The History of Vardapet Aristakes Lastivertc'i Regarding the Sufferings Occasioned by Foreign Peoples Living Around Us


1. Events in the Land of the Armenians.


[1] Days of torments came to us,
Unbelievable troubles found us,
Because the measure of our sins, having filled up
Overflowed, and our cry arose before God.
Everyone sullied his own road,
And the country was filled with impiety.
Justice declined, and licentiousness increased.
The people and the priests broke their word to God.
For this reason foreign peoples
Alienated us from our habitation [g21]
And turned our glory to ruin.
No breath remained within us
And we became lost through our despair.
Death grew strong and swallowed [us].
Nor did the cemetaries wish to say "Enough!"
Everyone attacked us,
And in our dying days there was no time
[to be healed] from the agonies we had already borne.

[2] Thus were successors replaced by successors.
And the animating breath of life was reduced.
Those who were settled in the land,
Migrated a second time, in their exile,
And were banished by rebellious exiles.
Those who were torn from their loved ones,
If not slain by the sword, were dispersed like erratic stars.
In our day, wars sprung up on all sides:
Sword in the East, killing in the West,
Fire in the North, and death in the South.
Joy at the country vanished.
Sounds of the lyre were silenced,
Beatings of the drum were silenced,
And cries of woe arose...

So much for such things. Now it is time for us to turn to the history [of these events] and to begin right from this point so that our words are intelligible to you.

Dawit' the Curopalate [990-1000] was a mighty man, a builder of the world, very honorable, a lover of the poor, indeed, the definition of peace. For in his day it was as the prophecy states: everyone reposed [3] under hls vine and his fig tree. Now after his death, the emperor of the Byzantines ("the Romans"), Basil, in the 25th year of his reign, came forth with [g22] a large army, and reached the Ekegheac' district, having avoided [stopping] at numerous resting places. The cavalry force of Tayk' went before him and everyone was honored by him with generous gifts according to his worth, receiving authority (ishxanut'iwn), honor, and station, and was exceedingly happy. However, the prophecy of the psalmist David was fulfilled with regard to them, that "In the morning they bloom like grass, in the morning they flourish and rejoice, in the evening they wilt, dry up, and fall" [Psalms 89. 5-6]. For when the emperor was crossing the Aghorhi land, he [decided to] pass the evening near the stronghold called Hawachich'. I do not know what the reasons were, but the western army which was called Erhuzk', and the azatagund clashed and 30 of the most honorable of the azatagund fell at that very place. This did not happen to them for no reason or in vain; for they had mixed poison into the communion on Good Thursday, and had given it to him [Dawit'] to drink, causing that venerable man to choke to death. [This was] because they had wearied of him, and were [4] interested in promises [made to them] earlier by the emperor. Because of this, the righteous judgement of God requited them in accordance with their deeds. From that day on no azat ("noble") has been able to arise in the House of Tayk'—even if he should manage to live—rather they were met with premature death and were eliminated. The great Isaiah in rebuke to them said, "Because this people have refused the waters of Shiloah that flow gently, and melt in fear before Rezin and the son of Remaliah; therefore, behold, the Lord is bringing up against them the waters of the River, mighty and many, the king of Assyria and all hls glory" [Isaiah 8. 6-7]. So much on this matter [end of grabar (Classical Armenian) text page 23; henceforth shown as, for example, g23].

At the same place the king of Abkhazia, Bagarat, and his father, Gurgen, came to meet the emperor, and he greatly glorified them, giving to Bagarat the honor of Curopalate, and to his father that of Magister, and dismissed them in peace. Then he himself went and crossed through Hark' and Manazkert, halted, then turned upon Bagrewand and came to the city of Uxtik'. He ruled numerous districts, fortresses and cities. He set up officials, judges and overseers in them. Then he went on his way in peace, reaching his royal city of Constantinople. This transpired in [5] the year 450 [1001 A.D.], and then the country rested for 14 years.

Now as for the emperor himself, he went and concerned himself with [matters in] the western parts, for he had mastered the land of the Bulgars, their districts and cities which for a long time following the commencement of his reign, [waging] uneasy wars, he had been unable to get under control, But now favorable opportunities presented themselves, for the one who had held the land, [a man] victorious in warfare, had died, while his sons, because they did not reconcile themselves one with the other, surrendered, going to the emperor. For "A kingdom divided against itself cannot stand" [Mark 3.14]. Such was the case with the country of the Bulgars. Now the emperor removed the sons of the Bulgar tyrant from their inheritance, clan and family, and gave them places of habitation in the land of Byzantium. Then he treacherously assembled in one place all the troops of that land as if he were going to give them gifts and record their numbers, but then sent them without [chance of] return to the [g24] East. They came and ruined the land. Alas their coming to the East, and woe to the place where they moved about! Lo, [they were] a wicked and merciless [6] people, a hard-hearted, assaulting people. This prophetic lament may appropriately be recited about them, "The land was like the garden of Eden before them, but after them, a desolate wilderness" [Joel II. 3]. We have said enough about this. Let us return to the course of our narratlon.

