This city at the foot of the sacred mountain Npat bore two names, and both demonstrated its cult significance. Bagavan or Dyutsaznavan – “the place of the gods” – was famous for its temple of the supreme god Aramazd and twelve other sanctuaries dedicated to the gods who were submissive to him.
The city was revered as sacred not only by Armenians: Iranians, Chaldeans, Hellenes, and even Indian adepts came to worship here.
In addition to Bagavan, the sanctuaries of Aramazd stood in the Ani fortress in the Daranagi region, on the mountain Pagat in Vaspurakan, and in Ashtishat on the banks of the sacred river Aratsani.
In the early years of the adoption of Christianity as the official religion in Armenia, Bagavan has been burned down and a huge collection of manuscripts from the Avestan era has been consumed by the flames.
Soviet-Armenian orientalist Joseph Orbeli insisted that a part of the library was preserved thanks to secret underground chambers in the temple of Aramazd. Alas, in the middle of the 20th century, the Turks blew up the 7th-century Christian church erected in its place, burying the manuscripts under its ruins.
Bypassing the common Aryan tradition, people considered the name “Aramazd” to have been formed from the name “Aram” – one of the eponyms of the Armenian people – and the root “ast” (Armenian: “astsvats”, “god”).
That is, “Aramazd” means “the deity Aram”, “the creator of heaven, earth, and deities, the grantor of abundance and fertility.” The epithet “ari” also means “courageous”, “noble” in Armenian.
Are the Persian Ahura Mazda and the Armenian Aramazd identical? “Ahura Mazda” means “Lord of the Wise.” Of the two roots of the name “Aramazd”, one (“Aram”/”arm”) is an ethnonym, and the other (“azd”/”ast”) means “creation” and forms the basis of the Armenian word “astvats” (“god”).
“Ahura-Mazda” is believed to have originated from the contamination of “Aramazd”. Over time in Middle Eastern languages, the original version was restored in different versions – “Armazd”, “Ormazd”, “Ormizd” – with the recovery of the original meaning – “the creator”.
As befits the supreme deity, Aramazd had many children, among whom he loved most of all his daughter and goddess Anahit, his spouse born from his head. In the mystical understanding, the head of the supreme deity is a symbol of the upper layers of the ether, and such a birth symbolizes the exit to the higher cosmic worlds through the dome of the sky.
Aramazd instructed his daughter to patronize Armenia and ordered that the region Yekegheats be named in her honor Anahitida. Armenians said about their patron saint that “she lives in the country Armenian”, called her “the fame and savior of our people”, “mother of all virtues, benefactor of all human nature”, “great madam”, and “great mother” (Metsamor) for her contributions to fertility.
She also kept the hearth, healed the sick, and protected motherhood. Therefore, it is not surprising that the curative sources that were attributed with the ability to influence childbirth bore the name of the Anahit. Noble Armenians considered it an honor devoting their virgin daughters to the goddess Anahit.
The description of Anahit’s temple left by Strabo makes a strange impression. The Greek geographer writes in his accounts that the sanctuary was visited by not only men and women who devoted themselves to serving the goddess but also the daughters of noble families.
Those girls had the right to get married “only after going through a paid service in the temple.” He also writes that nobody considered it unworthy to marry such a woman.
The words of Strabo by no means correspond to the image, the functions, and manifestations of the goddess who personified the highest morality and whose name means “immaculate, untainted”.
Armenian 19th-century historian Mkrtich Emin considered that Strabo had drawn an image of Dea Syria, “the great Syrian goddess”, rather than described the “mother of chastity” Anahit.
A part of the cult of the Persian goddess Anahita – whose image was very similar to that of Anahit – were the temples of the priestesses of love, so Strabo most likely confused one deity with the other.
On antique coins, goddess Anahit was depicted wearing a helmet and was considered a warrior. The kings and generals asked her for victories and also thanked her for military successes. In addition, Anahit patronized metallurgists and jewelers who believed that she wore a tiara with seven diamonds.
The main celebration dedicated to the goddess Anahit used to be held on April 7. But in the 4th century, Gregory the Illuminator replaced it with the feast Avetum – the Annunciation of the Mother of God.
And although Christian churches would slowly replace the ancient sanctuaries of Anahit, the poetic image of the goddess still lives in the people’s hearts, and Armenia annually celebrates the holiday of motherhood and beauty dedicated to her.
One of the most exquisite temples dedicated to the goddess stood in the city of Eriz on the banks of the Euphrates River. On its marble altar, there was a statue of the Great Lady, the “gold-bearing great mother”, created during the reign of Tigran II the Great. It was cast in solid gold and encrusted with gems.
In 35 BC, the statue became a loot for Mark Antony who fought against Armenian King Artavazd II. Anthony plundered the temple of Metsamor and captured the statue. Some people say that his consul ordered to break down the statue to pay the soldiers’ salaries with gold.
Not that believable. And not because there was not enough gold for the legionnaires. Anthony was not such a barbarian: he would have retained the statue as his best trophy and an excellent work of art.
Having recovered from the effects of the war, the priests cast a new statue in bronze. This statue was also lost in the sands of time. Some archaeologists think though that the head of this statue has been discovered in the city of Satal in historical Minor Armenia. This head today is the centerpiece of the department of the Hellenistic art of the British Museum.
Lets Bring The Goddess Home