ANUŠAWAN, grandson of Ara, legendary king of Armenia, called sawsanuēr “devoted to the plane tree” (Arm. saws-i; for a derivation from Iranian, see H. W. Bailey, Dictionary of Khotan Saka, Cambridge, 1979, p. 428, s.v. sūṣṭa) because of his divination from the soughing of the leaves of the tree in a sacred grove at the Armenian Royal capital of Armavir (Movsēs Xorenacʿi, Patmuṭʿiwn Hayocʿ, tr. R. W. Thomson, History of the Armenians, Cambridge, Mass., 1978, I.20). The name contains the Middle Iranian loanword anoyš “immortal” (H. Hübschmann, Armen. Grammatik, pp. 19, 99-100); the ending of the name may be the Iranian possessive suffix -van. Since Ara was believed to have been resurrected from the dead, the name of his grandson may be related to the myth. Adontz suggested that the name is a corruption of Anušarvan “of immortal soul,” with Iranian urvan “soul” (N. Adoncʿ, Hayastani patmuṭʿyun, Erevan, 1972, p. 375 and n. 1). Divination by trees seems to have been practiced by the Urarteans, and the saws was planted in Armenian churchyards until the 10th-13th centuries. At about the same time Mxiṭʿar Goš composed a fable against the tree, perhaps because the Church wished to discredit the pre-Christian beliefs that still surrounded it.
Bibliography: Given in the text.
(J. R. Russell)
Originally Published: December 15, 1986
Last Updated: August 5, 2011
This article is available in print.
Vol. II, Fasc. 2, p. 138