Smbat Sparapet's
Chronicle

Translator's Preface

To the memory of my father Askanaz (Alvin) Der Bedrosian

This work is in the public domain. It may be copied and distributed freely.

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[i] The late 13th century Chronicle translated below is a major source for the history of the Cilician Armenian kingdom. Roughly three fourths of the work consists of a summary of another medieval Armenian history by Matthew of Edessa which describes the period from 951 to 1136 and its continuation by Gregory the Priest, covering 1136-1162. Since Matthew's work has survived, by far the most important part of the Chronicle is its original portion, devoted to the period from 1163 to 1272. For unknown reasons, our text terminates abruptly in mid sentence while describing the events of 1272.

The two 19th century publications of the classical Armenian text of the Chronicle—those of Oskan Yovhanne'seants' (Moscow, 1856) and G. Shahnazarean (Paris, 1859)—are based on two fairly late manuscripts (called the Ejmiatsin texts) now at the Matenadaran in Yerevan, Armenia. In the late 1870s another much longer manuscript of the Chronicle was discovered, which dates from the late 13th century. This text (manuscript #1308), housed at the Library of San Lazzaro in Venice, was published by father Serope' Age"lean [Smbatay sparapeti taregirk' [The Chronicle of Smbat Sparapet] (Venice, 1956)], and is the text translated here. The Venice manuscript had been used earlier by the philologist L. Alishan in his works Sisuan (Venice, 1885) and Hayapatum (Venice, 1901). In those works Alishan referred to this manuscript as the "Cilician Chronicle" and/or the "Royal Chronicle."

The most accessible studies of the Chronicle are those of Sirarpie Der Nersessian ["The Armenian Chronicle of the Constable Smpad", Dumbarton Oaks Papers #13 (1959) pp. 143-168] and the introduction to Gérard Dédéyan's partial French translation [La chronique attribuée au Connétable Smbat (Paris, 1980) pp. 9-35]. Der Nersessian suggested that the shorter versions of the text were merely extracts of the longer Venice manuscript with some later additions. Dédéyan disputes this, pointing to detailed information absent from the Venice text which appears in the shorter editions. He also notes that the language used in the Venice manuscript is closer to conventional classical Armenian whereas the shorter editions are in a form of Middle Armenian which he considers more authentically 13th century. He suggests that the Venice text and the shorter Moscow and Paris texts all made use of a fuller version of the Chronicle which has not survived.

[ii] Unfortunately, some folios are missing from the beginning and end of the Venice text. Consequently, the name of the work and its author, which normally would appear at the beginning in a title and/or at the end in a colophon, are not recorded. Also missing are pages describing events occurring in the years 1023-1029, 1063-1064, 1070, and 1230-1251. Nonetheless, all publications of the Armenian text as well as all French translations prior to Dédéyan's have Smbat Sparapet (or Connétable) as the author. Smbat (1208-1276) was commander-in-chief (Arm. sparapet) of the Cilician Armenian army and the brother of King Het'um I (1226-1269, d. 1270). As a statesman and general, he was a major participant in Cilician civil, military, and diplomatic affairs of the second half of the 13th century. An educated and literate individual, Smbat translated the Assises of Antioch from French into Armenian, and probably had some familiarity with Greek, Arabic, Turkish and/or Persian. He visited the Mongol court in Qaraqorum (1248) and recorded some of his observations in a short letter in French to his brother-in-law Henry I of Cyprus. [See the Letter of Smbat Constable to King Henry I of Cyprus]. Such an individual certainly was uniquely well-informed to write a chronicle of his times. However, most regrettably, the description of Smbat's trip to the Far East—which might have confirmed him as the author—is contained in one of the sections of the Chronicle which did not survive. It is curious that each time Smbat is mentioned in the Venice text he is referred to in the third person, though in the later Ejmiatsin texts an editor appears to have expanded these references by inserting descriptive phrases around his name, such as "I, Smbat, author of this work." The 19th century L. Alishan, perhaps for these reasons, considered the Chronicle to be the work of an anonymous author, a view shared by Dédéyan.

