Caucasus’ languages and the fact that Hurrian names are absent from the historical record until Akkadian times.

The discovery of a sophisticated city with monumental architecture, plumbing, stonework, and a large population contradicts the idea that Hurrians were a roving mountain people in a strange land. Far from being yet another rough nomadic tribe, such as the Amorites or Kassites who were latecomers to the Mesopotamian party, the Hurrians and their unique language, music, deities, and rituals may have played a key role in shaping the first cities, empires, and states. The language has died, the music faded, and the rituals are forgotten. But thanks to the sculptors, stone masons, and seal carvers at Urkesh, Hurrian creativity can shine once again.

The Hurrians (Ḫu-ur-ri) were an ancient people, who spoke a Hurro-Urartian language of the Ancient Near East, living in Anatolia and Northern Mesopotamia during the Bronze Age. Hurrian, like Sumerian, was a language unrelated to Semitic or Indo-European tongues that dominated the region during and after the third millennium BC. Perhaps the Hurrians were earlier inhabitants of the region, who, like the Sumerians, had to make room for the Semitic-speaking people who created the world’s first empire based at Akkad in central Mesopotamia around 2350 BC.

The Hurrian culture made a great impact on the religion of the Hittites. From the Hurrian cult centre at Kummanni in Kizzuwatna Hurrian religion spread to the Hittite people. Syncretism merged the Old Hittite and Hurrian religions. Hurrian religion spread to Syria, where Baal became the counterpart of Teshub. The later kingdom of Urartu also venerated gods of Hurrian origin. The Hurrian religion, in different forms, influenced the entire ancient Near East.

Hurrian cylinder seals often depict mythological creatures such as winged humans or animals, dragons and other monsters. The interpretation of these depictions of gods and demons is uncertain. They may have been both protective and evil spirits. Some is reminiscent of the Assyrian shedu.

The Hurrian gods do not appear to have had particular “home temples”, like in the Mesopotamian religion or Ancient Egyptian religion. Some important cult centres were Kummanni in Kizzuwatna, and Hittite Yazilikaya. Harran was at least later a religious centre for the moon god, and Shauskha had an important temple in Nineve, when the city was under Hurrian rule. A temple of Nergal was built in Urkesh in the late third millennium BC. The town of Kahat was a religious centre in the kingdom of Mitanni.

The Hurrian myth “The Songs of Ullikummi”, preserved among the Hittites, is a parallel to Hesiod’s Theogony; the castration of Uranus by Cronus may be derived from the castration of Anu by Kumarbi, while Zeus’s overthrow of Cronus and Cronus’s regurgitation of the swallowed gods is like the Hurrian myth of Teshub and Kumarbi. It has been argued that the worship of Attis drew on Hurrian myth. The Phrygian goddess Cybele would then be the counterpart of the Hurrian goddess Hebat.

A change from nomadic to sedentary life occurred in the Neolithic period in the Armenian Highland around 6000 BC. about the same time as in the valley of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, the headwaters of which rise in Armenia. Chalcolithic (copper age) culture from 4000 BC. relates Armenia to the Caucasus, Iran, and Mesopotamia.

The Armenian Highland was located in the cradles of ancient civilizations, Mesopotamia, including the Sumerians and the Akkadians, bordering immediately to the south, Egypt in the southwest, and the Indus river valley to the east. It was affected by each but most significantly by Mesopotamian civilization. The name “Urartu” in the form “Urashtu” occurs frequently in Babylonian inscriptions.

The Bronze Age in the Armenian Highland began around 3200 BC. and extended to and coexisted with the era of iron smelting and working which was inaugurated around 1000 BC. Yerevan (Erebuni) was founded in 782 BC., when it is first mentioned in historic sources.

The state of Urartu, corresponding to the biblical Kingdom of Ararat or Kingdom of Van, comprised an area of approximately 200,000 square miles (520,000 km2), extending from the river Kura in the north, to the northern foothills of the Taurus Mountains in the south; and from the Euphrates in the west to the Caspian sea in the east.

