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To Interrelations of Georgian Armaz,
Armenian Aramazd and Iranian Ahuramazda
By Mariam Gvelesiani, Ph D,
Senior Researcher of Ancient Georgian
Art Department of National Museum of Georgia
Introduction to the problem: Definition of the cult of Armaz, the supreme divinity of pre-Christian Georgia, is one of the most important issues of Georgian historiography. After examining all attempts at the solution of this difficult problem, we came to the conclusion that priority must be given to the conception of connection of Armaz with Ahura Mazda, since an analysis of material, not touched before by specialists, has produced most interesting evidence for this theory. Writings of ancient authors provide further details concerning a special relationship of Armaz to the supreme divinity of Zoroastrianism, the religion apparently recognized and proclaimed in ancient Georgia too.
The study of the cult of Armaz has more than century-long history in Georgia. According to the Georgian writings, Armaz was regarded as the principal deity of pre-Christian Georgia, thereby arousing a lot of interest of scholars, who have been devoting to him numerous studies since the end of the nineteenth century. Because of the scarce and fragmentary written data, the origin of Armaz was long a subject of debate among specialists.Consequently, existed and till now exists his diverse and mutually exclusive interpretation; if some interpreters relate Armaz to the Iranian supreme divinity Ahura Mazda (N. Marr , M. Kovalewski , M. Andronikashvili , L.Chilashvili ), others consider him to be derived from Asia Minor moon god Arma (A. Boltunova , Sh. Amiranashvili , A. Apakidze , G. Melikishvili ), Hurritian war and weather god Teshub (M. Tsereteli , G. Giorgadze ), also as Mithra (C. Kekelidze ), the sun god (L.Melikset-Bekov ), solar and agricultural divinity (Ir. Surguladze ). Among these more or less acceptable concepts finally was assumed and established the theory about origin of Armaz from the moon god Arma , which in our opinion is neither a logic conclusion based on examination of the existing conceptions, nor a prioritized view strengthened by special evidences. However, it has been shared by many specialists, despite the fact that the noticed identification hardly corresponds to realities from political and religious life of the pre-Christian Georgia. In the dissertation thesis, devoted to study of the cult of Armaz, we have raised a number of questions and brought various arguments on the ground against this interpretation, solving the problem in favor of the Iranian orientation , the main postulates of which will be put forward below.
According to the story 'Life of Parnawaz', composed no later than in the fifth-sixth centuries and included in the Georgian Chronicle 'Kartlis Cxovreba' ['Life of Kartli' (i.e. what the Greeks and Romans referred to as Iberia)] by the eleventh century Georgian historian Leonti Mroveli, the cult of Аrmaz was founded in Kartli by the first Georgian king Parnawaz (the third century B.C.), who was the descendant of Samaros, the Head of Mtskheta, and the son of an Iranian mother from Isfahan ('Aspan'). He had a dream in which he saw himself in a very narrow house, unsuccessfully thinking about getting out. Suddenly a ray of sunlight came through the window, encircled his waist and took him out. Upon emerging, he saw the sun near him. He wiped off his sweat and anointed his face. Waking up, he was astonished. Then he thought: 'I shall go to Isfahan and it will be good for me'. Being endowed with all virtues necessary for a statesman, Parnawaz liberates his motherland from conquerors ('Macedonians'), and as a king-reformer, renews destroyed by the enemy, organizes administrative structure of the kingdom 'like the Persian empire'…founds the dynastic reign and religion… 'Parnawaz had fashioned a large idol named after himself, that is, Armaz. For in Persian they called Parnawaz Armaz' [15, 22-25].
The theory of origin of Armaz from moon god Arma being strongly criticized in our thesis, comes from the conception of migration from east regions of Asia Minor in Mtskheta of the pre-Georgian Mushk-Moschs tribes, which long before establishment of the cult of Armaz had introduced cultural - religious traditions of Asia Minor into Kartli. However, it becomes more and more evident that the mentioned identification calls for thorough revision - besides the reference to the theory of migration, it's supported solely by phonetic affinity of the names 'Arma' and 'Armaz', while the iconography of Arma, usually depicted with a crescent on his horned cap and a pair of wings on his back, doesn't correspond to the image of Armaz ('warrior in copper armor, wearing a gold helmet and holding a sword like lightening'), as described in the Chronicle. In addition to it, arguable seems an attempt on the part of scholars to seek parallels in chronologically such remote epigraphic monuments, as are the thirteenth century B. C. cuneiform letterings from Boghaskoy, containing the name 'Arma'. Moreover, the mentioned theory completely neglects the information of the Chronicler about 'Armaz', as the 'Persian' transcription of 'Parnawaz' [cf. Armaz, O(h)rmizd, Ahura Mazda] to be explained through the Iranian religious thought: the name Parnawaz, root of which is Farnah, comes from the Iranian notion of Hvarena ('royal glory', 'splendour'), conceived and imagined by Persians as 'sunlight', which was given by Ahura Mazda to all Iranian heroes and rulers. The act of Parnawaz's divinization is well expressed in the episode of his dream, where Hvarena appears as the sun, by anointing dew of which Parnawaz made himself simultaneously the King and the God as to initiating the Sun (Ahura Mazda).>>