Armenian Writers (5th century)

Armenian Writers (5th 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.

Mesrop Mashtots, 355?-440

Mesrop was born around 355 in Hats'ekats' village, Taron, to Vardan, who may have been a Mamikonean. He received his primary education in Armenia, then continued his studies either in Edessa or Antioch, mastering Greek, Syriac, and Persian. Returning to Armenia, Mesrop became a soldier and then worked in the royal secretariat. Around 394 he became a cleric and, while preaching, realized the difficulties of propagating the Christian faith without books written in the vernacular. His decision to create an Armenian alphabet was encouraged by King Vramshapuh (389/401-417) and Kat'oghikos Sahak Partew (388-439). The date of the creation of the alphabet is placed at 404. Mesrop died on February 17, 440 and was buried in Oshakan village, Kotayk'.


1. Yachaxapatum, a book of 23 sermons. 
2. Sharakank' Pahots', hymns for fast-days. 
3. Xratakan t'ught'er (Letters of Advice). According to Koriwn, following Sahak's death in 439, Mesrop, as overseer of the Church, wrote "many letters of advice and warning to all the districts." These letters have not been found, as yet.

Sahak Partev, 348?-439

Sahak was born to Nerses Partew and Sanduxt Mamikonean in Caesarea around 348. He received his primary education at the Catholicosal school, and then went to Caesarea and Byzantium where he mastered Greek and Syriac. Around 370 Sahak married, the product of this union being Sahakanoysh, who was later to marry Hamazasp Mamikonean and bear Vardan, sparapet (commander-in-chief) and hero of the Vardanants' uprising. After the death of Catholicos Aspurakes (d. 386), Sahak became patriarch, occupying his famous father's throne. This was during the reign of Armenian King Xosrov (IV, 384-389; 417-418). Sahak reigned more than 50 years (Catholicos, 388-439). He died in 439 in Blur or Blrots'ats' village, Bagrewand district, and was buried in Ashtishat village, Taron. Most of Sahak's literary legacy comprises translations, most noteworthy being the Bible, which he reedited with Eznik, according to Koriwn, probably between 433 and 438. The first translation had been made during 405-415.


1. A number of sharakans for Holy Week. 
2. A group of canons in Kanonagirk' hayots' [Armenian Book of Canons]. 
3. Two letters in Girk' tght'ots' [The Book of Letters]: Letter to Bishop Accacius of Melitene, and the Letter to Bishop Proclus of Constantinople.

Hovsep Paghnatsi, 370?-440?

Hovsep, according to Koriwn, was with Mesrop at the time of the discovery of the alphabet, and was one of its first learners, around 404. Well acquainted with Syriac, he taught in Armenia until 427 when he was sent with Eznik to Edessa to make a new translation of the Syrian Fathers. Finishing their work, the two passed to Byzantine lands (430) where they learned Greek. Soon, around 431, they were joined by Ghewond and Koriwn (431). Following the Council of Ephesus, they returned to Armenia bringing along many Greek books and the Council's canons (434). We know nothing of the later years of Hovse'p's life, nor are his translations recalled by title. It is possible that he translated from Syriac Koch'umn e"ntsayut'ean [Catechesis] by Cyril of Jerusalem (350-415). This translation may have been done between 410 and 415. Hovse'p's style is rich and ornate, but cannot match Eznik's for clarity.

Koriwn vardapet, 390?-447?

Koriwn received his early education with Mesrop Mashtots'. Around 430, together with Ghewond, he went to Byzantium to study in a university which had recently been founded there (425). After four years, the entire group of Armenian students returned to Armenia (434). Koriwn is credited with original works and translations, his style being haykaban, but grammatically unpolished and occasionally abstruse. 