The name Urartu comes from Assyrian sources: the Assyrian King Shalmaneser I (1263–1234 BC) recorded a campaign in which he subdued the entire territory of “Uruatri”. The Shalmaneser text uses the name Urartu to refer to a geographical region, not a kingdom, and names eight “lands” contained within Urartu (which at the time of the campaign were still disunited). The kingdom’s native name was Biainili, also spelt Biaineli, (from which is derived the Armenian toponym “Van”).

Strictly speaking, Urartu is the Assyrian term for a geographical region, while “kingdom of Urartu” or “Biainili lands” are terms used in modern historiography for the Hurro-Urartian speaking Iron Age state that arose in that region. That a distinction should be made between the geographical and the political entity was already pointed out by König (1955).

The landscape corresponds to the mountainous plateau between Asia Minor, Mesopotamia, and the Caucasus mountains, later known as the Armenian Highlands. The kingdom rose to power in the mid-9th century BC, but was conquered by Media in the early 6th century BC.

It is believed that the people of Urartu called themselves Khaldini after their god Khaldi. The Urartians first appear in history in the 13th century B.C. as a league of tribes or countries which did not yet constitute a unitary state. In the Assyrian annals the term Uruatri (Urartu) as a name for this league was superseded during a considerable period of years by the term “land of Nairi”.

Together with Armani-Subartu (Hurri-Mitanni), Hayasa-Azzi and other populations of the region such as the Nairi fell under Urartian (Kingdom of Ararat) rule in the 9th century BC, and their descendants, according to most scholars, later contributed to the ethnogenesis of the early Armenians.

Nairi was the Assyrian name (Na-i-ri) for a Proto-Armenian (Hurrian-speaking) region in the Armenian Highlands, roughly corresponding to the modern Van and Hakkâri provinces of modern Turkey.

The word is also used to describe the tribes who lived there, whose ethnic identity is uncertain. Nairi has sometimes been equated with Nihriya, known from Mesopotamian, Hittite, and Urartean sources. However, its co-occurrence with Nihriya within a single text may argue against this.

During the Bronze Age collapse (13th to 12th centuries BC), the Nairi tribes were considered a force strong enough to contend with both Assyria and Hatti. The Battle of Nihriya, the culminating point of the hostilities between Hittites and Assyrians for control over the remnants of the former empire of Mitanni, took place there, circa 1230. Nairi was incorporated into Urartu during the 10th century BC.

According to Trevor Bryce the Nairi lands were inhabited by what he calls “fierce tribal groups” divided into a number of principalities, and are first mentioned by Tukulti-Ninurta I (1243–1207 BC) when he defeated and exacted tribute from forty Nairi kings. It is believed that Nairi extended from the Tur-Abdin mountains in the south to the mountainous area southwest of Lake Van in the north.

It is suggested that what he refers to as the Hurriland dissolved into a number of small states that the Assyrians called Nairi. Others take this hypothesis skeptically; e.g., while others points out that there is no evidence of the presence of Hurrites in the vicinity of Lake Van. Anyway, the Nairi fought against the southern incursions of the Assyrians and would later unite into Urartu.

The land of Subartu or (Sumerian: Shubur) is mentioned in Bronze Age literature. The name also appears as Subari in the Amarna letters, and, in the form Šbr, in Ugarit. Subartu was apparently a polity in Northern Mesopotamia, at the upper Tigris.

Most scholars accept Subartu as an early name for Assyria proper on the Tigris, although there are various other theories placing it sometimes a little farther to the east, north or west of there. Its precise location has not been identified. From the point of view of the Akkadian Empire, Subartu marked the northern geographical horizon, just as Martu, Elam and Sumer marked “west”, “east” and “south”, respectively.

The Sumerian mythological epic Enmerkar and the Lord of Aratta lists the countries where the “languages are confused” as Subartu, Hamazi, Sumer, Uri-ki (Akkad), and the Martu land (the Amorites).

