On December 2, 1816, Lord Byron arrived at the Monastery of Mekhitarists in Venice to study the Armenian language. With the help of the abbots from the monastery of the island of San Lazzaro degli Armeni (Saint Lazarus of the Armenians), the poet got actively acquainted with the Armenian manuscripts and later would speak about the Armenian culture with great admiration.
Father Harutyun taught him the Armenian language. Later, they created the “Grammar of English and Armenian languages” together.
Byron collected his exercises in the Armenian writing in the book “Lord Byron’s Armenian Exercises and Poetry” (for those interested, this file can be downloaded here). In July 1823, Byron left Italy to join the Greek rebels who fought for independence against the Ottoman Empire.
George Byron – about Armenia and Armenians
“Arriving in Venice in 1816, I (as probably all travelers) was impressed by the community of San Lazzaro degli Armeni, which seems to unite in itself all the advantages of a monastic institution without possessing any of its vices.
Clarity, comfort, gentleness, unadulterated piety, talents, and virtues of the brothers of the order can inspire a secular man to believe that there is another, better world even in this life.
These people are clerics of an enslaved but grateful nation that has been expelled and oppressed along with the Jews and Greeks but has developed neither the anger of the former nor the servility of the latter.
This nation has acquired wealth without resorting to usury and all the honors that can be bestowed on those who are in slavery without intrigue… It would be difficult, perhaps, to find people’s chronicles less tainted by crimes than the history of Armenians whose virtues were peaceful. Vices are consequences of oppression.
But regardless of their sad fate, their country should always remain one of the most fascinating states on the entire globe. And their language perhaps only requires more study in order to become more and more attractive…
If the scripture is correctly interpreted, the paradise was exactly located in Armenia, which paid high price like the descendants of Adam as its soil participated in the bliss of the ones who had been created from its ashes. There, the water surface began to descend and Noah’s dove began its journey.
But almost at the same time with the disappearance of paradise, the misfortunes of the country began because although Armenia has been a powerful kingdom for a long time, it was rarely independent. The Persian satraps and the Turkish Pashas equally contributed to the ruin of the land where God created man in his image and likeness.
On the globe, there is no other country that would be so full of miracles as the land of Armenians…”