In tracing three possible answers to the question what the 'first millennium' might be for the Armenians, various layers of the Armenian tradition constitutive of the formation of Armenian identity are presented. Three periods are distinguished: the Nairian-Urartian stretching from about 1200 bce to the conquest of the Armenian plateau by the Achaemenids; followed by the Zoroastrian phase, in which political, religious, social, and cultural institutions in Armenia were closely related to Iranian ones, lasting until the adoption of Christianity as state religion in Armenia at the beginning of the fourth century. This heralds the third and last phase considered in this contribution, concluding with the cornerstone of Armenian identity formation in the direction given to Armenia and its Church by Yovhannēs Ōjnec'i (John of Odzun, d. 728), who opted for a moderate form of Miaphysitism after the rejection of the Council of Chalcedon. The developments in each of the three periods are measured against the criteria Smith considered central for the presence of an ethnie, while attention is given to the Iranian aspects of Armenian society, the presence of a Hellenistic strand in its culture, and its western turn upon the adoption of Christianity.
Grigor Magistros Pahlawuni (c. 990–1058), a lay erudite and member of the ruling elite in the Bagratid kingdom of Armenia is the author of some ninety letters. Letter M18/K11 is an answer to the condolences received from Bishop Yovhannēs of Siwnik‘ upon the death in battle against Muslim forces of commander-in-chief Vahram Pahlawuni. A panegyric follows in which a new literary genre is born: that of the Christian funeral lament. Identified by Babken Č‘ugaszyan as rare instances of secular medieval poetry, four mostly isosyllabic sections of the letter stand out through their repetition and parallelism. These are not necessarily snippets from a larger poetic composition but instances of Grigor’s innovative contribution to Armenian literature. Grigor firmly places Vahram and his parents among the martyrs, portraying all as motivated by Christian charity and magnanimity, and as pillars of society. An accomplished rhetorical exercise and hagiography, the forced absence from his uncle mingles intimate memories of the author’s childhood, when his uncle was tender as a father to him, with the last goodbye, now perforce performed in writing rather than deed. An appendix gives the Armenian text with an English translation.
This series combines persisting needs with emerging emphases in Armenian studies. It encourages studies that place Armenian culture in its multifaceted international context, on the Armenian plateau as well as in its historic and current Diaspora.
Philological studies containing important critically edited texts, translations and commentaries remain in need as before. Thousands of Armenian manuscripts await disclosure in order to become part of scholarly and popular discourse and take their place in a field that invites an interdisciplinary and pluralistic approach like few others.
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