Movses Dasxurants'i's

History of the Aghuans


Book Two


[50]

1.

History according to my book.

In the same way that the heavens are bright with stars and the earth with flowers, so are the works of the historian adorned with various events. We have come across some tales of the lands of the East—tales which have found no place in the books of ancient historians—which we consider fitting to incorporate into our work. We recall here how Shapuh, son of Ormizd, king of Persia, had become arrogant in his realm and wanted to hold an investigation to determine which races or peoples possessed rank and honor. He organized a splendid banquet for all the grandee and ancient families of the lords of Persia, and by goblet and vine-slip he designated the various degrees of precedence which they enjoyed before him. The Mobad of Mobads [head of the Zoroastrian faith] was greatly honored [g204] at the royal table.

After consulting with his nobles, the king said: "I know well the correct order of precedence of Persian nobles such as the Parthians and native Pahlavis. But as to the noble family of Armen and [the Armenian nobles'] order of precedence, I have been unable to learn anything either from my royal ancestors or from books. Now you lords of Armenia have two options to choose from. Either you show me an ancient book that indicates the degree and rank of each house—in which case you shall again receive from us your outstanding positions of honor—or, if you cannot bring [such a document] to the attention of our Aryan brigade, we shall give your highly placed cushions, honors, houses, earth, water, and all your possessions to Aryan noblemen, and expel you."

The princes of Greater Armenia deliberated among themselves and brought before the king the worthy History of Agat'angeghos. [The king] ordered that [this book] be read and translated into the Persian language and script. When he learned that the book began with his own ancestor Artashir, he rejoiced greatly, praised the book and, deeply moved, held it before his eyes. Finding the figure of seventeen cushions in this book, [the king] began to rearrange the seats of everyone at the royal table accordingly. Now it came about that Andok, lord of Siwnik', received the fourteenth cushion [g205]. Because of this he haughtily declined to eat, and when admonished by the king, paid no attention to him. It was at this point that news reached the court that large brigades of Khazars had passed through the gate of Choghay into our country. Shapuh assembled a countless army of braves from Asorestan, Xorasan, Xorazm, and many other Persian braves from the district of Atrpatakan as well as Armenians, Georgians, Aghuans, and the twelve tribes of the wild peoples of Mount Caucasus. Taking these countless forces he arose and marched against them.

[51] Andok came up with a scheme which resulted in evil for himself and his country. He broke with the royal house in order to betray it with his army. With 1,700 men and fast, able horses he reached Ctesiphon and hid his forces outside the city. Then he entered the city with a small retinue. He asked many questions, deceitfully claiming that he had come to join Shapuh, and thus the inhabitants honored him greatly. At dawn, however, his army marched into the town and took an incalculable amount of gold and silver treasure, precious jewels, and innumerable precious pearls, and anything else they could carry from the royal court and the houses of the grandees. They took this enormous booty [g206] to Baghaberd. Then Andok ordered all the animal fodder in his districts to be burned, and he gathered up all the food fit for human consumption and the weapons and equipment and the harness of the cavalry and put them inside the fortress. Next, he ordered all the people of Siwnik' to burn their houses and barns and flee. [People of] the district gathered up all the church ornaments and took them to the church at Shaghat. Tearfully kissing the relics of the Saints and performing night services for eight days, they buried the church under a mound of earth. Then they scattered in all directions. And after that no one dared to mention the name of Siwnik'. The entire country remained deserted and uninhabited for twenty-five years.

At the end of the war [with the Khazars], when King Shapuh returned and saw the destruction [wrought by Andok], he furiously commanded the entire army to march into Siwnik' to enslave both man and beast. However, when [the troops] arrived, they found nothing there. As they circulated around the country, they came to the mound over the church of Shaghat. But when they climbed to the top, a great earthquake occurred and the Persian army and their general At'ashxoday fled away, terrified. Returning from there, they battled with the fortress, but [those inside] rolled boulders down the slope causing a great slaughter. Now although the Persians attacked very forcefully two or three times [g207], they could do nothing. On the contrary, they were killed in great numbers. Yet despite this, the enraged king wanted to intensify the attack. However, all the grandees prostrated themselves before him and begged him not to attack again, but rather to lay waste the land surrounding the fortress.

