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Anania Shirakatsi

Anania Shirakatsi

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Anania Shirakatsi was an Armenian
Armenians
Armenian people or Armenians are a nation and ethnic group native to the Armenian Highland.The largest concentration is in Armenia having a nearly-homogeneous population with 97.9% or 3,145,354 being ethnic Armenian....

 mathematician
Mathematician
A mathematician is a person whose primary area of study is the field of mathematics. Mathematicians are concerned with quantity, structure, space, and change....

, astronomer
Astronomer
An astronomer is a scientist who studies celestial bodies such as planets, stars and galaxies.Historically, astronomy was more concerned with the classification and description of phenomena in the sky, while astrophysics attempted to explain these phenomena and the differences between them using...

 and geographer
Geographer
A geographer is a scholar whose area of study is geography, the study of Earth's natural environment and human society.Although geographers are historically known as people who make maps, map making is actually the field of study of cartography, a subset of geography...

. He is commonly attributed to having written the Geography (Ashkharhatsuyts
Ashkharatsuyts (Anania Shirakatsi)
Ashkharatsuyts is an early Medieval Armenian illustrated book by Anania Shirakatsi. It is about the geography of Armenia, Georgia, Caucasian Albania, Iran, Mesopotamia, etc....

, in Armenian).

Life


Scholars are split on where exactly Anania was born. According to some historians, he was born in Shirakavan
Shirakavan
Shirakavan also known by the name Yerazgavors was a medieval Armenian town that, during the 9th century AD, served as the capital for the Bagratid Kingdom of Armenia...

, whereas others maintain that the village of Anania in Shirak or the city of Ani
Ani
Ani is a ruined and uninhabited medieval Armenian city-site situated in the Turkish province of Kars, near the border with Armenia. It was once the capital of a medieval Armenian kingdom that covered much of present day Armenia and eastern Turkey...

 were his birthplaces. Unlike many other notable figures, Anania did leave behind an autobiography. He was the son of John (Hovhannes) of Shirak and possibly a member of the noble Kamsarakan
Kamsarakan
Kamsarakan was an Armenian noble family that was an offshoot of the Karen-Pahlav Clan, one of the seven great houses of Parthia of Persian Arsacid origin.Most of their lands were acquired by the Bagratuni during the last quarter of the eight century....

 or Arsharuni princes of the region. It is believed that he received his primary education at a school named Dprevank' and from a very early age, he found himself attracted to mathematics
Mathematics
Mathematics is the study of quantity, space, structure, and change. Mathematicians seek out patterns and formulate new conjectures. Mathematicians resolve the truth or falsity of conjectures by mathematical proofs, which are arguments sufficient to convince other mathematicians of their validity...

. He left Armenia and traveled abroad for eleven years in the hopes of getting a better education.

Upon the recommendation of several of his friends who were returning from Constantinople
Constantinople
Constantinople was the capital of the Roman, Eastern Roman, Byzantine, Latin, and Ottoman Empires. Throughout most of the Middle Ages, Constantinople was Europe's largest and wealthiest city.-Names:...

, he decided to find a suitable teacher in Trebizond in the Byzantine Empire
Byzantine Empire
The Byzantine Empire was the Eastern Roman Empire during the periods of Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages, centred on the capital of Constantinople. Known simply as the Roman Empire or Romania to its inhabitants and neighbours, the Empire was the direct continuation of the Ancient Roman State...

. There he met and fell under the tutelage of a renowned Greek
Greeks
The Greeks, also known as the Hellenes , are a nation and ethnic group native to Greece, Cyprus and neighboring regions. They also form a significant diaspora, with Greek communities established around the world....

 scholar who spoke Armenian, Tychikos, and spent eight years learning mathematics there. Anania profited greatly from his mentor's teachings, as evidenced from the writings in his autobiography, "[I] acquired a perfect knowledge of mathematics. In addition, I also learned a few elements of other sciences." He left Byzantium and returned to his homeland in 651, determined to spread his knowledge among his fellow Armenians, opening a school that taught the quadrivium
Quadrivium
The quadrivium comprised the four subjects, or arts, taught in medieval universities, after teaching the trivium. The word is Latin, meaning "the four ways" , and its use for the 4 subjects has been attributed to Boethius or Cassiodorus in the 6th century...

 and authoring textbooks to educate his students.

Armenian calendar


The education center Anania established could not have come at a better time and was a welcoming sight during an era when the study of mathematics was waning. After teaching for only several years, he had gained a famous reputation all throughout Armenia and abroad. The beginning of one of his most significant accomplishments came in 667 when the Armenian Apostolic Church
Armenian Apostolic Church
The Armenian Apostolic Church is the world's oldest National Church, is part of Oriental Orthodoxy, and is one of the most ancient Christian communities. Armenia was the first country to adopt Christianity as its official religion in 301 AD, in establishing this church...

 invited him to Dvin
Dvin
Dvin was a large commercial city and the capital of early medieval Armenia. It was situated north of the previous ancient capital of Armenia, the city of Artaxata, along the banks of the Metsamor River, 35 km to the south of modern Yerevan...

 and asked him to modify the Armenian calendar
Armenian calendar
The Armenian calendar is the traditional calendar of Armenia. It is a solar calendar based on the same system as the ancient Egyptian model, having an invariant 365-day year with no leap year rule...

 from a movable to fixed system.
Taking into account the incompatibilities of the seven day week, the lunar month, and the solar year, he worked for two years and devised a system that was based on cycle of 532 years. Anania's solution, though, was never adopted by the Church.

