Shulaveri-Shomu culture is a Late Neolithic/Eneolithic culture that existed on the territory of present-day Georgia, Azerbaijan and the Armenian Highlands. The culture is dated to mid-6th or early-5th millennia BC and is thought to be one of the earliest known Neolithic cultures.
The earliest evidence of domesticated grapes in the world has been found in the general “Shulaveri area”, near the site of Shulaveri gora, in Marneuli Municipality, in southeastern Republic of Georgia. Specifically, the most recent evidence comes from Gadachrili gora, near the village of Imiri in the same region; carbon-dating points to the date of about 6000 BC.
Many of the characteristic traits of the Shulaverian material culture (circular mudbrick architecture, pottery decorated by plastic design, anthropomorphic female figurines, obsidian industry with an emphasis on production of long prismatic blades) are believed to have their origin in the Near Eastern Neolithic (Hassuna, Halaf).
The Halaf culture is a prehistoric period which lasted between about 6100 BC and 5100 BC. The period is a continuous development out of the earlier Pottery Neolithic and is located primarily in south-eastern Turkey, Syria, and northern Iraq, although Halaf-influenced material is found throughout Greater Mesopotamia.
Halaf culture ended by 5000 BC after entering the so-called Halaf-Ubaid Transitional period (ca. 5500/5400 to 5200/5000 BC). Many Halafians settlements were abandoned, and the remaining ones showed Ubaidian characters. The new period is named Northern Ubaid to distinguish it from the proper Ubaid in southern Mesopotamia, and two explanations were presented for the transformation.
The first maintain an invasion and a replacement of the Halafians by the Ubaidians, however, there is no hiatus between the Halaf and northern Ubaid which exclude the invasion theory. The most plausible theory is a Halafian adoption of the Ubaid culture, which is supported by most scholars including Oates, Breniquet and Akkermans.
The Ubaid period (c. 6500 to 3800 BC) is a prehistoric period of Mesopotamia. The name derives from Tell al-`Ubaid where the earliest large excavation of Ubaid period material was conducted initially by Henry Hall and later by Leonard Woolley.
In South Mesopotamia the period is the earliest known period on the alluvial plain although it is likely earlier periods exist obscured under the alluvium. In the south it has a very long duration between about 6500 and 3800 BC when it is replaced by the Uruk period. In North Mesopotamia the period runs only between about 5300 and 4300 BC.
The Ubaid period in the south was associated with intensive irrigated hydraulic agriculture, and the use of the plough, both introduced from the north, possibly through the earlier Choga Mami, Hadji Muhammed and Samarra cultures.
The 5.9-kiloyear event at the end of the Older Peron was one of the most intense aridification events during the Holocene. It occurred around 3900 BC (5900 years Before Present), ending the Neolithic Subpluvial.
It is associated with the last round of the Sahara pump theory, and probably initiated the most recent desiccation of the Sahara, as well as a five century period of colder climate in more northerly latitudes.
At this time, increased aridity led to an end in semi-desert nomadism, and there is no evidence of human presence in the area for approximately 1,000 years, the so-called “Dark Millennium”.
In the eastern Arabian Peninsula, the 5.9-kiloyear event may have contributed to an increase in relatively greater social complexity and have corresponded to an end of the local Ubaid period and the emergence of the first state societies at the lower end of the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers in southern Mesopotamia.
It triggered human migration to the Nile, which eventually led to the emergence of the first complex, highly organized, state-level societies in the 4th millennium BC. It may have contributed to the decline of Old Europe and the first Indo-European migrations into the Balkans from the Pontic–Caspian steppe.
By causing a period of cooling in Europe, it may have contributed to the decline of Old Europe and the first Indo-European migrations into the Balkans from the Pontic–Caspian steppe. Around 4200–4100 BCE a climate change occurred, manifesting in colder winters in Europe.
Between 4200–3900 BCE many tell settlements in the lower Danube Valley were burned and abandoned, while the Cucuteni–Trypillia culture showed an increase in fortifications, meanwhile moving eastwards towards the Dniepr. Steppe herders, archaic Proto-Indo-European speakers, spread into the lower Danube valley about 4200–4000 BCE, either causing or taking advantage of the collapse of Old Europe.
