One of the ancient Armenian states Aratta is mentioned in the ancient Sumerian legendary poem “Enmerkar and the Lord of Aratta.” The poem describes Aratta as a country where the cult of sun worship flourished, a country with rich spirituality, and a country of holy rites and righteous divine laws. In this epic, this country is called “the testimony of the everlasting testament” and “the holy land.”
The country of Aratta itself was located in the mountains of Ararat. According to the epic, the welfare of the country was a consequence of the piety of its inhabitants and their diligence in worshiping the solar god. The poem also tells that Aratta was rich in precious metals and expensive stones. It also exported construction materials.
In the cuneiform tablets left by the chroniclers of the kings of the Akkadian Empire, another Armenian state is mentioned. They describe how the Akkadian army advanced north of its native state and invaded the territory of the Armenian Highlands. There, they met the resistance of the army of the country of Armanum.
It is worth noting that the word “Armanum” was also used by the Akkadians to refer to the apricot tree. Apricots have been cultivated in Armenia since ancient times. In Latin, apricot is called “Armenian apple” (Prúnus armeníaca).
A Hittite cuneiform writing from the 15th century BC describes the war between the Hittite army and the army of the people of Hayasu. At the heart of the name “Hayasu” is the root “Hay”, the endonym (self-name) of the Armenian ethnic group, and the suffix “-asu” which has Hittite origin. According to the records, the Hittite army invaded the country of Hayasu, but the army of King Karanni drove them out through the Euphrates River. The city of Karin (now Erzurum) would be named in honor of the king-winner.
The opposition between the ancient Armenians and the Hittites did not end there. Soon, Hayasu organized a coalition with the allies, which allowed it to successfully resist the Hittite aggression. Later, the Hittites succeed in overcoming the resistance of the Hays, which allowed them to temporarily occupy the southwestern regions of the Armenian Highlands.
Then, the confrontation between the Hays and Hittites continued with varying success – combat was often replaced with peaceful periods that were enforced by dynastic marriages. For example, King Hukan mentioned in Armenian chronicles married the sister of the Hittite king. Thus, he managed to stop the Hittite aggression against his state.
The further history of ancient Armenia is connected with its confrontation with the Assyrian kingdom. Armenia itself in Assyrian sources is called Nairi, “a country of rivers.” It is from Armenia that the two main rivers in the region originated – the Tigris and the Euphrates.
Starting from the 13th century BC, Assyria commenced its aggressive policy in the region, defeating the kingdom of Mitanni and raiding the south of the Armenian Highlands. The invasions of the Assyrians were accompanied by destruction of infrastructure, robbery, and enslaving the local population.
Finally, in the second half of the 13th century BC, the Armenian tribes formed a union which included most of the highland tribes and drove the Assyrians out from the southern regions of the country.
Later, in 1112 BC, Assyrian King Tiglath-Pileser I attempted to conquer Nairi. The combined forces of the 60 leaders of the Armenian tribes together with their armies marched against him.
The total number of Nairi defenders was twenty thousand soldiers. The advancement of the Assyrians was stopped once again. However, it wouldn’t prevent several other offensives on the country which in the end would be prevented.