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E00102: Agathangelos' History of Armenia (written in Armenian, in the second half of the 5th c.) tells the story, set in the early 4th c., of *Gregory the Illuminator (converter of Armenia, S00251) establishing, with the help of relics, the commemoration in Armenia of *John the Baptist (S00020) and *Athenogenes (bishop and martyr of Pedachthoe, S00065), to replace the feasts of pagan deities.

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posted on 29.10.2014, 00:00 by naleksidze
Agathangelos, History of Armenia, 810-836.

After his consecration in Kaisareia/Caesarea of Cappadocia, Gregory the Illuminator returns to Armenia, builds churches and baptizes king Trdat and a multitude of Armenians.

810:
Եւ իբրեւ դարձեալ գայր նա ի կողմանցն Յունաց՝ բարձեալ բերէր ընդ իւր նշխարս ինչ յոսկերաց մեծի մարգարէին երանեալ մկրտչին Յովհաննու եւ զսուրբ վկային Քրիստոսի զԱթանագինէի։ Եւ իբրեւ եկին հասին յանդիման մեհենացն մաւտ ի գետն Եփրատ՝ կամէր հանել զնոսա ի վեր ի բարձրաւանդակ տեղի մեհենացն կործանել զբագինսն եւ շինել զվկայարանս նոցա։

'When he returned from the Greek territory he brought with him some relics from the bones of the great prophet, blessed John the Baptist, and of the holy martyr of Christ, Athenogenes. When they arrived opposite these temples, near the river Euphrates, he wished to take them up to the highest place of the temples in order to destroy the altars and build chapels for them.'

811:
եկին մաւտ եղեն ի գետն Եփրատ իբրեւ ձիոյ արշաւանաւք երկուք եւ դեռ ընդ փոքր ձորակ մի անցանել կամէին ընդ ջուր մի սակաւ՝ զտեղի առին սպիտակ ջորիք կառացն ուր կային գանձքն աստուածային նշխարք սրբոցն ոչ կարացին հանել ըստ ձորակն։ Եւ յայտնեալ առ Գրիգոր հրեշտակ Տեառն՝ ասէ. "Հաճեցաւ Տէր զբնակել սրբոցդ Աստուծոյ ի տեղւոջդ": Ուր եւ անդէն բազմութեան զաւրացն մէն սակաւ սատարեալ՝ շինեցին զվկայարանն եւ զսուրբսն ի հանգիստ փոխեցին։

'When they had approached the Euphrates at about two horse-courses and were still intending to pass a small valley with a little water in it, the white mules of the carriage which carried the divine treasures, the saints' relics, halted; they were unable to drive them beyond the valley. And the angel of the Lord appeared to Gregory, saying: "It had pleased the Lord that these saints of God should dwell in this spot". So there [at Aštišat] the whole multitude of the army set to work and built the chapel and transferred the saints to rest.'

812, 813:
Following this event, the soldiers tried to discover the gates of the pagan temple, which they could not, 'because the demons had hidden them from them'. Gregory took a cross and from a high place and implored the Lord to drive the demons away. A mighty wind blew and destroyed all and everyone who was associated with the pagan temples.

816:
Եւ ինքն չու արարեալ անտի՝ մեծապանձ պարծանաւք զաւրութեան խաչին Քրիստոսի եւ բարձ նշխարս անտի կէս մի ի սրբոցն զի եւ յայլ տեղիս հաստատեսցէ զյիշատակս նոցա։ Եւ ընդ ամենայն տեղիս եւ ընդ ամենայն գաւառս շրջէր յաւանս եւ յագարակս շինէր եկեղեցիս եւ առնէր մկրտութիւն եւ կացուցանէր քահանայս։

He [Gregory] himself set out from there with the sublime boast of the power of the cross of Christ, and he took a part of the saints' relics in order to establish their commemorations in other places. He journeyed through every place and every province. In the towns and estates he built churches, conducted baptism and established priests.

831:
Եւ եդ անդ հիմունս եւ շինեաց եկեղեցի եւ զնշխարսն զոր ունէր յոսկերաց սրբոցն՝ ի տէրունական տանն բնակեցուցանէր։Սոյնպէս եւ ընդ ամենայն կողմանս գաւառացն դնէր հիմունս եկեղեցեաց եւ ուղղէր սեղանս եւ կացուցանէր քահանայս: Եւ ամենայն երկիրն դարձեալ սրտիւք իւրեանց կանխէին ի պահս եւ ի պաշտաւն եւ յերկիւղն Աստուծոյ։

'There [at Bagawan] he set foundations and built a church; and the relics which he had of the saints' bones he deposited in the Lord's house. In this way throughout all parts of the regions he set foundations for churches, erected altars, and established priests. The whole land was converted, and with all their hearts they were assiduous in fasting and in the worship and fear of God.'