1. Book of Maccabees, perhaps translated by Koriwn from the Greek Pseudepigrapha in 439. 
2. Life of Mashtots, written at the direction of Catholicos Hovsep, perhaps around 444. Critical edition: Abeghyan, (Erevan, 1941); Akinean, in the journal Hande's Amso'reay (1949); Norayr Buzandats'i's non-critical edition (Tiflis, 1900). An English translation, made by Bedros Norehad. 
3. Agat'angeghos. Koriwn may have translated this around 446. The critical edition of Agat'angeghos is by G. Mkrtch'ean and S. Kanayeants' (Tiflis, 1909). 
4. P'awstos Buzand's History of the Armenians. Some attribute the Armenian translation of P'awstos to Koriwn (446).

Eznik Koghbatsi, 390?-455?

Eznik was born in Koghb village, Ayrarat district. He was sent to Edessa with Hovsep to translate the Syrian Fathers (427). After completing the work, the two students went to Byzantine lands (430) and perfected their Greek. They were subsequently joined by Ghewond, Koriwn, Yovhan, and Ardzan, the last being sent earlier but having dallied in Caesarea. The bishop of Byzantium, Maximianus (431-434), received them all well. After the Council of Ephesus, Eznik and his five companions returned to Armenia (434) bringing orthodox copies of the Bible. With these, Eznik and Sahak reedited the Bible (434-438). Eznik became bishop of Bagrewand (450-455?), his name appearing in the list of dignitaries present at the Council of Artashat (450).


Eznik made many translations from Greek and Syriac, but his original work is an untitled treatise which has come to be known as Girk' e"nddimut'eants' [Book of Refutations], or Eghts aghandots' [Against the Sects]. It contains four books: 

A. Against the Pagan Sects. 
B. Against the Persian Religion. 
C. Against the Religion of the Greek Philosophers. 
D. Against the Marcionites. 

The critical edition of Eznik was made by Louis Maries and Charles Mercier (Paris, 1959), accompanied by a French translation. A. Abrahamyan published a modern Armenian translation of Eznik (Erevan, 1970). Monica Blanchard and Robin Darling Young made an English translation (Peeters, 1998).

P'awstos Buzand, ?-? 

This is the name traditionally given to the author of a remarkable history which describes Armenian affairs of the fourth century. Written in a clear and direct style, using rich and earthy language, P'awstos' History is a treasure of early Armenian literature, invaluable for historians, anthropologists and linguists. Its contents, both as history and as folklore, make it spellbinding reading. Controversy surrounds almost every aspect of this work: the format of the extant (versus the original) text; the author's identity; and where, in what language, and when it was written. There is an extensive body of scholarly literature devoted to these and other questions. Nothing certain is known about the author's identity. There are references in the text of the History to a P'awstos of Greek (Byzantine) nationality (III, Ending), a Bishop P'awstos who ordained as deacon the future Kat'oghikos Nerse's the Great (IV.3), a P'awstos who was one of a twelve-member council to assist Nerse's as kat'oghikos (VI.5), and a P'awstos who buried Nerse's (V.24). If these are all the same figure and the author, then he would have been living in the 50s and 60s of the fourth century, during the time of Nerse's. The question of P'awstos' identity is by no means a new one. This question was raised already in the late fifth century by the historian Ghazar P'arpets'i, who refused to believe that any Bishop P'awstos could have included certain vulgar and anti-clerical passages that he laments discovering in the sixth and last book of P'awstos' History. The offended Ghazar thinks that the bishop's History was later corrupted by an uncultured person who assumed the distinguished name of P'awstos (after Bishop P'awstos found in the text) to increase the prestige of his compilation of stories (Ghazar P'arpets'i's History of the Armenians, I. 3-4). What is to be understood by Biwzand(eay) also is unclear. Was the author "Faustus of Byzantium" as some 19th century European scholars styled him? Other explanations of Biwzand also are conjectural. Although biographical details about the author are lacking, his biases are clear. He is a partisan House historian of the Mamikonean lordly (naxarar) clan, and he portrays the Mamikoneans as the defenders par excellence of Armenia. To P'awstos, the Mamikoneans are not merely the sole legitimate military defenders of the country, but also the loyal defenders of the royal Arsacid/Arshakuni family, defenders of the Church, and defenders of naxarar rights. The contradiction which arises from the fact that P'awstos simultaneously has made the Mamikoneans defenders of kings and of the naxarars—two usually inimical groups—appears to have been resolved by the author with another assumption: that the Mamikoneans are in fact the equals of the Arsacids. 

