The Desecration of Beauty
Desecration: the act of treating something sacred or solemn in a sacrilegious or disrespectful way; the act of ruining or violating something revered or greatly valued.
Beauty matters. Don’t believe me? Ask Roger Scruton (video):
At any time between 1750 and 1930, if you had asked educated people to describe the aim of poetry, art, or music, they would have replied: beauty. And if you had asked for the point of that, you would have learned that beauty is a value, as important as truth and goodness.
Scruton then describes what has happened since. In demonstrating this, the first example offered is of the Mona Lisa with a mustache; the third, a urinal as a piece of art in a museum. I have no idea what the second picture is.
But this isn’t a piece on the desecration of beauty in the West, at least not as the term “West” is conventionally understood. To understand that desecration, watch the Scruton video – it is infinitely better than anything I could say on the subject. Through several snapshots, I will write of Armenia and Armenians, and the desecration of the beauty of their culture and people.
Sons of Hayk
Armenia begins in legend; the legend begins with beauty:
Armenians do not call themselves Armenians nor their country Armenia. They are descendants of Haic [Hayk], as the legend goes, who was the son of Togarmah, the son of Japhet, who was the son of Noah, and they call their country Haiasdan [Hayastan] after the patriarchal progenitor of their people.
Legend has it that Hayk was as beautiful as a god and as strong as a giant. He also was a director in the building of the Tower of Babel. As a result of this ill-fated endeavor, or, perhaps, as a result of refusing to worship the god of Babylon, Hayk, with his sons numbering 300, headed north to the land of Ararat. He returned home, to Noah’s landing spot. Hayk is said to have died at about the age of four-hundred, and about 2,000 years before Christ.
Ararat, Hayk’s new home and the home for the Hayastansis is, perhaps, the most beautiful mountain in the world (ask any Armenian). Sadly, this symbol of Armenia is today found in Turkey, just across the closed border. This view is from Armenia; the view from Turkey is not nearly as beautiful.
By Սէրուժ Ուրիշեան (Serouj Ourishian) – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikimedia
Mt. Ararat rises almost 17,000 feet above sea level, and about 11,000 feet above the surrounding plain. The smaller peak is almost 13,000 feet above sea level and is known as Little Ararat, which is little only when standing next to its brother.
Next, we come to the legend of Ara, king of Armenia, and Semiramis, queen of Assyria. This legend dates to about eighteen centuries before Christ:
Ara was very beautiful, and Semiramis having heard speech of his beauty for many years, wished to possess him.
Armenians know him as Ara Keghesig: Ara the Beautiful. Semiramis sent messengers to Ara with gifts and offerings: come to Nineveh to wed and reign with her, or at least to enjoy countless more gifts and treasures. Ara refused to come to her. At this, the queen became angry, sending an army to battle – however, with orders not to kill Ara. Unfortunately, it didn’t go this way. Ara was killed, but the Armenian people remained independent of the Assyrians.
Armenians were the first to accept Christianity as the nation’s official religion, in 301 A.D. This story, too, is wrapped in beauty. The time is when St. Gregory was bound, thrown in a pit (Khor Virap) at the order of the Armenian king, Tiridates, and held for preaching Christ prior to the king’s conversion. To call it a pit does not do it justice. Through a small opening in the ground, barely large enough for one’s body to pass through, one descends straight down a ladder into a dark cave. I went down once, and in subsequent visits to the monastery decided I would not do it again.
But returning to this legend: Hripsime was a Roman virgin of exquisite beauty. Along with her nurse Gayane and thirty-three followers who were also virgins, Hripsime fled from the Emperor Diocletian, who wanted her for his spouse, “after a most careful search of his kingdom for the most beautiful of women.”
She fled to Armenia. An envoy of the Roman emperor was sent to the Armenian king, Tiridates, in search of Hripsime. When Tiridates found her, he decided to keep her for himself. She said that she would marry him only if he became a Christian. Tiridates took this for mockery and had her killed.
Article from LewRockwell