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E01346: The Epic Histories, traditionally attributed to P'awstos, written in Armenian in the second half of the 5th c., recount the seizure of the bones of the Aršakuni kings by the Persians and their subsequent return by the Armenians.

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posted on 2016-05-04, 00:00 authored by CSLA Admin
The Epic Histories, Book 4, chapter 24

The Persian king Šapuh, incited by the infamous Meružan, invaded Armenia and like a mighty flood poured over several Armenian districts, devastating lands, destroying fortresses, putting countless men to the sword.

Եւ գային պահ արկանէին շուրջ զԱնգեղ զամուր բերդաւն, որ է յԱնկեղ տանն գաւառին. զի անդ էին բազում Հայոց թագաւորացն գերեզմանք շիրմացն արանցն Արշակունեաց. բազում գանձք մթերեալ մնացեալ կային ի նախնեացն ի հնոց ժամանակաց հետէ: Չուան պահ արկին զբերդաւն. ապա իբրեւ ոչ կարէին առնուլ վասն ամրութեան տեղւոյն, թողուին եւ գնային: Եւ զբազում բերդօք զանց առնէին, զի ոչ կարէին մարտնչել ընդ ամուրսն. բայց միայն մատնեցաւ ի ձեռս նոցա ամուր բերդն Անի ի Դարանաղեաց գաւառին անդ, զի չարագործն Մերուժանն հնարաւորութեամբ մեքենայէր ամուր բերդին այնմիկ: Ելանէին ի վեր, եւ կործանէին զպարիսպ նորա, եւ իջուցանէին անթիւ գանձս ի բերդէն: Եւ բանային զգերեզմանս զառաջին թագաւորացն Հայոց զարանց քաջաց զարշակունոյ, եւ խաղացուցանէին ի գերութիւն զոսկերս թագաւորացն. բայց միայն զգերեզման շիրմին Սանատրկոյ արքային ոչ կարացին բանալ վասն անհեդեդ սկայագործ հաստաշինած ճարտարագործ արարածոցն: Ապա գնացեալք անտի ի բաց մերժէին, ընդ այլ դիմեալ` ասպատակս կապէին, ընդ կողմանսն Բասենոյ յառաջ խաղային եւ ինքեանք, կամէին ի թիկանցն կուսէ անկանել հասանել ի վերայ զօրացն թագաւորին Հայոց:

'And they went to lay siege to the impregnable fortress of Angł in the district of Ankełun, for there lay the tombs [and] sepulchers of many of the Armenian Arsakuni kings, and great treasures had been collected by their ancestors and remained [there] from ancient times. They went and besieged the fortress, but when they were not able to take it because of the [heavy] fortifications of the place, they left it and went on, and they passed many [other] fortresses because they were not able to overcome their fortifications. Only the fortified stronghold of Ani in the district of Daranalik' fell into their hands because the malignant Merujan devised a way to take that fortified stronghold. They climbed to the top, destroyed its protective [outer] wall, and brought countless treasures out of the fortress. And they opened the tombs of the former kings of Armenia, of the most valiant Arsakuni, and they carried off into captivity the bones of the kings. The only tomb that they were unable to open was that of King Sanatruk, because of the disproportionately gigantic [size], stability, and skillfulness of the work. Then, they went away and abandoned it. They turned to raid elsewhere [and] advanced into the region of Basean, [for] they intended to attack and fall upon the troops of the Armenian king from the rear.'

When the news reached Armenia's king Aršak, the Armenians reviewed their forces and prepared to counterattack.

ընտիրք եւ պատերազմողք, որ միամիտք եւ միասիրտք էին միաբանութեան գործոցն պատերազմին, հասանել մարտնչել ի վերայ որդւոց եւ կանանց իւրեանց, եւ ի վերայ աշխարհին դնել զանձինս իւրեանց մինչեւ ի մահ եւ ի վերայ աշխարհին գաւառացն բնակութեան, հասանել մարտնչել ի վերայ եկեղեցեացն իւրեանց, ի վերայ ուխտին պաշտամանն որբոյ եկեղեցեաց իւրեանց, ի վերայ հաւատոց ուխտին անուան Աստուծոյ իւրեանց, փոխանակ բնակ տերանց իւրեանց Արշակունւոց: Զի անգամ ոսկերք թագաւորացն մեռելոց եւ բազում ժողովուրդք խլեալք յիւրաքանչիւր տեղեաց, փոփոխեցան յօտարութիւն:

'[They were] choice and warlike [men] with one heart, one mind, and one accord for military operations, [that is] to go and fight for their children and their wives, and to lay down their lives unto death for the sake of their realm and their native districts; to fight for their churches and for the community of ministers of their holy churches, for the covenant of the faith [and] the name of their God, and for their own true Aršakuni lords. For the very bones of their dead kings and great mass of the population had been torn from their homes and carried off to an alien land.'

