Taron and Arshamunik – Ancient Armenia

One of the medieval philosophers once noted that a person grows attached to the earth when his ancestors rest in it. Armenians are bound to their land by such powerful centuries-old chains that this bond can be destroyed only by annihilating its bearers.

Reiterating over and over the well-known thesis about the need to know one’s homeland thoroughly, I must stress: this knowledge is required not only in the context of basic patriotism, but also from the point of view of that very genetic attachment to the native land – the land where ancestors rest and where the great sons of the nation are born.

This knowledge is necessary to overcome the vicious local feudalism, which only recognizes “our own kind”. Once, during her self-formation as a person, my daughter asked me – who am I? Yerevantsi, Karabakhtsi?

On my father’s line, my roots are from Artsakh, on my mother’s – from Kars. My wife is from Artsakh and Goris, respectively. We and our children were born in Yerevan. So, who am I? Well, of course, and basically – Armenian.

All the names listed are my homeland. I don’t see the slightest difference. My ancestors rest everywhere. My parents and my children were born and are born everywhere. Because the ending “tsi” in my language only denotes the place of birth, and earlier simply replaced the surname.

So, Taron; a dense forest with inexhaustible reserves of gazpen – heavenly manna, located west of Mush. A little lower than the edge of the forest, where the slopes of the Semsar or Sevsar mountains of the Main Armenian Tavros are already approaching the Mush plain, 9 km northwest of Mush lies a village with a rich history – Khoronk, originally – Khorni or Khorean.

In its heyday in the early Middle Ages, it was a suburb with almost two thousand houses. Khorni-Khoronk supplied the Armenian army with 600 horsemen and 1700 infantrymen during the Arshakuni dynasty period.

The suburb under the name Khornia is mentioned in Hittite inscriptions, and from the 4th century (under the name Khorni) – in Armenian sources, starting with Zenob Glak. Khoronk belonged to the Msho Surb Karapet monastery. Here, around 410 AD, the future historian Movses was born, who entered history under the surname Khorenatsi – according to the place of birth. Khorenatsi rightly carries the honorary title of “father of Armenian history”.

His “History of Armenia” or “Ayots Patmutyun” is a fundamental work that gave descendants the basic knowledge about the genesis and formation of the Armenian nation, its early history. It was Khorenatsi who described in detail the deeds of Hayk Nahapet and his descendants, and it was on the basis of his work that Gevond Alishan calculated the date of Hayk’s battle with Bel – 2492 BC, from which the Armenian calendar counts. By the way, last year American geneticists concluded that Khorenatsi’s narrative about Hayk and the period of Haykian early Armenian history is not a legend, but a reliable factual material.

This narrative provides answers to many questions of Armenian toponymy, on its basis one can trace the etymology of many geographical names of our homeland – the etymology is original, purely Armenian, without the admixture of Hittite-Hurrian or Urartian derivative roots. Etymology related to the period of the oldest Armenian history of the 4th-3rd millennium BC, when Hayk, the descendant of Torgom, was settling Armenia.

Movses Khorenatsi died at the end of the 5th century and was buried in the Msho Arakelots monastery. In his native village of Khoronk, nearly 50 Armenian households lived until 1915, engaged in agriculture and livestock farming, the Surb Astvatsatsin church and a school were operating.

According to some researchers, for example, Ormanyan, Khorni or Khoronk is translated from ancient Armenian precisely as “birthplace”. I would also pay attention to the obvious linguistic connection with the toponym Orean, Oryan, meaning an ancient settlement, a fortified town, and repeated in Armenia several dozen times.

In the northern part of the Mush plain, 22 km northeast of Mush, on the left bank of the Azenk river basin of Mekhraget is located another significant village of Taron and all Armenia – Atsekats, later – Atsik, modern Khasik.

To the north of the village, the plain turns into the southern foothills of the Kharks mountains, called the mountains of the province Atseaats. Here, in 362, another brilliant son of Armenia was born, the restorer of the Armenian alphabet, the first Armenian teacher and translator Mesrop Mashtots. He died on February 17, 440 in Vagharshapat and is buried in the village of Oshakan in the Aragatsotn province.

The village and its surrounding region, as well as the aforementioned Aceac Draht forest, owe their names to the tree “atseni” – ash, revered by our ancestors as sacred. The village of Atsekats is usually identified with late Acik – the current Hasik.

However, Sogomon Taronci testifies that Atsekats was located 5-6 km upstream of the river, at the foot of Mount Acik (1602 meters above sea level). According to Taronci, the ruins of Atsekats existed until 1915 and were a place of pilgrimage for Armenians and Kurds.

At the end of the 19th century, about 50 Armenian and 11 Kurdish, precisely – Yezidi houses lived in Acik. The village had the Surb Mesrop church and a school. In 1914-15, the Armenian inhabitants organized armed resistance against the criminal Turkish regime, fortifying themselves on Mount Acik.

