Ancient Rulers of the Armenian Provinces of Artsakh and Utik from the Haykazuni Dynasty

Ancient Rulers of the Armenian Provinces of ArtsakhThe fatherly line of the founder of the dynasty Hasan Jalal Vakhtangyan comes from the Aranshahik clan that ruled the Armenian provinces of Artsakh and Utik antiquity. The name of the Aranshahik can be translated as “clan of shahs (monarchs), originating from Aran.” Aran was one of the great-grandsons of Sisak, the first ruler of the Armenian province of Syunik (hence the alternative name of Syunik – Sisakan).

According to Armenian historian Movses Khorenatsi, Sisak was the son of Gegham and the grandson of Hayk. The most famous monarch of the Aranshahik dynasty was Vachagan III the Pious, a ruler of the Aghvank Kingdom (5th century) glorified in legends and tales. Vachagan was famous due to his faith in Christ, the foundation of a large number of churches and schools, and also the so-called “Aghven Constitution.”

In addition, the Syuni princes, the rulers of Syunik (10th province of ancient Armenia), supplied the largest military contingent to the Armenian army.

According to the descriptions of Khorenatsi and Kaghankatvatsi, Aran entered history thanks to the king of Armenia Vagharshak I after he instructed him to rule on his behalf over the eastern provinces of his kingdom.

“Establishing order with the inhabitants of the north, he [Vagarshak] convened the representatives of alien wild tribes living in the northern plain, at the foot of the Caucasus Mountains, and in the valleys and canyons to the south up until the place where the plain begins, and ordered them to stop robbery and treachery and to dutifully pay the royal tax.

Then, the king appointed leaders for them who were in their turn ruled by one Aran from the Sisak clan descending from Japheth. He inherited the valleys and mountains of the country of Aghvank from Yeraskh river to Hnarakert fortress. Because of his [Aran’s] mild temper, this country was called Aghvank, and he himself was called Aghu. Some say that many of the brave and noble descendants of this Aran were appointed by Vagarshak Partev as governors and military commanders.”

Kaghankatvatsi directly indicated the connection of the Aranshahik clan with Hayk, the progenitor of Armenians. His book describes the bloody conflict between the autochthonous Aranshahiks and the alien princely Mihranyan (Mihranid) clan.

Mihranyans were Persians assimilated in Armenia and converted to Christianity. They seized the Gardman district in Artsakh in the 7th century and for some time took the place of the local governors. Kaghankatvatsi called the Aranshahik clan “Hayk’s dynasty” as well.

Kirakos Gandzaketsi, a 13th-century historian, complemented Kaghankatvatsi and emphasized that Aran and the kings Urnair, Vache, Vachagan, and other representatives of Aranshahiks also originated from Hayk.

Due to the enormous size of the Achaemenid Empire, the culture of these territories was heterogeneous. The Persian elite professed Zoroastrianism and worshiped fire in cubic temples (Kaaba Zoroaster). However, the ancient cult of the Sun (worship of Mithra) retained its significance in the empire.

Herodotus reported that the Persians did not have the traditions of worshiping the statues of gods or constructing numerous temples. Magicians were responsible for the religious ceremonies. In the Achaemenid Empire, faith tolerance towards the local populations was allowed. It was the Persians who put an end to the Babylonian captivity.

The Persian aristocracy borrowed the tradition of monumental graves (or mausoleums, named after Carian king Mausolus) from the Elamites. This tradition dated back to the Babylonian ziggurats. According to the Behistun inscription, there was no single official language in Persia. In addition to ancient Persian cuneiforms, the Aramaic language based on Phoenician letters was widely spread throughout the empire.

The gravestone of Hasan Jalal Vakhtangyan located in front of the entrance to the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist contains the following lipogram in Classical Armenian: “ԱՅՍ է ՀԱՆԳԻՍՏ ՄԵԾԻՆ ՋԱԼԱԼԻՆ: ԱՂԱԻԹՍ ՅԻՇԵՑԵՔ։ ԹՎ ՊՁ”. Translated from Classical Armenian, it reads: “The great Jalal rests here. Remember him in your prayers. Year 1431.”

The gravestone of Hasan Jalal is made from white marble. Three large figures are engraved on it. The first one contains the symbol of a six-pointed star – the Star of David. Inside the star is the sign of the Wheel of Eternity.

• (a) The gravestone of Hasan Jalal III, Gandzasar, Artsakh. (b) The tombstone at the grave of Elikum III Orbelyan, St. Gregory Chapel, Noravank, Armenia

The Star of David can be seen on the walls of many Armenian churches and fortresses, as well as on cross-stones (khachkars). For example, this symbol can be found on the walls of the Vorotnavank and Tsakhats-Kar monasteries located in the territory of modern Armenia (in the Syunik and Vayots-Dzor provinces). The Star of David is also engraved on the northern facade of the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist.

The second figure is a 16-pointed star. The third symbol is known in Armenia as the “Sun” (Armenian: Արև). This ornamented relief figure can be found on the bottom portion of khachkars. A large cross on the southern facade of the Gandzasar Cathedral of St. John the Baptist rests on a bas-relief with an engraved symbol of the Sun.

Such symbols are widespread in the Syunik and Artsakh provinces bordering each other. Perhaps the most mysterious of them is the image of a humanoid lioness on the tombstone of Prince Elikum III Orbelyan (1300). The tombstone is located in the chapel of Saint Gregory Monastery of Noravank in Vayots Dzor Province, Armenia.

Elikum was the son of Prince Tarsaըich Orbelyan. The latter was married to Princess Mina, the daughter of Hasan Jalal Vakhtangyan.

The lioness on the tombstone has a human body and limbs, as well as a long tail. Above her head is a halo. No one has yet managed to explain what the symbol of the lioness on the tombstones of the Orbelyan princes means.

© 2017, Vahanyan V., Vahanyan G. An excerpt from the article “Alpha and Omega of Jupiter Dolichenus, Zeus, Shamash, Shivani, Mitra, Aramazd, and Odin.”



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