Nikoghayos Adonts

Nikoghayos Adonts

Nikoghayos Adonts – (Ter-Avetikyan) was born in 1871 (In Sisian – Zangezur) and died in 1942. He was a prominent Armenian historian, specialist of Byzantine studies and philologist. Adonts graduated form the parochial school of Tatev, studied later in Georgian Seminary of Echmiatsin and Russian gymnasium in Tbilisi. Adonts graduated from the University of St. Petersburg, the Departments of Oriental languages and History and Philology with golden prize. Adonts wrote the dissertation ” Armenia under the Rule of Hustinian Dynasty” and defended his Master Degree in 1908. Adonts was appointed as the private-assistant professor at the University of St. Petersburg in 1909. He got the Ph.D and the title of professor by the work “Dionysius of Thrace and his Armenian interpretations” written in 1916. In 1920 he left for London and later for Paris. Adonts was invited to deliver lectures at the University of Brussels in 1930 and was appointed to the position of the Head of newly organized Department of Armenian Studies. In January 27, 1942 he died in Brussels. Adonst left more than 80 monographs on the history and literature of Medieval Armenia, Armenian-Byzantine relations, Armenian-Greek philology, mythology, religion, linguistics in Armenian, Russian and French languages. The most important among his works are “Armenia under the Rule of Hustinian Dynasty”, “The peasantry of Ancient Armenia”, “The Art of Dionysius Grammarian and his Armenian Interpretations” and “Political parties in Ancient Armenia”.

Abstract of the Book

Nikoghayos Adonts book

The Conceptions of Ancient Authors on the Origins of Armenians

The origins of the nations are buried in the mist of centuries. All nations have lived a long life and have wandered on unknown roads under such ethnic and geographic conditions that they were never subject to any control until the moment when they appeared on the luminous zones of history.

Armenians are not an exception to this phenomenon. They have also had an obscure period of life before presenting themselves to the civilized world. The Greeks were not interested in non-Greek nations whom they classified as barbarians. The data about the origins of Armenians that they have transmitted to us refer mainly to those last stages through which the Armenians have passed before settling in Armenia. Prior to explaining the origins of Armenians and interpreting it in the light of the modern science, it is necessary to discuss the conceptions that the ancient authors had on the matter. Notwithstanding the way these conceptions were presented in their writings they reflect, as we will see, some relevant historical truth.

Two legends have reached us: according to the first legend, the Armenians were of Phrygian origin and according to the second, of Thessalian origin.

The first one is mentioned by Herodotus, and the second, by two officers of Alexander of Macedonia. We will first discuss the notion of Herodotus.

In the description of the army of Xerxes, Herodotus says: “The Phrygian armament was very similar to the armament of Paphlagonians: the difference was insignificant.” According to Macedonians, the Phrygians were called Brigs as long as they stayed in Europe together with Macedonians. Having left for Asia they, however, changed their country changing also their names and were then named Phrygians. The Armenians were armed like the Phrygians as they were immigrants. They were both under the command of Artochme, the husband of Darius’s daughter.

This precious statement of Herodotus would have been more valuable if it were presented elsewhere, instead of appearing in the much colored history of the invasion of Xerxes. The list of the nations presents, however, an interest as an official document independent from the deliberate use of the historian. We have to think that the kinship of Armenians and Prygians is not the personal opinion of Herodotus, based on the fact that the two nations were subject to the same commander. On the contrary, it rather speaks about the kinship that has grouped them together under the same leadership, on the basis of the same principle that has united other nations as well.

Another author, Eudox, who lived around 370 B.C., a century after Herodotus, also states that the “Armenians proceed from the Phrygians and have considerable language similarities with the Phrygian language.”

It cannot be said that he was inspired by the previous author. The statement regarding the language similarities attests to the fact that he was independent from Herodotus.

Let’s suppose that Armenians were a branch of Phrygians. But who were the Phrygians then?

They were natives of Thrace from the countries of Berecynt and Ascania, from where Hector’s son Scamander brought them during the Troyan war. Homer knew Phrygians as the allies of Priam spread at the borders of Sangrios and from the “remote Ascania” under the command of Phoreus and Ascanius.

There is a variety of opinions regarding the historical nature of the Troyan war. However, all the historians agree on dating it to the Twelfth century B.C. That is the date of Traco-Phrygian invasion which resulted in the collapse of the Hitti empire.

