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Dictionaries :: Armenia

Below are articles from the following dictionary:
International Standard Bible Encyclopaedia





1. Turanian Armenians

Their Religion

2. Aryan Armenians: History to 114 AD


I. Geography.

‘araraT (Sumerian Ar, "region," plus ar "high," plus Tu, "mountain," plus "high mountainous region"): in Assyrian, UrTu, UrarTu, UrasTu: in AEgyp, Ermenen (=" Region of the Minni") Wiener, Origin of the Pentateuch, Armina, Armaniyqa (Armenia): in Hecataeus of Miletus, circa 520 BC, the people are Armenioi (Ge 8:4; 2Ki 19:37; Isa 37:38; Jer 51:27). Throughout the Bible, this is a country, not a mountain. Armenia Major was bounded on the North by the River Cyrus (Kour), Iberia, Colchis, and the Moschici Mts.; on the West by Asia Minor and the Euphrates; on the South by Mesopotamia and Assyria; on the East by the Caspian and Media. (Armenia Minor lay between the Euphrates and the Halys.) Ararat was originally the name of the central district. Most of Armenia is between 8,000 and 3,000 feet above sea-level, and slopes toward Euphrates, Cyrus, and the Gaspian. Mt. Massis (generally called Greater Ararat) is 16,969 ft. and Lesser Ararat, 12,840 ft. Both are of igneous origin, as is Aragds (A‘la Goz), 13,436 ft. Sulphur springs and earthquakes still attest volcanic activity.

The largest rivers are the Euphrates, Tigris and Araxes. The latter, swift and famed for violent floods, joins the Cyrus, which falls into the Caspian. The lakes Van, Urmi and Sevan are veritable inland seas. The many mountain chains, impassable torrents and large streams divide the country into districts far less accessible from one another than from foreign lands. Hence, invasions are easy and national union difficult. This has sadly affected the history of Armenia. Xenophon (Anab. iv.5) describes the people as living in houses partly underground, such as are still found. Each village was ruled by its chief according to ancient customary laws. He well describes the severity of the winters. In summer the climate in some places is like that of Italy or Spain. Much of Armenia is extremely fertile, producing large herds of horses and cattle, abundant crops of cereals, olives and fruit. It is rich in minerals, and is probably the home of the rose and the vine.


Minas Gaphamatzean; Garagashean; Palasanean; Entir Chatouadsner, I; Rawlinson, Seven Anc. Monarchies; Strabo; Xenophon; Petermann, Mittheilungen for 1871; Bryce, Transcaucasia and Ararat.

II. Ancient History.

1. Turanian Armenians:

The country is first mentioned in Ge 8:4 as the land upon (some one of) the mountains of which Noah's Ark rested. (According to Jewish tradition this was one of the Kurdish mountains.) It is next spoken of by Sargon I of Agade, circa 3800 BC, as among his conquests. In early Babylonian legends Armenia figures as an almost unknown land far to the North, full of high mountains and dense forests, containing the entrance to the Lower World (Mad Nu-ga, "Land of No Return"). On its borders stood Mt. Nisir where the gods dwelt and Cit-napistim's "ship" stopped. This "Mountain of the World" was the present Jabal Judi, South of Lake Van. Next came Egyptian influence. Thothmes III, in his twenty-third year (circa 1458 BC), after a great victory over the Rutennu or Ludennu (Mesopotamians and Lydians), received the submission of the "chiefs of Ermenen" and others. It is remarkable that the name by which the land is still known to foreigners (Armenians call it Chaiastan) should occur so early. In his thirty-third year, Thothmes III mentions the people of Ermenen as paying tribute when he held his court at Nineveh, and says that in their land "heaven rests upon its four pillars." In Seti I's Hall of Columns at Karnak we see the people of Ermenen felling trees in order to open a way through their forests for that king's armies. Rameses II in his twenty-first year, in war with Kheta-sira, king of the Hittites, probably subdued Armenia (compare Tacitus Ann. ii.60). Many places conquered by Rameses III, and mentioned in the Medinet Habu lists, were probably in Armenia.

