Movses Dasxurants'i's

History of the Aghuans


Book One


[44]

27.

Narrative history about Saint Mesrop and his companions.

After the martyrdom of Aghuania's kat'oghikos Grigoris [g189], the barbarian peoples of the eastern areas again fell into pagan idol-worship, making many vows in their fire-temples, and persecuting Christians. [Mesrop, who] was one of the first doctors of the Church (vardapet), by the grace of the Holy Spirit invented alphabets for three peoples, namely the Armenians, Aghuanians, and Iberians/Georgians. After this he went on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. Returning with his students and with a silver cross plated with gold in which was a piece of the Lord's Cross, he passed through Armenia into the eastern areas to the district of Uti. And he dwelled among marshy places and moss-covered swamps in the place called Gis. He revived the Church and strengthened the faith. He spread preaching the gospel to the land of the Uti, the Aghuans, the Lp'ink', to Kaspk', up to the Ch'oghay Pass, and to other foreign tribes whom Alexander of Macedon had captured and settled around the great Mount Caucasus, namely, the Gargark' and the Kamichik Hep'taghk' (Hephthalites) and he taught them the same form of worship which they had learned long ago and then forgotten [g190].

[Mesrop] was a perfect preacher and apostle to the barbarian mountaineers whom he taught to write in their own language. From there he returned and dwelled in the swampy areas [or, at Mo'rs] hiding from the threats of the cruel princes. Hiding there, he daily strengthened the Church of God.

Then the spirit of fanaticism incited the minds of the bestial tyrants, and in their fury they hastened to capture and kill them. But the venerable Mashtots', warned by the Holy Spirit, quickly dug a hole of the right size. Taking the divine treasure, the Cross of the Lord, he placed it in a box and hid it in the hole he had dug in the ground.

Subsequently, his true and faithful disciples, unanimously putting their trust in prayer, agreed to divide into two groups; the first planned to go up into the districts, while the other, traversing many lands, went to preach the faith. However, those who stayed at the site of the Cross received the martyr's crown after a few days. At the scene of their martyrdom luminous signs and wonderful miracles were observed. These were seen on many occasions by the unbelievers who, learning that these miracles were from God [g191], believed with one accord and were baptized in the faith.

[45] One of the newly converted, who had often seen this sign over the place where the Cross was buried, built a square earthen chapel there, and building a shrine of wooden planks, transferred their relics there and vowed to commemorate them yearly. Many were healed in this place, so that those who believed were confirmed in their faith. First laying the foundations there, they built a Church of God over the site of the Cross. Afterwards they named it the Old Church of Gis. A long time later, a noble prince called Varaz-P'eroz of the Ar'anshahik clan wanted to renovate the Old Church, but he could not demolish the brick top of the dome, for inside this rested the Lord's Cross and the relics of the martyrs [g192].


28.

An account of Saint Mashtots' students is presented below.

Not long after the death of Saint Mashtots', at the instigation of the Holy Spirit his students in the districts of Aghuania assembled in one place and were eager to do good works. "What shall we do," they asked, "for the source of our enlightenment has reposed in Christ, and we remain behind as orphans? Come brothers, let us go to Jerusalem, the city of God, and ask for a leader, since the true illumination of the Eastern lands started in Jerusalem with Saint Eghisha (Elisha/Eliseus)."

They prepared and equipped themselves and divided into three groups. They left the regions of Aghuania, reached the borders of Asorestan and subsequently arrived in Jerusalem. Entering the House of God, they worshipped the redeeming Cross (the "Wood of Life") for a long time. They met the spiritually joyous and godly patriarch and greeted the clergy of the church with a humble embrace and were well received by them [g193]. They told the holy patriarch in full about the efforts of Mashtots', and the miracles he performed which resulted in the barbarians being corrected in their ways. Hearing this, [the Jerusalem clergy] received them joyfully and honoured them with great attention for many days. They attached to them three pious priests, the first of whom was Athanasius. They implored them humbly to accompany them that they might guide them in creating dioceses in their own land. When they fulfilled their vows, they joyously kissed the feet of the holy patriarch. At his order they were sent away with gold and silver ornaments and many relics of all the Saints of God. Departing with heartfelt gladness, they went their way accompanied by the priests. Now during the holy fast of forty days, on the seventh Sunday of Easter, [the travelers] arrived in the district of Mets Kueank' in the deep-valleyed and heavily forested land of Artsakh. The group divided into two parts at the crossroads: the first assembled in a place to the north known as Asteghn Blur (Star Hill), while the second settled beyond the river Trtuakan [g194] to the south, in a wooded valley in the forest called Ch'ghax. For they had vowed to each other that they would celebrate Easter there.


