Ancient Arabias before Islam

In writing the history of Islam, it is customary to begin with a survey of the political, economic, social and religious conditions of Arabia on the eve of the Proclamation by Muhammad (may God bless him and his Ahlul-Bait) of his mission as Messenger of God.

It is the second convention of the historians (the first being to give a geographical description of the region). I shall also abide by this convention, and will review briefly, the general conditions in Arabia in the late sixth and early seventh century A.D.

Continue reading Ancient Arabias before Islam

The 18th Dynasty of Ancient Egypt – Eighteen

The 18th Dynasty starts not with the accession of a new royal family to the throne, but with the reign of Ahmose, a brother or nephew of his predecessor Kamose, who is counted as the last king of the previous dynasty.

After about a decade of relative peace and status quo with the Hyksos who still controlled the northern half of the country, the Theban king Ahmose rekindled Kamose’s war against these foreign rulers. Within 5 years, he succeeded in expelling them from his country, reuniting it back under the sole rule of one Egyptian king. Continue reading The 18th Dynasty of Ancient Egypt – Eighteen

Why Study Ancient World Cultures?

An Essay by Bill Hemminger

The question that initiates this program is a broad one: Why study ancient cultures? You might feel that the question is moot: students do study and will study ancient cultures; such study is an expected part of a tradition of intellectual development. The response to the why of the initial question is a matter of tradition, if not fact. A study of the ROMAN EMPIRE, a reading of Greek philosophy and literature, a look at the PYRAMIDS OF EGYPT — these are all accepted parts of a Western education, aren’t they?

Probably so: even today, in the plurality of approaches to the study of history and to the study of cultures, people talk about PLATO or DANTE or Krishna or Mohammed. But there is an important proviso: How you approach ancient cultures (or any other culture, for that matter) and how you conceive of the people of such distant worlds are of paramount importance. At this point, you might ask yourself these two additional questions: Do we study these cultures because, to some extent, all cultures share certain characteristics? Does our own culture reflect aspects of these other cultures?

The answer to the first of the two questions has historically been found in a discussion of universality. Consider, for a moment, the case of Arjuna in The Bhagavad Gita. You might well ask how the battle that Arjuna holds off while frozen on his chariot relates, for example, to contemporary battles in World War II. Convinced that his relatives will die in this life only to be reborn in another, Arjuna can reluctantly permit the carnage to begin. No such choice is left to Schindler (featured in Spielberg’s film Schindler’s List), on the other hand, whose intervention on behalf of Jews saved many people in this life. The danger in looking for universals thus consists in reformulating other, possibly alien, views to fit our own. We must always guard against the assumption that other people think as we do — or that they should. Arjuna speaks within the context of one culture; Schindler acts within the confines of another.

The differences among cultures are of greatest interest here, and reading about ancient cultures is thus reading about other people whose lives were surely different from our own. The social organization of Socrates’ ATHENS — where a gimpy-legged man could hobble around interrogating citizens at will — differs profoundly from today’s world beset with modern media whereby people rarely get to see or literally hear their critics. How can we today understand the psychology of the thousands of Egyptian workers who, apparently unquestioningly, spent their lives dragging great blocks of stone across burning sands in the construction of staggering pyramidal edifices whose completion took many lifetimes? Interestingly, these differences may help us better to see — and know — the limits of our culture and the limits of our language and experience.

The problem with the second question lies in its formulation. What is a culture after all? This paper and this program proceed under the assumption that there is some sort of definition to the word culture. Most people would ascribe an abstract value to culture — that which produces good art, great literature, right behavior, etc. Yet the criteria of quality are scarcely international or inter-cultural: a revered “classical” work on the sitar resists comparison to a Mozart symphony beyond the statement that both are considered great cultural achievements in the context of their home cultures. Is, then, culture something that can be taught, or are its constituent parts more sweeping and pervasive than what can be learned from books or lectures? Answers to this second question already exist in the form of canons and reading lists, though there is much discussion today about what makes up those reading lists and about the assumptions concerning what should or should not fit on such lists.

Many people would like to conceive of history as a succession of movements or stages in an on-going (and, generally) ever-improving cultural novel of human life. For these people, the Romantic period is definable, its gifts to the human spirit are calculable. Yet, how can any culture speak for all its practitioners? Do all people share equally in the culture of which they are a part? It is precisely because AKHENATON chose to resist the pantheism that characterized pharaonic Egypt before and after his brief reign and instituted a qualified monotheism that he is remembered (and magically, too, in a contemporary opera by Philip Glass). So, a culture includes both the dominant tradition and its transgression.

As you begin your study of ancient cultures, you might want to recall these questions as you forge for yourself a meaning to the term culture. In the process, try not to measure others against your own cultural standard, which has, in many ways, formed you and your apprehension of the world. Instead, try for a moment to see the glittering battle scene with Arjuna’s eyes.

Hammurabi’s Code of Laws

Translated by L. W. King

When Anu the Sublime, King of the Anunaki, and Bel, the lord of Heaven and earth, who decreed the fate of the land, assigned to Marduk, the over-ruling son of Ea, God of righteousness, dominion over earthly man, and made him great among the Igigi, they called Babylon by his illustrious name, made it great on earth, and founded an everlasting kingdom in it, whose foundations are laid so solidly as those of heaven and earth; then Anu and Bel called by name me, Hammurabi, the exalted prince, who feared God, to bring about the rule of righteousness in the land, to destroy the wicked and the evil-doers; so that the strong should not harm the weak; so that I should rule over the black-headed people like Shamash, and enlighten the land, to further the well-being of mankind.

Hammurabi, the prince, called of Bel am I, making riches and increase, enriching Nippur and Dur-ilu beyond compare, sublime patron of E-kur; who reestablished Eridu and purified the worship of E-apsu; who conquered the four quarters of the world, made great the name of Babylon, rejoiced the heart of Marduk, his lord who daily pays his devotions in Saggil; the royal scion whom Sin made; who enriched Ur; the humble, the reverent, who brings wealth to Gish-shir-gal; the white king, heard of Shamash, the mighty, who again laid the foundations of Sippara; who clothed the gravestones of Malkat with green; who made E-babbar great, which is like the heavens, the warrior who guarded Larsa and renewed E-babbar, with Shamash as his helper; the lord who granted new life to Uruk, who brought plenteous water to its inhabitants, raised the head of E-anna, and perfected the beauty of Anu and Nana; shield of the land, who reunited the scattered inhabitants of Isin; who richly endowed E-gal-mach; the protecting king of the city, brother of the god Zamama; who firmly founded the farms of Kish, crowned E-me-te-ursag with glory, redoubled the great holy treasures of Nana, managed the temple of Harsag-kalama; the grave of the enemy, whose help brought about the victory; who increased the power of Cuthah; made all glorious in E-shidlam, the black steer, who gored the enemy; beloved of the god Nebo, who rejoiced the inhabitants of Borsippa, the Sublime; who is indefatigable for E-zida; the divine king of the city; the White, Wise; who broadened the fields of Dilbat, who heaped up the harvests for Urash; the Mighty, the lord to whom come scepter and crown, with which he clothes himself; the Elect of Ma-ma; who fixed the temple bounds of Kesh, who made rich the holy feasts of Nin-tu; the provident, solicitous, who provided food and drink for Lagash and Girsu, who provided large sacrificial offerings for the temple of Ningirsu; who captured the enemy, the Elect of the oracle who fulfilled the prediction of Hallab, who rejoiced the heart of Anunit; the pure prince, whose prayer is accepted by Adad; who satisfied the heart of Adad, the warrior, in Karkar, who restored the vessels for worship in E-ud-gal-gal; the king who granted life to the city of Adab; the guide of E-mach; the princely king of the city, the irresistible warrior, who granted life to the inhabitants of Mashkanshabri, and brought abundance to the temple of Shidlam; the White, Potent, who penetrated the secret cave of the bandits, saved the inhabitants of Malka from misfortune, and fixed their home fast in wealth; who established pure sacrificial gifts for Ea and Dam-gal-nun-na, who made his kingdom everlastingly great; the princely king of the city, who subjected the districts on the Ud-kib-nun-na Canal to the sway of Dagon, his Creator; who spared the inhabitants of Mera and Tutul; the sublime prince, who makes the face of Ninni shine; who presents holy meals to the divinity of Nin-a-zu, who cared for its inhabitants in their need, provided a portion for them in Babylon in peace; the shepherd of the oppressed and of the slaves; whose deeds find favor before Anunit, who provided for Anunit in the temple of Dumash in the suburb of Agade; who recognizes the right, who rules by law; who gave back to the city of Ashur its protecting god; who let the name of Ishtar of Nineveh remain in E-mish-mish; the Sublime, who humbles himself before the great gods; successor of Sumula-il; the mighty son of Sin-muballit; the royal scion of Eternity; the mighty monarch, the sun of Babylon, whose rays shed light over the land of Sumer and Akkad; the king, obeyed by the four quarters of the world; Beloved of Ninni, am I.

When Marduk sent me to rule over men, to give the protection of right to the land, I did right and righteousness in …, and brought about the well-being of the oppressed.

The Code of Laws

1. If any one ensnare another, putting a ban upon him, but he can not prove it, then he that ensnared him shall be put to death.

2. If any one bring an accusation against a man, and the accused go to the river and leap into the river, if he sink in the river his accuser shall take possession of his house. But if the river prove that the accused is not guilty, and he escape unhurt, then he who had brought the accusation shall be put to death, while he who leaped into the river shall take possession of the house that had belonged to his accuser.

3. If any one bring an accusation of any crime before the elders, and does not prove what he has charged, he shall, if it be a capital offense charged, be put to death.

4. If he satisfy the elders to impose a fine of grain or money, he shall receive the fine that the action produces.

5. If a judge try a case, reach a decision, and present his judgment in writing; if later error shall appear in his decision, and it be through his own fault, then he shall pay twelve times the fine set by him in the case, and he shall be publicly removed from the judge’s bench, and never again shall he sit there to render judgement.

6. If any one steal the property of a temple or of the court, he shall be put to death, and also the one who receives the stolen thing from him shall be put to death.

7. If any one buy from the son or the slave of another man, without witnesses or a contract, silver or gold, a male or female slave, an ox or a sheep, an ass or anything, or if he take it in charge, he is considered a thief and shall be put to death.

8. If any one steal cattle or sheep, or an ass, or a pig or a goat, if it belong to a god or to the court, the thief shall pay thirtyfold therefor; if they belonged to a freed man of the king he shall pay tenfold; if the thief has nothing with which to pay he shall be put to death.

9. If any one lose an article, and find it in the possession of another: if the person in whose possession the thing is found say “A merchant sold it to me, I paid for it before witnesses,” and if the owner of the thing say, “I will bring witnesses who know my property,” then shall the purchaser bring the merchant who sold it to him, and the witnesses before whom he bought it, and the owner shall bring witnesses who can identify his property. The judge shall examine their testimony — both of the witnesses before whom the price was paid, and of the witnesses who identify the lost article on oath. The merchant is then proved to be a thief and shall be put to death. The owner of the lost article receives his property, and he who bought it receives the money he paid from the estate of the merchant.

10. If the purchaser does not bring the merchant and the witnesses before whom he bought the article, but its owner bring witnesses who identify it, then the buyer is the thief and shall be put to death, and the owner receives the lost article.

11. If the owner do not bring witnesses to identify the lost article, he is an evil-doer, he has traduced, and shall be put to death.

12. If the witnesses be not at hand, then shall the judge set a limit, at the expiration of six months. If his witnesses have not appeared within the six months, he is an evil-doer, and shall bear the fine of the pending case.

14. If any one steal the minor son of another, he shall be put to death.

15. If any one take a male or female slave of the court, or a male or female slave of a freed man, outside the city gates, he shall be put to death.

16. If any one receive into his house a runaway male or female slave of the court, or of a freedman, and does not bring it out at the public proclamation of the major domus, the master of the house shall be put to death.

17. If any one find runaway male or female slaves in the open country and bring them to their masters, the master of the slaves shall pay him two shekels of silver.

18. If the slave will not give the name of the master, the finder shall bring him to the palace; a further investigation must follow, and the slave shall be returned to his master.

19. If he hold the slaves in his house, and they are caught there, he shall be put to death.

20. If the slave that he caught run away from him, then shall he swear to the owners of the slave, and he is free of all blame.

21. If any one break a hole into a house (break in to steal), he shall be put to death before that hole and be buried.

22. If any one is committing a robbery and is caught, then he shall be put to death.

23. If the robber is not caught, then shall he who was robbed claim under oath the amount of his loss; then shall the community, and … on whose ground and territory and in whose domain it was compensate him for the goods stolen.

24. If persons are stolen, then shall the community and … pay one mina of silver to their relatives.

25. If fire break out in a house, and some one who comes to put it out cast his eye upon the property of the owner of the house, and take the property of the master of the house, he shall be thrown into that self-same fire.

26. If a chieftain or a man (common soldier), who has been ordered to go upon the king’s highway for war does not go, but hires a mercenary, if he withholds the compensation, then shall this officer or man be put to death, and he who represented him shall take possession of his house.

27. If a chieftain or man be caught in the misfortune of the king (captured in battle), and if his fields and garden be given to another and he take possession, if he return and reaches his place, his field and garden shall be returned to him, he shall take it over again.

28. If a chieftain or a man be caught in the misfortune of a king, if his son is able to enter into possession, then the field and garden shall be given to him, he shall take over the fee of his father.

29. If his son is still young, and can not take possession, a third of the field and garden shall be given to his mother, and she shall bring him up.

30. If a chieftain or a man leave his house, garden, and field and hires it out, and some one else takes possession of his house, garden, and field and uses it for three years: if the first owner return and claims his house, garden, and field, it shall not be given to him, but he who has taken possession of it and used it shall continue to use it.

31. If he hire it out for one year and then return, the house, garden, and field shall be given back to him, and he shall take it over again.

32. If a chieftain or a man is captured on the “Way of the King” (in war), and a merchant buy him free, and bring him back to his place; if he have the means in his house to buy his freedom, he shall buy himself free: if he have nothing in his house with which to buy himself free, he shall be bought free by the temple of his community; if there be nothing in the temple with which to buy him free, the court shall buy his freedom. His field, garden, and house shall not be given for the purchase of his freedom.

33. If a … or a … enter himself as withdrawn from the “Way of the King,” and send a mercenary as substitute, but withdraw him, then the … or … shall be put to death.

34. If a … or a … harm the property of a captain, injure the captain, or take away from the captain a gift presented to him by the king, then the … or … shall be put to death.

35. If any one buy the cattle or sheep which the king has given to chieftains from him, he loses his money.

36. The field, garden, and house of a chieftain, of a man, or of one subject to quit-rent, can not be sold.

37. If any one buy the field, garden, and house of a chieftain, man, or one subject to quit-rent, his contract tablet of sale shall be broken (declared invalid) and he loses his money. The field, garden, and house return to their owners.

38. A chieftain, man, or one subject to quit-rent can not assign his tenure of field, house, and garden to his wife or daughter, nor can he assign it for a debt.

39. He may, however, assign a field, garden, or house which he has bought, and holds as property, to his wife or daughter or give it for debt.

40. He may sell field, garden, and house to a merchant (royal agents) or to any other public official, the buyer holding field, house, and garden for its usufruct.