Let us summarize what was already told with reference to cuneiform monuments.

The archives of Hattus (Bogaz-Keuy) are unexpectedly interrupted in approximately year 1200 as if like an omen announcing the approaching collapse of the Hittiti empire. Later a nation called “Hittite military people” appeared on the frontiers of Assyria. There was a group of 20,000 Muski people among those whom Asurians considered Phrygians. The Muski penetrated into the region of Anziten, and moved forward to the mouth of river Tigris, where they engaged in war against the Assyrian king Assurnasirpal II. There is almost no mention about these people till the reign of Sargon II (721-705). During this period, Muski people reappeared on the shores of Cilicia. Having conquered the Hittite empire, the Muski continued their glorious invasion to the Medditerranian and seized the Que countries and Western Cilicia from Assyrians. The king of Muski had the famous name of “Mita,” that identified him with the Phrygian Midas: a decisive affirmation of identity of Muski with Phrygians.

Being aspired by their conquest of Assyria, Mita provoked neighboring small kingdoms to revolt. Kiakki, the prince of Sinuhtu ceased to pay tribute to Assyrians; Sargon dethroned him and gave his country to Matti, the prince of Atuna, that is to say Tyna of Ptolome, which was a city of Cataonia in the region of Arabisos (the actual Yarpuz). Sinuhtu was probably situated in the middle of Saros, between Sis and Yarpuz.

Mita succeeded in conquering Karganis (Ceraplus). Sargon repulsed him from the region, moved forward to Que and together with other countries conquered the city of Harrua from Mita. Harrua was situated in the place of Seleucie, on the same border with Calicadnus (Geuk-su).

When Mita failed in advancing to Assyria from Cilicia, he transferred his activities to the mountains of Cilicia, the region of small principalities tributary to Assyria. The countries of Bit Burutas, Kammanu, Melidu and Qummahu were one by one separated from Assyria.

The son of Uassarme Hulli was the king of Bit-Burutas. The latter was named the “king of Tabal” by Tiglatpalasar III. Consequently, Bit-Burutas is the same Tabal, be it a city or a region where Hulli lived. Sargon married his daughter Ahat-abis’u to Ambris, the son of Hulli and gave Hilakku (Cilicia) to her as a dowry. This is how the valley of Zamanti situated to the East of Cesaria was called at that time. In spite of those favors Ambris, provoked by Mita and Rusa of Urartu, rose against his benefactor. Sargon punished him and converted the country into a province of Assyria.

Kammanu was Chamenia according to the classic authors, but during that period it was situated between Halys and Meliten. Its king Gunzinanu was dethroned like his neighbor Ambris for the same reason and his country was annexed to Melidu (Melitinia).

The king of Melidu Tarhunazi betrayed Sargon too. The latter imprisoned him and his state passed to Mutallu, the prince of Qummahu. Mutallu wasn’t loyal to Sargon and he joined Rusa of Urartu. Sargon banished him and Qummahu became an Assyrian province.

So the efforts of Mita to create a common front against Assyria were a failure. The Assyrian governor of Que gave the last coup: he drove to the heart of his country and forced him to recognize the sovereignty of Sargon in 708.

Sargon built the forts of Usi, Usian and Uargin by the borders of Muski. Usi is the Chusa of Roman itinerary which is on the way to Tyana, 12 miles to West of Nazianzus, Usian was Roman Osian to the West of Nyssa. The place of Uargin is unknown.

Those forts delimited the Eastern frontiers of Muski. This fact reinforces the hypothesis that the Muski and Phrygian people were identical. The Phrygian inscriptions found at Eyuk and Tyana (Kizlihisar), a little far from the Hittite capital of Pteria (Bogaz-Keuy), attest to the fact that the principal road leading from Tarsia to Sinopia was in the hands of the Phrygians.

The Phrygians were spread to the West of the lines of forts constructed by Sargon in the vast territory of Propontidia (Phrygia Minor formed a part of it), Caria and Pisidia.

In spite of the fame of Phrygia as reflected in the Greek mythology, nothing is known about a long period of history of that country starting with the arrival of Phrygians at the end of the Eight century.

