Cradle of Civilization

A Blog about the Birth of Our Civilisation and Development

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  • The Fertile Crescent

    The Fertile Crescent is a term for an old fertile area north, east and west of the Arabian Desert in Southwest Asia. The Mesopotamian valley and the Nile valley fall under this term even though the mountain zone around Mesopotamia is the natural zone for the transition in a historical sense.

    As a result of a number of unique geographical factors the Fertile Crescent have an impressive history of early human agricultural activity and culture. Besides the numerous archaeological sites with remains of skeletons and cultural relics the area is known primarily for its excavation sites linked to agricultural origins and development of the Neolithic era.

    It was here, in the forested mountain slopes of the periphery of this area, that agriculture originated in an ecologically restricted environment. The western zone and areas around the upper Euphrates gave growth to the first known Neolithic farming communities with small, round houses , also referred to as Pre Pottery Neolithic A (PPNA) cultures, which dates to just after 10,000 BC and include areas such as Jericho, the world’s oldest city.

    During the subsequent PPNB from 9000 BC these communities developed into larger villages with farming and animal husbandry as the main source of livelihood, with settlement in the two-story, rectangular house. Man now entered in symbiosis with grain and livestock species, with no opportunity to return to hunter – gatherer societies.

    The area west and north of the plains of the Euphrates and Tigris also saw the emergence of early complex societies in the much later Bronze Age (about 4000 BC). There is evidence of written culture and early state formation in this northern steppe area, although the written formation of the states relatively quickly shifted its center of gravity into the Mesopotamian valley and developed there. The area is therefore in very many writers been named “The Cradle of Civilization.”

    The area has experienced a series of upheavals and new formation of states. When Turkey was formed in the aftermath of the genocide against the Pontic Greeks, Armenians and Assyrians perpetrated by the Young Turks during the First World War it is estimated that two-thirds to three-quarters of all Armenians and Assyrians in the region died, and the Pontic Greeks was pushed to Greece.

    Israel was created out of the Ottoman Empire and the conquering of the Palestinian terretories. The existence of large Arab nation states from the Maghreb to the Levant has since represented a potential threat to Israel which should be neutralised when opportunities arise.

    This line of thinking was at the heart of David Ben Gurion’s policies in the 1950s which sought to exacerbate tensions between Christians and Muslims in the Lebanon for the fruits of acquiring regional influence by the dismembering the country and the possible acquisition of additional territory.

    The Christians are now being systematically targeted for genocide in Syria according to Vatican and other sources with contacts on the ground among the besieged Christian community.

    According to reports by the Vatican’s Fides News Agency collected by the Centre for the Study of Interventionism, the US-backed Free Syrian Army rebels and ever more radical spin-off factions are sacking Christian churches, shooting Christians dead in the street, broadcasting ultimatums that all Christians must be cleansed from the rebel-held villages, and even shooting priests.

    It is now time that the genocide against the Pontic Greeks, Assyrians and Armenians is being recognized, that the Israeli occupation, settlements and violence against the Palestinians stop, and that the various minorities in the area start to live their lifes in peace – without violence and threats from majority populations, or from the West, and then specificially from the US.

    War in the Fertile Crescent

    Everyone is free to use the text on this blog as they want. There is no copyright etc. This because knowledge is more important than rules and regulations.

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Armenia III

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The Kingdom of Armenia, also the Kingdom of Greater Armenia, or simply Greater Armenia, sometimes referred to as the Armenian Empire, was a monarchy in the Ancient Near East which existed from 321 BC to 428 AD. Its history is divided into successive reigns by three royal dynasties: Orontid (321 BC–200 BC), Artaxiad (189 BC–12 AD) and Arsacid (52–428).

The root of the kingdom lies in one of the satrapies of the Achaemenid Empire of Persia called Armenia (Satrapy of Armenia) (549–331 BC), which was formed from the territory of the Kingdom of Ararat (860 BC–590 BC) after it was conquered by the Median Empire in 590 BC. From the 6th century BC, the Satrapy of Armenia was ruled by the Orontid Dynasty (570–201 BC), who were subjects of the Achaemenid Empire.

The Orontid dynasty ruled as satraps of the Achaemenid Empire for three centuries until the empire’s defeat against Alexander the Great’s Macedonian Empire at the Battle of Gaugamela in 331 BC. After Alexander’s death in 323 BC, a Macedonian general who served under Alexander the Great named Neoptolemus obtained Armenia until he died in 321 BC.

The Orontids returned, not as satraps, but as kings. Orontes III recognized himself as independent, thus elevating the former Armenian satrapy into a kingdom, giving birth to the kingdoms of Armenia. He also defeated the Thessalian commander Menon, who wanted to capture Sper’s gold mines.


According to Arrian Neoptolemus belonged to the race of the Aeacidae, so he probably was related to the family of the kings of Epirus. Neoptolemus is mentioned as serving in the Macedonian royal guards and distinguished himself particularly at the siege of Gaza, 332 BC, of which he was the first to scale the walls.

Little has been written about him during the subsequent campaigns of Alexander, however he appears to have earned a reputation as an able soldier. Dexippus lists the satrapy of Carmania as assigned to Neoptolemus after the death of Alexander; however, Diodorus and Justin assign this satrapy to Tlepolemus instead.

Carmania (Greek: Karmanía, Old Persian: Karmanâ, Middle Persian: Kirmān) is a historical region that approximately corresponds to the modern province of Kerman and was a province of the Achaemenid, Seleucid, Arsacid, and Sasanian Empire. The region bordered Persia in the west, Gedrosia in the south-east, Parthia in the north (later known as Abarshahr), and Aria to the north-east. Carmania was considered part of Ariana.

A. G. Roos revised Dexippus’ text to assign Carmania to Tlepolemus and Armenia to Neoptolemus. Pat Wheatley and Waldemar Heckel found this revision to be unlikely to represent the original text, and considered it more likely that the fragment of the text of Dexippus includes a scribal error, as “Neoptolemus” is an easy corruption of “Tlepolemus”.

Neoptolemus apparently campaigned in Armenia after the death of Alexander, but his official status in this area is unclear; he might have been a strategos rather than a satrap. Neoptolemus managed only to create havoc in Armenia, which suggests that he wasn’t cooperating with any existing satrap.

As Neoptolemus had a reputation of being restless and unsettled, Perdiccas (355 BC – 321/320 BC), a general in Alexander the Great’s army, who participated in Alexander’s campaign against Achaemenid Persia, regarded him with suspicion.

Following Alexander’s death, Perdiccas had rose to become supreme commander of the imperial army and regent for Alexander’s half brother and intellectually disabled successor, Philip Arridaeus (Philip III).

He was the first of the Diadochi who fought for control over Alexander’s empire but in his attempts to establish a power base and stay in control of the empire, he managed to make enemies of key generals in the Macedonian army, Antipater, Craterus and Antigonus Monophtalmus, who decided to revolt against the regent.

So in 321 BC, when Perdiccas set out for Ptolemaic Egypt, he placed Neoptolemus under the command of Eumenes of Cardia (362 – 316 BC), who was told to exercise particular vigilance regarding Neoptolemus.

Eumenes was a native of Cardia in the Thracian Chersonese, although he was suspected to be Scythian. He was employed as a private secretary by Philip II of Macedon and after Philip’s death (336 BC) by Alexander the Great, whom he accompanied into Asia. After Alexander’s death (323 BC), Eumenes took command of a large body of Greek and Macedonian soldiers fighting in support of Alexander’s son, Alexander IV.

Perdiccas’ suspicions turned out to be well founded: Neoptolemus immediately entered into correspondence with the hostile Macedonian leaders, Antipater and Craterus, and, on being ordered by Eumenes to join him with his contingent, refused to comply. In response, Eumenes immediately marched against him, defeated his army, and compelled all the Macedonian troops in his service to take the oath of fidelity to Perdiccas.

Neoptolemus managed to escape with a small body of cavalry and joined Craterus, whom he persuaded to march immediately against Eumenes, while the latter was still celebrating his victory and unprepared for a fresh attack. But their cautious adversary was not taken by surprise and met his enemies in a pitched battle.

During this battle, Neoptolemus commanded the left wing, on which he was opposed to Eumenes himself; and the two leaders, who were bitter personal enemies, sought each other out during the battle and engaged in single combat, in which, after a desperate struggle, Neoptolemus was slain by Eumenes.


Tlepolemus was the son of Pythophanes and one of the hetairoi of Alexander the Great, who was joined in the government of the Parthians and Hyrcanii with Amminapes, a Parthian, whom Alexander had appointed satrap of those provinces.

The Companions (Greek: hetairoi) were the elite cavalry of the Macedonian army from the time of king Philip II of Macedon, achieved their greatest prestige under Alexander the Great, and have been regarded as the first or among the first shock cavalry used in Europe. Chosen Companions formed the elite guard of the king (Somatophylakes).

At a later period Tlepolemus was appointed by Alexander satrap of Carmania, which he retained on the death of Alexander in 323 BC, and also at the fresh division of the provinces at Triparadisus in 321.

In the following years, Tlepolemus joined a coalition formed by governors of Upper Satrapies with the purpose of fighting Peithon, later assisting Eumenes in his war against Antigonus. Tlepolemus commanded 800 horsemen from Carmania in the Battle of Paraitakene, stationed on the right wing.


Amminapes was a Parthian who was appointed satrap of the Parthians and Hyrcanii by Alexander the Great in 330 BCE. Amminapes knew Alexander from his youth at the Macedonian court, where he remained in exile together with Artabazos II and a Persian nobleman named Sisines, after conflicts with the Achaemenid ruler Artaxerxes III.

He was later able to return to the Achaemenid Empire and was given responsibilities in Egypt. He was in Egypt with the satrap Mazakes in late 332 BCE when they surrendered the country to Alexander, and he is the one who convinced Mazakes to do so and helped negotiate the terms of the surrender. He then joined the army of Alexander the Great.

Amminapes later received in 330 BCE the satrapy of Parthia and Hyrcania as a reward for his services, but he was still joined with the Macedonian general Tlepolemus, who was later appointed by Alexander satrap of Carmania, which he retained on the death of Alexander in 323 BC, and also at the fresh division of the provinces at Triparadisus in 321.

Amminapes was probably soon replaced by Phrataphernes, who was still in charge of the satrapy in 324, and was then succeeded by his son Pharismanes, a Parthian, son of Phrataphernes, who was appointed Hellenistic satrap of the Parthians and Hyrcanii after his father, circa 320 BCE.


Mithrenes was a Persian commander of the force that garrisoned the citadel of Sardis. According to Cyril Toumanoff, he was also a member of the Orontid dynasty. Waldemar Heckel, on the other hand, considers Mithrenes to be a Persian noble of unknown family background.

After the battle of the Granicus Mithrenes surrendered voluntarily to Alexander the Great, and was treated by him with great distinction. Mithrenes was present in the Macedonian camp after the Battle of Issus (also Issos) between the Hellenic League led by Alexander the Great and the Achaemenid Empire, led by Darius III, in the second great battle of Alexander’s conquest of Asia in southern Anatolia in 333 BC, and Alexander ordered him to visit the captured family of Darius III and assure them that Darius was alive, before changing his mind and assigning the duty to Leonnatus instead.

He fought for Alexander at Gaugamela, and ironically he was fighting against an army that included his father Orontes II. Afterwards, Alexander appointed him Satrap of Armenia. Mithrenes disappears from the historical record after this appointment, and his ultimate fate is unknown. It’s not clear whether he actually managed to take control of his satrapy.

According to Curtius, in his speech given at Hecatompylos in 330 BC, Alexander the Great listed Armenia among lands conquered by Macedonians, implying that Mithrenes succeeded in conquering it; on the other hand, Justin reproduced Pompeius Trogus’ rendition of a speech attributed to Mithridates VI of Pontus, which mentioned that Alexander did not conquer Armenia.

Dexippus lists the satrapy of Carmania as assigned to Neoptolemus after the death of Alexander; however, Diodorus and Justin assign this satrapy to Tlepolemus instead. A. G. Roos emended the text of Dexippus to assign Carmania to Tlepolemus and Armenia to Neoptolemus.

Pat Wheatley and Waldemar Heckel found this emendation to be unlikely to represent the original text, and considered it more likely that the fragment of the text of Dexippus includes a scribal error, as “Neoptolemus” is an easy corruption of “Tlepolemus”.

Neoptolemus apparently campaigned in Armenia after the death of Alexander, but his official status in this area is unclear; he might have been a strategos rather than a satrap. Neoptolemus managed only to create havoc in Armenia, which suggests that he wasn’t cooperating with any existing satrap.

Diodorus and Polyaenus mention a man named Orontes, who was a Satrap of Armenia during the Second War of the Diadochi; Diodorus adds that this Orontes was a friend of Peucestas. Edward Anson and Waldemar Heckel consider this satrap to be the same Orontes who fought for Darius III in the Battle of Gaugamela; the authors state that Mithrenes may have perished in an unsuccessful attempt to wrest Armenia from Orontes.

On the other hand, N. G. L. Hammond interpreted the sources as indicating that Armenia was already in submission when Mithrenes was sent there from Babylon late in 331 BC, that Mithrenes took it over as satrap ruling on behalf of the new Macedonian regime, and that he was left as satrap in 323 BC when Perdiccas let some satrapies remain under the existing satraps; in 317 BC Mithrenes was no longer satrap but had been replaced by Orontes.

Hammond noted that Strabo described the satrapy of Armenia as small compared to the size of Armenia under Artaxias I and Zariadres; on the basis of this passage Hammond suggested that Mithrenes’ rule may not have extended as far as Lake Van.

After the death of Neoptolemus, and during the struggles among the Diadochi, it seems Mithrenes not only returned to his ancestral seat but declared himself king.

One of the inscriptions from the Mount Nemrut detailing the ancestry of Antiochus I Theos of Commagene lists an ancestor whose name was incompletely preserved and who was a son of Aroandas, the second ancestor of Antiochus mentioned in the inscriptions from Mount Nemrut who bore that name (identified with the Orontes who was a commander in the Battle of Gaugamela by Karl Julius Beloch and Herman Brijder; Friedrich Karl Dörner found this identification questionable).

Ernst Honigmann emended the name of the son of Aroandas as [Mιθρ]άνην, [Mithr]anen. However, Friedrich Karl Dörner and John H. Young (1996) interpreted the first preserved letter of the name as a delta, so that the name of the son of Aroandas ended with -δανης, -danes. Herman Brijder (2014) also interpreted the inscription as indicating that name of the son of Aroandas II ended with -danes.

Orontes II

Orontes II was a Persian noble living in the 4th century BC. He is probably to be identified as the satrap of Armenia under Darius III, and may in fact have succeeded Darius in this position when Darius ascended the throne of Persia in 336 BC.

Arrian lists Orontes and a certain Mithraustes as two commanders of Armenian forces in the Battle of Gaugamela in 331 BC. The interpretation of this passage is controversial, with different historians interpreting it as indicating that Mithraustes commanded the infantry, or that there were two different contingents of Armenian cavalry in this battle, or even that Armenia was divided into two parts ruled by two satraps.

Orontes fought at the Battle of Gaugamela on the Persian right flank with 40,000 units of infantry and 7,000 of cavalry under his command, where he died. His son, Mithrenes, Satrap of Lydia, had joined Alexander the Great after being defeated at Sardis in 334 BC, and fought at Gaugamela on the side of Alexander. After the battle, Mithrenes was made Satrap of Armenia by Alexander.

The ultimate fate of Orontes is unknown. Diodorus and Polyaenus mention a man named Orontes, who was a Satrap of Armenia during the Second War of the Diadochi; Diodorus adds that this Orontes was a friend of Peucestas.

Andrew Burn, Edward Anson and Waldemar Heckel consider this satrap to be the same Orontes who fought for Darius III in the Battle of Gaugamela; Anson and Heckel state that Mithrenes may have perished in an unsuccessful attempt to wrest Armenia from Orontes.

Heckel stated that in all likehood Armenia, which was bypassed by the Macedonian army, was never part of Alexander’s empire. Anson, on the other hand, considered it likely that at some point after the Battle of Gaugamela Orontes made his submission to Alexander, who later put him in charge of the Greater Armenia.

N. G. L. Hammond interpreted the sources as indicating that Armenia was already in submission when Mithrenes was sent there from Babylon late in 331 BC, that Mithrenes took it over as satrap ruling on behalf of the new Macedonian regime, and that he was left as satrap in 323 BC when Perdiccas let some satrapies remain under the existing satraps; in 317 BC Mithrenes was no longer satrap but had been replaced by Orontes.

One of the inscriptions from the Mount Nemrut detailing the ancestry of Antiochus I Theos of Commagene mentions an ancestor whose name was incompletely preserved, and who was a son of Aroandas. This Aroandas (Orontes) is inferred to be the second ancestor of Antiochus listed in the inscriptions from Mount Nemrut who bore that name, succeeding the first Aroandas, who in turn was the son of Artasyrus and who married Rhodogune, the daughter of Artaxerxes II of Persia.

Friedrich Karl Dörner and John H. Young (1996) interpreted the first preserved letter of the name of the son of Aroandas II as a delta, so that the name ended with -δανης, -danes. The authors considered this reading to be important, because it settled the proposal of Ernst Honigmann’s ([Mιθρ]άνην), as well as one of the suggestions presented by Salomon Reinach ([Όστ]άνην). Brijder (2014) also interpreted the inscription as indicating that name of the son of Orontes II ended with -danes.

Aroandas II mentioned in an inscription from Mount Nemrut was identified with the Orontes who was a commander in the Battle of Gaugamela by Karl Julius Beloch and Herman Brijder. This Orontes was also inferred to be a descendant of Orontes I and his wife Rhodoghune, possibly their son or grandson.

On the other hand, Friedrich Karl Dörner was unsure whether ancient citations of connections of the bearers of the name Aroandas/Orontes with Armenia or their status as leaders of Armenian military units are compelling reasons for assuming that they were relatives.

Dörner considered it very questionable whether Aroandas II mentioned in an inscription from Mount Nemrut is identical with the Orontes of Alexander’s time; the author stressed the need to consider that in the course of the 4th century BC, besides the two ancestors of Antiochus I of Commagene, other bearers of the same name may have played a part in Persian politics.

Orontes III

In his reign Orontes III struggled for control of the Kingdom of Sophene with king Antiochus II Theos until being defeated in 272 BC and was forced to pay a large tribute which included 300 talents of silver and 1,000 horses and mules. He was subsequently murdered in 260 BC, whether at the instigation of King Antiochus II is not recorded. His son, Sames, continued to rule in Sophene.

Samos or Sames was satrap of Commagene, Armenian king of Commagene and Sophene. War between the Seleucid Empire and the Ptolemaic Kingdom seems to have allowed Sames an opportunity for independence for his kingdom.

What side he took in the Syrian Wars is unknown as most of the records of that era have been lost, though it is considered likely that he would have supported the Ptolemaic Kingdom against his large and powerful neighbour, the Seleucid Empire.

Most sources give Orontes III as his father. After Orontes III died in 260 BC, there is no record for when Sames began his rule, only that his year of death is also 260 BC. This could be chronological error or it may be that Sames was meant to succeed Orontes III, but died in the same year. However it seems that Arsames I took control of Commagene, Sophene and Armenia after 260 BC.

Commagene was outside the boundary of historic Armenia, yet the Armenian satraps remained in occupation of many regions of Anatolia, such as Cappadocia and Pontus. It may have been that the son and heir to the Armenian kingdom would rule another region, just as the son or heir to the Achaemenid Empire had always ruled an outlying region, such as Bactria or Hyrkania. Viewing it from this perspective it would make sense, as his father Orontes III was of the Orontid family.

It is suggested that Samos founded the city of Samosata, which has been submerged by the Ataturk Dam since 1989. Shamash was a Babylonian god, equivalent to Mithra; it was a dramatic break from a seemingly continuous tradition of satraps with Armenian and Persian names.

The neighbouring region of Osroene maintained a strong Aramaic culture that the Armenian and Persian occupiers never replaced. Although Sames had a very Babylonian (Aramaic) name, his name might have been “Mihrdat” which many of his successors had, but he replaced it with the Babylonian equivalent for cultural reasons on taking control of Commagene. He was succeeded by his son, Arsames I.

Arsames I seems to have taken control of Commagene, Sophene and Armenia in the year 260 BC after the death of his grandfather Orontes III, king of Armenia, and his father Sames, king of Commagene. Quite why they both died in the same year is not recorded, though it looks suspicious. It is known the Seleucid Empire was always trying to overthrow the Armenian dynasties who still ruled the lands their forebears had in the time of the Achaemenid Empire.

Ziaelas of Bithynia found refuge at the court of king Arsames, and upon the death of king Nicomedes I of Bithynia Ziaelas returned to take the kingdom in 254 BC. Arsames also supported Antiochus Hierax against his brother, Seleucus II Callinicus, who was defeated at a battle against king Mithridates II of Pontus near Ankara in 239 BC, after which Seleucus lost control of any lands he had across the Taurus mountains. This was to the benefit of Arsames.

Arsames then founded the cities of Arsamosata in Sophene and Arsameia (known today as Eski Kale) in Commagene in 235 BC. After his death his eldest son Xerxes became king of Commagene, Sophene and Armenia. Orontes IV would succeed Xerxes whilst another son known as “Mithras” (or Mithrenes II) is recorded as being the High Priest of the temple to the Sun and Moon at Armavir.

Kingdom of Pontus

The region of Pontus was originally part of the Persian satrapy of Cappadocia (Katpatuka). The Persian dynasty which was to found this kingdom had, during the 4th century BCE, ruled the Greek city of Cius (or Kios) in Mysia, with its first known member being Mithridates of Cius.

Mithridates I Ctistes (r. 281–266 BC), also known as Mithridates III of Cius, was a Persian nobleman from Asia Minor and founder (this is the meaning of the word Ctistes, literally Builder) of the Kingdom of Pontus in Anatolia by declaring himself king. He is said to have been born in the mid-330s BC.

In 302 or 301 BC, shortly after having executed the young man’s father and predecessor Mithridates II of Cius, the diadoch Antigonus became suspicious of the son who had inherited the family dominion of Cius, and planned to kill the boy.

Mithridates, however, received from Demetrius Poliorketes timely notice of Antigonus’s intentions, and fled with a few followers to Paphlagonia, where he occupied a strong fortress, called Cimiata.

He was joined by numerous bodies of troops from different quarters and gradually extended his dominions in Pontus and created the foundations for the birth of a new kingdom, which may be judged to have risen about 281 BC when Mithridates assumed the title of basileus (king).

In the same year, we find him concluding an alliance with the town of Heraclea Pontica in Bithynia, to protect it against Seleucus. At a subsequent period, Mithridates is found acquiring support from the Gauls (who later settled in Asia Minor) in order to overthrow a force sent against him by Ptolemy, king of Egypt.

These are the recorded events of his reign, which lasted for thirty-six years. He was succeeded by his son Ariobarzanes. He seems to have been buried in a royal grave near the kingdom’s capital, Amasia. Next to him would be buried all the kings of Pontus until the fall of Sinope in 183 BC.

According to Appian, he was eighth in descent from the first satrap of Pontus under Darius the Great and sixth in ascending order from Mithridates Eupator. However, this point is controversial since Plutarch writes that eight generations of kings of Pontus stemmed from him before Roman subjection.

Ariobarzanes II, son of Mithridates of Cius, became satrap of Phrygia. He became a strong ally of Athens and revolted against Artaxerxes, but was betrayed by his son Mithridates II of Cius. Mithridates II remained as ruler after Alexander’s conquests and was a vassal to Antigonus I Monophthalmus, who briefly ruled Asia Minor after the Partition of Triparadisus.

Mithridates was killed by Antigonus in 302 BCE under suspicion that he was working with his enemy Cassander. Antigonus planned to kill Mithridates’ son, also called Mithridates (later named Ktistes, ‘founder’) but Demetrius I warned him and he escaped to the east with six horsemen.

Mithridates first went to the city of Cimiata in Paphlagonia and later to Amasia in Cappadocia. He ruled from 302 to 266 BCE, fought against Seleucus I and, in 281 (or 280) BCE, declared himself king (basileus) of a state in northern Cappadocia and eastern Paphlagonia. He further expanded his kingdom to the river Sangrius in the west.

His son Ariobarzanes captured Amastris in 279, its first important Black sea port. Mithridates also allied with the newly arrived Galatians and defeated a force sent against him by Ptolemy I. Ptolemy had been expanding his territory in Asia Minor since the beginning of the First Syrian war against Antiochus in the mid-270s and was allied with Mithridates’ enemy, Heraclea Pontica.

The Kingdom of Pontus or Pontic Empire was a Hellenistic-era kingdom, centered in the historical region of Pontus and ruled by the Mithridatic dynasty of Persian origin, which may have been directly related to Darius the Great and the Achaemenid dynasty.

The kingdom was proclaimed by Mithridates I in 281 BCE and lasted until its conquest by the Roman Republic in 63 BCE. The Kingdom of Pontus reached its largest extent under Mithridates VI the Great, who conquered Colchis, Cappadocia, Bithynia, the Greek colonies of the Tauric Chersonesos, and for a brief time the Roman province of Asia.

After a long struggle with Rome in the Mithridatic Wars, Pontus was defeated. Part of it was incorporated into the Roman Republic as the province Bithynia et Pontus; the eastern half survived as a client kingdom.

As the greater part of the kingdom lay within the region of Cappadocia, which in early ages extended from the borders of Cilicia to the Euxine (Black Sea), the kingdom as a whole was at first called ‘Cappadocia by Pontus’ or ‘Cappadocia by the Euxine’, but afterwards simply ‘Pontus’, the name Cappadocia henceforth being used to refer to the southern half of the region previously included under that name. Culturally, the kingdom was Hellenized, with Greek the official language.

As the kingdom grew in strength, it included Lesser Armenia well. Lesser Armenia (Armenian: Pokr Hayk; Latin: Armenia Minor), also known as Armenia Minor and Armenia Inferior, comprised the Armenian–populated regions of the historic Armenia primarily lying west and northwest of the river Euphrates. It received its name to distinguish it from the the much larger eastern portion of historic Armenia – the Kingdom of Armenia, also known as Greater Armenia (or Armenia Major).

Kingdom of Pontus

Lesser Armenia

Mithridatic Dynasty of Cius

Ariobarzanes (Old Persian: Ariyabrdhna, Ariyaubrdhna) Ariobarzan or spelled as Ario Barzan or Aryo Barzan, perhaps signifying “exalting the Aryans” (death: crucified in c. 362 BCE), sometimes known as Ariobarzanes I of Cius, was a Persian Satrap of Phrygia and military commander, leader of an independence revolt, and the first known of the line of rulers of the Greek town of Cius from which were eventually to stem the kings of Pontus in the 3rd century BCE.

Ariobarzanes was apparently a cadet member of the Achaemenid dynasty, possibly son of Pharnabazus II, and part of the Pharnacid dynasty which had settled to hold Dascylium of Hellespont in the 470s BCE. Cius is located near Dascylium, and Cius seemingly was a share of family holdings for the branch of Ariobarzanes.

Pharnabazus, Satrap of Phrygia (fl. 413 – 373 BCE), son of Pharnaces of Phrygia, is indicated to have shared his rule and territories with his brothers in the late 5th century BCE when Pharnabazos had recently succeeded to the position. Mithradates, Satrap of Cappadocia, might have been one of such brothers. Ariobarzanes of Cius might have also been one of those brothers. The classical source Appianus relates that Ariobarzanes was of a cadet line of the family of the Persian Great King Dareios (Darius the Great).

It is highly probable he is the same Ariobarzanes who, around 407 BCE, was the Persian envoy to the Greek city-states and cultivated the friendship of Athens and Sparta. Ariobarzanes conducted the Athenian ambassadors, in 405 BCE, to his sea-town of Cius in Mysia, after they had been detained three years by order of Cyrus the Younger.

Ariobarzanes was mentioned as under-satrap in Anatolia in late 5th century BCE. He then apparently succeeded his presumed kinsman (possibly elder brother) Pharnabazus (fl. 413 – 373 BCE) as satrap of Phrygia and Lydia, assigned by Pharnabazos himself when he departed to the Persian court to marry Apama, daughter of the Persian king. Thus Ariobarzanes became the satrap of Hellespontine Phrygia, in what is now the northwest of Turkey. Pharnabazos lived well into the 370s BCE, having obtained higher positions in the Persian monarchy than merely the Phrygian satrapship.

He appears to have still held some high office in the Persian court in 368 BCE, as we find him, apparently on behalf of the king, sending an embassy led by Philiscus of Abydos to Greece in that year. Both Philiscus and Ariobarzanes, as well as three of his sons, were made citizens of Athens, a remarkable honor suggesting important services rendered to the city-state.

Ariobarzanes, who is called by Diodorus satrap of Phrygia, and by Nepos satrap of Lydia, Ionia, and Phrygia, revolted against Artaxerxes II in 362. Demosthenes speaks of Ariobarzanes and his three sons having been lately made Athenian citizens.

He mentions him again in the following year and says, that the Athenians had sent Timotheus to his assistance; but that when the Athenian general saw that Ariobarzanes was in open revolt against the king, he refused to assist him.

When Pharnabazos’ other son, Artabazos II of Phrygia, wanted to regain the satrapy from his brother, Ariobarzanes refused. Ultimately, in about 366 BCE, Ariobarzanes joined an unsuccessful revolt of the satraps of western Anatolia against the Achamenian King Artaxerxes II (Revolt of the Satraps).

Several other satraps sided with Ariobarzanes, including Mausolus of Caria (briefly), Orontes I of Armenia, Autophradates of Lydia and Datames of Cappadocia. The rebel satraps also received support from the pharaoh of Egypt, Teos, as well as from some of the Greek city states, with the Spartan king Agesilaus II coming to their assistance with a mercenary force.

Ariobarzanes withstood a siege at Adramyttium in 366 BC, from Mausolus of Caria and Autophradates of Lydia, until Agesilaus negotiated the besiegers’ retreat. Ariobarzanes was betrayed by his son Mithridates to his overlord, the Persian king, who had Ariobarzanes crucified.

Ariobarzanes’ one predecessor was a (kinsman) named Mithradates (possibly Mithradates, Satrap of Cappadocia). The archaeologist Walther Judeich claims that Ariobarzanes was that Mithradates’ son, but Brian C. McGing refutes that specific filiation. Seemingly, no classical source itself calls them son and father, the filiation being a later reconstruction on basis of successorship.

Mithridates, son of Ariobarzanes prince of Cius, is mentioned by Xenophon as having betrayed his father, and the same circumstance is alluded to by Aristotle. He may or may not be the same Mithradates who accompanied the younger Cyrus, or the same Mithradates mentioned by Xenophon as satrap of Cappadocia and Lycaonia in the late 5th century BCE.

During the Satraps’ Revolt in the 360s BCE, Mithridates tricked Datames to believe in him, but in the end arranged Datames’ murder in 362 BCE. Similarly, Mithridates gave his own father Ariobarzanes of Phrygia to the hands of the Persian overlord, so Ariobarzanes was crucified in 362 BCE.

Demosthenes speaks of Ariobarzanes and his three sons having been lately made Athenian citizens. – as signal of sympathy in the revolt effort, Athens made Ariobarzanes and three of his sons citizens of Athens. Mithradates was possibly one of those sons.

In 363 BCE already, Ariobarzanes II (possibly Mithridates’ son) made himself master of the family fiefdom of Cius in Mysia. This Mithradates may therefore have died in 363 BCE, but the date is not recorded and only comes from later reconstructions of the succession in the dynasty. Otherwise, this Mithradates may well be the same man as the elderly Mithridates II of Cius who held Cius in Mysia between 337 and 302 BCE, being said to be an old man at that time.

Mithridates of Cius (386–302 BC), a Persian noble, succeeded his kinsman or father Ariobarzanes II in 337 BC as ruler of the Greek town of Cius in Mysia (today part of Turkey). Diodorus assigns him a rule of thirty-five years, but it appears that his rule of Cius was interrupted during that period.

What circumstances led to his expulsion or subjection are unknown; nothing is heard of him until his death in 302 BC. However, it appears that he had submitted to the Macedonian Antigonus, who, to prevent him from joining the league of Cassander and his confederates, arranged for his assassination in Cius.

According to Lucian, he was at least eighty-four years of age at the time of his death, which makes it likely that he is the same person as the Mithridates, son of Ariobarzanes, who in his youth circumvented and put to death Datames. King Mithridates I of Pontus was his kinsman, although it is not known whether he was his son.

Therefore, it is likely that he was the same Mithradates, son of Ariobarzanes prince of Cius, who is mentioned by Xenophon as having betrayed his father, and the same circumstance is alluded to by Aristotle.

During the Satraps’ Revolt in the 360s BC, Mithridates tricked Datames into believing in him. But in the end he arranged for Datames’ murder in 362 BC. Similarly, Mithridates gave his own father Ariobarzanes of Phrygia over to his Persian overlord, so Ariobarzanes was crucified in 362 BC.

Presumably he was not the same Mithridates who accompanied the younger Cyrus in c. 401 BC – there is no proof of this. Neither is he the Mithridates mentioned by Xenophon as satrap of Cappadocia and Lycaonia in the late 5th century BC. Between 362 and 337 BC the family fiefdom of Cius in Mysia was held by Ariobarzanes II (possibly Mithridates’ brother).


Cius (Greek: Kίος or Κῖος Kios), later renamed Prusias on the Sea (Latin: Prusias ad Mare) after king Prusias I of Bithynia, was an ancient Greek city bordering the Propontis (now known as the Sea of Marmara), in Bithynia and formerly in Mysia (in modern northwestern Turkey), and had a long history, being mentioned by Herodotus, Xenophon, Aristotle, Strabo and Apollonius Rhodius.

Mysia was a region in the northwest of ancient Asia Minor (Anatolia, Asian part of modern Turkey). It was located on the south coast of the Sea of Marmara. It was bounded by Bithynia on the east, Phrygia on the southeast, Lydia on the south, Aeolis on the southwest, Troad on the west and by the Propontis on the north. In ancient times it was inhabited by the Mysians, Phrygians, Aeolian Greeks and other groups.

The precise limits of Mysia are difficult to assign. The Phrygian frontier was fluctuating, while in the northwest the Troad was only sometimes included in Mysia. The northern portion was known as “Lesser Phrygia”, while the southern was called “Greater Phrygia” or “Pergamene Phrygia”.

Mysia was in later times also known as Hellespontine Phrygia or “Acquired Phrygia”, so named by the Attalids when they annexed the region to the Kingdom of Pergamon. Under Augustus, Mysia occupied the whole of the northwest corner of Asia Minor, between the Hellespont and the Propontis to the north, Bithynia and Phrygia to the east, Lydia to the south, and the Aegean Sea to the west.

The chief physical features of Mysia are the two mountains—Mount Olympus at (7600 ft) in the north and Mount Temnus in the south, which for some distance separates Mysia from Lydia and is afterwards prolonged through Mysia to the neighbourhood of the Gulf of Adramyttium. 

In the Iliad, Homer represents the Mysians as allies of Troy, with the Mysian forces led by Ennomus (a prophet) and Chromius, sons of Arsinous. Little is known about the Mysian language. Strabo noted that their language was, “in a way, a mixture of the Lydian and Phrygian languages”.

As such, the Mysian language could be a language of the Anatolian group. However, a passage in Athenaeus suggests that the Mysian language was akin to the barely attested Paeonian language of Paeonia, north of Macedon.

Paeonian, sometimes spelled Paionian, is a poorly-attested, extinct language spoken by the ancient Paeonians until late antiquity. Paeonia once stretched north of Macedon, into Dardania, and in earlier times into southwestern Thrace.

Classical sources usually considered the Paeonians distinct from Thracians or Illyrians, comprising their own ethnicity and language. Athenaeus seems to have connected the Paeonian tongue to the barely-attested Mysian language, possibly a member of the Anatolian family. On the other hand, the Paeonians were also regarded as being related to Thracians and ancestors of the Phrygians.

Modern linguists are uncertain on the classification of Paeonian, due to the extreme scarcity of surviving materials in the language. Wilhelm Tomaschek and Paul Kretschmer claim it belonged to the Illyrian family, while Dimitar Dechev claims affinities with Thracian.

