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Mesrop Mashtots (; hy, Մեսրոպ Մաշտոց '; Eastern Armenian: ; Western Armenian: ; la, Mesrobes Mastosius; 362February 17, 440 AD) was an
early medieval The Early Middle Ages or Early Medieval Period, sometimes referred to as the Dark Ages, is typically regarded by historians as lasting from the late 5th or early 6th century to the 10th century. They marked the start of the Middle Ages ...
Armenian Armenian may refer to: * Something of, from, or related to Armenia, a country in the South Caucasus region of Eurasia * Armenians, the national people of Armenia, or people of Armenian descent ** Armenian language, the Indo-European language spoken ...
linguist Linguistics is the scientific study of language A language is a structured system of communication Communication (from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo ...

linguist
, composer,
theologian Theology is the systematic study of the nature of the divine Divinity or the divine are things that are either related to, devoted to, or proceeding from a deity A deity or god is a supernatural The supernatural encompasses supposed ...
, statesman and
hymnologist Hymnology (from Greek#REDIRECT Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially the Hellenic Republic, is a country located in Southeast Europe. Its population is approximate ...
. He is venerated as a saint in the Armenian Apostolic Church, the Armenian Catholic Church, the Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic churches. He is best known for inventing the
Armenian alphabet The Armenian alphabet ( hy, Հայոց գրեր, ' or , '; Eastern Armenian: ; Western Armenian: ) is an alphabet An alphabet is a standardized set of basic written symbols A symbol is a mark, sign, or word In linguistics, a word of a ...

Armenian alphabet
AD, which was a fundamental step in strengthening Armenian national identity. He is also considered to be the creator of the Caucasian Albanian and
Georgian Georgian may refer to: Common meanings * Anything related to, or originating from Georgia (country) **Georgians, an indigenous Caucasian ethnic group **Georgian language, a Kartvelian language spoken by Georgians **Georgian scripts, three scripts ...

Georgian
alphabets by some scholars.


Life

Mesrop Mashtots was born in a noble family ("from the house of an ''
azat Azat ( hy, ազատ; plural ազատք ''azatkʿ'', collective ազատանի ''azatani'') was a class of Armenian nobility; the term came to designate the middle and lower nobility originally, in contrast to the ''naxararkʿ'' who were the gre ...
''" according to
Anania Shirakatsi Anania Shirakatsi ( hy, Անանիա Շիրակացի, ''Anania Širakac’i'', anglicized: Ananias of Shirak) was a 7th-century Armenians, Armenian polymath and Natural philosophy, natural philosopher, author of extant works covering mathematics, ...

Anania Shirakatsi
) in the settlement of Hatsekats in Taron
Koryun Koriun ( hy, Կորիւն, reformed spelling: Կորյուն; also transliterated as ''Koriwn'', ''Koryun'') was the earliest Armenian-language author. Writing in the fifth century, his ''Life of Mashtots'' contains many details about the evangel ...
br>''The Life of Mashtots''
translation into Russian and intro by Sh.V.Smbghaatyan and K.A.Melik-Oghajanyan, Moscow, 1962.
(identified as the village of Hac'ik in the Mush plain), and died in
Vagharshapat Vagharshapat ( hy, Վաղարշապատ ) is the 4th-largest city in Armenia Armenia (; hy, Հայաստան, translit=Hayastan, ), officially the Republic of Armenia,, is a landlocked country located in the Armenian Highlands of Wester ...
. He was the son of a man named Vardan.
Koryun Koriun ( hy, Կորիւն, reformed spelling: Կորյուն; also transliterated as ''Koriwn'', ''Koryun'') was the earliest Armenian-language author. Writing in the fifth century, his ''Life of Mashtots'' contains many details about the evangel ...
, his pupil and biographer, tells us that Mashtots (in his work he does not mention the name Mesrop) received a good education, and was versed in the
Greek#REDIRECT Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially the Hellenic Republic, is a country located in Southeast Europe. Its population is approximately 10.7 million as of ...
and
Persian Persian may refer to: * People and things from Iran, historically called ''Persia'' in the English language ** Persians, Persian people, the majority ethnic group in Iran, not to be conflated with the Iranian peoples ** Persian language, an Iranian ...
languages. On account of his piety and learning Mesrop was appointed secretary to King Khosrov IV. His duty was to write in Greek and Persian characters the decrees and edicts of the sovereign. Leaving the court for the service of God, he took
holy orders In certain Christian churches Christian Church is a Protestant Protestantism is a form of Christianity that originated with the 16th-century Reformation, a movement against what its followers perceived to be Criticism of the Catholic Church ...
, and withdrew to a monastery with a few chosen companions. There, says Koryun, he practiced great austerities, enduring hunger and thirst, cold and poverty. He lived on vegetables, wore a hair shirt, slept upon the ground, and often spent whole nights in prayer and the study of the
Holy Scriptures Religious texts, also known as scripture, scriptures, holy writ, or holy books, are the texts which various religious traditions consider to be sacred Sacred describes something that is dedicated or set apart for the service or worship of ...

