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#1 Yervant1

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Posted 11 August 2016 - 09:05 AM

Ancient Origins

Aug 10 2016
 
 
The Cult of Mithra: Sacred Temples, and Vedic Legends, and Ancient Armenian Understanding
 
Mithra was the god of light, purity, goodness, truth and occupied an important place in the faith of the ancient Aryans.
 
The Spread of Mithra

There are various opinions on the spread of the Mithra (or Mithras, Mitra) cult, but the most reliable one is the first written protocol about the Mithraic cult from 14th century BC.

In the treaty text signed between the powerful kingdom of Mitanni (Mitanni was situated in the North of Armenian Plateau) of king Shativaza (unknown-1350 BC), and the Hittite king of Suppiluliuma (1380-1346 BC) we can see the name of Mithra. So the Mithraic cult was mentioned in Persian cuneiform inscriptions and in the Indian Vedic texts since the fourth century BC.

As a result of the religious revolution of Ardashir II, the Sassanid King of Persia in 395 AD, the cults of Mithra and Anahita, the Iranian goddess, were imported to Persia and combined with Zoroastrianism. In the first century BC the cult of Mithra penetrated into Rome, and in the third century AD this religion had become international and spread from India to the Black Sea, from the Balkans to Britain and Spain. Now there are more than four hundred Mithraic temple ruins throughout the Europe.

So at first, in fourth century BC this cult spread from the Armenian Plateau to South Persia and India and in first century BC to North-West Europe.

Temples of Mithra

In Upper Armenia, the main temple of Mithra (or Mihr) was at built in the village of Bagaritch, Derjan region (eastern Turkish territories). The temple of Garni was also dedicated to the cult of Mithra.

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The Temple at Garni dedicated to Mithra. (Via Lilit Mkhitaryan)

In the city of Artashat, Mithraic temple ruins have been unearthed which were built from black marble and reconstructed in the first century AD by Tiridates I, King of Armenia of the Arsacid Dynasty.

A statue of Mithra sits near the tomb of Antiochus I on Mount Nemrut (southeastern Turkey). He can be seen sitting in the left side of Aramazd, creator god in pre-Christian Armenian myth.

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The ruins of Mount Nemrut, East terrace, Gods of Commagene. (CC BY 2.0)

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Mithra statue at Nimrut. (Via Lilit Mkhitaryan)

In the ancient Armenian “Daredevils of Sassoun” epic also we can see the character of Mithra.

In ancient sculptures Mithra often was portrayed as a powerful young man with a Phrygian or Armenian cap who kills a sacred bull, called the tauroctony.

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Mithras killing the bull. (CC BY-SA 3.0)

In the Armenian pantheon Mithra was the god of the light and purity. It’s believed that a temple dedicated to Mithra also has been found in Armavir, the ancient capital of Armenia.

The cult of Mithra began to disappear in the fourth century BC.

Mithraic Legends

According to Armenian ancient beliefs, 365 saints are living in the heart of the Sun and each of them is the owner of one day of the year, appointed in order to prevent evil.

It is said that within the salty sea (Lake of the Van), there was a rock, and when heaven was darkened the light fell on the rock and shortly after was born Mithra, almost naked but with a Phrygian hat on his head, and torch in his left hand, and it illuminated the world. By killing the bull, Mithra was creating the world from its parts.

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Mithra rising from the rock. Rome, marble, 180–192 AD (Public Domain)

Strabo chronicled that during the ruling of Achaemenid Empire the Armenian Satrap donated 20,000 horses to the annual Mithra celebration. The observations dedicated to Mithra were celebrated by Armenians in the Month of Areg, which coincided with Iranian month of Mithra. The Armenian seventh month is named Mehekan and each month’s eighth day was called Mithra.

Born of Rock

Mithra, the god of light, kindness and contracts was indeed born from the very rock—this characteristic is affirmed either by archaeological finds or by the Geghard temple in Armenia, which is carved into the rocky landscape.

In 1953-54 during research in Eskikale (Turkey) a tunnel was unearthed which reached depths of 160 meters (525 feet) consisting of a long mountain slope ending with two circular rooms. It is similar to the tunnel at Bagaritch in Upper Armenia with the temple complex dedicated to Mithra.

