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E01330: Movsēs Xorenac'i's History of Armenia, written in Armenian and traditionally considered a 5th c. text, but most probably of the early 8th c., recounts how Patriarch *Vrtanēs' (patriarch of Greater Armenia, ob. 341, S00297), son of *Gregory the Illuminator (converter of Armenia, S00251), was miraculously protected at the martyr shrine of *John the Baptist (S00020) when the local inhabitants wished to kill him.

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posted on 02.05.2016, 00:00 by naleksidze
Movsēs Xorenac'i, History of Armenia, Book III, Chapter 2

In conclusion to his book, Movsēs narrates what had happened after the deaths of king Trdat and Patriarch Gregory the Illuminator.

Ի ժամանակի վախճանին Տրդատայ հանդիպեցաւ մեծն Վրթանէս ի վկայարանի սրբոյն Յովհաննու, որ ի հօրէ նորին շինեալ էր ի Տարօն: Ուր նենգ գործեալ լերինն այնորիկ բնակչաց, ի սադրելոյ նախարարացն՝ կամեցան սպանանել. որք անըմբռնելի ձեռամբ կապեալք, որպէս առ Եղիսէիւն այնուիկ ի հնումն, կամ նորին ինքեան Քրիստոսի Աստուծոյ մերոյ զարկուցեալ Հրեայքն, անվտիտ անցեալ գնայր յԵկեղեաց գաւառ, ի Թիլն աւան, ուր էր հանգստարան եղբօր նորին Արիստակեայ. սգացեալ ի վերայ աշխարհիս Հայոց, որք յանիշխանութեան մնացեալք՝ յարեան ազգ յազգի վերայ նախարարութիւնք կոտորել զմիմեանս. ուստի եւ երեք տոհմքն, որ Բզնունականն եւ Մանաւազեանն եւ Որդունին անուանէին, սպառեալ բարձան ի միմեանց:

'At the time of Trdat's death Vrt'anes the Great was at the martyrium of Saint John, which had been built by his father in Tarawn. There the inhabitants of that mountain devised a plot at the instigation of the princes and wished to kill him. But they were bound by an ungraspable hand, as happened in the time of Elisha of old or as the Jews were struck in the time of Christ Himself our God. Unharmed, Vrt'anes went to the province of Ekełeats', to the town of T'il, where the tomb of his brother Aristakes was. He mourned over this land of Armenia, which remained in anarchy as the princely houses had risen against each other in mutual slaughter. Thus the three families called Bznuni and Manavazean and Orduni were exterminated by each other and disappeared.'

Text: Thomson 1981, 258; Translation: Thomson 2006, 252.

History

Evidence ID

E01330

Saint Name

John the Baptist : S00020 Vrt'anes, patriarch of Greater Armenia (333-341) : S00297

Saint Name in Source

Յովհաննէս Վրթանէս

Type of Evidence

Literary - Other narrative texts (including Histories)

Language

Armenian

Evidence not before

450

Evidence not after

800

Activity not before

320

Activity not after

370

Place of Evidence - Region

Armenia

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

Hadamakert Հադամակերտ Hadamakert Başkale

Major author/Major anonymous work

Movsēs Xorenaci (History of Armenia)

Cult activities - Places

Cult building - dependent (chapel, baptistery, etc.)

Cult Activities - Miracles

Miraculous protection - of people and their property Miracle after death

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Ecclesiastics - bishops

Source

The author In the introductory paragraph the author identifies himself as Moses of Khoren (Xoren), although no such town is otherwise attested. He claims to be an active member of the circle of Maštoc' and Sahak of the early 5th century and to have witnessed some of the events he described. But the authorship and date has been challenged convincingly, as the author reveals knowledge of sources much later than the 5th century, and, as Robert Thomson points out, it was only after the year 900 that Movsēs's claim to have been a student of Sahak and Maštoc' was shared by other Armenian authors (Thomson 2006, 2-3). The first reference to the History of Movsēs Xorenac‘i appears in the 10th century, when he is used as a source. It is in the early 11th century that lists first appear in which Movsēs is listed as a 5th century author. Thereafter Movsēs was canonically considered as the 5th century “father of Armenian history”. Currently the most convincing suggested date for the compilation and composition of Movsēs’s history is the first half of the 8th century. Movsēs frequently cites unnamed earlier sources in support of what he writes, but there is no way of telling whether these really existed, or whether they are a rhetorical device. Xorenac'i’s agenda Movsēs overtly writes for his Bagratid patrons, who ascended to power in Armenia in the early 8th century. He seeks to connect the Bagratid family to the period before the official conversion of Armenia, and to assert their perpetual Christianity. According to Movsēs, the Bagratids were even associated with the preaching of Thaddaeus in Edessa, before the latter came to Armenia. Tobias, in whose house Thaddaeus had lodged in Edessa, was, according to Movsēs, a Jewish Bagratid prince. This claim is crucial for Movsēs, as previous historians, who mostly wrote for the rival Mamikonean clan, had closely associated this latter family with Gregory the Illuminator. The Mamikoneans had, according to this tradition, married into the family of Gregory. Therefore Movsēs’s primary agenda was to elevate his patrons’ prestige vis-à-vis the Mamikoneans by pointing out their even older Christian connections (Thomson 2006, 29-30). As part of this agenda, Movsēs promoted the cult of the early apostles Thaddaeus and Barthlomew in Armenia, and adapted the story of the Syrian King Abgar into the Armenian tradition, having made Abgar Armenian.

Discussion

The building of a martyr shrine at Ashtishat for the relics of John the Baptist and Athenogenes is described in Agathangelos and the Epic Histories. Here Movsēs evidently relies on the Epic Histories, although he does not mention his source.

Bibliography

Edition: Thomson, R.W., Moses Khorenats'i, Patmut'iwn Hayots' (History of the Armenians), a facsimile reproduction of the 1913 Tiflis edition (New York: Caravan Books, 1981). Translation: Thomson, R.W., Moses Khorenats'i, History of the Armenians (Ann Arbor: Caravan Books, 2006).

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Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity

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