This Week in Armenian History

Death of Petros Ghapantsi (March 20, 1784)

In a period where Armenian literature was still going through a transition between the old and the new, Petros Ghapantsi appeared as a renovator of sorts. 

Very little is known about the early life of priest, poet, and composer Petros Ghapantsi. He was born in Ghapan (nowadays Kapan, Siunik), in Eastern Armenia, in the early 18th century. He became a member of the Holy Echmiadzin Brotherhood in 1753-1756. Later, he served as legate in various places, including Constantinople, Adrianopolis (Edirne), Armash, and Crimea. In 1782, he was named church dean in Adrianopolis, and in 1780 he was appointed prelate of Nicomedia (presentday Ismit, in Turkey), where he passed away on March 20, 1784. 

He was a disciple of poet Baghdasar Dpir (1683-1768). The influence of his master is perceptible, despite the use of new forms and expressions in his poetry. His only known work is a booklet called Songbook, published in Constantinople (1772), which contains 110 poems, thirty-six of which earned great popularity and some of which were still sung at the end of the 19th century. Catholicos Mgrdich I Khrimian (Hayrig) reminisced that he was very fond of singing the odes of Nahapet Kuchak and Petros Ghapantsi. 

Petros Ghapantsi perfected the use of such allegorical motifs such as the rose and the nightingale, where the author considers himself a nightingale expressing his love for the rose, which represents his lost fatherland. In some poems, he discloses the hidden allegories with the subtitles. In the poem To My Sweet Partridge,” he asks the partridge to dispel his grief for his homeland under the guise of praising the bird. 

Ghapantsi’s language reflected a transitional stage between classical and modern Armenian, and his poems were written in a very clear style, where he explored all the nuances of sorrow, yearning, and dreaming, artistically expressed in masterful rhyme, rhythm, and meter.