In his utilization of Matthew of Edessa the author, whom we shall call Smbat, has eliminated most of Matthew's Scriptural references, as well as the lengthy speeches Matthew placed in the mouths of protagonists, and the focus on his native Edessa. Smbat also has included some information not found in Matthew, for example about the crusading Peter the Hermit; and at one point he refers readers to other sources—unnamed "Frankish historians"—for more detail. Smbat also rearranged and made some corrections to the information provided by Matthew's continuator, Gregory the Priest. [For an English translation of Matthew and Gregory the Priest see Armenia and the Crusades The Chronicle of Matthew of Edessa, A. E. Dostourian, trans. (Lanham, Maryland, 1993)]. For the original portion of his Chronicle, however, Smbat was relying on information obtained from within the royal family, the Armenian patriarchate, the state archives, and especially from personal involvement.

[iii] Partial French translations of the shorter Ejmiatsin texts were made by V. Langlois [Chronique de Sempad, Extraits (St. Petersburg, 1862), and by E. Dulaurier (1869) [in Recueil des historiens des croisades, Documents arméniens, I. pp. 610-672]. A partial French translation of the longer Venice text of Age"lean was made by Gérard Dédéyan (Paris, 1980). Dédéyan's edition, an annotated translation of pp. 186-254 of Age"lean with several inserts from the Ejmiatsin texts, includes an extensive introduction which discusses the manuscript tradition and questions of authorship in detail and is accompanied by a bibliography, maps, and indices of persons and places mentioned in the text. Extracts from the Age"lean edition were translated into Russian by A.G. Galstyan [in Armianskie istochniki o Mongolakh [Armenian Sources on the Mongols] (Moscow, 1962)]. S. Der Nersessian, in her Dumbarton Oaks article, translated into English about fifteen pages of extracts from the Age"lean edition of interest to Western historians.

Age"lean's publication of the Venice manuscript is not a critical edition, but it is the best text currently available. To create a continuous text, Age"lean incorporated into his edition (in smaller type) those portions missing from the Venice text which appear in the Paris edition of 1859. We have not used smaller type for these inclusions in the present full English translation. The inserted portions are pp. 1-11, 27, 59, and 226-228 from the Paris edition, and pp. 71-74 from Matthew's Chronicle.

For the complicated history of Cilicia in this period, see S. Der Nersessian, "The Kingdom of Cilician Armenia" in History of the Crusades, K. M. Setton, ed. vol. II (Philadelphia, 1969) pp. 630-59; T. S. R. Boase, The Cilician Kingdom of Armenia (London, 1978); and Ani Atamian Bournoutian, "Cilician Armenia" in The Armenian People from Ancient to Modern Times, R. G. Hovannisian, ed. vol. 1 (New York, 1997), pp. 273-291. Additional bibliography is available in C. Toumanoff's article, "Armenia and Georgia," [Chapter XIV in The Cambridge Medieval History, vol. IV, The Byzantine Empire, part I, (Cambridge, 1966), pp. 593-637]. The maps and accompanying text in R. H. Hewsen, Armenia, A Historical Atlas (Chicago, 2001) pp. 136-141 also are valuable. For a discussion of eastern Armenia in this period see R. Bedrosian, The Turco-Mongol Invasions and the Lords of Armenia in the 13-14th Centuries (New York, 1979). Three other Cilician sources of relevance to this period are available on other pages of this website: King Het'um II's Chronicle, Grigor Aknerts'i's History of the Nation of Archers, and Het'um the Historian's The Flower of Histories of the East. The latter work, written by Smbat Sparapet's nephew, may contain information Het'um gleaned from his uncle about the Far East.

The transliteration used here is a modification of the new Library of Congress system for Armenian, substituting x for the LOC's kh, for the thirteenth character of the Armenian alphabet (խ). Otherwise we follow the LOC transliteration, which eliminates diacritical marks above or below a character, and substitutes single or double quotation marks to the character's right. In the LOC romanization, the seventh character of the alphabet (է) appears as e', the eighth (ը) as e", the twenty-eighth (ռ) as r', and the thirty-eighth (o), as o'.

Robert Bedrosian
Long Branch, New Jersey 2005

A Note on Pagination


The following chronological tables may be useful as accompaniments to the translation. The tables open in separate windows, for persistence.

Rulers of Armenia and of Eastern and Western Empires
Medieval Rulers of Antioch, Cyprus, and Jerusalem


Additional tables, such as chronologies of the rulers of Iberia/Georgia and of Armenian kat'oghikoi, are available on another page of this site: Chronological Tables. Maps are available on our Maps Page.


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