Armenian mythology

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Armenian mythology
Head and left hand from a bronze cult statue of Anahita, a local goddess shown here in the guide of Aphrodite, 200-100 BC, British Museum (8167358544).jpg
A bronze head of Aphrodite from Satala identified as Armenian Anahit
Created1st centuries BC [1]

Armenian mythology originated in ancient Indo-European traditions, specifically Proto-Armenian, and gradually incorporated Anatolian, Hurro-Urartian, Mesopotamian, Iranian, and Greek beliefs and deities. [2] [3]

Hurrian religion religion and mythology of ancient Hurrian people

The Hurrian religion was the polytheistic religion of the Hurrians, a Bronze Age people of the Near East. These people settled over a wide area, so there were differences between them, especially between the eastern Hurrians around Nuzi and Arrapha and the western Hurrians in Syria and Anatolia. From the 14th century BC, the Hurrian religion had a powerful influence on the Hittite religion and the Hurrian pantheon is depicted in the 13th century rock reliefs at the important Hittite sanctuary at Yazılıkaya.

Ancient Mesopotamian religion Ancient Mesopotamian religion

Mesopotamian religion refers to the religious beliefs and practices of the civilizations of ancient Mesopotamia, particularly Sumer, Akkad, Assyria and Babylonia between circa 3500 BC and 400 AD, after which they largely gave way to Syriac Christianity. The religious development of Mesopotamia and Mesopotamian culture in general was not particularly influenced by the movements of the various peoples into and throughout the area, particularly the south. Rather, Mesopotamian religion was a consistent and coherent tradition which adapted to the internal needs of its adherents over millennia of development.

Zoroastrianism Iranian religion founded by Zoroaster

Zoroastrianism or Mazdayasna is one of the world's oldest continuously practiced religions. It is centered in a dualistic cosmology of good and evil and an eschatology predicting the ultimate conquest of evil with theological elements of henotheism, monotheism/monism, and polytheism. Ascribed to the teachings of the Iranian-speaking spiritual leader Zoroaster, it exalts an uncreated and benevolent deity of wisdom, Ahura Mazda, as its supreme being. Major features of Zoroastrianism, such as messianism, judgment after death, heaven and hell, and free will may have influenced other religious and philosophical systems, including Second Temple Judaism, Gnosticism, Greek philosophy, Christianity, Islam, the Bahá'í Faith, and Buddhism.

Contents

Formation of Armenian mythology

Side view of the Garni Temple. Garni Temple.jpg
Side view of the Garni Temple.

The pantheon of Armenian gods, initially worshipped by Proto-Armenians, inherited their essential elements from the religious beliefs and mythologies of the Proto-Indo-Europeans and peoples of the Armenian Plateau. Historians distinguish a significant body of Indo-European language words which were used in Armenian pagan rites. The oldest cults are believed to have worshipped a creator called Ar [4] (or possibly Ara), embodied as the sun (Arev or Areg); the ancient Armenians called themselves "children of the sun". Also among the most ancient types of Indo-European-derived worship are the cults of eagles and lions, and of the sky. [5]

Proto-Armenian language Reconstructed language

Proto-Armenian is the earlier, unattested stage of the Armenian language which has been reconstructed by linguists. As Armenian is the only known language of its branch of the Indo-European languages, the comparative method cannot be used to reconstruct its earlier stages. Instead, a combination of internal and external reconstruction, by reconstructions of Proto-Indo-European and other branches, has allowed linguists to piece together the earlier history of Armenian.

Proto-Indo-Europeans Prehistoric ethnic group

The Proto-Indo-Europeans were a hypothetical prehistoric people of Eurasia who spoke Proto-Indo-European (PIE), the ancestor of the Indo-European languages according to linguistic reconstruction.

Indo-European languages language family

The Indo-European languages are a language family of several hundred related languages and dialects.

After the establishment of Iranian dominance in Armenia in the 1st millennium BCE, Zoroastrianism had a major influence on Armenian religion. Until the late Parthian period, the Armenian lands adhered to a syncretic form of Mazdaism, which mixed Iranian religious concepts with traditional Armenian beliefs. [6] For example, the supreme god of the Armenian pantheon, Vanatur, was later replaced by Aramazd (the Parthian form of Ahura Mazda). [6] However, the Armenian version of Aramazd preserved many native Armenian aspects. Similarly, the traditional Armenian goddess of fertility, Nar, was replaced by Anahit, which may derived from Persian Anahita, although the Armenian goddess was entirely distinct from her Iranian counterpart.

