T'ovma Metsobets'i's

History of Tamerlane and His Successors

He came against the Derjan district where he uprooted everything, goods and belongings, sons and daughters and wanted to take this to the Araratean country and Siwnik'. Those were blustery wretched days of wintertime. Suddenly after two days, severe snow fell upon them, and in that night [g104] the country grew cold, and many Christians died of the cold. Son cried to father and father to son, and dear children died in their mothers' arms. Taking their children in their arms, they raised their voices crying to God above: "Lord Jesus, avenge the blood of Your servants, for You are our hope and refuge, and free us and our children from the hands of the beast." That same day, as a result of the bitter weather, more than 700 innocent Christians perished. There was no time to bury them; they became food for wild animals. Nor was there was a village nearby. Their overseers cut off their ears and took them and showed them to the precursor of the antichrist. [Iskandar] laughingly said: "God did it. What do I care? He should not have given them into my hand, and He should not have made it snow."

The impious beast worked this evil. Some ignorant people out of dislike for the believers, wished him a long life. [Other] people are of the opinion that because of [Iskandar's] [87] insubordination and proud behavior which did not submit to the king of the East, more people died than there are stars. For [Shahrukh] was a peace-loving man, nor did he want to be an agitator, for he had seen his father dying [g105], howling like a dog. Nor did he want to destroy our people. However, he did the will of those fearing him and heeded their prayers; [Iskandar] turned [divine] assistance from his sword through the prayers and murder of the innocent and weakened his beloved brothers and relations in the eyes of his troops. He came to his brother named Jihanshah (Jhanshah) whom Shahrukh had placed over his people and over our land, to war against his own brother, knowing that his forces would sacrifice their lives. They had already done so once before when they killed his brother, Sultan Abu Sa'id (Busayid) whom the same Shahrukh had placed over our land. But [this time] all his men abandoned him and fled to his brother Jihanshah. Left with only a few men, he escaped from his brother by a hairsbreadth, secretly going to Ernjak fortress where he passed the entire winter in drunkeness.

Now his brother with his troops besieged him until springtime, creating a fortress and habitation around the fortress. He secretly sent an ambassador to the sultan of Egypt for him to send him many auxiliary troops. [The sultan] sent him numerous forces, many more than 60,000 men. When [this army] came to Ekegheats' district [g106] it heard that they [88] had killed [Iskandar] in Ernjak fortress. Now this Iskandar had a son named Shah-Qubad (Shahubat'). He and his mother, united with ten powerful warriors and valiant single-combattants, went at night and found [Iskandar] in a wine-induced drunken sleep. Unsheathing their swords, they stabbed him to death, without him recognizing his relations. In the morning [people] came to see Shah-Qubad and asked: "Where is your father?" He replied: "My father's fate to your enemies". The people gave [Shah-Qubad] an oath that they would not harm him. He had a relative named Hulegu (Holawlu) whom they fetched and killed, decapitated, and sent the head to his brother Shahanshah who was besieging them. When the latter saw [the head] he greatly rejoiced and held a great celebration, glorifying God that their enemy had born a son who liked him, had killed him, and that they themselves had not killed him. Thus was this wicked one eliminated and, as the prophet says, he did not see the glory of God. And [thank God] that I saw the evil one eliminated and destroyed and behold! he was no more, for he was a bloodshedder and did not live out half the days of his life. The country became pacified in a few days [after Iskandar's death]. The entire duration of his life on earth there was unrest and agitation from Khurasan to Egypt. This transpired in [g107] the year 886 of the Armenian Era [1437]. From the year 870 A.E. [1421] onward until his death, the [89] whole world was in agitation and disturbance, both unbeliever and believer. For this was the third time that Shahrukh Chaghatai placed all the Turkmens and the midland provinces (Mijerkreays) in captivity because of [Iskandar's] disobedience. First at Vagharshakert; second, at Salmast and the third time was this one, when he died and many others died as well, because of him. I saw this vividly in our district. For in 885 A.E. [1436] during Chaghatai's second coming we fled from him and reached the cities of Xlat', Her, Berkri, Archesh and Artske. Suddenly there descended upon us all the Kurds and all Kurdistan from the mountains and hills. Unsheathing their swords they terrified all our miserable people, cutting them down, and wanting to kill everyone. So terrible was that day from the fear, dread, and clamor of the loathsome and bloody Mar (Marats') people that it would have been the Day of Judgement had not aid been sent by our Savior, Christ God, the hope of all. For at night we wanted to go to the city of Bitlis (Baghesh) to the God-loving and God-kept and Christ-loving believers, vardapets, bishops, priests, and clerics there [g108]. But unexpectedly [the Kurds] fell upon us, sword in hand, wanting to kill everyone. Now we took refuge in God, left all material goods behind, fled into the mountains, and with the aid and grace of God escaped from their clutches.