Similarly, the earliest references to the “four quarters” by the kings of Akkad name Subartu as one of these quarters around Akkad, along with Martu, Elam, and Sumer. Subartu in the earliest texts seem to have been farming mountain dwellers, frequently raided for slaves.

Eannatum of Lagash was said to have smitten Subartu or Shubur, and it was listed as a province of the empire of Lugal-Anne-Mundu; in a later era Sargon of Akkad campaigned against Subar, and his grandson Naram-Sin listed Subar along with Armani (Armenians), – which has been identified with Aleppo-, among the lands under his control. Ishbi-Erra of Isin and Hammurabi also claimed victories over Subar.

Three of the 14th century BC. Amarna letters, Akkadian cuneiform correspondence found in Egypt, mention Subari as a toponym. All are addressed to Akenaten; in two (EA 108 and 109), Rib-Hadda, king of Byblos, complains that Abdi-Ashirta, ruler of Amurru, had sold captives to Subari, while another (EA 100), from the city of Irqata, also alludes to having transferred captured goods to Subari.

There is also a mention of “Subartu” in the 8th century BC Poem of Erra (IV, 132), along with other lands that have harassed Babylonia. In Neo-Babylonian times (under Nabopolassar, Nebuchadrezzar II and Nabonidus), Subartu was used as a generic term for Assyria. The term was still current under Cambyses II, who mentions Subarian captives.

Subartu may have been in the general sphere of influence of the Hurrians. There are various alternate theories associating the ancient Subartu with one or more modern cultures found in the region, including Armenian or Kurdish tribes. Some scholars, such as Harvard Professor Mehrdad Izady, claim to have identified Subartu with the current Kurdish tribe of Zibaris inhabiting the northern ring around Mosul up to Hakkari in Turkey.

Shubria, or Arme-Shupria (Akkadian: Armani-Subartu from the 3rd millennium BC), was a Hurrian-speaking kingdom, known from Assyrian sources beginning in the 13th century BC, located in the Armenian Highland, to the southwest of Lake Van, bordering on Ararat proper. The capital was called Ubbumu. Scholars have linked the district in the area called Arme or Armani, to the name Armenia.

After the Hurrian king Shattuara of Mitanni was defeated by Adad-nirari I of Assyria in the early 13th century BC, he then became ruler of a reduced vassal state known as Shubria or Subartu. The name Subartu for the region is attested much earlier, from the time of the earliest Mesopotamian records (mid 3rd millennium BC).

Hayasa-Azzi or Azzi-Hayasa was a Late Bronze Age confederation formed between two kingdoms of Anatolia, Hayasa located South of Trabzon and Azzi, located north of the Euphrates and to the south of Hayasa. The Hayasa-Azzi confederation was in conflict with the Hittite Empire in the 14th century BC, leading up to the collapse of Hatti around 1290 BC.

Hittite inscriptions deciphered in the 1920s by the Swiss scholar Emil Forrer testify to the existence of a mountain country, the Hayasa and/or the Azzi, lying around Lake Van. Several prominent authorities agree in placing Azzi to the north of Ishuwa. Others see Hayasa and Azzi as identical.

The similarity of the name Hayasa to the endonym of the Armenians, Hayk or Hay and the Armenian name for Armenia, Hayastan has prompted the suggestion that the Hayasa-Azzi confereration was involved in the Armenian ethnogenesis. Thus, the Great Soviet Encyclopedia of 1962 posited that the Armenians derive from a migration of Hayasa into Shupria in the 12th century BC.

Some historians find it sound to theorize that after the Phrygian invasion of Hittites, the theoretically named Armeno-Phrygians would have settled in Hayasa-Azzi, and merged with the local people, who were possibly already spread within the western regions of Urartu.

After the fall of the latter, and the rise of the Kingdom of Armenia under the Artaxiad dynasty, Hayasan nobility (given they were truly Armenian) would have assumed control of the region and the people would have adopted their language to complete the amalgamation of the proto-Armenians, giving birth to the nation of Armenia as we know it today.

