The land that would become Armenia was almost completely devoid of local historical records until later periods, but it was home to cultures and empires that would go into the annals of history, albeit mostly on the annals of the history of other nations. The archaeological record is the only local source where it is possible to study about the area itself. Apart from being lacking in historical records, the land of Armenia was also prone to be in the path or destination of many migrations and a variety of peoples, which makes tracing back the ethnicity of the Armenians that much harder.
Around the 20th Century BCE., the Hittites migrated from north of the Caucasus mountain ranges into Anatolia. Their precise path from the northern Caucasus to what would be called Pok’r Hayk’ (Lesser Armenia) is only speculative, but the path they took west of that area can easily be inferred with the cities they sacked along the way to Central Anatolia (Pulur, Maltepe, Kültepe etc.), which caused another migration from Anatolia to Greece and the Balkans. Though this migration may not have been very important to the ethnogenesis of the Armenian people, it would be one of the first of the many attested migrations that Armenia witnessed during its history.
The Assyrians called Phrygia and the Phrygians "Mushki", and tell of their arrival, coming from the "country of the Hittites" (Eastern Anatolia) to the valley of the Upper Euphrates, around the 12th Century BCE. After which, many proceeded to migrate eastward and merge with the local population of what would be Armenia and Sophene, some of that area was under Assyrian control at the time, so they went to war against the invaders, and they were partially repelled.
A parallel account by Herodotos mentions a migration of the Bruges, a tribe in the southern Balkans, who were neighbours of the Makedonians; who moved into Anatolia, and after their settling changed their name to Phruges (Phrygians). He also calls the Armenians "settlers from Phrygia" in the next sentence.
The last significant migration was that of the Kimmerians, who were an Iranian nomadic tribe whose original territory is debated. Though they weren’t very influential in Armenian culture or language, they were certainly influential in their history, raiding the kingdom of Urartu (as well as several other Anatolian kingdoms), marking its decline, and allowing the Assyrians to expand their power even more, which led to the inevitable downfall of Urartu a few decades later.
Yet, migrations are nothing but the tip in the diverse history of the land of Armenia. From fierce tribes that sacked Hittite cities, to great kingdoms that brought Assyria to its knees; to the great kingdom that controlled all of Mesopotamia and the Levant, the same kingdom that kept the mighty Parthians at bay, something only the enormous Roman Empire would be able to accomplish. The history of Armenia is large and diverse, to embark on it is to embark on a journey through the centuries, albeit often told by the great and famous empires of old, an extraordinary journey nonetheless.
Mellaart, J. (1958). The End of the Early Bronze Age in Anatolia and the Aegean. American Journal of Archaeology, 62(1), 9-33.
Diakonov, I. (1984). The Formation of the Armenian People. In The Pre-history of the Armenian People. Caravan Books.
Herodotos, Histories, 7.73.
Although, to consider this more than a simplification can be problematic, though it does certainly support one of many theories on the formation of the Armenian language.
Hayk is the mythical founder of Armenia (from whom the name of the region is supposedly taken), an extraordinary archer and king of Armenia itself. Although Hayk itself might have existed, and the events narrated could have happened (to an extent), there is little archaeological evidence to support it.
His story is narrated in the 5th Century (though more realisticaly dated to the 8th or 9th Century) CE book "History of Armenia" (Patmut’yun Hayots’) attributed to Movses Khorenats’i. This book is the earliest source that documents the story of Hayk, along with the "Kartli Chronicles" (K’art’lis Ts’xovreba) which was written between the 9th and 14th Century CE (the date of its writing is still debated) possibly written by Juansherani. The books state that Hayk was one of many giants and a descendant of Noah through his son Japheth, most likely because of Christianisation of the old pagan legends.
Both books tell of how Hayk rebelled against Bel, the giant who was king of the entire world, and faced him in very pitched battle. Hayk and his army of giants were at the foot of a hill; and the giant king along with his own army of giants were at the top of said hill. The armies faced at the foothills and after a long period of bloody stalemate, Bel went back to the top of the hill and was shot fatally by Hayk. The army of the giant king then routed upon his death and Hayk became king of Armenia.
But while the Kartli Chronicles ceases to narrate the story of Hayk and moves on to the tale of K’art’los; History of Armenia tells us that Hayk built a village where the battle was fought and named it Hayk’ and that the Armenian name for Armenia (Hayk’) was due to its ancestor. It then proceeds to narrate the life of his offspring and the remaining two millennia of Armenian history.
History of Armenia, 1.10; and Kartli Chronicles, 1.1.
History of Armenia, 1.5; and Kartli Chronicles, 1.1.
Named Bel in History of Armenia 1.10 and Nebrovt’/Nimrod in Kartli Chronicles 1.3. For continuity, we will call him Bel in this text.
Kartli Chronicles 1.3 specifies that this hill is Mount Masis (Ararat).