Holy Scriptures
. This life he continued for a few years. Armenia, so long the battle-ground of Romans and Persians, lost its independence in 387, and was divided between the Byzantine Empire and Persia, about four-fifths being given to the latter. Western Armenia was governed by Byzantine generals, while an Armenian king ruled, but only as feudatory, over Persian Armenia. The Church was naturally influenced by these violent political changes, although the loss of civil independence and the partition of the land could not destroy its organization or subdue its spirit. Persecution only quickened it into greater activity, and had the effect of bringing the clergy, the nobles, and the common people closer together. The principal events of this period are the invention of the
Armenian alphabet The Armenian alphabet ( hy, Հայոց գրեր, ' or , '; Eastern Armenian: ; Western Armenian: ) is an alphabet An alphabet is a standardized set of basic written symbols A symbol is a mark, sign, or word In linguistics, a word of a ...

Armenian alphabet
, the revision of the liturgy, the creation of an ecclesiastical and national literature, and the readjustment of hierarchical relations. Three men are prominently associated with this work: Mesrop, Patriarch Isaac, and King Vramshapuh, who succeeded his brother Khosrov IV in 389. In 394, with the help of blessing of Armenia's Catholicos, Sahak Partev, Mesrop set out on a mission of spreading the word of God to a
pagan Paganism (from classical Latin Classical Latin is the form of Latin language Latin (, or , ) is a classical language A classical language is a language A language is a structured system of communication used by humans, includ ...
or semi-pagan people. Mesrop, as noted, had spent some time in a monastery preparing for a missionary life. With the support of Prince Shampith, he preached the
Gospel Gospel originally meant the Christian message ("the gospel#REDIRECT The gospel In Christianity Christianity is an Abrahamic religions, Abrahamic Monotheism, monotheistic religion based on the Life of Jesus in the New Testament, life and Te ...

Gospel
in the district of
GoghtnGoght'n ( hy, Գողթն; also mentioned in sources as Goght'an, Գողթան, and spelled Gołt'n by modern scholars) was a canton (''gavaṛ'') located in the province of Vaspurakan in historical Armenia. Its borders roughly corresponded to the m ...
near the river
Araxes The Aras or Araxes or Araks is a river that starts in Turkey Turkey ( tr, Türkiye ), officially the Republic of Turkey, is a country located mainly on Anatolia Anatolia,, tr, Anadolu Yarımadası), and the Anatolian plateau. ...
, converting many heretics and pagans. However, he experienced great difficulty in instructing the people, for the Armenians had no alphabet of their own, instead using
Greek#REDIRECT Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially the Hellenic Republic, is a country located in Southeast Europe. Its population is approximately 10.7 million as of ...
,
Persian Persian may refer to: * People and things from Iran, historically called ''Persia'' in the English language ** Persians, Persian people, the majority ethnic group in Iran, not to be conflated with the Iranian peoples ** Persian language, an Iranian ...
, and
SyriacSyriac may refer to: *Syriac language, a dialect of Middle Aramaic * Syriac alphabet ** Syriac (Unicode block) ** Syriac Supplement * Neo-Aramaic languages also known as Syriac in most native vernaculars * Syriac Christianity, the churches using Syr ...

