History of the Armenians, Moses Khorenats'i
Commentary on the Literary Sources by R. Thomson

Moses and earlier Armenian historians

It is clear that Moses Khorenats'i was a writer of considerable erudition. Although most of his demonstrable sources were available in Armenian, he had read widely in history, theology, philosophy, and rhetoric. With an ear for a telling turn of phrase, Moses was able to draw on his vast store of literary sources for rhetorical effect. He also adapted both small details and whole stories from non-Armenian writings, not merely enlivening his narrative but recasting the Armenian past in the mold of his own making.

When we turn to Moses' use of native Armenian writers it is this second aspect of his approach to historical writing that needs


further elucidation. The main question will not be whether Moses acknowledges his sources (which he usually does not), but what changes he has introduced into the stories he uses.


One of the texts Moses uses is the story of the conversion of Armenia and its background as found in the History of Agathangelos. [83] In II 67 Moses mentions Agathangelos by name and gives a resume of his account of the reason for the murder of Trdat's father Khosrov. The title that Moses gives to Agathangelos — "archivist" — is Moses' own, based on the claims in this hagiographical work (prologue and epilogue). In II 74 Moses says that "Agathangelos informs us of the rest of the story" (about events after Anak's death). In II 79 he writes that Agathangelos has a brief account of Constantine's victory over the tyrants and in II 86 that Agathangelos informs us of Nune's missionary endeavors in Georgia.

Our confidence is shaken by two factors, however. In II 67 Moses claims that he will give a complete and true account in full detail of what Agathangelos had described in brief. The references to Agathangelos by name that then follow are extremely ambiguous; with the exception of that in II 86, they all can be taken in a narrow sense as referring to material in the Armenian Agathangelos. But Moses clearly expects his readers to assume that Agathangelos was the authority for much of his own elaborations. More telling is the claim in II 86 that Agathangelos describes Nune's missionary activity, for Moses has lifted his description of the areas evangelized by Nune from Agathangelos' account of Gregory's work, which in turn had been borrowed from Koriun's description of Mashtots" missionary travels (Aa §843). [84]

The major variations that occur between Agathangelos and Moses' History are in their description of Trdat's career, Gregory's origins, and the conversion of Armenia. Moses' elaborations are the following, although it is not always clear whether he is personally responsible for them or whether he is merely the first witness to traditions already in circulation.


II 72 Emperor Philip orders troops to be sent to help Khosrov in his campaign against the Sasanian Artashir, who has just overthrown the Arsacids (cf. Aa §20).
II 73 Despite later Roman lack of support, Khosrov pursued Artashir as far as India (cf. Aa §§21-3).
II 74 Gregory is conceived over the grave of Thaddaeus, whose spiritual labors he was to complete.
II 75 Moses invents a history attributed to Firmilian, bishop of Caesarea, which describes martyrdoms in Armenia in the time of Khosrov. Moses also claims that Greek archives are his source for the reign of Trdat (Agathangelos?) and later.
II 77 Artashir encourages fire worship in subjected Armenia and destroys the statues in Artashat.
II78 Artashir destroys the Mandakuni family—read Mamikonean, the earlier leading princely family before the Bagratids.
II 79 Trdat's prowess at the games and his escape from Carus' defeat are elaborated (cf. Aa § §42-7, 202).
II 80 The foster parents of Gregory the Illuminator are introduced; his marriage to Mariam is described— as opposed to the Julitta of the V[85] tradition in the Agathangelos cycle.
II 82 A pricise date is given for Trdat's restoration, and Diocletian is named as his supporter (cf. Aa §46).
II 85 Trdat's war in Caucasian Albania against the Basilk' is described, though here Josephus provides the main anecdote. Also Moses says that Trdat waged war against Shapuh (240-272), son of Artashir, whereas Trdat became king in 287.
II 89 Constantine summons Trdat and Gregory to Nicaea; they refuse for various reasons and send Aristakes in their stead (cf. Aa §884).
II 91 The date of Gregory's consecration is given and the length of his pontificate. Gregory's death in the Cave of Mane and the discovery of his relics are described.
II 92 Trdat becomes a hermit; he is poisoned.
There are also numerous occasions when the text of Agathangelos has provided Moses with an expressive phrase:


