Ireland and Armenia: Studies in Language, History and Narrative

Ireland and Armenia: Studies in Language, History and Narrative The reviewed collection of scientific articles is the 61st volume of the series “Journal of Indo-European Studies”, which is authoritative in academic circles. Editors of the book are Maxim Fomin (Ireland), Alvard Jivanyan (Armenia), and Seamus Mac Mathuna (Ireland).

The collection contains scientific articles exploring the historiographic, linguistic, cultural, anthropological, mythological, and other aspects of the culture of two small countries, Ireland and Armenia, which are located on the western and eastern periphery of the Indo-European range.

The foundation of the compilation was the reports prepared for the participation in the Celtic-Armenian symposium held in Matenadaran (Mesrop Mashtots Institute of Ancient Manuscripts) on September 7-9 in Yerevan. The collection includes 13 articles. The Middle Ages are in the primary attention, but the research also touches upon other periods as well.

The main objective of these studies is to compare the mentioned aspects of the cultures of the two countries and to establish the relationship between the elements of the common Indo-European heritage, the role and influence of other languages and traditions, in particular, Christianity, classical knowledge, as well as possible contacts during many centuries. The collection consists of an introduction, the main report, and four chapters.

The first study, which is the main report, was written by Professor Seamus Mac Mathuna, former director of the Institute of Irish and Celtic Studies at the Ulster University.

In his multifaceted article “Creative evidence from Ireland and Armenia: parallels in historiography, the hermitic tradition, myths and legends”, the obvious parallels existing in the Armenian and Irish traditions are explored.

The constructive testimonies of eyewitnesses become a kind of a canvas for disclosing the main themes of research and the formation of approaches to its study. The author thinks that the parallels between the Irish and Armenian traditions in the researched areas occurred because the eyewitnesses acted within the framework of a single paradigm and worked on the basis of single or similar sources.

The origin and sources of some of the myths and legends that exist in both cultures can sometimes be difficult to pinpoint, but the author suggests that some of them undoubtedly come from a single Indo-European cultural heritage. How and from where they spread, it is even harder to establish, and this issue should be studied alongside the linguistic material.

The first chapter of the collection, “Indo-European Length”, contains three articles and covers linguistic material.

In his article “Armenian and Celtic (languages): new classifications of early Indo-European dialects”, Professor Karl Horst Schmidt (University of Bonn) first of all studies the place of the Armenian language in the Indo-European family of languages, then proceeds to delineate language features that prove earlier contacts of Proto-Celtic languages with eastern Indo-European languages.

The article by Alexander Falileyev (University of Aberystwyth, Wales) and Pyotr Kocharov (Institute of Linguistic Studies, St. Petersburg), “Celtic, Armenian, and Oriental Indo-European Languages: Comments on a New Hypothesis”, discusses the article by K. H. Schmidt mentioned above.

Authors are trying to trace the possible links between the Proto-Celtic, Proto-Armenian, and other Eastern Indo-European languages. Both morphological and lexical isoglosses are examined in comparison with the data of the eastern Indo-European, Tocharian, German, Baltic, and Greek languages. In conclusion, they establish that the Celtic-Armenian matches are less important than the correspondences between the Armenian, Greek, and Indo-Iranian languages.

Maxim Fomin (Ulster University) presents an interesting article, “Armenia in Ireland: Indo-European kinship, medieval legends, and pseudo-historical reports”, which examines how the Armenian language was used by early Celtic scholars in their works of the reconstruction of Indo-European languages.

The article concludes with a presentation of curious studies of the 18th century, in which Irish antiquities tried to find the roots of Gaels in Armenia.

The next chapter of the collection is called “The Origin of Myths and Legends.” The first article of the chapter, “Armenia and Ireland: Myths of the Prehistoric Age”, was written by Armen Petrosyan (Institute of Archeology and Ethnography of the National Academy of Sciences of Armenia).

The author skillfully compares the central figures of the Armenian myths with the Irish and Welsh ethnical characters, referring to the Indian and Greek comparative materials.

According to the author of the article, some Celtic mythologemes were formed as a result of contacts of Celtic tribes with the peoples of the Balkans and Anatolia, from where they penetrated into the Celtic culture and spread in it.

The title of the next article by Sergey Ivanov (Institute for Linguistic Research, St. Petersburg), “Armenia, the cradle of Gaels and Amazons?”, contains an allusion to John Carey’s article “Russia, the Cradle of Gaels?”

Ivanov outlines the Irish pseudo-historical tradition, according to which the Celts’ ancestors were from Scythia. The author draws attention to another branch of the tradition that links Armenia and Armenians to the Irish in terms of genealogy.

He also presents information from other Irish texts, in which women from the mountains of Armenia are identified with the Amazons. Ivanov analyzes how the Amazons could be associated with Armenia and how this fact is reflected in the Irish sources.

John Carey himself (Irish National University in Cork) is presented by his article “Knowledge of the sources in medieval Ireland”, which addresses the problem faced by newly converted Irish in connection with the knowledge of the origin of the descendants of Noah.