Syriac
scripts, none of which was well suited for representing the many complex sounds of their native tongue. Again, the Holy Scriptures and the liturgy, being written in Syriac, were, to a large extent, unintelligible to the faithful. Hence the constant need of translators and interpreters to explain the Word of God to the people. Mesrop, desirous to remedy this state of things, resolved to invent a national alphabet, in which undertaking Isaac and King Vramshapuh promised to assist him. It is hard to determine exactly what part Mesrop had in the fixing of the new alphabet. According to his Armenian biographers, he consulted Daniel, a bishop of
Mesopotamia Mesopotamia ( grc, Μεσοποταμία ''Mesopotamíā''; ar, بِلَاد ٱلرَّافِدَيْن ; syc, ܐܪܡ ܢܗܪ̈ܝܢ, or , ) is a historical region of Western Asia situated within the Tigris–Euphrates river system, in th ...

Mesopotamia
, and Rufinus, a monk of
Samosata Samsat ( tr, Samsat, ku, Samîsad) is a small town and district in the Adıyaman Province Adıyaman Province ( tr, , ku, ) is a province A province is almost always an administrative division within a country or state. The term derives f ...

Samosata
, on the matter. With their help and that of Isaac and the king, he was able to give a definite form to the alphabet, which he probably adapted from the Greek. Others, like Lenormant, think it derived from the
Avestan Avestan , also known historically as Zend, comprises two languages: Old Avestan (spoken in the 2nd millennium BCE) and Younger Avestan (spoken in the 1st millennium BCE). The languages are known only from their use as the language of Zoroastrian ...
. Mesrop's alphabet consisted of thirty-six letters; two more (long O and F) were added in the twelfth century. Medieval Armenian sources also claim that Mashtots invented the
Georgian Georgian may refer to: Common meanings * Anything related to, or originating from Georgia (country) **Georgians, an indigenous Caucasian ethnic group **Georgian language, a Kartvelian language spoken by Georgians **Georgian scripts, three scripts ...

Georgian
and Caucasian Albanian alphabets around the same time. Most scholars link the creation of the Georgian script to the process of
Christianization of Iberia The Christianization of Iberia ( ka, ქართლის გაქრისტიანება, tr) refers to the spread of Christianity in the early Christianity in the 4th century, 4th century by the sermon of Saint Nino in an ancient Geor ...
, a core Georgian kingdom of
Kartli Kartli ( ka, ქართლი ) is a historical region in central-to-eastern traversed by the river (Kura), on which Georgia's capital, , is situated. Known to the as , Kartli played a crucial role in the ethnic and political consolidation of ...

Kartli
. The alphabet was therefore most probably created between the conversion of Iberia under King
Mirian III Mirian III ( ka, მირიან III) was a king of Kingdom of Iberia (antiquity), Iberia or Kartli (Georgia (country), Georgia), contemporaneous to the Roman emperor Constantine the Great (reign, r. 306–337). He was the founder of the royal ...
(326 or 337) and the
Bir el Qutt inscriptions BIR or Bir may refer to: Acronyms (BIR) *Bangladesh Infantry Regiment The Bangladesh Infantry Regiment (BIR) is an infantry regiment of the Bangladesh Army. It was raised in 2001 as the second combat regiment after the East Bengal Regiment. The ...
of 430, contemporaneously with the Armenian alphabet. The first sentence in Armenian written down by St. Mesrop after he invented the letters is said to be the opening line of Solomon's
Book of Proverbs #REDIRECT Book of Proverbs #REDIRECT Book of Proverbs The Book of Proverbs (Hebrew: מִשְלֵי, ''Míshlê (Shlomoh)'', "Proverbs (of Solomon)") is a book in the third section (called Ketuvim) of the Hebrew Bible and a book of the Christianity ...
: The invention of the alphabet around 405 was the beginning of
Armenian literature Armenian literature begins around AD 400 with the invention of the Armenian alphabet by Mesrop Mashtots. History Early literature Only a handful of fragments have survived from the most ancient Armenian literary tradition preceding the Christian ...
, and proved a powerful factor in the upbuilding of the national spirit. "The result of the work of Isaac and Mesrop", says St. Martin,, V, 320. "was to separate for ever the Armenians from the other peoples of the East, to make of them a distinct nation, and to strengthen them in the Christian Faith by forbidding or rendering profane all the foreign alphabetic scripts which were employed for transcribing the books of the heathens and of the followers of
Zoroaster Zoroaster (, ; el, Ζωροάστρης, ''Zōroastrēs''), also known as Zarathustra (, ; ae, , ''Zaraθuštra''), Zarathushtra Spitama or Ashu Zarathushtra (Modern fa, زرتشت, ''Zartosht''), was an ancient Iranian Iranian may refer t ...