Sparapet Vasak left King Aršak behind and marched to the district of Ayrarat, where the Persians had camped. He attacked the Persians and he put the entire Persian host to the sword, and the Persian king alone escaped. The Armenians chased them and took innumerable booty from them.

Եւ առ հասարակ արկանէին զնոսա ի սուր սուսերի իւրեանց, եւ թափէին ի նոցանէն զոսկերս թագաւորացն իւրեանց, զոր Պարսիկք խաղացուցեալ տանէին ի գերութիւն յաշխարհն Պարսից: Զի ասէին ըստ իւրեանց հեթանոսութեանն ըսի օրինացն, թէ վասն այսորիկ բարձեալ տանիմք զոսկերս թագաւորացն Հայոց յաշխարհն մեր, զի փառք թագաւորացն եւ բախտքն եւ քաջութիւն աշխարհիս աստի գնացեալ ընդ ոսկերս թագաւորացն` յաշխարհն մեր եկեսցեն: Ապա թափէր Վասակ զգերութիւնն ամենայն զՀայաստան աշխարհին. եւ զոսկերս թագաւորացն Հայոց, զորս թափեաց Վասակ, հանեալ թաղեցին յամուր ի գեւղն` որ Աղձքն անուանին, յԱյրարատ գաւառին` որ կայն ի խինձ ի գոգս ի ծոցս յանձուկս ի դժուարս լերինն մեծի, զոր Արագածն կոչեն: Եւ ինքեանք փոյթ արարեալ զաշխարհ նուաճել, յարդարել կարգել յօրինել շինել զամենայն զգերութիւն յաւերածոյն եւ այրեցածոյն:

'And they put all of them to the sword and they took away from them the bones of their own kings that the Persians were carrying away into captivity to the Persian realm. For they said, according to their heathen beliefs: "This is the reason that we are taking the bones of the Armenian kings to our realm: that the glory of the kings and the fortune and valor of this realm might go from here with the bones of the kings and enter into our realm." Then Vasak freed all the captives of the realm of Armenia; and the bones of the Armenian kings freed by Vasak were taken and buried in the inaccessible village named Ałjk' in the district of Ayrarat, which was in the middle of a difficult and narrow gorge in the great mountain called Aragac. And they strove to pacify the realm, to put in order, arrange, and rebuild all that had been captured, ruined, or burned.'

Text: Garsoïan 1984. Translation: Garsoïan 1989, 156-158.

History

Evidence ID

E01346

Type of Evidence

Literary - Other narrative texts (including Histories)

Language

  • Armenian

Evidence not before

460

Evidence not after

470

Activity not before

330

Activity not after

380

Place of Evidence - Region

Armenia

Place of evidence - City name in other Language(s)

Hadamakert Հադամակերտ Hadamakert Başkale

Major author/Major anonymous work

Epic Histories (Buzandaran Patmut'iwnk')

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Aristocrats Soldiers Zoroastrians

Cult Activities - Relics

Bodily relic - unspecified Bodily relic - bones and teeth Theft/appropriation of relics

