Hayk the Great (Armenian: ?), Armenian pronunciation: [hajk], or The Great Hayk, also known as Hayk Nahapet (? ?, Armenian pronunciation: [hajk nahap?t], Hayk the "head of family" or patriarch), is the legendary patriarch and founder of the Armenian nation. His story is told in the History of Armenia attributed to the Armenian historian Moses of Chorene (410 to 490).
The name of the patriarch, ? Hayk is not exactly homophonous with the name for "Armenia", ? Hayk'. ? Hayk' is the nominative plural in Classical Armenian of (hay), the Armenian term for "Armenian." Some claim that the etymology of Hayk' (?) from Hayk (?) is impossible and that the origin of the term Hay ("Armenian") is verifiable. Nevertheless, Hayk and Haig are usually[how?] connected to hay () and hayer (, the nominative plural in Modern Armenian), the self-designation of the Armenians. Armen Petroyan believes that the name Hayk can "very plausibly" be derived from the Indo-European *poti- 'master, lord, master of the house, husband'.
Hayk would then be an etiological founding figure, like e.g. Asshur for the Assyrians, etc. One of Hayk's most famous scions, Aram, settled in Eastern Armenia from the Mitanni kingdom (Western Armenia), when Sargon II mentions a king of part of Armenia who bore the (Armenian-Indo-Iranian) name Bagatadi ("Theodore").
The Armenian word haykakan or haigagan (Armenian: , meaning "that which pertains to Armenians") finds its stem in this progenitor.
Moses of Chorene gave Hayk's genealogy as Japhet, Gomer and Tiras, Torgom. Hayk's descendants are given as Amasya, Ara, Aram, Aramais, Armanak, Gegham, and Harma. Hayk was also said to be the founder of the Haykazuni Dynasty. Some of the prominent Armenian royal houses such as the Arran, Bagratuni, Bznuni, Khorkhoruni, Manavazian, Syuni, and Vahevuni trace their genealogy to Hayk Nahapet. According to Juansher, Hayk "was prince of the seven brothers and stood in service to the giant Nimrod (Nebrovt') who first ruled the entire world as king."
In Moses of Chorene's account, Hayk son of Torgom had a child named Armanak while he was living in Babylon. After the arrogant Titanid Bel made himself king over all, Hayk emigrated to the region near Mount Ararat. Hayk relocated near Mount Ararat with an extended household of at least 300 and settled there, founding a village he named Haykashen. On the way he had left a detachment in another settlement with his grandson Kadmos. Bel sent one of his sons to entreat him to return, but was refused. Bel decided to march against him with a massive force, but Hayk was warned ahead of time by Kadmos of his pending approach. He assembled his own army along the shore of Lake Van and told them that they must defeat and kill Bel, or die trying to do so, rather than become his slaves. In his writings Moses states that:
|"||Hayk was a handsome, friendly man, with curly hair, sparkling eyes, and strong arms. He was a man of giant stature, a mighty archer and fearless warrior. Hayk and his people, from the time of their forefathers Noah and Japheth, had migrated south toward the warmer lands near Babylon. In that land there ruled a wicked giant, Bel. Bel tried to impose his tyranny upon Hayk's people. But proud Hayk refused to submit to Bel. As soon as his son Aramaniak was born, Hayk rose up and led his people northward into the land of Ararad. At the foot of the mountain he built a village and gave it his name, calling Haykashen.||"|
At Dyutsaznamart (Armenian: ?, "Battle of Giants"), near Julamerk southeast of Lake Van, on August 11, 2492 BC (according to the Armenian traditional chronology of Navasard) or 2107 BC (according to "The Chronological table" of Mikael Chamchian), Hayk slew Bel with a nearly impossible shot using a long bow, sending the king's forces into disarray.
The hill where Bel with his warriors fell, Hayk named Gerezmank meaning "tombs". He embalmed the corpse of Bel and ordered it to be taken to Hark where it was to be buried in a high place in the view of the wives and sons of the king.
Soon after, Hayk established the fortress of Haykaberd at the battle site and the town of Haykashen in the Armenian province of Taron (modern-day Turkey). He named the region of the battle Hayk, and the site of the battle Hayots Dzor.
The figure slain by Hayk's arrow is variously given as Bel or Nimrod. Hayk is also the name of the Orion constellation in the Armenian translation of the Bible. Hayk's flight from Babylon and his eventual defeat of Bel, was historically compared to Zeus's escape to the Caucasus and eventual defeat of the Titans.