Armenian Love Stories

Akh Tamar

The legend of Akhtamar is a tragic love story. Once upon a time, Tamar, an Armenian princess who lived on a small island in Lake Van met a commoner boy. She and the boy spent the entire day together. They knew that their friendship would be frowned upon but they had to continue to see each other.  Every night, Tamar would light a torch and the boy would swim to her. They quickly began to fall in love.  This story has one ending but as it’s been passed on from generation to generation, the reason behind the tragic ending differs.

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One version states that, unaware of a quickly approaching storm, Tamar lit her torch and her love began to swim towards it. The winds became stronger yet her love pushed through the waves. Suddenly, the wind and rain blew out the torch and Tamar’s love lost his way and drowned.

The other version of the story recalls that Tamar’s father became aware of this commoner boy and was furious about the relationship that was building between him and his daughter. One night, as Tamar stood waiting with her torch, her father tossed the torch into the lake below. Tamar’s love swam in various directions, attempting to find her, but drowned from exhaustion.  

In both scenarios, legend has it that Tamar’s love cried out “Tamar, akh Tamar (Tamar, oh Tamar)” throughout the night. Some say that his cries can be heard still, in the night, near Akhtamar island.

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Ara the Beautiful

This story stars a crazy lovestruck queen, Queen of Assyria, Semiramis. As most legends, this too has various versions - though none that would change the story drastically.

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Queen Semiramis wasn’t too keen on sticking to one husband. One version of the story states that because of her lust for men, her husband, King Ninos left her. The other version is that the she was widowed. Nonetheless, Queen Semiramis (Shamiram in Armenian) was madly in love with Armenian king, Ara. She would constantly send him gifts and letters attempting to entice him to marry her. What she would send him, King Ara would send back. This infuriated her! She declared war on Armenia and commanded her soldiers to capture King Ara, alive.

Sadly, Ara died in battle - shot by a poisoned arrow. One version explains that the queen’s son killed him out of anger towards his mother. As the Armenian soldiers grew closer and closer to Assyria to avenge their king, Queen Semiramis promised the Armenians that she could revive him with black magic. But, she failed to bring him back to life and ordered her guards to throw his body in a pit.

It is also said that the queen sentenced one her of son’s to death for mocking her wishes and attempts to bring Ara back to life. She was later killed by one of her son’s as to rid of her craziness, and to finally become ruler Assyria.

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Church of the Shepherd 

There once lived an Armenian shepherd from Ani who greatly adored his wife. So much so that he would do anything for her. 

His wife, being very religious, would attend church daily for prayer. One version of the story states that because of their status as "common folk" his wife was often asked to leave the churches of Ani because she was not fit for the royals around her. Another version of the story explains that the churches were so loud and crowded that his wife could not pray in peace.

Being the great husband he was, this penniless shepherd convinces a great architect to build a church for his wife. The Kingdom of Ani refused to allow for this church to be built inside its walls, and so, it was built outside of it. From that day on, his wife prayed peacefully in her own church, called, the Church of the Shepard (or in Armenian, Հովիվի Եկեղեցին). 

The church's ruins can still be seen outside of Ani's walls, but it is one of the most badly damaged structures of the city.

Thanks to Virtual Ani, the following images show where the church is located and what it once looked like.