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King Tiridates IV Of Armenia
- Married, Armenia, to Princess Aschen Of Alania † (Parents : King Ashkhadar Of Alania † & ? ?) with
- Dgt. of Tiran the Great Princess Of Armenia 295- Married, (Armenia), Turkey, to St. Yousik I Hesychius Primate Of Armenia 302-348
- King Chosroes III *the Short* Of Armenia 280-339 With ? ?
- Salome Princess Of Armenia †
How Iranians Established the First Christian Kingdom in the World
I t is not possible to separate the history of Armenia from the greater Iranian cultural and political landscapes.
The name Armenia first appeared in Darius the Great Behistun Inscription (517B.C), Old Persia, Armina. “Xenophon a Greek general serving in some of the Persian expeditions, describes many aspects of Armenian village life and hospitality in around 401 BC. He relates that the people spoke a language that to his ear sounded like the language of the Persians.”
François Lenormant a French archaeologist believed the Armenian alphabets were derived from Avestan letters more than the Greek alphabets. The Armenian language was a spoken language without any written alphabets. So the Bible and the liturgy of the Armenian language were written in Greek, Syriac, or Pahlavi. It was Catalicos Sahak who commissioned Mesrob to create the Armenian alphabets. Mesrop Mashtots was a linguist and fluent in Persian and Greek and was in the service of Khosrov IV king of Armenia.
Territorial claims over Armenia had always triggered wars between Rome and Persia. Armenia after becoming the first nation to adopt Christianity as its official religion began to shift slowly toward Rome. The Roman Empire itself was split between Byzantine with its capital in Constantinople, and Rome. Armenia’s version of Christianity was more aligned with the Byzantine brand of Christianity which is also referred to as Eastern Orthodox.
The majority of Armenians and Iranians for centuries also shared the same religion.
Armenia was ruled by the Arsacid dynasty since around 50 AD. The arsacid dynasty was in fact a branch of the Parthian dynasty one of the seven families of the House of Suren governing Armenia till about 428 AD. The dynastic family remained in power even after the fall of the Parthian Empire. It was only natural that their long reign in Armenia made them gradually more Armenians, although ethnically they were Iranians. The majority of Armenians and Iranians for centuries also shared the same religion. According to Mary Boyce, the prominent scholar of Zoroastrianism, ‘In the late Parthian period, Armenia was predominantly a Zoroastrian-adhering land and it was only after their Christianisation that Zoroastrianism and other practices declined.’
Persia during the Parthian period, unlike its successor the Sassanids was not as religiously defined, perhaps because it came to power out of the Greek cultural realm that dominated the region since Alexandra’s conquest of Persia. Seleucid Empire ruled over a large stretch of land, encompassing many peoples and religions. The Parthian empire also witnessed the genesis of Christianity and their missionary activities around the Middle East. The three Magi in the gospel of Matthew travelled from the Parthian territory to bring gifts for the new Messiah. Another reference to Parthia in the Bible is on the day of Pentecost in the book of Acts II where Parthian traders were present and heard the message of the gospel in their own language.
It’s very hard to argue that Armenia adopted Christianity because politically was in their best interest. Not initially. Rome was still persecuting the Christians when Tiridates III became the king of Armenia and declared Christianity as the state religion in 301 AD. It wasn’t until 313 AD that the persecution of Christians stopped through the Edict of Millan issued by Emperor Constantine, and all their confiscated properties returned to them. It is quite possible that Armenia’s daring conversation to Christianity en masse inspired Constantine, realising that it was possible to shed the old religion without risking to lose out in the political sphere. Tiridates had spent many years in Rome and very likely he had met Constantine when he was still a general or even took part in a few of his military battles. Armenia was also very much under the protection of Rome and Constantine had firsthand information about the progress of Armenia’s new religion. Armenia was an important province, strategically.
Rome and Persia never hesitated in fighting over its control. The significance of Tiridates’ decision to change the national religion of his kingdom would have reverberated throughout not just Persia but more so in Rome because Rome still was hostile to the converts of the new religion. Rome was, however, very different from Armenia. It took some years after the Edict of Millan for Christianity to become the state religion in the Empire. However, in the meantime, Constantine became the patron of the Christian faith and financially supported the church. It is easy to overlook Tiridates’ achievement. It was a brave and risky move that paid off and it paved the way for others to follow. Although it has been suggested that Tiridates’ decree in 301 was in defiance of Persia but the evidence, on the contrary, suggests that it was more in defiance of Rome. Only by the coming of Constantine the Great to power in 306 and the decree of Milan 5 years later the pressure on Christians was eased. Tiridates would have in fact placed himself at odds with the Romans. Or perhaps the decree was genuine and organically followed his conversion and was not politically motivated and never intended to be in defiance of Rome or Persia!
Who was Tiridates III (or Tirdad . تیرداد ) and how did he become a Christian? The fallout between Arsacid dynasty and the upcoming and very powerful Iranian dynasty, the Sassanids, began as early as Ardeshir I (r.211/2–224) its founder. Ardeshir had already killed Artabanus V of Parthia, the last king of the Parthians, and liquidate his empire. Artabanus was also Tiridates II’s (Armenian King) paternal uncle. According to Mary Boyce Arsacid dynasty was the last stronghold of another powerful Parthian family that the Sassanids couldn’t afford to ignore. Inevitably war between the two dynasties broke out. After 10 years of fighting Ardeshir’s victory was not decisive enough and he withdrew. Tiridates II was determined to hang on to his power with the backing of the entire Armenian nobbles and their army. It wasn’t till the coming of the newly crowned prince, Shapur, Ardeshir’s son that the Sassanids established themselves as a new superpower. Shapur entered the world stage by killing a Roman Emperor (Gordian III) in a battle and taking another Roman Emperor (Valerian) as his prisoner. However, still, the problem of control over Armenia remained but instead of going to war with Armenia, he decided to assassinate their king, Khosrov II. This time an assassin from a noble Parthain family by the name of Anak is sent to Armenia to accomplish this hideous act. Anak was promised the governorship of Armenia if he succeeded in his mission. Although Anak did assassinate Khosrov II he and his entire family were put to death by the Armenians as revenge. Only one of his sons was rescued by his carers. He was taken to Keyseri in Cappadocia and given to the Christians in a monastery to be raised and educated. We don’t know what his Iranian name was but his new Christian name was Gregory and later he became Saint Gregory the Illuminator.
Armenia had to tread carefully after the assassination of their king. The successor to the Arsacid throne was Tiridates III, the surviving son of Khosrov, nothing could stop Shapur from invading Armenia, which he later did. It was decided in order to protect him from the harm he should be sent to Rome. In Rome, Tiridates was safe until he could one day triumphantly return to Armenia as their king. When Narseh became King of Persia it seemed at first that Armenia could have been completely subdued by him who had given himself the title, ’King of Armenia’.
