eventually (second Christian century) incorporated into the Parthian empire. The major source for Adiabene, the Chronicle ofArbela, recounts the lives of the early bishops ofArbela, beginning about 100. The second bishop, Samson, was martyred by the Parthian king Xosroes during a period of Parthian occupation. By the time that the Persian empire was supplanted by the Sassanid empire (226), Christianity was well established. Two fourth-century bishops became martyrs: John of Arbela (343) and Abraham (344). The Sassanid persecution of Christians had a major impact on the region. From the end of the fourth century, Christianity flourished in the area. Later Syriac chronicles describe Christian churches and monasteries built in the area, but the area functioned merely as a region of the Sassanid Persian empire.


Some of the traditions of Christian evangelism in Armenia attribute the first efforts to Addai who was supposed to have worked in the early first century; others suggest Bartholomew or Thaddaeus. It is uncertain when Christian communities in Armenia first developed, but even Tertullian (AdversusJudaeos 7.4) wrote of Christian villages in the area of Armenia, which then comprised not only the present republic, but also much of what is now Eastern Turkey. Certainly the early biblical versions and the liturgy suggest that the country was first evangelised from Syria. As otherwise in the development of early Christianity in Asia, the impetus seems to have been the contact between traders and their companions; in this case the contact appears to have been with representatives of the Greek and Syriac churches.

Essential to the history of Armenia during our period was its role as a buffer state between the Roman and Persian empires. During the mid-third century, Tiridates III and members of his party were forced by the Parthians to flee to Roman protection. Gregory, son of an anti-Parthian prince, spent the exile in Caesarea of Cappadocia where he studied Christianity and married. After Tiridates III was returned to power with Roman assistance (278-87), Gregory returned to Armenia. His refusal to support the traditional religious celebration of the restoration led to his punishment and a general persecution of Christians. The tradition says that after a series of miracles wrought by Gregory, Tiridates III was converted; Gregory then returned to Caesarea to be consecrated bishop. The tradition is quite uniform that the definitive conversion of the nation took place through the efforts of Gregory the Illuminator

24 S. Lyonnet, Les origines de la version arménienne et le Diatessaron; S. Der Nersessian, The Armenians; R. W. Thomson, Agathangelos; R. W Thomson, Moses Khorenats'i; R. W Thomson, Studies in Armenian literature and Christianity.

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