Irwin L. Merker considers Paeonian closely related to Greek, a Hellenic language with “a great deal of Illyrian and Thracian influence as a result of this proximity”. Irwin L. Merker considers Paeonian closely related to both Greek Hellenic and Illyrian languages with a gret deal of Thracian influence as a result of this proximity”.

A short inscription that could be in Mysian and which dates from between the 5th and 3rd centuries BC was found in Üyücek village in the Tavşanlı district of Kütahya province, and seems to include Indo-European words. However, it is uncertain whether the inscription renders a text in the Mysian language or if it is simply a Phrygian dialect from the region of Mysia.

Cius was taken by the Persians, after the burning of Sardis, in 499 BCE. Hellespontine Phrygia or Lesser Phrygia was a Persian satrapy (province) in northwestern Anatolia, directly southeast of the Hellespont. Its capital was Dascylium, and for most of its existence it was ruled by the hereditary Persian Pharnacid dynasty. Together with Greater Phrygia, it made up the administrative provinces of the wider Phrygia region.

Cius later joined the Aetolian League, a confederation of tribal communities and cities in ancient Greece centered in Aetolia in central Greece established during the early Hellenistic era, in opposition to Macedon and the Achaean League, and was destroyed by Philip V of Macedon in the Second Macedonian War (200-197 BCE).

Cius was then given by him to Prusias I of Bithynia. Prusias, who had assisted Philip in ruining Cius, restored it under the name of Prusias. It was sometimes called Prusias “on the sea,” to distinguish it from other towns of the same name.

The Troada or Troad, or Troas, is the historical name of the Biga Peninsula (modern Turkish: Biga Yarımadası) in the northwestern part of Anatolia, Turkey. This region now is part of the Çanakkale province of Turkey.

Bounded by the Dardanelles to the northwest, by the Aegean Sea to the west and separated from the rest of Anatolia by the massif that forms Mount Ida, the Troad is drained by two main rivers, the Scamander (Karamenderes) and the Simois, which join at the area containing the ruins of Troy.

Mount Ida, called by Homer “many-fountain” (πολυπίδαξ), sourced several rivers, including Rhesos, Heptaporos, Caresus, Rhodios, Granicus (Granikos), Aesepus, Skamandros and Simoeis [Iliad 12.18 ff]; these rivers, were deified as a source of life by the Greeks, who depicted them on their coins as river-gods reclining by a stream and holding a reed.

The Troad gets its name from the Hittites’ name for the region, Taruiša. This identification was first put forth by Emil Forrer, but largely disputed by most Hittite experts until 1983 when Houwink ten Cate showed that two fragments were from the same original cuneiform tablet and in his discussion of the restored letter showed that Taruiša and Wiluša (Troy) were correctly placed in northwestern Anatolia.

According to Trevor Bryce, Hittite texts indicate a number of Ahhiyawan raids on Wilusa during the 13th century BC, which may have resulted in the overthrow of king Walmu. Bryce also said that archeological surveys conducted by John Bintliff in the 1970s showed that a powerful kingdom that held sway over northwestern Anatolia was based at Wilusa (Troy).

Greek settlements flourished in Troas during the Archaic and Classical ages, as evidenced by the number of Greek poleis that coined money in their own names. The region was part of the satrapy (province) of Hellespontine Phrygia of the Achaemenid Empire until its conquest by Alexander the Great.

After this it fell to the Diadoch Seleucid Empire, and then passed to Rome’s ally, the kingdom of Pergamon. The Attalid kings of Pergamon (now Bergama) later ceded Mysia, including the territory of the Troad, to the Roman Republic, on the death of King Attalus III in 133 B.C.

Artashes I

Weakened by the Seleucid Empire which succeeded the Macedonian Empire, the last Orontid king, Orontes IV, was overthrown in 200/201 BC and the kingdom was taken over by a commander of the Seleucid Empire, Artashes I (r. 189-160 BC). Artashes I founded the Artaxiad dynasty of Armenia, and is presumed to be related to the Orontid dynasty.

In the same manner of that of the monarchs of Pontus and Cappadocia, the Artaxiads stuck mainly to the royal traditions used by the former Achaemenid Empire. At the same time Greek influence was starting to advance in the country.

According to the Greek geographer Strabo, Artaxias and Zariadres were Macedonian generals of the Seleucid king Antiochus III the Great (r. 222 – 187 BC). He adds that after Antiochus III’s defeat by the Romans in 188 BC, the two generals established themselves a kingdom in Greater Armenia.

However, this statement has been dismissed by the recent discovery of boundary stones with Aramaic engravings in Armenia, which mentions Artaxias’ proclamation of being “the son of Zareh (Zariadres)” and an “Eruandid (Orontid) king”.

The ending of -akān in the engravings, originally used in Old Persian, was extensively used in the Parthian ostraca from Nisa and in later Armenian texts. Anahit Perikhanian thus confirms that both Artaxias and Zariadres, “far from being Macedonians, belonged in fact to the earlier native dynasty, albeit probably to collateral branches, and that the Eruandids, or Artaxiad/Artašēsids as they came to be known, with their Iranian antecedents, continued to rule Armenia as before.”

Artaxias and Zariadres united their armies to expand their dominions; the kingdom of Artaxias, originally centered around the middle of the Araxes river, expanded into Iberian land, and especially the territory of Media Atropatene, which lost its territories at the Caspian Sea and the districts of Syunik and Vaspurakan.

Meanwhile, Zariadres conquered Acilisene and Taron. The conquered peoples of the territories likewise also spoke Armenian, however imperial Aramaic (with a largely strong amalgamation of Persian words) was still the language of the government and the court, a practice derived from the Achaemenid Empire.

According to the 5th-century CE Armenian historian Movses Khorenatsi, Artaxias ordered the delimitation of villages and farmland, which has been confirmed by archaeological sites in Armenia. Artaxias used many epithets, one of them being the unidentified Persian word of ʾxšhsrt.

Artaxias founded the city of Artaxata (Middle Persian: Artaxšas-šāt, “joy of arta”) on the left side of the Araxes river, which would serve as the capital and seat of the Armenian monarchy until the 2nd-century CE.

In 165/4 BC, Artaxias suffered a defeat to the forces of the Seleucid king Antiochus IV Epiphanes (r. 175 – 164 BC), who had him captured. Nevertheless, in 161/0 BC, Artaxias managed to help the satrap of Media, Timarchus, who rebelled against Seleucid rule. Artaxias died in 160 BC, and was succeeded by his son Artavasdes I.

Tigranes I

Tigranes I of Armenia was a King of Armenia at the end of 2nd and the beginning of 1st century BC. Few records have survived about his and his predecessor Artavasdes I’s reign, which has led to some confusion.

Some modern scholars have doubted that such a king reigned at all. Contrary to them other researchers, such as Manandian, Lang and Adalian consider him a real figure but differ or are uncertain on the exact dates of his reign.

Although it has been proposed that Tigranes I reigned from 123 BC to 96 BC, this view has been criticized. Another suggestion is that Tigranes I ruled in 120 BC – 95 BC and this has been recently corraborated by historian Christian Marek.

The name Tigránēs is the Greek form of Old Iranian Tigrāna (Armenian: Tigran). The exact etymology is disputed but it is likely an Old Iranian patronymic formation of the suffix *-āna- and the name *Tigrā- (meaning “slender”).

Currently, Tigranes I is assumed to be the successor and brother of Artavasdes I (who died without an heir) and the son of Artaxias I. Armenian historian Movses Khorenatsi in his work mentions a Tiran, “son of Artaxias and brother of Artavasdes”, who has been identified as Tigranes I.

Manandian, citing Strabo, mentions that Tigranes I put a strong resistance against the Parthians and successfully defended Armenia. According to Khorenatsi, after the death of Artaxias I and against his wishes, the priests of the Vahuni family moved the gold-plated copper statue of Heracles from Armavir to their own temple-complex in Ashtishat located in Muş Province of eastern Turkey. Once Tigranes I assumed the throne, he stripped Vahunis of priesthood and converted Ashtishat into a royal domain.

Vahevuni was one of the ancient noble houses of Armenia, believed to derive from Vahagn, god (dic) of fire and war. According to Movses Khorenatsi, the Vahevunis were ranked in the Gahnamak among the first noble houses of Armenian by King Valarshak.

The princely house of Vahevunis traditionally held the title of the high priests (qrmapet) of Vahagn. They also possessed the temple town of Ashtishat in the gavarr of Vahevuniq (on the left bank of the Aratzani river in Taron. Most likely, in the pre-Christian Armenia, the Vahevunis also hereditarily held the rank of the Sparapet, i.e. the Commander-in-Chief of the Royal Armenian Army.

After his death, Tigranes II, who was given as hostage to the Parthians by Artavasdes I, returned from his captivity in Parthia and assumed the throne. According to Appian, Tigranes II was the son Tigranes I. This view has also been supported by modern research. Barring the conflict with Parthians, the reign of Tigranes I has been described as generally peaceful and devoid of major external events.

Roman–Persian Wars

The Roman–Persian Wars, also known as the Roman–Iranian Wars, were a series of conflicts between states of the Greco-Roman world and two successive Iranian empires: the Parthian and the Sasanian. Battles between the Parthian Empire and the Roman Republic began in 54 BC; wars began under the late Republic, and continued through the Roman (later Byzantine) and Sasanian empires.

Various vassal kingdoms and allied nomadic nations in the form of buffer states and proxies also played a role. The wars were ended by the Arab Muslim Conquests, which led to the fall of the Sasanian Empire and huge territorial losses for the Byzantine Empire, shortly after the end of the last war between them.

Although warfare between the Romans and Persians continued over seven centuries, the frontier, aside from shifts in the north, remained largely stable. A game of tug of war ensued: towns, fortifications, and provinces were continually sacked, captured, destroyed, and traded.

Neither side had the logistical strength or manpower to maintain such lengthy campaigns far from their borders, and thus neither could advance too far without risking stretching its frontiers too thin.

Both sides did make conquests beyond the border, but in time the balance was almost always restored. Although initially different in military tactics, the armies of both sides gradually adopted from each other and by the second half of the 6th century they were similar and evenly matched.

The expense of resources during the Roman–Persian Wars ultimately proved catastrophic for both empires. The prolonged and escalating warfare of the 6th and 7th centuries left them exhausted and vulnerable in the face of the sudden emergence and expansion of the Caliphate, whose forces invaded both empires only a few years after the end of the last Roman–Persian war.

Benefiting from their weakened condition, the Arab Muslim armies swiftly conquered the entire Sasanian Empire, and deprived the Eastern Roman Empire of its territories in the Levant, the Caucasus, Egypt, and the rest of North Africa. Over the following centuries, more of the Eastern Roman Empire came under Muslim rule.

Tigranes and Mithridates

Armenia was disputed kingdom between Rome and Parthia during the Roman–Persian Wars from 66 BC to the 2nd century AD. Roman influence was first established with Pompey’s campaign of 66/65 BC, and again in 59 AD in the Roman–Parthian War campaign of Gnaeus Domitius Corbulo; which resulted in the deposition of Tiridates I.

Tigranes II, more commonly known as Tigranes the Great (140 – 55 BC), was King of Armenia under whom the country became, for a short time, the strongest state to Rome’s east. He was a member of the Artaxiad Royal House.

Under his reign, the Armenian kingdom expanded beyond its traditional boundaries, allowing Tigranes to claim the title Great King, and involving Armenia in many battles against opponents such as the Parthian and Seleucid empires, and the Roman Republic.

Tigranes’ short-lived empire has been a source of pride for modern Armenian nationalists, his empire was a multi-ethnic one. The phrase “sea to sea Armenia” is a popular expression used by Armenians to refer to the kingdom of Tigranes which extended from the Caspian Sea to the Mediterranean Sea.

Tigranes is a typical example of the mixed culture of his period. Following the example of the Parthians, Tigranes adopted the title of Philhellene (“friend of the Greeks”). The layout of his capital Tigranocerta was a blend of Greek and Iranian architecture.

However, like the majority of the inhabitants of Armenia, Tigranes was a follower of Zoroastrianism. On his crown, a star of divinity and two birds of prey are displayed, both Iranian aspects. The bird of prey was associated with the khvarenah, i.e. kingly glory. It was possibly also a symbol of the bird of the deity Verethragna.

The ceremonial of his court was of Achaemenid origin, and also incorporated Parthian aspects. He had Greek rhetoricians and philosophers in his court, possibly as a result of the influence of his queen, Cleopatra. Greek was also possibly spoken in the court.

In 67 BC Pompey was given the task of defeating Tigranes and Mithridates or Mithradates VI (135–63 BC), also known as Mithradates the Great (Megas) and Eupator Dionysius, the king of Pontus and Armenia Minor from about 120–63 BC.

Mithridates, the last king of the Kingdom of Pontus, was a prince of Persian and Greek ancestry. He claimed descent from Cyrus the Great, the family of Darius the Great, the Regent Antipater, the generals of Alexander the Great as well as the later kings Antigonus I Monophthalmus and Seleucus I Nicator.

The name Mithridates is the Greek attestation of the Persian name Mihrdāt, meaning “given by Mithra”, the name of the ancient Iranian sun god. The name itself is derived from Old Iranian Miθra-dāta-.

Mithridates, who has been called the greatest ruler of the Kingdom of Pontus, is remembered as one of the Roman Republic’s most formidable and successful enemies, who engaged three of the prominent generals from the late Roman Republic in the Mithridatic Wars: Sulla, Lucullus and Pompey.

Mithridates VI Eupator, ‘the Good Father’, followed a decisive anti-Roman agenda, extolling Greek and Iranian culture against ever-expanding Roman influence. Rome had recently created the province of Asia in Anatolia, and it had also rescinded the region of Phrygia Major from Pontus during the reign of Laodice.

Mithridates began his expansion by inheriting Lesser Armenia (Armenian: Pokr Hayk; Latin: Armenia Minor) , also known as Armenia Minor and Armenia Inferior, from King Antipater (precise date unknown, c.115–106) and by conquering the Kingdom of Colchis, an important region in Black Sea trade – rich with gold, wax, hemp, and honey.

After inherited Lesser Armenia and conquered the Kingdom of Colchis, the cities of the Tauric Chersonesus now appealed to Mithridates for aid against the Scythians in the north. Mithridates sent 6,000 men under General Diophantus. After various campaigns in the north of the Crimea he controlled all of the Chersonesus. Mithridates also developed trade links with cities on the western Black Sea coast.

In Pliny the Elder’s account of famous polyglots, Mithridates could speak the languages of all the 22 nations he governed, something that has led to the use of his name as a title in some later works on comparative linguistics, such as Conrad Gessner’s Mithridates de differentis linguis, an account of about 130 then-known languages, and an edition (1556) of the works of the 3rd-century Roman miscellaneous writer Claudius Aelian.

The German grammarian and philologist Johann Christoph Adelung (1732-1806) issued Mithridates, oder allgemeine Sprachenkunde (1806). The hint of this work appears to have been taken from a publication with a similar title, published by Konrad von Gesner in 1555, but the plan of Adelung was much more extensive.

Where his ancestors pursued philhellenism as a means of attaining respectability and prestige among the Hellenistic kingdoms, Mithridates VI made use of Hellenism as a political tool. Both Greeks, Romans and Asians were welcome at his court.

As protector of Greek cities on the Black Sea and in Asia against barbarism, Mithridates VI logically became protector of Greece and Greek culture, and used this stance in his clashes with Rome.

Certainly influenced by Alexander the Great, Mithridates VI extended his propaganda from “defender” of Greece to the “great liberator” of the Greek world as war with the Roman Republic became inevitable. The Romans were easily translated into “barbarians”, in the same sense as the Persian Empire during the war with Persia in the first half of the 5th century BC and during Alexander’s campaign.

How many Greeks genuinely bought into this claim will never be known. It served its purpose; at least partially because of it, Mithridates VI was able to fight the First War with Rome on Greek soil, and maintain the allegiance of Greece.

His campaign for the allegiance of the Greeks was aided in no small part by his enemy Sulla, who allowed his troops to sack the city of Delphi and plunder many of the city’s most famous treasures to help finance his military expenses.

Mithridates entertained ambitions of making his state the dominant power in the Black Sea and Anatolia. He first subjugated Colchis, a region east of the Black Sea, and prior to 164 BC, an independent kingdom. He then clashed for supremacy on the Pontic steppe with the Scythian King Palacus.

The most important centres of Crimea, Tauric Chersonesus and the Bosporan Kingdom readily surrendered their independence in return for Mithridates’ promises to protect them against the Scythians, their ancient enemies.

After several abortive attempts to invade the Crimea, the Scythians and the allied Rhoxolanoi suffered heavy losses at the hands of the Pontic general Diophantus and accepted Mithridates as their overlord.

The young king then turned his attention to Anatolia, where Roman power was on the rise. He contrived to partition Paphlagonia and Galatia with King Nicomedes III of Bithynia. It was probably on the occasion of the Paphlagonian invasion of 108 BC that Mithridates adopted the Bithynian era for use on his coins in honour of the alliance. This calendar era began with the first Bithynian king Zipoites I in 297 BC. It was certainly in use in Pontus by 96 BC at the latest.

Yet it soon became clear to Mithridates that Nicomedes was steering his country into an anti-Pontic alliance with the expanding Roman Republic. When Mithridates fell out with Nicomedes over control of Cappadocia, and defeated him in a series of battles, the latter was constrained to openly enlist the assistance of Rome.

The Romans twice interfered in the conflict on behalf of Nicomedes (95–92 BC), leaving Mithridates, should he wish to continue the expansion of his kingdom, with little choice other than to engage in a future Roman-Pontic war. By this time Mithradates had resolved to expel the Romans from Asia.

The next ruler of Bithynia, Nicomedes IV of Bithynia, was a figurehead manipulated by the Romans. Mithridates plotted to overthrow him, but his attempts failed and Nicomedes IV, instigated by his Roman advisors, declared war on Pontus. Rome itself was involved in the Social War, a civil war with its Italian allies.

Thus, in all of Roman Asia Province there were only two legions present in Macedonia. These legions combined with Nicomedes IV’s army to invade Mithridates’ kingdom of Pontus in 89 BC. Mithridates won a decisive victory, scattering the Roman-led forces.

His victorious forces were welcomed throughout Anatolia. The following year, 88 BC, Mithridates orchestrated a massacre of Roman and Italian settlers remaining in several Anatolian cities, essentially wiping out the Roman presence in the region. 80,000 people are said to have perished in this massacre. The episode is known as the Asiatic Vespers.

The Kingdom of Pontus comprised a mixed population in its Ionian Greek and Anatolian cities. The royal family moved the capital from Amasya to the Greek city of Sinope. Its rulers tried to fully assimilate the potential of their subjects by showing a Greek face to the Greek world and an Iranian/Anatolian face to the Eastern world.

Whenever the gap between the rulers and their Anatolian subjects became greater, they would put emphasis on their Persian origins. In this manner, the royal propaganda claimed heritage both from Persian and Greek rulers, including Cyrus the Great, Darius I of Persia, Alexander the Great and Seleucus I Nicator.

Mithridates too posed as the champion of Hellenism, but this was mainly to further his political ambitions; it is no proof that he felt a mission to promote its extension within his domains. Whatever his true intentions, the Greek cities (including Athens) defected to the side of Mithridates and welcomed his armies in mainland Greece, while his fleet besieged the Romans at Rhodes.

Neighboring King of Armenia Tigranes the Great established an alliance with Mithridates and married one of Mithridates’ daughters, Cleopatra of Pontus. They would support each other in the coming conflict with Rome. They would support each other in the coming conflict with Rome. The Romans responded by organising a large invasion force to defeat him and remove him from power.

The Romans responded by organising a large invasion force to defeat him and remove him from power. The First Mithridatic War, fought between 88 BC and 84 BC, saw Lucius Cornelius Sulla force Mithridates VI out of Greece proper. After victory in several battles, Sulla received news of trouble back in Rome posed by his enemy Gaius Marius and hurriedly concluded peace talks with Mithridates.

In this conflict, a war challenging Rome’s expanding Empire and rule over the Greek world, the Kingdom of Pontus and many Greek cities rebelling against Rome were led by Mithridates VI of Pontus against the Roman Republic and the Kingdom of Bithynia.

The war lasted five years and ended in a Roman victory which forced Mithridates to abandon all his conquests and return to Pontus. The conflict with Mithridates VI would continue in two further Mithridatic Wars.

As Sulla returned to Italy Lucius Licinius Murena was left in charge of Roman forces in Anatolia. The lenient peace treaty, which was never ratified by the Senate, allowed Mithridates VI to restore his forces. Murena attacked Mithridates in 83 BC, provoking the Second Mithridatic War from 83 BC to 81 BC. Mithridates defeated Murena’s two green legions at the Battle of Halys in 82 BC before peace was again declared by treaty.

When Rome attempted to annex Bithynia (bequested to Rome by its last king) nearly a decade later, Mithridates VI attacked with an even larger army, leading to the Third Mithridatic War from 73 BC to 63 BC. Lucullus was sent against Mithridates and the Romans routed the Pontic forces at the Battle of Cabira in 72 BC, driving Mithridates to exile into King Tigranes’ Armenia.

In 67 BC Pompey was given the task of defeating Mithridates and Tigranes. Pompey first concentrated on attacking Mithridates while distracting Tigranes by engineering a Parthian attack on Gordyene. Phraates III, the Parthian king, was soon persuaded to take things a little further than an annexation of Gordyene when a son of Tigranes (also named Tigranes) went to join the Parthians and persuaded Phraates to invade Armenia in an attempt to replace the elder Tigranes with the Tigranes the Younger.

Tigranes decided not to meet the invasion in the field but instead ensured that his capital, Artaxata, was well defended and withdrew to the hill country. Phraates soon realized that Artaxata would not fall without a protracted siege, the time for which he could not spare due to his fear of plots at home. Once Phraates left, Tigranes came back down from the hills and drove his son from Armenia. The son then fled to Pompey.

In 66 BC, Pompey advanced into Armenia with Tigranes the Younger, and Tigranes, now almost 75 years old, surrendered. Pompey allowed him to retain his kingdom shorn of his conquests as he planned to have Armenia as a buffer state and he took 6,000 talents/180 tonnes of silver. His unfaithful son was sent back to Rome as a prisoner.

Tigranes continued to rule Armenia as a formal ally of Rome until his death in 55/54, at age 85. He had four sons and three daughters. One daughter of Tigranes according to Cassius Dio married Mithridates I of Atropatene. Another daughter married Parthian prince Pacorus, son of Orodes II. Parchments of Avroman also mention his third daughter, Ariazate “Automa”, who married Gotarzes I of Parthia.

The eldest son, Zariadres, according to Appian and Valerius Maximus rebelled against Tigranes and was killed during a battle (possibly late 90s BCE). Appian also mentions an unnamed younger son who was executed for conspiring against Tigranes.

His third son, Tigranes the Younger, who showed great care for his injured father and was rewarded for his loyalty, has already been mentioned. He is also alleged to have led a military campaign in 82 BCE. Tigranes was succeeded by his fourth and youngest son, Artavasdes II.

Although Cleopatra of Pontus is usually considered to be their mother (Appian writes that she gave birth to three sons)[40], historian Gagik Sargsyan considered only Artavasdes II and one of the unnamed daughters to be her children.

According to him, the rest had a different mother and were born before Tigranes became king. The reasoning behind it is that if Tigranes the Younger did indeed lead a campaign in 82 BCE, then he and hence his two older brothers (and possibly two sisters) would be too old to be Cleopatra’s children.

Another argument supporting this claim would be the situation with Ariazate. As she was probably the mother of Orodes I (r. 80–75 BC), then Ariazate could not have been the daughter of Cleopatra who married Tigranes only in 94 BCE at the age of 15 or 16.

Sargsyan also proposed a possible candidate as Tigran’s first wife and the children’s mother: Artaxiad princess Zaruhi, a daughter of Tigran’s paternal uncle Zariadres and granddaughter of Artaxias I. He also considered likely that the reason for the rebellion of Tigranes’s son Zariadres was the birth of Artavasdes who was declared the heir by virtue of being born to a king and not a prince.

While Lucullus was preoccupied fighting the Armenians, Mithridates surged back to retake his kingdom of Pontus by crushing four Roman legions under Valerius Triarius and killing 7,000 Roman soldiers at the Battle of Zela in 67 BC. He was routed by Pompey’s legions at the Battle of the Lycus in 66 BC.

After Pompey defeated him in Pontus, Mithridates VI fled with a small army to Colchis (modern Georgia) and then over the Caucasus Mountains to Crimea in the winter of 66 BC in the hope that he could raise a new army and carry on the war through invading Italy by way of the Danube. 

His preparations proved to be too harsh on the local nobles and populace, and they rebelled against his rule. His eldest living son, Machares, viceroy of Cimmerian Bosporus, was unwilling to aid his father. Mithridates had Machares killed, and took the throne of the Bosporan Kingdom. He then ordered conscription and preparations for war.

In 63 BC, Pharnaces II of Pontus, one of his sons, led a rebellion against his father, joined by Roman exiles in the core of Mithridates’ Pontic army. Mithridates withdrew to the citadel in Panticapaeum, where he committed suicide. 

He reportedly attempted suicide by poison. This attempt failed because of his immunity to the poison. According to Appian’s Roman History, he then requested his Gallic bodyguard and friend, Bituitus, to kill him by the sword.

At the behest of Pompey, Mithridates’ body was later buried alongside his ancestors in the rock-cut tombs of his ancestors in Amasya, the old capital of Pontus. Mount Mithridat in the central Kerch and the town of Yevpatoria in Crimea commemorate his name.

Mithridates VI had wives and mistresses, by whom he had several children. The names he gave his children are a representation of his Persian and Greek heritage and ancestry.

In 63 BC, when the Kingdom of Pontus was annexed by the Roman general Pompey, the remaining sisters, wives, mistresses, and children of Mithridates VI in Pontus were put to death. Plutarch, writing in his Lives, states that Mithridates’ sister and five of his children took part in Pompey’s triumphal procession on his return to Rome in 61 BC.

All of Armenia became a Roman province in AD 114 under Roman emperor Trajan, but Roman Armenia was soon after abandoned by the legions in 118 AD and became a vassal kingdom. Lesser Armenia, however, was generally incorporated by Trajan, together with Miletene and Cataonia into the province of Cappadocia.

Between Parthia and Rome

Artavasdes II (Ancient Greek: Artabázēs) was king of Armenia from 55 BC to 34 BC. Artavasdes’ name is the Latin attestation of an Old Iranian name Ṛtavazdā, identical to the Avestan Ašavazdah, presumably meaning “powerful/persevering through truth”. It is attested in Greek as Artaouásdēs, Artabázēs, Artábazos, and Artáozos.

A member of the Artaxiad Dynasty, he was the son and successor of Tigranes the Great (r. 95–55 BC). His mother was Cleopatra of Pontus, thus making his maternal grandfather the prominent Pontus king Mithridates VI Eupator. Like his father, Artavasdes continued using the title of King of Kings, as seen from his coins.

In c. 54, Marcus Licinius Crassus, one of the Roman triumvirs, who had become proconsul of Syria, had been preparing to invade the Parthian realm. Artavasdes II, who was an ally of Rome, advised Crassus to take a route through Armenia to avoid the desert and offered him reinforcements of a further 10,000 cavalry and 30,000 infantry.

His reasoning was that the Parthian cavalry would be less potent in the Armenian highlands. Crassus refused the offer and decided to take the direct route through Mesopotamia.

As Crassus’ army marched to Carrhae (modern Harran, southeastern Turkey), the Parthian king Orodes II (r. 57–37 BC) invaded Armenia, cutting off support from Artavasdes II. Orodes II persuaded Artavasdes II to a marriage alliance between the crown prince Pacorus I (d. 38 BC) and Artavasdes II’s sister. Crassus was shortly defeated and killed by the forces led by Orodes II’s general Surena.

While Orodes II and Artavasdes II were observing a play of The Bacchae of Euripides (c. 480–406 BC) at the Armenian court in honor of the wedding of Pacorus and Artavasdes II’s sister, the Parthian commander Silaces announced the news of the victory at Carrhae, and put the head of Crassus at Orodes II’s feet.

The head was given to the producer of the play, who decided to use Crassus’ actual severed head in place of the stage-prop head of Pentheus. The death of Pacorus I in 38 BC and succession of Orodes II’s other son Phraates IV (r. 37–2 BC) damaged the relations between Parthia and Armenia.

In 36 BC the Roman General Mark Antony started his Parthian campaign. He allied himself with several kings of the region, including Artavasdes, who again switched sides. According to Plutarch, of the allied kings Artavasedes was “the greatest of them all… who furnished six thousand horse and seven thousand foot” to Antony.

Artavasdes II also persuaded Antony to attack his enemy Artavasedes of Atropatene. Nevertheless, once Antony left Armenia to invade Atropatene, Artavasdes II “despairing of the Roman cause” abandoned Antony.

Although Artavasdes II gave refuge and supplied the defeated Romans, in 34 BC Antony planned a new invasion of Armenia to take revenge for the betrayal. First he sent his friend Quintus Dellius, who offered a betrothal of Antony’s six-year-old son Alexander Helios to a daughter of Artavasdes II, but the Armenian king hesitated.

Now the triumvir marched into Roman western Armenia. He summoned Artavasdes II to Nicopolis, allegedly to prepare a new war against Parthia. Artavasdes II didn’t come, so the Roman general quickly marched to the Armenian capital Artaxata.

The Roman Triumvir Mark Antony arrested Artavasdes II with his family, in which they were taken as political prisoners to Alexandria, hoping with his hostage’s assistance to obtain great treasures in the Armenian castles.

The Armenian king and his family, who were bound with golden chains, had to follow Antony in his triumphal procession. The Ptolemaic Greek Queen Cleopatra VII of Egypt awaited the triumvir on a golden throne, but Artavasdes II refused to render homage to the Egyptian Queen by Proskynesis.

In 31 BC, after Antony’s defeat at the Battle of Actium, Artavasdes was decapitated on the orders of Cleopatra VII. He had been an enemy of his namesake, King Artavasdes I of Media Atropatene, an ally of Antony and Cleopatra VII. She sent his head to Artavasdes I of Media Atropatene to secure his help.

Plutarch described Artavasdes II as a well-educated man, who had a great fondness for all things Greek and was an accomplished scholar who composed Greek tragedies and histories. From a wife whose name is unknown, he was survived by two sons: Artaxias II, also known as Artaxes II and Artashes, Tigranes III, and a daughter who possibly married King Archelaus of Cappadocia.

In 34 BC, Artaxias II (60s BC – 20 BC), the eldest son of Artavasdes II of Armenia by an unnamed mother, had managed to escape and fled to King Phraates IV of Parthia. With the support of Phraates IV, he invaded Armenia and placed himself on the throne. As a result, Artaxias II was pro-Parthian and anti-Roman. He was King of Armenia from 34 BC until 20 BC.

Artaxias II was the namesake of his paternal ancestor, a previous ruling Armenian King Artaxias I.  He was born and raised in Armenia. He ascended to the Armenian throne in 34 BC as he regained the throne lost by his father.

With the support of Phraates IV, Artaxias II was successful in a military campaign against Artavasdes I of Media Atropatene, also known as Artavasdes I of Atropatene (before or about 59 BC-about 20 BC) , a former enemy of Artavasdes II.

Artavasdes I of Media Atropatene was a Prince who served as a King of Media Atropatene. He is the namesake of his ancestor, Artabazanes a previous ruling King of Media Atropatene in the 3rd century BC, as the name Artavasdes is a variation of the name Artabazanes.

He was of Median and possibly of Armenian, Greek descent. He was the child born to Ariobarzanes I by an unnamed wife. His probable paternal uncle could have been Darius I. He was born and raised in the Kingdom of Media Atropatene.

According to modern genealogies the father of Artavasdes I, Ariobarzanes I was a son of a previous ruling King Mithridates I of Media Atropatene and his wife, an unnamed Armenian Princess from the Artaxiad Dynasty who was a daughter of the Armenian King Tigranes the Great and his wife, Cleopatra of Pontus, which can explain the claims of Mithridates I’s descendants to the Armenian Kingship in opposition to the lasting ruling monarchs of the Artaxiad Dynasty.

Another possibility in linking Artavasdes I to the marriage of Mithridates I and his wife is through his name. The name Artavasdes bears as a typical Armenian royal name and therefore, in all likelihood, Artavasdes I is a descendant of this marriage.

Artaxias II was said to be spiteful and vengeful. He massacred the remaining Roman garrison and slaughtered all the Roman traders in Armenia. A possible consequence of this action was that when Artaxias II sent emissaries in Rome to try to secure the release of his family, then in Roman captivity, the Roman emperor Augustus refused Artaxias II’s request.

His family, including Tigranes III (50s BC–8 BC), had been taken from Alexandria to live in Rome after Octavian (future Roman emperor Augustus) had invaded Egypt in which he annexed the country to the rule of the Roman Republic in 30 BC.

In Rome, Tigranes III, the namesake of his paternal grandfather, a previous ruling Armenian King Tigranes the Great, also known as Tigranes II, had lived in political exile, in which during that time he was educated there. In 20 BC after living in Rome for 10 years, Artaxias II proved to be an unpopular leader with his people.

As the Armenians lost faith in their ruling monarch, they sent messengers to Augustus requesting him to remove Artaxias II from his throne and to install Tigranes III as his successor. Augustus agreed to the request from the Armenians.

Augustus sent his step-son Tiberius, with Tigranes III with a large army to depose Artaxias II. Before Tiberius and Tigranes III arrived in Armenia, a cabal within the palace was successful in murdering Artaxias II. The Romans installed Tigranes III as the new King of Armenia unopposed.

Tigranes III ruled as King of Armenia for 12 years. Although he reigned for a substantial period of time, little is known on his reign. His Armenian kingship brought peace, stability to Armenia in which peaceful relations between Rome and Armenia were maintained.

Tigranes III died before 6 BC. In 10 BC, the Armenians installed Tigranes IV as successor of Tigranes III. He was survived by two children from two different unnamed mothers: a son called Tigranes IV and a daughter, called Erato, who succeeded their father on the Armenian throne. 

Tigranes IV and Erato

Tigranes IV (30s BC–1) was the son born to Tigranes III by an unnamed mother. His known sibling was his younger paternal half-sister Erato, also known as Queen Erato, who also was born to another unnamed woman.

Tigranes III died before 8 BC, and in 8 BC, the Armenians installed Tigranes IV as King as the successor to his father. In accordance with Oriental or Hellenistic custom Tigranes IV married Erato in order to preserve the purity of the Artaxiad Royal blood line. Erato became queen through marriage to her half-brother and his queen consort.

Erato was the second Seleucid Greek descendant to have ruled as an Armenian queen and an Armenian queen consort. The previous one was her paternal great-grandmother Cleopatra of Pontus, daughter of King Mithridates VI of Pontus from his first wife, his sister Laodice. The first Seleucid Greek princess to have married a king of Armenia, thus becoming an Armenian queen and an Armenian queen consort, was her ancestor Antiochis, one of the sisters of King Antiochus III the Great.

Tigranes IV and Erato served as Roman client king and queen of Armenia from 10 BC until 2 BC. They were both born and raised either in Rome, where his father lived in political exile for 10 years from 30 BC until 20 BC, or during his father’s Kingship of Armenia, in which he ruled from 20 BC until 8 BC. 

Although Tigranes IV was the namesake of his father, the name Tigranes was the most common royal name in the Artaxiad Dynasty and was among the most ancient names of the Armenian Kings. 

Erato is of ancient Greek origins and means “desired” or “lovely”. In Greek mythology, Erato was one of the Muses and the name derived from the same root as Eros the Greek God of love.

From their sibling union at an unknown date, Erato bore Tigranes IV an unnamed daughter who later married King Pharasmanes I of Iberia, who ruled from 1 until 58, and by whom he had three sons: Mithridates I of Iberia, Rhadamistus and Amazaspus (Amazasp), who is known from a Greek inscription found in Rome.

Although Tigranes IV and Erato were Roman Client Monarchs governing Armenia, they were both anti Roman and were not the choices of the Roman emperor Augustus for the Armenian throne.

As their dual rule did not have Roman approval and they leaned towards Parthia for support. Rome and Parthia competed with one another for their protégés to have influence and govern Armenia.

Roman Historian of the 4th century, Sextus Rufus informs us that anti-Roman sentiment was building in Armenia during the reign of Tigranes IV and Erato. Rufus also emphasizes that the Kingdom of Armenia was very strong during this period.