The Assyrian king Uras-Pal-acur (circa 1190-1170 BC) made a raid into Armenia, and mentions the central district (UrarTu proper, near Lake Van), the land of the Manna (Minni, Jer 51:27), Nahri ("the Rivers"), Ashguza (Ashkenaz, ib), etc. Another invader was Tiglath-pileser I (circa 1110-1090 BC). Asshut-nacir-pal in 883 BC advanced to UrarTu. A little later he mentions as articles of Armenian tribute chariots, horses, mules, silver, gold, plates of copper, oxen, sheep, wine, variegated cloths, linen garments. Again and again he carried fire and sword through the country, but it constantly revolted. Under Shalmaneser II (860-825 BC) and afterward for centuries wars continued. By uniting and forming powerful kingdoms (of which the principal was Biainash around Lake Van) the Armenians resisted. Finally in 606 BC they took part in the destruction of Nineveh, and in that of Babylon later. Shalmaneser II tells of the wickerwork coracles on Lake Van. The Balawat bronzes depict Armenians dressed like the Hittites (to whom they were sometimes subject) in tunics and snow-shoes with turned-up and pointed ends, wearing helmets, swords, spears and small round shields. Sayce compares their faces in form to the Negro type. Possibly they were Mongolians.

The founder of the kingdom of Biainash was Sardurish I, about 840 BC, who built as his capital Tushpash, now Van. He ruled most of Armenia, defending it against the Assyrians, and apparently, inflicting a check on Shalmaneser II in 833 BC. He introduced the cuneiform characters, and his inscriptions are in Assyrian. His son Ishpuinish adapted the Assyrian syllabary to his own tongue, which bears a slight resemblance to Georgian in some points. The next king, Menuash, has left inscriptions almost all over Armenia, telling of his victories over the Hittites, etc. The kingdom of Biainash reached its acme under the great monarch Argishtish I, who succeeded in defending his country against Shalmaneser III (783-772 BC). But in his son's reign Tiglath-pileser IV (748-727 BC: Pul) crushed the Armenians to the dust in a great battle near Commagene in 743. Pul failed to capture Van in 737, but he ravaged the country far and wide. Rusash I, at the head of an Armenian confederacy, began a great struggle in 716 with Sargon (722-705), who in 714 captured Van with Rusash's family.

After 5 months' wandering Rusash committed suicide. His brother Argishtish II to some degree recovered independence. His successor Erimenash gave an asylum to Adrammelech and Sharezer (Assur-sar-ucur) in 680 (2Ki 19:37; Isa 37:38) after the murder of their father Sennacherib. Invading Assyria in the same year, they were defeated by Esar-haddon I. Armenia from the Cyrus River to the South of Lake Van was ravaged by the Kimmerians (679-677). Rusash II (circa 660-645) and his son Sandurish III (the latter circa 640 or soon after) submitted to Ashurbanipal (668-626). Nebuchadnezzar (604-561) boasts of reaching Van in his conquests, though the Armenians had probably their share in the destruction of Nineveh in 606. Jer (51:27) mentioned the kingdoms of Ararat, Minni and Ashkenaz about 595, and said they would help in the overthrow of Babylon (in 538). Cyrus had therefore probably subdued or won them over after capturing Ekbatana (549). After this the Turanians gradually gave place in Armenia to the Aryan Armenians of later times.

Their Religion.

The supreme god of the Turanian Armenians was Chaldish, who was father of all the rest. They were styled "children of mighty Chaldish." He, with Teishbash, god of the atmosphere, and Ardinish, the Sun-god, formed "the company of the mighty gods." Auish, god of water; Ayash, god of the earth; Shelardish, the Moon-god; Sardish, the Year-god; and 42 other gods are mentioned. Sari was a goddess, probably corresponding to Ishtar. Adoration was offered to the spirits of the dead also. Somewhat strangely, some of the divine names we have mentioned remind one of certain Aryan (Greek and Old Pers) words, however this may be accounted for.


Valdemar Schmidt, Assyriens og AEgyptens Gamle Historie; Maspero, Dawn of Civilization; Rawlinson, West. Asiat. Inscrs; Keilinschriftliche Bibliothek (Schrader, editor); Airarat, 1883; Sayce in Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, new series, XIV; Records of the Past; Hastings, End of Religion and Ethics, I.