Aramazd was the chief and creator god in pre-Christian Armenian mythology. The deity and his name were derived from the Zoroastrian deity Ahura Mazda after the Median conquest of Armenia in the 6th century BCE. Aramazd was regarded as a generous god of fertility, rain, and abundance, as well as the father of the other gods, including Anahit, Mihr, and Nane. Like Ahura Mazda, Aramazd was seen as the father of the other gods, rarely with a wife, though sometimes husband to Anahit or Spandaramet. Aramazd was the Parthian form of Ahura Mazda.

The Parthian language, also known as Arsacid Pahlavi and Pahlawānīg, is a now-extinct ancient Northwestern Iranian language spoken in Parthia, a region of northeastern ancient Iran. Parthian was the language of state of the Arsacid Parthian Empire, as well as of its eponymous branches of the Arsacid dynasty of Armenia, Arsacid dynasty of Iberia, and the Arsacid dynasty of Caucasian Albania.

Ahura Mazda highest deity of Zoroastrianism

Ahura Mazda is the creator and highest deity of Zoroastrianism. Ahura Mazda is the first and most frequently invoked spirit in the Yasna. The literal meaning of the word Ahura is "lord", and that of Mazda is "wisdom".

In the Hellenistic age (3rd to 1st centuries BC), ancient Armenian deities were identified with ancient Greek deities: Aramazd with Zeus, Anahit with Artemis, Vahagn with Hercules, Astghik with Aphrodite, Nane with Athena, Mihr with Hephaestus, Tir with Apollo.

Zeus Ruler of the gods in Greek mythology

Zeus is the sky and thunder god in ancient Greek religion, who rules as king of the gods of Mount Olympus. His name is cognate with the first element of his Roman equivalent Jupiter. His mythologies and powers are similar, though not identical, to those of Indo-European deities such as Jupiter, Perkūnas, Perun, Indra and Thor.

Anahit Armenian Goddess

Anahit was the goddess of fertility and healing, wisdom and water in Armenian mythology. In early periods she was the goddess of war. By the 5th century BC she was the main deity in Armenia along with Aramazd. The Armenian goddess Anahit is related to the similar Iranian goddess Anahita. Anahit's worship, most likely borrowed from the Iranians during the Median invasion or the early Achaemenid period, was of paramount significance in Armenia. Artaxias I erected statues of Anahit, and promulgated orders to worship them.

Artemis Deity in ancient Greek religion and myth

Artemis, in the ancient Greek religion and myth, is the goddess of the hunt, the wilderness, wild animals, the Moon, and chastity.

After the formal adoption of Christianity in the 4th century CE, ancient myths and beliefs transformed to adhere more closely to Christian beliefs. Biblical characters took over the functions of the archaic gods and spirits. For example, John the Baptist inherited certain features of Vahagn and Tir, and the archangel Gabriel took on elements of Vahagn.

Christianity is an Abrahamic monotheistic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth. Its adherents, known as Christians, believe that Jesus is the Christ, whose coming as the messiah was prophesied in the Hebrew Bible, called the Old Testament in Christianity, and chronicled in the New Testament. It is the world's largest religion with about 2.4 billion followers.

John the Baptist 1st-century Hebrew preacher and later Christian saint

John the Baptist was a Hebrew itinerant preacher in the early 1st century AD. Other titles for John include John the Forerunner in Eastern Christianity, John the Immerser in some Baptist traditions, and "the prophet John (Yaḥyā)" in Islam. He is sometimes alternatively called John the Baptizer.

Gabriel angel in Abrahamic religions

Gabriel, in the Abrahamic religions, is an archangel. He was first described in the Hebrew Bible and was subsequently adopted by other traditions.

Basic information about Armenian pagan traditions were preserved in the works of ancient Greek authors such as Plato, Herodotus, Xenophon and Strabo, Byzantine scholar Procopius of Caesarea, as well as medieval Armenian writers such as Moses of Chorene (Movses Khorenatsi), Agathangelos, Yeznik of Kolb, Sebeos, and Anania Shirakatsi, as well as in oral folk traditions.

Plato Classical Greek Athenian philosopher

Plato was an Athenian philosopher during the Classical period in Ancient Greece, founder of the Platonist school of thought, and the Academy, the first institution of higher learning in the Western world.