Then, at an opportune moment, Andok left the fortress and went to the land of the Byzantines taking along much booty. And there, greatly honored, he died. Now it happened that his son Babik longed for his native soil—for our own districts are as dear to us as our parents. [Babik] went to the court of Shapuh, king of Persia, and after meeting one of the soldiers there, he himself was made [a soldier]. He performed great feats of bravery in the Persian Olympics, although no one recognized him.

Now it came about that a Hun named Honagur, who had been plundering the kingdom of Persia, sent a message to King Shapuh, saying: "What is the point of so much bloodshed? Come, let the two of us fight it out in single combat." This Hun had covered his tall, broad body in coats of armor fifty layers thick. He had covered his enormous head with a studded helmet and his forehead, which was three spans wide, [was protected] with a plate of copper. As he grasped his gigantic lance—made from a tall tree from a forest—and his gleaming sword, he was a terror to behold.

[52] It was then that Babik's name was brought forward [g208] to the king as someone capable of resolving the matter. The king of kings summoned Babik and gave him a royal warrant sealed with his signet ring, which had [the likeness of] a boar on it. And [the king] said to him: "If you avenge me this time, you will receive great rewards." [Babik] accepted the king's offer, and, trusting in God's help, he called out: "O churches of Siwnik', help me!" Then he took up his own sturdy arms, clad his fine body in the king's gleaming, pearl-studded armor, fastened his tiger-shaped helmet over his handsome head, girt his sword about his waist, slung his golden shield over his left shoulder, and grasped his fine-tempered lance in his right hand. He mounted his black steed and galloped towards the enemy. They attacked each other, and the thunderous clanging of the blows exchanged by their lances continued from dawn until the ninth hour. But the enormous giant was doomed, for at last the brave Babik defeated that bloody beast, quickly dispatching him with a thrust of his sword.

Shapuh was ecstatic. He summoned Babik to him that he might fulfill the promises he had made. Asking leave to speak, Babik said: "Have the bronze mortar removed from your court." For this mortar was filled with ashes [g209] from the furnace, and whoever passed by it would strike it and say: "May the land of Siwnik' perish in body and soul and become like these ashes!" Astonished, the king ordered the mortar to be removed. Babik then asked that his native land be returned to him. This the king granted, and he sent him in great honor back to his own land. [Moreover, the king] bestowed on him the same rank as that of the Bagratunis and the Mamikoneans.

[Babik] crossed the Arax River and built a village called Akorz, that is to say "the first of the patrimonial [territories] to be wrested away [from the Persians]". During the first year of his reign, Babik went out hunting, roaming around and looking at his deserted country. Coming to Shaghat, he climbed a hill, and a deer started up and fled towards the mound covering the church. When Babik pursued it, the stag disappeared on the hill. Then [Babik's] horse's hoofs sank into the earth. Babik dismounted and freed his horse with the greatest difficulty. Everyone was astonished, and when they dug the earth away they found the beautiful church full of divine treasure and smelling sweetly. That day was the first day in the month of Hor'i.

Those assembled there performed a great service on that day, and great healing took place among those present. Unbelievers who observed this were converted [g210]. Gor and Gazan, two wealthy brothers who had followed Babik with many other troops, were baptized. Then Babik drew lots [to reward them]. Gor received the village of Xot, while the younger Gazan was allotted the desirable Shaghat. All this occurred twenty years before the reign of the evil Yazdgird who wanted to destroy the Christian faith and make us submit to Gehenna. Saint Vardan and his holy followers were martyred by this same Yazdgird with 1,066 chosen men, 120 years before the Armenian Era began. And here, below, is how these events unfolded.


[53]

2.

How the Aghuans were threatened by the impious Yazdgird and were saved by Vardan, Armenia's general.