Brother of Hayk, mythical founder of K’art’li (Georgia).
Many scholars agree that Hayk’ (the name of the region) couldn’t possibly have evolved from Hayk (the name of the founder).
Khorenats’i, M. (Writer), & Thomson, R. (Translator). (1980). History of the Armenians (2nd Printing) (p. 88). London. Harvard University Press.
Metsamor is a Bronze Age fortified settlement dating prior to 3,000 BCE, located in the modern city of the same name; Metsam, Armenia. The archaeological evidence uncovered so far indicates a sophisticated society with an early writing system. Some characters of the inscriptions seem to correspond to letters of the Armenian script, and they could be similar to early Sumerian writing regarding taxes and other financial transactions. Other Bronze Age evidence from the Tsaghkahovit Plain in Armenia show a society quite advanced for the time, though a serious lack of excavation has yet to bring the majority of this civilization to light.
Khandjian, M. A. (1970). The Evolution of Armenian and World Alphabets. Beirut, Lebanon. Shirak Press.
The Kingdom of Mitanni was an enigmatic kingdom that existed between the 15th and 13th centuries BCE, known as "Hurri" by the Hittites, "Naharina" or "Naharin" by the Egyptians, and "Hanigalbat" by the Assyrians; it encompassed the lands south of Lake Van, southeastern Anatolia, northern Syria and northern Mesopotamia. The population of Mitanni was largely Hurrian, though many of the administrative texts of the kingdom were written in Babylonian. Mitanni was the most powerful state in the Near East for a short stretch of time during its existence, due to serious internal issues in the Hittite Empire as well as Assyria and Babylonia. The lack of texts originating from the kingdom make it difficult to put together an absolute chronology of its history, but a general history can be ascertained from texts from their neighbours, such as the Egyptians, Hittites and Assyrians.
Their formation coincides with the collapse of Babylon after the sack of the city by the Hittite king Mursili in the middle 16th Century BCE. By the time of the invasion of Syria by the Egyptian Pharaoh Thutmose III in the middle of the 15th Century BCE, Mitanni already had territories around Halab (Modern Aleppo) loyal to them (including the city itself), which were sacked by the Egyptians, but most of them were not annexed, the army simply returned back to Egypt after making a stele in honour of the Pharaoh. His son, Amenhotep II continued with two more campaigns in Syria in the late 15th Century BCE, the second one due to a large scale rebellion, where he was victorious both times. His records also indicate that the Mitanni asked for peace and gave tribute to the Pharaoh. His descendants, Thutmose IV and Amenhotep III both married Mitanni princesses in what appears to be signs of good relations. But before the Egyptian invasions and subsequent peace, the Mitanni king Shaushtatar turned his sight on the kingdom of Assyria, invading it and looting its capital city, Asshur. The Hittites were also not spared, starting hostilities against king Arnuwanda I that lasted for several generations.
The kingdom of Mitanni had extensive techniques for training chariot horses, for which they were renowned, as they were one of the finest, owing to them their victories. The Hittites left behind copies of a guide written by Kikkuli, "master horse trainer of the land of Mitanni", which describes in full detail the steps and techniques for the adequate conditioning of a horse, several of which similar to those used in modern day.
Akhenaten (also known as Amenhotep IV) succeeded Amenhotep III around 1350 BCE. and relations with the kingdom of Mitanni deteriorated, king Tushratta sent Akhenaten many complaints stating that the golden statues his father promised to send as prices for his royal marriage with the Mitanni were only covered in gold and were lacking the goods he was promised. At this time, the Hittites were extending their influence and power; so much so that the Hittite king Suppiluliuma I plundered the lands west of the Euphrates in the second half of the 14th Century BCE, signing a treaty with the Mitanni usurper Artatama II, the "king of the land of the Hurri". Akhenaten was apathetic to the struggles of their northern lands against the Hittites, not giving support to revolts against the Hittites, who were desperately asking for aid, the Mitanni received the same treatment, as he saw the waning of their power. At this time, the Mitanni became embroiled in a dynastic struggle between Artatama and Tushratta, which would have severe consequences for the kingdom.
After a few years, Suppiluliuma invaded again, claiming the conquest of rebel cities as his motive, he promptly subjugated them, but survivors fled to the city of Isuwa. A Hittite army invaded the lands around the city and returned the fugitives to their lands; then they proceeded to march towards Wassukanni, one of the capitals cities of Mitanni, plundering the land around it, but Tushratta managed to escape. It soon followed yet another campaign by the Hittites, capturing several cities east of the Euphrates, but not marching into Mitanni territory
The political turmoil became more severe with the death of king Tushratta; his brother, Shattiwaza had to flee the kingdom when the son of Artamata II, Shuttarna III, tried to murder him; he sought refuge with Suppiluliuma and was married to his daughter.
