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A Summary  of  Kurdish Linguistic Problems

In the Light of a Persisting National Question

By : Ismet Sherif Wanli

Lausanne, mid-March 2007

Preliminary Remarks

My name above as author of the present article is written as it should be in the Kurdish Roman  script as modified according to my proposals of June 1992 , while my  usual name  as author and  Swiss citizen is Ismet Chériff Vanly. Any reference hereafter to my  work  as author will be done under  the initials  ICV.  
The reader would allow me  to use, in parts of this paper , the 1st pronoun ‘I’ for recalling some significant events I have personally experienced . I was advised to write the paper in English to make it understandable by the largest number possible of  educated Kurds .

This paper is constituted of two parts. While Part II , divided into subtitles, corresponds to the general topic of the paper,  a summary of Kurdish linguistic – dialectical and alphabetic – problems , posing in the long run the question of unification of the written Kurdish ,  in the light of a persisting national question, Part I , consisting of glimpses of the Kurdish historical and geographical heritage, does not. It is related neither to today’s Kurdish linguistic problems ,  nor directly to the national question. No need, however, to say how fundamental is the historical and geographical heritage of a nation in the making , for its future. That is a topic on which , beside a few published articles, I have actually written tow manuscripts, one already several decades old , typed in French (that I today see as insufficient) , and the other, written in 2002  in English , which would still need some research work. I ignore whether I shall have the opportunity to do this research. That is why these glimpses of the Kurdish  heritage figure  as Part I of this paper, somehow by way of ‘introduction’ , or rather a selection about the Kurdish and the proto-Kurdish past . The selection is  presented
in bloc , without subtitles ; yet  it is easy to read and it should , hopefully , interest the Kurdish readers.

Part I
Glimpses of the Kurdish Historical and Geographical Heritage

To put it summarily, the Kurds are a large people of the Near East  speaking an Indo-European language belonging to the Iranic family .  They inhabit a country called after their name , Kurdistan , and are heirs to successive ancient civilisations. These include the
proto-Kurdish Hurri-Mitanni civilisation.

The Hurrians were a people native  of the area of today’s Turkish and Syrian Kurdistan - Upper (northern) Mesopotamia and around - , including the ‘
Cedar Mountains’ (the Amanus)  near Iskenderun , on the Mediterranean, the Anti-Taurus half circle, the northern valleys of the Euphrates and the Tigris Rivers, and the mountainous area around the Lake of Van . They spoke a language which was neither Semitic , nor Indo-European. They   had a pantheon including  the national storm-god of the mountains , Teishup , and his consort Hepa (a mother-goddess), and a characteristic art of painted ceramics, with colourful birds and flowers . The Hurrians had a kingdom whose roots go back to the 3rd millennium BC. From the 18th century, large and prosperous Hurrian communities settled in northern Syria and in present-day Iraqi Kurdistan , area of Kirkuk. By the beginning of the 16th century BC , if not earlier , the Mitannians , an Indo-Aryan element,  settled  in  the Hurri country as a ruling aristocracy . They finished by  adopting the Hurrite language , but they brought the Hurrians the horse, the equestrian training, the use of the horse chariot for warfare and its vocabulary,  as well as their Aryan pantheon , Indra , Mithra, Varuna, Burias,  the same as in the  Indian pantheon. The Mitanni kings  had their capital at Wasuqani , which some academics identify with the town of Ras-al-Ain, in the Kurdish part of today’s northeastern Syrian province of Jazireh (Hasaka) , close to the border with Turkey (see Georges Contenau : La Civilisation des Hittites, des Hurrites et du Mitanni , Paris, 1948 . ) Another Hurri kingdom continued to exist on the west  of Mitanni and in its shadow, face to the rising power of the Hittite kingdom of Boghaz-Koy , in Anatolia.   The arrival of the Indo-Aryan element  amongst the native Hurrians, bringing a new military technology , with a body of professional chariot drivers, the Mariani  (the same as in India), was to make of the kingdom of Mitanni , over a short period of hardly two hundred years (circa 1540-1345) , one of the great powers of the ancient world. We find in G. Contenau’s work a list of seven successive Mitanni kings , beginning with Parsatatar and ending with Mattiwaza . They defeated Assyria and reduced it to silence, extended their supremacy on present-day Iraqi Kurdistan and into the Zagros ; they shared domination  on Syria with the pharaohs of Egypt, with whom they had intermarriage relationship and a formal diplomatic, yet family,  correspondence. Two Mitanni  princesses  married  pharaohs and became ‘real queens of Egypt’ , writes Contenau .  Thoutmès IV of Egypt (1420-1411)  married the daughter of Artatama , king of Mitanni . The pharaoh Amenophis III sent an ambassador to the Mitanni king Tusratta, demanding the hand of his daughter , Tadu-Hepa, for marriage. That was followed by a long negotiation and finally concluded by a marriage and an exchange of  letters calling upon gods as witness .  As to Nefertiti , queen of Egypt as wife of Amenophis IV (1375-1358) , famous for her bust at a musueum in Berlin, there is discussion among scholars whether she was another Mitanni princess or just  her husband’s sister (see Contenau). The Hurrian language , in cuneiform inscriptions , was deciphered thanks to the diplomatic correspondence  exchanged between the pharaohs and the Mitanni kings, discovered at Tell-Amarna, in Egypt, and written,  for the Mitanni, in both Hurrian and Babylonian , the latter being the international language of the time. Hurrite inscriptions were also found at the Hittite Boghaz-Koy.  The Mitanni dynasty , under Mattiwaza ,  succumbed before the Hittites, who adopted a hostile policy towards the Egyptians, but  about two  hundred years later, by the 12th  century, the Hittites succumbed themselves before the wave of the ‘Sea Peoples’ that hit Asia Minor.

See other and more recent  information in :  ‘
The Hurrians’, by Gernot Wilhelm, transl. into English from German  (Aris & Phillips, Warminster, England, 1994  ; original German pub. in 1989).  See about the social and family life in this proto-Kurdish society, as told by clay tablet inscriptions discovered in the area of Kirkuk, Iraqi Kurdistan, in ‘The Archive of the Wullu Family’ , by Katarzyna Grosz, Univ. of Copenhagen, 1988.

