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Kingdom of Urartu
|860 BC – 590 BC|
Urartu, 9th–6th centuries BC
|Historical era||Iron Age, Prehistoric|
• Median conquest
|History of Armenia|
Urartu (//) is the name of a geographical region commonly used as the exonym for the Iron Age kingdom also known by the modern rendition of its endonym, the Kingdom of Van, centered around Lake Van in the historic Armenian Highlands (present-day eastern Anatolia).
The written language that the kingdom's political elite used is referred to as Urartian, which appears in cuneiform inscriptions in Armenia and eastern Turkey. It is unknown what language was spoken by the peoples of Urartu at the time of the existence of the kingdom, but there is linguistic evidence of contact between the proto-Armenian language and the Urartian language at an early date (sometime between the 3rd—2nd millennium BC), occurring prior to the formation of Urartu as a kingdom.
The kingdom rose to power in the mid-9th century BC, but went into gradual decline and was eventually conquered by the Iranian Medes in the early 6th century BC. The geopolitical region would re-emerge as Armenia shortly after. Being heirs to the Urartian realm, the earliest identifiable ancestors of the Armenians are the peoples of Urartu.
The name Urartu (Armenian: Ուրարտու; Assyrian: māt Urarṭu; Babylonian: Urashtu; Hebrew: אֲרָרָט Ararat) comes from Assyrian sources. Shalmaneser I (1263–1234 BC) recorded a campaign in which he subdued the entire territory of "Uruatri". The Shalmaneser text uses the name Urartu to refer to a geographical region, not a kingdom, and names eight "lands" contained within Urartu (which at the time of the campaign were still disunited). "Urartu" is cognate with the Biblical "Ararat", Akkadian "Urashtu", and Armenian "Ayrarat". In addition to referring to the famous Biblical highlands, Ararat also appears as the name of a kingdom in Jeremiah 51:27, mentioned together with Minni and Ashkenaz. Mount Ararat is located approximately 120 kilometres (75 mi) north of its former capital.
The name Kingdom of Van (Urartian: Biai, Biainili; Վանի թագավորություն), is derived from the Urartian toponym Biainili (or Biaineli), which was adopted in Old Armenian as Van (Վան), because of betacism (in linguistics, when the letters b and v undergo a sound change), hence the names "Kingdom of Van" or "Vannic Kingdom". Other Urartian toponyms and words went through the same sound change as the Armenian language spread throughout the region and absorbed them (see Erebuni and Erevan).
In the 6th century BC, with the emergence of Armenia in the region, the name of the region was simultaneously referred to as variations of Armenia and Urartu. In the trilingual Behistun Inscription, carved in 521 or 520 BC by the order of Darius I, the country referred to as Urartu in Akkadian is called Arminiya in Old Persian and Harminuia in the Elamite language.
The mentions of Urartu in the Books of Kings and Isaiah of the Bible were translated as "Armenia" in the Septuagint. Some English language translations, including the King James Version follow the Septuagint translation of Urartu as Armenia. The identification of the biblical "mountains of Ararat" with the Mt. Ararat (Turkish: Ağrı Dağı) is a modern identification based on postbiblical tradition.
The name Ayrarat that was later used to describe lands located in the central region of the Kingdom of Armenia seems to have been of local usage as no known classical works use this word to refer to Armenia. The Ararat Province of modern Armenia is named after Mount Ararat, which itself receives its name from the biblical Mountains of Ararat (or Mountains of Urartu).
Scholars such as Carl Ferdinand Friedrich Lehmann-Haupt (1910) believed that the people of Urartu called themselves Khaldini after the god Ḫaldi. Boris Piotrovsky wrote that the Urartians first appear in history in the 13th century BC as a league of tribes or countries which did not yet constitute a unitary state. In the Assyrian annals the term Uruatri (Urartu) as a name for this league was superseded during a considerable period of years by the term "land of Nairi".