In the days of the impious Yazdgird, Satan incited and enflamed the king to destroy Christianity. The strict order reached the land of Aghuania that [the people must] abandon their faith and submit to the Magian cult of fire-worship [g211]. This same king visited the same disaster on Armenia. However, the hazarapet of the Aghuans and the blessed chief bishop opposed this and united with the Armenians by oath. They very quickly sent their army to inform them of the evil developments. They said: "The Persian brigade which was in the land of the Huns has returned and entered our land, and with them are many other cavalrymen from the court. Besides these, they have brought along 300 of their religious teachers (vardapetk'). Moreover they have torn the land apart since they have turned some folk towards them and now they want to lay hands on the Church. They force everyone at their king's command, saying: 'If you accept our religion willingly, you shall receive gifts and honors from the king. But if you do not accept it, we have orders to build fire-temples in the villages and hamlets. And into them we shall place the Vahram fire and we shall appoint magi and mobads as the lawgivers of your land. Should anyone rebel, he shall be put to death, and his wife and children shall be exiled.'"

When the Armenian brigade heard this, it did not despair. Instead, it united in the face of this bad news and humored [the Persian messengers] and sent them back so as to find a later opportunity to take them by guile [g212] and to prevent them from laying hands on the Church before they could find some way out. The Armenian army wrote to Emperor Theodosius, asking him to help them in their great danger, but he died suddenly. He was succeeded as king by the impious Marcian, who did not keep the alliance but made common cause with the heathens, as was his custom. The Armenian braves, finding help from no quarter, placed their trust in the supreme, almighty power of the Most High. They divided themselves into three armies. The first was entrusted to Nershapuh R'mbosean, protector of the Atrpatakan area; the second went to Vardan [Mamikonean], the general of Armenia, to cross the Iberian/Georgian border to attack the marzpan of Ch'oghay who had come to destroy the churches of Aghuania.

The venerable Vardan did not know about the ambush being prepared by the accursed apostate Vasak who, before the Armenian army had entered Aghuania, told the Persian marzpan Mersebuxt that the Armenian army had split into parts and that Vardan and his small force were headed in his direction. "Be ready to come out against them so that they may be completely obliterated." This was the impious man's advice. When Mersebuxt received such encouragement from Vasak, he did not stay in the Ch'oghay area, but gathering up the multitude of his troops quickly crossed [g213] the great Kur River. He met him on the borders of Iberia/Georgia opposite the town of Xaghxagh which was the winter residence of the Aghuan kings. Starting battle, he surrounded the entire plain, fully armed to fight the Armenian brigade. When Vardan the brave and the troops with him saw the enormous size of the pagan army and the small size of their own forces, they were not troubled by the overwhelming numbers. They united, and raising their voices to Heaven, said: "Judge those, O Lord, who judge us; fight them who fight us; help us with Your sword and buckler and make the host of the wicked tremble and shake."

[54] Thus did they pray. Then, forming into a group, the heroes of Armenia attacked, scattered the enemy's right flank and fell upon their left. They put them all to the sword and routed them across the face of the plain and into the secure areas of the forests near the deep valleys of the Lubnas River. It was here that the some [troops] of the Baghasakan king came to meet them, and one of the Armenian lords, Mush, of the Dimak'sean brigade, was thrown from his horse and died, and Gazrik was wounded. Then [g214] Arshawir Arsharuni lifted up his eyes heavenward, roared like a lion, charged like a wild boar and killed the brave Vurk, brother of the king of the Lp'ink'. And he slaughtered countless others there. In this way each man dealt with his opponent. Moreover, in the forceful attack more men were drowned in the river than were slain by the sword on dry land. The clear waters of the river ran with the blood of the multitude of the fallen, and not a single one of them escaped. Now it happened that there was one of the enemy soldiers who had been hiding in the thick woods in the plain. Still wearing his armor he mounted his horse and crossed the river, escaping by a hairsbreadth. He brought the bad news to the main army, which fled to their royal capital (shahastan).

