Armenian Writers (9th century)

Armenian Writers (9th 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.


Catholicos Zakaria Dzagets'i, 800?-d. 876

Catholicos Zakaria was born in Dzag village, Kotayk. Nothing is known about his early life. He became Catholicos in 854, during a very difficult period, and helped heal the wounds inflicted by Bugha. One of Zakaria's major preoccupations was the question of unity with the Greek church. He and the patriarch Photius corresponded on this matter from 864 to 876, but the letters have been lost. His Catholicosate lasted for 22 years. He died and was buried at Dvin.


Zakaria left a large number of homilies (25) and sermons, but most of them are unpublished. One, Nerboghean i yarut'iwn K'ristosi appeared in Ararat, 1888, pp. 461-475; another, I metsi awur t'aghman tear'n Yisusi K'ristosi appeared in Bazmave'p, 1910, pp. 550-556.

Zak'aria made use of the writings of Chrysostom's student, Theophilus, as well as Eghishe vardapet and the Gospel of Nicodemus.

Sahak Mr'ut, 820?-890?

Little is known about Sahak. Asoghik calls him e"st aweladzaynut'ean Apikure'sh. We know only that he had a good knowledge of Greek and was a zealous defender of Armenian orthodoxy. Sahak was the bishop of Tayk' at a time when the area was under Byzantine control. Persecuted by the Byzantines, he came to Armenia and to the Prince of Princes Ashot. He participated in the Council of Shirakawan (862?) called by Zak'aria to discuss Photius' proposal of unity.


1. c. 863. Reply to Photius written at the order of Ashot, Prince of Princes. In the Book of Letters, pp. 283-294.

2. Letter to King Ashot. In Ts'uts'ak dzer'agrats', S. Hakobyan, vol. III (Erevan, 1968), pp. 525-526.

3. c. 863. Translation (probably by Sahak) of Photius' letter Ar' Ashot ishxanats' ishxan, in BL pp. 279-282, defective. Hakobyan III., pp. 521-525.

4. Less likely: a long doctrinal work against the diophysite Nestorians, in BL 413-482. For a glossary of difficult words in this, see Sion, 1961, pp. 48-50.

Hamam Arewelts'i, 825?-890?

Of Hamam vardapet we know only that he was living and working during the days of King Ashot I (d. 890) and Catholicos Ge'org II Gar'nets'i (877-897). Most of his works are exegeses.


1. Meknut'iwn ar'akats' Soghomoni.

2. Verlutsut'iwn k'erakani. Adontz, pp. 251-285.

3. Meknut'iwn erknayin k'ahanayapetut'eants' Dione'siosi Arispagats'woy.

4. Meknut'iwn Yovba 38rt glxi.

5. A sharakanHayr erknawor, ankanim ar'aji anoxakal k'o gt'ut'teand in Vardapet S. Amatuni, Parakanon Sharakanner, 1911, p. 163.

A short study of Haman Arewelts'i was made by K. Kostaneants' (Vagharshapat, 1896).

Catholicos Mashtots' Eghivardets'i, 836?-d. 898

Mashtots' father was Grigor K'ahana ("the Priest"), a member of a clerical family from Eghivard. As a young man, Grigor went to the district of Sot'k' in Siwnik', where he married and where Mashtots' was born around 836. After Grigor's death, Mashtots' entered Mak'enots' Vank' where he studied under T'e'odoros. He was ordained a priest by Dawit', bishop of Siwnik' (840-857). Mashtots' was a scholar and ascetic. With the support of Mariam tikin ("First Lady," "Queen") of Siwnik', Mashtots' founded a monastery on Sevan island (Sevanay Vank') and two churches, St. Ar'akelots' and St. Astuatsatsin (874), and was the abbot of the retreat for a long time (874-897). Mashtots' slipped into doctrinal error once on the question of unity with the Chalcedonians, but on Catholicos Ge'org Gar'nets'i's censure, he reversed himself, as he himself notes in his letter to sparapet Abas. After the death of Ge'org Gar'nets'i, Mashtots' became Catholicos, but for seven months only (897-898). He was buried in Gar'ni.

