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Known also as "Ara the Beautiful" and "Ara the Fair", "Ara the Handsome" is a legend from ancient Armenia about a king who was so handsome, the Queen of Assyria waged war with Armenia just to have him.

The tale begins with Queen Semiramis asking King Ara to marry her. She had heard of his beauty and would stop at nothing to have him, having even driven her husband away because of her lust for Ara. But Ara declined, because he already had a wife named Nvard. When he refused, Semiramis declared war on Armenia, and sent her armies to attack the country and bring Ara back to her alive. However, during the war he was slain, later on his body was found among the bodies of dead Armenian soldiers. Semiramis was furious. However, in order to both calm the Armenian armies who now wanted to fight to avenge Ara's death and fulfill her obsessive lust for Ara, she vowed to use black magic to resurrect Ara. She placed Ara's body upon her castle and called upon the spirits of hounds to lick his wounds clean and heal him, but this was unsuccessful. Grief-stricken, she instead had Ara buried at the foot of a mountain and dressed one of her lovers as Ara to convince the Armenians that she had resurrected him, and the war was concluded.

In the aftermath, Semiramis had all but one of her sons, Ninuas, killed for mocking her lust over Ara. Eventually Ninuas grew up to kill her.

The tale is still quite popular in Armenia to this day, and is still a part of their folk history. Ara was also worshiped by the pagan Armenians as a War God. Ara the Handsome may or may not have been based on the Real Life King Aramu, the first king of Urartu, an empire from the 800's to 500's BC which comprised of much of modern day Turkey and Armenia. And Semiramis may have been based on the Real Life Queen of Assyria, Shammuramat, who was Aramu's contemporary.

A version of the folktale can be read here.


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