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Therefore, taking with him a group of young men, by authority of the King and the consent of Saint Sahak, the blessed Maslitots took leave with a kiss of holiness, on the fifth year of King Vramshapouh's reign, and came to the region of Aram[1], to two Assyrian cities, one of which was called Edessa[2], and the other, Amid[3]. There he presented himself to two bishops, one of whom was called Babilas[4], and the other, Akakios. And they, clergy and nobles of the city, received the visitors with due honors and solicitude, in keeping with the custom of Christians.

The dedicated teacher then divided his pupils into two groups, assigning one group to the Assyrian school in the city of Edessa, and the other to the Hellenic school in Samosata[5].



            He then resumed, with his co-workers, his usual prayerful labors, his tearful pleadings, his life of austerity, and (278) his anxieties, remembering the word of the prophet: "In retiring and rest shalt thou live."

            Thus he experienced many tribulations in order to serve his nation. And God the All-Bountiful finally granted him that good fortune; for with his holy hand he became the father of new and wonderful offsprings - letters of the Armenian language, and then and there quickly designed, named, determined, their order and devised the syllabication.

            Then taking leave of the holy Bishop, he went, along with his pupils, to the city of Samosata, where he was accorded great honors by the Bishop and the Church. He found there in the same city, a Hellenic scribe, named Ropanos, by whose hands all the variations of the letters, thin and heavy strokes, long and short, th~ single letters as well as the diphthongs were devised, after which he proceeded with translations, with the help of two of his pupils, Hovhan, from the province of Ekeghiats[6], and Hovsep from the House of Baghan[7]. And thus began the translation of the Bible, first, the Proverbs of Solomon, which begins with the exhortation to seek wisdom: "To know wisdom and instruction, to perceive the words of understanding,” which was written also by the same scribe. At once they began to teach the youth, [training] scribes for the same task.



Then taking papers from thd Bishop of the city and taking leave of them together with his followers, he came to the Assyrian Bishop. He showed the alphabet to those who had received him earlier. Whereupon from the holy bishops and all the churches there rose many hymns of (279) praise, glorifying God and offering encouragement to the students. And taking with him letters of good tidings and God's gracious gift, he set out with his group, safely, passing many hostelries, and with profound joy, he arrived in Armenia, in the regions of the province of Airarat, near the limits of the New City[8], on the sixth year[9] of King Vramshapouh's reign.

Even Moses the Great was not as happy when he descended from Mount Sinai. We do not say that he [was happier], but that he was even much less[happy]. For as the man who had seen God descenaed froxif the mountain, holding the Commandments inscribed by God, he [was saddened] because of the sinful people: who having [turned away] from Providence, had become abject God-forsakers and were bowing down before their molten idol, to the great distress of the bearer of the Commandments, causing him to lament, as is evident from his breaking the tablets.

But the blessed one concerning whom this essay is bemg written did not act as had transpired there; on the contrary, filled with spiritual consolation, he was confident of the eagerness of those who were to be the recipients, and in anticipation of the joy of the recipients, the very hostekies on his road appeared as receivers of tidings.

Let no one consider us bold or what we have said. We may be subject to censure for our analogy between a very modest man and Moses the magnificent, who had spoken with God. But we feel justified in that, there is no reason to disparage, overtly or covertly that which is from God; for it is from only one omnipotent God that all graces come to earth-born men.

And thus as the unforgettable one approached the royal city, they informed the King and the holy Bishop. (280)

And they, followed by the entire assemblage of noble courtiers and a throng, came outside the city and met the blessed one on the bank of River Rah[10], and after warm greetings amidst sounds of joy and the singing of hymns and doxologies, returned to the city. And the days passed in festive joy.



            He then immediately obtained permission from the King to undertake [to teach] in the savage regions of the Medians[11] who were difficult to communicate with, not only because of their devilish, satanic, and fiendish character, but also because of their very crude, corrupt, and harsh language. Undertaking to refine them, they made them, offsprings of many generations, intelligible, eloquent, educated, and informed of godly wisdom. Thus they became immersed in the laws and commandments, to the extent of becoming distinguishable from their fellow natives.



