Mysterious Celts – Who Were They

Asmik Gulagyan 2006.

Recently, in Yerevan, the spiritual pastor of the Church of St. Gregory the Illuminator of the French city of Marseille, Vardapet (Archimandrite) Komitas Ovnanyan, was visiting. Father Komitas is the author of serious Armenian studies, which are of undoubted interest.

  • Please tell us about yourself, when and how did you end up in Europe?
  • I was born in Yerevan in a priest’s family. My parents are Cilicians. My father, escaping the Genocide, ended up in Lebanon, and then in 1947, along with others, moved to the Homeland. After graduating from the Etchmiadzin Theological Academy, I entered the conducting department of the Yerevan Conservatory and organized a 4-voice choir at the church of St. Ripsime.

Then, from 1980, I served for two years in Sisian, from 1982 for about four years in the Romanian city of Constanta, then for many years I was the spiritual pastor of Armenians in the southern regions of Germany, and since 1999 – in Marseille.

  • Is it difficult to live away from the Homeland for so many years?
  • The Homeland is always close by. It is not the distance that determines the closeness, but how you are connected to your Homeland. Abroad, the idea of the Homeland takes even deeper root in you, and you become one with it.

When I was transferred to Germany in 1987, I started looking for Armenian traces there. I knew that in 1982, during restoration work in the Fraun Kirche church in the city of Passau, some “lost” tomb was discovered.

In the tomb, besides the bones of a man, there was a metal belt buckle, a cross, and a metal plate on which the biography of the deceased was recorded. Despite its age, it was possible to read on the plate that the great theologian Archbishop Grigor, who arrived from Armenia, rests here and died on September 26, 1093.

There is also evidence of him in the history and annals of Windbergen from 1167, where it is noted that the teacher of St. Engelmar was “sancti Gregori, Armeniorum guondam ut ferunt archiepiscopi”.

The fact itself testifies that Armenians settled in these lands long ago, in particular after the devastating earthquake in Ani in 1045. It could not have been that the Armenians, who created a large colony in neighboring Poland, did not settle in Germany. And my search yielded results.

I found a chronicle dedicated to the bishop of the city of Cologne, Anno, from 1080 called “Annolied”, in which, speaking of the origin of the Bavarians, it was noted that they arrived from Armenia. Later, numerous sources from Hans F. Nohbauer’s book “The Bavarians” (Hans F. Nohbauer “Die “Bajuvaren”. Weltbild Verlag, Augsburg, 1990) helped me to find out who and where testified that the Bavarians arrived from Armenia (Nohbauer’s chronological data is not entirely accurate).

  • Could you provide some examples?
  • I have already mentioned the “Annolied” chronicle of 1080, which says: “Ihr Stamm war vormals dorthin gekommen aus dem hochgelegenen Armenien, wo Noah aus der Arche ging, als er den Olzweig von der Taube empfangen hatte, auf den Bergen Ararat” (Das Annolied, Herausgegeben von Eberhard Nellmann, Stuttgart, 1999, 27). (“They (Bavarians) came from the Armenian highlands, where Noah left the ark on Mount Ararat when the dove brought the olive branch…”) Similar testimony is contained in the “Kaiserchronik” chronicle of 1170:

“Das Geschlecht der Baiern, Hergekommen von Armenien, Wo Noah aus der Arche ging Und den Olzweig von der Taube empfing, Die Spuren der Arche kann man noch sehen Auf den Bergen, die da heissen Ararat” (Hans F. Nohbauer “Die Bajuwaren” Weltbild Verlag, Augsburg, 1990, s. 15). (“Bavarians come from Armenia, where Noah left the ark when the dove brought the olive branch, the traces of Noah’s ark can still be seen on this mountain, which is called Ararat there…”)

And in the famous “Chronica Baioariorum” (“Bavarian Chronicle”) of priest Weit Arnpeka, considered the most reliable source on the history of Bavarians, we read:

“Baioarius mit seinem fraisamen volk hat seinen ursprung aus dem land Armenia und ist mit in ausgezogen mit grossen macht, und sind komen in das land und funden darin paurenvolk, di sich nerten mit vischen und jagen der wilden thire, und liessen sich da nider und nennten das land nach irem fursten und herfurer Bavaria” (Hans. F. Nohbauer “Die Bajuwaren” Weltdild Verlag, Augsburg, 1990, s. 19).

(“Bayoarius, along with his freedom-loving people, who come from Armenia, where they set out with great force, reached this country where they found poor people who lived on fishing and hunting wild animals. Settling here, they named the country after their prince and leader – Bavaria.”)

