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E00130: The History of the Albanians, written in Armenian, recounts the discovery and burial of the relics of *Ełiša (student of Apostle Thaddeus and missionary to Albania, S00594), and the erection of a pillar where the relics were found. Written probably in Caucasian Albania, possibly in the 6th c. or 7th c.

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posted on 01.11.2014, 00:00 by naleksidze
History of the Albanians, Book 1, Chapter 7

The previous chapter is a summary of the mission of Apostle Thaddeus to Armenia, who was appointed apostle 'for us, easterners'. Thaddeus's martyrdom was recorded by his student Eliseus, who recounted it to his fellow apostles in Jerusalem. Then Jacob, brother of the Lord, ordered Eliseus to continue Thaddeus' mission. Therefore he arrived in the Caucasus and penetrated further east to Albania. He came to Giš and founded a church there. From there he crossed the plain of Zagrun to the site of the sacrificial altars of the heathen idolaters and there he received a martyrs crown. The unknown murderers threw the holy remains into a ditch in the place called Homēnk', where they lay hidden for a long time.

Ոչ է պարտ ծածկիլ ճշմարտութեանն եւ ընդ փակմամբ լինիլ լուսոյ։ Յետ բազում ժտմանակաց երեւեալ նորա երկիւղած արանց ոմանց տեսլեամբ՝ գան միախումբ ժողովով ՛ի տեղի գբոյն անդ եւ տեսանեն զոսկերս յոգունս շեղջակուտեալս՝ եւ առհասարակ տարակուսեցան. սակայն հանին դիզեցին եւ հսկեցին յաղօթս զգիշերն զայն։
Եւ եղեւ յառաւօտուն շարժումն մեծ՝ մինչեւ որ անդն կային անկանել յերկիր։ Եւ եկն հողմն սաստիկ յնապատէն՝ ցիրեւցան արարեալ զանսրբոցն ոսկերս ընդ դաշտն ամենայն, եւ մնաց միայն ՛ի տեղւոջն առաքելականն այն նշխարք՝ զորոյ զգլուխն միայն մեծահաւատ ոմն Ստեփաննոս քահանայ յՈւռեկան գեղջէ յափշտակեալ ՛ի միջոյ աճապարեալ յերիվար իւր ՛ի բաց գնաց. եւ շարժեալ բազմութեանն զկնի նորա՝ մառախուղ խաւարային ընդ մէջ անցեալ զարհուրեցոյց զնոսա, որք եւ դարձան ՛ի բանակն. եւ տեսլեամբ յայտնեալ սրբոյն Եյ́իշայի՝ տարան հանգուցին զնշխարս նորա, ուր եդեալ էր գլուխն յաւանն Ուռեկան ՛ի ձեռն սրբոյ քահանային Ստեփաննոսի, եւ ապա անտի փոխեցին ՛ի Ներսմերհայ սուրբ ուխտն, որ այժմ կոչի Ջրվշտիկ՝ ՛ի փառս տեառն Աստուծոյ ամենակալի։ Իսկ յետ բազում ժամանակաց բարեպաշտն Վաչական Աղուանից արքայ կանգնեաց զսիւն ՛ի գբի նահատակութեանն, եւ սենեկապանն արքայի մենակեաց եղեալ ՛ի վերայ սեանն՝ կատարի։

'Truth should not be concealed, nor should the light be covered up. After a long period of time certain pious men had a vision [about Eliša] and came in a group to the site of the pit where they saw a jumbled heap of bones. All of them were in doubt but they removed [the bones], gathered them up, and then observed them while praying during the night. In the morning there was a great tremor which caused those standing to fall to the ground. Then a fierce wind blew from the desert which scattered across the field the bones of those who were not saints. Only the relics of the apostles remained in place. A certain pious priest [named] Step'annos, from the village of Ur'ekan, seized one skull from the pile and hastily made off on his horse. The multitude went after him. But a dark cloud with lightning appeared which frightened them, and they returned to camp.

When Saint Ełiša appeared [to them] in a vision, they took and buried his remains where the blessed priest Step'annos had placed his skull, in the village of Ur'ekan. Subsequently they were transferred to the holy monastery at Nersmihr, which is today called Jrvshtik, to the glory of the Lord, Almighty God. Now after a long time the pious king of the Albanians, Vačagan, erected a pillar at the pit where Ełiša had been martyred. The king's chamberlain, who had become a stylite, [dwelled] on the summit of the pillar.'

Text: Arakelyan 1983, 11-12. Translation: Bedrosian 2004, 5-6.