Shupria (Akkadian: Armani-Subartu from the 3rd millennium BC) is believed to have originally been a Hurrian or Mitanni state that was subsequently annexed into the Urartian confederation. Shupria is often mentioned in conjunction with a district in the area called Arme (also referred to as Urme or Armani) which some scholars have linked to the name of Armenia.
Linguists John Greppin and Igor M. Diakonoff argued that the Urartians referred to themselves as Shurele (sometimes transliterated as Shurili or Šurili, possibly pronounced as Surili), a name mentioned within the royal titles of the kings of Urartu (e.g. "the king of Šuri-lands”). The word Šuri has been variously theorized as originally referring to chariots, swords, the region of Shupria (perhaps an attempt by the ruling dynasty to associate themselves with the Hurrians), or the entire world.
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Assyrian inscriptions of Shalmaneser I (c. 1274 BC) first mention Uruartri as one of the states of Nairi, a loose confederation of small kingdoms and tribal states in the Armenian Highland in the 13th to 11th centuries BC which he conquered. Uruartri itself was in the region around Lake Van. The Nairi states were repeatedly subjected to further attacks and invasions by the Assyrians, especially under Tukulti-Ninurta I (c. 1240 BC), Tiglath-Pileser I (c. 1100 BC), Ashur-bel-kala (c. 1070 BC), Adad-nirari II (c. 900 BC), Tukulti-Ninurta II (c. 890 BC), and Ashurnasirpal II (883–859 BC).
Urartu re-emerged in Assyrian inscriptions in the 9th century BC as a powerful northern rival of Assyria, which lay to the south in northern Mesopotamia and northeast Syria. The Nairi states and tribes became a unified kingdom under king Aramu (c. 860–843 BC), whose capital at Arzashkun was captured by the Assyrians under Shalmaneser III. Roughly contemporaries of the Uruartri, living just to the west along the southern shore of the Black Sea, were the Kaskas known from Hittite sources.
Urartologist Paul Zimansky speculated that the Urartians (or at least the ruling family) may have emigrated northwest into the Lake Van region from their religious capital Musasir (Ardini). According to Zimansky, the Urartian ruling class were few in number and governed over an ethnically, culturally, and linguistically diverse population. Zimansky went so far as to suggest that the kings of Urartu might have come from various ethnic backgrounds themselves.
The Middle Assyrian Empire fell into a period of temporary stagnation for decades during the first half of the 8th century BC, which had aided Urartu's growth. Within a short time it became one of the largest and most powerful states in the Near East
Sarduri I (c. 832–820 BC), son of either Arame or the poorly attested Lutipri, successfully resisted the Assyrian attacks from the south, led by Shalmaneser III, consolidated the military power of the state, and moved the capital to Tushpa (modern Van, on the shore of Lake Van). His son, Ispuini (c. 820–800 BC) annexed the neighbouring state of Musasir, which became an important religious center of the Urartian Kingdom, and introduced the cult of Ḫaldi. Ispuini was also the first Urartian king to write in the Urartian language (previous kings left records written in Akkadian). He made his son Sarduri II viceroy. After conquering Musasir, Ispuini was in turn attacked by Shamshi-Adad V. His co-regent and subsequent successor, Menua (c. 800–785 BC) also enlarged the kingdom greatly and left inscriptions over a wide area. During Ispuini's and Menua's joint rule, they shifted from referring to their territory as Nairi, instead opting for Bianili. Urartu reached the highest point of its military might under Menua's son Argishti I (c. 785–760 BC), becoming one of the most powerful kingdoms of ancient Near East. Argishti I added more territories along the Araks River and Lake Sevan, and frustrated Shalmaneser IV's campaigns against him. Argishti also founded several new cities, most notably Erebuni Fortress in 782 BC. 6,600 captured slaves worked on the construction of the new city.
At its height, the Urartu kingdom stretched North beyond the Araks River (Greek: Araxes) and Lake Sevan, encompassing present-day Armenia and even the southern part of present-day Georgia almost to the shores of the Black Sea; west to the sources of the Euphrates; east to present-day Tabriz, Lake Urmia, and beyond; and south to the sources of the Tigris.