From the mythological point of view, tunnels are the place of birth of Mithra as it said “the beam, separated from the star, penetrates into the depths of the tunnel, giving birth to Mithra, from where he ascended to heaven.” The carved temple of Geghard has also been seen as the birthplace of Mithra during the pre-Christian period.

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A rock-cut chamber within the temple of Geghard, 13th century Armenian monastery. (CC BY-SA 2.0)

The Cult of Mithra in Vedic Texts

In Vedic texts Mithra is the god who protected the Sun and is always mentioned with Varuna.

In Indian sources Mithra is the god of love, light, tenderness and sun shine.  The closeness and affection of Mithra and Varuna is inseparable and stable. Varuna is the god of heaven and night. Mithra is the god of light, sunshine and day. These gods of night and day are fellows in cult rituals. Varuna is also the god of waters and seas , and is the husband of Varun, god of wine.

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Varuna (Public Domain)

Vedic texts are notable for the main ritual of the Mithraic cult, such as sacrificing a bull, which penetrated to Europe. One of the noblest gods is Soma (in Avesta, the primary collection of religious texts of Zoroastrianism, he is instead named Haoma). Soma is the god of invincible power, the god who cures all the diseases. It is Soma who gave life, wealth, and wish fulfillment.

In Sanskrit, the name Soma is used for the Moon. They are the same only by name, however, as all the characteristics of the Moon are attributed to a goddess of plants. So, they believed the moon presided over healing plants and thus sacrificed oblations and offerings in worship rituals.

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Soma, Hindu God of the Moon. (CC BY NC SA 2.0)

Also Soma is the name of a sacred plant. From the leaf of this plant was made a strong alcoholic beverage loved by the gods, and which was dedicated to the gods. During rituals, priests drank this beverage in order to come close to and join with the gods. Soma was the life deity and life essence, and even though the gods received their eternity from this beverage, mortal men could attain temporary ‘eternity’ by drinking the beverage too, allegorically meaning the joining with the God and Essence.

According to legend a riot arose between the gods. The god Shiva got involved in the formidable fighting and in one stoke divided god Soma in two, which demonstrates the tradition of sacred bull killing.

In other versions the gods decided to kill Soma. The god Wayuu ordered the execution and asked help from Mithra-Varuna. Mithra refused to help and said, “I wish love, boon and affection to everybody.” At the end Mithra agreed to participate in ritual killing in order to benefit from the sacrifice. After the killing they crushed Soma between two stones. It was Mithra’s responsibility to spill on the ground the part of his Soma juice from which would germinate the plants and the animals.

In pictures and sculptures of the bull sacrifice ritual, Mithra is often seen turning his face and eyes away, indicating the rejection or distaste of this action. But the bull is the source of life, and the ritual is necessary.

--

Top Image: Mithra slaying the bull. Royal Ontario Museum (CC BY 2.0)

Unless otherwise noted, images courtesy Lilit Mkhitaryan

By Lilit Mkhitaryan

References

Alishan Gh., “Ancient beliefs or heathen religion of Armenians”

Avdalbegyan T., “Mithra in Armenians, Armenological researches”

Topchyan B., “Mithraism”

Nersisyan H., “Pre-Christian Armenian Gods”

 

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#2 Yervant1

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Posted 12 August 2016 - 09:55 AM

Ghost of culture
Armenian, Greek, Assyrian and Jewish heritage of Ottoman Empire

In the framework of a cultural heritage inventory project, the Hrant Dink Foundation carried out a research on Armenian, Greek, Assyrian and Jewish churches, synagogues, monasteries, schools, hospitals and cemeteries in Turkey.
l_art1_eng.gifAugust 12, 2016

PanARMENIAN.Net - During the research that lasted for about 2,5 years, 10,000 constructions were registered, of which 4,600 were Armenian, 4,100 were Greek, 650 were Assyrian and 300 were Jewish. The Foundation created an interactive map of these buildings available at Turkiyekulturvarliklari.com website. The project was implemented by Vahakn Keşişyan (Research coordinator, 2015, Armenian inventory, Armenian sources), Nora Mildanoğlu (Project coordinator, 2014), Merve Kurt (Project coordinator, 2015), researchers Zakarya Mildanoğlu, Mustafa Batman, Ezgi Berk, Tuna Başibek, Şahika Karatepe, Alexandros Kampouris, Zeynep Oğuz and and photographer Norayr Olgar.