The Hurrians represented only one link in a continued chain of peoples and tribes speaking
Japhetic , extending from the Sind Valley in India to Iberia and the Basque country, across Iran, Kurdistan, Armenia, Asia Minor, southern Europe , Greece and its islands, and the Etruscans of Italy . They all spoke kindred languages from the same group, which was neither Semitic nor Indo-European , but they had two skull varieties , and a matriarchal family structure (see Roman Ghirshman : L’Iran des origines à l’Islam, Paris, 1951; Clément Huart + L. Delaporte : L’Iran antique, Elam et Perse , Paris, 1952 ;  Georges Roux : Ancient Iraq, 1966, transl. from French ; Ephraim Speiser : Mesopotamian Origin: The Basic Population of the Middle East, Philadelphia, 1930.)  These languages have disappeared since long ago , but not without having left a substrata in the languages that replaced them, to the exception of the Basque people, who still speak a language , the sole in Europe, which is pre-Indo-European. In the Caucasus , Georgian and some other languages still belong to the same Japhetic group, whence some call the group ‘Caucasic’ . The trouble with this designation it reverses the route that  culture had generally followed in its space development, since , for instance , the agricultural technology  and the domestication of animals, which started some ten thousand years ago at the foothills of Kurdistan,  passed from there into the Caucasus, and from the Caucasus into Russia, but not the contrary ; the same agricultural culture also advanced westwards across Asia Minor into Europe (see : Michael Roaf : Cultural Atlas of Mesopotamia and the Ancient Near East , Equinox, Oxford, 1990 ; R. Braidwood + B. Howe : Prehistoric Investigations in Iraqi Kurdistan , Univ. of Chicago Press, 1960).  The linguistic group at stake is also called ‘Asianic’ (not to be confused with Asiatic) . Yet, although the term Japhetic is merely Biblical ,  we prefer to use it as more fitting, and more neutral, than the others .  A Semitic language replaced Japhetic, at an early epoch, in most of the areas of Lower Mesopotamia (future Akkad/Babylonia, Assyria) , to the exception of Sumer, where Japhetic was still spoken when the culture of city-states and writing began in the area (by the beginning of the 3rd millennium BC.)

By the 11th century BC , the Iranic-speaking peoples (Mada/Medians , Perses/Persians, Haraiva) immigrated into Iran , coming from the plains of southern Russia. They got mixed with the local Japhetic population during about three centuries (see Ghirshman),  before organising themselves as a political and military power , under the Medians, to invade the orderly states on their west. In  the beginning of the 8th century BC , two other Iranic-speaking peoples of horsemen, the Scythians (
Sakka as they called themselves, Ishkuzaï in the Bible), followed by the Cimmerians (Gimmerraï in the Bible, who left their name to Crimea), arrived into northwestern Iran. They were refractory to union , at least in the beginning, and accomplished, the Sakka in particular, devastating raids across the old and orderly states westwards, as far as Asia Minor and Syria . The name of the Sakka survived in Sakkiz, their capital, ‘one of the rare towns of Kurdistan that have kept their ancient name till today’ , says Ghirshman. Sakkiz is  located south of Mahabad , in today’s Iranian Kurdistan.

The  ‘orderly states’ coveted by the Iranic nations, their eastern neighbours,  were three . In the centre, we had Assyria which, after its liberation from the  Hurri-Mitanni occupation consecutively to the fall of their state by 1345 BC, recovered its independence  and  became a mighty and warlike empire, constantly at war to extend its possessions in the mountains and plains around . On the south we had Babylonia (former Akkad), which was suffering  from Assyrian supremacy. On the north of Assyria, we had a new mountainous  and autochthonous state in the area of the Lake Van , that the Assyrians called
Urartu (whence the name of the Ararat mountain) and resented as a dangerous enemy. The Urartians called their kingdom ‘the Land of Biaini’ (a name that survived in Van) , but their ethnic name, as that of their national god, was Khaldi (not be confused with the ancient Chaldeans of southern Mesopotamia). The Khaldi people spoke a Japhetic language akin to Hurrian, which was deciphered thanks to  the Assyrian and  Van inscriptions.  The geographical area of Urartu and around was called in the Assyrian and Babylonian royal records Subartu , a name that survived in the modern  Kurdish Zibari (close to Barzan , in the northern part of Iraqi Kurdistan). Another geographical name for the mountainous areas in the Assyrian records was Naïri , which also survived in the modern Kurdish place-name of Nahri (in the Kurdish Hakkari  area , Turkish Kurdistan , not far from Zibari). The creation of the kingdom of Urartu , by 860 BC , was due to a local king named Arame , who united other Naïri  chiefs to resist military campaigns by Assyrian kings. Urartu became a powerful and prosperous kingdom , famous for its city fortresses, built with huge stones, and for its water dams and irrigation canals for agriculture. Its capital was Tushpa, which is the fortress of Van . The Urartian art of architecture influenced that of  Iran as well as the classical Greek building art .

Media rose as a Great Power in Iranian Kurdistan and,  in 612 BC , the Median king, Cyaxare , occupied Niniva and destroyed the Assyrian empire, once for ever,  in alliance with Babylonia. Cyaxare advanced westwards across the former Assyrian possessions,  at Harran, into Lydia , in Asia Minor . According to the peace agreement concluded between him and king of Lydia , says Herodotus, the western frontier of Media was fixed up on the Halys River , present Kizil-Irmak .  Let us  note that , in spite of the changing events of history, the northwestern edge of the Kurdish inhabited areas in today’s Turkey is on the Kizil-Irmak River , on the  same borderline agreed upon between the kings of Lydia and Media, more than twenty-five centuries ago (this Kurdish edge being the town of Zara and its area , between Sivas and Erzinjan, where a Kurdish uprising took place in 1919.)  Shortly after the fall of Assyria,  Urartu was eradicated from the world map, by 585 BC, not because of the arrival of the Armenian people into the area, as it was believed and written till about the 1960s, but its fall was due to the Median army, supported by the Scythian cavalry , as it is today established by archaeological excavations (see Boris Piotrovsky ,
‘Urartu’ , transl. from Russian, series Archaeologia Mundi, Nagel pub., Geneva-Paris-München, French ed. ‘Ourartou’, 1970). The northern Urartian  stronghold of Teishebaini , today’s  Karmir-Blour  , in today’s Republic of Armenia ,  near Erivan (Erebuna under Urartu), was  forced and burnt  in a sudden attack by the same Medo-Scythians forces,  as described in detail by Piotrovsky, who was an archaeologist and led the excavation on the spot,  as director of the Ermitage Musueum of Leningrad .

The fall of Assyria and Urartu created a ‘vacuum’ that was to be filled . In  Xenophon’s
Anabasis, book IV,  the Greek historian and general mentions how it was difficult, for his army of ten thousand Greek mercenaries., in their retreat from Persia , in 401 BC , to fight their way against  the Kardu(kh) people . These toughly resisted the Greek intrusion  in their mountainous country , overlooking from the south the valley of the Kentrites River (present Bohtan River, a northern tributary of the upper Tigris, to the south of Lake Van). The final ‘kh’ in Kardu(kh)  being  a foreign suffix, . it was easy  for generations of Europeans to identify the modern Kurds with the Kardu of Xenophon – although the  latter did not bring us a single word of their language . By the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century,  German academics (Th. Nöldeke, M. Hartmann, Weissbach , C.F. Lehmann-Haupt) established that the forms of  Kardu and Kurd are incompatible phonetically , said that the Kardu of Xenophon have nothing to do with the Kurds but should have emigrated northwards to become the southern  Kartu(eli) Georgians. It was added that according to the Georgian tradition , their ancestry  came  from the south . As to the modern Kurds’ ancestry, said the same German academics , it is represented by the Kurti people  and other Iranic-speaking tribes who had emigrated from Iran .