Tiglath Pileser III of Assyria conquered Urartu in the first year of his reign (745 BC). There the Assyrians found horsemen and horses, tamed as colts for riding, that were unequalled in the south, where they were harnessed to Assyrian war-chariots.
In 714 BC, the Urartian kingdom suffered heavily from Cimmerian raids and the campaigns of Sargon II. The main temple at Mushashir was sacked, and the Urartian king Rusa I was crushingly defeated by Sargon II at Lake Urmia. He subsequently committed suicide in shame.
Rusa's son Argishti II (714–685 BC) restored Urartu's position against the Cimmerians, however it was no longer a threat to Assyria and peace was made with the new king of Assyria Sennacherib in 705 BC. This in turn helped Urartu enter a long period of development and prosperity, which continued through the reign of Argishti's son Rusa II (685–645 BC).
After Rusa II, however, Urartu grew weaker under constant attacks from Cimmerian and Scythian invaders. As a result, it became dependent on Assyria, as evidenced by Rusa II's son Sarduri III (645–635 BC) referring to the Assyrian king Ashurbanipal as his "father".
According to Urartian epigraphy, Sarduri III was followed by three kings—Erimena (635–620 BC), his son Rusa III (620–609 BC), and the latter's son Rusa IV (609–590 or 585 BC). Late during the 7th century BC (during or after Sarduri III's reign), Urartu was invaded by Scythians and their allies—the Medes. In 612 BC, the Median king Cyaxares the Great together with Nabopolassar of Babylon and the Scythians conquered Assyria after it had been badly weakened by civil war. The Medes then took over the Urartian capital of Van in 590 BC, effectively ending the sovereignty of Urartu. According to the Armenian tradition, the Medes helped the Armenians establish the Orontid (Yervanduni) dynasty. Many Urartian ruins of the period show evidence of destruction by fire. This would indicate two scenarios—either Media subsequently conquered Urartu, bringing about its subsequent demise, or Urartu maintained its independence and power, going through a mere dynastic change, as a local Armenian dynasty or dynasties (the Haykazunis and/or the Orontids) overthrew the ruling family with the help of the Median army. Ancient sources support the latter version: Xenophon, for example, states that Armenia, ruled by an Orontid king, was not conquered until the reign of Median king Astyages (585–550 BC) – long after Median invasion of the late 7th century BC. Similarly, Strabo (1st century BC – 1st century AD) wrote that "[i]n ancient times Greater Armenia ruled the whole of Asia, after it broke up the empire of the Syrians, but later, in the time of Astyages, it was deprived of that great authority ..."
Medieval Armenian chronicles corroborate the Greek and Hebrew sources. In particular, Movses Khorenatsi writes that the Armenian king Skayordi Haykazuni was a political foe of Assyria during the reign of Sennacherib (705-681 BCE), which would have been contemporaneous with the rule of Argishti II. Skayordi's son, Paruyr Haykazuni (also known as Paruyr Skayordi), helped Cyaxares and his allies conquer Assyria, for which Cyaxares recognized him as the king of Armenia. According to Khorenatsi, Media conquered Armenia only much later—under Astyages. It is possible that the last Urartian king, Rusa IV, had connections to the future incoming Armenian Orontids dynasty.
The region formerly known as Urartu became the Satrapy of Armenia under the Persian Achaemenids and governed by the Armenian Orontid dynasty. The Satrapy later became the independent Kingdom of Armenia, under Orontid rule.
Little is known of what happened to the region of Urartu under the foreign rule following its fall and the emergence of the Satrapy of Armenia. According to historian Touraj Daryaee, during the Armenian rebellion against the Persian king Darius I in 521 BC (70 years after the fall of Urartu), some of the personal and topographic names attested in connection with Armenia or Armenians were of Urartian origin, suggesting that Urartian elements persisted within Armenia after its fall.