The Assyrian king Ashur-Ubalit I took advantage of the situation, declared independence and invaded Mitanni successfully, annexing some of its territory. The successor of Artamata II, Shuttarna III succeeded him, and he was able to maintain good relations with the Assyrians. This allowed him to convince them to send an army to defend Wassukanni from the Hittite invasion led by Shuttarna and Pyasshili (a son of Suppiluliuma) that defeated an army near Irridu and captured the city. The people of Wassukanni were less than happy to allow that a former vassal rule them, so they denied entry to the Assyrian army; and they proceeded to besiege the city. The Hittite army marched towards the capital, but the Assyrians were nowhere to be seen, so they claimed victory. Shattiwaza was crowned king and Mitanni became a Hittite vassal.
In reign of Shattuara, who ruled in the first half of the 13th Century BCE., Mitanni attacked the Assyrian kingdom without asking for Hittite help, only for the king to be captured and forced to plead loyalty to Adad-Nirari I, the king of Assyria, as a vassal of the Assyrian Kingdom; the Hittite king Mursili II received criticism for losing Mitanni control. Shattuara’s son, Wasashata, revolted a few years later and asked for help from the Hittites, but Adad-Nirari devastated Mitanni and deported the king, his family, and his court to Asshur. Adad-nirari annexed and enslaved much of the kingdom of Mitanni, but his son and successor had to face one last revolt around 1270 BCE., now from Shattuara II, who enlisted the aid of the Hittites and the Ahlamu (Arameans), but they were crushed by the king Shalmaneser I, who managed to conquer the city of Irridu and Karkemish, as well as destroying many Mitanni cities, and effectively putting an end to the kingdom of Mitanni, now annexed to Assyria as Hanigalbat.
Mieroop, M. V. D. (2007). A History of the Ancient Near East, ca. 3000-323 BC (pp. 150-155). Oxford. Blackwell Publishing.
Idrimi, The Idrimi Inscription.
Redford, D. (2003). The Wars in Syria and Palestine of Thutmose III (pp. 224-225). Leiden. Brill.
Bryce, T. (2003). Letters of the Great Kings of the Ancient Near East: The Royal Correspondence of the Late Bronze Age (p. 10). New York. Routledge.
Suppiluliuma-Shattiwaza Treaty. A Obv. 1-16.
Suppiluliuma-Shattiwaza Treaty. A Obv. 17-29.
Suppiluliuma-Shattiwaza Treaty. A Obv. 30-58.
Suppiluliuma-Shattiwaza Treaty. Beckman 6B Version. A Obv. 31-47.
Suppiluliuma-Shattiwaza Treaty. Beckman 6B Version. Hitt. 1-29.
J. Margaret, M. (2006). Assyrian Military Power. In The Cambridge Ancient History. (3 ed., Vol. II, Part. 2). Cambridge. Cambridge University Press.
Hayasa-Azzi (or Hayasa) was a confederation of two tribal kingdoms that existed in the second half of 2nd millennium B.C. Not much is known about the structure of the kingdom or its language. What is known comes from scattered references to the country in Hittite annals, often causing trouble for the Hittite rulers. The name Hayasa is similar to the modern term "Hayastan", which is used to refer to Armenia in the Armenian language; making Hayasa a popular choice for being the seminal proto-Armenian country. However, some scholars such as Igor Diakonov contest this hypothesis. How Hayasa could have been related is unclear, since the only knowledge of the Hayasan language comes from the names of a few kings in Hittite annals. The Hayasa-Azzi controlled the lands in the upper Euphrates basin; though sometimes, a distinction is made between the Azzi and Hayasa, but for the purpose of this section, they will be considered a single entity.
By the time of the reign of Tudhaliya II (or Tudhaliya III) in the middle 14th Century BCE., the Hittite kingdom was said to be "paralysed", the capital, Hattusa, was sacked by the Kaskas, tribesmen from the Pontos; with the Hayasa advancing as far as Samuha. But Tudhaliya began a joint campaign with his general (Suppiluliuma) to reconquer the land of the eastern bank of the Euphrates, from the city of Samuha, Tudhaliya and Suppiluliuma launched several attacks on Kaska territory; the campaign was a complete success, the Hayasans refused to give battle to Hittite army several times. But after a few battles, the Hittites descended on the land of the Hayasa, where the Hayasan king Karanni offered battle near the town of Kummaha. Whether the Hittites won the battle or not is not clear, but it’s safe to assume that they were victorious.
In the reign of Suppiluliuma, the Hayasan ruler Hakkani married Suppiluliuma’s sister, making the Hayasa a vassal state of the Hittites. In accordance to the terms of the treaty, Hakkani had to release all Hittite prisoniers, cede territory that Suppiluliuma claimed for his kingdom, as well as fulfil certain clauses regarding the lack of punishment against the perceived incest within the ruler’s family.