Professor Vladimir Minorsky developed the thesis advanced by the German academics . To put it briefly, he says the origins of the Kurds go back to two kindred Iranic tribes or peoples, the Kurti and the Mards, who advancing westwards , from Atropatenian Media, present Azerbaijan, on the steps and under the protection of the Median army , profited from the fall of Assyria and Urartu to occupy a new homeland (see Minorsky’s articles
‘Kurds ’ and ‘Kurdistan’ in Encyclopaedia of Islam , 1st  edition, and his paper , ‘Les origines des Kurdes’ , in Travaux du XX° Congrès International des Orientalistes, Bruxelles, 1938, pub. in 1940) . Although our knowledge  of the Median language is limited to place-names and personal names,  Minorsky notices, with reason ,  the unity of the Kurdish language , before the expansion of the Kurds over a considerable mountainous area , can be explained only by the Median/Medic linguistic factor. He says Kurdish belongs without any contest to the northwestern branch of the Iranic family , and differences between modern Kurdish and Persian are found in all the Kurdish dialects . He agrees with  Marquart  to qualify Kurdish as a ‘Neo-Medic’ language , but admits that the Kurds , in their expansion across the mountains, should have absorbed some local , that is autochthonous elements. We should observe, however,  that Minorsky wrote his  paper and his articles  before knowing that the fall of Urartu was due to the Median-Scythian forces , as established by B. Piotrovsky.  Minorsky  supposed, as it was then believed, that the  fall of Urartu was due to the arrival of the Armenians (who are, properly speaking, the Haï/Haic people, see below) , whence his hindrance as to the ways the Kurdish tribes took in their expansion westwards. Yet Basile Nikitine  (in  ‘Les Kurdes, Etude sociologique et historique’ , Paris, 1956) does not hesitate to present Minorsky’s thesis  on the matter as being ‘the Median-Scythian origin of the Kurds’ .    See also the present  writer : ICV , ‘Regards sur les origines des Kurdes et leur langue’  ( in Studia Kurdica  , Inst. Kurde de Paris, No. 1-5, 1988.). History is full with  events about  peoples and tribes arriving with men,women, children, and flocks of animals into a new homeland, but it is questionable whether the new-comers could eliminate physically the former inhabitans or if these were not , more or less , absorbed by the new-comers. We know the Iranic-speaking nations got mixed with the sparse Japhetic population of Iran , over some three centuries, before attacking the ‘orderly states’ westwards. Perhaps many of the  Kardu of Xenophon emigrated  into Georgia, yet it is difficult to believe that none of them was not assimilated by the Kurti and other Kurdish ‘Medic-Scythian’ tribes . Anyway, the Kardu cannot account alone for  the origin of the Kurds, nor for the Kurdish language being Iranic . Besides, they inhabited a too  limited geographical area; and  fought on feet , while the classical Kurds were horsemen and expanded over a considerably larger area.

The Greek geographer Strabo, from Asia Minor, who lived at the time of Christ (c. 64 BC-AD 21) - and had possibly  a Kurti family  ascendance , on the part of his mother -  tells in his ‘
Geography’ (XI, xiii, 3) that the Kurtians, Mards,and  Kadussians, who live scattered  in the mountains of  Azerbaijan, Persia and in  the Zagros , and those peoples who have the same names  in Armenia (see below as to the understanding of the name) and in the Niphates (the  huge mountain complex of Ala-Dagh and Tendourek, north and northeast of Lake Van) ‘belong to the same race if we judge them by their physical features’.

The Greek classical historian Polybius , in his
‘Histories’, mentions the Kurtians (Kurti) , in 220 BC, as mercenaries in the army of the governor of Media against the Greek Seleucid king Antiochus III. Thirty years later , the Roman historian Livy (Tite-Live) mentions the Kyrtians as mercenaries in the other camp, serving the same Antiochus, and,  in 171 BC , we find  them as far as Pergamom , the Greek city-state on the eastern Aegean coast , serving its king as mercenaries . Apparently , these Kurtians were, for a while, a group  of men  appreciated as paid  professional soldiers , serving  the king offering them the best pay  , while their families were left at home . They constituted special  units using  the sling  as weapon to catapult stones on the enemy, their name in the sources is mentioned as  efficient  slingers . Herodotus describes the fighting tactics of the Zikurtu  as slingers in  Atropatenian Media, whom he call Sagart , who settled in the area of Arbil , on the western slopes of the Zagros, just after the fall of Assyria. They were to revolt against the Aechemenid Cyrus,  under their king Partatua.

Richard N. Frye , professor of Iranian at Harvard, dedicates his book
‘The Heritage of Persia’ (London, 1962) ‘to my (his) Iranian Friends : Afghans, Baluchis, Kurds, Ossetes, Persians, Tajiks’ . This does not mean the nations he mentions  are Iranian in today’s understanding of the word ; it means they speak Iranic languages , abstraction being made of their political condition, somehow as English, Swedish and German are presented as Germanic languages, or Russian and Polish are Slavic. Belonging to the northwestern branch of Iranic family , Kurdish had its starting point in Azerbaijan. This should explain the close historical kinship between Kurdish and Gileki , the Iranic language spoken (or which was spoken) in Gilan (Guilan , area of Recht), on the southwestern mountainous coast of the Caspian.

While the Kurtians settled in what was to become , perhaps from the 4th century BC, the kingdom of Korduene (or Kordyen)  , roughly in the same area as the former Hurrians, the  Mard tribes settled in the area  to the east and north of Lake Van , but were not organized as a kingdom, living on agriculture and, more especially,  on breeding . For Marquart , quoted by Minorsky, the name of Mard was perhaps just a nickname  for the northern  Kurtians , living as  wild tribes . As to the Kadussi mentioned by Strabo, they were apparently to be scattered and lost amongst other tribes.

As in Herodotus , the Armenian people were originally a fraction of the Phrygians of  western Anatolia. According to the Armenian traditions, after the destruction of Phrygia, a Phrygian tribe , or section , led by a legendary chief , the eponymic
Haïk , left Phrygia  looking for a new country eastwards to settle. with his people.  Whence the national , or ethnic name of the Armenians as they call themselves, the Haï People, and  their country, Hayastan . The normal and sole path leading from Anatolia to future Hayastan
is between the Pontic mountains and those  overlooking the Upper Euphrates (Qara-Su). The new Armenian homeland was to be found  on the northern bank of the middle Araxes River and  its northern affluents , such as the Garni . All the successive Armenian capitals , from ancient Artaxata to taday’s Erivan ,  as well as the residence of the Armenian patriarchal church, at Etchmiadzin , are found in this  area, on the north of the Araxes , roughly corresponding to present Armenia .This does not mean the Armenians were to be confined in this area . They had a restless feudal aristocracy, and their king Tigranes II, was to prove to be ‘the Great’ for a short period , in the 1st century BC (see below).