Among Mashtots' pupils we know of Step'annos Kronawor, who wrote his short biography in 893 (see Yish. Dzer'., pp. 88-92, 93-96); and John Catholicos, his relative and successor as patriarch.


1. T'ught' ar' Abas sparapet (891), in the History of John Kat'oghikos.

2. T'ught' mxit'arut'ean ar' Dwnets'is (893), in JK.

3. T'ught' ar' Georg kat'oghikos vasn Siwneats' xach'in, in Ararat 1902, pp. 748-753.

4. Mashtots' girk', a collection of Church rituals in one book.

T'ovma Artsruni, 840?-906?

Nothing is known about T'ovma. He apparently visited numerous places in person and attempted to verify facts in a somewhat critical fashion.


His History was written at the request of Prince Grigor Artsruni (d. 888) and continued under the patronage of his son, Gagik. This work is divided into three dprut'iwnk', or "books":

A. Beginning with creation and reaching to the deaths of Sahak and Mesrop (pp. 1-83). T'ovma's principle source here was Movse's Xorenats'i, whom he frequently cites by name.

B. This book encompases four centuries, from the 450s to the 850s (pp. 84-135).

C. The third book describes events from the 850s to the early 900s in great detail. The death of Prince Ashot Artsruni is narrated as are the deeds of his brother Gagik as general of Armenia (905), but it is defective, since a page is missing. This section comprises pp. 136-293.

On this same last page (p. 293), another author once more relates the history of Gurg'en Artsruni (to p. 343), including Prince Derenik and his three sons: Ashot, Gagik, and Gurge'n. However, this section, too, is incomplete.

Subsequent authors continue the work:

     943-1121. The condemnable migration of King Senek'erim of Vaspurakan, pp. 343-358.

     1303. The colophon of Danie'l Gritch', pp. 359-361.

     1272-1346. On the Armenian Sefedi princes and kat'oghikoi, pp. 362-367.

The first edition of TA is Constantinople, 1852. The most recent is Petersburg, 1887. Important material about TA is available in Akinean's three volumes on Eghishe'. Acharyan discovered previously unknown words; Bogharyan, Sion 9(1965), p. 319; Vardanyan on toponymns, Patma-banasirakan handes 1(1973) p. 111; Le Muséon 1887, vol. 6, p. 273; Bazmave'p, 1905 pp. 227, 264, 328, 398, 464.

Catholicos Yovhanne's Drasxanakerts'i, 850?-929

Yovhanne's/John was born in Drasxanakert awan near Dvin. He was related to Catholicos Mashtots' (d. 898) with whom he studied at Sevanay Vank', mastering the Bible, Armenian literature, and grammar. He succeeded Mashtots' as Catholicos during 30 turbulent years (898-929), spending his last days with King Gagik of Vaspurakan. He was buried in Dzoroy Vank'.


John's chief work is his History of Armenia. The first part of this (pp. 15-69) was culled from MX and others. He recalls, as a contemporary, the geghjuk baniw writer Shapuh Bagratuni, whose historical work has not survived. John begins his own History with Noah and reaches to 923, writing at the command "of kings." John was a participant in the important affairs of the day, often serving as a mediator or reconcilor of hostile parties. His language is rich, ornate, and repetitious. The preferred grabar text is Jerusalem, 1867, in which the chapter divisions are a modern introduction.

An English translation, made from Classical Armenian by Krikor Vardapet Maksoudian, is available as a book (1987); and for reading online and downloading in different formats: Yovhannēs Drasxanakertc'i's History of Armenia.

John also has another work, the List of Catholicoi of Armenia, from Gregory to the 9th century with brief biographical indications. It is printed as a footnote in Samue'l of Ani, pp. 272-277.


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