Bas relief of god Vahakn, Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY
Historical narratives from antiquity are not always clear descriptions. Linguistic nuances further complicate the evaluation of historical texts. Armenians call themselves Hye and their country Hayasdan. The Greeks used the designation “Armenian” by borrowing it from the Persians who had used the term applied by the Arameans to name the people of Arme or land of Nayiri, also known as Urartu. Assyrians called Armenians Moushki while the Bible makes references to the House of Torgom (Beth Togarmah).

Given this background, for most historians the story of Hyes is rarely reconciled with the story of Armenians. The Behistun monument is often used to attribute a historical timeframe for the “birth” of Armenia and Armenians. Herodotus, not aware that the term Armenian was borrowed by his predecessors from the Persians, reports the Greek mythic tradition that claims Armenia was named after Armenus, one of Jason's Argonauts. Herodotus, writing in the fifth century BC, also mentions that the Armenians lived in Thrace and then moved into Phrygia, from which they crossed into the Armenian plateau.

This mythic historical description led linguists to assume that the Indo-European elements of Armenian etymology were the consequence of this migration. Yet,
Strabo, writing in the first century BC, states that the Armenians entered the territory from two directions, one group coming from Phrygia in the west, the other coming from Mesopotamia in the south-east where Semitic languages dominated the landscape. Both accounts lead to the highly suspicious conclusion that the Armens were not the original inhabitants of the region. Not surprisingly, Xenophon, who is aware of the Greek myths about Jason and his Argonauts as the forefathers of the Armenians, records in 400 BC that the descendents of Jason seem to have absorbed most of the local culture and way of life!
An English Gospel published in 1634 depicting Armenia as the birthplace of humanity

Wall painting from an Uratean fortification
Then again, if an effort is not made to reconcile the history of Hayasdan and Armenia, the confusion and a lack of credible scholarship will persist. Perhaps the word Ararat, used in the Bible, is a good example of historical and linguistic confusion. The word Uruatru or Uruatri, used in Assyrian clay tablets in 13th century BC, appeared in early Hebrew texts and was transcribed as wrrt. Ultimately, this corrupt transcription resulted in the insertion of the vowel A in subsequent texts and in Biblical stories. Hence, the word Ararat became a reference to the land and the mountain where Noah’s Ark landed.

Yet, this designation was not always clear. Even in 7th century AD, there was no consensus on the place of the mountain. The Qoran, the holy book of Islam that originated in 7th century, makes reference to Mt. Judi as the landing site for the ark. In addition to linguistic corruptions, association of the mountain with Noah’s Ark was further complicated by the fact that Armenians called their mountain Massis !

Mt. Ararat as seen from the North
It is no wonder, then, to learn that during 4th century AD, St. James of Nisibis tried to search for the Ark on the slopes of Mount Sararad, located further South, in Gordyne.