Cradle of Civilization

A Blog about the Birth of Our Civilisation and Development

Is Armenia the proto-Indo-European urheimat?

Posted by Fredsvenn on September 22, 2014

According to Herodotus (7.73), the Armenians were “Phrygian immigrants” (‘Frug’wn apoikoi’), who were armed as the Phrygians as well, while according to a passage from Eudoxus of Knidus (the 5thcentury BC, attested by Stephanus of Bysantium in the 12thcentury AD), the Armenian language resembled Phrygian (see e.g.Manandyan 1944: 12-15; Adontz 1946: 322 ff.; Piotrovskij 1959: 122-123; Diakonoff 1984: 110, 189-190, n. 40; Greppin 1984; Matiossian 1991; Barseghyan 1996: 4-9).

The Phrygians, most probably, were a Balkan tribe who had migrated to Asia Minor and established their kingdom in the 8th-7thcenturies BC (centuries after the fall of the Hittite empire). This is consonant, but not identical, with the legend of Armenos, according to which the Armenian‘s ancestor comes from Thessaly.

On the other side, mainly on the basis of historical sources, a theory that the Phrygians originated in Asia Minor was in use (see e.g. Petrova 1998; Brixhe 2004: 777). It is obvious that ancient Greek authors could not determine the genetic and linguistic affinity between the tribes and languages.

Strabo, who was a native of Asia Minor and well-informed on the Armenians and other peoples of the region, wrote that the Armenians, Syrians and Arabs were closely connected by their languages and physical and cultural characteristics (Strabo 1.2.34; 16.4.27). This is unacceptable: Aramaean and Arabic are Semitic languages.

Notably, the fact that Armenian is an independent Indo-European language has been established only in 1875 by H.Hübschman. Until this the linguists classified it as an Iranian language.

It was believed that among the Indo-European languages Armenian had a close connection with Greek and certain Paleo-Balkanic languages, including Phrygian (Djahukian 1970; Djahukian 1987: 86-204, 296-311). The information concerning Phrygian is scant, but, however, it is unquestionably most closely linked with Greek.

Contemporary supporters of the Proto-Armenians ‘Balkanic origin represent their thesis in certain correspondence with contemporary scientific ideas. Thus, according to I. Diakonoff, Armenian is not a Phrygian dialect, but a separate language of the Thraco- Phrygian group.

If considered literally, Herodotus ‘thesis, presenting Armenians as Phrygian immigrants, is wrong. However, if considered as a statement that the Armenians have come from the neighboring western areas of the Armenian Highland, which had been previously populated by the Hittites and afterwards by the Phrygians, it can be accepted (Diakonoff 1968: 204-209; Diakonoff 1983a: 155, n. 29, 173-174; Diakonoff 1984: 109-112).

It should be noted that the notion of Armeno-Greek close connections has been denied (Clackson 1994; with Thracian and Albanian some arguments can beadduced: Kortlandt 2003: 74, 86, 140, 152-153), and the thesis of the close Armeno-Phrygian relation (Diakonoff 1976; Neroznak 1976; Diakonoff and Neroznak 1985), as well as the idea of Thraco-Phrygian unity is dismissed in contemporary studies (see e.g.Brixhe 2004: 780).”

In addition, it has been suggested that the equation of the Armenian with the Phrygians was due to a linguistic misunderstanding of the Armenian name for Armenia Minor (‘Poqr Hayq’) as ‘Frugw`n a poikoi’ (Phrygian colonists) on Herodotus account.

Coupled with the establishment of the Phrygian state in Anatolia, this hypothesis provides an intriguing solution to the historian’s statement. (E. Gulbenkian, Why Did Herodotus Think the Armenians Were Phrygian Colonists, Armenian Review, No. 2, volume 44, 1991; expanded upon by A. Kosyan). Expansion on the specifics of this issue merits a discussion of its own.

Besides the characteristically mythic Hellenic accounts, the acceptance of the Balkan origin of the Armenians due to the fact that Igor Diakonof‘s monograph on Armenian pre-history had been the sole reference of western scholarship until recently. It is no secret that Diakonof was bribed and bought out by various political mechanism throughout his career.

Furthermore, the theory’s supposition that the (Proto) Armenians were a small group of Balkanic migrants is endlessly politicized and abused by the Turkish and Azeri states. Despite the vast knowledge of the author and the widespread prestige of the work, it completely rejects any alternative view regarding the ethnogenesis of the Armenian.

In fact, Diakonof was categorically personal and rude in response to scientific criticism of his work. The biased exaggeration of the historically plausible Balkan connection has resulted in overshadowing of the undeniable facts that “Proto-Armenians inhabited the west of the Armenian Highland before the formation of Urartu; that there are demonstrable Armenian borrowings in Urartian; that the Armenians are the genetic and cultural successors of the ancient population of Urartu and the pre-Urartian states of the Armenian Highland; and that the history of the Armenian people should begin from the fall of Urartu but should also include the period of Urartu and pre-Urartian states.

Serious scholars simply do not adhere to the literal interpretation of Phrygian migration theory anymore, and at this point, monochromatic conclusions can not suffice. just If anything, they seek the proximity immediately to the west of the Urartian state, linguistically and amongst the native element. The double-edged reason for the continuous circulation of the colonization view is the elementary familiarity of the general public with the issue and the politicized bastardization of real evidence.

Is Armenia the proto-Indo-European urheimat?

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