My Coins, Up For Sale Right Now

Saturday, 29 December 2012

Tufa bust of man, found in Yerevan, 200 A D

Below is my rendering from my sketch of a bust of a man, said to have been found in Yerevan and dated to 200 A D.
The stone was Tufa and of a purplish colour.
It was about 30 cm from the top of the head to the bottom of the neck.

What strikes me is the appearance it has to Antoninus Pius, particularly the eyes.

The clay statuettes I reckon are the work of Romans for Romans, occupying Armenia, at least during the time of Marcus Aurelius.
If this bust is meant to depict Antoninus Pius, it would make sense. Though Yerevan in that era did not exist, there were only the ruined Urartuan settlements of Erebuni, Garmir-Blur and Arinberd to the south-east and south.
However during the 1930's when the "Moscow Cinema" was built in Yerevan, two columns were found, underneath the church of St. Paul and Peter that was demolished to make way for the cinema.
So there was at least a temple in the Roman era, were Yerevan now is.

Friday, 28 December 2012

Cybele statuette, National Museum Of Armenia

My rendering of 1 of 5 statuettes of what was labelled as "Kibela/Artemis/Aphrodite" on display in the Roman section of the National Museum Of Armenia.
Two of them depicted her nursing an infant, as shown.
The statuettes were labelled as being found in three sites, Artashat (Artaxata), Armavir and Vagharshapat.
The dates given were 200 A D.
They were all around 180 mm in height.

Wednesday, 26 December 2012

Ionic column, fragment, Artashat, National Museum Of Armenia

Below is my sketch of two sections of an Ionic column from the National Museum Of Armenia, followed by a photo I took in July 2011 of a block of Limestone in situ at old Artaxata (modern Khor Virap), the only visable fragment left of the old city.

Also a screen shot from Google Maps© where I have marked the location of that Limestone block in relation to the modern church site of Khor Virap.
Note also in the screenshot a rectalingular shape on the ground to the north of that block, below the walls of the church.

The column sections were about 70 cm in diametre, that block was about 60 x 60 cm and likely formed the foundation of a temple, if not the same temple the column sections came from.

Mithra statuette, National Museum Of Armenia, Yerevan

Below is my rendering from my sketch of a clay statuette, 1 of 9 on display in the National Museum Of Armenia, Yerevan, said to be of the god Mihr (Mithra).

All of the statuettes were about 150 mm in height, with no paint remaining on them, if they ever were painted.

The statuettes were stated to have been found at various sites in Armenia, from the cities of Artashat (Artaxata), Armavir and Vagharshapat.
The date given was 200 A D, though it is obviously a rough guess for a date.

The god Mihr, a Parthian equivalent to the Avestan  god Mithra, never gained as much popularity in ancient Armenia as the god Vahagn (Avestan: Verethragna) had.
And he, along with other deities, Urartuan, Semetic and Avestan (with their Hellenic equivalents) were worshipped long before 200 A D.

The body and the head are combined from two fragments, though all of the statuette heads wore this "hood".
A few of the statuette were riding a horse that was rearing up, whilst the god had his head turned to the right, facing and smiling.
On those statuettes the costume seemed to be a type of loose silk garment with many folds.
On those and the few statuettes of him standing, he wears this "hooded-coat".

The sleeve of the coat, I am not sure if it is a complete sleeve or a long flap, as seen in the traditional male costumes of Armenia and Georgia.

Also of note, the sword is positioned in the Roman Legionary manner, on the right hand side of the belt.

This type of cloak is seen in Median art, such as in the tomb of Cyaxares, (585 B C) in the autonomous district of Kurdistan, Iraq.

Turquoise plate, Aramaic, Armenia

Below is my rendering from my sketch of the reverse of a plate in the National Museum Of Armenia, 2011.

The colour of the plate was Turquoise, yet it glistened.

On the reverse was an inscription in Imperial Aramaic.

The plate was about 170 mm in diametre.

Greek Tufa Plaque, from Vagharshapat, Armenia

Below is my rendering from my sketch taken of a plaque in the Roman section of the National Museum Of Armenia, Yerevan, in 2011.

