Armenian Communes in Ancient Babylon

Armenian Communes in Ancient BabylonArmenian communities existed in many countries of the Ancient East. The main occupation of Armenians living outside their homeland was trade. According to numerous historians, Armenian city quarters in Babylon have been unique merchant settlements.

There are a plethora of ancient petroglyphs in the territory of Babylon portraying individuals on boats who have supposedly been traders. Such an interpretation could be questioned, though the Euphrates River has been indeed used as a trade channel with Babylon.

In particular, Herodotus described an Armenian technique of boat building for trade. According to Herodotus, the Armenians have used willow wood to build the frame of their boats. The frames would then be covered by layers of leather to attach a round form to the boat’s bottom. Lastly, the boats would get filled with straw before being loaded with produce and sent towards Babylon.

In Babylon, Armenians have been known not only as traders.  A king of Babylon Arakha has been one of the most mysterious individuals in the kingdom’s history. According to G. Bunner, Arakha, an Armenian, was a person associated with Nebuchadnezzar IV, a self-proclaimed King of Babylon. And in fact, names Nebuchadnezzar IV and Arakha are synonymous in modern historiography.

Another scholar K. Schedl supports this version but thinks that “Arakha” has been an Armenian royal title meaning “prince” rather than a name. Schedl things that the actual name of the king has been Nebuchadnezzar. Nebuchadnezzar claimed to be the son of Nabonidus, the previous king of Babylon. But because it is unknown whether or not Nebuchadnezzar has actually been the son of Nabonidus, we can’t say for sure that the latest royal dynasty of Babylon has had Armenian roots.

Behistun rock
Arakha in a series of kings defeated by Darius I. Fragment of the relief on the Behistun rock


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