Today’s journey will take us to the extreme south of Greater Armenia, to its border with Assyria, where one of its most extensive provinces, Korduk, is located. Making up the western part of the province of Korchayk (the southernmost in Greater Armenia), Korduk lies in the interfluve of the Tigris, Djerma or Eastern Tigris (Botan) and Tmorik – the late Hezil.
These are the southern foothills of the southernmost ridge of the Armenian highlands – the mountains of Kordvats, transitioning into the Pre-Tigris plain, – from here begins the actual Mesopotamia, in ancient times – Assyria.
The territory of Korduk covers more than 6,000 square km. It is a mountainous province, almost entirely covered by forests, cut by intermountain valleys, only in the extreme south, at the confluence of the Tmorik-Hezil and Tigris rivers, it descends into a treeless steppe.
The toponym Korduk comes from the root “kord” of the ancient Armenian language, which had two meanings: “untamed land”, “mainland” and “dense”, “thick”. Both senses aptly characterize this province, covered with dense forests, “densely” cut by the mountainous relief, which at all times remained not fully developed and inhabited only in the river valleys area.
In the oldest Assyrian-Babylonian cuneiform texts, the Korduk province, named after its center Tman (Tmnis), is referred to as the country of Tumni. Tghatpalasar I at the end of the II millennium BC calls it the country (house) of Cadmus or Cadmuhi, – actually Tun Cadmosi is located to the west of Korduk, on the right bank of the Tigris.
Finally, Xenophon, Strabo and other ancient Greek authors call Korduk the country of Korduh or Gordiatsvots. The name Tun Cadmosi traces back to the name of the grandson of Hayk Naapet, the son of Aramanyak Cadmus, and the toponym Korduk, along with the name of the Kordvats mountains, as mentioned earlier, derives its etymology from the ancient Armenian “kord”, found in various regions of Armenia more than a hundred times.
The similarity in the sound of the names Korduk, Kordvats, Kordrik and the name of the people “Kurds” is just a coincidence. Due to the geographical coincidence of the territory of Korduk and the original settlement of the Kurds, this toponymic coincidence began to be replicated as a connection of the incoming nomadic people to the most ancient land, already settled by Armenians and their ancestors.
I repeat, for about 4,000 years, the term “kord” has served as a toponym-forming root in the oldest and ancient Armenian toponymy, denoting either the density and thickness of some element of the landscape, or the untamed nature of a given area.
A historical-geographical feature of Korduk has always been the fact that this province is located in the extreme south of Greater Armenia, and it is through it that the most accessible path from Assyria, Mesopotamia, and Palestine to Armenia and further – to the Black Sea, Caucasus, and Sarmatia – lies.
Korduk also lies along the oldest of the developed routes from the East to the West – from Persia, Media-Marastan and Atropatene to Greater and Lesser Armenia, and then to Cappadocia and Asia Minor. Nowadays, the territory of Korduk adjoins the border of Western Armenia with Syria and Iraq.
Generally, for all the oldest countries and peoples of Mesopotamia, Armenia – the mountainous country of the gods of Sumer and the famous Ararat-Aratta country, which saved humanity from the flood – began exactly from Korduk.
It is here, in the province of Korduk of the Korchayk region of Greater Armenia, in that corner where the Tigris and Tmorik-Hezil rivers converge, that the Aratta-Ararat or Ararad mountains are located – today they are called either Ziarat (Holy) or Judi – do not confuse with the Judi mountains in the eastern part of Korchayk.
The highest point of the Aratta ridge – the eponymous mountain Aratta-Ararat-Ararad, which at different times and among different peoples also bore the names Nibur, Harit and Judi-Ziarat, has an altitude of 2,086 meters above sea level.
Although for the Armenian Highlands as a whole this is more than an average indicator, but for the people approaching from the south, from the Mesopotamian plains lying at sea level or even below it, this was a wall of insurmountable height, symbolizing a new country.
It is not surprising that in the oldest epics about the Great Flood, it was the Aratta-Ararat mountain that was depicted as the first refuge of the saved human race. It was on this peak that the famous Sumerian Utnapishtim, who later became the prototype of Noah, found shelter – the hero of the narrative about Gilgamesh.
The name Utnapishtim perfectly reflects the oldest meaning of the Armenian sacral system – “ut” (“eight”, but in early Armenian and in some dialects – “oht” from “yot” – “seven”, that is, the international sacred number) and “pashtel” – “revere”, “bow”. As a result, we have the reverence of seven gods.
And this name has forever remained in the Armenian Highlands – near the top of Aratta-Ararat, the village of Utics (now Girkchilyan) was founded from ancient times.
