Armenian Medieval Manuscripts

  • 14 márc.

    Kezdete: 2019. március 14. 14:00 -Vége: 2019. március 14. 16:00

    Budapest, Sophianum 204

Theo Maarten van Lint (University of Oxford) előadása

A Funeral Lament for Sparapet Vahram Pahlawuni

Grigor Pahlawuni Magistros’ Eleventh Century Christianization of Armenian Commemorative Ritual

Grigor Pahlawuni Magistros’ interest in the remnants of pre-Christian Armenian and Iranian epic has long been noted by scholars. His observations have brought us precious fragments of a culture in which the heroic deeds of kings and princes were the focus of memory and cultural transmission, carried by gusans together with religious ideas and imagery, as preserved in Movses Xorenac‘i’s History of the Armenians.

The Pahlawuni nobleman’s interests ranged wide and his keen attention to the poetics of Greek and Arabic works is well documented in his letters, his Commentary on Dionysius the Thrax’s Grammar and in the Preface to his poetic summary of the Bible composed for the Muslim scholar Al Manazi. His adherence to the rules of rhetoric in his epistolary is further evidence of the importance he attached to the maintenance of a well informed literary culture among the elite and the educated in his own Armenian society, as well as with his other Christian and Islamic interlocutors.

This paper will argue that there is a further layer to Magistros’ interest: far from being a mere literary antiquarian, enthusiastically penning down the ancient snippets caught from the lips of peasants, he pursued the art of writing with the double goal of the defence of Armenian Apostolic Christianity and the propagation of the fame of his family, thus combining the interests of his exalted double heritage: both that of the Arshakuni kings, and of the Part‘ew of Grigor Lusaworič‘, who had converted King Trdat to Christianty early in the fourth century. Grigor here presents himself as a latter day scion of the syncretic Hellenism that informed earlier Armenian culture, and which he is keenly devoted to reviving, continuing and invigorating. Particularly striking is the secular interest in his family-fame, which comes to the fore much more in this layman’s oeuvre than one finds among the overwhelmingly ecclesiastic authors of the Armenian Middle Ages.  

Yet that is not all: Grigor wants to –finally- Christianise the funeral ritual, that was, despite ecclesiastical censure, still beset by the pre-Christian practices of wailing women with even noble widows lacerating themselves in grief, giving rise to moral and religious impropriety. This comes to the fore in the letter he wrote to Archbishop Yovhannēs of Siwnik in answer to the family friend’s condolences with the passing of his uncle Vahram, Sparapet of the Armenian Realm, fallen in battle at the age of 80. Building on the hypothesis advanced by Babgen Čugaszyan that the letter contains at least part of a poem composed by Grigor in the manner of pre-Christian heroic epic, the thesis is advanced that the Pahlawuni nobleman sought to firmly introduce a Christianised commemorative genre, that would accommodate this epic heroism with elements of hagiography and martyrdom.