And from then on continuing with the husbandry of God's work, they began with the evangelical art - to translate, to write, and to teach, especially since they had before their eyes the Lord's lofty commands and God's lofty Commandments which were given to blessed Moses concerning all the things that were - so as to be inscribed in a book to be preserved for the eternity to come, as well as similar commands which had been given to other prophets: "Take thee a great roll," said He, "and write in (281) it with a scribe's pen." And elsewhere: "Now go, write it on a tablet, and inscribe it in a book." But David indicates even more clearly that the divine law shall apply to all nations, by saying, "This shall be written for the generation to come," and that "The Lord shall count when he writeth up the people," which in His coming Christ fulfilled by His gracious commandment: "Go ye therefotre and teach all nations," and that "this gospel shall be preached in all the world." Thus our blessed fathers, having obtained permission, rendered their work, through hopeful endeavor, manifest and fruitful as the gospel.

At that time our blessed and wonderful land of Armenia became truly worthy of admiration, where by the hands of two colleagues, suddenly, in an instant, Moses, the law-giver, along with the order of the prophets, energetic Paul with the entire phalanx of the apostles, along with Christ's world-sustaining gospel, became Armenian-speaking.

What heart-warming joy existed there thenceforward, and what a pleasant scene for the eyes! For a land which had not known even the name of the regions where all those wonderful divine acts had been performed, soon learned all the things that were, not only those that had transpired in time, but that of the eternity which had preceded, and those that had come later, the beginning and the end and all the divine traditions.



            And as they became certain that things were firmly established, they were emboldened even more in gathering more pupils for the newly discovered leamiug, so as to instruct, educate, and train for preaching illiterate men. (282) On their part they arose and came in large numbers from all parts and provinces of Armenia to the [newly] opened fountain of divine knowledge. For in the provinces of Airarat at the seat of kings and patriarchs, there gushed forth for the Armenians a grace of God's commandments. Here it is needful to recall the words of the Prophet: "And there shall spring a fountain in the House of David."

            And truly the [two] pillars of the Church boldly assumed the task of preaching Christ by sending to different parts and provinces of Arnienia their apostles of truth, [deeming] those of us who had completed their training as qualified to teach others. To them they offered their own labors as examples and guide rules, bidding them to stay within those rules.

And by their God-given wisdoni they instructed nearby the royal court together with the entire azatagound banak[12]. Moreover, blessed Sahak instructed especially the men of the Mamikonians, foremost of whom was named Vardan[13], who was also called Vardkan. Likewise he strove to instruct everyone and to impart the knowledge of the truth.



After this the blessed Mashtots obtained permission so that while the Lord Bishop[14] disseminated the word of life among the royal garrisons, he himself would do likewise in areas of heathendom[15]. And he took leave of them with his assistants, the first one of whom was named Tirayr from the province of Khordsenakan, and that of the second, Moushe, from the province of Taron, who were both saintly, energetic Imeni, as well as other servants of the gospel whom I ani unable to designate by name. To- (283) gether with them, trusting in God's grace, the blessed one arrived in Rotastak of Goghtan, his first parish. And expounding the doctrine in his usual manner, in company with the pious Shabit, he filled the province with the message of Christ's gospel, and in all the towns of the province he established orders of monks. He was soon joined by Git, son of the Christ-loving Shabit, who followed in his father's footsteps, and rendered much service to the vardapet in the manner of a true son.



After this he went to Siunik, across the boundary. Here too he was received with godly amenities by the ruler of Siunik[16] whose name was Vaghinak. From him (Mashtots) obtained much assistance in his assumed task, enabling him to visit and to familiarize himself with all parts of Siunik. And so as to teach he gathered youths from the more brutal, barbarian, and fiendish regions and cared for them and instructed as a teacher, educated and advised them so well as to ordain a bishop overseer from among those barbarians, whose name was Ananias, a saintly, distinguished man, and a father for the seminarians. He then filled the region of Siunik with monastic orders.