News of our difficulty reached the city of Bitlis. Their [90] bishop, lord Step'annos, a merciful and God-loving man, took a multitude of believers and our spiritual brother the vardapet Step'annos, and lamenting, wept over us, took, restored and received us and our poor for three years like the angels of God. May Lord God, our Jesus Christ, keep that district undisturbed and secure, its sons, daughters, and all of its property, until His second coming. This was in the year 884 of the Armenian Era [1435].

Again I shall relate the disaster and racking bitterness of our people. In the city of Artske there dwelled a pious and charitable man, a lover of God and of holiness, extremely humble, a lover of clerics and a hater of all evil. Day and night did he pray, with his brothers, sons, and entire family [g109]. He was named Muratshah and had a mild and compassionate appearance. He trampled upon all of the city's infidels to the point that he permitted believers to bless water on the [day of the] Revelation of the Lord, with cross and Gospel. He was like the king of the Christians in the midst of a sea. However the wicked people of satan and his orderlies envied [Muratshah], and betrayed him to the mayor. The infidel citizens, having a grudge against him, betrayed him with the permission of an abominable, criminal [member] of our people, named Zenon. He was put into prison, shot with arrows, thrown from the keep and achieved martyrdom and the [91] eternal halo. Prior to this they seized a tanuter named Zak'aria, and strangled him with a rope. May his memory be blessed and through his prayers may Lord Jesus Christ have mercy on all Christians. Amen.

But the following too is known, that during these same days, three times in the same year, the loathsome prince named Pir 'Ali (P'irali) who dwelled in a cave at Amuk enslaved and pillaged the Archesh and Artske country, and burned in fire the dzernawor named Mkrtich' with eight members of his household, in the village of Zarishat [g110]. And a pious dzernawor Yovhannes was killed at Aspisnak village and they roasted in fire a brother of the servitor named Aristakes, like an innocent lamb. Thus martyred for Christ, they received from Christ an uncorruptable halo. May Lord God Jesus Christ forgive whatever sins they may have committed. Amen. [The Qara-Qoyunlu] so robbed all the districts and so denuded the area of goods, that all Christians, grand and lowly, at present despise themselves and, unashamed, regard it as nothing to cover their bodies with grass and to go about like animals, naked and barefoot.

[Pir 'Ali] sold the believing women who had [sought refuge] on the island of Lim for more than 200 and 300 t'anks over and above our poor, none of whom had a single dram. [92] That prince who destroyed our lands is now set up as lord and prince over our land as chastisement for our sins and because of God's wrath. He now is placing all believers under taxation such that they collect from each man 40 t'anks, to say nothing of the bahra and ch'arek' [Shahnazarean p. 112 n. 40 describes bahra as 1/10 and ch'arek' as 1/4 of the country's harvest.] which went to the aged, children, orphans and widows, the blind, poor and bankrupt. Everyone is starving, and though alive, they are dead (kendani merealk' , "living dead") [g111].

Having seen this all, we want to speak briefly about the lamentation and sighing of the denuded and poor, [and to make] complaint against the falsely named tanuters by whose permission and negligence our miserable people were destroyed not only through bitter poverty but through unbearable and unrelatable deeds and in the dissolute drunkenness of elders and youths as may plainly be seen in the city of Archesh.

