Senior Researcher at the Institute of Oriental Studies of the National Academy of Sciences of Armenia, Associate Professor of the Department of History at the Yerevan State University, Candidate of Historical Sciences Artak Movsesyan, in the postscript to his recently published work “Armenia in the 3rd millennium BC (according to written sources)” (Yerevan, 2005), writes:
“In the ‘History of Armenia’ written in the 1930s, historian Nikolai Adonts, analyzing the data of several inscriptions known at the time, stated: ‘For us, the name and fate of Armenia of the Sumerian-Akkadian era remain absolutely dark.’
Fortunately, in the subsequent decades, works have been created that shed light on the ancient history of our people to a considerable extent. Among them are the works of Artak Movsesyan himself:
“The oldest state in Armenia: Aratta” (1992), “Empire of Pious Kings: Century Empire Before Tigran the Great” (1997), “Sacred Highland: Armenia in the Oldest Spiritual Perceptions of the Near East” (2000; 2004), “Writing Systems of Domestic Armenia” (2003), “Armenian Hieroglyphics” (2003) and others. “Armenia in the 3rd millennium BC (according to written sources)” completes this cycle for now.
— Can your latest work be considered a peculiar result of preceding research? What is their principal peculiarity?
— The theory of the Armenians’ arrival on the Armenian Highlands, which spread in the second half of the 19th century, being erroneous in itself, caused serious damage to Armenian Studies. In particular, many important pieces of information related to the 3rd – 2nd millennia BC were artificially alienated from our history or interpreted erroneously. Little changed in the 1970s-1980s, when moderate criticism of this theory was allowed.
Stereotypical thinking does not give up its positions even today. In 2004, the Institute of History of the National Academy of Sciences of Armenia, under the auspices of the government, began work on a four-volume history of Armenia, and I was asked to write the section “Armenia in the 3rd millennium BC (according to written sources)”.
Having started work, I unexpectedly found out that the number of primary sources-inscriptions exceeds 100, although no more than a dozen are used in scientific circulation…
— What are these sources?
— First of all, I should note that primary sources related to the ancient history of Armenia have been found both on the territory of the Armenian Highlands themselves and in almost all countries of the Near East with literacy, which testifies to the important role our country played in the region in ancient times.
The sources themselves can be divided into several main groups: 1) inscriptions contemporary with the events mentioned in them; 2) copies of the oldest originals; 3) historical compositions based on texts of preceding epochs; 4) works of a historical-artistic nature (especially epic); 5) texts of economic, administrative, and other nature.
— In the first chapter of your work, a significant place is devoted to chronology. How do you manage to clarify the dates of events from “time immemorial”?
— Work on refining the chronology of the Ancient East has been going on for over 100 years. Astronomy plays a very important role here. The centers of ancient writing always indicated in which year certain celestial phenomena occurred — say, an eclipse of the sun or moon, the appearance of comets, which today are quite easily specified with the help of astronomy.
For instance, at the end of the first Kuti Empire of the Armenian Highlands, it is mentioned that during the coronation of the last king named Tirikan, a lunar eclipse occurred, and 40 days after that his reign fell. A few decades ago, Soviet orientalists appealed to the Institute of Theoretical Physics of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR to clarify this date, and it turned out that these events occurred in 2109 BC.
— Primary sources, undoubtedly, help you to solve a number of historical-geographical and topographical issues that are related to the name of our homeland. What are these names and what is their geography?
— There are many. The well-known first name, which is presented to us as the oldest state formation, is known in the primary sources of Mesopotamia as Aratta, which was located on the Armenian Highlands and is identified with the biblical Ararat/Hayastan.
For historical-geographical clarification, we have precise arguments. For example, they sailed from Aratta down the Euphrates to the Sumerian city-state of Uruk… Aratta in this territory was known as a mountainous country, and from the Armenian Highlands to the Persian Gulf the Euphrates flows only across the plain, so Aratta must have been on the Armenian Highlands.
Or, say, the road from Sumer to Aratta passes through the Northern Mesopotamia through the regions of Zamua, Hurum and others and comes out in the southern regions of the Armenian Highlands. There is a lot of information about the country of Armani (this is the pro-form of the name Armenia) — it is mentioned from the 24th-23rd centuries BC. There is a lot of information related to the country of Subur/Subartu, which is identified with Armani.
It continued to be mentioned until the period of the Van Kingdom. Armani and Arme (or Armi) were so often identified with Subur that even in textbooks they are written as its complex name Arme-Shubria.
This was common and still is today: we call our country Hayastan, Georgians — Somkheti, English — Armenia, etc. In the III millennium BC, Armenia was called Aratta — the primary form of Ararat, Subur — in a later period — Subartu, Armani and Kuti (from the oldest name Korduk), and since the inhabitants of Mesopotamia, communicating with Hayastan, first encountered the region of Korduk, they named the whole country after it.
Aratta was identified with Subur and sometimes was written with the ideogram of Subura. And if the name of one country is written with the ideogram of another country, it means that both these names refer to the same country. The identification of Aratta/Subur on the one hand, and Armani/Subur on the other, indicates that Aratta, Armani and Subur are different names for the same country.