The peace between both realms was short lived, as hostilities resumed soon after, around the late 14th Century. In the seventh year of Mursili II’s reign, the Hayasa, now ruled by a man named Anniya; raided the land of Dankuwa and took prisoners and livestock to Hayasan lands; Mursili promtply responded and attacked the Hayasan border city of Ura. The next year, Mursili managed to conquer an unnamed city (possibly Ura) and gave the same treatment to the citizens and livestock that the Hayasans gave to his.
After the Hayasans failed to deliver a promise of the return of Hittite prisoners to their own land, claiming that the Hittites did not compensate them for the Hayasan prisoners they took, nor for the Hittite prisoners they wanted to be released; Mursili had to attend other matters in Kummanni and ceased campaigning against the Hayasa. They were quick to take advantage of the situation, destroying the city of Istitina and sieging the city of Kannuwara before the Hitties could respond. Although there was an army ready to combat this threat, Mursili’s general, Nuwanza, had waited until he received good omens before engaging the Hayasan army. However, once Mursili sent him good omens, he promptly defeated them.
After a short period of warring against other states, Mursili turned his sight on the Hayasa again, launching a quick expedition to the city of Aripsa, located on the mountaintop, seemingly impenetrable; but Mursili managed to capture it, along with considerably bounty. After this, he descended on the city of Dukkamma, but the citizens were quick to surrender to him after seeing their impenetrable fortress so quickly captured, asking for peaceful subjugation instead, promising to serve his army and release his prisoners; Mursili obliged and quickly parted to Hattusa after he made the Hayasa swear an oath to him.
After this, in his eleventh year of reign, he went to Hayasa again, only to be greeted by a man from Halimana called Mutti, who could have been the new ruler after Anniya’s defeat, but this is only speculation. He offered vassalage to the Hittite king, and released 1000 Hittite prisoners, pleased with this, Mursili made them a vassal state once more. This is the last known historical text where the Hayasa appear, before likely succumbing to the Bronze Age collapse, dissolving into smaller separate tribes, or simply merging with other tribes.
Diakonov, I. (1984). The Pre-history of the Armenian People (pp. 45-57). Caravan Books.
Amarna Letters. Letter 31.
Bryce, T. (1999). The Kingdom of the Hittites (p. 149). New York. Oxford University Press.
Mursili II, The Deeds of Suppiluliuma. Fragment 10.
Mursili II, The Deeds of Suppiluliuma. Fragment 13.
Bryce, T. (1999). The Kingdom of the Hittites (p. 150). New York. Oxford University Press.
Mazoyer, M. (2005). Sexualité et Barbarie chez les Hittites. In Barbares et Civilisés dans l’Antiquité. L’Harmattan.
Mursili II, Ten Year Annals. Year Seven, Extended Annals.
Mursili II, Ten Year Annals. Year Eight, Extended Annals.
Mursili II, Ten Year Annals. Year Nine, Extended Annals.
Mursili II, Ten Year Annals. Year Ten, Extended Annals.
Mursili II, Ten Year Annals. Year Eleven, Extended Annals.
Nairi was a confederation of states that existed in the late 2nd millennium B.C. Another state in the vicinity was known as Uruatri. Records from these time periods have not as of yet been uncovered, though they were clearly fiercely independent politically and caused much trouble on the northern frontier of the Assyrian Empire. Around the late 9th, early 8th centuries, Nairi and Uruatri politically united to form the more powerful kingdom of Urartu.
Although sources are extremely scarce for Nairi, one of the earliest references to Nairi comes from a tablet in Asshur that details the import of 128 horses from Nairi to Assyria by a man named Marduk-ketti-e-tamsi.
However, the first military source for the area around Nairi (coincidentally, the predecessors of the Urartu) comes from the king Shalmaneser I in the first half of the 13th Century BCE., who accuses the land of Uruatri of rebellion, even though there are no references in previous inscriptions about them; quickly conquering its eight lands, sacking their towns, imposed tributes and bringing prisoners back to Asshur.
But the first Assyrian king that left records of Nairi proper (due to an invasion, no less) was the king Tukulti-Ninurta I in the latter half of the 13th Century BCE. We learn from one of his inscriptions of the troubles he had to face to traverse into Nairi lands through poor roads and high mountains, the first time an Assyrian king managed to do so. Forty kings opposed him in battle, but they were defeated and brought back to Asshur; though they were released as vassals later. Tikulti-Ninurta called himself the "King of the Nairi lands"; although peaceful subjugation rarely lasted much time when the Assyrians or Hittites were involved, the Nairi seemed to have been content with the agreement for quite a long time.
