GOCHA KUCHUKHIDZE                                                                                                                                                         # 7



 About 20 works written by Agathangel (Agathangelos), a contemporary of St. Gregory's, have preserved the life story of Gregory the Enlightener (the end of the 3rd and the beginning of the 4th century). Among these, 2 works consider Gregory the Enlightener the converter of not only Armenia but also Kartli (Iberia) and Lazika.In one case he is also the converter of Alania and in the other-of the Albanian Kings as well. These works are:an Arabic version discovered by academician N. Marr in 1902 and dated by him by the IXth century; and the other one-a break text of the XIIth. cent. found by prof. G.Garith (Марр 1905; Garitte 1946).

 The manuscripts inform us that following the conversion of King Trdat the kings of Kartli, Apkhazia (Lazika) and Alania went to the Armenian city of Valarshapat together with 16 Armenian earls. They attended St. Gregory's preaching and recognized him as their apostle. Then the texts recount how St. Gregory destroyed pagan temples in different cities of Armenia and erected crosses in their places. St. Gregory asked 3 other kings to do the same, he told the kings to build temples without alters in the places of pagan shrines in their respective countries (Марр 1905: 115-119). "Temples without alters" must mean the crosses, primarily stone-crosses, that were erected at the dawn of Christianity.

The Greek version has preserved approximately similar information, though instead of the Alans we find an Albanian king and the king of Western Georgia is mentioned by the name of the King of Lazs.

The original version of St. Gregory's life has not come down to us. We have to make an attempt and determine its content, at least approximately.

Alans couldn't have been mentioned in the original manuscript of St. Gregory's life for their conversion to Christianity is a matter of a later period. According to I.Kulakovski event took place in 912 year (Javakhishvili 1935: 75). It should be thought that it was not the Alans but the Albanians, neighbors of Armenia.

"History of Armenia" written by Movses Khorenatsi, an Armenian historian provides great help in reconstructing the content of the original version of St. Gregory's life. It has preserved some data coming down from Agathangel's oldest text. Khorenatsi refers to Agathangel when he writes in ch.71: A St.  woman Nune preached Christianity in Kartli, she was an apostle for Georgians.

According to some evidence preserved in Khorenatsi's work St. Nune and the King of this country (Georgia) Mirian sent a delegation to St. Gregory in Armenia. I think that this delegation was sent to Armenia to St. Gregory with the mission of determining the country where the Georgians and the newly converted Armenians were to invite the clergy from. It must be thought that the meeting failed to solve the problem.

According to Khorenatsi St. Gregory sent a message to St. Nune and king Mirian asking them to destroy pagan shrines in their country and erect crosses; it can be inferred that the participating clergymen had decided on their basic activities even before convening the meeting (Khorenatsi: 1984: 170).

Hence, the information conveyed in Agathangel's ancient work which has not come down to us is that St. "Nune" or St. Nino as was her true name and king Mirian sent their delegation to Armenia.

The difference in the information revealed by a comparative study with Arabic and Greek works picture this event as if it was Georgia's king himself and not his delegation that went to Armenia to meet St. Gregory; the king is described as having visited St. Gregory and Trdat together with 16 Armenian lords and as having participated in the recognition of St. Gregory as his apostle.

The copyist has presented the event as if Georgia's king had recognized St. Gregory as his apostle upon his arrival in Valarshapat together with 16 lords and included this false evidence in "St Gregory's life". The inclusion of this false piece easiled the insertion of other false pieces as well, having presented the event as if Georgia's king had recognized St. Gregory as his apostle, the copyist easily conjured up a picture of the king giving his testament, recognizing St. Gregory as his apostle and receiving consecration from him; this second event is the logical continuation of the first

A closer inspection of the passages in Agathangel's work recounting the event of summoning 16 lords by Trdat gives us the ground to say that there had existed some details on the Laz and Alban kings which are brought out by a close observation of Arabic and Greek texts.

Now we shall provide a word-for-word translation of the passage from an Arabic text: king Trdat "ordered the spellers of his country to appear before him and ordered them to send messages to a great number of the citizens of his country summoning them to the court; lords, governors, leaders, military chiefs were all to appear before the king in Valarshapat. Letters to (the Apkhaz king and) and the king of Kartli, a letter to the king of Alania. He explained everything in his story and said: That is why you have to appear before me immediately". This passage is followed by another one stating the arrival of there kings at the court together with other Lords and their participation in recognizing St. Gregory as their apostle (Марр 1905: 114-115).

