Sebeos' History

Chapter 32.

Constantine dies as a result of his mother's plot, and Heraclius (son of Heraclius by his second wife) is enthroned. General Vaghentin (Valentinian) comes to Constantinople and enthrones Constantine's son, Kostas. The Iranians war with the Ishmaelites and are defeated. Aspet Varaztirots' returns from court, and dies. The Ishmaelites come to Atrpatakan, and divide into three wings They take Artsap'u fortress, campaigning against the sep'hakan gund.

When Heraclius died, his son Constantine ruled. [The latter] appointed Vaghentianos, called an Arsacid, as the general of his troops. He ordered his troops to go to the East [g111].

Constantine ruled only a few days before dying in the plot of his mother Martina, Heraclius' wife. Heraclius' son, Heracleonas, born of the Augusta Martina, was then enthroned [638-641]. [134] Constantine had been Heraclius' son by his first wife. Taking the initiative, Vaghentin went against him at Constantinople with his troops. He captured Martina, cut off her tongue, and then killed her with her two sons. They enthroned Constantine's son, Constans [II, 641-668], calling him after his father's name. Constans personally assembled the troops and went to the East.

During the first year of the reign of the Byzantine emperor Constans, and in the tenth year of the Iranian king Yazkert [641/642], the Iranians assembled 60,000 armed men to war with the Ishmaelites. The Ishmaelites fought them with 40,000 swordsmen, clashing in the district of Mark'. The battle lasted for three days until the foot soldiers on both sides were reduced. Suddenly the Iranian troops were informed that an auxiliary force had come to help the Ishmaelites. The Iranians fled from camp all though the night. The remnants of the Ishmaelite troops went against them in the morning, but found no one in the camp. so they raided across the face of the entire country, putting man and beast to the sword. They captured 22 fortresses and killed everything alive in them.

But who can relate the incredible disasters inflicted by the brigand Ishmael who whipped up sea and land? The prophet [135] Daniel long ago prophesied that such difficulties would come upon the earth. [He spoke of] the four beasts which represent the four kingdoms which arose on the earth. The first was the Western kingdom, which is Byzantium, represented by a humanlike beast. "Its wings were plucked off, and it was lifted up from the ground." He said that this was diabolical idolatry. "And it stood erect, as a man, and it was given a human heart." Behold, the second beast resembles a bear. It is [g112] in the East and is called the Sasanian kingdom. "And the bear had three ribs in its mouth"— the kingdom of Persians, Medes and Parthians—and they said to it: "Arise and devour much flesh." Everyone knows how it ate. "Now the third beast was like a leopard with four wings of a bird, and possessing four heads." [The winged leopard] represents the Northern kingdom, Gog and Magog and their two comrades to whom had been given authority to fly in force to the north. "Now the fourth beast was awesome and dreadful with teeth of iron, and claws of copper. It would eat and devour then stomped the residue with its feet." This fourth emerged from the South and represents the Ishmaelite kingdom As the chief of the angels said: "The fourth beast will come to possess a kingdom greater than any kingdom, and will devour the entire world." "And from the ten horns, ten kings will arise but after them yet another shall arise who in wickedness [136] will surpass all the previous ones" [Daniel 7].

In the second year of the venerable Heraclius' grandson Constans' reign, Vaghentin planned to deceive the Senate through rhetoric and to personally acquire the throne, such that by crowning him, he would do what he wanted with his military command. He made the yoke of service weigh heavy on the inhabitants of the city, having as his support the 3,000 armed troops which he had brought with him and numerous other troops which had joined him. It was then that the men of the city gathered together before the patriarch, in the holy church of God, and told him that [they wanted to] eliminate the weight of their service. They sent to Vaghentin [telling him] to abolish their service, but he did not want to hear it. Now there was a certain one of the princes present, named Antoninos, who said to Vaghentin: "What is their alliance, what is their plot? Besides, how could they dare to send you such a message? But if you command, I shall go and destroy their alliance and plot, and shall chase each one back to his place, that your [g113] [137] will be done." [Vaghentin] responded: "Go and do as you said" [Antoninos] arose and departed with a thousand men. As soon as he entered the church he began severely beating the principals. At this, the patriarch rose to his feet and said: "It is too much, and unjust to do what you are doing here." Anton attacked him and slapped him on the jaw, saying: "Go to your place." Then the mob became agitated and attacked [Antoninos], seizing him and dragging him through the city by his feet. After this they set him on fire. Vaghentin was informed and he was seized with trembling. Just then the mob poured in upon him, dragged him beyond the houses, beheaded him, and then took [the corpse] to the same place where they had burned Antoninos, and burned that too. Then they confirmed Constans on the throne of the empire. They made T'eodoros, a certain one of the loyal princes of Armenia, the general over those in the Byzantine sector.