But, as it would be easy to predict (yet almost a century and a half later), Tiglath-Pileser I again invaded the lands of Nairi, crossing the Euphrates river and many high mountains before reaching Nairi. He tells us that twenty three kings offered battle, but in which they were defeated, and sixty kings were captured. He pursued the remaining Nairi kings (and those of their allies) up to the Upper Sea (this could refer to Lake Van, Lake Urmia or even Lake Sevan or the Black Sea) and conquered many cities; pillaging the countryside in the pursuit, he finally manage to capture them after some time, forced them to swear an oath of vassalage, and took their sons as hostages. But the king of the Daiaeni, a man called Sieni, refused to submit to Tiglath-Pileser, he promptly brought him captive to Asshur, but he was ultimately sent back to Daiaeni, bringing an end to his campaign against the Nairi.
The last appearance of the Nairi comes from many inscriptions from the reign of Assur-nasir-pal II in the early 9th Century BCE. Although lacking in detail, he nevertheless claims to have conquered the land of Nairi and the land of Urarti. At around this time, the Nairi, Urarti and other cities merged under Arame or Sardur and formed what is known as the Kingdom of Urartu, which would become a powerful kingdom that would challenge previously unabated Assyrian aggression in the area.
Mieroop, M. V. D. (2007). A History of the Ancient Near East, ca. 3000-323 BC (p. 217). Oxford. Blackwell Publishing.
J. Margaret, M. (2006). Assyrian Military Power. In The Cambridge Ancient History. (3 ed., Vol. II, Part. 2). Cambridge. Cambridge University Press.
Tiglath-Pileser, Cylinder Inscription fron Kalat Sherkat, Column IV.
Tiglath-Pileser, Cylinder Inscription fron Kalat Sherkat, Column V.
Ashur-nasir-pal II, Inscription upon a Limestone Tablet Recording the Restoration of the Temple of Ishtar, the Queen of Kidmuri. Obverse.
Ashur-nasir-pal II, Inscription from the Temple of Mahir in the City of Imgur-Bel. Reverse.
Ashur-nasir-pal II, Inscription upon a Limestone Tablet Recording the Building of Ashur-nasir-pal’s Palace in Kalhu. Reverse.
Ashur-nasir-pal II, Inscription upon Collosal Bulls and Lions, Recording Ashur-nasir-pal’s Expedition to the Mediterranean Coast. Column II.
Ashur-nasir-pal II. The "Standard Inscription" of Ashur-nasir-pal.
To name a few.
The Mushki tribe is an obscure tribe (or group of tribes) that arrived into the eastern Euphrates basin in the 12th Century BCE. Though some Kartvelian tribes bear similar names, they are usually not associated with the Anatolian Mushki, and there are several that make it quite complicated to portray an accurate picture of the Mushki.
One of the first sources that mention the Mushki us the Cylinder Insciption of Tiglath-Pileser I at the end of the 12th Century BCE, he recounts that in his early reign, twenty thousand Mushki who had been living in the land of Alzi and Purukuzzi without sending tribute to the king, invaded the land of Kummuhi, but Tiglath-Pileser defeated them with an army of his own, captured much loot from the tribesmen, and brought back many of them to "his land" as inhabitants; subjugating the lands of Alzi and Purukuzzi and imposing yearly tribute. At the same time, a tribe known as the Kaski (some state these are the same Kaskas that raided the Hittites along with the Hayasa) and another known as Urumi (some equate them to Hurrians) invaded the land of Shubarti, but they did not battle with the Assyrians, and seemed to have pledged alliegance to the king, so they were taken to "his land" as inhabitants.
Although there are other later inscriptions regarding the Mushki, this one is very important, as it states that they had arrived to the land that would be called Kommagene already by the middle of the 12th Century BCE. Although they could not penetrate into Syria or Mesopotamia due to the strong Assyrian presence, Armenia had no large and powerful empire that could halt their advance, so they may have entered into Armenian lands and merged with the local population.
After this, the Mushki are not mentioned again until three hundred years laters, in an inscription by Iriris, king of Karkemish, where he mentions the Musa, the Muska and the Sura, which are stated to be the Phrygians (through the Mysians), the eastern Mushki and the Arameans, respectively.
The next records of the Mushki come the reign of Sargon II of Assyria in the late 8th Century BCE., who records an joint attack from Mita, the king of the Mushki; and Urzaha (Rusa I), king of Urartu. The war was short lived, and quickly Sargon sieged and destroyed 55 Urartian towns, capturing the 22 towns that were given to Rusa by the former vassal of Assyria, later besieging Musasir, an ally of Urartu, capturing it and taking the king’s family, treasure and many idols from the local temples. Mita, on the other hand, was defeated by one of Sargon’s generals, laying waste to many towns, and capturing thousands of prisoners, making Mita submit to the Assyrian king. Although the Assyrians call them "Mushki", they are undoubtedly refering to the Phrygians, and not the Mushki that settled Alzi.
