Mythical King Lion Mher and Ancient Deity Mithra

Mythical King Lion Mher and Ancient Deity MithraLion Mher (Aryutsadzev Mher, from Armenian “aryuts” (lion) and “dzev” (-like)) is a mythical king from the national Armenian folk epic “Daredevils of Sassoun”. King Mher slew a lion with his bare hands, which earned him the title “lion-like”. Lion Mher is the father of David of Sassoun, the hero of the epic. The king is the embodiment of a noble, fair, wise, and self-sacrificing father and king.

As he approached old age, he with gentility accepted the end of his generation as the price for the upcoming generation. The reading from the Armenian requiem says: “Except a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears fruit.” King Mher represented the power of nature and the honesty of the character, which were passed to his son David.

Lion Mher is also associated with the ancient deity Mithra. There are numerous parallels between both in the epic tale, one being the fact that Mher/Mihr is the Armenian name for Mithra. Apart from that, Mher signs a treaty with his adversary Melik of Egypt. Mithra has been known to mediate treaties, and his name has often been translated as “treaty”, “friendship”, or “agreement”. Like Mithra, Lion Mher is recounted to have slain a bull: Mher learned that he wasn’t able to defeat the White Monster who had captured his wife, unless he killed the Black Bull. This resembles the key myth of Mithraism, which is the slaughter of the bull by Mithra.

Additionally, the Armenian Mihr was considered the son of the supreme god Aramazd who was identified with Zeus and was likewise called the “thunderer”. As the son of the god of thunder, Mihr can be identified with Lion Mher: Mher’s father Sanasar represents the figure of the god of thunder and the first possessor of the “lightning sword”. Mithra and Lion Mher are sometimes associated with Haldi, the chief pagan deity of the pantheon of the Kingdom of Van (Urartu), due to his title “lion-like”, which reminds of Haldi’s depictions standing over a lion. Mher’s wife was named Armahan, which appears to be the distorted name “Aruban(i)”, which was the name of Haldi’s wife.

“Daredevils of Sassoun” bears many pagan Armenian elements coming from the times immemorial. Below is the English translation of a passage about Lion Mher:

Great Lion Mher, with his noble pride,
for forty long years ruled Sassoon far and wide.
His rule was so awesome that in his day,
across Sassoon’s peaks even birds feared to stray.
Far from the highlands where Sassoon was found,
his dreaded fame spread with a thunderous sound.
And praise for the high deeds of Lion Mher,
on thousands of lips, in one voice, filled the air.
He ruled in Sassoon with lionly might,
the prince of the highlands, unchallenged in right…



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