Sunday, 23 November 2014

Saint Bartholomew & Astyages

Reading the legends of Saint Bartholomew I came across the legend of him being in Armenia.

The legend has him converting a king of Armenia, by the name of Polymius, to Christianity.

Polymius' brother Astyages then had Bartholomew executed, the account has him flayed alive then crucified.

Saint Bartholomew is said to have lived in the 1st century A.D.

So no later than 100 A.D.

There are no records of any Armenian King of the Arsacid dynasty, ever, with the name Polymius, be it before Saint Bartholomew was alive or after his execution.

Surely they had records of the names of the kings of Armenia in Armenia?

Movses Khorenatsi wrote in the 5th century A.D.  about King Tigran II, of the Artaxiad dynasty which predated the Arsacid rule in Armenia, in the 1st century B.C.

So there clearly were records even of Kings who predated the Arsacid rule in Armenia in Armenia.

So how can the King Polymius and his brother Astyages be explained?

Polymius would be a Greek name that has been Latinised.

So it would have been "Polymios".

Polymios equates to "Great Strength", and is more likely to have been an epithet than a birth name.

There is no Arsacid King of Armenia that can be equated to this epithet for the era of
Saint Bartholomew.

King Tigranes VI, 59 - 62 A.D. is not recorded having Saint Bartholomew at his court.
King Tiridates I, 66- 88 A.D. is not recorded having Saint Bartholomew at his court.

King Sanatruk, 88 - 110 A.D. is also not recorded having Saint Bartholomew at his court.

The name Astyages is similar to the legendary evil king Azhdahak recorded in Movses Khorenatsi's story about King Tigran II.

Can only assume that "Polymios" (Great Strength) and "Astyages" were invented as a "good, hero Christian king" versus evil man (Azhdahak), that Azhdahak became the eternal evil ruler in Armenian legend.

This has a dualistic, even Zoroastrian, notion about it, Good versus Evil.

Paradoxically, Movses' legend of Tigran II must be based on the legend of king Cyrus and the Median king Astyges written by Herodotus in the 5th century B.C.

A monastery complex, still existing in ruins, in what was the south-west of the Armenian province of Vaspurakan, was said to be built over the site that Saint Bartholomew was executed.

However, there is also a legend of a king Polymius and his brother, also a king, called Astreges and is set in India, where Saint Bartholomew is also said to have been.
More on this can be read here.

As far as Armenia is concerned, there never was a king Polymius or a king or prince of the name Astyages.

Most Churches, not just in the kingdom of Armenia, were built upon pre-existing religious sites that had been Temples.

Wednesday, 30 April 2014

A comparison of the Kalash Gandau and remains of pre-Christian idols in the Republic of Armenia.

Further to the previous two posts on comparisons between the religious art of the Kalash and Armenian people, I post this, comparing the "Gandau" statues used in Kalash funery art and remains of pre-Christian idols in various museums in the Republic of Armenia.

Some examples of the "Gandau" of the Kalash people:
Kalash "Gandau" wooden statues, photo taken circa 1929, from the website:
Modern Kalash "Gandau" tend not to have the elaborate Turban:
From the website:
Visiting the city of Etchmiadzin in the Republic of Armenia in November 2010, I went to the Museum and saw this fragment of a pre-Christian idol:
Before this, I had visited the ancient ruin of Erebuni, east of the capital city of the Republic of Armenia, Yerevan, and saw this fragment of a pre-Christian idol in the Erebuni Museum:
I had visited the National Museum of Armenia in Yerevan as well, but photography is not allowed there, so I did some sketches of the artifacts inside:
Note also my sketch of the "Altar Slab" from the ancient city of Dvin, Republic of Armenia, we will see this "head arrangement" in later photos...
Note my sketch of an "Idol from Shamiran", note the cross (+) on the side of the head. Republic of Armenia dated to 1100 BC
20th century wooden Kalash Gandau, note the cross (+) on it's chest. From the website:
In October 2011 I visited the cave of Anapat. It has numerous heads carved into the rock face. The purpuse of the creation of the cave and its carvings is not known.
There is a narrow chamber, to the right of the entrance, that could have been for entombment of bodies. To the left was a stone door, now gone. There is a further chamber in that direction.
Most of the faces resemble those seen on the "Dvin" Altar slab, though there is one main carving featuring four women with a Lion beneath them.
Steps that lead to the above of the cave.
Face of Lion with its front paws.
"Ibex" type Goat head.
Compare the above photo with the detail of a Goat head carving (with a female figure clasping its horns) from a Kalash wooden carving:
From the website
A Lion, six female figures are above it.


