Չորրորդ Հայքի Գրադարան . ճանաչել զիմաստութիւն եւ զխրատ, իմանալ զբանս հանճարոյ . Չորրորդ Հայքի Գրադարան . ճանաչել զիմաստութիւն եւ զխրատ, իմանալ զբանս հանճարոյ . Չորրորդ Հայքի Գրադարան . ճանաչել զիմաստութիւն եւ զխրատ, իմանալ զբանս հանճարոյ

Ancient Greece in Armenian Literature

There are a few Reverent references to Ancient Greece in Jalaleddin.

“While the melancholy young man was engulfed in his sad musings, his friends had arranged a splendid table that was reminiscent of Homer’s heroes. Many glasses of wine passed from hand to hand, and the roasted meat was pulled fresh off the skewers.”

Chapter 9, Jalaleddin

During this Homeric feast, which readers of the Iliad and the Odyssey will recognize as familiar, one of the heroes—a former priest who came to be called Deli-Baba (Turkish for ‘crazy father’)—offers the following praise:

“To our ancient Armenian gods! To Anahit, Vahakn, Hayk! I toast this glass to your sacred memory, save us.”

This happens, in all places, at the Saint Bartholomew Monastery. Yes, a former priest, praying to the ancient (pagan) Armenian gods, while feasting in a dilapidated monastery. Deli-Baba, seeing the suffering of his people, and having abandoned hope of divine intervention by a forgiving God, decided to take vengeance into his own hands by giving up priesthood and becoming a thug. His anger is not toward the God of Christianity, as we see in his full toast, but toward his ancestors for what he perceives as an excessive and unreasonable reliance on the Christian God that they used as justification to not defend themselves. This reminds me of another one of Raffi’s lines: “Pitiable are the people who find consolation in God in the face of every misfortune, only relating all the sufferings they bear in the world to God.” Accordingly, it seems more likely that Raffi fashioned Deli-Baba as a Pagan Christian than an ex-Christian Pagan.

Saint Bartholomew Monastery

The toast to the ancient Armenian Gods also recalls a time in history when Armenians were happily influenced by Hellenic culture. For example, the Temple of Garni, which still stands in Armenia as a monument to the pagan Gods, resembles a mini Parthenon and contains Greek inscriptions.

Temple of Garni

Raffi’s reverence for the Ancient Greeks in Jalaleddin extends beyond that scene and beyond religion.

Earlier, for example, Raffi writes:

“With respect to women, the heart of a brave man can harbor one other feeling besides love, which we often mistakenly call envy, jealousy or zealousness. It is a feeling that is impossible to describe with words. It is a passion that respects the dedication of women, for which the Hellenes fought for ten years in the walls of Troy.

Sarhat was not only grieving for having lost his beloved; he also grieved because she was now in foreign and impure hands. But how many innocent mortals had been subjected to such circumstances? Who cared for them? Perhaps their parents, if they were still alive. But did the people care, the Armenian people? No, that requires a Hellenic zeal…”

Chapter 9, Jalaleddin

Here, Raffi uses the Ancient Greeks as a paragon of courage, as we see later in the book.

The references to Ancient Greece in Jalaleddin are meaningful. I think Raffi would have been pleased to know that the ancient Greeks and Armenians most likely shared a proximal common ancestor in Anatolia, but maybe he suspected that already…

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