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BAGRATUNI (also called Bagarat):

The ancestors of the Armenian-Georgian family of Bagration, the first family entered in the list of the Russian nobility (published by Count Aleksandr Bobrinsky, under the title "Dvoryanskie Rody," St. Petersburg, 1890). The Bagratians or Bagratuni claim to be descendants of King David of Israel. Moses of Chorene wrote his "History of Armenia" at the request of Isaac Bagration (Sahak Bagratuni) in the middle of the fifth century. This historian gathered his information from the Syrian historian Mar Abbas Katina, who, according to Emin, lived about 150 B.C., and, according to others, in the third century C.E. Moses states that King Hracheye (fierce eyes) joined Nebuchadnezzar in his first campaign against the Jews, and took part in the siege of Jerusalem. From among the captives he selected the distinguished Jewish chief Shambat or Smbat (Sabbat) and brought him with his family to Armenia. From this Shambat the Bagratuni claim descent; and "Smbat" often occurs as a prænomen in the family. Vaharsaces I. (2d century B.C.) granted Shamba Bagarat, his counselor, "the mighty and wise man from among the Jews," the hereditary office of placing the crown on the king's head at the coronation. It is said that Bagarat with his regiments took part in the campaign of Vaharsaces against the Macedonians. When Vaharsaces built a temple in Armavira, he in vain requested the Jew Shamba Bagarat to renounce the Jewish faith and to worship the idols. Arsaces I., son of Vaharsaces (128-115 B.C.), however, forced the sons of Bagarat to do this. Two of them gave up their lives for the faith of their fathers, but the others agreed to go hunting and participate in war on Sabbath-days, and not to circumcise their boys.

Under Tigranes II. (first century B.C.), the persecution of the Jews continued; and one of the Bagarats, named Asud, had his tongue cut off for refusing to worship the idols. Under Arthsham, Enanos, the head of the family, had the alternative placed before him of worshiping idols or of being crucified. A relative, Saria, was put to death in his presence; and then he and his whole house foreswore Judaism.

When Thaddai, the disciple of the apostle Thomas, came to the city of Edessa, he stopped at the house of the Jewish magnate Tobias, a descendant of the family of Bagratuni. This Tobias once fled from the king Arthsham, being determined not to renounce the Jewish faith.

Among the Bagratunis the following Jewish names were common: Bagadia, Tobia, Senekia (Zedekiah), Assud, Sabbatia, Azaria, Enanos (Hananiah). The family became very powerful, and in the tenth century of the common era ascended the thrones of Armenia and Georgia. These names are to the present day preserved in the families of Bagration.

The foregoing account of the origin of the Bagratuni rests upon the history of Moses of Chorene. Another Armenian historian, Bishop Sebeos, who lived in the seventh century, gives, instead of Shamba Bagarat, Bagarat-Tarazian "from the descendants of Armaniac, the son of Haik, the ancestor of the Armenians" ("Istoria Pokhoda Iraka v Persiu," p. 12; and Von Gutschmidt, who in his"Kleine Schriften," iii. 282 et seq. suggests that Moses of Chorene as a court historian was forced to dissemble the real origin of the Armenian dynasty in the interests of Shabat Bagratuni, who led the revolt against Persian domination).

I. Berkhin, in his "Rod Bagratuni," in comparing the two different accounts, shows (1) that the sources of Sebeos were known to Moses, who (book i., ch. xxii.) warns his readers not to believe "such foolish words, which have not even a semblance of truth"; (2) that the vast acquaintance with the historical literature of his time and the conscientiousness of Moses of Chorene, "the Tacitus of the Armenians," are thoroughly proved, while about the character of the material of Sebeos we have no basis upon which to judge; (3) that Moses of Chorene, being affectionately disposed to the family, would have been glad to give them a pedigree as descending from Haik, the father of the nation, if his conscience would allow him to believe it to be the truth; (4) the typical Jewish names of the Bagratuni family (quoted above). Emin, the Russian translator of Moses of Chorene, one of the best authorities on Armenian history, expressed himself, at the Fifth Archeological Congress, 1880, as follows: "Vaharshak gives his attention to the Jew Bagarat, the descendant of Shambat," etc. It should not be forgotten, however, that, according to Gutschmidt and other critics, Moses of Chorene's work is of a later date than the fifth century, and that his statements are open to question.

See also Armenia.

Bibliography:
  • Moses of Chorene, History of Armenia, books ii., iii.;
  • Shopen, Novyya Zamyetki na Drevniya Istorii Kavkaza, etc., St. Petersburg, 1866;
  • A. Harkavy, Ob Izuchenii Istorii Russkikh Yevreyev, in Razsvyet, 1880, No. 50;
  • I. Berkhin, Rod Bagratuni, in Voskhod, Nov.-Dec., 1883, pp. 128-153.
G. H. R.
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