Pap of Armenia

Pap of Armenia
King of Armenia
Reign 370374
House Arsacid

Pap, also known as Papas[1] (Armenian: Պապ; Latin: Papes or Papa; 353–374) was a Prince who served as the Roman Client King of Arsacid Armenia from 370 until 374.

Family and early life

Pap was the son born to the Arsacid monarchs Arsaces II (Arshak II) and his wife Pharantzem (P'arandzem),[2] who was his third known wife. Prior to his father’s Armenian kingship, Arsaces II married an unnamed woman who appeared to have died before the year 358 by whom he had a son called Anob,[3] thus was Pap’s older paternal half-brother. The father of Pap served as Roman Client King of Armenia from 350 until 368. Pap is the only known child born to Arsaces II during his Armenian Kingship.

He was born and raised in Armenia and little is known on his early life. Armenian historian of the 5th century Faustus of Byzantium in his writings History of the Armenians (Book IV, Chapter 15), states that the parents of Pap nourished him during his childhood and when he reached puberty he became robust.


Pap was named in honor of Pap, a brief Catholicos in 348 who was Pap’s late paternal relative and the first son of Saint Husik. Saint Husik was the grandfather of the Catholicos, St. Nerses I.[4]

Ascendancy to the throne

During Sassanid King Shapur II's invasion of the Kingdom of Armenia, Pharantzem and Pap were holed up with the Armenian treasure in the fortress of Artogerassa defended by a troop of Azats.[2] According to Ammianus Marcellinus, the Persian invasion force was commanded by two Armenian defectors, Cylaces (Glak) and Artabanes (Vahan). Shapur II's intention was to replace the Armenian Arsacid monarchy with a non-Arsacid but still Armenian nakharar diarchy. Faustus of Byzantium in his Epic Histories also mentions two Armenian nakharars, Meruzhan Artsruni and Vahan Mamikonian in leadership positions under Shapur II's suzerainty as well as Zik and Karen who carried Persian noble titles. This also implies that Shapur II might have intended to combine Sassanid administrative rule (Zik and Karen) with that of nakharar rule (Artsruni and Mamikonian).[2]

During the siege, Arsaces II’s wife Pharantzem appealed to Cylaces and Artabanes in the name of her husband who defected back to the Arsacid monarchy and engineered the escape of Pap. Themistius reported of Pap's arrival at Valens' court in Marcianopolis where the Emperor was wintering.[2] Valens bade him to stay at Neocaesarea in Pontus Polemoniacus three hundred kilometers from the Armenian border. In 369, Pap returned to Armenian territory at the request of the nobility. He was accompanied by the comes et dux Terentius but was not yet endowed with a royal rank.[5]

King of Armenia

Valens was reluctant to bestow a royal title upon Pap in order not to violate an earlier treaty signed by Jovian in July 363.[5] Valens dispatched his magister peditum praesentalis Arinthaeus to Armenia just as Shapur II invaded the country in pursuit of Pap who was hiding near the Roman frontier in Lazica. Meanwhile, Terentius restored Sauromaces to the throne of Iberia, but the king appointed by the Persians, Aspacures retained control of the eastern part of that kingdom. Instead of going after Pap, Shapur II concentrated his attack on the now long besieged fortress of Artogerassa which fell in the winter of 370, the royal treasure was captured by the Persians and Pharantzem, raped and murdered.[2] Shapur II also began systematically persecuting the local Christians by forcing apostasy to Mazdaism, a form of Orthodox Zoroastrianism.[2]

Shapur II contacted Pap who was still in hiding and tried to persuade him to come over to his side. Under Shapur II's influence Pap murdered the duplicitous Cylaces and Artabanes and sent their heads to the shahanshah as a sign of loyalty. In the spring of 370 Shapur II prepared a massive invasion of Armenia which was realized in the spring of 371. Valens' generals Traianus and Vadomarius met the Persian force in Armenia at Bagrevand not far from the village called Dzirav and came off victorious. Faustus of Byzantium gives considerable credit for the victory to sparapet Mushegh I Mamikonian. Moses of Chorene of Armenia and Roman Ammianus Marcellinus noted that the Valens' generals did not participate in the battle actively but rather were engaged in protecting the King. During the ensuing battles more Armenian territories were reclaimed from the Persians, including Arzanene and Corduene which were ceded to Persians by Jovian in 363.[2]

By the end of the summer Shapur II retreated to his capital at Ctesiphon and Valens went back to Antioch. Shapur II was unable to confront the massive Roman build up in Armenia as a result of his preoccupation with Kushan attacks in the eastern realm of his empire. While peace prevailed with Persia, the situation inside Armenia began to crumble.