The Behistun Inscription, which was written in three languages, refers to the country as Armenia (Armina) and the people as Armenian (Arminiya) in Old Persian, but as Urartu (Urashtu) and Urartian (Urashtaa) in Akkadian, suggesting that Urartu and Armenia were part of the same geopolitical entity.
With the region reunified again under Armenia, the disparate peoples of the region mixed and became more homogenous and a unified sense of identity developed, and the Armenian language became the predominant language. Some Urartians might have kept their former identity. According to Herodotus, the Alarodians (Alarodioi)—presumably a variation of the name Urartian/Araratian—were part of the 18th Satrapy of the Achaemenid Empire and formed a special contingent in the grand army of Xerxes I. According to this theory, the Urartians who of the 18th Satrapy were subsequently absorbed into the Armenian nation.
Modern historians, however, have cast doubt on the Alarodian connection to the Urartians as the latter are never recorded as having applied an endonym related to "Ararat" to themselves.
As the Armenian identity developed in the region, the memory of Urartu faded and disappeared. Parts of its history passed down as popular stories and were preserved in Armenia, as written by Movses Khorenatsi in the form of garbled legends in his 5th century book History of Armenia, where he speaks of a first Armenian Kingdom in Van which fought wars against the Assyrians. It is worth noting that no kingdom called "Armenia" existed during the time that Assyria did, but Urartu (Van) did. Khorenatsi's stories of these wars with Assyria would help in the rediscovery of Urartu.
The toponym Urartu did not disappear, however. The name of the province of Ayrarat in the center of the Kingdom of Armenia is believed to be its continuum. The Ararat Province of modern Armenia is named after Mount Ararat, which itself receives its name from the biblical Mountains of Ararat (or Mountains of Urartu).
According to historian M. Chahin:
Urartian history is part of Armenian history, in the same sense that the history of the ancient Britons is part of English history, and that of the Gauls is part of French history. Armenians can legitimately claim, through Urartu, an historical continuity of some 4000 years; their history is among those of the most ancient peoples in the world.
Urartu comprised an area of approximately 200,000 square miles (520,000 km2), extending from the Euphrates in the West to Lake Urmia in the East and from the Caucasus Mountains south towards the Zagros Mountains in northern Iraq. It was centered around Lake Van, which is located in present-day eastern Anatolia.
At its apogee, Urartu stretched from the borders of northern Mesopotamia to the southern Caucasus, including present-day Turkey, Nakhchivan, Armenia and southern Georgia (up to the river Kura). Archaeological sites within its boundaries include Altintepe, Toprakkale, Patnos and Haykaberd. Urartu fortresses included Erebuni Fortress (present-day Yerevan), Van Fortress, Argishtihinili, Anzaf, Haykaberd, and Başkale, as well as Teishebaini (Karmir Blur, Red Mound) and others.
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Inspired by the writings of the medieval Armenian historian Movses Khorenatsi (who had described Urartian works in Van and attributed them to the legendary Ara the Beautiful and Queen Semiramis), the French scholar Jean Saint-Martin suggested that his government send Friedrich Eduard Schulz, a German professor, to the Van area in 1827 on behalf of the French Oriental Society. Schulz discovered and copied numerous cuneiform inscriptions, partly in Assyrian and partly in a hitherto unknown language. Schulz also discovered the Kelishin stele, bearing an Assyrian-Urartian bilingual inscription, located on the Kelishin pass on the current Iraqi-Iranian border. A summary account of his initial discoveries was published in 1828. Schulz and four of his servants were murdered by Kurds in 1829 near Başkale. His notes were later recovered and published in Paris in 1840. In 1828, the British Assyriologist Henry Creswicke Rawlinson had attempted to copy the inscription on the Kelishin stele, but failed because of the ice on the stele's front side. The German scholar R. Rosch made a similar attempt a few years later, but he and his party were attacked and killed.
In the late 1840s Sir Austen Henry Layard examined and described the Urartian rock-cut tombs of Van Castle, including the Argishti chamber. From the 1870s, local residents began to plunder the Toprakkale ruins, selling its artefacts to European collections. In the 1880s this site underwent a poorly executed excavation organised by Hormuzd Rassam on behalf of the British Museum. Almost nothing was properly documented.
