Wednesday, December 22, 2021

The origins of the name Armenia.

 The origins of the name Armenia.

In trilingual Behistun inscription ( dated circa ~520bc) the list of twenty three countries is mentioned. One of them is the Armina in Persian. The same country is labeled as Urashtu in the Babylonian version.

It is frequent for the same kingdom to have different names. It can be explained by different geographic perspectives. But other factors can play a role.

Given that Persians were mentioned in Urartian inscriptions we can assume that Persian knew about Urartu kingdom earlier in 7th century and were using the same Armina term to designate that kingdom.

What can be the source of this term? 

Given the location of Persians and Mannaeans we must search a term that was located in south eastern parts of Biaina/Urartu as a source of this term. Indeed such term existed and it was situated between lake Van and Urmia. It was the Aramali and Armarili mentioned in Assyrian sources. Why and how this term could become Armina?

Both Aramali and Armarili do have the Urartian plural suffix -li like in Biainili. This means that the root was Arama- and Armari. This latter is sometimes interpreted as Armali. In this case we will have Arma-. 

In the Persian form Armina the last -na also can be a suffix. This suffix in most likelihood is not Persian but comes from the same stock as Biai-na and Man-na ( frequently mentioned as Mannayu = Mannaeans ) 

Here we can make a plausible assumption that the term Armina was initially coined by Mannaeans to denote Urartu kingdom, which later was borrowed by Persians.

Finally the form Armari- can be explained as Arm + ar where the last -ar is a plural suffix in another language spoken by the tribe from which this root Arm- is derived. Such a piling of two and more plural suffixes is very frequent in conditions when there are multiple ethnicities mixed.

It must be noted that -ar plural suffix can be related to old Armenian -ear suffix which later evolved to modern -(n)er.

There are other arguments which favour this theory.

+ Armarili was a district in Urartu were the hometowns of Urartian kings were located. Basically if the Assyrian claims are correct then we can say that the ruling dinasty of Urartu were Armareans. It's quite natural to name a kingdom based on the origin of it's dinasty. Examples are France, Bulgaria etc.

+ The first king of Urartu was Aramu. Once more we see the name of Urartian ruler connected with Aramali/Armarili. Though in Assyrian inscription Aramali is not part of Urartu. But in that mention Urartu of Aramu was still a small kingdom and didn't yet expanded enough to south east to include Aramali. It must be noted that Aramali/le is mentioned as a city , but when we read the raw text it become clear that it was a city associated with larger district where numerous cities existed.

It'a interesting that the Khorenatsi explains exactly in this way the apparition of Armenia. From the name of patriarch Aram. But here a legitimate question arise. If Assyrians knew that the ruling dinasty of Urartu was from Armarili why they didn't give importance to that term. Well naming conventions sometimes can have very obscure logic but in this particular case there was a serious reason to not use anything with Aram/Arm in root. Because Assyrians were already using extensively the term Aramu to describe a Semitic tribe that became prominent in Iron Age Syria and it's vicinity.

Finally this theory fits well with Armen Petrosyan 's suggestion that the ruling dinasty of Urartu was steming from Early Iron age tribes Mushki and Urumu. Nothing forbids us to imagine that a group of Urumu tribe settled in south east of Van where under the influence of Urartian language they got the -li plural suffix, while the the root has undergo a vowel reduction. A process when the vowel [o= cuneiform u] shifts to [a] like in Russian language. Thus Aramali can be derived from Urumuli while the name of the king Aramu<Urumu from the same tribal name. As for Armarili/Armali it is mentioned more than a century later and in most likelihood lost an internal vowel.

In any case the linking of Urumu with Aramali is not mandatory for this theory to work. It can work even without Urumu , but it's inclusion adds extra insight to understand the deeper origins of the term Aramali/Armarili.

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