The Armenian troops, ending the great battle, gathered together the enormous booty and formed a huge heap of gold and silver and the arms and ornaments of the brave men and their horses. Then they turned and attacked the fortresses and towns which the Persians held in Aghuania. They fought fiercely, set fire to their secure enclosures, rooted out swarms of wicked magi whom they put to the sword and left as carrion for the birds of the air and the beasts [g215] of the field. They purified every place of the filthy sacrifices and freed the churches from their unbelievable difficulties.

When the Aghuan lords and peasants—who, for the sake of God's name had scattered and dispersed into the mountain strongholds of the Caucasus—saw the great victory won by the Armenian brigade, they came forth and joined them, mixed with the soldiers and allied themselves to their martyrdom. Then they went to the Gate of the Huns which the Persians held by force. They captured and destroyed the fortress, killed the soldiers stationed inside, and entrusted the Gate to a certain Vardan who was of the line of the Aghuan kings. In all these feats of bravery, no one fell except for Mush, who was martyred.

They sent [Vardan,] the same man who had been entrusted with the gate, as an ambassador to the land of the Huns to speak with them and establish an inviolable oath of alliance. When the Huns heard what had happened, they made haste, went there, and saw their success with their own eyes. Then [the Huns] swore by their own laws and accepted the oath of the Christians to maintain a firm alliance, which was what all of them wanted. Now it happened that while they were in this place, a messenger arrived from Armenia bearing the bad tidings [g216] about the apostate Vasak, who had ravaged much of the country of Armenia. Vardan set off with his great booty, happy and confident, and rejoicing in God and placing his trust in Him. He arrived in Armenia in thirty days. Vasak heard about the triumphant arrival of Vardan the Brave and about the alliance between the Huns and the Aghuans. [Vasak] fled from his presence. And he suffered bad luck on account of his evil conduct, for he found no mercy from God.

In the days of Yazdgird these things took place among the Aghuans and Armenians with help from On High.


[55]

3.

Mesrob Vardapet comes to Esuaghe'n, king of Aghuania, invents an alphabet, organises schools again, and destroys the remaining sects, confirming the faith in the House of the Aghuans

In the time when Theodosius the Less was emperor of Byzantium, Vr'amshapuh was king of Armenia, Yazdgird was king of Persia, and Esuaghe'n [g217] was king of Aghuania, the venerable Mesrob, the worthy and chosen vessel of the Holy Spirit, came to our patriarch Eremia and King Esvaghe'n in Aghuania. They willingly accepted his teaching in accordance with the divine gifts which had been granted him, since it was through him that the Holy Spirit had given alphabets to the Armenians and Georgians. [The Aghuan leadership] was well pleased and gave him chosen youths to teach. From Siwnik' [Mesrop] summoned the interpreter Benjamin whom the lad Vasak had sent through Bishop Anania. They came to Mesrob, and with their assistance [Mesrop] created an alphabet for the guttural, disjointed, barbarous, and harsh language of the Gargarats'ik'. He left his pupil Yovnat'an here as spiritual overseer. Then, appointing priests for the king's court, he returned to Armenia. He travelled to Byzantium to Emperor Theodosius and returning from there circulated around with his students. Now he heard that there remained a pagan sect in Gardman and so he returned from Siwnik' and went to Xurs, the prince of Gardman. With his help matters there were corrected. Then he went to Ashusha, the bdeashx of Iberia/Georgia, who had called on him to do the same [reformation] in his lands.

In these times the accursed Nestorius appeared, he who was anathematized by the two hundred [clerics] at Ephesus. In the first year of the reign of the second King Yazdgird, Saint [g218] Sahak died, at the end of the month of Nawasard. Six months later the venerable vardapet Mesrop died and was buried with the Saints in the city of Vagharshapat.

Now it came about that a certain lord of Gardman named Xosrov went to Armenia. He happened to be at a banquet in the presence of the cowardly king Shapuh. Drunk with wine he behaved lewdly toward a certain woman. The furious Shapuh ordered that he be thrown into jail, however [Xosrov], leaning on his sword, left the chamber and no one dared to lay a hand on him.

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