Chapter 1 - The Rise of the Bagratids (884-929)

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Chapter 1 - The Rise of the Bagratids (884-929)

1920px-Bagratuni_flag.svg.png

Flag of Bagratid Armenia
Following nearly two centuries of foreign domination in Armenia under Arab Umayyad and Abbasid rule, the kingdom of Armenia was reestablished under the leadership of Ashot I Bagratuni, as he succeeded in asserting himself as the leading figure of the movement to liberate Armenia from the Arab oppressors. With each of the two contemporary powers in the region - the Abbasids and Byzantines - too preoccupied to concentrate their forces in subjugating the people of the region, as well as the dissipation of several of the Armenian noble families, Ashot restored the Armenian monarchy and was crowned King in the year 884, becoming the first king since 428.

Reign of Ashot I (884-890)

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The Coronation of Ashot I "the Great"
Ashot's prestige rose as both Byzantine and Arab leaders, eager to maintain a buffer state near their frontiers, courted him. The Abbasid Caliphate recognized Ashot as "prince of princes" in 862 and, later on, as king (in 884 or 885). The establishment of the Bagratuni kingdom later led to the founding of several other Armenian principalities and kingdoms: Taron, Vaspurakan, Kars, Khachen, and Syunik. Unity among all these states was sometimes difficult to maintain while the Byzantines and Arabs lost no time in exploiting the kingdom's situation to their own gains.

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The Kingdom of Armenia (Hayk) in 884

Ashot's reign was brief and upon his death in 890, he was succeeded by his son Smbat I following a brief attempt by his uncle Abas to disrupt his succession to the throne. Smbat continued his father's policy of maintaining cordial relations with the Byzantine Empire but remained mindful of the Arabs' fears of an Armeno-Byzantine alliance.

Reign of Smbat I (890-914)

Smbat I.jpg

Smbat I, King of Armenia

His reign saw some success during his early years, convincing the Abbasids that his alliance with the Byzantines would not only be for the dual benefit of Byzantium and Armenia, but would also work to the economic favor of the Arabs. Smbat also achieved a major victory when on April 21, 892, he recaptured the former Armenian capital of Dvin from the Arabs.

Smbat's successes shortly came to a halt when Afshin (Arab governor of the region) decided that he could not countenance a powerful Armenia so close to his domains. He retook Dvin and managed to take Smbat's wife as a hostage until she was released in exchange for Smbat's son and nephew. The wars against Armenia continued even after Afshin's death in 901, when his brother Yusuf succeeded him as governor. While Yusuf's reign was not immediately hostile, Smbat committed a series of blunders that led to several of his allies to turn their backs on him: having sought to placate his eastern ally, Smbat of Syunik', by ceding to him the city of Nakhichevan, Smbat inadvertently drove Gagik Artsruni of Vaspurakan into Yusuf's arms since the city was a part of Gagik's domains. Yusuf took advantage of this feud by awarding Gagik a crown in 908, thus making him King Gagik I of Vaspurakan and creating an Armenian state opposed to the one led by Smbat.

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Gagik of Vaspurakan and Yusuf the cruel

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The Kingdom of Armenia (Hayk) in 908 after the loss of Dvin to Yusuf (Sajid Emirate) and the rise of Vaspurakan (Sajid's tributary in red)

As Yusuf began a new campaign against Smbat in conjunction with Gagik in 909, neither the Byzantines nor the Abbasid caliph, Yusuf's nominal sovereign, sent aid to Smbat; several Armenian princes also chose to withhold their support. Those who did ally with Smbat were brutally dealt with by Yusuf: Smbat's son Mushegh, his nephew Smbat, and Grigor II of Syunik were all poisoned.

Yusuf's army ravaged the rest of Armenia as it advanced toward Berd Kapoyt (Blue Fortress), where Smbat had taken refuge, and besieged it for some time. Smbat finally decided to surrender himself to Yusuf in 914 in hopes of ending the Arab onslaught, but Yusuf showed no compassion toward his prisoner as he tortured the Armenian king to death, beheaded him, and put the headless body on display on a cross in Dvin.

Reign of Ashot II "Yerkat" (914-928)

Yusuf's invasion of Armenia had left the kingdom in ruins and this fact resonated among the Armenian princes who were left aghast in witnessing the Arab governor's brutality. Gagik I of Vaspurakan was especially shaken and he soon disavowed his loyalty to Yusuf and began to campaign against him. With Yusuf distracted by the resistance put up by his former ally, Smbat's son Ashot II felt it appropriate to assume his father's throne. Ashot at once began to drive the Muslims out of his domains.

ashot-ii-of-armenia-797eafce-c063-4a0b-80a3-000ae13cf43-resize-750.jpg

Ashot II, third Bagratid monarch

Support for Ashot also arrived from the west as the Byzantine empress Zoe had watched the Arab invasion of Armenia unfold with consternation and so she ordered Patriarch Nicholas to write an official letter to the Armenian Catholicos (Armenian Patriarch) to form a new alliance with Armenia. The Catholicos responded amicably and in 914, Ashot accepted an invitation by Zoe to visit Constantinople. There, Ashot was well received, and a Byzantine force was created to assist Armenia in defeating the Arabs. The force, accompanying Ashot moved out the next year and marched along the Upper Euphrates, entering Taron with scant opposition from the Arabs.