The first systematic collection of Urartian inscriptions, and thus the beginning of Urartology as a specialized field dates to the 1870s, with the campaign of Sir Archibald Henry Sayce. The German engineer Karl Sester, discoverer of Mount Nemrut, collected more inscriptions in 1890/1. Waldemar Belck visited the area in 1891, discovering the Rusa stele. A further expion planned for 1893 was prevented by Turkish-Armenian hostilities. Belck together with Lehmann-Haupt visited the area again in 1898/9, excavating Toprakkale. On this expion, Belck reached the Kelishin stele, but he was attacked by Kurds and barely escaped with his life. Belck and Lehmann-Haupt reached the stele again in a second attempt, but were again prevented from copying the inscription by weather conditions. After another assault on Belck provoked the diplomatic intervention of Wilhelm II, Sultan Abdul Hamid II agreed to pay Belck a sum of 80,000 gold marks in reparation. During World War I, the Lake Van region briefly fell under Russian control. In 1916, the Russian scholars Nikolay Yakovlevich Marr and Iosif Abgarovich Orbeli, excavating at the Van fortress, uncovered a four-faced stele carrying the annals of Sarduri II. In 1939 Boris Borisovich Piotrovsky excavated Karmir-Blur, discovering Teišebai, the city of the god of war, Teišeba. Excavations by the American scholars Kirsopp and Silva Lake during 1938-40 were cut short by World War II, and most of their finds and field records were lost when a German submarine torpedoed their ship, the SS Athenia. Their surviving documents were published by Manfred Korfmann in 1977.
A new phase of excavations began after the war. Excavations were at first restricted to Soviet Armenia. The fortress of Karmir Blur, dating from the reign of Rusa II, was excavated by a team headed by Boris Piotrovsky, and for the first time the excavators of a Urartian site published their findings systematically. Beginning in 1956 Charles A. Burney identified and sketch-surveyed many Urartian sites in the Lake Van area and, from 1959, a Turkish expion under Tahsin Özgüç excavated Altintepe and Arif Erzen.
In the late 1960s, Urartian sites in northwest Iran were excavated. In 1976, an Italian team led by Mirjo Salvini finally reached the Kelishin stele, accompanied by a heavy military escort. The Gulf War then closed these sites to archaeological research. Oktay Belli resumed excavation of Urartian sites on Turkish territory: in 1989 Ayanis, a 7th-century BC fortress built by Rusas II of Urartu, was discovered 35 km north of Van. In spite of excavations, only a third to a half of the 300 known Urartian sites in Turkey, Iran, Iraq, and Armenia have been examined by archaeologists (Wartke 1993). Without protection, many sites have been plundered by local residents searching for treasure and other saleable antiquities.
On 12 November 2017, it was announced that archaeologists in Turkey's eastern Van Province had discovered the ruins of a 3,000-year-old Urartu castle during underwater excavations around Lake Van led by Van Yüzüncü Yıl University and the Governorship of Turkey's eastern Bitlis Province, and that revealed these underwater ruins are from the Iron Age Urartu civilization and are thought to date back to the eighth to seventh centuries BC.
The economic structure of Urartu was similar to other states of the ancient world, especially Assyria. The state was heavily dependent on agriculture, which required centralized irrigation. These works were managed by kings, but implemented by free inhabitants and possibly slave labour provided by prisoners. Royal governors, influential people and, perhaps, free peoples had their own allotments. Individual territories within the state had to pay taxes the central government: grain, horses, bulls, etc. In peacetime, Urartu probably led an active trade with Assyria, providing cattle, horses, iron and wine.
|Part of iron pitchfork, found near Lake Van and Iron plowshare, found during excavations in Rusahinili (Toprakkale).||Urartian saddle quern|
According to archaeological data, farming on the territory of Urartu developed from the Neolithic period, even in the 3rd millennium BC. In the Urartian age, agriculture was well developed and closely related to Assyrian methods on the selection of cultures and methods of processing. From cuneiform sources, it is known that in Urartu grew wheat, barley, sesame, millet, and emmer, and cultivated gardens and vineyards. Many regions of the Urartu state required artificial irrigation, which has successfully been organized by the rulers of Urartu in the heyday of the state. In several regions remain ancient irrigation canals, constructed by Urartu, mainly during the Argishti I and Menua period, some of which are still used for irrigation.
