2019, Volume 16, Issue 1

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Armen Ye. Petrosyan
Institute of Archaeology and Ethnography of the National Academy of Sciences of the Republic of Armenia
Institute of Ancient Manuscripts — Matendaran
Yerevan, Armenia

Towards the Reconstruction of the Name and Image of a Great God in the Ancient Armenian Tradition

Voprosy onomastiki, 2019, Volume 16, Issue 1, pp. 7–18 (in Russian)
DOI: 10.15826/vopr_onom.2019.16.1.001

Received 7 March 2018

Abstract: Pre-Christian gods of Armenians, known from the works of ancient Greek and Armenian authors, appear under Iranian and Greek names. But same as other peoples, Armenians had to have their own gods with original names in the earliest times of their history. So could the ancient Armenian literary tradition give us the clues about the forgotten gods of the pre-Iranian and pre-Hellenistic period? And is it possible to deliver a scientific reconstruction of mythological characters of such distant times? The article attempts to restore the name and image of one great god of the earliest Armenian pantheon on the evidence from the early medieval Armenian literature. In the ancient Armenian translation of the Bible, the Mesopotamian god of the afterlife and war, named Nergal, is replaced by Angeł. The same name is cited in two legends from the books of Khorenatsi and Sebeos. This name is interpreted as ‘ugly,’ which seems rather inappropriate for a theonym. However, in the Assyrian myth, Nergal is invisible to the vizier of the goddess of the underworld. Hence the opportunity to etymologize Angeł not as an-geł, i.-e. *-wel- ‘not having a (good) look,’ i.e., ‘ugly,’ but literally — ‘having no look,’ i.e. ‘invisible’. In Indo-European context, the closest cognate of the Armenian language is Greek, and thus Angeł would correspond well with the Greek name for the underworld and its god Hades: Ἀΐδης, literally, ‘the Unseen’ < *-wid-. Supreme gods could be the masters of “three worlds” — heaven, earth, and the underworld, and the Greek Hades, known as “Zeus of the underworld,” was thus one of the incarnations of Zeus. In ancient Armenian tradition, these functions would be attributed to Angeł. Notably, the supreme gods of some other ancient states of the region were also conceived to be invisible.

Keywords: Armenian language, etymology, theonymy, Armenian mythology, earliest Armenian pantheon, comparative mythology, Greek myth, Zeus, Hades


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