At its apogee, Urartu stretched from the borders of northern Mesopotamia to the southern Caucasus, including present-day Armenia and southern Georgia as far as the river Kura. Archaeological sites within its boundaries include Altintepe, Toprakkale, Patnos and Cavustepe. Urartu fortresses included Erebuni (present day Yerevan city), Van Fortress, Argishtihinili, Anzaf, Cavustepe and Başkale, as well as Teishebaini (Karmir Blur, Red Mound) and others.

With the expansion of Urartian territory, many of the gods worshiped by conquered peoples were incorporated into the Urartian pantheon, as a mean to confirm the annexation of territories and promote political stability.

Good examples of incorporated deities are the goddesses Bagvarti (Bagmashtu) and Selardi. On Mheri-Dur, or Meher-Tur (the “Gate of Mehr”), overlooking modern Van, an inscription lists a total of 79 deities, and what type of sacrificial offerings should be made to each; goats, sheep, cattle, and other animals served as the sacrificial offerings. Urartians did not practice human sacrifice.

The pantheon was headed by a triad made up of Khaldi (the supreme god), Theispas (Teisheba) god of thunder and storms, as well as sometimes war, and Shivini a solar god. Their king was also the chief-priest or envoy of Khaldi. Some temples to Khaldi were part of the royal palace complex while others were independent structures.

Ḫaldi, also known as Khaldi or Hayk, was one of the three chief deities of Ararat (Urartu). His shrine was at Ardini. The other two chief deities were Theispas of Kumenu, the Araratian (Urartian) weather-god, notably the god of storms and thunder, and also sometimes the god of war, and Shivini of Tushpa, the solar god in the mythology of the Urartu.

Khaldi was a warrior god whom the kings of Urartu would pray to for victories in battle. The temples dedicated to Khaldi were adorned with weapons, such as swords, spears, bow and arrows, and shields hung off the walls and were sometimes known as «the house of weapons».

Of all the gods of Ararat (Urartu) panthenon, the most inscriptions are dedicated to him. His wife was the goddess Arubani, the Urartian’s goddess of fertility and art. He is portrayed as a man with or without a beard, standing on a lion.

Theispas was a counterpart to the Assyrian god Adad, and the Hurrian god, Teshub. He was often depicted as a man standing on a bull, holding a handful of thunderbolts. His wife was the goddess Huba, who was the counterpart of the Hurrian goddess Hebat.

Shivini or Artinis (the present form of the name is Artin, meaning “sun rising” or to “awake”, and it persists in Armenian names to this day) was cognate with Shiva in Hinduism and the Assyrian god Shamash. He was depicted as a man on his knees, holding up a solar disc. His wife was most likely a goddess called Tushpuea who is listed as the third goddess on the Mheri-Dur inscription.

Shivini is generally considered a good god, like that of the Egyptian solar god, Aten, and unlike the solar god of the Assyrians, Ashur, to whom sometimes human sacrifices were made. The Assyrian and Babylonian god Shamash is a counterpart to Shivini.

In 714 BC, the Assyrians under Sargon II defeated the Urartian King Rusa I at Lake Urmia and destroyed the holy Urartian temple at Musasir. At the same time, an Indo-European tribe called the Cimmerians attacked Urartu from the northwest region and destroyed the rest of his armies. Under Ashurbanipal (669-627 BC) the boundaries of the Assyrian empire reached as far as Armenia and the Caucasus Mountains.

The Medes under Cyaxares invaded Assyria later on in 612 BC, and then took over the Urartian capital of Van towards 585 BC, effectively ending the sovereignty of Urartu. According to the Armenian tradition, the Medes helped the Armenians establish the Orontid dynasty (also known by their native name, Yervanduni).

In the early 6th century BC, the Urartian Kingdom was replaced by the Armenian Orontid dynasty. In the trilingual Behistun inscription, carved in 521/0 BC. by the order of Darius the Great of Persia, the country referred to as Urartu in Assyrian is called Arminiya in Old Persian and Harminuia in Elamite. It is possible that the last Urartian king, Rusa IV, had connections to the future incoming Armenian Orontids dynasty.