Now there was a priest named Step'annos from the Amuk country who had come and dwelled on the island of Lim for a few days. Thence he went to the city of Archesh and found it without overseer or leader, neither spiritual nor temporal, neither bishop, vardapet, dzernawor nor tanuter. Seizing a woman citizen through bribing the infidels and at their command he became, for a long while, director (arajnord) [93] of the city. Then treacherous infidels and lying Christians betrayed him to the mayor of the city of Artske named Sahand, and [they also betrayed] a pious tanuter named Musefir. They shed their blood and hanged their heads from the wall. And while perhaps it was a punishment from the Lord so that each cleric hold to his rank, nonetheless by their innocent blood they washed away the stain of their sins; for whoever is so punished in this life is freed from the torturous punishments of Hell [g112]. And if Christians so perish by the hand of infidels, as Abel was killed by Cain, so [the infidels] will be punished by the Lord. For the head of the faith said: "Let none of you be tormented like a thief, a criminal, or a seer (otaratesuch'), that is, a witch; but should they torment you for being a Christian, be not ashamed." Similarly they shall not be ashamed before Christ; rather they shall receive the uncorruptible halo, like the class of martyrs. Lord God Jesus Christ forgive their sins. Amen. This occurred in the year 844 of the Armenian Era [1395].

This priest [Step'annos] had a young son named Yovhannes who was loved by all believers and unbelievers alike. They set him up as dzernawor of the city and commander (hramanatu) of the country. But from wicked seed grows a wicked harvest and the teaching of evil instructors is evil. For [Yovhannes'] [94] father had given his daughter [in marriage] to a man named Murat. And [Yovhannes] took in marriage the sister of his brother-in-law. This was the first sin. The second was that the one born of that woman named Baghshashish, was engaged in improper activities. Advised [g113] by one of those who liked him, named Vegen, [Yovhannes] unsheathed his sword and killed her. With bitter mourning the brothers lay her in the grave. We offered prayers and masses that perhaps he find forgiveness for his sins. But he did not regret his deeds. Then the mother [of the slain child] died, and the father went and married the daughter of his uncle's wife's sister. Living with her briefly, this wife also died. And he did not repent his sins. Once again he took another woman but did not repent, rather he lived in wantonness for a long time.

His brother's son was named Yovhannes. He gave [his] daughter to a youth named Ghrimpek and his sister's son took his [? Ghrimpek's] sister [The translation of this passage is uncertain.]. The child became racked with very bitter pains. He went to the blessed congregation of Gaghton and did not return. His mother turned to constant prayer and asceticism, and her brother did not pity her. Once more the dragon of satan moved his/her house, that is [95] he wanted to marry her child. Going, he took the daughter of the sister of the p'esa of his father's brother's son from whom his sister's son had taken the other sister. We preached and advised against this, but he did not obey. We wrote three and four letters of blessing and he ignored it. Rather, like the crafty creature which approached mother Eve [g114] and tricked her, he approached the spiritual leaders and vardapets of the church. And at their command he took as a bride for his son the daughter of a tanuter named Aslan. Because of his disease of greed they took the reconcilor Christ as an intercessor, with crosses and masses, desiring with their sins to make good service to the Father, abandoning the orders of [the Patriarchs] and the Illuminator, going against their canons disobediently, and wanting to do evil in the face of Christ's will. The forgiveness of God pardoned them for one year.

But come the second year, that woman bore a son and the chastising wrath of God fell upon her. This innocent one cried and clamored: "The wrongs of my parents have surrendered me to the hands of the devs. Bless me, Creator God, and do not let me go." A multitude of priests and the people came [96] with cross and Gospel and prayed over her. With no cure or rest from the agitation of bitter pains, they took refuge in sorcerers (diwt')s and witches. The latter dug [a hole] at the head of the street, relieved themselves into it, buried [the woman] there up to the neck, then taking swords in hand they cried out and struck the earth, saying: "Arise from this woman, wicked dev" [g115]. The foreigners, having opened the mouth of the pitiful and weeping woman, terrified [her] with the sword. The entire multitude of the city's believers and unbelievers came and saw the woman with the woeful face and disheveled hair in the midst of the square. And just as they were happy in transient joy, so now they were saddened at the misery of the poor wretch. Who can relate the heart-rending sobs of the poor woman amidst the solemn trial (aten). Viewers and hearers related it to us, weeping and lamenting. After living a few days, she gave up the ghost. With all our heart we beseech benevolent Lord Jesus Christ to forgive her sins, with the intercession of all the saints, for she was unwillingly, not willingly, a sinner.

As for her more guilty parents and the dzernawor, the consenting director and deceitful monks, may Lord God Jesus [97] Christ pardon them in this world and in the next at the court of Christ, with supplications to the holy Mother of God. I beseech the future brothers who come after [us], bishops and vardapets, putting [my] face to the ground, with [my] body turned to earth, do not betray brotherly love for the sake of this false and transitory life. For whoever hates his brother is a murderer [g116], while divine love is born of brotherly love. No one lacking divine love can unite into the realm of God. With a sighing heart and correct faith I beseech Christ to forgive whatever blameworthy faults be found among our brothers, and to forgive me for my shortcomings worked throughout my entire life toward God and the brothers. Vay!

