Armenia in the 2nd-1st Millennia BC

Armenia in the 2nd-1st Millennia BCArmenia in the 20th-18th centuries BC. Dozens of the settlements of the Armenian Highlands have been engaged in foreign trade through a trade route to the north of Western Asia. That route stretched from Kültepe all the way to the Caspian Sea.

It was mainly used for the transport of metal, so given the fact that ancient Armenia has been prominent for its achievements in metallurgy, no wonder that it was quite active in foreign trade.

The Mitanni Kingdom. The Indo-European Mitanni Kingdom was established in the 16th century BC in the southwest of Mesopotamia. Its capital became Washukanni. Roughly since its foundation, the state has played a major role in Western Asia. Like Babylonian, Egyptian, and Hittite kings, the kings of Mitanni have been known as “Great Kings”.

The influence of the kings of Mitanni spread east to the valleys of Bohtan and Great Zab Rivers, and west to the Mediterranean Sea and the Cilician Taurus Mountains. The Mitanni kings were Indo-Europeans, which is evidenced by their names as well as their worship of Indo-European gods.

At some point, Mitanni got engaged in an armed conflict with Egypt, which had been fighting against the Hyksos people. Besides, Mitanni has been in a continuous conflict against the Hittite Empire in Asia Minor. Eventually, the Mitanni Kingdom fell because of the offensive of developing Assyria.

The Hayasa Kingdom. Describing the events of the 15th-13th centuries BC, Hittite sources mentioned the state of Hayasa. At the base of this toponym is the endonym of the Armenian people. In the Hittite language, toponyms were formed with the “a(sa)” end, so “Hayasa” probably means “country of Hays (Armenians)”.

One of the most significant centers of Hayasa was the Kumakha city, the future Ani-Kamakha. It was the home of the mausoleum of the Armenian kings.

The last mention of Hayasa was made in the 13th century BC. In regard to the fall of Hayasa, there are two points of view. Some historians believe that Hayasa actually fell in the 13th century BC while others think that it continued to exist under another name. The latter is supported by the fall of the Hittite Kingdom in the 13th century.

Hayasa had its own royal court, army, and mythological centers. The Hittite sources mentioned the correspondence of Hayasan kings with the Hittite rulers. The army of the state consisted of 700 chariots and 10,000 soldiers, making Hayasa a significant power at the time.

The Nairi “countries”. The Assyrian sources called the surroundings of the Van lake, as well as the vast territories south and west of it “Nairi”. These areas housed a number of tribal formations, which were called “states” by the Assyrians.

The “Nairi” toponym was first mentioned by Assyrian king Shalmaneser I (the first half of the 13th century BC). The power of the Nairi “states” was evidenced by the fact that Shalmaneser I was forced to put special defensive units in the border cities of his kingdom to protect it from the assaults of the Nairi tribes.

The “states” and their 40 rules (called “kings” in the sources) were mentioned in the notes of Shalmaneser’s successor, Tukulti-Ninurta I, and then by Tiglath-Pileser I.

It is noteworthy that while Tiglath-Pileser’s predecessors asserted the seizure of the Nairi “states”, he himself called the Nairi “countries” “free, broad, and unknown”.

Ashurnasirpal II (9th century BC) mentioned his crusades against Nairis, which had already established a single state. His successor Shalmaneser III also mentioned a unified Nairi state.

Generally, Assyrian kings mentioned the huge cities, wealth, horses, mules, cows, and the huge agricultural property of the Nairi tribes, which demonstrated the power and resources of their “states”. Nairi “states” have also been known for their 250 cities with strong, fortified walls.

In their notes in the Assyrian language, the rulers of the Kingdom of Van called their state “Nairi” as well.

by Artak Movsisyan

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