An English translation of P'awstos Buzand's History of the Armenians, made from Classical Armenian by Robert Bedrosian (New York, 1985), is available for reading online. This translation was published by Sophene in 2021 (in two volumes) with the Classical Armenian text on the facing page.

Mambre Vertsanogh, 400?-460?

According to national tradition expressed in E'akats' Girk' [The Book of Beings], Mambre' was Movse's Xorenatsi's younger brother. However, neither the earliest writers nor Mambre's own writings can confirm this. While considered an important 5th century translator and writer, few works survive which bear his name.


1. Homily on the Resurrection of Lazarus (Venice, 1833). 
2. Homily on the Coming of the Lord to Jerusalem (Venice, 1833). 
3. Concerning the Travel of Our Savior to Jerusalem (Venice, 1833). 
4. To the Birth of the Savior (Ejmiatsin manuscript #1756).

Yeghishe vardapet, 400?-464

Yeghishe is traditionally considered a 5th century eyewitness to the battle of Avarayr. Supposedly, he was well acquainted with sanctuaries in Palestine, too, especially Mt. Tabor, which he describes in his Homily on the Transfiguration. Supposedly, too, he was court priest (dran ere'ts') to the sparapet, and spent the years from 441-449 in Persia. The signers of the canons of the Council of Shahapivan include one Eghishe', dran ere'ts', and he may also be Eghishe' bishop of the Amatuni who was present at the Council of Artashat (450). Supposedly, after the Vardanants' battle, Eghishe withdrew to a cave in R'shtunik, his grave being located in Zarahan's St. Nshan Vank'. Ter-Minasyan who compiled the critical edition of Eghishe (Erevan, 1957; See Anasyan's Bibliography) believed that Eghishe was indeed a 5th century author. Others consider him later on stylistic grounds, and because he seems to have used Armenian translations of works (such as Philo) which were translated at a later date. There are also historical inaccuracies in his work; and, finally, Eghishe is unknown to the late 5th century Ghazar Parpet'si. Babgen Kiwleserean (Venice, 1908) believed that the work was written in the 7th century as a history of the Vardanants', by an anonymous author, while Nerses Akinean thought that it was written as a history of the 572 rebellion of Vardan II Mamikonean. The debate between Ter-Minasyan and Akinean is in Hande's Amso'reay (1957-1958).


1. Yaytnut'iwn Tear'n i T'abor Lerin [The Revelation of the Lord on Mount Tabor]. Published in Eghishe'i vardapeti matenagrut'iwnk' [Writings of Eghishe' Vardapet] (Venice, 1859). 445? 
2. On Vardan and the Armenian War. Written at the request of Dawit' ere'ts' Mamikonean, one of the participants at the Council of Artashat.
3. Ban xratu yaghags miandzants [Advice to Monastics], 455? In Matenagrut'iwnk' (Venice, 1859). 
4. Yaghotsn or ase Hayr Mer [On the Lord's Prayer]. In Matenagrut'iwnk' (Venice, 1859). 
5. Meknut'iwn Yesuay ew Dataworats' [On (the books of) Joshua and Judges], 460? In Matenagrut'iwnk'.
6. Homily on the Passion of Christ. In Matenagrut'iwnk' (Venice, 1859). 
6. Vasn hogwots' mardkan, 460. In Matenagrut'iwnk'. 
7. Meknut'iwn tsnntots', undiscovered. Fragments preserved in Vardan Vardapet's Meknut'iwn. 
8. Harts'munk' ew patasxanik' i girs tsnndots'. Asks questions such as 'were the angels created first?' N. Akinean (Vienna, 1924). Authorship challenged.

