History of Armenia (book)

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Page from a 1752 edition
History of Armenia, 14th-century manuscript

The History of Armenia (Old Armenian: Պատմութիւն Հայոց, Patmut῾iwn Hayoc῾), attributed to Movses Khorenatsi, is an early account of Armenia, covering the legendary origins of the Armenian people as well as Armenia's interaction with Sassanid, Byzantine and Arsacid empires down to the 5th century.

It contains unique material on ancient Armenian legends, and such information on pagan (pre-Christian) Armenian as has survived. It also contains plentiful data on the history and culture of contiguous countries. The book had an enormous impact on Armenian historiography. In the text, the author self-identifies as a disciple of Saint Mesrop, and states that he composed his work at the request of Isaac (Sahak), the Bagratuni prince who fell in battle in 482.


The exact time period during which Movses lived and wrote has been the subject of some debate among scholars since the nineteenth century, with some scholars dating him to the seventh to ninth centuries rather than the fifth.[1][2]


The book is divided into three parts:

  • "Genealogy of Armenia Major", encompassing the history of Armenia from the beginning down to Alexander the Great;
  • "History of the middle period of our ancestors", extending from Alexander to the death of Gregory the Illuminator and the reign of King Terdat (330);
  • the third part brings the history down to the overthrow of the Arshakuni dynasty (428); and
  • the fourth part brings the history down to the time of the Emperor Zeno (474–491), during this time there were three wars: a. the Armenian Independence War headed by Vasak Syuni (450), b. the civilian war between Vardan Mamikonyan and Vasak Syuni (autumn of 450 – May 451), inspired by Romans, Persians and Armenian clergy, c. the 2nd independence war headed by Sahak Bagratuni (who ordered Movses Khorenatsi to write the "history of Armenia") and then by Vahan Mamikonyan (after the death of Sahak Bagratuni in 482).


This first book contains 32 chapters, from Adam to Alexander the Great. List of the Armenian patriarchs according to Moses:

  • Hayk (Haig) (grandson of Tiras), Armenak (or Aram), Aramais, Amassia, Gegham, Harma, Aram
  • Ara Geghetsik, Ara Kardos, Anushavan, Paret, Arbag, Zaven, Varnas, Sour, Havanag
  • Vashtak, Haikak, Ampak, Arnak, Shavarsh, Norir, Vestam, Kar, Gorak, Hrant, Endzak, Geghak
  • Horo, Zarmair, Perch, Arboun, Hoy, Houssak, Kipak, Skaiordi

These cover the 24th to 9th centuries BC in Moses' chronology, indebted to the Chronicon of Eusebius. There follows a list of legendary kings, covering the 8th to 4th centuries BC:

  • Parouyr, Hratchia, Pharnouas, Pachouych, Kornak, Phavos, Haikak II, Erouand I, Tigran I, Vahagn, Aravan, Nerseh, Zareh, Armog, Bagam, Van, Vahé.

These gradually enter historicity with Tigran I (6th century BC), who is also mentioned in the Cyropaedia of Xenophon (Tigranes Orontid, traditionally 560–535 BC; Vahagn 530–515 BC), but Aravan to Vahé are again otherwise unknown.

chapter 1: letter to Sahak
chapter 5: from Noah to Abraham and Belus
chapters 10–12: about Hayk
chapter 13: war against the Medes
chapter 14: war against Assyria, 714 BC
chapters 15–16: Ara and Semiramis
chapters 17–19: Semiramis flees from Zoroaster to Armenia and is killed by her son.
chapter 20: Ara Kardos and Anushavan
chapter 21: Paruyr, first king of Armenia at the time of Ashurbanipal
chapter 22: kings from Pharnouas to Tigran
chapter 23: Sennacherib and his sons
chapters 24–30: about Tigran I
chapter 31: descendants of Tigran down to Vahé, who is killed in resistance against Alexander
chapter 32: Hellenic wars

Middle period (332 BC – AD 330)[edit]

92 chapters, from Alexander the Great to Tiridates III of Armenia.

Arsacid period (330–428)[edit]

68 chapters, from the death of Tiridates III to Gregory the Illuminator.

Editions and translations[edit]

Number Year Place Publisher Comment
1 1695 Amsterdam Tovmas Vanandetsi The first publishing; "editio princeps
2 1736 London William and George Whiston with a Latin translation; "Historiae Armeniacae"[3]
3 1752 Venice Anton Bortoli "History of the Armenians"[4]
4 1827 Venice The Armenian Mechitarist Fathers of Venice
5 1841 Venice L. de Florivar Italian and French translations
6 1843 Venice The Armenian Mechitarist Fathers of Venice
7 1845 Paris The Armenian Mechitarist Fathers of Venice
8 1864 Venice
9 1881 Tiflis
10 1881 Tiflis
11 1913 Tiflis facsimile ed., intro. by R. W. Thomson, 1981 Caravan Books, ISBN 978-0-88206-032-3
12 1910s (?) Tiflis

Under Soviet rule the book was published many times.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Topchyan, Aram. The Problem of the Greek Sources of Movsēs Xorenacʻi's History of Armenia. Leuven: Peeters Publishers, 2006, pp. 5–14, notes 21–22, 31–33.
  2. ^ Garsoïan, Nina (2000). "Movsēs Xorenac'i". In Yarshater, Ehsan (ed.). Encyclopædia Iranica, Online Edition. Encyclopædia Iranica Foundation. Retrieved 29 October 2023.
  3. ^ "Hakob Meghapart project – 1725 – 1750". Archived from the original on 2011-05-31. Retrieved 2009-09-27.
  4. ^ "Hakob Meghapart project – 1750 – 1775". Archived from the original on 2011-05-31. Retrieved 2009-09-27.
  • Robert H. Hewsen, "The Primary History of Armenia": An Examination of the Validity of an Immemorially Transmitted Historical Tradition, History in Africa (1975).

External links[edit]