Shulaveri culture predates the Kura-Araxes culture which flourished in this area around 4000–2200 BC. Later on, in the middle Bronze Age period (c. 3000–1500 BC), the Trialeti culture emerged. Sioni culture of Eastern Georgia possibly represents a transition from the Shulaveri to the Kura-Arax cultural complex.
The Leyla-Tepe culture of ancient Azerbaijan belongs to the Chalcolithic era. It got its name from the site in the Agdam district. Its settlements were distributed on the southern slopes of Central Caucasus, mostly in Agdam District, from 4350 until 4000 B.C.
The appearance of Leyla-Tepe tradition’s carriers in the Caucasus marked the appearance of the first local Caucasian metallurgy. This is attributed to migrants from Uruk, arriving around 4500 BCE. Recent research indicates the connections rather to the pre-Uruk traditions, such as the late Ubaid period, and Ubaid-Uruk phases.
Discovery of Soyugbulaq in Azerbaijan provide substantial proof that the practice of kurgan burial was well established in the South Caucasus during the late Eneolithic. It is believed that this was the result of the migration of near-eastern tribes from Mesopotamia to South Caucasus, especially to Azerbaijan. The Leylatepe Culture tribes migrated to the north in the mid-fourth millennium, B.C. and played an important part in the rise of the Maikop Culture of the North Caucasus.
The site of Galayeri, belonging to the Leyla-Tepe archaeological culture, is located in the Qabala District of Azerbaijan. Galayeri is closely connected to early civilizations of Near East. Almost all findings have Eastern Anatolian Chalcolithic characteristics. The closest analogues of the Galayeri clay constructions are found at Arslantepe/Melid VII in Temple C, an ancient city on the Tohma River, a tributary of the upper Euphrates rising in the Taurus Mountains.
It has been suggested that the Leyla-Tepe were the founders of the Maykop culture (c. 3700 BC–3000 BC), a major Bronze Age archaeological culture in the western Caucasus region of southern Russia. It extends along the area from the Taman Peninsula at the Kerch Strait to near the modern border of Dagestan and southwards to the Kura River. The culture takes its name from a royal burial found in Maykop kurgan in the Kuban River valley.
In the south the Maykop culture borders the approximately contemporaneous Kura-Araxes culture (3500—2200 BC), which extends into eastern Anatolia and apparently influenced it. To the north is the Yamna culture, including the Novotitorovka culture (3300—2700), which it overlaps in territorial extent. It is contemporaneous with the late Uruk period in Mesopotamia.
The Maykop culture has been described as, at the very least, a “kurganized” local culture with strong ethnic and linguistic links to the descendants of the Proto-Indo-Europeans. It has been linked to the Lower Mikhaylovka group and Kemi Oba culture, and more distantly, to the Globular Amphora and Corded Ware cultures, if only in an economic sense.
Its inhumation practices were characteristically Indo-European, typically in a pit, sometimes stone-lined, topped with a kurgan (or tumulus). Stone cairns replace kurgans in later interments. The culture has also been linked to the north Ubaid period monuments, in particular, with the settlements in the Eastern Anatolia Region. The settlement is of a typical Western-Asian variety, with the dwellings packed closely together and made of mud bricks with smoke outlets.
The Yamna culture (lit. ‘pit culture’), sometimes rendered in English as Pit Grave culture or Ochre Grave culture, was a late Copper Age to early Bronze Age archaeological culture of the region between the Southern Bug, Dniester and Ural rivers (the Pontic steppe), dating to 3300–2600 BC. Its name refers to its characteristic burial tradition: kurgans containing a simple pit chamber.
The people of the Yamnaya culture were the likely result of admixture between eastern European hunter-gatherers (via whom they also descend from the Mal’ta–Buret’ culture or other, closely related people) and a Near Eastern people, with some research identifying the latter as hunter-gatherers from the Caucasus or a similar people also related to Chalcolithic people from what is now Iran.
The Yamna culture is identified with the late Proto-Indo-Europeans, and is the strongest candidate for the urheimat (homeland) of the Proto-Indo-European language. Their material culture is very similar to the Afanasevo culture, their contemporaries in the Altai Mountains; furthermore, genetic tests have confirmed that the two groups are genetically indistinguishable.
They are also closely connected to later, Final Neolithic cultures which spread throughout Europe and Central Asia, especially the Corded Ware people, but also the Bell Beaker culture as well as the peoples of the Sintashta, Andronovo, and Srubna cultures.