Monday, 28 April 2014

Other similar symbols of Armenia and the Kalash people

Saw this photo, of a detail from the inside of a Kalash mens Temple, from the website

Kalash Shrine (Malosh) dedicated to the God "Mahando", with wooden Horse heads, from the website:
Shutter panels from a Verandah, in the "Nuristan" (formerly Kafiristan) region of Afghanistan, from the website:
 Compare with my photo of the base of an early medieval Khatchkar, outside a Chapel, near the ruined Cathedral of Talin, Republic of Armenia.
Detail from the base of an early Medieval Khatchkar, near Talin Cathedral, Republic of Armenia.
A wooden Ram sculpture, on the exterior wall of the Kalash mens Temple, from the website
A stone Ram carving, one of many elaborate relief sculptures on the exterior of the Armenian Cathedral of the Holy Cross, on the island of Akhtamar, now in the Republic of Turkey.

The "Eternity" Symbol used in the Armenian and Kalash cultures.

Being of Armenian parentage, I had got used to seeing this symbol used in medieval Armenian art.
On a Khatchkar, Etchmiadzin, Republic of Armenia

Gandzasar Cathedral, Republic of Nagorno-Karabakh
Outside of a Church in the Kanaker district of Yerevan, Republic of Armenia
Noravank, Republic of Armenia

Noravank, Republic of Armenia

Saint Gregory Cathedral, ruined city of Ani, Republic of Turkey

Tatev monastery, Republic of Armenia

Outside of a Chapel, Yeghegise, Republic of Armenia
I recalled browsing a book that featured a plate of a sarcophagus, in "Kafiristan", Afghanistan, that featured the "Eternity" symbol.
However, recent attempts to find any images online brought nought.

Being a member of the British Museum, I get their quarterly magazine.
For the Spring/Summer issue of 2014 they featured a section on the "Gandau" statues used by the Kalash people, living in the Chitral valley of modern-day Pakistan.
Below is a  photo from the said issue of the magazine, page 51, the photo is by Luke Rehmat:
Notice the similarity of the symbol used on the Gandau statue on the right, to the "Eternity" symbol used in medieval Armenian funerary and Church art.
Another example of this pair of Gandau, from the website
Another pair of Gandau from the same website:

Below is from the website, showing a an image that features sarcophagii of the Kalash people:

Compare with another look at my photo of the outside of the dome of the Cathedral of Saint Gregory, in the ruined city of Ani, today in the Republic of Turkey:

Below is from the website
The Goat Sacrifice to Sajigor-Shura Verin-Indra, the "kafir" God of Power, Wealth and Fertility
View of the inside of the Temple for Kalash men, from the website
The Kalash tribe, around 2,000 strong, survive in the remote Chitral valley of north-west Pakistan. Formerly sharing much in common with neighbouring peoples in the "Kafiristan" region of Afghanistan, until those people were forced to convert to Islam in the late 19th century by the Emir of Afghanistan, who renamed the region "Nuristan". 
Also in the 19th century came about the myth that the Kalash people come from "Alexander the Great". 

Up until then, they had never claimed such descent, it was the British Scholar, G. S. Robertson (An Inquiry Into The Ethnography Of Afghanistan, 1891, by H. W. Bellew & G. S. Robertson) who made the link to Alexander the Great. 