The dispossessed and the discontent of the ruling Artaxiad monarchs and their subjects towards Ancient Rome had instigated war with the aid of King Phraates V of Parthia. To avoid a full-scale war with Rome, Phraates V soon ceased his support to the Armenian ruling Monarchs.

This lead Tigranes IV and Erato, acknowledging Roman suzerainty; sending their good wishes and submission to Rome. Augustus, receiving their submission to Rome and their good wishes, allowed them to remain in power.

Sometime about 1 AD Tigranes IV was killed in battle, perhaps ending an internal Armenian revolt of those who were infuriated by the royal couple becoming allies to Rome. Because of the war and the chaos that occurred afterwards, Erato abdicated her throne and ended her rule over Armenia.

Following the murder of the previous ruling Armenian King the tyrannical Artaxias II by his courtiers and the situation surrounding Tigranes IV and Erato, the Armenians requested to the Roman emperor Augustus, a new Armenian King.

Augustus found and appointed Ariobarzanes II of Media Atropatene (40 BC – 4 AD), also known as Ariobarzanes of Media; Ariobarzanes of Armenia; Ariobarzanes II; Ariobarzanes II of Media Atropatene and Ariobarzanes, as the new King in 2 BC.

Between 2 BC until 6, Armenia saw two Roman Client Kings: Ariobarzanes who ruled from 2 BC until 4 and his son, Artavasdes III who ruled from 4 until 6. Ariobarzanes II was a monarch of Median, Armenian and Greek descent. He was the first son and among the children born to the ruling monarchs Artavasdes I of Media Atropatene and his wife Athenais of Media Atropatene.

He was the namesake of his paternal grandfather Ariobarzanes I, a previous ruling King of Media Atropatene. He is also the namesake of his Pontian ancestors who governed with this name and of his mother’s maternal grandfather, uncle and cousin who ruled with this name as Kings of Cappadocia. He was born and raised in Media Atropatene.

Ariobarzanes, through his father, was a distant relative of the Artaxiad Dynasty as he was a descendant of an unnamed Artaxiad Princess. She was a sister of King Artavasdes II of Armenia and married Ariobarzanes’ paternal ancestor Mithridates, a previous ruling King of Media Atropatene.

Mithridates I had a son, Ariobarzanes I of Media Atropatene, who had a son, Artavasdes I of Media Atropatene. Artavasdes I had the son Ariobarzanes II, who served as King of Media Atropatene sometime from 28 BC to 20 BC until 4, and was appointed by Augustus to serve as a Roman Client King of Armenia Major from 2 AD until 4.

At an unknown date in the 20 BCs, Ariobarzanes II succeeded his relative Asinnalus as King of Media Atropatene and little is known on his reign. In Armenia, he served as a loyal Roman Client King to Augustus and was used as a key element in Augustus’ Asian Policy. He also served as King of Media Atropatene.

Ariobarzanes II accompanied Augustus’ grandson and adopted son Gaius Caesar to Armenia. When Gaius and Ariobarzanes II arrived in Armenia, the Armenians being fiery and proud, refused to acknowledge Ariobarzanes II as their new King, especially as he was a foreigner in their country. The Armenians revolted against Rome under the leadership of a local man named Addon.

Gaius with his Roman legions ended the revolt and reduced the city of Artagira. In Artagira, Gaius made Ariobarzanes II the new King of Armenia. Ariobarzanes II made Artagira, his capital city when he ruled Armenia and Media Atropatene together. The Armenians eventually came to respect Ariobarzanes II as their ruling King, because of his noble personality, spirit and his physical beauty.

Ariobarzanes II from an unnamed wife had two sons: Artavasdes II, who served as Artavasdes III, and Gaius Julius Ariobarzanes I, who may have had a son called Gaius Julius Ariobarzanes II. In 4, Ariobarzanes II died and was succeeded his son Artavasdes II (20 BC – 6 AD), also known as Artavasdes II of Atropatene, Artavasdes IV of Armenia and Artavasdes II of Media Atropatene and Armenia Major, in his Kingship of Media Atropatene and Armenia Major

Artavasdes II was the namesake of his paternal grandfather, a previous ruling King of Media Atropatene and Sophene, Artavasdes I. He was born and raised in Media Atropatene. The father of Artavasdes, Ariobarzanes II died on June 26, 4 and Artavasdes succeeded his father as King of Media Atropatene and Armenia.

Like his father, Artavasdes in his kingship of Media Atropatene and Armenia, based his rule at Artagira, which his late father made the city, their capital. As Artavasdes, was both King of Media Atropatene and Armenia, as King of Media Atropatene he is known as Artavasdes II and as King of Armenia, he is known as Artavasdes III.

The reign of Artavasdes didn’t last. As a ruling King, over the Atropatenians and Armenians, he proved to be an unpopular monarch. In the year 6, Artavasdes III who served as King of Armenia was murdered by his subjects. Artavasdes from an unnamed wife was survived by a son called Gaius Julius Artavasdes.

Although archaeological evidence reveals and shows that Artavasdes is the son of Ariobarzanes II, there is some confusion, and there are different, various theories on the origins of Artavasdes.

Some modern historical sources and reference books state that he is a son of Artavasdes II of Armenia. While others state he is either a brother or a paternal first cousin of Tigranes IV and Erato. In fact, Artavasdes through his father was a distant relative of Artavasdes II of Armenia, Tigranes IV and Erato.

As the Armenians grew weary of foreign Kings, Augustus revised his foreign policy and appointed the Herodian Prince Tigranes V (16 BC–36) as King of Armenia. In his Kingship of Media Atropatene, Artavasdes was succeeded by his paternal first cousin Artabanus and in the Kingship of Armenia the Roman emperor Augustus, appointed Tigranes.

Tigranes V, who served as a Roman Client King of Armenia from the years 6 to 12, was related to Artaxiad Dynasty as his late maternal grandmother was an Armenian Princess who may have been the daughter of Artavasdes II of Armenia and who possibly married King Archelaus of Cappadocia.

Tigranes V was accompanied by his maternal grandfather, Archelaus of Cappadocia and the future Roman emperor Tiberius to Armenia, where he was installed as King at Artaxata. Artaxata became his capital.

Tigranes was the first-born son of Alexander and Glaphyra. His younger brother was called Alexander and he also had a younger unnamed sister. His nephew Tigranes VI served as a Roman Client King of Armenia during the reign of the Roman Emperor Nero (reigned 54-68).

His father Alexander was a Judean Prince of Jewish, Nabataean and Edomite descent and was a son of King of Judea Herod the Great and his wife Mariamne. His mother Glaphyra was a Cappadocian Princess, who was of Greek, Armenian and Persian descent. She was the daughter of the King Archelaus of Cappadocia and her mother was an unnamed Princess from Armenia, possibly a relation of the Artaxiad Dynasty.

Tigranes was named in honor of his mother’s Armenian and Hellenic lineage. The name Tigranes was the most common royal name in the Artaxiad Dynasty and was among the most ancient names of the Armenian Kings.

Roman Emperor Augustus mentions Tigranes’ Armenian ancestry in his political testament: When he was murdered I sent into that kingdom Tigranes [Tigrans V, ca. A.D. 6], who was sprung from the royal family of the Armenians. 

Tigranes was born and raised in Herod’s court in Jerusalem. After the death of Tigranes’ father in 7 BC Herod acted in an extreme and brutal manner by returning his mother to Cappadocia, forcing her to leave her children under the sole custody of Herod in Jerusalem.

Tigranes and his brother remained under Herod’s guardianship so he could be able to control their fates. Another son of Herod’s, Antipater, was concerned for Tigranes and his brother as he expected them to attain higher station than their own late fathers, because of the assistance Antipater considered likely from their maternal grandfather Archelaus.

Herod died in 4 BC in Jericho. After the death of Herod, Tigranes and his brother decided to leave Jerusalem and to live with their mother and her family in the Cappadocian Royal Court. After Tigranes and his brother arrived in Cappadocia, they disowned their Jewish descent, deserted their Jewish religion and embraced their Greek descent, including the religion.

However, the family connections with the Herodian Dynasty wasn’t wholly broken. After Tigranes and his brother disowned their Jewish descent, they were considered to be gentiles by fellow Jews. Archelaus had sent Tigranes to live and be educated in Rome.

In 6, Tigranes V ruled Armenia as a sole ruler. Sometime into his reign, the Armenian nobles being unsatisfied with his reign rebelled against him. The same Armenian nobles restored Erato back to the Armenian throne. From the years 6-12, Tigranes co-ruled with Erato. His co-rule with Erato is based on numismatic evidence.

Little is known about his reign of Armenia although some coinage has survived from his reign. The surviving coinage is a reflection from his Hellenic and Armenian descent and is evidence that he relinquished his Jewish connections. His royal title is in Greek ΒΑΣΙΛΕΩΣ ΤΙΓΡΑΝΟΥ ΜΕΓΑΛΟΥ which means of great King Tigranes.

Erato wanting to cooperate with Rome, co-ruled with her distant paternal relative, Tigranes V. After abdicating her throne, leaving behind the war and chaos in Armenia, Erato had lived in political exile at an unknown location. Little is known of her during this period. 

As a queen of Armenia, she may be viewed as one of the last hereditary rulers of her nation. Her co-rule with Tigranes V is known and based from numismatic evidence. Erato and Tigranes V co-ruled together in Artaxata. There is a possibility that Erato and Tigranes V may have married and she may have served as a Queen consort to Tigranes V.

Little is known on Erato and Tigranes V co-ruling Armenia together. Erato and Tigranes V were overthrown under unknown circumstances in 12. Augustus kept Armenia as a client kingdom and appointed Vonones I of Parthia as King of Armenia. The fate of Erato afterwards is unknown and Tigranes V may have remained living in Armenia.

After his kingship, Tigranes may have remained in Armenia in contention to reclaim his throne in the first years of the reign of the Roman Emperor Tiberius. Around about the year 18 Vonones I died. His maternal grandfather attempted to re-establish Tigranes as King of Armenia. Tigranes may have called upon Archelaus to assist him in regaining his throne and Archelaus may have been charged for treason in Rome for helping a relative who for unknown reasons wasn’t now in favor with the Romans.

The Armenian kingship was given to Artaxias III. If Tigranes was successful in regaining his throne and succeeding Archelaus, he would have presided directly or indirectly over a virtual empire. After the year 18, little is known about the life of Tigranes. His wife was the unnamed daughter of Pheroras, by whom he had no children.

Pheroras was his paternal great-uncle and a brother to Herod. Tacitus records that Tigranes as a victim of the reign of terror that marked the latter years of Tiberius. The charges brought against him by Tiberius in year 36 are not stated but it is clear that he did not survive them.

Arsacid dynasty

The Arsacid dynasty, or Arshakuni, ruled the Kingdom of Armenia from 12 to 428. The dynasty was a branch of the Arsacid dynasty of Parthia. Arsacid kings reigned intermittently throughout the chaotic years following the fall of the Artaxiad dynasty until 62 when Tiridates I secured Parthian Arsacid rule in Armenia. 

The first appearance of an Arsacid on the Armenian throne came about in 12 when the Parthian King Vonones I, an Arsacid prince, who ruled as King of Kings of Parthian Empire from 8 to 12, and then subsequently as king of Armenia from 12 to 18, was exiled from Parthia due to his pro-Roman policies and Occidental manners.

Phraates IV (r. 37–2 BC), was King of Kings of the Parthian Empire. He was the son and successor of Orodes II (r. 57–37 BC), a son of Phraates III, whom he murdered in 57 BC, assisted by his elder brother Mithridates IV. The two brothers quickly fell out and entered into a dynastic struggle, in which Orodes was triumphant.

Phraates IV, given the throne after the death of his brother Pacorus I, soon murdered all his brothers, and also his father. His actions allienated the Armenians and also some of his nobles, including the distinguished Parthian nobleman Monaeses, who fled to the Roman triumvir Mark Antony, but shortly returned and reconciled with Phraates IV.

Phraates IV was attacked in 36 BC by Mark Antony, who marched through Armenia into Media Atropatene, and was defeated and lost the greater part of his army. Antony, believing himself betrayed by Artavasdes II, king of Armenia, invaded his kingdom in 34 BC, took him prisoner, and concluded a treaty with Artavasdes I of Media Atropatene, also known as Artavasdes I of Atropatene, the king of Media Atropatene.

But when the war with Octavian broke out, Antony could not maintain his conquests; Phraates IV recovered Media Atropatene and made Artaxias, the son of Artavasdes II, king of Armenia.

Artavasdes I (c. 59 – 20 BC) was a prince who served as a King of Media Atropatene. He was of Median and possibly of Armenian, Greek descent, and an enemy of King Artavasdes II of Armenia (r. 55 – 34 BC) and his son Artaxias II (34 – 20 BC).

A member of the Artaxiad Dynasty, Artavasdes II  was the son and successor of Tigranes the Great (r. 95–55 BC). His mother was Cleopatra of Pontus, thus making his maternal grandfather the prominent Pontus king Mithridates VI Eupator. Like his father, Artavasdes continued using the title of King of Kings.

He was born and raised in the Kingdom of Media Atropatene, and is the namesake of his ancestor, Artabazanes, a previous ruling King of Media Atropatene in the 3rd century BC. The name Artavasdes is a variation of the name Artabazanes.

He was the child born to Ariobarzanes I of Media Atropatene (r. 65 – 56 BC), a Prince who served as a King of Media Atropatene of Median and possibly of Armenian, Greek descent, and by an unnamed wife. Ariobarzanes I appeared to have died in 56 BC, as he was succeeded by his son Artavasdes I.

Ariobarzanes I and Darius I of Media Atropatene, also known as Darius I or Darius (ca. 85 BC – ca. 65 BC), a Parthian prince who served as a king of Media Atropatene in c. 65 BC, were related as they may have been brothers.  

Little is known on the life of Ariobarzanes I. He appear to have succeeded Darius I as King of Media Atropatene in 65 BC. Although Ariobarzanes I ruled from 65 BC til 56 BC, his reign in the time-scale would appear to preclude the short reign of Darius I and shows that he came to the throne sometime before 59 BC. 

According to modern genealogies Ariobarzanes I was a son of a previous ruling King Mithridates I of Media Atropatene and his wife, an unnamed Armenian Princess from the Artaxiad Dynasty who was a daughter of the Armenian King Tigranes the Great and his wife, Cleopatra of Pontus, which can explain the claims of Mithridates I’s descendants to the Armenian Kingship in opposition to the lasting ruling monarchs of the Artaxiad Dynasty.

Another possibility in linking Ariobarzanes I as a son born to Mithridates I and his wife is through his name. The name Ariobarzanes is a name of Iranian origin. There were Persian Satraps who bore this name as did some of the ancestors of Cleopatra of Pontus. Cleopatra was a Pontian Princess, who was a daughter of King Mithridates VI of Pontus from his first wife, his sister Laodice.

Another possibility in linking Artavasdes I to the marriage of Mithridates I and his wife is through his name. The name Artavasdes bears as a typical Armenian royal name and therefore, in all likelihood, Artavasdes I is a descendant of this marriage.

Around the same time, Phraates IV’s throne was usurped by Tiridates II of Parthia, who was set up by the Parthians against Phraates IV in about 32 BC, but was expelled when Phraates returned with the help of the Scythians.

Tiridates fled to the Romans in Syria, where Augustus allowed him to stay, but refused to support him. He took one of Phraates IV’s sons with him. In negotiations conducted in 20 BC, Phraates IV arranged for the release of his kidnapped son.

In return, the Romans received the lost legionary standards taken at Carrhae in 53 BC, as well as any surviving prisoners of war. The Parthians viewed this exchange as a small price to pay to regain the prince.

Along with the prince, Octavian (now known as Augustus) gave Phraates IV an Italian slave-girl named Musa, who quickly became queen and a favourite of Phraates IV, giving birth to Phraataces (Phraates V).

Seeking to secure the throne for her son, Musa convinced Phraates IV to send his four first-born sons (Vonones, Phraates, Seraspandes and Rhodaspes) to Rome as hostages in 10/9 BC in order to prevent conflict over the succession. In 2 BC, Musa had Phraates IV poisoned and made herself along with Phraates V the co-rulers of the empire.

Phraates V, also known by the diminutive version of his name, Phraataces (also spelled Phraatakes), was the King of Kings of the Parthian Empire from 2 BC to 4 AD. He was the younger son of Phraates IV and Musa, who ruled with him.

Under Phraates V, a war threatened to break out between the Parthian and Roman empires over the control of Armenia and Mesopotamia. Although Emperor Augustus (r. 27 BC – 14 AD) had sent his adopted son Gaius Caesar to invade the Parthian Empire, in 1 AD the two sides agreed a peace treaty, by which once again Armenia was recognized as being in the Roman sphere.

Phraates V was in return acknowledged as the rightful Parthian king, which was of high importance to him, due to his insecure position in the country. The Roman emperor Augustus used this as propaganda depicting the submission of Parthia to Rome, listing it as a great accomplishment in his Res Gestae Divi Augusti.

In 4 AD, Phraates V and his mother fled to Rome after being expelled by the Parthian nobility, who crowned Orodes III (r. 4 to 6) as king of the Parthian Empire. Albeit he was an Arsacid, the lineage of Ordodes III is unknown.

He was raised to the throne by the nobility two years after the death of the previous co-rulers, Phraates V and Musa (r. 2 BC – 4 AD). Information regarding his brief reign is lacking. He was killed after a reign of two years.

After the assassination of Orodes III in about 6 AD, the Parthians applied to Augustus for a new king from the house of Arsaces. Augustus sent them Vonones I, the eldest son of Phraates IV, but he could not maintain himself as king; he had been educated as a Roman, and was despised by the Parthian nobility as a Roman stooge.

Vonones I, who had originally resided in Rome, had been placed on the Parthian throne by a faction led by the Karin and Suren clans. His rule was supported by the Romans. However, the Parthian nobility was quickly alienated by Vonones I, who had become Romanized during his stay in Rome.

This increased Artabanus’ odds. After years of fighting Artabanus II defeated and expelled Vonones I, who fled to Armenia and became its king in year 12, while Artabanus became King of Kings of the Parthian Empire from 12 to 38/41.

According to the classical Roman historian Tacitus, Vonones I was related to the Scythian king. Phraates IV had previously in his reign been aided by the Scythians to retake his throne from the usurper Tiridates in c. 30 BC, and thus Vonones I could possibly be the result of a marriage alliance between Phraates IV and a Scythian tribal chief, who agreed to help him in return.

Another member of the Arsacid house, Artabanus II, incorrectly known in older scholarship as Artabanus III, who ruled Media Atropatene, was then invited to the throne. He was the nephew and successor of Vonones I. 

Artabanus was not from the ruling branch of the Arsacid royal family; his father was a Dahae prince, who was most likely descended from the former Parthian monarch Mithridates II (r. 124–88 BC), whilst his mother was a daughter of the incumbent Parthian King of Kings Phraates IV.

Born between 30–25 BC, Artabanus was raised amongst the Dahae in Central Asia. When he reached adulthood, he became the ruler of Media Atropatene, which occurred sometime during the late reign of Phraates IV or during the reign of the latters son and successor Phraates V.

The factor behind Artabanus’ rise to kingship of Media Atropatene is unclear. Before his ascension, Parthian prince Pacorus of Media Atropatene, son of Vonones II, a Parthian prince who served as a King of Media Atropatene and briefly as King of the Parthian Empire, had ruled as king of Media Atropatene.

Vonones II was not from the ruling branch of the Arsacid royal family; his father was a Dahae prince, who was most likely descended from the former Arsacid monarch Mithridates II (r. 124–88 BC), whilst his mother was a daughter of the incumbent Arsacid King of Kings Phraates IV.

Vonones II’s brother was the Parthian King Artabanus II. Vonones II was the namesake of his maternal relative Vonones I (r. 8–12), as he was born and raised in the Parthian Empire. From about 11 until 51, Vonones II served as a King of Media Atropatene, a period about which little is known.

After the death of his nephew Gotarzes II, Vonones II was raised to the Parthian Kingship in 51. However, he died a few months into his reign and was succeeded by his son, Vologases I. Tacitus wrote that Vonones II “knew neither success nor failure which have deserved to be remembered to him. It was a short and inglorious reign”.

Vonones II had 3 sons who held the thrones of Parthia, Media Atropatene and Armenia: Pacorus, Vologases I, and Tiridates I. His sons were born and raised during his Kingship of Media Atropatene, which served as Artabanus’ headquarters of his attacks against the Roman-supported Parthian king Vonones I (r. 8–12).

Vonones I briefly acquired the Armenian throne with Roman consent, but Artabanus II, now the monarch of the Parthian Empire, attempted to depose Vonones I from the Armenian throne and appoint his own son instead.

Artabanus’ efforts to replace Vonones I with his son were blocked by the Romans, who regarded this as posing a danger to their interests. As a result, the Roman emperor Tiberius (r. 14–37), which had no intention of giving up the buffer states of the Eastern frontier, sent his stepson and heir, the Roman general Germanicus, to prevent this from happening.

However, as Emperor Augustus did not wish to begin a war with the Parthians and as Germanicus was met with no resistance by the Parthians they eventually reached an agreement with Artabanus II to appoint Zeno (13 BC–34), also known as Zeno-Artaxias or Zeno or Artaxias III, the new king of Armenia and renounce their support of Vonones I, who was deposed and sent to Syria.

The Romans thus acknowledged Artabanus II as the legitimate Parthian ruler. In order to ratify the friendly relationship between the two empires, Artabanus and Germanicus met on an island in the Euphrates in 18. The Romans moved Vonones I into Syria, where he was kept in custody, though in a kingly style.

Later he was moved to Cilicia, and when he tried to escape in about 19, he was killed by his guards. Artabanus II assumed the titles of “Great King of Kings” and “Autokrator”, demonstrating his new-found independence.

The death of Vonones I and the now unchallenged dominance of Artabanus II split the Parthian nobility, since not all of them supported a new branch of the Arsacid family taking over the empire.

The Parthian satrap of Sakastan, Drangiana and Arachosia, named Gondophares, declared independence from Artabanus II and founded the Indo-Parthian Kingdom, also known as the Suren Kingdom, a Parthian kingdom founded by the Gondopharid branch of the House of Suren, ruling from 19 to c. 224/5.

The kingdom was founded in 19 when the Surenid governor of Drangiana (Sakastan) Gondophares declared independence from the Parthian Empire. He would later make expeditions into the west, conquering territory from the Indo-Scythians and Indo-Greeks, thus transforming his kingdom into an empire.

At their zenith, they ruled an area covering parts of eastern Iran, various parts of Afghanistan and the northwest regions of the Indian subcontinent (parts of modern Pakistan and northwestern India).

The domains of the Indo-Parthians were greatly reduced following the invasions of the Kushans in the second half of the 1st. century. They managed to retain control of Sakastan, until its conquest by the Sasanian Empire in c. 224/5.

Nevertheless, Artabanus and Gondophares most likely reached an agreement that the Indo-Parthians would not intervene in the affairs of the Arsacids. Vonones I was survived by his son Meherdates, who attempted to take the Parthian throne in 49–51.

Meherdates was a Parthian prince who competed against Gotarzes II (r. 40–51) for the Parthian crown from 49 to 51. A son of Vonones I (r. 8–12), he was ultimately defeated and captured by Gotarzes II, who although spared him, had his ears mutilated, an act that disqualified him from inheriting the throne.

Artabanus spent the following years increasing his authority. To the northeast, he was victorious in his efforts to have a new dynasty established in Khwarazm, thus starting a new era in the history of the country. Artabanus most likely operated in western Bactria as well, which had been part of the Parthian domains for centuries.

Arsacid dynasty of Armenia


In year 18, the previous Armenian King was exiled and Armenia was given to Artaxias III (13 BC–34), also known as Zeno-Artaxias, a prince of the Bosporan, Pontus, Cilicia, Cappadocia and Roman Client King of Armenia from 18-35. The Parthians were too distracted by internal strife to oppose the Roman-appointed King.

He was of Anatolian Greek and Roman heritage. He was named after his paternal grandfather. Through his maternal grandmother he was a direct descendant of Mark Antony and his second wife Antonia Hybrida Minor. Antony and Antonia Hybrida were first paternal cousins. He was Antony’s first born great grandson and great grandchild.

Through Antony, his great maternal aunt was Roman Client Queen Cleopatra Selene II of Mauretania. Through Antony, he was a distant cousin to Roman Client King Ptolemy of Mauretania and the princesses named Drusilla of Mauretania. Through Antony, he was a distant cousin to Roman emperors Caligula, Claudius and Nero and Roman empresses Valeria Messalina, Agrippina the Younger and Claudia Octavia.

His mother’s maternal first cousin, the general Germanicus, with the approval of the Roman emperor Tiberius, was in agreement with the local aristocracy, and crowned Artaxias as the new Roman client king of Armenia. This because the throne was vacant and he had popular support as he had imitated Armenian customs from an early age.

From his early childhood, Artaxias enjoyed copying the customs, clothes, also loved hunting and feasting, along with other pastimes associated with the Armenians. Artaxias was born with the name Zenon, but the Armenians paid homage to him and acclaimed him as King Artaxias, after the Armenian city of Artaxata, the capital of the kingdom.

The Roman Senate received news of his coronation. They gave Germanicus and Drusus Julius Caesar ovations in entering the city and arches bearing their statues to be erected on either side the temple of Mars the Avenger.

Artaxias was the first son and child born to Roman Client Rulers Polemon Pythodoros, also known as Polemon I or Polemon I of Pontus (fl. 1st century BC – died 8 BC), and Pythodorida of Pontus (30 or 29 BC – 38), a Roman client queen of Pontus, the Bosporan Kingdom, Cilicia, and Cappadocia.

Polemon Pythodoros, also known as Polemon I or Polemon I of Pontus (fl. 1st century BC – died 8 BC), was Anatolian Greek. He was the Roman Client King of Cilicia, Pontus, Colchis and the Bosporan Kingdom. He was the son and heir of Zenon, an orator and a prominent aristocrat from Laodicea on the Lycus in Anatolia, who was an ally to Roman Triumvir Mark Antony, and possibly Tryphaena. Zenon and Polemon adorned Laodicea with many dedicated offerings.

Pythodorida was born and raised in Smyrna (modern İzmir, Turkey). She is also known as Pythodoris I and Pantos Pythodorida. According to an honorific inscription dedicated to her in Athens in the late 1st century BC, her royal title was Queen Pythodorida Philometor. Philometor means “mother-loving” and this title is associated with the Greek Pharaohs and Queens of the Ptolemaic dynasty of Ancient Egypt.

She was the daughter and only child of wealthy Anatolian Greeks and friend to the late triumvir Pompey, Pythodoros of Tralles and Antonia. Pythodorida was half Roman and half Anatolian Greek. She was the namesake of her father.

Her maternal grandparents were the Roman triumvir Mark Antony and Antonia Hybrida Minor, who were paternal first cousins; however, Pythodorida’s paternal grandparents are unknown. Pythodorida seems to the first grandchild descended from Antony.

The successive marriages of Pythodorida illustrate how elite women, like Rome’s client states, were shuffled around in the game of power politics. About 14 BC, Pythodorida married King Polemon Pythodoros of Pontus as his second wife. By this marriage she became Queen of Pontus and the Bosporan Kingdom. Polemon I was previously widowed by his first wife and had no natural children, except for a stepson.

Pythodorida and Polemon had two sons and one daughter, who were: Zenon, also known as Zeno-Artaxias or Artaxias III, who became King of Armenia in 18 and reigned until his death in 35. Marcus Antonius Polemon Pythodoros, also known as Polemon II of Pontus. Antonia Tryphaena who married King of Thrace, Cotys VIII.

Polemon I died in 8 BC, and Pythodorida became the sole Queen of Pontus until her death. Pythodorida was able to retain Colchis and Cilicia but not the Bosporan Kingdom which was granted to her first husband’s stepson, Aspurgus. She then married King Archelaus of Cappadocia. Archelaus and Pythodorida had no children.

Through her second marriage, she became Queen of Cappadocia. Pythodorida had moved with her children from Pontus to Cappadocia to live with Archelaus. When Archelaus died in 17, Cappadocia became a Roman province and she returned with her family back to Pontus.

In later years, Polemon II assisted his mother in the administration of the kingdom. Following her death, Polemon II succeeded to the throne. Pythodorida was remembered by a friend and contemporary, the Greek geographer Strabo, who is said to have described Pythodorida as a woman of virtuous character. Strabo considered her to have a great capacity for business and that under Pythodorida’s rule Pontus had flourished.

Artaxias’ father died in 8 BC. His mother married Roman Client King Archelaus of Cappadocia. The family had moved to Cappadocia and along with his siblings were raised in the court of their stepfather. Archelaus had died in 17. After his death, his mother and Polemon II moved back to Pontus.

His reign was remarkably peaceful in Armenian history. He reigned until his death in 34. He never married nor had any children. His younger siblings were Polemon II of Pontus, who would succeed his mother and became the last ruler of Pontus, and Antonia Tryphaena, the Queen of Thrace. 

After his death in 35, King Artabanus II of Parthia decided to try a new way to conquer Armenia by reinstate an Arsacid over the Armenian throne, choosing his eldest son Arsaces I, also known as Arshak I and Arsak, as a suitable candidate. This, however, was disputed by his younger brother Orodes who was previously overthrown by Zeno.


New Battle

Artabanus II made Arsaces I, the first-born son of the Parthian King Artabanus II of Parthia by an unnamed wife, King of Armenia and was accompanied to Armenia with a strong army. The faction among the Parthian magnates which was hostile to Artabanus II applied to the Roman emperor Tiberius for a king of the race of Phraates IV.

The Roman emperor Tiberius, who refused to accept the Armenian Kingship of Arsaces I, appointed the Iberian Prince Mithridates as the new Roman Client Armenian King with the support of his brother, King Pharasmanes I of Iberia.

A war with Rome seemed inevitable. Tiberius, then sent an Iberian named Mithridates, who claimed to be of Arsacid blood. Mithridates successfully subjugated Armenia to the Roman rule and deposed Arsaces I inflicting huge devastation to the country.

Arsaces I was born and raised in the Parthian Empire and was named in honor of his Parthian and Pontian relations who ruled with this name as king. Arsaces I was the first king of Parthia, as well as the founder and eponym of the Arsacid dynasty of Parthia, ruling from 247 BC to 217 BC.

Arsaces II succeeded his father Arsaces I in 217 BC. In 209 BC, the energetic Seleucid king Antiochus III the Great recaptured Parthia, which had been previously seized from the Seleucids by Arsaces I and the Parni around 247 BC.

Arsaces of Pontus was a Prince from the Kingdom of Pontus. He was a monarch of Iranian and Greek Macedonian ancestry. His reign as King was short, as Arsaces died later in 37 BC or even perhaps in 36 BC. Mark Antony put on the Pontian throne as Arsaces’ successor, Polemon I.

Arsaces I of Armenia served as a Roman Client King of Armenia in 35. Although Arsaces I was a pro-Roman monarch, his Kingship was brief in Armenia. Within less than a year into his first year of his reign, Arsaces I was poisoned from his bribed servants.

After the death of Arsaces I died, Mithridates was summoned back to Rome where he was kept a prisoner, and Armenia was given back to Artabanus III who gave the throne to his younger son Orodes. Orodes succeeded his brother in the Kingship of Armenia and faced Mithridates in a military campaign. 

In 35 after the death of his older brother Arsaces I, who served briefly as Roman Client King of Armenia, Artabanus II installed Orodes of Armenia, a Parthian Prince who served as a Roman Client King of Armenia in 35 and from again 37 until 42.

Orodes was the second born son of the Parthian King Artabanus II of Parthia by an unnamed wife. He was born and raised in the Parthian Empire. Orodes was the namesake of his Parthian relations who ruled with this name as King. When Orodes arrived in Armenia, Orodes avenged the death of Arsaces I by executing the bribed servants who poisoned Arsaces I.

As this time the Roman emperor Tiberius, refused to accept the Armenian Kingship of Orodes and Tiberius appointed the Iberian Prince Mithridates as the new Roman Client Armenian King with the support of his brother, King Pharasmanes I of Iberia.

Orodes faced Mithridates in a military campaign in Armenia that was in unfavorable conditions for Orodes. In the military campaign, Pharasmanes I had sent his own troops and mercenaries to assist Mithridates. Orodes had the support of the Parthian army. Orodes had lost his military campaign against Mithridates in which he may have been injured and returned to Parthia.

Tiberius quickly concentrated more forces on the Roman frontier and once again after a decade of peace, Armenia was to become the theater of bitter warfare between the two greatest powers of the known world for the next twenty-five years.

Tiberius sent Tiridates III of Parthia, the grandson of Phraates IV, who had been sent to Rome as a hostage and was educated there, and ordered Lucius Vitellius the Elder (the father of the Roman emperor Vitellius) to restore Roman authority in the East. By very dexterous military and diplomatic operations Vitellius succeeded completely. Tiridates III ruled the Parthian Empire briefly in 35–36. 

Artabanus II was deserted by his followers and fled to the East. However, Tiridates III, who was proclaimed King, could no longer maintain himself, as he appeared to be a vassal of the Romans. Artabanus II soon returned from Hyrcania with a strong army of Scythian (Dahan) auxiliaries, and was again acknowledged by the Parthians while Tiridates fled to Syria.

The Roman historian Tacitus writes that the Parthian court official Abdagaeses, who exerted political control over Tiridates, spared Tiridates from danger by preventing him from visiting the Parthian tribes. This policy kept the distrustful clans from uniting against Tiridates in the meantime.

However, when the situation became untenable, it was Abdagaeses who advised Tiridates to retreat west to Mesopotamia where strategic defensive locations were suitable. This move was viewed as an act of cowardice by the Parthian tribes, which led to Tiridates’ ousting from his seat of power.

However, Artabanus II wasn’t strong enough for a war with Rome; he therefore concluded a treaty with Vitellius in 37, in which he gave up all further pretensions. A short time afterwards Artabanus II was deposed again, and a certain Cinnamus was proclaimed king.

Artabanus II took refuge with his vassal, the King Izates bar Monobaz. Izates, by negotiations and the promise of a complete pardon, induced the Parthians to restore Artabanus II once more to the throne.

Shortly afterwards Artabanus II died and was succeeded by his son, Vardanes I, whose reign was still more turbulent than that of his father. Another civil war erupted in Parthia upon Artabanus II’s death.

Vardanes I was king of the Parthian Empire from 40 to 46 AD. He was the heir apparent of his father Artabanus II (r. 12–40), but had to continually fight against his brother Gotarzes II, a rival claimant to the throne. Vardanes’ short reign ended when he was assassinated at instigation of a party of Parthian nobles while hunting.

Mithridates then became the new Roman Client King of Armenia later in 35. In 37, Mithridates was arrested by the Roman emperor Caligula for unknown reasons and Orodes in 37 was restored to his Armenian Kingship.

He reigned from 37 until 42 and little is known on his reign. In 42, the Roman Emperor Claudius replaced Orodes for unknown reasons and installed again Mithridates as the new Roman Client King of Armenia.

In the meantime Mithridates was put back on the Armenian throne, with the help of his brother, Pharasmanes I, and Roman troops. Civil war continued in Parthia for several years with Gotarzes eventually seizing the throne in 45.

Mithridates of Armenia was an Iberian prince who served as a King of Armenia under the protection of the Roman Empire. Mithridates was installed by Roman emperor Tiberius, who invaded Armenia in 35.

When the Parthian prince Orodes, son of Artabanus II of Parthia, attempted to dispossess Mithridates of his newly acquired kingdom, Mithridates led a large Armenian and Iberian army and defeated the Parthians in a pitched battle (Tacitus, Annals. vi. 32-35).

At a later period c. 37, the new emperor Caligula had Mithridates arrested, but Claudius restored him on the Armenian throne c. 42. Subsequently, Mithridates’ relations with his brother Pharasmanes I deteriorated and the Iberian king instigated his son, Rhadamistus, to invade Armenia and overthrow Mithridates in 51.

Betrayed by his Roman commanders, Mithridates surrendered: the Roman historian Cassius Dio reports a likely apocryphal confrontation of Mithridates and Claudius at Rome, in which Mithridates is said to respond boldly to threatening by saying: “I was not brought to you; I came. If you doubt it, release me and try to find me.” Mithridates was put to death by his nephew Rhadamistus, who usurped the crown and married his cousin Zenobia, Mithridates’ daughter.

