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E00521: Łazar P'arpeci's History of Armenia, written in Armenian in around 500, recounts Persian king Yazdegerd's (399-420) perception of the high importance placed by Armenians on the possession of martyrs' relics.

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posted on 18.05.2015, 00:00 by CSLA Admin
Łazar P'arpec'i, History of Armenia, Book 2, chapter 50:

Նոյնպէս տայր հրաման եւ վասն այլ քահանայիցն սրբոց, զորս թողին կապեալս ի Նիւշապուհ ի դղեկին։ 2  Տայր հրաման Վեհդենշապհոյ ամբարապետի առնուլ ընդ իւր երկուս եւս այլ աւգնականս յաւագանւոյն, զՋնիկան մայպետն արքունի, եւ զՄովան անդերձապետ` ի ձեռանէ մովպետան մովպետի, երթալ փութով յառաջ քան զինքն, եւ հանել զսուրբ քահանայսն ի բանտէն, ուր էին կապեալք նոքա եւ նախարարքն Հայոց, եւ տանել զնոսա հեռի ի քաղաքէն յանկոխ եւ յանապատ տեղի, եւ անդ չարալլուկ տանջանաւք, որպէս եւ կամեսցի, բարձցէ զնոսա ի կենացս։ 3  Բայց յոյժ պատուիրանաւ զգուշացուցանէր թագաւորն Վեհդենշապհոյ` ոչ տալ ումեք գիտել, ո՛չ զառնուլ եւ զգնալ զնոսա ի քաղաքէն, եւ ոչ զճանապարհն ընդ որ տանիցին, եւ ոչ զտեղի մահուանն ուր սպանանիցեն զնոսա։ 4  «Քանզի լուեալ է, ասէ, մեր ստուգութեամբ, թէ աւելի, ասէ, վասն այսր կարի խնդան ի մահ` որք ի մոլար աղանդն են քրիստոնէից. զի այդպէս ասեն, թէ ոսկերք այնոցիկ, որք յաղագս Աստուծոյն իւրեանց մեռանին, եւ որ ոք, ասէ, յիւրում տանն ունիցի ինչ անտի, թէ եւ փոքր խրխոր ինչ ունի` եւ վատ ինչ եւ խորամանկ ի նա եւ ի նորա տունս եւ ի սիրելիս ոչ մերձենայ։ 5  Այլ եւ զայս եւս, ասէ , ասեն, թէ ի բանս ատենի աջողութիւնս տան եւ իմաստս եւ քաջութիւնս գտանել եւ պահպանութիւն։ 6  Եւ մինչեւ ի մահ ջանան անձամբ եւ կարասւով գոնէ ատամն մի կամ եղունկն մի գտանել յայնպիսեացն, եւ ի տունս իւրեանց տանել։ 7  Այլ եւ զայն եւս ի հաւատարիմ մարդկանէ, որք ի մոլար աղանդին նոցա են եղեալ, ապա զմեր լուսաւոր եւ զարդար աւրէնս ունին, տեղեկացեալ եմք, թէ կանայք նոցա, ուստերք եւ դստերք, եւ զզարդս ոսկւոյ եւ արծաթոյ եւ մարգարտոյ տարեալ ուրուք նոցա, թէ կարի փոքր ինչ յոսկերաց այնր մեռելոց տայր նոցա` զայն մեծարգոյ եւ պատուական համարին։ 8  Եւ զի՞նչ եւս այլ աւելի ասեմ. եւ զհարց եւ զմարց զարդս, զոր յանուն նոցա արարեալ է մեծաւ աշխատութեամբ, ճիտակս եւ կամ զտակս ինչ մարգարտոյ կարի մեծագնոյ` կանայք քրիստոնէիցդ չհամարին ինչ հանել յանձանց եւ տալ եւ դնել փխրանս ինչ յոսկերաց այնպիսեացն։ 9  Այլ դուք ուշիմ լերուք, եւ յայնմ վայրի եղիցի սպանումն նոցա, ուր յայնպիսեաց կարծեաց եւ պատուոյ` սպանեալքն եւ որք սպասեն ոսկերացն` վրիպեալ լիցին»։

