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Byzantophilia in the letters of Grigor Magistros?

  • AnnaLinden Weller (a1)


The letters of Grigor Magistros Pahlavuni demonstrate the multivalent methods by which Grigor negotiated being an Armenian aristocrat in service to the foreign power of Byzantium. While they display a Hellenic aesthetic and make use of the norms of Byzantine letter-writing culture, they nonetheless show that Grigor Magistros maintained a strong Armenian cultural identity even when holding a Byzantine title.



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1 Garsoian, N., ‘The problem of Armenian integration into the Byzantine empire’, in Ahrweiler, H. and Laiou, A. (eds.), Studies on the Internal Diaspora of the Byzantine Empire (Washington, D.C. 1998) 53124 .

2 Greenwood, T., ‘Armenian neighbours (600-1045)’, in Shepard, J. (ed.), The Cambridge History of the Byzantine Empire (Cambridge 2008) 333–5; Bartikian, H., ‘Byuzandian ev Haykakan petakanutyunê X-XI dd’ (Byzantium and Armenian statehood in the 10th-11th centuries)’ in Studia Armeno-Byzantina, vol. 1 (Erevan 2002) 655–78.

3 Dadoyan, S., The Armenians in the Medieval Islamic World: Paradigms of Interaction: Seventh to Fourteenth Centuries (New Brunswick, NJ 2011).

4 On Grigor Magistros, see most recently Mat'ewosyan, K., ‘Grigor Magistros Pahlavunu arjazazrutyunê Keč'arisun' ('The Inscription of Grigor Pahlawuni Magistros in Keč'aris), in Pages of History of Ani-Širak (Collected Articles) (Erevan 2010) 138149 .

5 ‘The historical compilation of Arewelc'i, Vardan’, trans. and ed. Thomson, R., Dumbarton Oaks Papers 43 (1989) 193 .

6 This ancestry for the Pahlavuni is claimed by catholicos Nerses Shnorhali, the Graceful, who was Grigor Magistros' great-grandson. Shnorhali, Nerses, Vipasanut'iwn (Poetical Work), ed. Mktrch'yan, M. (Erevan 1981) 108–10.

7 Yarnley, C. J., ‘The Armenian Philhellenes: a study on the spread of Byzantine religious and cultural ideas among the Armenians in the 10th and 11th centuries AD’, Eastern Churches Review 8/1 (1976) 50–1.

8 Kostaniants', K. (ed.), Grigor Magistrosi T'ght'ere (Alexandropol 1910) 249–50.

9 Magistros, Grigor, T'ght'ere, ed. Kostaniants', K. (Alexandropol 1910) 6466 , 148-70; see Conybeare, F. C., F. C., The Key of Truth, A Manual of the Paulician Church of Armenia (Oxford 1898) 141–51, for English translations, although these translations have lately been called into question by Federico Alpi in his forthcoming thesis from Leiden University.

10 This paper will use the numbering of the letters as they appear in the Kostaniants' edition.

11 Lastivertc'i, Aristakes, History, (Patmut'iwn Aristakisi Lastivertts'woy), ed. Yuzbashyan, K.N. (Erevan 1963) 62 .

12 Grünbart, M., ‘L'epistolografia’, in Cavallo, G. (ed.), Lo spazio letterario del medioevo. 3. Le culture circstanti. Volume I. La cultura bizantina (Rome 2004); Papaioannou, S., ‘Fragile literature: Byzantine letter-collections and the case of Michael Psellos’, in Odorico, P. (ed.), La face cachée de la littérature byzantine: Le texte en tant que message immédiate (Paris 2012) 289328 ; Riehle, A., ‘Epistolography as autobiography: Remarks on the letter-collections of Nikephoros Choumnos’, Parekbolai 2 (2012) 121 .

13 A. Weller, Imagining Pre-Modern Imperialism: The Letters of Imperial Agents Outside the Metropole. Unpublished PhD dissertation, Rutgers University (2014) 50-1.

14 Sanjian, A., ‘Gregory Magistros: an Armenian Hellenist’, in Vryonis, S., Langdon, J. S., Allen, J. S., and Kyprianides, A. (eds.), To Hellenikon: Studies in Honor of Speros Vryonis, Jr. (New Rochelle, NY 1993) 142–3.

15 Shnorhali, Nerses, Vipasanuntiun [Epic] (Venice 1820) 410 .

16 This investment is particularly visible in his translations of Greek works into Armenian, which may possibly include Plato's Timaeus and Phaedo alongside others, such as Euclid.

17 Adontz, N., Dionisii Frakiiskii I armianskie tolkovateli (St Petersburg 1915) 221–49.

18 Alishan, Ł., Hayapatum: Patmutʻiwn Hayotsʻ (Venice 1901) 108–10.

19 Three letters from Magistros to his students appear in the T'ght'ere, 105-107, 234-237. For the trivium and quadrivium in medieval Armenia, see Mahé, J.-P., ‘Quadrivium et cursus d'études au VIIe siècle en Arménie et dans le monde byzantin’, Travaux et Mémoires 10 (1987) 159206.