There is a number of remains of sturdy stone architecture, as well as some mud brick, especially when it has been burnt, which helps survival. Stone remains are mainly fortresses and walls, with temples and mausolea, and many rock-cut tombs. The style, which developed regional variations, shows a distinct character, partly because of the greater use of stone compared to neighbouring cultures. The typical temple was square, with stones walls as thick as the open internal area but using mud brick for the higher part. These were placed at the highest point of a citadel and from surviving depictions were high, perhaps with gabled roofs; their emphasis on verticality has been claimed as an influence of later Christian Armenian architecture.
The art of Urartu is especially notable for fine lost-wax bronze objects: weapons, figurines, vessels including grand cauldrons that were used for sacrifices, fittings for furniture, and helmets. There are also remains of ivory and bone carvings, frescos, cylinder seals and of course pottery. In general their style is a somewhat less sophisticated blend of influences from neighbouring cultures. Archaeology has produced relatively few examples of the jewellery in precious metals that the Assyrians boasted of carrying off in great quantities from Musasir in 714 BC.
With the expansion of Urartian territory, many of the gods worshipped by conquered peoples were incorporated into the Urartian pantheon as a means of confirming the annexation of territories and promoting political stability. Some main gods and goddesses of the Urartian pantheon include:
While the Urartians incorporated many deities into their pantheon, they appeared to be selective in their choices. Although many Urartian kings made conquests in the North, such as the Lake Sevan region, many of those peoples' gods remain excluded. This was most likely the case because Urartians considered the people in the north to be barbaric, and disliked their deities as much as they did them. Good examples of incorporated deities however are the goddesses Bagvarti (Bagmashtu) and Selardi, both potentially of Armenian origins. On Mheri-Dur (Meher-Tur) (the "Gate of Mehr"), overlooking modern Van, an inscription lists a total of 79 deities, and what type of sacrificial offerings should be made to each; goats, sheep, cattle, and other animals served as the sacrificial offerings. Urartians did not practice human sacrifice.
The pantheon was headed by a triad made up of Ḫaldi (the supreme god), Theispas (Teisheba, god of thunder and storms, as well as sometimes war), and Shivini (a solar god). Their king was also the chief-priest or envoy of Ḫaldi. Some temples to Ḫaldi were part of the royal palace complex, while others were independent structures.
Ḫaldi was not a native Urartian god but apparently an obscure Akkadian deity (which explains the location of the main temple of worship for Ḫaldi in Musasir, believed to be near modern Rawandiz, Iraq). Ḫaldi was not initially worshipped by Urartians, at least as their chief god, as his cult does not appear to have been introduced until the reign of Ishpuini.
According to Diakonoff and Vyacheslav Ivanov, Shivini (likely pronounced Shiwini or Siwini) was likely borrowed from the Hittites.
"Urartian language" is the name retroactively applied by historians and linguists to the extinct language used in the cuneiform inscriptions of the Kingdom of Urartu. Other names used to refer to the language are "Khaldian" ("Ḫaldian"), or "neo-Hurrian". The latter term is problematic, however, as it is now thought that Urartian and Hurrian share a common ancestor rather than the previously held belief that Urartian developed directly from, or was a dialect of, Hurrian. In fact, according to Paul Zimansky:
The earliest dialect of Hurrian, seen in the Tiš-atal royal inscription and reconstructed from various early second millennium B.C.E. sources, shows features that disappeared in later Hurrian but are present in Urartian (Wilhelm 1988:63). In short, the more we discover or deduce about the earliest stages of Hurrian, the more it looks like Urartian (Gragg 1995:2170).
