Armenian Writers (12th century)

Armenian Writers (12th century)

Armenian Writers (5th-13th Centuries) displays lists of the major Armenian authors, heads of the Church, and corresponding secular rulers of the Armenians. This material is based on a course entitled History of Armenian Literature taught by Professor Krikor H. Maksoudian at Columbia University in Autumn-Spring of 1972-1973, and compiled by his student, Robert Bedrosian, from class notes, handouts, and other sources.


Vardapet Yovhanne's Sarkawag, 1050?-1129

Yovhanne's was born in Manchar village, P'arisos district, Arts'ax, into a priestly family. He was sent to Haghbat monastery as a youth, where his uncle was his teacher, as was Vardapet Ge'org Ur'chets'i (d. 1093, at 100 years of age). Yovhanne's' scholarship achieved legendary proportions. Thanks to the atmosphere and library at Haghbat, Yovhanne's achieved fame as a calendar expert, philosopher, theologian, and poet. One of his notable achievements was the transformation of the Armenian feast cycle from a movable to a permanent basis, accepting a leap year every four years, instead of once every 1460 years, which was the old method. Like Anania Shirakats'i's system, however, this calendar was not adopted. Of Yovhanne's' students we know the name of Eremia Anets'i, called Andzrew ("Rain"), Samue'l Anets'i, and Sargis Kund. Yovhanne's' tombstone is still visible near the belfry of Surb Astuatsatsin church at Haghbat.


A. Calendrical Studies:
1. Xar'naxoran
2. SLB-532 List
3. Patche'n tomari
4. Meknut'iwn tumaris haykazeneay, in A. G. Abrahamyan, Hovhannes imastaseri matenagrut'yune" (Erevan, 1956), pp. 160-292.
B. Mathematical Studies:
Yaghags ankiwnawor t'uots', describing the secret meaning of numbers. He used Philo's On the Ten Things, Abrahamyan, pp. 148-157.
C. Poetry:
1. Sharakank' Ghewondeants'
2. Verses
3. Laments
D. Religious Writings:
1. Vasn k'ahanayut'ean. Karg ishxanut'ean yashxarh mtelots', in Sop'erk' volume 3, (Venice, 1853), pp. 9-79.

2. Nerboghean i s. Gr. Lusaworich', in Sop'erk' volume 5, (Venice, 1853), pp. 5-36.
3. Aghot'agirk', in Sop'erk' volume 17, (Venice, 1854), pp. 5-144.

4. Ar' ors pights zmis varkanin (To Those Who Consider Flesh Unclean), Abrahamyan pp. 330-349.

5. E"ndde'm K'aghkedonakanats'
6. Vasn masants' patuoy ew patkerats' e"ndunelut'ean (Venice, 1852).
7. Hakabanut'iwn hnagitakan. Abrahamyan, pp. 140-147
8. Yaghags xratu mankants'. Abrahamyan, pp. 306-315.

9. Harts'munk' vrats' episkoposi. Abrahamyan, pp. 302-304 (numerous errors); Yovsep'e'an, Yish. Dzer'. pp. 343-348.

Yovhanne's also wrote a History of the Saljuqs (now lost), cited by Samue'l of Ani.

Dawit' Gandzakets'i, 1060?-1131

Dawit' was the son of Alawik and wrote for the new priest named Ark'ayut'iwn Gandzakets'i a book containing canons and explanations regarding adultery, murder, theft, usury, oath-breaking, witchcraft and other topics, the so-called Penetential. The late 12th-early 13th century Mxit'ar Gosh used this work in writing his Law Code.

The Penetential was published by Ashot Abrahamyan in the journal Ejmiatsin, 1952-1953.

An English translation of The Penitential of David of Ganjak, made from Classical Armenian by C. J. F. Dowsett (Louvain, 1961), is available for reading online and downloading.

Matt'e'os Urhayets'i, 1070?-1140?

We know nothing about Matt'e'os. In one place only in his History (p. 134) does he refer to himself as Urhayets'i ("from Urha/Edessa") and says that he is a monk, information which his style and worldview support. He does not appear to be well-educated nor does he use foreign sources. Most of his information seems to come from aged eyewitnesses. According to the text, Book A (pp. 1-132) embracing the period from 952 to 1052, was written during an eight-year period (1102-1110). Book B (pp. 133-339) covers 50 years, 1053-1102, written over a 15-year period, from 1110-1125. Then for ten years, Matt'e'os wrote nothing, expecting that others would continue the work. However, seeing that this did not happen, he wrote Book C (pp. 340-462) embracing a 30-year period, 1102-1129, perhaps during 1136-1137. Thus the entire work, an important source on the period 952-1129 treats not only matters in Edessa, but the Crusades as well. 1137-1162 Grigor Ere'ts' ("The Priest") continued Matt'e'os' History.