Zoe.jpg

Empress Consort and Regent Zoe Karbonopsina of the Byzantine Empire

Meanwhile, Yusuf's efforts to crush Gagik had failed miserably; instead, Yusuf turned his attention to Ashot and attempted to weaken his position by crowning Ashot's cousin, Ashot Shapuhyan as king of Armenia. Ashot Shapuhyan's and Yusuf's armies however were unable to stop the Byzantine advance, which stopped short of capturing Dvin due to the onset of winter.

Armenia in 918.png

The Kingdom of Armenia (Hayk) in 918 during the civil war with the Anti-King in Dvin.

Nevertheless, the force had returned Ashot to a powerful position in Armenia and managed to inflict heavy casualties against the Arabs. This still left Ashot, the anti-king, in control in Dvin and civil war raged on from 918 to 920, when the pretender finally conceded defeat. Numerous other rebellions in Armenia also took place but Ashot was able to defeat each one of them. In 919, Yusuf had instigated a failed rebellion against the Caliph and was replaced by a far more well-disposed governor named Subuk, who recognized Ashot as the legitimate ruler of Armenia and awarded him with the title of Shahanshah, or "king of kings."

Ironically, the Byzantines were distressed with Ashot's close relations with the Arabs and dispatched a new force under the Armenian commander Ioannes Kourkouas to disrupt Ashot's position as king and to support the rebels fighting him. In 928, Kourkouas reached Dvin in an unsuccessful attempt to capture a city that was defended by both the Arabs and Ashot.

This continued cooperation would not last however, for in 923 the Caliph, facing troubles at home, released Yusuf, who traveled back to Armenia to unleash his fury against Armenia and especially Gagik I of Vaspurakan. He began demanding tribute from the Armenian rulers rule but faced considerable resistance by Ashot II. Time and again, Ashot was able to defeat and rout the Arab armies sent against him for several years. Finally, in 929, Yusuf died and an immense power struggle ensued between rival Iranian and Kurdish families in Azerbaijan, thus reducing the Arab threat to Armenia. The Byzantines also turned their attention from the east to fight the Arabs in Syria.

Ashot's efforts to preserve and defend the kingdom earned him the epithet "Yerkat", or Iron. He died in 929 and was succeeded by his brother, Abas I who's reign would bring much needed stability to Armenia following the decades of constant warfare.

Armenia in 929.png

The Kingdom of Armenia (Hayk) in 929, following Ashot II's death
 
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Werson

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Hey everyone welcome to my latest attempt at an AAR. This time I had a very difficult decision to make, I was either going to play as Roussel de Bailleul, a Norman adventurer who formed a short lived principality in Anatolia, or the Armenian Bagratids. In the end I settled for the Bagratids since there are already plenty of Norman AARs around, but not too many Armenian ones (or so it seems).

Roussel.png

Sorry Roussel, maybe next time

I'm playing with the HIP mod, and have all (but Sunset Invasion) the expansions active. I'll be trying to roleplay using my character traits as guidelines, which should make for a more interesting game I think.

Unlike what the first chapter might make you think, I actually started my run in the year 1043, just a year before Armenia was annexed in real life by the treacherous Byzantines. By using the 867 (Viking Age) and 1018 (Canute the Great) bookmarks I will be showing the full story of Bagratid Armenia. How it came to be, its decline, and finally its resurgence (hopefully) under my run. Thus this and probably the next few chapters are technically just history lessons, not true gameplay, which I'll get to soon enough.

The reason I didn't start my run in the 867 start date is the big blobs that populate the map, which make the game stale in my opinion. Meanwhile in 1043 there are a couple of big things happening. The Normans just landed in Italy, while the Seljuks are fighting their way through Persia. These things make the world a lot more dynamic, and thus interesting than a huge Abbasid/Byzantine blob.

Anyways, thanks for reading, and stay tuned for the next update!
 
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High King Peredain

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Tuning in. 1043 is an interesting year indeed. The history you posted made for a great read and pulled me in from the start. Nothing more fun than being placed between great powers that add some tension to the gameplay :p.
 