In these groups, several aspects of the Yamna culture (e.g., horse-riding, burial styles, and to some extent the pastoralist economy) are present. Genetic studies have also indicated that these populations derived large parts of their ancestry from the steppes.
According to Jones et al. (2015) and Haak et al. (2015), autosomic tests indicate that the Yamnaya people were the result of admixture between two different hunter-gatherer populations: distinctive “Eastern European hunter-gatherers” with high affinity to the Mal’ta–Buret’ culture or other, closely related people from Siberia and a population of “Caucasus hunter-gatherers” who probably arrived from somewhere in the Near East, probably the Caucasus. Each of those two populations contributed about half the Yamnaya DNA.
According to co-author Andrea Manica of the University of Cambridge: The question of where the Yamnaya come from has been something of a mystery up to now […] we can now answer that, as we’ve found that their genetic make-up is a mix of Eastern European hunter-gatherers and a population from this pocket of Caucasus hunter-gatherers who weathered much of the last Ice Age in apparent isolation.
Several genetic studies performed since 2015 have given support to the Kurgan theory of Marija Gimbutas regarding the Indo-European Urheimat – that Indo-European languages spread throughout Europe from the Eurasian steppes and that the Yamna culture were Proto-Indo-Europeans.
According to those studies, haplogroups R1b and R1a, now the most common in Europe (with R1a also being common in South Asia), would have expanded from the Pontic–Caspian steppes, along with the Indo-European languages. They also detected an autosomal component present in modern Europeans which was not present in Neolithic Europeans, which would have been introduced with paternal lineages R1b and R1a, as well as Indo-European languages in the Bronze Age.
Leyla-Tepe metalwork tradition was very sophisticated right from the beginning, and featured many bronze items. Yet later, the quality of metallurgy declined with the Kura–Araxes culture or the early trans-Caucasian culture, a civilization that existed from about 4000 BC until about 2000 BC, which has traditionally been regarded as the date of its end; in some locations it may have disappeared as early as 2600 or 2700 BC.
The earliest evidence for this culture is found on the Ararat plain; it spread northward in Caucasus by 3000 BC. Altogether, the early trans-Caucasian culture enveloped a vast area approximately 1,000 km by 500 km, and mostly encompassed, on modern-day territories, the Southern Caucasus (except western Georgia), northwestern Iran, the northeastern Caucasus, eastern Turkey, and as far as Syria.
The name of the culture is derived from the Kura and Araxes river valleys. Kura–Araxes culture is sometimes known as Shengavitian, Karaz (Erzurum), Pulur, and Yanik Tepe (Iranian Azerbaijan, near Lake Urmia) cultures. It gave rise to the later Khirbet Kerak-ware culture found in Syria and Canaan after the fall of the Akkadian Empire.
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. Here one can come to the conclusion that the Kura–Araxes culture developed gradually through a synthesis of several cultural traditions, including the ancient cultures of the Caucasus and nearby territories.
According to Giulio Palumbi (2008), the typical red-black ware of Kura–Araxes culture originated in eastern Anatolia, and then moved on to the Caucasus area. But then these cultural influences came back to Anatolia mixed in with other cultural elements from the Caucasus.
Hurrian and Urartian language elements are quite probable, as are Northeast Caucasian ones. The presence of Kartvelian languages was also highly probable. Influences of Semitic languages and Indo-European languages are highly possible, though the presence of the languages on the lands of the Kura–Araxes culture is more controversial.
The expansion of Y-DNA subclade R-Z93 (R1a1a1b2), according to Mascarenhas et al. (2015), is compatible with “the archeological records of eastward expansion of West Asian populations in the 4th millennium BCE, culminating in the socalled Kura-Araxes migrations in the post-Uruk IV period.”
According to Pamjav et al. (2012), “Inner and Central Asia is an overlap zone” for the R -Z280 and R -Z93 lineages, implying that an “early differentiation zone” of R-M198 “conceivably occurred somewhere within the Eurasian Steppes or the Middle East and Caucasus region as they lie between South Asia and Eastern Europe”.
According to Underhill et al. (2014/2015), R1a1a1, the most frequent subclade of R1a, split into R-Z282 (Europe) and R-Z93 (Asia) at circa 5,800 before present, in the vicinity of Iran and Eastern Turkey. According to Underhill et al. (2014/2015), “[t]his suggests the possibility that R1a lineages accompanied demic expansions initiated during the Copper, Bronze, and Iron ages.”