'He gave similar commands with regard to the other holy priests whom they had left imprisoned in the fortress of Niwshapuh. He ordered Vehdenshapuh, the chief-steward, to take with him two other assistants from the nobility, Jnikan, the royal maypet, and Movan, the chamberlain delegated by the chief-mobed, and to go directly to bring from prison the holy priests who were held there, and the Armenian nobles; to take them far from the city to a remote and desert spot, and there with cruel tortures, as might seem best to him, to deprive them of life. But the king cautioned Vehdenshapuh with strict orders not to let anyone know of their removal from the city, of the road along which they would be taken, or of the place where they were to be put to death. "For we have heard with accuracy," he said, "that those who belong to the erring sect of the Christians especially rejoice in death for this reason. They say about the bones of those who die for their god, that if anyone has in his house even a small fragment of them no harm or evil machination touches him, or his house, or his dear ones. Furthermore," he said, "they claim that in judicial proceedings [the relics] give success, wisdom, bravery, and security. They attempt by personal efforts and money, even at the cost of their lives, to obtain at least a tooth or nail of such persons and to take it to their homes. In addition, this too we have learned from trustworthy men who belonged to their erring sect and later accepted our luminous and just religion, that their wives, sons, and daughters, when brought by anyone ornaments of gold, silver, or pearls, if the smallest piece of these dead men's bones is given them think this to be the most estimable and precious. Why should I say more? The wives of these Christians think nothing of taking off and giving away the ornaments of their fathers and mothers made with great labor in their memory, necklaces or strings of very valuable pearls, in order to buy fragments of such people's bones. So be careful and let their execution be in a place where the executed and those who hope for their bones will be cheated of such expectations and veneration."'

Text: Kouymjian 1985. Translation: Thomson 1991, 73.

History

Evidence ID

E00521

Type of Evidence

Literary - Other narrative texts (including Histories)

Language

Armenian

Evidence not before

493

Evidence not after

500

Activity not before

450

Activity not after

455

Place of Evidence - Region

Armenia

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

Hadamakert Հադամակերտ Hadamakert Başkale

Major author/Major anonymous work

Łazar P'arpec'i, History of Armenia

Cult activities - Rejection, Condemnation, Scepticism

Considerations about the veneration of saints

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Soldiers Monarchs and their family

Cult Activities - Relics

Attempts to prevent the veneration of one's relics Bodily relic - bones and teeth Bodily relic - nails, hair and bodily products Privately owned relics

Source

Łazar is mentioned by name only late in the Armenian tradition: the earliest reference to him by name dates to the 11th c., when Stephanos of Taron lists previous historians and names Łazar as an historian after Ełiše (which is chronologically incorrect). Earlier writers, such as Sebeos and Movsēs Xorenaci, clearly referred to Łazar's work, without naming him, but as an historian he only became popular much later, and knowledge of his History was quite scarce before 1000. The earliest surviving manuscript is even later and dates to 1672 (though some fragments have survived from the 15th c., and one fragment predates the year 1200). The late date of the manuscript tradition is not necessarily an argument for its late composition. As R. Thomson points out “a long succession of quotations and adaptations over the centuries points to their popularity”, but “we cannot be sure to what extent … radical editing was undertaken by well-meaning scholars, or perhaps deliberate and tendentious changes were introduced” (Thomson 1991, 4-5.) With reasonable certainty, Łazar and his work can be placed at the end of the 5th c. or the first years of the 6th, apart from the famous vision of Katholikos Sahak, which is clearly a later interpolation. As with other late antique Armenian historians, Łazar had a patron; specifically he wrote for the Mamikonean clan and their leader Vahan Mamikonean. He explains explicitly that he had been urged to write his History by his patron Vahan, the marzpan of Armenia, to whom Łazar owed the restoration of his fortunes. The purpose of the book, according to the author, was also moral, to provide his readers with role models and to encourage them to emulate the virtues of the holy, spiritual or valiant men who were the heroes of the History. Łazar also clearly places himself in the literary tradition of his predecessors and perceives his own work as a continuation of Agathangelos’s and of the Epic Histories, wrongly attributed to 'Faustos of Byzantium'. Łazar starts his History at the division of Armenia in 428 (where the Epic Histories had stopped) and continues down to the day when Vahan Mamikonean became the marzpan of Armenia in 485.

Discussion

The attempt to prevent the possible veneration of saints relics is common in martyrological accounts of Sasanian and early Arabic era in the Caucasus.

Bibliography

Text: Ղազարայ Փարպեցւոյ Պատմութիւն Հայոց և Թուղթ առ Վահան Մամիկոնեան [Łazar P‘arpec‘i’s History of the Armenians and the Letter to Vahan Mamikonean], a photographic reproduction of the 1908 Tiflis edition, with a new introduction and critical bibliography by D. Kouymjian (New York: Caravan Books, 1985). Translation: Thomson, R., The History of Łazar P‘arpec‘i (Atlanta: Scholar’s Press, 1991). Studies: Garsoïan, N., The Epic Histories Attributed to P'awstos Biwzand (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1989).

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Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity

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