41. If any one fence in the field, garden, and house of a chieftain, man, or one subject to quit-rent, furnishing the palings therefor; if the chieftain, man, or one subject to quit-rent return to field, garden, and house, the palings which were given to him become his property.

42. If any one take over a field to till it, and obtain no harvest therefrom, it must be proved that he did no work on the field, and he must deliver grain, just as his neighbor raised, to the owner of the field.

43. If he do not till the field, but let it lie fallow, he shall give grain like his neighbor’s to the owner of the field, and the field which he let lie fallow he must plow and sow and return to its owner.

44. If any one take over a waste-lying field to make it arable, but is lazy, and does not make it arable, he shall plow the fallow field in the fourth year, harrow it and till it, and give it back to its owner, and for each ten gan (a measure of area) ten gur of grain shall be paid.

45. If a man rent his field for tillage for a fixed rental, and receive the rent of his field, but bad weather come and destroy the harvest, the injury falls upon the tiller of the soil.

46. If he do not receive a fixed rental for his field, but lets it on half or third shares of the harvest, the grain on the field shall be divided proportionately between the tiller and the owner.

47. If the tiller, because he did not succeed in the first year, has had the soil tilled by others, the owner may raise no objection; the field has been cultivated and he receives the harvest according to agreement.

48. If any one owe a debt for a loan, and a storm prostrates the grain, or the harvest fail, or the grain does not grow for lack of water; in that year he need not give his creditor any grain, he washes his debt-tablet in water and pays no rent for this year.

49. If any one take money from a merchant, and give the merchant a field tillable for corn or sesame and order him to plant corn or sesame in the field, and to harvest the crop; if the cultivator plant corn or sesame in the field, at the harvest the corn or sesame that is in the field shall belong to the owner of the field and he shall pay corn as rent, for the money he received from the merchant, and the livelihood of the cultivator shall he give to the merchant.

50. If he give a cultivated corn-field or a cultivated sesame-field, the corn or sesame in the field shall belong to the owner of the field, and he shall return the money to the merchant as rent.

51. If he have no money to repay, then he shall pay in corn or sesame in place of the money as rent for what he received from the merchant, according to the royal tariff.

52. If the cultivator do not plant corn or sesame in the field, the debtor’s contract is not weakened.

53. If any one be too lazy to keep his dam in proper condition, and does not so keep it; if then the dam break and all the fields be flooded, then shall he in whose dam the break occurred be sold for money, and the money shall replace the corn which he has caused to be ruined.

54. If he be not able to replace the corn, then he and his possessions shall be divided among the farmers whose corn he has flooded.

55. If any one open his ditches to water his crop, but is careless, and the water flood the field of his neighbor, then he shall pay his neighbor corn for his loss.

56. If a man let in the water, and the water overflow the plantation of his neighbor, he shall pay ten gur of corn for every ten gan of land.

57. If a shepherd, without the permission of the owner of the field, and without the knowledge of the owner of the sheep, lets the sheep into a field to graze, then the owner of the field shall harvest his crop, and the shepherd, who had pastured his flock there without permission of the owner of the field, shall pay to the owner twenty gur of corn for every ten gan.

58. If after the flocks have left the pasture and been shut up in the common fold at the city gate, any shepherd let them into a field and they graze there, this shepherd shall take possession of the field which he has allowed to be grazed on, and at the harvest he must pay sixty gur of corn for every ten gan.

59. If any man, without the knowledge of the owner of a garden, fell a tree in a garden he shall pay half a mina in money.

60. If any one give over a field to a gardener, for him to plant it as a garden, if he work at it, and care for it for four years, in the fifth year the owner and the gardener shall divide it, the owner taking his part in charge.

61. If the gardener has not completed the planting of the field, leaving one part unused, this shall be assigned to him as his.

62. If he do not plant the field that was given over to him as a garden, if it be arable land (for corn or sesame) the gardener shall pay the owner the produce of the field for the years that he let it lie fallow, according to the product of neighboring fields, put the field in arable condition and return it to its owner.

63. If he transform waste land into arable fields and return it to its owner, the latter shall pay him for one year ten gur for ten gan.

64. If any one hand over his garden to a gardener to work, the gardener shall pay to its owner two-thirds of the produce of the garden, for so long as he has it in possession, and the other third shall he keep.

65. If the gardener do not work in the garden and the product fall off, the gardener shall pay in proportion to other neighboring gardens.

[The text for laws 66 through 99 is missing]

100. … interest for the money, as much as he has received, he shall give a note therefor, and on the day, when they settle, pay to the merchant.

101. If there are no mercantile arrangements in the place whither he went, he shall leave the entire amount of money which he received with the broker to give to the merchant.

102. If a merchant entrust money to an agent (broker) for some investment, and the broker suffer a loss in the place to which he goes, he shall make good the capital to the merchant.

103. If, while on the journey, an enemy take away from him anything that he had, the broker shall swear by God and be free of obligation.

104. If a merchant give an agent corn, wool, oil, or any other goods to transport, the agent shall give a receipt for the amount, and compensate the merchant therefor. Then he shall obtain a receipt form the merchant for the money that he gives the merchant.

105. If the agent is careless, and does not take a receipt for the money which he gave the merchant, he can not consider the unreceipted money as his own.

106. If the agent accept money from the merchant, but have a quarrel with the merchant (denying the receipt), then shall the merchant swear before God and witnesses that he has given this money to the agent, and the agent shall pay him three times the sum.

107. If the merchant cheat the agent, in that as the latter has returned to him all that had been given him, but the merchant denies the receipt of what had been returned to him, then shall this agent convict the merchant before God and the judges, and if he still deny receiving what the agent had given him shall pay six times the sum to the agent.

108. If a tavern-keeper (feminine) does not accept corn according to gross weight in payment of drink, but takes money, and the price of the drink is less than that of the corn, she shall be convicted and thrown into the water.

109. If conspirators meet in the house of a tavern-keeper, and these conspirators are not captured and delivered to the court, the tavern-keeper shall be put to death.

110. If a “sister of a god” open a tavern, or enter a tavern to drink, then shall this woman be burned to death.

111. If an inn-keeper furnish sixty ka of usakani-drink to … she shall receive fifty ka of corn at the harvest.

112. If any one be on a journey and entrust silver, gold, precious stones, or any movable property to another, and wish to recover it from him; if the latter do not bring all of the property to the appointed place, but appropriate it to his own use, then shall this man, who did not bring the property to hand it over, be convicted, and he shall pay fivefold for all that had been entrusted to him.

113. If any one have consignment of corn or money, and he take from the granary or box without the knowledge of the owner, then shall he who took corn without the knowledge of the owner out of the granary or money out of the box be legally convicted, and repay the corn he has taken. And he shall lose whatever commission was paid to him, or due him.

114. If a man have no claim on another for corn and money, and try to demand it by force, he shall pay one-third of a mina of silver in every case.

115. If any one have a claim for corn or money upon another and imprison him; if the prisoner die in prison a natural death, the case shall go no further.

116. If the prisoner die in prison from blows or maltreatment, the master of the prisoner shall convict the merchant before the judge. If he was a free-born man, the son of the merchant shall be put to death; if it was a slave, he shall pay one-third of a mina of gold, and all that the master of the prisoner gave he shall forfeit.

117. If any one fail to meet a claim for debt, and sell himself, his wife, his son, and daughter for money or give them away to forced labor: they shall work for three years in the house of the man who bought them, or the proprietor, and in the fourth year they shall be set free.

118. If he give a male or female slave away for forced labor, and the merchant sublease them, or sell them for money, no objection can be raised.

119. If any one fail to meet a claim for debt, and he sell the maid servant who has borne him children, for money, the money which the merchant has paid shall be repaid to him by the owner of the slave and she shall be freed.

120. If any one store corn for safe keeping in another person’s house, and any harm happen to the corn in storage, or if the owner of the house open the granary and take some of the corn, or if especially he deny that the corn was stored in his house: then the owner of the corn shall claim his corn before God (on oath), and the owner of the house shall pay its owner for all of the corn that he took.

121. If any one store corn in another man’s house he shall pay him storage at the rate of one gur for every five ka of corn per year.

122. If any one give another silver, gold, or anything else to keep, he shall show everything to some witness, draw up a contract, and then hand it over for safe keeping.

123. If he turn it over for safe keeping without witness or contract, and if he to whom it was given deny it, then he has no legitimate claim.

124. If any one deliver silver, gold, or anything else to another for safe keeping, before a witness, but he deny it, he shall be brought before a judge, and all that he has denied he shall pay in full.

125. If any one place his property with another for safe keeping, and there, either through thieves or robbers, his property and the property of the other man be lost, the owner of the house, through whose neglect the loss took place, shall compensate the owner for all that was given to him in charge. But the owner of the house shall try to follow up and recover his property, and take it away from the thief.

126. If any one who has not lost his goods state that they have been lost, and make false claims: if he claim his goods and amount of injury before God, even though he has not lost them, he shall be fully compensated for all his loss claimed. (I.e., the oath is all that is needed.)

127. If any one “point the finger” (slander) at a sister of a god or the wife of any one, and can not prove it, this man shall be taken before the judges and his brow shall be marked. (by cutting the skin, or perhaps hair.)

128. If a man take a woman to wife, but have no intercourse with her, this woman is no wife to him.

129. If a man’s wife be surprised (in flagrante delicto) with another man, both shall be tied and thrown into the water, but the husband may pardon his wife and the king his slaves.

130. If a man violate the wife (betrothed or child-wife) of another man, who has never known a man, and still lives in her father’s house, and sleep with her and be surprised, this man shall be put to death, but the wife is blameless.

131. If a man bring a charge against one’s wife, but she is not surprised with another man, she must take an oath and then may return to her house.

132. If the “finger is pointed” at a man’s wife about another man, but she is not caught sleeping with the other man, she shall jump into the river for her husband.

133. If a man is taken prisoner in war, and there is a sustenance in his house, but his wife leave house and court, and go to another house: because this wife did not keep her court, and went to another house, she shall be judicially condemned and thrown into the water.

134. If any one be captured in war and there is not sustenance in his house, if then his wife go to another house this woman shall be held blameless.

135. If a man be taken prisoner in war and there be no sustenance in his house and his wife go to another house and bear children; and if later her husband return and come to his home: then this wife shall return to her husband, but the children follow their father.

136. If any one leave his house, run away, and then his wife go to another house, if then he return, and wishes to take his wife back: because he fled from his home and ran away, the wife of this runaway shall not return to her husband.

137. If a man wish to separate from a woman who has borne him children, or from his wife who has borne him children: then he shall give that wife her dowry, and a part of the usufruct of field, garden, and property, so that she can rear her children. When she has brought up her children, a portion of all that is given to the children, equal as that of one son, shall be given to her. She may then marry the man of her heart.

138. If a man wishes to separate from his wife who has borne him no children, he shall give her the amount of her purchase money and the dowry which she brought from her father’s house, and let her go.

139. If there was no purchase price he shall give her one mina of gold as a gift of release.

140. If he be a freed man he shall give her one-third of a mina of gold.

141. If a man’s wife, who lives in his house, wishes to leave it, plunges into debt, tries to ruin her house, neglects her husband, and is judicially convicted: if her husband offer her release, she may go on her way, and he gives her nothing as a gift of release. If her husband does not wish to release her, and if he take another wife, she shall remain as servant in her husband’s house.

142. If a woman quarrel with her husband, and say: “You are not congenial to me,” the reasons for her prejudice must be presented. If she is guiltless, and there is no fault on her part, but he leaves and neglects her, then no guilt attaches to this woman, she shall take her dowry and go back to her father’s house.

143. If she is not innocent, but leaves her husband, and ruins her house, neglecting her husband, this woman shall be cast into the water.

144. If a man take a wife and this woman give her husband a maid-servant, and she bear him children, but this man wishes to take another wife, this shall not be permitted to him; he shall not take a second wife.

145. If a man take a wife, and she bear him no children, and he intend to take another wife: if he take this second wife, and bring her into the house, this second wife shall not be allowed equality with his wife.

146. If a man take a wife and she give this man a maid-servant as wife and she bear him children, and then this maid assume equality with the wife: because she has borne him children her master shall not sell her for money, but he may keep her as a slave, reckoning her among the maid-servants.

147. If she have not borne him children, then her mistress may sell her for money.

148. If a man take a wife, and she be seized by disease, if he then desire to take a second wife he shall not put away his wife, who has been attacked by disease, but he shall keep her in the house which he has built and support her so long as she lives.

149. If this woman does not wish to remain in her husband’s house, then he shall compensate her for the dowry that she brought with her from her father’s house, and she may go.

150. If a man give his wife a field, garden, and house and a deed therefor, if then after the death of her husband the sons raise no claim, then the mother may bequeath all to one of her sons whom she prefers, and need leave nothing to his brothers.

151. If a woman who lived in a man’s house made an agreement with her husband, that no creditor can arrest her, and has given a document therefor: if that man, before he married that woman, had a debt, the creditor can not hold the woman for it. But if the woman, before she entered the man’s house, had contracted a debt, her creditor can not arrest her husband therefor.

152. If after the woman had entered the man’s house, both contracted a debt, both must pay the merchant.

153. If the wife of one man on account of another man has their mates (her husband and the other man’s wife) murdered, both of them shall be impaled.

154. If a man be guilty of incest with his daughter, he shall be driven from the place (exiled).

155. If a man betroth a girl to his son, and his son have intercourse with her, but he (the father) afterward defile her, and be surprised, then he shall be bound and cast into the water (drowned).

156. If a man betroth a girl to his son, but his son has not known her, and if then he defile her, he shall pay her half a gold mina, and compensate her for all that she brought out of her father’s house. She may marry the man of her heart.

157. If any one be guilty of incest with his mother after his father, both shall be burned.

158. If any one be surprised after his father with his chief wife, who has borne children, he shall be driven out of his father’s house.

159. If any one, who has brought chattels into his father-in-law’s house, and has paid the purchase-money, looks for another wife, and says to his father-in-law: “I do not want your daughter,” the girl’s father may keep all that he had brought.

160. If a man bring chattels into the house of his father-in-law, and pay the “purchase price” (for his wife): if then the father of the girl say: “I will not give you my daughter,” he shall give him back all that he brought with him.

161. If a man bring chattels into his father-in-law’s house and pay the “purchase price,” if then his friend slander him, and his father-in-law say to the young husband: “You shall not marry my daughter,” the he shall give back to him undiminished all that he had brought with him; but his wife shall not be married to the friend.

162. If a man marry a woman, and she bear sons to him; if then this woman die, then shall her father have no claim on her dowry; this belongs to her sons.

163. If a man marry a woman and she bear him no sons; if then this woman die, if the “purchase price” which he had paid into the house of his father-in-law is repaid to him, her husband shall have no claim upon the dowry of this woman; it belongs to her father’s house.

164. If his father-in-law do not pay back to him the amount of the “purchase price” he may subtract the amount of the “Purchase price” from the dowry, and then pay the remainder to her father’s house.

165. If a man give to one of his sons whom he prefers a field, garden, and house, and a deed therefor: if later the father die, and the brothers divide the estate, then they shall first give him the present of his father, and he shall accept it; and the rest of the paternal property shall they divide.