“People of different nationalities have lived on the land for centuries. However, only Muslim institutions have the authority to provide official information about the country’s cultural heritage. When you want to conduct a study, you can’t find any data in the archives, specifically regarding Armenian and Greek cultural heritage,” Kurt said, pointing out that this is the first project revealing the cultural heritage of the Anatolian non-Muslims.

“We reviewed the primary and secondary sources. During the first year, we focused on the Armenian culture; and we focused on the heritage of Greeks, Jews and Syriacs during the second year. Church books were the most useful sources. We worked on the Ottoman Archives of the Prime Minister’s Office and added every church or school mentioned in the sources to the inventory.”

Dwelling on the obstacles the specialists came across during the research, Kurt said, “For Greek sources, we went to Centre for Asia Minor Studies in Greece and for Syriac sources, we went to Sweden. We got a lot of data from there. Names of the places were the hardest part. We worked in accordance with the current provincial borders, while conducting another study on the old provincial borders in the archives. Comparing the old names with the new ones was difficult.”

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Nerkin Feneseh Armenian church

Besides listing the construction that stand, the researchers registered almost destroyed and damaged buildings, as well as those which have been turned into mosques or are being used as warehouses. The Cultural Heritage Map vividly shows how many schools, churches and ordinary constructions were built by Armenians in Turkey. If one learns that the territory was once home to more than 4000 Armenian institutions, he will ask ‘where are these people now?’ If there were a lot of schools and churches, it means that a lot of Armenians used to live here. This proves that Armenians were part of this land and that Genocide took place,” he added.

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In 1914 the number of churches in Western Armenia and the Ottoman Empire made 2549. According to the data UNESCO provided in 1974, 913 buildings stood after 1923, of which 464 disappeared, 252 became ruins and 197 need restoration.

According to research coordinator Vahakn Keşişyan, during the first stage, the researchers formed the inventory by determining the main sources: the list of Armenian churches and monasteries that was prepared between 1912 and 1913 by the Armenian Patriarchate of Istanbul. Raymond Kevorkian and Paul Paboudjian’s extensive work on Ottoman Armenians; archives of Agos Weekly Newspaper; and postcards from the Calumeno collection, the world’s largest Ottoman postcard collection belonging to Orlando Carlo Calumeno. The postcards were printed between 1895 and 1914, and reveal the multicultural structure of the Ottoman Empire and daily lives of Armenians in Istanbul and Anatolia. The postcards are ornamented with the pictures of Armenian neighborhoods, churches, monasteries, schools, orphanages and hospitals.

“We started from those sources and then reviewed the others to understand what we lack. It was a hard job,” Keşişyan said. In addition to the cultural heritage of the 4 societies that we worked on, we found structures belonging to Georgians, Bulgarians and Levantines. However, we couldn’t add them to the inventory, since they are not in the scope of the project. But we have the data.”

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Researcher Aleksandros Kamburis said they used three main sources to complete the study on the Greek structures. “We got most of the data from the Patriarchate, the consulate and the Center for Asia Minor Studies in Athens. The biggest problem was disappearance of historical information. It’s impossible to find enough sources in Greek in Istanbul, as Greeks took most of the archives and records with them, when they were leaving. Fortunately, we could find them in Center for Asia Minor Studies,” he said.

As for the study on Jewish public buildings, researcher Zeynep Oğuz said language was the main problem. “We had to use secondary sources, but sometimes sources in Turkish were more helpful. There are books by Naim Güleryüz which contain information about the structures that don’t exist anymore. We understood that Güleryüz’s work is the most extensive one. In fact, there are academic studies in English. Thanks to media like Agos and Bianet, we realized that sold houses and synagogues are not recorded in those studies. There are almost no retrospective sources,” he said.

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Greek church in Ozvatan

The researchers are planning to continue their study, traveling to various regions of Turkey to find the constructions that have not been listed and about which no information is available.

http://www.panarmeni...details/211990/






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