In 51 Mithridates’ nephew Rhadamistus (a.k.a. Ghadam) invaded Armenia and killed his uncle. The governor of Cappadocia, Julius Pailinus, decided to conquer Armenia but he settled with the crowning of Radamistus who generously rewarded him.

The current Parthian King Vologases I, saw an opportunity, invaded Armenia and succeeded in forcing the Iberians to withdraw from Armenia. The harsh winter that followed proved too much for the Parthians who also withdrew, thus leaving open doors for Radamistus to regain his throne.

After regaining power, according to Tacitus, the Iberian was so cruel that the Armenians stormed the palace and forced Radamistus out of the country and Vologases I got the opportunity to install his brother Tiridates on the throne.

Tiridates I

Tiridates I was King of Armenia beginning in 53 and the founder of the Arsacid dynasty of Armenia. His early reign was marked by a brief interruption towards the end of the year 54 and a much longer one from 58 to 63.

In an agreement to resolve the Roman–Parthian conflict in and over Armenia, Tiridates I (one of the brothers of Vologases I of Parthia) was crowned king of Armenia by the Roman emperor Nero in 66; in the future, the king of Armenia was to be a Parthian prince, but his appointment required approval from the Romans.

Even though this made Armenia a client kingdom, various contemporary Roman sources thought that Nero had de facto ceded Armenia to the Parthian Empire. In addition to being a king, Tiridates I was also a Zoroastrian priest and was accompanied by other magi on his journey to Rome in 66.

In the early 20th century, Franz Cumont speculated that Tiridates was instrumental in the development of Mithraism which became the main religion of the Roman Army and spread across the whole empire.

Furthermore, during his reign, he started reforming the administrative structure of Armenia, a reform which was continued by his successors, and which brought many Iranian customs and offices into it.

However, he did not success in establishing his line on the throne, and various Arsacid members of different lineages ruled until the accession of Vologases II, who succeeded in establishing his own line on the Armenian throne, which would rule the country until it was abolished by the Sasanian Empire in 428. The reign of the Arsacids of Armenia marked the predominance of Iranianism in the country.

The Roman–Parthian War

The Roman–Parthian War of 58–63, or the War of the Armenian Succession, was fought between the Roman Empire and the Parthian Empire over control of Armenia, a vital buffer state between the two realms. Armenia had been a Roman client state since the days of Emperor Augustus, but in 52/53, the Parthians succeeded in installing their own candidate, Tiridates, on the Armenian throne.

These events coincided with the accession of Nero to the imperial throne in Rome, and the young emperor decided to react vigorously. The war, which was the only major foreign campaign of his reign, began with rapid success for the Roman forces, led by the able general Gnaeus Domitius Corbulo.

The Romans overcame the forces loyal to Tiridates, installed their own candidate, Tigranes VI, on the Armenian throne, and left the country. They were aided by the fact that the Parthian king Vologases was embroiled in the suppression of a series of revolts in his own country.

As soon as these had been dealt with, however, the Parthians turned their attention to Armenia, and after a couple of years of inconclusive campaigning, inflicted a heavy defeat on the Romans in the Battle of Rhandeia.

The conflict ended soon after, in an effective stalemate and a formal compromise: a Parthian prince of the Arsacid line would henceforth sit on the Armenian throne, but his nomination had to be approved by the Roman emperor.

This conflict was the first direct confrontation between Parthia and the Romans since Crassus’ disastrous expedition and Mark Antony’s campaigns a century earlier, and would be the first of a long series of wars between Rome and Iranian powers over Armenia, known as the Roman–Persian Wars.

Armenia, under its Arshakuni dynasty, which was a branch of the eponymous Arsacid dynasty of Parthia, was often a focus of contention between Rome and Parthia. The Parthians forced Armenia into submission from 37 to 47, when the Romans retook control of the kingdom.

Under Nero, the Romans fought a campaign (55–63) against the Parthian Empire, which had invaded the kingdom of Armenia, allied to the Romans. After gaining (60) and losing (62) Armenia, the Romans under Gnaeus Domitius Corbulo, legate of Syria entered (63) into an agreement of Vologases I of Parthia, which confirmed Tiridates I as king of Armenia, thus founding the Arshakuni dynasty.

The Arsacid dynasty lost control of Armenia for a few years when emperor Trajan created the “Roman Province of Armenia”, fully included into the Roman Empire from 114 to 117 AD. His successor, Hadrian, reinstalled the Arsacid Dynasty when he nominated Parthamaspates as “vassal” king of Armenia in 118 AD.

Another campaign was led by Emperor Lucius Verus in 162–165, after Vologases IV of Parthia had invaded Armenia and installed his chief general on its throne. To counter the Parthian threat, Verus set out for the east.

His army won significant victories and retook the capital. Sohaemus, a Roman citizen of Armenian heritage, was installed as the new client king. The Sassanid Persians occupied Armenia in 252 and held it until the Romans returned in 287.

The kingdom became fully sovereign from the sphere of influence of the Seleucid Empire in 190 BC under King Artaxias I and begun the rule of the Artaxiad dynasty. It was a Hellenistic successor state of Alexander the Great’s short-lived empire, with Artaxias becoming its first king and the founder of the Artaxiad dynasty (190 BC–AD 1).

Following Persian and Macedonian rule, the Artaxiad dynasty from 190 BC gave rise to the Kingdom of Armenia which rose to the peak of its influence under Tigranes II. At the same time, a western portion of the kingdom split as a separate state under Zariadris, which became known as Lesser Armenia while the main kingdom acquired the name of Greater Armenia.

The new kings began a program of expansion which was to reach its zenith a century later. Their acquisitions are summarized by Strabo. Zariadris acquired Acilisene and the “country around the Antitaurus”, possibly the district of Muzur or west of the Euphrates. Artaxias took lands from the Medes, Iberians, and Syrians.

He then had confrontations with Pontus, Seleucid Syria and Cappadocia, and was included in the treaty which followed the victory of a group of Anatolian kings over Pharnaces of Pontus in 181 BC. Pharnaces thus abandoned all of his gains in the west.

In 224 the Persian king Ardashir I overthrew the Arsacids in Parthia and found the new Persian Sassanid dynasty. The Sassanids were determined to restore the old glory of the Achaemenid Persia, so they proclaimed Zoroastrianism as the state religion and considered Armenia as part of their empire.

To preserve the autonomy of Arsacid rule in Armenia, Tiridates II sought friendly relations with Rome. This was an unfortunate choice, because the Sassanid king Shapur I defeated the Romans and made peace with the emperor Philip.

In 252 Shapur I invaded Armenia and forced Tiridates II to flee. After the deaths of Tiridates II and his son Khosrov II, Shapur I installed his own son Hurmazd on the Armenian throne. When Shapur I died in 270, Hurmazd took the Persian throne and his brother Narseh ruled Armenia in his name.

Under Diocletian, Rome installed Tiridates III as ruler of Armenia, and in 287 he was in possession of the western parts of Armenian territory. The Sassanids stirred some nobles to revolt when Narseh left to take the Persian throne in 293. Rome nevertheless defeated Narseh in 298, and Khosrov II’s son Tiridates III regained control over Armenia with the support of Roman soldiers.

As late as the later Parthian period, Armenia was predominantly Zoroastrian. However, this was soon to change. In 301, Saint Gregory the Illuminator converted king Tiridates III and members of his court to Christianity traditionally dated to 301.

The Armenian alphabet was created by Saint Mesrop Mashtots in 405 AD for the purpose of Bible translation, and Christianization as thus also marks the beginning of Armenian literature. According to Movses Khorenatsi, Isaac of Armenia made a translation of the Gospel from the Syriac text about 411.

This work must have been considered imperfect, because soon afterward John of Egheghiatz and Joseph of Baghin, two of Mashtots’ students, were sent to Edessa to translate the Biblical scriptures.

They journeyed as far as Constantinople, and brought back with them authentic copies of the Greek text. With the help of other copies obtained from Alexandria the Bible was translated again from the Greek according to the text of the Septuagint and Origen’s Hexapla. This version, now used by the Armenian Church, was completed about 434.

During the reign of Tigranes VII (Tiran), the Sassanid King Shapur II invaded Armenia. During the following decades, Armenia was once again disputed territory between the Byzantine Empire and the Sassanid Empire, until a permanent settlement in 387, which remained in place until the Arab conquest of Armenia in 639.

Arsacid rulers intermittently (competing with Bagratuni princes) remained in control preserving their power to some extent, as border guardians (marzban) either under Byzantine or as a Persian protectorate, until 428.

After the fall of the Arsacid dynasty in Persia, the succeeding Sasanian Empire aspired to reestablish Persian control. The Sassanid Persians occupied Armenia in 252. However, in 287, Tiridates III the Great was established King of Armenia by the Roman armies.

Sasanian Armenia


Two of the most notable events under Arsacid rule in Armenian history were the conversion of Armenia to Christianity by Gregory the Illuminator in 301 and the creation of the Armenian alphabet by Mesrop Mashtots in c. 405.

According to tradition, the Armenian Apostolic Church was established by two of Jesus’ twelve apostles — Thaddaeus and Bartholomew — who preached Christianity in Armenia in the 40s—60s AD. Between 1st and 4th centuries AD, the Armenian Church was headed by patriarchs.

After Gregory the Illuminator’s spreading of Christianity in Armenia, Tiridates accepted Christianity and made it his kingdom’s official religion. The traditional date for Armenia’s conversion to Christianity is established at 301, preceding the Roman Emperor Constantine the Great’s conversion and the Edict of Milan by a dozen years.

The Arsacid Kingdom of Armenia was the first state to adopt Christianity as a state religion in 301 AD, amidst the long-lasting geo-political rivalry over the region. It had formerly been adherent to Iranian and Hellenistic paganism – Zoroastrianism, the Ancient Greek religion and then the Ancient Roman religion.

Armenia established a church that today exists independently of both the Catholic and the Eastern Orthodox churches, having become so in 451 after having rejected the Council of Chalcedon. The Armenian Apostolic Church is a part of the Oriental Orthodox communion, not to be confused with the Eastern Orthodox communion.

The first Catholicos of the Armenian church was Saint Gregory the Illuminator. Because of his beliefs, he was persecuted by the pagan king of Armenia, and was “punished” by being thrown in Khor Virap, in modern-day Armenia.

He acquired the title of Illuminator, because he illuminated the spirits of Armenians by introducing Christianity to them. Before this, the dominant religion amongst the Armenians was Zoroastrianism. It seems that the Christianisation of Armenia by the Arsacids of Armenia was partly in defiance of the Sassanids.

In 405–06, Armenia’s political future seemed uncertain. In order to further strengthen Armenian national identity, Mesrop Mashtots, with the help of the King of Armenia, invented the a unique alphabet to suit the people’s needs in 405 AD. By doing so, he ushered in a new Golden Age of Armenia, during which many foreign books and manuscripts were translated to Armenian by Mesrop’s pupils.

Gregory the Illuminator

Mesrop Mashtots

Etchmiadzin Cathedral

Partician of Armenia

In 387, the Kingdom of Armenia was split between the Eastern Roman Empire and the Sassanid Empire. Western Armenia first became a province of the Roman Empire under the name of Armenia Minor, and later Byzantine Armenia, while the eastern (and much larger half) became a vassal state within the Sassanid realm.

Eastern Armenia remained a kingdom within Persia until, in 428, the local nobility overthrew the king, and the Sassanids installed a governor in his place, beginning the Marzpanate period over Persian Armenia.

Those parts of historical Armenia remained firmly under Persian control until the Muslim conquest of Persia, while the Byzantine parts remained until being conquered, also by invading Arabic armies, in the 7th century. In 885, after years of Roman, Persian, and Arab rule, Armenia regained its independence under the Bagratuni dynasty.

Marzpanate Armenia

The Mamikonians and the Siunis

During this period, the Armenian aristocracy was split between two parties, the national one which was headed by a member of the Mamikonian family, and a pro-Sasanian one, which was headed by a member of the Siunia, also known as the Siak or Syunik, family. The Mamikonians fiercely defended against the Sassanid invaders.

Mamikonian or Mamikonean was an aristocratic dynasty which dominated Armenian politics between the 4th and 8th century. They ruled the Armenian regions of Taron, Sasun, Bagrevand and others. Their patron saint was Saint Hovhannes Karapet (John the Baptist) whose monastery of the same name (also known as Glak).

Under the late Arsacid Kingdom of Armenia, the family occupied an important position: they were hereditary commanders-in-chief (sparapet) and royal tutors (dayeak) and controlled large domains, including most of Taron and Tayk.

The Mamikonian increased their property further with the death of the last hereditary Patriarch of Armenia, Isaac in ca. 428, when they inherited many Church lands through the marriage of his only daughter to Hamazasp Mamikonian.

The origin of the Mamikonians is shrouded in the mists of antiquity. The family first appears in the early 4th century. The first known Mamikonid lord, or nakharar, about whom anything certain is known was a certain Vatche Mamikonian (fl. 330-339).

The family reappears in chronicles in 355, when the bulk of their lands lay in the province of Tayk. At that point the family chief was Vassak Mamikonian, who was the sparapetof Armenia.

Later, the office of sparapet would become hereditary possession of the Mamikonians. Vassak Mamikonian was in charge of the Armenian defense against Persia but was eventually defeated through the treachery of Merujan Artsruni (c. 367-368).

Following the defeat, Vassak’s brother Vahan Mamikonian and multiple other feudal lords defected to the Persian side. The Emperor Valens, however, interfered in Armenian affairs and had the office of sparapet bestowed on Vassak’s son Mushegh I Mamikonian in 370.

Four years later Varasdates (Varazdat), a new king, confirmed Mushegh in office. The latter was subsequently assassinated on behest of Sembat Saharuni who replaced him as sparapet’ of Armenia.

On this event, the family leadership passed to Mushegh’s brother, Manuel Mamikonian, who had been formerly kept as a hostage in Persia. The Mamikonids at once broke into insurrection and routed Varasdates and Saharuni at Karin.

Emmanuel, together with his sons Hemaiak and Artches, took the king prisoner and put him in a fortress, whence Varasdates escaped abroad. Zarmandukht, the widow of Varasdates’ predecessor, was then proclaimed queen. Emmanuel came to an agreement with the powerful Sassanids, pledging his loyalty in recompense for their respect of the Armenian autonomy and laws.

Upon the queen’s demise in 384, Manuel Mamikonian was proclaimed Regent of Armenia pending the minority of her son Arsaces III and had the infant king married to his daughter Vardandukht. It was Manuel’s death in 385 that precipitated the country’s conquest by the Persians in 386-387.

Hamazasp Mamikonian was recorded as the family leader in 393. His wife is known to have been Sahakanoush, daughter of Patriarch Isaac the Great. She was a descendant of the Arsacid Kings and Saint Gregory the Illuminator.

They had a son, Vardan Mamikonian, who is revered as one of the greatest military and spiritual leaders of ancient Armenia. After Vardan became sparapet in 432, the Persians summoned him to Ctesiphon. Upon his return home in 450, Vardan repudiated the Persian (Zoroastrian) religion and instigated a great Armenian rebellion against their Sassanian overlords.

Although he died in the doomed Battle of Avarayr also known as Battle of Vartanantz (451), the continued insurrection led by Vahan Mamikonian, the son of Vartan’s brother, resulted in the restoration of Armenian autonomy with the Nvarsak Treaty (484), thus guaranteeing the survival of Armenian statehood in later centuries.

Vardan is venerated as a saint and commemorated by many churches in Armenia and an equestrian statue in Yerevan. After the country’s subjugation by the Persians, the Mamikonians often sided with the Eastern Roman Empire, with many family members entering Byzantine service, most notably Vardan II Mamikonian in the late 6th century after his failed revolt against Persia.

With the Arab conquest of Armenia in the late 7th century, the power of the Mamikonian began to decline, especially relative to their great rivals, the Bagratids. Grigor Mamikonian led a rebellion against Arab rule but was defeated and forced to flee to Byzantium in ca. 748.

By 750, the Mamikonians had lost Taron, Khelat, and Mouch to the Bagratids. In the 770s, the family was led by Artavizd Mamikonian, then by Mushegh IV Mamikonian (+772) and by Samuel II. The latter married his daughter to Smbat VII Bagratuni, constable of Armenia. His grandson Ashot Msaker (“the Carnivorous”) became forefather of Bagratid rulers of Armenia and Taron.

The final death-blow to the family’s power came in the mid-770s, with the defeat and death of Mushegh VI Mamikonian at the Battle of Bagrevand against the Abbasids. In its aftermath, Mushegh’s two sons took refuge in Vaspurakan and were murdered by Merouzhan II Artsruni, and his daughter was married off to Djahap al-Qais, a tribal chief who settled in Armenia and seized part of the former Mamikonian lands and legalized it by marrying the daughter of Mushegh VI, the last living Mamikonian prince.

This marriage created the Kaysite Dynasty of Arminiya centered in Manzikert, the most powerful Muslim Arab emirate in the Armenian Highlands region, and thus ending the existence of the Mamikonian line in Armenia. Only secondary lines of the family survived thereafter, both in Transcaucasia and in Byzantium.

Even in their homeland of Tayk, they were succeeded by the Bagratids. One Kurdik Mamikonian was recorded as ruling Sasun c. 800, where the Surb Karapet Monastery and family seat was. Half a century later, Grigor Mamikonian lost Bagrevand to the Muslims, reconquered it in the early 860s and then lost it to the Bagratids, permanently. After that, the Mamikonians pass out of history.

After their disastrous uprising of 774–775, some of the Mamikonian princes moved to the Georgian lands. The latter-day Georgian feudal houses of the Liparitids-Orbeliani and Tumanishvili are sometimes surmised to have been descended from those princes.

Several scholars—most notably Cyril Toumanoff and Nicholas Adontz—have suggested a Mamikonian origin for a number of leading Byzantine families and individuals, beginning with the usurper Phocas in the early 7th century, emperor Philippikos Bardanes, the general and usurper Artabasdos in the mid-8th century, and the families of men like Alexios Mosele or Empress Theodora and her brothers Bardas and Petronas in the 9th century. However, as the Armenian historian N. Garsoïan comments, “[a]ttractive though it is, this thesis cannot be proven for want of sources”.

Moses of Chorene in his History of Armenia (5th century) claims that three centuries earlier two noblemen of “Chem” origin (which is speculated to mean probably Chinese origin), Mamik and Konak, rose against their half-brother, Chenbakir, the king of Chenk (which possibly refers to China). They were defeated and fled to the king of Parthia who, braving the Emperor’s demands to extradite the culprits, sent them to live in Armenia, where Mamik became the progenitor of the Mamikonians.

Another 5th-century Armenian historian, Pavstos Buzand, seconded the story. In his History of Armenia, he twice mentions that the Mamikonians descended from the Han Dynasty of China and as such were not inferior to the Arshakid rulers of Armenia. This genealogical legend may have been part of an agenda by the Bagratid dynasty of Armenia to take away the legitimacy off the Mamikonian dynasty.

Although it echoes the Bagratids’ claim of Davidic descent and the Artsruni’s claim of the royal Assyrian ancestry, some Armenian historians tended to interpret it as something more than a piece of genealogical mythology.

A theory from the 1920s postulated that the Chenk mentioned in the Armenian sources were not Han-Chinese but probably from a different Iranian-speaking ethnic group from Transoxania, such as the Tocharians in Northwest China.

Edward Gibbon in his The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire also believed that the founder of Mamikonian clan was not Han-Chinese but merely from the territory of the Chinese Empire and ascribes a Scythian origin to Mamgon stating that at the time the borders of the Chinese Empire reached as far west as Sogdiana.

Another reconstruction, similar to the previous ones but without references whatsoever to distant China, has that the family originally immigrated from Bactriana (present northern Afghanistan) under the reign of Tiridates II of Armenia, likely coinciding with the accession of the Sassanids in Iran.

More recent theories, however, suggests that the “Chank” are to be identified either with the Tzans, a tribe in the southern Caucasus, or with a Central Asian group living near the Syr Darya river. In the words of Nina Garsoïan / Encyclopædia Iranica:

The Mamikoneans claimed to be of royal Čenkʿ descent, a people traditionally associated with China. Although this origin is disputed by scholars, who have not yet reached a final conclusion, the Mamikoneans have been thought to have come from Central Asia or from the region of Darband. Adontz and especially Toumanoff considered that their ancestry should be linked with Georgia.

The Siunia were a family of ancient Armenian nobles who were the first dynasty to govern as Nakharars in the Syunik Province in Armenia from the 1st century. The Nakharars were descendants of Sisak. Inscriptions found in the region around Lake Sevan attributed to King Artaxias I confirm that in the 2nd century BC the District of Syunik constituted part of the Ancient Armenia.

The first known ruler was Valinak Siak (c.330) and his successor was his brother Andok or Andovk (Antiochus, c.340). In 379 Babik (Bagben) the son of Andok, was re-established as a Nakharar by the Mamikonian family.

Babik had a sister called Pharantzem who had married the Arsacid Prince Gnel, nephew of the Armenian King Arsaces II (Arshak II) and later married Arsaces II as her second husband. Babik’s rule lasted for less than ten years and by about 386 or 387, Dara was deposed by the Sassanid Empire. A cadet branch of the dynasty came to rule the Kingdom of Artsakh as of the 11th century.

House of Artsruni

Kingdom of Syunik

Byzantine Armenia

Byzantine Armenia, sometimes known as Western Armenia, is the name given to the parts of Kingdom of Armenia that became part of the Byzantine Empire. The size of the territory varied over time, depending on the degree of control the Byzantines had over Armenia. Even after the establishment of the Bagratid Armenian Kingdom, parts of historic Armenia and Armenian-inhabited areas were still under Byzantine rule.

The Armenians had no representation in the Ecumenical Council of Chalcedon in 451, due to their struggle against the Sassanids in an armed rebellion. For that reason, there appeared a theological drift between Armenian and Byzantine Christianity.

Regardless, many Armenians became successful in the Byzantine Empire. Numerous Byzantine emperors were either ethnically Armenian, half-Armenian, part-Armenian or possibly Armenian; although culturally Greek.

The best example of this is Emperor Heraclius, whose father was Armenian and mother Cappadocian. Emperor Heraclius began the Heraclean Dynasty (610–717). Basil I is another example of an Armenian beginning a dynasty; the Macedonian dynasty. Other great emperors were Romanos I, John I Tzimiskes, and Nikephoros II.

Armenia made great contributions to Byzantium through its troops of soldiers. The empire was in need of a good army as it was constantly being threatened. The army was relatively small, never exceeding 150,000 men. The important role played in the history of Byzantium by the Armenians has been generally unrecognized.

The military was sent to different parts of the empire, and took part in the most fierce battles and never exceeded 20,000 or 30,000 men. From the 5th century forwards the Armenians were regarded as the main constituent of the Byzantine army. Procopius recounts that the scholarii, the palace guards of the emperor, “were selected from amongst the bravest Armenians”.

Armenian soldiers in the Byzantine army are cited during the following centuries, especially during the 9th and the 10th centuries, which might have been the period of greatest participation of the Armenians in the Byzantine army. Byzantine and Arab historians are unanimous in recognizing significance of the Armenians soldiers.

Charles Diehl, for instance, writes: “The Armenian units, particularly during this period, were numerous and well trained.” Another Byzantine historian praises the decisive role which the Armenian infantry played in the victories of the Byzantine emperors Nicephorus Phocas and John Tzimiskes.

At that time the Armenians served side by side with the Norsemen who were in the Byzantine army. This first encounter between the Armenian mountain-dwellers and the Norse has been discussed by Nansen, who brings these two elements closer to each other and records: “It was the Armenians who together with our Scandinavian forefathers made up the assault units of Byzantine.”

Moreover, Bussel underlines the similarities in the way of thinking and the spirit of the Armenian feudal lords and the northern warriors. He claims that, in both groups, there was a strange absence and ignorance of government and public interest and at the same time an equally large interest in achieving personal distinctions and a loyalty towards their masters and leaders.

The partition of the Roman Empire between the two sons of the Emperor Theodosius was soon followed by a predominance of foreign elements in the court of Byzantium, the eastern half of the divided world. The proximity of this capital of the East to Armenia attracted to the shores of the Bosporus a great number of Armenians, and for three centuries they played a distinguished part in the history of the Eastern Empire.

In 591, the Byzantine Emperor Maurice defeated the Persians and recovered much of the remaining territory of Armenia into the empire. The conquest was completed by the Emperor Heraclius, himself ethnically Armenian, in 629.

In 645, the Muslim Arab armies of the Caliphate had attacked and conquered the country. Armenia, which once had its own rulers and was at other times under Persian and Byzantine control, passed largely into the power of the Caliphs, and established the province of Arminiya.

Nonetheless, there were still parts of Armenia held within the Empire, containing many Armenians. This population held tremendous power within the empire. Emperor Heraclius (610–641) was of Armenian descent, as was Emperor Philippikos Bardanes (711–713).

The Emperor Basil I, who took the Byzantine throne in 867, was the first of what is sometimes called the Armenian dynasty (see Macedonian dynasty), reflecting the strong effect the Armenians had on the Byzantine Empire.

Evolving as a feudal kingdom in the ninth century, Armenia experienced a brief cultural, political and economic renewal under the Bagratuni dynasty. Bagratid Armenia was eventually recognized as a sovereign kingdom by the two major powers in the region: Baghdad in 885, and Constantinople in 886. Ani, the new Armenian capital, was constructed at the Kingdom’s apogee in 964.


The constant instability of the Roman Empire as a whole gradually made it more and more difficult to control. Upon the ascension of the emperor Constantine in 330, he made a bold decision by removing himself from Rome and into a new capital.

Located in the old city of Byzantium, now known as Constantinople after the emperor, it was strengthened and improved in order to assure more than adequate defense of the whole region.

What added to the prestige of the city was Constantine’s favor of Christianity. He allowed bishops and other religious figures to aid in the government of the empire, and he personally intervened in the First Council of Nicaea to prove his sincerity.

The next forty years after the death of Constantine in 337 saw a power struggle amongst his descendants for control of the empire. His three sons, Constantine, Constans, and Constantius were unable to coexist peacefully under a joint rule, and they eventually resorted to violent means to end the arrangement.

A short time after taking power, a purge of a majority of their relations began and the blood of Constantine’s progeny flowed. Eventually Constans came after and killed Constantine II near Aquileia, but was soon removed and himself murdered by his own army.

This left Constantius II as the sole emperor of the Byzantines, but even this would not last. Despite supporting his cousin Julian as commander of the armies in Gaul, events soon forced Julian to ignore Constantine’s orders to move eastward with his armies and to head straight for Constantinople to claim the imperial purple.

The death of Constantius II in Tarsus resulted in a bloodless transfer of power in 361. Julian did not survive but a scant year and a half thanks to a Persian spear, but during that time he tried to revert what progress Christianity had made after the founding of the empire. Even on his deathbed he was supposed to have said “Thou hast conquered, Galilean.”, a reference to Christianity besting him.

The threat of barbarian invasion and its effects upon the Roman Empire in the west carried over into the east. After a short rule by the emperor Jovian and a joint rule of both empires by Valentinian II in the west and Valens in the east, the young emperor Gratian made what was to be a very fortunate decision. He chose the favored general Theodosius I to rule with his as a co-emperor, granting him authority over all of the domains of the Byzantine empire in 379.

This proved to be a wise decision with regards to the survival of his newly obtained dominion, for he immediately set about healing the religious rifts that had emerged during the insecurity of past years.

The practice of Arianism and pagan rites were abolished, and the standards set by Constantine in Nicaea were restored by law. By 395, the year in which the Roman Empire was officially divided in half and the aptly named Theodosius the Great died, the east was so strong that it could now be considered an equal.

As a symbol and expression of the universal prestige of the Patriarchate of Constantinople, Justinian I built the Church of the Holy Wisdom of God, Hagia Sophia, which was completed in the short period of four and a half years (532–537).

The Byzantine Empire was the predominantly Greek-speaking continuation of the Roman Empire during Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages. Its capital city was Constantinople (modern-day Istanbul), originally known as Byzantium.

Initially the eastern half of the Roman Empire (often called the Eastern Roman Empire in this context), it survived the 5th century fragmentation and fall of the Western Roman Empire and continued to exist for an additional thousand years until it fell to the Ottoman Turks in 1453.

The Sassanid Persians, after having fought centuries of wars against the Byzantines and at their peak sieged Constantinople together with the Avars, paved the way for a new threat to enter onto the scene; the Arabs. Arab attacks throughout the empire reduced significantly the territory once held under Justinian.

The four crusades that involved the Byzantines severely weakened their power, and led to a disunity that would never be successfully restored. The newly forming states of the Turks gradually squeezed the empire so much that it was only a matter of time before Constantinople was taken in 1453.

After the division of the Roman Empire, Anatolia became part of the East Roman, or Byzantine Empire. Anatolia was one of the first places where Christianity spread, so that by the 4th century AD, western and central Anatolia were overwhelmingly Christian and Greek-speaking. For the next 600 years, while Imperial possessions in Europe were subjected to barbarian invasions, Anatolia would be the center of the Hellenic world.

It was one of the wealthiest and most densely populated places in the Late Roman Empire. Anatolia’s wealth grew during the 4th and 5th centuries thanks, in part, to the Pilgrim’s Road that ran through the peninsula. Literary evidence about the rural landscape has come down to us from the hagiographies of 6th century Nicholas of Sion and 7th century Theodore of Sykeon.

Large urban centers included Ephesus, Pergamum, Sardis and Aphrodisias. Scholars continue to debate the cause of urban decline in the 6th and 7th centuries variously attributing it to the Plague of Justinian (541), and the 7th century Persian incursion and Arab conquest of the Levant. In the 9th and  10th century a resurgent Byzantine Empire regained its lost territories, including even long lost territory such as Armenia and Syria.

The Byzantine Empire, also referred to as the Eastern Roman Empire, or Byzantium, was the continuation of the Roman Empire in its eastern provinces during Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages, when its capital city was Constantinople (modern Istanbul, formerly Byzantium).

It survived the fragmentation and fall of the Western Roman Empire in the 5th century AD and continued to exist for an additional thousand years until it fell to the Ottoman Empire in 1453.

During most of its existence, the empire was the most powerful economic, cultural, and military force in Europe. “Byzantine Empire” is a term created after the end of the realm; its citizens continued to refer to their empire simply as the Roman Empire or Romania, and to themselves as Romans.

Several signal events from the 4th to 6th centuries mark the period of transition during which the Roman Empire’s Greek East and Latin West diverged. Constantine I (r. 324–337) reorganised the empire, made Constantinople the new capital and legalised Christianity.

Under Theodosius I (r. 379–395), Christianity became the state religion and other religious practices were proscribed. In the reign of Heraclius (r. 610–641), the Empire’s military and administration were restructured and adopted Greek for official use in place of Latin.

Although the Roman state continued and its traditions were maintained, modern historians distinguish Byzantium from ancient Rome insofar as it was centred on Constantinople, oriented towards Greek rather than Latin culture and characterised by Eastern Orthodox Christianity.

The borders of the empire fluctuated through cycles of decline and recovery. During the reign of Justinian I (r. 527–565), the empire reached its greatest extent, after reconquering much of the historically Roman western Mediterranean coast, including North Africa, Italy and Rome, which it held for two more centuries.

The Byzantine–Sasanian War of 602–628 exhausted the empire’s resources and during the Early Muslim conquests of the 7th century, lost its richest provinces, Egypt and Syria, to the Arab caliphate.

During the Macedonian dynasty (10th–11th centuries), the empire expanded again and experienced the two-century long Macedonian Renaissance, which came to an end with the loss of much of Asia Minor to the Seljuk Turks after the Battle of Manzikert in 1071. This battle opened the way for the Turks to settle in Anatolia.

The empire recovered during the Komnenian restoration and by the 12th century Constantinople was the largest and wealthiest European city. The Byzantine Empire was delivered a mortal blow during the Fourth Crusade, when Constantinople was sacked in 1204 and the territories that the empire formerly governed were divided into competing Byzantine Greek and Latin realms.

Despite the eventual recovery of Constantinople in 1261, the Byzantine Empire remained only one of several small rival states in the area for the final two centuries of its existence. Its remaining territories were progressively annexed by the Ottomans in the Byzantine–Ottoman wars over the 14th and 15th centuries.

The Fall of Constantinople to the Ottoman Empire in 1453 ended the Byzantine Empire. The last of the imperial Byzantine successor states, the Empire of Trebizond, would be conquered by the Ottomans eight years later in the 1461 Siege of Trebizond.

Byzantine Anatolia

Byzantine Empire

Byzantine Empire

Sasanian Armenia

Eastern Armenia is a term used by Armenians to refer to the eastern parts of the Armenian Highlands, the traditional homeland of the Armenian people. Between the 4th and the 20th centuries, Armenia was partitioned several times, and the terms Eastern and Western Armenia have been used to refer to its respective parts under foreign occupation or control, although there has not been a defined line between the two.

The term has been used to refer to: Persian Armenia (a vassal state of the Persian Empire from 387, fully annexed in 428) after the country’s partition between the Byzantine and Sassanian empires and lasted until the Arab conquest of Armenia in the mid-7th century.

Iranian Armenia (1502–1813/1828), which covered the period of Eastern Armenia during the early-modern and late-modern era when it was part of the various Iranian empires, up to its annexation by the Russian Empire (1813 and 1828).

Russian Armenia (1828 to 1917) and Soviet Armenia (1920 to 1991), which covered the Armenian populated areas under the control of the Russian Empire and the Soviet Union, respectively, and currently exists as the Republic of Armenia.

Christianity became the state religion of Armenia in 301. Armenia was divided between Sasanian Iran and the Roman Empire in 367. Parts of western Armenia were incorporated into the Byzantine Empire, while the rest of Armenia came under Sasanian suzerainty, whilst maintaining its existing kingdom until 428.

The former established control in Eastern Armenia after the fall of the Arshakuni Armenian kingdom in 428. Sasanian Armenia, also known as Persian Armenia and Persarmenia, may either refer to the periods where Armenia was under the suzerainty of the Sasanian Empire, or specifically to the parts of Armenia under its control.

In 428, Armenian nobles, nakharar, dissatisfied with the rule of Artaxias IV petitioned emperor Bahram V to depose him. Bahram V abolished the Kingdom of Armenia and appointed Veh Mihr Shapur as marzban (governor of a frontier province, “margrave”) of the country, which marked the start of a new era known as the Marzpanate period.

Marzbans, nominated by the Sasanian emperor, governed eastern Armenia, while the western Byzantine Armenia which was ruled by several princes, and later governors, under Byzantine suzerainty.

The Marzpanate period ended with the Arab conquest of Armenia in the 7th century, when the Principality of Armenia was established. An estimated three million Armenians were under the influence of the Sasanian marzpans during this period.

The marzban was invested with supreme power, even imposing death sentences; but he could not interfere with the age-long privileges of the Armenian nakharars. The country as a whole enjoyed considerable autonomy.

The office of Hazarapet, corresponding to that of Minister of the Interior, public works and finance, was mostly entrusted to an Armenian, while the post of Sparapet (commander-in-chief) was only entrusted to an Armenian.

Each nakharar had his own army, according to the extent of his domain. The “National Cavalry” or “Royal force” was under the Commander-in-chief. The tax collectors were all Armenians. The courts of justice and the schools were directed by the Armenian clergy. Several times, an Armenian nakharar became Marzpan, as did Vahan Mamikonian in 485 after a period of rebellion against the Iranians.

The Iranians had tolerated the invention of the Armenian alphabet and the founding of schools, thinking these would encourage the spiritual separation of Armenia from the Byzantines, but on the contrary, the new cultural movement among the Armenians proved to be conducive to closer relations with Byzantium.

In 465, Adhur Gushnasp was appointed by the Sasanian emperor Peroz I (r. 459–484) as the marzban of Armenia, replacing Adhur Hormizd. In 475, the Mamikonian princess Shushanik, was murdered by her husband Prince Varsken, a recent convert to Zoroastrianism, because she refused to convert and wanted to stay Christian. Varsken was then executed by Vakhtang I, king of Iberia.