I 15 Semiramis' passion for Ara is described in similar terms to that of Diocletian for Rhipsime (Aa § 140).
I 24 Tigran is the bearer of peace and prosperity as are the pagan gods (Aa §128).
I 31 Vahagn fights dragons; Vahagn as vishapakal (Aa §809).
II 12 Moses knowledge of the Armenian pagan deities' Greek names comes from Agathangelos (see also II 14, 48, 53, 60, 66).
II 48 A magus interprets dreams (erazahan); the same epithet is applied to the god Tir in Aa §778.
II 53 Zareh's muddy prison; Gregory's muddy pit (Aa §124).
II 56 Artasrjes' boundary markers; those of Artashir (Aa §36).
II 89 The miracle at the baptism of Gregory, father of Gregory Nazianzenus, and that at the baptism of Trdat (Aa §833).
III 31 Khad's hair shirt; that of Vrt'anes (Aa §859; itself based on the description of Mash tots' in Koriun).
III 48 Khosrov's self-applied title, used in Aa § 17 of Trdat.
There remains the further question of whether Moses was also acquainted with a text of Agathangelos that differs from the Armenian as we now have it. For there are versions in Greek and Arabic of the life of Gregory and of the conversion of Armenia that derive from an Armenian text now lost. This is conveniently known as the V cycle of Agathangelos, as opposed to the A cycle—the known Armenian recension and its derivatives in Greek (Ag) and Arabic. [86] The origin and development of the two different recensions is still obscure. But so far as the present investigation of Moses' sources is concerned we can concentrate on the points made recently by Ter-Levondyan.[87] He claims that details preserved in Moses can help us reconstruct the lost Armenian prototype of the V recension, now only attested by the translations in Greek (Vg and Vo) and Arabic (Va). There are five main points: the story of Constantine's victories, conversion, and friendship with Trdat of Armenia; the story of the conversion of Georgia and the relationship between the early Christian Armenia and Georgia; the story of Gregory's early life


and marriage; the story of Gregory's conception and the connection with Thaddaeus; and the account of Gregory's burial.

There is one important assumption in Ter-Levondyan's argument—that Moses was a fifth-century writer. If Moses is writing in the fifth century, and he knows of events described in the V cycle of Agathangelos, which are neither in the A cycle nor attested in other fifth-century Armenian writers, then he is indeed an important witness. On the other hand, if Moses is writing much later and the stories he ascribes (sometimes obscurely) to "Agathangelos" could be found in other texts available in Armenia, then Moses' information has no independent value as a witness to the V recension.

Moses has taken his information about Constantine's mother and wife from the Armenian version of the Acts of Silvester, which was translated in the late sixth century. His account of Constantine's victories is less detailed than that in the Armenian Agathangelos. But A a does not mention the story of Constantine's baptism at the hands of Silvester or the sending of Helen to Jerusalem to find the true cross. However, in II 83 Moses' account of Constantine's baptism is verbally dependent on the Acts of Silvester; he could not have elaborated on Vg §176 or Va §169 and by chance have hit on the same phraseology as the Armenian translation of this legend. In II 87 Moses refers to Helen's discovery of the cross with five nails and to Juda, later bishop of Jerusalem. Juda is not mentioned in the V cycle of Agathangelos. In the Armenian Labubna Juda is mentioned—but there it is Patronice, not Helen, who finds the cross. Moses probably took his references to Helen, the honorable cross, and the nails (not mentioned in the F cycle) from the Armenian Socrates (I 17); combining this information with Juda from Labubna, he comes up with his own idosyncratic account.