Source

The History, traditionally attributed to a certain P‘awstos Buzandac'i (usually translated as 'Faustos of Byzantium') covers Armenian history from the later Arsacid dynasty (c. AD 330) to the partition of the Armenian kingdom between Byzantium and Iran (AD 387). The History is the earliest source covering this specific period of history, which was later treated by Movsēs Xorenac'i. As N. Garsoïan points out, despite the evident importance of the material contained in the History for the study of 4th century Armenia, it was never included into the received Armenian tradition, and medieval historians preferred to refer to Movsēs Xorenac‘i, the most authoritative source for later authors, as the sole authority for 4th century events. Łazar P'arpeci, for example, considered the information provided by P‘awstos as false and absurd, and so apparently did the rest of medieval scholarship. Date and language The authorship of the text has long been debated. The author claims to have been an eyewitness of the events he describes, but if this was indeed the case he could not have written in Armenian, as the Armenian script was only created in the 5th century. Thus, he was often considered a Greek historian, a supposition 'supported' by a misunderstanding of the word Buzand (in his name) as 'Byzantium' (see below). Other external evidence has also been cited to favour the idea that the work was originally written in Greek, and only later translated into Armenian. There has also been a theory in favour of a Syriac original, mostly advanced by Peeters and based on multiple Syriacisms in the text. The most convincing theory, however, favours an Armenian original, and is mostly based on internal linguist evidence, such as the use of scriptural quotations that derive from the Armenian version of the Bible, various colloquialisms, and the spelling of proper names. As to the date of the composition, the author’s own claim cannot be accepted as trustworthy as he is far too ignorant of 4th century events to be considered a contemporary; he presents 4th century historical events as filtered through folk memory, often projecting events of the 5th century into the previous century. Based on the Epic Histories' quotations from Koriwn (who wrote in the first half of the 5th century), and a reference to the Histories by Łazar P‘arpeci (writing at the very end of the 5th century), who places 'P‘awstos' immediately after Agathangelos, Garsoïan suggests convincingly that the date of composition was around 470, arguing that 'it is difficult to imagine a time more suitable for a work glorifying the role of the Mamikonean family in Armenian history than the generation immediately following the sparapet Vardan Mamikonean's heroic defense of Armenian Christianity in 451' (Garsoïan, Epic Histories, 11). The author The claim by some late antique and medieval sources that P‘awstos was Greek rests on a misunderstanding of the word Buzand, which was considered to mean 'Byzantium'. Medieval reception 'corrected' the form Buzand to Buzandac‘i ('from Byzantium') to support the Greek origin of the author. The actual title appended to the text is Buzandaran Patmut‘iwnk‘. A. Perikhanian has found a definitive solution to the problem, showing that the word buzand derived not from the toponym ('Byzantium') but from the Parthian bozand , 'a reciter of epic poems, a bard' , with the suffix –aran as an adjectival qualifier. The title can thus be translated as Bardic or Epic Histories. So, as N. Garsoïan has shown, the work generally titled History of Armenia and attributed to Faustos of Byzantium is in fact a compilation of tales assembled by an anonymous historian in the 5th century. In our database the text will be consistently referred to as the Epic Histories. The author’s agenda From the perspective of the author’s representation of cultic practices, Garsoïan’s conclusion (as follows) is noteworthy: 'The author may have been a native of the southwestern district of Taron because of his unreserved devotion to the Mamikonean lords of the district and to its holy site Aštišat, which he invariable presents as the original centre of Armenian Christianity, as against the focus of the contemporary 'Agathangelos Cycle' on the northern city of Vałaršapat'/Dwin, and the nearby holy site of T'ordan' (Garsoïan, Epic Histories, 16). The author is a rigourous defender of Nicene orthodoxy and is thus strongly antagonistic toward the Armenian crown, which 'sought to conform with the Arianizing policy of the successors of Constantine through much of the fourth century' (Garsoïan, Epic Histories, 15).

Discussion

Although this story relates to the bones of kings who were never venerated as saints in the Christian tradition, we have included it as an interesting instance of an independent pre-Christian belief in the importance and power of the bones of the dead. Despite the authors disclaimer that the veneration of the bones of the Aršakuni kings was a heathen belief, this passage provides clear evidence that the Iranian Zoroastrian belief, that the supernatural qualities of legitimate kings - their glory (park), fortune and valour - clung to them even after death and protected their realm, was still current in early Christian Armenia. The same beliefs are found in Agathangelos, where the protection of the glory of our kings and brave ancestors is invoked. Much later Movses Xorenaci, who dismisses all attempts to sanctify or idealize Armenia's Parthian past, stresses that he does not understand this episode "I do not know if this was to insult Arshak or for some pagan incantation." Later histories and the Life of Nersēs entirely ignore this piece of information. The veneration of the relics of the Aršakuni kings remained strong long after Armenia's Christianization. Thus, although Gregory the Illuminator destroyed the temple of Aramazd, he dared not touch the tombs of the Arsacids, for they still stood in the later part of the fourth century. When the Persians seized the bones of the kings, the Armenians hastened to return them, believing that the glory of the nation still inhered in them. Thus according to the Epic Histories, it was the intention of the Persians to rob the Armenians of their xvarenah, their glory, by absconding with the bones of their kings. This part of Zoroastrian practice was not objected to by the early Christians and indeed in Christian times the Arsacid kings continued to be buried at Ani, whilst St Gregory and his descendants were buried at nearby Tordan in Daranalik.

Bibliography

Edition: Buzandaran Patmut'iwn (The Epic Histories) also known as Patmut'iwn Hayoc' (History of Armenia) Attributed to P'awstos Buzandac'i, a facsimile reproduction of the 1883 St. Petersburg edition with an introduction by Nina G. Garsoïan (New York: Caravan Books, 1984). Translation: Garsoïan, N.G., The Epic Histories Attributed to P'awstos Buzand (Buzandaran Patmut'iwnk') (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1989).

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