|previous article in this issue
|next article in this issue
Document Details :
Title: Polyphemos Armenios
Author(s): RUSSELL, J.R.
Journal: Revue des Études Arméniennes
Volume: 26 Date: 1996-1997
The ancient tale of Tork' Angełeay preserved by Movsēs Xorenac'i in his History of the Armenians bears some remarkable resemblances to the episode in the Odyssey of Homer of Odysseus' encounter with the Cyclops Polyphemus, but in reverse. The bard presents the latter as a primitive, reprobate monster whom the hero must outwit, whilst Tork' is a heroic defender against foreign marauders. Though his name is half-Hittite, half-Semitic, and his origins are complex and heterogeneous, Xorenac'i recasts him- for the benefit of the Bagratuni patron of the history- as an examplar of martial, patriotic virtue. And this is as well: for despite the Bagratid claim of Davidic ancestry, another tradition would have Tork' their forebear. Xorenac'i did not simply invent a didactic counter-tradition: his Tork' is not an artfully painted mirror image of Polyphemus. This giant of Armenian mythology reflects, in some of his positive aspects, other features of the Cyclopes that are also well attested in Greek sources, and, most directly, in a myth of the Anatolian weather-god from whose name Tork' derives. Perhaps because of his benign role, the Armenian Tork' is endowed with two eyes- only his power to cast the Evil Eye perhaps recalling an original, solitary orb. As in Greece, there are two types of the Cyclops, a good and a bad, in Armenia: in modern folktales, the Cyclops invariably plays the role of an evil cannibal; and his designation is Turkish: t'ap'agöz (standard Tk. tepegöz)- “Eye-on-the-Forehead”.