Armenia is so old that its early history only survived in the form of legends and myths. It often reminds me of the following line:
And some things that should not have been forgotten were lost. History became legend. Legend became myth.― Galadriel in The Lord of the Rings, by J.R.R. Tolkien
A famous line from the opening narration of The Lord of the Rings spoken by the royal elvish lady Galadriel. Whose original name, f.y.i. was Artanis ( ‘ar’=noble, ‘nis’=woman) according to J.R.R. Tolkien.
That line fits well with what happened to the Armenian history. Back in the early 19th century Armenia was still occupied by the Ottoman empire for over 500 years. Its history long faded into obscurity and Armenian identity barely held together. Many would argue that without an early adoption of Christianity and the (re)invention of the Armenian alphabet, Armenian nation would have long disappeared, just like most of its historic neighbors. After all, where are the mighty Babylonians and Assyrians? The chariot riding Hittites, the amiable Caucasian Albanians, the adventurous Phrygians, goldsmithing Colkhinas or even the cultured Byzantines?
The result of the work of Isaac and Mesrob, was to separate for ever the Armenians fromThe result of the work of Isaac and Mesrob, was to separate for ever the Armenians from the other peoples of the East and to strengthen them in the Christian Faith by forbidding or rendering profane all the foreign alphabetic scripts which were employed for transcribing the books of the heathens and of the followers of Zoroaster. To Mesrob we owe the preservation of the language and literature of Armenia; but for his work, the people would have been absorbed by the Persians and Syrians, and would have disappeared like so many nations of the East”
.― St. Martin (Histoire du Bas-Empire de Lebeau
During the early middle ages Armenia was experiencing a real cultural renaissance. Armenia became the first Christian nation, (re)invented the Armenian alphabet and fought a crucial battle against Sassanid Persia during the Battle of Avarayr (26 May 451 AD), affirming Armenia’s right to practice Christianity freely.
It was during this period that one Armenian bishop Movses Khorenatsi (Moses of Chorene) with an interest in history and a love for writing embarked on a monumental mission, at the request of Prince Sahak Bagratuni, to collect and preserve existing information, from available records, legends and myths about the history of the Armenian people. The fruit of his labor resulted in the book ‘History of Armenia’ (Patmut’yun Hayots).
This book became the earliest known historiographical work on the history of Armenia. Although other Armenians such as Agathangelos had previously written histories on Armenia, Movses’ work holds particular significance because it contains unique material on the old oral traditions in Armenia before its conversion to Christianity. Khorenatsi is considered to be the “father of Armenian history” (patmahayr), and is sometimes referred to as the “Armenian Herodotus.”
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