Chapter 2 - Armenia's "Golden Age" (929-1020)

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Chapter 2 - Armenia's "Golden Age" (929-1020)

Abas I.png

King Abas I of Armenia, fourth Bagratid monarch

Reign of Abas I (929-953)

Abas I's reign was characterized with an unusual period of stability and prosperity that Armenia had not enjoyed for decades. His capital was based at the fortress-city of Kars and he achieved numerous successes on both the foreign and domestic fronts. In the same year that he became king, Abas traveled to Dvin, where he was able to convince the Arab governor there to release several Armenian hostages and turn over control of the pontifical palace back to Armenia. Conflict between the Arabs were minimal too, with the exception of a military defeat Abas suffered near the city of Vagharshapat against a group of raiders from the bordering Kaysite Emirate.

He was far less conciliatory towards the Byzantines, who had repeatedly demonstrated their unreliability as allies by attacking and annexing Armenian territories in the West. The Byzantine Emperor was also more focused on fighting the rising Hamdanids who controlled much of Syria, leaving Abas virtually free to conduct his policies without foreign hindrance.

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The Kingdom of Armenia and its neighboring polities during the reign of Abas I, 943

Another foreign threat that Abas steadfastly confronted was an invasion in 943 by an Abkhazian noble named Ber: a new church had been completed in Kars under Abas' orders and prior to its consecration, Ber had appeared with an army demanding that the new church be consecrated under Orthodox rite. Abas refused to make any concessions and ambushed Ber's forces in a dawn assault wherein Ber was captured and taken to the Armenian camp. Ber was taken to the new church and was told that he would never see it again, blinding him and sending him back to Abkhazia.

Abas died in 953, leaving his kingdom to his two sons, Ashot III and Mushegh, starting what would be known as the "Golden Age" of Armenia.

Reign of Ashot III "Voghormats" (953-977)

Ashot III.png

A statue of Ashot III

During the first year of his reign Ashot launched a military assault to free the city of Dvin from Muslim rule, an undertaking that ultimately ended in failure. Despite this setback, he took steps to centralize power in the kingdom, patronizing the Armenian Church in exchange for its support. During his reign the patriarch of the Armenian Church moved its seat to Argina, near the city of Ani.

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The Monastery of Horomos, seat of the Armenian church, with the city of Ani observed in the background

The Bagratuni kings had never chosen a city to settle in, alternating from Bagaran to Shirakavan to Kars; Kars never did reach a status where it could become a capital and Dvin was disregarded altogether, given its proximity to the hostile emirates. The city of Ani's natural defenses were well suited to Ashot's desire to secure an area which could withstand siege while also falling on a trade route that passed from Dvin to Trebizond, and the recent relocation of the Armenian Patriarch to the outskirts of Ani gave the city an even more privileged and prestigious position for a permanent capital. Thus in 961 Ani was proclaimed the capital of the kingdom, and Ashot set himself to enriching and expanding the city.

Ani.jpg

The city of Ani, capital of the Bagratid Kingdom, known as "the city of Forty Gates" and "the city of a thousand and one churches"

The city quickly began to grow and became Armenia's chief political, cultural and economic center. Shops, markets, workshops, inns were established by the city's merchants and populace while the noble elite went on to sponsor the building of magnificent mansions and palaces. The construction was also complemented by King Ashot's own philanthropy, including the building of the famed "Ashotashen" walls (named after him) that were erected around Ani, monasteries, hospitals, schools, and almshouses. Ashot's sponsorship of the construction of all these edifices earned him the nickname of "Voghormats", or "the Merciful."

Ashot was also largely successful in foreign affairs. When a Byzantine army led by the Byzantine emperor John I Tzimiskes (of Armenian descent) entered Taron in 973, purportedly to avenge the death of his Domestic (commander-in-chief) killed at the hands of the Arabs in Mosul, Ashot mobilized an 80,000 man army to meet and force its withdrawal. In the following year, he concluded an alliance with Tzimiskes and sent 10,000 Armenian troops to campaign with the emperor against the Hamdanid Emirate in Aleppo and Mosul.

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Byzantine Emperor Tzimiskes

A new phenomenon that began under Ashot III's reign, and continued under his successors, was the establishment of sub-kingdoms throughout Armenia. Ashot III had sent his brother Mushel I to rule in Kars (Vanand) and had allowed him to use the title of king, while the administrative district of Dzoraget (Tasir) was given to Ashot's son Gurgen, the progenitor of the Kvirikian line, in 966, who would later assume the title of king.

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The "sub-kings" of Armenia

The proliferation of so many kingdoms worked to the benefit of Armenia so long as the king in Ani remained strong and maintained his hegemony over other kings. Otherwise, the kings, as well their respective bishops who would claim the position of patriarch and formulate their own doctrines, would begin to test the limits of their autonomy.