As soon as [Teodoros] took the military command, he beseeched the emperor as a favor to have clemency on those [people] who had been exiled to Africa, especially on [138] Aspet, son of Smbat called Xosrov Shum. God made the emperor's heart mild, and he ordered that [the exiles] be brought to the capital. He received them as though they were beloved [personages] of the realm. He made [Aspet's] son Smbat the first spatharios among all the spatharioi, and a candidate. Thus, in the fifth year of his reign, he returned to the previous order. [The emperor also had clemency on] Vahan Xorhxorhuni and others besides. [Constans] dispatched a certain prince named T'uma to Armenia. He arrived, and did not want to destroy the oath [existing] between the emperor and the prince of Mark'. He united all the princes and took them with him to the prince of Mark'. He spoke with him about peace. And he received many goods from him and promised with an oath that he would have T'eodoros sent to the palace bound, since he was the prince of the land of Armenia. He then returned to the Armenian troops. As soon as [T'uma] reached the Kotayk' country, [his men] suddenly fell upon [T'eodoros], seized, bound, and had him sent before the emperor. Now when emperor Constans heard of this, he was exceedingly wroth, for he had not ordered that [g114] [T'eodoros] be bound. He commanded that he be released from bonds, and that the document accusing him be read. When [Constansl learned what the treachery really was he ordered [139] that [T'eodoros] be summoned to his presence. [Constans] received him with affection and with the honor due to his authority He arranged a stipend and funds for upkeep from the treasury. He then commanded that T'uma be summoned, but he did not order him to enter the court. Rather, the examination was conducted outside [the chamber]. Lord T'eodoros Rshtuni was vindicated in his testimony and justice was done to him, T'uma was discredited and dropped from honor. It was at this time that Aspet [Bagratuni] and T'eodoros, lord of Rshtunik', saw each other [again] and shed tears upon each other's necks. For they had been nourished together at the court of Xosrov, king of Iran. But Aspet could not be reconciled with Byzantine rule, instead he plotted treachery. He requested an order from emperor Constans so that [Aspet] could dispatch four men of his family to Armenia to bring him some things. The emperor commanded that the order be issued to him. Now [Aspet] disguised himself, took along three other men, reached the shore and showed the imperial order. He boarded a ship and quickly crossed the sea, resembling a bird, and soon reached Tayk' where he fortified himself. The people of Tayk' received him with delight.

In this period there was no small amount of turbulence in the land of Armenia, for a royal command arrived for the [140] general of Armenia to hold all the passes of the roads and to search the land's fortresses. Then it became known that [Aspet] had returned and was fortified in Tayk', Armenia.

Then the Byzantine general, T'eodoros, together with the princes of the army and the naxarars of Armenia ordered that kat'oghikos Nerses should be sent to Aspet and vow to him [their] loyalty in requesting that the authority of the land be given to him, and that his wife and children be sent back to him.

The kat'oghikos went and made an oath with [Aspet] so that he would not depart. Then [the kat'oghikos returned. They wrote to emperor Constans to treat [Aspet] according to [g115] the oath he had promised. For Aspet had written to the emperor, saying: "I am your servant and shall not leave your service. However, because some people told me 'You will return to [the service of the country] whence you came,' I became frightened and fled. But now, if I am considered worthy, I shall serve you loyally and give my life for your piety." Emperor Constans ordered that [Aspet] be made Curopalate, that he be given a crown of honor and the authority of the land. He further ordered that [Aspet's] wife and children be sent back with great splendor. He had [Aspet] given silver thrones and other very great gifts.