166. If a man take wives for his son, but take no wife for his minor son, and if then he die: if the sons divide the estate, they shall set aside besides his portion the money for the “purchase price” for the minor brother who had taken no wife as yet, and secure a wife for him.

167. If a man marry a wife and she bear him children: if this wife die and he then take another wife and she bear him children: if then the father die, the sons must not partition the estate according to the mothers, they shall divide the dowries of their mothers only in this way; the paternal estate they shall divide equally with one another.

168. If a man wish to put his son out of his house, and declare before the judge: “I want to put my son out,” then the judge shall examine into his reasons. If the son be guilty of no great fault, for which he can be rightfully put out, the father shall not put him out.

169. If he be guilty of a grave fault, which should rightfully deprive him of the filial relationship, the father shall forgive him the first time; but if he be guilty of a grave fault a second time the father may deprive his son of all filial relation.

170. If his wife bear sons to a man, or his maid-servant have borne sons, and the father while still living says to the children whom his maid-servant has borne: “My sons,” and he count them with the sons of his wife; if then the father die, then the sons of the wife and of the maid-servant shall divide the paternal property in common. The son of the wife is to partition and choose.

171. If, however, the father while still living did not say to the sons of the maid-servant: “My sons,” and then the father dies, then the sons of the maid-servant shall not share with the sons of the wife, but the freedom of the maid and her sons shall be granted. The sons of the wife shall have no right to enslave the sons of the maid; the wife shall take her dowry (from her father), and the gift that her husband gave her and deeded to her (separate from dowry, or the purchase-money paid her father), and live in the home of her husband: so long as she lives she shall use it, it shall not be sold for money. Whatever she leaves shall belong to her children.

172. If her husband made her no gift, she shall be compensated for her gift, and she shall receive a portion from the estate of her husband, equal to that of one child. If her sons oppress her, to force her out of the house, the judge shall examine into the matter, and if the sons are at fault the woman shall not leave her husband’s house. If the woman desire to leave the house, she must leave to her sons the gift which her husband gave her, but she may take the dowry of her father’s house. Then she may marry the man of her heart.

173. If this woman bear sons to her second husband, in the place to which she went, and then die, her earlier and later sons shall divide the dowry between them.

174. If she bear no sons to her second husband, the sons of her first husband shall have the dowry.

175. If a State slave or the slave of a freed man marry the daughter of a free man, and children are born, the master of the slave shall have no right to enslave the children of the free.

176. If, however, a State slave or the slave of a freed man marry a man’s daughter, and after he marries her she bring a dowry from a father’s house, if then they both enjoy it and found a household, and accumulate means, if then the slave die, then she who was free born may take her dowry, and all that her husband and she had earned; she shall divide them into two parts, one-half the master for the slave shall take, and the other half shall the free-born woman take for her children. If the free-born woman had no gift she shall take all that her husband and she had earned and divide it into two parts; and the master of the slave shall take one-half and she shall take the other for her children.

177. If a widow, whose children are not grown, wishes to enter another house (remarry), she shall not enter it without the knowledge of the judge. If she enter another house the judge shall examine the state of the house of her first husband. Then the house of her first husband shall be entrusted to the second husband and the woman herself as managers. And a record must be made thereof. She shall keep the house in order, bring up the children, and not sell the house-hold utensils. He who buys the utensils of the children of a widow shall lose his money, and the goods shall return to their owners.

178. If a “devoted woman” or a prostitute to whom her father has given a dowry and a deed therefor, but if in this deed it is not stated that she may bequeath it as she pleases, and has not explicitly stated that she has the right of disposal; if then her father die, then her brothers shall hold her field and garden, and give her corn, oil, and milk according to her portion, and satisfy her. If her brothers do not give her corn, oil, and milk according to her share, then her field and garden shall support her. She shall have the usufruct of field and garden and all that her father gave her so long as she lives, but she can not sell or assign it to others. Her position of inheritance belongs to her brothers.

179. If a “sister of a god,” or a prostitute, receive a gift from her father, and a deed in which it has been explicitly stated that she may dispose of it as she pleases, and give her complete disposition thereof: if then her father die, then she may leave her property to whomsoever she pleases. Her brothers can raise no claim thereto.

180. If a father give a present to his daughter — either marriageable or a prostitute (unmarriageable) — and then die, then she is to receive a portion as a child from the paternal estate, and enjoy its usufruct so long as she lives. Her estate belongs to her brothers.

181. If a father devote a temple-maid or temple-virgin to God and give her no present: if then the father die, she shall receive the third of a child’s portion from the inheritance of her father’s house, and enjoy its usufruct so long as she lives. Her estate belongs to her brothers.

182. If a father devote his daughter as a wife of Mardi of Babylon (as in 181), and give her no present, nor a deed; if then her father die, then shall she receive one-third of her portion as a child of her father’s house from her brothers, but Marduk may leave her estate to whomsoever she wishes.

183. If a man give his daughter by a concubine a dowry, and a husband, and a deed; if then her father die, she shall receive no portion from the paternal estate.

184. If a man do not give a dowry to his daughter by a concubine, and no husband; if then her father die, her brother shall give her a dowry according to her father’s wealth and secure a husband for her.

185. If a man adopt a child and to his name as son, and rear him, this grown son can not be demanded back again.

186. If a man adopt a son, and if after he has taken him he injure his foster father and mother, then this adopted son shall return to his father’s house.

187. The son of a paramour in the palace service, or of a prostitute, can not be demanded back.

188. If an artizan has undertaken to rear a child and teaches him his craft, he can not be demanded back.

189. If he has not taught him his craft, this adopted son may return to his father’s house.

190. If a man does not maintain a child that he has adopted as a son and reared with his other children, then his adopted son may return to his father’s house.

191. If a man, who had adopted a son and reared him, founded a household, and had children, wish to put this adopted son out, then this son shall not simply go his way. His adoptive father shall give him of his wealth one-third of a child’s portion, and then he may go. He shall not give him of the field, garden, and house.

192. If a son of a paramour or a prostitute say to his adoptive father or mother: “You are not my father, or my mother,” his tongue shall be cut off.

193. If the son of a paramour or a prostitute desire his father’s house, and desert his adoptive father and adoptive mother, and goes to his father’s house, then shall his eye be put out.

194. If a man give his child to a nurse and the child die in her hands, but the nurse unbeknown to the father and mother nurse another child, then they shall convict her of having nursed another child without the knowledge of the father and mother and her breasts shall be cut off.

195. If a son strike his father, his hands shall be hewn off.

196. If a man put out the eye of another man, his eye shall be put out.

197. If he break another man’s bone, his bone shall be broken.

198. If he put out the eye of a freed man, or break the bone of a freed man, he shall pay one gold mina.

199. If he put out the eye of a man’s slave, or break the bone of a man’s slave, he shall pay one-half of its value.

200. If a man knock out the teeth of his equal, his teeth shall be knocked out.

201. If he knock out the teeth of a freed man, he shall pay one-third of a gold mina.

202. If any one strike the body of a man higher in rank than he, he shall receive sixty blows with an ox-whip in public.

203. If a free-born man strike the body of another free-born man or equal rank, he shall pay one gold mina.

204. If a freed man strike the body of another freed man, he shall pay ten shekels in money.

205. If the slave of a freed man strike the body of a freed man, his ear shall be cut off.

206. If during a quarrel one man strike another and wound him, then he shall swear, “I did not injure him wittingly,” and pay the physicians.

207. If the man die of his wound, he shall swear similarly, and if he (the deceased) was a free-born man, he shall pay half a mina in money.

208. If he was a freed man, he shall pay one-third of a mina.

209. If a man strike a free-born woman so that she lose her unborn child, he shall pay ten shekels for her loss.

210. If the woman die, his daughter shall be put to death.

211. If a woman of the free class lose her child by a blow, he shall pay five shekels in money.

212. If this woman die, he shall pay half a mina.

213. If he strike the maid-servant of a man, and she lose her child, he shall pay two shekels in money.

214. If this maid-servant die, he shall pay one-third of a mina.

215. If a physician make a large incision with an operating knife and cure it, or if he open a tumor (over the eye) with an operating knife, and saves the eye, he shall receive ten shekels in money.

216. If the patient be a freed man, he receives five shekels.

217. If he be the slave of some one, his owner shall give the physician two shekels.

218. If a physician make a large incision with the operating knife, and kill him, or open a tumor with the operating knife, and cut out the eye, his hands shall be cut off.

219. If a physician make a large incision in the slave of a freed man, and kill him, he shall replace the slave with another slave.

220. If he had opened a tumor with the operating knife, and put out his eye, he shall pay half his value.

221. If a physician heal the broken bone or diseased soft part of a man, the patient shall pay the physician five shekels in money.

222. If he were a freed man he shall pay three shekels.

223. If he were a slave his owner shall pay the physician two shekels.

224. If a veterinary surgeon perform a serious operation on an ass or an ox, and cure it, the owner shall pay the surgeon one-sixth of a shekel as a fee.

225. If he perform a serious operation on an ass or ox, and kill it, he shall pay the owner one-fourth of its value.

226. If a barber, without the knowledge of his master, cut the sign of a slave on a slave not to be sold, the hands of this barber shall be cut off.

227. If any one deceive a barber, and have him mark a slave not for sale with the sign of a slave, he shall be put to death, and buried in his house. The barber shall swear: “I did not mark him wittingly,” and shall be guiltless.

228. If a builder build a house for some one and complete it, he shall give him a fee of two shekels in money for each sar of surface.

229 If a builder build a house for some one, and does not construct it properly, and the house which he built fall in and kill its owner, then that builder shall be put to death.

230. If it kill the son of the owner the son of that builder shall be put to death.

231. If it kill a slave of the owner, then he shall pay slave for slave to the owner of the house.

232. If it ruin goods, he shall make compensation for all that has been ruined, and inasmuch as he did not construct properly this house which he built and it fell, he shall re-erect the house from his own means.

233. If a builder build a house for some one, even though he has not yet completed it; if then the walls seem toppling, the builder must make the walls solid from his own means.

234. If a shipbuilder build a boat of sixty gur for a man, he shall pay him a fee of two shekels in money.

235. If a shipbuilder build a boat for some one, and do not make it tight, if during that same year that boat is sent away and suffers injury, the shipbuilder shall take the boat apart and put it together tight at his own expense. The tight boat he shall give to the boat owner.

236. If a man rent his boat to a sailor, and the sailor is careless, and the boat is wrecked or goes aground, the sailor shall give the owner of the boat another boat as compensation.

237. If a man hire a sailor and his boat, and provide it with corn, clothing, oil and dates, and other things of the kind needed for fitting it: if the sailor is careless, the boat is wrecked, and its contents ruined, then the sailor shall compensate for the boat which was wrecked and all in it that he ruined.

238. If a sailor wreck any one’s ship, but saves it, he shall pay the half of its value in money.

239. If a man hire a sailor, he shall pay him six gur of corn per year.

240. If a merchantman run against a ferryboat, and wreck it, the master of the ship that was wrecked shall seek justice before God; the master of the merchantman, which wrecked the ferryboat, must compensate the owner for the boat and all that he ruined.

241. If any one impresses an ox for forced labor, he shall pay one-third of a mina in money.

242. If any one hire oxen for a year, he shall pay four gur of corn for plow-oxen.

243. As rent of herd cattle he shall pay three gur of corn to the owner.

244. If any one hire an ox or an ass, and a lion kill it in the field, the loss is upon its owner.

245. If any one hire oxen, and kill them by bad treatment or blows, he shall compensate the owner, oxen for oxen.

246. If a man hire an ox, and he break its leg or cut the ligament of its neck, he shall compensate the owner with ox for ox.

247. If any one hire an ox, and put out its eye, he shall pay the owner one-half of its value.

248. If any one hire an ox, and break off a horn, or cut off its tail, or hurt its muzzle, he shall pay one-fourth of its value in money.

249. If any one hire an ox, and God strike it that it die, the man who hired it shall swear by God and be considered guiltless.

250. If while an ox is passing on the street (market) some one push it, and kill it, the owner can set up no claim in the suit (against the hirer).

251. If an ox be a goring ox, and it shown that he is a gorer, and he do not bind his horns, or fasten the ox up, and the ox gore a free-born man and kill him, the owner shall pay one-half a mina in money.

252. If he kill a man’s slave, he shall pay one-third of a mina.

253. If any one agree with another to tend his field, give him seed, entrust a yoke of oxen to him, and bind him to cultivate the field, if he steal the corn or plants, and take them for himself, his hands shall be hewn off.

254. If he take the seed-corn for himself, and do not use the yoke of oxen, he shall compensate him for the amount of the seed-corn.

255. If he sublet the man’s yoke of oxen or steal the seed-corn, planting nothing in the field, he shall be convicted, and for each one hundred gan he shall pay sixty gur of corn.

256. If his community will not pay for him, then he shall be placed in that field with the cattle (at work).

257. If any one hire a field laborer, he shall pay him eight gur of corn per year.

258. If any one hire an ox-driver, he shall pay him six gur of corn per year.

259. If any one steal a water-wheel from the field, he shall pay five shekels in money to its owner.

260. If any one steal a shadduf (used to draw water from the river or canal) or a plow, he shall pay three shekels in money.

261. If any one hire a herdsman for cattle or sheep, he shall pay him eight gur of corn per annum.

262. If any one, a cow or a sheep …

263. If he kill the cattle or sheep that were given to him, he shall compensate the owner with cattle for cattle and sheep for sheep.

264. If a herdsman, to whom cattle or sheep have been entrusted for watching over, and who has received his wages as agreed upon, and is satisfied, diminish the number of the cattle or sheep, or make the increase by birth less, he shall make good the increase or profit which was lost in the terms of settlement.

265. If a herdsman, to whose care cattle or sheep have been entrusted, be guilty of fraud and make false returns of the natural increase, or sell them for money, then shall he be convicted and pay the owner ten times the loss.

266. If the animal be killed in the stable by God (an accident), or if a lion kill it, the herdsman shall declare his innocence before God, and the owner bears the accident in the stable.

267. If the herdsman overlook something, and an accident happen in the stable, then the herdsman is at fault for the accident which he has caused in the stable, and he must compensate the owner for the cattle or sheep.

268. If any one hire an ox for threshing, the amount of the hire is twenty ka of corn.

269. If he hire an ass for threshing, the hire is twenty ka of corn.

270. If he hire a young animal for threshing, the hire is ten ka of corn.

271. If any one hire oxen, cart and driver, he shall pay one hundred and eighty ka of corn per day.

272. If any one hire a cart alone, he shall pay forty ka of corn per day.

273. If any one hire a day laborer, he shall pay him from the New Year until the fifth month (April to August, when days are long and the work hard) six gerahs in money per day; from the sixth month to the end of the year he shall give him five gerahs per day.

274. If any one hire a skilled artizan, he shall pay as wages of the … five gerahs, as wages of the potter five gerahs, of a tailor five gerahs, of … gerahs, … of a ropemaker four gerahs, of … gerahs, of a mason … gerahs per day.

275. If any one hire a ferryboat, he shall pay three gerahs in money per day.

276. If he hire a freight-boat, he shall pay two and one-half gerahs per day.

277. If any one hire a ship of sixty gur, he shall pay one-sixth of a shekel in money as its hire per day.

278. If any one buy a male or female slave, and before a month has elapsed the benu-disease be developed, he shall return the slave to the seller, and receive the money which he had paid.