20 Muradyan, G., ‘Greek authors and subject matters in the Letters of Grigor Magistros , Revue des Études Arméniennes 35 (2013) 2977 .

21 Muradyan, G., Grecisms in Ancient Armenian Hebrew University Armenian Studies 13. (Leuven, Paris, Walpole, MA 2012) 24 .

22 Muradyan, Grecisms in Ancient Armenian, 28-9.

23 Grigor Magistros, ‘Letter to Lord Petros at the time of the tumult’ (K2), T'ght'ere, 5.

24 Muradyan, G., ‘Style hellénisant des Progymnasmata arméniens dans le context d'autres écrits originaux’, in Actes du Sixième Colloque international de Linguistique arménienne, SLOVO 26–27 (1999) 8394.

25 For an overview of these topics, see Garsoian, N., ‘The Arab invasions and the rise of the Bagratuni (640-884)’, in Hovannisian, R. (ed.), The Armenian People from Ancient to Modern Times, I (London 1997) 116–42; and T. Greenwood ‘Armenian Neighbours (600-1045)’, 333-64.

26 For one contemporary Byzantine example amongst many, see Nikephoros Ouranos, letter 13 in Darrouzès, J., Épistoliers byzantins du Xe siècle (Paris 1960) 259; where Ouranos back-forms new Homeric verb forms – and he assumes that his audience will be able to interpret those verb forms, that is to say will be similarly familiar with Homer's grammar.

27 Sanjian 140.

28 See particularly Sanjian, A. and Terian, A., ‘An enigmatic letter by Grigor Magistros', in Terian, A. (ed.), Opera Select Teriana: A Scholarly Retrospective (New Rochelle, NY 2008) 8595 , which discusses Letter K12, addressed to Yovhannes the archbishop of Siwnik', whose deliberately obscure metaphors concerning fish are intended as a symbolic pointer towards a particular scriptural passage (Matthew 17:24-27) concerning the disposition of money obtained from donors. Also worth noting is Letter K71, addressed to the Muslim Emir Ibrahim on philosophical principles, which is perhaps the most difficult of the letters stylistically and claims that philosophy can only be achieved with substantial effort (see Theo van Lint, forthcoming publications, for detailed analysis.)

29 Matthew of Edessa, Armenia and the Crusades: Tenth to Twelfth Centuries: the Chronicle of Matthew of Edessa, ed. A. Dostourian (Belmont, MA 1993) 77-79; Lastivertc'i 84-5. See also Shepard, J., ‘Skylitzes on Armenia in the 1040s and the role of Catacalon Cecaumenos’, in Revue des Études Arméniennes 11 (1975-76), and Dédéyan, G. (ed.), Histoire du peuple arménien (Toulouse 2007) 285 .

30 For a general survey of Grigor's Greek references in his letters, see Muradyan, G., ‘Greek authors and subject matters in the Letters of Grigor Magistros , Revue des Études Arméniennes 35 (2013) 2977.

31 ‘ի ժամանակի խուժման յառնելոյ ի քաղաքին ի վերայ նորա’ – ‘at the time of the tumult rising against him in the city’, Magistros, ‘Letter to Lord Petros at the time of the tumult’ (K2), T'ght'ere, 4.

32 Magistros, ‘Letter to Lord Petros at the time of the tumult’ (K2), T'ght'ere, 5.

33 Magistros, ‘Letter to Lord Petros at the time of the tumult’ (K2), T'ght'ere, 5.

34 Magistros, ‘Letter to Lord Petros at the time of the tumult’ (K2), T'ght'ere, 7-9.

35 Mullett, M., ‘Originality in the Byzantine letter: the case of exile’, in Littlewood, A. R. (ed.), Originality in Byzantine Literature, Art and Music (Oxford 1996) 3958 .

36 Vinson, M. P. (ed.), The Correspondence of Leo, Metropolitan of Synada and Syncellus, Dumbarton Oaks Texts 8 (Washington, D.C. 1985). See especially the introduction.

37 For the most recent analysis of Psellos' double erudition in both biblical and classical allusion, see Papaioannou, S., Michael Psellos: Rhetoric and Authorship in Byzantium (Cambridge 2013).

38 Muradyan, A., Grecisms in Ancient Armenian, (Leuven, Paris, Dudley MA 2012) 35 .

39 The exceptions being the Hexameron of George of Pisidia and letters sent to Armenia by Greek patriarchs.

40 Thomson, R., ‘The reception of Greek literature in Armenia’, in Koumoulides, J. (ed.), Greek Connections: Essays on Culture and Diplomacy (Notre Dame 1987) 41 .

41 Arutjunova-Fidanjan, V., ‘L'image de l'empire byzantin dans l'historiographie arménienne médiévale (Xe-XIe s.)’, in L'Arménie et Byzance: histoire et culture. Byzantina Sorbonensia 12 (1996) 1011 .

