Online Encyclopedia

ARMENIAN LANGUAGE AND LITERATURE

Online Encyclopedia
Originally appearing in Volume V02, Page 575 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
Spread the word: del.icio.us del.icio.us it!

ARMENIAN

LANGUAGE AND LITERATURE  . The Armenian language belongs to the
See also:
group called Indo-
See also:
European, of which the Iranic and Indic tongues formed one branch, and Greek, Albanian,
See also:
Italian,
See also:
Celtic, Germanic L8°g`' and Baltic-
See also:
Slavonic dialects the other
See also:
great branch . Unlike most of these, Armenian lost its genders long before the
See also:
year A.D . 400, when the existing literature begins .
See also:
Modern Persian similarly has lost gender; and in both cases the liberation must have been due to attrition of other tongues which had a different
See also:
system of gender or none at all . So the Armenians were ever in contact on the north with the Iberians of the
See also:
Caucasus who had none, and with the Semitic races on the south and east which had other ways of forming genders than the Indo-European tongues . From the
See also:
original Armenian stock can be readily distinguished a mass of Old and
See also:
Middle Persian loan-words . These are so numerous that for a time Armenian was classed as an Iranian tongue . For more than a thousand years, say until A.D . 640, Armenia was an appanage of the
See also:
realm of the Persians and Parthians . Until A.D . 428 the Armenian
See also:
throne was occupied by a younger branch of the Arsacid dynasty that ruled in
See also:
Persia until the advent of the Sassanids (c .

A.D . 226), and the

See also:
internal polity and court administration of Armenia were modelled on the Persian or
See also:
Parthian . Accordingly over 200 proper and
See also:
personal names in Armenia were Old Persian, as well as 700 names of things . If we count in the derivative forms of these words we get at least 2000 Old Persian words . Often the same Persian word was borrowed twice over in an earlier and later form at an
See also:
interval of centuries, just as in
See also:
English we inherit a word
See also:
direct or have taken it from Latin, and have also assimilated from French a later form of the same . The Persian influence in Armenian was already strong as early as 400 B.C., when
See also:
Xenophon used a Persian interpreter to converse . In some of the Armenian villages they answered him in Persian .. The Persian loan-words already
See also:
present in Armenian as early as A.D . 400 mirror the earlier
See also:
political and social
See also:
life of Armenia . Thus many of their kings and nobles had Persian names; Persian also were most words used in connexion with horses and the chase; with war and army, with dress, trade and coinage,
See also:
calendar, weights and
See also:
measures, with court and political institutions, with
See also:
music,
See also:
medicine, school,
See also:
education, literature and the arts . Many everyday words were of the same origin, e.g. the words for
See also:
village,
See also:
desert,
See also:
building and build, need, rich or liberal, arm (of
See also:
body), rod or goad, face, opposite, wicked, unfriendly, discontented, difficult, daughter, eulogy, a youth, wary, enjoy, unhappy, volition, voluntary, unwilling, blind, cautious,
See also:
blood-kin, coquet with, slumber, humble, mad, grace or favour, memory or attention, grandfather, old woman, prepared, duty, necessary, end, endless,
See also:
superior, confident, mistake, warmth, heat, glory . The language of their old religion was mainly Persian, but in the 4th century they derived numerous ecclesiological words from the Syrians, from whom by way of Edessa and Nisibis
See also:
Christianity penetrated eastern Armenia .