Moses would have known from Koriun that Georgia and Albania were converted to Christianity before the time of Mashtots'. There is no mention of the conversion of Georgia in the Armenian Agathangelos, where the account of Gregory's missionary activity in the Caucasus is generally based on Koriun's description of Mashtots'’ work. However, Vg §160 refers to Gregory's sending of bishops to the Laz and to Albania, and Va § 158 refers to Irenarchus as metropolitan of Georgia sent there to create bishops for the whole country. But this is not the source of Moses' story about Nune, which is modeled on the story of the captive woman in the Armenian Socrates, I 20 (itself based on Rufinus). Moses elaborated on Socrates with parallels from the


account of Gregory's activity in Armenia as described in Aa. [88] Again, he has given a personal, tendentious, and composite story.

Moses' account of Gregory's upbringing and marriage is entirely idiosyncratic: his rescue by Sophy, Euthalius, and Burdar and his marriage to Mariam, daughter of David, are unattested by writers before Moses and are undoubtedly the product of Moses' own imagination. That Gregory was the son of Anak and that he was married and had two sons are facts known to both recensions of Agathangelos. In Vg §§93-7, however, it is said that Gregory's wife had been with him in Armenia and had returned to Caesarea with the children when Gregory was arrested by Trdat; she later came bade to Armenia without the children when Gregory had been released from prison. Her name was Julitta. Moses knows nothing of Julitta or her travels. What he tells us is no guide to the contents of the (lost) Armenian archetype of the F cycle of Agathangelos.
Ter-Levondyan stresses the references in Moses, II 74, to Gregory's conception over the tomb of Thaddaeus. The only witness in the V cycle to this story is the Karshuni version (Vk) §8 (written about 600). But the Karshuni text does not draw out the significance of this coincidence. Only in Stephen of Siunik', writing about 718, is there a close parallel—both in verbal detail and in the conclusion drawn—to Moses' account. [89] But there is no evidence that would push this tendentious story back to the fifth century.

In II 91 Moses describes Gregory's last days (often in terms borrowed from the Armenian Agathangelos), his retirement to the Cave of Mane, the discovery of his relics by Garnik, and their burial in T'ordan. But it is only the Karshuni version of Agathangelos that refers to Mane and Gafnik and to Gregory's death and the later burial of his relics. Although Faustos (III 12) knows that Gregory was buried at T'ordan and although Lazar (p. 55, 176) refers to his relics, Van Esbroeck has shown that this story of the invention and cult of Gregory's relics does not predate the sixth century. [90] Nowhere, then, does Moses Khorenats'i give reliable information about the earliest Armenian traditions that lie behind the Greek and Arabic versions of the V recension of Agathangelos.



For the history of Armenia after the deaths of Trdat and Gregory to the division of the country between the Byzantine and Sasanian empires (in 387), [91] Moses' only Armenian source is Faustos Buzandats'i. He is never mentioned by name, and Moses' tendentiousness is patent. Faustos naturally describes the leading role played by the Mamikonean family, the preeminent noble family of fourth-century Armenia. But Moses deliberately has a Bagratid prince play the major part in the battle of Dzirav and the death of the traitor Merujan (III 37), just as he changes Mamikonean to Mandakuni (II 76). Moses has taken many other liberties with Faustos' narrative. On three occasions Faustos probably served as a literary source but the historical situation is different:

II 12 The numbering of an army by each soldier leaving a stone to form a cairn (cf. Faustos, III 7).
II 41 The construction of a hunting preserve (cf. Faustos, III 8).
II 60 The description of professional female mourners (cf. Faustos, IV 15).
Far more significant are the differences between Moses and Faustos in their descriptions of historical events. It is difficult to tell whether these differences originate with Moses himself or whether he is the earliest witness to traditions at variance with Faustos' History.
II 91 The details of Aristakes death (cf. Faustos, III 2).
III 3-6 A different account of the revolt of Sanatruk (cf. Faustos, III 7).
III 7 Elaborations on the story of Jacob of Nisibis (cf. Faustos, III 10).
III 9-10 A different account of various wars (cf. Faustos, III 8, 11).
III 11 A different account of Tiran's accession (cf. Faustos, III 12).
III 14 A different account of Yusik's martyrdom; the story of Julian's image (cf. Faustos, III 12).
III 16 Additions to the account of Nerses' education (cf. Faustos, IV 3).
III 17 The addition of a letter from Shapuh to Tiran (cf. Faustos, III 20).
III 20 The addition of laity to the council (cf. Faustos, IV 4).
III 21 Moses has Nerses make two embassies to Constantinople (cf. Faustos, IV 5).
III 22 Additions to Tirit'’s speech of calumny (cf. Faustos, IV 15).
III 23 A different account of Gnel's death (cf. Faustos, IV 15).
III 25 A different account of Arshak's campaign (cf. Faustos, IV 20).
III 26 A different occasion for the capture of Tigranakert by Shapuh (cf. Faustos, IV 20, 24).
III 29 A different story involving Arshak, the Georgians, and the appeal to Nerses; the addition of Arshak's letter to Valens (cf. Faustos, IV 5).
III 30 The association of Macedonius and Nerses' exile wrongly set in the time of Valens, Macedonius having been deposed in 360 (cf. Faustos, IV 6).
III 33 The presence of Nerses in Constantinople for the council of 381 (cf. Faustos, IV 13).
III 35 Elaborations to the account of Jewish colonies (cf. Faustos, IV 55).
III 36 Elaborations to the account of Shapuhs' persecution (cf. Faustos, IV 58); a different account of Pap's early reign (cf. Faustos, V 1).
III 37 The combination of two battle accounts (cf. Faustos, V4.5).
III 39 A different account of Pap's death (cf. Faustos, V 32).
III 40 The elaboration of Varazdat's prowess; a different account of his exile (cf. Faustos, V 35).
III 42 A different account of the division of Armenia and the installation of Khosrov (cf. Faustos, V 1).


One of Moses' main claims is that he was a disciple of Mesrop, the inventor of the Armenian alphabet, who had sent him to Alexandria to study (II 61). In these circumstances Moses could hardly refrain from mentioning the names of other (actual) pupils of Mesrop's known to him from Koriun's biography of the


master or from Lazar's History (see III 60). But it is noteworthy that Moses refers to Koriun only once—suggesting that he went to Constantinople out of jealousy (III 60)—whereas Koriun is in fact his main source for the life and activity of Mesrop. Moses, however, consistently negates the role of the Mamikonean family and hence omits all reference to the authors who describe that family's importance. Moses was even more indebted to Faustos and Lazar than to Koriun, but their works and names he never mentions.

As with other sources, Moses embroiders his borrowings from Koriun with additions of his own devising. The first addition is the statement that Mesrop was raised and educated under Nerses the Great. Since it was a typical concern of Moses to enhance the origins of his heroes and since Nerses was a great-great-grandson of Gregory the Illuminator (III 49), this prestigious connection could but boost Moses' own standing as Mesrop's pupil. [92] Then the circumstances surrounding the invention of the Armenian script receive some elaboration. We are informed that the Armenian king Vramshapuh was sent on business to Mesopotamia by the Iranian shah. There he realized his need for a scribe trained in the Persian language. In partial compensation he was promised an adaptation of a foreign script for Armenian that had been composed by a certain Bishop Daniel (III 52). But all earlier Armenian sources speak merely of King Vramshapuh's hearing in Armenia of an Aramaic script adapted for Armenian by Daniel. Moses concurs with earlier witnesses in describing the inadequacy of this script for Armenian. It was soon abandoned. Moses also claims that Mesrop himself visited Daniel and then met the pagan Edessan archivist Plato; the latter put him on the track of the Christian Epiphanius, now dead, who had a disciple Rufinus (III 53). It was with Rufinus, as Koriun also states, that Mesrop finally was able to compose a native Armenian alphabet. In contrast to earlier sources, Moses then claims that Mesrop himself made the first translation of the Bible, ascribing unspecified translations from Syriac to Sahak (III 54). [93] The activity of Mesrop in Byzantine Armenia is elaborated by Moses with the invention of correspondence between


the Armenian patriarch Sahak and the Byzantine emperor, patriarch, and general (III 57, 58). [94]