History

Evidence ID

E00130

Saint Name

Eliseus, according to the History of Albanians, student of Apostle Thaddeus and missionary to Albania : S00594

Saint Name in Source

Եղիշա

Type of Evidence

Literary - Other narrative texts (including Histories)

Language

Armenian

Evidence not before

600

Evidence not after

1000

Activity not before

480

Activity not after

510

Place of Evidence - Region

Armenia Albania in Caucasia

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

Hadamakert Հադամակերտ Hadamakert Başkale Urekan Ուռեկան Urekan

Major author/Major anonymous work

History of the Albanians

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Ceremonies at burial of a saint

Cult Activities - Miracles

Apparition, vision, dream, revelation Miraculous behaviour of relics/images Other specified miracle

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Monarchs and their family Crowds Ecclesiastics - monks/nuns/hermits Ecclesiastics - lesser clergy

Cult Activities - Relics

Bodily relic - head Bodily relic - entire body

Source

The History of the Albanians is one of the most controversial texts of the medieval Armenian corpus. It is relatively obvious that the text known today as the History of Albanians is a compilation, sometimes a rather crude one, of various narrative sources, historical documents, or oral narratives, the latest of which dates as late as the 11th century. The authorship is usually attributed to a certain Movsēs Dasxuranc'i, who is most probably one of the 10th century compilers or editors of the corpus. There exists yet another Movsēs (Kałankatwac'i) to whom the History is also attributed, although here again we are dealing with a continuator or a compiler. It is equally unclear whether these two Movsēses are one and the same persons or not. Therefore, despite the traditional attribution to a Movsēs, we refer to the text by its title only. In spite of all these uncertainties, the information provided by the History of the Albanians is invaluable in many ways. First of all it is the only history that specifically treats Caucasian Albania, secondly, it constructs the history of Albania specifically around its saints and their cult, presenting the Christian history of the Kingdom in line with the established Armenian tradition, which also emphasises its unique character and cultural autonomy. The History provides great details on cultic practices, perhaps more than we have from any other contemporaneous Caucasian texts. In our database only the first book of the History is considered, as it is the part of the narrative that can be dated to the late antique period with the highest degree of confidence. The most important section of the Book I is perhaps the life and deeds of the Albanian King Vač'agan III (r. 487-510). J.P. Mahé and K. Zuckerman distinguish this component from the rest of Book I and date it to the 6th century. The rest must be a 7th century composition. The 6th century chronicler must have recounted these events soon after the death of King Vač'agan in the early 6th century (Mahé 2009, 114-115). Mahé suggests that Vač'agan symbolizes a certain unity of two parts of Albania, the north, which was predominantly Albanophone, and the south, where Armenian was used as an official language. The author also wishes to highlight the close cultural ties between Armenia and Albania. Vač'agan's principle challenge was to eliminate the continuous spread of paganism in Albania. Apart from strict measures taken against 'sorcerers' and pagans, Vač'agan instituted schools to re-educate the children of pagans. Vač'agan's particular concern with the cult of the relics is also a part of his anti-pagan project. Thus, the entire first part of Book I is a long quest for the relics of the saints, narrated with striking details.

Discussion

Ełisa is revered as the symbol of Albanian Christianity, although the tradition of Ełiša’s evangelism to Albania is known exclusively from the History of the Albanians, whereas the earliest Armenian sources refer to Ełiša only in the 11th century and he appears in a 13th century Synaxary (Yuzbachian 2002, 184). He was persistently used as an argument for the ancient character of the Albanian Church as opposed to their Armenian and Georgian neighbours. In order to sustain apostolic continuity, a legend was devised, perhaps by the author(s) of this text, that this legendary figure was consecrated by St James as a missionary and bishop of Albania and is therefore hailed as the first Patriarch of the Albanian Church. The legend of the foundation of the Church of Giš/Kis/Kiš by Eliseus is a part of this project. The rest of the information if also attested only in the History of Albania and is not confirmed by any parallel sources. Eliseus is not known as a saint in any other Christian tradition.

Bibliography

Critical edition: Arakelyan, V. (ed.), Մովսէս Կաղանկատւացի, Պատմութիւն Աղուանից Աշխարհի (Yerevan: Armenian Academy of Sciences, 1983). Translations: Bedrosian, R., Movses Daskhurants'i's History of the Aghuans (Long Branch, New Jersey: Sources of the Armenian tradition, 2010). Dowsett, C.J.F., The History of the Caucasian Albanians by Movsēs Dasxuranc'i (London: Oxford University Press, 1961). Smbatyan, S.V., Мовсэс Каланкатуаци, История страны Алуанк [Movsēs Kalankatuac'i, History of the Land of Albania] (Yerevan, 1984). Studies: Bais, M., Albania Caucasica: Ethnos, Storia, territorio attraverso le fonti greche, latine e armene (Milan: Mimesis, 2001). Hewsen, R.H., "On the Chronology of Movsēs Dasxuranc'i", Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies 27:1 (1964), 151-153. Mahé, J.-P., "Vac'agan III le Pieux et le Culte des Reliques", Révue des Etudes Armeniennes 35 (2013), 113-129. Yuzbachian, K.N., “Einige Bemerkungen über die Entwicklung der nationalen Bewusstseinsbildung im kaukasischen Albanien", in: W. Seibt (ed.), Die Christianisierung des Kaukasus (Vienna: Verlag der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, 2002), 181-189. Zuckerman, C., "The Khazars and Byzantium. The First Encounter", in P.B. Golden, H. Ben Shamai, A. Róna-Tas (eds.), The World of the Khazars: New Perspectives. Selected Papers from the Jerusalem 1999 International Khazar Colloquium (Handbook of Oriental Studies, Section 8: Uralic and central Asian Studies, 17; Leiden-Boston: Brill, 2007), 399-432.

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