The text is taken from what I wrote and could see.
Certain parts of the text have been worn off, but it looks more random, such as a fall, than deliberate chiseling off.
The plaque is in the typical Roman "notice board" style, so though the letters are Greek, it must date from the Roman occupation of Armenia, perhaps the occupation of 163 - 186 A D.

The museum description gave the location of its find as Vagharshapat (Etchmiadzin) with a dating of 165 A D, and if it is a reliable date, that era would be the campaign of Lucius Verus.

The stone is Tufa, and of an orange colour, the length was about 1.5 metres.

Legion XV Apollinaris, plaque, Vagharshapat, Armenia

You may recall a previous post of mine, my sketch of a fragmentary Roman plaque in the National Museum Of Armenia, Yerevan.
That turned out to be commemorating a work done by the Legion IIII Scythica in the Armenian capital, Artashat, which had come under Roman control in 116 A D.

The following is taken from another sketch of a Roman plaque in that museum, this was found in the old Arsacid town of Vagharshapat (Etchmiadzin) said to be made by Legionaries and the date given was 185 A D.
It is about 1.5 metres in length, and about 1 metre in width.

The following is taken from my sketch.

_ = where a sentence has been deliberately chisiled away, defaced.

NINO AVG _                          GER

From what I could find, the emperor stated was likely to be Marcus Aurelius, rather than the other "Marcus Aurelius Antoninus" otherwise known as Caracalla.

Lucius Verus campaigned into Armenia and Parthia from 161–166 A D, and the Legio XV Apollinaris, based at Satala in Cappadocia, took a major part in that campaign.

The sentences "CAEIIOCM
MILEI AVRELIA BRA SEN EC EIV SOEM" did not make any sense, though I sketched them down.

The "VEX III" I think is actually "VEXILL" and that the plaque notes the work of a Vexillationes (detachment) from the Legion XV Apollinaris.

Still trying to figure out the rest of the wording, I wondered if the word "AVRELIA" may have been the Roman name for Vagharshapat.
After all, during the occupation of Armenia from 163 - 186 A D, the old Armenian capital, Artaxata, was renamed to "Kaine Polis".

On learning that Legion XV Apollinaris was based at the fort of Satala, I was curious to learn about this place, and came across the MAVORS Institute for Ancient Military History, website.

With thanks to Dr. Michael Speidel of MAVORS as he replied to my e-mail on what I thought was a new reference to Legion XV Apollinaris on a Roman plaque.
It turned out it was recorded over 100 years ago by an incredible scholar, Hermann Dessau, in his monumental work, "Inscriptiones latinae selectae".

Below is my rendering of what the plaque states. Rather than Marcus Aurelius, it is in the name of his son, Commodus.
However, like all his monuments and inscriptions, it got "Damnatio Memoriae".

A member (Sharum) on Forum Ancient Coins stated that the father of the emperor Balbinus is mentioned on this plaque, Caelius Calvinus.
He was the legate of Cappadocia in and around 184 A D.

Sunday, 26 August 2012

Family Tree of the Seljuk dynasty

A few years ago I drew up a family tree of the Seljuk dynasty.

Interestingly, the second generation of this dynasty seems to have been followers of Judaism, with Hebrew names such as Israel and Mikhael.

That they seem to have later converted to Sunni Islam is evident in the name changes.

It seems that after leaving the Khazar khanate, in which they had served a vital part of the Khazar cavalry, then settling in Khwarezm, then taking over the Samanid emirate in 962 AD, they had become the champions of Sunni Islam.

An example of such an apparent mercenary attitude to religion was seen later in the 13th century, the Mongol dynasty that ruled Persia, known as the Ilkhanate, were initially Animist, then pro-Christan (one Khan, Teguder, was even baptised as a Christian) then finally Muslim.

Saturday, 21 July 2012

Sketches from the Yerevan National Gallery

When I visited the Yerevan National Gallery in 2011 I took the opportunity to sketch what I saw, as photography is not allowed.

In the Roman era section were fragments of plaques, I sketched the fragments and on return to London was able to reconstruct (in red) what it would have stated, this dated to 116 AD, commemorating the conquest of Armenia by the emperor Trajan. Found in Artashata, probably part of a victory monument.
One of five terracotta idols, dated to around 200 AD, of the goddess Anahit. It seems that by the 3rd century AD she was no longer being depicted in the classical style, but had taken on, for lack of a better description, the look of the Madonna. Curiously, this was BEFORE Armenia became a Christian kingdom.
Sketch of around eight terracotta idols of the god Mher (Mithra).