Another curious addition of Moses to Armenian ecclesiastical history is the assertion that Cyril of Alexandria had joined Proclus of Constantinople and Acacius of Melitene in warning the Armenians against the dangerous heresy of Theodore of Mopsuestia. The correspondence between Proclus, Acacius, and the Armenians is extant [95] and was of great importance in crystallizing Armenian theological reaction to the council of Ephesus, [96] at which Armenia was not formally represented (III 61). But the addition of Cyril, a theologian whose works were later very influential in Armenia, [97] is not merely a tendentious anachronism. It lends further credence to Moses' claim that Mesrop and Sahak sent him to Alexandria.

Less significant are the elaborations concerning Mesrop's funeral (III 67): the argument over his burial place, the movement of the luminous cross (mentioned by Koriun merely as static over the place where Mesrop died), and the baptism of the unbelievers awed by this sign.


Moses claims to have been a protégé of Mesrop and Sahak's and a young man at the time of their death but an old man at the time of writing his History (III 68, 65). However, he never gives himself a precise age nor does he ascribe the composition of his History to any specific date. Moses hopes his readers will assume that it was written in the later fifth century. So it is not surprising that he does not mention by name one of his major sources, which was not composed until about 500, the History of Lazar P'arpets'i. (Here too Moses' anti-Mamikonean bias plays a role,


for this History was dedicated to the leading Armenian Mamikonean prince of the time, Vahan.) Lazar's work takes the history of Armenia from where Faustos ends—the division of Armenia in 387 into two spheres of influence, the smaller one Byzantine, the larger one Sasanian—to the appointment of Vahan Mamikonean as governor (marzpan) of eastern Armenia by the Sasanian Shah Valarsh in 485. It served Moses as a prime source for the troubled relations between the last Arsacid kings of Armenia and their Iranian overlords, until the abolition of the Armenian monarchy in 428, and for the attempts of the Iranian shah to impose Syrian patriarchs on the Armenian church. Some of Moses' literary borrowings are:

I 16 Moses' description of the scenic charms of Ayrarat has close parallels with the lament of Arshak on leaving his homeland, Ayrarat (Lazar, pp. 9—10).

II 46 The simile of an eagle attacking flocks of partridges is used by Moses, Lazar (p. 156), and Sebeos (p. 50). But direct dependence on Lazar by Moses is not demonstrable here.

III 59 Moses' description of the province of Karin is again based on that by Lazar of Ayrarat (pp. 9-10).

(As Sanspeur has noted recently, the text of Lazar represented by the printed editions shows signs of being a revised and not the original redaction. [98] But in view of the elaborateness of Lazar's scenic description compared to Moses' few comments, there is almost no likelihood of a later reviser of Lazar being dependent on Moses.)

The influence of Lazar as a historical source on Moses begins at III 47, with the division of Armenia and Mesrop's realization of the need for an Armenian script. Moses' principal variations from Lazar are:

III 48 The correspondence between Khosrov and the Armenian princes who had gone to the western sector and now wish to return.
III 49 Emperor Arcadius gives over to Khosrov the western sector of Armenia (a complete fabrication).
III 50 Moses' account of Khosrov's disgrace vis-a-vis the Iranian shah is quite different from Lazar's (p. 12).
III 51 Moses continues the fiction that the king of eastern Armenia also controlled western Armenia, for which, says Moses, he paid tribute to Emperor Arcadius.
III 55, 56 The reign of Shapuh, the Iranian shah's son, in Armenia is not mentioned in Lazar, nor is the confusion that followed on Shapuh's death.
III 57 The activity of Sahak in western Armenia is not attested by Lazar or Koriun.
III 64 Lazar says nothing of the imprisonment of Artashir, the last Arsacid king of Armenia, or of the confiscation of his family's possessions. Moses identifies the deposed patriarch Surmak with Surmak of Bznunik', who is attested in Lazar (p. 44) and Elishe (p. 28).
III 65 Lazar says nothing of a division of opinion among the Armenian nobility concerning the reappoint-ment of Sahak to the patriarchate, of the division of functions between him and Samuel, or of Sahak's elaborate speech before Vram.
III 66 Moses elaborates on Lazar's brief reference to Samuel's avarice (p. 26). Lazar does not state that Mesrop was established by Sahak in the cathedral at Valarshapat (though he died in the palace there).


Among the Armenian works Moses used is the geographical text known as the Ashkharhats'oyts'. From the seventeenth to eighteenth centuries it was widely ascribed to Moses himself, but more critical scholarship now generally views it as a product of the seventh century. Arguments pro and con have been advanced linking it with Anania of Shirak, the most famous scholar of the period, who wrote on astronomy, mathematics, geography, and other scientific subjects.[99] For our purposes it is sufficient to note that the original version of it was written after the mid-sixth century—for Justinian's reorganization of the eastern Byzantine provinces into four Armenias is known to its author—but probably before the second half of the seventh century.because there is no mention of the Arab expansion and reference is made to the three Arabias (deserta, felix, and Petraea). Admittedly the


omission of later events could have been deliberate on the part of the author.

The original version of the Ashkharhats'oyts' remains a matter of dispute however. Not only are there numerous interpolations in the printed editions, absent from the earliest manuscripts (which in turn only date from the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries), the picture is further complicated by the existence of two recensions, a longer and shorter (LR and SR). Both of these recensions share corrupted readings, but the SR is not merely an abbreviation of the LR for it contains material not shared by the other. Hence Abrahamyan views the SR as nearer the original and the LR as an expanded secondary text, and Eremyan considers the LR as the original text. Without resolving that problem here, we may note that whenever Moses Khorenats'i uses the Ashkharhats'oyts' in his History he either takes material common to both recensions or borrows from the LR. There is no reference in Moses to material found only in the SR. His borrowings are:

I 30 Moses describes the measuring of the world on Ptolemy's orders in terms that have parallels in both recensions but exact agreement with neither.

II 13 The death of Artashes in Hellas is mentioned by both Moses and the LR, but direct verbal dependence is not demonstrable.

II 81 Moses' description of China is based in part on that in the Ashkharhats'oyts' (both recensions).

II 88 Moses' disclaimer of belief is identical with the ending of the LR (after the description of fabulous, half-human, headless creatures).

III 59 There are parallels between Moses' description of Karin and that of Greater Armenia in the Ashkharhats'oyts'; the material is common to both recensions or is found only in the LR.

Also noteworthy are two names that first are mentioned in Armenian in the Ashkharhats'oyts':
I 12 Sisakan (for the province of Siunik').
II 65 Khazars.
These names do not prove that Moses was indebted to the Ashkharhats'oyts' for his information. More important for our purpose is his use of this geographical text as a literary source, with the concomitant evidence for the dating of his History.



The final Armenian text to consider is the work attributed to Sebeos, the so-called History of Heraclius. This title is a misnomer; the only surviving manuscript has neither title nor author's name. [100] The major part of the work is a history of Armenia from the late sixth century to the sole rule of Muawiya (661 A.D.). This part of the text was written in the late seventh century. It is not necessary here to enter into the debate as to whether Bishop Sebeos was the author of this work. A History by Sebeos is attested in later Armenian lists of historical works, but surviving fragments of a "history of Heraclius" bear no relation to the text published under Sebeos' name. Hence this work has been attributed to a different seventh-century author. [101] So far as Moses is concerned there are only two parallels with the History on Heraclius:

II 42 The construction of Eruandakert has parallels with the description of the Church of Zwartnots' (chapter 33).
II 46 The simile of an eagle attacking flocks of partridges, which is found also in Lazar.
It is also worth noting that Moses (II 62) uses the term Vaspurakan for southeast Armenia, which otherwise is first attested in this work attributed to Sebeos (chapter 6).