In the year 464 of our era [1015] Bagarat, [king] of Abkhazia, died and his son, Georgi, succeeded him [1014-1027]. The emperor Basil sent him an edict which read as follows: "Abandon [those territories] which I gave to your father out of the Curopalate's portion as a gift, and be prince solely over your patrimony." But [Georgi] did not consent to this; rather, taking pride in his youth, he wrote a contrary reply: "I shall not give anyone even one single House [from the territory] over which my father held sway." Now when the emperor heard this, he sent an army to forcibly master the land. The braves of Tayk' came forth to resist [this army] near the great Uxtik' awan, and they put the Byzantine army to flight, but in no way did they harm the city or other cultivated places. Yet this was the beginning of the destruction of the House of Tayk'.


2. Concerning the Armenian Kingdom.


In that period the king of the land of Armenia was Gagik [I, 989-1020], son of Ashot, brother of Smbat and Gurgen, from the Bagratid clan, a man mighty and successful in warfare. He had kept the land of Armenia in peace. In his day the orders of the Church shone [g25] forth, and priests of the Holy Oath [the Church] were illuminated. In his time it was as the prophet predicted: "The earth was full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea." For the patriarchal throne was occupied by lord Sargis who had been nourished with holiness in the bosom of the Church and schooled in religious asceticism at the monastery called Sewan island. By the grace of God, they summoned [Sargis] in accordance with his merits, and seated him on the throne of our Illuminator. [Like Gregory the Illuminator, Sargis], having spent his life doing good deeds, ended his life.

At that time there were [many noteworthy] vardapets (doctors of the Church) [such as] Sargis, Tiranun and Yenovk' who were vardapets at the kat'oghikosate; Samuel, who directed the monastery of Kamrjac' Jor; Yovsep', the primate [8] of Hnjuc' monastery; Step'annos Taronac'i, who wrote a history of the world in a marvellous style, beginning with the first man and concluding with the death of Gagik, about whom this [present] history is concerned; Yovhannes from the same district [Taron] who was nicknamed Kozerhn, who wrote a book on the faith; and Grigor an exceedingly learned man, and many others, who in their time greatly elevated the horn of the Church with orthodox confession. Those who look upon us with distrust [would be] humiliated by the doctrinal works of these [scholars] and [should] crawl into holes in the walls like mice. Enough on this matter.

Now king Gagik reigned for a long time and died in hoary old age, being worthy of a fine remembrance. [Gagik's] sons, Smbat, who was called Yovhannes, and his brother Ashot, inherited his principality. Smbat was physically large and quite fat, but they say that he was more learned than many; while Ashot was handsome, stout-hearted and warlike. They fell into disagreement with each other regarding the division of the country, and stood in need of laws and judgement. So Georgi, king of Abkhazia, came and reconciled them. He gave to the doubly-named Smbat as his share the stronghold [9] of Ani and the districts surrounding it, on account of [Smbat's] primacy/seniority. He gave the lower part of the land, facing Persia and Georgia, to Ashot. Smbat accepted this and was returning to his city. On the way, he dismounted to spend the night because of the weight of his body, and he slept unconcernedly. Now a certain one of the princes on Ashot's side came before Georgi for judgement, saying: "Shatik, which Smbat unjustly took from me, is my own place." When Georgi heard this, greatly angered and enraged he sent a force after [Smbat]. They came and pounced upon him unexpectedly. But because of his great physical weight, [Smbat] was unable to mount a horse. Now the princes who were with [Smbat] quickly took to flight, but their pursuers littered the road all the way up to the gate of Ani with corpses. [The pursuers] then turned back, stripped and plundered the adornments of the churches of the kat'oghikosate, unnailed the crosses, and said insultingly: "We shall take and make horse-shoes [from them]." But at the appropriate time righteous God punished them by means of the Byzantines, as we shall relate in [the proper] place. As for Smbat, they took him to Georgi who ordered that he be put in prison. But then, having taken three fortresses from [Smbat], he released him.

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