Narseh, wanting to continue his legendary father’s (Shapur) expansionist policy triggered fresh wars with Rome. But his early great military victories only followed by more spectacular defeats. He made a grave mistake by fighting the Roman General, Galerious in Armenia. Perhaps his choosing of Armenia as the battleground was also to determine the political fate of Armenia once for all. But he was walking into a trap. Armenians quickly made contact with Galerious who had once been soundly defeated by Narseh to coordinate their assault. Galerious agreed with the Armenian proposed strategy. Narseh’s superior calvary was more than useless in the rough Armenian terrains. Their combined forces took Narseh by surprise and crushed his army in the battle of Satala and his entire family and entourage were captured by the Romans. Narseh narrowly escaped. The new peace treaty that he had no choice but to sign ensured Armenia was free from Persia’s interference. Tiridates III finally returned to Armenian with the backing of Rome. He married an Iranian Princess, Ashkhen from the tribe of Alans who became the Queen of Armenia. His marriage to Ashken is a strong indication that the Arsacid kings were bilingual, they spoke their own Iranian/Parthian dialect and Armenian.
For a while, Tiridates with the backing of Rome ruled over his country without fear of invasion from Persia. However, he soon found out that the Roman Emperor, Diocletian had incorporated some of the provinces of Armenia into the Roman territory. Tiridates was devastated. Years of living in exile, fearing annihilation by the Persians, and now betrayed by his main supporter took a heavy toll on his mental health and he began to behave irrationally and out of character. In the meanwhile, Gregory was making small gains in the land of Armenia by converting the Armenians to Christianity despite the persecution faced by the adherents of the new religion. However, when his real identity was revealed he was arrested and imprisoned.
As Tiridates’s health was fast deteriorating and he was losing his grip on reality a vision was revealed to his sister, Khosrovidukht that only Gregory could cure the king of his wretched mental state. Gregory still alive after more than 10 years of imprisonment was called out of his dark dungeon to lay his healing hand on Tiridates. Gregory miraculously restored Tiridates to his normal mental state and he began to recover. Tiridates shortly afterward was baptised by St Gregory along with his entire family and the army. Tiridates also allowed Gregory to evangelise freely to the people of Armenia and then he declared Christianity as the state religion in 301 A.D. “Tiridates announced Gregory to be the first Catholicos of the Armenian Orthodox Church and sent him to Caesarea to be consecrated.”
The succession of the Catholicos in the Armenian Orthodox Church was in the Parthian dynastic fashion. It was only assigned to members of the Parthian family. After St Gregory, his two sons, St. Aristaces I and Vrtanes succeed their father as Catholicos and were commissioned to strengthen the Armenian Church and evangelise the people in the Caucasus and Anatolia.
Cover photo: The Holy Savior Cathedral (Armenian: Սուրբ Ամենափրկիչ Վանք – Surb Amenaprkich Vank Persian: کلیسای آمناپرکیچ – Kelisā ye Āmenāperkič), also known the Church of the Saintly Sisters, is a cathedral located in the New Julfa district of Isfahan, Iran. It is commonly referred to as the Vank ( Վանք وانک ), which means “monastery” or “convent” in the Armenian language.
War with Rome [ edit | edit source ]
Unhappy with the growing Parthian influence at their doorstep, ⎘] Roman Emperor Nero sent General Corbulo with a large army to the east in order to restore Roman client kings. ⎘] ⎙] A Hasmonean named Aristobulus was given Lesser Armenia (Nicopolis and Satala) and Sohaemus of Emesa received Armenia Sophene. In the spring of 58, Corbulo entered Greater Armenia from Cappadocia and advanced towards Artaxata, while Parasmanes I of Iberia attacked from the north, and Antiochus IV of Commagene attacked from the southwest. Supported by his brother, Tiridates I sent flying columns to raid the Romans far and wide. Corbulo retaliated using the same tactics and the use of the Moschoi tribes who raided outlying regions of Armenia. ⎘] Tiridates I fled from the capital, and Corbulo burned Artaxata to the ground. In the summer, Corbulo began moving towards Tigranocerta through rough terrain and passing through the Taronitida (Taron), where several of his commanders died in an ambush by the Armenian resistance however, the city opened its doors, with the exception of one of the citadels, which was destroyed in the ensuing assault. ⎚] By this time the majority of Armenians had abandoned resistance and accepted the prince favored by Rome. ⎛]
Nero gave the crown to the last royal descendant of the Kings of Cappadocia, the grandson of Glaphyra (daughter of Archelaus of Cappadocia) and Alexander of Judea (the brother of Herod Archelaus and the son of Herod the Great), ⎜] who assumed the Armenian name Tigranes (his uncle was Tigranes V). ⎝] His son, named Gaius Julius Alexander, married Iotapa, the daughter of Antiochus IV of Commagene and was made King of Cilicia. Nero was hailed vigorously in public for this initial victory ⎞] and Corbulo was appointed governor of Syria as a reward. ⎟] A guard of 1000 legionary soldiers, three auxiliary cohorts and two wings of horses were allotted to Tigranes in order to defend the country. ⎚] Border districts were bestowed to Roman allies that assisted Corbulo including Polemon, Parasmanes, Aristobolus and Antiochus. ⎚]
Vologases I was infuriated by the fact that an alien now sat on the Armenian throne but hesitated to reinstate his brother as he was engaged in a conflict with the Hyrcanians who were revolting. ⎚] Tigranes invaded the Kingdom of Adiabene and deposed its King Monobazes in 61, who was a vassal of Parthians. ⎠]
Vologases I considered this an act of aggression from Rome and started a campaign to restore Tiridates I to the Armenian throne. He placed under the command of spahbod Moneses a well-disciplined force of cataphracts along with Adiabenian auxiliaries and ordered him to expel Tigranes from Armenia. Having quelled the Hyrcanian revolt, Vologases I gathered the strength of his dominions and embarked toward Armenia. ⎚] Corbulo, having been informed of the impending attack, sent two legions under the commands of Verulanus Severus and Vettius Bolanus to the assistance of Tigranes with secret directions that they should act with caution rather than vigour. He also dispatched a message to Nero, urging him to send a second commander with the explicit purpose of defending Armenia as Syria was now also in peril. Corbulo placed the remainder of the legions on the banks of the Euphrates and armed irregular troops of the nearby provinces. Since the region was deficient in water, he erected forts over the fountains and concealed the rivulets by heaping sand over them. ⎚]