[46]

29.

The invasion of all the borders of Aghuania, Armenia, and Georgia by the Northerners, and the martyrdom of Saint Mesrob's students.

At that time the king of R'osmosok' together with his army and the Tubal brigade gathered all the forces of the Huns, crossed to this side of the River Kur, spread into the district of the Uti, and pitched camp by the town of Xaghxagh. Choosing three strong men, [the R'osmosok' king] appointed them leaders of the great force. He entrusted the multitude of eleven armies to them, and commanded them to divide into three groups and to raid the lands of Aghuania, Armenia, and Georgia. The third group of the army reached [g195] the district of Artsakh at the beginning of Easter and began raiding Mets Kueank'.

When word of this assault reached the Ch'lax group from Jerusalem they were terrified. They hurriedly gathered all the relics together, put them in two silver caskets and concealed them in the ground.

Immediately afterwards there descended like a torrent of rain a pandemonium which brought death with it, mixed with cries of lamentation and spreading hopeless despair. It swept forward like the waves of the sea, and quickly arrived at Astegh Blur. Everyone there was taken unawares and mercilessly put to the sword. The gold and silver ornaments were plundered, and the holy relics scattered over the hill. It was here that the chief of the priests, the venerable Athanasius, was slain. The invaders took the survivors prisoner and detained them there.

[47] Now it happened that there was [among these captives] a woman called T'aguhi, one of the local noblewomen of the district of Uti from the village of Bagink', an extremely rich woman who frequented the missionaries from Jerusalem. When the general of the Huns spotted her among the prisoners, he became inflamed with a demonic and lascivious passion, for she was very beautiful. He ordered that she should be guarded with great care, since he planned to take her to wife. His men completed the day's raids and heaped all the district's loot and booty together, while his comrades [g196] killed many and drove others into captivity on Astegh Blur. Among these prisoners there were two priests, who were colleagues of the martyr Athanasius. The great general of the Huns camped there that night with his army, and towards evening the chief of the Tubal force ordered the blessed T'aguhi to be fetched that he might satisfy his lewd desires upon her. Armed with the power of the Lord, however, she scorned him, resisted and ridiculed the filthy barbarian. "God forbid", she said, "that I should yield my chaste virginity to a son of a dog, a pig-like heathen, or that I, out of fear of torture, should be afraid to die and exchange this worthless life for one which does not pass away!" And raising her hands to God, she said: "Lord of Lords and King of Kings, do not put me to shame who place my trust in You. Keep me pure and righteous in this present danger. As You gave me rebirth in the [baptismal] basin of light, that I might know You, so now make me free from sin in faith and holiness, and cause the light [g197] of Your truth to shine into the hearts of these senseless barbarians, that they also may recognize You as the one true God."

When the impious mob heard this they went and told their prince, for there was an interpreter among them who listened to her whole speech. The tyrant, filled with fanatical anger, flew into a rage in his snarling and growling bestiality, and ordered that she be put to death with terrible tortures if she would not come to him in honour and respect. His servants went and urged her to submit to the will of their prince. When they were unable to persuade the unwilling T'aguhi, they bound her hands behind her back, dragged her by the hair, tore her face with cruel thorns from the forest thickets, and together they lacerated the body of the Saint; then they beheaded her with a sword. Her battle was like that of Saint Hr'ip'sime, and the great T'aguhi was also crowned with the divine and victorious crown of Christ.