Their pottery was distinctive. 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. Examples have been found as far south as Syria and Israel, and as far north as Dagestan and Chechnya.
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. Jaimoukha believes that its southern expanse is attributable primarily to Mitanni and the Hurrians.
The Trialeti culture, also known as the Trialeti-Vanadzor [Kirovakan] culture), is named after the Trialeti region of Georgia. It is attributed to the late 3rd and early 2nd millennium BC. Trialeti culture emerged in the areas of the preceding Kura-Araxes culture. The flourishing stage of the Trialeti culture began near the end of the third millennium BC.
During the final phase of the Middle Bronze Age (c.1700–1500 BC), in addition to the Trialeti Kirovakan Vanadzor period culture, three other geographically overlapping material culture horizons predominate in the South Caucasus and eastern Anatolia: Karmir-Berd (a.k.a. Tazakend), Karmir-Vank (a.k.a. Kizil Vank, Van-Urmia), and Sevan-Uzerlik (a.k.a. Sevan-Artsakh).
Black-burnished and monochrome painted wares vessels from the cemeteries of Ani, and Küçük Çatma (Maly Pergit), both in the Kars Province of Turkey, and tr:Sos Höyük IV in Erzurum Province resemble those of Trialeti.
Trialeti-Vanadzor painted monochrome and polychrome pottery is very similar to that in the other areas of the Near East. In particular, similar ceramics are known as Urmia ware (named after Lake Urmia in Iran). Also, similar pottery was produced by the Uzarlik culture, and the Karmirberd-Sevan culture.
At that time, there was already strong social differentiation indicated by rich mound burials. There are parallels to the Early Kurgan culture. Cremation was practised. Painted pottery was introduced. Tin-based bronze became predominant.
Geographical interconnectedness and links with other areas of the Near East are seen in many aspects of the culture. For example, a cauldron found in Trialeti is nearly identical to the one from Shaft Grave 4 of Mycenae in Greece. The Trialeti culture shows close ties with the highly developed cultures of the ancient world, particularly with the Aegean, but also with cultures to the south, such as the Sumerians and their Akkadian conquerors.
Martqopi kurgans in Gardabani District of Georgia are somewhat similar, and are contemporary to the earliest among the Trialeti kurgans. Together, they represent the early stage of the Early Kurgan culture of Central Transcaucasia. This Early Kurgan period, known as Martkopi-Bedeni, has been interpreted as a transitional phase and the first stage of the Middle Bronze Age.
The Martqopi Culture may be dated before 2550 BC. This stage of the Early Bronze Age seems to represent the final stage of the Kura-Araxes culture. The launch of tin bronze production in South Caucasia is associated with the appearance of the so-called Early Kurgans, whereas artifacts of the Kura-Araxes (Early Transcaucasian) culture were made exclusively of copper-arsenic alloy.
The Trialeti culture was known for its particular form of burial. The elite were interred in large, very rich burials under earth and stone mounds, which sometimes contained four-wheeled carts. Also there were many gold objects found in the graves. These gold objects were similar to those found in Iran and Iraq.
This form of burial in a tumulus or “kurgan”, along with wheeled vehicles, is the same as that of the Kurgan culture which has been associated with the speakers of Proto-Indo-European. In fact, the black burnished pottery of especially early Trialeti kurgans is similar to Kura-Araxes pottery.
In a historical context, their impressive accumulation of wealth in burial kurgans, like that of other associated and nearby cultures with similar burial practices, is particularly noteworthy. This practice was probably a result of influence from the older civilizations to the south in the Fertile Crescent.
Enmerkar and the Lord of Aratta is a legendary Sumerian account, of preserved, early post-Sumerian copies, composed in the Neo-Sumerian period (ca. 21st century BC). It is one of a series of accounts describing the conflicts between Enmerkar, king of Unug-Kulaba (Uruk), and the unnamed king of Aratta (probably somewhere in modern Iran or Armenia).
Because it gives a Sumerian account of the “confusion of tongues”, and also involves Enmerkar constructing temples at Eridu and Uruk, it has, since the time of Samuel Kramer, been compared with the Tower of Babel narrative in the Book of Genesis.