Moneses marched towards Tigranocerta but failed to break the defense of the city walls as his troops were unfit for a long siege. Corbulo, although eminently successful thought it prudent to use his good fortune with moderation. He sent a Roman centurion by the name of Casperius to the camp of Vologases I in Nisibis located 37 miles (60 km) from Tigranocerta with the demand to raise the siege. Because of a recent locust storm and the scarcity of fodder for his horses Vologases I agreed to raise the siege of Tigranocerta and petitioned to be granted Armenia in order to achieve a firm peace. ⎚] Vologases I demanded that both the Roman and Parthian troops should evacuate Armenia, that Tigranes should be dethroned, and that the position of Tiridates I be recognized. The Roman government declined to accede to these arrangements and sent Lucius Caesennius Paetus, governor of Cappadocia, to settle the question by bringing Armenia under direct Roman administration. ⎡] ⎢]
Paetus was an incapable commander and suffered a humiliating defeat at the Battle of Rhandeia in 62, losing the legions of XII Fulminata commanded by Calvisius Sabinus and IIII Scythica commanded by Funisulanus Vettonianus. The command of the troops was returned to Corbulo, who the following year led a strong army into Melitene and beyond into Armenia, eliminating all of the regional governors he suspected were pro-Parthian. Finally in Rhandeia, Corbulo and Tiridates I met to make a peace agreement. The location of Rhandeia suited both Tiridates I and Corbulo. It appealed to Tiridates I because that is where his army had beaten the Romans and sent them away under a capitulation on the other hand, it appealed to Corbulo because he was about to wipe out the ill repute earned before in the same location. When Tiridates I arrived at the Roman camp he took off his royal diadem and placed it on the ground near a statue of Nero, agreeing to receive it back only from Nero in Rome. ⎣] Tiridates I was recognized as the vassal king of Armenia a Roman garrison would remain in the country permanently, in Sophene while Artaxata would be reconstructed. Corbulo left his son-in-law Annius Vinicianus to accompany Tiridates I to Rome in order to attest his own fidelity to Nero. ⎡]
Royals in History
Today, on this blog, we continue to discuss about eastern monarchies. This time, we move to Armenia, located in the region today acknowledged as Eurasia, although more in proximity to eastern culture. It was very difficult to find a figure of monarchy in its history due to the lack of sources, but here we managed to bring one, nonetheless. His name is Tiridates III, sometimes nicknamed as 'The Great', however arguable this might be.
A warrior king, Tiridates was born likely around the year of 250 AD as the only son of Khosrov II, King of Armenia, and a woman whose name is lost to history. It is claimed that she was killed by a Parthian agent named Anak who served a Persian king named Ardashir, founder of the Sasanian Empire. We know almost nothing of his early domestic life, except that he had a sister named Khosrovidukht and that he received his name on behalf of his paternal grandfather, Tiridates II of Armenia.
At a young age, however, we are brought to decisive events that would mark Tiridates' reign. As he was the presumptive heir to Armenian throne, he was taken safely to Rome when his father was assassinated. There, the new king:
This conversion, although allegedly partially done to provoke the Persians, was imposed -as has already been pointed out- with the use of violence. Not only the temples were destroyed, but common people suffered under the command of the king, who would not tolerate any remains of the old religion. He was not, as we see, popular at all as accounts points to several conspiracies against his authority in order to have him murdered. Therefore, we question the nickname of 'The Great' to attribute his deeds. Was he really a great monarch?
Looking back at the context in which the king is inserted, perhaps he was seen as such: he was surrounded by two powerful empires: the Persian's and the Roman's. In between those two, he had to do what was necessary, especially taking in consideration the struggle for his throne, the reconquest of Armenia and the considerable enemies he was forced to deal with. He built a strong 'state', if we can deliberatedly use such concept, but unfortunately there is not much to tell about his reign as a whole. That he was a formidable military chief, we can perceive it clearly. But violence was part of his kingship and that might explain why so many intern conflicts exploded, leading eventually to his death. Then we might consider that, as a whole, he was not that great at all, as his nickname might have suggested. However, this is what makes even more interesting to cast a look upon Armenia's history in Antiquity period.
MARTIROSYAN, Hayk A."The character of Tiridates III the Great: Reality and transformation".
The traditional story of the conversion of the king and the nation is primarily based on the fifth-century work of Agathangelos titled “The History of the Armenians.”  It tells of how Gregory the Illuminator the son of Anak, who was brought up as a Christian who, feeling guilt for his own father’s sin, joined the Armenian army and worked as a secretary to the king. Christianity in Armenia had a strong footing by the end of the 3rd century but the nation by and large still followed pagan polytheism. Tiridates was no exception as he too worshiped various ancient gods. During a pagan religious ceremony Tiridates ordered Gregory to place a flower wreath at the foot of the statue of the goddess Anahit in Eriza. Gregory refused, proclaiming his Christian faith. This act infuriated the king. His fury was only exacerbated when several individuals declared that Gregory was in fact, the son of Anak, the traitor who had killed Tiridates’s father. Gregory was tortured and finally thrown in Khor Virap, a deep underground dungeon.
During the years of Gregory’s imprisonment, a group of virgin nuns, led by Gayane, came to Armenia as they fled the Roman persecution of their Christian faith. Tiridates heard about the group and the legendary beauty of one of its members, Rhipsime. He brought them to the palace and demanded to marry the beautiful virgin she refused. The king had the whole group tortured and killed. After this event, he fell ill and according to legend, adopted the behavior of a wild boar, aimlessly wandering around in the forest. Khosrovidukht had a dream wherein Gregory was still alive in the dungeon and he was the only one able to cure the king. At this point it had been 13 years since his imprisonment, and the odds of him being alive were slim. They retrieved him and despite being incredibly malnourished he was still alive. He was kept alive by a kind-hearted woman who threw a loaf of bread down in Khor Virap  every day for him.
Tiridates was brought to Gregory, and was miraculously cured of his illness in 301.  Persuaded by the power of the cure, the king immediately proclaimed Christianity the official state religion. And so, Armenia became a nominally Christian kingdom and the first state to officially adopt Christianity. Tiridates appointed Gregory as Catholicos of the Armenian Apostolic Church.
While as a matter of fact the conversion to Christianity proved to be decisive and pivotal in Armenian history, it seems that the Christianisation of Armenia by the Arsacids of Armenia (Arshakuni) was partly in defiance of the Sassanids. 
Tiridates III, king of Armenia
1) Chrosov ou Chosroes III (tg), roi d'Arménie, born about 281, died 339, married about 300 ..