Herodotus knew only King Midas, his father Gordios and his son who was also named Gordios. The cities of Gordium and Midaium (famous monument of Midas), both situated on the basin of Sangarios, as well as Midoucrenia situated on the frontier of Pisidia, near Antioch and Gordiouteichos (probably on Harpasos, the affluent of Meandria), have perpetuated the memory of the above mentioned kings.

King Midas, known as Golden Midas in legendary stories, with ears of a donkey would have continued to hide his face behind the mythology if the Assyrian inscriptions hadn’t revealed his historical image. The doubt of Greek authors about the identity of Midas and Mita is exaggerated.

According to Herodotus, Midas lived earlier than Gyges, the King of Lydia. We know that Mita lived during Sargon and his successors, meantime Gyges was the contemporary of Asurbanipal (669-662). This assimilates Midas of Herodotus with Mita of Sargon.

The Phrygian history, as much as we know of it, does not however provide a single opportunity to reveal any relation between the Phrygians and the Armenians that would support the existing formal testimony. There is only one evidence that can be of use for this purpose. Sargon rose against Tabal in 705. Nothing is known about this invasion besides the fact that the king of Phrygia died there. It seems that the invasion was directed towards the country of Til-Garimmu, (Tegarama in Hittite monuments) that was situated between Melidu and Kammanu in the region of Gauraena, today’s Gorun , which probably preserved the old name of Tegarama or Garimmu. Tabal is a generic name that refers to several states situated on the Cilician Taurus. The events that took place later make reasonable the hypothesis that the purpose of the invasion of 705 was to conquer Tel-Garimmu.

In 695 Sennacherib sent one of his generals against a certain Gurdi, who had founded a new kingdom in that country. Gurdi yielded prudently before the superior forces of Assyrians. The general of Sennacherib conquered Til-Garimmu, but faced with the difficulty of maintaining it, got satisfied with robbing it and left the country. Hence, Til-Garimmu was liberated from the ambitious Assyrians and kept its independence.

It is not known under what circumstances Gurdi founded the new political foyer . Gurdi is exclusively a Phrygian name. If Gurdi of Til-Garimmu was not the son of Midas, it is beyond doubt that he was from a royal family.

It can be assumed, therefore, that he was the commander of Phrygians and one way or another had brought and inhabited the Phrygians in the region of Til-Garimmu. If we remember that Til-Garimmu formed a part of the territory of the first country of Armenians Armenia Minor before extending to Euphrates, we have right to think that the Phrygians of Gurdi were no one else but Armenians.

The Tegarama kingdom was not as transient as we may think. The Biblical tradition honored it by including it in the celebrated Chapter X of the book of Genesis among the eponyms of enumerated nations: Japheth, Gamer, Magog, Madai, Iovan, Thobel, Mosoch, Theiras, Ascenaz, Riphath or Erirath, Thergama or Thorgoma.

It is not difficult to recognize those countries that are represented by these eponyms: Gamer is Gimirri, the Cimmerians is Cappdoc and the Armenian Gamirk; Magog is the country of Gog, Gyges of Lydia, Madai is Media, Iovan is Ionia, Thobel is Tabal, Cataonia, Mosoch is Muski, the Phrygia, Theiras is not known, perhaps Thrax, the Thrace.

The sons of Gamer: Ascenaz and Iskuzi (or Iskunzi), the Scythes; Thegarama or probably Thogarama or Thorgama, Tegarama or Til-Garimmu, Armenia Minor; Riphath, perhaps Arpad (today’s Rfad, to the Noeth of Aleppo), a small Syrian state; the way we read “Erirath” all these makes us think about Ararath and Urartu.

So, we can understand from the Chapter X of Genesis that a non-Semitic nation had inhabited the North of the Mesopotamian world between the Aegean and Caspian seas.

It is strange that a state as big as Urartu was not mentioned in the book of Genesis. Thergama of the three brothers represents the kingdom of Gurdi, Armenia Minor; Ascenaz is the eponym of Scythes that are situated either in Sakasens in Eastern Armenia or in Atropaten, in the country of Mana or near it. The prophet mentions about the Ascanazians together with Minni and Ararat. It sounds natural that the third brother would be together with his two brothers. It thus forces us to identify the way we read “Erirath” with Ararat-Urartu. Aprad is a rather insignificant site and would hardly claim to have place among the countries with political importance and was very far from being considered Gamer’s son.