Aratta appears in Sumerian myths surrounding Enmerkar and Lugalbanda, two early and possibly mythical kings of Uruk also mentioned on the Sumerian king list. It is described as a fabulously wealthy place full of gold, silver, lapis lazuli and other precious materials, as well as the artisans to craft them. It is remote and difficult to reach. It is home to the goddess Inana, who transfers her allegiance from Aratta to Uruk. It is conquered by Enmerkar of Uruk.
Shupria or Arme-Shupria (Akkadian: Armani-Subartu from the 3rd millennium BC) was a Hurrian kingdom, known from Assyrian sources beginning in the 13th century BC, located in what is now known as the Armenian Highlands, to the southwest of Lake Van, bordering on Ararat proper. Some scholars have linked the district in the area called Arme or Armani, to the name Armenia.
The land of Subartu (Akkadian Šubartum/Subartum/ina Šú-ba-ri, Assyrian mât Šubarri) or Subar (Sumerian Su-bir4/Subar/Šubur) 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 Upper Mesopotamia, at the upper Tigris. Most scholars suggest that Subartu is an early name for Assyria proper on the Tigris and westward, although there are various other theories placing it sometimes a little farther to the east and/or north. Its precise location has not been identified.
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. 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.
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 Armenians.
Mitanni (Hittite cuneiform KUR URUMi-ta-an-ni; Mittani Mi-it-ta-ni), also called Hurri (Ḫu-ur-ri) by the Hittites, Hanigalbat (Hanigalbat, Khanigalbat cuneiform Ḫa-ni-gal-bat) in Assyrian or Mitanni, Maryannu or Naharin in Egyptian texts, was a Hurrian-speaking state in northern Syria and southeast Anatolia from c. 1500 to 1300 BC.
Mitanni came to be a regional power after the Hittite destruction of Amorite Babylon and a series of ineffectual Assyrian kings created a power vacuum in Mesopotamia. The Mitanni dynasty ruled over the northern Euphrates-Tigris region between c. 1475 and c. 1275 BC.
At the height of its power, during the 14th century BC, Mitanni had outposts centred on its capital, Washukanni, whose location has been determined by archaeologists to be on the headwaters of the Khabur River.
At the beginning of its history, Mitanni’s major rival was Egypt under the Thutmosids. However, with the ascent of the Hittite Empire, Mitanni and Egypt struck an alliance to protect their mutual interests from the threat of Hittite domination. Eventually, Mitanni succumbed to Hittite and later Assyrian attacks and was reduced to the status of a province of the Middle Assyrian Empire.
The ethnicity of the people of Mitanni is difficult to ascertain. A treatise on the training of chariot horses by Kikkuli contains a number of Indo-Aryan glosses. Kammenhuber (1968) suggested that this vocabulary was derived from the still undivided Indo-Iranian language, but Mayrhofer (1974) has shown that specifically Indo-Aryan features are present.
While the Mitanni kings were Indo-Aryan, they used the language of the local people, which was at that time a non-Indo-European language, Hurrian. The largest and most influential Hurrian nation was the kingdom of Mitanni, the Mitanni perhaps being Indo-Iranian speakers who formed a ruling class over the Hurrians.
The Hurro-Urartian languages are an extinct language family of the Ancient Near East, comprising only two known languages: Hurrian and Urartian, both of which were spoken in the Taurus mountains area. The present-day Armenians are an amalgam of the Indo-European groups with the Hurrians and Urartians.
The poorly attested Kassite language, a language spoken by the Kassites in the Zagros Mountains of Iran and southern Mesopotamia from approximately the 18th to the 4th century BC, may have been related to Hurrian.
However, the arrival of the Kassites has been connected to the contemporary migrations of Indo-European peoples. Several Kassite leaders and deities bore Indo-European names, and it is possible that they were dominated by an Indo-European elite similar to the Mitanni, who ruled over the Hurro-Urartian-speaking Hurrians of Asia Minor.
Their sphere of influence is shown in Hurrian place names, personal names and the spread through Syria and the Levant of a distinct pottery type. The Hurrians were masterful ceramists. Their pottery is commonly found in Mesopotamia and in the lands west of the Euphrates; it was highly valued in distant Egypt, by the time of the New Kingdom.
Mitannian ware (also called Nuzi, Alalakh, or Hurrian ware) are tall goblets with small, button bases, painted light floral and geometric designs on a dark (red or brown) background, approximately 10-20 cm high.
Archaeologists use the terms Khabur ware and Nuzi ware for two types of wheel-made pottery used by the Hurrians. Khabur ware is characterized by reddish painted lines with a geometric triangular pattern and dots, while Nuzi ware has very distinctive forms, and are painted in brown or black.