The temporary eclipse of Assyria in the first half of the 8th century BC, had helped Urartu’s growth, as it became the largest and most powerful state in the Near East, all this was done in little time. But the state grew weaker under constant attacks from Cimmerian and Scythian invaders and was destroyed by the Medes in either 590 BC or 585 BC. By the late 6th century, Urartu had certainly been replaced by Armenia.

This would indicate two scenarios – either Media subsequently conquered Urartu, bringing about its subsequent demise, or Urartu maintained its independence and power, going through a mere dynastic change, as a local Armenian dynasty (later to be called the Orontids) overthrew the ruling family with the help of the Median army.

Ancient sources support the latter version: Xenophon, for example, states that Armenia, ruled by an Orontid king, was not conquered until the reign of Median king Astyages (585– 550 BC) – long after Median invasion of the late 7th century BC. Similarly, Strabo (1st century BC – 1st century AD) wrote that “[i]n ancient times Greater Armenia ruled the whole of Asia, after it broke up the empire of the Syrians, but later, in the time of Astyages, it was deprived of that great authority …”

Little is known of what happened to the region of Urartu under the foreign rule following its fall. There is a unansweard question if the Indo-European Armenians were living there all along, especially since it looks like the Armenian Higland is the origin of the Indo-European languages, or if the Armenians were late comers, and came to power in the events of the sixth hundred BC.

The largest and most influential partly Hurrian nation was the kingdom of Mitanni, though the Mitanni were an Indo-European speaking people who formed a ruling class over the Hurrians. Pharaoh Thutmose III of Egypt mention in the 33rd year of his reign (1446 BC) the people of Ermenen, and says in their land “heaven rests upon its four pillars”.

According to Amjad Jaimoukha the southern expanse of the Kura–Araxes culture (3400 BC until about 2000 BC, which has traditionally been regarded as the date of its end, but it may have disappeared as early as 2600 or 2700 BC), or the early trans-Caucasian culture, is attributable primarily to Mitanni and the Hurrians. The spread of this pottery, along with archaeological evidence of invasions, suggests that the Kura-Araxes people may have spread outward from their original homes, and most certainly, had extensive trade contacts.

The earliest evidence for the Kura–Araxes culture is found on the Ararat plain; thence it spread. Its territory corresponds to parts of modern Armenia, Azerbaijan, Chechnya, Dagestan, Georgia, Ingushetia and North Ossetia. It may have given rise to the later Khirbet Kerak ware culture found in Syria and Canaan after the fall of the Akkadian Empire. The name of the culture is derived from the Kura and Araxes river valleys.

Their pottery was distinctive; in fact, the spread of their pottery along trade routes into surrounding cultures was much more impressive than any of their achievements domestically. It was painted black and red, using geometric designs for ornamentation. Examples have been found as far south as Syria and Israel, and as far north as Dagestan and Chechnya.

Inhumation practices are mixed. Flat graves are found, but so are substantial kurgan burials, the latter of which may be surrounded by cromlechs. This points to a heterogeneous ethno-linguistic population. They are also remarkable for the production of wheeled vehicles (wagons and carts), which were sometimes included in burial kurgans. Their practice of storing relatively great wealth in burial kurgans was probably a cultural influence from the more ancient civilizations of the Fertile Crescent to the south.

But there are even earlier mentions of the Armenians in the region. Aleppo appears in historical records as an important city much earlier than Damascus. The site has been occupied from around 5000 BC, as excavations in Tallet Alsauda show. The first record of Aleppo comes from the third millennium BC, when Aleppo was the capital of an independent kingdom closely related to Ebla, known as Armi to Ebla,an ancient city about 55 km (34 mi) southwest of Aleppo, and Armani to the Akkadians.

It has been suggested by early 20th century Armenologists that Old Persian Armina and the Greek Armenoi are continuations of an Assyrian toponym Armânum or Armanî. There are certain Bronze Age records identified with the toponym in both Mesopotamian and Egyptian sources.

