Chapter 10



(Armenian Manuscript Pages 50 To 52)


[This is a Complete Translation. [JT])


The Perkeniktsi is legendary for his tall stature, handsome appearance, and physical prowess.  Not to be outdone in this regard is the Perkeniktsi Armenian woman about whom Nathanian wrote in 1876


They are vivacious, ardent, and very hardy.[2]


Hajian describes them as follows:


The Perkeniktsis are very healthy, vigorous, and fervent especially the women who are unequaled in hardiness and bravery, and possess a unique beauty ... they are ready to explode in a fiery outburst and love a good fight.[3]


In the Perkeniktsi's  widespread repute for valor, no small part has been played by the Perkeniktsi wrestlers of the 18th and 19th centuries.  The names of some of these have been recorded last century by Gregory Peter VIII[4] who himself had witnessed some of their feats of strength.  Here we summarize his comments about some of these men.


1. Cop Copian.  During the 18th century his name was legendary in the annals of wrestling. His fame was spread far and wide.  Once, a powerful wrestler like himself comes from the city Karin to Perkenik to challenge Cop.  As he was approaching the town, the challenger encounters a man plowing the field by the roadside and asks him to point him to the Perkenik settlement.  As fate would have it, it was Cop who was plowing the field.  On further inquiry, Cop learns of the man's intentions and without saying a word he braces one arm against the plow handle and with the free arm lifts the man high off the ground, flips his body in the direction of the village and lets him down saying in effect: "It's thata way."  To express the power of a man people would say  "He has the strength of Cop."


2. Ude Ispahian. He was a very courageous and powerful man of the late 1700s.  Fearlessly, he used to travel alone from Constantinople to Bagdad. Highway robbers used to shrink in fear at the mention of his name.  Once while transporting[5] the Chaldean Patriarch Mar Yussuf twenty mounted bandits attack his wagon. Ispahian kills four of them and  wounds eight more while the rest flee.


3. Hovhannes Baghdadlian. In the beginning of the 1800's he is one of Constantinople's top wrestlers.  Prior to entering the arena, he used to have his back whipped. Once after knocking the Turkish champion to ther ground in defeat, the Sultan grows angry and orders him killed, but the Jannissaries there in Bolis rescue him and sneak him back to Perkenik.  In Perkenik, another wrestler engages him in belt wrestling,  but Hovhannes grabbing by the belt lifts him so high that the man afterwards kneels and kisses his hand.

On another occasion, while traveling alone to Diarbekir, three robbers jump him but he flattens all three to the ground.


4. Daniel Baghdiglian.  In the beginning of the 1800's he became famous for his fearless might.  He ran a successful transportation business especially in transporting munitions.[6]  On one trip on his way to Tavrezh, his wagon train. is attacked by 400 Kurdish marauders.  He holds them off for three hours and, kills five Kurds before he himself is gunned down.  His body was later laid to rest in the cemetery of the Catholics villagers of Molla Suleyman.


5. Nigo[7] Balian.  Gregory-Peter VIII saw him on his 100th birthday. 'Even at this advanced age he demonstrated his strength by bracing himself against the wall and stretching his arm straight out withstood five or six strong men's attempt to bend it.  In his youth I am told by reliable witnesses that once raised a fallen pack-horse off the ground using his knee and one arm.  He died in 1851 at age 105.'


6. Stepan Baghdigian.   He is Daniel's (No. 4 above) paternal nephew and like him, a hearty and powerful man.  In 1862 he single-handedly captures two rebel Kurdish leaders of Aghjadaghi binds their hands and daringly passing through their territory brings them to Perkenik.  "We had to rescue these two gang leaders from Daniel." says Gregory-Peter VIII.


7. Ghazar Balian.   He was a terror to all, near and far,  because of his  colossal seven foot height and mean temperament.  Once together with two of his sister's sons he strikes, injures, and drives away some Turkish Alajakhan villagers.  In 1881 during the night the Kurd Yahyah Bey with 40 horsemen suddenly attack Perkenik.  Ghazar and his two sons alone beat them all and expel them.  Ghazar dies at age 88.


As can be seen from the 1881 date in the above incident, the source of the information on Ghazar Balian is Rev. Hajian Vartabed, since Gregory-Peter VIII died in 1866.  Hajian's writings too had excerpts on wrestlers which he culled from Gregory-Peter's manuscript.  In his concluding remarks, he writes:


There are other stories of numerous named individuals who enjoyed reputatations for their extraordinary strength, valor, and size.  These were not all men, because some were of the weaker sex  --and to this we ourselves have been eyewitness.  Nevertheless, we are not so inclined to praise our fellow villagers for their superior strength which brings little honor to men, but we wish rather to sing the praises to our fellow villagers' vigorous air and healthy water which can produce such robust, powerful, and heathy specimens of creation.[8]

[1]The author has another Chapter on Perkenik's Famous Personalities (Chapter 18).  I guess you become a "personality" by your spiritual, cultural, intellectual, or economic achievements but not by your physical prowess; hence this special chapter.  In that place and time, wrestlers were as famous as today's football and other sport heroes. Olive-oil soaked, slippery belt wrestlers are still popular in Turkey.  These are mostly eyewitness accounts, but I suspect they are a touch exaggerated like some matches we see on T.V. On second thought, however, when I see a 300-lb. wrestler lift his opponent over his head and throw him hard onto the canvas, I don't see how  he can be faking that!  [JT]

[2]Paul V. Nathanian, Deghegakir 1877, Page 123

[3]Hajian, H. Gochnag, No. 15, Page 346.

[4]His Beatitude Patriarch-Catholicos Gregory Peter VIII Der Asdvadzadurian, a native Perkeniktsi. [JT]

[5]One of the Perkeniktsee specialties was the transportation field of that day.  They were reliable and sought-after muleteers who knew the country well. [JT]

[6]No doubt these were mules or mule wagons  transporting munitions for the government. [JT]

[7]"Nick" to us. [JT]

[8]This seems like a strange comment, but I suppose  Hajian, who was a Catholic Bishop, felt uncomfortable about praising  pugilistics and bodily achievements ( as opposed to intellectual and spiritual ones).  Yet because he was so enamored of his village, he felt he had to salvage  something from these wrestler accounts so he praises the air and water of the village for producing such healthy people.  Whatever his comment means, it still strikes me as a little strange. Or am I wrong about this and missed the point? Anyway, this bodily prowess enabled them to defend their village folks at home and their charges while in transport.  The necessary violence of self-defense is a laudable virtue in my book. [JT]

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