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The Kingdom of Armenia in 966, following the establishment of the sub-kingdoms of Tasir and Vanand

Reign of Smbat II (977-989)
Smbat II was crowned king on the same day of his father's death. He continued rule from the city of Ani, which had grown so large by the time of Smbat's accession in that a second set of walls, known as the Smbatashen walls, were ordered built by the new king.

His reign was generally a time of peace, only disturbed by conflict between Smbat and his uncle Mushel in Kars. The latter in 982 incited the Sallarid emir of Azerbaijan Abu'l-Haija to attack Smbat's domains and demand from him a tribute. This state of affairs was quickly brought to an end when Abu'l-Haija was captured by Abu Dulaf, the Muslim emir of Goght'n. Smbat concluded a peace with Abu Dulaf that left the emir in control of Dvin and Goght'n.

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The Kingdom of Armenia in 989, following the death of Smbat II

Reign of Gagik I (989-1020)

Gagik.jpg

Statue of King Gagik I

King Gagik followed the footsteps of his predecessors in building churches and religious buildings in the capital of Ani, continuing the accustomed experience of unbroken peace and prosperity. Using the favorable economic conditions of Armenia, Gagik increased the size of the army up to 100,000 soldiers. He subsequently united and conquered various Armenian provinces to Bagratid Armenia, including Baghk, Khachen, Goghtn, parts of the Kingdom of Vaspurakan, and the city of Dvin.

He made alliances with Gurgen of Iberia and Bagrat III of Abkhazia (who would eventually inherit Iberia and unite their kingdoms into the Kingdom of Georgia), whose armies defeated an incursion by Mamlan, the emir of Khorasan, in 998 in the village of Tsumb, northeast of Lake Van. Under Gagik I, the Kingdom of Armenia reached the height of its golden age as the country's economy, culture and foreign trade developed; Ani, Dvin, and Kars flourished.

This golden age would reach its end upon Gagik's death, whose elder son, Hovhannes-Smbat, was crowned king while his younger son, Ashot, rebelled against Smbat and proclaimed himself king as well. The Byzantines had also been slowly encroaching into Armenia, while in the East a great Turkic army was amassing, ready to conquer everything in its path, from Transoxiana to Baghdad, and beyond...

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The Kingdom of Armenia before the passing of King Gagik I, 1020
 
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Werson

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Rare to see an Armenian AAR. I hope yours does well.
Definitely an interesting one.
Armenia definitely isn't something you see on this site's AARs. Hope it goes well.
Rare indeed! That's exactly what made me want to try it. I also thought about doing an Assyrian one (even rarer), since in the 1200's there are a few Assyrian counts under the Mongols, but the two short test runs I tried were totally stale as the event troops of the Mongols made their collapse impossible.

Tuning in. 1043 is an interesting year indeed. The history you posted made for a great read and pulled me in from the start. Nothing more fun than being placed between great powers that add some tension to the gameplay :p.
Oh for sure! I feel like you can summarize Armenia's entire history as "sandwiched between great powers." Makes for an interesting run no matter what Paradox game you play.

Anyways, thanks for reading! Next chapter should be actual gameplay as we near the year 1043, where we'll delve into the near collapse of Bagratid Armenia, and its possible resurgence by my hand ;).
 
Chapter 3 - Descent into Chaos (1020-1041)

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Chapter 3 - Descent into Chaos (1020-1041)

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The new Kings of Armenia

With the passing of King Gagik, the throne of Armenia now belonged to Hovhannes-Smbat, the oldest of Gagik's two sons, and rightful heir to the throne. His enthronement in 1020 was strongly opposed by his younger brother Ashot, who one year later in 1021, with the support of some of his fellow nobles, rebelled against him. Ashot drove his and his allies' forces to the capital of Ani, where he surrounded and conquered the city, dethroning his brother and usurping power from him.

Eventually the brothers reached a compromise: Ashot would withdraw his rebel forces from Ani, letting the legal heir Hovhannes-Smbat III return to power on limited areas around the capital. Meanwhile Ashot (Known as Ashot IV) would be enthroned concurrent king and rule in the further Armenian provinces closer to Persia and Georgia, which should have included the prosperous city of Dvin, but which he could not occupy due to a hostile takeover by the Shaddadid Emirate during the civil war.
Armenia in 1021.png

Armenia and its surroundings in 1021

During the reign of Hovhannes-Smbat, a feudal lord, David, who owned Tao during his battles against the Muslims, gained a large area which stretched all the way to Manzikert. David was a subject of Byzantium and when he died his entire territory was occupied by Basil II, who had resumed the policy of, bit by bit, annexing Armenia to his empire.