Zoroaster
. To Mesrop we owe the preservation of the language and literature of Armenia; but for his work, the people would have been absorbed by the Persians and Syrians, and would have disappeared like so many nations of the East". Anxious that others should profit by his discovery, and encouraged by the patriarch and the king, Mesrop founded numerous schools in different parts of the country, in which the youth were taught the new alphabet. It is historically proven, that Saint Mesrop himself taught in Amaras monastery of Artskah region of Armenia (located in contemporary Martuni region of unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic). But his activity was not confined to Eastern Armenia. Provided with letters from Isaac he went to
Constantinople la, Constantinopolis ota, قسطنطينيه , alternate_name = Byzantion (earlier Greek name), Nova Roma ("New Rome"), Miklagard/Miklagarth (Old Norse Old Norse, Old Nordic, or Old Scandinavian is a stage of development of North Germa ...

Constantinople
and obtained from the Emperor Theodosius the Younger permission to preach and teach in his Armenian possessions. Having returned to Eastern Armenia to report on his missions to the patriarch, his first thought was to provide a religious literature for his countrymen. Having gathered around him numerous disciples, he sent some to
Edessa Edessa (; grc, Ἔδεσσα, Édessa) was an ancient city (''polis'') in Upper Mesopotamia, founded during the Hellenistic period by King Seleucus I Nicator (), founder of the Seleucid Empire. It later became capital of the Kingdom of Osroene ...
, Constantinople,
Athens , image_skyline = File:Athens Montage L.png, center, 275px, alt=Athens montage. Clicking on an image in the picture causes the browser to load the appropriate article. rect 15 15 985 460 Acropolis of Athens rect 15 475 48 ...

Athens
,
Antioch Antioch on the Orontes (; grc, Ἀντιόχεια ἡ ἐπὶ Ὀρόντου, ''Antiókheia hē epì Oróntou''; also Syrian Antioch) grc-koi, Ἀντιόχεια ἡ ἐπὶ Ὀρόντου; or Ἀντιόχεια ἡ ἐπὶ Δάφνῃ ...
,
Alexandria Alexandria ( or ; ar, الإسكندرية ; arz, اسكندرية ; Coptic language, Coptic: Rakodī; el, Αλεξάνδρεια ''Alexandria'') is the List of cities and towns in Egypt, third-largest city in Egypt after Cairo and Giza, ...

Alexandria
, and other centres of learning, to study the Greek language and bring back the masterpieces of Greek literature. The most famous of his pupils were John of Egheghiatz, Joseph of Baghin, Yeznik, Koryun,
Moses of Chorene Movses Khorenatsi (ca. 410–490s AD; hy, Մովսես Խորենացի, , also written as ''Movses Xorenac‘i'' and Moses of Khoren, Moses of Chorene, and Moses Chorenensis in Latin sources) was a prominent Armenia Armenia (; hy, Հայ ...