Catholicos Giwt, 400?-478

Giwt was born in Arahez village, Tayk'. After his primary education in Armenia, he went to Byzantine lands to perfect his Greek, making many friends there. Upon returning to Armenia, he became bishop of the Vanand diocese (bishop Gad) in which capacity he participated in the Councils of Shahapivan (444) and Artashat (450). In 461 he became Catholicos and reigned as such for 17 trying years. He died in great old age in 478 and was buried at Ut'mus village. Details on Giwt's writings are absent, but the following are attributed to him.


1. Letter to Vach'e, King of the Aghuans (c. 450-462) in History of the Aghuans by Movse's Dasxurants'i, Book I, Chapter 11.
2. (Doubtful) Letter to Dawit' Anyaght'Matenagrut'iwnk' (Venice, 1833). 
3. Giwt may be the compiler of the Zhamagirk'.

Yovhan Mandakuni, 420?-490

Yovhan was born into a naxarar (lordly) family from Tsaxnot village, Arshamunik'. His early education was received at the Catholicosal school, and then, probably, in Byzantine lands. Yovhan became Catholicos immediately after Giwt's death, and held that position for 12 years (478-490). During the Vahaneants' uprising he encouraged the loyalists and, it seems, participated in the battle in person. He greeted Vahan Mamikonean as Armenia's marzban (in 485).


A. Homilies (written in a non-hunaban style).

1. On the Feast of Lent. Published in Ch'ar'k' (Venice, 1836) and elsewhere. 
2. On the Holy Trinity and the Birth of Christ. In Char'k'. 
3. On the Sacred Witness of Christ. In Sion (1963) p. 48.

B. Canons. 

1. Canons #646-654 in the Kanonagirk' I. (Erevan, 1964) p. 491 concerning fasts and feasts. 
2. One canon, #1257, on ordination (Mat., 1836, p. 202). 
3. Seven canons, #1310-1316 on priests. 
4. Call to repentence, list of sins.

C. Orders of the Service.

1. Zhamagirk - a few sermons and prayers between Evening and Dining services. 
2. Sharakan - Canon of the Holy Ark. 
3. Mashtots, on the foundation and consecration of churches, the blessing of church vessels, cloths, the canons of marriage.

D. Translations of New Testament Non-Canonical Books.

1. III Corinthians.
2. Repose of John the Baptist.

Note: The collection of Homilies published under his name in Venice, actually belongs to Yovhan Mayravanets'i. Similarly, the letter in the Book of Letters entitled Proof Against the Council of Chalcedon belongs not to Yovhan but to Yovhanne's, bishop of Alexandria.

Ghazar P'arpets'i, 437?-500?

Ghazar was born in P'arpi village, Aragatsotn, into a noble family, which probably was close to the Mamikonean and Kamsarakan families. He received his education from Aghan Artsruni, Vahan Mamikonean's mother's brother, a hermit who convinced Ghazar to dedicate himself to the Church. Ghazar also went to Byzantium where he mastered Greek and theology. He had a collection of Greek books from which he was involuntarily separated. Part of his later years were spent in exile at Amida, far from the cathedral at Vagharshapat which he had helped to renovate. P'arpets'i wrote his History (495?) at the request of marzpan Vahan. He cites Pawstos' History and Koriwn's Life of Mashtots. Ghazar's History was divided into three sections during the Venice 1873 printing. Part I discusses the years from 386 to 449; Part II describes the Vardanants' uprising (450/451), independent of Eghishe; Part III describes the Vahaneants' uprising (481-484), and Vahan's new position as marzpan. His style is very popular and free of hunaban constructions. Ghazar also wrote a Letter to Vahan in his own defense against some slanderers (491?), but because of a missing section, it is not completely clear what the charges against him were.

An English translation of Ghazar P'arpets'i's History of the Armenians, made from Classical Armenian by Robert Bedrosian (New York, 1985), is available for reading online. This translation was published by Sophene in 2021 (in two volumes) with the Classical Armenian text on the facing page.

