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Title: 'Civitas magna et opulens'
Subtitle: Il vademecum politico di Yovhannēs Erznkac'i
Author(s): CONTIN, Benedetta
Journal: Revue des Études Arméniennes
Volume: 41    Date: 2022   
Pages: 375-397
DOI: 10.2143/REA.41.0.3291893

Abstract :
This paper aims to assess the late medieval Armenian political theory and views through the analysis of three writings penned by the thirteenth-century philosopher and theologian Yovhannēs Pluz Erznkac‘i: the Homily on the Festivity of Christ’s Birth and Baptism, the Discourse on Psalm 140, and the Homily on the Apostle’s Speech that 'Everyone who is subject to the governing authority, should stay in obedience'. Several crucial passages of the homilies, in which the author deals with ethics and political philosophy, will be compared to both the Definitions and Exhortations for the Lay Youths and the Constitutions and Canons of the Brotherhood of the Monastery of St. Gregory the Illuminator, in order to show the theoretical consistency of Yovhannēs’ political attitude and project. In the paper it will be argued that Yovhannēs elaborated his political programme by relying on two very different authorities: St. Paul the Apostle and David the Armenian or the Invincible. Yovhannēs’ arguments reveal similarities with late antique Neoplatonic and Islamic classical political thought, as well as with fourth-century Christian political Hellenism. Yet, Yovhannēs introduces several conceptual innovations, such as the primacy of vita practica over vita contemplativa (and implicitly, of the political over the purificatory virtues), the interrelation between inner life of the soul and civil liberties, and the difference between right and law. Yovhannēs’ political ideas are mirrored not only in the experience of the Armenian urban guild of the Monastery of St. Gregory in Erznka/Erzıncan but also in the Realpolitik of the Hethumid and Rupenids rulers of Cilicia.

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