Also, note another piece of information from the “Bavarian Chronicle,” according to which Prince Bayoarius had two children – Bohemia, or Bohemund, and Ingram, or Ingramand. And Johannes Turmayer (by the way, the father of Bavarian historiography) in the “Chronicon successionis ducum Bavariae et comitum Palationorum” written in 1601, reports interesting information related to the name Bohemund. Speaking of Bohemia (now the Czech Republic), he notes that in ancient books it was called Hermenia (Hermenia), which meant Armenia. And just as Bavaria was named after Bayoarius, so Hermenia-Armenia was renamed after Prince Bohem to Bohemia.

It is interesting that in 1776, Vincenz Pol from Polhausen, addressing this issue, quotes the unknown historian Bobiensis and notes: “Emperor Friedrich Barbarossa, during the Crusade, met people in Armenia who spoke Bavarian” (Kaiser Friedrich Lobesam sei bei seinem Kreuzzug in Armenien auf Volker getroffen, die bairisch sprachen”, G. Nobauer, op. cit., p. 19).

This testifies that in the 12th-13th centuries, Bavarians still preserved their native language – Armenian of Cilician Armenia.

According to the aforementioned chronicles, these brave men who arrived from Armenia fought heroically against Julius Caesar’s army. This means that they were there as early as the 2nd-1st centuries BC. This is confirmed by other sources, about which I am going to write a separate article.

From the materials related to Armenian-Bavarian relations, I consider it necessary to quote a fragment from the preface to the German-Armenian dictionary of Akop and Levon Torosyanov, published in Beirut in 1987: “The German language belongs to the Indo-Germanic branch of Indo-European languages, related to Armenian. During the preparation of this dictionary, we identified more than a thousand roots and particles related to Armenian.”

  • Holy Father, didn’t German Armenologists address these issues in the mid-19th century, at the dawn of the development of Armenian Studies in Germany?
  • Unfortunately, they did not have the opportunity to do so, as no German scholar, who had reached power in the 19th century, would like to see the roots of the main part of their people in some unfortunate people groaning under the yoke of Persians, Turks, and Russians…

What to say, if Armenia was an empire or even a state, perhaps there would be people who would want to tell the truth. But in the 19th century, some people did refer to these materials, but mostly these responses were negative, i.e., the data from German historical sources about the Armenian origin of Bavarians were unreasonably refuted and denied.

Johannes Turmayer substantiated every piece of information in his chronicle with ancient works. However, doubts arose especially concerning the data related to Armenians and Armenia. And, unfortunately, these sentiments, which began primarily with E. Quitzmann (E. A. Quitzmann, Die heidnische Religion der Baiwaren, Leipzig, 1860, E. A. “, Quitzmann, Die alteste Geschichte des Baiern bis zum Jahre 911, Braunschweig, 1873), persist to this day.

  • What other sources were identified by you during your research?
  • In 1997, I was given a copy of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, published in London in 1861, from the first volume of the 4-volume work by the famous English historian Benjamin Thorpe, The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle Vol. I, Original Texts, London 1861, Benjamin Thorpe (Thorpe summarized all Anglo-Saxon chronicles and published them in 4 volumes in the 19th century).

About the peoples living in England, he writes: “The first inhabitants of the country were Britons; they came from Armenia and initially settled in the south of Britain” (The first inhabiting this land were Britons: they came from Armenia, and first settled southward in Britain).

Unfortunately, my pastoral work did not allow me to travel to London to delve into research. But when I arrived in France and heard about the Bretons of France, I resumed my search. One thing was certain: the Bretons only had to cross the English Channel to find themselves in the south of England.

The Bretons of France also, apparently, should have retained traces of their Armenian origin. It is worth noting that the Bretons of France, like the Basques, have preserved their language, customs, unique national songs and dances, very similar to Armenian ones, and their national instrument is similar to our tkzar and parkapzuk.

First of all, my attention was drawn to the historical lighthouse in French Brittany called Armen, then to the names of Armenian origin Arsen, Asthik, Anait, Vazgen, Amuri, Karot.

The diminutive and affectionate suffix for them is the same Armenian “ik” (Aram – Aramik, Vardan – Vardanik, in Breton Yan – Yanik, Sedr – Sedrik). In Brittany, there is a historical city of Vannes, and its founders are called Vannetais.

In the temple of the Breton city of Crozon, there is a 16th-century icon called “Ten Thousand Martyrs of Ararat,” which figuratively testifies to ten thousand warriors (nine thousand of them were Armenians, and one thousand were Romans) who suffered martyrdom during the persecution of Christians in Armenia under Emperor Adrian (117-138).

The French commentary reads: “Le retable des Dix mille Martyrs est un chef d’oeuvre de l’art Breton du debut du 16eme siecle. II est du sans doute a des artisans breton. . . la Passion de soldats chretiens gui auraient ete martyrises, pres du mont Ararat, en Armenie (Turguie actuelle) ” (Edition Jos le Doare).

