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Movses Khorenatsi by Mark Cartwright | published on 02 March 2018 Movses Khorenatsi (by ‎Ashnag) | Movses Khorenatsi (Moses of Khoren) was a 5th-century CE Armenian historian whose ‎work the History of the Armenians has earned him the title of the “father of Armenian history”. ‎Drawing on ancient sources and ambitiously covering the history of his country up to his own ‎lifetime, Movses’ work has been instrumental in helping to create a sense of continuous history ‎and nationhood for the Armenian people. | | Biographical Details | Movses lived sometime in the ‎‎5th century CE, with the date of his birth and death usually put at c. 410 and c. 490 CE respectively, ‎which is the period Movses himself states he lived in. However, as with many other figures in ‎ancient Armenia, such dates are disputed due to conflicting and incomplete sources. The work of ‎Movses does reference sources which were not available in Armenian in the 5th century CE and ‎personalities and places which are only certainly attested to after the 5th century CE. Indeed, there ‎are some historians, notably Robert Thomson, who consider Movses to have lived as late as the 8th ‎century CE, a claim rejected by most Armenian historians. | | REMOVE ADS | ADVERTISEMENT | | ‎Advertise Here | Movses writes in his book that he was tutored by Mesrop Mashtots, the man ‎credited with inventing the Armenian alphabet in 405 CE. He also says that he was sent to study at ‎Edessa, Alexandria, Constantinople, and Athens, and that he completed his work when in old age. | ‎‎| MOVSES’ WORK PULLED TOGETHER ANCIENT TEXTS IN GREEK, ASSYRIAN & HEBREW, ORAL ‎TRADITIONS, AND FOLK TALES. | History of the Armenians | As Armenian written history began ‎with Movses, he is known as the “the father of Armenian historiography” (patmahair), although ‎there were other 5th-century CE historians such as Eghishe, Agathangelos, and Pavstos Buzand. ‎Movses’ great work is the History of the Armenians (Patumtiun Hayots), which has become one of ‎the most important sources of information on ancient Armenia and its neighbours from the earliest ‎traditions in mythology to the 5th century CE. It was the first book to comprehensively and ‎systematically cover the history of the country. Movses’ work pulled together ancient texts in ‎Greek, Assyrian, and Hebrew, oral traditions, and folk tales, and wove them into the classical and ‎biblical tradition to create a unique continuous history of the Armenian people. To this already ‎heady mix was added the author’s own embellishments, much to the chagrin of modern historians ‎trying to disentangle truth from fiction, iron out inconsistencies, and reconcile the book’s contents ‎with contemporary and later sources. Nevertheless, Movses deserves credit as the first Armenian ‎writer who set out to write a comprehensive history of his country, as here explained by the ‎modern historian R. G. Hovannisian: | | For him the writing of history is not the exposition of divine ‎providence or the preaching of right conduct. Rather, its basic purpose is to bequeath to posterity a ‎reliable record of the deeds of great men – not only heroic and martial exploits, but also noble acts ‎of good governance and accomplishments of learning and piety. There is no place for obscure men ‎and unseemly deeds. (216) | | Mythology: Hayk | One of the unique contributions Movses made ‎to Armenian history was his recounting of the foundation myth of the nation (some scholars might ‎say ‘inventing’). This is the story of Hayk (Haik) and Bel and places the origins of the Armenian ‎people as the descendants of the biblical Noah via his son Japheth. Hayk, a descendant of Japheth, ‎rebelled one day against Bel the evil Babylonian tyrant and returned back to his homeland around ‎Mount Ararat in ancient Armenia, where it was thought Noah’s ark had come to rest at the end of ‎the great flood. Bel followed Hayk and his relations so that a mighty battle followed in which Bel ‎was killed. Hayk then gave his name to his descendants, the Hay people, and the name of the ‎region of Armenia in the Armenian language, Hayasa. | | REMOVE ADS | ADVERTISEMENT | | ‎Advertise Here | Armenian Marzpanate | Armenian Marzpanate | A Comprehensive History | ‎After establishing the origins of the nation to his satisfaction, Movses then proceeds to describe ‎the evolution of the state’s political institutions, the Bronze and Iron Age cultures of the region, and ‎the history of the powerful dynastic families of Armenia. These influential clans, or nakharars, ‎dominated the political, civilian, and military sphere of Armenia with their wealth and power based ‎on the feudal fiefdoms they each governed. The families (with their most prominent period in ‎brackets) include: | | The Orontids (c. 570 – c. 200 BCE) | The Artaxiads (c. 200 BCE – c. 14 CE) | The ‎Arsacids (12-428 CE) | The Mamikonians (428-652 CE) | The Bagratuni (post 701 CE but also ‎prominent earlier) | Of these dynasties, Movses gives special treatment to the Bagratuni (the ‎patrons of his work) and minimises that of the Mamikonians. The great kings are given special ‎focus, for example, such figures as Artaxias I (r. c. 200 – c. 160 BCE) and Tigranes the Great (r. c. 95 – ‎c. 56 BCE), as well as influential clergy like Saint Gregory the Illuminator (c. 239 – c. 330 CE). | | ‎REMOVE ADS | ADVERTISEMENT | | Advertise Here | Sculpture of Movses Khorenatsi | Sculpture ‎of Movses Khorenatsi | Movses’ work may have chronological inconsistencies and some rulers are ‎confused with others but there are many passages of genuine historical value. Just one example of ‎how Movses’ descriptions of events are sometimes supported by archaeological evidence is the ‎following description of the construction of Garni in the second half of the 1st century CE by ‎Tiridates I (Trdat I): | | Trdat completed the construction of the fortress of Garni in hard and ‎dressed blocks of stone cemented with iron [clamps] and lead. Inside, for his sister Khosrovidukht, ‎he built a shaded residence with towers and wonderful carvings in high relief. And he composed in ‎her memory an inscription in the Greek script. (quoted in Hovannisian, 68) | | In 1945 CE, ‎excavations at Garni revealed a partial stone inscription in Greek which names a ruler Trdat who is ‎described as the “supreme ruler of Greater Armenia”. | | Legacy | The History of the Armenians, ‎first mass-printed in 1695 CE, influenced many later historians and intellectuals, and its ‎comprehensive coverage of Armenia helped to foster an already growing sense of national identity ‎and, indeed, pride from the time it was written right down to the modern day. The historical ‎accuracy of parts of the History of the Armenians may be debatable but it, nevertheless, created a ‎‎‘received’ tradition, which was perhaps the author’s primary intention. The book may be an ‎exercise in myth building but it has itself become an integral part of Armenian history and tradition ‎with such passages as the Hayk myth still being taught in Armenian schools worldwide. Indeed, ‎Movses’ work still continues to play an important role in discussions on Armenian national identity ‎in the 21st century CE. | | This article was made possible with generous support from the National ‎Association for Armenian Studies and Research and the Knights of Vartan Fund for Armenian ‎Studies. | ‎ https://www.ancient.eu/Movses_Khorenatsi/