836:
Եւ զյիշատակս վկայիցն բերելոց ժամադրեաց ի տաւն մեծ հռչակել սնոտեացն պաշտաման ի ժամանակի՝ դիցն Ամանորոյ ամենաբեր նոր պտղոց տաւնին Հիւրընկալ դիցն Վանատրի ա, զոր յառաջագոյն իսկ ի նմին տեղւոջ պաշտէին յուրախութեան Նաւասարդ աւուր։ Զի ժողովեալ ի յիշատակ մեծի երանելւոյն Յովհաննու եւ սրբոյ վկային Աստուծոյ Աթանագինէի՝ յայնմ աւուր խմբեալ ի նմին յաւանին տաւնեսցեն։

'He [Gregory] fixed the date for celebrating the commemoration of the martyrs that had brought as a major festival, at the time of the festival of the vain cults of the god Amanor, the bringer of new fruits, and the god Hiwrenkal Vanatur, which they previously used to celebrate in that same place on the feast of New Year’s Day. [He commanded] that they should gather for the commemoration of the great and blessed John and the holy martyr of God, Athenogenes, and celebrate their festival on that day in the same town [Bagawan].'

Text: Thomson, 1980, 422-435. Translation: Thomson, 2010, 417-442; adapted.

History

Evidence ID

E00102

Saint Name

John the Baptist : S00020 Athenogenes, Bishop and martyr of Pedachthoe, ob. 305 : S00065 Gregory the Illuminator, Converter of Armenia : S00251

Saint Name in Source

Յովհաննէս Աթանագինէս Գրիգոր

Type of Evidence

Literary - Other narrative texts (including Histories)

Language

Armenian

Evidence not before

450

Evidence not after

470

Activity not before

300

Activity not after

330

Place of Evidence - Region

Armenia

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

Hadamakert Հադամակերտ Hadamakert Başkale

Major author/Major anonymous work

Agathangelos

Cult activities - Festivals

  • Saint’s feast

Cult activities - Places

Cult building - independent (church)

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Appropriation of older cult sites

Cult Activities - Miracles

Exorcism Other miracles with demons and demonic creatures Saint aiding or preventing the translation of relics

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Monarchs and their family Soldiers Ecclesiastics - bishops Crowds Pagans

Cult Activities - Relics

Transfer/presence of relics from distant countries Transfer, translation and deposition of relics Bodily relic - unspecified Division of relics Construction of cult building to contain relics

Source

The History of Armenia, attributed to a certain Agathangelos, is the main account of Armenia's conversion to Christianity by Gregory the Illuminator in the fourth century. The History covers the period between the demise of the Arsacid royal line in Iran soon after 224 to the death of Gregory sometime after the Council of Nicaea in 325. The author claims to have been commissioned by King Trdat, Armenia's first Christian king, to chronicle the events. This gloss has caused multiple discussions: the current scholarly consensus is that the surviving text of Agathangelos is likely to be of the period circa 450-470. It cannot predate the development of the Armenian script in the first third of the 5th century and must predate the Epic Histories of the late 5th, because these quote from Agathangelos. In R. Thomson's words: 'The author of the History ascribed to Agathangelos attempted to create a picture of Gregory as the founder of the Armenian Church based on traditions mostly oral but also [possibly] written. His effort was neither the first word, nor the last in that process, but the History of Agathangelos did eventually become the enshrined version of the events. As such it joined those other classics of Armenian literature which defined the past as a source of inspiration and a model for emulation in the future'. (Thomson 2010, 8). Despite this, the image of Gregory in the Armenian tradition has been constantly evolving and was repeatedly adapted to immediate rhetorical and political aims. The story of Gregory and his heroic suffering became popular in both the Christian East and West and appears in numerous versions in other languages, including Syriac, Arabic, Georgian, Greek and Latin. Despite this, for the purpose of the present database, only the Armenian version will be utilised, unless specified otherwise. This is justified by the fact that other versions seem to be much later than the original 5th century text.

Discussion

The translation of the relics of John the Baptist and of Athenogenes to Aštišat and elsewhere in Armenia, and their importance in the conversion of the kingdom, is a tradition established by Agathangelos and later taken up by Movsēs Xorenac'i in the eighth century. The events narrated in this section of the History, describe the foundation of the first Church in Armenia, the baptism of the royal family and of the multitude of the Armenian army. The martyr church of Aštišat seems to have been the main shrine dedicated to John the Baptist, although his shrine in Bagawan is also mentioned in this text and known to other Armenian sources. The translation of the relics of John the Baptist and of Athenogenes, and the institution of their annual commemoration, is described as one of the very first steps taken towards the spread of Christianity in Armenia, and is explicitly stated to be replacing earlier pagan sacred shrines and festivals. The Church of Aštišat was built on the site of the temple of Vahagn and since then was consistently lauded as the 'mother Church' of Armenia. The Church was fortified and particularly honoured for the festivals of John the Baptist and Athenogenes. 'One could stroll from the episcopal palace to the martyria of the saints, and wander the large and beautiful open square; the beauty and setting of the site was most fair' (Agathangelos, 29). As a result Aštišat became the first see of the Armenian patriarch. This event is also narrated in the Epic Histories. According to a later tradition the Surb Karapet (Holy Precursor) monastery was founded on top of the relics of John the Baptist. The monastery was reduced to ruins in the 7th century as a result of an earthquake. The story of monastery is narrated in the tenth-century History of Taron.

Bibliography

Edition Thomson, R.W. (ed.) Agathangelos, Patmowtiwn hayots' (History of the Armenians) a Facsimile reproduction of the 1909 Tiflis Edition (Delmar: Caravan Books, 1980) Translation Thomson, R.W. (trans.) The Lives of Saint Gregory, the Armenian, Greek, Arabic, and Syriac Versions of the History Attributed to Agathangelos (Ann Arbor: Caravan Books, 2010).

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