Geography


Among all his works, Anania is best known for writing the Ashkharhatsuyts
Ashkharatsuyts (Anania Shirakatsi)
Ashkharatsuyts is an early Medieval Armenian illustrated book by Anania Shirakatsi. It is about the geography of Armenia, Georgia, Caucasian Albania, Iran, Mesopotamia, etc....

(Geography). Up until recently, it was attributed to the Armenian historian Movses Khorenatsi
Movses Khorenatsi
Moses of Chorene, also Moses of Khoren, Moses Chorenensis, or Movses Khorenatsi , or a 7th to 9th century date) was an Armenian historian, and author of the History of Armenia....

 but it is now believed by a number of experts such as Robert Hewsen and Suren T. Yeremyan
Suren Yeremyan
Suren Tigrani Yeremyan was an Armenian historian and cartographer who specialized in the studies concerning the formation of the Armenian nation and pre-medieval Armenia and the Caucasus...

 to have been authored by Anania himself. Babken Harutyunyan, head of Chair of the History of Armenia at Yerevan State University
Yerevan State University
Yerevan State University is a university in Yerevan, Armenia. Founded on May 16 1919, it is the largest university in the country with 110 departments. Of its 3,150 employees, 1,190 comprise the teaching staff which includes 25 academicians, 130 professors, 700 docents , and 360 assistant lecturers...

, however disputes this and maintains that Movses Khorenatsi was the true author on the basis "that all the manuscripts of the 'Ashxarhatsoyts' preserving the author's name, without exception, point at the Patmahayr [father of history] Movses Xorenatsi as an author of the work."

The Ashkharhatsuyts is a historical atlas that gives detailed information on the fifteen provinces of Armenia. Anania gives general information on "the earth, its surface, climatic belts, seas" and also includes information on Armenia's neighbors. The oldest extant manuscript in the field of Armenian geography preserved at the Matenadaran
Matenadaran
The Mesrop Mashtots Institute of Ancient Manuscripts , commonly referred to as the Matenadaran , is an ancient manuscript repository located in Yerevan, Armenia...

 in Yerevan
Yerevan
Yerevan is the capital and largest city of Armenia and one of the world's oldest continuously-inhabited cities. Situated along the Hrazdan River, Yerevan is the administrative, cultural, and industrial center of the country...

 is Anania's Ashkharhatsuyts.

Astronomy


Anania also authored Cosmography and the Calendar, a 48 chapter work that discusses astronomy
Astronomy
Astronomy is a natural science that deals with the study of celestial objects and phenomena that originate outside the atmosphere of Earth...

, meteorology
Meteorology
Meteorology is the interdisciplinary scientific study of the atmosphere. Studies in the field stretch back millennia, though significant progress in meteorology did not occur until the 18th century. The 19th century saw breakthroughs occur after observing networks developed across several countries...

, and physical geography
Physical geography
Physical geography is one of the two major subfields of geography. Physical geography is that branch of natural science which deals with the study of processes and patterns in the natural environment like the atmosphere, biosphere and geosphere, as opposed to the cultural or built environment, the...

. He described the world as "being like an egg with a spherical yolk (the globe) surrounded by a layer of white (the atmosphere) and covered with a hard shell (the sky)." He also believed "that the Milky Way is a mass of dense but faintly luminous stars and agreed with earlier philosophers that the moon was a dark body by nature whose only light was that which it reflected from the sun."

Legacy


Anania is considered the founder of the study of the natural sciences in Armenia. For centuries, his works were used at schools in Armenia as textbooks. The Anania Shirakatsi Medal is an Armenian State Award for scientists in the economics
Economics
Economics is the social science that analyzes the production, distribution, and consumption of goods and services. The term economics comes from the Ancient Greek from + , hence "rules of the house"...

 and natural sciences, engineers and inventors. In 2005, the Central Bank of the Republic of Armenia issued an Anania Shirakatsi commemorative coin
Commemorative coin
Commemorative coins are coins that were issued to commemorate some particular event or issue. Most world commemorative coins were issued from the 1960s onward, although there are numerous examples of commemorative coins of earlier date. Such coins have a distinct design with reference to the...

.

Further reading

  • Haroutunian, Babken. "Historical Geography." Matenadaran
    Matenadaran
    The Mesrop Mashtots Institute of Ancient Manuscripts , commonly referred to as the Matenadaran , is an ancient manuscript repository located in Yerevan, Armenia...

    .
  • Hewsen, Robert H. "The Geography of Pappus of Alexandria: A Translation of the Armenian Fragments." Isis, Vol. 62, No. 2, (Summer, 1971). Tumanyan, Benik. Հայ աստղագիտության պատմություն (History of Armenian Astronomy). vol. i. Yerevan: Mitq Publishing, 1964. Yeremyan, Suren T
    Suren Yeremyan
    Suren Tigrani Yeremyan was an Armenian historian and cartographer who specialized in the studies concerning the formation of the Armenian nation and pre-medieval Armenia and the Caucasus...

    . Հայաստանը ըստ «Աշխարհացույցի» (Armenia According to the Ashkharhatsuyts). Yerevan, Armenian SSR: Armenian Academy of Sciences
    Armenian Academy of Sciences
    The Armenian Academy of Sciences is the primary body that conducts research in and coordinates activities in the fields of science and social sciences in the Republic of Armenia. It was founded on November 29, 1943...

    , 1963.

External links