Art And Culture

Qoqnoos Publishes Birjandi’s Version of Armenian History

Qoqnoos Publishes Birjandi’s Version of Armenian History
Qoqnoos Publishes Birjandi’s Version of Armenian History

A major work of early Armenian historiography, originally published in 1999 by Liverpool University Press, UK, is now available in Persian.

‘The Armenian History Attributed to Sebeos,’ a historical account written in the middle of the 7th century, is attributed to an Armenian bishop and historian known as Sebeos.

The Persian translation of the book by author, translator and historian Mahmoud Fazeli Birjandi, 55, has been brought out by the Tehran-based publishing house Qoqnoos, Mehr News Agency reported.

The 7th century history of Armenia is an excellent reference for those involved in the study of Armenia, the Caucasus, the Eastern Roman Empire and the Middle East in late antiquity (7th-9th centuries).

It will be of particular value to Islamic scholars, since Sebeos not only sets the scene for the advent of Islam, but also provides the only substantial non-Muslim account of the initial period of the religion.

Describing the tug of war between Byzantium (Eastern Roman Empire) and Persia for control of Armenia, followed by Arab invasion in the final chapters, the book is of unique significance, for it was written in a time when comparable chronicles in Greek and Syriac (the language of ancient Syria, a western dialect of Aramaic in which many important early Christian texts are preserved) were sparse.

From classical Armenian, the account was translated into English with commentary by expert in Armenian Studies Robert William Thomson, 83, and Byzantium historian James Howard Johnson, 75, both from the UK.

The book combines Thomson’s philological mastery with the special expertise of Johnson in the 7th century history of Byzantine Empire and the Middle East. The latter is the author of ‘Witness to a World Crisis: Historians and Histories of the Middle East in the Seventh Century,’ a 2010 study of “the period when the final struggles between the empires of Rome and Persia, and then the explosion of Islamic warriors, transformed the political and religious world.”

 Fortunes of Armenia

Sebeos traces the fortunes of Armenia in the 6th and 7th centuries within the framework of the Byzantine-Sassanid (the last imperial dynasty -224-651 AD - in Persia before the rise of Islam) conflict. He completed his account when Muawiya (602-680) was the caliph of the Umayyad Dynasty.

Before starting the translation, Birjandi reviewed three different editions of Sebeos’ work. He selected the publication of Liverpool University for his translation. The Liverpool edition comprises two volumes: Part 1 (240 pages) is the translation and notes followed by Part 2 (216 pages) which contains the historical commentary.

However, Birjandi did not limit the work to the Liverpool edition and made a comparative analysis with other sources such as ‘Sebeos’ History of Armenia’ translated by Armenian philologist Robert Bedrosian from the classical Armenian edition of K. Patkanean (Patmut’iwn Sebeosi episkoposi i Herakln).

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