[141] Yet, before the hrovartak arrived, before he was honored with the dignity of Curopalate, [Aspet] became ill and died. They took his body and buried it near his father's, at Dariwnk'. The emperor established [Aspet's] eldest son, who was named Smbat, in his father's dignity, giving him the authority of the aspetut'iwn of his native tanuterdom. [The emperor] made [Smbat] drungarius [drungar] of his troops, and gave him a wife from the Arshakuni House, one of his relatives, and dispatched him to the army, to his troops. After this, [the emperor] sent T'eodoros, lord of Rshtunik' back to Armenia with great honor, giving him the same authority of military command [as he held before]—whether or not the princes of Armenia wanted it. He came and was established in the same authority.

The next year, the Ishmaelite army came to Atrpatakan where it divided into three parts. One division went to Ayrarat; another, to the Sep'hakan Gund area; and the third to Aghbania/Aghuania. Those who went to the Sep'hakan Gund area spread out raiding, putting all of those parts to the sword, and taking booty and captives. They came and assembled at [142] Erewan [The Abgaryan edition has Herewan. See Abgaryan, p.314 n. 512, where he speculates that the original text read Her ew and, and referred to the district of Her]. They battled with the fortress, but were unable to take it. They went to Ordspoy and were unable to take it. So they departed, encamping across from the fortress of Artsap', near the water. [The Arabs] began warring with the fortress, and suffered no small amount of injury from those inside. Now there was a [secret] way out of the fortress from the rear leading in the direction of Asoren. This [g116] was called Kaxanaktuts'. Now some men thus descended from the fortress, to go to request an auxiliary force from Darawn fortress. And Smbat Bagratuni gave them his son, Varaz Sahak, with forty men.

Going at nighttime, they ascended to the fortress, not taking care [to conceal] the place. The Ishmaelites found the place and entered the fortress by the very same path. Before dawn they had seized the place. They came across ten guards asleep, whom they killed.

Chapter 33.

The Lord frees the captives and destroys the Ishmaelites. Those [Arabs] who had spread out raiding at Ayrarat strike Tayk', Iberia/Georgia, and Aghbania/Aghuania. The naval battle between the Ishmaelites and the Byzantines. Procopius [Prhokop] goes to Mu'awiya [Muawiya], prince of the Ishmaelites, [143] and the peace between [the Arabs] and Byzantines. The deeds of kat'oghikos Nerses. The dispute over faith with the Armenians. The Armenians' reply to emperor Constans.

In the second year of Constans' [reign], on a Sunday, the 23rd of the month of Horhi [Horhi: the second month of the moveable Armenian calandar], the Ishmaelites shrieked before and behind the fortress and put [the inhabitants] to the sword. Many were thrown from the height and were killed. After lowering the women and children from the fortress, they wanted to kill them. There was no counting the captives, and there were an extremely great number of cattle [which they seized]. But at dawn the next day the general of Armenia came upon them and visited inconceivable destruction on them. Now they were 3,000 select armed men, drawn from all the Ishmaelite forces, but [virtually] none of them escaped. A few, however, fled on foot, and secured themselves in Shamp ["Swamp"]. On that day, the Lord spared the multitude of captives from the Ishmaelites, and greatly destroyed Ishmael. Two Ishmaelite princes, 'Uthman [Awt'man] and Ogomay [Abgaryan: Ogbay, p. 317 n. 523], died. Great was the tiumph of the general of Armenia, and the latter sent to Constans gifts from the booty, one hundred of the most [144] select horses. The emperor and the entire palace were pleased, and [Constans] sent great thanks [to T'eodoros].

Now that [Arab] army which was in the Ayraratean region put to the sword areas as far as Tayk', Iberia, and Aghbania/Aghuania. They took booty and captives and passed on to Naxchawan where the other division was battling to take the fortress of Naxchawan. However, they were unable to take it. They took the fortress of Xram, killing [the men] and taking the women and children captive.