The language of the

garden and the names of
See also:
plants were also Persian . They had their own numerals, but the words for one thousand and for ten thousand are Persian . Yet more indicative of the extent of the Persian influence is the adoption of the adjectival ending -akan and -zan, added to purely Armenian words; also of the preposition
See also:
ham, answering to
See also:
con in " conjoin," " conspire," added to purely Armenian words, as in hambarnam, I take away, and hamboir, a
See also:
kiss, a word which, strange to say, the Iberians in turn borrowed from the Armenians . From Persia also the Armenians took their names for surrounding races, e.g . Tatshik or Tajik, first for Arab and then for Turk, Ariq for Persians, Kapkoh for Caucasus, Hrazdan, Vaspuragan, &c . The Armenians call themselves Hay, plural Hayq; their country Hayasdan . The Iberians they called Virq or Wirq (where q marks the plural), the Medes Marq, the Cappadocians Gamirq (Cimmerians), the Greeks nines or
See also:
Ionians; Ararat they call Masis, the Euphrates the Aradsan, the Tigris Teglath, Erzerum is Karin, Edessa Urhha, Nisibis Mdsbin,
See also:
Ctesiphon Tizbon, &c . When the Persian and other loan-words are removed, a stock remains of native words and forms governed by other phonetic
See also:
laws than those which govern the
See also:
Aryan, i.e .
See also:
Indian and Iranic, branch of the Indo-European tongues . Armenian appears to be a
See also:
half-way dialect between the Aryan branch and Slavo-lettic . Much, however, in Armenian
See also:
philology remains unexplained . For example the plural of nouns, pronouns and the first and second persons plural of verbs are all formed by adding a q or k, which has no parallel in any Indo-Germanic tongue .

The genitive plural again is formed by adding a tz or c, and the same consonant characterizes the composite

aorist and the conjunctive . In all three cases it is unexplained . In the verbs the termination m for the first singular at once explains itself, and the n of the third plural is the Indo-Germanic nti . But not so the second person singular ending in s, e.g. berem, I bear, beres, thou bearest . This has a superficial likeness to the I.-G. esi in bheresi, " thou bearest." Yet we should expect the s between vowels to vanish, and give us in Armenian berg Perhaps, therefore, an old variant of esi, similar to the Greek ioat, lies behind the Armenian es, thou
See also:
art, and the es in beres, thou bearest . In any case it is clear that many of the
See also:
oldest forms which Armenian shared with other Indo-Germanic dialects were lost and replaced by forms of which the origin is obscure . Perhaps a closer study of -Mingrelian and Georgian will explain some of these peculiarities, for these and their cognate tongues must have had a wider range in the 7th and 8th centuries B.C. than they had later when clear
See also:
history begins . The attempts made by S . Bugge to assimilate Old Armenian to
See also:
Etruscan, and by P . Jensen to explain from it the Hittite inscriptions, appear to be fanciful . There is a large Semitic influence traceable in Armenian due to their early contact with the
See also:
Syriac-speaking peoples to the south and east of them, and later to the Arab
See also:
conquest . Much remains to be done in the way of
See also:
collecting Armenian dialects, for which task there are written materials as far back as the 12th century over and above the
See also:
work to be done by an intelligent traveller armed with a phonograph .

Two

main dialects of Armenian are distinguishable to-day, that of Ararat and
See also:
Tiflis, and that of Stambul and the coast cities of
See also:
Asia Minor . The latter is much overlaid with Tatar or
See also:
Turkish words, and the Tatar order of words distinguishes the modern Armenian sentence from the ancient . It remains to say that classical Armenian resembles rather the modern idiom of
See also:
Van than of western Armenia . Itwas a plastic and noble language, capable of rendering faithfully, yet not servilely, the Greek Bible and Greek fathers . Often theArmenian translators, and especially after the 5th century, rendered word for word, preserving the order of the Greek . This literalness, though unpleasing from a
See also:
literary standpoint, gives' to many of their ancient versions the value almost of aGreek codex of the age in which the version was made . The same literalness also characterizes their
See also:
translations from Syriac . The Armenians had a temple literature of their own, which was destroyed in the 4th and 5th centuries by the Christian clergy, so thoroughly that barely twenty lines of it Literature. survive in the history of Moses of Khoren (Chorene) . Their Christian literature begins about 400 with the invention of the Armenian alphabet by Mesrop . This was probably an older alphabet to which Mesrop merely added vowels; but, in order to pacify the Greek ecclesiastics and the emperor
See also:
Theodosius the Less, the Armenians concocted a story that it had been divinely revealed . Once their alphabet perfected, the catholicus Sahak formed a school of translators who were sent to Edessa, Athens, Constantinople, Alexandria,
See also:
Antioch, Caesarea in
See also:
Cappadocia, and elsewhere, to procure codices both in Syriac and Greek and translate them . From Syriac were made the first version of the New Testament, the version of Eusebius' History and his Life of
See also:
Constantine (unless this be from the original Greek), the homilies of Aphraates, the Acts of Gurias and Samuna, the
See also:
works of Ephrem Syrus(partlypublished in four volumes by the
See also:
Mechitharists of Venice) .