In later periods, several tribes bearing similar names to the Mushki appeared, one of the most prominent is the Moschoi of Greek authors, although they cannot be connected to the same Mushki of Tiglath-Pileser, much less the Phrygian Mushki of Sargon. Herodotos puts the Moschoi in the nineteenth administrative province of Persia, along with other tribes such as the Macrones and the Mossynokoi, who dwell near the coast of the Black Sea, around the area of Colchis and Pontos.
Yet, since it is made clear that the Mushki of Sargon (and it could also include the Mushki of Tiglath-Pileser) refer to the Phrygians (although it could also encompass many other tribes as well), we can focus our atention to some of the Greek sources that speak of Phrygia. The passage by Herodotos already mentioned tells us that, according to the Makedonians, the Bruges (or Bryges) were a tribe that dwelled next to the Makedonians, but they migrated into Asia and "changed their name" to Phruges (Phryges, Phrygians), and that the Armenians were "settlers from Phrygia". However, in a previous section, he claims that the Mysians and Teucrians crossed into Europe, vanquishing the Thracians, reaching the Ionian Sea and going as far south as the river Peneios, which flows through Thessaly, but the question of the Mysian language is not of interest as of now.
We also know from Stephanos of Byzantion that a certain Eudoxos (likely the historian from Rhodes) spoke on how Armenian sounded very similar to Phrygian, while also confirming the passage of Herodotos stating that the Armenians were "settlers from Phrygia". While Strabo also confirms that the Phrygians were once Brygian and had "utterly quit Europe", and that the Bryges and Phryges were the same people.
It is not a certainty that speakers of Proto-Armenian were Phrygian, nor that they arrived with them to Armenia, as there are some theories that postulate that Proto-Armenian had always been spoken in Armenia; yet, whether Proto-Armenian speakers migrated into Anatolia and Greece, or the opposite, one thing is certain, historical accounts show many similarities between the Phrygian and Armenian languages, and they assert that there was a relation between both peoples, one that does support the theory that that the Proto-Armenian speakers came with the Mushki invaders, yet there is no conclusive evidence to assert this as a historical fact.
Diakonov, I. (1984). The Formation of the Armenian People. In The Pre-history of the Armenian People. Caravan Books.
Tiglath-Pileser, Cylinder Inscription fron Kalat Sherkat, Column I.
Tiglath-Pileser, Cylinder Inscription fron Kalat Sherkat, Column II.
Tiglath-Pileser, Cylinder Inscription fron Kalat Sherkat, Column III.
Midas, king of the Phrygians.
Sargon II, Great Inscription of the Palace of Khorsabad.
Herodotos, Histories, 3.94.2.
Herodotos, Histories, 7.73.
Herodotos, Histories, 7.20.
While he doesn’t give out the dates for the Brygian migration, he does state that the Mysians invaded before the Trojan War, which was around the 13th Century BCE. So it could be possible that the Mysians triggered, or simply predated the Brygian migration, though this is only speculation, and it could be the other way around just as easily.
Stephanos of Byzantion, Ethnika, Dictionary Entry for Armenia.
Strabo, Geographika, 7.3.2.
Strabo, Geographika, 12.3.20.
Urartu was the kingdom forged from the loose confederation of Nairi and Uruatri (the division between Nairi and Uruatri is unclear). One of the most powerful kingdoms in the Near East for almost a century until the late 700s BCE., Urartu was also one of the most enigmatic. Urartians shared a linguistic and probably ethnic background with the Hurrians who dominated Mitanni in previous centuries. The name Urartu corresponds to the "land of Ararat" in the Bible, and is where the name of Mount Ararat originates. The head of the Urartian pantheon was named Khaldi (or Haldi), who had his main temple located in Musasir (a vassal kingdom) near Lake Urmia.
The kingdom of Urartu was united by either Arame (or Aram) I around 850 BCE or by Sarduri I, son of Lutipris, around 830 BCE; but much of the early formation of Urartu is a mistery. In any case, the successor of Sarduri I, Ishpuini (828 BC–810 BCE.), moved the capital of the kingdom to the city of Tushpa (modern Van), and took control of the city of Musasir, and placed a temple of Khaldi in it; he recorded this in a bilingual stele found in the village of Kelashin, he calls himself "King of the Nairi" in the Assyrian inscription, while in the Urartian one, he calls himself "King of the Biaina", Biana being the Urartian name for Urartians themselves. He was followed by his son Menua (810 BC–785 BCE.), who greatly expanded the kingdom, almost doubling its size, and greatly reinforcing fortresses with stone walls and making large canals throughout the kingdom. His successor, the Urartian King Argishti I (785-763 BCE.) brought Assyria to its knees, constantly defeating them as well as sacking and annexing their lands, destroying cities, annhilating their armies and taking thousands of livestock and prisoners back to Urartu. He was a prominent builder, founding many cities and reinforcing many others, notably founding Erebuni during his reign, which is now Yerevan, Armenia’s modern capital. His son, Sarduri II (763 BC–735 BCE.) was the king at the peak of Urartian power, and continued with his father’s continuous victories against the Assyrians.
