Armenia and The Basques (Spain)

Armenia and The Basques (Spain)The “Asian version” (2nd c. B. C.) is one of the ancient sources about the origin of the Basques, one of the oldest peoples in Europe. A Roman historian, Appian, (95–165 A.D.) writes: “Some consider Asian Iberia to be a colony for European Iberians; others think that they are the ancestors of European Iberians.

There are still others who think that they have nothing in common with each other except their names”.81 Researchers began to speak about the active participation of Armenians in the history of the people residing in the Pyrenean (Iberian) Peninsula in the XVI–XVII cc.

Among Basques researchers Esteban de Garibay (16th c., “Historical Summary”), Andre de Pos (16th c., “About the Ancient Language, Habitations and Provinces of Spain”) and Baltasar de Echave (middle of the 16th c.–middle of the 17th c., “Speeches”) consider that Armenia was the ancestral Homeland of the Basques having as a basis the similarities in Basques-Armenian toponymic names, legends, traditions and national costumes.

Basque scholar Andre de Posa insists that Basques have come from Armenia. He mentions that Armenians have founded the city called Taragona, which in Armenian meant “commune of shepherds” on the Mediterranean seashore of Spain. The similarity of the name with that of Armenian Taron (the ancient form of which was Tarawna) is evident.

Baltasar de Echave writes: “The fi rst people came to Iberia from their dear Homeland Armenia; they came with Noah’s sons after the Flood”. The book about the history of Valencia (“Decada primera de la historia de Valencia”, 1610) by Gaspar Escolano published in 1610 is also of great importance. In that work the author writes “After the Flood forefather Tubal with his family reached the eastern coast of
Spain and settled there (Catalonia)”.

According to Escolano Armenians were the fi rst inhabitants of Spain. They spoke Armenian. But other viewpoints, of course without any basis, claim that there are no similarities between Armenian and Basque toponymic names.

They consider that the similarities in the names Ararat-Aralar, AraksArais, Korduk-Gordea or Gorbea are not true. This viewpoint is especially prominent in the “Geographical-Historical Dictionary of the Basque Country”, published in Madrid, in 1802. But in spite of all attempts to deny Armenian-Basque similarities it is impossible to conceal the truth. In the fi rst volume of that same dictionary there is an interesting piece of information stating that the toponymic name Armenia was also known as Armentegi, where the particle teg or tegh in Armenian means Place, that is to say Armenteghi means a place, where Armenians live. 82

In the 19th c. the opinion that Basques have Armenian origin again attracted some scholars’ (among them Khuan Batiste de Ero) attention. At the end of the century an English scholar Edward Spencer Dodgson by name began studying Armenian and two months later he was surprised to notice that many Armenian and Basque words have the same meaning (He mentioned about 50 words: char (չար)-evil, teghi (տեղի)-place, anti (անտի) կամ aynteghic (այնտեղից) -from there, zatel (զատել) -detach, etc.).

He wrote about his fi ndings in his article “Basque words in the Armenian Language”, which was published in “Euskara” (Basque language) journal in 1884. It was something new for the scientifi c world as at that time the general opinion was that Basques were supposed to have Georgian origin.

“The Richness of the Iberian Language”, a work by the academician Amador des los Rios, was published in 1920. In spite of some mistakes concerning genealogical issues here we fi nd many Basque-Armenian toponymic names that are practically identical. The author used Armenian written sources for this work (Movses Khorenatsi, Eghishe, Ghazar Parpetsi).

It is a notable fact that there are about 60 toponymic names in Spain (mainly in the Basque country) which begin with Ar-Aram.

Aram (Արամ), settlement, Ipuscoa Province
Aramedia (Արամեդիա), settlement, Nafarroa Province
Aramanti (Արամանտի), settlement, Nafarroa Privince

Aramayona (Արամայոնա), a river beginning from Arangio
Arama (Արամա), a hunting place, Alava Province

The name Aram (Արամ) is connected with the Basques, which testifi es about the fact that there are toponymic names with the root

Ar-Aram in the southern territories of France, too.
Aramits (Արամից), a canton in Pyrenean Department
Aramon (Արամոն), a canton in Nim city
Aram (Արամ), a river in the Pyrenean Department

In the Spanish encyclopedia “Sopena” there are more than 30 words that have the root Ar, which are surely of Armenian origin

Armen (Արմեն), a village in La Coruña Province
Armentia (Արմենտիա), a very old settlement near the city of Vitoria, Alava Province

Armenia (Արմենիա), an ancient Portuguese city (it is thought to be identical with Ponte de Lima, which is the oldest village in Potugal). In the French Basque country as well there are cities with the same names, which again attest to the fact that the name armen is connected with the Basques.