42 Drasxanakertc'i, Yovhannes, History of Armenia, ed. Maksoudian, K., (Erevan 1973) 190–1.

43 Artutjunova-Fidanjan, V., Les Arméniens chalcédoniens sur les frontiers orientales de l'empire (in Russian) (Yerevan 1980) 1517 .

44 Lastivertc'i 33.

45 Arutjunova-Fidanjan, ‘L'image de l'empire byzantin dans l'historiographie arménienne médiévale (Xe-XIe s.)’, 14.

46 Asołik, Histoire Universelle, ed. F. Macler, III (Paris 1917) 162.

47 That is to say, the Artsruni princes who exchanged their domains for lands and offices in Cappadocia and moved to Sebasteia with 14000 men and their families.

48 Lastivertc'i 10.

49 Greenwood, ‘Armenian neighbours’, 362.

50 Sanjian, ‘Grigor Magistros: an Armenian Hellenist’, 132-3. This narrative is assembled from Ioannes Skylitzes, Synopsis historiarum, ed. I. Thurn (Berlin 1976) 366-7; Yahya ibn Sa'id al-Antaki, Histoire, ed. A. Vasiliev (Patrologia Orientalis 47) 459-69; Aristakes Lastivertc'i 11-25; Matthew of Edessa, 44-9; and Kʻartʻlis Cʻxovreba: The Georgian Royal Annals and Their Medieval Armenian Adaptation, ed. S. Rapp (Delmar, NY 1998) 281-4.

51 Magistros, T'ght'ere, pp. 52-3, 67-9.

52 Magistros, T'ght'ere, pp. 62-3.

53 For translation and commentary, Terian, A., Magnalia Dei: Biblical History in Epic Verse by Grigor Magistros. Critical Text with Introduction, Translation, and Commentary. Hebrew University Armenian Studies 14 (Jerusalem 2012).

54 Lastivertc'i 18-19; see also J. Shepard, ‘Skylitzes on Armenia in the 1040s and the role of Catacalon Cecaumenus’, 296-311.

55 Terian, Magnalia Dei, 7.

56 Michael the Syrian, Chronicle, trans. J.-M. Chabot, 3 vols (Paris 1901) III, 133.

57 Skylitzes, Synopsis 366-7; Lastivertc'i, Recit des malheurs 11-25; Matthew of Edessa, Armenia and the Crusades, 44-9.

58 Magistros, T'ght'ere, 65.

59 Grigor Magistros, ‘Answer to the Syrian Catholicos’, Book of Letters, 153-4.

60 Ibid., 154.

61 Grigor of Narek, ‘Epistle of the Most Blessed Vardapet Grigor of Narek to the Magnificent and Great Order of Kjav, concerning the beliefs of the cursed T'ondrakians’, Book of Letters, xcii, 498-502; Lastivertc'i, Recit des malheurs, 86-91.

62 Dadoyan, S., The Fatimid Armenians: Cultural and Political Interaction in the Near East (Leiden, New York, Cologne 1997); Russell, J., ‘The last of the Paulicians’, Hask hayagitakan taregirk', 7–8 (1995-1996) 3347 ; Pargossian, Z., ‘The frontier existence of the Paulician heretics’, Annual of Medieval Studies at CEU 6 (2000) 203206 .

63 S. Dadoyan, The Fatimid Armenians, 17-80; Ter Minassian, E., Mijnadaryan Aghandneri Z'agman yev Zargatsman Patmutyunits (From the History of the Origin and Development of the Medieval Sects) (Yerevan 1968).

64 Mesrop Mashtots was commanded by the Byzantine court to eliminate the Borborits between 415 and 423 CE; see Movses Khorenats'i, History of the Armenians, Book III/57; for the Byzantine resettlement of the Paulicians, see Garsoïan, N., The Paulician Heresy: A Study of the Origin and Development of Paulicianism in the Eastern Provinces of the Byzantine Empire (The Hague 1967); Ludwig, C., ‘The Paulicians and 9th-century Byzantine thought’, in Brubaker, L. (ed.), Byzantium in the Ninth Century: Dead or Alive? Papers From the Thirtieth Spring Symposium of Byzantine Studies, Birmingham, March 1996 (Aldershot and Brookfield, VT 1998) 2335 .

65 Grigor Magistros, ‘Letter to the Syrian Patriarch’ (K67), T'ght'ere, 154.

66 Grigor Magistros, ‘Letter to the Syrian Patriarch’ (K67), T'ght'ere, 158.

67 Grigor Magistros, ‘Letter to the Syrian Catholicos’ (K68), T'ght'ere, 167-8.

68 Sanjian, ‘Grigor Magistros: An Armenian Hellenist’, 137.


Byzantophilia in the letters of Grigor Magistros?

  • AnnaLinden Weller (a1)


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