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

1066: Beginning Of The Class War?

Watching "The Great British Story: A People's History, episode 3. The Norman Yoke"
Broadcast on the 8th June, 21:00 on BBC2, I took note of what one lady interviewed, during a reenactment of the Battle of Hastings, at around 08:40 minutes into the program.
It was the reference she made twice to "the working class" being the Anglo-Saxons whilst the Normans were the "upper class".
Here is a transcript of it:

Stephanie Paul - "William brought over his aristocracy, but for working class people like us, as an Anglo-Saxon, so much was, seemed to have been ripped away from us. Our connection with that leadership was replaced with a foreign language, um, our aristocracy wiped out in the battles and I don't know, sort of working class people you feel somehow you feel that today the, the position was usurped , I don't know."
Michael Wood - "I love the fact that you use this term the working class people because in 1066 and long after it was virtually all of us were the working people of England, weren't we, you know their..."
Neil Paul (Anglo-Saxonist) - "Yeah that's what we basically ended up doing, av us doing the stuff for them."
Michael Wood - "Yeah, well it was a brutal occupation, the English remembered it"
Stephanie Paul - "The end of the world as we know it."

On the victory of Duke William's army over the army of King Harold, there began the ruthless occupation of England, no doubt about it. The Harrying of the North is testament to it.

However, history is often an assortment of processed, selected viewpoints.

When the Anglo-Saxon confederation took over Britannia from the Britons, those Britons who had not fled into exile in Gaul had to accept the overlordship of the Anglo-Saxons, and other allied Germans, who had taken over much of Britannia.
The Britons became an under-class, never mind a "working class".
British men were forbidden to bear arms.

It was to the descendants of the exiled Britons in Gaul that Duke William looked towards, on his campaign to defeat King Harold and take over England.

William told the British nobility that they would be liberating their lost lands from their ancient foe.
After the defeat of King Harold, William, now King, resettled the British nobility in what had become the heartland of the Anglo-Saxons, East Anglia.

How many Britons re-established themselves is unknown, they comprised at least one-third of Duke William's invasion force, and so, could have been as little as 1,000 or up to 10,000 in number.

Almost ten years ago I visited Battle Abbey and took the Audio Guide tour around the site, choosing to only listen to the Anglo-Saxon viewpoint. In my mind, the Normans were an evil, foreign force, and would only lie about their reasons for invading, etc.

It was only years later I learnt about what the Anglo-Saxons did when they took over Britannia, and the treatment of Britons that I changed my narrow-minded viewpoint.

For sure, German federates of the Roman empire had been settled in southern Britannia from at least the third century AD, long before the empire gave up Britannia in 410 AD.
However, it is unlikely that by 1066 AD any Anglo-Saxon would have been aware that their ancestors came to rule that part of the island by skullduggery and ethnic-cleansing, they certainy wouldn't have given a thought to the poor British serfs of the Anglo-Saxon kingdom.

I think it is wrong to mix modern ideas of "Class War" with what happened to the Anglo-Saxons in 1066 AD.
Certainly, the Britons in Wales would have laughed at the idea that the Anglo-Saxons were ever "working class" since as long as they had known, it was the enslaved British who had done all the menial tasks for the Anglo-Saxons, until 1066.

Thursday, 15 March 2012

The Cimmerian Shot

The Parthian Cimmerian Shot

Whilst I was researching about king Sargon II of Assyria (reigned 722 - 705 BC) and his campaign against the Cimmerian horde in Asia Minor I came across this image, from his palace of Dur-Sharrukin, of Cimmerian horse archers firing back at the pursuing Assyrian cavalry.
What is the big deal about this image? Well, it is established wisdom that this horse-archery technique originated with the Parthians and was used to the full by a Parthian army of 10,000 strong against 43,000 strong Roman army led by the greedy Marcus Licinius Crassus near the town of Carrhae, northern Syria, in 53 BC. Not only did the battle result in 20,000 Roman dead and 10,000 Roman captured (some sent to central Asia) but also the horse archer technique of firing back upon pursuing foes to become a nightmare in the unconcious mind of future Roman armies deployed to the Parthian frontier.