The Kingdom of Vaspurakan, mostly under Armenian control during the reign of Gagik I, was shortly lost to the Byzantines as well, who by virtue of a deal with its former king agreed to trade his kingdom for lands in the western part of Asia Minor, becoming a vassal of the Empire.
Basil.JPG

Emperor Basil II "the Bulgar Slayer"

In those tumultuous days, embroiled in territorial quarrels with his brother and former vassals, as well as fearing repercussions from the Byzantines for aiding the Georgian king in his war against them, the childless Hovhannes-Smbat sent the patriarch Petros Getadarts to Byzantium in order to negotiate a partial respite by leaving his kingdom to the empire after his death.
Basil II's policy of occupation and expansion into Armenia was also pursued by his successors . By the death of Hovhannes-Smbat around 1040 and that of Ashot IV shortly after, Michael V, one of the successors of Basil II, was the emperor cornering Armenia. Michael claimed that the Kingdom of Armenia, by virtue of the will of Hovhannes-Smbat, was bequeathed to the Byzantine Empire upon his death.


Iovanesikes_surrenders_himself_to_Basil_II.jpg

King Hovhannes surrenders himself to Emperor Basil II


Reign of Gagik II (1040-1063)

When the Armenian sparapet (commander-in-chief), Vahram Pahlavuni, prepared the coronation of the successor to Hovhannes-Smbat, the king's nephew, Gagik II, who at that time was only fourteen years old, the Byzantine emperor began supporting Sargis Haykazn, a pro-Byzantine Armenian prince and minister of the former king, who had initially been appointed regent.

After this, the kingdom of Armenia resisted three assaults of the Byzantine Empire, forcing them to retreat. Byzantium exerted its forces to the utmost in order to conquer Armenia and once and for all annexing it to the empire. To this end, they sent a great army to the southern part of Armenia and at the same time convinced the sub-king of Tashir to attack Armenia from the east. At the fierce battle that was fought by the walls of Ani, general Vahram Pahlavuni heavily defeated the Byzantine army, forcing them to leave 20,000 dead behind, according to contemporary Armenian chroniclers.
Giuliano_Zasso,_“Armenians_defeat_Byzantine_forces_attacking_Ani”.jpg

The Battle of Ani, said to have been so ferocious that the effusion of blood flowing into the Akhurian River is said to have coloured its waters completely red.

This victory allowed Vahram Pahlavuni along with patriarch Petros Getadarts to crown Gagik II king of Armenia and subsequently take the fortress of Ani, which was in the hands of Vest Sargis. Sargis fled to the fortress of St. Mary and was eventually captured.

After this victory, the new Armenian king, together with Vahram, turned toward their second enemy, the Seljuq Turks, who were still intent on conquering the kingdom. In the following two years Gagik reinforced the army and fought against Seljuk hordes. Gregory Pahlavuni nephew of Vahram, defended the fortress of Varazhnunik, which would be granted to the Pahlavuni family for their service.

The Armenian army then hurried to confront the enemy at the location of the present-day Lake Sevan, where the king and his commander split the Armenian army into two units. The first division engaged in a battle with the Seljuk Turks and then pretended to retreat, drawing the Turks in pursuit toward the second army that was lying in ambush. The battle ended with a catastrophic defeat for the Seljuk Turks. In the Kingdom of Vaspurakan, formerly under the protection of the Byzantine Empire where the population had been deserted by the imperial army, the people eagerly anticipated the Armenian king would be driving the Seljuq Turks out of their homeland. Under leadership of Gagik II, known for his courage as "the Lion," the Armenians revolted and the Turks were forced to retreat.
seljuks.jpg

The Seljuk army as it gave chase to the first army, being lured into the second for a decisive Armenian victory

After successfully defeating two invasions, Sparapet Vahram was sent to begin negotiations with the new Byzantine emperor, Konstantinos IX Monomachus. Gagik II offered to be a vassal of the emperor, but the Byzantines did not accept it after such a shameful loss and thus prepared a new expedition entrusted to the Duke of Iberia, but he too failed in the face of Armenian resistance.

Emperor Konstantinos wished to continue the policy of his predecessors and therefore sent an army to conquer Armenia, whilst inciting the Arab emir of Dvin, Abu'l-Aswar, to attack Armenia from the east. King Gagik II, however, managed to placate Abu'l-Aswar by sending him gifts. This allowed Gagik to concentrate his forces against the Byzantines, eventually forcing them to flee. Gagik II proved his worth for the throne and the reputation of a fighting king, which had passed on to him from the very first kings in the Bagratuni dynasty.