They include the commentaries on the Diates. saron and the Paulines, Laboubna and History of Addai, the Syriac canons of the Apostles . From the original Greek were rendered in the 5th century the following authors and works . An

asterisk is prefixed to those which have been printed:—*Eusebius' Chronicon; *Philo's lost commentaries on Genesis and Exodus, and his lost
See also:
treatises on
See also:
Providence and Animals, as well as a great number of his works still preserved in Greek; *the entire Bible (the New Testament is a recension after Antiochene Greek texts of an older version made from the oldest Syriac text); *the Alexander
See also:
romance of the pseudo-Callisthenes; *Epistles and Acts of Ignatius of Antioch; *many homilies of Gregory Thaumaturgus; *Athanasius (a large number of works, many of them wrongly attributed);
See also:
Irenaeus, Adversus Haereses and Ad Marcianum (recently found) ; *Hippolytus' commentaries on the
See also:
Song of Songs and Daniel, and many fragments; *
See also:
Timotheus' life of Athanasius;
See also:
Theophilus of Alexandria, various homilies; *Eusebius of Gabala or Severianus, fifteen Homilies; *Cyril of Jerusalem, Catecheses and Letter to Constantine; *Wisdom of Ahikar; *the Apology of Aristides; Gregory of Nazianzus,
See also:
thirty-four Homilies; *Nonnus' work on Gregory (perhaps a version of 6th century); Basil of Caesarea, *Hexaeaneron, fifteen Homilies on faith,
See also:
epistle to Terentius,' ascetic writings and canons, on the
See also:
Holy Spirit, to Cledonius, &c . Helladius of Caesarea's life of Basil; Gregory of Nyssa's
See also:
treatise on the Beatitudes, and many other homilies, Commentaries on Song of Songs, *On Human Nature (Nemesius), panegyrics on sundry Martyrs, and other works (but some of these versions belong to the beginning of the 8th century) ; Epiphanius of
See also:
Salamis, Commentary on the Gospels, *On weights and measures, *
See also:
Physiologus, canons and many homilies; Evagrius of
See also:
Pontus, Homilies and Ascetic works, Letters to Melania, &c.; John
See also:
Chrysostom, *Homilies. and 'Prayers, in very beautiful language; *Proclus, patriarch of Constantinople, many homilies; *Nilus the Ascete, On the Eight
See also:
Spirits of Evil; *Josephus, On the Jewish War; Dionysius of Alexandria, *Against Paul of Samosata and other fragments: Acacius, bishop of Melitene, *Letters to Sahak;
See also:
Julius of Rome (fragments);
See also:
Zenobius, Homilies (? from Syriac); the History of Julius Africanus was perhaps also translated in this century, but it is lost . To the 5th century belong the versions of the Nicene canons, of which the Armenian text as preserved is barely intelligible, of the eucharistic
See also:
rites called of *Basil, *Chrysostom, *Ignatius and others; also the *Hours or Breviary, the *Rites of Ordination,
See also:
Baptism, of the making and release of Penitents, of Epiphany, and perhaps the many rites of animal sacrifice, for these are partly originals, partly versions of lost Greek texts . A mass of martyrs' acts were also rendered in this century, including parts of the lost collection made by Eusebius . Among these the *Acts and Apology of
See also:
Apollonius restore a lost 2nd-century text . The *Canons of Sahak also purport to be translated from a Greek original about the year 330 . The Armenians were so busy in this century translating Greek and Syriac fathers that they have
See also:
left little that is original . Still a number of
See also:
historical works survive: *Faustus of
See also:
Byzantium relates the events of the period A.D . 344–392 in a work
See also:
instinct with life and racy of the
See also:
soil . It was perhaps first composed in Greek, but it gives a faithful picture of the court of the petty sovereigns of Armenia, of the political organization, of the blood feuds of the clans, of the planting of Christianity .