That very night, while the foreign prince and his forces enjoyed themselves with sleepless joy and made merry, a marvellous sign suddenly appeared from the Lord. Everyone clearly observed a strong light shining from the place where the blessed T'aguhi [g198] had been martyred. The torn remnants of her clothes, scattered over the forest, shone like stars, and for a long time this starry light glowed above the holy martyrs. When they saw this, the people called the place Astegh Blur ("Star Hill"), as it is known to this day. The prince was amazed by these miracles of good tidings, and in great fear he ordered the priests of the Lord to be summoned before him. Learning from them the path of salvation, he believed in the living God and ordered that the scattered relics of the Saints to be gathered together, that Saint [T'aguhi] be wrapped in linen, and that they be hidden on the hill. Then with their flocks and goats [as sacrifices], they performed mass with great ceremony in commemoration of their martyrs.


[48]

30.

The great general of the Tubal troops believes in Christ and accepts that He is God; and how [the general] is martyred with his troops, children, and his clergy by his king in the land of the Aghuans.

After the light of truth had entered the heart [g199] of the godly prince Theophilus, he ordered that the prisoners be released, and on Easter morning he set out with his blessed priests and many other believers and the Agistosean [Gr. "holy"] brigade, arriving in the district of Uti. There they dismounted and pitched camp by the Kur River near the harbor by the Ch'omak'atak bridge. The great king of Rosmosok' himself returned with his armies after his raids with great multitudes of prisoners and very great booty. He crossed the Kur from the east and camped opposite them. In his idolatrous error, he ordered sacrifices to be made to his gods in heathen feasting. When the Christian Theophilus and the Agistosean army saw this, they came forward and offered gifts to God in accordance with the precepts of the Christian faith. With the blessing of the holy priests they put the Sign of the Cross on their banners. When the bestial, impious king of the barbarians saw this, he was seized with diabolical frenzy and angrily ordered the blessed general Theophilus to be summoned before him with thirty men. At first he addressed them gently, and then angrily, saying: "You who are dear [g200] to our kingdom because of your victories and bravery," he said, "have been greatly honored by us; you, being of higher rank than all the others, were honored with the leadership of one third of my army. Why have you abandoned the valorous gods of your race who gave us victory in our raids? You have rebelled along with your soldiers and now worship a god of whom we know nothing. Now if you will not make sacrifices to our gods, you and your soldiers will be punished and put to death."

The confessor of Christ, the brave general Theophilus, replied to the king as follows: "Knowledge of the human life is the source of virtue, and virtue, with excellent works, is the mother of godliness. If, to enhance His glory, our nature was united with that of Christ by His birth and the gift of light was received with which to know and recognize God as creator of heaven and earth, one united Holy Trinity, who in His benevolence wishes to keep us free from the harm of worthless idols, how can you take this heavenly grace from us, or compare your transient glory with that of God, or hope by your threats [g201] to scare us into choosing this temporal life, to make us abandon God?" The king roared his outrage and wrathfully ordered that the blessed general Theophilus and his thirty comrades and the blessed priests to be put to a painful death. Confessing the faith on the plain of martyrdom, they valiantly fought their heroic battle and received from Christ the victor's crown. Thus were the holy confessor and the thirty soldiers translated to their heavenly abode.

[49] When the blessed Movse's and Aneroghogis, the sons of the holy general Theophilus, together with the Agistrosean brigade and other believers saw this, they urged on their horses and fled before the impious king, considering it better to be persecuted for Christ's sake than to live a transitory life of impiety. They considered disgrace for the sake of Christ more important than the great treasures of their fathers. They fled south and came to a very high peak of a great mountain which overlooks the country's many districts [g202].

By order of the merciless king, brigade upon brigade was dispatched, and the forces of the Huns pursued and overtook them on the summit of the mountain, where they tried with many entreaties to reconvert them to idol-worship and obedience to the king. Unable to convince them, they put them to the sword in that very spot. Thus Movse's ended his life with his blessed brother and all the godly Agistrosean brigade, receiving from Christ the martyr's crown, shining in splendid radiance from the tops of the northern mountains, and entering the immortal abode with all the Saints. Amen [g203].


End of Book One

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