The Urartian language is an ergative-agglutinative language, which belongs to neither the Semitic nor the Indo-European language families, but to the Hurro-Urartian language family, which is possibly related to North-East Caucasian languages. Many scholars, however, doubt that the language families are related, or believe that, while a connection is possible, the evidence is far from conclusive.
Examples of the Urartian language have survived in many inscriptions, written in the Assyrian cuneiform script, found throughout the area of the Kingdom of Urartu. Although, the bulk of the cuneiform inscriptions within Urartu were written in the Urartian language, a minority of them were also written in Akkadian (the official language of Assyria).
There are also claims of autochthonous Urartian hieroglyphs, but this remains uncertain. Unlike the cuneiform inscriptions, Urartian hieroglyphic have not been successfully deciphered. As a result, scholars disagree as to what language is used, or whether they even constitute writing at all. The Urartians originally would have used these locally developed hieroglyphs, but later adapted the Assyrian cuneiform script for most purposes. After the 8th century BC, the hieroglyphic script would have been restricted to religious and accounting purposes.[clarification needed]
Some have argued that the Urartian language wasn't spoken at all (see Language). The Kingdom of Urartu, during its dominance, had united disparate tribes, each of which had its own culture and traditions. Thus, when the political structure was destroyed, little remained that could be identified as one unified Urartian culture. According to Zimansky:
Far from being grounded on long standing cultural uniformities, [Urartu] was merely a superstructure of authority, below which there was plenty of room for the groups to manifest in the Anatolia of Xenophon to flourish. We need not hypothesize massive influxes of new peoples, ethnic replacement, or any very great mechanisms of cultural change. The Armenians, Carduchoi, Chaldaioi, and Taochoi could easily have been there all along, accommodated and concealed within the structure of command established by the Urartian kings.
Ultimately, little is known of what was truly spoken in the geopolitical region until the creation of the Armenian alphabet in the 4th century AD. Some scholars believe that the ethnonym "Armina" itself and all other names attested with reference to the rebellions against Darius in the Satrapy of Armenia (the proper names Araxa, Haldita, and Dādṛšiš, the toponyms Zūzahya, Tigra, and Uyamā, and the district name Autiyāra) are not connected with Armenian linguistic and onomastic material attested later in native Armenian sources, nor are they Iranian, but seem related to Urartian. However, others suggest that some of these names have Armenian or Iranian etymologies.
The presence of a population who spoke proto-Armenian in Urartu prior to its demise is subject to speculation, but the existence of Urartian words in the Armenian language suggests early contact between the two languages and long periods of bilingualism. It is generally assumed that proto-Armenian speakers entered Anatolia around 1200 BC, during the Bronze Age Collapse, which was three to four centuries before the emergence of the Kingdom of Urartu. The presence of Armenian speakers in the Armenian Highlands prior to the formation of the Kingdom of Urartu is supported by a reference to "the king of Uiram" in an 11th-century BCE list of lands conquered by the Assyrian king Tiglath-Pileser I.
The most generally accepted theory about the emergence of Armenian in the region is that Paleo-Balkan-speaking settlers related to Phrygians (the Mushki and/or the retroactively named Armeno-Phrygians), who had already settled in the western parts of the region prior to the establishment of Urartu, had become the ruling elite under the Median Empire, followed by the Achaemenid Empire. According to the Encyclopedia of Indo-European Culture:
The Armenians according to Diakonoff, are then an amalgam of the Hurrian (and Urartians), Luvians [Luwians] and the Proto-Armenian Mushki who carried their IE [Indo-European] language eastwards across Anatolia. After arriving in its historical territory, Proto-Armenian would appear to have undergone massive influence by the languages it eventually replaced. Armenian phonology, for instance, appears to have been greatly affected by Urartian, which may suggest a long period of bilingualism.