The Byzantines soon realized that if Armenia could not be conquered by force, it could be taken by treachery. Gagik pardoned Sargis Haykazn, whose loyalties, however, remained with Byzantium, fostering the hope of being appointed as king of Armenia if Byzantium was to conquer Armenia. With the assistance of Sargis, the Byzantine emperor invited Gagik II to Constantinople to sign an allegedly permanent peace-treaty.

There the emperor demanded that the Armenian king abdicate and hand over the throne to him, and as he refused to do so was thrown into jail. The Byzantines promptly sent an army to Armenia, which was now leaderless.
Kakikios_surrenders_to_Constantine_IX.jpg

King Gagik II surrenders to Emperor Konstantinos IX, 1042

In lieu of its rightful king, Armenians considered offering the throne of Ani to David I Anhoghin of Tasir or to the emir of Dvin, Abu'l-Aswar, married to the sister of David Anhoghin. Even Bagrat IV of Georgia was considered but surprisingly not the Bagratuni sub-king Gagik-Abas of Kars. The patriarch Petros did not approve of any of the three candidates and finally conceded the delivery to the Byzantines of the city of Ani and other fortresses. With his connivance, the Byzantines would finally be able to conquer the province and annex it into the empire.

----------------------------------------------------
In real life, the Byzantines would go on to annex the Kingdom and Bagratid Armenia would be no more, with Gagik being given some lands and a palace in Constantinople as compensation. We'll see how this history was altered in the next chapter, where the run truly starts ;).
 
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High King Peredain

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Man that was some clever realpolitik by Konstantinos. Rooting for Armenia to cast off the yoke and rise once more.
 

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One does not see too many AARs from this neck of the woods (or mountains) especially from such an interesting historical country.
 
Chapter 4 - The Taronite Betrayal (1042-1043)

Werson

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Chapter 4 - The Taronite Betrayal (1042-1043)

Gagik.png

King Gagik II in the Emperor's prison, 1042

"Water drips on the old stone of the cellar walls, trickles out over the floor into little deltas of mud, worse every day, so that now I can see daylight at the footings. Sevan* seems small now, as this here puddle drowns my sorrows. Chatter all around, words flowing like the Araxes**. Talks of Northmen and Bulgars, and nomads from the steppes, the guards debate. Is the end near? What are these 'Romans' to do, facing the plight of invasion, treacherous blind men. If only they knew what a blight they are to my people. As if Moses himself stretched out his hand over Armenia, the Greeks desecrate my kingdom. Oh Ani how I miss you."
While the imprisonment of King Gagik had certainly been a great victory for Emperor Konstantinos, the earlier defeats at the hand of Vahram and Gagik had greatly depleted its armies, leaving them vulnerable to both internal and external threats. The Norman mercenaries in Southern Italy realized this weakness and held a great council, where they announced their intent of conquering the Byzantine lands and establishing a new Norman Kingdom.

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The Norman stronghold of Melfi, and their leader, William de Hauteville

While the Normans under William "Iron Arm" organized their armies, whispers of rebellion were being heard all over the lands of the former Bulgarian Empire. The peasants were unhappy with their new Greek overlords, and the few remaining Bulgarian nobles seemed to be in it, hoping to regain their lost status by helping the rebellion.

The Pechenegs, while not as strong as they had been decades ago, were still quite a thorn on the side of the Empire, and their constant raids into Bulgaria only seemed to fuel the seeds of rebellion even more. Konstantinos' great diplomatic skills were able to appease them, but a new horde was quickly approaching from the east. The conquest of Armenia had to be finalized if the empire was to withstand the inevitable clash with the Seljuk Turks.

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The treacherous Emperor Konstantinos IX


"The Lion, they called me," Gagik muttered to himself. "The more things change, the more they stay the same. Far from the pride, far from home. Just another lion to be slaughtered for roman spectacle." Gagik had only been in jail for a month, but he had lost all hope of ever making it back to Ani. He tried to appeal to the Byzantine nobles, hoping they would fight against the tyranny of their Emperor, but all he got was contempt out of them.

While he sulk in his damp cell however, a plot to free him was being carried out by his own blood, Grigor Taronites, better known by his Greek name, Gregorios, was a descendant of the old kings of Taron, an Armenian sub-kingdom once ruled by a cadet line of the Bagratid dynasty.

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Gregorios II Taronites

Gregorios' grandfather had traded the crown of Taron to Emperor Basil II, in exchange for the title of patrician gaining vast lands within the empire, becoming far richer than they ever had been. While he had been raised under the tutelage of the imperial court's scholars and tutors as a proper Greek, he held a deep fascination for Armenia and its history, as well as much regret for his predecessors actions, hoping to one day return to Taron and reclaim his birthright.