Scientific research on this issue was facilitated by a Breton-French dictionary. The results were noticeable in a short time. To my surprise, under the letter “a” alone, I found many Armenian words that have the same meaning in Breton. Undoubtedly, work and time will add more facts related to this topic.

While researching, I became acquainted with the Flammarion Dictionary of the French Language, and in the section dedicated to the origin of the French language, I read the following about the Gauls: “The Gauls settled on the territory of modern France later, around 500 BC. They come from Bohemia or Bavaria. They spoke an Indo-European language – Celtic, which includes Breton and Gaulish” (“Les Gaulois sont installes sur le territoire actuel de la France relativement tard, vers 500 av. J. C. Originaire de Boheme ou de Baiere, ils parlaient une langue indo-europeenne de type celtique (comme le breton ou le gaelique) “.(Dictionnaire Flammarion de la langue francaise, Paris, 1999, page IV).

In the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, where it speaks of the 5 peoples inhabiting England (and here are in the island five peoples: English, Brito-Welsh, Scottish, Pictish, and Book-Latin), the second place is occupied by the Brito-Welsh, i.e., the Welsh are identified as both Bretons and Welsh, and in France, the Welsh were called Gaelic – gaelique.

Thus, we find ourselves in front of a kind of genealogical triangle. If the Gauls come from Bavaria and speak a language like Breton, then all three must have the same root, i.e., they must come from Armenia (in France, there are Armenian names that have played an important role in the country’s history. For example, the oldest and most famous temple in Marseille, the Church of St. Victor, was founded and built by an Armenian monk, Jean Cassien, in 416. The architect of the first French basilica church, built under Charlemagne in 806 near Orleans, in Saint-Germain-des-Pres, was an Armenian, Oddo Lo Messonn. Another example: in central France, there are villages of Mornas, Chornas, Cornas, Ser, Les Armenien (Armenians). However, these are all individual cases.

I had collected enough facts about the Bavarians and Bretons. It remained to find evidence about the Gauls. They were found in the 7th volume (pp. 2795-97) of the encyclopedia “Alpha” in the article “Gauls”: “The Gauls covered their jewelry with coral color and enamel. They brought this technique from the Caucasus.”

In the subsection dedicated to the Gaulish language, it is noted: “The Gauls of the Marseille region corresponded with the Galatians living in Anatolia, and they had no problems communicating because there were only dialectal differences between their languages” (by the way, this information is provided by Julius Caesar in “IVLI CAESARIS COMMENTARIORVM DE BELLO GALLICO LIBER PRIMVS”, and in his time the concept of “Anatolia” did not exist).

In the section on the religion of the Gauls, it is written that they worshiped about 400 gods, among which was the goddess Artio (la deese-ourse Artio, the Bear Goddess), which the Gauls called Artio (the word is written in Latin as Artio, and according to the Basque Vahagn Sargsyan, the Basques call a bear “artza”).

The materials related to the origin of these three peoples answer the question of European scientists: “Who were the Celts of antiquity in reality? It is impossible to answer this question.”

And further: “The Western Celts took the name Gauls, the inhabitants of the island of Britannia began to be called Bretons. . . ” (“Qui sont exactement les Celtes de I`Antiquite? A cette interrogation legitime il est impossible de repondre”. “Les Celtes occidentaux recoivent le nom de Gaulois. . . les habitant des iles Britanniques sont appeles Breton”. . .)

The following sources answer these indefinite questions: the German “die Bayern. . . Hergekommen von Armenien” and the Breton “Britons. . . they came from Armenia”. In them, it is noted that this unknown country of the Celts is Armenia, called the “Land of Sacred Laws” (as the Sumerians called Aratta).

This issue was thoroughly examined by the talented scholar Martiros Gavukchyan in his research “The Homeland of Celtic Tribes and Celtic-Caucasian Connections”, and today Ruben Yegiazaryan has made a new contribution to this topic in his book “Celtic Symbolism and Armenian Tradition” (Yerevan, 2005, in Russian).

So, who were these mysterious Celts in reality? They were the founders of European culture, and each European nation calls them differently and considers them as their ancestors.

In Italy, they were called Etruscans (according to modern scholars, they came from Armenia), in Austria – Norici (Noriker), in Germany – Bavarians, in England – Britons, in the Czech Republic – Bohemians, in France – Gauls.

These data force us to ponder who we were, the Aratta Armenians: those whom the Sumerians called “the people chosen by the gods”, “possessing the secret of immortality”?

Asmik GULAKYAN Saturday, 04 November 2006

Source: Вне Строк

Translation by Vigen Avetisyan

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