LET US KNOW THE PAST AND THE PRESENT OF THE ARMENIAN HISTORY
This and following articles will present to our readers, and specially to the new generation, the major historical events of Armenian History, to inform them of the courageous history of our ancestors and their achievements, and come into close communion with our culture and inheritance.
Armenia: The native Armenian name for the country is Hayk/Hayastan, (land of the Armenians). The name has traditionally been derived from Hayk, the legendary patriarch of the Armenians and a great-great-grandson of Noah, who according to historian Moses of Khoren defeated the Babylonian king Bel in 2492 BC and established his nation in the Ararat region.
Armenia lies in the highlands surrounding the Biblical mountains of Ararat upon which, according to Judeo-Christian history, Noah’s Ark came to rest after the flood. (Gen. 8:4). In the Bronze Age, several states flourished in the area of Greater Armenia, including the Hittite Empire (at the height of its power), Mitanni (South-Western historical Armenia), and Hayasa-Azzi (1500-1200 BC). Then, the Nairi people (twelfth to ninth centuries BC) and the Kingdom of Urartu (1000-600 BC) successively established their sovereignty over the Armenian Highland. Each of the aforementioned nations and tribes participated in the ethnogenesis of the Armenian people. Yerevan, the modern capital of Armenia, was founded in 782 BC by the Urartian king Argishti I. Assyrian inscriptions of Shalmaneser I (ca. 1270 BC) first mention Uruartri as one of the states of Nairi – a loose confederation of small kingdoms and tribal states in Armenian Highland in the 13th-11th centuries BC.
Urartu corresponding to Ararat, or Kingdom of Van was an Iron Age kingdom centered around Lake Van in the Armenian Highland. It rose to power in the mid 9th century BC and was conquered by Media in the early 6th century BC. It was located in the mountainous plateau between Asia Minor, Mesopotamia, and the Caucasus mountains, later known as the Armenian Highlands, with its centre near Armenian Highlands, with its centre near the present town of Van on the banks of Lake Van in Eastern Turkey. Hayasa was a confederation formed between the Kingdoms of Hayasa located South of Trabzon and Azzi, located North of the Euphrates and to the South of Hayasa.
Nairi also written as Nayir, 13th to 10th centuries BC, is given to a people located around Lake Van, in what is now Eastern Anatolia, Turkey. They were considered a force strong enough to contend with both the Assyrians and Hittites. The Nairi fought against the southern incursions of the Assyrians and would later unite into Urartu.
Around 600 BC, the Kingdom of Armenia was established under the Orontid Dynasty. The kingdom reached its height between 95-66 BC under Tigranes the Great, becoming one of the most powerful kingdoms of its time within the region. Throughout its history, the kingdom of Armenia enjoyed periods of independence intermitted with periods of autonomy subject to contemporary empires. Armenia’s strategic location between two continents has subjected it to invasions by many peoples, including the Assyrians, Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, Arabs, Mongols, Persians, Ottoman Turks and Russians.
The Epic of HAIG and BEL : The Father of the Armenian nation was the hero Haik. Historians tell us he was a handsome man, and big and strong. He had a pleasant face with kind eyes and curly hair. During the times when they were building the Tower of Babel, all the language were mixed up, so Haik gathered around him his children and his servants and set off towards the North.
They made their way slowly, crossing high mountains and wide rivers. After many days they came to vast, impenetrable forests. It was the beautiful green land of Armenia. Here they settled.
The years passed. A giant called Bel ruled over the plains of Assyria. He was a tyrant who demanded that all men worship him like god. He gathered an army of about 10,000 men and advanced on Armenia. Bel called out to Haik: “Obey me and you can live in peace. I will offer you great areas of fertile land”. Haik firmly rejected his command.
The two armies approached each other. Haik had few men while Bel had thousands. The battle started. Haik drew his bow and shot the boastful Bel in the chest, killing him. The invaders fled from our country. Helped by his son Armenag, Haik built many towns and villages for his children and grand-children.
ARAM the PATRIARCH : The patriarch Haik, had many sons and grandsons, and the most famous of them was called Aram.
Aram noticed how the neighboring peoples were coming into his country, pillaging and looting, and decided to attack them. He attacked first to the East, against the Medes, the ancestors of the present-day Kurds. Their king, Nukar, a very ambitious man, invades Armenia with a great army of young people. After fierce fighting, Aram defeated the enemy. Nukar was captured and strung up on the walls of his capital, Armavir.
Aram rebuilt Armenia, and established a standing army. He became so powerful that the neighboring peoples came to call the land “Armenia”, after its king.
Aram lived to a great old age. He also conquered the countries to the West, present-day Caesaria, Marash, and ordered everyone to speak Armenian. Aram had a son called Ara, who was the most handsome young man of his country. After Aram’s death he was made king of Armenia. He had a dear and faithful wife called Nevart.
