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In: Armenia through the Lens of Time

Abstract

The early Christian Armenians, who were familiar with pre-Christian ancient oriental, Mesopotamian and biblical poetry and with Greek-Byzantine ecclesiastical poetry in particular, enjoyed the use of plays on words and letters in almost all of its main forms from the very beginning of Armenian literature in the 5th century CE.

The present study is a first attempt at a systematic survey of this form of technopaignia in Armenian literature. On the basis of hymnographical texts from the 5th to the 12th century (in the author’s own translation), the varieties of acrostics in Armenian spiritual songs are identified and presented.

This preliminary analysis, which begins with the investigation of a type of acrostics in the Hymnarium of the Armenian Apostolic Church, the Šaraknocʽ, should serve as a basis for a future systematic analysis of this poetic device in Armenian literature, namely in the collections of hymns (Ganjaran, Tałaran, Ergaran) as well as in medieval poetry and prose in general, historiographical and grammatical works included.

The article ends with an acrostic poem for the honorand, woven from the alphabetic octosyllabic quatrains of Nersēs Šnorhali’s (12th century) didactic poem Instruction for studious youngsters on behalf of the letters of the alphabet in metric rhymed verse by Lord Nersēs.

Open Access
In: Armenia through the Lens of Time
In: Armenia through the Lens of Time
Author:

Abstract

This paper explores a fascinating vignette into the professional activity of the bard Yohannēs Xlatʽecʽi as it intersected the Armenian and Kurdish communities around Lake Van in the first half of the 15th century, contextualizing it within these groups’ wider cultural relations in the medieval and early modern periods. Particular attention is given to the significance of improvisation in performance practice, as well as the catholicity of local tastes that displayed openness to sharing and appreciating the musical aesthetic of the other under the rule of Sayf al-Dawla, amīr of Bitlis. At the same time, such tolerance is not reciprocated so widely in the religious sphere, where competing truth claims are supported by institutions invested with the task of policing communal norms and upholding corporate values. Tensions lead to the youth’s martyrdom in 1438 when supporters of a Kurdish woman entertainer Yohannēs trounced in a competition bring false charges against him. Details regarding the case and its repercussions are extant in two highly divergent literary strata, a plainer, more factual version and its subsequent redaction by a certain Tʽovma vardapet (possibly Mecopʽecʽi) that accentuates the protagonist’s spiritual commitment and readiness to engage in religious polemics, situating the struggle between good and evil on a cosmic scale for a monastic readership. Both are then subjected to a thoroughgoing literary, historical, and theological analysis.

Open Access
In: Armenia through the Lens of Time
Author:

Abstract

The Hellenistic erudition manifested in Grigor Magistros’s Letters is often related to material drawn from the Protrepticus of Clement of Alexandria, a work of which no Armenian translation is known to have existed and that Grigor may therefore have read directly in Greek.

Taking the lead from this consideration, my contribution aims to tackle a literary issue, namely: how is the Clementine material employed in Grigor’s Letters?

To this end, all the material related to Clement of Alexandria discovered so far in the Letters is grouped in three categories: Long quotations, short quotations, and allusions. Examples are given and discussed for each category.

The analysis shows that references to the Protrepticus are used in accordance with the principles of Byzantine epistolography, which requires a frequent use of allusions, exempla and mythical references. In Grigor’s Letters, when Greek literature appears, it often takes the form of allusions to (or even quotations from) the Protrepticus. From the analysis of direct quotations it is also possible to hypothesise that Grigor’s quotations come from a text belonging to a different (and otherwise extinct) branch of the Greek tradition of the Protrepticus.

Open Access
In: Armenia through the Lens of Time

Abstract

Alessandro Orengo’s article is devoted to the autobiographical genre, which seems to have developed later and to a lesser extent in the Armenian tradition than in the Graeco-Latin and/or Christian worlds. Although a few 5th-century authors give some autobiographical information in their works, mostly while referring to their literary patrons and/or with the intent of presenting themselves as direct witnesses to the events they are relating, the first true Armenian autobiography dates to the 7th century and is ascribed to Anania Širakacʽi. The text survives in two versions, and might have been originally conceived as an introduction to Anania’s K ՙ nnikon. In it, the author details the obstacles he faced in order to improve his education as well as the opposition he encountered from his peers.

After Anania, biographical information can be found in colophons, letters, travelogues, and literary writings, but the next truly autobiographical text that Orengo brings to the reader’s attention was authored by Oskan vardapet Erewancʽi in the 17th century. Written in the third person, it constitutes the 57th chapter in the History by Aṙakʽel Davrižecʽi, which was published in Oskan’s own printing house in Amsterdam. Interestingly, Oskan’s autobiography shows a similar structure to Anania’s and focuses on the author’s efforts to acquire a good education and, once again, the hostility he encountered.

