So how old is the Armenian Civilization, Doctor?

On Saturday the 31st of January renowned historian Dr. Artak  Movsisyan gave a three-hour long presentation, in fact 2 for 1! The first one covered 5000 years of Armenian history and second one spread some light on Armenian pre-Christian writings, followed by projection of his documentary film “The Capital Older than Rome* at the fully packed Navasartian Hall. by Hasmik Harutunyan, London 

Young and charismatic, Dr. Artak Movsisyan delivered a passionate, well-illustrated record-breaking three hour-long lecture (including an interval) during his first visit to the Armenian Community in London.  In his opening speech, Dr. Movsisyan thanked the organizers: Armenian Community Council of UK and Tahta Armenian Sunday School and in particular, the Head Teacher Mrs. Ruzanna Tatoolian, who initiated this very enlightening lecture. Dr. Artak Movsisyan said he was delighted to be in London to meet the Armenian community, but also to have the opportunity to visit British Library and other major museums to witness original manuscripts, archeological and art masterpieces that he had seen only in history and art books.

Dr. Artak Movsisyan is a renowned specialist of pre-Christian Armenian history and Associate Professor at the History Department of Yerevan State University. He obtained his PhD in 1997 with his thesis “The Hieroglyphic Script of Van Kingdom” from Yerevan State University and despite his young age, he has already authored dozens of books, university and school textbooks, monographs and research papers on Armenian History. He is also senior researcher at the Institute of the Oriental Studies of the Academy of Sciences of Armenia. He has traveled across North American Universities lecturing on ancient Armenian kingdoms, ancient manuscripts and other areas of his expertise.

In the first part of his talk, Dr. Movsisyan gave a presentation about the main Armenian Kingdoms going back to 5000 years. A slideshow and photographs taken from ancient Armenian but mainly foreign manuscripts accompanied the talk. The speaker said that according to one of those sources, the country of Armenia was first mentioned in XXIV century B.C. He spoke about the research conducted in the Republic of Armenia to bring to light the truth about the Kingdom of Urartu, many scripts and documents have been discovered proving that the name Urartu is yet another spelling of the name Armenia.

Dr. Artak Movsisyan continued his lecture about major Armenian Dynasties including Yervandian Dynasty (from c.336 B.C.) , the famous defeat of Alexander the Great was during their reign. The speaker noted that Greek historian Xenophon wrote about testing beer for the first time in his life in Armenia. Artashessian Dynasty (c.c.II-I B.C.) – the most famous ruler of all, Tigran the Great, who was praised by many Roman historians including Pompeius for his bravery and the lands he conquered – “Sea to Sea Armenia”. The capital city became Artashat where even the ordinary people enjoyed a comfortable standard of living. Dr. Movsisyan said that archaeologists have found ruins of public baths with stunning mosaics; while in the Roman Empire only rich and famous had access to baths, in King Tigran’s Armenia everyone enjoyed bathing!

Dr. Artak Movsisyan spoke about the Armenian Royal Dynasties that followed and played vital role in shaping Armenian history such as; Arshakuni Dynasty (c.c.I-IV A.D), with famous King Trdat III, who proclaimed Christianity the official state religion in 301; Bagratuni Dynasty (c.c.IX-XI A.D.); Kingdoms of Van, Kars, Lori, and the Kingdom of Ciilicia which lasted around 300 years and was conquered by Muslim invaders in 1375.The last Armenian King Levon V de Lusignan died in Paris in 1393 trying to gain support for another war to regain his Kingdom, but failed. His tomb is in the Basilique of St. Denis, in the North of Paris, and I would recommend to see the resting place of the last Franco-Armenian king in this splendid French Basilique, definitely worth a short Metro journey!

The second half of the lecture was dedicated to the pre-Christian script used in Armenia, and it became obvious that while there was not a unique alphabet available before the creation of the modern alphabet in 405 AD, there were stone scripts, sign letters, foreign alphabets as well as some unique hieroglyphs in use, that still require huge amount of scientific interpretation.

The evening concluded with the projection of Dr. Artak Movsisyan’s film “The Capital Older than Rome”, a 45-minute-long documentary about capital city of Yerevan (Erebouni) – the film is available to watch free on You Tube in several languages, including English and Turkish.

As we know, history of Christian Armenia is well documented, thanks to the creation of the modern alphabet by Mesrop Mashtots in 405, and from 5h century onwards historians, philosophers and theologians have left a wealth of written evidence on life and culture, war and peace. But the pre-Christian history still hides many mysteries, due to limited number of written evidence that has survived and reached to modern day.

It seems that Dr. Artak Movsissyan is determined to continue this gigantic challenge – to research and interpret pre-Christian scripts in all shapes and forms in order to comprehend who we really are, how far we are coming from, and where do we go from here.

Dr. Artak Movsisyan’s scientific journey continues, and we wish him good luck on his vital quest to find even more historical evidence, and anticipate that Armenian communities around the world would support his and any other research on ancient Armenian Civilization as integral and undeniable part of the World Civilization.

Hasmik Harutunyan

Free-lance Journalist

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