In 709 BC king Mita (Midas) of Phrygia gave his kingdom over to king Sargon II of Assyria for protection against the Cimmerian horde that had stormed into Asia Minor from across the Caucasus.
King Sargon II died in battle against the Cimmerians in 705 BC.

Clearly this horse-archery technique predates the Parthians. Who the Cimmerians were is still a mystery, yet they were foes of the Scythians, who chased them across the Caucasus.

The Parthians Arsacid dynasty is supposed to have risen from the Dahae tribe that lived to the east of the Caspian sea, no explanation is given for what distinguished them from the neighbouring Scythian tribes to their south in Parthia. The Dahae then invaded or intervened in Parthia in 238 BC, killing its king, Andragoras and taking over the region. From then on they would be known only as Parthians, and their dynasty, the Arsacid.

Whether all the Cimmerians went west into Asia Minor seems unlikely, and some may have been driven eastwards, still pursued by their Scythian foes, and the Dahae may descend from these Cimmerians.

In conclusion we can not longer honestly credit Parthia with this horse-archery technique, and must now give it to its inventors, the Cimmerians ;)

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

The Army Reform Of Alexius Comnenus & The Origin Of The Ottoman "Mehter Marsi"

Back in May 2010 I was reading the Alexiad of Anna Comnena, I came across an episode in her father's career, the army reform and the later Ottoman army seemed to reflect his new tactics...

From 1110-16 AD the Seljuk Sultan of Rum, Shahanshah, led a series of campaigns against the empire.

To deal with the fighting style of the Turks and consolidate the land regained from them, Alexius retrained the army.
He developed a new battle formation, so that the army would always face the oncoming Turkish horse-archers at an angle, forcing them to fire at the shield side of the army, reducing their effect.

By 1116 Alexius had won the war, Shahanshah had made a treaty with Alexius to remove the Seljuks from Anatolia but he was captured by his brother Masud and later murdered at the town of Konya.

Alexius had tried to intervene but it was too late, and so returned to his base at the fort of Philomelion, rescueing prisoners and taking the local Christians back with him.

Anna wrote of a multitude being evacuated and brought with the army back to the north-west.
She wrote of births and deaths occuring as this throng marched on.

This army, Anna wrote, was kept in step by "the tunes of flutes and when they were on the move it seemed as if they were not moving and when they were not on the move it seemed as if they were moving."
As well as this, she describes how "from a distance it looked like a city with bastions on the move and when it changed direction this whole body moved as one, like a huge beast."
My understanding of the marching formation of the army Alexius led on campaign:

G= Left Vangaurd, Constantine Gabras, governor of Philadelphia.
M= Right Vanguard, Monastris
X= Under Alexius direct command, within are the evacuees and freed prisoners from the Anatolikon province.
T= Left Rearguard, Tzipoureles
A= Right Rearguard, Ampelas

Clearly new style of marching an army is mirrored later by the Ottomans, their famous 'Mehter Marsi'.

However, the following will be of interest.
Reading "The Decline And Fall Of The Roman Empire" by Edward Gibbon, Chapter 1, "The extent and military force of the Roman empire, in the age of the Antonines, Exercise ",  paragraph 38...

" The soldiers were diligently instructed to march, ... and to move to the sound of flutes, in the Pyrrhic or martial dance. "

So, it does seem unlikely that what Alexius did with the army was new. Rather, he revived an ancient martial tradition of the Greeks and Romans.

Sunday, 5 February 2012

Argavan the "Dragon"

The wife of king Artaxias Aruand of Armenia was Satenik, the Alan princess.
As mentioned in my post on him, he fought a war against the Alan tribes that had invaded the eastern regions of Armenia, such as Sakashen.
Moses of Chorene recorded the affair Satenik had with a nobleman known only as Argavan who he said was a Dragon.
It seems that Argavan bears an Iranian name.

