Armenian Legends: The Legend of the Noble Lion

Armenian chronographers once wrote: “Our royal city of Ani is home to princes and nobles whose exact number is impossible to determine; for if one were to undertake the counting of all the princes, the nobles, and the people, there would be no end to such counting.”

At the time, the capital was the residence of King Ashot III, grandson of Ashot I of the Bagratuni dynasty. He ordered his masons to build a small fortress inside the city walls. The city grew and prospered and its fame grew with it, attracting the best people of the country into the capital.

Both residents and visitors in the city speculated about the purpose of the small fortress: “Why would King Ashot, a ruler from the Bagratuni dynasty, need this small fortification inside the greater fortress next to his castle? That must be where the king is hiding his precious spoils of war! Or maybe coffers with gold?”

One day at dawn, the people of the city heard the neighing of many horses and the battle cries of a whole army of robbers. They came to plunder the small fortress and steal the treasures that everyone talked about. Like locust, they swarmed around the castle. They broke through the city gates with their lances and arrows and poured into the passage when suddenly they heard a terrible roar! The road into the city was blocked by a huge beast: an angry lion! The lion looked so terrifying that the robbers fled in all directions, crying for help. As for King Ashot, he was enjoying the view from the neighbouring tower and laughing heartily. The residents of the capital, as well as the visitors and travelling merchants, laughed and cheered with him. That was how the secret purpose of the small fortress of brown stone was revealed.

A few years later, the son of Ashot III, King Gagik, ordered to carve the figure of a lion tearing his enemies apart on the main city gates. From that day forward, the image of the noble beast appeared on the coat of arms of the city of Ani.

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