As the name implies, the double-headed eagle is a fantastic image of an eagle with two heads looking in opposite directions. There are also variations of the eagles depicted in line one behind another with the back eagle’s head only being visible.
The most ancient images of the double-headed eagle go back to the ancient parietal art, including the Shengavit ceramics (5th-4th millennia BC), arts of Sumer, the Hittite Kingdom, the Kingdom of Van (the image of deity Shivini, 9th-7th centuries BC), and the relief architecture of medieval Armenian capital city of Ani.
The eagle has been the coat of arms of the Armenian Arsacid, Mamikonyan, and Bagratids dynasties. The idea of the eagle was adopted by the relief on the Evli Beden Burcu wall in Diyarbakir, Turkey, featuring a double-headed eagle with two lions beneath.
The motif of the double-headed eagle has local roots in Armenia. The presence of the double-headed eagle on the coat of arms of the Byzantine Empire isn’t enough to assert that the Armenian variant has been influenced by Hellenistic, Byzantine, and Muslim art, argued Nicholas Marr. He also noted the specific features of the double-headed eagle from Ani.
What about the symbolism of the double-headed eagle? The symbol has many meanings, but it mostly represents authority, nobility, heavenly power, and the sun.
The outspread wings have been a symbol of protection, the sharp claws symbolized the perpetual struggle against the evil, while the head symbolized just authority. Apart from that, eagles have always been associated with strength, bravery, moral, and wisdom.
As for the double-headed eagle itself, it has been a symbol of the transcendence of language, history, and time as such. Besides, it represents the eternal transformation of two opposite powers, two protectors, and the ageless truth of the human nature. In this sense, the double-headed eagle refers to the poem about the birth of Vahagn and his double-natured essence. He was a son of a god and at the same time a human who married Astghik.
This family union is an archaic symbol of the connection between a man and a woman, a symbol of an ascent to the heavens with the help of the proud bird of eternity, a symbol of the idea of death and resurrection, time and eternity, heaven and hell, youth and oldness. The double-headed eagle and the unification of opposites also represent the process of spiritual development on the way to becoming as majestic, fearless, and noble as an eagle.
Table 3 Two-headed eagle
|Double-headed eagle. Heraldic symbol of St. Etchmiadzin||Clawing eagle, Bartzrakas, Dseh, mon. St. Grigor, Armenia||Double-headed eagle under the symbol of the sun. Erzrum, 1310y., Historical Armenia||Erzrum, madrasah, Historical Armenia|
|Two-headed eagle and pair of lions, Diyarbakir, Historical Armenia||Diyarbakir, wall Evli Beden Burcu, Historical Armenia||Image of a two-headed eagle with a crown. Gandzasar 13th century, Artsakh||Image of a two-headed eagle with a crown. Gandzasar 13th century, Artsakh|
|Double-headed eagle emblem of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople(Istanbul), based on insignia of the Byzantine Empire. The head on the left (West) symbolizes Rome, the head on the right (East) symbolizes Constantinople||Marble plaque with double-headed eagle in Mystras, marking the spot where the last Byzantine emperor, Constantine XI, was crowned||Emblem of the Seljuk Turksdynasty and the Great Seljuk Empire|| |
First Russian eagle, 1472
|Two-headed eagle, relief of Hetty. The union of the two rulers (Hattia and Aratta?)|