Recent genetic testing has shown that the Kalash people have Indo-Iranian, rather than Macedonian or Greek genetic ancestry.

If there is any remote link between the Kalash people and Armenia, it may derive from Armenians being deported to the remotest parts of Khorasan (Afghanistan) during the era of the Sasanid Persian Empire, for example during the reign or Shah Yazdegerd II, or from a far older Avestan connection.

Saturday, 26 April 2014


Visiting the British Museum on the 25th or April, saw a defaced bust of Germanicus and a fragment of a Sardonyx Cameo of him.
Below are the photos and also a photo of an AE Dupondius of his I sold last year.

AE Dupondius, Germanicus, Rome, attributed to the reign of his son, Emperor Caligula, 37 - 40 AD.
R.I.C. 57, B.M.C. 94, A metal detecting find at about 3 miles from Chinon, France, by Mr. Murray Jemison in 2010.

Friday, 25 April 2014

The "Crosby Garrett Helmet" at the British Museum

Went to see this amazing find, known as the "Crosby Garrett Helmet", on display in room 37 at the British Museum, until the 27/4/2014.

Sunday, 16 February 2014

On the Saint Sarkis, Saint Sergius, Martyros/Mardiros, Bacchus legends

After attending the service at the Saint Sarkis Church, Kensington, London, 16/2/2014 and having read the pamphlet that was handed out on the "Feast of St. Sarkis and Church Name Day"
It was reading phrases in that pamphlet such as "King Julian" and "(Sarkis') only son Martyros" that vexed me.

This would not be the first case of history being remodelled for the "lives of the Saints"

So I decided to see what Wikipedia has on Saint Sarkis, I copy below some from their article:

"Saint Sarkis the Warrior (Armenian: Սուրբ Սարգիս Զորավար, c. 4th century, died 362-363) also known as Saint Sarkis the Greek was a Centurion in the Roman Empire. Sarkis was a contemporary of the ruling Constantinian dynasty and the Arsacid dynasty of Armenia."

So it is made clear that he was a Greek.

"Little is known on the origins and early life of Sarkis. Sarkis is thought to have been an Armenian or an Anatolian Greek from the plains of Cappadocia."

Um, it has already been stated in his epithet "Saint Sarkis the Greek"

 "Sarkis was appointed by the Roman emperor Constantine the Great as General in Chief of the region of Cappadocia bordering Armenia. Sarkis was reputed to possess the characteristics of piety, faith and valor, and used his position for spiritual growth, teaching the gospel and church building.

"General in Chief of the region of Cappadocia" would have been the military commader for Cappadocia with his headquarters at Caesarea.
The Gospels were known already, certainly in Cappadocia, since Saint Gregory was raised as a Christian in it's capital, Caesarea, setting out to convert the Kingdom of Armenia by 301 A.D.
 Also the Edict of Milan in 313 A.D. made life for Christians in all of the Roman Empire, tolerable.
In that year, Cappadocia was part of the Eastern Empire under the rule of Emperor Licinius.

Constantine’s nephew Julian the Apostate became emperor in 361 and set about persecuting Christians throughout the Roman Empire. Sarkis was deeply concerned about the these events and prayed for a solution. Jesus is said to have appeared to Sarkis and uttered the words: "It is time for you to leave your country and your clan, as did Abraham the Patriarch, and go to a country which I will show you. There you will receive the crown of righteousness prepared for you." Sarkis then left his military position and authority and, with his son Mardiros, sought refuge in Armenia under the protection of King Tiran (Tigranes VII). As Julian and his army advanced toward Antioch Syria slaughtering Christians, Tiran urged Sarkis and Mardiros to leave Armenia for the Sassanid Empire.

No mention is made of the fact that Julian had spent his youth in Cappadocia and was a Baptised Christian, reverting to "Paganism" when he was around 20 years old.

Further, there are no historical records of Julian and his army slaughtering Christians as they advanced towards Antioch, the then capital of Syria.

