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Why are there moles in their houses,
And hedgehogs inside their chambers?




AN ASSYRIAN HYMN ON

THE SACK OF TBILISI IN 1226

BY JALÂL AD-DÎN, THE LAST SHAH OF KHWÂRAZM




This hymn by the thirteenth-century Assyrian poet Giwargis Warda was copied from Anton Pritula's 'A Hymn on Tiflis from the Warda Collection: A Transformation of the Muslim Conquerors into Pagans' (in Tubach, Vashalomidze and Zimmer, eds, Caucasus during the Mongol Period, Wiesbaden: Reichert, 2012, pp. 217-237). The name of the translator is not indicated, but was most likely Pritula himself. The English translation is preceded by an original version in Syriac.

The Georgian Orthodox Church commemorates the following massacre and the 'Hundred Thousand Martyrs of Tbilisi' (a slightly inflated figure) every year on the 13th of November.




In a year full of evils,
As a completion of the three long years,
When all the disturbances increased,
Locust and cricket, and hunger, and death,
And devastation, and terror, and sedition

Ruled over all the lands,
There was an ominous rumour heard,
That came to Tiflis city:
Ever since Christianity began,
There was neither people nor folk,
Against whom evils took their fill.

How bitter the story of Tiflis is,
For disobedient people entered it,
Neither thought of nor expected,
And no-one is heard of to persuade [them].

In the year twenty three by the Arabs
And six hundred by the Ishmaelites [= 1226 AD]
It happened with the Georgian people
As it had with the people of Amalek.

The barbarians' force came,
And the Persian people together with it,
And Tatars, and the Magians,
And the [Kurds] with the Turks.

They were more numerous than locusts,
And more terrible than wasps,
And worse than serpents,
And more ferocious than devils.

Any land they were crossing
They cast to flames.
And any city they were entering
They used to leave like Sodom.

The people resembling beasts,
Evil and noxious,
Entered those lands,
Abundant in faith.

Indeed they exposed the city to trial,
And subjected to severe questioning
Kingly Tiflis,
The glorious and illustrious.

A brave man Sharwa
Having heard the news of them
Led out about seven thousand,
And he fought with them unremittingly.

He destroyed a part of their army,
And all day long was pursuing them,
But the other part arose against him,
And took him and his troop.

And they were put into chains,
Like cattle or beasts.
As [Sharwa] full of braveness saw
The evil of magianism,

He wrote messages hastily
To the people: 'Rise in haste,
And everyone get together,
Before paganism has overcome!

For very strong this people are,
And they are gathered like sea water.
Seize them before they have arisen
And exterminated our people!'

[But] The messages fell into their hands,
And they brought the just man straight away,
And as they asked him about the letters,
He confessed with no fear:

'It is not proper that I should hold paganism
To be greater than [my] baptism!'
And as they heard this, a slaughter
Was made by all of them at a gathering.

The rest, about three thousand,
Who were standing at the top of the mountains,
Gathered against them in gatherings,
And formed against them in formations.

From below armies climbed up,
Like black clouds,
And heavy whirlwinds,
They all fell down and died immediately.

They encircled Tiflis with no fear,
For there was neither a kind nor a queen in it.
And the heathens [local Muslims] came and unlocked from inside,
And the Magians entered from outside.

At the beginning of the great day [Easter]
There was a great mockery in Tiflis,
And a big crowd entered it,
And was the undoing of the great people.

At the time when the Churches sound
Halleluiah and the songs,
There sounded in poor Tiflis
The voice of weeping and lamentations.

It was a day full of oppression,
A day of darkness and gloom,
And that of mist and cloud,
As blessed Amos said.

The day when groans become strong,
And tears of eyes poured forth.
The day when the noble women fell
Into the hands of the evil pagans.

They made their city alike Shiloh
And their capital alike Zion,
And their kings fell like Saul,
And their sons were killed like his sons,

And their priests like the sons of Eli,
And their deacons he brought low like the sons of Korah.
And like Jericho fell all
Their towers and their walls.

They were ruined like Jonathan,
And slain like Abner.
Their kings' crowns were taken off,
As well as the bracelets and diadems of their nobles.

They destroyed their crosses with hatchets,
Pulled out the altars with spades,
Ruined the sanctuaries with axes,
And cast their precious things to the ground.

They brought the dogs into their temples,
And the mules into their altars,
And the horses neighed in their chapels,
And the steeds rose onto their pulpits.

They burned their Scriptures in fire,
And their Books in flames,
And they overthrew the pillars of their cloisters,
And of their glorious convents.