The investigation of the style of the above cited sentences discloses the fact that the sentence "Letters to (the Apkhaz king and) the king of Kartli, a letter to the king of Alania" stands very much isolated. The sentence itself, being a unified whole is non-organically, unnaturally connected with other sentences. It is evident that the details given about the king of Kartli as well as about the rest of the 2 Kings are insertions. It becomes self-evident that none of the Kings of the Caucasian countries attended the mentioned gathering. This and other pieces of information logically stemming out of it and concerning the fulfillment of the testament given by the Kings, i.e. abiding by St. Gregory and recognizing him as their apostle as well as receiving consecration from him, are the result of the copyist's imaginative work.

A klose inspection of the Arabic manuscript allows us to see Agathangel's ancient work in a better perspective. The Arabic version recounts how St. Gregory destroyed pagan temples and erected crosses in their places, then the information is given how a pagan shrine was destroyed in the city of K-s-tan. Then it says: "The same was done on the Lands of the Lazs, Kartli and Alania and all the Kings became of one belief, that they each would become the protector of the religion of our Lord - Christ and would turn his back on paganism (Марр 1905: 116-117).

As it is evident from this passage the old name "Lazika" of the Kingdom of western Georgia is mentioned instead of Apkhazia. This sentence may most likely be coming from Agathangel's manuscript. It is quite probable that in Agathangel's ancient manuscript the story of the destruction of the pagan temple in the city of K-s-tan was followed by the story how a delegation from St. Nino and Georgia's King arrived in Armenia, the fact that Alban Kings and representatives of the royal circles of Lazika also arrived in Armenia and the fact that they decided to destroy pagan temples and erect crosses cannot be excluded. "And all the Kings became of one belief" to be devoted to Christ, it is also possible that the representatives of the Caucasian countries met each other during the conversion to Christianity.

Hence, the evidence of 3 Kings arriving in Armenia together with 16 Lords, the recognition of St. Gregory as their apostle and enlightenment being received from him do not come from Agathangel's ancient manuscripts - they are the result of the copyist's imagination. The recognition of these facts as historically true means to take an unscientific approach to the problem.

Arabic and Greek versions bear the information about St. Gregory sending clergy men to different countries. According to the mentioned sources he sent the clergy not only to Armenia but also to different countries of the Caucasus. According to the Arabic version he had brought one Georgian from Sebastia whose name is read as Ibirbzkhua by N. Marr and whom be had made a metropolitan and whom he had sent to Kartli to appoint bishops there; another man, Sophron by name had come from Kabbadokia and St. Gregory made him a bishop and sent to the country of "Apkhazs", and a clergyman Toma by name was sent to Alania (Марр 1905: 136-137).

The Greek versions do not call them metropolitans or bishops, they are mentioned as preachers. The name of the person sent to Kartli in Greek version is Irenarkhe.

The variant Ibirbzkhua provided by the Arabic version is the corrupted from of Irenarkhe: Prof. Garit rightfully regards these two forms to be similar.

How should we interpret the evidence of Arabic and Greek sources about sending some clergymen to the Caucasian countries. Did St. Gregory really appoint them as metropolitan bishops? But did not Constantine the Great according to Georgian and Greek and Latin sources send a clergyman who became a bishop[1]. Georgian sources say that the first bishop of Kartli was Iovane (John) sent by Constantine I.

Hence, how should the information provided by Arabic and Greek sources be understood? Did St. Gregory really appoint Sophron, Irenarkhe (Ineranrkhos) and Toma mitropolitan bishops of Kartli, Albania and Lazika? Of course, not! The thing is that during St. Gregory's life and work, i.e. the first half of the 4-th century, bishops were not appointed by anyone, but were elected by the clergy of this or that church[2] . It is not hard to guess that Arabic and Greek sources speak not of true metropolitan bishops but of those who possessed just the title. The church introduced power-devoid titles of metropolitan bishops in the 4-th century and there were a lot of them. They had titles, were allowed to preach, teach but had no church and no true power. It is possible that Sophron, Irenarkhos and Toma were usual preacher missionaries and for that period many missionaries like them were travelling from one country to another. It can be thought that Irenarkhos was obliged to participate in bishop elections, among those clergymen who had been sent by Konstantine the Great . This conclusion can be inferred from the words about his leaving for appointing the bishops all over Kartli.