See also:
Procopius preserves some fragments of the Greek . The *History of Taron, by Zenobius of Glak, is a somewhat legendary account of Gregory the Illuminator, and may have been written in Syriac in the 5th, though it was only Armenized in a later century . *Elisaeus Wardapet wrote a history of Wardan (Vardan), and of the war waged for their faith by the Armenians against the Sassanids . He was an eye-witness of this struggle, and gives a good account of the contemporary Mazdaism which the Persians tried to force on the Armenians . *
See also:
Lazar of Pharp wrote a history embracing the events of the 5th century up to the year 485, as a continuation of the work of Faustus . *A history of St Gregory and of the conversion of Armenia by Agathangelus is preserved in Greek, Armenian and Arabic . The Arabic edited by Professor Marr of St
See also:
Petersburg seems to be the oldest form of text . The Greek is a rendering of the Armenian . It is a compilation, and the second
See also:
part which contains the Acts of Gregory and of St Rhipsima seems wholly legendary . The Greek and Armenian texts were edited together by Lagarde . *The History of Armenia by Moses of Khoren (Chorene) relates events up. to about the year 450 . It is a compilation, devoid of historical method, value or veracity, from all sorts of previous authors, mostly from those which already existed in an Armenian dress .

Some critics put down the date of

composition as low' as about 700, and it was certainly retouched in the
See also:
late 6th century . *A long
See also:
volume of rhetorical exercises, based on Aphthonius, is also ascribed to Moses of Khoren, and appears to be of the 5th century . The *geography which passes under his name may belong to the 7th century . Various homilies of Moses survive, as also of Elisaeus . Corium wrote in this century a *Life of Mesrop, and Eznik a *Refutation of the Sects, based largely on antecedent Greek works . The sects in question are Paganism, Mazdaism, Greek Philosophy and Manicheism . A volume of *homilies under the name of Gregory the Illuminator, but not his, also belongs to this century, and a series of ascetic discourses attributed to John Mandakuni, who was patriarch 478–500 . Of the 6th and 7th centuries few works survive except
See also:
anonymous versions of the *Acts of Thomas (perhaps from the Syriac), of the *Acts of Peter and Paul, *of John (pseudo-Prochorus), *of Bartholomew, and of other apostles; also of *the Acts of Paul and Thekla, *of Titus, *of the Protevangel, *of the Testaments of the patriarchs, of the *Gospel of Nicodemus, or Acts of Pilate, of the *
See also:
Book of Adam, of the *Deaths of the Prophets, of the *History of
See also:
Baruch, of the *Apocalypses of Paul and of the Virgin Mary, of the *Acts of Sylvester, and of an enormous number of other similar apocryphs . Some of these may be of the 5th century . Two volumes of these apocryphs of the Old and New Testaments have recently been published at Venice . To these centuries belong also the versions of the Acts of the council of Ephesus, of Gangra, Laodicea and of other
See also:
councils . To thelate 7th century belong the *calendarial works of Ananiah of Shirak, who also has left a *chronicon compiled from Eusebius, Andreas of Crete, Hippolytus and other
See also:
sources .

In the *Letter-book of the Patriarchs, lately printed at Tiflis, are to be found a number of controversial monophysite tracts of these and the succeeding three centuries; important for

church history . It includes a mass of documents relative to the churches of Iberia and
See also:
Albania . The chief literary monument of the 7th century is the history of the
See also:
wars of Heraclius and of the early
See also:
Mahommedan conquests in Asia Minor, by the bishop Sebeos; who was an eye-witness . The *history of the Albanians of the Caucasus, by Moses Kalankatuatzi, also belongs to the end of this century . To the middle of the 7th century also belong the translations of Aristotle's treatises *On the Categories, and *On Interpretation, and of *Porphyry's Isagoge, as well as of voluminous Greek commentaries on these books; the version of the *Grammar of Dionysius Thrax and an incomplete Euclid . The translator was one David called the Invincible who also wrote monophysite tracts . At the end of this 7th century one Philo of Tirak is supposed to have made the version of the *History : . of
See also:
Socrates, unless indeed it was made earlier . To this century also seems to belong the Armenian version of a *history of the Iberians, by Djuansher, a work full of valuable information . The early 8th century was a time of great literary activity . Gregory Asheruni wrote an important *commentary on the Jerusalem Lectionary, and his friend *John the catholicus (717–728) commentaries on the other liturgical works of his church; he also collected all existing
See also:
canon law, Greek Or Armenian, respected in his church, wrote *against the
See also:
Paulicians and
See also:
Docetae, and composed many beautiful
See also:
hymns . *Leoncius the priest has left a history of the first caliphs, and Stephanus, bishop of Siunik, translated the *controversial works of Cyril of Alexandria (whose Glaphyra and commentaries, however, seem to have been translated at an earlier period) .