Now the [Arab general] who was in the Palestine area, ordered that a large naval fleet be organized. He boarded a ship and began warring with Constantinople. But his naval battle did not succeed, for a multitude of [Byzantine] troops in boats came up before him, and sent [the Arabs] to the deep, driving off many others with fire, and pursuing those who fled. Nonetheless, emperor Constans was horrified [by the attack] and considered it wise to pay a tax/tribute [sak], and to make peace by means of messengers. The Ishmaelites hurried the Byzantines to complete a peace agreement. Now [145] Constans, the Byzantine emperor, because he was a lad, did not dare to do so without the approval of the army. So he wrote to Procopius for him to go with him to Damascus, to see Mu'awiya, prince of the Ishmaelite army, in order to make the terms of the agreement in accordance with the desires of the troops. As soon as Procopius saw the imperial order and learned about matters from the troops, he went with them to Damascus to Mu'awiya, prince of the Ishmaelite army. He revealed the amount of the tribute, stated the limit, made peace, and departed.

At that time Nerses, kat'oghikos of Armenia, decided to build a dwelling for himself close by the holy churches in the city of Vagharshapat, by the road where it is said king Trdat went before saint Gregory. [Nerses] also built [g118] a church there named after the divine Zvart'nots' ["Joyous Ones"] the multitude of heavenly soldiers who appeared in the vision of saint Gregory. He built a lofty structure of stunning beauty worthy of the divine honor to which it was dedicated. [Nerses] led [the course of] a river [near to the church], he had all the stony areas worked on, and then planted vineyards and trees. To the glory of God, he ordered that a lofty wall be constructed, which by its [146] beautiful design blended with nature.

But that rebellious dragon did not cease and instead out of its cunning, wanted to war with God. It strove to bring persecution upon the churches of the land of the Armenians. For in the time of Heraclius' grandson, emperor Constans, it started working the guile of its wickedness taking as satellites those troops stationed on Byzantine [Armenian] land. Now the Armenians never accepted the Roman communion of the Body and Blood of the Lord. [The soldiers] wrote a letter of complaint to the Byzantine emperor Constans and to the patriarch, saying: "We are regarded as infidels in this land. For [the people here] are disrespectful toward Christ God's Council of Chalcedon and the Tome of Leo, and they anathematize them." Then the emperor and the patriarch ordered that an edict be written to the Armenians telling them to unite with the faith of the Romans and not to despise the Council or the Tome. Now there was [in Constantinople] a man named Dawit' from the village of Bagrawan who had studied the art of philosophy. [Constans] ordered that he be dispatched to Armenia to eliminate the opposition. All the bishops and naxarars of Armenia assembled in Dwin by the Christ-loving kat'oghikos, Nerses, and the pious general of Armenia, T'eodoros, lord of Rshtunik'. They saw the emperor's [147] order, and listened to the philosopher who taught the division of the Trinity according to the Tome of Leo. Having heard this, they did not agree to replace the correct doctrine of saint Gregory with the Tome of Leo. All were inclined to [g119] give a written reply.

[The following is] a copy of the reply to the letter sent to Armenia by Constans, emperor of Rome, written by the bishops of Armenia, kat'oghikos Nerses, the naxarars and general T'eodoros, lord of Rshtunik'.

A true and orthodox Nicean letter.

I beseech those of you who hold the God-loving Christian faith to read this.

We have the command of the caring prophets and apostles of Christ to make beseeching prayers for your God-loving realm, for all the princes, troops, and pious palace officials, wherein the love of God reposes and the signs of divine favor are apparent.

For behold, [you possess] a kingdom greater and stronger [148] than all others, which was crowned not by human hands but by the right hand of God, which nothing except Christ's kingdom can equal. By the grace of God the same is true of [your] patriarchate.

The naxarars and Christ-loving troops—and we glory in the light of your God-loving kingdom—were unmoved by the wicked and impious Iranian kings. For when they abolished the kingdom, and destroyed all the troops of the land of Armenia taking men and women into captivity, brandishing swords at the survivors and trying to convert [us] to fanaticism, they were unable to do so. Indeed, "the infidels were yet more embarassed in their folly [Psalms 24]." [So matters continued] until king Kawad and his son Xosrov ordered that "each individual should adhere to his own faith and no one should dare harrass the Armenians. All are physically our servants, but as for spiritual matters, He Who judges souls knows about them." Then there was Ormazd's son Xosrov who [g120], after capturing Jerusalem, ordered all the bishops of the East and of Asorestan to assemble at Court. He said to them: "I hear that both sides are Christians yet that one group anathematizes the other. What do they regard as just? Now [149] let them come together at the royal court so that what is correct will be confirmed and what is false will be rejected." So all the bishops and priests and believers in those parts assembled, and [the king] established as their ostikan Smbat Bagratuni (who was called Xosrov Shnum), and the chief physician of the Court. Present were the patriarch Zak'aria of Jerusalem who was in captivity and many other philosophers who were captured from the city of Alexandria. King Xosrov ordered them to proceed with justice and to acquaint him with the truth.

