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Byron’s Armenian Epistles and the ‘doctrine of the serpent’


‘I am not a Manichean – nor an Any-chean’ stated Byron during the furore surrounding his poem Cain: A Mystery. Yet many still insisted on ‘accusing [him] of irreligion’, labelling him an ‘infidel’ because of the presence of heresy in his poetry. Assuming for the moment that these allegations were based on actual heretical doctrines present in his poems, from where did Byron gain his extensive knowledge? There is one source which has not been considered, which is Byron’s translations of 3 Corinthians and its companion Epistle from the Corinthians, found in the Armenian Apocrypha, but not in the Bibles of Western Christianity. This article examines the importance of these Armenian translations with relation to Byron’s understanding of heretical doctrines. It also contains passages from the diary of his Armenian tutor, Pascal Aucher, which have not previously been translated into English, providing a fascinating insight into Byron’s interaction with these Epistles.