Till about  the 1960s, all the western , Russian (Minorsky included) and modern Armenian authors who wrote about ancient Armenian history could not but suppose it was the Armenians who destroyed Urartu , annihilated or assimilated the Khaldi people (Urartians) of the
‘Land of Biaini’ , without having any evidence to tell us how this could have  happened . Most of these authors ignored the  Kurdish ancient presence and history . We know today – not only thanks to Piotrovsky – that history was not true to this hypothesis, the destruction of Urartu, by 585 BC , being due to the Medians and their Scythian allies, these ancestors, among others more ancient , of the Kurds, some time before the arrival of the  Haic Phrygian Armenians into Hayastan . If we take the example of René Grousset , French academician and author of ‘Histoire de l’Arménie , des origines  à 1071’ (Paris, 1947), he ignores practically  the Kurdish presence in the area from Antiquity , while he  speaks of the ‘armenisation of Armenia’ (meaning former Urartu, supposed to have been conquered by the Armenians) . When Grousset comes to the Turkic Saljukid conquest of 1071, we find him suddenly speaking of the Kurdish Muslim orderly state of the Merwanid dynasty - corresponding to the ancient Kurdish kingdom of Korduene - , which was strong and wealthy enough to purchase the life of the Armenian prisoners made by the  Saljukids . Did then the Kurdish Merwanid state fell down overnight from heavens ? Why to ignore the ancient kingdom of Korduene, going back probably to the 4th   century BC ?

It may  seem paradoxal, a puzzle, that the names of
Armenia and of the Armenians, who are the Haïc people, are not Armenian. It is not the first time foreigners call a nation by a name other than its own. The name of ‘Armenians’ is related to ‘Aramé’ , the Japhetic founder of Urartu in the 9th century BC, who had nothing to do with the  Haïc  coming from Phrygia , several centuries later, and speaking an Indo-European language  not belonging to the Iranic family . As to the name of Armenia, it comes , Grousset  knows it (p.51), from ‘Urmeniuqini’, name of a district of Urartu, northwest of Lake Van (area of Mush, Taron in Armenian.) This confusion between Armenia and Urartu does not help to have a clear vision of the history of the area, and has offen, as a consequence , to ignore the Kurds, or to marginalize their role in history, and even to consider them as Armenians , as some modern Armenian authors did by the beginning of the 20th century. That the Kurds of today are a large, but not a free nation , left stateless in the aftermath of WW1, divided between four states that are indeed not democratic, does not help to  establish historical truth.  

The Armenian modern authors do not agree between themselves as to the ancient history of their people and their relationship with the Kurds . Nicolas Adontz (1875-1942) , in his
‘Etudes arméno-byzantines’, published posthumously (Lisbonne, 1965), prefers to ignore the Kurds. Professor  H. Hyvernat , in ‘L’histoire ancienne de l’Arménie’ (Strasbourg, 1892) knows the people of Urartu did not speak the Armenian language, yet he says the kingdom of Urartu was ‘Armenian’ . Father Joseph Sandalgian, in ‘Histoire ducumentaire de l’Arménie’ (Roma,  1917, in 2 vol., maps), presents us an exceedingly extensive historical Armenia, overlapping large parts of Georgia, Kurdistan, Transcausia, and areas far to the west of the Euphrates , and including, according to him , thirteen ‘foreign nations’ .  He enumerates one by one these so-called “foreign nations”  and  among them , ‘the Medians and the Mards’, mentioned  together   as one  nation , but  ‘foreigner’ in Armenia. He knows about Mardastan , but reduces it to the dimension of a canton.  Kevork Aslan , in ‘Etudes historiques sur le peuple arménien’  (Paris, 1928 : 31-32, 85), is closer to historical reality .  He says  correctly Urartu was conquered by the Medians and knows about the Median/Medic origin of the Kurds ; he admits the Khaldi people of Urartu were to be assimilated by the Armenians and the Kurds.  K. Aslan says the presence of the Kurds in ‘historic Armenia’ , in the  plateau and the highlands of Van , and between the two branches of the Euphrates (Qara-Su and Murad-Su) goes back to the great antiquity…There are still many hiatuses to be filled up about the ancient relationship between the two peoples. But here is no room in the present paper to  dwell further on this historical problem , which would need a particular research work by itself.

The Armenian kingdom lived  in the shadow of the Iranian Parthian empire (247 BC- AD 226). There will be a change  under Tigranes II ‘the Great’ of  Armenia, who profited of Parthian difficulties on their eastern border to created himself, for a period of some twenty years, a large cosmopolitan and multinational empire , stretching from Ecbatana to Syria, as a half
circle across the mountains , including two Kurdish kingdoms, Korduene and, on its south,  Adiabene, the latter member of the Parthian federation.  Allied to a Parthian and apparently dissident governor of Azerbaijan, Tigranes committed a political mistake by offering hospitality to Mithridates , king of Pontus and his-father-in-law, who had been defeated and was wanted by rising Roma, after its victory at the battle of Magnesia, in 89 BC,  in Asia Minor . Tigranes ruled his empire as a despot and a pompous oriental monarch .  He built himself a new capital, Tigranocerta , whose vestiges are lost, and brought people to inhabit it by force from everywhere . He obliged king Zarbienus of Korduene to be his vassal and used its Kurds as skilled workers to open roads across forests, cut down trees, and build fortifications (see Rheinach , in his article ‘Les Kyrtiens’, quoted by B. Nikitine , p, 11, op.cit.) . Tigranes army itself was heterogeneous  , with proper Armenian units , a large number of Kurds under different names according to their areas , Kurtians, Adiabeni., perhaps Mards , Medians , the latter name being rather a global one for them, beside Arabs, and the Anatolians of Mithridates . The Republic of Roma sent its general and  Consul Lucullus , to check Tigranes and enlarge the Roman power eastwards . Lucullus , from Antioch , sent an ultimatum to Tigranes , demanding  to deliver him Mithridates, what he refused . The Roman general, advancing with his army, occupied Tigranocerta , the new Armenian capital, and had intelligence with Zarbienus, king of Korduene.  Tigranes  occupied the Kurdish capital and killed its king Zarbienus (  this capital was one of the fortified cities of Sareisa, Pinaca,  or Satalca , as mentioned in the Greek-Roman sources, probably Pinaca , present Finik,  on the Upper Tigris. )   Lucullus was soon on the spot , defeated Tigranes and organized ‘royal funerals’ for the dead Kurdish king, calling him ‘the ally and friend of Roma’ . The body of Zarbienus was burnt on a pyre, apparently according to the Kurdish funeral customs of the time, in the presence of his widow and his children (see Plutarch, in Parallel Lives , Lucullus , LVII.). That happened in 69 BC. Lucullus  spent the winter 69/68 in the royal fortress of the Kurdish capital , where he found treasures of gold (that he took for himself), and plenty of food and cereals for his soldiers, then he pursued Tigranes in the large Plateau  north of Lake Van , but the Armenian king avoided any decisive battle . It was up to another Roman general, Pompey , to receive the submission of the aging Tigranes , at Artaxata, the real Armenian capital, on the northern bank of the Araxes River, in 66 BC .  After the imperial, but ephemeral  adventure of Tigranes II , Armenia was reduced to a kind of protectorate , a kingdom torn between the Parthian and the Roman empires.

