Mesrop Mashtots, Inventor of Armenian and Other Alphabets

Mesrop Mashtots, Inventor of Armenian and Other Alphabets

“To Mesrop we owe the preservation of the language and literature of Armenia; but for his work, the people would have been absorbed by the Persians and Syrians, and would have disappeared like so many nations of the East.” - St. Martin

Who he was

Mesrop Mashtots was the creator of the Armenian alphabet

Most of what is known about Mashtots and his life was recorded by medieval Armenian historian Koriun in his “Life of Mashtots.” He was born in the village of Hatsekats, Armenia (modern-day Mus, Turkey) and became a public servant. The Armenian catholicos at the time, Sahak, with the agreement of the king, Vramshapuh, tasked Mashtots with creating a new Armenian alphabet. 

Although popular folklore says that Mashtots wrote down the alphabet as it is known today because of a divine vision, he is known to have traveled and researched languages before settling upon his 36 letters. He constructed the language to easily represent the complex sounds of the Armenian language.

After inventing the alphabet, he would establish schools throughout Armenia where the language would be taught using the new alphabet. The first of those schools, Amaras Monastery in Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabakh), where the new alphabet was taught - and by Mashtots - still exists. 

The significance of the creation of the Armenian alphabet by Mashtots cannot be overestimated. It is widely acknowledged that without an identity premised on a unique alphabet that differentiated them from surrounding peoples, it would have been much easier for Armenians, ruled by various powerful empires, to be subsumed and assimilated. The alphabet was the key that allowed Armenians to preserve their culture and identity, thus lending them exceptional longevity while others disappeared. 

Mesrop Mashtots is venerated as a saint in both the Armenian Apostolic Church and the Roman Catholic Church. In the latter, his feast is celebrated on February 17.  

Interesting fact

Mashtots is known not only for creating the Armenian alphabet, but also the Georgian and Caucasian alphabets. 

Learn more about him

Amaras and the Armenian Alphabet

Mesrop Mashtots - Encyclopedia Britannica