However, their golden age would come to a sudden halt. The Cimmerian invasion, combined with the Assyrian sack of Musasir’s great Temple of Khaldi in the vicinity of Lake Urmia, broke Urartu’s power in 714, causing the suicide of the King Rusa I. The capital, Tushpa, held out against the Assyrian assault and Urartu experienced a short renaissance following the strong leadership of Rusa’s successors, Argishti II (714-680 BCE.) and Rusa II (680-639 BCE.), who drove the Assyrians out of antebellum Urartian controlled regions. The temple of Khaldi was of critical importance to the psyche of Urartu, and it was only restored following Argishti II’s recapture.
Following the reign of these kings, Urartu experienced a swift decline in the reigns of Rusa III, Sarduri IV and Rusa IV, marked by a series of constant defeats against Assyrian, Medes and Scythians; and was made part of the Median Empire by 585 B.C. The Urartian legacy lives on in their excavated citadels, records, and a few words in the Armenian language. By the time of the Behistun Inscription in Persia, the term Urartu had been translated into Old Persian as "Armina"; and a very different kingdom would soon rise from the vacuum left by the Urartu.
Mieroop, M. V. D. (2007). A History of the Ancient Near East, ca. 3000-323 BC (pp. 211-218). Oxford. Blackwell Publishing.
Movses Khorenats’i, History of Armenia, 1.14-15.
Ishpuini, Kelishin Stele.
Chahin, M. (2001). The Kingdom of Armenia: A History (pp. 68-110). London. Routledgecurzon Press.
The history of the Orontids is a vague one. Following the fall of Urartu, Armenia was made part of the Median Empire and subsequently became a satrapy of the Persian Empire. The origins of the Orontids, much like that of Armenians themselves, are unclear. They may have been Persians or Baktrians, but they could have also been members of the local Armenian aristocracy promoted to the rank of satrap. The earliest king of Armenia known by sources other than Movses Khorenats’i is a certain Tigranes, whom Cyrus was well acquainted with, as they had gone hunting together before. He was the son of an Armenian king that was attacked by Cyrus for not paying his tribute. Though Armenia under the Persians would not be involved in much turmoil; a short rebellion was quelled in 521 BCE by a man named Vaumisa.
The Orontid dynasty truly begins with Eruand I (401–344 BCE.), the first historical Orontid, and son of Artasyrus. He was married to the daughter of Artaxerxes II, Rhodogune. Early in his reign, he supported the king Artaxerxes II against Cyrus the Younger (and Xenophon’s Ten Thousand Greeks) in the Persian civil war. Luckily for him, Artaxerxes was victorious, and he consolidated himself as the satrap of Matiene, Sophene and Armenia, with the king’s approval. Later he would be moved to Mysia by the king Artaxerxes III, but he rebelled, and was named leader of an on-going revolt of Anatolian satraps, though he ended up betraying them and collapsing the rebellion (most of the satraps were pardoned, however); thanks to this, the Persian monarch promptly gave him control over much of Anatolia, who ruled for twenty more years.
His son, Eruand (the second) was his successor as the satrap of Armenia, though not much is known about his rule, he was the commander of the Armenian forces in the Battle of Gaugamela; he apparently lost his life in the ensuing defeat, and was succeeded by his son Mihram.
Mihram was a general in Sardis who defected to Alexander, and fought the forces of Darius III and his father in the Battle of Gaugamela. After his father’s death, Mihram was sent to Armenia as satrap by Alexander.
Following Alexander the Great’s conquest of Persia, the Orontids found themselves in charge of Armenia as independent monarchs. Hellenistic culture was quickly assimilated by the Orontid rulers, who began to mint coins with Greek legends. Politically, the Orontids dealt with hostility, but also supplication, with the massive Seleukid Empire to their South. Records from this period do not survive in Armenia, and Seleukid accounts of Orontid rulers are most probably biased and are certainly incomplete.
Armenia was only a witness to the wars of the Diadochi, with the only all-out war happening against the Seleukid Empire, who attacked Sophene in 272 BCE., in the reign of Eruand III (321-260 BCE.), he was quickly defeated, but he was able to keep ruling Sophene and Armenia. His son, Shamush, was the first Orontid satrap of Kommagene. He founded the city of Shamushat, the new (or first) capital of Kommagene, and died in 260 BCE., in the same year that his father did, leaving the throne of the two kingdoms and satrapy to his son, Arsham I.