All of them assembled in the royal hall, and there was a commotion. For some were of the orthodox faith, [possessing] documents with the seals of ancient kings. Others were Nestorians, while many others were the rabble. The patriarch even came forward and said: "Let that man not be called God," and the king was informed.

The king responded: "By whose command has he come here? Let him be beaten and have him depart." He also ordered that the multitude of sectarians be removed from the atean. He ordered that only the [beliefs of the] Niceans, Constantinopolitans, [150] Ephesians, and Chalcedonians should be examined. Now there were two bishops from the land of Armenia present, trustworthy men who had been dispatched [to Iran] because of the violence in the land [of Armenia]. [They were] Kumitas, bishop of the Mamikoneans, and Matt'eos, [bishop] of the Amatunik', and had arrived to inform the king. They had ready with them the document of saint Gregory. The king ordered that it be asked: "During the reigns of which kings did those councils take place?" And they replied: "The Nicean Council took place under Constantine; the Council of [g121] Constantinople, under Theodosius the Great; Ephesus, under Theodosius the Less; and Chalcedon, under Marcian." The king replied: "The orders of three kings seem more just than that of one king." Then the king started asking about Nestorius, wanting to know who he was, where he was from, at which council had he been present, and what he had said. Then he ordered that the Nestorians be removed from the atean. Similarly he inquired about the Council of Chalcedon, wanting to know who were its principals. They told him everything, saying "[the heads of the councils of] Nicea and Constantinople were emperors Constantine and Theodosius the Great themselves. The Council of Ephesus was presided over by [151] Cyril, bishop of Alexandria and Chalcedon, by bishop T'eodoretos who was inclined toward Nestorius."

Present [at this assembly] were [the cleric] called the Eran kat'oghikos, and other bishops from Asorestan, Aruastan, Xuzhastan, and other lands. King Xosrov ordered that if they did not turn from their heresies and walk the royal path, he would have all of their churches demolished, and have them put to the sword. He ordered that a tax be levied for the Chalcedonians, Iberians/Georgians, and the kat'oghikos of Aghbania/Aghuania and many other bishops from the Byzantine area, and the princes who had come into the service of the Iranian king [? isk ork' zk'aghkedonin ew zVrats'. .ew ishxank' ` ork' ekeal ein i tsarhayut'iwn parsits' t'agaworin, orov ew ch'ep'ayk'arn isk hramayeats' tal]. However, he sought a contract from the two sides. He started to examine the Council of Nicea (which was convened by Constantine): of Constantinople (under Theodosius the Great) of Ephesus (under Theodosius the Less) and of Chalcedon (under Marcian). When he was familiarized with everything justly and truthfully, he inquired: "Why is it that those three do not mention the division of [Christ's] [152] nature into two parts, as the others do? It is clear that even we must be divided in two, that [even] the king has two, rather than one, nature. For I, too, am of two natures, one from the father and one from the mother, one spiritual, one physical. However, the Divinity which is not everywhere [g122] despite what it wants, cannot be everything or do everything. What is Divinity?" Then [Xosrov] ordered that Zak'aria the patriarch of Jerusalem and the philosopher from the city of Alexandria be ordered to tell the truth under oath. They replied: "We did not approach God wickedly nor did he visit his anger upon us wickedly. Now, fearing God we shall speak the truth before you. The true faith is the one pronounced at Nicea before the venerable Constantine. [The councils of] Constantinople and Ephesus were in accord with this as is the correct faith of the Armenians. The pronouncements of Chalcedon were not in accord with them, as your benevolence has learned." The king ordered that the treasury be examined and they found [in the treasury a copy] of the true Nicean creed and the confession of faith of the land of Armenia which was sealed with the ring of king Kawad and of his son Xosrov. And this king Xosrov ordered that 'all Christians under my authority should hold the faith of the Armenians.' [153] Those uniting with the Armenians' faith were the metropolitan Kamyishov from Asorestan and ten other bishops, the God-loving queen Shirin, brave Smbat, and the great Chief Physician. King Xosrov ordered that a copy of the correct confession of faith be sealed with his ring and placed in the royal treasury.