Later, when the texts of the oldest legends were edited and adapted to fit the Bible, the name Ararat was transferred to the highest point of Armenia and the entire Ancient world – Mount Masis (fortunately, the region surrounding Masis in Greater Armenia is called Airarat), and the name of the village Utics, to avoid the truth about the “pagan” Utnapishtim, grew a legend that Noah planted here eight of the “creatures” taken on board the ark on his way to Masis-Ararat.
This very text escapade mentioned above became the reason that in the Biblical text, Noah’s Ark stuck not to a single peak, but to the “Ararat mountains,” that is, to the mountainous country of Aratta-Ararat.
And the name Aratta remained in the Armenian highlands not only in the numerous variants of the ancient Armenian Ar-Ararat, Ararich, and Aregak. This name has also been preserved in the name of a small river – the left tributary of the Tigris, flowing from the Krekar (Chalk) mountains to the west of the Aratta-Judi ridge and still called Urada.
Thus, with the help of the oldest Armenian toponyms, we can confidently localize the ancient country of Aratta – that is, Ararat, on the extreme south of Greater Armenia, at its borders with Assyria.
On the territory of Korduk, names bearing the linguistic traces of another ancient name of Armenia – Nairi, or Land of Rivers, are often found.
The toponym Nairi, without changing its meaning, was borrowed from ancient Armenian by later languages – Arabic, Kurdish, Turkic, in the pronunciation of Nahr, Nehri, Nari, and in Armenian itself, along with the original Nairi, forms like Nare, Narek, and others appeared.
So, in Korduk we can find the rivers Nerak, Nare, and Nardush, the plain of Nahri, the mountain range Chia-ye-Naira (in the extreme north of modern Iraq), and so on.
Extremely interesting information can be gleaned from the names located in the north of Iraq – in ancient times, these areas made up the territory of the gavars of Korduk South and Korduk Middle, Aytvank and Aygark ashkhars of the Greater Armenia.
Given that the dominant element here in modern times, as well as in the adjacent regions of Western Armenia, are Kurds (although the current adventure of the militants of the so-called ISIS has, among other things, the goal of changing exactly the ethnic composition of the region), the oldest Armenian toponyms of Greater Armenia and Korduk have changed little, among them there are even completely “untouched” names.
In favor of the given version about the initial spread of the name Aratta-Ararat, which in the form of Ararad is accepted as truth by most scientists, the names preserved here speak, for example, the villages of Masis, Dasht-e-Masik, Kar-Masik, and others.
As you can see, without even changing their Armenian grammatical forms, these toponyms eloquently speak of the connection of the oldest names Aratta-Ararat and Masis-Masik (by the way, the variant of the name of the Sipan mountain on the northern shore of Van is Nekh-Masik – Small Masis).
Bearing in mind the latest data, particularly from American geneticists, that the Armenian gene has existed unchanged in Armenia as a major component of the Armenian nation for 5,000 years, and secondly, the narrative in Khorenatsi’s work about the Haykian period of Armenian history is reliable historical information, I think it can be concluded that the above-mentioned toponyms are remnants of the ancient Armenian toposystem, which included the names of the Armenian country – Ararat-Aratta and Nairi, elements of the Armenian relief – the geographical basis for the ancient non-Armenian epics about the Great Flood and the salvation of humanity, as well as the names of numerous descendants of Hayk – our ancestors, who became the eponyms of settlements and even whole gavars (eponym – the name of a person given to a geographical element).
Our journey through the gavar of Korduk would be incomplete without visiting places not so famous but no less significant for Armenian history. Thus, in the northern part of Korduk, in a dense forest, there are several settlements that have preserved in their names the ancient names of the regions that once made up the country of Nairi.
This is primarily Erun or Eruh (now Deh) – a trace of the Eruni toponym of the ancient cuneiforms; Shesu, preserved in its original pronunciation; the village of Bishi or Boshi – a trace of the oldest Bushshe or Bisia (from which, by the way, the name of Armenian gypsies – Bosha – may come); the ancient settlements Vandak and Pyunik, distorted later into Fyndyk and Pinakka, and many others.
The last examples are interesting for a vivid demonstration of how “logically” and “naturally” the original version and the original meaning of the toponym can be changed. The Armenian “vandak” or Persian “band” with the meaning of a limited mountainous area (saravand – plateau) turns into “funduk” or “fyndyk” – in a region that never had walnut groves, and Pyunik, identified since ancient times with Phoenix, becomes Pinakka, although olives or palm trees have never grown in the vicinity.
by Grigor Beglaryan
Translated by Vigen Avetisyan