Amoung the ancient Steppe Iranians, such as the Alans, it was normal for the standard of the cavalry to be in the shape of a beast.This would be made from bronze and the mouth would be hollow. To the back of the head was attached a long fabric, made of cotton or even silk and sock-like.
Dacian cavalry standard from Trajan's Column

During the cavalry charge, the rush of wind would play on the cuttings of the bronze teeth, and the force of wind coming out the end of the sock made a "howling noise". If dozens of standard bearers were in action like this, the effect on those attacked would be unsettling to say the least.
Sarmatian cavalryman, a relief found on the north wall of Chester Roman fort, England.
The Sarmatians were akin to the Alan people and may have been one and the same. Such peoples were a state, ruled by an upper class. It was they that gave the name to a nation, and foreign writers such as the Greeks and Romans, would refer to the entire people under the rule of this class as one and the same as them. The Parthians are now thought to have been a heterogenous grouping of tribes, even including Mongolian types in that far back era.
The Roman historian Ammianus Marcellinus, writing around 378 AD, stated that the Alan men were "...tall and good looking, their hair is generally blond and their eyes are frighteningly fierce."

It seems that the Steppe Iranians had long been associated with this "Dragon" ever since they moved into the Iranian plateu and the Caucasus. King Azhdahak of the Medes, who ruled around 550 BC, was refered to as a "Dragon." And even Satenik's son, Artavasdes, was accursed as being a "Dragon" and taken by "Dragons" upon mount Azat-Massis to live for eternity within it.
Regarding "Dragons" on this mountain, they may symbolise the earth tremors that still rack it, or they may refer to that area being settled by Steppe Iranians, as far back as 550 BC when king Azhdahak's enslaved people were said to have been settled there by the victorious king Tigran in the legend by Moses of Chorene.

Regarding Satenik, Argavan and Artavasdes, it is safe to say that "Dragon" refers to them being Alan or of Alan parentage.

Sunday, 29 January 2012

State of war in words

It is a shame that the publication
" The Armenian People, from Ancient to Modern Times: 
Vol I: The Dynastic Periods: from Antiquity to the Fourteenth Century" by Professor Richard G. Hovanisian has been the victim of a petition by some academics of the Republic of Armenia over supposed wording that could be construed to infer that Armenians are foreign to the region.
I have both volumes 1 & 2 and never found anything to complain off so far.
In a purist historical way, to understand the tribes of the ancient past, to accept that modern nations are built on a rich history and prehistory of differing peoples, is now impossible in the Republic of Armenia and as a subject of discussion in general.
This is because the Republic of Azerbaijan, with its petro dollars, is waging a war of words.
These words involve the concoction of an unbroken history that sees the Sumerians as being the founders of the Azerbaijani nation north of the Araxes river thousands of years ago. This fantasy had been the creation of Pan Turkist "scholars" in the 1970's.
No serious, honest, scholar accepts any of this. 
This war is also being fought online in particularly on YouTube were anyone can make a "documentary" and it is likely national governments follow such "documentaries" if not sponsor them.

The result of this war of words is that merely to write how for example "the Urartuans invaded the Armenian Highland from the south and created a kingdom" or "the Cimmerians, Scythians invaded the Armenian Highland from the north and settled down" or "Phrygian tribes invaded Anatolia and reached as far as the Armenian Highland and settled down".
None of this infers that no one was living in the Armenian Highland before any of these people decided to invade, prior to that the Armenian Highland is mentioned by the Assyrians as the land of "Nairi" and a very prosperous and populated land at that. Civilization reaches back thousands of years in that land, even by there mere artifact of a shoe testifies to specialist skills, and so, civilization.

The problem is, mental health sufferers who can pass of or get dressed up by governments with nationalist agendas as bonafide experts will seize on anything that refers to tribes "invading" the Armenian Highland to mean that all the Armenian people invaded it and are therefor illegal occupants. Pasting onto this nonsense is the Sumerian origin myth.

In the west we are free to look deep into the fault lines of history without fear that by doing so will bring about an invasion by a hostile country.
Alas this is not the case in the Republic of Armenia, where any such inquiries must be prevented, as a matter of national security.

