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A statue of two gusans in Gyumri, depicting Sheram and Jivani

Gusans (Armenian: գուսան; Parthian for poet-musician or minstrel) were creative and performing artists - singers, instrumentalists, dancers, storytellers, and professional folk actors in public theaters of Parthia and ancient and medieval Armenia.

The word gusan is first mentioned in early Armenian texts of V c., e.g. Faustus of Byzantium, Moses of Chorene, etc. In Parsian language the earliest known evidence is from Vis o Rāmin by Fakhruddin As'ad Gurgani in the eleventh century. It was originally thought to have been a personal name. However in the 19th century Kerope Patkanov identified it as a common word possibly meaning "musician" and suggested that it was an obsolete Persian term, currently found in a form of a loanword in Armenian. In 1934 Harold Walter Bailey linked to origin of the word to the Parthian language. In Hrachia Acharian's opinion the word was borrowed into Parthian from Armenian govasan "praiser",[1] then borrowed back into Armenian as gusan. The word is attested in Manichaean Parthian as gwsʾn. For a thorough linguistic treatment of the word see gwsʾn.

According to Mary Boyce, poetry and music was a common way to spend leisure time among rich Parthians who would hire a gusan to perform in their homes. The practice was so popular that each noble family had gusans residing with them on and passing on their skills on a hereditary basis.[2]

In the early Middle Ages the word gusan was used as an equivalent to the classical Greek word mimos (mime). There were 2 groups of gousans:

1. the first were from aristocratic dynasties (feudal lords) and performed as professional musicians.

2. the second group comprised popular, but illiterate gusans.

The gusans were sometimes criticized and sometimes praised, particularly in medieval Armenia. The adoption of Christianity had its influence upon Armenian minstrelsy, gradually altering its ethical and ideological orientation.

The center of gusans was Goghtn gavar - a region in the Vaspurakan province of Greater Armenia and bordered with province of Syunik.


  1. ^ "գուսան (in Armeniaca appendix)" in Hrachia Acharian (1926-35), Hayerēn Armatakan Baṙaran (Yerevan: Yerevan State University), 2nd ed., 1971-79
  2. ^ Gōsān by Mary Boyce. Encyclopædia Iranica
  • Grigor Suni, Armenian music, Yerevan, 2005, p. 98-99, ISBN 99930-60-59-3