Now after three years had passed, the aforementioned dzernawor gathered up the hungry, miserable, naked dregs of our people of K'ajberunik' and brought them to Archesh, handing them over to the infidel. They demanded 540 per head from the lame, blind, old, and children—from such who had not a single dram in the first place.

In the year 887 of the Armenian Era [1438], the king of Georgia, Alexander [I, 1412-42, Alek'san] gave poison to prince Beshk'en (Peghgin), son of Smbat Orbelean, grandson [98] of Burt'el, his own father-in-law. For he had taken all parts of Siwnik', and all districts surrounding Siwnik', more than 60,000 Christian homes, and freed Georgia from Shahrukh. Outwardly the king honored him, giving him the fortress of Lori. [Beshk'en] was pious and compassionate [g117], a lover of the clergy, merciful toward all, and toward the poor, telling them to gather around him. All of the Armenians who applied to him he honored and elevated with bread, food, and dress. But that bloody cruel beast [Alexander] feared him, holding the vain and false view that the Armenians must not gather together, so that Georgia would not be destroyed. Especially motivated by the treachery of wicked princes who, as in the beginning, through jealousy and hatred, ruined the entire Armenian people, they gave the poison [to be administered] to an Armenian man named Amnadin, promising him great gifts.

The impious, blood-thirsty Cain loved treachery and the Chalcedonian people more than the pious, benevolent, orthodox and true believers. He administered the poison unexpectedly at dinner. [Beshk'en] realized what had happened and sought an antidote, but it did no good. His soul passed to the angels. He was taken and buried with his father Smbat and his brother Step'annos, bishop of the blessed congregation of Tat'ew, [men] who had died in Georgia, fleeing from foreigners. [99] [His death caused] great mourning for the entire Armenian people and [g118] disappointment, for [he had resembled] a small cluster of grapes among the grapes, and a star in the black night and an asylum for all Christian peoples. He was survived by a brother named Shah, nourished and educated among the gastromaniacal (orovaynamol) Georgian people. He was weak and not solicitous about his patrimonial district. In addition [Beshk'en] left a little son of about ten years. May his memory be blessed and may Christ God forgive his sins, for like Abel, he died and was martyred by treacherous, false brothers.

[Beshk'en's] princes avenged themselves on the impious Amnad[in], cutting off his feet and fingers. But they were unable to make the Poisoner who snatched our prince from life confess. Merciful God spared him for a year. But in the second year, 888 A.E. [1439], His righteous judgement was effected, for the loathsome, blood-thirsty king was struck with the bitter blows of leprosy/venereal disease such that each day he died but was revived, groaning "Alas!" and "Woe"! He assembled hakim and doctor but the severe pain grew stronger. Again in 889 A.E. [1440] the Creator God was angered at our people, the wicked king and their land. For [100] the king of Tabriz, the tyrant-prince named Jihanshah, assembled troops, formed divisions, gathered [g119] the wicked director of Ardabil, all the qadis and mudarris and came against Georgia. He sent ambassadors many times for [the king] to come to him in obedience and to pay the customary tax. But [Alexander] did not want to; rather, he replied in harsh words.

Enraged, [Jihanshah] came with a countless host of troops suddenly and unexpectedly on great Easter day. Those who fell into their hands were enslaved and the grandees were killed. He besieged the city of Shamshulde. By Pentecost, the day of the Coming of the Holy Spirit, they had captured Shamshulde through deceit and the fear [of the besieged citizens]. And they built a minaret of 1,664 human heads at the gate of the city, and they took captive 9,400 [folk] to say nothing of those ravished in forests and thickets. Sixty blessed men, senior priests, monks and princes were sacrificed like sheep at the city gate; some had their heads quartered; some crushed, some were killed [even] after apostasizing. May God have mercy on them for their sin of [filling] [holy] basins with pure blood.