According to Giovanni Pettinato Armi was Ebla’s alter ego. Naram-Sin of Akkad destroyed both Ebla and Armani in the 23rd century BC. The site is most famous for the Ebla tablets, an archive of about 20,000 cuneiform tablets found there, dated from around 2250 BC, written in Sumerian script to record the Eblaite language – a previously unknown language that is now the earliest attested Semitic language after the closely related Akkadian.

However, the most widely accepted theory is that settlers related to Phrygians, or more specifically tribes speaking a Proto-Armenian language conventionally named Armeno-Phrygians, who had already settled in the western parts of the region prior to the establishment of Urartu, had become the ruling elite under the Medes, followed by the Achaemenid Persians.

These Armeno-Phrygians, referred to as Armenians as of now, would have mingled with the disparate peoples of Urartu, resulting a fusion of languages and cultures. The Armenians multiplied in numbers and spread their language throughout the territory of Urartu. The Urartians, during its dominance, had amalgamated disparate tribes, each of which had its own culture and traditions. Thus, when the political structure was destroyed, little remained that could be identified as one unified Urartian culture.

The region formerly known as Urartu became an Achaemenid satrapy called Armina, which later became an independent kingdom called Armenia. The Urartians who were in the satrapy were then assimilated, becoming part of the Armenian ethnogenesis.

Urartu did not give birth to a direct successor, however, the Satrapy of Armina, as an entity which emerged immediately after its fall, inherited its cultural, traditional, geographical and some linguistic aspects.

Darius I the Great, in his famous Behistun Inscription, calls the region Armina/Armenia in Old Persian and Urashtu/Urartu in Babylonian, clearly equating the two, suggesting that both are somewhat part of a same continuous entity. As the Armenian identity developed in the region, the memory of Urartu faded and finally disappeared.

The language spoken in Urartu is now extinct. Little is known of what was spoken in the geopolitical region from the time of Urartu’s fall in the 6th century BC, to the creation of the Armenian alphabet in the 4th century AD. In ancient Persian inscriptions, references to Armina (Armenia) indicate that Urartian was still spoken, or was in a transitional period into being replaced with the Armenian language.

However, other Urartians might have kept their former identity. In fact, the ethnonym “Armina” itself and all other names attested with reference to the rebellions against Darius in Armina are not connected with Armenian linguistic and onomastic material attested later in native Armenian sources. They are also not Iranian, but seem related to Urartian.

The name of the province of Ayrarat in the Kingdom of Armenia is believed to be a continuum of the Urartu toponym (or biblical Ararat). The modern name of Mount Ararat is derived from the biblical Mountains of Ararat (or Mountains of Urartu), and the Ararat Province of modern Armenia is in turn named after the mountain.

The Orontid dynasty, a semiautonomous hereditary Armenian dynasty of probable Iranian origin and related to the Persian royal house, established their supremacy over the Iron Age kingdom of Urartu and established the Kingdom of Armenia. Under Orontids, Armenia at times was an independent kingdom, and at other times a satrapy of the Persian Empire.

The Orontid dynasty ruled Armenia intermittently until at least the second century BC, first as client kings or satraps of the Median and Achaemenid empires who established an independent kingdom after the collapse of the Achaemenid empire, and later as kings of Sophene and Commagene who eventually succumbed to the Roman Empire.

The name Orontes is the Hellenized form of a masculine name of Iranian origin Eruand in Old Armenian. The name is only attested in Greek. Its Avestan connection is Auruuant (brave, hero) and Middle Persian Arwand (Modern Persian Arvand). Some have suggested a continuity with the Hittite name Arnuwanda. Various Greek transcriptions of the name in Classical sources are spelled as Orontes, Aruandes or Ardoates.

The presence of this dynasty is attested from at least 400 BC, and it can be shown to have ruled, originally from Armavir and subsequently Yervandashat. The precise date of the foundation of the Orontid Dynasty is debated by scholars to this day but there is a consensus that it occurred after the destruction of Urartu by the Scythians and the Medes around 612 BC.