Herodotus Ancient Greek historian

Herodotus was an ancient Greek historian who was born in Halicarnassus in the Persian Empire. He is known for having written the book The Histories, a detailed record of his "inquiry" on the origins of the Greco-Persian Wars. He is widely considered to have been the first writer to have treated historical subjects using a method of systematic investigation—specifically, by collecting his materials and then critically arranging them into an historiographic narrative. On account of this, he is often referred to as "The Father of History", a title first conferred on him by the first-century BC Roman orator Cicero.

Xenophon Classical Greek philosopher, historian, and soldier

Xenophon of Athens was an ancient Greek philosopher, historian, soldier, mercenary, and student of Socrates. As a soldier, Xenophon became commander of the Ten Thousand at about 30, with noted military historian Theodore Ayrault Dodge saying of him, “the centuries since have devised nothing to surpass the genius of this warrior.” He established the precedent for many logistical operations and was among the first to use flanking maneuvers, feints and attacks in depth. He was among the greatest commanders of antiquity. As a historian, Xenophon is known for recording the history of his time, the late-5th and early-4th centuries BC, in such works as the Hellenica, which covered the final seven years and the aftermath of the Peloponnesian War, thus representing a thematic continuation of Thucydides' History of the Peloponnesian War.

Pantheon

The pantheon of pre-Christian Armenia changed over the centuries. Originally native Armenian (from Proto-Indo-European) in nature, the pantheon was modified through Anatolian, Hurro-Urartian, Semitic, Iranian, and Greek influences.

One common motif that spanned many or all pagan Armenian pantheons was the belief in a ruling triad of supreme gods, usually comprising a chief, creator god, his thunder god son, and a mother goddess.

Early Armenian

These gods are believed to have been native Armenian gods, worshipped during the earliest eras of Armenian history (Proto-Armenian). Many, if not all, of them are believed to have derived from Proto-Indo-European religious traditions. There is also likely influence from the indigenous beliefs of the Armenian Highlands.

Hayasan

While the exact relationship between the Bronze Age kingdom of Hayasa-Azzi and Armenians is uncertain, many scholars believe that there is a connection (compare Hayasa with the Armenian endonyms Hayastan and Hay). Not much is known about the Hayasan pantheon but some names survive via Hittite records. The triad may have comprised U.GUR, INANNA, and Tarumu. [19]

Urartian

The gods of the Urartian pantheon were mostly borrowed from Hittite and Luwian, Hurrian, Semitic, and possibly Armenian and Indo-Iranian religions.

Persian influence

Zoroastrian influences penetrated Armenian culture during the Achaemenid Empire, though conversion was incomplete and syncretistic, and the Persians and Armenians never appeared to identify with each other as co-religionists [2] despite both referring to themselves as "Mazda worshipers." [3]

Post-Alexandrian influences

Monsters and spirits

Aralez on the battlefield. Aralez.jpg
Aralez on the battlefield.

Heroes and legendary monarchs

Shamiram stares at the corpse of Ara the Beautiful (painting by Vardges Sureniants, 1899). Shamiram ara.jpeg
Shamiram stares at the corpse of Ara the Beautiful (painting by Vardges Sureniants, 1899).

These figures are mainly known through post-Christian sources, but may have belonged to the pre-Christian mythology. [33] Many seem to be derived from Proto-Indo-European mythologies and religious traditions. It is suspected that Hayk, Ara, and Aram were originally deities, possibly from the oldest Armenian pantheon. [37]

Bibliography

See also

Related Research Articles

Arame of Urartu King of Urartu

Arame or Aramu was the first known king of Urartu.

Proto-Indo-European mythology Reconstructed religion

Proto-Indo-European mythology is the body of myths and stories associated with the Proto-Indo-Europeans, the hypothetical speakers of the reconstructed Proto-Indo-European language. Although these stories are not directly attested, they have been reconstructed by scholars of comparative mythology based on the similarities in the belief systems of various Indo-European peoples.

Hayk legendary founder of the Armenian nation

Hayk the Great, or The Great Hayk, also known as Hayk Nahapet, is the legendary patriarch and founder of the Armenian nation. His story is told in the History of Armenia attributed to the Armenian historian Moses of Chorene.

Kingdom of Armenia (antiquity) ancient state of Armenia

The Kingdom of Armenia, also the Kingdom of Greater Armenia, or simply Greater Armenia, sometimes referred to as the Armenian Empire, was a monarchy in the Ancient Near East which existed from 321 BC to 428 AD. Its history is divided into successive reigns by three royal dynasties: Orontid, Artaxiad and Arsacid (52–428).

