Prologue: Some parts of Armenian history
0.1 - Armenian Antiquity and Middle Age
Created on 9th Century BC, the kingdom of Urartu, centered on the Lake Van, stretched from the Northern Euphrates as far as the Lake Sevan and Lake Urmia. As much as we can judge it, Urarteans were speaking a Caucasic language. Their kingdom disappears around 600 BC, invaded by Indo-Europeans coming from Anatolia, the Armenians, which, at their turn, fall under the yoke of the Medes, then the Persians. Armenian elite iranized. Alexander the Great doesn't occupy Armenia. Some satraps found various dynasties. To the Artaxiads belonged Tigranes, who has established himself at 95 BC, dominates the whole region and finally surrendered to the Romans. More or less controlled by Rome, Armenia soon falls into anarchy. Members from the Parthian dynasty of Arsacids settle in the middle valley of Aras, emphasizing the iranization of the country.
Statue of Tigranes II, called the Great
From the Christianization to the Bagratids
At the beginning of the 4th Century, Arsacid king Tiridates III establishes Christianism as state religion of Armenia, under the influence of the Parthian Grigor (later Saint Gregory the Illuminator) who, refugeed at Caesarea in Cappadocia, had converted to the Christian faith. Grigor, consacrated as Patriarch (catholicos) of Armenia, founds the Armenian Church (also called Gregorian Church).
Baptism of Tiridates III of Armenia by Saint Gregory the Illuminator
In 390, Roman empire and Sassanid Persian empire divide up Armenia between them. From their gains, Sassanids form the vassal kingdom of Persarmenia, adminstrated from 428 by a governor. In the middle of the Vth Century, they try to impose Mazdaism, sparking an Armenian insurrection. Their religious freedom would be acknowledged in 484. Armenians relations with the Eastern Roman empire are not easier. In 555, the regional Council of Dvin rejected the decisions of the Council of Chalcedon (451) - to which the Armenians had not participated - and stood with monophysitism. This decision marks the split of the Armenian Church from the Greek Orthodox Church.
In 661, Armenians accept the Arab trusteeship which, on their own, respect their freedom of cult. A province of Armenia is created around 700, with a direct and constant Arab adminsitration. Despite some revolts and reorganizations, it perpetuates until the second half of the IXth Century.
Flag of the Bagratunis of Armenia
In 884, the head of the Armenian family of the Bagratunis, powerful since the IVth Century, is recognized as king of Armenia (under the name of Ashot I) by both the caliph and Byzantium. If his successors (the Bagratids) doesn't share the same talent, the authority of Armenian Church catholicoi compensates for their weaknesses. The heart of Bagratid kingdom lays in Northern Armenia, between Kars and Lake Sevan. Further in the South, in the region of Van, stands another Armenian kingdom, the Vaspurakan one. Armenia experiences a true economic and cultural rapid expansion until the arrival of the Turks.
Armenians at Byzantion
Saint Polyeuctus of Metilene, Armenian martyr
On Western Euphrates, Lesser Armenia belongs since a long time to the Byzantine Empire (formerly Eastern Roman), where it recruits soldiers. Saint Polyeuctus, immortalized by French tragedian Pierre Corneille, was an Armenian centurion from the region. Byzantine authorities move to west the Lesser Armenia populations, but new Armenian contingents, fleeing the Muslims, arrive. From the middle of the IXth cetury to the beginning of the XIth, ten emperors of Armenian origin rules at Byzantion, such as Basil I (867-886), called the Macedonian because he was born at Adrianople. The "Macedonian" emperors rely on the Armenians but their successors, in the 1020s, attack them, vainquish and deport them in Cilicia.
Freely translated from Atlas des peuples d'Orient, by Jean Sellier et André Sellier, éditions La Découverte, Paris, 1993