When Lucullus
was pusuing  Tigranes in the upper plateau to the north of Lake Van, in the summer heat of 68 BC , he had to protect himself and his units against attacks by the armed horsemen of the wild Kurdish Mard tribes, who were in their annual summer pasture highlands with their flocks of sheep, alongside the Arsanias River (Murad-Su). The Mards , half-nomadic in these areas,  did cultivation in their winter abode , in villages found on the  slopes of the mountains  to the east and north of Lake Van. On the east . their highlands go from Van northwards to the Ararat (on today’s mountainous border between Turkey and Iran, home of the Shakak and Jalali Kurds, with Salmas and Maku towns).  On the northern side of the Lake, the winter abode of the Mards was the slopes of a series of mountains going northeastwards, from the Sipan-Dagh to the Ala-Dagh (called Niphates in the Greek classics), then the volcanic Tendourek (meaning in Kurdish oven), and then the majestic Ararat, capped with eternal snow and culminating at 5'200 m, whose slopes have been inhabited by  Kurds from the Median epoch (where the Kurdish uprising of 1927-1930 started) .These highlands to the east and north of Lake Van were called Mardastan till the late Middle Age . At springtime, the Mards, or rather their tribal aristocracy , used to set out with their flock to their  pasture highlands , on the Murad-Su , and even  at the sources of the Araxes River (at Bingol , to the south of Erzerum.) Tthat is the old Kurdish ‘zozan,’ beginning on  the ‘Newroz’  day (New Year ), in the tradition of the Iranic nations.

In the wild
Mardastan ,Lucullus and his army had nothing  to eat but the sheep of the Mards, who  just defended themselves by attacking the Roman invader (see Louis Dillemann . ‘Haute Mésopotamie orientale et pays adjacents’, pub. by Inst. Français d’Archéologie de Beyrouth , and Librairie  Geuthner, Paris, 1962, pp. 96, 269 , with detailed maps and full references to Greek and Roman classics, such as Plutarch, Tacitus, Strabo , Themestius , Dion Cassius.)

To whom belongs , between the Roman and the Parthian empires , the suzerainty over the Armenian king at Artaxata, on the northern bank of the Araxes ? Whose vassal is he ? The Armenian king had a Parthian, royal ascendance, but was he a Parthian or a Roman client ? That was the question trusted, in AD 59  , under emperor Nero , to general Corbulo , with full power to resolve it and settle the Roman  military affairs  in the Orient . He had fought the Germans on the Rhine , with efficiency.

Corbulo marched straight ahead into Artaxata, and levelled it to earth. He thus cut his supply point from the north. Many Armenians were killed , or fled into the mountains. Then he advanced southwestwards, contrary to Lucullus  , on the plateau to the north of Lake Van , the pasture highlands of the Mards , in full summertime.  The legionnaires soon found themselves short of supply and had to sustain themselves on the sheep flock of the Mards. These were excellent mounted archers and, besides, armed with spears, shields, and wore a helmet (according to engraving). Once more, they defended themselves by attacking the Romans ,  as their fathers had done against Lucullus . The legionnaires much suffered , and Corbulo was so weary that he sent his second in command, general Paetus, in a punitive expedition against the Mard villages, somewhere on the slopes of the Ala-Dagh . The presumptuous Paetus destroyed perhaps a few villages , but he could not do more , owing to the large space occupied by the  Mards in this wilderness, and to their mobility .  Besides, Corbulo had other things to do (see L. Dillemann, op.cit. p. 284, with references to Greek-Roman classics .)

In AD. 114, the Roman emperor Trajan led personally a  campaign over three years against the Parthians and their allies , to  establish a ‘Roman order’in the Orient. According to the Roman and Greek classical sources, and modern authors, not always convergent , or presenting gaps, mentioned and discussed by L. Dillemann (op.cit.. pages 271-286 , with references and maps), the events of the campaign interesting us could be summed up as follow : In 114 , following the
northern road , to the north of Erzerum and  the Araxes River, the Emperor entered into Armenia without fighting, and proclaimed it a ‘Roman province’.
One of his generals, Lusius Quietus, in his return way, had to fight , said Dillemann, ‘the courageous Mards’, by the Arsanias River . These northern Kurds had memory and , once more (the 3rd time since Lucullus and Corbulo),  they resisted the intrusion of a roman army in their country , the violation of their vital space. Trajan spent the winter 114-115 in Edessa  (Urfa) , where he received an important visitor, king Manisaros of Korduene,  and concluded with him a deal . There is some divergence, and gaps, in the interpretation of the deal text (sentences of which are quoted in Greek by Dillemann.) Manisaros recognized Armenia as a
‘Roman province’ (with a Roman garrison ) and,  apparently , he promised the Emperor not to keep ‘his possessions in Armenia’ (which Armenia, where ?). In 115 Trajan campaigned in  ‘Upper Mesopotamia’ and,  to prepare the 116 campaign , he occupied Nisibin and mount Sinjar , belonging to the Kurdish kingdom of Adiabene, partner of the Parthians. The king of Adiabene retreated to the mountainous and main part of his country, the area of Arbil, on the eastern bank of the middle Tigris. Trajan spent the winter 115-116 in Antioch and, in 116 , he attained his main objective:  Starting the campaign from Nisibin , he advanced southeastwards, occupied Ctesiphon , capital of the Parthians (ancient Babylonia, to the south of today’s Baghdad ) , and attained the Persian Gulf . One may say, however,  all these conquests were practically useless, since the Emperor returned back to Roma in 116, and the large curve of the Euphrates River was to be agreed upon as the frontier between the Roman and the Parthian empires.

In the Armenian literary tradition, which begins by  AD 5th century , the names of
Kurd  and Median (Mar in Armenian) are synonymous and interchangeable, even in today’s academic dictionaries (see  A.K. Sanjian : ‘Colophons of Armenian manuscripts , 1301-1480 : A Source for Middle Eastern History’, Harvard, 1969).  In these Armenian manuscripts , many Kurdish princes are mentioned, called by their names;  the same physical person is said here to be a Kurd, and there, at the same page, to be  a ‘Mar’(Median). These Kurdish princes were  Muslims and  may be praised if they are just towards the Christians, or the contrary, if they are unjust ; their  country is often called Kurdistan, sometimes Armenia . That depends perhaps on the area.

The Arab-Muslim classical geographers and historians , at the Abbasid era, translated the Iranic name  of
‘Kuhistan’ , meaning « the Country of Mountains » , as it had  been used by the Sasanians (the last pre-Islamic Iranian empire),  by the Arabic word of al-Jibal , just meaning  ‘The Mountains’ .  At the time of the Arab Islamic conquest there were no longer any people called « Medians » , the name  having ceased to be used  for about twelve centuries earlier . This Kuhistan / al-Jibal/Mountainous Country , or just The Mountains  , used as a proper name , once the heart of  ancient Media ,  was inhabited by the Kurds. In other words, when the name of Medians  had become obsolete , the Kurds were found inhabiting the same country . One of these medieval Arab-Muslim geographers, al-Ya’qoubi , who achieved his work in A.D.891 , Hijra year 218 , says « the rugged and snowy Mountains  are the homeland  of the unpleasant Kurds » (in Arabic : ‘dâr ul-Akrâd…’). Despite the unfair epithet , al-Ya’qoubi can be thanked for the precision . Another Arab geographer, Ibn Hauqal, native of Baghdad , in his geography book of 367 H/A.D. 978, left us a very interesting geographic definition of ‘the Mountainous Country inhabited by the Kurds’, also corresponding to ancient Media (see Richard N. Frye, The Golden Age of Persia  , The Arabs in the East , London, 1975 :p. 11 ; and ICV, 1988, op.cit.) .  Under the Abbasids , Dar–ul-Islam , meaning the Country of Islam  was divided into several iqlîm , plural aqalim , from the Greek clime , one of which was Misr (Egypt) , another ash-Sham (Syria) , a third al-‘Iraq , a fourth al-Jibal (the Mountains) , homeland of the Kurds.