He explores the Irish migration legends presented in the ” The Book of the Taking of Ireland ” (“Lebor Gabála Érenn”) and tries to find elements of the pre-Christian faith in it and as well as other sources.

The third chapter of the collection, “Christianity in Armenia and Ireland,” is opened by the article of Hayk Hakobyan (Yerevan State University), “Accepting Christianity in Armenia: Legend and Reality.”

The author examines the process of Armenia’s conversion to Christianity implemented by Gregory the Illuminator and described by Agathangelos in the “History of Armenians” (“The History of the Conversion of Armenians to Christianity”).

In the article, the author refers to both oral and various written sources that help with providing an accurate picture of the real course of events in this difficult and long process, which has become a reason for rethinking the Armenian national heritage and helped the Armenians unite in the fight against pagan tribes and Muslims.

Hamlet Petrosyan (Yerevan State University) is presented with a very interesting article, “Similarities between the early Christian Armenian monuments and the Irish Great Crosses in the light of new discoveries.”

The author draws parallels between the Irish high crosses and the Armenian khachkars (cross-stone) as well as their prototypes, the so-called openwork crosses.

He believes that the latter (dating back at the 5th-7th centuries) had more similarities with the Irish high crosses than modern khachkars. Fragments of khachkars found during the excavations of the fortress of Tigranakert in Artsakh serve as a proof of his assumptions. In conclusion, the author puts forward the hypothesis that the Armenian encircled crosses served as a prototype for the Irish high crosses.

Perhaps, further research will show how and to what extent Armenian medieval monuments were used by Irish masters. In his article “Byzantine and Armenian Cultural Cooperation: A Brief Overview”, Dean Miller (University of Rochester, New York) examines the cultural interchange between Armenia and Byzantine Empire and focuses primarily on the role of Armenia in the prosperity of the Empire.

In addition, questions about religious identity, Christological contradictions between Greek and Armenian orthodoxy, art, architecture, and languages are examined.

In the article “New Approach to Stone Discourse in Britain and Ireland: Armenian-Byzantine Influence”, Natalia Abelian (Ulster University) examines the influence of the eastern provinces of the Roman Empire on the canons of the stone-painting art of the British Isles in the 7th century. The author claims that the Armenian, Syrian, and Byzantine traditions had a huge impact on the art of working with stone on the British Isles.

The fourth and last chapter of the collection, “Narrative, Historical Poetics, and Folklore”, contains two articles. The article “On some ritual and mythological features of the Armenian epic “Daredevils of Sassoun” by Sargis Harutyunyan (Institute of Archaeology and Ethnography of the National Academy of Sciences of Armenia) is devoted to in-depth study of some aspects of the Armenian folk epic “Daredevils of Sassoun”.

According to the author, in the epic, the events that took place in Mesopotamia and South Armenia in the distant past are allegorically represented, and the heroes of the epic are indeed the ancestors of Armenians.

The article also examines the various stylistic features of the epic, which date back at the Armenian ritual of honoring their deceased ancestors. Further, Sargis Harutyunyan addresses pre-Christian ritual traditions and beliefs, claiming that they correspond to the Armenian Christian ethical and religious system.

The article by Alvard Jivanyan (Yerevan State University), “Metamorphosis as the main trope in Irish and Armenian folklore”, brings the collection to its end. Deep knowledge of the Irish and Armenian folklore material helped the author to establish special parallels between Irish and Armenian tales.

In her opinion, analogies between Irish and Armenian sources should be sought at the stylistic level, and, first of all, at the level of the rhetoric of the text. Jivanian believes that the main tropes of the tales – comparison, metonymy, and metamorphosis – reveal the striking similarity between the tales of two peoples. The article focuses on the analysis of identical metamorphoses in Armenian and Irish tales.

The scientific articles presented in the collection are based on a large amount of factual material and are accompanied by a detailed historical and scientific interpretation. In general, researchers and readers will be pleasantly surprised by the depth of Armenian studies conducted by Irish scientists, who represent the maximally complete characterization of the studied Armenian material.

An important advantage of the work under review is that research was and is conducted in the context of the intercultural relationships between Armenia and Ireland, which have developed in the sphere of not only culture but also science.

The authors persistently emphasize the importance of these relationships over the centuries. Thanks to the Indo-European unity, some issues receive a deeper understanding and bring the material to an entirely new level of research.

Another advantage of the book can be considered the fact that all authors are well-known scientists in both domestic and international scientific circles.

The collection “Ireland and Armenia: Studies in Language, History and Narrative” is, in the full sense of the word, a contribution to the development of the problem of the dialogue between those cultures, to the recognition of the deep historical and prehistoric roots linking the Armenian and Irish cultures, and to the understanding of the continuity of the scientific fields of Ireland and Armenia in the context of Indo-European studies.

“Ireland and Armenia: Studies in Language, History and Narrative”, Journal of Indo-European Studies, Monograph Series 61, Washington D.C., 2012.

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