The reign of Arsham lasted until the 230’s BCE. Notably, he founded the city of Arshamshat, and made it the capital of Sophene (the former capital was Karkatiokert). He gave asylum to Ziaelas, who was fighting for the throne of Bythinia, usurped by his mother. He also supported Antiochos Hierax in the Seleukid civil war; although Antiochos was later defeated, Arsham kept ruling the three regions of his realm until his death. His son Xerxes (K’serk’ses) ruled over Sophene and Kommagene, while his other son, Eruand IV, ruled over Armenia.
Xerxes (c. 230-210 BCE.) was the target of the campaigns for the consolidation of the Seleukid Empire by the king Antiochos III (The Great), he invaded the lands of the Armenian king and laid siege to Arshamshat. He asked for peace and Antiochos accepted; Xerxes had to pay a tribute of 300 talents of silver and 1000 horses and 1000 mules, and was married to Antiochos’ sister, Antiochis. He was assassinated by his wife shortly after, and the satrapy of Kommagene was apparently lost with the Orontid king’s death; as his son, Abdissares (c. 210-200 BCE.), only controlled the kingdom of Sophene. He doesn’t appear on any sources, and the only evidence of his reign is attested through numismatics, he was the last Orontid king of Sophene.
On the other line of the family, Eruand IV (c. 230-200 BCE.) became the king of Armenia. Most notably, he founded the city of Eruandashat, and made it the new capital, as Armavir, the former capital; had been affected by the change of course of the river Araxes. He also founded the holy site of Bagaran, where many statues and temples of syncretic Armeno-Greek gods were set up. He was the last king of Armenia, and was defeated by two Seleukid-appointed generals, who would form an Armenian dynasty of their own.
In 163 BCE., after 40 years of ruling as satrap, Ptolemaios of Kommagene proclaimed himself king of the newly independent kingdom of Kommagene. However, cultural Armenian traits would still be prevalent in the region for many decades, nonetheless. This kingdom would last until it was dissolute by the Romans in 72 CE. The only remainder of the Orontid dynasty were the kings of Kommagene, yet it is possible they were not truly the descendants of Eruand I, as they claimed to be.
Chahin, M. (2001). The Kingdom of Armenia: A History (pp. 185-192). London. Routledgecurzon Press.
Xenophon, Cyropaedia, 3.1.7.
Whether he is the Tigran that Khorenatsi mentions is not certain, and the historicity of Cyropaedia has always been up for debate. It could also be that he was not a member of the dynasty.
Lang, D. M. (1983). Iran, Armenia and Georgia: Political Contacts. In the Cambridge History of Iran (vol. 3). Cambridge. Cambridge University Press.
Hovannisian, R. G. (1997). The Armenian People from Ancient to Modern Times. New York. St. Martin’s Press.
Polybios, The Histories, 8.25.
Artashes, Zareh, and their successors
Antiochos the Great wanted to take control of Armenia and Sophene, lands that had been in Orontid control for several centuries; so he instigated a rebellion against Eruand IV. Artashes was able to defeat him and take control of Armenia, while his father, Zareh, took control of Sophene, all of this for the name of the Seleukid king. Artashes claims to have been a member of the Orontid dynasty in several epigraphic inscriptions, and that Eruand IV was killed by his own army, which supports the hypothesis that Artashes and Zareh betrayed the Orontid kingdom in exchange for power from the Seleukids. But, after Antiochos’ defeat at the Battle of Magnesia, both rulers proclaimed independence from the Seleukid Empire and formed dynasties of their own.
King Artashes (189-150 BCE.) was a strong ruler who was able to expand the boundaries of his kingdom into Atropatene and founded the city of Artashat (allegedly with the aid of Hannibal Barca) as Armenia’s new capital. At the same time, Zareh established himself in Sophene, though with little to note about his reign. Artashes’ successor, Artavazd (160-115 B.C.), launched campaigns into Kartli and established an Artashesian branch as kings there. Parthian attacks intensified, forcing Artavazd to give up his son Tigran (who would later become Tigran II) as a hostage, as well as parts of Atropatene. His brother, Tigran I (115-95 B.C.) succeeded the throne and his reign was largely uneventful.
In the year 95 BCE., on Tigran I’s death, Tigran II was released from Parthia and became the new Armenian king. He quickly incorporated all Armenian speaking regions into his kingdom (the kingdom of Sophene ruled by Zareh’s descendants included) and conquered Northern Mesopotamia from Parthia. Due to the instability and weakness of the rump Seleukid Empire, Tigran II was able to annex Syria and the Levant for his own kingdom. For a short time during Tigran II’s reign, Armenia was the strongest kingdom in the Near East. Although that would quickly change with the meddling of the Romans in Asia; Armenia would ultimately be reduced to a buffer state, and a vassal, either of the Romans, or the Parthians, for several centuries
Chahin, M. (2001). The Kingdom of Armenia: A History (pp. 193-215). London. Routledgecurzon Press.