Nairi (Armenian: Նայիրի in TAO or Նաիրի in RAO) was the Assyrian name (KUR.KUR Na-i-ri, also Na-'i-ru) for a confederation of tribes in the Armenian Highlands,[1] roughly corresponding to the modern Van and Hakkâri provinces of modern Turkey and West Azerbaijan province of Iran. The word is also used to describe the Armenian tribes who lived there.[2] Nairi has sometimes been equated with Nihriya, known from Mesopotamian, Hittite, and Urartian sources.[3] However, its co-occurrence with Nihriya within a single text may argue against this.[4]

Prior to the Bronze Age collapse, the Nairi tribes were considered a force strong enough to contend with both Assyria and Hatti. The Battle of Nihriya, the culminating point of the hostilities between Hittites and Assyrians for control over the remnants of the former kingdom of Indo-European Mitanni, took place there, c. 1230 BC.

The first kings of Urartu referred to their kingdom as Nairi instead of the native self-appellation Bianili.[5] However, the exact relationship between Urartu and Nairi is unclear. Some scholars have suggested that Urartu and Nairi were separate polities. The Assyrians seem have continued to refer to Nairi as a distinct entity for decades after the establishment of Urartu, until Nairi was totally absorbed by Assyria and Urartu in the 8th century BCE.[6]

Geography and historyEdit

According to Trevor Bryce the Nairi lands were inhabited by what he calls "fierce tribal groups" divided into a number of principalities, and are first mentioned by Tukulti-Ninurta I (1243–1207 BC) when he defeated and exacted tribute from forty Nairi kings.[7]

An early, documented reference to Nairi is a tablet dated to the time of Adad-nirari I (13th century BC), which mentions the purchase of 128 horses from the Nairi region.[8]

The names of twenty-three Nairi lands were recorded by Tiglath-Pileser I (1114–1076 BC). Their southernmost point was Tumme, known to have been south-west of Lake Urmia, and their northernmost point was Daiaeni.[9] These lands are known from the list of defeated kings: "the king of Tumme, the king of Tunube, the king of Tuali, the king of Kindari, the king of Uzula, the king of Unzamuni the king of Andiabe, the king of Pilakinni, the king of Aturgini, the king of Kulibarzini, the king of Shinibirni, the king of Himua, the king of Paiteri, the king of Uiram, the king of Shururia, the king of Albaia, the king of Ugina, the king of Nazabia, the king of Abarsiuni, and the king of Daiaeni."[10] It is believed that Nairi extended from the Tur-Abdin mountains in the south to the mountainous area southwest of Lake Van in the north.[11]

In 882 BCE, Assurnasirbal II invaded Nairi, which at the time comprised four polities: Bit-Zamani, Shubru, Nirdun, and Urumu/Nirbu.[12] These regions all had their own kings.

Shalmaneser III campaigned in the region, erecting a statue at the source of the Tigris. Bryce states that some of his "royal inscriptions indicate that the term now also denoted a specific region to the southwest of Lake Urmia, centred on the land of Hubushkia."[13] The exact location of Hubushkia is uncertain. Shalmaneser pursued Kakia, king of Nairi and Habushkia, into the mountains, subsequently slaughtering his army and forcing Kakia to surrender.[14][15]

Another Nairi king, Yanzu, was mentioned as paying tribute to Sargon II.[16][17]


Albrecht Goetze suggested that what he refers to as the Hurriland dissolved into a number of small states that the Assyrians called Nairi.[18] Others take this hypothesis skeptically; e.g., Benedict (Benedict 1960) points out that there is no evidence of the presence of Hurrites in the vicinity of Lake Van.

Some of the Nairi tribes, such as the Daiaeni, may have been speakers of Proto-Armenian.[19][20]


  1. ^ Redgate, Anne Elizabeth (2000). The Armenians. Wiley-Blackwell. p. 27. ISBN 978-0631220374.
  2. ^ Redgate, Anne Elizabeth (2000). The Armenians. Wiley-Blackwell. p. 27. ISBN 978-0631220374.
  3. ^ Trevor Bryce, The Kingdom of the Hittites 2005:316; Bryce locates Nairi north or northeast of modern Diyarbakir.
  4. ^ M. Salvini "Nairi, Na'iri" Reallexikon der Assyriologie 9. Edited by Erich Ebeling and Bruno Meissner. New York: Walter de Gruyter, 1998-2001. p. 87.
  5. ^ Urartian Material Culture As State Assemblage: An Anomaly in the Archaeology of Empire, Paul Zimansky, Page 103 of 103-115
  6. ^ Paul Zimansky. Ecology and Empire: The Structure of the Urartian State. pp. 49-50. [1]
  7. ^ Bryce, Trevor (2012). The World of The Neo-Hittite Kingdoms: A Political and Military History. Oxford University Press. p. 199. ISBN 978-0199218721.
  8. ^ "Schriftfunde" (in German). "Inscribed objects" (English translation)
  9. ^ The Armenians — Page 27 by Elizabeth Redgate, A. E. (Anne Elizabeth) Redgate Grayson, IL, 1976 (pp. 12-13)
  10. ^ "Assyrian Catalogue of Anatolian lands and leaders".
  11. ^ The Origins of the Urartians in the Light of the Van/Karagündüz Excavations - Veli Sevin - Page 159 of 159-164
  12. ^ K. Lawson Younger Jr. Political History of the Arameans: From Their Origins To the End of Their Polities. (2016). p. 200. [2]
  13. ^ Bryce, Trevor (2009). The Routledge Handbook of the Peoples and Places of Ancient Western Asia: The Near East from the Early Bronze Age to the fall of the Persian Empire. Routledge. p. 495. ISBN 978-0415394857.
  14. ^ George Smith. Ancient History from the Monuments: Assyria. (1876). p. 46.
  15. ^ John Boardman and E. Sollberger. The Cambridge Ancient History. (1970). p 334.
  16. ^ Robert William Rogers. History of Babylonia and Assyria. (1901). p. 163.
  17. ^ John Boardman and E. Sollberger. The Cambridge Ancient History. (1970). pp. 95-96.
  18. ^ Götze, Albrecht (1974). Kulturgeschichte Kleinasiens. C H Beck. p. 190. ISBN 978-3-406-01351-5.
  19. ^ Armen Petrosyan (September 1, 2010). The Armenian Elements In The Language And Onomastics Of Urartu. Association For Near Eastern And Caucasian Studies. p. 137. Retrieved 9 October 2019.
  20. ^ Hrach Martirosyan (2014). "Origins and Historical Development of the Armenian Language". Leiden University: 9. Retrieved 9 October 2019.[3]

Further readingEdit

  • Albrecht Götze, Hethiter, Churriter und Assyrer, Instituttet for Sammenlignende Kulturforskning, Serie A: Forelesninger XVII (Oslo, 1936).
  • Warren C. Benedict, Urartians and Hurrians. Journal of the American Oriental Society 80/2, 1960, 100-104.
  • Ralf-Bernhard Wartke, Urartu Das Reich am Ararat, Verlag Philipp von Zabern, Mainz/Rhein 1993
  • A. G. Sagona, Matasha McConchie, Liza Hopkins (2004) "Archaeology at the North-east Anatolian Frontier", ISBN 90-429-1390-8

See alsoEdit