Here one could see the calamitous tribulation of the [101] Christian band. For taking heart, the valiant and brave professed Christ the true God with great clamor [g120] in the midst of the satanic multitude. Their faces shone, resembling the faces of angels, like unto Saint Stephen the Proto-martyr. Who can relate the sorrowful tribulations and racking anguish of the miserable Haykazean [Armenian] people. Only their creator, God the Fashioner and Creator, can know that. For father cried to son: "Vay, my son!" while son cried to father in sobbing supplication: "Woe is me, father!" Mother looked at daughter and her tears coursed down like a river. And the country and entire land filled up with captives, weeping, mourning, sobbing, especially the center of our patrimonial district, for everyone had fled there, and encountered such trials and ambushes.

The whole world to Egypt, Khurasan, Baghdad and Tachkastan split apart with the lamentations of sending for and purchasing slaves at a heavy price. [The infidels] boasted of our destruction and exclaimed in a loud voice: "Where is Christ their God? Let Him come and save His believers." Oh woe and alas, a thousand times over, for today we observed the day of cruel sin, the Day of Judgement in our city. All the [g121] captives were sold for 1000 t'anks. And we had fallen into such penury, all people, city and village, monastery and [102] farm (agarak) that one city and one village was unable to buy a single captive because of the bitter tribulations of poverty. Rather, mourning and lamenting with heart-rending bitterness and lachrymose sobs do we weep and lament our loss. For innocent clerics bought with the blood of Christ [and] the people, blessed lambs and pure brides, betrayed to the infidels, were lost completely. And there was no one to help, or come to [their] aid.

From here they went on to Tiflis p'aytakaran city, and demolished to the foundations all the old and new churches built by the first kings. They hurled down the symbol of the Lord, swarming over churches with unsheathed swords, with frightful shouting and thundering, to the point that all the mountaineers and plainsmen chilled and trembled, out of terror and dread of them. Sword in hand, brave, coward, and commander took to forests, thickets and caves. Having removed their women and children for many days they took captives. And that cowardly, gastromaniacal, drunken, lapathum-eating [lapastakaker "eater of lapathum," a purgative plant.] Georgian nation, which continually sat intoxicated, boasting [g121] that they would vanquish all peoples, were unable to pierce by arrow even one man. Instead, spying some of them in a grove they would stealthily [103] say to one another in terror and trembling: "Behold, the Turkmens! Behold, the Turkmens!" And behold, having themselves escaped by a hairsbreadth, they betrayed their sons into the infidels' hands. Furthermore we [Armenians], always placing hopes on the Georgians and boasting of them among the infidels, were thereafter disappointed and confounded in the infidels' presence. The words of the prophet were fulfilled: "Cursed is the man who places his hopes on man," and "Trust not the prince, for that is not salvation." Nor was there anyone to help us besides Lord Jesus Christ Who by crucifixion and torture gave His life for the holy Church.

All this descended upon us because of our sins, especially because of the swearing of the foul-mouthed, because of lazy, lack of prayer, and the hatred and lack of love manifested toward all, and the incorrigible priesthood.

The filthy tyrant again summoned the wicked leaders of his faith and asked: "Were there any besides our first kings who worked such good deeds and bravery?" They responded: "You are more worthy of honor and glory than the Prophet [g123] (p'eghamber)." And the loathsome shaykh of Ardabil said: "God pardons whatever crimes you have committed for the next seven years; whatever crimes you commit He will forgive. [104] But let me give you some advice. Because they curse our leader, calling him bald and k'ashch'al(?), place tax and kharadj over all Christians so that they will apostasize Jesus Christ and adopt our faith." They levied kharadj and enormous taxes on all peoples so that through numerous harassments they turn from our faith. May Lord Jesus quickly do away with them and judge directly between us and them who totally destroyed His people. For in 800 of the Armenian Era [Shahnazarean notes (p. 124 n.47) that 800 A.E. [1351] is in error.] there will come aid and they will be destroyed like Gog, Magog, Hrap'sak , Sennecherim and all the evil kings of the world. For whoever strikes against the rock of Christ will be crushed in this world and in the next, with his family and entire people. And he shall lift up the horn of the kings of Christ with the intercession of the blessed Mother of God and of all the heavenly and earthly saints, especially of the new and select martyrs, the brave, valliant pitiful citizens of Shamshulde who were drowned in martyrs' blood [g124]. Through their intercession and good wishes may Lord Jesus forgive us, our parents, relatives and the entire Armenian people, clerics, laymen, and all Christians [g125].


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