Amador de Los Rios also thinks that many toponymic names in the Pyrenean Peninsula, particularly in the Basque country, have the origin Aya (hay); Ayese (Այեսե), Aya (Այա), Araya (Արայա), Endaya (Էնդայա), etc. According to the Spanish scholar a great number of toponymic names have the root Ur and its origin is Armenian83 (about 120 names). More than 100 of them are popular in the Basque country.

Urate (Ուրատե), settlement, Alava Province
Uriarte (Ուրիարտե), a district in Basauri city, Biscay Province
Uribarri (Ուրիբարի), six settlements in the Basque country
Urbiain (Ուրբիայն), settlement, Nafarroa Province
Other toponymic names Edessa – Եդեսիա, Carcar – Քարքար, Erice – Երիզա, etc.

The work “Rapcal Valley” by Bernardo Estornes Lasa published in 1927 proves the opinion that Basques have Armenian origin. The author brings as an example a legend in Isaba, Nafarroa. According to that legend Isaba was founded by Armenians, who were the fi rst inhabitants of Nafarroa and the ancestors of the Basques.

The legend told that the forefather of the Basques was called Aitor (Այիտոր) also known as Tobel. Coming from Armenia with his seven sons he founded seven settlements in their honour including Tarraho (his elder son’s name), Ampesta, etc. The Ebro River was named after Aitor-Tobel’s second son Iber.

The newly arrived Armenians, who were said to be the ancestors of the Basques, and those living in the Pyrenean Peninsula, knew the secret of metal processing. It’s interesting to note that an ancient manuscript in the Isaba archives testifi es about the above mentioned legend.

In the Basque language Isaba is translated as “The trace of ancestors”. More interesting is the fact that in Isaba there exists a road which has the name Ermina (Armenia). According to the legend Aitor came from Armenia along that road. Some researchers (Joseph Karst) say that Aitor means “an Armenian’s grandson”.

Basques have the expression Aitoren seme, which means pedigreed, noble84. So the people, who had Armenian origin, Aitor’s heirs, were considered to be noble. It is also presumed that Aitor is just a mythological character (Joseba Tobel, Javier Kintana).

In the work “Rapcal Valley” by Bernardo Estornes Lasa we also come across tribes that were moving to the North. Passing the Caucasian Mountains, they moved to the West but a section of the tribe didn’t continue travelling and stayed to live in the Caucasian Mountains, near their ancestral Homeland, the Armenian Highlands.

It is worth mentioning that according to Lasa the opinion that Basques have Armenian origin was among the primary issues of scholars’ discussions. Another work titled “Alarodians and the Proto-Basques” published by the German linguist Joseph Karst in 1928, is also of great importance.

In that work the author writes about 300 similar words in the Armenian and the Basque languages. Karst tackles ethnographical and anthropological questions, too. He was the fi rst to reveal the fact that Basques belonged to the Armenoid anthropological type. But, unfortunately, this book of Karst and the ones dealing with the same topic are not unequivocally accepted in the scientifi c world.

The Basque language was thought not to belong to the Indo-European language family (Antoine Meyer), while Armenian is, defi nitely, an Indo-European language which means that there cannot be any link between the two languages.

Aitor-Tobel (illustration, Los mitos de Túbal y Aitor

In spite of some refuting opinions about the Armenian origin of the Basques, the facts are too obvious to be neglected. That is why researchers continue to speak about the similarities of these two languages, especially in the fi eld of geographical names.

Articles in Spanish–American encyclopedias also attest to it. Thus, in the entry about ‘‘Iber’’ we read:
‘‘Memories about Iberians’ ancestral Homeland are expressed in the names of their mountains, rivers and towns.

Aralar mountain range reminds us of the famous Mount Ararat, the second cradle of human civilization; the name of the river, which originates from the foot of the Aralar Mountain, is of course derived from the name of the Armenian river Araks.

The name of the river Urmea in Ipuskoa is known as ‘‘Persian’’, but in reality it is derived from the name of Lake Urmia, which used to be between the Armenian Lake Van and the Caspean Sea. (Lake Urmia is one of the lakes in Armenian Highlands). The Araks River, before reaching Tolosa, fl ows to the river Orio, which was also called Aturia, one of the tributaries of the River Tigris.’’85

In the entry about El valle Aram (Aram Valley) we fi nd the following: ‘‘Aram Valley is situated at the northern foot of the Pyrenean Mountains in Spain. It is impossible to say exactly who the first inhabitants of that valley were.