Catholicos Babgen Ot'msets'i, 450?-516

Yovhan Mandakuni's successor as Catholicos was Babgen Ot'msets'i (490-516), born in Ot'mus village, in Vanand. He probably studied with Giwt and Yovhan. He was present at the Council of 505. Babgen's co-adjutator was Mershapuh Mamikonean of Taron, during the marzbanate of Vard Mamikonean. Sahak Kamsarakan and Artashir Maghxaz also were active during Babgen's floruit. His literary legacy is not large, comprising only two letters preserved in the Book of Letters.


1. Letter to the Armenians in Persia Regarding Orthodoxy (T'ught' Hayots' i Parss ar' ughghap'ar's). This letter, written in 506, is one of the oldest dealing with doctrine. It mentions the Iranian shah Kawad and warns against Nestorians. 
2. Letter to the Armenians in Persia Regarding Orthodoxy. This was written some two years after the first letter, in 508 (in Armenian and Persian). It mentions marzban Vard Mamikonean.

Movses Kertoghahayr (Xorenatsi), 470?-530?

We lack information about this writer-translator, who is styled k'ert'oghahayr ("father of poets/grammarians/philologists"). According to the 10th century historian, Asoghik, Movse's was the bishop of Bagrewand. Judging from the writings attributed to him, Movse's was a master of Greek and especially of the trivium: grammar, rhetoric, and philosophy. According to later tradition, among Movses' pupils were T'eodoros K'ert'ogh, Petros K'ertogh (d. 557) and Ezras Angeghats'i, who in the period 529-557? was noted for his teaching and many pupils. 

There are a number of works attributed to Xorenats'i.


1. The Grammar of Dionysius of Thrace (2nd century B.C.), a translation from Greek to Classical Armenian. Study and translation by N. Adontz (Petr., 1915). 
2. Explanation of Dionysius' Grammar, Adontz. 
3. Movse's probably translated homilies by Philo the Hebrew, such as: 
    a. Yaghags varuts' kenats' tesakani/yaghags hesseayts' (Venice, 1892). 
    b. Yaghags Astuatsayin awrinats'n aylabanut'ean (Venice, 1892). 
    c. Keank' imastnots' (1892). 
    d. Ar'ants' patrastut'ean i Samp'son (Venice, 1826). 
4. Girk' pitoyits'. A handbook of rhetoric based on the principles of Aphthonius, the Greek rhetorician (3rd century A.D.), Yovh. Zohrapean (Venice, 1796). 
5. Yaghags mioy bnut'ean banin marmnats'eloy, in the Book of Letters and in Samuel of Ani, appendix pp. 255-261. 
6. Sharakank'. The sharakans attributed to Movse's are among the most beautiful as poetry and music. 
7. Patmut'iwn Hayots' [History of the Armenians]. The critical edition of the Classical Armenian text is by M. Abeghean and S. Yarut'iwnean (Tiflis, 1913). This work, in three books, treats the history of the Armenians from legendary times to the death of Mesrop Mashtots' (d. 440), whom Movses calls his teacher.

For more than one hundred years scholars have been debating when this enigmatic Armenian historian lived and wrote. Many scholars both East and West have suggested the 8th century. This is the view developed in On the Date of Pseudo-Moses of Chorene by Cyril Toumanoff (1913-1997) which appeared in the journal Hande's Amso'reay (Vienna, 1961), columns 467-476. The case for the traditional 5th century date is presented in The Date of Moses of Khoren by F. C. Conybeare (1856-1924) from the journal Byzantinische Zeitschrift, 10 (1901), pp. 489-504. Both articles can be read here

The two positions are not irreconcilable. It is possible that the core of this History is 5th century, and that in the following centuries it was edited more than once. This would account for the work's peculiar anti-Mamikonean bias, a bias belonging to the 8th century and later, rather than to the 5th century. It would also explain the appearance of post-5th century versions of citations found in the History, as an 8th century editor might have replaced older Armenian translations of such passages with more current ones.


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