På detta sätt kunde sassaniderna nu koncentrera all sin styrka mot Armenien och kunde till slut, efter att på ett förrํiskt sätt ha mördat den armeniske konungen Khosrov I, erövra landet.
Khosrovs eftertrre, hans son Tirdat var fortfarande ett barn. Adeln och kungens närmaste lyckades r barnet som betraktades som Armeniens enda framtidshopp och smugglade honom till Rom. Medan Armenien under 30 års tid led svårt av de persiska truppernas plundringar och trakasseringar, växte Tirdat upp i Rom och utbildades till en ung man som var bekant med flera västerländska språk och litteratur. Han hade blivit en prins med stor passion för sitt fadersland och väl medveten om sina plikter som dess härskare.
Gibbon skriver: "Tirdat III som hade rts tack vare armeniernas lojalitet levde och utbildades i Rom under kejsarens beskydd. Hans distans till hemlandet och livet i ett främmande land gav honom erfarenheter och personliga drag som han med stor säkerhet skulle ha gått miste om, utifall att han från början satt på tronen. Bland dessa egenskaper kan man nämna bl.a. tron på ts nyckfullhet och människans illojalitet och romersk disciplin och ordning. Från sin tidiga ungdom visade han stort mod och värdighet och visade stor kunnighet i hanteringen av vapen. Förutom dessa egenskaper hade han en enorm styrka och imponerade på alla under tävlingar." 9
Under denna tid försökte den romerske kejsaren, Valerianus, att ta initiativet till en ny attack men led ett stort nederlag i slaget vid Edessa (Ourfa ) och togs till fånga av sassaniderna och dog under fångenskapen.
Efter denna seger erövrade perserna Syrien, Kilikien och Kapadokien. Men just då det verkade som om det romerska imperiet höll på att falla sönder på grund av interna konflikter och oro, ägde det storartade och mirakelliknande slaget vid Palmyra rum. Detta lilla land som bestod av en stad med samma namn, mitt i Syriens öken, med sin konung Odaenathos i spetsen, tvingades till ett ojämnt krig mot dåtidens stormakt Persien. Odaenathos lyckades steg för steg ta tillbaka Syrien, Kilikien, Kapadokien och en del av Mesopotamien. Rom och dess imperium i öst kunde på detta sätt rs tack vare Odaenathos och han utsågs till Roms ambassadör i öst.
Endast när kejsar Aurelius satt på tronen år 270 e. Kr. dök romarna upp igen i öst. Aurelius kom till Mindre Asien med sin omorganiserade armé. Först krossade han Palmyras kung vars maktlystnad hade nått oerhörda proportioner och tog tillbaka Kapadokien, Kilikien och Syrien från honom. Staden Palmyra erövrades år 272 och drottning Zénobia (Odaenathos fru) togs till fånga och skickades till Rom. Året därpå försökte Palmyra slå tillbaka mot romarna, men upproret misslyckades och romarna återerövrade staden och slog den i ruiner. Kejsar Aurelius fortsatte sitt krig mot perserna och lyckades tvinga sassaniderna att evakuera sina trupper från Mesopotamien.
Tirdat III utnyttjade romarnas lyckade motattack och återvände till Armeniens gränser. Han lyckades få folk med sig i ett uppror och körde ut perserna från landet (287). Han hade tidigare visat bevis på sin styrka och sitt mod. Vid ett tillfälle hade han rt livet på den romerska fältherren Liscinus som några legionärer ville mörda genom att med utdraget svärd stå vid entrén till fältherrens tält och inte låta legionärerna gå in. Vid ett annat tillfälle, under ett slag, gick han i full mundering med spjut och sköld i handen ner i floden Eufrat och simmade över den.
Tiridates III was a king of Armenia (286-330), and is also known as Tiridates the Great. (Some scholars incorrectly refer to him as Tiridates IV as a result of the fact that Tiridates I of Armenia reigned twice.) In 301, Tiridates proclaimed Christianity as the sole religion in Armenia, making that country the first Christian state in the world.
3 Conversion and Rest of Reign
Tiridates III was the son of Chosroes I of Armenia , the latter being assassinated in 287 by a Parthian agent named Anak under orders from Ardashir I. Anak was captured and executed along with most of his family, while two of his sons one of whom was Saint Gregory the Illuminator were sheltered in Ceasaria. Being the only surviving heir to the throne, Tiridates was quickly taken away to Rome soon after his father’s assassination, while still an infant. He was educated in Rome and was well learned in languages and military tactics in addition, he firmly understood and appreciated Roman law.
In 270 AD the Roman emperor Aurelian reengaged the Sassanids on the eastern front and he was able to drive them back. Tiridates, as the true heir to the Parthian-occupied Armenian throne, came to Armenia and quickly raised an army and drove the enemy out in 287 AD. The Roman-Armenian relationship grew stronger, especially while Diocletian ruled the empire. This can be attributed to the upbringing of Tiridates III, to the consistent Parthian aggressions and to the murder of his father by Anak. Diocletian left the Armenian state in a quasi-independent and protectorate status possibly to use it as a buffer in case of a Parthian attack.
 Conversion and Rest of Reign
The story of the conversion of the king and the nation is historically true, but the actual details could possibly be rooted in legend. Gregory the Illuminator, the son of Anak, was a Christian convert who, feeling guilt for the father’s sin, joined the Armenian army and worked as a secretary. Christianity in Armenia had a strong footing by the end of the 3rd century AD but the nation by and large still followed Armenian pagan beliefs. Tiridates III was no exception as he too worshipped various gods. During a pagan religious ceremony Tiridates III ordered Gregory to place a flower reef at the foot of the statue of the goddess Anahit in Eriza. Gregory refused, proclaiming his Christian faith. This act infuriated the king. His fury was only exacerbated when several individuals declared that Gregory was the son of Anak the traitor who had killed Tiridates’s father. Gregory was tortured and finally thrown in Khor Virap, a deep underground dungeon.
During the years of Gregory’s imprisonment, a group of virgins, lead by Gayane, came to Armenia as they fled the Roman persecution of their Christian faith. Tiridates III heard about the group and the legendary beauty of one of its members, Hripsime. He brought them to the palace and demanded to marry the beautiful virgin she refused. The king had the whole group tortured and killed. After this event, he fell ill and according to legend, he adopted a pig-like behavior and was aimlessly wandering around in the forest. The king’s sister, Xosroviduxt, had a dream wherein Gregory was still alive in the dungeon and he was the only one able to cure the king. At this point it had been 13 years since his imprisonment, and the odds of him being alive were slim. But they retrieved him and despite being incredibly malnourished he was still alive. He was kept alive by a kindhearted woman that threw a loaf of bread down in Khor Virap everyday for him.