He and his sons, Michael and Andronikos managed to bribe their way into King Gagik's prison, and during a particularly starless night snuck him out, right under Konstantinos noses'. It would not take long for the Emperor to realize his "guest" had vanished, but the adjacency of Gregorios' lands' made it easier to reach safety.

Knowing it wouldn't be long before the imperial spies discovered Gregorios' involvement and their location, Gagik was snuck unto a merchant ship headed to the city of Poti in Georgia, from where he could safely reach Ani and once more stand defiant against the Byzantine invasion.

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The city of Poti, trade hub of the Georgian Kingdom

The prison guards were quick to succumb to the persuasive interrogation methods of Konstantinos' goons, and blurted out the name of Gregorios and sons, who were quickly put in chains by the emperor's men. When the executioner asked Gregorios what his last words were, spectators mention something along the lines of "Mer Hayrenik," meaning "Our Fatherland" in Armenian. To his last breath, a true son of Armenia.

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Gregorios II Taronites, a true patriot

His execution sent shock waves throughout the empire, for the Taronites had been one of the most staunchly loyal families to the Emperors since they joined the Byzantine ranks. If they could betray the realm like this, who's to say there aren't others like him, waiting to pounce at a moment's notice?

The council implored Konstantinos to let Gregorios' sons free, for his father had paid enough with blood, but as his enemies increased around him, the emperor grew cruel, blinding both without mercy. Theopiste, Gregorios' only daughter, never expected such cruelty from the emperor, and fearing for her life she fled the capital toward Armenia, hoping the newly freed Gagik might be able to shelter her from the intrigue of Constantinople and the cruelty of its ruler.

Feeling indebted by the death of her father and the blinding of her brothers, Gagik promised her no harm would ever befall on her, and offered her the role of Queen of Armenia. Who better to serve as queen than another Bagratid?***

Theopiste.png

Queen Theopiste Taronites

With Gagik back on the throne of Ani, and a renewed hatred of the deceitful Greeks, the Armenian people readied themselves for a new wave of attacks by Konstantinos. The Lion of Armenia was back, and it hungered for vengeance.

---------------------------
* Sevan is the name of the largest lake in Armenia
** Araxes is the name of the largest river in Armenia
*** The Taronite dynasty is a cadet line of the Bagratids
 

High King Peredain

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If things go well, then Gregorios may be turned into a martyr in the future for the Armenian people to fight all the harder for their independence.
 
Chapter 5 - Subduing the Sub-Kings (1043-1045)

Werson

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Chapter 5 - Subduing the Sub-Kings (1043-1045)

Armenia, 1043.png

The Kingdom of Armenia in 1043

Suffering heavy losses from previous attacks, as well as the recent escape of Gagik, Emperor Konstantinos agreed to a truce between Ani and Constantinople. King Gagik and Armenia would remain independent, so long as Gagik renounced his claims over the Kingdoms of Taron and Vaspurakan.

Hoping to avoid any more bloodshed, King Gagik agreed to the terms. His foremost priority was reasserting dominance over the four bordering sub-kingdoms of Armenia: The Kingdom of Vanand, ruled from the former capital city of Kars by his kinsman Gagik-Abas. The Kingdom of Tasir, ruled from the populous province of Lori by King Davit Kvirikian (the Kvirikian dynasty is a cadet branch of the Bagratids) guarding the Armenian heartland from the North.

Upon hearing of Gagik's return to Armenia, both Gagik-Abas and Davit sent envoys declaring their renewed allegiance to the King, recognizing their suzerainty under Ani. Grigor Pahlavuni, who had been granted the province of Varazhnunik prior to Gagik's imprisonment also bent the knee, once more ready to fight for his king.

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The vassals and tributaries of King Gagik II

It was perhaps the perceived weakness and inexperience of the young Gagik, or maybe the lack of blood ties, but both King Sevada and King Smbat would renounce their ties with Ani, declaring independence. Holding the fortified lands to the East, they held the gates of Armenia from any would-be invaders coming from Persia. If Gagik's realm was to persevere, subduing these two was of utmost importance.

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The rebellious Kings Sevada and Smbat

Gagik II had to act quickly, for the Shaddadid Emir Eli was looking to unite the two halves of his realm by conquering these rebellious kingdoms. His forces had already seized Dvin and Goghtn a few years earlier, and if given the chance of annexing their lands, his power would eclipse that of Gagik.

Enemy.png

The Shaddadid Emir of Arran

Not wasting any time, on March of 1043, King Gagik sent envoys to Khachen and Siwnik, declaring a state of war between their realms and Ani. As his forces marched toward the fortress of Ghapan, seat of King Smbat's power, King Gagik II encountered a small village of fire worshippers who called themselves Zoroastrians, after their long dead, false prophet. Once the majority religion of the Armenian people, Zoroastrianism had greatly declined in popularity in the kingdom, with the vast majority having embraced the teachings of Jesus many centuries ago.

