Vardan, Mamikonian, St.
VARDAN, MAMIKONIAN, ST.
Armenian noble and leader of Armenian uprising against the Persian Yazdgard II (440–457); b. Armenia, date unknown; d. Avarair, Armenia, June 2, 451 (feast, Thursday before Lent). Vardan, the son of Hamazasp and Sahaganoush, had two younger brothers, Hemaiak and Hamazaspian. From the days of tiridates iii (250–330?) the Mamikonians, who were descendants of Mancaeus, a native of China, had been outstanding in the nation, providing brave sparapets, or generals. Vardan had a thorough Christian education and excellent military training. He distinguished himself at the head of the Armenian cavalry in his own country and in Persia when the latter was an Armenian ally. Vardan was a member of the mission sent by Patriarch isaac the great to Emperor Marcian, on which occasion he was given the title of Stratelates.
He opposed Yazdgard II's efforts to impose Zoroastrianism on the Armenians. Imprisoned by Yazdgard, he unwillingly pretended to adore the sun at the insistence of his fellow prisoners, who were also of the nobility, in order to save his homeland from a gigantic invasion. He repented of this grave sin and desired to get away from his country. At the insistence of Prince Vahan Amaduni, however, Vardan accepted command of the Armenian armies. In the Synod of Shahabivan (450), Vardan was questioned, absolved, and declared "faithful in everything to the love of Christ."
Having freed Armenia of the armies and magi of Yazdgard II, he foresaw the vengeance that would be wreaked by this savage king and made a vain appeal to the Byzantine Emperor Marcian (450–457) for help. Mihr Narse, Yazdgard II's general, crossed the Araks River at the head of 300,000 soldiers equipped with assault elephants and thrust into the heartland of Armenia. Vardan met him with 60,000 men. The eve of the battle was a night of spiritual preparation: Mass was celebrated, all went to Communion, and many neophytes were baptized. Vardan explained to his troops the magnitude of the struggle and the ideal of martyrdom. The armies met on June 2, 451, near the hamlet of Avarair, on the banks of the Delmut (Akçay) River. Vardan fell bravely in battle together with the other princes. Despite the Persian victory the tenacity of the Armenians made Yazdgard II change his plans.
Bibliography: v. eliŠe, The History of Vartan and of the Battle of the Armenians, tr. c. f. neuman (London 1830). p'arpec 'i lazar, Histoire d'Arménie, Fr. tr. s. ghÉsarian in Collection des historiens anciens et modernes de l'Arménie, v.2, ed. v. langlois (Paris 1869) 253–368.
[n. m. setian]