Tiridates III was brought to Gregory, and was miraculously cured of his illness in 301 AD. Tiridates III immediately proclaimed Christianity the official state religion. And so, Armenia became the first nation to officially adopt Christianity. Tiridates III appointed Gregory as the first Catholicos of the Armenian Apostolic Church. From 301 to 428 the Episcopal office was hereditary.
The switch from the traditional pagan Armenian religion to Christianity was not an easy one. Tiridates III often used force to impose this new faith upon the people and many battles ensued, because polytheism was deeply rooted in the Armenian people. An actual battle between the king's forces and the polytheists took place, which resulted in their subjugation. Tiridates thus spent the rest of his life trying to eliminate all old beliefs and in doing so destroyed countless statues, temples and texts. As a result, Armenians don't know much about their ancient history and culture. He worked feverously to spread the faith and died in 330 AD.
Translated from the Armenian: Mihran Kurdoghlian, Badmoutioun Hayots, A. hador [Armenian History, volume I], Athens, Greece, 1994, pg. 96-105.
The Library of Congress - Armenia - A Country Study
Yuri Babayan - Tiridates the Great
Kristendomen kom till Armenien med apostlarna Taddaios och Bartolomaios men det var först 301 e Kr
som Armeniens kung Tirdat III omvändes till Kristendomen av Gregorius Ljusbringaren. År 301 är
det officiella datumet då Armenien antog Kristendomen som statsreligion, som idag är världens äldsta
Armeniska Apostoliska kyrkan grundades år 301 e Kr av Grigor Ljusbringaren, tillsammans med kung Tirdat
III byggde man Heliga Echmiadzin kyrkan som är aktiv till idag
Det ursprungliga Armenien upptog, ett flertal sekel f Kr, ett stort omr öster om Mindre
Asien och sr om Kaukasus. Svarta havet och Kaspiska havet ligger i nordväst, respektive
nordost. Srut låg parternas och persernas mäktiga riken. Den kanske mest kända symbolen
för Armenien är berget Ararat, där Noaks ark ska ha strandat efter sin långa resa. (Idag ligger
visserligen berget strax innanför den turkiska gränsen, men det är fullt synligt från många
Namnet Ararat är nära besläktat med Urartu, assyriernas namn på det kungarike som en
gång låg på samma plats som det historiska Armenien. Detta rike n sin höjdpunkt
omkring 800-talet till 500-talet f Kr och var då en stark konkurrent till det mäktiga Assyrien,
om makten i omrt. En annan historiskt och symboliskt viktig plats är Araxesdalen, som är
mycket bördig och som av vissa påstås vara det ursprungliga Edens lustgård.
När Urartu-riket gick under ca 590 f Kr kom olika stammar invandrande till omrt.
Tillsammans kallade de sig för Hayastan, vilket fortfarande är det armeniska språkets
Den armeniska historien skulle kunna skrivas mycket lång och händelserik, men de första
femhundra åren e Kr skulle kunna sammanfattas runt tre historiska hjältar, vilka alla har sin
plats i den armeniska identiteten.
189 f Kr utgjorde delar av Armenien en provins inom det seleukidiska riket, men detta år
inleddes även något som skulle bli den armeniska storhetstiden. Arthases (Artaxias) utropade
nämligen en del av omrt till ett självständigt kungadöme, vilket under den närmaste
följande tiden fick flera efterföljare. Med tiden kom de att närma sig varandra, för att sedan,
under kung Tigran den store (95 – 56 f Kr) bli enade till en nation. Det var också under
honom som det historiska Armenien n sin geografiskt sett största utbredning, omfattande
bland annat delar av Mesopotamien, Syrien, Cilicien och ända ner mot Palestina. Visserligen
hann riket även minska en del under kung Tigrans styre, då romarna erövrade delar av landet,
men detta talas det inte mycket om, utan det är enandet av landet som är det viktiga.
Under åren 287 – 294 och 297 – 330 e Kr styrdes Armenien av kung Tirdat III. Det var
under dennes tid som St Grigor (Gregorius), upplysaren, enligt traditionen kom till landet och
ska ha omvänt kungen (och därmed hela folket) till kristendomen. Detta ska ha skett år 301
och med st av detta hävdar armenierna att de utgör den äldsta kristna staten i världen och
armenierna det äldsta kristna folket.
Från år 430 och under ett par århundraden framöver var Armenien delat mellan Bysans i
väst och perserna i öst. De senare inledde förföljelser mot folket för att få dem att övergå till
den persiska zoroastrismen. En nationell, armenisk armé samlades dock under general Vardan
Mamikonians ledning för att kämpa mot perserna. År 451 stod ett avgörande slag vid Avrayr,
där visserligen armenierna förlorade mot den överlägsna persiska krigsmaskinen och där
general Vardan dog, men armenierna garanterades rätten att förbli kristna under persisk
överhöghet. Vardan är en förebild för folkets kamp mot olika förtryckare och kampen för
Förutom de dryga sex seklerna kring Kristi flse har armenierna nästan alltid varit styrda av
(och ofta uppdelade mellan) andra riken. Den längsta perioden av främmande styre och även
den som kanske har satt mest spår i dagens armeniska identitet var den turkiska/ottomanska
tiden. Redan under 1000-talets andra hälft trängde turkarna in i omrt och tog makten för
ett par hundra år. Efter ett antal andra härskare från olika håll kom sedan Armenien åter under
turkiskt styre på 1500-talet, något som skulle sätta ett outplånligt spår i den armeniska
Genom historien har återkommande upprorsförsök mot olika ockupationsmakter så gott
som alltid brutalt slagits ned. Detta har givit den armeniska identiteten en ständig närvaro av
det historiska lidande som folket gått igenom under århundradenas lopp. Det finns dock ett
särskilt tillfälle som varit upphov till värre lidande än någonsin tidigare. Under 1880-talet
hade en nationell armenisk rörelse uppstått, något som inte sågs med blida ögon av de
styrande turkarna. Svåra förföljelser kom till följd av detta, vilka kulminerade i deportation
och systematisk utrotning av omkring 1,5 miljoner människor under och strax efter första
världskriget. Denna ofattbara tragedi lever kvar i näst intill varje armenier idag, och går ofta
Att detta ”historiens första folkmord” idag kan vara så okänt är skrämmande. Relativt sett
var massmorden på armenier större än nazisternas utrotningsförsök av judar. De 1,5 miljoner
som avrättades utgjorde en större del av folket än de ca 6 miljoner judar som fick sätta livet
till under andra världskriget.