At that time God ordained that brave Vasak Siuni[17], a wise and ingenious, far-seeing man, endowed with the grace of divine knowledge, came to be the ruler of Siunik. He greatly assisted in the work of the evangelization. He showed obedience, as a son to his father, and duly serving the gospel, carried out all his requests. (284)



            Again, after the passage of sonie time, the beloved of Christ thought of taking care of the barbarian regions, and by the grace of God undertook to create an alphabet for the Georgian language. He wrote, arranged, and put it in order, and taking a few of his pupils, arrived in the regions of Georgia. And he went and presented himself to King Bakour, and the bishop of the land, Moses.

            He placed his skill at their disposal, advised and urged them, and they consented to do what he requested. And he found a Georgian translator by the name of Jagha, a literate and devout man. The Georgian king then ordered that youths be gathered from various parts and provinces of his realni and brought to the vardapet. Taking them he put them through the forge of education, and with spiritual love and energy he removed [frbm them] the purulent uncleanliness of the worship of spirits and false idols, and he separated and purged them from their native [traditions], and made them lose their recollection to such an extent that they said, "I forgot my people and my father's house."

And thus they who had been gathered from among so many distinct and dissimilar tongues, he bound together with one (set of) divine commandments, transforming them into one nation and glorifiers of one God. There were found among them men worthy of attaining the order of bishop, first among whom was a saintly and devout man by the name of Samuel, who became the Bishop of the royal court.

            And when he had organized the work of God's worship in all parts of Georgia, taking leave of them he returned to Armenia, and meeting Sahak, the Catholicos of the Armenians, recounted all that had transpired [and] together they glorified God and the exalted Christ. (285)


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[1] Aram - This is the designation given for Asorik (Syria) in the Bible, an area which extended over Mesopotamia and Syria. It is supposed to have been derived from Aram, seventh son of Noah's son Shem. Aramaic had become the dominant language in the Near Fast especially during the Persian ascendency until the Arabian domination. The Aramaic dialects of Edessa and Nisibin had become the Literary language which was known as Syriac.

[2] Edessa - Present Ourfa in Turkey. Once an important Syrian religious center, a bishopric with some 300 monasteries.

[3] Amid - Present Diarbekir on River Tigris which was in Koriun's time a bishopric.

[4] Babilas - It has been suggested that this name be changed to Rabulas, who was a very prominent bishop whose incumbency as the bishop of Edessa is said to have begun in 411-412. But Mesrop's visit to Edessa must have taken place before 411. Marquart thinks that the name Rabulas has been mistakenly mentioned in place of his predecessors.

[5] Samosata - A city north of Edessa, on the Euphrates River. In Mesrop's time it was within the Roman (Byzantine) Empire and the dominant language was Greek.

[6] Ekeghiats province - The present district of Erzinjan.

[7] Baghan - The name of a province, presently the province of Palou. The reference here is to Hovsep Baghnatsi, with whom Mesrop made translations in Samosata.

[8] Nor Kaghak - The city of Vagharshapat, capital of Armenla in Mesrop's time.

[9] The date here is incorrect. See 11.

[10] Rah - Probably a distortion of Veraskh or Kasakh; most probably Veraskh.

[11] See 9.

[12] Azatagound banak - The king's army. Aside from the soldiery, it included the court, the king, the queen, the nobles, and the bishop of the palace. Wherever the king went in state, he was accompanied with the azatagound banak. After the fall of the Armenian dynasty, the army, under foreign overlords, was referred to as the "Armenian army".

[13] Vardan - The great national hero who fell in the Battle of Avarair (451). He was a grandson of Catholicos Sahak on his mother's side.

[14] Lord Bishop - Catholicos Sahak.

[15] This passage indicates that there were still some pagans in the districts of Goghtan and Siunik in Mesrop's time.

[16] Siunik - One of the prominent provinces of Armenia. It included the areas of present Zangezur, Daralakiaz, and Gegharkounik in the region of Sevan.

[17] Vasak Siuni - the traitor prince who betrayed the loyalists under Vardan Mamikonian. If Koriun had written his life of Mesrop at a later date, be would not have praised him so lavishly.