Khabur ware is a specific type of pottery named after the Khabur River region, in northeastern Syria, where large quantities of it were found by the archaeologist Max Mallowan at the site of Chagar Bazar. The pottery’s distribution is not confined to the Khabur region, but spreads across northern Iraq and is also found at a few sites in Turkey and Iran.
Four main Khabur ware phases are established, 1-4. While the starting date for phase 1 is inconclusive, a tentative date of ca. 1900 BC is suggested based on evidence from Tell Brak. The beginning of the second, and the main, phase of Khabur ware is dated to the reign of Shamshi-Adad I (ca. 1813 BC), based on evidence from Chagar Bazar, Tell al-Rimah, Tell Taya and Tell Leilan.
The third phase of Khabur ware is dated to ca. 1750, and lasts until ca. 1550. The fourth and last phase, is a period shared between Khabur ware and Nuzi ware, and ends with the its disappearance ca. 1400 BC.
Maryannu is an ancient word for the caste of chariot-mounted hereditary warrior nobility which existed in many of the societies of the Middle East during the Bronze Age. The term is attested in the Amarna letters written by Haapi.
Robert Drews writes that the name ‘maryannu’ although plural takes the singular ‘marya’, which in Sanskrit means young warrior, and attaches a Hurrian suffix. He suggests that at the beginning of the Late Bronze Age most would have spoken either Hurrian or Aryan but by the end of the 14th century most of the Levant maryannu had Semitic names.
In ancient Roman religion and myth, Mars was the god of war and also an agricultural guardian, a combination characteristic of early Rome. Mars represented military power as a way to secure peace, and was a father (pater) of the Roman people.
In the mythic genealogy and founding myths of Rome, Mars was the father of Romulus and Remus with Rhea Silvia. His love affair with Venus symbolically reconciled the two different traditions of Rome’s founding; Venus was the divine mother of the hero Aeneas, celebrated as the Trojan refugee who “founded” Rome several generations before Romulus laid out the city walls.
He was second in importance only to Jupiter and he was the most prominent of the military gods in the religion of the Roman army. Most of his festivals were held in March, the month named for him (Latin Martius), and in October, which began the season for military campaigning and ended the season for farming.
The name of March comes from Martius, the first month of the earliest Roman calendar. It was named after Mars, the Roman god of war. Martius remained the first month of the Roman calendar year perhaps as late as 153 BC, and several religious observances in the first half of the month were originally new year’s celebrations.
Aries (meaning “ram”) is the first astrological sign in the zodiac, spanning the first 30 degrees of celestial longitude (0°≤ λ <30°). According to the tropical system of astrology, the Sun enters the sign of Aries when it reaches the March equinox, which time systems and the western calendar are rooted in, so as to occur on average on March 21.
Under the tropical zodiac, the Sun transits this sign from approximately March 20 to April 21 each year. The symbol of the ram is based on the Chrysomallus, the flying ram that provided the Golden Fleece. The fleece is a symbol of authority and kingship.
The planet Mars is named after the Roman god of war Mars. In Babylonian astronomy, the planet was named after Nergal, their deity of fire, war, and destruction, most likely due to the planet’s reddish appearance. As a fiery god of destruction and war, Nergal doubtless seemed an appropriate choice for the red planet, and he was equated by the Greeks to the war-god Ares (Latin Mars)—hence the current name of the planet.
Nergal seems to be in part a solar deity, sometimes identified with Shamash, but only representative of a certain phase of the sun. Portrayed in hymns and myths as a god of war and pestilence, Nergal seems to represent the sun of noontime and of the summer solstice that brings destruction, high summer being the dead season in the Mesopotamian annual cycle. He has also been called “the king of sunset”.
Amongst the Hurrians and later Hittites Nergal was known as Aplu, a name derived from the Akkadian Apal Enlil, (Apal being the construct state of Aplu) meaning “the son of Enlil”. Aplu may be related with Apaliunas who is considered to be the Hittite reflex of *Apeljōn, an early form of the name Apollo.
The ideal of the kouros (a beardless, athletic youth), Apollo has been variously recognized as a god of music, truth and prophecy, healing, the sun and light, plague, poetry, and more. Medicine and healing are associated with Apollo, whether through the god himself or mediated through his son Asclepius, yet Apollo was also seen as a god who could bring ill-health and deadly plague.