An English translation of Matthew's Chronicle, made from Classical Armenian by Robert Bedrosian (Long Branch, New Jersey, 2017), is available for reading online and downloading. This translation was published by Sophene in 2021 (in two volumes) with the Classical Armenian text on the facing page.

Ignatios Sew Ler'nts'i [Ignatios of Black Mountain], 1090?-1160?

Ignatios received his education within the territories of Prince Basil ("Gogh ['Thief'] Basil" d. 1112) at the monastery known as Karmir Vank' ("Red Monastery") in K'esun, studying under Bishop Step'annos Manuk. His fellow students were Grigor Pahlawuni, Nerse's Shnorhali, and the exegist, Sargis Vardapet. At the request of Catholicos Grigor Pahlawuni (1113-1166), he began an interpretation of the Book of Luke (c. 1130). According to Kirakos Gandzakets'i, Ignatios had put off working on this until he had a vision of his exclusion from Heaven. Awakening, he started and finished the project. Ignatios' works were published in Constantinople in 1735.

Barsegh Drazarkts'i, 1100?-1163

We first hear of Barsegh as father-confessor to Prince Paghtin (d. 1147) whose territories stretched from Marash to K'esun. Later he was the abbot of Drazark (1154?-1163) monastery where he died and was buried. It was Barsegh who brought from Constantinople a Greek copy of Hawak'umn meknut'eants' ewt'anets'unts' t'ght'ots'n kat'oghikeayts'. He entrusted this to Grigor Dpir at Lambron, who translated it (1163). After Barsegh's death, Nerse's Lambronats'i refined it (1176):


1. Ban xostovanut'ean i dimats' Paghtin ishxani (1147), a funeral speech. See Grigor K'esunts'i, Jerusalem.

2. Sharakan xnkarkut'ean t'ap'ori (1154). Jerusalem, 1907. Abeghyan thinks that the ordering of the Sharaknots', which is attributed to Barsegh Chon, is really the work of Barsegh Drazarkts'i.

Grigor Pahlawuni, 1093?-1166

Grigor was born in the Tluk' district of Tsovk' Dgheak ("Fortress"). His father's name was Apirat, and he had three brothers: Nerse's (d. 1173), Vasil, and Shahan. He received an excellent education from Step'annos Manuk at the monastery of Karmir Vank'. Quite young, in 1113, Grigor was ordained bishop by Kat'oghikos Barsegh, and was ordained kat'oghikos at the age of 20. One of his first acts was to move the Catholicosal throne from Karmir Vank' to his own Tsovk' Dgheak in 1116. With this went the school. Grigor was well respected by the Latins who invited him to participate in two councils, at Antioch in 1141 and at Jerusalem the next year. In 1150 again he moved the see to Hr'omkla and built a beautiful church there. After more than 50 years in office, Grigor died in 1166 at Hr'omkla and was buried there. He did not write much, nor are the following works guaranteed to be his.

Grigor K'esunts'i, 1100?-1170?

Grigor Ere'ts' ("the Priest") must have had an education and worldview similar to that of Matt'e'os Urhayets'i, whose Chronology Grigor continued in a similar style and spirit for the period 1137-1163. Grigor's continuation was published together with Urhayets'i (Jerusalem, 1869). Much of it is devoted to Barsegh Vardapet's funeral oration for Prince Paghtin (d. 1147).

Nerse's Shnorhali, 1102?-1173

Nerse's was born at Tsovk' Dgheak, the son of Apirat Pahlawuni and brother of the future Catholicos, Grigor Pahlawuni. He was educated at Karmir Vank', K'esun by Vardapet Step'annos Manuk . He was ordained bishop by his brother, the Catholicos. Nerse's was present with his brother at the Church council in Antioch in 1141. He was struck with illness when about 50, but recovered miraculously (1152). Between 1164 and 1165, Nerse's was able to reconcile two families—both having marriage ties with the Pahlawunis—the Rubenian (T'oros) and the Lambronats'i (Oshin). When Grigor felt his death approaching, he ordained Nerse's as the co-occupant of the throne in 1166, a position the latter held until his death in 1173, seven years later. Made a saint by the Armenian Church, Nerse's has renown as a poet and theologian. He is our greatest sharakan writer, author of 40 spiritual poems, gandzk', as well as numerous riddles written in a popular style, and the prayer Hawatov xostovanim. His literary activities embrace more than half a century.