Peroz I, eager to avenge Varsken, sent his general Shapur Mihran to Iberia. Vakhtang then appealed to the Huns and the Armenian nobles, citing solidarity between Christians. After carefully weighing the decision, the Mamikonian prince Vahan Mamikonian agreed to revolt against the Sasanians. He defeated and killed Adhur Gushnasp, and thereafter declared Sahak II Bagratuni as the new marzban. He also kept repelling several Sasanian counter-attacks.

In 482, Shapur Mihran began to become a big threat to the security of Iberia, which made Vakhtang request Armenian aid. Vahan and Sahak shortly arrived to Iberia at the head of a big army, but were defeated in Akesga, where Sahak was killed.

Vahan fled with the remnants of the Armenian army into the mountains, where he led guerrilla actions against the Sasanians, while Shapur Mihran managed to regain control of Armenia. However, Shapur Mihran was shortly ordered to return to the Sasanian capital of Ctesiphon. Vahan quickly used the opportunity to regain control of Armenia.

In the spring of 484, however, Shapur Mihran returned as the head of a new army and forced Vahan to flee to refuge near the Byzantine frontier, at Tao and Taron. During the same period, the Sasanian noble Zarmihr Karen from the Karenid family, was successful in another campaign against the Armenians, and managed to capture several of them, including noblemen from the Kamsarakan family. Zarmihr shortly delivered the Armenian captives to Shapur Mihran, who delivered them to Izad Gushnasp, promising the Armenian captives to make Peroz spare them.

However, an unexpected event changed the course of events: the death of the Sasanian king Peroz I in 484 in war against the Hephthalites, causing the withdrawal of the Sasanians in Armenia and recovery of Dvin and Vagharshapat.

Struggling to suppress the revolt of his brother Zarir, Peroz’s successor, Balash (r. 484-488), needed the help of the Armenians: in exchange for military support, he agreed to sign the Nvarsak Treaty, which granted religious freedom to the Christians and the prohibition of Zoroastrianism in Armenia, including much greater autonomy for the nakharar. Vahan was also recognized as sparapet and the property of the Mamikonian family and its allies were returned.

Between 515-516, several Hunnic tribes kept making incursions into Armenia—the Armenian nobleman Mjej I Gnuni then decided to organize a counter-attack, where he successfully managed to repel them. As a reward, Kavadh I appointed him as the marzban of Armenia in 518. During this governorship, Mjej maintained religious peace. In 527, he repelled several other Hunnic invasions. In 548, he was succeeded by Gushnasp Bahram.

Three times during the Marzpanic period, Iranian kings launched persecutions against Christianity in Armenia. Chihor Vishnasp, a member of the Suren family and a relative of Khosrow I himself, was in 564 appointed as marzban.

Chihor Vishnasp not only harshly treated the Christian Armenians who were suspected of secretly siding with the Byzantines, but also did the same with the rest of the Christian Armenian population.

Claiming to exploit on the command of the king, he persecuted the Christian Armenians and even built a fire-temple in Dvin. These actions soon resulted in a massive uprising in late 571 or early 572, which was led by Vardan III Mamikonian. On 23 February 572, the Armenian rebels seized Dvin, and had Chihor-Vishnasp killed.

Sasanian king Yazdegerd II began to view Christianity in the Northern lands as a political threat to the cohesiveness of the Iranian empire. The dispute appears to be based on Iranian military considerations of the time given that according to Acts 2:9 in the Acts of the Apostles there were Persians, Parthians and Medes (all Iranian tribes) among the very first new Christian converts at Pentecost and Christianity has had a long history in Iran as a minority religion, dating back to the very early years of the faith.

Nevertheless, the conversion to Christianity by Armenians in the North was of particular concern to Yazdegerd II. After a successful invasion of the Eastern Roman Empire, Yazdegerd began summoning Armenian nobles to Ctesiphon and reconverted them to Zoroastrianism (a faith many Armenians shared with Iranians prior to Christianity).

This upset the Armenian population, and under the leadership of Vardan Mamikonian an army of 66,000 Armenians rebelled against the Sasanian empire. Yazdegerd quickly subdued the rebellion at the Battle of Avarayr.

The military success of the Iranians ensured that Armenia would remain part of the Sasanian empire for centuries to come. However, Armenian objections did not end until the Nvarsak Treaty, which guaranteed Armenia more freedom and freedom of religion (Christianity) under Sasanian rule.

Sasanian Armenia

Persian Armenia

Marzpanate Armenia

Eastern Armenia

Sasanian Empire

The Sasanian Empire, officially known as the Empire of Iranians (Middle Persian: Ērānshahr), also called the Neo-Persian Empire by historians, was the last kingdom of the Persian Empire before the spread of Islam. Named after the House of Sasan, it ruled from 224 to 651 AD.

The Sasanian Empire succeeded the Parthian Empire and was recognised as one of the leading world powers alongside its neighbouring arch-rival, the Roman-Byzantine Empire for a period of more than 400 years.

The Sasanian Empire was founded by Ardashir I, after the fall of the Parthian Empire and the defeat of its last emperor, Artabanus IV. At its greatest extent, the Sasanian Empire encompassed all of today’s Iran, Iraq, Eastern Arabia, Yemen, the Levant, the Caucasus, Egypt, large parts of Turkey, much of Central Asia, and Pakistan.

The Sasanian Empire during late antiquity is considered to have been one of Iran’s most important, and influential historical periods and constituted the last great Iranian empire before the Muslim conquest of Persia and the Islamization of Iran. In many ways, the Sasanian period witnessed the peak of ancient Iranian culture.

The Sasanians’ cultural influence extended far beyond the empire’s territorial borders, reaching as far as Western Europe, Africa, China and India. It played a prominent role in the formation of both European and Asian medieval art. Much of what later became known as Islamic culture in art, architecture, music and other subject matter was transferred from the Sasanians throughout the Muslim world.

Sasanian Empire

Battle of Avarayr

In 384 the kingdom was split between the Byzantine or East Roman Empire and the Persians. Western Armenia quickly became a province of the Roman Empire under the name of Armenia Minor; Eastern Armenia remained a kingdom within Persia until 428, when the local nobility overthrew the king, and the Sassanids installed a governor in his place.

Armenia lost its sovereignty for the first time in 428 AD to the Byzantine and Persian empires. After years of rule, the Arsacid dynasty fell in 428, with Eastern Armenia being subjugated to Persia and Western Armenia, to Rome. 

With the partition of Armenia in 387 by the Byzantines and Sassanids, the western half became part of the Byzantines known as Byzantine Armenia, while the eastern (and much larger half) became a vassal state within the Sassanid realm.

In 428, the Arsacid dynasty of Armenia was completely abolished by the Sassanid Persians, and the territory was made a full province within Persia, known as Persian Armenia. Persian Armenia remained in Sassanid hands up to the Muslim conquest of Persia, when the invading Muslim forces annexed the Sassanid realm.

After the fall of the Kingdom of Armenia in 428, most of Armenia was incorporated as a marzpanate within the Sasanian Empire. The ancient Armenian kingdom was split between the Byzantine and Sasanian Empires around the early 5th century. Under the Bagratuni dynasty, the Bagratid Kingdom of Armenia was restored in the 9th century.

In 428, Armenian nobles petitioned Bahram V to depose Artaxias IV (Artashir IV). As a result, the country became a Sassanid dependency with a Sassanid governor. The Armenian nobles initially welcomed Persian rule, provided they were allowed to practise Christianity; but Yazdegerd II, concerned that the Armenian Church was hierarchically dependent on the Latin- and Greek-speaking Christian Church (aligned with Rome and Constantinople rather than the Aramaic-speaking and Persian-backed Church of the East) tried to compel the Armenian Church to abandon Rome and Byzantium in favour of the Church of the East or simply convert to Zoroastrianism.

He summoned the leading Armenian nobles to Ctesiphon, and pressured them into cutting their ties with the Orthodox Church as he had intended. Yazdegerd II himself was a Zoroastrian rather than a Christian, and his concern was not religious but securing political loyalty. According to Armenian tradition, attempts at demolishing churches and building fire-temples were made and a number of Zoroastrian magi were sent, with Persian military backing, to replace Armenian clergy and suppress Christianity.

But Yazdegerd’s policy provoked, rather than forestalled, a Christian rebellion in Armenia. When news about the compulsion of the nobles reached Armenia, a mass revolt broke out; on their return, the nobility, led by Vardan Mamikonian, joined the rebels. Yazdegerd II, hearing the news, gathered a massive army to attack Armenia.

Vardan Mamikonian sent to Constantinople for aid, as he had good personal relations with Theodosius II, who had made him a general, and he was after all fighting to remain in the Orthodox Church; but this assistance did not arrive in time.

The Sassanid Shah Yazdegerd II tried to tie his Christian Armenian subjects more closely to the Sassanid Empire by reimposing the Zoroastrian religion. The Armenians greatly resented this, and as a result, a rebellion broke out with Vartan Mamikonian as the leader of the rebels. Yazdegerd thus massed his army and sent it to Armenia, where the Battle of Avarayr was fought on the Avarayr Plain in Vaspurakan between the Armenian Army under Vardan Mamikonian and Sassanid Persia on 2 June 451.

The 66,000-strong Armenian army took Holy Communion before the battle. The army was a popular uprising, rather than a professional force, but the Armenian nobility who led it and their respective retinues were accomplished soldiers, many of them veterans of the Sassanid dynasty’s wars with Rome and the nomads of Central Asia.

The Armenians were allowed to maintain a core of their national army led by a supreme commander (sparapet) who was traditionally of the Mamikonian noble family. The Armenian cavalry was, at the time, practically an elite force greatly appreciated as a tactical ally by both Persia and Byzantium. In this particular case, both officers and men were additionally motivated by a desire to save their religion and their way of life.

The Persian army, said to be three times larger, included war elephants and the famous Savārān, or New Immortal, cavalry. Several Armenian noblemen with weaker Christian sympathies, led by Vasak Siuni, went over to the Persians before the battle, and fought on their side; in the battle, Vardan won initial successes, but was eventually slain along with eight of his top officers.

The 66,000 Armenian rebels, mostly peasants, lost their morale when Mamikonian died in the battlefield. They were substantially outnumbered by the 180,000- to 220,000-strong Persian army of Immortals and war elephants.

Following the victory, Yazdegerd jailed some Armenian priests and nobles and appointed a new governor for Armenia, but the Armenian resistance continued in the decades following the battle, led by Vardan’s successor and nephew, Vahan Mamikonian.

In 484 AD, Sahag Bedros I signed the Nvarsak Treaty, which guaranteed religious freedom to the Christian Armenians and granted a general amnesty with permission to construct new churches. Thus, the Armenians see the Battle of Avarayr as a moral victory; 2 June 451 is considered to be a holy day by Armenians, and is one of the most important national and religious days in Armenia.

The battle is seen as one of the most significant events in Armenian history. Despite being a military defeat, the Battle of Avarayr and the subsequent guerilla war in Armenia eventually resulted Christian Armenians maintaining their religion and Armenia gained autonomy. Vardan Mamikonian is considered a national hero and has been canonized by the Armenian Apostolic Church.

The Battle of Avarayr is considered one of the first battles in defense of the Christian faith. Although the Persians were victorious on the battlefield, the battle proved to be a major strategic victory for Armenians, as Avarayr paved the way to the Nvarsak Treaty of 484 AD, which affirmed Armenia’s right to practise Christianity freely.

Battle of Avarayr

Nvarsak Treaty

Vardan Mamikonian

Council of Chalcedon


The Byzantine–Sasanian War

The Byzantine–Sasanian War of 572–591 was a war fought between the Sasanian Empire of Persia and the Eastern Roman Empire, termed by modern historians as the Byzantine Empire. Less than a decade after the Fifty-Year Peace Treaty of 562, tensions mounted at all points of intersection between the two empires’ spheres of influence, as had happened before when war broke out in the 520s.

It was triggered by pro-Byzantine revolts in areas of the Caucasus under Persian hegemony, although other events contributed to its outbreak. The fighting was largely confined to the southern Caucasus and Mesopotamia, although it also extended into eastern Anatolia, Syria, and northern Iran. It was part of an intense sequence of wars between these two empires which occupied the majority of the 6th and early 7th centuries.

It was also the last of the many wars between them to follow a pattern in which fighting was largely confined to frontier provinces and neither side achieved any lasting occupation of enemy territory beyond this border zone. It preceded a much more wide-ranging and dramatic final conflict in the early 7th century.

Having played a vital role in restoring Khosrow II to the throne, the Byzantines were left in a dominant position in their relations with Persia. Khosrow not only returned Dara and Martyropolis in exchange for Maurice’s assistance, but also agreed to a new partition of the Caucasus by which the Sassanids handed over to the Byzantines many cities, including Tigranokert, Manzikert, Baguana, Valarsakert, Bagaran, Vardkesavan, Yerevan, Ani, Kars, and Zarisat.

The western part of the Kingdom of Iberia, including the cities of Ardahan, Lori, Dmanisi, Lomsia, Mtskheta, and Tontio became Byzantine dependencies. Also, the city of Cytaea was given to Lazica, also a Byzantine dependency. Thus the extent of effective Byzantine control in the Caucasus reached its zenith historically.

Also, unlike previous truces and peace treaties, which had usually involved the Byzantines making monetary payments either for peace, for the return of occupied territories, or as a contribution towards the defence of the Caucasus passes, no such payments were included on this occasion, marking a major shift in the balance of power.

Emperor Maurice was even in a position to overcome his predecessor’s omissions in the Balkans by extensive campaigns. However, this situation was soon dramatically overturned, as the alliance between Maurice and Khosrow helped trigger a new war only eleven years later, with catastrophic results for both empires.

Byzantine–Sasanian War of 572–591

Arab Conquest

The Arab conquest of Armenia was a part of the Muslim conquests after the death of Muhammad in 632 CE. His successors started a military campaign in order to increase the territory of the new Caliphate. During the Muslim conquests, the Arabs conquered most of the Middle East. Persian Armenia had fallen to the Arab Rashidun Caliphate by 645 CE. Byzantine Armenia was already conquered in 638–639.

According to the Arabic sources, the first Arab expedition reached Armenia in 639/640, on the heels of their conquest of the Levant from the Byzantines and the start of the Muslim conquest of Persia. The Arabs were led by Iyad ibn Ghanim, who had previously conquered Upper Mesopotamia, and penetrated as far as Bitlis.

The details of the early conquest of Armenia by the Arabs are uncertain, as the various Arabic, Greek, and Armenian sources contradict each other. The main sources for the period are the eyewitness account of the Armenian bishop Sebeos, along with the history of the 8th-century Armenian priest Łewond.

The Arabic historians al-Tabari and Ya’qubi also provide information about the period, but the main source is the 9th-century scholar al-Baladhuri, who, unusually for a Muslim writer, included much information drawn from local accounts from Armenia.

At the end of this period, in 885, the Bagratid Kingdom of Armenia was established with Ashot I (820 – 890), a Christian king, as the first monarch. Ashot I, also known as Ashot the Great, oversaw the beginning of Armenia’s second golden age (862 – 977). He was the son of Smbat VIII the Confessor and was a member of the Bagratuni Dynasty.

The Byzantine Empire and the Abbassid Caliphate’s willingness to recognize the existence of the kingdom stemmed from the need to maintain a buffer state between them. Particularly for the Caliphate, Armenia was more desirable as a buffer rather than a province due to the threat of the Khazars, who were allied with Byzantium.

Ashot’s regime and those who succeeded him ushered in a period of peace, artistic growth, and literary activity. This era is referred to as the second Armenian Golden Age and is manifested in the magnificent churches built and the illustrated manuscripts created during the period.


Arminiya, also known as the Ostikanate of Arminiya, Emirate of Armenia, was a political and geographic designation given by the Muslim Arabs to the lands of Greater Armenia, Caucasian Iberia, and Caucasian Albania, following their conquest of these regions in the 7th century.

Though the caliphs initially permitted an Armenian prince to represent the province of Arminiya in exchange for tribute and the Armenians’ loyalty during times of war, Caliph Abd al-Malik ibn Marwan introduced direct Arab rule of the region, headed by an ostikan with his capital in Dvin.

With the establishment of the Abbasid Caliphate after the Abbasid Revolution, a period of repression was inaugurated. This was followed by Caliph al-Mansur revoking the privileges and abolishing the subsidies paid to the various Armenian princes (the nakharars) and imposing harsher taxation, leading to the outbreak of another major rebellion in 774. The revolt was suppressed in the Battle of Bagrevand in April 775.

The failure of the rebellion saw the near-extinction, reduction to insignificance or exile to Byzantium of some of the most prominent nakharar families, most importantly the Mamikonian.

In its aftermath, the Caliphate tightened its grip on the Transcaucasian provinces: the nobility of neighbouring Iberia was also decimated in the 780s, and a process of settlement with Arab tribes began which by the middle of the 9th century led to the Islamization of Caucasian Albania, while Iberia and much of lowland Armenia came under the control of a series of Arab emirates.

At the same time, the power vacuum left by the destruction of so many nakharar clans was filled by two other great families, the Artsruni in the south (Vaspurakan) and the Bagratuni in the north.

Despite several insurrections, the Emirate of Armenia lasted until 884, when the Bagratuni Ashot I, who had managed to win control over most of its area, declared himself “King of the Armenians”. He received recognition by Caliph Al-Mu’tamid of the Abbasid dynasty in 885 and Byzantine Emperor Basil I of the Macedonian dynasty in 886.

Ashot was swiftly able to expand his power. Through family links with the two next most important princely families, the Artsruni and the Siwnis, and through a cautious policy towards the Abbasids and the Arab emirates of Armenia, by the 860s he had succeeded in becoming in fact, if not yet in name, an autonomous king. 


The Arab–Byzantine wars

The Arab–Byzantine wars were a series of wars between the mostly Arab Muslims and the Byzantine Empire between the 7th and 11th centuries AD, started during the initial Muslim conquests under the expansionist Rashidun and Umayyad caliphs in the 7th century and continued by their successors until the mid-11th century.

The emergence of Muslim Arabs from Arabia in the 630s resulted in the rapid loss of Byzantium’s southern provinces (Syria and Egypt) to the Arab Caliphate. Over the next fifty years, under the Umayyad caliphs, the Arabs would launch repeated raids into still-Byzantine Asia Minor, twice besiege the Byzantine capital of Constantinople, and conquer the Byzantine Exarchate of Africa.

The situation did not stabilize until after the failure of the Second Arab Siege of Constantinople in 718, when the Taurus Mountains on the eastern rim of Asia Minor became established as the mutual, heavily fortified and largely depopulated frontier.

Under the Abbasid Empire, relations became more normal, with embassies exchanged and even periods of truce, but conflict remained the norm, with almost annual raids and counter-raids, sponsored either by the Abbasid government or by local rulers, well into the 10th century.

During the first centuries, the Byzantines were usually on the defensive, and avoided open field battles, preferring to retreat to their fortified strongholds. Only after 740 did they begin to launch their raids in an attempt to combat the Arabs and take the lands they had lost, but still the Abbasid Empire was able to retaliate with often massive and destructive invasions of Asia Minor.

With the decline and fragmentation of the Abbasid state after 861 and the concurrent strengthening of the Byzantine Empire under the Macedonian dynasty, the tide gradually turned. Over a period of fifty years from ca. 920 to 976, the Byzantines finally broke through the Muslim defences and restored their control over northern Syria and Greater Armenia.

The last century of the Arab–Byzantine wars was dominated by frontier conflicts with the Fatimids in Syria, but the border remained stable until the appearance of a new people, the Seljuk Turks, after 1060.

The Arabs also took to the sea, and from the 650s on, the entire Mediterranean Sea became a battleground, with raids and counter-raids being launched against islands and the coastal settlements. Arab raids reached a peak in the 9th and early 10th centuries, after the conquests of Crete, Malta and Sicily, with their fleets reaching the coasts of France and Dalmatia and even the suburbs of Constantinople.

The wars drew near to a closure when the Turks and various Mongol invaders replaced the threat of either power. From the 11th and 12th centuries onwards, the Byzantine conflicts shifted into the Byzantine-Seljuk wars with the continuing Islamic invasion of Anatolia being taken over by the Seljuk Turks.

After the defeat at the Battle of Manzikert by the Turks in 1071, the Byzantine Empire, with the help of Western Crusaders, re-established its position in the Middle East as a major power. Meanwhile, the major Arab conflicts were in the Crusades, and later against Mongolian invasions, especially that of the Ilkhanate and Timur.


Vaspurakan, meaning the “noble land” or “land of princes”, was the first and biggest province of Greater Armenia, which later became an independent kingdom during the Middle Ages, centered on Lake Van. The kingdom of Vaspurakan had no specific capital, the court moving as the king transferred his residence from place to place – Van, Ostan/Vostan (modern Gevaş), and so on.

During most of its history it was ruled by the Artsruni dynasty, which first managed to create a principality in the area. At its greatest extent Vaspurakan comprised the lands between Lake Van and Lake Urmia (also known as Kaputan) in 908. During this time they were under the sovereignty of the Bagratuni Kingdom of Ani.

Vaspurakan was elevated to the status of a kingdom in 908, when Gagik I of Vaspurakan was recognized King of Armenia by the Abbasids and at first was on their side, but soon he regretted and together with Ashot II defeated the Arabs. Soon he was recognized as the King of Vaspurakan by the Bagratuni Ashot II.

In 1021 Seneqerim Artsruni gave Vaspurakan to the Byzantine Empire, receiving Sebasteia and its surroundings. Vaspurakan became the Byzantine province (thema) of Vasprakania or Media.

In about 1050 Vasprakania was merged with that of Taron, but was conquered by the Saljuq Turks between 1054-1056. In the 13th century part of Vaspurakan was liberated by Zakarids. But soon was conquered by Mongols, then by Ottoman Turks. Turks several times tried to kill Armenians in Vaspurakan, especially in Van. But Van’s Armenian population always resisted, especially is notable Siege of Van of 1915, when the Ottoman forces attacked Van during 1915’s Armenian Genocide.

After the Byzantine annexation the dynasty continued with Derenik, son of Gurgen Khatchik, who became lord of Antzivaziq by 1004 and had two brothers: Gugik and Ashot. King Hovhannes-Seneqerim also had several children among them David, Atom, Abushal and Constantine. There is a legend that one of Seneqerim’s daughter is thought to have married Mendo Alao, an Alan who lived in Lusitania. David had a daughter that married King Gagik II of Ani.

Another branch of the family appeared on the person of Khatchik the Great in 1040, who had three children: Hasan, Djendjluk and Ishkhanik. Hasan had a son called Abelgharib who had a daughter that married King David of Ani.

Bagratuni dynasty

The Bagratuni or Bagratid royal family ruled many regional polities of the medieval Kingdom of Armenia, such as Shirak, Bagrevand, Kogovit, Syunik, Lori, Vaspurakan, Vanand, Taron, and Tayk. According to historian Cyril Toumanoff they are also accepted as the progenitors of the Georgian Bagrationi dynasty.

The Bagratid Princes of Armenia are known as early as 1st century BC when they served under the Artaxiad Dynasty. Unlike most noble families of Armenia they held only strips of land, as opposed to the Mamikonians, who held a unified land territory. These are the earliest Bagratid princes in Armenia prior to the establishment of the kingdom, as mentioned by the Union of Armenian Noblemen.

The Bagratid family first emerged as nakharars, members of the hereditary nobility of Armenia. As early as 288–301, the Bagratid prince Smbat held the hereditary Armenian titles of Aspet, which means “Master of the Horse,” and T’agatir, which means Coronant of the King. According to Prince Cyril Toumanoff, the earliest Bagratid prince was chronicled as early as 314 AD. In the 8th century, Smbat VII Bagratuni revolted unsuccessfully against the Abbasid Caliphate. He was killed in the Battle of Bagrevand.

The Bagratuni family became princes in the 4th century. Their heritable rights were given to them by the Arshakuni dynasty, the kings of Armenia (52-428). They were given the title aspet, the commander of the cavalry, and were given the privilege of crowning Arshakuni kings upon their accession to the throne.

Their domain included the region of Sper in the Çoruh River valley of Upper Armenia, which was famous for its gold, and Tayk. Movses Khorenatsi claimed they had an ancestor, Sembat, who came to Armenia from Judea in 6th century BC, but this is considered by modern historians to be an invention to give a biblical origin to the family.

Ashot I was the first Bagratid King, the founder of the Royal Bagratid dynasty. He was recognized as prince of princes by the court at Baghdad in 861, which provoked war with local Arab emirs. Ashot won the war, and was recognized as King of the Armenians by Baghdad in 885. Recognition from Constantinople followed in 886.

In an effort to unify the Armenian nation under one flag, the Bagratids subjugated other Armenian noble families through conquests and fragile marriage alliances. Eventually, some noble families such as the Artsrunis and the Siunis broke off from the central Bagratid authority.

Ashot III the Merciful transferred their capital to the city of Ani, now famous for its ruins. They kept power by playing off the competition between the Byzantine Empire and the Arabs. They assumed the Persian title of “King of Kings” (Shahanshah).

However, with the start of the 10th century and on, the Bagratunis broke up into different branches, fragmenting the kingdom in a time when unity was needed in the face of Seljuk and Byzantine pressure. The rule of the Ani branch ended in 1045 with the conquest of Ani by the Byzantines.

The Kars branch held on until 1064. The dynasty of Cilician Armenia is believed to be a branch of the Bagratids, which later took the throne of an Armenian Kingdom in Cilicia. The founder, Ruben I, had an unknown relationship to the exiled king Gagik II. He was either a younger family member or kinsman. Ashot, son of Hovhannes (son of Gagik II), was later governor of Ani under the Shaddadid dynasty.

Bagratuni dynasty

Bagrationi dynasty

The Bagrationi dynasty is a royal dynasty which reigned in Georgia from the Middle Ages until the early 19th century, being among the oldest extant Christian ruling dynasties in the world. In modern usage, the name of the dynasty is sometimes Hellenized and referred to as the Georgian Bagratids, also known in English as the Bagrations.

Historian Cyril Toumanoff claims a common origin with the Armenian Bagratuni dynasty. However, other sources claim that dynasty had Georgian roots. Early Georgian Bagratids through dynastic marriage gained the Principality of Iberia after succeeding the Chosroid dynasty at the end of the 8th century.

In 888 Adarnase IV of Iberia restored the Georgian monarchy; various native polities then united into the Kingdom of Georgia, which prospered from the 11th to the 13th century. This period of time, particularly the reigns of David IV the Builder (1089–1125) and of his great-granddaughter Tamar the Great (1184–1213) inaugurated the Georgian Golden Age in the history of Georgia.

After fragmentation of the unified Kingdom of Georgia in the late 15th century, the branches of the Bagrationi dynasty ruled the three breakaway Georgian kingdoms, the Kingdom of Kartli, the Kingdom of Kakheti, and the Kingdom of Imereti, until Russian annexation in the early-19th century.

While the 3rd article of the 1783 Treaty of Georgievsk guaranteed continued sovereignty for the Bagrationi dynasty and their continued presence on the Georgian Throne, the Russian Imperial Crown later broke the terms of the treaty, and the Russian protectorate became an illegal annexation.

The dynasty persisted within the Russian Empire as an Imperial Russian noble family until the 1917 February Revolution. The establishment of Soviet rule in Georgia in 1921 forced some members of the family to accept demoted status and loss of property in Georgia. Other members relocated to Western Europe, but some Bagrations repatriated after Georgian regained independence in 1991.


Ani is a ruined medieval Armenian city now situated in Turkey’s province of Kars, only 400 metres from the Turkey-Armenia border. Across the border is the Armenian village of Kharkov, part of Shirak Province. At its height, Ani was one of the world’s largest cities, with a possible population of circa 100,000.

The city is located on a triangular site, visually dramatic and naturally defensive, protected on its eastern side by the ravine of the Akhurian River and on its western side by the Bostanlar or Tzaghkotzadzor valley. The Akhurian is a branch of the Araks River and forms part of the currently closed border between Turkey and Armenia. The site is at an elevation of around 1,340 meters (4,400 ft).

Armenian chroniclers such as Yeghishe and Ghazar Parpetsi first mentioned Ani in the 5th century. They described it as a strong fortress built on a hilltop and a possession of the Armenian Kamsarakan dynasty.

Between 961 and 1045, it was the capital of the Bagratid Armenian kingdom that covered much of present-day Armenia and eastern Turkey. Called the “City of 1001 Churches”, Ani stood on various trade routes and its many religious buildings, palaces, and fortifications were amongst the most technically and artistically advanced structures in the world.

Renowned for its splendor, Ani was sacked by the Mongols in 1236. Ani never recovered from a devastating 1319 earthquake, and was gradually abandoned until it was largely forgotten by the 17th-century.

Ani is a widely recognized cultural, religious, and national heritage symbol for Armenians. According to Razmik Panossian, Ani is one of the most visible and ‘tangible’ symbols of past Armenian greatness and hence a source of pride.

The city took its name from the Armenian fortress-city and pagan center of Ani-Kamakh located in the region of Daranaghi in Upper Armenia. Ani was also previously known as Khnamk, although historians are uncertain as to why it was called so.

Heinrich Hübschmann, a German philologist and linguist who studied the Armenian language, suggested that the word may have come from the Armenian word khnamel, an infinitive which means “to take care of”. Ani was also the diminutive of the ancient goddess Anahit, who was seen as the mother protector of Armenia.

Kemah, known historically as Gamakh, Kamacha or Kamachon, is a town and district of Erzincan Province in the Eastern Anatolia Region of Turkey. The town is located almost in the centre of Erzincan Province. In ancient times, the town was known as Ani-Kammakh, and was the cult center of the Armenian goddess Anahit (Ani). The necropolis of Armenia’s Arsacid Dynasty was located in Kemah, including the tomb of Tiridates III who was instrumental in the conversion of the Armenian people to Christianity.

By the early 9th century, the former territories of the Kamsarakans in Arsharunik and Shirak (including Ani) had been incorporated into the territories of the Armenian Bagratuni dynasty. Their leader, Ashot Msaker (Ashot the Meateater) (806–827) was given the title of ishkhan (prince) of Armenia by the Caliphate in 804.

The Bagratunis had their first capital at Bagaran, some 40 km south of Ani, before moving it to Shirakavan, some 25 km northeast of Ani, and then transferring it to Kars in the year 929. In 961, king Ashot III (953–77) transferred the capital from Kars to Ani. Ani expanded rapidly during the reign of King Smbat II (977–89).

In 992 the Armenian Catholicosate moved its seat to Ani. In the 10th century the population was perhaps 50,000–100,000. By the start of the eleventh century the population of Ani was well over 100,000, and its renown was such that it was known as the “city of forty gates” and the “city of a thousand and one churches.” Ani also became the site of the royal mausoleum of Bagratuni kings.

Ani attained the peak of its power during the long reign of King Gagik I (989–1020). After his death his two sons quarreled over the succession. The eldest son, Hovhannes-Smbat (1020–41), gained control of Ani while his younger brother, Ashot IV (1020–40), controlled other parts of the Bagratuni kingdom.

Hovhannes-Smbat, fearing that the Byzantine Empire would attack his now-weakened kingdom, made the Byzantine Emperor Basil II his heir. When Hovhannes-Smbat died in 1041, Emperor Michael IV the Paphlagonian, claimed sovereignty over Ani.

The new king of Ani, Gagik II (1042–45), opposed this and several Byzantine armies sent to capture Ani were repulsed. However, in 1046 Ani surrendered to the Byzantines, after Gagik was invited to Constantinople and detained there, and at the instigation of pro-Byzantine elements among its population. A Byzantine governor was installed in the city.

Ani did not lie along any previously important trade routes, but because of its size, power, and wealth it became an important trading hub. Its primary trading partners were the Byzantine Empire, the Persian Empire, the Arabs, as well as smaller nations in southern Russia and Central Asia.

In 1064, a large Seljuk army under Alp Arslan attacked Ani; after a siege of 25 days, they captured the city and slaughtered its population. An account of the sack and massacres in Ani is given by the Arab historian Sibt ibn al-Jawzi, who quotes an eyewitness saying:

“Putting the Persian sword to work, they spared no one… One could see there the grief and calamity of every age of human kind. For children were ravished from the embraces of their mothers and mercilessly hurled against rocks, while the mothers drenched them with tears and blood… The city became filled from one end to the other with bodies of the slain and [the bodies of the slain] became a road. […]

The army entered the city, massacred its inhabitants, pillaged and burned it, leaving it in ruins and taking prisoner all those who remained alive…The dead bodies were so many that they blocked the streets; one could not go anywhere without stepping over them. And the number of prisoners was not less than 50,000 souls. I was determined to enter city and see the destruction with my own eyes. I tried to find a street in which I would not have to walk over the corpses; but that was impossible.”

In 1072, the Seljuks sold Ani to the Shaddadids, a Muslim Kurdish dynasty. The Shaddadids generally pursued a conciliatory policy towards the city’s overwhelmingly Armenian and Christian population and actually married several members of the Bagratid nobility. Whenever the Shaddadid governance became too intolerant, however, the population would appeal to the Christian Kingdom of Georgia for help. The Georgians captured Ani five times between 1124 and 1209: in 1124, 1161, 1174, 1199, and 1209.

The first three times, it was recaptured by the Shaddadids. In the year 1199, Georgia’s Queen Tamar captured Ani and in 1201 gave the governorship of the city to the generals Zakare and Ivane. Zakare was succeeded by his son Shanshe (Shahnshah). Zakare’s new dynasty — the Zakarids — considered themselves to be the successors to the Bagratids.

Prosperity quickly returned to Ani; its defences were strengthened and many new churches were constructed. The Mongols unsuccessfully besieged Ani in 1226, but in 1236 they captured and sacked the city, massacring large numbers of its population. Under the Mongols the Zakarids continued to rule Ani, as the vassals of the Georgian monarch.

By the 14th century, the city was ruled by a succession of local Turkish dynasties, including the Jalayrids and the Kara Koyunlu (Black Sheep clan) who made Ani their capital. It was ruined by an earthquake in 1319.

Tamerlane captured Ani in the 1380s. On his death the Kara Koyunlu regained control but transferred their capital to Yerevan. In 1441 the Armenian Catholicosate did the same. The Persian Safavids then ruled Ani until it became part of the Turkish Ottoman Empire in 1579. A small town remained within its walls at least until the middle of the seventeenth century, but the site was entirely abandoned by 1735 when the last monks left the monastery in the Virgin’s Fortress or Kizkale.

Zakarid Armenia


Kamsarakan was an Armenian noble family that was an offshoot of the House of Karen, also known as the Karen-Pahlav. The Karens were one of the Seven Great Houses of Iran and were of Parthian origin. The name of Kamsarakan is derived from Prince Kamsar, who died in 325.

The Kamsarakans had their base in the “two princely states”, which were both located in the historic region of Ayrarat-Arsharunik. The city of Yervandashat, in present-day eastern Turkey, was their capital. The fortresses of Bagaran, Artagers, Shirak and Ani (which later became a city) were also associated with the Kamsarakan.

In the Byzantine-Sasanian era, the Kamsarakan were mostly known for following a pro-Byzantine policy. In the late 8th century, they met their downfall as a result of participating in an uprising against Arab rule.

The Kamsarakans took part in the revolt against Arab rule in Armenia in 771–772. When the insurrection failed, the Kamsarakan were amongst the “victims of the disaster”, and they had no choice but to sell their “double princedom” to the Bagratids. In the Bagratid era, the Kamsarakan rose to prominence once again, now represented by its cadet branch the Pahlavunis, led by the princes Bdjni and Nig.

After the 8th century, a branch of the Kamsarakan, the Pahlavuni, rose to prominence. In the 11th century the Pahlavunis controlled and built various fortresses throughout Armenia such as Amberd and Bjni and played a significant role in all the affairs of the country.

When the Bagratids were destroyed and Prince Gregory II abdicated in 1045–1046 to allow the Byzantine emperor to assume control over his lands, and received from the court of Constantinople the rank of magistros and the office of duke of Mesopotamia, Vaspurakan, and Taron, the Pahlavunis, under Oshin of Gandzak, moved to Cilicia, where they were known as the Hethumids.

The Pahlavunis dominated this “last phase of Armenia’s political history”, first as princes of Lambrun, and after 1226, as kings of Armenia. They had two branches: the Mkhargrdzeli, associated with the Kingdom of Georgia; and the Hethumids, associated with the Armenian Kingdom of Cilicia.