The main problem, however, is what to make of three sections that precede the History proper and have no integral relation to it. The first is the story of the earliest Armenian heroes, Hayk and his descendants; the second is a brief account of the Parthian Arsacids (showing a knowledge of Eusebius' Chronicle) and a list of the Arsacid kings of Armenia; the third is primarily a chronological table of Persian and Byzantine rulers down to the end of the Sasanian empire. The third section bears a title stating that the text has been extracted from Moses Khorenats'i and Stephen of Taron (who was writing at the very beginning of the eleventh century), though this title may well be a later interpolation. The chronological information at the beginning of section three is at variance with that in section two.

The origin of section three is obscure. Recent commentators


tend to link it with the second book of Faustos' History, [102] for Faustos' work begins with his book III; he refers in III 1 to earlier written accounts of Armenian history, without indicating precisely what they were. Furthermore, there are parallels in Procopius' quotations from an "Armenian History" Wars, I 5.9-40, to Faustos, IV 54, and in Procopius' Buildings, III 1.6, to the account in section three of "Sebeos" of the origin of the Armenian Arsacids. But the problem of the exact nature of the Buzandaran (the first two unknown books and their relation to the present text of Faustos) lies beyond our immediate scope.

More significant for Moses Khorenats'i are the first and second sections, conveniently named the "Primary History." [103] Moses attacks the statement here that attributes a local origin to the Bagratuni family and was thus clearly aware of the traditions in the "Primary History," even if he did not have before him the text as now known. In fact Moses and the "Primary History" agree in the main lines of their accounts of Bel, Hayk, Ara, and the latter's descendants; they rely on a common tradition.

It is important to note that these stories are attributed by both Moses and the "Primary History" to Mar Abas. According to Moses, Mar Abas was an envoy of Valarshak, king of Armenia, who examined the Parthian archives in Nineveh. There he found a book translated at the behest of Alexander the Great from Chaldaean into Greek. From it he extracted what was relevant to Armenia; this material he brought back to King Valarshak in both Greek and Syriac. Part of it (Moses does not say what part) Valarshak had inscribed on a stele in his palace in Nisibis. But Moses implies that his own knowledge of Armenian legends derives from the written account composed by Mar Abas and preserved in the palace at Nisibis. The whole story is gravely suspect: the discovery of books in archives belongs to a long literary tradition in antiquity; [104] Nineveh contained not Parthian but Assyrian archives; Assyrian archives (Moses' Chaldaean) did not contain elaborate expositions of Armenian legendary tradition.
It would be natural to dismiss Mar Abas as yet another of Moses' aliases, another source invented to lend authenticity to his own tendentious narrative. But since Mar Abas appears in


the "Primary History," which predates Moses, this enigmatic character was already part of the Armenian tradition elaborated in turn by Moses. According to the "Primary History," Mar Abas, the philosopher of Mtsurn, found an inscription on a stele in the ruins of the palace of King Sanatruk. [105] This inscription, in Greek, gave the lengths of reign of the Armenian and Parthian kings; thus, it would correspond to the second section prefaced to the History of Heraclius by "Sebeos." Furthermore the "Primary History" asserts that Agathangelos was responsible for writing this inscription, using the Armenian archives at the command of King Trdat. But the author of the "Primary History" does not say that this first section with the tales of the giants and early Armenian heroes stems from Mar Abas. Rather, he prefixes these stories himself to what he claims to be taking from the inscription. The "Primary History" is anonymous.