The indication of Cimmerians and Scythes, that didn’t stay in the political arena, attest to the fact that the Chapter of the book of Genesis reproduces the ethnographic map of non-Semitic Near East, as it appeared a day after the Gimmero-Scyth invasion and no later than in the first half of the Seventh century.

However, Armenians do not have their eponym in the Biblical Genesis, which shows that their settlement in Armenia dates back to a later period, perhaps in the middle of the Seventh century.

Later the commentators of Bible considered it reasonable to relate Armenians to the Thegerama. The same was done with the Phrygians. Are these approaches based on any reminiscence about the origins of Thegarama and data on the kinship of the two nations as to represent the one as the ancestor of the other? The answer will perhaps be negative.

Many nations mentioned in the Chapter X have disappeared long ago or have lost the importance they used to have. The commentators, unaware of this fact, attempted to supplement them by other nations, often proceeding from the state of affairs of their period of time. Flavius Joseph didn’t know that Mosoch was the eponym of Muski, that is of Phrygians. He made him the ancestor of Cappadocians being guided only by assonance that according to his opinion was between Mosoch and the capital of Cappadoc Mazaka. He claims Thergama for Phrygians and reserves Gamer, the father of Thergama for Galats. He had no information on Ashkhenaz that represented the invading Scythes. Ashkhenaz became the forefather of Rhegines and his father Rhipat became the ancestor of Paphlagonians. Everywhere we encounter pure personal assumptions that have no historical value.

The famous father of Roman Church Hippolyte, who died in 235, looks for the origin of Askhenaz in distant Sarmates for the same reason. This is true if he heard about the Scythes of that region, but he is wrong in ascribing it to the Scythes of Sarmantia, because the Bible speaks about the Scythes situated in Eastern Armenia or in Atropatenia.

Hyppolyte had quite foreseen that Gamer represented the Cappadocians and Thorgama represented the Armenians. Of course, he did not come to that conclusion based on historical information, but on his successful inspiration. Let’s say the Armenian name of Cappadoc is enough, if only the author knew it, in order to relate Gamirk with Gamer and the neighboring country of Armenia with Gamer’s son Thogarma. The idea of Hippolyte had, however, success among the Armenians. The first Armenian historians Agathang and Faust admitted that the Armenians belonged to the race of Thorgom.

Meantime, the Armenians were proud of the Askhenasian origin, they considered themselves the generation of Askhenaz, the first brother of Thorgama. This does not come from any reminiscence about the remote inhabitance of Scythes in Eastern Armenia, though it may be considered so. The idea originated only in the extract of Jeremy, where the “kingdoms of Ararat” are mentioned together with “Askhanazian troops.” The historian Koriun begins his book declaring that he writes the history of “Askhanazian nation and the country of “Armenia” with letters.

The other, third origin that is attributed to the Armenians comes from the son of Aram. His opinion is inconsistent with the facts, however, and is not worth of consideration.

Only the Thorgammian thesis may attract our attention. Although the author was unaware of it, but it had some historical base, because it leaded us to the idea about the Phrygian kingdom of Gurdi, Thegarama or Til-Garimmu. Here we are in the future territory of Armenia Minor. Although the history of the foundation of Gurdi is obscure, it is not an impediment to assuming that the Phrygians who converted Tegarama to Armenia Minor and who lived under the reign of Gurdi, had Armenian elements even if they were not Armenians.

Starting from Armenia Minor as from a stable base, they crossed Euphrates in order to change Urartu into Armenia Major.

This is not just a baseless speculation. Fortunately the monument of Urartian literature shows the penetration of Muski-Phrygians into Urartu.

The king Rusa II of Urartu who ruled from approximately 680 to 648 reports in the inscription N 153 of Aroke (Adel cevaz) that he fought against the following nations: Luluin-ani, Muski-ni, Hate, Halitu. The text is distorted and it is not possible to identify the place where they met. However, it is situated on the road leading from Malatia to Arck, on the shores of Lake Van. This means that the invasion was from Tegarama.

The nation of Luluini is not mentioned in any other place. Perhaps it is connected with the Byzantine castle of Loulon, the Door of Cilicia. Hate represents the Hittite, Mushki represents the Phrygians, and most likely of Tegarama and Halitu represents the Alizons. The Alizons or Alazons, a Scythe tribe, once inhabited the valley of Hypanis (Boug), from where they descended into Thrace and later passed to Asia Minor. They left traces everywhere: in Thrace, in the basin of Hebre, in Macedonian Chalcidic, in Phrygia Minor and finally in Alybe, near the country of Armenia Minor.