However, Julian saught to revive the "Pagan" traditions of Antioch. Most of all, and also unmentioned, is that he saught to root out state corruption, especially by the wealthy merchant classes of Antioch. 

King Tiran had been dead for 11 years by 361 A.D. having died in 350 A.D.

So did Sarkis meet the ghost of Tiran?

There was an instance of "military commanders" leaving Armenia for the court of Shapur II.
Well, leaving is an understatement, more they defected.
This happened, for example with Meruzhan Artsruni, who defected with his forces to Shapur II in around 360-361 A.D.

"Sassanid emperor Shapur II, hearing of Sarkis' reputation as a skilled military commander, appointed him to command the Sassanid army."

It is highly unlikely Shapur II would have risked upsetting his Nakhvadars (from which the Armenian title "Nakharar" comes from) and Spah Pati (akin to the Armenian Sparapet) by given supreme command to a Greek Christian.

If Shapur II ever used Greek (Roman) mercenaries in his army, he could have deployed them to conduct surveillance in an invading Roman army, such as that of Julian II when he campaigned into northern Mesopotamia on the 5th of March 363 A.D.

"Sarkis credited God for his military victories, which included fending off Julian’s troops entering into Shapur’s kingdom. Sarkis urged troops serving with him to be believe in the Creator of Heaven and earth and their hearts would never be shaken."

"Creator of Heaven and earth (sic)" is quite an ambiguous title, not purely stating Jesus Christ.
For the Zoroastrians, Ahura Mazda was the Creator of the Universe, including Earth.
It reminds me of the ambiguous wording used in the inscription on the "Arch of Constantine":

"To the Emperor Caesar Flavius Constantinus, the greatest, pious, and blessed Augustus: because he, inspired by the divine, and by the greatness of his mind, has delivered the state from the tyrant and all of his followers at the same time, with his army and just force of arms, the Senate and People of Rome have dedicated this arch, decorated with triumphs."

Constantine, whilst having signed the Edict of Milan, was an open worshipper of Sol.
He was baptised on his death bed.

"Some of Sarkis’ soldiers were baptized by travelling priests of the Sassanid army, yet some who were not baptized went to Shapur II and had told him about the religious beliefs of Sarkis. After realizing that Sarkis was a Christian, Shapur called up Sarkis, his son Mardiros and his 14 soldier companions who were newly baptized back to his palace."

Shapur II was vehemently Zoroastrian and against any other religion that would upset the State.
However there was already a large Christian population in Mesopotamia by the time of Shapur II.

Why would Shapur II allow "travelling priests" into the Sasanian army when his policy was anti-Christian?

"Shapur ordered Sarkis, Mardiros and Sarkis’ companions to participate and offer sacrifices in a Zoroastrianism ceremony in a pagan temple. Sarkis refused Shapur’s orders and said: ‘We should worship one God – the Holy Trinity, which has created the earth and the heaven. Whereas fire or idols are not gods and the human being may destroy them’."

 This is strangely reminiscent of what Saint Gregory is said to have responded to King Tiridates III when asked to participate in ceremonies at the royal Temple.
This is removed from the Wikipedia article on Saint Gregory.
I quote from the book "The History Of My Ancestors" published in July 1978 by the Mekhitarist Fathers of the Island of San Lazzaro:

"- You place some branches too, Gregory - said Dertades.
 - No, I do not wish to make an offering to a statue. I am a Christian - Gregory replied" ~ The History Of My Ancestors, page 32.

I doubt the venerable Mekhitarist Fathers of the Island of San Lazzaro would make that up.

Even more strange, whereas Sarkis previously stated "the Creator of Heaven and Earth" he later states the "Holy Trinity, which has created the Earth and the Heaven".

Make your mind up Sarkis.

