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History of Armenia (book)

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Title: History of Armenia (book)  
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Subject: History of Armenia, Name of Armenia, Amatuni, Armenian Question, Armenians in the Ottoman Empire
Collection: Armenian Literature, History Books About Armenia, History of Armenia, Medieval Literature
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History of Armenia (book)

The History of Armenia (Armenian: Պատմություն Հայոց, Patmut'yun Hayots) attributed to Movses Khorenatsi is an early account of Armenia, covering the mythological origins of the Armenian people as well as Armenia's interaction with Sassanid, Byzantine and Arsacid empires down to the 5th century.

It contains unique material on ancient Armenian legends, and such information on pagan (pre-Christian) Armenian as has survived. It also contains plentiful data on the history and culture of contiguous countries. The book had an enormous impact on Armenian historiography. In the text, the author self-identifies as a disciple of Saint Mesrop, and states that he composed his work at the request of Isaac (Sahak), the Bagratuni prince who fell in battle in 482.


  • Authorship 1
  • Contents 2
    • Legendary patriarchs 2.1
    • Middle Period (332 BC - AD 330) 2.2
    • Arsacid period 330-428 2.3
  • Editions and translations 3
  • See also 4
  • References 5
  • External links 6


Until the 19th century most scholars accepted Movses's History as an authentic script. For example, Gibbon in his History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (ch. 32) still accepted the 5th century date of Movses, on grounds that "his local information, his passions and his prejudices, are strongly expressive of a native and contemporary"."[1] It is now clear that the current version we have could not have been written in the 5th century [2][3] There is clearly a later Christian influence back-dating the Christianity of Armenia, and relating other stories from the area to the conversion of Armenian to Christianity. For example, in the book Adgbar's queen, Helena, is a pious Christian who cannot live among the pagans and moves to Jerusalem where she provides food during a famine. This story is actually about Queen Helena of Adiabene from the Neo-Assyrian vassal state Adiabene, who, according to Flavius Josephus converted to Judaism and indeed contributed to the city at a time when Christianity was illegal in the Roman Empire.


The book is divided into three parts:

  • "Genealogy of Armenia Major", embracing the history of Armenia from the beginning down to Alexander the Great;
  • "History of the middle period of our ancestors", extending from Alexander to the death of Gregory the Illuminator and the reign of King Terdat (330);
  • the third part brings the history down to the overthrow of the Arshakuni Dynasty (428)
  • the fourth part brings the history down to the time of the Emperor Zeno (474-491), during this time there were three wars: a. the Armenian Independence War headed by Vasak Syuni (450), b. the civilian war between Vardan Mamikonyan and Vasak Syuni (autumn of 450 - May 451), inspired by Romans, Persians and Armenian clergy, c. the 2nd independence war headed by Sahak Bagratuni (who ordered Movses Khorenatsi to write the "history of Armenia") and then by Vahan Mamikonyan (after the death of Sahak Bagratuni in 482).

According to Tovma Artsruni, writing in the 10th century, there was also a fourth part which brings the history down to the time of the Zeno (474-491). This fourth part of the Movses's "History" is lost or destroyed by the Armenian clergy.

Legendary patriarchs

This first book contains 32 chapters, from Adam to Alexander the Great. List of the Armenian patriarchs according to Moses:

  • Hayk, Haig (grandson of Tiras), Armenak (or Aram), Aramais, Amassia, Gegham, Harma, Aram
  • Ara Geghetsik, Ara Kardos, Anushavan, Paret, Arbag, Zaven, Varnas, Sour, Havanag
  • Vashtak, Haikak, Ampak, Arnak, Shavarsh, Norir, Vestam, Kar, Gorak, Hrant, Endzak, Geghak
  • Horo, Zarmair, Perch, Arboun, Hoy, Houssak, Kipak, Skaiordi

These cover the 24th to 9th centuries BC in Moses' chronology, indebted to the Chronicon of Eusebius. There follows a list of legendary kings, covering the 8th to 4th centuries BC:

  • Parouyr, Hratchia, Pharnouas, Pachouych, Kornak, Phavos, Haikak II, Erouand I, Tigran I, Vahagn, Aravan, Nerseh, Zareh, Armog, Bagam, Van, Vahé.

These gradually enter historicity with Tigran I (6th century BC), who is also mentioned in the Cyropaedia of Xenophon (Tigranes Orontid, traditionally 560-535 BC; Vahagn 530-515 BC), but Aravan to Vahé are again otherwise unknown.

chapter 1: letter to Sahak
chapter 5: from Noah to Abraham and Belus
chapters 10-12: about Hayk
chapter 13: war against the Medes
chapter 14: war against Assyria, 714 BC
chapters 15-16: Ara and Semiramis
chapters 17-19: Semiramis flees from Zoroaster to Armenia and is killed by her son.
chapter 20: Ara Kardos and Anushavan
chapter 21: Paruyr, first king of Armenia at the time of Ashurbanipal
chapter 22: kings from Pharnouas to Tigran
chapter 23: Sennacherib and his sons
chapters 24-30: about Tigran I
chapter 31: descendants of Tigran down to Vahé, who is killed in resistance against Alexander
chapter 32: Hellenic wars

Middle Period (332 BC - AD 330)

92 chapters, from Alexander the Great to Tiridates III of Armenia.

Arsacid period 330-428

68 chapters, from the death of Tiridates III to Gregory the Illuminator.

Editions and translations

Number Year Place Publisher Comment
1 1695 Amsterdam Tovmas Vanandetsi The first publishing; "editio princeps
2 1736 London William and George Whiston with a Latin translation; "Historiae Armeniacae"[4]
3 1752 Venice Anton Bortoli "History of the Armenians"[5]
4 1827 Venice The Armenian Mechitarist Fathers of Venice
5 1841 Venice L. de Florivar Italian and French translations
6 1843 Venice The Armenian Mechitarist Fathers of Venice
7 1845 Paris The Armenian Mechitarist Fathers of Venice
8 1864 Venice
9 1881 Tiflis
10 1881 Tiflis
11 1913 Tiflis facsimile ed., intro. by R. W. Thomson, 1981 Caravan Books, ISBN 978-0-88206-032-3
12 1910's (?) Tiflis

Under Soviet rule the book was published many times.

  • R. W. Thomson, English translation, 1978 (Harvard, ISBN 978-0-674-39571-8).
  • G. Kh. Sargsyn, Russian translation, 1991 (ISBN 9785808401853).
  • R. W. Thomson, English translation, rev. ed. 2006 (Caravan Books, ISBN 978-0-88206-111-5).

See also


  1. ^ Robert K. Thomson, "Armenian Literary Culture through the Eleventh Century", in R.G. Hovahanissian (ed.), Armenian People from Ancient to Modern Times(Volume 1, 2004)
  2. ^ Robert K. Thomson, "Armenian Literary Culture through the Eleventh Century", in R.G. Hovahanissian (ed.), Armenian People from Ancient to Modern Times(Volume 1, 2004)
  4. ^ Hakob Meghapart project - 1725 - 1750
  5. ^ Hakob Meghapart project - 1750 - 1775
  • Robert H. Hewson, "The Primary History of Armenia": An Examination of the Validity of an Immemorially Transmitted Historical Tradition, History in Africa (1975).

External links

  • Movses of Chorene, "The History of Armenia" (in Armenian)
  • Armenology Research National Center (in Armenia)
  • Movses of Chorene, "The History of Armenia" (in Russian)
  • Movsēs Xorenac'i, "Storia della Grande Armenia" (in Italian)
  • History of the Armenians, Moses Khorenats'i. Commentary on the Literary Sources by R. Thomson
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