He also translated the works of Dionysius the Areopagite, commented on the Armenian breviary and wrote hymns . In the 9th century Zachariah, catholicus, the correspondent of

Photius, wrote many eloquent homilies for the various church feasts . Shapuh Bagratuni wrote a history of his age, now lost . Mashtotz, catholicus, collected in one volume the Armenian rituals . In the Loth century (c . 925) the catholicus John VI. issued his *history of Armenia, and Thomas Artsruni a *history of his elan carried up to the year 936 .
See also:
Ananias of Mok (943–965) wrote a great work against the Paulicians, unfortunately lost .
See also:
Chosroes wrote a *commentary on the eucharistic rites and breviary; *Mesrop a history of Nerses the Great; *Stephen of Asolik wrote a history of the
See also:
world, and a commentary on
See also:
Jeremiah; *Gregory of Narek his famous meditations and hymns;
See also:
Samuel Kamrdjtsoretzi a commentary on the Lectionary based on Gregory Asheruni . In the 11th century the catholicus Gregory translated many Acts of Martyrs, and John Kozerhn wrote a history, now lost, as well as a work on the Armenian calendar; Stephen Asolik a *history of Armenia up to the year 1004; *Aristaces of Lastiverd a valuable history of the conquest of Armenia by the Seljuk caliphs . We may also mention a *monophysite work against the Greek doctor Theopistus by Paul of Taron; *letters and poems of Gregory Magistros, who also was the translator of the *Laws, Timaeus and other dialogues of
See also:
Plato . The 12th century saw many remarkable writers, mostly in Cilician Armenia, viz . Nerses the Graceful (d .

1165), author of an *

See also:
Elegy on the taking of Edessa, of *voluminous hymns, of long *Pastoral Letters and Synodal orations of value for the historian of eastern churches . *Samuel of Ani composed a chronicle up to 1179 . Nerses of Lambron, archbishop of Tarsus, left a *Synodal oration, a *Commentary on the liturgy, &c., and his contemporary Gregory of Tlay an *Elegy on the capture of Jerusalem, and various *dogmatic works . In this century the *history of Michael the Syrian was translated; Ignatius and Sargis composed *commentaries on Luke and *the catholic epistles, and *Matthew of Edessa a valuable history of the years 952-r36, continued up to 1176 by Gregory the priest . Mechithar (Mekhitar) Kosh (d . 1207) wrote an elegant *Book of Fables, and compiled a *corpus of
See also:
civil and canon law (partly from
See also:
Byzantine codes) . In the 13th century the following works or authors are to be noticed:—*history of Kiriakos of Ganzak, which contains much about the
See also:
Mongols, Georgians and Albanians; *Malakia the monk's history of the Tatars up to 1272; *Chronicle of Mechithar of Ani (fragmentary); *Vahram's rhymed chronicle of the kings of Lesser Armenia; *history of the world, by Vartan, up to 1269 . In this century mostly falls the redaction of a large fable literature, recently edited in three volumes by Professor Marr of St Petersburg . 14th century: *history of Siunik, by Stephen Orbelian, archbishop of that province 1287–1304; *Sempat's chronicle of Lesser Armenia (952–1274), carried on by a continuator to 1331; *Mechithar of Airivanq, a chronography; *Hethoum's account of the Tatars, and chronography of the years 1076–1307 . John of Orotn (d . 1388) compiled commentaries on John's gospel and the Paulines, and wrote homilies and monophysite works; his
See also:
disciple Gregory of Dathev (b . 1340) compiled a *Summa theologiae called the Book of Questions, in the style of the Summa of Aquinas, which had been translated into Armenian c .