Orengo argues that these similarities do not necessarily suggest that Oskan knew and was consciously imitating Anania, but rather that autobiographical texts might have been associated in Armenia with the authors’ desire to give their own version of controversial events, underlining their own successes, as well as criticising their adversaries. This preliminary hypothesis will be put to the test in future research.

Open Access
In: Armenia through the Lens of Time

Abstract

The Armenian version of the Technē Grammatikē attributed to Dionysios Thrax is not a translation of the Greek text in the conventional sense, but rather an adaptation of the latter into Armenian. The 24 letters of the Greek alphabet are, for instance, replaced by the 36 letters of the Armenian alphabet. Conversely, however, Armenian grammarians do not shy away from adapting their language to the Greek model either, e.g. by introducing grammatical categories that do not otherwise occur in Armenian (grammatical gender, dual number, etc.). Particularly with regard to cultural references, the translator of the Armenian version of Dionysios makes use of transpositions: Socrates and Plato are replaced by Paul the Apostle and Mark the Evangelist, the heroes of the Iliad (Achilles, Ajax, Paris) by well-known figures from the Bible (David, John the Baptist, etc.) or from the history of Armenia (in particular members of the Mamikonean family). The translator himself sets himself up in like fashion, introducing himself as a vardapet in the glorious tradition of Gregory the Illuminator and Mesrop Maštocʽ.

Open Access
In: Armenia through the Lens of Time

Abstract

The Vision of Saint Gregory the Illuminator is one of the key components of the first historiographical account about the official conversion of Armenia to Christianity (beg. 4th c.). Written down probably between 410–428, the Vision had several interpretations and served as justification for different purposes in the medieval Armenian tradition, some of which have been highlighted in modern studies. This paper discusses the eschatological dimension of the Vision as it would have been conceived and displayed by the spiritual authorities of the time. Then it focuses on the implications the Vision and its theology had in the political and religious context of Armenia from the beginning of the 5th century onwards. The symbolism developed in the Vision clearly singles out Jerusalem as a physical and eschatological model for the Christian capital city of Vałaršapat, the residence of kings and Catholicoses. The creation of an “Armenian New Jerusalem” there would have reinforced the new role of the Armenians as chosen people of God, whose conversion to Christianity would have hastened the Second Coming. Moreover, it seems that the imitation of the Holy City with its topographical aspects and liturgical tradition was aimed at ensuring the necessary conditions and environment that would allow the Second Coming of Christ to occur in Vałaršapat.

Open Access
In: Armenia through the Lens of Time
Author:

Abstract

The Armenian Synaxarion commemorates some fifty Syriac saints and martyrs. The present contribution focuses on the extensive entry on Ephrem and on those for the Persian Martyrs of Syriac origin. Much of the entry on Ephrem is shown to be based on the Armenian translation (made in 1101) of the 6th-century Life of Ephrem, for which it proves to be a useful witness. The study, preliminary in nature, of the entries on Persian martyrs indicates that these fall into four main categories: (1) closely based on the Greek Synaxarium Constantinopolitanum (CP); (2) based on Greek texts longer than those in the CP, and sometimes witnessing to the existence of an otherwise lost Greek translation of Syriac Martyr Acta; (3) based on Armenian Acta; and (4) based directly on Syriac sources.

Open Access
In: Armenia through the Lens of Time
Author:

Abstract

This paper challenges the commonplace notion that Khusrau II (591–628) favoured ‘the miaphysites’ within territories which he conquered from the Romans during the Last Great War of Antiquity. Starting from a union of the Severan patriarchs in Alexandria in 617, it explores the pressures then put upon the Severan patriarch of Antioch, Athanasius, from two fronts: first, the advance of Persian Severan bishops in former Roman Mesopotamia, displacing known Roman rivals to the same sees; and second, the realisation at Dvin in c. 616 of an anti-Severan union of miaphysite bishops in northern Iraq, northern Iran, and Armenia. It then traces the activities of these Persian Severans and aphthartists to the rivalry of two emergent miaphysites sees in Iraq, Mar Mattai and Tikrit; and sees in their subsequent subordination to Athanasius, at the end of the war, a retaliatory assertion of Antiochene authority over Persian miaphysitism. The picture that emerges therefore complicates any notion that Khusrau sponsored ‘the miaphysites’ within the expanded empire, and points towards a much more complex, fragmented, and contentious reality.

Open Access
In: Armenia through the Lens of Time