Despite being met by repulsion by Gagik's men, some of these fire worshippers asked to come along on the journey, hoping to bolster the king's forces, and maybe earn back the grace they were once held upon. While his most zealous soldiers asked for the king to put the heathens to the sword, Gagik was a bit more pragmatic, perhaps even lacking in faith. Having been attacked by fellow Christians from Constantinople, Gagik knew that it was not what God you believed in, but the matter of your character that defined you, and thus allowed these Zoroastrians to join his army.

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After marching for nearly four months, Gagik and his forces finally arrived in Ghapan. Preferring to stay in the safety of his castle, King Smbat instead sent his younger brother, prince Grigor, to meet Gagik's army. The young prince was a capable warrior, but the Khacheni forces of King Sevada had not arrived in time to reinforce his troops, and thus he stood alone, outnumbered nearly three to one against King Gagik.

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Prince Grigor of Siwnik at the battle of Ghapan

Easily trounced by the overwhelming forces of Gagik, prince Grigor retreated East, hoping to meet the armies of King Sevada and return to defend Ghapan with bigger forces. Unfortunately for him, Gagik's men were quick to find a weakness of the Ghapani defenses, and within two months the fortress was taken. King Smbat and his family were put in chains, forced to surrender his lands in exchange for his freedom.

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The Siege of Ghapan, August of 1043

It was later found out that King Sevada of Khachen had never actually sent his forces to assist prince Grigor, instead hoping the Siwniak forces would wither Gagik's army a bit, and while they sieged Ghapan he planned on establishing an alliance with the Shaddadid Emir. He did not anticipate however that Ghapan would fall so quickly however, and thus he had to alter his plan.

King Sevada hastily rushed toward Ani, hoping to capture the capital before Gagik could return from Ghapan, laying a siege on the capital. Refusing to accept the surrender of his brother, prince Grigor kept waging war on Gagik for the following months, using hit and run tactics from the mountainous lands of Siwnik. It would take Gagik's forces six months before finally putting an end to Grigor and his rebellion, finally re-annexing the Kingdom of Siwnik into Armenia. Gagik finally arrived in Ani on March of 1044, ready to relieve the siege of Ani, who had held steadfast against the Khacheni besiegers.

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The Siege of Ani, March of 1044

Now trapped between the tall walls of Ani and the incoming army of Gagik, King Sevada had no choice but to defend on two fronts. Gagik was fairly matched by the Khacheni commander Kapriel, and while the siege of Ani was lifted, the battle wasn't decisive enough, with both armies suffering similar casualties. Despite this, Gagik's fame grew, as unlike Smbat or Sevada, the young king was in the front lines, fighting alongside his men. His renown and popularity growing after every battle.

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The Battle of Ani, March of 1044

The armies of Kapriel retreated toward the relative safety of their kingdom, hoping to arrive quickly enough to mount the defense of Khachen and not fall as easily as Siwnik had done. Gagik quickly dashed these hopes however, proving his mastery over the mountainous terrain of Armenia, intercepting Kapriel's forces before they could arrive in Khachen.

Battle.png

The Battle of Baghk, July of 1044

With over half of his remaining forces now laying dead in the fields of Baghk, commander Kapriel mounted a last stand in Khachen, ordering his men to make a rush for Gagik if they encountered him during the battle. If Gagik perished in battle, his men would have no choice but to leave Khachen, for Armenia would fall into a succession crisis as Gagik had no brothers or children. His efforts were for naught, as Gagik valiantly slayed any Khacheni who'd cross his path. It was Kapriel instead, who was captured by the Armenian forces as his army crumbled to pieces.

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Kapriel's last stand over Khachen, August of 1044

The fortress of Khachen would fall a month later, with King Sevada being forced to surrender half of his kingdom, including his capital, to King Gagik. While he remained in control of his lands in Haband, King Sevada's kingdom had essentially being neutered, just waiting to be annexed by Gagik as soon as the peace treaty expired.

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The Kingdom of Armenia by January of 1045, with the kingdom of Siwnik fully annexed and the kingdom of Khachen in shambles following the loss of over half its lands

With the rebellious sub-kings subdued, Gagik sent his men home and returned to Ani to plan his next move. The Shaddadid Emirate had snatched the prosperous city of Dvin twenty years prior, and thus was the next target of his ambition, but his armies were exhausted from the war, and Queen Theopiste had fallen ill of dysentery during his campaign. He would put his plans on hold for a year, allowing his men to recuperate, while dividing his time between ruling in his new lands and his ill wife.

First War.JPG
 
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guillec87

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It's a truly bloody place in which to try and survive