Over time Nergal developed from a war god to a god of the underworld. In the mythology, this occurred when Enlil and Ninlil gave him the underworld. Pluto was the ruler of the underworld in classical mythology.
The earlier name for the god was Hades, which became more common as the name of the underworld itself. In ancient Greek religion and mythology, Pluto represents a more positive concept of the god who presides over the afterlife.
Ploutōn was frequently conflated with Ploutos, a god of wealth, because mineral wealth was found underground, and because as a chthonic god Pluto ruled the deep earth that contained the seeds necessary for a bountiful harvest.
The name Ploutōn came into widespread usage with the Eleusinian Mysteries, in which Pluto was venerated as a stern ruler but the loving husband of Persephone. The couple received souls in the afterlife, and are invoked together in religious inscriptions. Hades, by contrast, had few temples and religious practices associated with him, and he is portrayed as the dark and violent abductor of Persephone.
The word “Tuesday” in the Greco-Roman and other Indo-European calendars is also dedicated to planet Mars, referring to “Tīw’s Day”, the day of Tiw or Týr, the god of war and victory. Tiw was equated with Mars in other Indo-European mythologies.
In the Skanda Purana, a Hindu religious text, Mars is known as the deity Mangala and was born from the sweat of Shiva. Mangala is the root of the word ‘Mangalavara’ or Tuesday in the Hindu calendar.
The planet was known by the ancient Egyptians as “Horus of the Horizon”, then later Her Deshur (“Ḥr Dšr”), or “Horus the Red”. The earliest recorded form of Horus is the tutelary deity of Nekhen in Upper Egypt, who is the first known national god, specifically related to the ruling pharaoh who in time came to be regarded as a manifestation of Horus in life and Osiris in death.
Horus served many functions, most notably being a god of kingship and the sky. In early Egypt, Horus was the brother of Isis, Osiris, Set and Nephthys. As different cults formed, he became the son of Isis and Osiris. In another tradition Hathor is regarded as his mother and sometimes as his wife. Horus gradually took on the nature as both the son of Osiris and Osiris himself. He was referred to as Golden Horus Osiris.
In later Egyptian dynastic times, Ra was merged with the major state god Horus into Ra-Horakhty (“Ra, who is Horus of the Two Horizons”). When Ra was in the underworld, he merged with Osiris, the god of the dead, and through it became the god of the dead as well. He was believed to rule in all parts of the created world: the sky, the earth, and the underworld.
Egyptian sources call Mitanni “nhrn”, which is usually pronounced as Naharin/Naharina from the Assyro-Akkadian word for “river”, cf. Aram-Naharaim, a region that is mentioned five times in the Hebrew Bible or Old Testament. Both Josephus and the Septuagint translate the name as Mesopotamia.
In Genesis, it is used somewhat interchangeably with the names Paddan Aram and Haran to denote the place where Abraham stayed briefly with his father Terah’s family after leaving Ur of the Chaldees, while en route to Canaan (Gen. 11:31), and the place from which later patriarchs obtained wives, rather than marry daughters of Canaan.
Paddan Aram refers to the part of Aram-Naharaim along the upper Euphrates, while Haran is mainly identified with the ancient Assyrian city of Harran on the Balikh River. According to one rabbinical Jewish tradition, the birthplace of Abraham (Ur) was also situated in Aram-Naharaim.
The name Mitanni is first found in the “memoirs” of the Syrian wars (c. 1480 BC) of the official astronomer and clockmaker Amenemhet, who returned from the “foreign country called Me-ta-ni” at the time of Thutmose I.
The first extant record of Indic Mitra, in the form mi-it-ra-, is in the inscribed peace treaty of c. 1400 BC between Hittites and the Hurrian kingdom of the Mitanni in the area southeast of Lake Van in Asia Minor. Mitra appears there together with four other Indic divinities as witnesses and keepers of the pact.
Vedic Mitra is a prominent deity of the Rigveda distinguished by a relationship to Varuna, the protector of rta. Together with Varuna, he counted among the Adityas, a group of solar deities, also in later Vedic texts. Vedic Mitra is the patron divinity of honesty, friendship, contracts and meetings.
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 miθra “covenant.” In Sanskrit and modern Indo-Aryan languages, mitra means “friend,” one of the aspects of bonding and alliance.