Starting from the 26th century BC, the name Haya is also mentioned, and it occurs as the name of a tribe, as the name of a country, and as the name of a mythological deity. Haya was considered the god of wisdom, according to the mythology of Mesopotamia, he created the human race from clay in the likeness of God.
Movses Khorenatsi, referring to Mar Abas Katina, writes that the race of titans originated from the gods, one of which was Hayk Nahapet (patriarch Hayk). But which god was Hayk’s son, the Armenian tradition does not mention. But according to the primary sources of Mesopotamia, it becomes clear that the son of the god Haya (Aya) must have been Ayik – Hayk Nahapet.
The ending “ik” in addition to the diminutive and affectionate also indicates affiliation. Ayik meant the son of the god-Armenian, the son of the Armenian tribe. In Sumerian-Akkadian bilingual inscriptions, Haya (Aya), Subur, and Armani are equivalent, i.e., ancient names given to Armenia and Armenians – ay, armen, Aratta, Subur – are encountered starting from the 26th century BC. Subsequently, the name Haya continues to be mentioned on the cusp of the III-II millennium BC in Assyrian texts, and later in Hittite sources, Armenia will be renamed Hayasa, then Hayastan.
“Hay” is more often the self-name of Armenia, and later in Persian sources it is mentioned in the form of Armina, other peoples will call it Armenia, Arminia, Ermani, Ermanistan, etc. “The land of Ararat” is a name that is now mostly used in literature, but it used to be a historical term.
That is, from the III millennium BC we have clear equivalent names for Armenians and Armenia, which once again proves: Armenians as an independent ethnic unit emerged already in the III millennium BC, and Armenia was mentioned by different peoples and centers of various civilizations under those names that have continued to call us for many centuries, and still call us today.
— It is assumed that ancient inscriptions should only provide fragmentary information about the political history and geography of the 3rd millennium BC. How is the historical geography of the Armenian highlands and neighboring countries outlined in them?
— It’s difficult to give a general answer. It is necessary to specify which era we are talking about. Naturally, political units did not remain constant over the millennia. In the 28-27 centuries of the 3rd millennium BC, there was a Sumerian state in the south of Mesopotamia, the country of Uri in Central Mesopotamia, which later disappeared, and Akkad appeared in its place, in the north Aratta – Subur.
Areas to the west of Mesopotamia are known as Amurru or Martu, meaning “Western” country, and the Mediterranean Sea is called “Sea of the country of Amurru” or “Great sea of the West”. To the east of Mesopotamia is the country of Zamua, to the south of Lake Urmia, Elam is also mentioned – today these are the southwestern regions of Iran. In the 24-23 centuries BC, this geography changes completely.
In Central Mesopotamia appears the first powerful Semitic conquest – the Akkadian state, which conquers the territory of Sumer and forms the Sumerian-Akkadian kingdom.
An interesting document of this period has survived, which is conventionally called the geographical text of the Sargonic dominion, where a large number of states are represented. Only in the basin of the Euphrates River are mentioned the city-state Mari, the mountains of Lebanon, the region called Yarimutu, Silver mountains (Taurus mountains).
The geography changes in the times of Naram-Suen. If the primary sources of the 28-27 centuries BC are of a historical-epic character, i.e., the historical geography is not detailed in them, then in the texts of the 24-23 centuries the geography of invasions and campaigns is described in detail. The monograph includes five maps.
— You touched on the topic of the origin of Armenian statehood.
— Unfortunately, the primary sources are foreign, they do not give us the opportunity to understand the Armenian Highlands from the inside – its state system, economy, etc. However, the preserved material allows us to conclude that, for example, in the era of Aratta the country was ruled by a high priest – king, the country had its own supreme advisory assembly of elders, a high economic official – manager, tax collectors, overseers are mentioned, which means that the state conducted an economic policy.
States are very similar to ancient Near Eastern city-states. On the Armenian Highlands, regions or principalities, which are called countries in ancient texts, were united in unions. Today they can be called federations. For example, in the Kuti era, 17 countries were united, which together overthrew the tyranny of Naram-Suen and ruled for almost a hundred years in an area stretching to the Persian Gulf.
The same system was the federation of Nairi states in the 2nd millennium BC. They were connected both ethnically and spiritually-culturally. And, naturally, they had common interests to fight against foreigners.
The Nairi states are mentioned in the 2nd millennium BC, and at the beginning of the 1st millennium BC, in the 9th century, when the Kingdom of Van united the federations and formed a single state, its first king Sarduri I, as the inscriptions testify, proclaims himself the king of the Nairi country.
— The falsifiers of history have become our “inseparable companions”. How do they relate to your research?
— So far, no one has published any refutations of my work and research. Only approving reviews were heard on the radio and TV. My books have also been published in other languages, and not a single line has been printed against them. I have only heard rumors, which I don’t pay attention to.
I publicly announced: if anyone convincingly proves that there was no Aratta on the Armenian Highlands, I invite him to a public discussion. If they can prove this or find even one falsification in my works, I am ready to publicly burn my writings. *
Translated by Vigen Avetisyan