1. 1122. Vipasanut'iwn, written at age 20. The first surviving historical poem in Armenian. Published in Bank' ch'ap'aw, Venice, 1830.

2. 1137. Refinement of Grigor K'ahanay's translation of the Life of St. Parsama.

3. 1141. Nerboghean Y. Oskeberani i surbn Gr. Lusaworich'n hayots'. In Sop'erk', volume 4 (Venice, 1854).

4. c. 1145. Oghb Edesioy, written at the request of his nephew, Apirat. Published in Paris, 1827.

5. 1151. Ban Hawatoy. At Apirat's request. In Bank' ch'ap'aw.

6. 1152. Yisus ordi. 2000 verses. Shows the influence of Grigor Magistros and Narek.

7. 1157. Vark' Taragos ew Probos, refinement of an earlier translation.

8. 1158. Vkayabanut'iwn s. Sargsi zoravari, by Michael the Syrian. In Sop'erk', volume 12 (Venice, 1854).

9. 1162. Yaghags erknits' ew zarduts' nora, at the request of Mxit'ar the Doctor and Astronomer. In Bank' ch'ap'aw.

10. 1162. Nerboghean hreshtakats'.

11. c. 1163. Tught' ar' Ar'iwts ishxann T'lkurani. In Namakani (Jerusalem, 1871).

12. 1165? Meknut'iwn Matt'e'osi.

13. 1165. Gir hawatoy ar' Alek's ishxan. In Namakani.

14. 1166. Ban yawur toni armaweneats'.

15. 1166. T'ught' e"ndhanrakan.

16. 1168. Sahmank' hawatots' ar' Manue'l t'agawor hor'omots', I.

17. 1170. ibid., II.

18. 1173. ibid., III.

19. 1173. T'ught' ar' Mik'aye'l patriark' hor'omots'.

20. 1173. Shrjaberakan yaghags zhoghovoy.

21. Meknut'iwn bardzrats'uts'ek' char'i Dawt'i Anyaght'i.

Samue'l Anets'i, 1100?-1180?

Samue'l was educated at Ani with Yovhanne's Sarkawag (d. 1129) then with Ge'org Vardapet (1158). Because he was especially talented in calendar studies, Lord Grigor (probably Tute'ordi) urged him to make an accurate chronology. Despite his advanced age, Samue'l wrote such a work, beginning with Creation and reaching to 1176. The early sections depend on Eusebius and Xorenats'i. Subsequent continuators added narrations of the 13th-17th centuries and the earlier sections were augmented with passages from Michael the Syrian, Asoghik, Urhayets'i, and others. Samue'l's Chronology was published by Arshak Ter Mik'elyan (Ejmiatsin, 1893).

Samue'l also has an explanation of the calendar in a question and answer format, written to Step'annos imastase'r of Haghbat, published by Ashot Abrahamyan in the journal Ejmiatsin, 1952.

1161. Samuel claims to have been an eyewitness to Georgian King Giorgi's taking of Ani. He used Sargawag's lost History to 1180.

1181-1336. Continuator.

1657-1665. Continuator.


1. Sharakank': a. Kanon Aweteats' S. Astuatsatsnin (xorhurdn anchar'...); b. Kanon B. Tsaghkazardin (Metsahrash ays xorhurd...).

2. Verses: a. Mkrtut'ean Tear'n (Ov zarmanali)... S. Palean, Hay Ashughner, II. (Izmir, 1912); b. S. Grigor Lusaworich' (I yels arewu arew).

Mxit'ar Herats'i, 1120?-1190?

Mxit'ar probably was from Her district in Parskahayk' and seems to have received his medical education in a foreign school, some think at Jondishapur in SW Persia. He learned Arabic, Persian, and Greek. Part of his life was spent in Cilicia, perhaps at Hr'omkla, where he was doctor and friend to Kat'oghikoi Nerse's Shnorhali (1166-1173) and Grigor Tghay (1173-1193). Nerse's wrote a piece for him, while Mxit'ar wrote his Jermants' Mxit'arut'iwn (Cure for Fevers) for Grigor Tghay in 1184. This is a medical book intentionally written in the vernacular. Grigor used Arabic texts for reference, as is clear from the numerous borrowings from Arabic.