The Kingdom of Armenia 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.

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.

The pantheon of Armenian gods (ditsov) formed during the nucleation of the Proto-Armenian tribes that, at the initial stage of their existence, inherited the essential elements of paganism from the Proto-Indo-European tribes that inhabited the Armenian Plateau.

Beliefs of the ancient Armenians were associated with the worship of many cults, mainly the cult of ancestors, the worship of heavenly bodies (the cult of the Sun, the Moon cult, the cult of Heaven) and the worship of certain creatures (lions, eagles, bulls).

According to De Morgan there are signs which indicate that the Armenians were initially nature worshipers and that this faith in time was transformed to the worship of national gods, of which many were the equivalents of the gods in the Roman, Greek and Persian cultures.

Historians distinguish a significant body of Indo-European language used by Armenian pagans as sacred. Since ancient times the cult of sun worship occupied a special place in Armenian mythology.

Among the most ancient types of worship of Indo-European roots are the cults of eagles and lions, and the worship of heaven. In addition to the main worship of the eagle and the lion, there were other sacred animals: the bull (Ervand and Ervaz were born to a relationship of a woman and a bull), deer (from the Bronze Age, there are numerous pictures, statues and bas-reliefs associated with the cult of the mother goddess and, later, with the Christian Mother of God), bear, cat and dog (e.g. Aralez).

The original cult worship was a kind of unfathomable higher power or intelligence called Ara, called the physical embodiment of the sun (Arev) worshiped by the ancient Armenians, who called themselves “the children of the sun”.

Ara the Beautiful (also Ara the Handsome or Ara the Fair) was a legendary Armenian hero. He is notable in Armenian literature for the popular legend in which he was so handsome that the Assyrian queen Semiramis waged war against Armenia just to get him. He is the god of spring, flora, agriculture, sowing and water. He is associated with Osiris, Vishnu and Dionysus, as the symbol of new life.

Aragil or Stork – considered as the messenger of Ara the Beautiful, as well as the defender of fields. According to ancient mythological conceptions, two stork symbolize the sun. Aralez, spirit-dogs that were licking the bounds of fallen or such an injured warriors of armenian troops, was an Armenian mythology creature-kinocefal (dog-heads).

Over time, the Armenian pantheon was updated, and new deities of Armenian and not Aryan origins appeared. Furthermore, the supreme god of the Armenian pantheon, Vanatur, was later replaced by Aramazd. The latter, though, has appeared under the influence of Zoroastrianism, but with partially preserved traditional Armenian features. Similarly, the traditional Armenian goddess of fertility, Nar, or Tsovinar, the goddess of rain, sea and water, though she was actually a fiery being who forced rain to fall, was replaced by Anahit.

During the fifth century BC. the Armenians adopted the Iranian forms of the Indo-European divinities and domesticated them. Ahura-Mazda, who assumed the status of the father of the gods, was worshiped as Aramazd. Mithra, god of light and justice, was known as Mihr. Anahita, goddess of fertility and mother of all wisdom, became Anahit, the favorite goddess of the Armenians. Verethrangna, the god of war, was worshiped as Vahagn. Astghik was the goddess of love. Tir, the scribe of Aramazd, was the god of science and the recorder of human deeds of good and evil. Barshamin and Nane, probably of Syrian origin, also took their places in the Armenian pantheon.

Aramazd (Zeus), the Master of all Armenian gods, the father of all gods and goddess, the creator of heaven and earth, was the principal deity in Armenia’s pre-Christian pantheon. He was the source of earth’s fertility, making it fruitful and bountiful. The celebration in his honor was called Am’nor, or New Year, which was celebrated on March 21 in the old Armenian calendar (also the Spring equinox). He was called “the great and couragous Aramazd”.