The Treres that belonged to a Cimmerian tribe had the same destiny. They also left the region of Hypanis of Thrace and settled near the Odryses on the Middle Hebre. Passing Asia Minor they conquered the city of Sardes.

Perhaps the cities of Tralles (Aydin) and Trala keep their memory. If the name of the province T’relk has any relation to their name, this means they have even reached Armenia. Alizons and Treres seem to have lived during the time of the events connected with the invasion of Phrygians from Thrace to Asia Minor. Another nation of Phrygia, the Odomants, that occupied the mouth of the river Strymon at the foot of the mountain Orbelos, also appear near Sinope in Asia Minor and in Armenia, where the region of Akilissen bears a name meaning Odonamtis and where two provinces of Asia Minor are called Orbisen and Orbalisen.

At last, there are homonym settlements, in Asia Minor and in Armenia, such as Satala and Eriza on the frontiers of Phrygia, Kabala in Lydie, in Cilicia and in Armenia, river Harpasos in Caria and in Armenia.

Toponymic similarities speak perhaps about the ethnic movement from West to East and reinforce the evidence of Herodote regarding the relation between Armenian-Phrygian races. The Thessalian theory dates back to the epoch of Alexander of Macedonia.

The authors are two generals of Alexander’s army, Kyrsilos of Pharsale and Medios of Larissa.

The work of these authors did not reach us. We know about it only by the citation of authors of later period. The opinion of the Tessalian origin of Armenians was transmitted to us by two contemporaneous authors; the famous geographer Strabon and the historian Justin-Trogue-Pompeus. It is impossible to know whether they used the original book of the generals or got the information second hand. Let’s first summarize the theory of Strabon.

According to this author the name Armenia derives from the name of Armenios, a citizen of Armenion. The city Armenion was situated in Thessalia, near lake Boibe, between Pheres and Larissa. Armenios participated in the expedition of Jason. During his voyage to Colchida had reached the Caspian Sea, passing through Iberia, Albania and a part of Armenian Major and Media. This is what the sacred places dedicated to Jason (Jasonia) and various other monuments testify . The companions of Armenios had partly occupied Akilisenia, which was previously occupied by Sophenians and partly by Su(s)piritis up to Calachenia and Adiabenia, outside the borders of Armenia.


In this work based on the Hittite documents Adonts reveals the Armenina-Khurri element among the nations inhabited on the Armenian-Anatolian border from the Fifteenth to Fourteenth century B.C. That was the nation related to Khurri which according to Assyrian original documents had occupied the Armenian plateau and was known as Nairi nations in the Eleventh century B.C.

There was a strong desire among the Narir nations to consolidate into one union, and thus the state of Urartu was founded on the sites of Arzashkuni and Biaina. Moreover, the first kind of Urarty, whose name is known to us, was the same Arame, who became the heroic eponym of the Armenian nation.

Although the study reflects the history of a tribe that differed from the future Armenians (they were ancient Nairi nations, therefore Caucasian nations, something like the Khurri), but Adonts bravely confirmed that the whole history of Urartu was the prototype of Armenia.

Urartu created a civilization based on the Mesopotamian and its own elements. The cuneiform, the irrigation works and the agriculture reflected the power and grandeur of Urartu. The kings of Urartu founded cities that were preserved during centuries without a change in their names. These cities were left as a heritage to the newly born Armenia after the decade of Urartu. Adonts indicates that the Armenian classic civilization comes from the Urartu civilization based on the information that he finds on the cuneiform. Thus Adonts shows that the Armenian nation has another name as well that is older than the Indo-European one. According to him, Armenians were Indo-Europeans by their language and origin, but they were also related to another civilization that dates back to the period prior to the Seventeenth century B.C.

When Urartu disappeared from the map of history, it had already completed its mission, that is to save the Armenian citadel from the invasions from Mesopotamia. Neither Assyria nor Babylon that managed to conquer the rest of the Ancient world, could not subjugate future Armenia.

Urartu immediately passed his mission to the young Indo-European nation. Unfortunately the merciless fate hindered the study of the great history of Armenia undertaken by Adonts at the very beginning of the research.

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