In 782 BC the Urartian king Argishti I founded the fortified city of Erebuni, which is today’s Yerevan, the capital of Armenia. Another major city in the Valley of Ararat was Argishti-khinili, also founded by Argishti I in the year 775 BC. In the late VII century BC Urartu, weakened by Scythian invasions, fell, but after several decades was revived under the Armenian Yervanduni (the Orontides) dynasty with the capital in Armavir, former Argishti-khinili. The revived kingdom was already called Armenia by its neighbors, but in some languages the older name, Urartu, was still in use. In the famous tri-lingual Behistun inscription of Persian king Darius the Great (522-486) the same country is referred to as ‘Armenia’ in the Persian and Elamite versions, and ‘Urartu’ in the Akkadian version.
Artashisian dynasty, First Armenian Kingdom
Armenia under the Yervanduni dynasty soon became a satrapy of the mighty Achemenide Persia, and later part of the Seleucid Empire. It restored its full independence in 190 BC under the king Artashes I, founder of the Artashesian dynasty (the Artaxiads).
ARTAVAST I (160-149 B.C)
Artashes died in peace at a great age, and his people, who had loved him, gave him a great funeral. His son, Artavazt, succeeded him to the throne.
Artavazt was a brave man but impulsive. He was annoyed when hundreds of people killed themselves near the coffin of Artashes. He complained: “Father! You are going and taking the people with you! Do I have to be king over ruins?”
Artashes cursed his ungrateful son with the words: “When you go hunting on Mount Massis, may the braves catch you and throw you over the cliffs, so that you lie there without light!”.
And, in fact, Artavazt was out hunting one day on his white horse. He was chasing a deer when, suddenly, he crashed over a cliff with his two dogs and lay at the bottom in darkness.
DIKRAN II the GREAT (95-55 B.C.) After Artavazt his brother Dikran I, then Artavazt II succeeded to the throne, and kept our country prosperous and in peace.
Dikran II the Great came to the throne in 95 B.C. and reigned till 55 B.C.
Dikran had been hostage of the Parthians. The Armenians wanted him as king and gave 70 valleys in exchange for him. After taking his throne he entered Artashat, the ancient capital of Armenia with great pomp.
Historians describe him as handsome young man, blonde with blue eyes. Although he had grown up in the Parthian court, he was a Hellenist. He did everything to create a good army. He brought peace and stability to the country, recognized the nobles and undertook building projects.
In a short time, Dikran the Great created an empire, which extended from the mountains of the Caucasus to the river Euphrates and the Mediterranean Sea.
Dikran was not alone in his conquests; his wife’s father, Mihrtad, king of Armenia’s northwestern neighbor Pontus, was his partner. Together they took more and more land on all sides of them, including Syria and Phoenicia. The famous city of Antioch was taken by Dikran in 83 B.C. and he had money coined there to celebrate his victories. King Dikran realized that since Armenia had expanded so much he would need a new capital city. So he decided to build a new capital, more beautiful and bigger than Ardashad, the existing one. He laid the foundations of a big fortified city, which he called Dikranagerd, after his own name. The best men worked under the direction of Greek architects and built a wonderful city, envied by all.. Nowadays the walls still exist.
They bear witness to the grandeur and power of the city. This capital city of Dikranagerd connected Armenia to distant parts of the world.
Following the conquest of Assyria, Antioch and Palestine, Dikran issued a number of gold and silver coins, and some examples of them still survive. Dikran wanted above all, to drive the Romans out of Asia Minor. At that time the king of Pontus Mihrtad V, an old alliance and friend of Dikran, an intelligent but impetuous man, he too hated the Romans who wanted to conquer his country. The Roman general, Lucullus with 40,000 men made a surprise attack against Dikranagerd, the capital city of the Armenian empire, while Dikran was in Syria, 6,000 soldiers from the Armenian army managed to penetrate Lucullus’ army and get into the city. They saved the family of Dikran and his treasures. Then Dikran arrived with his allied army and Lucullus was defeated.
Rome recalled Lucullus and sent Pompey in his place. Pompey came wanting to settle matters peacefully. Dikran was now an old man and would have preferred peace and friendship with Rome, but he did not have time to prepare a successor with the same ideas. He died at 85 of his age in the year 55 B.C.
“Although we are a small patch in the garden and are very limited in numbers and have often been subdued by foreign kingdoms, in our country, also, there have been deeds of valor worthy of writing and recording, which none of them cared to write” (Movses of Khoren)
ARTAVAST III (55-35 B.C)
Dikran the Great was succeeded in 55 B.C. by his son, Ardavazt, a poet and intellectual. The Parthians declared was against the Romans, whose army at that time was commanded by General Crassus. Ardavazt, as friend and ally of Rome, not only gathered together an army of 30 thousand men, but also advised Crassus to start the war from Armenia instead of from Syria. Because Syria was largely desert and the Parthian cavalry would be more likely to achieve victory there.