A Window into the Tenth Century: The Life and Literary Works of Anania of Narek
- Arlen, Jesse Siragan
- Advisor(s): Cowe, Peter S
This dissertation revolves around the literary works and activities of a significant but little known figure of the tenth century AD, Anania of Narek. To date, no monograph has been written on him in a Western language, nor have any of his books been translated. The goal of this project is to contextualize his works and recover his impact on several of the primary developments in the Near East and Mediterranean that marked his era and in so doing offer a novel view into the multifaceted and interconnected worlds of the period’s various and competing ethnoreligious communities. Anania was the first abbot of Narek monastery, which was founded during a regional explosion of cenobitic monastic institutions. Through a reading of his Book of Instruction and other sources, I present a picture of the intellectual and ascetic-mystical educational system he initiated there. This system became the crucible that formed several of the leading figures of the next generation, including Uxtanēs of Sebasteia and Grigor of Narek. One of the first of the major medieval monastic academies, Narek became a model for later ones that endured throughout the Armenian oikoumen� as intellectual and artistic centers into the early modern period. Anania also was caught up at the center of the Tʿondrakian controversy, which had its origins in a Christian community existing outside the structure of the official church in the borderlands between the Byzantine Empire and ʿAbbāsid Caliphate. Through a careful reexamination of the sources, I offer a new perspective on the development of “Tʿondrakecʿi” as a heretical epithet and explain how ascetic figures such as Anania could be denounced as such by the official church hierarchy. Anania was also at the forefront of the Armenian Church’s self-defense vis-�-vis the assimilationist agenda of the Byzantine Church and Empire in its eastward expansion. Reading his Root of Faith alongside other contemporaneous texts, I reconstruct the vardapets’ (theological doctors) defense of their church’s right to autonomous existence and their self-presentation as preservers of the faith of early Christianity, in universal consensus and communion with the other Christian communities living outside of the Byzantine Empire in Egypt, Ethiopia, the Middle East, the Caucasus, India, and China.