The Life of Mashtoc'
The Life of Mashtoc' is a biography of Mesrop Mashtoc', creator of the
Armenian alphabet, written by Mashtoc"s youngest pupil, Koriwn (19).
The author implies that he wrote his work several years after the death
of Mesrop at the request of the then acting Catholicos Yovsep'. However,
according to Ghazar P'arpec'i, Koriwn's superior, Catholicos Yovsep' was
taken prisoner and martyred by the Iranians shortly after the battle of
Awarayr (45O-451) (20). It is difficult to see how Koriwn could have received
his directive from Yovsep' to write concerning Mashtoc' after Yovsep"s
arrest in 450-451. Furthermore, prince Vasak Siwnik', who defected to
the Iranians during the battle and subsequently was transformed into the
traitor par excellence in Armenian literature, is praised by Koriwn as
a brave and wise man (21). It appears, therefore, that this work was written
before the Armenian rebellion.
Koriwn notes that his teacher passed away in the first year of the Iraniam
king Yazdgard II, son of Vahram, i.e., in 44O, (22) and that Mesrop's
colleague Sahak died in 439 (23). He states elsewhere that the students
of Sahak assembled "year after year" to honor their teacher's
memory (24). Thus Manuk Abeghyan calculated that Koriwn wrote his biography
not immediately after Mashtoc's death, but around 443. This is supported
by another of Koriwn's remarks, namely that three years after Mashtoc's
death (25) Vahan Amatuni constructed a church over his grave (26). Abeghyan
suggested that the Life of Mashtoc' was written during the period 443-51
(27). There seems to be no grounds for challenging this proposal .
The little that is known about the author is gleaned from two statements
he makes about himself in Mesrop's biography. In chapter 12, Koriwn mentions
that after receiving his education, he was sent with other students to
various unspecified districts of Armenia to teach the new alphabet (28).
In chapter 19 he says that he studied in Constantinople and then returned
to Armenia bringing, along with other manuscripts, the canons of the Council
of Ephesus (29). Thus Koriwn's homecoming took place after 431, the year
of the Council.
Because Koriwn's work is a biography of a cultural figure and not a political
or military history of Armenia, the Life contains little detailed information
about the Mamikoneans or the sparapetut'iwn. From chapter 12, one learns
that Catholicos Sahak personally taught the alphabet to the Mamikonean
folk (orear) --"foremost among whom was Vardan, also called Vardkan".
(30). Sahak's special ministrations are perfectly understandable, since
Vardan was Sahak's own grandson. In chapter 26 Koriwn presents a partial
list of dignitaries attending the burial of Mashtoc'. The relevant portion
translates: "[Present] from the military, the first [or foremost,
arajnumn] was named Vahan of the Amatuni family [azg] who was the hazarapet
of Greater Armenia, and the second was Hmayeak of the Mamikonean clan
[tohm]..." (31). In scholarly literature the hazarapet usually is
associated with civil rather than military matters (32). According to
Koriwn's list, however, the phrase "from the military [i zinuorakan
koghmanen]" suggests that in the period following the abolition of
the Armenian Arsacids (428), the hazarapet's function may have been altered
to include military duties.
The only sparapet mentioned by name in the Life is Anatolis, commander-in-chief
of Byzantine Armenia. In chapter 16, Mashtoc' was received warmly by Anatolis
(called spayapet) who wrote to emperor Theodosius informing him of Mastoc's
plans to teach the alphabet in Western Armenia (33). When Mashtoc' returned
from Constantinople, he presented the emperor's rescripta to Anatolis,
now called the sparapet of Armenia [sparapetn Hayoc'] (34).