However, this theory is somewhat problematic as the Assyrians and Greeks referenced the Armenians and the Mushki as separate groups, and the Armenians never identified themselves with the Mushki or Phrygians. Additionally, some modern studies show that assertions about the proximity of the Greek and Phrygian languages with Armenian are not confirmed in the language material and that Armenian is as close to Indo-Iranian as it is to Greek and Phrygian.
An alternate theory suggests that Armenians were tribes indigenous to the northern shores of Lake Van or Urartu's northern periphery (possibly as the Hayasans, Etuini, and/or Diauehi, all of whom are known only from references left by neighboring peoples such Hittites, Urartians and Assyrians). While the Urartian language was used by the royal elite, the population they ruled may have been multi-lingual, and some of these peoples would have spoken Armenian.
The Urartian confederation united the disparate peoples of the highlands, which began a process of intermingling of the peoples and cultures (including possibly Armenian tribes) and languages (potentially including proto-Armenian) within the highlands. This intermixing would ultimately culminate in the emergence of the Armenians as the dominant polity and culture of the Armenian Highlands, and as the direct successors and inheritors of the Urartian domain.
An addition to this theory, supported by the official historiography of Armenia and experts in Assyrian and Urartian studies such as Igor M. Diakonoff, Giorgi Melikishvili, Mikhail Nikolsky, and Ivan Mestchaninov, suggests that Urartian was solely the formal written language of the state, while its inhabitants, including the royal family, spoke Armenian. This theory primarily hinges on the fact that the Urartian language used in the cuneiform inscriptions were very repetitive and scant in vocabulary (having as little as 350–400 roots). Furthermore, over 250 years of usage, it shows no development, which is taken to indicate that the language had ceased to be spoken before the time of the inscriptions or was used only for official purposes.[better source needed]
A complimentary theory, suggested by Tamaz V. Gamkrelidze and Ivanov in 1984, places the Proto-Indo-European homeland (the location where Indo-European would have emerged from) in the Armenian Highlands (see: Armenian hypothesis), which would entail the presence of proto-Armenians in the area during the entire lifetime of the Urartian state. The Armenian hypothesis supports the theory that the Urartian language was not spoken, but simply written, and postulates that the Armenian language as an in situ development of a 3rd millennium BC Proto-Indo-European language.
Even for now, however, it seems difficult to deny that the Armenians had contact, at an early date, with a Hurro-Urartian people.
The real heirs of the Urartians, however, were neither the Scythians nor Medes but the Armenians.
However, the most easily identifiable ancestors of the later Armenian nation are the Urartians.
In 1828, a French scholar, J. St Martin, [...] began to grope towards an explanation by connecting [Urartian cuneiform inscriptions] with the garbled legends preserved by an Armenian chronicler, Moses of Khorene (Moses Khorenatsi), probably of the eighth century A.D., according to whom the region was invaded from Assyria by a great army under its queen Semiramis who built a wondrous fortified city, citadel, and palaces at Van itself beside the lake. [...] It is clear that by the time of Moses of Khorene all other memory of this kingdom [Kingdom of Urartu], once the deadly rival of Assyria itself, had been forgotten and remained so, except for these popular legends.Check date values in:
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The story [of the legend of Hayk] retains a few remote memories from tribal times, and reflects the struggles between Urartu-Ararat and Assyro-Babylonia from the ninth to the seventh centuries B.C. The tale had evolved through the ages, and by the time Movses Khorenatsi heard it and put it into writing, it had already acquired a coherent structure and literary style.Check date values in:
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What had for some time attracted the attention of scholars, and had led the Iranianist Saint-Martin of the Académie des Inscription in Paris to send the young Schulz to explore these sites [in Van], was to be found written in chapter 16 of Khorenatsi's work.CS1 maint: others (link)
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Armenian presence in their historical seats should then be sought at some time before c 600 BC; ... Armenian phonology, for instance, appears to have been greatly affected by Urartian, which may suggest a long period of bilingualism.CS1 maint: others (link)
However, the most easily identifiable ancestors of the later Armenian nation are the Urartians.
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