Ḫaldi Urartian war god

Ḫaldi was one of the three chief deities of Urartu. He was a warrior god to whom the kings of Urartu would pray for victories in battle. Ḫaldi was portrayed as a man with or without wings, standing on a lion.

The religions of the ancient Near East were mostly polytheistic, with some examples of monolatry. Some scholars believe that the similarities between these religions indicate that the religions are related, a belief known as patternism.

Vahagn

Vahagn Vishapakagh or Vahakn was a god of fire, thunder and war worshiped anciently in Armenia. Some time during Ancient history, he formed a "triad" with Aramazd and Anahit. Vahagn was identified with the Greek deity Heracles. The priests of Vahévahian temple, who claimed Vahagn as their own ancestor, placed a statue of the Greek hero in their sanctuary. In the Armenian translation of the Bible, "Heracles, worshipped at Tyr" is renamed "Vahagn".

According to the medieval Georgian Chronicles, Armazi was the supreme deity in the pantheon of pre-Christian Caucasian Iberia.

Hayasa-Azzi or Azzi-Hayasa was a Late Bronze Age confederation formed between two kingdoms of Armenian Highlands, Hayasa located South of Trabzon and Azzi, located north of the Euphrates and to the south of Hayasa. The Hayasa-Azzi confederation was in conflict with the Hittite Empire in the 14th century BC, leading up to the collapse of Hatti around 1190 BC.

In the earliest prehistoric period Astghik, or Astɫik, had been worshipped as the Armenian deity of fertility and love, later the skylight had been considered her personification, and she had been the consort of Vahagn. In the later heathen period she became the goddess of love, maidenly beauty, and water sources and springs.

Tork Angegh

Tork Angegh was an ancient Armenian masculine deity of strength, courage, of manufacturing and the arts, also called Torq and Durq/Turq. A creature of unnatural strength and power, Tork was considered one of Hayk's great-grandsons and reportedly represented as an unattractive male figure. He is mentioned by Armenian 4th Century historian Movses Khorenatsi and considered one of the significant deities of the Armenian pantheon prior to the time when it came under influence by Iranian and Hellenic religion and mythology. Taken in the context of Proto-Indo-European religions, it is conceivable that an etymological connection with Norse god Thor/Tyr is more than a simple coincidence.

Nane was an Armenian mother goddess, as well as the goddess of war and wisdom.

Prehistory of the Armenians

The recorded history of Armenia dates back to the 6th century BC Orontid Dynasty The earliest attestations of the exonym "Armenia" date to the Achaemenid Empire. In his trilingual Behistun Inscription, Darius I the Great of Persia refers to Urashtu as Armina and Harminuya. In Greek, Αρμένιοι "Armenians" is attested from about the same time, perhaps the earliest reference being a fragment attributed to Hecataeus of Miletus.

Armenian Native Faith Armenian Neopaganism

The Armenian Native Faith, also termed Armenian Neopaganism or Hetanism, is a modern Pagan new religious movement that harkens back to the historical, pre-Christian belief systems and ethnic religions of the Armenians. The followers of the movement call themselves "Hetans" or Arordi, meaning the "Children of Ari", also rendered as "Arordiners" in some scholarly publications.

Mihr is the deity of the light of heaven and the god of Sun in ancient Armenian mythology. The worship of Mihr was centered in a region named Derjan, a district in Upper Armenia, currently located in eastern Turkish territories. The temple dedicated to Mihr was built in the village of Bagaritch. Despite the fact that the Armenian Mihr was less prominent in Armenia than Mithra was in Persia, Mihr is the root of many Armenian proper names such as Mihran, Mihrdat and Mehruzhan. The Armenian pagan temple Mehian also has the same source. The month of February was dedicated to Mihr and it was called Mehekan. In 301 A.D. Christianity became the official religion of Armenia, and the Armenian church adopted many pagan rites and ceremonies. For example, the Christian fire-festival of Trndez, which has pagan roots is still celebrated in February, the month dedicated to Mihr.

The Vishap is a dragon in Armenian mythology closely associated with water, similar to the Leviathan. It is usually depicted as a winged snake or with a combination of elements from different animals. The word vishap is likely an Iranian loan. The native Armenian word may have been gegh.

In the Armenian mythology, Spandaramet, or Sandaramet, was the goddess of death, underworld and hell, and corresponded to the Greek god Hades.

In The City is an Armenian comedy drama television series. The series premiered on Shant TV on October 1, 2012. The series takes place in Yerevan, Armenia.

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