279. If any one by a male or female slave, and a third party claim it, the seller is liable for the claim.

280. If while in a foreign country a man buy a male or female slave belonging to another of his own country; if when he return home the owner of the male or female slave recognize it: if the male or female slave be a native of the country, he shall give them back without any money.

281. If they are from another country, the buyer shall declare the amount of money paid therefor to the merchant, and keep the male or female slave.

282. If a slave say to his master: “You are not my master,” if they convict him his master shall cut off his ear.

The Epilogue

Laws of justice which Hammurabi, the wise king, established. A righteous law, and pious statute did he teach the land. Hammurabi, the protecting king am I. I have not withdrawn myself from the men, whom Bel gave to me, the rule over whom Marduk gave to me, I was not negligent, but I made them a peaceful abiding-place. I expounded all great difficulties, I made the light shine upon them. With the mighty weapons which Zamama and Ishtar entrusted to me, with the keen vision with which Ea endowed me, with the wisdom that Marduk gave me, I have uprooted the enemy above and below (in north and south), subdued the earth, brought prosperity to the land, guaranteed security to the inhabitants in their homes; a disturber was not permitted. The great gods have called me, I am the salvation-bearing shepherd, whose staff is straight, the good shadow that is spread over my city; on my breast I cherish the inhabitants of the land of Sumer and Akkad; in my shelter I have let them repose in peace; in my deep wisdom have I enclosed them. That the strong might not injure the weak, in order to protect the widows and orphans, I have in Babylon the city where Anu and Bel raise high their head, in E-Sagil, the Temple, whose foundations stand firm as heaven and earth, in order to bespeak justice in the land, to settle all disputes, and heal all injuries, set up these my precious words, written upon my memorial stone, before the image of me, as king of righteousness.

The king who ruleth among the kings of the cities am I. My words are well considered; there is no wisdom like unto mine. By the command of Shamash, the great judge of heaven and earth, let righteousness go forth in the land: by the order of Marduk, my lord, let no destruction befall my monument. In E-Sagil, which I love, let my name be ever repeated; let the oppressed, who has a case at law, come and stand before this my image as king of righteousness; let him read the inscription, and understand my precious words: the inscription will explain his case to him; he will find out what is just, and his heart will be glad, so that he will say:

“Hammurabi is a ruler, who is as a father to his subjects, who holds the words of Marduk in reverence, who has achieved conquest for Marduk over the north and south, who rejoices the heart of Marduk, his lord, who has bestowed benefits for ever and ever on his subjects, and has established order in the land.”

When he reads the record, let him pray with full heart to Marduk, my lord, and Zarpanit, my lady; and then shall the protecting deities and the gods, who frequent E-Sagil, graciously grant the desires daily presented before Marduk, my lord, and Zarpanit, my lady.

In future time, through all coming generations, let the king, who may be in the land, observe the words of righteousness which I have written on my monument; let him not alter the law of the land which I have given, the edicts which I have enacted; my monument let him not mar. If such a ruler have wisdom, and be able to keep his land in order, he shall observe the words which I have written in this inscription; the rule, statute, and law of the land which I have given; the decisions which I have made will this inscription show him; let him rule his subjects accordingly, speak justice to them, give right decisions, root out the miscreants and criminals from this land, and grant prosperity to his subjects.

Hammurabi, the king of righteousness, on whom Shamash has conferred right (or law) am I. My words are well considered; my deeds are not equaled; to bring low those that were high; to humble the proud, to expel insolence. If a succeeding ruler considers my words, which I have written in this my inscription, if he do not annul my law, nor corrupt my words, nor change my monument, then may Shamash lengthen that king’s reign, as he has that of me, the king of righteousness, that he may reign in righteousness over his subjects. If this ruler do not esteem my words, which I have written in my inscription, if he despise my curses, and fear not the curse of God, if he destroy the law which I have given, corrupt my words, change my monument, efface my name, write his name there, or on account of the curses commission another so to do, that man, whether king or ruler, patesi, or commoner, no matter what he be, may the great God (Anu), the Father of the gods, who has ordered my rule, withdraw from him the glory of royalty, break his scepter, curse his destiny. May Bel, the lord, who fixeth destiny, whose command can not be altered, who has made my kingdom great, order a rebellion which his hand can not control; may he let the wind of the overthrow of his habitation blow, may he ordain the years of his rule in groaning, years of scarcity, years of famine, darkness without light, death with seeing eyes be fated to him; may he (Bel) order with his potent mouth the destruction of his city, the dispersion of his subjects, the cutting off of his rule, the removal of his name and memory from the land. May Belit, the great Mother, whose command is potent in E-Kur (the Babylonian Olympus), the Mistress, who harkens graciously to my petitions, in the seat of judgment and decision (where Bel fixes destiny), turn his affairs evil before Bel, and put the devastation of his land, the destruction of his subjects, the pouring out of his life like water into the mouth of King Bel. May Ea, the great ruler, whose fated decrees come to pass, the thinker of the gods, the omniscient, who maketh long the days of my life, withdraw understanding and wisdom from him, lead him to forgetfulness, shut up his rivers at their sources, and not allow corn or sustenance for man to grow in his land. May Shamash, the great Judge of heaven and earth, who supporteth all means of livelihood, Lord of life-courage, shatter his dominion, annul his law, destroy his way, make vain the march of his troops, send him in his visions forecasts of the uprooting of the foundations of his throne and of the destruction of his land. May the condemnation of Shamash overtake him forthwith; may he be deprived of water above among the living, and his spirit below in the earth. May Sin (the Moon-god), the Lord of Heaven, the divine father, whose crescent gives light among the gods, take away the crown and regal throne from him; may he put upon him heavy guilt, great decay, that nothing may be lower than he. May he destine him as fated, days, months and years of dominion filled with sighing and tears, increase of the burden of dominion, a life that is like unto death. May Adad, the lord of fruitfulness, ruler of heaven and earth, my helper, withhold from him rain from heaven, and the flood of water from the springs, destroying his land by famine and want; may he rage mightily over his city, and make his land into flood-hills (heaps of ruined cities). May Zamama, the great warrior, the first-born son of E-Kur, who goeth at my right hand, shatter his weapons on the field of battle, turn day into night for him, and let his foe triumph over him. May Ishtar, the goddess of fighting and war, who unfetters my weapons, my gracious protecting spirit, who loveth my dominion, curse his kingdom in her angry heart; in her great wrath, change his grace into evil, and shatter his weapons on the place of fighting and war. May she create disorder and sedition for him, strike down his warriors, that the earth may drink their blood, and throw down the piles of corpses of his warriors on the field; may she not grant him a life of mercy, deliver him into the hands of his enemies, and imprison him in the land of his enemies. May Nergal, the might among the gods, whose contest is irresistible, who grants me victory, in his great might burn up his subjects like a slender reedstalk, cut off his limbs with his mighty weapons, and shatter him like an earthen image. May Nin-tu, the sublime mistress of the lands, the fruitful mother, deny him a son, vouchsafe him no name, give him no successor among men. May Nin-karak, the daughter of Anu, who adjudges grace to me, cause to come upon his members in E-kur high fever, severe wounds, that can not be healed, whose nature the physician does not understand, which he can not treat with dressing, which, like the bite of death, can not be removed, until they have sapped away his life. May he lament the loss of his life-power, and may the great gods of heaven and earth, the Anunaki, altogether inflict a curse and evil upon the confines of the temple, the walls of this E-barra (the Sun temple of Sippara), upon his dominion, his land, his warriors, his subjects, and his troops. May Bel curse him with the potent curses of his mouth that can not be altered, and may they come upon him forthwith.


The appearance of Armenian literature in the second half of the fifth century CE, in the generation which followed the great revolt of the Armenian nobles in 450 against Yazdgird II’s attempt to re-impose Zoroastrianism on their already Christian country (see EIr. II, pp. 429-30), resulted in its almost total obliteration of Armenia’s ties to the Iranian world. The ideology of its exclusively Christian, ecclesiastical authors reiterating that the Armenian self-image was Christian by definition, simultaneously obscured any memory of the country’s earlier past. Consequently, Armenian sources, particularly in the case of Iran, must often be read as through a distorting mirror. Persian sources are all but non-existent except for brief references in early inscriptions, to which late Sasanian seals add occasional, mostly administrative, details. Chance references in classical sources are often inaccurate or hostile. The minimal archeological evidence for the eleven centuries separating the rise of the Achaemenids from the fall of the Sasanian dynasty, is derived almost exclusively from the territory of the present Republic covering but a scant fifth of historic Armenia. Such evidence has done little to remedy the lacunae of the native written sources and brings with it the risk of distortion through conclusions derived from pars pro toto.

Additional difficulties arise from the still obscure cultural chronology of early Armenian history, which does not coincide with that of the great powers on either side. This is particularly important in the case of Irano-Armenian relations, where the junior, Armenian Arsacid dynasty survived by two centuries the overthrow of its senior, Parthian branch by the Sasanian revolution; the time lag is reflected in institutional discrepancies, since Armenian society preserved, anachronistically, an earlier Iranian pattern. Nevertheless, even in the face of such patent obstacles, no serious study can avoid recording the fundamental elements linking pre-Islamic Armenia to Iran, especially in the crucial, if occasionally subliminal, cultural aspects which were to survive the political vicissitudes of more than a millennium from the 6th century BCE to the mid-7th century of the Christian era.

Persepolis_Armenian_Subjects.JPG (35095 bytes)

 Apadana relief showing Armenian subjects representing their sovereign with their Gifts – Nowruz Ceremony at Persepolis

(Click to enlarge)

The Achaemenid period

The first written evidence for the name of the plateau at the easternmost edge of Anatolia, an area increasingly dominated by the Indo-European speakers whom Herodotus (7.73), would call “Armenioi,” comes from the late 6th century BCE; Darius I’s Bisotun (q.v.) inscription refers to it as “Armina” (DB 1.15, par. 6; Kent, Old Persian, p. 119). According to Herodotus (3.93), Armenia was part of the Achaemenid empire, of which it formed the satrapy XIII; and more than a century later Xenophon would mention a “palace of the satrap” in one of the villages he passed in the tribal, non-urban land crossed by his army in its retreat from Mesopotamia to the Black Sea (Xenophon, Anab. 4.4.2). The actual relationship of Armenia to Iran under the Achaemenids is not altogether clear, since Darius’s inscription at Susa lists Armenia among the countries which “Ahuramazda bestowed upon me” (DSm 5-11; Kent, Old Persian, p. 145; cf. DB 1.14-17). At the same time, it is also given among “the countries which I got into my possession along with this Persian folk, which felt fear of me (and) bore me tribute” (DPe 5-18; Kent, Old Persian, p. 136).

Whatever the precise relationship of the two may have been during this early period in which a clear concept of �r�n�ahr (Ir�n�ahr) had not yet developed (Gnoli, 1989), the position of Armenia was especially privileged. Armenian satraps are singled out by Xenophon as having normally intermarried with the family of the king of kings (Xen., Anab. 2.4.8, 3.4.13), so that the refusal of one of the king’s daughters promised to him was considered sufficient cause for one of them to rebel (Xen., Anab. 4.4.4). According to the same author, the satrap of western Armenia, “a friend of the king … was the only man permitted to help the King mount his horse,” whenever he was present (Xen., Anab. 4.4.4). Perhaps as a result of this privileged status, the Armenians generally remained loyal to their Achaemenid overlords. It may have taken three campaigns to subdue Armenia in the chaotic period which attended Darius I’s accession to the Iranian throne, though even here, an Armenian, Dadarshish, commanded the Persian army. However, Armenian contingents under the leadership of Darius’s son-in-law Artochmes (Herod., 7.93) took part in the great expedition of Xerxes against Greece in 480 BCE, and they were still found 150 years later, in 331, supporting Darius III Codomanus against Alexander the Great at the battle of Gaugamela (Arrian, Anab. 3.8.5).

The clearest evidence for the interrelation of Iran and Armenia has been derived from a comparison of classical and eastern sources juxtaposed and interpreted by Manandian (1966, p. 36-38) and more particularly by Cyril Toumanoff (1963, pp. 277-305). These are: Strabo (11.14.15), the later semi-mythological material preserved in the History of Armenia by the Armenian historian Movs�s Xorenachi (MX, 2.27-46), the fragments of Hellenistic Greek graffiti found at Armawir on the left bank of the middle Araxes, and finally the genealogical inscription of king Antiochus I of Commagene (q.v.) at Nimrud Dagh from the middle of the first century BCE, in which he claimed descent from the Achaemenid kings. The result of their work revealed the presence of a forgotten native dynasty of Iranian origin, called “Eruandid” (cf. Av. auruuant- “mighty, hero;” Mid. Pers. arwand) by the Armenians from the repeated name of its rulers, or Orontid from the various awkward Greek transcriptions of their name�such as “Orontes Aruandes” or “Ardoates”�found in classical sources. The presence of this Iranian native dynasty can now be attested from at least 400 BCE, and it can be shown to have ruled, from the centers of Armawir and subsequently Eruanda�at (q.v.) on the middle Araxes with only a brief hiatus, until the first years of the Christian era.

Very little is known about Armenia’s early tribal society, beyond its agricultural wealth and absence of cities, as noted by Xenophon in the description of his journey across the Armenian plateau; but its ties to Iran are also clearly attested. We learn from Xenophon that the Armenians paid tribute to the Achaemenids. According to Strabo (11.14.9 [C 530]), they were particularly known for the prized horses that they raised and sent to Iran for the celebration of the Mithracina (see MEHRAGA�N). These statements are supported by the presence of male figures usually identified as Armenians, wearing the Persian or rather Median dress of short tunics and trousers and leading a horse, represented in the procession of gift-bearers figured on the great staircase at Persepolis (Ghirshman, 1964, p. 271, fig. 216), as well as by the discovery of silver gilt plates with the central relief of a horse raising his right foot in obeisance to a fire altar, found north of Armenia at Aramazis-xevi, near the early Georgian capital of Mtsxetha (Lang, 1966, p. 89, fig. 20).

Post-Achaemenid Period

The campaigns of Alexander shifted the position of Armenia for centuries from that of an intrinsic component part of the Achaemenid empire to that of a disputed borderland at the limit of the classical and the Iranian worlds. The strategic position of the region lying athwart the east-west military and trade routes, both along the valley of the Araxes leading from Iran to Cappadocia and more particularly through the Mesopotamian plain dominated by the Armenian plateau, made it far too important to permit its concession to a rival power. Alexander himself never entered the country, and the control of the plateau by his Seleucid successors was intermittent. Nevertheless, Armenia came under a powerful Hellenic influence that probably reached its zenith in the last century BCE at Tigran II the Great’s Greek-speaking court. Eponymous cities following the pattern of the ubiquitous Alexandrias, such as Artashat, Eruandashat, Zarishat, Zarehawan, Valar�apat, and Tigranakert, were founded in Armenia. The country’s Iranian base seems to have survived, however, since the names of the eponymous founders are invariably of Iranian origin. The reappearance of an “Orontes” as early as 316 BCE, and of a “Mithranes,” another member of the Eruandid house, even earlier (Toumanoff, 1963, p. 280), clearly demonstrates that the rule of this local dynasty of Iranian origin had survived, with hardly any interruption, the destruction of the Achaemenid empire by the Macedonian conquest.

