Journal Epohi
“ST. CYRIL AND ST. METHODIUS” UNIVERSITY OF VELIKO TARNOVO - UNIVERSITY PRESS

The City of Ihrit’ in Asoghik’s Universal History and the Origin of the Sacred Aureola Around Medieval Ohrid


Authors:
Petar Goliyski St. Kliment Ohridski University of Sofia, Bulgaria

Pages: 31-41
DOI: https://doi.org/10.54664/WUYK7417

Abstract:

Stepanos Taronetsi (Steven of Taron), better known as Asoghik, completed his Universal History in 1004. This work made him the most prominent Armenian historian of the 11th century. It is known in Bulgaria because of Asoghik’s information about the Armenian origin of the Bulgarian Tsar Samuel. However, the following passage, related to Bulgarian history, has gone unnoticed by scholars: “Justianos, 37 years... He was overthrown by his army for insignificant reasons and fled to Khakan, the king of the Khazars, married his daughter and took the city of Ihrit as an inheritance, and with the help of the Khazar troops returned to reign in Constantinople and established himself on the throne of his kingdom. Then he built the great and famous Hagia Sophia Church.” Ihrit is the city of Ohrid in the present-day Republic of North Macedonia. A careful analysis of the passage shows that the episode of Justinian II’s reascension (685–695; 705–711) to the Byzantine throne with the help of the Bulgarians (the Khazars at Asoghik) was automatically attached to the reign of Justinian I (527–565) by the Armenian historian. Or rather, this insertion was already made in the earlier source used by Asoghik. The fact that Asoghik mentions Ohrid during the reign of Justinian I falls within the context of the propaganda efforts of the Ohrid Archbishopric (Archbishopric of Bulgaria) to derive its origins directly from the famous Archbishopric of Justiniana Prima, founded in 535 by Emperor Justinian I. The aim was to create a sacred aureola around the Ohrid Archbishopric and subsequently to neutralize the Constantinople Patriarchate’s attempts to subdue it and even to put an end to its existence. However, Asoghik’s account preceded the Ohrid Archbishopric’s efforts by a century. Nevertheless, the mention of Ohrid in Asoghik’s work is not a late interpolation of a scribe, but it fits perfectly into a statement of the Byzantine historian Nicephorus Gregoras, suggesting that the first steps in presenting Ohrid as an ancient ecclesiastical center, identical to Justiniana Prima, were made around 972, shortly after the seat of the Bulgarian Patriarchate had been transferred from Moesia to Macedonia.

Keywords:

Stepanos Taronetsi, Asoghik, Universal History, Ohrid, Justinian I, Justinian II, Ohrid Archbishopric (Archbishopric of Bulgaria)

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