Sebeos' History



[He] quickly assembled and took along the multitude of brave and warlike peoples of the East. While there was such chaos occurring in the land of Iran, [in Armenia] Yovhan Patrik and Byzantine troops were holding the city of Dwin under siege. They were fighting using [siege] machinery and were close to destroying the wall.

When news of this [i.e., events in Iran] reached them, they left off [the siege] and departed for Atrpatakan. They ravaged the entire country, putting all men and women to the sword. Taking all the loot, captives, and booty, they returned to their country.

Now when the clamorous news of this [event] reached Ormazd, the king of Iran, at the court of the Sasanians, he felt no few pangs of alarm. Summoning the naxarars who were at the royal court, the brigades of hamaharzes and the p'ushtipans, he planned to take the treasury of the kingdom [17] and the entire court host, pass across the great Tigris river by bridge to Vehkawat [or, via Zom to Vehkawat], cut the bridges down and find asylum in the multitudinous hosts of the king of the Tachiks.

However, this did not come to pass. For the king's men, and hamaharzes and pushtipans resolved to kill Ormazd [g31] and to enthrone his son Xosrov. They decided to free [Vndo, Vstam's brother] to make him their leader and chief of the operation. They went to Gruandakan fortress and released him and all the captives with him. [Vndo] sent a trustworthy messenger with very swift horses to his brother. [18] They went to Gruandakan fortress and released him and all the captives with him. [Vndo] sent a trustworthy messenger with very swift horses to his brother Vstam with the written message: "Come as fast as you can, and participate". And Vstam arrived quickly.

Then all the naxarars and commanders of troops, and soldiers assembled in the hall of the court at an hour when they met there. Entering the royal chamber, they seized, quickly blinded and then killed king Ormazd.

They enthroned [Ormazd's] son, [Xosrov II Aparvez, first reign 590] as king of the land of Iran, then began to prepare to flee to the other side of the great Tigris river. Not many days later Vahram arrived with speed, like a pouncing eagle.

Because Xosrov was a small boy when enthroned, his uncles [k'erhink'n, "mother's brothers"] Vndo and Vstam took him across the great Tigris river by bridge, destroying the bridges after them. [Meanwhile], Vahram came [19] and took all the tun, treasury, and women of the court and sat upon the throne of the kingdom. He ordered wooden rafts tied together and crossed the river to seize Xosrov. But [the latter], out of dread, was in no way able to halt for rest. As soon as [his party] crossed, they fled, wondering on the road whether it would be better to go to the king of the Tachiks or to the king of the Byzantines.

Finally they decided it best to seek refuge with the king of the Byzantines. "For", they said, "despite the hostility existing between [us], nonetheless [the Byzantines] are Christian and merciful, and they are unable to break a sworn oath". Going west by a direct route, they entered the city of Xaghab where they stopped.

[As for Vahram], although he crossed the river he was unable to catch up. He returned to Ctesiphon [g32]. [The text styles Xosrov ark'ay and Maurice t'agawor, though elsewhere both are called t'agawor. Hereafter we shall translate t'agawor as "emperor" when it refers to the Byzantine ruler, and as "king" for the shah.]

Then king Xosrov sent men bearing costly gifts to emperor Maurice, and he wrote him the following: "Give me the throne and place of rule [which belonged] to my fathers and [20] and ancestors: dispatch an army to assist me defeat my enemy; establish my reign and I shall be your son. I shall give you the areas of the Syrians, Aruastan in its entirety as far as the city of Nisibis and from the country of the Armenians, the land of Tanuterakan rule [extending] as far as Ararat, and to the city of Dwin, and as far as the shore of the Sea of Bznunik' [Lake Van] and to Arhestawan [I shall also give] a large part of the land of Iberia/Georgia, as far as the city of Tiflis. Let there be an oath of peace between the two of us, lasting until our deaths, and between our sons who rule after us".

The emperor assembled the entire senate to ask their advice. He said to them: "The Iranians have killed their king Ormazd and then enthroned his son. However, the troops of the realm seated yet another man as king in the East, and he [Vahram] came with a large army and seized the kingdom for himself. [Ormazd's] young son has come to us as a fugitive seeking an auxiliary army from us, and in return has promised to do thus and so. Now what shall we do, accept him? [20] Is he worthy of acceptance or not?" [The senators] replied: "It is not worth accepting him, for [the Iranians] are an impious people, and thoroughly false. For, in times of their own difficulties they make promises, but when the turmoil ends, they break those promises. We have suffered much wickedness from them. Let them wipe out each other, and we will have peace."

King Xosrov was in great danger then and could see death before his eyes because, having escaped from the lion's mouth, he had fallen into the mouths of enemies from which there was no escape.