Prior to the Islamic conquest , the Kurds were known under different names , according to the areas of their extensive and mountainous country, then more covered with forest than today. They had, however, a geographically continued country over which they had been ruling , sometimes within the framework of larger empires , the same way of life, living in small fortified towns and villages,  on agriculture and breeding .  They had  a tribal organisation that was to continue under Islam , and spoke a language of their own. It was the early Arab Muslim  writers , like al-Baladhuri (in
Futouh al Buldan = Conquest of the Countries), who called the Kurds by one of their old different names, Kurd  (plural Akrâd )for the old Kurti (instead of Median , Adiabeni,  Azeri or the like). In a way, the Kurds owe the Arabs to be called by one of their pre-Islamic names , and to be seen as one people, that of the mountains . The Greeks too had different names, including Hellens , before being called by their present name. The very perceptive  Arab historian al-Mas’oudi, in his ‘Golden Medows’, distinguishes between Farsi (Persian) and Kurdish , and knows  the latter was divided into dialects   (See my paper under ICV, ‘Le Déplacement du pays kurde vers l’ouest,  X°-XV° siècles : Etude de géographie et de sociologie historique’, published in Actes du 29° Congrès international des Orientalistes , section ‘Iran moderne’ , vol.I , Paris , 1973-1976 . This paper is full with references to Arab geographers and historians , but I am no longer in agreement with myself about the extent of northwestern Kurdistan, presently in Turkey , result of an unhappy sentence.)

The main Arabo/Muslim medieval  geographers were edited , and annoted ,  in Arabic, by the Dutch  M.J. De Goeje, in the second half of the 19° cent. , in the series Bibliotheca Geographorum Arabicorum (BGA) , Brill, Leiden . The British Guy Le Strange , in his scholarly work   The Lands of the Eastern Caliphate , Cambridge , 1905, proves to be a useful author for the comprehension of the toponymy of the Abbasid lands , which has changed since.

If the Kurds are entitled to claim the heritage of Media -- as well as that of the Manneans , who were contemporary with the Median rise -- , they are not less entitled to claim the more ancient heritage of the Hurrians and the Mitannians, of the Khaldi (Urartians ) - together with the Armenians - , of the Gutians, the Lullubians, the Kassi, and the highlanders  of Elam , other ancient mountain  peoples of the Zagros, mentioned in the Assyrian/Mesopotamian records and their own, and supposed to be autochthonous . The Kurds have been constituted as a people  age after age , in their country . Their heritage embraces all the legacy of Kurdistan . In their mountain fastness they resisted foreign invaders , or finished by absorbing them..

In the 12th century sultan Sinjar of Persia, who ruled from the Hijra year 511 to 548/ AD 1118-1153, created a large  province of Kurdistan in the  clime of al-Jibal ,  former Kuhistan,  with Bahar as capital (now in ruins, near Hamadan).  Sinjar’s Kurdistan included the following areas : today’s provinces  (ostan) of Kurdistan (with Sine or Sanandaj as provincial capital), the ostan of Kirmanshah , parts of the ostan of Hamadan, the governorate of Ilam, and a northern  part of the ostan of Luristam . At that time , the Lurs and Luristan (Luri-Pichuk ) and the Bakhtiyaris (Luri-Buzurg) were also considered as Kurds  (see Yaqut’s Mo’jam al Buldan, under articles al-Lur and al-Luriyeh ) .  Sinjar’s Kurdistan , despite wars and invasions, has remained almost as it was created in the 12th century, but it was to be dismembered under Riza shah, in the early 1920s.

In the oriental medieval historiography , we have other examples of a country called Kurdistan . In AD. 1387 , the Tatar invader Timur-Lang besieged the citadel of Van, which was kept and defended by the Kurdish king Izzeddin , belonging to the Kurdish Hakkari dynasty. Despite a long siege, Timur-Lang did not succeed forcing the stronghold. But knowing the fearful reputation of the besieger, Izzeddin thought it was safer to talk with Timur-Lang : he presented him due submission, according to the customs of the epoch . Timur-Lang was so satisfied that he raised the siege on Van and bestowed on king Izzeddin “the government of all Kurdistan” (the vilayet of all Kurdistan) . This episode is mentioned by the Persian historian Sharafaddin Ali Yazdi , in his book ‘Zafar-nama’ on the victories of Timur-Lang (pub. in Persian in Calcutta, 1887 , series Bibliotheca Indica ; the same Zafar-Nama was pub. in French translation, under the title ‘Histoire de Timur-Bec’ , by F.P. de La Croix, Paris, 1722,  see on the siege of Van , tome 1 , pages 417-420 . )  Between Van and Kirmanshah there is indeed a long distance, yet we are still in the Kurdish country.

In AD. 1032 the Kurdish Merwanid prince Nasr-ad-Daula, Lord of Farqin (present Silvan) and Diyarbekir, whose lands reached the sources of the Araxes River, sent an army of 5000 horsemen, under the command of the raïs (general) Bal , to take the town of Urfa (also called Ruha or Edessa) from Arab tribes supported by Byzantium. The Kurdish commander Bal took the city and killed the Arab tribal chief, then he wrote to his lord Nasr-ad-Daula asking for reinforcements “if you want to save your Lordship on Kertastan.” .This episode is written by the Armenian chronicler Mathieu d’Edesse , native of Edessa, who finished his chronicle , in Armenian , in 1036.  The chronicle was publishd in French translation by Ed. Dulaurier, Paris, 1858 (see pp. 46-52 on Urfa) . The name of Kertastan , obviously for Kurdistan , is it a corruption by the Armenian chronicler, or by the French translator ? We are here, in AD. 1032, about one century before the creation by sultan Sinjar of the province of Kurdistan in the Zagros mountains.. The town of Urfa had actually a mixed population , as Diyarbekir itself at that time ,  but the countryside was Kurdish . Let us add that the Kurdish Merwanid rulers had often a good relationship, and sometimes due alliance, with the Byzantine emperors (see on the history of the Merwanids : ‘Tarikh al-Fariqi’ , written in Arabic by a citizen of Farqin, just after the fall of the Merwanids) . The Kurdish Shaddadi rulers in  Armenia and Transcaucasia had also good relationship with  Byzantium (see below).