Mxit'aray bzhshkapeti Herats'woy Jermants' mxit'arut'iwn [Chief Physician Mxit'ar Herats'i's Cure for Fevers] (Venice, 1832), was printed in Venice, 1832 based on one poor manuscript. A late 12th century manuscript of it was found later. A German translations exists by Dr. Ernest Seidel (Leipzig, 1908), reviewed by Akinean in Hande's Amso'reay, 1908, pp. 90-91.

Grigor Tghay, 1133?-1193

Grigor was Nerse's Shnorhali's nephew (son of his brother Vasil Pahlawuni). He was educated at the Catholicosate of Hr'omkla where his teacher was Kostandin Hr'omklayets'i, a Greek priest. He succeeded his uncle Nerse's as Catholicos sometime in 1173. Due to the death of Emperor Manuel and the complicated political situation of his successor, Grigor's negotiations on Armenian-Greek church unity failed. Grigor built a marvelous church at Hr'omkla where he placed the remains of his uncles, Grigor and Nerse's, as well as those of Grigor Vkayase'r. Grigor died in Sis and was buried at Drazark.


His literary legacy is not large, consisting of seven letters and one historical poem.

1. c. 1175. T'ught' I. to Manuel. In Namakani (Jerusalem, 1871).

2. c. 1178. Patasxani vardapetats'n hayots'n hiwsisayin koghmants'ibid. pp. 321-329.

3. 1179. T'ught' II. to Manuel.

4. 1179. Patasxani t'ght'oyn Mikaye'li patriark'in Hor'omots'.

5. c. 1179. T'ught' ar' Grigor Tute'ordi.

6. c. 1179. T'ught' ar' Grigor Tute'ordi.

7. c. 1180. T'ught' ar' Grigor Tute'ordi.

8. Oghb Erusaghe'mi, on the taking of Jerusalem by Saladin in 1187. Translated by Édouard Dulaurier.

Nerse's Lambronats'i, 1153-1198

Lambron fortress was the private property of Nerses' father, Oshin, and his wife, Shahanduxt Pahlawuni. Nerse's was christened Smbat. His first teacher was Yovhanne's Vardapet at Skewra Monastery, but he later studied with Step'annos Yakobts'i or with the bishop called Yakobkats'i. He was a studious lad endowed with precocious genius. At 16 years of age he was ordained a priest by Kat'oghikos Nerse's Shnorhali and was renamed Nerse's (1168). Soon he was ordained bishop and charged with the superintendence of the Tarsus theme by Kat'oghikos Grigor Tghay (1175). Nerse's wrote a great deal in many genres: homilies, letters, sharakans, verses, as well as exegeses and translations. He shines especially as a rhetorician, his poetical works being weak and mediocre. He died at age 46.


1. Homilies: a. Char' yanar'ak ordin (Hande's Amso'reay, 1928, pp. 120, 311); b. Char' i tntesn (HA, 1939, 90-102); c. Char' i hambardzumn tear'n (Venice, 1838); d. Char' i galust hogwoyn srboy.

2. 1172? Nerboghean i verap'oxumn s. Astuatsatsni (Hande's Amso'reay, 1925, pp. 355, 442).

3. 1173. Asorakan datastanagirk' (150 canons). Arsen Ghlttseants' (Ejmiatsin, 1917).

4. 1174. Meknut'iwn hangsteann Yovhannu.

5. 1174? Nerboghean tear'n Nersesi Klayets'woy.

6. Verses, seven of them, in Hande's Amso'reay 1954, pp. 179-181.

7. Sharakank'.

8. 1176. Kat'ughike' t'ght'ots' meknut'iwn, refined by Nerse's, initially done by Grigor Tpir in 1163.

9. 1177-1179. Sahman Benediktean vanats' [Statutum Monasticum Benedictinum] (Venice, 1880). Classical Armenian and Latin texts.

10. 1176-1177. Meknut'iwn pataragi.

11. 11767-1177. K'nnut'iwn kargats' ekeghets'woy.

12. 1177? Xndirk' hor'omots' ew hayots'. Published in Miabanut'iwn hayots' surb ekeghets'woyn e"nd metsi sb Ekeghets'woyi Hr'ovmay [Conciliationis ecclesiae Armenae cum Romana], prima pars historialis by Clemente Galanus, volume I (Rome, 1650), pp. 331-345. Bilingual Armenian and Latin.

13. 1179. Vasn hing patriark'ats'n at'or'ots.

14. 1180. Meknut'iwn 12 margare'its'.