In other words, the unknown Mar Abas was associated in early tradition with the discovery of an inscription preserved on a stele in the old Armenian capital. The inscription, containing a chronological list of kings, was attributed to the legendary "scribe" or "secretary" of King Trdat, Agathangelos, who in the later History attributed to him claims to have been commissioned by King Trdat to write of the conversion of the king and country to Christianity. But Mar Abas was not the author of the so-called "Primary History"; the latter, whose identity is unknown, refers to Mar Abas as the "chronicler" (the composer of the following account of the Parthian Arsacids).

Moses, however, in his usual fashion has expanded on tradition. The stele associated with Mar Abas and Agathangelos he claims to be but part of a much longer account of Armenian history taken from the Parthian archives. The "chronicler" he blows up into the compiler of his own expanded version of the "Primary History," naturally identifying him with Mar Abas. So Mar Abas and the written account of Armenian history attributed to him by Moses are not entirely figments of Moses' imagination. Rather Moses has again had recourse to his favorite habit of claiming archival authenticity for tradition. [106] The important point is that Moses’ fathering of archival material relating to Armenia on the legendary Mar Abas is but a literary device.


Archaeologists at Nineveh are no more likely to find tablets with Armenian legends than those who scale the mountain known only in the last millennium as Ararat are likely to find fragments of the Ark.

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83. Here we are concerned with the known Armenian text of Agathangelos-Aa.

84. For a study of Agathangelos' sources and his use of Koriun, see Thomson, Agathangelos, pp. lxxxviii-lxxxix.

85. For the V tradition see below, p. 43. 42

86. For details of the various recensions, see Van Esbroeck, REA 1971, pp. 14-9; Thomson, Agathangelos, pp. xxi-xxiii.

87. Ter-Levondyan, PBH 1973, 1975.

88. See II 86 nn. 5, 6, 10, 13.

89. Girk' T'lt'ots', p. 323.

90. Details in Van Esbroeck, RE A 1971.

91. For this division, see III 42 n. 1.

92. This connection is elaborated in the later Life of Nerses.

93. For the general question of the invention of the Armenian script and early translations, see Achafean, Hayots' Grere, and vol. 7 of BM (which celebrates the sixteen hundredth anniversary of Mesrop's birth).

94. If Moses was well read in theology, he was somewhat ignorant of theological quarrels in Byzantium. The enthusiastic reference to John Chrysostom comes as a surprise in the mouth of Atticus; see Thomson, Teaching, p. 34, and cf. III 57 at n. 16.

95. In the Girk' T'lt'ots'. See Tallon, Livre des lettres, and Richard, "Acace de Mélitène."

96. For the Armenian reaction to the councils of Ephesus and Chalcedon, see Sarkissian, Council of Chalcedon.

97. Note, for example, the frequency of quotations from Cyril in Armenian catenae, the Knik' Hawatoy and the Hawatarmat (for the latter, see Thomson, REA 1968), as well as in the Armenian version of Timothy Aelurus.

98. Sanspeur, REA 1973-1974.

99. See Hewsen, REA 1965; Abrahamyan, Ashkharhats'uyts'; Eremyan, Hayastane.

100. See the bibliography for the Armenian text, and Abgaryan, Sebeosi Patmut'yune, for a recent study, reviewed by Berberian, REA, n.s. 2 (1965): 468-70.

101. See Abgaryan, Sebeosi Patmut'yune.

102. See, for example, Ananian, Bazmavep 1971.

103. This name renders the Armenian nakhneats'n patmut'iwn [History of the ancestors], Sebeos, p. 2. See the appendix for an annotated translation.

104. See Speyer, Bucherjunde.

105. For Sanatruk and the Armenian capital Mtsurn (often confused in later texts with Mtsbin, "Nisibis"), see Van Esbroeck, REA 1972.

106. For a brief study of the historicity of the tradition, see Hewsen, HA 1975.