Thus, in our view, Sophron, Irenarkhos and Toma were not metropolitan bishops, they only possessed this title.

The correctness of our proposal is attested by Ukhtanes - an Armenian historian (X-th century). According to Ukhtanes St. Gregory had sent 400 clergymen to different countries and only 33 among them were "with churches" i.e. church bishops, the rest were bishops "without churches (Адонц 1908: 324). The figure 400 may be an exaggeration, and yet this information provided by Ukhtanes undoubtedly denotes only titled bishops, i.e. bishops "without churches". Sophron, Irenarkhos and Toma must be certainly thought among them.

The fact that St. Gregory could not appoint bishops in different countries can be demonstrated by a paragraph from an Arabic text. First the text lists a number of countries and regions where St. Gregory had sent bishops; the list is followed by the following citation: "As to St. Gregorius (himself) he erected 4 episcopacies in Ararat, Valarshapat, Artashat and Dvinus and subordinated them to his throne. And he rendered care to these countries, that we have enumerated  (Марр 1905: 138-139) (the verb used here is "jata'ahada" that can also be translated as "used to visit"). It is clear that St. Gregory had only 4 episcopacies in Armenia itself.

Hence, the evidence presented in Arabic and Greek versions about the Kings of 3 Caucasian countries arriving in Armenia and receiving enlightenment there - is false. These facts prevent us from making the conclusion about St. Gregory appointing the bishops of Kartli, Albania and Lazika. St. Gregory was much venerated by the churches of Armenia, Albania, Kartli and Larika and had very friendly relations with one-another. St. Gregory was often called Gregory of Parthia in Kartli. But as to the apostle, the Georgians considered St. Nino as their apostle and recognized her to be their converter. This is the conclusion drawn from the contrastive analysis of sources.

The mentioned problems present much interest and their detailed study is a matter of future.



1. Адонц 1908: Николай Адонц, Армения в эпоху Юстиниана, тексты и разыскания по армяно-грузинской  филологии. Кн.XI, СПБ, 1908.

2. Baramidze 1996: Revaz Baramidze, "Where Gods are Gods and Kings Reign" - Grigol Robakisze University, Collection of Scientific Works, I, Tbilisi, 1996 (in Georgian).

3 Chkhartishvili  1987: Marina Chkhartishvili, Problems of Study of Source - science of Georgian Hagiography", "The Life of St. Nino", Tbilisi, 1987 (in Georgian).

4. Garitte 1946: Gerard Garitte, Documents pour l'etude du livre d'Agathange, citta del Vaticano, MCM XLVI, 1946.

5. Khorenatsi 1984: Movses Khorenatsi, The History of Armenia, Translated from the old Armenian, introduction and Notes by  Aleksandre Abdaladze, Tbilisi, 1984  (in Georgian).

6. Марр 1905: Николай Марр, Крещение армян, грузин, абхазов и аланов св. Григорием, СПБ, 1905.

7. Siradze 1986: Revaz Siradze, "Life of Nino" and Beginnings of Georgian Literature - Journal "Ganthiadi", III, 1989 (in Georgian).

8. Javakhishvili 1935: Ivane Javakhishvili, The Ancient  Armenian Historical Writings, Tbilisi, 1935 (in Georgian).


[1] Greek-Latin Sources of the V c. (Rufinus, Theodoret of Kyrus, Socrates, Sozomen, Gelasy of Cyzicus, while                                  telling they rely Gelasy of  Caesarea's working in the IV c. on his "Church History", in particular, which has not survived), "The Life of St. Nino": Should be considered as an ancient Georgian source. Lately, researchers have started to connect the date of its creation with the IV c. (Chkhartishvili: 1987 (in Georgian), Siradze 1989: 23 (in Georgian), Baramidze 1996: 115-119 (in Georgian), "Life of St. Nino", written in the first person - St. Nino, priests: Abiatar and Jacob, Abiatar's daughter - Sidonia, King Mirian themselves - recount the history of conversion of Kartli.

[2] Law on appointing on bishops was passed by a church meeting in Antiochy in 350. According to an Arabic version, the conversion of the Caucasian countries took place at least before holding the meeting in Nikea, i.e. it occurred before the year of 325.




 Volume 3, issue 1


Rustaveli Institute of Georgian Literature

Georgian Electronic Journal of Literature