According to Strabo (11.14.5), new dynasties were established in Araxene Armenia and its southwestern neighbor Sophene by Artaxias (Arm. Arta��s) and Zariadris (Arm. Zareh) at the end of the 2nd century BCE. He identifies both rulers as generals of the Seleucid king Antiochus III who had established themselves as a result of Antiochus’s defeat by the Romans in 188 BCE. However, the recent discovery in Armenia of boundary stones with Aramaic inscriptions, in which the ruler Arta��s proclaims himself “the son of Zareh” and an “Eruandid king” (Perikhanian, 1966), demonstrates that both “generals,” far from being Macedonians, belonged in fact to the earlier native dynasty, albeit probably to collateral branches, and that the Eruandids, or Artaxiad/Arta��sids as they came to be known, with their Iranian antecedents, continued to rule Armenia as before. An unexpected corroboration of this dynastic continuity is also provided by Xenophon’s much earlier choice of the name “Tigranes” for the crown prince of Armenia in his historical romance, the Cyropaedia (Xen., Cyr. 3.1.7).

Our information remains very meager concerning the history of the later Eruandid/Arta��sids, beyond the names of some of the rulers and occasional references, until the accession of Tigran the Great (96/5�55 BCE). Politically, these Armenian rulers were forced to resist the repeated, though short-lived, attempts of the Seleucids to establish their rule over the country, as well as the rising power of the Parthians, to whom Tigran himself had been sent in his youth as a hostage and to whom he had been forced to surrender seventy valleys to free himself at his accession (Strabo, 11.14.15). Even so, during Tigran’s reign in the first half of the last century BCE, Armenia briefly became the leading power of the East in the vacuum created by the decline of the Seleucids, as well as by the rivalry between Rome, temporarily distracted by the Mithridatic wars (see PONTUS), and the growing power of the Parthian empire.

The depth and pervasiveness of the very visible Hellenistic wave, which had broken over Armenia as well as the rest of the Near East in the wake of Alexander and produced problematic hybrid cultures, now appears to have been considerably less overpowering than had been assumed previously. Its unquestionable presence in Armenia and the opening of the country to world trade, evidenced by the presence of coin hoards, did not succeed in obliterating earlier Iranian traditions. Not only did the local Eruandid/Arta��sid dynasty survive the conqueror’s death by nearly three centuries, but Armenia maintained many of its political and cultural ties with the Iranian world. Achaemenid Aramaic remained the official written language of the Armenian chancellery. Intermarriages between the Iranian and Armenian royal houses continued to be celebrated with great pomp, as was that of the sister of the Armenian king Artawazd II to the Parthian prince Pacorus at which the head of Crassus was used during a performace of Euripides’ Bacchae (Plutarch, Crassus 33). In his description of the new capital of Tigranakert, Appian (Mithr. 12.94) noted that for all of its typical Hellenistic features, the new city was also flanked by a royal hunting preserve or “paradise” (MIr. pard�z) of purely Iranian type. Despite Tigran II’s use of Greek in the proclamation of his title, its formula “King of kings” was as Iranian as his own Eruandid name. The reverse of the king’s coins, on the famous silver tetradrachms commemorating his capture of Antioch on the Orontes in 84 BCE, displays a purely classical iconography; but on the obverse the king is represented wearing the tiara, decorated with pearls, of the Parthian rulers and marked with the symbolic star of the semi-divine Oriental monarchy (Der Nersessian, 1969, fig. 24); and there is some evidence for the existence of an epic about Tigran following an Iranian pattern.

Additional evidence for the Armenians’ share in the world of Iran is readily found in the realm of religion. In accordance with the syncretic fashion of the times, later Armenian authors, such as Agathangelos (Aa, secs. 785, 809) or Movs�s Xorenachi (MX, 2.12, 77) gave Greek equivalents for the names of the gods worshipped in Armenia during the Hellenistic period; but there can be little doubt that their identifications of Zeus/Aramazd, Artemis/Anahit, Apollo/Tir, Herakles/Vahagn (Av. Vәrәθragna), or Hephaistos/Mithra merely covered a purely Iranian pantheon, whose presence in Armenia has been minutely studied by James Russell (1987). The very name of the Eruandid holy city of Bagaran (< OIr. baga “god” + -d�na the Iranian suffix of place > Arm. �aran) points to the Iranian antecedents of the holy place. The same derivation is also to be found in numerous other Armenian toponyms such as Bagawan, Bagrewand, Bagayari�, whose meaning was still altogether clear to Christian Armenian writers of the 5th century CE (Aa, secs. 790, 817). Anahit/An�h�d/Ana�tis seems to have been especially reverenced, as she is usual styled “the lady” (Mid. Pers. b�n�g, Arm. tikin) in both Pahlavi and classical Armenian sources. Strabo (11.8.4 [C 512]; 11.14.16 [C532]) further describes a temple of Ana�tis erected by the Persians and the “exceptional honor” paid to the goddess by the Armenians, “who have built temples in her honor in different places, and especially in Acilisene.” These shrines were still known to later Armenian writers (Aa, secs. 48, 50, 53, 59, 127, 786). Strabo (1.2.39 [C46]) also mentions shrines called Iazoneia, which he mistakenly associates with a cult of Jason, but which may in fact have been sacred places whose name derived from OIr. yaz- “sacrifice,” although this interpretation has recently been questioned. The famous journey of the Parthian prince Trdat I for his coronation by Nero at Rome was greatly lengthened because the future king of Armenia, accompanied by Magian priests, insisted on traveling the entire way by land from fear of accidentally polluting the sea. Once in the capital, both adored the emperor “as I do Mithra”; and the prince is said to have initiated him into some of the Magian rites (Pliny, N.H. 30.6.16-17; Dio Cassius, 63. 5. 2). Excavations on the site of the Arta��sid capital of Arta�at, destroyed by the Romans and rebuilt with Nero’s permission after Trdat I’s coronation, have yielded, side by side with a statuette of clearly Hellenistic origin, a series of clay plaques with the representation of an idealized rider who must be Mithra the hunter (Garso�an, 1997, p. 15, figs. 3-4). At a much later date, the Christianizing message to the Armenians in the 5th-century CE work attributed to Agathangelos becomes comprehensible only if addressed to an audience familiar with the Zoroastrian epic tradition rather than classical mythology (Garso�an, 1985).

Parthian Period

With the establishment of Roman dominion in the eastern Mediterranean after the campaigns of Pompey and the end of the Seleucid dynasty in the mid-first century BCE, as well as with the disappearance of the Eruanid/Arta��sids at the very beginning of the Christian era, Armenia became for centuries an apple of discord for the Romans and the Iranians, be they Parthians or subsequently Sasanians; both sides vied with each other to place their candidate on the Armenian throne. According to the Roman historian Tacitus (Ann. 12.1), the Parthian king Vologeses (Arm. Valar�ak) considered the Armenian throne “once the property of his ancestors, now usurped by a foreign monarch by virtue of a crime”; but Armenia continued to see-saw for nearly four centuries in alternate allegiance between the Parthians and Rome. The Parthian Arsacid (Arm. Ar�akuni) dynasty, of Iranian origin, like its Eruandid/Arta��sid predecessor, which was eventually to hold the undisputed rule of the country, made its first appearance in Armenia with the king of kings Vonones, who established himself there in 12 CE after having been driven from the Iranian throne, although he did not succeed in maintaining himself there for more than three years. A period of war closed with the compromise accord of Rhandeia in 63 CE, which stipulated the accession in Armenia of a younger son of the Parthian Arsacid king, as long as he was crowned by the Roman emperor. This ceremony incidentally provides us, albeit in Greek translation, with the first recording of the formulaic attributes of the Iranian ruler: baxt ud xwarrah “good fortune and transcendental glory” (Dio Cassius, 62 [63].5.2). This compromise, whereby a junior line of the Parthan Arsacid house ruled Armenia as Roman clients, was not officially abrogated, although it was breached on several occasions: on the Roman side by the emperor Trajan, who annexed Armenia outright between 115 and 117 CE, by Antoninus Pius, who proclaimed on his coinage that he had “given a king to Armenia” (rex Armeniae datus), and by Marcus Aurelius, who seems to have stationed a garrison in the Armenian capital of Valar�apat in 164 for some twenty years. Similarly, the Sasanian ruler Sh�p�r I profited from his overwhelming defeat of the Roman emperor Valerian in 260 by installing two of his sons, Hormizd-Ardash�r and Narseh, on the Armenian throne, which was consequently held directly by Persia until 293 (�KZ, Parth., ll. 20-21; Paikuli, p. 28, sec. 3).

The Armenian Arsacids/Arshakuni

Insofar as we can judge from the chaotic situation reflected in the inadequate sources, Arsacid rulers held Armenia repeatedly during the first century CE. In fact, “for some one hundred and sixty five years [of the Parthian period]…thirteen sovereigns succeeded one another in Armenia, eight of whom were indeed Arsacid cadets” (Toumanoff, 1969, p. 233), whose blood relationship to the Parthian royal house is constantly stressed (Garso�an, 1981, pp. 36-37 and nn. 33, 35). Although they did not begin to consolidate themselves in the country, until the very end of the 2nd century CE, and even then precariously, the Armenian branch of the Parthian Arsacids was to rule the country almost continuously from the end of the following century to 428, despite the overthrow of their kinsmen in Iran by the Sasanian revolution two centuries earlier. In the eyes of the Armenian sources, the bond between the royal houses of Parthia and Armenia was indissoluble. Inflexibly the native authors use the terms ‘king’ and ‘Ar�akuni’ as interchangeable synonyms to the very end of the dynasty. They deny that any circumstance could deprive them of the crown or that anyone else, no matter how illustrious, might legitimately wear it. They exhort the Armenians to die for their “true Arsacid lords.” So deep was the identification of the Armenians with the Arsacid dynasty, that even in the period of its final decline early in the fifth century, the Sasanians usually conceded to them rulers from this house in order to insure their loyalty (BP, 6.1). Except for the occasional princes imposed by the Romans, none of whom succeeded in consolidating himself on the throne, all the dynasties to rule pre-Islamic Armenia were of Iranian stock.

The extreme political instability marking the history of Armenia in the first centuries of the Christian era does not seem to have affected its cultural identity. We have only glimpses of the situation within the country in this period, but these indices, which coincide with some customs and institutions that are far better attested in the subsequent 4th and 5th centuries, continue to reflect a thoroughly Iranized society persisting despite the political upheavals of war. Tacitus (Ann. 2.56) shrewdly observed that even early in the 1st century CE, long before the consolidation of the Arsacid dynasty in Armenia, the Roman candidate to the Armenian throne, prince Zeno of Pontus, wisely changed his Greek name to the more acceptable one of Artaxias/Arta��s upon his accession; and he endeared himself to his new subjects by his taste for hunting and banquets, the only two pastimes suitable for a nobleman in the Iranian world. The 120 “strategies” into which Armenia was subdivided at the time, according to Pliny the Elder (N.H. 6.10.27) and to which he refers as “kingdoms” (regna) were presumably the dynastic principalities of the great magnate; and as such they reflect the decentralized pattern of the Parthian period in Iran. The four kings who are said to have attended Tigran the Great at all times (Plutarch, Lucul. 21.5) may be the prefigurations of the four great keepers of the marches or bdea�xs of later Arsacid Armenia. The hereditary claim of the Armenian Arsacid monarchy to the throne of its ancestors and the dominant power of the “magnates,” called megisthanes or nobiles by Tacitus, all bespeak an aristocratic society of Iranian type in no way compatible with the theoretically republican Roman world.

The first of the two major events which altered significantly the relations of Armenia to Iran was the overthrow of the last Parthian Arsacid ruler Ardaw�n V by the Sasanian Ardash�r I early in the 3rd century CE; the second one followed nearly one hundred years later�the Christianization of the country. Although the “Sasanian revolution” did not interrupt the Arsacids’ rule over Armenia, its immediate result was to transform its Arsacid rulers from relatives of the Iranian royal house into enemies and avengers, as the Armenian king was said to have sworn “[to] seek vengeance for the blood of Artawan” (Aa, sec. 19). This enmity unquestionably pushed the Armenian rulers in the direction of the Romans, though they continued to vacillate in their allegiance. It led to repeated Armeno-Sasanian wars during the 3rd and 4th centuries, culminating in the disastrous campaign of Sh�p�r II in 363/4. Armenia was overrun; its Arsacid king Ar�ak II was deported to die in the Castle of Oblivion in Khuzistan, and all of the country’s earlier Hellenistic cities were destroyed. Armenia briefly recovered under his son Pap, with some help from the Romans, but soon agreed to collaborate with the S�r�n sent by the Sasanians as marzpan “governor” of the country after Pap’s murder, in cooperation with the powerful commander-in-chief of the realm, Manu�l Mamikonean, who acted as regent for the widowed queen and her minor sons.

The Marzpanate

The final solution for the endemic enmity of Rome and Iran over the control of Armenia finally came with the replacement of the unsatisfactory compromise of Rhandeia by the outright partition of the Armenian kingdom between the two great powers ca. 387, in which the overwhelmingly larger part, some four-fifths of the realm, was conceded to the Sasanians. The abolition of the Arsacid monarchy followed soon thereafter: in ca. 390 on the Roman side and by 428 in the Sasanian portion, which was soon to take the name of Persarmenia. The subsequent period, which was to last until the downfall of the Sasanians in the mid-7th century, is known in Armenian history as that of the Marzpanate [Marzpetuthiwn]. The earlier “ignobile decretum” of Jovian in 363 (Amm. Marc., 25.7.12-13) abandoning his client Ar�ak II to the Persians had already tightened the Sasanians’ hold on Persarmenia. It returned to them the eastern portion of the semi-autonomous, southern Armenian principalities lying along the eastern Euphrates/Arsanias (mod. Murad su), commonly known as the Satrapies or ethn�/gentes, which had been lost to the Romans by the earlier Peace of Nisibis of 299 CE. Following the 3rd-century example of Sh�p�r I, Yazdgird I even went so far as to impose his son as direct ruler of Armenia at the beginning of the 5th century (MX, 3.55-56). But the young prince’s reign was brief, and the Sasanians thereafter ruled Persarmenia through marzpans, a number of whom were local Armenian princes. Sigillography also attests the sporadic presence in Armenia of Sasanian military and finance officials, several of whom belonged to the great Iranian house of the Mihr�n (Gyselen, 2001a, pp. 44-45; eadem, 2002, pp. 110-11, 120-21, 131-32). Persarmenia was not only by far the largest portion of the Armenian lands until 591, when Xusrow II surrendered much of it for a time to the emperor Maurice, it was the political, religious, and intellectual center of the Armenian world. Duin, its administrative center and the normal residence of the marzpan, was also the seat of the Armenian patriarch or katholikos from the end of the 5th century, as well as a major center for international trade (Proc., Pers. 2.25.3). The creation of the Armenian alphabet and the consequent development of its early literature, as well as the elaboration of its ecclesiastical doctrine, likewise took place within the territory of the Marzpanate and not in the portion of the country under Roman control.