The Zakarids, also known by their Georgian name as Mkhargrdzeli, were an offshoot of the Armenian Pahlavuni family. They were a noble Armenian–Georgian dynasty of at least partial Kurdish origin. The Zakarians considered themselves Armenians.

The first historically traceable Zakarid was Khosrov, a Georgian-Armenian landholder during the 11th century in Armenian Kingdom of Tashir-Dzoraget, alternatively known as the Kingdom of Lori or Kiurikian Kingdom by later historians, and Kingdom of Georgia. Khosrov is first historically traceable member of Mkhargrdzeli family.

Kingdom of Tashir-Dzoraget was a medieval Armenian kingdom formed in the year 979 by the Kiurikian dynasty under the protectorate of the Bagratid kings of Armenia. It was located on the territories of modern-day northern Armenia, northwestern Azerbaijan and southern Georgia. The capital of the kingdom was Matsnaberd, currently part of modern-day Azerbaijan.

When the Hethumids died out in the 14th century the Armenian crown passed, through inheritance, to the Lusignan dynasty of Cyprus, and afterwards to the House of Savoy. The Mkhargrdzeli, another branch of the Pahlavunis, were a dominant force in the Kingdom of Georgia in the 12th – 14th centuries, and “has survived to this day”.

Medieval Armenia

After the Sasanian period (428–636), Armenia emerged as Arminiya, an autonomous principality under the Umayyad Caliphate, reuniting Armenian lands previously taken by the Byzantine Empire as well. The principality was ruled by the Prince of Armenia, and recognised by the Caliph and the Byzantine Emperor.

It was part of the administrative division/emirate Arminiya created by the Arabs, which also included parts of Georgia and Caucasian Albania, and had its centre in the Armenian city, Dvin. Arminiya lasted until 884, when it regained its independence from the weakened Abbasid Caliphate under Ashot I of Armenia.

The reemergent Armenian kingdom was ruled by the Bagratuni dynasty and lasted until 1045. In time, several areas of the Bagratid Armenia separated as independent kingdoms and principalities such as the Kingdom of Vaspurakan ruled by the House of Artsruni in the south, Kingdom of Syunik in the east, or Kingdom of Artsakh on the territory of modern Nagorno-Karabakh, while still recognising the supremacy of the Bagratid kings.

Declining due to the wars against the Byzantines the kingdom the kingdom fell in 1045 and the Byzantine Empire conquered Bagratid Armenia. Soon, the other Armenian states fell under Byzantine control as well. The Byzantine rule was short lived, as in 1071 the Seljuk Empire defeated the Byzantines and conquered Armenia at the Battle of Manzikert, establishing the Seljuk Empire.

After the Seljuk conquest of Armenia in 1064 to escape death or servitude at the hands of those who had assassinated his relative, Gagik II of Armenia, King of Ani, an Armenian named Ruben I, Prince of Armenia, went with some of his countrymen into the gorges of the Taurus Mountains and then into Tarsus of Cilicia.

Here the Armenians established a principality and later a kingdom in Cilicia located on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea between the 11th and 14th centuries, where they prolonged their sovereignty to 1375.

The Byzantine governor of the palace gave them shelter where the Armenian Kingdom of Cilicia was eventually established on 6 January 1198 under Leo I, King of Armenia, a descendant of Prince Ruben.

Cilicia was a strong ally of the European Crusaders, and saw itself as a bastion of Christendom in the East. Cilicia’s significance in Armenian history and statehood is also attested by the transfer of the seat of the Catholicos of the Armenian Apostolic Church, the spiritual leader of the Armenian people, to the region.

The Seljuk Empire soon started to collapse. In the early 12th century, Armenian princes of the Zakarid family drove out the Seljuk Turks and established a semi-independent principality in northern and eastern Armenia known as Zakarid Armenia, which lasted under the patronage of the Georgian Kingdom.

The Orbelian Dynasty shared control with the Zakarids in various parts of the country, especially in Syunik and Vayots Dzor, while the House of Hasan-Jalalyan controlled provinces of Artsakh and Utik as the Kingdom of Artsakh.

Medieval Armenia

House of Hasan-Jalalyan

Orbelian Dynasty

The Battle of Ani

The Battle of Ani was fought between the forces of the Kingdom of Armenia under Vahram Pahlavouni and the Byzantine Empire in 1042. The Byzantine Empire was soundly defeated, with up to 20,000 dead.

Vahram selected a body of 30,000 infantry and 20,000 cavalry, forming three divisions, which fought against the Byzantines, numbering 100,000. A battle ensued in which the invaders were routed with great slaughter. The fight was so ferocious that the effusion of blood flowing into the Akhurian River is said to have coloured its waters completely red.

The Byzantines left 20,000 dead behind. This victory allowed Vahram Pahlavuni along with Catholicos Petros Getadarts to crown Gagik II king of Armenia and subsequently take the fortress of Ani, which had been in the hands of Vest Sarkis.

The Battle of Manzikert

Although the native Bagratuni dynasty was founded under favourable circumstances, the feudal system gradually weakened the country by eroding loyalty to the central government. Thus internally enfeebled, Armenia proved an easy victim for the Byzantines, who captured Ani in 1045. The Seljuk dynasty under Alp Arslan in turn took the city in 1064.

In 1071, after the defeat of the Byzantine forces by the Seljuk Turks at the Battle of Manzikert, the Turks captured the rest of Greater Armenia and much of Anatolia. So ended Christian leadership of Armenia for the next millennium with the exception of a period of the late 12th-early 13th centuries, when the Muslim power in Greater Armenia was seriously troubled by the resurgent Kingdom of Georgia.

Many local nobles (nakharars) joined their efforts with the Georgians, leading to liberation of several areas in northern Armenia, which was ruled, under the authority of the Georgian crown, by the Zakarids-Mkhargrzeli, a prominent Armeno-Georgian noble family.

The Battle of Manzikert was fought between the Byzantine Empire and the Seljuk Empire on 26 August 1071 near Manzikert, theme of Iberia (modern Malazgirt in Muş Province, Turkey). The decisive defeat of the Byzantine army and the capture of the Emperor Romanos IV Diogenes played an important role in undermining Byzantine authority in Anatolia and Armenia, and allowed for the gradual Turkification of Anatolia. Many of the Turks, who had been travelling westward during the 11th century, saw the victory at Manzikert as an entrance to Asia Minor.

The brunt of the battle was borne by the professional soldiers from the eastern and western tagmata, as large numbers of mercenaries and Anatolian levies fled early and survived the battle. The fallout from Manzikert was disastrous for the Byzantines, resulting in civil conflicts and an economic crisis that severely weakened the Byzantine Empire’s ability to adequately defend its borders.

This led to the mass movement of Turks into central Anatolia—by 1080, an area of 78,000 square kilometres (30,000 sq mi) had been gained by the Seljuk Turks. It took three decades of internal strife before Alexius I (1081 to 1118) restored stability to Byzantium.

Historian Thomas Asbridge says: “In 1071, the Seljuqs crushed an imperial army at the Battle of Manzikert (in eastern Asia Minor), and though historians no longer consider this to have been an utterly cataclysmic reversal for the Greeks, it still was a stinging setback.” It was the first time in history a Byzantine emperor had become the prisoner of a Muslim commander.

Battle of Manzikert

Turkic People

The Turkic peoples are a collection of ethno-linguistic groups of Central, Eastern, Northern and Western Asia as well as parts of Europe and North Africa. The origins of the Turkic people are a matter of contention among scholars. Yunusbayev suggested they may lie in a region stretching from the Transcaspian steppe to Manchuria.

According to several linguists southern Mongolia is the homeland of the early Turkic language. The Turkic peoples speak related languages belonging to the Turkic language family. They share, to varying degrees, certain cultural traits, common ancestry and historical backgrounds.

In time, different Turkic groups came in contact with other ethnicities, absorbing them, leaving some Turkic groups more diverse than the others. Many vastly differing ethnic groups have throughout history become part of the Turkic peoples through language shift, acculturation, intermixing, adoption and religious conversion. Despite this, many do share, to varying degrees, non-linguistic characteristics like cultural traits, ancestry from a common gene pool, and historical experiences.

The distribution of people of Turkic cultural background ranges from Siberia, across Central Asia, to Southern Europe. As of 2011 the largest groups of Turkic people live throughout Central Asia—Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Azerbaijan, in addition to Turkey and Iran.

The most notable modern Turkic-speaking ethnic groups include Turkish people, Azerbaijanis, Uzbeks, Kazakhs, Turkmens, Kyrgyz and Uyghur people. Additionally, Turkic people are found within Crimea, Altishahr region of western China, northern Iraq, Israel, Russia, Afghanistan, and the Balkans: Moldova, Bulgaria, Romania, and former Yugoslavia.

A small number of Turkic people also live in Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania. Small numbers inhabit eastern Poland and the south-eastern part of Finland. There are also considerable populations of Turkic people (originating mostly from Turkey) in Germany, United States, and Australia, largely because of migrations during the 20th century.

Sometimes ethnographers group Turkic people into six branches: the Oghuz Turks, Kipchak, Karluk, Siberian, Chuvash, and Sakha/Yakut branches. The Oghuz have been termed Western Turks, while the remaining five, in such a classificatory scheme, are called Eastern Turks.

The genetic distances between the different populations of Uzbeks scattered across Uzbekistan is no greater than the distance between many of them and the Karakalpaks. This suggests that Karakalpaks and Uzbeks have very similar origins. The Karakalpaks have a somewhat greater bias towards the eastern markers than the Uzbeks.

The first known mention of the term Turk (Old Turkic: Türük, Kök Türük or Türk; meaning “origin”) applied to a Turkic group was in reference to the Göktürksin the Khüis Tolgoi inscription most-likely not later than 587 AD. A letter by Ishbara Qaghan to Emperor Wen of Sui in 585 described him as “the Great Turk Khan.” The Bugut (584 CE) and Orkhon inscription (735 CE) use the terms Türküt, Türk and Türük.

Previous use of similar terms are of unknown significance, although some strongly feel that they are evidence of the historical continuity of the term and the people as a linguistic unit since early times.

This includes Chinese records Spring and Autumn Annals referring to a neighbouring people as Beidi. During the first century CE, Pomponius Mela refers to the “Turcae” in the forests north of the Sea of Azov, and Pliny the Elder lists the “Tyrcae” among the people of the same area.

There are references to certain groups in antiquity whose names could be the original form of “Türk/Türük” such as Togarma, Turukha/Turuška, Turukku and so on. But the information gap is so substantial that a connect of these ancient people to the modern Turks is not possible. Turkologist Peter B. Golden posits that the term Turk has roots in Old Turkic.

It is generally accepted that the term “Türk” is ultimately derived from the Old-Turkic migration-term Türük/Törük, which means “created”, “born”, or “strong”, from the Old Turkic word root *türi-/töri- (“tribal root, (mythic) ancestry; take shape, to be born, be created, arise, spring up”) and conjugated with Old Turkic suffix (-ik), perhaps from Proto-Turkic *türi-k (“lineage, ancestry”). Compare also Proto-Turkic root *töre- “to be born, originate”.

The earliest Turkic-speaking peoples identifiable in Chinese sources are the Dingling, Gekun, and Xinli, located in South Siberia. The Chinese Book of Zhou (7th century) presents an etymology of the name Turk as derived from “helmet”, explaining that this name comes from the shape of a mountain where they worked in the Altai Mountains.

During the Middle Ages, various Turkic peoples of the Eurasian steppe were subsumed under the “umbrella-identity” of the “Scythians”. Between 400 CE and the 16th century, Byzantine sources use the name Skuthai in reference to twelve different Turkic peoples.

In the modern Turkish language as used in the Republic of Turkey, a distinction is made between “Turks” and the “Turkic peoples”: the term Türk corresponds specifically to the “Turkish-speaking” people (in this context, “Turkish-speaking” is considered the same as “Turkic-speaking”), while the term Türki refers generally to the people of modern “Turkic Republics” (Türki Cumhuriyetler or Türk Cumhuriyetleri). However, the proper usage of the term is based on the linguistic classification in order to avoid any political sense. In short, the term Türki can be used for Türk or vice versa.

Proposals for the homeland of the Turkic peoples and their language are far-ranging, from the Transcaspian steppe to Northeastern Asia (Manchuria). According to Yunusbayev, genetic evidence points to an origin in the region near South Siberia and Mongolia as the “Inner Asian Homeland” of the Turkic ethnicity.

Similarly several linguists, including Juha Janhunen, Roger Blench and Matthew Spriggs, suggest that Mongolia is the homeland of the early Turkic language. According to Robbeets, proto-Turkic descends from the hypothetical proto-Transeurasian community.

This Transeurasian community, is associated with the Houwa and with the Hongshan culture in the Liao river basin. With the onset of desertification in Inner Mongolia in 2200 BCE, people from the western part of the Hongshan culture moved west, adapting to a nomadic pastoralist lifestyle in the eastern Eurasian steppes. Proto-Turkic may be identified with the millet cultivating Xinglongwa culture.

Authors Joo-Yup Lee and Shuntu Kuang analyzed 10 years of genetic research on Turkic people and compiled scholarly information about Turkic origins, and said that the early and medieval Turks were a heterogeneous group and that the Turkification of Eurasia was a result of language diffusion, not a migration of homogeneous population.

Turkic people may be related to the Xiongnu, Dingling and Tiele people. According to the Book of Wei, the Tiele people were the remnants of the Chidi, the red Di people competing with the Jin in the Spring and Autumn period. Historically they were established after the 6th century BCE.

Historical Arab and Persian descriptions of Turks state that they looked strange from their perspective and were extremely physically different from Arabs. Turks were described as “broad faced people with small eyes”. Medieval Muslim writers noted that Tibetans and Turks resembled each other, and that they often were not able to tell the difference between Turks and Tibetans.

Seljuk Empire

The Seljuk Empire (Persian: آل سلجوق‎, romanized: Āl-e Saljuq, lit. ‘House of Saljuq’) or the Great Seljuq Empire was a high medieval Turko-Persian Sunni Muslim empire, originating from the Qiniq branch of Oghuz Turks. The apical ancestor of the Seljuqs was their bey, Seljuk, who was reputed to have served in the Khazar army, under whom, circa 950, they migrated to Khwarezm, near the city of Jend, where they converted to Islam. Seljuk gave his name to both the empire and the Seljuk dynasty.

The Seljuk empire was founded by Tughril Beg (990–1063) and his brother Chaghri Beg (989–1060) in 1037. From their homelands near the Aral Sea, the Seljuks advanced first into Khorasan and then into mainland Persia, before eventually capturing Baghdad and conquering eastern Anatolia.

Here the Seljuks won the battle of Manzikert in 1071 and conquered most of Anatolia from the Byzantine Empire, which became one of the reasons for the first crusade (1095-1099). The Seljuks united the fractured political landscape of the eastern Islamic world and played a key role in the first and second crusades. Highly Persianized in culture and language, the Seljuks also played an important role in the development of the Turko-Persian tradition, even exporting Persian culture to Anatolia.

At its greatest extent, the Seljuk Empire controlled a vast area stretching from western Anatolia and the Levant to the Hindu Kush in the east, and from Central Asia to the Persian Gulf in the south. From c. 1150-1250, the Seljuk empire declined, and was invaded by the Mongols around 1260. The Mongols divided Anatolia into emirates. Eventually one of these, the Ottoman, would conquer the rest.

The settlement of Turkic tribes in the northwestern peripheral parts of the empire, for the strategic military purpose of fending off invasions from neighboring states, led to the progressive Turkicization of those areas.

Seljuq dynasty


Turko-Persian tradition


Before the Turkic settlement, the local population of Anatolia had reached an estimated level of 12 to 14 million people during the late Roman Period. The migration of Turks to the country of modern Turkey occurred during the main Turkic migration across most of Central Asia and into Europe and the Middle East which was between the 6th and 11th centuries. Mainly Turkic people living in the Seljuk Empire arrived in Turkey during the eleventh century. The Seljuks proceeded to gradually conquer the Anatolian part of the Byzantine Empire.

The House of Seljuk was a branch of the Kınık Oğuz Turks who resided on the periphery of the Muslim world, north of the Caspian and Aral Seas in the Yabghu Khaganate of the Oğuz confederacy[38] in the 10th century. In the 11th century, the Turkic people living in the Seljuk Empire started migrating from their ancestral homelands towards east of Anatolia, which eventually became a new homeland of Oğuz Turkic tribes following the Battle of Manzikert on August 26, 1071.

The victory of the Seljuks gave rise to the Seljuk Sultanate of Rum, a separate branch of the larger Seljuk Empire and to some Turkish principalities (beyliks), mostly situated towards the east which were vassals of or at war with Seljuk Sultanate of Rum.

The Seljuqs

The apical ancestor of the Seljuqs was their beg, Seljuk, who was reputed to have served in the Khazar army, under whom, circa 950, they migrated to Khwarezm, near the city of Jend, where they converted to Islam. Seljuk gave his name to both the empire and the Seljuk dynasty.

The Seljuqs were allied with the Persian Samanid shahs against the Qarakhanids. The Samanid fell to the Qarakhanids in Transoxania (992–999), however, whereafter the Ghaznavids arose. The Seljuqs became involved in this power struggle in the region before establishing their own independent base.

The Seljuk empire was founded by Tughril Beg (990–1063) and his brother Chaghri Beg (989–1060), under whom the Seljuks wrested an empire from the Ghaznavids, in 1037. Both grandsons of Seljuq. From their homelands near the Aral Sea, the Seljuks advanced first into Khorasan and then into mainland Persia, before eventually capturing Baghdad and conquering eastern Anatolia.

Here the Seljuks won the battle of Manzikert in 1071 and conquered most of Anatolia from the Byzantine Empire, which became one of the reasons for the first crusade (1095-1099). The Seljuks united the fractured political landscape of the eastern Islamic world and played a key role in the first and second crusades.

Highly Persianized in culture and language, the Seljuks also played an important role in the development of the Turko-Persian tradition, even exporting Persian culture to Anatolia. At its greatest extent, the Seljuk Empire controlled a vast area stretching from western Anatolia and the Levant to the Hindu Kush in the east, and from Central Asia to the Persian Gulf in the south.

The settlement of Turkic tribes in the northwestern peripheral parts of the empire, for the strategic military purpose of fending off invasions from neighboring states, led to the progressive Turkicization of those areas. From c. 1150-1250, the Seljuk empire declined, and was invaded by the Mongols around 1260. The Mongols divided Anatolia into emirates. Eventually one of these, the Ottoman, would conquer the rest.

Seljuq dynasty

Seljuk Empire

Sultanate of Rûm

Anatolian beyliks

Early Modern Era Armenia

During the 1230s, the Mongol Empire conquered Zakarid Armenia and then the remainder of Armenia. The Mongolian invasions were soon followed by those of other Central Asian tribes, such as the Kara Koyunlu, Timurid dynasty and Ağ Qoyunlu, which continued from the 13th century until the 15th century. After incessant invasions, each bringing destruction to the country, with time Armenia became weakened.

In the 16th century, the Ottoman Empire and the Safavid dynasty of Iran divided Armenia. From the early 16th century, both Western Armenia and Eastern Armenia fell to the Safavid Empire.

Owing to the century long Turco-Iranian geopolitical rivalry that would last in Western Asia, significant parts of the region were frequently fought over between the two rivalling empires.

From the mid 16th century with the Peace of Amasya, and decisively from the first half of the 17th century with the Treaty of Zuhab until the first half of the 19th century, Eastern Armenia was ruled by the successive Safavid, Afsharid and Qajar empires, while Western Armenia remained under Ottoman rule.

From 1604, Abbas I of Iran implemented a “scorched earth” policy in the region to protect his north-western frontier against any invading Ottoman forces, a policy that involved a forced resettlement of masses of Armenians outside of their homelands.

Between the 16th and 19th centuries, the traditional Armenian homeland composed of Eastern Armenia and Western Armenia came under the rule of the Ottoman and Iranian empires, repeatedly ruled by either of the two over the centuries. By the 19th century, Eastern Armenia had been conquered by the Russian Empire, while most of the western parts of the traditional Armenian homeland remained under Ottoman rule.

In the 1813 Treaty of Gulistan and the 1828 Treaty of Turkmenchay, following the Russo-Persian War (1804–13) and the Russo-Persian War (1826–28), respectively, the Qajar dynasty of Iran was forced to irrevocably cede Eastern Armenia, consisting of the Erivan and Karabakh Khanates, to Imperial Russia. This period is known as Russian Armenia.

While Western Armenia still remained under Ottoman rule, the Armenians were granted considerable autonomy within their own enclaves and lived in relative harmony with other groups in the empire (including the ruling Turks).

However, as Christians under a strict Muslim social structure, Armenians faced pervasive discrimination. When they began pushing for more rights within the Ottoman Empire, Sultan Abdul Hamid II, in response, organised state-sponsored massacres against the Armenians between 1894 and 1896, resulting in an estimated death toll of 80,000 to 300,000 people. The Hamidian massacres, as they came to be known, gave Hamid international infamy as the “Red Sultan” or “Bloody Sultan”.

During the 1890s, the Armenian Revolutionary Federation, commonly known as Dashnaktsutyun, became active within the Ottoman Empire with the aim of unifying the various small groups in the empire that were advocating for reform and defending Armenian villages from massacres that were widespread in some of the Armenian-populated areas of the empire.

Dashnaktsutyun members also formed Armenian fedayi groups that defended Armenian civilians through armed resistance. The Dashnaks also worked for the wider goal of creating a “free, independent and unified” Armenia, although they sometimes set aside this goal in favour of a more realistic approach, such as advocating autonomy.

The Ottoman Empire began to collapse, and in 1908, the Young Turk Revolution overthrew the government of Sultan Hamid. In April 1909, the Adana massacre occurred in the Adana Vilayet of the Ottoman Empire resulting in the deaths of as many as 20,000–30,000 Armenians.

The Armenians living in the empire hoped that the Committee of Union and Progress would change their second-class status. The Armenian reform package (1914) was presented as a solution by appointing an inspector general over Armenian issues.

Russo-Persian War (1826–28)

Karabakh Khanates


The ancient inhabitants of Anatolia spoke the now-extinct Anatolian languages, which were largely replaced by the Greek language starting from classical antiquity and during the Hellenistic, Roman and Byzantine periods. Major Anatolian languages included Hittite, Luwian, and Lydian, among other more poorly attested relatives.

The Turkification of Anatolia began under the Seljuk Empire (lit. ‘House of Saljuq’), a high medieval Turko-Persia Sunni Muslim empire, originating from the Qiniq branch of Oghuz Turks, in the late 11th century and continued under the Ottoman Empire between the late 13th and early 20th centuries.

The term has been used in the Greek language since the 1300s or late-Byzantine era. It literally means “becoming Turk”. Apart from persons, it may refer also to cities that were conquered by Turks or churches that were converted to mosques. It is more frequently used in the form of the verb turkify, become Muslim or Turk.

Turkification, or Turkicization (Turkish: Türkleştirme), is a cultural and language shift whereby populations or states adopted a historical Turkic culture, such as in the Ottoman Empire. As the Turkic states developed and grew, there were many instances of this cultural shift.

An early form of Turkification occurred in the time of the Seljuk Empire among the local population of Anatolia, involving intermarriages, religious conversion, linguistic shift and interethnic relationships, which today is reflected in the genetic makeup of the modern Turkish people.

Diverse peoples were affected by Turkification including Anatolian, Balkan, Caucasian, and Middle Eastern peoples with different ethnic origins, such as Albanians, Armenians, Assyrians, Circassians, Georgians, Greeks, Jews, Romani, Slavs, Kurds living in Anatolia, as well as Lazs from all the regions of the Ottoman Empire.

However, various non-Turkic languages continue to be spoken by minorities in Anatolia today, including Kurdish, Neo-Aramaic, Armenian, Arabic, Laz, Georgian and Greek. Other ancient peoples in the region included Galatians, Hurrians, Assyrians, Hattians, Cimmerians, as well as Ionian, Dorian and Aeolian Greeks.

Turkic migration

History of the Turkic peoples


Mongol invasion

On June 26, 1243, the Seljuk armies were defeated by the Mongols in the Battle of Kosedag, and the Seljuk Sultanate of Rûm became a vassal of the Mongols. This caused the Seljuks to lose their power. Hulegu Khan, grandson of Genghis Khan founded the Ilkhanate in the southwestern part of the Mongol Empire. The Ilkhanate ruled Anatolia through Mongol military governors. The last Seljuk sultan Mesud II, died in 1308.

The Mongol invasion of Transoxiana, Iran, Azerbaijan and Anatolia caused Turkomens to move to Western Anatolia. The Turkomens founded some Anatolian principalities (beyliks) under the Mongol dominion in Turkey.

The most powerful beyliks were the Karamanids and the Germiyanids in the central area. Along the Aegean coast, from north to south, stretched Karasids, Sarukhanids, Aydinids, Menteşe and Teke principalities. The Jandarids (later called Isfendiyarids) controlled the Black Sea region round Kastamonu and Sinop.

The Beylik of the Ottoman Dynasty was situated in the northwest of Anatolia, around Söğüt, and it was a small and insignificant state at that time. The Ottoman beylik would, however, evolve into the Ottoman Empire over the next 200 years, expanding throughout the Balkans, Anatolia.

Iranian Armenia

Iranian Armenia (1502–1828) refers to the period of Eastern Armenia during the early-modern and late-modern era when it was part of the Iranian empire. Armenians have a history of being divided since the time of the Byzantine Empire and the Sassanid Empire, in the early 5th century.

While the two sides of Armenia were sometimes reunited, this became a permanent aspect of the Armenian people. Following the Arab and Seljuk conquests of Armenia, the western portion, which was initially part of Byzantium, became eventually part of the Ottoman Empire, otherwise known as Ottoman Armenia, while the eastern portion became and was kept part of the Iranian Safavid Empire, Afsharid Empire and Qajar Empire, until it became part of the Russian Empire in the course of the 19th century, following the Treaty of Turkmenchay of 1828.

Due to its strategic significance, Armenia was constantly fought over and passed back and forth between the dominion of Iran and the Ottomans. At the height of the Ottoman-Persian Wars, Yerevan changed hands fourteen times between 1513 and 1737.

In 1604, Shah Abbas I pursued a scorched earth campaign against the Ottomans in the Ararat valley. The old Armenian town of Julfa in the province of Nakhichevan was taken early in the invasion.

From there, Abbas’ army fanned out across the Araratian plain. The Shah pursued a careful strategy, advancing and retreating as the occasion demanded, determined not to risk his enterprise in a direct confrontation with stronger enemy forces.

While laying siege to Kars, he learned of the approach of a large Ottoman army, commanded by Djghazadé Sinan Pasha. The order to withdraw was given; but to deny the enemy the potential to resupply themselves from the land, he ordered the wholesale destruction of the Armenian towns and farms on the plain.

As part of this, the whole population was ordered to accompany the Iranian army in its withdrawal. Some 300,000 people were duly herded to the banks of the Araxes River. Julfa was treated as a special case; he entrusted its evacuation to a renegade Georgian prince, Hanis Thahmaz-Ghuli Bek.

He told Julfa’s residents that they had three days to prepare for deportation to Iran; anyone still in town after those three days would be killed. Those who attempted to resist the mass deportation were killed outright.

The Shah had previously ordered the destruction of the only bridge, and although Iranian soldiers helped the Julfaites to cross on horses and camels, the rest of the deportees had to cross on their own, so people were forced into the waters, where a great many drowned, carried away by the currents, before reaching the opposite bank. This was only the beginning of their ordeal. One eyewitness, Father de Guyan, describes the predicament of the refugees thus:

It was not only the winter cold that was causing torture and death to the deportees. The greatest suffering came from hunger. The provisions which the deportees had brought with them were soon consumed… The children were crying for food or milk, none of which existed, because the women’s breasts had dried up from hunger…

Many women, hungry and exhausted, would leave their famished children on the roadside, and continue their tortuous journey. Some would go to nearby forests in search of something to eat. Usually they would not come back. Often those who died, served as food for the living.

Unable to maintain his army on the desolate plain, Sinan Pasha was forced to winter in Van. Armies sent in pursuit of the Shah in 1605 were defeated, and by 1606 Abbas had regained all of the territory lost to the Turks earlier in his reign. The scorched-earth tactic had worked, though at a terrible cost to the Armenian people. Of the 300,000 deported, it is estimated that under half survived the march to Isfahan.

In the conquered territories, Abbas established the Erivan khanate, a Muslim principality under the dominion of the Safavid Empire. As a result of the continuous wars in the region and Shah Abbas I’s deportation of much of the Armenian population from the Ararat valley and the surrounding region, in 1605 Armenians formed less than 20% of its population.

Erivan Khanate

Persian Armenia

Due to its strategic significance, the historical Armenian homelands of Western Armenia and Eastern Armenia was constantly fought over and passed back and forth between Safavid Persia and the Ottomans. For example, at the height of the Ottoman-Persian wars, Yerevan changed hands fourteen times between 1513 and 1737.

Nevertheless, Greater Armenia was annexed in the early 16th century by Shah Ismail I. Following the Peace of Amasya of 1555, Western Armenia fell into the neighbouring Ottoman hands, while Eastern Armenia stayed part of Safavid Iran, until the 19th century.

In 1604, Shah Abbas I pursued a scorched-earth campaign against the Ottomans in the Ararat valley during the Ottoman–Safavid War (1603–18). The old Armenian town of Julfa in the province of Nakhichevan was taken early in the invasion.

From there Abbas’ army fanned out across the Araratian plain. The Shah pursued a careful strategy, advancing and retreating as the occasion demanded, determined not to risk his enterprise in a direct confrontation with stronger enemy forces.

While laying siege to Kars, he learned of the approach of a large Ottoman army, commanded by Djghazadé Sinan Pasha. The order to withdraw was given; but to deny the enemy the potential to resupply themselves from the land, he ordered the wholesale destruction of the Armenian towns and farms on the plain. As part of this the whole population was ordered to accompany the Persian army in its withdrawal. Some 300,000 people were duly herded to the banks of the Araxes River.

Those who attempted to resist the mass deportation were killed outright. The Shah had previously ordered the destruction of the only bridge, so people were forced into the waters, where a great many drowned, carried away by the currents, before reaching the opposite bank. This was only the beginning of their ordeal. One eye-witness, Father de Guyan, describes the predicament of the refugees thus:

It was not only the winter cold that was causing torture and death to the deportees. The greatest suffering came from hunger. The provisions which the deportees had brought with them were soon consumed … The children were crying for food or milk, none of which existed, because the women’s breasts had dried up from hunger …

Many women, hungry and exhausted, would leave their famished children on the roadside, and continue their tortuous journey. Some would go to nearby forests in search of something to eat. Usually they would not come back. Often those who died, served as food for the living.

Unable to maintain his army on the desolate plain, Sinan Pasha was forced to winter in Van. Armies sent in pursuit of the Shah in 1605 were defeated, and by 1606 Abbas had regained all of the territory lost to the Turks earlier in his reign. The scorched-earth tactic had worked, though at a terrible cost to the Armenian people.

Of the 300,000 deported it is calculated that less than half survived the march to Isfahan. In the conquered territories Abbas established the Erivan Khanate, a Muslim principality under the dominion of the Safavid Empire. Armenians formed less than 20% of its population as a result of Shah Abbas I’s deportation of many of the Armenian population from the Ararat valley and the surrounding region in 1605.

An often-used policy by the Persians was the appointment of Turks as local rulers as so called khans of their various khanates. These were counted as subordinate to the Persian Empire. Examples include: the Khanate of Erevan, Khanate of Nakhichevan and the Karabakh Khanate.

Even though Western Armenia had already once been conquered by the Ottomans following the Peace of Amasya, Greater Armenia was eventually decisively divided between the vying rivals, the Ottomans and the Safavids, in the first half of the 17th century following the Ottoman–Safavid War (1623–39) and the resulting Treaty of Zuhab under which Eastern Armenia remained under Persian rule, and Western Armenia remained under Ottoman rule.

Persia continued to rule Eastern Armenia, which included all of the modern-day Armenian Republic, until the first half of the 19th century. By the late 18th century, Imperial Russia had started to encroach to the south into the land of its neighbours; Qajar Iran and Ottoman Turkey.

In 1804, Pavel Tsitsianov invaded the Iranian town of Ganja and massacred many of its inhabitants while making the rest flee deeper within the borders of Qajar Iran. This was a declaration of war and regarded as an invasion of Iranian territory. It was the beginning of the Russo-Persian War (1804-1813).

The following years were devastating for the Iranian towns in the Caucasus as well as the inhabitants of the region, as well as for the Persian army. The war eventually ended in 1813 with a Russian victory after their successful storming of Lankaran in early 1813.

The Treaty of Gulistan that was signed in the same year forced Qajar Iran to irrevocably cede significant amounts of its Caucasian territories to Russia, comprising modern-day Dagestan, Georgia, and most of what is today the Republic of Azerbaijan. Karabakh was also ceded to Russia by Persia.

The Persians were severely dissatisfied with the outcome of the war which led to the ceding of so much Persian territory to the Russians. As a result, the next war between Russia and Persia was inevitable, namely the Russo-Persian War (1826-1828).

However, this war ended even more disastrously, as the Russians not only occupied as far as Tabriz, the ensuing treaty that followed, namely the Treaty of Turkmenchay of 1828, forced it to irrevocably cede its last remaining territories in the Caucasus, comprising all of modern-day Armenia, Nakhchivan and Igdir.

By 1828, Persia had lost Eastern Armenia, which included the territory of the modern-day Armenian Republic after centuries of rule. From 1828 until 1991, Eastern Armenia would enter a Russian dominated chapter. Following Russia’s conquest of all of Qajar Iran’s Caucasian territories, many Armenian families were encouraged to settle in the newly conquered Russian territories.

Persian Armenia

Treaty of Turkmenchay

Treaty of Gulistan

The Ottoman Empire

The Ottoman Empire (Ottoman Turkish:‎ Devlet-i ʿAlīye-i ʿOsmānīye, literally “The Exalted Ottoman State”) was a state and caliphate that controlled much of Southeast Europe, Western Asia and North Africa between the 14th and early 20th centuries. It was founded at the end of the 13th century in northwestern Anatolia in the town of Söğüt (modern-day Bilecik Province) by the Oghuz Turkish tribal leader Osman I.

Although initially the dynasty was of Turkic origin, it was Persianised in terms of language, culture, literature and habits. After 1354, the Ottomans crossed into Europe, and with the conquest of the Balkans, the Ottoman beylik was transformed into a transcontinental empire. The Ottomans ended the Byzantine Empire with the 1453 conquest of Constantinople by Mehmed the Conqueror.

During the 16th and 17th centuries, at the height of its power under the reign of Suleiman the Magnificent, the Ottoman Empire was a multinational, multilingual empire controlling most of Southeast Europe, parts of Central Europe, Western Asia, parts of Eastern Europe and the Caucasus, North Africa and the Horn of Africa.

At the beginning of the 17th century, the empire contained 32 provinces and numerous vassal states. Some of these were later absorbed into the Ottoman Empire, while others were granted various types of autonomy during the course of centuries.

With Constantinople as its capital and control of lands around the Mediterranean Basin, the Ottoman Empire was at the centre of interactions between the Eastern and Western worlds for six centuries. While the empire was once thought to have entered a period of decline following the death of Suleiman the Magnificent, this view is no longer supported by the majority of academic historians.

The empire continued to maintain a flexible and strong economy, society and military throughout the 17th and much of the 18th century. However, during a long period of peace from 1740 to 1768, the Ottoman military system fell behind that of their European rivals, the Habsburg and Russian empires.

The Ottomans consequently suffered severe military defeats in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, which prompted them to initiate a comprehensive process of reform and modernisation known as the Tanzimat. Thus, over the course of the 19th century, the Ottoman state became vastly more powerful and organised, despite suffering further territorial losses, especially in the Balkans, where a number of new states emerged.


Ottoman Anatolia

Ottoman Armenia

Mehmed II conquered Constantinople from the Byzantines in 1453, and made it the Ottoman Empire’s capital. Mehmed and his successors used the religious systems of their subject nationalities as a method of population control, and so Ottoman Sultans invited an Armenian archbishop to establish the Armenian Patriarchate of Constantinople. The Armenians of Constantinople grew in numbers, and became respected, if not full, members of Ottoman society.

