The Making of "She Names a Nation"

Spoiler Alert: This post contains spoilers for the story “She Names a Nation”. I recommend that you read the full story before proceeding.

I couldn’t find very much information about Hayk, the father of the Armenian people. In fairly typical fashion for Ancient Near Eastern histories, we only get the broad strokes, with most of the details left to be imagined (or not). Moses of Chorene’s History of the Armenians is the only original source, as far as I can tell, and Moses doesn’t tell us much beyond that Hayk lived in “Babylon” but rebelled against a giant king, Bel, who tried to claim rulership over the entire land. Hayk defected from Babylon with 300 of his people and settled in the land around Mount Ararat, to which Bel pursued them. The two opposing forces met along the shore of Lake Van and fought a decisive battle, in which Hayk killed Bel with a “three-winged arrow”, shot from a nearly impossible distance.

I’m omitting some of the details, but overall the story leaves quite a bit of room for imagination. We get some guidance from speculative or ancillary sources and traditions, though. For example, telling us that Hayk lived in “Babylon” does not entirely pin down his location. The story takes place too early for this to be a reference to the great Babylonian empire, unless Moses of Chorene is projecting that name back onto what would, at the time, have been a fairly loose confederation of isolated and largely autonomous city-states. On the other hand, some equate the Bel of the Armenian origin story with Nimrod, the founder of the doomed biblical city Babel, so setting the story in Babel would make some good solid mythological sense.

Unfortunately, we do not know with certainty the contemporary identity of Babel. I eventually settled on Eridu, where there is a half-finished ziggurat of impressive proportions, rather than the actual city of Babylon. Eridu may be the oldest city on earth, and it was traditionally associated with Enki, the chief of the gods on earth, according to the convoluted Sumerian pantheon. The much-cited Sumerian King List names it as the original seat of kingship from before the days of the Great Flood, but its size and power fluctuated over the centuries. This made it an even better setting for my story about the Unnamed Heroine guiding a nomadic warlord to a renewed kingship and building an existing city back up into a bastion of civilization, only to grow disenchanted and depart for a place she could rule as she saw fit.

In any case, Hayk’s city of origin must certainly have lain somewhere in Sumeria, and this fact came to my rescue in fleshing out my adaptation of his story. While we may not have much information about Hayk specifically (particularly in his pre-nation-building days), we know quite a bit about Sumerian culture and history. I relied heavily on this research in my depiction of all the details, although, of course, I had to invent for myself the specific source of the central conflict between Hayk and Bel.

This story is the first of two that feature definitively historical figures, and it is probably worth saying that I do not at all mean to suggest that Hayk was actually a woman. But while he certainly lived and walked the earth, he has also, over the millennia, achieved legendary proportions as a hero, and it is in this capacity that I wished to incorporate his character into the ongoing story of the Unnamed Heroine.

Disclaimer: I am only a writer, not a historian, even an amateur one. If any of my readers can tell that I have mangled the facts and wish to point me toward better research, I encourage you to contact me.