The restlessness of the Armenia magnates, who jealously guarded their prerogatives against any hint of encroachment, at first on the part of their own Arsacid dynasty, whose abolition they themselves had requested from the Persian king (MX, 3.63-64), now turned them against the Sasanians’ centralizing attempts threatening their privileges; and they revolted repeatedly through most of the period of the Marzpanate. The major rebellion in 450/1 resulted from Yazdgird II’s attempt to force Zoroastrianism on an already Christian Armenia; but its sequel in 482, and especially that of 571/2, inaugurated by the murder of the Persian marzpan, do not seem to have had the same exclusively religious basis. The first ecclesiastical historians, writing in Armenian some two generations after the end of the Arsacid kingdom and the disastrous defeat of 451, understandably stressed the enmity of the Armenians to the Sasanians and exalted the rebels as Christian Maccabees and martyrs for the faith (BP, 3.11). However, the actual situation does not seem to have been so simple. Even after crushing the great Armenian revolt of 451, the Sasanian court, possibly distracted by the Hephthalite (q.v.; “Kushan” in the Armenian sources) threat on their eastern border, made no attempt to pursue religious repression. Rather, it sent a marzpan, whose name Atrormizd Ar�akan indicates his descent from the former Parthian dynasty, with instructions “not to disturb the Armenian populace but to subdue it peacefully and allow everyone to practice Christianity freely” (�Ph, 2.40), in direct reversal of the very policy that had provoked the rebellion. One generation later, the leader of the rebellion, prince Vahan Mamikonean, was recognized by the Persian court as marzpan of the country; and religious as well as political autonomy was granted to Armenia in 485. At various other times also the Persian marzpans were in fact native Armenian princes, and no attempts seem to have been made to destroy local titles and institutions (Garso�an, in press). In response the Armenians often displayed their loyalty to Persia. The Armenian elite cavalry seems to have served regularly in the Sasanian army during its eastern campaigns (Ps. Seb., 11, 28). According to the 7th-century History of the Pseudo-Seb�os, the Armenian commander Mu�el Mamikonean withstood the blandishments of Bahr�m �owb�n and would not support his struggle for the throne against Xusrow II in 591 (Ps. Seb., 11). The last great Sasanian reign of Xusrow II Parv�z proved to be one of particularly felicitous relations between Iran and Armenia, as the latter flourished under the supervision of the king’s favorite, Prince Smbat Bagratuni, called Xosrov �um “the joy of Xosrov” (Mid. Pers. x�n�m) by contemporary Armenian sources (Ps. Seb., 28).

Most significantly, no cultural break seems to have gone hand in hand with the dynastic change in Iran and the attendant political antagonism in Armenia. The exact status of Armenia vis-a�-vis Iran does not seem to have changed greatly and remained ambiguous, as had been the case much earlier under the Achaemenids. In the great trilingual inscription celebrating his victories over the Romans at Naqsh-e Rostam, Sh�p�r I claimed that “Of the Aryan Empire [MIr. �r�n�ahr] the principalities and provinces (are) these: Pars, Parthia, … Armenia …” (�KZ, Parth., l. 1). An inclusion confirmed by the Letter of Tansar (p. 63), which defined “the land called Persia … from the river of Balkh to the furthermost boundaries of the land of Adarb�ig�n and Persarmenia.” However, the great mowbad Kerd�r (q.v.) included Armenia in “the region of non-�r�n, …where the horses and men of the King of kings penetrated” (KKZ, p. 71, l. 15); and one generation later the king of kings Narseh twice underscored the separation of the two realms in his inscription at Paikuli, when speaking of his move “from Armenia hither to �r�n�ahr” (Paikuli, p. 35, secs. 18, 20).

Despite this ambiguity, however, Armenia even in this period remained closer to Iran than to Rome. The late Roman historian Ammianus Marcellinus might call the Armenian king Ar�ak II, “our constant and faithful friend” (Amm. Marc., 25.7.12-13); but Armenia, lying beyond the Euphrates frontier, remained a foreign land, its annexation by Trajan an act of conquest. On the contrary, even for the Sasanians, as for the Parthians before them, Armenia claimed as an ancestral land required particular care. In justifying the inauguration of his second campaign against the Romans, Sh�p�r I complained that, “Caesar, secondly, lied and did wrong to Armenia” (�KZ, Parth., 1.5). Possibly self-servingly, the late 5th century Armenian historian writing under the Greek pseudonym of Agathangelos affirmed that: “whoever was king of Armenia had second rank in the Persian kingdom” (Aa, sec. 18). This assertion was to be corroborated, for the Sasanian period as well, by the contemporary compiler of the Epic Histories (Buzandaran Patmuthiwnkh), formerly mistakenly attributed to an otherwise unknown Phawstos Buzand or Faustus of Byzantium:

Shapuh king of Persia [Sh�hp�r II] invited Ar�ak king of Armenia, whom he honoured with the greatest deference and glory [phar�kh] … and with full royal pomp. He treated him as a brother, like a son and gave him the second domain in the realm of Atrpatakan. And they reclined together on one and the same banqueting throne in the hour of festivity, and they wore the same garments of the same colour with the same insignia and ornaments. And day after day the Persian king prepared the same crown for himself and for him. Linked together like two indivisible blood-brothers, they enjoyed themselves jointly at festivals. (BP, 4.16)

We have no explicit evidence on the Persian side that the Armenian king ranked immediately after the Iranian king of kings, but the title of wuzurg “great” used by Sh�p�r I for his son Hormizd-Ardashir “wuzurg Armen�n ��h” is not repeated for his other sons ruling elsewhere (�KZ, Parth., ll. 20-21). In 293 CE, Narseh found Armenia the final stepping stone to the throne of the king of kings (Paikuli, p. 32, sec. 13; p. 35, secs. 18-19), as had Darius III Codomanus, long before him, in 336 BCE (Justin, 10.3.3-5; Diod. Sic., 17.6). On their side, the Armenian magnates as well as the royal dynasty and even the family of the Christian patriarch prided themselves on their descent from the great Iranian houses of the royal Arsacids, the Sur�n-Pahlav or the K�ren-Pahlav. In the opinion of the Armenian historian Movs�s Xorenachi, the last representative of the patriarchal Gregorid house, Saint Sahak, “was greatly honored [by the Persian king during his visit to the court at Ctesiphon] first, because of his noble Pahlavik family” and only then because of the reverence due to God’s servants (MX, 3.51; cf. 3.64).

Social structure

So far only minor and disconnected yet tantalizing glimpses have been available for the earlier period of Armenian society, going as far back as Seleucid times, during which its basic institutions seemingly first arose. The curiously anachronistic continuity of a Parthian society in Armenia long after its replacement in Iran by its Sasanian successors was first clarified by the extensive linguistic studies of Emile Benveniste, who demonstrated that the linkage of the overwhelmingly large number of Iranian loanwords in classical Armenian is to Middle Parthian rather than to Sasanian Pahlavi forms. The striking similarities of the two, which have permitted the reconstitution of a considerable number of lost Middle Parthian words from their Armenian derivatives, identify this period as the one of particularly close contact and cultural penetration between the two societies.

Similarly, the iconography and ideology of Iranian and Armenian societies were so close at times, despite the absence of chronological synchronism in the political sphere, that the juxtaposition of examples taken from the two sides can serve to supplement the deficiencies of Sasanian written sources and of Armenian monuments during this period, thus providing what may be called a single illustrated document (Garso�an, 1997, pp. 19-23). Even so, the chronological discrepancies manifest themselves visually. On the numerous surviving steles Armenian noblemen invariably wear the typical Parthian trousers and characteristic tunic with longer pointed sides as late as the 7th century CE (ibid., p. 17, figs. 7-8).

Finally, these similarities and their continuity beyond the point of political association can best be traced in our main source for this study, the almost contemporary Epic Histories, which probably date from the 470s CE, whose reliance on the oral tradition preserving the folk memory reveal a far more accurate picture of late Arsacid and Marzpan Armenia than can be gained from more learned authors. They too reveal the image of an unmistakably aristocratic society of Iranian type, but a largely anachronistic, primarily Parthian one, displaying none of the centralizing elements seemingly introduced by the Sasanians (Garso�an, 1976). As such, their information further permits the partial reconstruction of institutions characteristic of the all but lost Parthian period in Iran, for which we have almost no native sources.

The three main estates in Armenia, that of the “magnates” (mecamec naxarars), that of the lesser nobility (azat), and what may be called the third estate, consisting of the “artisans” (r�amiks) and “peasants” (�inakans), correspond precisely to the Iranian wuzurg�n, �z�d�n, and vastrow��n “farmers.” Only the Sasanian administrative fourth estate of the “clerks” (sing. dab�r, Arm. dpir) is missing in Armenia; its function possibly was taken over by the Christian clergy. The foundations of both societies were the great noble families, of whom some fifty can be identified by name in 4th-5th century Armenia, and whose power, at least in Armenia, and probably in Parthian Iran, did not derive from the authority or will of the king, who was but primus inter pares. At the head of each of these families was its senior member, called in Armenian nahapet or more commonly tanut�r “lord of the house,” a title to which Rika Gyselen has found the precise Pahlavi equivalent kadag-xwad�y on a late Sasanian seal (Gyselen, 2001a, pp. 61-68). The economic basis of these clans lay in their possession of vast, unalienable principalities belonging to the “eternal family,” past, present, and future, of which the tanut�r, who led its “contingent” (gund) in battle, was the temporary administrator, but not the owner, and which he consequently could not transmit or dispose of in any way. Perhaps still more important were the hereditary offices held by the chief houses, which were reserved exclusively to each. Thus, the title and office of “commander-in-chief” of the Armenian army or sparapet (< OIr.*sp�dapati, cf. NPers. sip�hbad) could belong to no one except a member of the great Mamikonean house, even if its only representative was a small child patently incapable of fulfilling its duties and for whom temporary substitutes had to be appointed. For he was the heir of the house and the only one entitled to its insignia and privileges (BP, 3.11). Even the king’s manifest will could not alter the hereditary nature of this transmission, and his interference could end only in failure and tragedy:

… when Manu�l [Mamikonean] reached the land of Armenia … Va�h�, who had previously been nahapet before his return, saw him, he handed over to him the princely diadem that he had received from King Varazdat because [Manu�l] was the senior member of the clan. And so Manu�l held the dignity of nahpet-tanut�r of the clan and Va�h� was in second place. And when Manu�l had attained the glory of his lordship [tanut�ruthiwn], he first seized the office of sparapet and commander-in-chief without an order from King Varazdat. Manu�l took back for himself the authority that his ancestors had held by nature from the beginning and which King Varazdat had granted to his tutor Bat. (BP. 5.37)

The position of the Mamikoneans in Armenia was thus the precise equivalent of that of the Sur�ns in Iran, whose hereditary dignity proved incomprehensible to classical historians such as Ammianus Marcellinus, who could not decide whether “Surena” was a family name or the title of an office. The same confusion is found later in the case of the Bagratuni princes, whose hereditary office in Armenia during the Arsacid period was that of aspet “master-of-the-horse,” and whose Byzantine descendants were known as the “Aspetianoi” to the Byzantine historian Procopius (Proc., Pers. 3.12). The very terms for the various high offices in classical Armenian are identical with those found in Iran: sparapet-sp�hbad, aspet-*aspapati, hazarapet-haz�rbad “second after the king,” and others; these, as is the case with most of the Armenian administrative vocabulary, are unmistakably borrowed from Iranian terminology.

Theoretically equal in status, since they belonged to the same estate, these noble families were in practice ranked according to a rigid hierarchy governing the gah “throne” or “cushion” (< OIr. g�u-), occupied by their representatives at court banquets. These correspond to the differing “entrance- and drinking places, sitting- and standing places … according to the dignity of each man’s rank” set by the king of kings, according to the Letter of Tansar (p. 44; Garso�an, 1997, p. 13, figs. 1-2). The precise order of this hierarchy cannot be reconstructed, since the surviving Armenian “Rank List” (Gahnamak), of which the original was said to have been kept in the Sasanian court archives (MX, 3.51), is a late document of dubious authenticity; but the Epic Histories define the return home to normalcy after a period of crisis as the time when “every magnate [was] on his throne” (BP, 4.2). The Armenian sources stress the rage of the Arsacid king Ar�ak when driven from his share of the royal couch at the Persian court to the lowest place (BP, 4.54) and that of prince Andovk of Siunikh, relegated to the fourteenth cushion far below his dignity (MD, 2.1). It is the same range as that of the Iranian epic hero Rostam humiliated by the inferior place unworthy of his rank assigned to him at the banquet of Esfandi�r (Sh�hnameh xv, vol. IV, pp. 492-93).

The Iranian aspects of Early-Christian Armenia were not merely reserved to these social and official aspects; they pervaded the whole of its culture. The cities built in the Hellenistic period under Greek influence and destroyed by the great Persian invasion of 364 were not rebuilt, as unsuitable for an aristocratic society; its magnates preferred to remain entrenched in the fortresses of their distant domains far from the arm of the king (Garso�an, 1987), thus perpetuating the non-urban, Parthian, centrifugal pattern rather than that of the new “royal cities” used by the Sasanians as means for strengthening the direct authority of the ruler (Gnoli, 1989, p. 157). The Armenian kings themselves, far from residing normally in their capitals, continued to lay out hunting preserves or partez (BP, 3.8), such as Tigran the Great had once created near Tigranakert and as still can be seen in the reliefs at T�q-e Bost�n (Ghirshman, 1962, pp. 194-99, figs. 236-38). They chose to move about the country making use of rich and elaborate, but transportable, tents or pavilions, such as the ones (ma�kapa�en, ma�kawarzan) used by the Persian king in his travels and campaigns (BP, 3.21, 4.15). As in earlier times, the only acceptable diversions for kings and nobles were banquets and the hunt; and like his Iranian counterpart, the Armenian king, when in mourning, refrained from hunting (Aa, sec. 211; Suet., Calig. 5).

Most outward features of the nobility spelled out its Iranian antecedents and counterparts. The entire early Armenian anthroponymy, ecclesiastical as well as secular, is riddled with Iranian names, whether understandably in the Arsacid royal house�Trdat, Tiran, Ar�ak, Pap, Varazdat, Valar�ak, Vram�apuh, Xosrov, Vardanuhi, Xosroviduxt, Banbi�n�or more unexpectedly in that of the Mamikonean, martyrs par excellence for the Christian fait h�Artawazd, Vardan, Vahan, Vasak, Hmayeak, Hamazaspuhi. The same is surprisingly true for the Christian clerics, among whom names drawn from the general Judeo-Christian fund are remarkably rare, both in the patriarchal house of Saint Gregory the Illuminator with its Aristak�s, Vrthtan�s, Yusik, Ners�s, Pap, and still more startingly in the unsuitable names of the co-presidents of the great church council held at the patriarchal residence of Duin in 555: the katholikos Ners�s II and bishop of Mer�apuh/Mihr-Sh�p�r of Tarown (Garso�an, 1996, pp. 229-32). In peacetime the aristocracy apparently continued to wear the Parthian dress depicted on steles, but its military armament was clearly Sasanian. Mounted on horseback, heavily armored (as were their steeds), charging with a long lance, but carrying two swords and a bow as well, the Armenian elite cavalry presented the same aspect as the warriors on the monumental Sasanian reliefs at Naqsh-e Rostam (Ghirshman, 1962, pp. 177-79, figs. 219-20). The menacing presence of the sparapet Manu�l Mamikonean, lance in hand, is described: “in the greatness of his stature, the splendor of his person, the extremely strong and impenetrable iron armor [that covered him] from head to foot, also the robustness of his person and the solidarity of his armor-clad charger also bearing indestructible trappings” (BP, 5.37). This description might as easily fit the formidable royal figure in the lower register of the cave at T�q-e Bost�n (Ghirshman, 1962, p. 192, fig. 235).