However, the emperor rejected the senate's counsel, and instead sent his own son-in-law, Phillipicus, entrusted with a reply of acceptance [for Xosrov]. He received [Xosrov's] oath and gave him an imperial auxiliary army [including] Yovhan Patrik from Armenia, the stratelat Nerses [g33] from Syria plus their troops. They mustered 3,000 cavalry [massed] in hundreds and in thousands, in brigades, under their own banners.

The mother of [the Iranian commander] Shapuh was the daughter [22] of the Asparapet (who was from the naxarar House of the Part'ews which had died out) [The text seems corrupt: dustr Asparapetin aynorik, or er naxarar tann Part'ewats', ork' merheal ein...] and the sister of Vndo and Vstam. Vndo himself was a wise and sagacious man, and very brave-hearted, as I have said. He fought a great battle at Melitene, but was defeated and left. Then came Tam Xosrov who fought two battles: one in Basen [district] at Bolorapahak where the Murts' and Arax [rivers] mingle; and one in Bagrewand [district] at Ket'n. He was very successful in both [battles]. After remaining for two years, he departed.

Then came Varaz Vzur who fought one battle at Ut'mus village in Vanand. At first he was driven off, but he later triumphed. He remained for one year, and then departed.

Then came marzpan Hrahat who went to Mrtsuni [having] his kinfolk for support in battle. They were defeated there, but later triumphed. Turning thence he fought and won a battle at Tsaghkajur in Bznunik'. He departed after four months.

[23] Next came marzpan Hrarti Datan. Thereafter, however, the Iranians were unable to resist the Byzantine troops. It was during this period that Ormazd was killed and his son Xosrov was enthroned. [Hrarti Datan] departed after two years.

After this Iranian border-guards came [and this continued] until the expiration of the peace which had existed between the Iranians and the Greeks, between the two kings, Maurice and Xosrov.

Then came Vendatakan, then Xorakan. The latter was killed by Iranian troops at Garni who then rebelled and went to Geghums. Then came Merakbut, then Yazden, then Butmah, then Hoyiman [g34].

[Page 24]

[This is the] Book of the Times the History of Kings an Iranian romance [regarding] the universal defeat of that Sasanian brigand, Xosrov Apruez [Matean zhamanakean patmut'iwn t'agaworakan Vep ariakan vanumn tiezerakan, hen Sasanakan yApruezn Xosrovean.] who put everything to flame, agitated the sea and land, and brought ruin upon every country.

I shall narrate what happened to the country, how it was ruined, making use of legends [charhets'its'...arhaspels vipasanelov]. [I shall tell] about Wrath from On High, how anger blazed forth below; about the fire and the bloodshed, the pillaging expeditions, the raids which brought death [accompanied by] the screams of dews (demons) and the roar of dragons. [I shall speak of] the race of Mages [zazants' k'awdeats'], about men descended from giants, armed braves, cavalrymen from East to West, from North to South; about the Southerners [the Arabs] who arose with great turbulence and attacked [Iran and Byzantium] and executed the command of the Lord's anger over every country. [The Arabs] spun like a whirlwind, became a storm, and corrupted everything below them, devastating mountains and hills, tearing apart plains in various places, and crushing rocks and stones under the trampling hooves of their horses. Now I shall begin the romance about that destructive corrupter, Xosrov, God's accursed [g35].



Chapter 3

Vahram's attack on Xosrov, and the two letters to Mushegh; Mushegh's loyalty to Xosrov; the great battle; the defeat of the rebels; Xosrov's lack of gratitude toward Mushegh which resulted in Mushegh's plans to kill him; the writing of an accusation to the emperor by means of the Byzantine princes; the emperor's dissatisfaction with that and the letter to [the princes] and to Xosrov; the dispatch of Byzantine troops; the summoning of Mushegh to the palace by the emperor.


After the death of Kawad's son, Xosrov, his son, Ormazd, ruled over the land of Iran [579-90]. [Ormazd's] mother, Xosrov's wife named Kayen, was the daughter of the great Khaqan/Qaqan (Xak'an), king of the T'etalats'ik'. Thus [Ormazd] inherited a bad [nature] from his father's line, but an even more bestial [nature] from his mother's line.

He did away with all the naxarars and [26] the earlier, more indigenous Houses of the land of Iran. He killed the great Asparapet of the Part'ew and the Pahlaw who was [descended] from the son of Anak (whom [the Armenians] put to death) whom that bandit king Xosrov of Armenia took as a dayek, whom they spirited away to the court of their king in Iran [The text seems corrupt: Span sa zAsparapetn mets zpart'ewn ew zpahlawn or er i zawake Anakay mahaparti. zor arhareal dayekats' i hine anti Xosrovay ark'ayi Hayots' p'axuts'in i durhn ark'uni iwreants' i koghmans parsits']. The king fulfilled [on the son] the rewards promised to his father Anak once [the son] had fled there, namely, the bun [native habitat] of Part'ewakan Palhaw itself. He tied a crown on his head and exalted him, making him second in the kingdom.