Sultan Sinjar’s Kurdistan did not include Azerbaijan , which was also known as “Media Minor”, or Atropatenian  .Yet the presence of the Kurds in Azerbaijan, and in Armenia, is attested from ancient times . Whence the Armenian equation : “Mar = Median = Kurd” . Moses of Khoren , who would have lived in AD 5th century,  author of a History of Armenia (full with legends and anachronism) , and considered as “the father of the Armenian historians’ (but not by all), refers to the Mar/Medians/Kurds  as  neighbours on the slopes of the Ararat , or prisoners of Armenia . Vladimir Minorsky , in his  book ‘Studies in Caucasian History’ (London, 1953, p.127) , writes about Khoren and his Mar=Medians on the slopes of the Ararat :  “There is no doubt that the term Mar (Medians) refers to the Kurds.  In the time of Moses of Khoren there were no Medians in existence , but even now  the Kurds continue to occupy the slopes of the Ararat . In the curious Armenian manuscript containing samples of alphabets and languages, written some time before AD  1446, a prayer in Kurdish figures as a specimen of ‘the language of the Medians(Mar)’ and such a use of the term is still attested in dictionaries”. Minorsky has published the text  of this Kurdish-”Median” prayer (in ‘Bulletin  du Centre d’Etudes kurdes’, No.10, Paris, 1950) : It is a short Christian prayer in North-Kurmanji Kurdish,  hardly different from  the language of today .   The Armenian name of ‘Mar’, for  the  ancient Medians and the Kurds, should  be derived  from that of  ‘Mard’, the name of these northern Kurds  who occupied, among other highlands, the slopes of the Ararat and were the closest neighbours  of the Armenians .

As said above , the Haic Armenians , who had their early kingdom,  all their successive capitals and the residence  of the Armenian  church,  on the northern bank of the Araxes River and its northern tributaries, were not to be limited to this area . At different epochs their restless and combative feudal aristocracy settled elsewhere , including in  Kurdish  areas. An enlarged Armenia was recognized as a vassal state by the Abbasid caliphate , to which it had to pay  an annual tribute. A new Armenia was even to be created in the Byzantine province of Cilicia, which was to be paid for the passage of the Crusaders (See J. Laurent , ‘L’Arménie entre Byzance à L’Islam, depuis la conquête arabe  jusqu’en 886’ , Paris, 1919) . In the enlarged Armenia , vassal under the caliphate , says J. Laurent (p. 2-3) , the Armenian feudality  “did not assimilate the non-Armenians who were under its power” ; besides,  this “Arab Armenia” , adds Laurent (pp. 83-128) was torn between several Armenian aristocratic dynasties , the Bagratounis (Bagratids), the Mamikonians, the Rechtounis , and the Ardzrounis .

The Ardzrouni  nobility took the town of Van, possibly in the 9th century, from the Kurdish Mards and created in this part of former Mardastan an Armenian principality  called Vaspourakan , whose history was written by Thoma Ardzrouni , member of the governing family, in the 10th century, on the demand of its chief, prince Grigor .

We owe  M. Brosset , French orientalist working at Saint-Petersburg under the aegis of the Imperial Academy of Sciences of Russia, the translation into French and the annotation of a series of Armenian authors, who wrote in Armenian , from the 10th  to the 17th centuries. One of them  is Thoma Ardzrouni (‘Histoire des Ardzrouni’ , in ‘Collection d’historiens arméniens’ , vol. 1 , St-Petersburg,  1874.) A few points mentioned by the Armenian author, and commented or annoted by Brosset, should be mentioned. The author brings more information than Khoren on the Mar (Kurds) as inhabiting not only the slopes of the Ararat, but also the area of Nakhchevan (Golten in Armenian). When the author speaks of an area called ‘Tmorik’ in Armenian, Brosset (p. 34) explains it is a ‘Kurdish Armenia’ (Arménie kourde). The construction of  “the marvellous , wonderful city of Akhtamar”,  says the author (p.239, speaking of the small island  in the Lake, near Van) is due to the prince Kagik of Vaspourakan ,  “who had reduced the Mar (Kurdish Mards) to silence.” This  is an indication that Vaspourakan was a part of former Mardastan,  and  that the Akhtamar Armenian building , indeed a master piece of Christian architecture, was built at a previously Kurdish Mard place .

In the same series of Armenian historians translated and annoted by Brosset , we find  Arakel de Tauriz (Tabris) , author of  ‘Livre d’histoires’, who lived in the 17th century .  For him too, the Mars (Medians) and the Kurds are the same people

By the end of the 9th century the power of the Abbasid caliphate was shrinking to be confined in Arab Iraq.  The Arabs who, just after the Islamic conquest, established with their families as Lords among the Kurds or the Persians, had been assimilated by their human environment . As an example the  Arab family of Abu Dulaf who came from Kufa or Basra with the Islamic conquest and established among the Kurds in the so-called area of “Iraq Ajami” (southeast of Hamadan, today no longer Kurdish) , was assimilated by the Kurds.  Real power in Persia and Kurdistan was in the hands  of local non-Arab  Muslim dynasties . In Azerbaijan , two Iranic speaking peoples, on one hands the Daylams, mountenaineers from the south of the Caspian, who fought on feet, and on the other hand the Kurds, who were horsemen , disputed power in Tabriz .

The medieval  Shaddadi  Kurds , who were Muslims , crossed the Araxes River most probably from Azerbaijan and ruled over the area called by the Russians Eeastern Transcaucasia , between the Araxes and the Kur Rivers , that is  present-day Armenia and most of later Russian Azerbaijan . They ruled  as sovereigns , without taking the title of kings, and had branches , one at Ganja (former Elizabethpol, now depending on Baku) , another at Dvin (Duwain in Arab sources) , ancient capital of Armenia. A later branch of the dynasty ruled in Ani, another former Armenian capital.  Professor V.  Minorsky , who consecrates the essential of his scholarly  ‘Studies in Caucasian History’  (op.cit.)  to shed light on the history of the Shaddadid Kurds, says in the introduction to this  work : “The Shaddadids are intersting because in their warlike and  peaceful activities they came into close contact with their Christian neighbours, the Armenians and the Georgians, and with various  northern invaders, including the Alans and the Russians (…).  The second point is that the Shaddadids became involved in world politics at a moment when the Byzantine emperors were nervously seeking to secure their positions in Armenia and Transcaucasia, while from the East there was rising the tidal wave  of the Turkish invasion which was to change the whole aspect of the Near East. Finally, the Kurdish Shaddadids were one of the manifestations of the Iranian ‘interlude’ – a short but highly significant epoch between the periods of Arab and Turkish domination.”

Another manifestation of what Minorsky calls the “Iranian interlude” , that I would rather call a Kurdish interlude (account being made of the role of Saladin and the Ayyubid Kurds), is represented by the  Kurdish  Merwanid state in northern Kurdistan , heir  to ancient Korduene mentioned above. In 524 H/ AD 1130  , the Kurdish Shaddadi prince Fadlun III of Dvin lost his life before an attack by a Turkic raider, while he was defending his capital city of Dvin, still for the most inhabited by Armenians. One of his Kurdish generals , Shadi son of Merwan , born in the Kurdish village of Ajdanakan , near Dvin ,  unhappy because of  the death of has master Fadlun (Minorsky, 1953) , left Armenia with his two sons, Ayyoub and Sherkuh , seeking Baghdad, where he had friends serving the Abbasid caliph . Shadi was made ‘dizdar’  (commander of a fortress) of Tikrit, in Iraq . He died in Tikrit and his eldest son, Ayyoub, succeeded him as dizdar. Salaheddin Yusuf , son of Ayyoub, was born in Tikrit in 1138. This Salaheddin, son of a Kurdish émigré, says Minorsky , was to become “the mightiest king of Islam” (Saladin).