Political Theory and Ideology

Reaching beyond outward manifestations, Arsacid Armenia in both Parthian and Sasanian times shared in the political, and especially the religious and epic, ideology of the Iranian world; and it is in this area that the closest and most striking similarities are to be found.

The Iranian rulers carefully traced their hereditary descent. Early on, Darius boasted: “I am Darius the Great King of Kings, King of Persia, King of Countries, son of Hystaspes, grandson of Arsames, an Achaemenian. Saith Darius the King. My father was Hystaspes; Hystaspes’ father was Arsames; Ars�mes’ father was �ri�ramnes; �ri�ramnes’ father was Teispes; Teispes’ father was Achemenes. Saith Darius the King: for this reason we are called Achaemenians. From long ago we have been nobles. From long ago our family have been kings” (DB 1.1-8; Kent, Old Persian, p. 119).

Some seven centuries later, Sh�p�r I wrote: “I [am] the Mazda-worshipping divinity [bag] Shahpuhr. King of Kings of Aryans and non-Aryans, who is of the stock of the gods, son of the Mazda-worshipping divinity Artakh�atr, King of Kings of the Aryans who is of the stock of the gods, grandson of the divinity Papak, King” (�KZ, Parth. l. 1).

So too, the Armenian Arsacids regularly transmitted the crown in hereditary succession from father to son, and on the eve of their conversion to Christianity still sought: “greeting and prosperity by the help of the gods … protection [for us] from our heroic Parthians, from the glory (phar�kh) of [our] kings and from [our] valiant [kha�] ancestors” (Aa, sec. 127). This formula interestingly is omitted in the Greek version of this text by its translator, to whom its Iranian ideology was probably incomprehensible. Even Christian authors writing after the fall of the dynasty would deny that any but the Arsacids could be the ‘true lords’ of Armenia. Thus a rigidly hereditary base for the royal power distinguished both the Iranian and Armenian kings from classical rulers, who were, at least de jure, elected magistrates to the very end of the Roman imperial tradition.

Hailed as Helios “the Sun” (Toumanoff, 1963, pp. 477-78), as his Sasanian counterpart was “the brother of the Sun and Moon” (Amm. Marc., 17.5.3), endowed with supernatural strength, like the elephant-bodied Rostam (Sh�hn�meh vii, vol. I, p. 278); Aa, secs. 42, 123, 767), the Armenian Arsacid king received his legitimacy and power from the Zoroastrian deity Vәrәθragna (Arm. Vahagn) the giver of victory and the companion of Mithra whom he invoked directly: “May… valour come [to you] from valiant Vahagn” (Aa, sec. 127). Through this divine mandate, the Armenian kings, even after their conversion to Christianity, as well as the Iranian rulers, were endowed with “valor” (kha�uthiwn), “good fortune” (baxt), and especially the “transcendental glory” (Mid. Pers. xwarrah, Arm. phar�kh) which rendered the Iranian ruler legitimate and invincible, as is evidenced in the K�rn�mag � Arda��r (ed. Antia, 5.8-14, 12.4). This “kingly glory” could manifest itself even in the king’s absence or after his death and abandoned him only for his sins, as in the case of Yazdgird I “the Sinner” (Sh�hn�meh xxxiv, vol. V, pp. 415-19; cf. Zamy�d Ya�t [Yt. 19] 34). These purely Iranian concepts were so deeply ingrained in Armenian tradition that they were still familiar and understandable to the Christian author of the Epic Histories, who clearly shared these beliefs, although he brands them as “heathen”:

[The Persians] opened the tombs of the former kings of Armenia, of the most valiant [kha�] Ar�akuni and they carried off into captivity the bones of the kings … For they said, according to their heathen beliefs: “This is the reason that we are taking the bones of the Armenian kings to our realm: that the glory [phar�kh] and the fortune [baxt] and valor [kha�uthiwn] of this realm might go from here with the bones of the kings and enter into our realm. (BP, 4.24)

Equally familiar to him was the concept of the protection given by the “kingly glory,” which could manifest itself even in the absence of the ruler, as is evident from his citation of what may have been a lost paean to the Armenian, king Ar�ak:

Shapuh king of Persia… wondered at the valor [kha�uthiwn] the fighting contingents displayed before him and said: “I marvel… at the steadfast devotion of the Armenian contingent in its love for its lord. For so many years have passed since Ar�ak their lord has been lost to them, and yet, they were inspired by him in battle. And whenever they struck down their foe, they ever cried out: ‘To Ar�ak!’, and yet he was not among them. But because of the devotion they bore to their own true lord, they dedicated to him every foe that they slew … And so many years have passed since Ar�ak their lord has been lost to them, for he lies in the castle of Andme� [Ir. Andm�] in the land of Xu�astan, yet they, in their piety, believed that he stood at their head as their king, that he stood with them in the midst of the host [gund], at the head of the fray, and that they performed their service to him in his very presence.” (BP, 5.5)

This passage is all the more constant with epic Iranian beliefs in that it invokes the “glory” of the absent, captive king Ar�ak and not that of his son the reigning king Pap, whose devotion from birth to the power of the devs made him unworthy of this divine attribute.

In this epic world, the hunt and the banquet rose above aristocratic diversion or social settings in which noble rank could most easily be displayed, to a transcendental level. The hunt was the setting par excellence of the hero in the Iranian world both real and legendary (Harper, 1978). The man on horseback was not merely a social superior. The horse of the evildoer stumbled at the critical moment. The first apocalyptic sign of the world turned upside down in the vision of the Zoroastrian J�m�sp N�mag was that “a horseman will become a man on foot, and the man on foot a horseman.” In his official representations on numerous Sasanian silver plates, the hunting king, on horseback, wearing all his supernatural attributes�the halo, the crescent moon set on his crown, and the symbolic floating ribbons of the xwarrah (Garso�an, 1997, p. 23, fig. 14)�unmistakably displayed the full majesty of his “glory.” For the hunt in the Iranian epic tradition was not merely the locus of the “transcendental glory,” it was simultaneously the setting for the heroic apotheosis of the royal hunter (Garso�an, 1997, p. 24, fig. 15). It is consequently of particular significance as a sign of the depth of penetration of Iranian culture into that of Armenia that we find the precise conjunction of (1) the iconography of the Sasanian hunting kings on their own silver cups and (2) the transcendental ideology underlying that iconography, in the Epic Histories’ description of the apotheosis, for his valor and nobility, of the Armenian hero Mushel Mamikonean:

In those days, Mushel possessed a charger, a white steed. And whenever Shapuh, king of Persia took [a cup] of wine in his hand to drink in the hour of festivity, as he entertained his forces, he would say: “Let the rider of the white horse drink!” And he ordered a cup decorated with the portrait of Mu�el with his white steed, and in the hour of festivity he placed the cup in front of himself and constantly he remembered, repeating the same words: “Let the rider of the white horse drink!” (BP, V.ii)

The same setting for the royal apotheosis rather than a scene of secular entertainment was provided by the banquet, where the Iranian ruler was also represented adorned with the crescented crown and undulating ribbons of the xwarrah (Ghirshman, 1962, p 218, fig. 259). Its eschatological implications as a prefiguration of the banquet of eternity appear in both the final banquet concluding Mithra’s terrestrial exploits and the heavenly vision of a golden throne dominating a banquet described in Kerd�r’s inscription at Sar Mashhad (KSM, p. 98, ll. 32-34). The two themes of the hunt and the banquet in which the king and the hero sheds his mortal form to reveal his supernatural attributes are constantly joined on Sasanian silverware and in the epic traditions of both Iran and Armenia. They are explicitly linked on the silver plate from Strelka (Garso�an, 1997, p. 13, fig. 2) and in the twin Parthian frescoes of the heroic hunt and the funerary banquet at Dura Europos (Ghirshman, 1962, pp. 49-50, fig. 62; p. 54, fig. 67). In the contemporary Armenian Epic Histories, all the crucial events of the king’s or the hero’s life and especially his death�suicide or murder�occur either on the hunt or at banquets, coinciding with the moment of apotheosis and thus, in the last case, raising the horror of the scene from the level of a crime to that of sacrilege (Garso�an, 1981, pp. 47-64). As in Iran, the two settings are commonly linked, so that the apotheosis of Mu�el “the rider of the white horse” takes place “in the hour of festivity.”

The Christian period

The event which unquestionably had the greatest effect in the separation of Armenia from the Iranian world to which it was so closely tied was the Christianization of Arsacid Greater Armenia at the beginning of the 4th century. Earliest Christianity had probably reached the southern regions of Armenia and of the semi-autonomous Satrapies of the south in the 3rd century and had come to them by way of Mesopotamia from Edessa and ultimately Antioch. The main current, however, which led to the conversion of the Arsacid monarchy and was ultimately to become the dominant one in the Armenian Church, reached the country from Cappadocia to the west and was associated with the mission of Saint Gregory the Illuminator, who was consecrated patriarch of Armenia by the bishop of Caesarea of Cappadocia, probably in 314 rather than the traditional 301. As a consequence, the Armenian State Church remained at first tied to Caesarea, where its patriarchs continued to be consecrated until the latter part of the 4th century, and its orientation was toward the Greek-speaking Christianity of the Byzantine empire, rather than to the Orient.

The Christianization of Armenia obviously separated it once and for all from the Zoroastrian world of which it had formerly been a part, even though its mythology had sunk so deep in the Armenian popular tradition that early Christian writers were apparently forced to alter Biblical stories in order to make their evangelizing mission comprehensible to their hearers (Garso�an, 1985); and the Armenian patriarch still shared officially the title of Zoroastrian mowbads: “Defender of the dispossessed” (Mid. Pers. drigow��n j�takgoww, Arm. j) as late as the second half of the 4th century (Garso�an, 1981, pp. 21-32). Nevertheless, Christian Armenia gradually drew back from the Persian spiritual tradition; and its opposition to the religion of the Sasanian empire was not limited to its official Zoroastrianism but soon progressed to include the Christian Church of the Orient, usually misnamed the Church of Persia, which was officially recognized by the Sasanian state at the Council of Seleucia-Ctesiphon in 410 (SO, pp. 253-75).

We have no evidence that the Armenian Church was ever considered part of the Church of the Orient, although the Persian katholikos was styled on occasion: “Father, head and director of all the bishops of the East” entrusted with the spiritual and canonical direction and ordinations “for every country and every city of the entire territory of the Persian empire, the rest of the East, and the neighboring countries (SO, pp. 285-87, 319-20), which should naturally have included Persarmenia. Greater Armenia was not mentioned in the hierarchical list of the Church of the Orient promulgated in the twenty-first canon of the council of 410 (SO, p. 272). No Armenian bishop ever attended any of the Persian councils, although the bishops of some of the Satrapies bordering on Mesopotamia were listed at the council of 410 as suffragans of the Persian metropolitan sees of Nisibis and Arbela, and their titulars usually, but not always, participated in the Persian councils.

This administrative separation of the two Churches may at first have resulted from the Armenian orientation toward Caesarea of Cappadocia; but by 410, when the Church of the Orient emerged as a religio licita in the Sasanian empire, the Armenian Church was no longer dependent on Caesarea and considered itself autocephalous. Part of this alienation may have been due to a fundamental difference in ecclesiastical structure. Organized under the direction of the Byzantine bishop of Marutha of Martyropolis/Miyafarqin, the Church of the East shared the western practice of geographical sees identified with a particular city and sharing the hierarchical status of that city, in a pattern prefiguring the one promulgated more than one generation later in the twenty-eighth canon of the Council of Chalcedon of 451. Following the secular hierarchy of the state, the bishop of the capital of Seleucia-Ctesiphon became automatically the head of the Church of the East; he and the other bishops were chosen and their status ratified by the ruler. The anachronistic, Parthian, non-urban, and decentralized pattern of Armenian society could not be adapted to this type of hierarchy, which ran counter to its traditions and would have fostered an unacceptable control by the central authorities. Until the Arab conquest, the early Armenian ecclesiastical hierarchy remained inextricably enmeshed in the para-feudal nexus of its society, and Armenian bishops were wholly identified with the families of the magnates of which they were the members and ecclesiastical representatives, just as the tanut�r was their military leader and administrator. Like any other hereditary office, the patriarchate passed from father to son in the house of Saint Gregory the Illuminator until the death of its last direct male descendant in 438, and no other candidate could be considered as long as a member of the Gregorid house was available (BP, 3.13, 15, 17,19). As late as the seventh century, an Armenian prince could still be cited as referring to “the bishop of his house” (Ps. Seb., 23), and surviving conciliar lists show that these family bishops invariably signed conciliar decisions in the name of their clan (Garso�an, 1999, pp. 439, 476-77).

Even more fundamental was the doctrinal opposition which developed between the two churches. At first, the Armenian Church, especially in its southern portion still strongly under the influence of Antiochene Christianity, as was the Church of the Orient, seems to have shared its Christology, which tended to divide the divine and human natures in the person of the incarnate Logos. Although the Sasanian Church separated itself from Antioch, as well as from all the “Western fathers,” at its council of 424, it maintained and eventually adopted officially the dyophysite Christology of the Antiochene School which became identified with the doctrine of bishop Theodore of Mopsuestia. As the northern hellenophile party came to dominate the Armenian Church and the Ecumenical Council of Ephesus condemned dyophysite Christology as heretical in 431, the Armenians accepted the decision of Ephesus and formally anathematized the dyophysites at its councils of 506 and 555, thus creating an impassable breach between itself and the Church of the Orient.

Bitter as was the separation between the Armenian and Sasanian Churches, however, it did not extend into the secular sphere to the Sasanian state itself. As a resident on Persian territory, even after the Byzantine frontier was shifted eastward in 591 by Xusrow II’s cession of most of his Armenian lands to the Byzantine empire, the Armenian patriarch, as a subject of the king of kings, was in no position to disregard his will. During the entire period of the Marzapanate, even after the grant of religious autonomy to Armenia in 485, the Armenian Church recognized Sasanian secular jurisdiction even in ecclesiastical matters. The invariable dating of the Acts of every Armenian council by the regnal year of the current Persian monarch demonstrates ipso facto the recognition of his ultimate sovereign rights (Garso�an, 1999, pp. 55-57, 412, 514).