1330, as were a little later the *Summa of Albertus and works of other schoolmen . 15th century: *History of Tamerlane, by Thomas of Medsoph, carried up to 1447 . 17th century, Araqel of

See also:
Tabriz wrote a *history of the Persian invasions of Armenia in the years 1602-1661 . In the above list are not included a number of medical, astrological, calendarial and philological or lexicographic works, mostly written during or since the Cilician or crusading epoch . The hymns used in Armenian worship rarely go back to the 5th century; and they were still few in number and brief in length when Nerses the Graceful and his contemporaries more than doubled their number and bulk in the 12th century . Most Armenian poems embody acrostics, and their poets began to
See also:
rhyme in the 8th century or thereabouts . Since the 15th century a certain number of profane poets have arisen, whose work is less jejune on the whole than that of the hymn and canticle writers of an earlier age . Gregory Magistros (d . 1058) abridged the whole of the Old and New Testaments in a *rhyming poem, and set a fashion to later writers . Such works as *Barlaam and Josaphat, the *History of the Seven Sages, the *Wisdom of Ahikar, the *Tale of the City of
See also:
Bronze, were freely turned into verse in the 13th and following centuries . It will be realized from the above enumeration of works written in each century that Armenian literature was purely monkish . There was no epic or romance literature; although this was not lacking in the contiguous country of
See also:
Georgia, where there seem to have always been knights and ladies willing to read and keep alive a literature of
See also:
poetry and narrative, not altogether suitable for monks, and more akin to Persian literature .

Other forms of faith than the orthodox had a hold in Armenia, particularly the Nestorian and the Manichean . Sundry works of Mani were translated in the year 588, but are lost . Perhaps certain works of Diodore of Tarsus survive, but the orthodox monks were so vigilant that there is little

chance of finding any other monuments than those of the stereotyped orthodoxy . The 16th century saw the first books printed in Armenian . A press was set up at Venice in 1565, and the psalms and breviary were printed . In 1584 the
See also:
Roman propaganda began its issue of Armenian books with a Gregorian calendar . In the 17th century presses were working at Lembourg, Milan, Paris, Isfahan (where in 164o a large folio of the Lives of the Fathers of the Desert appeared), in Leghorn, Amsterdam (where in 1664 the first edition of the Hymn-book, in 1666 the first Bible, and in 1667 the first Ritual were printed),
See also:
Marseilles, Constantinople,
See also:
Leipzig and Padua . The press which has done most in printing Armenian authors is that of the Mechitharists of Venice . Here in 1836 was issued a magnificent thesaurus of the Armenian language, with the Latinand Greek equivalents of each word . At that time there was no
See also:
dictionary of any language and literature to be compared with this for exhaustiveness and accuracy . There are now Armenian presses all over the world, reprinting old books or issuing new works, often translations of modern writers, English, French,
See also:
Russian and German . The chief collections of old Armenian
See also:
MSS. are : at the convent of *Echmiadzin at Valarshapat; at Stambul in the library of the fathers of St Anthony; at Venice in the Mechitharist convent of
See also:
San Lazaro; at the *Mechitharist convent in Vienna; in the *Royal library at Vienna; in the *Paris Bibliotheque Nationale; in the Vatican library; in the
See also:
British Museum; in the *Bodleian; in the Rylands library; in the *Berlin and *Munich
See also:
libraries; *in
See also:
Tubingen; in St Petersburg, and in the *Lazarev institute at Moscow; at New Joulfa, the Armenian suburb of Isfahan .

Private collections have been made by Mr Rendel

Harris in
See also:
Birmingham (presented to the university of
See also:
Leiden); at Parham and elsewhere . A printed catalogue exists of those marked with an asterisk .

End of Article: ARMENIAN LANGUAGE AND LITERATURE
[back]
ARMENIAN CHURCH
[next]
ARMENTIERES

Additional information and Comments

There are no comments yet for this article.
» Add information or comments to this article.
Please link directly to this article:
Highlight the code below, right click and select "copy." Paste it into a website, email, or other HTML document.