Their chiefs fell like Samson,
And their least like Asahel,
And their brave men like Goliath,
And there is no one to bury them.

Like reapers they reaped them,
And threw down their elders like shocks [of wheat],
And their youth like standing corn,
And their children like ears of wheat.

And they gathered them like grapes,
And they collected them like berries,
And like treaders of grapes they trod them down.
'Hurrah, hurrah!', and they trampled them.

The birds ate their corpses,
The animals sated themselves with their flesh,
And the ground was saturated with their blood,
And the smoke reached heaven.

Their virgins were dishonoured,
And their respected [women] desecrated,
And most important of them were bared,
And their great [women] were uncovered.

They led the girls out of the chambers
And the brides from the nuptial beds
And the noble women from the rooms
And made of them maidservants.

They took crosses from the churches,
And chalices together with the objects of worship
They sent to [their] cities
As presents and gifts.

And the bishops were put into chains
Like villains,
And the head of all episcopacy
Was like Daniel in captivity.

The Catholicos was bound,
And the bishop was in muzzle,
And the chief priest and the chorepiscopus
They were dragging along, yoked like bulls.

They made amulets of their censers
And spears of their hosannas,
And they gave their stoles to the slaves,
And their robes to the whores.

And they threw their Prophets into fire,
And their Apostles into flames.
And the King's Gospel
Was scorned by them.

The hermits in their cells,
And the monks in their chambers
Like gazelles they came to them,
And skinned them alive.

The saintly nuns,
That had avoided matrimony,
They used them as cup-bearers,
And as whores in brothels.

And they violated those [that] had been virgins,
And captured those [that] were beautiful,
And they tore apart those [that] were pregnant,
And they had no mercy on those who were suckling.

Some of them they stripped of their clothing,
And left them like jackals,
And there are some, whose dear ones they slaughtered
Like chickens in their wombs.

And some they burned inside their houses
Together with their babies,
And some of them watched the torments of their children,
And their souls left them through the sufferings.

And some of them climbed up a mountain,
And they threw themselves down from there.
And some of them hid in caves,
And died of hunger and thirst.

And some were bound to the horses,
Which they drove together with them.
And they were clamouring, like the Rich Man
But they were not given a drop.

Who is able to tell about them,
How and how many attacked them?
And about the number of their persons,
Also about the number of their families?

Psalm forty-four,
In which there are fifty-four phrases,
And another is seventy-four,
In which there are forty-seven phrases.

The third one is number ninety-nine,
In which there are twenty-nine phrases,
These were said of the Maccabees,
Is very suitable for the Georgians.

Our Lord! Our Lord! For what reason
Did You neglect Your people so?
And have forsaken it like a flock of sheep
That has neither a shepherd nor a leader?

Were they not confessing Your name,
And celebrating Your feasts?
And were they not exulting Your mysteries,
And glorifying You all the time?

Why are there moles in their houses,
And hedgehogs inside their chambers?
And lamentations in their yards,
And jackals in their rooms?

Why are there devils in their churches,
And the filthy in their Holy of Holies?
Why are their nobles buried,
And their bodies being trampled in the streets?

Their graceful and handsome sons,
Why did You hand them over into their haters' hands?
And also their beautiful daughters,
Why did You leave them in their foes' hands?

And if they angered You with their sins,
And irritated You with their deeds,
They called You with their mouth,
And their hearts did not forget You.

The Righteous One heard those words,
And he was like an accuser for me:
'Fall silent and calm down, o sinner!
Whom have you judged?

Have you not read the Book of the Gospel,
That is full of lively words?
Why have you strayed from what is proper,
And spoken like those who are misled?

Have you not heard the vivifying mouth
Say this to His friends:
'The sons of the right hand are pursued
All the time by the sons of perdition.

From the houses they will drive you away
And in the streets they will beat you,
And they will consider you as sacrifices,
Your impudent killers.

But if they kill the body on earth,
They are not able to kill the soul.
Your bodies will be resurrected by me,
And will rejoice in my Kingdom for ever.

If you are my disciples,
You are not better than your Lord.
So, what they did to me, they will do to you.
Be glad that your are my companions!'

You did not promise mirth
In the world full of evil,
But rather sufferings and sorrows.
And incorruptible life is in the next world.

Our Lord, crown of the slaughtered,
And the torturer of the killers,
Have mercy upon the head of the sinners
[And upon that of] The composer of these words!

And pity his weakness,
And his perdition,
And forgive and remit his debts,
And pour Your grace on those like him!
And glory to You from all mouths,
The Concealed Being, forever!