Lets make an example.
Imagine during WWI or WWII in England if some journalist wanted to write that "not every German was a blood thirsty monster", such a thing would be treason at the time, probably punishable by long term imprisonment, and the writer would probably become the victom of a hate campaign.
Theoretically what such an imagined journalist would not be wrong. But to make such statements to the public at a time of war would jeopardise public moral and even the war effort.
Such a statement could be seized by "tosh mongers" of the Tabloids to become a "headline grabber" such as "enemy traitor loves Hitler" or "execute the German lover!"
Rabid Tabloid nonsense in times of peace deserve the ridicule they are askign for and can be dismissed as ultimately harmless. But in times of war such spoutings will be tacitly allowed by the government, and become the offical mind set of the masses on what is right and wrong to say, and that "all Germans are evil and must be killed."

In that analogy we see why such mentionings in books such as "The Armenian People, from Ancient to Modern Times" of the formation of the Armenian people can be seized upon as "treason" and the result is that now no in depth study of Armenian history can ever be done in the current war situation.

So references to Herodotu, who stated that warriors living in western Armenia wore Phrygian hats, Strabo stating that the religious customs of the Armenians came from the Medes, must be banned. 
It never dawns on the modern censor that these real ancient witnesses are proof of the existence of Armenia in ancient times, wheras they do not mention the existence of Azerbaijan.

To theorise that the ancient region of "Sakashen" refers to the Scythians who invaded from the north in the 6th century BC or that the ancient city of Gyumri derives its name from the Cimmerian people who invaded from the north, before the Scythians is now like a blasphemy, deserving a Fatwa. 
That these were singular settlements amongst a larger native population does not factor in.
It does not infer that everyone settled there in an empty land and the people of the Republic of Armenia have no right to live there. 
However as stated, such studies are seized upon by the Pan Turkic government of Azerbaijan and contorted to infer just that, that the Republic of Armenia has no right to exist.

As stated, in the west, such historical observations would attract little interest in the general public and be of no concern to national security. 
This does not work in the troubled Caucasus region of today. 

Friday, 27 January 2012

When is a "Roman" not a "Roman" ?

On seeing a portrait of Emperor Septimius Severus with his wife and two sons, I was struck by what could be called the "Byzantineness" of the style.

This caused me to reflect on the nonsense of the classification of "Byzantine", "Byzantines" and "Byzantine" empire.
Since the 19th century western scholars blithely use the name "Byzantine" in the mindset that the people of the Roman empire, ruled from Constantinople, were not Latin, did not speak Latin and so were no longer Roman. Quite overlooking the fact that in titular addresses the word Roman was used to describe their empire and citizens.

Why the Severan portrait made me realise this nonsense was...
1) Septimius was of Punic (Phoenician) origin.
2) He was born in the town of Leptis in Libya.
3) He spent much of his reign ruling the Roman empire away from the city of Rome.
4) His wife was Aramaic from Syria.

So, Septimius must be a "Byzantine" then, he sounds so "un-Roman" and look at how decadent he dressed.
Well, he ruled from 193 - 211 AD, 119 years before the founding of Constantinople by emperor Constantine in 330 AD, and the supposed creation of the "Byzantine" empire as a result of this.

Lets compare with emperor Justinian I, supposed "Byzantine" and ruler of the "Byzantine" empire.
Justinian ruled the Roman empire from Constantinople from 527 - 565 AD.
He referred to himself as Roman, his empire as Roman and his citizens as Romans.
1) Born in Dalmatia of Latin origin.
2) Never ruled from Rome but from Constantinople, even though by 560 AD Rome was again under imperial rule.
3) His wife, Theodora, was Greek.

At the very least it can be argued that Justinian being of Latin origin would be considered more of a Roman than Septimius.

If you rely on the "History Channel" for your historical education, you will be in dire need of educational therapy in the form of researching such things as the "Byzantine" empire for yourself.