The Ottoman Empire ruled in accordance to Islamic law. As such, the People of the Book (the Christians and the Jews) had to pay an extra tax to fulfil their status as dhimmi and in return were guaranteed religious autonomy. While the Armenians of Constantinople benefited from the Sultan’s support and grew to be a prospering community, the same could not be said about the ones inhabiting historic Armenia.

During times of crisis the ones in the remote regions of mountainous eastern Anatolia were mistreated by local Kurdish chiefs and feudal lords. They often also had to suffer (alongside the settled Muslim population) raids by nomadic Kurdish tribes.

Armenians, like the other Ottoman Christians (though not to the same extent), had to transfer some of their healthy male children to the Sultan’s government due to the devşirme policies in place. The boys were then forced to convert to Islam (by threat of death otherwise) and educated to be fierce warriors in times of war, as well as Beys, Pashas and even Grand Viziers in times of peace.

Armenians preserved their culture, history, and language through the course of time, largely thanks to their distinct religious identity among the neighboring Turks and Kurds. Like the Greek Orthodox and Jewish minorities of the Ottoman Empire, they constituted a distinct millet, led by the Armenian Patriarch of Constantinople.

Under this system, Christians and Jews were considered religious minorities/second-class citizens; they were subjected to elevated taxation, but in return they were granted autonomy within their own religious communities and were exempted from military service.

Growing religious and political influence from neighboring communities necessitated implementation of security measures that often required a longer waiting period for minorities to seek legal recourse in the courts. Under Ottoman rule, Armenians formed three distinct millets: Armenian Orthodox Gregorians, Armenian Catholics, and Armenian Protestants (in the 19th century).

After many centuries of Turkish rule in Anatolia and Armenia (at first by the Seljuks, then a variety of Anatolian beyliks and finally the Ottomans), the centres with a high concentration of Armenians lost their geographic continuity (parts of Van, Bitlis, and Kharput vilayets).

Over the centuries, tribes of Turks and Kurds settled into Anatolia and Armenia, which was left severely depopulated by a slew of devastating events such as the Byzantine-Persian Wars, Byzantine-Arab Wars, Turkish Invasions, Mongol Invasions and finally the bloody campaigns of Tamerlane.

In addition, there were the century-long Ottoman-Persian Wars between the rival empires, the battlegrounds of which ranged over Western Armenia (therefore large parts of the native lands of the Armenians), causing the region and its peoples to be passed between the Ottomans and Persians numerous times. The wars between the arch-rivals started from the early 16th century and lasted till well into the 19th century, having disastrous effects for the native inhabitants of these regions, including the Armenians of Western Armenia.

Owing to these events, the composition of the population had undergone (ever since the second half of the medieval period) a transformation so profound that the Armenians constituted, over the whole extent of their ancient homeland, no more than a quarter of the total inhabitants.

Despite this they kept and defended factual autonomy in certain isolated areas like Sassoun, Shatakh, and parts of Dersim. An Armenian stronghold and a symbol of factual Armenian autonomy, Zeitoun (Ulnia) was located between the Six Vilayets and Cilicia, which also had a strong Armenian presence ever since the creation of the Principality (and then Kingdom) of Lesser Armenia.

However, the destruction of the Kingdom by the Ramadanid tribe and the subsequent rule by Muslim powers such as the Dulkadirids, the Mamluks and the Ottomans led to ever increasing numbers of Muslims in the region until finally the genocide removed the remaining vestiges of the Armenian people.

There were also significant communities in parts of Trebizond and Ankara vilayets bordering Six vilayets (such as in Kayseri). After the Ottoman conquests many Armenians also moved west and settled in Anatolia, in large and prosperous Ottoman cities like Istanbul and Izmir.

The Armenian national liberation movement was the Armenian effort to free the historic Armenian homeland of eastern Anatolia and Transcaucasus from Russian and Ottoman domination and re-establish the independent Armenian state. The national liberation movement of the Balkan peoples and the immediate involvement of the European powers in the Eastern question had a powerful effect on the development of the national liberation ideology movement among the Armenians of the Ottoman Empire.

The Armenian national movement, besides its individual heroes, was an organized activity represented around three parties of Armenian people, Social Democrat Hunchakian Party, Armenakan and Armenian Revolutionary Federation, which ARF was the largest and most influential among the three.

Those Armenians who did not support national liberation aspirations or who were neutral were called chezoks. In 1839, the situation of the Ottoman Armenians slightly improved after Abdul Mejid I carried out Tanzimat reforms in its territories. However, later Sultans, such as Abdul Hamid II stopped the reforms and carried out massacres, now known as the Hamidian massacres of 1895–96 leading to a failed Armenian attempt to assassinate him.

Armenians in the Ottoman Empire

Modern Times

With the acceleration of the decline of the Ottoman Empire in the early 19th century, and as a result of the expansionist policies of the Russian Empire in the Caucasus, many Muslim nations and groups in that region, mainly Circassians, Tatars, Azeris, Lezgis, Chechens and several Turkic groups left their homelands and settled in Anatolia.

As the Ottoman Empire further shrank in the Balkan regions and then fragmented during the Balkan Wars, much of the non-Christian populations of its former possessions, mainly Balkan Muslims (Bosnian Muslims, Albanians, Turks, Muslim Bulgarians and Greek Muslims such as the Vallahades from Greek Macedonia), were resettled in various parts of Anatolia, mostly in formerly Christian villages throughout Anatolia.

A continuous reverse migration occurred since the early 19th century, when Greeks from Anatolia, Constantinople and Pontus area migrated toward the newly independent Kingdom of Greece, and also towards the United States, southern part of the Russian Empire, Latin America and rest of Europe.

Following the Russo-Persian Treaty of Turkmenchay (1828) and the incorporation of the Eastern Armenia into the Russian Empire, another migration involved the large Armenian population of Anatolia, which recorded significant migration rates from Western Armenia (Eastern Anatolia) toward the Russian Empire, especially toward its newly established Armenian provinces.

Russian Armenia

In the aftermath of the Russo-Persian War, 1826-1828, the parts of historic Armenia (also known as Eastern Armenia) under Persian control, centering on Yerevan and Lake Sevan, were incorporated into Russia after Qajar Persia’s forced ceding in 1828 per the Treaty of Turkmenchay.

Under Russian rule, the area corresponding approximately to modern-day Armenian territory was called “Province of Yerevan”. The Armenian subjects of the Russian Empire lived in relative safety, compared to their Ottoman kin, albeit clashes with Tatars and Kurds were frequent in the early 20th century.

The Treaty of Turkmenchay of 1828 had further stipulated the rights of the Russian Tsar to resettle Persian Armenians within the newly conquered Caucasus region, which had been taken over from Iran. Following the resettlement of Persian Armenians alone in the newly conquered Russian territories, significant demographic shifts were bound to take place. The Armenian-American historian George Bournoutian gives a summary of the ethnic make up after those events:

In the first quarter of the 19th century the Khanate of Erevan included most of Eastern Armenia and covered an area of approximately 7,000 square miles [18,000 km2]. The land was mountainous and dry, the population of about 100,000 was roughly 80 percent Muslim (Persian, Azeri, Kurdish) and 20 percent Christian (Armenian).

After the incorporation of the Erivan khanate into the Russian Empire, Muslim majority of the area gradually changed, at first the Armenians who were left captive were encouraged to return.

As a result of which an estimated 57,000 Armenian refugees from Persia returned to the territory of the Erivan Khanate after 1828, while about 35,000 Muslims (Persians, Turkic groups, Kurds, Lezgis, etc.) out total population of over 100,000 left the region.

Russian Armenia

The Eastern Question

In diplomatic history, the “Eastern Question” refers to the strategic competition and political considerations of the European Great Powers in light of the political and economic instability in the Ottoman Empire from the late 18th to early 20th centuries.

Characterized as the “sick man of Europe”, the relative weakening of the empire’s military strength in the second half of the eighteenth century threatened to undermine the fragile balance of power system largely shaped by the Concert of Europe.

The Eastern Question encompassed myriad interrelated elements: Ottoman military defeats, Ottoman institutional insolvency, the ongoing Ottoman political and economic modernization programme, the rise of ethno-religious nationalism in its provinces, and Great Power rivalries.

While there is no specific date on which the Eastern Question began, the Russo-Turkish War (1828-29) brought the issue to the attention of the European powers, Russia and Britain in particular. As the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire was believed to be imminent, the European powers engaged in a power struggle to safeguard their military, strategic and commercial interests in the Ottoman domains.

Imperial Russia stood to benefit from the decline of the Ottoman Empire; on the other hand, Austria-Hungary and Great Britain deemed the preservation of the Empire to be in their best interests. The Eastern Question was put to rest after World War I, one of the outcomes of which was the collapse and division of the Ottoman holdings.

1877–1878 Russo-Turkish War

The Armenian Question

The term “Armenian Question”, as used in European history, became commonplace among diplomatic circles and in the popular press after the Congress of Berlin in 1878. As with the Eastern Question, it refers to Europe’s involvement with the Armenian subjects of the Ottoman Empire, beginning with the Russo-Turkish War of 1877–78.

In specific terms, the Armenian question refers to the protection and the freedoms of Armenians from their neighboring communities. The “Armenian Question” explains the 40 years of Armenian-Ottoman history in the context of English, German, and Russian politics between 1877–1914.

The term “Armenian Question” is also often used to refer to the question of Turkey’s lack of acknowledgement of the events surrounding the Armenian Genocide (1915-1923), the systematic mass murder and expulsion of 1.5 million ethnic Armenians carried out in Turkey and adjoining regions by the Ottoman government between 1914 and 1923.

Beginning in the mid-19th century, the Great Powers took issue with the Ottoman Empire’s treatment of its Christian minorities and increasingly pressured it to extend equal rights to all its citizens. Following the violent suppression of Christians in the uprisings in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, and Serbia in 1875, the Great Powers invoked the 1856 Treaty of Paris, claiming it provided the authority for their intervention to protect the Ottoman Empire’s Christian minorities.

By the late 1870s, the Greeks, along with several other Christian nations in the Balkans, frustrated with their conditions, had, with the help of the Powers, broken free of Ottoman rule. The Armenians, on the other hand, received less interest and no support that was not later withdrawn by the Great Powers. Their status during these years was relatively stagnant, and they were referred to as millet-i sadıka or the “loyal millet” in the Ottoman Empire.

Many Armenians in the Eastern provinces of the Ottoman Empire, living under the threat of unchecked violence and depredation on the part of aggressive neighboring peoples, greeted the advancing Russian army as liberators.

In January 1878, Armenian Patriarch of Constantinople Nerses II Varzhapetian approached the Russian leadership to receive assurances that Russia would introduce provisions for Armenian self-administration in the new peace treaty.

Most Armenians lived in provinces bordering Russia and not any other European states. By the Treaty of Adrianople, the Ottoman Empire ceded Akhalkalak and Akhaltsikhe to Russia. Some 25,000 Ottoman Armenians moved to Russian Armenia, emigrating from other areas of the empire. The Armenians began to look more toward the Russian Empire as the ultimate guarantors of their security.

In March 1878, after the conclusion of the Russo-Turkish War (1877–1878), the Armenian Patriarch of Constantinople, Nerses II Varzhaptian (1874–1884), forwarded Armenian complaints of widespread “forced land seizure … forced conversion of women and children, arson, protection racket, rape, and murder” to the Powers.

Patriarch Nerses Varjabedyan convinced Russians to insert Article 16 to Treaty of San Stefano, a treaty between Russia and the Ottoman Empire signed at San Stefano, then a village west of Constantinople, on 3 March [O.S. 19 February] 1878, stipulating that the Russian forces occupying the Armenian-populated provinces in the eastern Ottoman Empire would withdraw only with the full implementation of reforms.

But, in June 1878, Great Britain objected to Russia holding on to so much Ottoman territory and forced it to enter into new negotiations under the Congress of Berlin. Article 16 was modified so that all mention of the Russian forces remaining in the provinces was removed. Instead, the Ottoman government was periodically to inform the Great Powers of the progress of the reforms.

The Armenian National Assembly and Patriarch Nerses Varjabedyan asked Mkrtich Khrimian, his predecessor on Patriarchal See and future Catholicos, to present the case for the Armenians at Berlin. An Armenian delegation led by Mkrtich Khrimian traveled to Berlin to present the case of the Armenians but, much to its dismay, it was left out of the negotiations.

Following the Berlin negotiations, Mkrtich Khrimian gave a famous patriotic speech, “The Paper Ladle,” advising Armenians to take the national awakening of Bulgaria (Liberation of Bulgaria) as a model for the hopes for self-determination. In Bulgarian historiography, Liberation of Bulgaria means the events of the Russo-Turkish War of 1877-78 that led to the re-establishment of the Bulgarian sovereign state with the Treaty of San Stefano.

In 1880, the Armenians, especially encouraged by the prime minister Gladstone, broached the Armenian issue with the words, “To serve Armenia is to serve the Civilization”. On 11 June 1880, the Great Powers sent to porte an “Identic Note” which asked for the enforcement of Article 61. This was followed on 2 January 1881 with a “British Circular on Armenia” sent to the other Powers.

The Hamidian massacres, also referred to as the Armenian Massacres of 1894–1896 and Armenian genocide, were massacres of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire that took place in the mid-1890s. It was estimated casualties ranged from 80,000 to 300,000, resulting in 50,000 orphaned children.

The massacres are named after Sultan Abdul Hamid II, who, in his efforts to maintain the imperial domain of the collapsing Ottoman Empire, reasserted Pan-Islamism as a state ideology. Although the massacres were aimed mainly at the Armenians, they turned into indiscriminate anti-Christian pogroms in some cases, such as the Diyarbekir massacre, where, at least according to one contemporary source, up to 25,000 Assyrians were also killed.

The massacres began in the Ottoman interior in 1894, before becoming more widespread in the following years. Between 1894 and 1896 was when the majority of the murders took place. This occurred at a time when the telegraph could spread news around the world, and the massacres received extensive coverage in the media of Western Europe and North America.

The harshest measures were directed against the long persecuted Armenian community as calls for civil reform and better treatment from the government went ignored. The Ottomans made no allowances for the victims’ age or gender, and massacred all with brutal force. The massacres began tapering off in 1897, following international condemnation of Abdul Hamid.

In the early 20th century, the empire allied with Germany, hoping to escape from the diplomatic isolation which had contributed to its recent territorial losses, and thus joined World War I on the side of the Central Powers.

National Awakening

The remaining Ottoman Armenia, composed of the Six vilayets (Erzurum, Van, Bitlis, Diyarbekir, Kharput, and Sivas) up to World War I, under Ottoman rule, was also referred to as Western Armenia.

Aside from the learned professions taught at the schools that had opened throughout the Ottoman Empire, the chief occupations were trade and commerce, industry, and agriculture. The peasants were agriculturists.

In the empire Armenians were raised to higher occupations, like Calouste Sarkis Gulbenkian was a businessman and philanthropist. He played a major role in making the petroleum reserves of the Middle East available to Western development.

The Armenian Press and literature during this period established institutions that were critical; this attitude has been invaluable in reforming abuses and introducing improvements in Armenian communities.

Thus their critical instinct was positive, rather than negative. Armenians organised themselves for different objects; witness their numerous societies, clubs, political parties, and other associations. Hovsep Pushman was a painter who become very famous in the Empire.

During this period Armenians would establish a church, a school, a library, and a newspaper. Sargis Mubayeajian was a prolific and multifarious writer educated in Constantinople. Many of his works are still scattered in Armenian periodicals.

Many Armenians, who after having emigrated to foreign countries and becoming prosperous there, returned to their native land. Alex Manoogian who became a philanthropist and active member of the Armenian General Benevolent Union was from Ottoman lands (modern Izmir), Arthur Edmund Carewe, born Trebizond, become an actor in the silent film era.

Armenians occupied important posts within the Ottoman Empire, Artin Dadyan Pasha served as Minister of foreign affairs of the Ottoman Empire from 1876 to 1901 and is an example that Armenian citizens served the Ottoman Empire.

The Eastern Question (normally dated to 1774) is used in European history to refer to the diplomatic and political problems posed by the decay of the Ottoman Empire during the 18th century; including instability in the territories ruled by the Ottoman Empire.

The position of educated and privileged Christians within the Ottoman Empire improved in the 17th and 18th centuries, and the Ottomans increasingly recognized the missing skills which the larger Ottoman population lacked, and as the empire became more settled it began to feel its increasing backwardness in relation to the European powers.

European powers on the other side, engaged in a power struggle to safeguard their militaristic, strategic and commercial interests in the Empire, this gave motivation to the powers to help people in need.

The rise of nationalism under the Ottoman Empire as a direct result of enlightenment of Christian millets through education, was the dominant theme. Armenians, However, for the most part, remained passive during these years, earning them the title of millet-i sadıka or the “loyal millet.”

The Eastern Question gained even more traction by the late 1820s, due to the Greek Enlightenment and Greek War of Independence setting an example for making independence against the Ottomans, and along with several countries of the Balkans, frustrated with conditions, had, often with the help of the Powers, broken free of Ottoman rule.

The Great Power Imperial Russia stood to benefit from the decline of the Ottoman Empire; on the other hand, Austria and the United Kingdom deemed the preservation of Empire to be in their best interests. The position of France changed several times over the centuries.

Armenian involvement on the international stage would have to wait until the Armenian national awakening, which the Armenian Question as used in European history, became commonplace among diplomatic circles and in the popular press after the Congress of Berlin (1878).

The Armenian national ideology developed long after the Greek movement. However, the factors contributing to the emergence of Armenian nationalism made the movement far more similar to that of the Greeks than those of other ethnic groups.

The three major European powers: Great Britain, France and Russia (known as the Great Powers), took issue with the Empire’s treatment of its Christian minorities and increasingly pressured the Ottoman government (also known as the Sublime Porte) to extend equal rights to all its citizens.

Beginning in 1839, the Ottoman government implemented the Tanzimat reforms to improve the situation of minorities, although these would prove largely ineffective. In 1856, the Hatt-ı Hümayun promised equality for all Ottoman citizens irrespective of their ethnicity and confession, widening the scope of the 1839 Hatt-ı Şerif of Gülhane.

The reformist period peaked with the Constitution, called the Kanûn-ı Esâsî (meaning “Basic Law” in Ottoman Turkish), written by members of the Young Ottomans, which was promulgated on 23 November 1876.

It established freedom of belief and equality of all citizens before the law. “Firman of the Reforms” gave immense privileges to the Armenians, which formed a “governance in governance” to eliminate the aristocratic dominance of the Armenian nobles by development of the political strata in the society.

In 1863, the Armenian National Constitution (Ottoman Turkish:”Nizâmnâme-i Millet-i Ermeniyân”) was Ottoman Empire approved. It was a form of the “Code of Regulations” composed of 150 articles drafted by the “Armenian intelligentsia”, which defined the powers of Patriarch (a position in the Ottoman Millet) and newly formed “Armenian National Assembly”. Mikrtich issued a decree permitting women to have equal votes with men and asking them to take part in all elections.

The Armenian National Assembly had wide-ranging functions. Muslim officials were not employed to collect taxes in Armenian villages, but the taxes in all the Armenian villages collected by Armenian tax-gatherers appointed by the Armenian National Assembly.

Armenians were allowed to establish their own courts of justice for the purpose of administering justice and conducting litigation between Armenians, and for deciding all questions relating to marriage, divorce, estate, inheritance, etc., appertaining to themselves. Also Armenians were allowed the right to establish their own prisons for the incarceration of offending Armenians, and in no case should an Armenian be imprisoned in an Ottoman prison.

The Armenian National Assembly also had the power to elect the Armenian Governor by a local Armenian legislative council. The councils later will be part of elections during second constitutional era. Local Armenian legislative councils were composed of six Armenians elected by the Armenian National Assembly.

Beginning in 1863, education was available to all subjects, as far as funds permitted it. Such education was under the direction of lay committees. During this period in Russian Armenia, the association of the schools with the Church was close, but the same principle obtains.

This became a problem for the Russian administration, which peaked during 1897 when Tsar Nicholas appointed the Armenophobic Grigory Sergeyevich Golitsin as governor of Transcaucasia, and Armenian schools, cultural associations, newspapers and libraries were closed.

The Armenian charitable works, hospitals, and provident institutions were organized along the explained perspective. The Armenians, in addition to paying taxes to the State, voluntarily imposed extra burdens on themselves in order to support these philanthropic agencies. The taxes to the State did not have direct return to Armenians in such cases.

The Armenian Question, as used in European history, became common place among diplomatic circles and in the popular press after the Congress of Berlin (1878); that in like Eastern Question (normally dated to 1774), refers to powers of Europe’s involvement to the Armenian subjects of the Ottoman Empire beginning with the Russo-Turkish War of 1877-78.

However, in specific terms, the Armenian question refers to the protection and the freedoms of Armenians from their neighboring communities. The “Armenian question” explains the forty years of Armenian-Ottoman history in the context of English, German, Russian politics between 1877 and 1914.

The national liberation movement of the Balkan peoples (see: national awakenings in Balkans) and the immediate involvement of the European powers in the Eastern question had a powerful effect on the hitherto suppressed national movement among the Armenians of the Ottoman Empire – on the development of a national liberation ideology.

The Armenian national liberation movement was the Armenian national effort to free the historic Armenian homeland of eastern Asia Minor and Transcaucasus from Russian and Ottoman domination and re-establish the independent Armenian state. Those Armenians who did not support national liberation aspirations or who were neutral were called chezoks.

Abdul Hamid II was the 34th Sultan and oversaw a period of decline in the power and extent of the Empire, ruling from 31 August 1876 until he was deposed on 27 April 1909. He was the last Ottoman Sultan to rule with absolute power.

The Bashkaleh clash was the bloody encounter between the Armenakan Party and the Ottoman Empire in May 1889. Its name comes from Başkale, a border town of Van Eyalet of the Ottoman Empire. The event was important, as it was reflected in main Armenian newspapers as the recovered documents on the Armenakans showed an extensive plot for a national movement.

Ottoman officials believed that the men were members of a large revolutionary apparatus and the discussion was reflected on newspapers, (Eastern Express, Oriental Advertiser, Saadet, and Tarik) and the responses were on the Armenian papers. In some Armenian circles, this event was considered as a martyrdom and brought other armed conflicts.

The Bashkaleh Resistance was on the Persian border, which the Armenakans were in communication with Armenians in the Persian Empire. The Gugunian Expedition, which followed within the couple months, was an attempt by a small group of Armenian nationalists from the Russian Armenia to launch an armed expedition across the border into the Ottoman Empire in 1890 in support of local Armenians.

The Kum Kapu demonstration occurred at the Armenian quarter of Kum Kapu, the seat of the Armenian Patriarch, was spared through the prompt action of the commandant, Hassan Aga.

On 27 July 1890, Harutiun Jangülian, Mihran Damadian and Hambartsum Boyajian interrupted the Armenian mass to read a manifesto and denounce the indifference of the Armenian patriarch and Armenian National Assembly. Harutiun Jangülian (member from Van) tried to assassinate the Patriarch of Istanbul.

The goal was to persuade the Armenian clerics to bring their policies into alignment with the national politics. They soon forced the patriarch to join the procession heading to the Yildiz Palace to demand implementation of Article 61 of the Treaty of Berlin.

It is significant that this massacre, in which 6000 Armenians are said to have perished, was not the result of a general rising of the Muslim population. The Softas took no part in it, and many Armenians found refuge in the Muslim sections of the city.

The first notable battle in the Armenian resistance movement took place in Sassoun, where nationalist ideals were proliferated by Hunchak activists, such as Mihran Damadian and Hampartsoum Boyadjian.

The Armenian Revolutionary Federation also played a significant role in arming the people of the region. The Armenians of Sassoun confronted the Ottoman army and Kurdish irregulars at Sassoun, succumbing to superior numbers.

This was followed by Zeitun Rebellion (1895–96), which took place between 1891 and 1895, Hunchak activists toured various regions of Cilicia and Zeitun to encourage resistance, and established new branches of the Social Democrat Hunchakian Party.

The 1896 Ottoman Bank takeover was perpetrated by an Armenian group armed with pistols, grenades, dynamite and hand-held bombs against the Ottoman Bank in Istanbul. The seizure of the bank lasted 14 hours, resulting in the deaths of 10 of the Armenian men and Ottoman soldiers.

The Ottoman reaction to takeover saw further massacres and pogroms of the several thousand Armenians living in Constantinople and Sultan Abdul Hamid II threatening to level the entire building itself.

However, intervention on part of the European diplomats in the city managed to persuade the men to give, assigning safe passage to the survivors to France. Despite the level of violence the incident had wrought, the takeover was reported positively in the European press, praising the men for their courage and the objectives they attempted to accomplish.

The years between 1894 and 1896 ended, with estimates of the dead ranging from 80,000 to 300,000. The Hamidian massacres are named for Sultan Abdul Hamid II, whose efforts to reinforce the territorial integrity of the embattled Ottoman Empire resulted in the massacres.

Ottoman officials involved in the Sasun uprising, who were previously defeated in the First Zeitoun Rebellion, did not want the formation of another semi-autonomous Armenian region in the “Eastern” vilayets. In Sasun, Armenian activists were working to arm the folk and to recruit young men by motivating them to the Armenian cause. 50,000 Turkish and Kurdish troops started the offensive in Sasun, where 500 fedayees had to defend 20,000 unarmed people. The Armenians were headed by Andranik Ozanian along with Kevork Chavoush, Sepasdatsi Mourad, Keri, Hrayr Tjokhk, and others.

The events of the Hamidian massacres and Sultan Abdul Hamid II’s continued anti-Armenian policies gave way for the Armenian Revolutionary Federation to plan an assassination attempt on the sultan to enact vengeance. Dashnak members, led by ARF founder Christapor Mikaelian, secretly started producing explosives and planning the operation in Sofia, Bulgaria. The assassination attempt was unsuccessful in killing Abdul Hamid II, although it resulted in the death of 26 people and a further 58 wounded.

The Second Constitutional Era of the Empire began shortly after Sultan Abdülhamid II restored the constitutional monarchy after the 1908 Young Turk Revolution. The period established many political groups. A series of elections during this period resulted in the gradual ascendance of the Committee of Union and Progress’s (“CUP”) domination in politics. This period also marked the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire.

On 24 July 1908, Armenians’ hopes for equality in the empire brightened with the removal of Hamid II from power and restored the country back to a constitutional monarchy. Two of the largest revolutionary groups trying to overthrow Sultan Abdul Hamid II had been the Armenian Revolutionary Federation and the Committee of Union and Progress, a group of mostly European-educated Turks.

In a general assembly meeting in 1907, the ARF acknowledged that the Armenian and Turkish revolutionaries had the same goals. Although the Tanzimat reforms had given Armenians more rights and seats in the parliament, the ARF hoped to gain autonomy to govern Armenian populated areas of the Ottoman Empire as a “state within a state”. The “Second congress of the Ottoman opposition” took place in Paris, France, in 1907.

Opposition leaders including Ahmed Riza (liberal), Sabahheddin Bey, and ARF member Khachatur Maloumian attended. During the meeting, an alliance between the two parties was officially declared. The ARF decided to cooperate with the Committee of Union and Progress, hoping that if the Young Turks came to power, autonomy would be granted to the Armenians.

The Armenian reform package declared that the vilayets which Armenians living were to be under an inspectors general, (the map is an archive document of 1914 population statistics). The Armenian reform package was an arrangement negotiated with Russia, acting on behalf of the Great Powers, and the Ottoman Empire. It aimed to introduce reforms to the Armenian citizens of the empire.

This agreement, which was solidified in February 1914 was based on the arrangements nominally made in 1878. According to this arrangement the inspectors general, whose powers and duties constituted the key to the question, were to be named for a period of ten years, and their engagement was not to be revocable during that period.

With onslaught of World War I, the Ottoman Empire and Russian Empire engaged during the Caucasus and Persian Campaigns, and the CUP began to look on the Armenians with distrust and suspicion. This was due to the fact that the Russian army contained a contingent of Armenian volunteers.

On 24 April 1915, Armenian intellectuals were arrested by Ottoman authorities and, with the Tehcir Law (29 May 1915), eventually a large proportion of Armenians living in Western Armenia perished in what has become known as the Armenian Genocide.

There was local Armenian resistance in the region, developed against the activities of the Ottoman Empire. The events of 1915 to 1917 are regarded by Armenians, Western historians, and even some Turkish writers and historians like Taner Akçam and Orhan Pamuk, to have been state-sponsored and planned mass killings, or genocide.

Arab Revolt

While the Empire was able to largely hold its own during the conflict, it was struggling with internal dissent, especially with the Arab Revolt (Arabic: al-Thawra al-‘Arabiyya; Turkish: Arap İsyanı) or the Great Arab Revolt (Arabic: al-Thawra al-‘Arabiyya al-Kubrā), a military uprising of Arab forces against the Ottoman Empire in the Middle Eastern theatre of World War its Arabian holdings.

On the basis of the McMahon–Hussein Correspondence, an agreement between the British government and Hussein bin Ali, Sharif of Mecca, the revolt was officially initiated at Mecca on June 10, 1916. The aim of the revolt was to create a single unified and independent Arab state stretching from Aleppo in Syria to Aden in Yemen, which the British had promised to recognize.

The Sharifian Army led by Hussein and the Hashemites, with military backing from the British Egyptian Expeditionary Force, successfully fought and expelled the Ottoman military presence from much of the Hejaz and Transjordan. The rebellion eventually took Damascus and set up a short-lived monarchy led by Faisal, a son of Hussein.

Following the Sykes-Picot Agreement, the Middle East was later partitioned by the British and French into mandate territories rather than a unified Arab state, and the British reneged on their promise to support a unified independent Arab state.

Armenian Genocide

During this time, genocide was committed by the Ottoman government against the Armenians, Assyrians, and Greeks. The starting date is conventionally held to be 24 April 1915, the day that Ottoman authorities rounded up, arrested, and deported from Constantinople (now Istanbul) to the region of Angora (Ankara), 235 to 270 Armenian intellectuals and community leaders, the majority of whom were eventually murdered.

The genocide was carried out during and after World War I and implemented in two phases—the wholesale killing of the able-bodied male population through massacre and subjection of army conscripts to forced labour, followed by the deportation of women, children, the elderly, and the infirm on death marches leading to the Syrian Desert.

Driven forward by military escorts, the deportees were deprived of food and water and subjected to periodic robbery, rape, and massacre. Most Armenian diaspora communities around the world came into being as a direct result of the genocide.

Other ethnic groups were similarly targeted for extermination in the Assyrian genocide, also known as Sayfo or Seyfo (literally meaning “sword”), the mass slaughter of the Assyrian population of the Ottoman Empire and those in neighbouring Persia by Ottoman troops, and the Greek genocide, including the Pontic genocide, the systematic killing of the Christian Ottoman Greek population, and their treatment is considered by some historians to be part of the same genocidal policy.

The Assyrian civilian population of upper Mesopotamia (the Tur Abdin region, the Hakkâri, Van, and Siirt provinces of present-day southeastern Turkey, and the Urmia region of northwestern Iran) was forcibly relocated and massacred by the Ottoman army, together with other armed and allied Muslim peoples, including Kurds and Circassians, between 1914 and 1920, with further attacks on unarmed fleeing civilians conducted by local Arab militias.

Unlike the Armenians, there were no orders to deport Assyrians. The attacks against them were not of a standardized nature and incorporated various methods; in some cities, all Assyrian men were slain and the women were forced to flee.

These massacres were often carried out upon the initiatives of local politicians and Kurdish tribes. Exposure, disease and starvation during the flight of Assyrians increased the death toll, and women were subjected to widespread sexual abuse in some areas.

Estimates on the overall death toll have varied. Providing detailed statistics of the various estimates of the Churches’ population after the genocide, David Gaunt accepts the figure of 275,000 deaths as reported by the Assyrian delegation at the Treaty of Lausanne and ventures that the death toll would be around 300,000 because of uncounted Assyrian-inhabited areas.

The Greek genocide was instigated by the government of the Ottoman Empire and the Turkish national movement against the indigenous Greek population of the Empire and it included massacres, forced deportations involving death marches, summary expulsions, arbitrary execution, and the destruction of Eastern Orthodox cultural, historical, and religious monuments.

According to various sources, several hundred thousand Ottoman Greeks died during this period. Most of the refugees and survivors fled to Greece (adding over a quarter to the prior population of Greece). Some, especially those in Eastern provinces, took refuge in the neighbouring Russian Empire.

By late 1922 most of the Greeks of Asia Minor had either fled or had been killed. Those remaining were transferred to Greece under the terms of the later 1923 population exchange between Greece and Turkey, which formalized the exodus and barred the return of the refugees.

Raphael Lemkin was moved specifically by the annihilation of the Armenians to define systematic and premeditated exterminations within legal parameters and to coin the word genocide in 1943.

The Armenian Genocide is acknowledged to have been one of the first modern genocides, because scholars point to the organized manner in which the killings were carried out. It is the second-most-studied case of genocide after the Holocaust.

Turkey denies that the word genocide is an accurate term for these crimes, but in recent years has been faced with increasing calls to recognize them as such. As of 2019, governments and parliaments of 32 countries, including the United States, Russia, and Germany, have recognized the events as a genocide.

The Empire’s defeat and the occupation of part of its territory by the Allied Powers in the aftermath of World War I resulted in its partitioning and the loss of its Middle Eastern territories, which were divided between the United Kingdom and France.

The successful Turkish War of Independence led by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk against the occupying Allies led to the emergence of the Republic of Turkey in the Anatolian heartland and the abolition of the Ottoman monarchy.

Armenian Fedayi

Hamidian massacres

Abdul Hamid II

Armenian Revolutionary Federation

Young Turk Revolution

Adana massacre

Committee of Union and Progress

Armenian Genocide

Armenia was later divided between the Ottoman Empire and Russia. In the early 20th century Armenians suffered in the genocide inflicted on them by the Turkish Donmeh led by Ataturk, in which 1.5 million Armenians were killed and many more dispersed throughout the world via Syria and Lebanon.

During World War I, Armenians living in their ancestral lands in the Ottoman Empire were systematically exterminated in the Armenian Genocide (also known as the Armenian Holocaust), the systematic mass murder and expulsion of 1.5 million ethnic Armenians carried out in Turkey and adjoining regions by the Ottoman government between 1914 and 1923.

In 1918, following the Russian Revolution, all non-Russian countries declared their independence after the Russian Empire ceased to exist, leading to the establishment of the First Republic of Armenia.

By 1920, the state was incorporated into the Transcaucasian Socialist Federative Soviet Republic, and in 1922 became a founding member of the Soviet Union.

In 1936, the Transcaucasian state was dissolved, transforming its constituent states, including the Armenian Soviet Socialist Republic, into full Union republics. The modern Republic of Armenia became independent in 1991 during the dissolution of the Soviet Union.

Armenia, from then on corresponding to much of Eastern Armenia, regained independence in 1918, with the establishment of the Democratic Republic of Armenia, and in 1991, the Republic of Armenia.

The outbreak of World War I led to confrontation between the Ottoman Empire and the Russian Empire in the Caucasus and Persian Campaigns. The new government in Istanbul began to look on the Armenians with distrust and suspicion, because the Imperial Russian Army contained a contingent of Armenian volunteers.

On 24 April 1915, Armenian intellectuals were arrested by Ottoman authorities and, with the Tehcir Law (29 May 1915), eventually a large proportion of Armenians living in Anatolia perished in what has become known as the Armenian Genocide.

The genocide was implemented in two phases: the wholesale killing of the able-bodied male population through massacre and subjection of army conscripts to forced labour, followed by the deportation of women, children, the elderly and infirm on death marches leading to the Syrian desert.

Driven forward by military escorts, the deportees were deprived of food and water and subjected to periodic robbery, rape, and massacre. There was local Armenian resistance in the region, developed against the activities of the Ottoman Empire. The events of 1915 to 1917 are regarded by Armenians and the vast majority of Western historians to have been state-sponsored mass killings, or genocide.

Turkish authorities deny the genocide took place to this day. The Armenian Genocide is acknowledged to have been one of the first modern genocides. According to the research conducted by Arnold J. Toynbee, an estimated 600,000 Armenians died during deportation from 1915–16.

This figure, however, accounts for solely the first year of the Genocide and does not take into account those who died or were killed after the report was compiled on 24 May 1916. The International Association of Genocide Scholars places the death toll at “more than a million”. The total number of people killed has been most widely estimated at between 1 and 1.5 million.