Moses of Chorene
, and John Mandakuni. The first monument of this Armenian literature is the version of the Holy Scriptures. Isaac, says Moses of Chorene, made a translation of the Bible from the Syriac text about 411. This work must have been considered imperfect, for soon afterwards John of Egheghiatz and Joseph of Baghin were sent to Edessa to translate the Scriptures. They journeyed as far as Constantinople, and brought back with them authentic copies of the Greek text. With the help of other copies obtained from Alexandria the Bible was translated again from the Greek according to the text of the
Septuagint The Greek Old Testament, or Septuagint (, ; from the la, septuaginta, lit=seventy; often abbreviated ''70''; in Roman numerals Roman numerals are a that originated in and remained the usual way of writing numbers throughout Europe wel ...
and
Origen Origen of Alexandria, ''Ōrigénēs''; Coptic language, Coptic: Ϩⲱⲣⲓⲕⲉⲛ Origen's Greek name ''Ōrigénēs'' () probably means "child of Horus" (from , "Horus", and , "born"). ( 184 – 253), also known as Origen Adamantius, was an ...

Origen
's ''
Hexapla ''Hexapla'' ( grc, Ἑξαπλᾶ, "sixfold") is the term for a Textual criticism, critical edition of the Hebrew Bible in six versions, four of them translated into Ancient Greek, Greek, preserved only in fragments. It was an immense and complex ...
''. This version, now in use in the Armenian Church, was completed about 434. The decrees of the first three councils — Nicæa,
Constantinople la, Constantinopolis ota, قسطنطينيه , alternate_name = Byzantion (earlier Greek name), Nova Roma ("New Rome"), Miklagard/Miklagarth (Old Norse Old Norse, Old Nordic, or Old Scandinavian is a stage of development of North Germa ...
, and
Ephesus Ephesus (; gr, Ἔφεσος, Éphesos; tr, Efes; may ultimately derive from hit, 𒀀𒉺𒊭, Apaša) was a city in ancient Greece Ancient Greece ( el, Ἑλλάς, Hellás) was a civilization belonging to a period of History of Gree ...
— and the national liturgy (so far written in Syriac) were also translated into Armenian, the latter being revised on the liturgy of
St. Basil Basil of Caesarea, also called Saint Basil the Great ( grc, Ἅγιος Βασίλειος ὁ Μέγας, ''Hágios Basíleios ho Mégas''; cop, Ⲡⲓⲁⲅⲓⲟⲥ Ⲃⲁⲥⲓⲗⲓⲟⲥ; 330 – January 1 or 2, 379), was an East Roman b ...
, though retaining characteristics of its own. Many works of the Greek Fathers also passed into Armenian. The loss of the Greek originals has given some of these versions a special importance; thus, the second part of
Eusebius Eusebius of Caesarea (; grc-gre, Εὐσέβιος τῆς Καισαρείας, ''Eusébios tés Kaisareías''; AD 260/265 – 339/340), also known as Eusebius Pamphili (from the grc-gre, Εὐσέβιος τοῦ Παμϕίλου) ...

Eusebius
's ''Chronicle,'' of which only a few fragments exist in the Greek, has been preserved entirely in Armenian. In the midst of his literary labors Mesrop revisited the districts he had evangelized in his earlier years, and, after the death of Isaac in 440, looked after the spiritual administration of the patriarchate. He survived his friend and master by only six months. The
Armenians Armenians ( hy, հայեր, ''Romanization of Armenian, hayer'' ) are an ethnic group native to the Armenian Highlands of Western Asia. Armenians constitute the main population of Armenia and the ''de facto'' independent Republic of Artsakh, A ...
read his name in the Canon of the Liturgy, and celebrate his memory on 19 February. Saint Mashtots is buried at a chapel in
Oshakan Oshakan ( hy, Օշական) is a major village in the Aragatsotn Province of Armenia located 8 kilometers southwest from Ashtarak. It is well known to historians and pilgrims of the Armenian Apostolic Church as the site of the Saint Mesrop Mashto ...
, a historical village southwest from the town of
Ashtarak Ashtarak (Armenian language, Armenian: ), is a town and urban municipal community in the Aragatsotn Province of Armenia, located on the left bank of Kasagh River along the gorge, northwest of the capital Yerevan. It is the administrative centre of ...
. Saint Mesrop is listed officially in the ''
Roman Martyrology The ''Roman Martyrology'' ( la, Martyrologium Romanum) is the official martyrology A martyrology is a catalogue or list of martyrs and other saints and beatification, beati arranged in the calendar order of their anniversaries or feasts. Local ma ...
'' of the
Roman Catholic Church The Catholic Church, also known as the Roman Catholic Church, is the largest Christian church, with 1.3 billion baptised Baptism (from the Greek language, Greek noun βάπτισμα ''báptisma'') is a Christians, Christian ...