In the reign of emperor Heraclius this is also given by scholars as the time the "eastern" empire became "Byzantine" because for purely administrative purposes during a 26 year war against the Persian kingdom he made all state correspondence in Greek. However on coinage Latin was still used.
On the above coin, we read on the obverse side "DN HERACLI-US PP AUG" whilst on the reverse we read "VICTORIA AUGUS". His style is no more decadent than of Septimius.
1) Born in Cappadocia of Armenian origin. During the reign of emperor Maurice family settled in the Exarchate of Africa .
2) First wife, Eudocia, Greek name, possibly also of Armenian origin. Family settled in the Exarchate of Africa. Second wife, Martina, was his niece (!)
3) Though Rome was under imperial rule, Heraclius never went there.
A gold Solidus from the reign of Heraclius, on the obverse he is shown with his son Constantine beside him, circa 620 AD.
A gold Solidus showing emperor Licinius beside his son, Licinius II, circa 320 AD.

These "un-Roman" characteristics seem similar to emperor Septimius.
But wait, by the time of Heraclius, the empire was known as a "Greek" or "Byzantine" empire!
The Muslim Syrian scholar Ismail ibn Kathir, writting around 1350 AD, still referred to the empire as Roman. In a eulogy to Heraclius he wrote: "He ruled the Romans with great leadership and splendor."

In summary, a serious historian needs to read other sources, especially non 19th & 20th century Frankish sources which had their own imperial agenda, to understand when a "Roman is not a Roman".

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Why mount Masis is not mount Ararat

Doing a course on Armenian history, I took out a fine old Armenian publication «Հայկական Սովետական Հանրագիտարան» (Soviet Armenian Encyclopaedia) 1976 edition.
No interest in any of the Soviet propaganda that may exist in it.
These are famous encyclopaedias in Armenia and the Diaspora, with a wealth of information about Armenian culture and history that until the Internet age, was so hard to find.

There is a double-page map of Arsacid (Arshakuni) Armenia of the 4th century AD.
I was looking at the old province of Gortuk (Gordyene) when my eyes saw in clear Armenian writting «Արարադ Լ
That means Mount Ararat.

Looking on Google Map for the present name of this mountain, I learnt it is now called mount Judi.

Apparently, for the early Christian church (and even today in Judaism and Islam) this was the location of the mountain that "Noah's Ark" set upon after the Flood.

The mountain that almost all diasporan Armenians call "mount Ararat" was actually called, according to the map in the encyclopaedia «Ազատ-Մասիս» (Azat - Masis).
Confusingly the map makers have kept the modern provincial name of the area, «ԱՅՐԱՐԱՏ»(Ararat).

Azad-Masis may derive from the Avestan title Yazata-Mazista which equates to "the venerable, the greatest".
This 5,137 meter high extinct volcanic mass was called the "Palace of Aramazd and Astghik"* by the ancient Armenians.
The lower south-eastern slope, which in the Arsacid map is called "Մասիս" (Masis and Diasporan Armenians call this summit, Masis whilst those of the Republic call Sis) was said to be "a place of incessant fire, of Dragons"*.
At the base of this mountain was a sacred spring called "Buth"*.
This probably derives from the Avestan deity of the water, "Burz".

A possible scenario is that the mountain could not be destroyed, like the pagan temples, by the zealous Gregory the Illuminator and his successors in their mission of converting the kingdom to Christianity, and so, the mountain was renamed to something Christian.

But there was already a mountain called Ararat, in the province of Gortuk?
Alas, this province did not remain under Armenian control.
Due to Armenia being brought into an alliance with the Roman Emperor Julian II (who reverted to Paganism) the kingdom was expected to provide military aid for his campaign into Mesopotamia (Iraq) to attack the capital of the Persian kingdom, Ctesiphon.
After initial victories, the Roman army was dicisively defeated at the "Battle of Samara" and Julian was killed.
Okay, what about "the real mount Ararat" and Gortuk?
After the Romans were defeated and left to find a new leader, Jovian, and make large concessions to Persia to survive and escape back to the Roman empire, they made a treaty with the Persian king.
This involved ceding control of most of Armenia to Persia, including the province of Gortuk.

It seems that the real mount Ararat in Gortuk was forgotten, the region that sired the "Urartuan" people.

And that original Ararat was forgotten by western Christianity, but not by the local Armenians, or Judaism or Islam.

So in summary, yes "Noah's Ark landed in Armenia upon mount Ararat", just it was in the Armenian province of Gortuk.

*See "Armenian Mythology" by Mardiros H. Ananikian, from "The Mythology of All Races: Volume VII", (published in New York, 1925)