The Kurds owe a lot to professor Minorsky , but I would allow myself to be in disagreement with him when , in the chapter “Prehistory of Saladin” of the same1953 book, he thinks that Saladin’s grand-father, Shadi, is a Kurd descending from an Arab Omeyyad governor of Tabriz, named Rawwâd, who had governed two centuries earlier  and whose descendence had, meanwhile, become Kurds under the  corrupted Kurdish name of Râwand . We have cases of Arabs established among Kurds , or Persians, who, with time,   became Kurds, or Persians, as the family  Abu Dulaf mentioned above, but not in the  case  of Rawwâd .

The name Râwand  is a Kurdish and pre-Islamic name and has nothing to do with Rawwâd. In Ibn Khallikan , Saladin’s ancestry belonged to the Rawâdi Kurds, but in the Sharafnama , they belonged to the Râwendi Kurds. The latter is the correct one . We have in the toponymy of the area and in the classical Roman literature enough evidence to affirm it .

We have had , above , some news about the Kurdish Korduene kingdom , constitued apparently in the 4th century BC , on the upper Tigris,  which extended westwards beyond the Euphrates . We know  that, under Islam,  the Kurdish Merwanid state occupied almost the same area and was, in a way, heir to ancient Korduene .   

We have had a few information on  the kingdom of Adiabene ,  to the southeast of Korduene, and member of the Parthian federation . It covered  present day  Badinan, Mosul, the area around Mount Sinjar,  Arbil , which was its capital , and its area , perhaps part , if not all of the area of Sulaimaniya (the city itself is modern, built in 1199 H /AD 1784).

 Adiabene is an old pre-Islamic name , a kingdom inhabited by Kurds who lived mainly on breeding and cultivation, partially city-dwellers, as in Arbil . Socially speaking , they were a confederation of semi-nomadic tribes of horsemen, whose aristocracy lived in  fortresses . Judaism, then Christianity penetrated into the city of Arbil, but one may presume that the Kurdish tribal aristocracy kept faithful to Mazdaism .

At springtime , the Kurdish Adiabene tribes , or rather their ruling aristocracy , leaving their millenary-old peasantry  , of unknown ascendance , busy  with cultivation, used to leave their lower strongholds with their flock to their pasture highlands . This is the old Kurdish ‘zozan’ , that even city-dweller Kurds with no flock still practice each ‘Newroz’, the Iranian and Kurdish new year on the 21st of March , to have communion with a blossoming nature. In these annual displacements , the Adiabene tribes used to follow a leading and paramount tribe of theirs  called ‘Râwend’, an old pre-Islamic name. The Râwand , or Râvend, left their name to Râwendiz   a name constituted of : Râwend + diz (citadel), meaning in ancient Kurdish  ‘the citadel of the Râwend’. This name still designates nowadays a small mountain Kurdish town , with an old citadel ( that I visited), in Iraqi Kurdistan, northeast of Arbil, on the way leading to Azerbaijan and the pasture highlands. After the Islamic conquest , the name of the Adiabene Kurdish tribes was corrupted into Hadhbani  Kurds, in the same way as the Median Amadana town has been called Hamadhan . Besides , in the classical Muslim authors there are two ‘Râwendiz’ , the one we have seen , northeast of Arbil , and ‘the Rawendiz of Maragha’, in Azerbaijan, the  pasture highlands of the Râwend. In the geographical dictionary of Yaqut , Mo’jam al-Buldan  (ed. in Arabic by the German F. Wüstenfeld),  the Muslim classical author says : “It is reported that Rawendiz of Mosul is an old town built   by Biurasf the Great, son of Azdahak..”  We are here in the field of the mythical  Iranian kings , to tell how old Rawendiz is .

We do not need to have recourse to Iranian legends of old to tell how old the name of Rawendiz is .  The Romam historian Pliny the Elder , who lived in the 1st century (circa 23-79) , mentions in his work entitled Natural History, four Kurdish tribes in Azerbaijan : The Aloni , Anzone , Silici, and the Orontes . The British author H.C. Rawlinson, in his  paper entitled  ‘Memoir on the Site of the Atropatenian Ecbatana’ (pub.  in JRGS, vol. x, 1840 : pages 73 ff ) , referring to Pliny and his Kurdish tribes in Azerbaijan , says the name of the fourth one , the Orontes , is a Western corruption of the old Kurdish tribal name  of Rawend  (Persian form : Arwand .) Rawlinson adds that even at his time, in 1840 , there was a Kurdish tribe still named Rawend in Azerbaijan.

Before the Saljukid danger , Byzantium preferred to rely on the Kurdish Muslim principalities and to obtain from the Armenian nobility to abandon its possessions in the East for honours at Constantinople. In 1021 , that is what emperor Basil II  obtained from the Armenian Ardzrouni dynasty of Van , the end of the principality of Vaspourakan for a golden life at the Byzantine capital. In 1042 , emperor Constantine Monomach concluded an official treaty , under the imperial Golden Bull, with the Kurdish Shaddadi Abul –Aswar , prince of Dvin , in Armenia, encouraging him to invade the territory of Ani , what he did (see Minorsky, 1953 : 52-54). It seems that some Armenian families preferred the Islamic faith to the golden exile at the Bosporus .

In 1514, the battle of Chaldiran, in northern Kurdistan (not far from the northeasten edge of Lake Van), opposed the Ottomam sultan Selim 1st , and with him, in his camp, most of the princes of Kurdistan, who had joined him with their own forces , to the Safavid shah Ismail of Persia , who was defeated . The sultan was so satisfied  that  , in 1515 , he sent his Kurdish counsellor , Idris Bitlisi al-Hakim (The Wise), to travel across Kurdistan in order to receive the loyalty of the Kurdish princes to the Ottoman sultan, in exchange of the recognition by the sultan of their hereditary power on their own principalities and their possessions. Sultan Selim had signed in advance  firmans (royal Islamic acts )  to this effect , to be filled up by Idris Bitlisi  for each of the  princes . Von Hammer , the Austrian author  of ‘History of the Ottoman Empire’  (who lived in the 19th century , but whose history on the Ottomans remains a reference work) , writes with  this respect :  “Idris Bitlisi was asked by the sultan  to travel and receive the oath of loyalty  from the princes and beys of all the country inhabited by the Kurds,  from the coast of Lake Urmia ,  which is the extreme oriental frontier of Kurdistan, till Malatya, its western frontier”  (see the French translation of von Hammer, ‘Histoire de l’Empire ottoman’ , tome IV, 223-224). At this latitude , the borders of the Kurdish country  extends indeed from the coast of Lake Urmia to Malataya. With Malatya, we are not far from Zara, on the Kizil-Irmak. Nothing has changed since 1515 . Yet a lot was to change with the  advent of Mustafa Kemal and the Turkish Republic. Part – 2

Part 2 Langue