The Book, Cat, & Cat Book Lovers Almanac

of historical trivia regarding books, cats, and other animals. Actually this blog has evolved so that it is described better as a blog about cats in history and culture. And we take as a theme the advice of Aldous Huxley: If you want to be a writer, get some cats. Don't forget to see the archived articles linked at the bottom of the page.

September 21, 2016

September 21, 1991

The scholar Nina G. Garsoian (April 11, 1923) was born in Paris, the child of Armenian refugees. Her scholarship includes Armenian studies, and so we mention her in reference to the Armenian Independence Day, September 21, since that is the day, in 1991, that Armenia considered itself free from the Soviet Union.

The Institute for the Study of the Ancient World provides this sketch of the life of Nina Garsoin

Born in Paris to Armenian emigrés in 1923, Nina Garsoïan came with her family to New York in the fall of 1933. She graduated from Bryn Mawr College in 1943 with a degree in Classical Archaeology, and went on to Columbia University, where she received an MA in 1946 and enrolled in a doctoral program in Medieval History in 1948. She trained as a concert pianist, being invited to the WNYC Young Keyboard Masters program in 1951, but a hand injury that year rendered further pursuit of a career as a professional pianist impossible. Instead, she redirected her focus to the study of Classical Armenian, receiving a Fulbright fellowship to study at the Armenian Benedictine Mekhitarist Congregation in Venice. In 1956 she accepted a position in the History Department at Smith College. She received a joint appointment in the History and Middle East Languages and Cultures Departments at Columbia in 1965. There, she developed a Program in Armenian Studies and became Chairwoman of the Department of Middle East Languages and Culture. From 1977-1979, she served as Dean of the Graduate School at Princeton University before returning to Columbia as the chair of a newly-founded Department of Armenian History and Civilization...

She retired in 1993 from an active career of research and teaching, so she was on this first holiday, still working. Not that the life of the mind really retires. Her work is fascinating: here are some of her books. We shall see Armenia was the consistent theme in her research.

The interrelation of Minoan and Egyptian art


(Her dissertation) The Paulician heresy; a re-evaluation of the evidence.
(1958) (and this is presumably an expansion of her dissertation: The Paulician heresy : a study of the origin and development of Paulicianism in Armenia and the Eastern provinces of the Byzantine empire, (1967)

A history of the Western World : ancient and medieval

(co-author with) Shepard B Clough and David L Hicks

The trade and cities of Armenia in relation to ancient world trade
(Hakob Manandyan is the author, Nina G. Garsoian trans 2. rev. ed) (1965)

Prolegomena to a study of the Iranian aspects of Arsacid Armenia


Armenia in the period of Justinian : the political conditions based on the Naxarar system. Translated (from the Russian of Nicolas Adontz and with partial revisions, a bibliographical note and appendices by Nina G. Garsoïan, 1970)

Armenia in the 4-th century : an attempt to re-define the concepts "Armenia" and "loyalty.(1971)

European history in a world perspective
Vol. 1 Ancient and medieval times
Shepard B Clough; Nina G Garsoian; David L Hicks

Iran and Caucasia (1980)

Sur le titre de "protecteur des pauvres." (1981? [that is worldcat's "?"])

P'awstos. Buzandaran Patmut'iwnk' (The Epic Histories), also known as Patmut'iwn Hayoc' (History of the Armenians). Attributed to P'awstos Buzandac'i. A Facsimile Reproduction of the 1883 St. Petersburg Edition with an Introduction by Nina G. Garsoian.
(1984 is one of several editions of this work)

Armenia between Byzantium and the Sasanians (1985).

"T'agaworanist kayeank" kam "banak ark'uni" : les résidences royales des Arsacides arméniens (1988)

Sirarpie Der Nersessian. (1896-1989.) (1988)

L'Arménie et Byzance : histoire et culture
by Nina G Garsoïan; Paule Pagès; Bernadette Martin-Hisard; Jean-Claude Cheynet; Centre de documentation Histoire et civilisation byzantines et du Proche-Orient médiéval (Paris)

From Byzantium to Iran : Armenian studies in honour of Nina G. Garsoïan
by Nina G Garsoïan; Jean-Pierre Mahé; Robert W Thomson

L'Eglise arménienne et le grand schisme d'Orient (1999)

Church and culture in early medieval Armenia

Armenian sources on sasanian administration.

Studies on the formation of Christian Armenia (2010)

Interregnum : introduction to a study on the formation of Armenian identity
(ca 600-750)

Another glance at her life in New York is provided by the Journal Of Armenian Studies: "Nina G. Garsoïan: A Professor Who Incubated Scholars, a Scholar Who Vitalized an Historical Era," by a student and colleague Dickran Kouymjian. He writes:

In 1962 or early 1963, I had moved uptown from Greenwich Village, literally around the corner from Nina and her mother Inna Garsoïan’s apartment on 79th street. The natural hospitality and the cosmopolitan life of the two-woman Garsoïan household counted a great deal for me in so many ways. One of the greatest treats was being invited, impromptu, for dinner, always with a delicious soup served in pewter bowls. I remember Inna Ivanovna as very distinguished and always gracious, with a perfect chignon and a certain breathless enthusiasm when she spoke. ...
[She told stories] about the Ballets Russes de Monte Carlo in Paris and New York for which she painted sets and designed costumes, ...[T]he Garsoïans knew everyone: artists, musicians, intellectuals on both sides of the Atlantic as anyone knows who has read Nina’s fascinating autobiography De Vita Sua (..., 2011) with its profound reflection on her life and our discipline. The Garsoïan apartment was for me a sanctuary of the arts filled with Nina’s vast library with distinctive Venetian bindings, color-coded by discipline. Her mother’s paintings were everywhere. I still remember vividly a very large one predominantly in amazing... shades of green, a lagoon scene, perhaps painted from the Zattere in Venice, a city full of indelible memories, not always happy, for both mother and daughter. Perhaps I felt so at home because of the third member of their family, Tigran, Nina’s remarkable and ever present Van cat, with its magnificent grey-blue fur coat..... Nina was a multi-talented youth destined to be a concert pianist and was only later, fortunately for us who have benefited, sidetracked to archaeology and history. I was struck back then to hear, for instance, that she had close ties through her Paris connections to the composer Virgil Thomson, whose music, at least in those days, I admired. ...Some years later, my inlaws invited Nina for dinner in Paris, in the 15th arrondissement where they lived and where Nina was born and grew up;.... It was only after her retirement and her own apartment in the Marais that we would again see each other more regularly. Nina Garsoïan’s post retirement reintegration into the academic life of Paris as an Orientalist in the traditional sense is a logical consequence of what has happened in recent years to Armenology at Columbia, Michigan, and to a lesser extent at Harvard and UCLA ....

Oh well, call it a century.

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