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8-08-2015, 00:07


I, Gregory, the priest over the enfeebled people of the Armenians, at the time of our persecutions by the nation of the Ishmaelites who had appeared from eastern lands [wrote this colophon on the Gospels]. We came fromMount Ararat, from the village, which is called Arkuri, following our God-loving king Sennacherim, to dwell in this city of Sebasteia where the Forty Martyrs shed their blood in the battle with bitter-blowing wind and ice-cold water. And there, after five years my many talented and greatly honoured father, the priest Anania passed away, in the royal city of Constantinople1 . . . And [so] we remained [in Sebasteia], two brothers, George and Gregory . . .’2 This colophon, written in 1066, offers us insight into an Armenian monastery on Byzantine territory. Gregory, the copyist of the Gospel Book, moved to Sebasteia after 1021, when Basil II (976–1025) granted the city to Sennacherim-John Artsruni, in exchange for his native kingdom of Vaspurakan (see above, p. 360). Gregory’s colophon is his testament, bequeathing his most valuable possession, the Gospels, to his spiritual son. The colophon was written at a difficult period for Byzantine AsiaMinor. Although primarily concerned with spiritual themes, Gregory mentions ‘our persecutions by the nation of the Ishmaelites’. The question arises: who were these ‘Ishmaelites’?