Also "sacrifices in a Zoroastrianism ceremony in a pagan temple" is a misnomer since a Zoroastrian Temple is, a Zoroastrian Temple. Shapur II was against heresies and would only have officiated in a Zoroastrian Temple. 
Also the only "sacrifices" to the Eternal Fire was Sandalwood.

"After Sarkis responded to the Sassanid King, Sarkis destroyed all the items in the temple which annoyed the surrounding crowd who fell on him and his son."

What items, the Sacred Fire?
So the Temple Guards did not stop him? And the crowd saw him do this, whilst they were outside the Temple?
If the crowd "fell on him and his son" then that would have been the end of them, surely they would have torn them to pieces.
Yet, apparently not:

"Shapur outraged by Sarkis’ actions, had his son Mardiros killed before his eyes and had his 14 companions beheaded. Sarkis was put in prison and Shapur hearing that Sarkis was strengthened by his relationship with the Lord in prison outraged him so much, Shapur ordered Sarkis’ execution."

Ironically, Sarkis' son was martyred and his name was Mardiros which is the Greek word for martyr.
In Western Armenian the name is rendered as "Martyros".

Same meaning. That was never his original name.
14 seems to have a special symbolism, 14 years was also given for the amount of time Saint Gregory was meant to have been imprisoned at Khor Virap.
It is surprising that after such sacrilege, Shapur did not have Sarkis executed too.

Sarkis seems to have enraged Shapur II whilst in prison so much that he was executed, yet at around the same time from 363 - 370 A.D. King Arshak II, a staunch Christian and opponent to Shapur II was imprisoned by Shapur II and was never executed. He killed himself.


The "Armenian" saint Sarkis is said to be one and the same as the Greek saint Sergius.

Rather than having a son called "Martyros/Mardiros" he had a companion called Bacchus.

Even then, how could such an espoused, fervent Christian, retain an obviously "pagan" name as Bacchus, the Roman equivalent of the Greek "pagan" God, Dionysus.

Legend has them active at the time of the Eastern Emperor, Galerius.

However, if they ever existed, historical research puts them active in the reign of Emperor Julian II.

Just as Saint Sarkis and Martyros/Mardiros are supposed to have been active in that Emperor's reign.

So "Martyros/Mardiros" the martyred son may well be Bacchus.

If Sergius/Sarkis was real and appointed to be a commander of the military forces of Cappadocia in the era of Constantine, circa 337 A.D. (when Constantine died) lets say Sergius/Sarkis was around 37 years old.
He would have been answerable to Flavius Ablabius, Praetorian prefect of the East from 329 to 337 A.D. 
Ablabius was the father-in-law to King Arshak II, who married Ablabius' daughter, Olympias.
The Eastern Emperor Constantius II later had Ablabius executed for his pro-Nicene Christian sympathies in 338 A.D.
Constantius II was successful in defending the eastern frontier against Shapur II in the region of war, in Syria and northern Mespotamia from 337 - 340 A.D.
In 360 A.D. Constantius II was the sole Emperor and faced a determined attack on the eastern frontiers by Shapur II, when Singara, amongst other strong fortresses, were captured.

It would have been useful to Shapur II to have renegades from the Roman army.
In 361 A.D.  Julian II took power.
Again, it would have been useful to Shapur II to have renegades from the Roman army.

By 363 A.D. Sergius/Sarkis would have been 63 and he could have had a son, who was also serving in the army. Rather than being called "martyr" he might have had a real name, like Bacchus.

After Julian II's death in 363 A.D. the Roman army of the campaign chose Jovian, who quickly signed over Mesopotamia to Shapur II.

Both Sergius and Sarkis died and were buried in the region of the war.
Sergius at Resafa in northern Syria, just south of the Euphrates.
Sarkis is just stated as being buried in a village called "Namyan" in Assyria.
Bachus died at Barbalissos, a little to the north-west of Resafa.

What seems to end up in Christian Martyrology often has a dubious if not awkward origin.

Were Sergius/Sarkis and Bacchus/Martyros in the pay of Shapur II?
And so found out and executed by Julian II?