Pap, like his father, aggressively pursued a policy on Christian Arianism.[6] He was struggling to rule a kingdom that was recently dismantled by Shapur II; his actions to keep a tight grip on power led to his downfall. Pap poisoned the popular Armenian Catholicos Nerses in 373, who was a very close Roman ally.[2] The poisoning of Nerses was one of the measures that Pap took to restrain the excessive power of the Church, which included the confiscation of rich estates which were attached to the Holy See. Pap had nominated a certain Husik as a replacement and sent him for consecration in Caesarea, the bishop of Caesarea Basil refused to consecrate the nominee but Valens requested that Basil quickly resolve the situation by finding a new nominee acceptable to Pap. Basil failed to do so and the Roman see of Caesarea effectively lost its traditional role of consecrating the Catholicos of Armenia.[2] Pap's refusal to cooperate with Basil angered Valens. In addition, Pap demanded control over Caesarea and twelve other Roman cities including Edessa as former Arsacid domains while openly courting Persia. Valens decided to execute Pap and invited him to a meeting in Tarsus. Pap arrived with 300 mounted escorts but quickly became anxious when he found out the Emperor was not there in person, fleeing back to Armenia.[7]

Terentius sent two generals with scutarii (shielded cavalry) familiar with the local terrain after Pap, an Armenian named Danielus and an Iberian named Barzimeres who failed to capture and execute Pap.[2] Both generals gave an excuse that Pap had used magical powers to avoid capture and used a dark cloud to mask his party. Faustus' in his Epic Histories also claimed that Pap was possessed by devs (demons). This could have simply been an attack against Pap's sympathies towards Arians and pagans. Valens then assigned Traianus to gain Pap's confidence and murder him. Traianus murdered Pap in 374 during a banquet which he had organized for the young king.[8] Marcellinus Ammianus drew parallels between the treacherous murder of the Quadi King Gabinius by Valentinian I and the murder of Pap by Valens,[9] who also wrote that the murder of Pap haunted Valens prior to the Battle of Adrianople.

The Armenian nakharars still loyal to Pap did little to protest as a result of a large Roman army present on Armenian territory. The new Roman nominee for a king was accepted virtually by everyone. It was another Arsacid and nephew of Pap, who grew up in Rome named Varasdates (Varazdat) that began to rule under the regency of Mushegh Mamikonian.[2] The Mamikonians were notoriously pro-Roman. Shapur II had long been courting Pap and he was infuriated when Pap was murdered and a new Arsacid placed on the Armenian throne instead.

Marriage and issue

Pap married an Armenian noblewoman called Zarmandukht, who through marriage became queen consort of Armenia.[10] Zarmandukht bore Pap two sons:[11] Arsaces III (Arshak III) and Vologases.

In the arts

See also


  1. Dignas, Rome and Persia in Late Antiquity: Neighbours and Rivals, pp. 183-84
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 Lenski, Noel (2003). Failure of Empire: Valens and the Roman State in the Fourth Century A.D. Los Angeles: University of California Press. pp. 133, 170–81. ISBN 0-520-23332-8.
  3. According to Saint Mesrop Mashtots, the priest & historiographer of the Catholicos Nerses the Great, gives the name Anob as the father of Pap’s nephew Varasdates (Varazdat). Also according to the Epic Histories attributed to P'avstos (Faustus) Buzand, Varasdates proclaims himself as the nephew of Pap
  4. The Armenian Church – Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin: Establishment of the Armenian Church
  5. 1 2 Greatrex, Geoffrey B. "The Background and Aftermath of the Partition of Armenia in A.D. 387". The Ancient History Bulletin 14.1-2. (2000), pp. 35-48. Retrieved 2008-01-14.
  6. Terian, Patriotism And Piety In Armenian Christianity: The Early Panegyrics On Saint Gregory, p.18
  7. Ammianus Marcellinus. The Later Roman Empire: A.D. 354-378. London: Penguin Classics, 1986, pp. 387-388. ISBN 0-14-044406-8.
  8. Sargsyan, Gagik. «Պապ» [Pap]. Armenian Soviet Encyclopedia. Yerevan: Armenian National Academy of Sciences, vol. 9, 1983, pp. 128-29.
  9. Ammianus Marcellinus, Roman Empire, p. 387.
  10. Kurkjian, A History of Armenia, p. 266.
  11. Epic Histories, Book 5.37.

Further reading

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