Aramazd was a syncretic deity, a combination of the autochthonous Armenian legendary figure Ara and the Iranian Ahura Mazda, the Avestan name for a higher divinity of the Old Iranian religion who was proclaimed as the uncreated God by Zoroaster, the founder of Zoroastrianism. In the Hellinistic period Aramazd in Armenia was compared with Greek Zeus.

Aramazd displaced Vanatur at the top of the pantheon after interaction with the Persians led to the Armenians’ identifying the Zoroastrians’ Ahura Mazda as their prime deity. Amanor and Vanatur (probably it was the same god with various names) was the god of Armenians new year and lord of the new yield. The celebration in his honor occurred in the end of Junly and was called Navasard (new year). His main worship was located in Bagavan city. If Amanor was the god of new year and new yield, Vanatur was the god of hospitality and bountiful hosts.

The principal temple of Aramazd was in Ani (Kamakh in modern Turkey), a cultural and administrative center of ancient Armenia. The temple had been ruined at the end of the 3rd century AD, after the adoption of Christianity in Armenia as the state religion. The treasures and tribal mausoleums of Armenian Arshaguni (Arshakuni) kings were there, too.

Anahit (Artemis) was the daughter or wife of Aramazd. Anahit was the most loved and honored Armenian goddess. She was  mother-goddess. Anahit was sculptured with the child on her hands` with specific hair style of Armenians mothers or women and was called “Great Lady Anahit”. Ancient Armenians believed that Armenian world was existing by Anahit’s will. Anahit was the cult of maternity and fertility. Anahit-worships were established in Eriza avan (region) and in Armavir, Artashat and Ashtishat cities . A mountain in Sophene district was known as Anahit’s throne (Athor Anahta).

Vahagn (Heracles), or Vahagn Vishapakagh (Vahagn the Dragon Reaper), was the third god of Armenian Pantheon. Vahagn was the god of thunder and lightning, and a herculean hero noted for slaying dragons. He was also worshiped as a sun-god and a god of courage. Vahagn’s main sanctuary was located in the Ashtishat city of Taron “world” (a region in ancient Armenia). Vahagn was also a god of war to whom Armenian kings and warlords would pray before engaging in battle.

Astghik (Greek – Aphrodite, Mesopotamian – Ishtar), the goddess of love, beauty and water, was the wife or lover of Vahagn, the god of thunder and lightning, while Nane  (Athena) was the daughter of Aramazd. The goddess of war. Her cult was closely connected with Anahit’s cult.

Mihr was the god of sun and heaven light. He was the son of Aramazd, the brother of Anahit and Nane, while Tir (Apollo) was the god of wisdom, science and studies, also an interpreter of dreams. Tir was secretary of Aramazd. Tir’s temple was located near Artashat and  was called “Aramazds grchi divan” or “Mehyan for studying sciences”.

Both Vedic Mitra and Avestan Mithra derive from an Indo-Iranian common noun *mitra-, generally reconstructed to have meant “covenant, treaty, agreement, promise.” This meaning is preserved in Avestan mithra “covenant.” In Sanskrit and modern Indo-Aryan languages, mitra means “friend,” one of the aspects of binding and alliance.

In the Hellenistic age (3rd to 1st centuries BC), ancient Armenian deities identified with the ancient Greek deities: Aramazd with Zeus, Anahit with Artemis, Vahagn with Hercules, Astghik with Aphrodite, Nane with Athena, Mihr with Hephaestus, Tir with Apollo.

After the formal adoption of Christianity in Armenia, new mythological images and stories were born as ancient myths and beliefs transformed. Biblical characters took over the functions of the archaic gods and spirits. For example, John the Baptist inherited certain features of Vahagn and Tyre, and the archangel Gabriel that of Vahagn.

Basic information about Armenian pagan traditions were preserved in the works of ancient Greek authors such as Plato, Herodotus, Xenophon and Strabo, Byzantine scholar Procopius of Caesarea, as well as medieval Armenian writers such as Moses of Chorene, Agathangelos, Yeznik of Kolb, Sebeos and Anania Shirakatsi, not to mention oral folk traditions.

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