"Now because God removed us from serving the authority of darkness and made us worthy of your divine kingdom how much more ought we to beseech Christ God that your pious and God-loving kingdom remain unshaken for eternity, that days on earth be as days in Heaven filled with much triumph, ruling the entire world, land and sea. For although physically you are of the [g123] human race, nonetheless you sit on a divine throne and your God-loving kingdom is filled with the light of glory which shines down upon all, you who are crowned from On High, the pride of all Christians, with the strength of the divine Cross. You resemble the God-loving, pious, God-favored, brave, triumphant, salvation-working, blessed Heraclius, your father, who saved all countries from the bitter executioner. May Christ God grant you the same because of your piety."

[There follows a lengthy discussion of doctrinal matters, which we omit. The translation resumes with chapter 34 grabar p. 135.]


Chapter 34.

The attack of the Hagarenes, and events in Rome.

Once again I shall speak about the evil which befell us in our time, regarding how the veil of ancient faith was torn, and how that death-bringing dry heat breathed upon us and scorched the tall, beautiful, leafy trees of our tender orchards. And this is the truth, for we sinned against the Lord and angered the saint of Israel. "Should it please you to heed me," he said, "you shall take the land's goodness. But should you wish not to listen, the sword shall devour you, for this was uttered by the mouth of the Lord." This same whirlwind was seen above Babylon and then reached every country. For Babylon is the mother of all nations and its realm, the kingdom of the North.

Now further south of them, namely, the Indians and the peoples dwelling in the great desert were the disowned sons of Abraham, born of Hagar and K'etura: Ishmael, Amram, Mogan, Madian, Yek'san, Yesbok, and Melisawe. And the sons of Lot were Amon and Movab; and those of Esau were Edom, and there were others yet, who dwelled to the north of the southen Indians in the enormous and vast desert, [being] disowned [155] by Moses and the children of Israel. The prophet said about them: "[They are] as a storm which comes moving from the south, from the terrible desert." That is the large and terrible desert [I mentioned], from which came that whirlwind of peoples, arising as a storm, and seizing and trampling every country. And the saying was fulfilled, that "the fourth beast will create a fourth kingdom upon the earth, more wicked than all other kingdoms, which will make a desert of every country" [g135].

Now what shall I say about the agitation and calamitous disasters taking place within the empire of the Romans, [the empire] which never ceased its internecine warfare? The principal men and advisors of the realm were drowned in blood, since it is said, they were plotting the emperor's death. As a result, all the principal men and the princes of the empire were destroyed and the inhabitants of the land were reduced, until there was no advisor to be found. [Among those] killed were Georg Magistros and that virtuous man, Manuel, who was the father-in-law of aspet Smbat (son of Smbat the great, called Xosrov Shum). Some say that they observed a glowing light at the place where he was killed. Smbat was exiled. For the troops accused him of trying to rebel afterwards. They told the emperor that [Smbat had said] "The [156] Magistros' blood must be avenged." He was a prince of the army there, and liked by all the troops. Smbat was prince of the Thracian princes' troops, while Manuel was a Magistros working in Constantinople. Now the emperor did not summon the Magistros with bold authority, since he feared a rebellion of the troops. Rather, he summoned the aspet Smbat and made him swear by the Lord's Cross, which he possessed, that he would divulge nothing. Then the emperor sent [Smbat] back to his troops to speak to the Magistros in peace, but to deceive him and bring him [into captivity]. Now [Smbat] went but was unable to deceive him, especially since he did not conceal [the emperor's] words. Then he spoke with all the princes of the army and gave [the Magistros] the imperial order. Since they and all the troops were unable to resist the imperial order, they gave him into their hands. They seized and bound him and took him into the emperor's presence As a result, the troops of the Thracian princes plotted [Smbat's] death and said that he was planning to rebel, so that he would be put to death. However, the emperor rejected them and spared [Smbat] [g136].


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