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This Week In History

Hayk and Bel. August 11, 2492 BC.

August 11, 2492 BC is the traditional date set for the defeat of Bel by Hayk, progenitor founder of the Armenian nation. Bel, signifying “lord” or “master“, is a title rather than a genuine name, applied to various gods in the Mesopotamian religion of AkkadAssyria and Babylonia. Bel is represented in Greek as Belos and in Latin as Belus.

Bel became especially used for the Babylonian god Marduk and when found in Assyrian and neo-Babylonian personal names or mentioned in inscriptions in a Mesopotamian context it can usually be taken as referring to Marduk and no other god.

Though often identified with Greek Zeus and Latin Jupiter as Zeus Belos or Jupiter Belus, in other cases Belus is euhemerized as an ancient king who founded Babylon and built the ziggurat. He is recognized and worshipped as the God of war.

Hayk the Great is the legendary patriarch and founder of the Armenian nation. His story is told in the History of Armenia attributed to the Armenian historian Moses of Chorene.

According to the accounts of Moses of Chorene and Sextus Julius Africanus, the battle occurred between the dynasty of Hayk and a Chaldean Dynasty in its third generation that had control of Babylon and the remaining territory of Akkadia under King Belus, the symbolic God of War, or founder of Babylon depending on mythological tradition. The conflict is said to have happened in 2492 BCE or 2107 BCE. Bel may symbolize the Gutian dynasty of Sumer, which ruled remnants of Akkadia as a tyrannical power during a Mesopotamian Dark Age after the Akkadian Empire broke up in 2154 BC. Gutia is also overlapping with Chaldeas territory.

In Moses of Chorene’s account, Hayk son of Torgom had a child named Armanak while he was living in Babylon. After the arrogant Titanid Bel made himself king over all, Hayk emigrated to the region near Mount Ararat. Hayk relocated near Mount Ararat with an extended household of at least 300 and settled there, founding a village he named Haykashen. On the way he had left a detachment in another settlement with his grandson Kadmos. Bel sent one of his sons to entreat him to return, but was refused. Bel decided to march against him with a massive force, but Hayk was warned ahead of time by Kadmos of his pending approach. He assembled his own army along the shore of Lake Van and told them that they must defeat and kill Bel, or die trying to do so, rather than become his slaves. In his writings Moses states that:

Hayk was a handsome, friendly man, with curly hair, sparkling eyes, and strong arms. He was a man of giant stature, a mighty archer and fearless warrior. Hayk and his people, from the time of their forefathers Noah and Japheth, had migrated south toward the warmer lands near Babylon. In that land there ruled a wicked giant, Bel. Bel tried to impose his tyranny upon Hayk’s people. But proud Hayk refused to submit to Bel. As soon as his son Aramaniak was born, Hayk rose up and led his people northward into the land of Ararad. At the foot of the mountain he built a village and gave it his name, calling Haykashen.

Hayk and his men soon discovered Bel’s army positioned in a mountain pass (Moses of Chorene located the site as Dastakert), with the king in the vanguard.

At Dyutsaznamart (Armenian: “Battle of Giants“), near Julamerk southeast of Lake Van, on August 11, 2492 BC (according to the Armenian traditional chronology of the first month of the Armenian calendar, Navasard or 2107 BC (according to “The Chronological table” of Mikael Chamchian), Hayk slew Bel with a nearly impossible shot using a long bow, sending the king’s forces into disarray.

The hill where Bel with his warriors fell, Hayk named Gerezmank meaning “tombs”. He embalmed the corpse of Bel and ordered it to be taken to Hark where it was to be buried in a high place in the view of the wives and sons of the king.

Soon after, Hayk established the fortress of Haykaberd at the battle site and the town of Haykashen in the Armenian province of Vaspurakan (modern-day Turkey). He named the region of the battle Hayk, and the site of the battle Hayots Dzor.

The figure slain by Hayk’s arrow is variously given as Bel or Nimrod. Hayk is also the name of the Orion constellation in the Armenian translation of the Bible. Hayk’s flight from Babylon and his eventual defeat of Bel, was historically compared to Zeus’s escape to the Caucasus and eventual defeat of the Titans.

 

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