More immediately, the organizing Council of Seleucia-Ctesiphon of 410 had granted to the Persian king, even though he was not a Christian, the same rights as the Council of Nicea had conceded to the Orthodox emperor in 325, among them, that of ratifying all episcopal elections. This right apparently extended to Armenia, since we are told that Sh�p�r II was angered when the Armenian king, Xosrov III/IV, appointed as patriarch Saint Sahak the Great in 387 without the authorization of the Sasanian ruler (MX, 3.1), even though according to Armenian tradition, Sahak, the last descendant of the house of Saint Gregory the Illuminator, was the only person then entitled to this office, which was hereditary in his family. Going further, at the time that he put an end to the Armenian Arsacid dynasty in 428, Bahr�m V simultaneously deposed Saint Sahak from most of the functions of his office, exiled him to his own estates, and replace him with an Armenian, followed by two Syrians. The Armenians apparently accepted this high-handed interference in their ecclesiastical affairs, since the native sources, while giving unedifying accounts of the morals of the Syrian antipatriarchs, never question the Persian king’s right to appoint them (MX, 3.64, 66). More particularly, after Sahak’s death, the same sources never refer to his successor Joseph, chosen without the ratification of the Persian court, as katholikos, but only as “a certain priest” (MX, 3.67), who, “although he was by ordination [only] a priest, yet at the time held the throne of the katholikate of Armenia” (�Ph, 1.23, 43)�this despite the fact that they do not hesitate to refer to Joseph as “holy” or “saint.” More than a century after the grant of religious autonomy to Armenia in 485, king Xusrow II had his Armenian favorite, prince Smbat Bagratuni, summon the council which elected the new katholikos Abraham I in 607 after a three years’ hiatus following the death of his predecessor. Despite the total doctrinal break between their two Churches, Sasanian secular justification over the Armenian Church remained unchallenged to the end.

This Sasanian secular control over the Armenian Church was not necessarily damaging to the latter, since it simultaneously protected it from Byzantine doctrinal pressures especially during the reign of Maurice (582-602) and his immediate successor Phokas. So great was the favor shown at that time by Xusrow II to his Armenian subjects, that native Armenian sources went so far as to claim unrealistically that the shah had converted to Christiantiy (Ps. Seb., 151). The change of religious policy which manifested itself in Xusrow II’s reign, as he shifted his goodwill to his monophysite subjects from the usual Sasanian recognition of the State Church with its opposing dyophysite doctrine, was probably not due to the influence of his favorite wife, the Christian Shirin, as has sometimes been suggested. Nor is it likely to have been instigated by his favorite, Smbat Bagratuni. The final official doctrinal break of Armenia with the Byzantine Church at the time provides a far more probable cause, since it ended the perennial Sasanian fear that their Christian subjects might betray them to “Caesar their coreligionist” and transformed Armenia from an untrustworthy region strategically located on the border between the Iranian and Byzantine empires into a loyal supporter (Garso�an, 1999, pp. 20, 383-84). Whatever the reason, Armenia and particularly its Church, weakened by the hostile policy of Maurice seeking to force it into doctrinal union with Constantinople, benefited from the Persian king’s benevolence and protection, so that Smbat Bagratuni was not the only one favored. At Xusrow II’s order, Smbat restored the authority and prestige of the Armenian administrative capital of Duin, overriding the objections of the local Persian marzpan and the military commander of the city (Ps. Seb., 27). Abraham’s successor, Komitas, would similarly reconstruct the martyria of Armenia’s early female saints in the holy city of Valar�apat. The position of the Armenian Church was further reinforced by the Persian capture of the great imperial fortress of Theodosiopolis-Karin and the exile of the anti-patriarch John of Bagaran installed by Maurice, thus ending its twenty years’ internal religious schism. Pressure exerted over the heads of the neighboring Churches of Siwnikh and Caucasian Albania forced them to recognize once more the authority of the Armenian katholikos, from whom they had withdrawn during the period of the schism (Garso�an, 1999, pp. 374-78). The strengthening of the Armenian Church under Sasanian auspices during the early part of the 7th century undoubtedly helped it resist the repeated subsequent attempts of the Byzantine emperors to impose a dogmatic union upon it. The enormous building activity which covered the plateau with churches in this period provides still visible evidence of the prosperity of Armenia and its Church under the Marzapanate in the last years of the Sasanian dynasty. At the same time, the modest dimensions and scattered locations of the majority of these churches identify them as the palatine chapels of local dynasts and give additional proof that the centrifugal pattern of Armenian society had not been obliterated by centralizing developments during the Sasanian period.

In the case of the Church, then, as in the other aspects of its society, the relations of the Armenians to Iran were by no means altogether negative, despite the one-sided, invariably hostile image given by the native Christian sources. At first an integral part of the Achaemenid empire, Armenia’s position was radically altered from the time that Hellenism began to spread through the East in the wake of Alexander’s conquests and all the more with the Roman domination of the Mediterranean world. Armenia now tended to be politically ambivalent between the two world powers of Rome, then Byzantium, and Iran � Parthian or Sasanian, albeit its outward forms, customs, and institutions remained throughout almost exclusively eastern rather than classical. The partition of the Armenian Arsacid kingdom at the end of the 4th century CE, put most of Greater Armenia once again within the Iranian empire, though Armenia’s ambivalence unquestionably grew as its conversion to Christianity transformed its self-image and turned it toward the west. Thereafter, its fervent adoption of the new faith pulled it in the opposite direction from its social structure and former traditions. However, for all of its unquestionable, ultimate dedication to Christianity, Iranian social forms and especially Iranian ideology had sunk so deeply into the substratum of its institutions and beliefs that they long outlived its conversion. Politically and culturally, if not religiously, as well as physically linked to Iran, pre-Islamic Armenia continued to lie significantly beyond the eastern limit that Augustus had presciently set for the classical world.


  • Sources. All references to sources are to the translations. All classical sources are cited according to the Loeb Classical Library. Aa: Agathangelos, History of the Armenians, tr. and comm. R.W. Thomson, Albany, 1976. BP: The Epic Histories attributed to Phawstos Buzand (Buzandaran Patmuthiwnkh), tr. and comm. N. G. Garso�an, Cambridge, Mass., 1989. J�masp n�mag: “To the �amasp N�mak,” ed. and tr. H. W. Bailey, BSOS 6, 1930-32, pp. 55-85, 581-600. KKZ, KSM: Les quatre inscriptions du mage Kird�r (Studia Iranica, cahier 9), tr. and comm. Ph. Gignoux, Paris, 1991. �Ph: The History of �azar Pharpechi, ed. and comm. R.W. Thomson, Atlanta, 1991. Letter of Tansar: tr. M. Boyce, Rome, 1968. MD: The History of the Caucasian Albanians by Movs�s Dascuranc�i, tr. C. J. F. Dowsett, London and New York, 1961. MX: Moses Khorenatshi, History of the Armenians, ed. and tr. R.W. Thomson, Cambridge, Mass. 1978. Paikuli: The Sasanian Inscriptions of Paikuli, ed. and tr. H. Humbach and P. O. Skj�rv�, III/1, Wiesbaden, 1983. Ps. Seb.: The Armenian History attributed to Seb�os, tr. and comm. R.W. Thomson and J. Howard-Johnson, 2 vols., Liverpool, 1999. Sh�hn�meh: Le �āh Nameh ou le Livre des Rois par Abu’l Kasim Firdousi, tr. par J. Mohl, 7 vols. Paris, 1838-78; repr., 1976. �KZ: Third Century Iran: Sapor and Kartir, ed. and tr. M. Sprengling, Chicago, 1953, pp. 14-20. SO = Synodicon Orientale ou Recueil des synodes nestoriens, ed. and tr. J-B. Chabot, Paris, 1902.
  • Literature. N. Adontz, Armenia in the Period of Justinian. Political Conditions Based on the Naxarar System, ed. and tr. by N. G. Garso�an, Louvain and Lisbon, 1970. E. Benveniste, “Titres iraniens en arme�nien,” REArm. 9, 1929, pp. 5-10. Idem, “Mots d’emprunt iraniens en arme�nien,” BSL 53, 1957-58, pp. 55-71. Idem, “Ele�ments parthes en arme�nien,” REArm., N.S. 1, 1964, pp. 1-39. Idem, Titres et noms propres en iranien ancien, Paris, 1966. S. Der Nersessian, The Armenians, London, 1969. N. G. Garso�an, “Prolegomena to a Study of the Iranian Elements in Arsacid Armenia,” Handes Amsorya 90, 1976, pp. 177-234; repr. in idem, Armenia between Byzantium and the Sasanians, London, 1985, sec. x. Idem, “The Iranian Substratum of the ‘Agat’angelos Cycle’,” in N. G. Garso�an et al., eds., East of Byzantium: Syria and Armenia in the Formative Period, Washington, D.C., 1980, pp. 151-89; repr. in eadem, Armenia between Byzantium and the Sasanians, sec. xii. Idem, “Sur le titre de ‘Protecteur des pauvres’,” REArm., N.S. 15, 1981, pp. 21-32; repr. in eadem, Armenia between Byzantium and the Sasanians, sec. vi. Idem, “The Locus of the Death of Kings, Armenia�the Inverted Image,” in R. Hovannisian, ed., The Armenian Image in History and Literature, Malibu, 1981, pp. 27-64; repr. in eadem, Armenia between Byzantium and the Sasanians, sec. xi. Idem, “Secular Jurisdiction over the Armenian Church (IV-VIIth Centuries),” in C. Mango and O. Pritsak, eds., Okeanos. Essays Presented to Ihor Shev�enko on his Sixtieth Birthday (= Harvard Ukrainian Studies 7), Cambridge, Mass., 1984, pp. 220-50; repr. in eadem, Armenia between Byzantium and the Sasanians, sec. ix. Idem, “The Early-Medieval Armenian City�An Alien Element?” in Ancient Studies in Memory of Elias J. Bickerman (= Journal of the Ancient Near Eastern Society 16-17, 1984-85), 1987, pp. 67-83; repr. in eadem, Church and Culture in Early Medieval Armenia, London, 1999, sec. vii. Idem, “‘Thagaworanist kayeankh kam banak arkhuni’: les re�sidences royales des Asacides arme�niens,” REArm., N.S. 21, 1988-89, pp. 151-69; repr. in eadem, Church and Culture, sec. viii. Idem, “L’art iranien comme te�moin de l’armement arme�nien sous les Arsacides,” in Atti del V simposio internazionle di arte armena, Venice, 1992, pp. 385-95; repr. in eadem, Church and Culture, sec. x. Idem, “Reality and Myth in Armenian History,” in The East and the Meaning of History, Rome, 1994, pp. 117-45; repr. in eadem, Church and Culture, sec. xii. Idem, “Notes pre�liminaires sur l’anthroponymie arme�nienne du Moyen-Age,” in M. Bourin et al., eds., L’anthroponymie document de l’histoire sociale des mondes me�diterrane�ens me�die�vaux, Rome, 1996, pp. 227-29; repr. in eadem, Church and Culture, sec. ix. Idem, “Les e�le�ments iraniens dans l’Arme�nie pale�ochre�tienne,” in N. G. Garso�an and J.-P. Mahe�, Des Parthes aux Califat. Quarte le�ons sur la formation de l’identite� arme�nienne, Paris, 1997, pp. 9-37. Idem, L’Eglise arme�nienne et le Grand Schisme d’Orient, CSCO 574/Subsidia 100, Louvain-la-Neuve, 1999. Idem, “Le ‘guerrier des seigneurs’,” Studia Iranica 33, 2003, pp. 177-84. Idem, “Frontier-Frontiers? Transcaucasia and Eastern Anatolia in the Pre-Islamic Period,” Atti dell’Accademia dei Lincei, Rome, in press.
  • R. Ghirshman, The Arts of Ancient Iran, New York, 1964. Idem, Persian Art, New York, 1962. G. Gnoli, The Idea of Iran, Rome, 1989. R. Gyselen, The Four Generals of the Sasanian Empire. Some Sigillographic Evidence, Rome, 2001a. Idem, “Le kadag-xwad�y sassanide. Quelques reflexions a� partir de nouvelles donne�e sigillographiques,” Studia Iranica 31/1, 2001, pp. 61-68. Idem, Nouvaux mate�riaux pour la ge�ographie historique de l’Empire sassanide (Studia Iranica, cahier 21), Paris, 2002. P. Harper, The Royal Hunter, New York, 1978. R. Hovannisian, ed., The Armenian People from Ancient to Modern Times, New York, 1997, I, pp. 19-115. D. M. Lang, The Georgians, London, 1966. H. Manandian, The Trade and Cities of Armenia in Relation to Ancient World Trade, Lisbon, 1965. A. G. Perikhanian, “Une inscription arame�enne du roi Artashes,” REArm., N.S. 3, 1966, pp. 17-29. Idem, Obshchestvo i pravo Irana v parfianski� i sasanidski� periody (The society and law of Iran in the Parthian and Sasanian periods), Erevan, 1983. J. R. Russell, Zoroastrianism in Armenia, Cambridge, Mass., 1987. Idem, “Armeno-Iranian Roots of Mithraism,” in J. R. Hinnells, ed., Studies in Mithraism, Rome, 1994, pp. 183-93. C. Toumanoff, Studies in Christian Caucasian History, Georgetown, 1963. Idem, “The Third-Century Armenian Arsacids. A Chronological and Genealogical Commentary,” REArm., N.S. 6, 1969, pp. 233-81. Idem, review of M.-L. Chaumont, Recherches sur l’histoire d’Arme�nie de l’ave�nement des Sassanides a� la conversion du royaume, REArm., N.S. 7, 1970, pp. 473-78.

1100-1450: Gothic Architecture

Architecture History Photo Guide: Gothic Architecture

Early in the 12th century, new ways of building meant that cathedrals and other large buildings could reach soaring heights.
Chartres Cathedral in Chartres, France is a masterpiece of Gothic ArchitectureBuilt in the thirteenth century, Chartres Cathedral in Chartres, France is a masterpiece of Gothic Architecture

Photo © Paolo Negri / Getty Images

How Gothic Architecture Began
Gothic architecture began mainly in France where builders began to adapt the earlier Romanesque style. Builders were also influenced by the pointed arches and elaborate stonework of Moorish architecture in Spain. One of the earliest Gothic buildings was the ambulatory of the abbey of St. Denisin France, built between 1140 and 1144.

Originally, Gothic architecture was known as the French Style. During the Renaissance, after the French Style had fallen out of fashion, artisans mocked it. They coined the word Gothic to suggest that French Style buildings were the crude work of German (Goth) barbarians. Although the label wasn’t accurate, the name Gothic remained.

Gothic architecture has many of these features:

  • Pointed Arches. Gothic builders found that pointed arches could support more weight than perpendicular walls. With pointed arches supporting the roof, walls could be thinner.
  • Ribbed Vaulting. Instead of solid walls, builders used a series of columns that branched up into arches. With fewer solid walls, buildings appeared lighter and more delicate.
  • Flying Buttresses. Free-standing brick and stone arches helped support exterior walls, allowing them to reach greater heights.
  • Stained Glass Windows. Since the walls were no longer the only supports, Gothic buildings could include large areas of glass.
  • Elaborate Sculptures. Gargoyles and other sculptures had both practical and decorative functions.

Gothic Buildings:

Photo Tours:

Art During the Gothic Period:
While builders were creating the great Gothic cathedrals of Europe, painters and sculptors in northern Italy were breaking away from rigid medieval styles and laying the foundation for the Renaissance. Art historians call the period between 1200 to 1400 AD the Early Renaissance or the Proto-Renaissance. Learn more about the Proto-Renaissance. Gothic Revival and Neo-Gothic Architecture:
Fascination for medieval Gothic architecture was reawakened in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Architects in Europe and the United States designed great buildings and private homes that imitated the cathedrals of medieval Europe.