Då armenierna saknat kungar och andra oberoende styren under större delen av historien har
ledarskapet för nationen, och därmed också centralpunkten för identifikationen, tagits över av
den armeniska apostoliska kyrkan. De mest begåvade intellektuella har ofta blivit präster och
under lång tid var den armeniska utbildningen underställd kyrkan. Tillsammans med den
gemensamma historien av lidande och det egna språket utgör den kristna tron grundpelarna i
den armeniska identiteten.
Den armeniska kyrkan präglas av två starka särdrag. Det första är kyrkans strukturella
demokratiska uppbyggnad. Liksom flera andra kyrkor är den armeniska kyrkan idag uppdelad
i (fyra) patriarkat, i vilka patriarkerna (katolikoserna) har en stark ställning som talesmän för
den armeniska befolkningen i respektive omr. Det rr dock inga motsättningar
patriarkerna emellan, utan snarare tvärtom. I ett tal uttryckte en av dem sig på följande sätt:
”Vi är en kyrka. Vi har varit en kyrka genom århundraden. Vi ska fortsätta att vara en kyrka i
kommande århundrade.” Den, med historiska mått mätt, demokratiska och allomfattande
kyrkan har säkerligen många gånger motverkat splittring hos folket. Det andra karaktärsdraget
är den på vissa punkter näst intill unika kristna läran. Framför allt är det den monofysitiska
ståndpunkten som utmärker sig, vilken utvecklas senare.
Det är också i ljuset av den armeniska kyrkans starka position som man bör se traditionen
att söka rötterna tillbaka till Noas son Jafet och därmed (med hjälp av religionen) rättfärdiga
sin närvaro i det historiska Armenien. Kanske har kyrkans roll ändå varit än starkare utanför
det armeniska territoriet. De många armenier som genom historiens lopp levt utanför
hemlandet har ändå bibehållit en utpräglad känsla av etnisk egenart, generation efter
generation. Man har exempelvis betecknat kyrkan som t frånvarande fosterlandets synbara
Kyrkans lära och tradition
Trots att vissa traditioner har levt kvar sedan tiden innan kristendomens ankomst och mer
eller mindre har blivit accepterade av kyrkan är den armeniska läran grundad på Bibeln och de
tre första allmänna (ekumeniska) kyrkomötena.
Två särarter i den armenisk-kristna traditionen är dels det s k djuroffret, matal, och dels det
symboliska livstrt. Djuroffret härstammar från förkristen tid, men tillämpas fortfarande på
vissa platser. Dock ses det idag snarare som en sedvänja än en religiös handling och det finns
en tendens från kyrkans håll att förtiga matal-ceremonin, men man kan inte bortse ifrån att
kyrkan på ett tidigt stadium godkände offrandet och även reglerade det i sina religiösa lagar.
Livstrt å sin sida, är ett bra exempel på den religiösa och kulturella kontinuitet som präglar
det armeniska omrt. Från den tidiga Urartu-kulturens många bilder av livstrt, via
armenisk ”trํkult”, till dyrkan av Kristi kors som livstrt har den förkristna symbolen
”slussats in” i den kristna läran.
Vid det första kyrkomötet i Nicaea år 325 representerades armenierna av Grigor,
upplysaren, och de centrala punkterna var beslutet att Fadern, Sonen och den Helige Anden är
tre personer som tillsammans bildar en gudom. Detta är en av grundpelarna i den armeniska
läran, liksom den trosbekännelse som formulerades vid mötet och som sjungs i varje armenisk
Kyrkomötet i Efesus år 431, det tredje i ordningen, konstaterade att Kristus inte bara var en
människa som utgjorde Guds tempel, utan att Kristus är Guds son och att därmed Maria inte
bara är Kristi moder utan också Guds moder. Detta är en ståndpunkt som även den armeniska
kyrkan fasthåller, liksom majoriteten av mötets deltagare.
Det fjärde kyrkomötet, som hölls år 451 i Kalcedon, saknade armenisk närvaro, då de låg i
strid med perserna vid Avarayr. När de senare fick del av mötets beslut förkastade de detta.
Man kunde dels inte godta den romerske påven Leos ståndpunkt att påven av Rom skulle vara
kyrkans överhuvud. Mötet proklamerade också tron på Kristi dubbla natur, den mänskliga och
den gudomliga. Den armeniska kyrkan hävdar istället ”tron på en enda förenad natur hos
Guds enf son”. Detta kom att kallas den monofysitiska läran, och lever idag kvar även i
exempelvis den koptiska och den etiopiska kyrkan.
Armeniska kyrkans sakrament
I den armeniska kyrkan räknar man till sju sakrament av vilka tre (dopet, konfirmationen och
ordinationen) endast kan tas emot en gång. De sju sakramenten är:
Dopet – det grundläggande sakramentet. Genom dopet förenas man med Kristi kropp och
inlemmas i Kristi kyrka. Man får syndernas förlåtelse och blir värdig att ta emot de övriga
Myron-smörjelsen/konfirmationen – följer omedelbart efter dopet. Sätter den döpta
människan i stånd att möta världens prövningar och frestelser. Nu mottager hon den helig
Anden, vilket gör henne redo att bekänna den kristna tron.
Nattvarden – en mötesplats för de kristna, ett enhetens sakrament. Den plats där Kristus fr
lemmarna i sin kropp och förenar dem med sig själv. De yttre, synliga tecknen är (det
osyrade) brt och vinet, som mottas av de kristna efter att ha helgats av prästen. Brt och
vinet förvandlas visserligen inte fysiskt till kött och blod, och Kristus är inte fysiskt
närvarande, men han är det andligt.
Nattvarden är en andlig reningsprocess och endast den som tror och som ångrar sina synder
kan ta del av nattvarden, annars kan man inte få del av välsignelsen. Följden blir andlig skada
och fördömelse, men för den som bekänner sina synder blir nattvarden en överlåtelsehandling.
Den som vill deltaga i den heliga måltiden måste alltså först bikta sig, ta emot absolution
(förlåtelse) och visa att man vill göra bättring. Man måste också fasta från midnatt innan man
går till nattvarden, den ska nämligen vara det första man tar i munnen den dagen.
Bikten och botgöringen – till för dem som behöver förlåtelse för de synder de begått efter
dopet. Sakramentet består av tre delar botfärdigheten, bikten inför prästen, som uttalar
absolutionen, samt avlösningen. Absolutionen kan endast uttalas av en präst eller någon annan
högre kyrklig ämbetsman, vilka fått myndigheten att göra detta genom den apostoliska
successionen. Prästen handlar här som Guds tjänare, inte som egen person. Det är endast de
som verkligen ångrar sig som kan få absolution.