Armenia and the Armenian diaspora have been campaigning for official recognition of the events as genocide for over 30 years. These events are traditionally commemorated yearly on 24 April, the Armenian Martyr Day, or the Day of the Armenian Genocide.

Armenian Genocide

Armenian Genocide

During this time, genocide was committed by the Ottoman government against the Armenians, Assyrians, and Greeks. The starting date is conventionally held to be 24 April 1915, the day that Ottoman authorities rounded up, arrested, and deported from Constantinople (now Istanbul) to the region of Angora (Ankara), 235 to 270 Armenian intellectuals and community leaders, the majority of whom were eventually murdered.

The genocide was carried out during and after World War I and implemented in two phases—the wholesale killing of the able-bodied male population through massacre and subjection of army conscripts to forced labour, followed by the deportation of women, children, the elderly, and the infirm on death marches leading to the Syrian Desert.

Driven forward by military escorts, the deportees were deprived of food and water and subjected to periodic robbery, rape, and massacre. Most Armenian diaspora communities around the world came into being as a direct result of the genocide.

Other ethnic groups were similarly targeted for extermination in the Assyrian genocide, also known as Sayfo or Seyfo (literally meaning “sword”), the mass slaughter of the Assyrian population of the Ottoman Empire and those in neighbouring Persia by Ottoman troops, and the Greek genocide, including the Pontic genocide, the systematic killing of the Christian Ottoman Greek population, and their treatment is considered by some historians to be part of the same genocidal policy.

The Assyrian civilian population of upper Mesopotamia (the Tur Abdin region, the Hakkâri, Van, and Siirt provinces of present-day southeastern Turkey, and the Urmia region of northwestern Iran) was forcibly relocated and massacred by the Ottoman army, together with other armed and allied Muslim peoples, including Kurds and Circassians, between 1914 and 1920, with further attacks on unarmed fleeing civilians conducted by local Arab militias.

Unlike the Armenians, there were no orders to deport Assyrians. The attacks against them were not of a standardized nature and incorporated various methods; in some cities, all Assyrian men were slain and the women were forced to flee.

These massacres were often carried out upon the initiatives of local politicians and Kurdish tribes. Exposure, disease and starvation during the flight of Assyrians increased the death toll, and women were subjected to widespread sexual abuse in some areas.

Estimates on the overall death toll have varied. Providing detailed statistics of the various estimates of the Churches’ population after the genocide, David Gaunt accepts the figure of 275,000 deaths as reported by the Assyrian delegation at the Treaty of Lausanne and ventures that the death toll would be around 300,000 because of uncounted Assyrian-inhabited areas.

The Greek genocide was instigated by the government of the Ottoman Empire and the Turkish national movement against the indigenous Greek population of the Empire and it included massacres, forced deportations involving death marches, summary expulsions, arbitrary execution, and the destruction of Eastern Orthodox cultural, historical, and religious monuments.

According to various sources, several hundred thousand Ottoman Greeks died during this period. Most of the refugees and survivors fled to Greece (adding over a quarter to the prior population of Greece). Some, especially those in Eastern provinces, took refuge in the neighbouring Russian Empire.

By late 1922 most of the Greeks of Asia Minor had either fled or had been killed. Those remaining were transferred to Greece under the terms of the later 1923 population exchange between Greece and Turkey, which formalized the exodus and barred the return of the refugees.

Raphael Lemkin was moved specifically by the annihilation of the Armenians to define systematic and premeditated exterminations within legal parameters and to coin the word genocide in 1943.

The Armenian Genocide is acknowledged to have been one of the first modern genocides, because scholars point to the organized manner in which the killings were carried out. It is the second-most-studied case of genocide after the Holocaust.

Turkey denies that the word genocide is an accurate term for these crimes, but in recent years has been faced with increasing calls to recognize them as such. As of 2019, governments and parliaments of 32 countries, including the United States, Russia, and Germany, have recognized the events as a genocide.

The Empire’s defeat and the occupation of part of its territory by the Allied Powers in the aftermath of World War I resulted in its partitioning and the loss of its Middle Eastern territories, which were divided between the United Kingdom and France.

The successful Turkish War of Independence led by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk against the occupying Allies led to the emergence of the Republic of Turkey in the Anatolian heartland and the abolition of the Ottoman monarchy.

First Republic of Armenia

Although the Russian Caucasus Army of Imperial forces commanded by Nikolai Yudenich and Armenians in volunteer units and Armenian militia led by Andranik Ozanian and Tovmas Nazarbekian succeeded in gaining most of Ottoman Armenia during World War I, their gains were lost with the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917.

At the time, Russian-controlled Eastern Armenia, Georgia, and Azerbaijan attempted to bond together in the Transcaucasian Democratic Federative Republic. This federation, however, lasted from only February to May 1918, when all three parties decided to dissolve it. As a result, the Dashnaktsutyun government of Eastern Armenia declared its independence on 28 May as the First Republic of Armenia under the leadership of Aram Manukian.

The First Republic’s short-lived independence was fraught with war, territorial disputes, and a mass influx of refugees from Ottoman Armenia, bringing with them disease and starvation. The Entente Powers, appalled by the actions of the Ottoman government, sought to help the newly founded Armenian state through relief funds and other forms of support.

At the end of the war, the victorious powers sought to divide up the Ottoman Empire. Signed between the Allied and Associated Powers and Ottoman Empire at Sèvres on 10 August 1920, the Treaty of Sèvres promised to maintain the existence of the Armenian republic and to attach the former territories of Ottoman Armenia to it.

Because the new borders of Armenia were to be drawn by United States President Woodrow Wilson, Ottoman Armenia was also referred to as “Wilsonian Armenia”. In addition, just days prior, on 5 August 1920, Mihran Damadian of the Armenian National Union, the de facto Armenian administration in Cilicia, declared the independence of Cilicia as an Armenian autonomous republic under French protectorate.

There was even consideration of making Armenia a mandate under the protection of the United States. The treaty, however, was rejected by the Turkish National Movement, and never came into effect. The movement used the treaty as the occasion to declare itself the rightful government of Turkey, replacing the monarchy based in Istanbul with a republic based in Ankara.

In 1920, Turkish nationalist forces invaded the fledgling Armenian republic from the east. Turkish forces under the command of Kazım Karabekir captured Armenian territories that Russia had annexed in the aftermath of the 1877–1878 Russo-Turkish War and occupied the old city of Alexandropol (present-day Gyumri).

The violent conflict finally concluded with the Treaty of Alexandropol on 2 December 1920. The treaty forced Armenia to disarm most of its military forces, cede all former Ottoman territory granted to it by the Treaty of Sèvres, and to give up all the “Wilsonian Armenia” granted to it at the Sèvres treaty.

Simultaneously, the Soviet Eleventh Army, under the command of Grigoriy Ordzhonikidze, invaded Armenia at Karavansarai (present-day Ijevan) on 29 November. By 4 December, Ordzhonikidze’s forces entered Yerevan and the short-lived Armenian republic collapsed.

After the fall of the republic, the February Uprising soon took place in 1921, and led to the establishment of the Republic of Mountainous Armenia by Armenian forces under command of Garegin Nzhdeh on 26 April, which fought off both Soviet and Turkish intrusions in the Zangezur region of southern Armenia. After Soviet agreements to include the Syunik Province in Armenia’s borders, the rebellion ended and the Red Army took control of the region on 13 July.


In 1915, the Ottoman Empire systematically carried out the Armenian Genocide. This was preceded by a wave of massacres in the years 1894 to 1896, and another one in 1909 in Adana. On 24 April 1915, Ottoman authorities rounded up, arrested, and deported 235 to 270 Armenian intellectuals and community leaders from Constantinople to the region of Ankara, where the majority of which were murdered.

The genocide was carried out during and after World War I and implemented in two phases—the wholesale killing of the able-bodied male population through massacre and subjection of army conscripts to forced labour, followed by the deportation of women, children, the elderly, and the infirm on death marches leading to the Syrian Desert. Driven forward by military escorts, the deportees were deprived of food and water and subjected to periodic robbery, rape, and massacre.

The exact number of deaths is most often considered 1.5 million, with other estimates ranging from 800,000 to 1,800,000. These events are traditionally commemorated yearly on 24 April, the Armenian Christian martyr day.

Between the 4th and 19th centuries, the traditional area of Armenia was conquered and ruled by Persians, Byzantines, Arabs, Mongols, and Turks, among others. Parts of historical Armenia gained independence from the Ottoman Empire and the Russian Empire after the collapse of these two empires in the wake of the First World War.

During the Russian Revolution, the provinces of the Caucasus seceded and formed their own federal state called the Transcaucasian Federation. Competing national interests and war with Turkey led to the dissolution of the republic half a year later, in April 1918.

After the Russian Revolution of 1917 and the takeover of the Bolsheviks, Stepan Shaumyan was placed in charge of Russian Armenia. In September 1917, the convention in Tiflis elected the Armenian National Council, the first sovereign political body of Armenians since the collapse of Lesser Armenia in 1375. Meanwhile, both the Ittihad (Unionist) and the Nationalists moved to win the friendship of the Bolsheviks.

Mustafa Kemal (Atatürk) sent several delegations to Moscow in an attempt to win some support for his own post-Ottoman movement in what he saw as a modernised ethno-nationalist Turkey. This alliance proved disastrous for the Armenians.

The signing of the Ottoman-Russian friendship treaty (1 January 1918), helped Vehib Pasha to attack the new Republic. Under heavy pressure from the combined forces of the Ottoman army and the Kurdish irregulars, the Republic was forced to withdraw from Erzincan to Erzurum. In the end, the Republic had to evacuate Erzurum as well.

Further southeast, in Van, the Armenians resisted the Turkish army until April 1918, but eventually were forced to evacuate it and withdraw to Persia. Conditions deteriorated when Azerbaijani Tatars sided with the Turks and seized the Armenian’s lines of communication, thus cutting off the Armenian National Councils in Baku and Yerevan from the National Council in Tiflis. The First Republic of Armenia was established on 28 May 1918.

During the final stages of World War I, the Armenians and Georgians had been defending against the advance of the Ottoman Empire. In June 1918, in order to forestall an Ottoman advance on Tiflis, the Georgian troops had occupied the Lori Province which at the time had a 75% Armenian majority.

After the Armistice of Mudros and the withdrawal of the Ottomans, the Georgian forces remained. The Georgian Menshevik parliamentarian Irakli Tsereteli suggested that the Armenians would be safer from the Turks as Georgian citizens.

The Georgians offered a quadripartite conference comprising Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, and the Mountainous Republic of the Northern Caucasus in order to resolve the issue. The Armenians rejected this proposal. In December 1918, the Georgians were confronting a rebellion chiefly in the village of Uzunlar in the Lori region. Within days, hostilities commenced between the two republics.

The Georgian–Armenian War was a border war fought in 1918 between the Democratic Republic of Georgia and the First Republic of Armenia over the then disputed provinces of Lori and Javakheti which had been historically bi-cultural Armenian-Georgian territories, but were largely populated by Armenians in the 19th century.

A considerable degree of hostility existed between Armenia and its new neighbor to the east, the Democratic Republic of Azerbaijan, stemming largely from racial, religious, cultural and societal differences. The Azeris had close ethnic and religious ties to the Turks and had provided material support for them in their drive to Baku in 1918.

Although the borders of the two countries were still undefined, Azerbaijan claimed most of the territory Armenia was sitting on, demanding all or most parts of the former Russian provinces of Elizavetpol, Tiflis, Yerevan, Kars and Batum.

As diplomacy failed to accomplish compromise, even with the mediation of the commanders of a British expeditionary force that had installed itself in the Caucasus, territorial clashes between Armenia and Azerbaijan took place throughout 1919 and 1920, most notably in the regions of Nakhichevan, Karabakh, and Syunik (Zangezur).

Repeated attempts to bring these provinces under Azerbaijani jurisdiction were met with fierce resistance by their Armenian inhabitants. In May 1919, Dro led an expeditionary unit that was successful in establishing Armenian administrative control in Nakhichevan.

At Paris Peace Conference in 1919 it was proposed to create large (320,000 km2 or 125,000 sq mi) Armenian state, including the territory of former Armenian Kingdom of Cilicia with total population of 4.3 million, 2.5 million of which would be Armenians.

The Treaty of Sèvres was signed between the Allied and Associated Powers and Ottoman Empire at Sèvres, France on 10 August 1920. The treaty included a clause on Armenia: it made all parties signing the treaty recognize Armenia as a free and independent state.

The drawing of definite borders was, however, left to U.S. President Woodrow Wilson and the United States State Department, and was only presented to Armenia on 22 November 1920. The new borders gave Armenia access to the Black Sea and awarded large portions of the eastern provinces of the Ottoman Empire to the republic.

The Treaty of Sèvres was signed by the Ottoman Government, but Sultan Mehmed VI never signed it and thus never came into effect. The Turkish Revolutionaries, led by Mustafa Kemal Pasha, began the Turkish National Movement which, in opposing any territorial concessions to either the Greeks or the Armenians, moved forward with their plans to crush the Armenian republic.

On 20 September 1920, Turkish nationalist militants invaded the region of Sarikamish. In response, Armenia declared war on Turkey on 24 September and the Turkish invasion of Armenia (1920) began. In the regions of Oltu, Sarikamish, Kars, Alexandropol (Gyumri) Armenian forces clashed with those of the Turkish armies.

Mustafa Kemal Pasha had sent several delegations to Moscow in search of an alliance, where he had found a receptive response by the Soviet government, which started sending gold and weapons to the Turkish revolutionaries, which would prove disastrous for the Armenians.

Armenia gave way to communist power in late 1920. In November 1920, the Turkish revolutionaries captured Alexandropol and were poised to move in on the capital. A cease fire was concluded on 18 November.

Negotiations were then carried out between Kâzım Karabekir and a peace delegation led by Alexander Khatisian in Alexandropol; although Karabekir’s terms were extremely harsh the Armenian delegation had little recourse but to agree to them. The Treaty of Alexandropol was signed on 3 December 1920, although the Armenian government had already fallen to the Soviets the day before.

As the terms of defeat were being negotiated, Bolshevik Grigoriy Ordzhonikidze invaded from Azerbaijan the First Republic of Armenia in order to establish a new pro-Bolshevik government in the country. The 11th Red Army began its virtually unopposed advance into Armenia on 29 November 1920 at Ijevan. The actual transfer of power took place on 2 December 1920 in Yerevan.

The Armenian leadership approved an ultimatum, presented to it by the Soviet plenipotentiary Boris Legran. Armenia decided to join the Soviet sphere, while Soviet Russia agreed to protect its remaining territory from the advancing Turkish army. The Soviets also pledged to take steps to rebuild the army, protect the Armenians and to not pursue non-communist Armenians, although the final condition of this pledge was reneged when the Dashnaks were forced out of the country.

On 5 December, the Armenian Revolutionary Committee (Revkom, made up of mostly Armenians from Azerbaijan) also entered the city. Finally, on the following day, 6 December, Felix Dzerzhinsky’s Cheka, entered Yerevan, thus effectively ending the existence of the Democratic Republic of Armenia. At that point what was left of Armenia was under the influence of the Bolsheviks.

Although the Bolsheviks succeeded in ousting the Turks from their positions in Armenia, they decided to establish peace with Turkey. In 1921, the Bolsheviks and the Turks signed the Treaty of Kars, in which Turkey ceded Adjara to the USSR in exchange for the Kars territory (today the Turkish provinces of Kars, Surmalu, and Ardahan).

The land given to Turkey included the ancient city of Ani and Mount Ararat, the spiritual Armenian homeland. In 1922, the newly proclaimed Armenian Soviet Socialist Republic, under the leadership of Alexander Miasnikyan, became part of the Soviet Union as one of three republics comprising the Transcaucasian SFSR.

The Transcaucasian SFSR was dissolved in 1936 and as a result Armenia became a constituent republic of the Soviet Union as the Armenian Soviet Socialist Republic. The transition to communism was difficult for Armenia, and for most of the other republics in the Soviet Union.

The Soviet authorities placed Armenians under strict surveillance. There was almost no freedom of speech, even less so under Joseph Stalin. Any individual who was suspected of using or introducing nationalist rhetoric or elements in their works were labelled traitors or propangandists, and were sent to Siberia during Stalinist rule. Even Zabel Yessayan, a writer who was fortunate enough to escape from ethnic cleansing during the Armenian Genocide, was quickly exiled to Siberia after returning to Armenia from France.

Soviet Armenia participated in World War II by sending hundreds of thousands of soldiers to the front line in order to defend the “Soviet motherland.” Soviet rule had some positive aspects. Armenia benefited from the Soviet economy, especially when it was at its apex. Provincial villages gradually became towns and towns gradually became cities. Peace between Armenia and Azerbaijan was reached, albeit temporarily. During this time, Armenia had a sizeable Azeri minority, mostly centred in Yerevan. Likewise, Azerbaijan had an Armenian minority, concentrated in Baku and Kirovabad.

Many Armenians still had nationalist sentiments, even though they were discouraged from expressing them publicly. On 24 April 1965, tens of thousands of Armenians flooded the streets of Yerevan to remind the world of the horrors that their parents and grandparents endured during the Armenian Genocide of 1915.

This was the first public demonstration of such high numbers in the USSR, which defended national interests rather than collective ones. In the late 1980s, Armenia was suffering from pollution. With Mikhail Gorbachev’s introduction of glasnost and perestroika, public demonstrations became more common.

Thousands of Armenians demonstrated in Yerevan because of the USSR’s inability to address simple ecological concerns. Later on, with the conflict in Karabakh, the demonstrations obtained a more nationalistic flavour. Many Armenians began to demand statehood.

In 1988, the Spitak earthquake killed tens of thousands of people and destroyed multiple towns in northern Armenia, such as Leninakan (modern-day Gyumri) and Spitak. Many families were left without electricity and running water. The harsh situation caused by the earthquake and subsequent events made many residents of Armenia leave and settle in North America, Western Europe or Australia.

On 20 February 1988, interethnic fighting between the ethnic Armenians of Nagorno-Karabakh and Azerbaijanis broke out shortly after the parliament of Nagorno-Karabakh, an autonomous oblast in Azerbaijan, voted to unify the region with Armenia. The Nagorno-Karabakh war pitted Armenians of Nagorno-Karabakh, backed by Armenia, against the Army of Azerbaijan.

Armenia declared its sovereignty from the Soviet Union on 23 August 1991. In the wake of the August Coup, a referendum was held on the question of secession. Following an overwhelming vote in favour, full independence was declared on 21 September 1991. However, widespread recognition did not occur until the formal dissolution of the Soviet Union on 25 December 1991.

Armenia faced many challenges during its first years as a sovereign state. Several Armenian organizations from around the world quickly arrived to offer aid and to participate in the country’s early years. From Canada, a group of young students and volunteers under the CYMA – Canadian Youth Mission to Armenia banner arrived in Ararat Region and became the first youth organization to contribute to the newly independent Republic.

Following the Armenian victory in the Nagorno-Karabakh war, both Azerbaijan and Turkey closed their borders and imposed a blockade which they retain to this day, severely affecting the economy of the fledgling republic. In October 2009 Turkey and Armenia signed a treaty to normalize relations.

First Republic of Armenia

Russian Caucasus Army

Transcaucasian Democratic Federative Republic

Wilsonian Armenia

Turkish National Movement

February Uprising

Republic of Mountainous Armenia

Garegin Nzhdeh

Soviet Armenia

Armenia was annexed by Bolshevist Russia and along with Georgia and Azerbaijan, it was incorporated into the Soviet Union as part of the Transcaucasian SFSR (TSFSR) on 4 March 1922. With this annexation, the Treaty of Alexandropol was superseded by the Turkish-Soviet Treaty of Kars.

In the agreement, Turkey allowed the Soviet Union to assume control over Adjara with the port city of Batumi in return for sovereignty over the cities of Kars, Ardahan, and Iğdır, all of which were part of Russian Armenia.

The TSFSR existed from 1922 to 1936, when it was divided up into three separate entities (Armenian SSR, Azerbaijan SSR, and Georgian SSR). Armenians enjoyed a period of relative stability under Soviet rule.

They received medicine, food, and other provisions from Moscow, and communist rule proved to be a soothing balm in contrast to the turbulent final years of the Ottoman Empire.

The situation was difficult for the church, which struggled under Soviet rule. After the death of Vladimir Lenin, Joseph Stalin took the reins of power and began an era of renewed fear and terror for Armenians.

Armenia was not the scene of any battles in World War II. An estimated 500,000 Armenians (nearly a third of the population) served in the Red Army during the war, and 175,000 died.

Fears decreased when Stalin died in 1953 and Nikita Khrushchev emerged as the Soviet Union’s new leader. Soon, life in Soviet Armenia began to see rapid improvement.

The church, which suffered greatly under Stalin, was revived when Catholicos Vazgen I assumed the duties of his office in 1955. In 1967, a memorial to the victims of the Armenian Genocide was built at the Tsitsernakaberd hill above the Hrazdan gorge in Yerevan. This occurred after mass demonstrations took place on the tragic event’s fiftieth anniversary in 1965.

During the Gorbachev era of the 1980s, with the reforms of Glasnost and Perestroika, Armenians began to demand better environmental care for their country, opposing the pollution that Soviet-built factories brought.

Tensions also developed between Soviet Azerbaijan and its autonomous district of Nagorno-Karabakh, a majority-Armenian region. About 484,000 Armenians lived in Azerbaijan in 1970.

The Armenians of Karabakh demanded unification with Soviet Armenia. Peaceful protests in Yerevan supporting the Karabakh Armenians were met with anti-Armenian pogroms in the Azerbaijani city of Sumgait. Compounding Armenia’s problems was a devastating earthquake in 1988 with a moment magnitude of 7.2.

Gorbachev’s inability to alleviate any of Armenia’s problems created disillusionment among the Armenians and fed a growing hunger for independence. In May 1990, the New Armenian Army (NAA) was established, serving as a defence force separate from the Soviet Red Army.

Clashes soon broke out between the NAA and Soviet Internal Security Forces (MVD) troops based in Yerevan when Armenians decided to commemorate the establishment of the 1918 First Republic of Armenia.

The violence resulted in the deaths of five Armenians killed in a shootout with the MVD at the railway station. Witnesses there claimed that the MVD used excessive force and that they had instigated the fighting.

Further firefights between Armenian militiamen and Soviet troops occurred in Sovetashen, near the capital and resulted in the deaths of over 26 people, mostly Armenians. The pogrom of Armenians in Baku in January 1990 forced almost all of the 200,000 Armenians in the Azerbaijani capital Baku to flee to Armenia.

On 23 August 1990, Armenia declared its sovereignty on its territory. On 17 March 1991, Armenia, along with the Baltic states, Georgia and Moldova, boycotted a nationwide referendum in which 78% of all voters voted for the retention of the Soviet Union in a reformed form.

Armenian Soviet Socialist Republic

Transcaucasian SFSR


Sumgait Pogroms

Baku Pogrom

Restoration of independence

On 21 September 1991, Armenia officially declared its independence after the failed August coup in Moscow. Levon Ter-Petrosyan was popularly elected the first President of the newly independent Republic of Armenia on 16 October 1991.

He had risen to prominence by leading the Karabakh movement for the unification of the Armenian-populated Nagorno-Karabakh. On 26 December 1991, the Soviet Union ceased to exist and Armenia’s independence was recognised.

Ter-Petrosyan led Armenia alongside Defense Minister Vazgen Sargsyan through the Nagorno-Karabakh War with neighbouring Azerbaijan. The initial post-Soviet years were marred by economic difficulties, which had their roots early in the Karabakh conflict when the Azerbaijani Popular Front managed to pressure the Azerbaijan SSR to instigate a railway and air blockade against Armenia. This move effectively crippled Armenia’s economy as 85% of its cargo and goods arrived through rail traffic. In 1993, Turkey joined the blockade against Armenia in support of Azerbaijan.

The Karabakh war ended after a Russian-brokered cease-fire was put in place in 1994. The war was a success for the Karabakh Armenian forces who managed to capture 16% of Azerbaijan’s internationally recognised territory including Nagorno-Karabakh itself.

Since then, Armenia and Azerbaijan have held peace talks, mediated by the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE). The status of Karabakh has yet to be determined. The economies of both countries have been hurt in the absence of a complete resolution and Armenia’s borders with Turkey and Azerbaijan remain closed.

By the time both Azerbaijan and Armenia had finally agreed to a ceasefire in 1994, an estimated 30,000 people had been killed and over a million had been displaced.

As it enters the 21st century, Armenia faces many hardships. It has made a full switch to a market economy. One study ranks it the 41st most “economically free” nation in the world, as of 2014.

Its relations with Europe, the Arab League, and the Commonwealth of Independent States have allowed Armenia to increase trade. Gas, oil, and other supplies come through two vital routes: Iran and Georgia. Armenia maintains cordial relations with both countries.

Young Turk Revolution

Abdul Hamid II

Three Pashas

Mustafa Kemal

Turkish War of Independence

Turkish nationalism

Turkish nationalism is a political ideology that promotes and glorifies the Turkish people, as either a national, ethnic, or linguistic group. Ideologies associated with Turkish nationalism include Pan-Turkism or “Turanism” (a form or ethnic or racial essentialism or national mysticism), “Neo-Ottomanism” with imperial ambitions derived from the Ottoman era, “Anatolianism” which considers the Turkish nation as a separate entity which developed after the Seljuk conquest of Anatolia in the 11th century, and secular, civic nationalist Kemalism.

Republic of Turkey

Turkish nationalism



After the fall of the Ottoman Empire, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk came to power. He introduced a language reform with the aim to “cleanse” the Turkish language of foreign influence. He also promoted the Sun Language Theory in Turkish political and educational circles from 1935. Turkish researchers at the time also came up with the idea that Early Sumerians were proto-Turks.

Implemented by Atatürk, the founding ideology of the Republic of Turkey features nationalism (Turkish: milliyetçilik) as one of its six fundamental pillars, displayed as six arrows. The Kemalist revolution aimed to create a nation state from the remnants of the multi-religious and multi-ethnic Ottoman Empire.

Kemalist nationalism originates from the social contract theories, especially from the principles advocated by Jean-Jacques Rousseau and his Social Contract. The Kemalist perception of social contract was effected by the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire which was perceived as a product of failure of the Ottoman “Millet” system and the ineffective Ottomanism. Kemalist nationalism, after experiencing the Ottoman Empire’s breakdown into pieces, defined the social contract as its “highest ideal”.

Kemalist ideology defines the “Turkish Nation” (Turkish: Türk Ulusu) as a nation of Turkish People who always love and seek to exalt their family, country and nation, who know their duties and responsibilities towards the democratic, secular and social state governed by the rule of law, founded on human rights, and on the tenets laid down in the preamble to the constitution of the Republic of Turkey.

The Turkish Nation is defined as such: “The folk which constitutes the Republic of Turkey is called the Turkish Nation.” – Mustafa Kemal Atatürk.

Kemalist criteria for national identity or simply being Turkish (Turkish: Türk) refers to a shared language, and/or shared values defined as a common history, and the will to share a future. Kemalist ideology defines the “Turkish people” as: Those who protect and promote the moral, spiritual, cultural and humanistic values of the Turkish Nation.

Mustafa Kemal Atatürk


Sun Language Theory

16 Great Turkic Empires


“Turanist” nationalism began with the Turanian Society founded in 1839, followed in 1908 with the Turkish Society, which later expanded into the Turkish Hearths and eventually expanded to include ideologies such as Pan-Turanism and Pan-Turkism.

The Young Turk Revolution which overthrew Sultan Abdul Hamid II, allowed Turkish nationalism into power, eventually leading to the Three Pashas control of the late Ottoman government, but Mustafa Kemal (Atatürk) explicitly rejected the ideology of Turanism just as he rejected Pan-Islamism.

During the Turkish War of Independence, on December 1, 1921 Kemal stated:

… We never established Pan-Islamism. Perhaps we said “We are establishing it and we shall complete it.” Our enemies said “Let us kill them before they complete it.” We never established Pan-Turanism. Perhaps we said “We are establishing it and we shall complete it.” Our enemies said, “Let us kill them before they complete it.” That is the whole problem, instead of bringing pressure and resentment upon ourselves from our enemies… Let us know our places!”


Turanian Society

Turkish Hearths



“Anatolianism” (Turkish: Anadoluculuk) takes as its starting point that the main source of Turkish culture should be Anatolia (Anadolu), and the main base of this thought is that the Turkish people had built a quite new civilization in Anatolia after 1071 when they won at the Battle of Manzikert. In the early Republican era, some intellectuals proposed that the origins of the Turkish nationalism should be sought in Anatolia, not in “Turan”.

Hilmi Ziya Ülken, one of the founders of Anatolianism, was objecting to Neo-Ottomanism and Pan-Islamism as well as to Turanism. Between 1918 and 1919 he published the periodical Anadolu with Reşat Kayı. In 1919 Ülken wrote a book titled Anadolunun Bugünki Vazifeleri (Present duties of Anatolia), but it was not published.

In 1923, Ülken and his friends published the periodical Anadolu. They worked to form an alternative thought to Ottomanism, Islamism and Turanism, and they opposed the specificity of Turkish history traced origins outside of Anatolia. Their conclusion was Memleketçilik (memleket meaning “homeland”).





Turkish-Islamic synthesis

The tension between Pan-Turkic and Pan-Islamic Turkish nationalism persisted in modern Turkey. Following the 1980 Turkish coup d’état, its said that Turk predates Islam by centuries and Pan-Turkic was declared the official state ideology.

Turkish-Cypriot nationalism

Emphasizes the support for the independence of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) and desires that the TRNC stay independent from Turkey while opposing the idea of a United Cyprus with the Greek-dominated Republic of Cyprus.

Republic of Cyprus

Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus

Neo-Nazism and neo-fascism

A neo-Nazi group existed in 1969 in İzmir, when a group of former Republican Villagers Nation Party members (precursor party of the Nationalist Movement Party) founded the association “Nasyonal Aktivitede Zinde İnkişaf” (Vigorous Development in National Activity). The club maintained two combat units. The members wore SA uniforms and used the Hitler salute. One of the leaders (Gündüz Kapancıoğlu) was re-admitted to the Nationalist Movement Party in 1975.

Today, apart from neo-fascist Grey Wolves and the Turkish ultranationalist Nationalist Movement Party, there are some neo-Nazi organizations in Turkey such as the Turkish Nazi Party or the National Socialist Party of Turkey, which are mainly based on the Internet.

Grey Wolves

Nationalist Movement Party

The “Insulting Turkishness” laws

Article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code, which is perceived as being contrary to notion of freedom of speech, states “The person who publicly denigrates the Turkish Nation, the Republic of Turkey, the Grand National Assembly of Turkey, the Government of the Republic of Turkey and the judicial organs of the State, shall be punished with imprisonment of six months to two years. But also it can be only with permission of the minister of justice” However, it also states that “Expressions of thought intended to criticize shall not constitute a crime.”

There have been recent indications that Turkey may repeal or modify Article 301, after the embarrassment suffered by some high-profile cases. Nationalists within the judicial system, intent on derailing Turkey’s full admission into the European Union, have used Article 301 to initiate trials against people like Nobel Prize–winning Turkish novelist Orhan Pamuk, the Turkish novelist Elif Shafak, and the late Hrant Dink for supporting the existence of the Armenian Genocide.

In May 2007, a law was put into effect allowing Turkey to block Web sites that are deemed insulting to Atatürk.

Article 301

Orhan Pamuk

Elif Shafak

Hrant Dink


Cultural Genocide in Jugha Cemetery

Turkish municipality destroys monument of Armenian musician, composer,, 2012

Monument to Armenian musician Onno Tunc destroyed in Turkey, 2012

Cultural Genocide Exhibition (pdf)

Cultural Genocide – Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Armenia

Cultural Genocide new – Genocide Museum


The cultural genocide of Armenian historical monuments in Georgia, Organisation for the support of the Armenian Diocese in Georgia “Kanter”

Vandalism and misappropriation of Armenian churches in Georgia goes on

Georgia: Collapse of Armenian Church Provokes Row

Armenians of Georgia urge to stop barbarous destruction of Armenian cultural heritage

Acts and measures undertaken to destroy any nations’ or ethnic groups’ culture is called, ‘cultural genocide’. The word ‘Genocide’ coined by Raphael Lemkin, does not only refer to the physical extermination of a national or religious group, but also its national, spiritual and cultural destruction. The concept of a cultural genocide has not yet been accepted into the 1948 UN Convention on the prevention and punishment of the crime of Genocide.

Many proven facts concomitant with the massacres and deportation are witness to the fact that the Young Turk government premeditated and planed a systematic method aiming to destroy the material testimonies of the Armenian civilization. Realizing the role of the church and Christian faith within the Armenian nation, they knowingly massacred Armenian clergymen, destroyed churches, monasteries and other properties of church, alongwith thousands of medieval handwritten illuminated manuscripts.

An Arab eye witnesses to the Armenian Genocide, Fayez el Husseyn, writes in his memoirs “… After the massacres of the Armenians, the government establishedcommissions who were engaged in selling the leftover property. Armenian cultural values were sold at the cheapest prices… I once went to the church to see how the sale of these things is organized. The doors of the Armenian schools were closed. The Turks used sciene books in the bazaar for wrapping cheese, dates, sunflowers… In 1912 the Armenian patriarchy of Istanbul presented an account of the churches and monasteries in Western Armenia (Eastern Anatolia) and in the Ottoman Empire. More than 2300 were accounted for including the early unique Christian monuments of IV-V cc. Most part of them were looted, burned and destroyed by the Turks during the genocide.

The policy of destruction adopted by the Young Turks with regard to Armenian historical and cultural heritage was continued in Republican Turkey where these relics were viewed as undesirable witnesses of the Armenian presence.

At the end of 1920s, Turkey began the process of changing the names of certain locations in Western Armenia. Presently 90% of the Armenian cities, towns and buildings in Eastern Turkey Western Armenia (Eastern Anatolia) have been Turkified. Armenian geographical sites’ names have also been replaced with Turkish names. Devising a systemanic method of destruction, hundreds of architectural monuments have been destroyed and all Armenian inscriptions erased.

In 1974 UNESCO stated that after 1923, out of 913 Armenian historical monuments left in Eastern Turkey, 464 have vanished completely, 252 are in ruins, and 197 are in need of repair. Armenian architectural buildings are consistently being demolished using dynaminte and are used as a targets during Turkish military training exercises; the undamaged stones are used as construction materials. In some rural places, Armenian monasteries and churches serve as a stables, stores, clubs and in once case, even a jail. On many occasions the Turkish government converted Armenian churches into mosques.

On June 18, 1987 the council of Europe adopted a decree wherein the 6th point mentions that: the Turkish government must pay attention to and take care to heed the language, culture and educational system of the Armenian Diaspora living in Turkey, simultaneously demanding an appropriate regard to the Armenian monuments that are situated in Turkey’s territory.

Cultural genocide against the Armenian heritage on the territory of Turkey continues…


The premeditated destruction of objects of Armenian cultural, religious, historical and communal heritage was yet another key purpose of both the genocide itself and the post-genocidal campaign of denial. Armenian churches and monasteries were destroyed or changed into mosques, Armenian cemeteries flattened, and, in several cities (e.g. Van), Armenian quarters were demolished.

Aside from the deaths, Armenians lost their wealth and property without compensation. Businesses and farms were lost, and all schools, churches, hospitals, orphanages, monasteries, and graveyards became Turkish state property. In January 1916, the Ottoman Minister of Commerce and Agriculture issued a decree ordering all financial institutions operating within the empire’s borders to turn over Armenian assets to the government. It is recorded that as much as 6 million Turkish gold pounds were seized along with real property, cash, bank deposits, and jewelry. The assets were then funneled to European banks, including Deutsche and Dresdner banks.

After the end of World War I, Genocide survivors tried to return and reclaim their former homes and assets, but were driven out by the Ankara Government.

In 1914, the Armenian Patriarch in Constantinople presented a list of the Armenian holy sites under his supervision. The list contained 2,549 religious places of which 200 were monasteries while 1,600 were churches. In 1974 UNESCO stated that after 1923, out of 913 Armenian historical monuments left in Eastern Turkey, 464 have vanished completely, 252 are in ruins, and 197 are in need of repair (in stable conditions).

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