The only solution is to accept that they belonged to one of the ancient tribes, the ‘‘Iberians’’, who, moving to Spain from the East, settled in the areas surrounding the Pyrenean Mountains and the Mediterranean Seashore.’’86

The explanation of the Aralar Mountain in the same encyclopedia is: “Aralar is a high mountain range in Nafarroa, on the borders of Ipuskoa and Alava. Numerous small rivers originate from it and they flow to the Burunda River, which crosses the Arakili Valley.

The name of the mountain (Aralar) has the same stem as the Armenian Mount Ararat and it allows us to explain the geographical origin of the first inhabitants of Spain”. (V. Sargsyan thinks there is a connection between the names Aralar and Ararat).

All the above mentioned toponymic names that have Armenian origin, according to the authors
of encyclopedias are mainly situated in the land of the Basques and are still found on the map of Spain. Orientalist N. Marr studied Basque-Armenian linguistic similarities as well as the historical and cultural relations of these two languages. (N. Marr, ‘‘Japethian Origin of the Basque Language’’, N. Marr’’Armenian culture, its origins and prehistoric connections in Linguistic’’, Yerevan, 1989).

After phonetic, grammatical and lexical comparison of the Basque and the Armenian languages he noticed many coincidences in these two languages. Thus, in his work “Japethian Origin of the Basque Language” Marr writes: ‘‘There are particularly surprising similarities between the Basque and the Armenian languages’’.

Let us mention one more fact. It is known that Hayk, the forefather of Armenians, had a grandson called Paskam87 that is similiar to the word basque. That fact has attracted researchers’ attention (N. Marr). In the 1930 s, on the basis of similarities in the names Iberia-Iveria and a series of other words, Georgian scholars carried out studies trying to show that the Basque language was Caucasian (Kartvelian).

But they did not pay attention to the origins of the words. Linguists state that they were Armenian borrowings in Georgian. But some scholars were not satisfi ed with that and they continued to study the topic.

Serious studies concerning the Armenian origin of the Basques were also carried out by Vahan Sargsyan. He published a series of articles and studies about his fi ndings.88 As a result of the studies it was concluded that about 1000 words have the same roots and meanings in the Basque and the Armenian languages, e. g. Ashtarak Astarak (a settlement in the south of France), Goris-Goris (a settlement in Baskonia), Debet-Deba (a river in Baskonia), Shubria (the ancient name of Sassoun in cuneiform inscriptions)–Shuberoa (a province of Basques in France), Araks-Arakses (a river in Baskonia), Aran-Aran (a widely spread toponymic name in Baskonia), QarqarQarqar (a toponymic name in Baskonia), Karbi-Karbe (a toponymic name in Baskonia), etc.

Greek historian Hecataeus of Miletus (546–480 B.C.) was the fi rst to write about the Pyrenean Peninsula. He spoke about three tribes living there: Mastien (Messenians), Iberians and Tartessians. The latter used to have a powerful kingdom, about which we can find information in ancient Greek legends and in the Bible (in the form of Tarshish or Tarsis). Iberians are thought to have come from Caucasian tribes.

They are supposed to have been among Armenian emigrating tribes. Researchers (N. Marr) see some connections between the Basque name Iber and the Armenian I-ver, which means «above». Armenians called I-ver both the territories located above Armenia and the tribes living there. Little is known about Mastians living in the Pyrenean Peninsula.

According to V. Sargsyan that tribe’s name has also an Armenian origin. The Armenian (Arian) Mitani Kingdom existed in the southern part of the Armenian Highlands (XVIII–XV cc. B.C.). Its history is an important period in Armenian history.

The similarity in the names Mitani (also Matien) (in the territory of Armenia) and Mastien (the ancient inhabitants in the Pyrenean Peninsula) allow us to say that the origin of Mastiens (Messenians) must indeed be searched in the Armenian Highlands.

In ancient times the Pyrenean Peninsula used to be known not only by the names of Tartess and Iberia but also of Spain. There are diff erent versions concerning the origin of the name Spain. The fi rst form of the name Spain is supposed to be Hispania and some people think that it comes from the Greek word Hesperos “night”, “darkness” that is to say “West”, or “western country” (a country in the western
part of Greece).

Others think that the origin of the word Spain is the Phoenician (Carthaginian) word span (=rabit), which is substantiated by the fact that in the past rabits were widely spread in the Pyrenean Peninsula. The name España is also connected with the Basque word Ezpanna, which means ‘‘edge’’ or ‘‘border’’, and according to Antonio de Nebrija the word ‘‘Hispania’’ comes from the Iberian word ‘‘Hispalis’’, which means ‘‘a city in the west’’.89

Amador de Los Rios thinks that the name Spain comes from the name Hispa, that used to be an ancient Armenian settlement. It may also have come from the name Sper, which was an ancient Armenian Province.90 V. Sargsyan studied the origin of the word Euskadi (that’s the name by which the Basques called themselves).