Ordinationen – avskiljer en medlem av Kristi kropp till en särskild tjänst inom kyrkan. Den
armeniska kyrkan har åtta olika ordinationer, fyra lägre och fyra högre. De lägre är
dörrvaktare, föreläsare, edsvärare och lampbärare. De högre är diakon, präst, biskop, samt
Äktenskapet – en varaktig förening mellan man och kvinna, liksom föreningen mellan Kristus
och kyrkan är varaktig. Äktenskapet är en förbindelse instiftad av Gud och räknas därför till
sakramenten. Idealet är egentligen kyskhet, men ”om de inte kan behärska sig bör de gifta sig
det är bättre att gifta sig än att brinna av åtrå” (1 Kor 7:9). Målet för äktenskapet är att skaffa
barn, som ska bli nya medlemmar i kyrkan. Till skillnad från de andra sakramenten finns inga
yttre ceremonier för äktenskapet, då det innehåller snt som inte helt ryms inom en religiös
ram. Äktenskapets yttre sida består snarare i att man börjar leva på ett nytt sätt, än att man
genomgår en högtidlig ceremoni. I teorin kan äktenskapet endast upplösas genom dn och
ett nytt äktenskap med en skild person medan den förre maken ännu är i livet är ett brott mot
Sjuksmörjelsen – det sjunde sakramentet, vilket handlar om en förberedelse inför dn.
Armenisk liturgi är fylld av vördnad för det heliga. Alla böner och ceremonier bär något av en
”klassisk skönhet” i sina utformningar. Liturgin fyller församlingen med glํje och triumf
och allt är i botten ett uttryck för det hemlighetsfulla skeende då Gud blev till människa.
Den armeniska liturgin kan delas in i tre delar den första delen är en
förberedelsegudstjänst, där prästen klär sig i mässkruden och förbereder nattvarden. Del två
är katekumenernas gudstjänst (katekumener var människor som ännu inte döpts in i den
fornkristna församlingen och därför inte fick ta nattvarden). Den tredje delen är de troendes
gudstjänst, där nattvarden utdelas.
Liksom så mycket annat när det gäller armenierna har liturgin rötter långt tillbaka i tiden, i
den urkristna gudstjänsten. Redan på 100-talet började man fira gudstjänst efter bestämda
former och på 300-talet hade liturgier utformats i grekiska, koptiska syrianska och armeniska
Bonniers Lexikon, del 1, Bonniers, Ljubljana, 1994
Bonniers Lexikon, del 13, Bonniers, Ljubljana, 1996
Gunner, Göran, m fl – Längtan till Ararat, Förlagshuset Gothia, Bollebyggd, 1985
Karlsson, Karl-Göran, - Armenien: Från berget Ararat…, MH Publishing, Göteborg, 1990
Lang, David Marshall – Armenier: Ett folk i exil, Tryckeriförlaget, T๋y, 1989 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tiridates_III_of_Armenia Tiridates III (or Trdat III Armenian: Տրդատ Գ 250 – c. 330) was the king of Iranian Arsacid Armenia (285-339), and is also known as Tiridates the Great Տրդատ Մեծ some scholars incorrectly refer to him as Tiridates IV as a result of the fact that Tiridates I of Armenia reigned twice). In 301, Tiridates proclaimed Christianity as the state religion of Armenia, making the Armenian kingdom the first state to officially embrace Christianity. He is recognized as a saint by the Armenian Apostolic Church.
Tiridates III was the son of Khosrov II of Armenia, the latter being assassinated in 252 by a Parthian agent named Anak under orders from Ardashir I. Anak was captured and executed along with most of his family, while two of his sons one of whom was Saint Gregory the Illuminator were sheltered in Caesaria. Being the only surviving heir to the throne, Tiridates was quickly taken away to Rome soon after his father’s assassination, while still an infant. He was educated in Rome and was well skilled in languages and military tactics in addition, he firmly understood and appreciated Roman law.
Grigor Illuminator baptizes Tiridates III of Armenia
In 270 AD the Roman emperor Aurelian engaged the Sassanids, who had now replaced the Parthians, on the eastern front and he was able to drive them back. Tiridates, as the true heir to the now Persian-occupied Armenian throne, came to Armenia and quickly raised an army and drove the enemy out in 287 AD. The Roman-Armenian alliance grew stronger, especially while Diocletian ruled the empire. This can be attributed to the upbringing of Tiridates, the consistent Persian aggressions, and the murder of his father by Anak. With Diocletian's help, Tiridates pushed the Persians out of Armenia. In 299, Diocletian left the Armenian state in a quasi-independent and protectorate status possibly to use it as a buffer in case of a Persian attack.
The baptism of Tiridates III.
The traditional story of the conversion of the king and the nation tells of how Gregory the Illuminator, the son of Anak, was a Christian convert who, feeling guilt for his own father’s sin, joined the Armenian army and worked as a secretary to the king. Christianity in Armenia had a strong footing by the end of the 3rd century AD but the nation by and large still followed Zoroastrianism. Tiridates III was no exception as he too worshiped various ancient gods. During a pagan religious ceremony Tiridates III ordered Gregory to place a flower wreath at the foot of the statue of the goddess Anahit in Eriza. Gregory refused, proclaiming his Christian faith. This act infuriated the king. His fury was only exacerbated when several individuals declared that Gregory was, in fact, the son of Anak, the traitor who had killed Tiridates’s father. Gregory was tortured and finally thrown in Khor Virap, a deep underground dungeon.
During the years of Gregory’s imprisonment, a group of virgin nuns, lead by Gayane, came to Armenia as they fled the Roman persecution of their Christian faith. Tiridates III heard about the group and the legendary beauty of one of its members, Rhipsime (also Hripsime or Ripsime). He brought them to the palace and demanded to marry the beautiful virgin she refused. The king had the whole group tortured and killed. After this event, he fell ill and according to legend, adopted the behavior of a wild boar, aimlessly wandering around in the forest. The king’s sister, Xosroviduxt, had a dream wherein Gregory was still alive in the dungeon and he was the only one able to cure the king. At this point it had been 13 years since his imprisonment, and the odds of him being alive were slim. But they retrieved him and despite being incredibly malnourished he was still alive. He was reportedly kept alive by a kindhearted woman that threw a loaf of bread down in Khor Virap everyday for him.
Tiridates was brought to Gregory, and was miraculously cured of his illness in 301 AD. Persuaded by the power of the cure, the king immediately proclaimed Christianity the official state religion. And so, Armenia became the first nation to officially adopt Christianity. Tiridates III appointed Gregory as Catholicos of the Armenian Apostolic Church.
