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Famous Armenian historian of the fifth century, place and date of birth unknown, d. 480

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Elishé, a famous Armenian historian of the fifth century, place and date of birth unknown, d. 480. Some identify him with Elishé, Bishop of Amaduni, who took part in the Synod of Artashat (449). According to a different and more common tradition, he had been in his younger days a companion, as soldier or secretary, of the Armenian general Vartan, during the war of religious independence (449-451) against the Persian King, Yezdigerd II. Later he became a hermit and retired to the mountains, south of Lake Van, where he died. All ancient authorities speak of him as “vartabed” or “doctor”. His most famous work is the “History of Vartan and of the wars of the Armenians [written] at the request of David the Mamigonian”, in which he recounts the heroic struggle of the Armenians in union with the Iberians and the Albanians, for their common faith, against the Persians (449-451). It is considered one of the master-pieces of ancient Armenian literature and is almost entirely free from Greek words and expressions. A good edition of it was published at Venice (1826) by the Mechitarists of San Lazaro. One of the manuscripts on which it is based purports to be a faithful copy of another manuscript dated 616. The text of that edition was further improved in subsequent editions at the same place (1828, 1838, 1859, and 1864). Among other editions of value may be mentioned those of Theodosia (Crimea), 1861, and of Jerusalem, 1865. There is an English, but unfinished, translation by C. F. Neumann (London, 1830); one in Italian by G. Cappelletti (Venice, 1840); and one in French by V. Langlois in his “Collection des Historiens anciens et modernes de l’Armr nie” (Paris, 1869), II, 177 sqq. In addition to the seven chapters mentioned by Elishé himself in his introductory remarks, all the editions contain an eighth chapter referring to the so-called Leontian martyrs (454) and others. The genuineness of that chapter has been called in question. It has been also remarked that in all manuscripts the fifth chapter is missing, while in the editions the original sixth chapter is cut in two so as to make up for the missing chapter. On the first point see Langlois, op. cit., II, p. 180; on the second see C. F. Neumann, “Versuch einer Geschichte der armenischen Literatur, nach den Werken der Mechitaristen frei gearbeitet” (Leipzig, 1836), pp. 64 sqq. See also Ter-Minassiantz, “Die armenische Kirche in ihren Beziehungen zu der syrischen Kirche” (Leipzig, 1904), p. 37. Elishé is also the author of a commentary on Joshua and Judges, an explanation of the Our Father, a letter to the Armenian monks, etc., all found in the Venice editions of the “History of Vartan”.


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