Agathangelos (Greek Ἀγαθάγγελος; second half of the fifth century): Armenian hagiographer, author of a History of St. Gregory and the Conversion of Armenia.
Although the author of the History of St. Gregory and the Conversion of Armenia claims to have been a contemporary of king Tiridates III of Armenia (r.c.298-c.330), who ordered him to writenote[Agathangelos, History of St. Gregory and the Conversion of Armenia, Prologue 6.] about the reign of king Chosroes II, about the Christian preacher Gregory the Illuminator, about the conversion of Tiridates III, and several later events, it seems that the author was not a contemporary of Tiridates III, but lived in the second half of the fifth century. The anti-Persian attitude in the first part of the text and the account of the destruction of the pre-Christian sanctuaries suggest a date after the Armenian defeat in the battle of Avarayr (451).
Still, it is possible that Agathangelos - "bringer of good news", probably a pseudonym - used older sources, such as the letter to bishop Leontius mentioned in the text.note[Agathangelos, History of St. Gregory and the Conversion of Armenia 3.23.] It is also possible that a source, written during the late reign of Tiridates III, was reworked.
The author, who claims to have been educated in Greek and Latin in Rome,note[Agathangelos, History of St. Gregory and the Conversion of Armenia, Prologue 6.] casts its information in Biblical molds. This means that a nucleus of information, like Tiridates' madness, is presented with all kinds of Biblical references, like the madness of Nebuchadnezzar in the Biblical book of Daniel. This procedure, which was common among Christian authors (e.g., Eusebius), makes it difficult to recognize what is a real fact and what is not. There are considerable errors, like the confusion of Tiridates II and Chosroes II at the beginning of book I.note[Agathangelos, History of St. Gregory and the Conversion of Armenia 1.2.]
Still, Agathangelos' message is clear: central in his account is the vision of God's church descending in the city of Vagharshapat (modern Etchmiadzin), which means that the text essentially offers a legitimation of the position of the catholicos of the Armenian Church.
The text consists of five parts:
- Book 1: Reign of Chosroes II, accession of Tiridates III, persecution of Gregory
- Book 2: Martyrdom of Hripsime, madness of Tiridates, Gregory released, his preaching
- Book 3: Preaching of Gregory, his vision, building of chapels for the martyrs, destruction of the pagan shrines, Gregory made bishop
- Book 4: Gregory as organizer of the Armenian church, his meeting with Constantine the Great
The History of St. Gregory and the Conversion of Armenia has come down to us in an Armenian, Aramaic, Coptic, Georgian, Arabic, and Greek versions. You can read it here.