The Asparapet had two sons, one named Vndo, the other Vstam. They accepted troops from the land of Armenia and assembled whomever they found at hand then. When they mustered they were some 15,000 men, each brigade of naxarars [arranged] in hundreds and in thousands in brigades and under their banners. All were armed, all were choice warriors, [27] burning with bravery, like fire. They neither panicked nor turned back. Their faces were like eagles'. Their light-footedness was like the lightness of wild goats running upon the plains. With dilligence and full loyalty they took the road.

The Mithraist rebel took his troops [The translation is uncertain: arheal apstambin mihrats'eloyn zzawrs iwr... ], elephants, and all the royal treasures and reached Atrpatakan. They encamped, at a little distance from each other, in the district of Vararat. Then Vahram wrote a hrovartak to Mushegh and to other naxarars of Armenia. It went as follows:

"I had thought that as soon as I started battling with your enemies, you would come from those parts and help me; and that I and you, united, would do away with that universal pestilence, the House of Sasan. But you, massed and coming against me in battle, are helping them. I am not afraid of the army of Roman elders who have come against me. But you Armenians show the love of your master at an inopportune time. Truly, did not the House of Sasan abolish your country and lordship? Why was it that your fathers always rebelled and went to serve those [the Byzantines] who to this day are fighting over your land? Should you come against me you will destroy so much of your merit, for [28] should Xosrov triumph, the two of them united [i.e., Xosrov and the emperor Maurice] will remove you from their midst. If, however, it is agreeable to you, break with them, unite with and aid me. Should I triumph, I swear by the great god Aramazd, by the lord Sun, by the Moon, by Fire and by Water, by Mihr and by all the gods, that I shall give you the Armenian kingdom. Make whomever you want the king. And I shall leave you the entire country of Armenia as far as Kapkoh and the Gate of [Caucasian] Aghbania/Aghuania; from the Syrian area: Aruastan and Nor Shirakan as far as the boundaries of the Tachiks, for this [territory] was yours from your ancestors; [I shall give territories] extending westward to Caesarea in Cappadocia. I shall not rule beyond the Arasp river [g37]. Let the treasury of the Aryan kingdom be considered sufficient for me and you. That should be plenty for you before your kingdom is established".
Then, in accordance with their [Iranian] custom, [Vahram] wrapped up salt, and sealed it with the hrovartak.

[The partisans of Mushegh] received and read the hrovartak, but they neither replied nor did they reveal [its contents] to many [naxarars] because they feared their disunity.

[29] But [Vahram] wrote a second letter:

"I wrote to you to break with them, considering all the lands and treasures of this kingdom sufficient for you and me. You, however, chose not to listen, and you did not respond. I feel sorry for you, because tomorrow at dawn I will show you splendid elephants mounted by troops of armed braves who will rain down upon you arrows of iron, shafts of tempered steel dispatched by hard-hiting archers, powerful young men, well-armed, and swift Tachik horses, axes and swords of tempered steel, and blows enough for Xosrov and for you."
Mushegh replied to him [as follows]:
"God's compassion goes to whomever He grants it to. You should feel sorry for yourself, not for us. I have come to regard you as a boastful man, someone who takes comfort not in God, but in bravery and the strength of elephants. And now I say to you that if God so wills it, tomorrow you will be embroiled in a battle with braves who will explode upon you and your multitude of elephants like the most violent clouds in the sky. An enormous explosion will be heard from on High, and a flash of lightning, and armed men on white horses with unerring spears will attack you and pass through your hosts the way lightning does through an evergreen forest, burning [30] the branches as the bolts rain down from Heaven to earth [g38], burning the brush of the fields. For, should God will it, a whirlwind will carry off your might like dust, and the treasury of the court will return to the court."
Among [the Iranians] were Vndo and Vstam, about whom I spoke earlier. The Iranians had about 8,000 cavalrymen. At early dawn the next morning, just as the sun was rising [the troops] drew themselves up, front facing front, and clashed in battle. The massing and the melee were violent and in the agitation the destruction was enormous. After fighting from dawn to dusk, both sides became fatigued with warfare.

The killing was so great that a torrent of blood flowed in streams and watered the entire country. Unable to resist, the army of rebels fled before the Byzantine troops. [The latter] pursued them, covering the plains and roads with corpses, until it was dark night. [The Byzantines] put many to their swords; many others they arrested, binding their hands to their necks, and leading them before the king.

A multitude of elephants was coming at a violent speed. Behind them were the armed azatagund. From below [the Byzantines] [31] pierced the armor of the cavalrymen who were mounted on elephants. Fighting fearlessly and courageously, [the Byzantines] killed many elephants, cavalrymen, and elephant-keepers and were able to forcibly lead off a multitude of the elephants, which they brought before the king.

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