Roman Catholic Church
; his feast day is February 17.


Legacy

Virtually every town in Armenia has a street named after Mashtots. In
Yerevan Yerevan ( , , hy, Երևան , sometimes spelled Erevan) is the capital and largest city of Armenia and one of the world's List of oldest continuously inhabited cities, oldest continuously inhabited cities. Situated along the Hrazdan River, Y ...

Yerevan
, Mashtots Street is one of the most important in the city center, which was previously known as Lenin Street (Lenin Prospect). There is a statue to him at the
Matenadaran The Matenadaran ( hy, Մատենադարան), officially the Mesrop Mashtots Institute of Ancient Manuscripts, is a museum, repository of manuscripts, and a research institute in Yerevan, Armenia. It is the world's largest repository of Armenian ...

Matenadaran
, one at the church he was buried at in Oshakan village, and one at the monument to the alphabet found on the skirts of Mt. Aragats north of Ohanavan Village. Stamps have been issued with his image by both the Soviet Union and by post-Soviet Armenia. The Order of St. Mesrop Mashtots, established in 1993, is awarded for significant achievements in economic development of the Republic of Armenia or for accomplishments, such as in science, culture, education or public service, and for activities promoting those fields.


Music

Mashtots also produced a number of liturgical compositions. Some of the works attributed to him are: «Մեղայ քեզ Տէր» (''Meġay k’ez Tēr'', “I have sinned against you, Lord”), «Ողորմեա ինձ Աստուած» (''Voġormea inj Astuac'', “Have mercy on me, God”), «Անկանիմ առաջի քո» (''Ankanim aṙaǰi k’o'', “I kneel before you”) and «Ողորմեա» (''Voġormea'', “Miserere”), all of which are hymns of
repentance Repentance is reviewing one's actions and feeling contritionIn Christianity, contrition or contriteness (from the Latin ''contritus'' 'ground to pieces', i.e. crushed by guilt Guilt may refer to: *Guilt (emotion), an emotion that occurs when a p ...
.


Documentary films

* ''Mashtots'' – 1988 Armenfilm 35 mm.film Director
Levon Mkrtchyan Levon Mkrtchyan ( hy, Լևոն Մկրտչյան; russian: Левон Гайкович Мкртчян; born February 25, 1953 in Leninakan (now Gyumri) is an Armenian director, known for his documentaries, "Davit Anhaght", "Charentz: Known and Unkn ...

Levon Mkrtchyan
(narration by Sos Sargisyan) Artashes Martirosyan (screenplay)


See also

*
Bible translations The Bible The Bible (from Koine Greek Koine Greek (, , Greek approximately ;. , , , lit. "Common Greek"), also known as Alexandrian dialect, common Attic, Hellenistic or Biblical Greek, was the koiné language, common supra-regi ...


References


Bibliography

* * * * * * ;Attribution *


External links


Catholic Encyclopedia — Mesrop


{{DEFAULTSORT:Mesrop 360 births 440 deaths 4th-century Armenian people 5th-century Armenian people People from Muş Province Armenian scholars Armenian translators Translators of the Bible into Armenian Armenian monks Creators of writing systems 5th-century Christian saints 5th-century translators Armenian saints Christians in the Sasanian Empire People of the Sasanian Empire of Armenian descent 5th-century writers