As it was mentioned above in one of the Basque legends Armenia was considered to be the ancestral Homeland of the Basques and the ancestors of the Basques knew the secret of metal processing (copper, iron). Maybe this is also one of the reasons that the root of the word Euskaldu is Eusk (also usk, esku, ask…). V. Sargsyan thinks that the root eusk is identical with the Armenian word ոսկի-voski (gold) which has diff erent ways of pronunciation in Armenian dialects (iski, veski, aski, veski, etc.).

Then the researcher concludes that the name Voskan (possessing gold) comes from the Armenian word voski which is identical with the Basque word Baskon, in Latin Vascone. V. Sargsyan also states that the words ‘‘voskegorts-voskerich’’ (goldsmith) and “Armenian’’ had the same meaning for our ancestors.

This is stated in the Basque legends, too. As we see the word Euskaldu is supposed to have come from the word eusk (voski) and the word Basque from the tribe name Vascon (Gascon)91 and their origins are the Armenian word voski and name Voskan.

The idea that the ancestral Homeland of the Basques is the Armenian Highlands can be seen also by the similarity of the words Paskam (Hayk’s grandson) and Basque. Basques are the most ancient people in Western Europe. According to the results of archaeological excavations the Armenoid anthropological type came to the Pyrenean Peninsula in the middle of the 3rd millennium. B.C.

The first megalithic monuments of the Peninsula date back to that period. Metal processing was the secret of those ancient inhabitants of the Peninsula. They also knew how to cultivate cereals, etc. That is to say that Armenian dialects, metal processing skills as well as cultivation of cereals were spread in Europe due to Armenians who came from the Armenian Highlands.

This maybe proved by the fact that many words in the agricultural fi eld are identical in the Armenian and the Basque languages: gari-gari, hasnel-asi, inchuaz-[ə]nkuyz, herkel-erka, ayts-aints, hot-ato, matsun-matoin. And the use of the names Shuberoa (Shubria) and Mastien (Matien/Mitani) in the Pyrenean Peninsula let us say that Armenian tribes lived in those territories in the 3rd–2nd millennia.

As we see the geographical names /the words beginning with Ar and Ay (Hay), anthropological Armenoid type, traditions, customs and culture of the ancient inhabitants in the Pyrenean Peninsula are firmly related to Armenia and Armenians.

An excerpt from Angela Teryan’s book “Ancient written sources of European peoples about their ancestral homeland – Armenia and Armenians”

81 Appian of Alexandria, Roman History (Appiani Alexandrini, Historia Romana).

82 “Sargsyan V., Basques at the foot of Mount Ararat”, Garoun monthly, 1991, 3

83 It is known that the root “ar” was also used in the form “ur”. So it is supposed that in
these examples the interchanged variant of the sound is ur (compare: Ararat-Urartu, ArmeUrme)

84 Sargsyan V., “Basques at the Foot of Mount Ararat”

85 Spanish-American encyclopedia, volume XI, p. 647

86 In the same place, volume VIII, p. 487

87 Movses Khorenatsi, 1981, p. 129

88 Vahan Sargsyan, Urartian Civilisation and the Question of Basques’ Homeland, Yerevan, 1988; Basques at the foot of Mount Ararat (article) ‘‘Garoun’’ monthly, 1991, 3; The myth about the Origin of Basques and Armenian Highlands, Y., 2000; Basque-Armenian dictionary, Y., 2001; In 1993 Basque-Armenian scientifi c journal review ‘‘Araxes’’, where articles about this subject are published.

89 webpages.;

90 Vahan Sargsyan, ‘‘Basques at the Foot of Mount Ararat’’, internet version

91 The Gascon historical territory in south-western part of France is the Homeland of Athos, Parthos, Aramis and D’Artanyan, the main characters of ‘‘The three Musketeers’’, a historical novel by Al. Dumas.

Dumas, being inspired by D’Artanyan character, made him the main hero of the novel, and D’Artanyan’s prototype Charles de Batz-Castelmore lived in the 17th c. Later he took his mother’s surname D’Artanyan. (Wikipedia). Let us mention that in the Armenian Highlands there are habitations with the following names: Aramis (Zangezur), Aramo (Cilicia), Aramon (now Aramus), Artos (Erzrum province, Western Armenia).

There is also the Mount Artos (in Van, Western Armenia). The fact that these Gasconian young men’s names and surnames are identical with Armenian names and surnames leads us to conclude that there is a connection between the Armenain Highlands and those heroes.

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