A Medieval Armenian Text in its Eurasian Context

Studying East of Byzantium V

Sergio La Porta, Fresno State
Alison M. Vacca, University of Tennessee, Knoxville


Around 788, the Armenian priest Łewond wrote a history of the Islamic conquest and rule of Armenia for his noble Bagratuni patron. It is the only contemporary eighth-century history of caliphal Armenia to have survived and therefore constitutes an important source for Umayyad and early ʿAbbāsid Armenia, predating any of the extant major Arabic collections known as futūḥ that relate stories of the conquests. While not a translation of an Arabic futūḥ text, Łewond shows familiarity with Arabic modes of historiographical writing and Arabic sources. This workshop will present Łewond’s History as a caliphal history from a local perspective and read specific passages from the text alongside the Arabic historiographical tradition to foreground how Łewond contours the narrative to serve his own rhetorical purposes. It will also address part of Łewond’s text that purports to preserve the correspondence between the Byzantine emperor Leo the Isaurian and the Umayyad caliph ʿUmar b. ʿAbd al-ʿAzīz. This correspondence places Łewond into broader conversations between Muslims and Christians in Arabic, Aljamiado, and Latin

Sergio La Porta is Haig and Isabel Berberian Professor of Armenian Studies and Chair of the Department of Philosophy at Fresno State. His areas of research include medieval Armenian intellectual and political history, philology, and apocalyptic literature. Dr. La Porta’s publications include a three-volume study on Armenian commentaries on the works of Dionysius the Areopagite (Peeters, 2008) and several articles on political legitimacy and intellectual history in medieval Armenia. He recently co-edited a volume with Dr. Kevork Bardakjian entitled The Armenian Apocalyptic Tradition: A Comparative Perspective (Brill, 2014). Professor La Porta is currently the editor of the Journal of the Society for Armenian Studies.

Alison M. Vacca is Assistant Professor of History at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. She works with Arabic and Armenian sources about the caliphal North in the eighth and ninth centuries. Her book Non-Muslim Provinces under Early Islam: Islamic Rule and Iranian Legitimacy in Armenia and Caucasian Albania (Cambridge University Press, 2017) examines the use of pre-Islamic Iranian expressions of power and the memory of Sasanian rule in tenth-century descriptions of Islamic rule in Armenia and Caucasian Albania. Her articles include studies on intercultural transmission of historical texts, the use of Arabic sources to tell Armenian history, the relationship between the South Caucasus and Central Asia, and inter-communal conflict between Muslims and Christians under early Islamic rule.

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Silver Dirham of Temp. Yazid II, Arminiyya (721–722). American Numismatic Society, 1975.66.1. Photo: American Numismatic Society
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