The switch from the traditional pagan Armenian religion to Christianity was not an easy one. Tiridates often used force to impose this new faith upon the people and many armed conflicts ensued, because polytheism was deeply rooted in the Armenian people. An actual battle took place between the king's forces and the pagan camp, resulting in the weakening of polytheistic military strength. Tiridates thus spent the rest of his life trying to eliminate all ancient beliefs and in doing so destroyed countless statues, temples and written documents. As a result, little is known from local sources about ancient Armenian history and culture. The king worked feverishly to spread the faith and died in 330 AD.
According to the Armenian historian Movses Khorenatsi, several members of the nakharar families conspired against Tiridates and eventually poisoned him.
The traditional story of the conversion of the king and the nation tells of how Gregory the Illuminator the son of Anak, was a Christian convert who, feeling guilt for his own father’s sin, joined the Armenian army and worked as a secretary to the king. Christianity in Armenia had a strong footing by the end of the 3rd century but the nation by and large still followed pagan polytheism. Tiridates was no exception as he too worshiped various ancient gods. During a pagan religious ceremony Tiridates ordered Gregory to place a flower wreath at the foot of the statue of the goddess Anahit in Eriza. Gregory refused, proclaiming his Christian faith. This act infuriated the king. His fury was only exacerbated when several individuals declared that Gregory was in fact, the son of Anak, the traitor who had killed Tiridates’s father. Gregory was tortured and finally thrown in Khor Virap, a deep underground dungeon.
During the years of Gregory’s imprisonment, a group of virgin nuns, led by Gayane, came to Armenia as they fled the Roman persecution of their Christian faith. Tiridates heard about the group and the legendary beauty of one of its members, Rhipsime. He brought them to the palace and demanded to marry the beautiful virgin she refused. The king had the whole group tortured and killed. After this event, he fell ill and according to legend, adopted the behavior of a wild boar, aimlessly wandering around in the forest. Khosrovidukht, had a dream wherein Gregory was still alive in the dungeon and he was the only one able to cure the king. At this point it had been 13 years since his imprisonment, and the odds of him being alive were slim. They retrieved him and despite being incredibly malnourished he was still alive. He was kept alive by a kind-hearted woman that threw a loaf of bread down in Khor Virap  every day for him.
Tiridates was brought to Gregory, and was miraculously cured of his illness in 301. [ 7 ] Persuaded by the power of the cure, the king immediately proclaimed Christianity the official state religion. And so, Armenia became the first nation to officially adopt Christianity. Tiridates appointed Gregory as Catholicos of the Armenian Apostolic Church.
The conversion from paganism to Christianity
In the work of Agathangelos called &ldquoThe History of the Armenians,&rdquo it is said that Christian Gregory the Illuminator joined Armenian army. The reason for that was the fact he was feeling guilty for the sins of his father &ndash Anak who killed the father of the king Tiridates.
In the army, Gregory was working as a secretary of the king. During these times most of Armenians were worshiping various gods. During one of the pagan ceremonies, the king ordered Gregory to put a flower wreath near the statue of the goddess Anahit. As a Christian, he refused to do so which infuriated the king.
Soon Tiridates was told that Gregory is the son of the killer of his father. He ordered to torture and threw Gregory to a deep underground dungeon called Khor Virap.
When Gregory was imprisoned, a group of virgin nuns came to Armenia. Tiridates ordered to bring them to his palace when he was told about an exceptional beauty of one of the virgins whose name was Rhipsime.
When he saw her, he demanded to marry him, but Rhipsime refused. Thus, angry Tiridates ordered to torture and to kill all the virgin nuns who came to Armenia. In the legend, it is said that after this the king fell very ill and his behavior had changed a lot. He started looking like a wild boar and run away to a forest.
His sister &ndash Khosrovidukht saw a dream about her brother and Gregory. She was convinced that Gregory was alive in the dungeon and that he was the person who had the power to save her brother. Although Gregory was imprisoned for 13-14 years, Khosrovidukht ordered to retrieve him.
They found out that Gregory was still alive as a kind woman was throwing a loaf of bread to him every day.
In 301 AD Gregory cured the illness of Tiridates. His miraculous power amazed the king, and he decided to proclaim Christianity as the official state religion in Armenia. After this, Gregory became the first Catholicos of the Armenian Apostolic Church.
As a Christian country, all the shrines to idols were destroyed, and new churches and monasteries were built in their places.
Plough Music Series
May 26, 2015
The king Tiridates III fell ill and according to legend, adopted the behavior of a wild boar, aimlessly wandering around in the forest.
Beautiful.. "The Lord meets those who do righteousness with joy"
good refresher on St. Gregory Hauntingly beautiful music
For thirteen centuries, the Khor Virap church has stood on a small hill in the Ararat plain with Mount Ararat visible in the distance. Now a remote landmark in the middle of farmland, this hilltop and those around it were the site of the ancient Armenian capital Artashat. It is here that St. Gregory &ndash known as &ldquothe Illuminator&rdquo for his role in spreading the gospel to Armenia &ndash was imprisoned for his faith (Khor Virap means &ldquodeepest pit&rdquo).
History tells how Gregory, whose parents were of noble blood, narrowly escaped death as a child in retaliation for his father&rsquos part in the assassination of the king of Armenia. He was hidden away and raised by a Christian nurse, receiving his education from another Christian, Father Phirmilianos, who confirmed him in his faith. As a young man, he joined the court of the Armenian king, Tiridates III, hoping to atone for his father&rsquos action by bringing the Christian faith to Armenia. But when called upon by the king to participate in the worship of idols, Gregory refused and spoke openly about his faith. Court officials, having uncovered his identity as the son of an assassin, enraged Tiridates against Gregory.
The king&rsquos men subjected Gregory to a series of frightful tortures before throwing him into a pit, where he was expected to die a slow death from starvation. A pious widow who brought him bread helped him stay alive. Meanwhile Tiridates &ndash like the emperor Diocletian who ruled at the same time &ndash persecuted the Christians in his realm until God punished him by making him mad. God told the king&rsquos sister in a vision that Gregory alone could cure Tiridates&rsquo madness, and after twelve years he was taken from the pit and brought to the king. Gregory&rsquos prayers healed Tiridates and brought him to faith, and from that moment the two men worked together to spread the Christian faith to Armenia, which in AD 301 became the first country to officially adopt Christianity as its religion.
Armenian-American composer Alan Hovhaness&rsquos haunting &ldquoPrayer of St. Gregory,&rdquo written immediately after World War II, recalls the saint&rsquos ordeal in prison, with a solo trumpet giving voice to Gregory&rsquos enduring faith.
- Dgt. of Tiran the Great Princess Of Armenia 295- Married, (Armenia), Turkey, to St. Yousik I Hesychius Primate Of Armenia 302-348