15. 1179-1181. Mekn. yaytnut'eann Yovhannu.

16. c. 1181. T'ught' ar' Yusik Chgnawor.

17. Mekn. saghmosats'.

18. 1183? Patchar'k' namakats' (Jerusalem, 1871).

19. 1185. T'ught' Innovkenties Papi ar' Grigor Pahlawni (1141), translation in Ararat, 1893.

20. 1185. T'ught' Ghukios Papi ar' Grigor Tghay,

21. 1188. T'ught' Kghemes Papi ar' Grigor Tghay, in Ararat, 1893.

22. 1190. Hr'omeakan tsisaran, or Girk' kargats' ekeghets'woyn hr'omay, in Hande's Amso'reay, 1954, pp. 223-231.

23. c. 1195. T'ught' ar' Lewon, written in non-Classical Armenian (Venice, 1838).

24. 1197. Atenabanut'iwn.

25. 1197. Patasxanik' ar' patreark'n yunats' i k. Polis, Y. Teroyents' (Const., 1861).

26. 1193-1197. Mekn. Grots'n Soghomoni, ar'akats', zhoghoveli, imastut'ean.

27. 1198. Biwzandakan orinagrut'iwnk', trans. Hande's Amso'reay, 1954, pp. 195-201, published by K. Y. Basmajean (Civil Law, Military Law).

Mxit'ar Gandzakets'i (Gosh), 1140-1213

Mxit'ar was born in Gandzak city, studying in his early years with Yovhanne's Tawushets'i. After becoming a vardapet he went to Cilicia and, in the monasteries on Black Mountain (Sew ler'), he continued studying, even visiting Jerusalem on a pilgrimage. When he returned to Armenia, numerous students gathered around him, such as Vanakan Vardapet, T'oros Meletinets'i, Martiros Vardapet, Poghos Vardapet, and Sarkawag Vardapet. Mxit'ar was called gosh ("beardless") because his beard grew in late. With the aid of friendly princes he built the Nor Getik Monastery (1195) in Tandzut valley, Kayen, which is also known as Goshavank'. He is buried there.


1. c. 1167. Vkayabanut'iwn s. Xosrovu Gandzakets'woy (d. 1167), in Ararat, 1896, pp. 590-594.

2. c. 1167. Nerboghean i nor vkayn Xosrov. Published in Ararat, 1897, p. 37; Hayots' nor vkayner, I. pp. 18-25.

3. 1184. Datastanagirk' [Law Code] in two parts: Introduction and Canons. Vahan Bastamean (Vagharshapat, 1880). This was prepared for Kat'oghikos Step'annos of Aghuania. The principal source for it was the Pentateuch and the Kanonagirk'. There are two editions, one has the 251 canons written in one group, while the other edition divides the canons into ecclesiastical and lay categories. The lay canons are written in a clearer style. The Law Code has been translated into Latin, Mongolian, Polish, Georgian, and Russian. See A. G. Suk'iasyan's study of this (Erevan, 1965).

4. c. 1186. Zhamanakagrut'iwn [Chronology]. This begins with a list of the Aghuan kat'oghikoi and reaches to 1161. The continuation is lost. In Alishan's Hayapatum, volume 2, pp. 384-391.

An English translation of Mkhitar Gosh's Colophon or The Aghuanian Chronicle, made from Classical Armenian by Robert Bedrosian (Long Branch, New Jersey, 2007), is available for reading online and downloading at Internet Archive.

5. 1187. Meknut'iwn Eremiay margare'i.

6. Ar'akk' [Fables] 190 Fables, Venice, 1842; Ar'akk' Mxit'aray Goshi (Venice, 1854) with Oghumpianos.

An English translation of Mkhitar Gosh's Fables, made from Classical Armenian by Robert Bedrosian (New York, 1987/2002), is available for reading online and downloading at Internet Archive.

7. Xratk' ogeshahk' in Sop'erk', volume 23 (Venice, 1933, repr.), 82 pages.

8. Aghot'k' i zham s. pataragi.

9. c. 1200. T'ught' yaghags vrats', in Ararat, 1900 pp. 497, 562; 1901, pp. 55, 121.

Mxit'ar Anets'i, late 12th century

Mxit'ar was senior presbyter in the cathedral in Ani at the end of the 12th century. Written at the request of Grigor at Har'icha monastery, Mxit'ar's History originally contained three sections (praks) but only one (the first) has reached us. Mxit'ar Anets'i, Patmut'iwn (St. Petersburg, 1879).


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