Right next to Mush, 4 km southeast of it, on the left bank of the Arax or Araxadzor river of the Mekhaget basin, in the northern foothills of Simsar and Tirin Katar, halfway from Mush to the Msho Arakelots monastery, lies the village of Tergevank or Nergin, considered in Armenian studies to be the birthplace of the renowned philosopher David Anakht (Invincible).

However, another ancient village in the neighboring region of Hark, Erian (Xirian, Hert, Koryan – its name variations), competes for the right to be considered his birthplace, although the majority of researchers lean towards Tergevank.

David Anakht was born in 475, died in the middle of the 6th century in Akhpat, and is buried in the same Msho Arakelots monastery. In Tergevank, in 531, a monastery of the same name was built, which served as the village church in modern times. In 1888, through the efforts of the villagers Ovannes Kazaryan and Mkrtich Eretcyan, another church was founded in Tergevank.

The heart of Armenia – Taron, with its almost 7-thousand-year history, is the birthplace of many other famous Armenian figures. Not far from Atsekats, 9 km to the southeast, on the right bank of the Mekhaget, lies one of the most significant villages of the Mush Plain, Til, with a church built in 756.

Here, in the 9th century, was born the founder of the Armenian dynasty of the Byzantine Empire, Baseg I. The ancient Armenian root “til” – hill (Arabic-Hebrew “tell”) – gave the name to this and about ten other villages.

In the village of Kemik, 5 km south of Ashtishat and the Aceac Draht forest, a prominent representative of the Armenian liberation movement, colleague of Ovsep Emin, Bishop Ovan, was born in the 18th century. In the Aceac Draht forest itself, 12 km west of Ashtishat, lie the ruins of the village of Airablur (Fathers’ Hill), where Bishop Ovannes Taronci, who restored the Msho Surb Karapet monastery, was born in the 15th century.

This list would take several pages, as would a list of the graves of famous figures buried in Taron.

Taron’s northwestern neighbor is the region of Arshamunik, which also belongs to the province of Turuberan. It is located between the mountains of Avatamk or Karkeo in the south and the Byurakn plateau in the north, on a plateau called Mayragomk or Mergemer.

To the west, Arshamunik is separated by the Serovbe (or Serok) mountains from the Ash’tyank region of the Tsopk province, and to the east, by the Byurakn and Aratsani rivers, from the Hark and Varazhnunik regions of Turuberan.

According to the testimony of Pavstos Buzand, initially this was a part of Taron, which later separated as the property of the princely dynasty of Arshamuni, which, according to many researchers, originates from the younger brother of Tigran II Arsham.

The name of one of the major villages of the region, Salikan (or Salygan, Salkan), it is thought, traces back to Slkuni – one of the ancient Armenian princely dynasties. A village of the same name with the same etymology lies on the way from Taron to Balaovit, west of the Palunyats pass and the avant of Kvars.

By the way, this last one (Slkuni-Salygan-Selikan-Salkan-Solhan) is identified by Armenian scholars with the historical Boglan, which is incorrect. Boglan is located 6 km to the west and is the same village as Palunyats (Palunyats gyuh), mentioned by historians.

Arshamunik is famous primarily for the small lake Kerlich (Curved Lake) – it is there that Hayk Nahapet, after his victory over Bel, buried his bow. And the mountain next to the lake is called Akhehnasar (Bow Mountain) or Surb (Holy), while the Kurds call it Ziyaret (Holy).

In Arshamunik, there are also the mountains of Ara (Araler), Arjgloor (Bear Stone), Areguni, and Mayragomk. Among the large and significant villages of Arshamunik are Amasia (named after Hayk’s great-grandson, variant – Avmasi), Bazkan, Shahaz, Tiatun (Diadin), Arpi (Araapi).

Numerous sources of Mayragomk – Mayragomats, Selavadzor, Tsarakan and others – give rise to the right tributaries of Byurakn (which in turn flows into Aratsani).

On the extreme west of Arshamunik, in the mountains of Serovbe (Serok) bordering Asht’yank, are located well-known ancient cities of Armenia – Vohin or Sheta (from both names the current village of Vohnut or Ohnut and the toponym Asht’yank originate) and Eriza or Erez (now Azizan), as well as the monastery of Vankik on the shore of a lake of the same name. In the eastern part of Arshamunik, in the valley of the Bazkan river, there is the gorge of Jrshatah dzor, where in 1915 a part of the Armenian residents of the Vardo and Hnus districts perished. Part I

Our path then leads east from Taron, to the Hark region – the beginning of the beginnings of Armenia…

by Grigor Beglaryan

Translated by Vigen Avetisyan

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