2. Aryan Armenians: History to 114 AD:

The ancestors of the present Armenians (who call themselves Chaik'h, i.e. Pati-s, "Lords") may have settled in the country in the 8th century BC, when Sargon mentions a king of part of Armenia who bore the Aryan name Bagadatti (= Theodore). They came from Phrygia (Herod. vii.73), used the Phrygian dress and armor (Dion. of Halicarnassus; Eudoxius; Herod.) and spoke the same language (Herod. i.171). In the Bible they are called the "House of Togarmah" (Ge 10:3; 1Ch 1:6; Eze 27:14; 38:6) and "Ashkenaz" (Ge 10:3; 1Ch 1:6; Jer 51:27; the Assyrian Ashguza), as by their own writers of later times. Xenophon in the Cyropedia mentions a Median conquest of Armenia, Strabo their Median attire; yet Armenian girls could not understand Xenophon's Persian interpreter (Anab. iv.5). Three of the four Armenians mentioned by Darius have Aryan names. The Armenians joined the Median noble Fravartish in his revolt against Darius I (519 BC). Much of the consequent fighting took place in Armenia, which was with difficulty subdued (517). It formed part of Darius' thirteenth Nome, and afterward two satrapies (apparently Armenia Major and Minor). The government (of Armenia Major) was made hereditary in the family of Vidarna (Hydarnes) for helping to put down Fravartish. Xenophon's interesting description of the country and people and the severity of its winters is well known.

Herodotus tells of Armenians in skin and wicker-work coracles bringing wine, etc., to Babylon. Xenophon says they and the Chaldeans traded with India. Strabo mentions their caravan trade across central Asia. The satrap of Armenia had to present 20,000 young horses annually to the king of Persia at the great annual festival of Mithra. A large body of Armenian soldiers served in Xerxes' invasion of Greece. At the battle of Arbela (331 BC), 40,000 of their infantry and 7,000 cavalry took part. Armenia then became a portion of Alexander's empire, and later of that of Seleucus (301 BC), under a native satrap, Artavasdes. Armenia revolted after Antiochus' defeat at Magnesia (190 BC), and the Romans encouraged the two satraps to declare themselves kings. Artaxias, king of Armenia Major, used Hannibal's aid in fortifying his capital Artaxata (189 BC). Artaxias was overthrown by Antiochus Epiphanes in 165, but was restored on swearing allegiance. Civil confusion ensued. The nobles called in the Parthians under Mithridates I (150 BC), who became master of the whole Persian empire. He made his brother Valarsaces king of Armenia. Thus the Arsacide dynasty was established in that country and lasted till the fall of the Parthian empire (226 AD), the Armenian kings very generally recognizing the Parthian monarchs as their suzerains.

The greatest Armenian king was Tigranes I. (96-55 BC), a warrior who raised Armenia for a time to the foremost position in Asia. He humbled the Parthians, joined Mithridates VI in war with Rome, ruled Syria for over 14 years, built near Mardin as his capital Tigranocerta, and assumed the Assyrio-Persian title of "King of Kings." Lucullus defeated Tigranes and destroyed Tigranocerta in 69 BC. Tigranes surrendered to Pompey near Artaxata (66 BC), paid 6,000 talents, and retained only Armenia. Under him Greek art and literature flourished in the country. Armenia as a subjectally of Rome became a "buffer state" between the Roman and Parthian empires. Tigranes' son and successor Artevasdes joined in the Parthian invasion of Syria after Crassus' overthrow at Sinnaca 53 BC. He treacherously caused great loss to Antony's army in 36 BC. Antony carried him in chains to Egypt, where Cleopatra put him to death in 32 BC. After this, Armenia long remained subject to the Romans whenever not strong enough to join the Parthians, suffering much from intrigues and the jealousy of both powers. There is no proof of the later Armenian story that Armenia was subject to Abgarus, king of Edessa, in our Lord's time, and that the gospel was preached there by Thaddaeus, though the latter point is possible. In 66 AD, Tiridates, elder brother of the Parthian king Vologeses, having defeated the Romans under Paetus and established himself on the throne of Armenia, went by land to Rome and received investiture from Nero. Peace between Rome and Parthia ensued, and Armenia remained closely united to Parthia till Trajan's expedition in 114 AD.


Spiegel, Altpers. Keilinschriften; Herodotus; Xenophon; Arrian; Tacitus; Velleius Patroculus; Livy; Polybius; Ammianus Marcellinus.

Written by W. St. Clair Tisdall


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