Main Page       Contact  

Daily Bulletin Subscription

To receive our Daily Bulletin please fill out the form below.

Books out of Print

Chapter 1: Armenia and the Armenians

Kamuran GÜRÜN*
The Armenian File

 .j»À~°le="text-align: juÿÕ$Chapter 1: Armenia and the Armenians208z1an style="font-family: Verdana;">CHAPTER ONE

Armenia and the Armenians

1. The origins of the terms Armenia and Armenian

There are countries which took their names from the people living on the land. There are also countries which took their names from their geographic locations or from their administrative divisions. The residents of these areas have often forgotten their original names and are remembered simply by the name of the region they inhabit. We may cite Turkey, Germany, and France as examples of countries which took their names from the people living in them. In contrast, Italy and the United States of America are not the names of people, but rather geographical names which were adopted by the people living in these areas, who consequently gave up their original names.

Likewise, in the ancient past of Anatolia there were geographical area names, and the people living in these regions were known by these ‘geographical’ names. As examples we may cite Cappadocia, Cilicia, Pamphilia, Pafloginya, etc. However, for those who once lived in these regions, these names were a means of identification, in the same way that today we say someone is from Istanbul, from Ankara, and so on.

Many sources claim that Armenia was also such a geographical region name. Armenians, however, call themselves ‘Hai’ and their country ‘Haiastan’ and there are no extant sources which clearly state the origin of the name Armenia. Some early Armenian historians, among whom we may name Moses of Khorene, claimed that the Armenians were Urartus and that the name ‘Armenia’ derived from that of an Urartu king named ‘Aramu’. Contemporary Armenian historians have for the most part discarded this theory. As we shall establish shortly, there was in fact no relationship between the Urartus and their civilization on the one hand, and the Armenians on the other.

It is, however, possible to find a degree of truth in Moses of Khorene’s theory if it is approached from another angle. Specifically, the use of the term Armenia to designate a geographical region may well have derived from the name Aramu and then its sources been forgotten. The result was that while ‘Armenian’ had originally meant ‘from the region of Armenia’ it lost this meaning. Today, the name Armenian is once again used in the sense of ‘from Armenia’, though this in fact has nothing to do with the present country of Armenia. (In foreign languages there is no distinction made between ‘from Armenia’ and ‘Armenian’, and the word ‘Armenian’ is used for both meanings.)

Arnold Toynbee put forth the following ideas with regard to the origin of the name ‘Armenian’:

If the valley of the Teleboas had in fact thus been transferred from Urartu to Armenia at some date between the end of the Assyrian and the beginning of the Median Age, this might prove to be the explanation of two puzzling pieces of nomenclature. In the first place it might explain how the Mushkian (i.e. Phrygian) followers of Gurdi, who in their own language called themselves Haik, came to be known in the Achaemenian official terminology neither as Haik nor as Mushki nor as Gordians, but as ‘Arminiya’. This old Persian ethnikon of a place name ‘Arminiya’ may represent the Urartian word Urmeniuhi-ni which occurs in Menuas’ inscription found in the neighbourhood of Mush as the name of one of the conquered local cities which he had razed to the ground; and, in confirming the cession of this Urartian canton called Urmeniuhi-ni to the Mushki intruders who called themselves Haik, the Medes, and the Persians after them, may have labelled these new owners of this transferred piece of Urartian territory with the Urartian local place-name.[1]

Toynbee, while adding that this explanation is merely speculation, adds that it is possible that the term ‘Armenia’ may have been derived from the name of ‘Erimena’, who was the father of the last Urartian ruler, Russas ???; alternatively, it might derive from ‘Aruma-ni’, which means the country of the Arameans, a people who came from the North Arabian steppes at the end of the 11th or beginning of the 10th century BC and conquered Nairi.

It is not our intention to introduce either historical or archaeological research on this topic. Our reasons for mentioning it at all are completely different. While it is accepted that the name ‘Haiastan’ has nothing to do with the name ‘Armenia’ or ‘Haik’ with ‘Armenian’, and while it is usual to find the residents of Armenia in ancient times referred to as ‘Armenians’, it is not usual for the word Armenian to be used as though it were synonymous with Haik. Thus it is not possible to ascertain whether the inhabitants of Armenia were the ancestors of the Armenians of today, or whether the region inhabited by those ancestors was identical with the region that was called Armenia in early times.

While the derivation of the name Armenia as a region thus remains an unanswered question, it is equally uncertain as to when the group known as ‘Haik’ first appeared in this area.

As this book is not designed as scholarly research into ancient Armenian history, we have not seen the necessity to delve into this subject further. We have been satisfied to repeat what appears in the books we have used as sources, and have followed the chronology which they present.
Early Armenian historians, such as Moses of Khorene, Toma Ardzouni and others, are content to write that the Armenians are the descendants of the Prophet Noah, and because they accept that Noah’s Ark came to rest on Mount Ararat, they claim to have occupied this region throughout history. While there is no particular reason to respond to such mythical views of history, one point which has been overlooked by its proponents should be mentioned. Namely, if one wants to base understanding of history on religious books and mythology, one should be consistent. As these accounts tell how the entire human race increased from the children of the Prophet Noah, one must assume likewise that the Turkish people also increased in the vicinity of Mount Ararat and were successful in maintaining their hold on the lands of their origin.

Gatteyrias has this to say about the origins of the Armenians:

When the first tribes began to migrate out of the Pamir Plateau, one group settled in the Sind Valley to the South, while the remainder moved North and settled in the Iranian Plateau. As a result the only migratory path which remained open was that lying to the West. Correspondingly, subsequent migratory tribes were forced to settle in Europe. As they began the first steps of their migrations they encountered the Caucasus Mountains, and seeking a passageway they moved South to Asia Minor...

These tribes who settled in various valleys of Armenia, developed and lived their own lives without contact with one another. Some of them became particularly strong, and on occasion formed confederations with other groups.

When the Assyrians conquered the country of Nairi in the year 1130 BC, up to the headwaters of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, that is, during the period of the first Assyrian Dynasty, they found them in this state.

During the time of the Second Assyrian Dynasty, these wars of conquest continued in a more serious fashion and the people of Urartu of Ararat experienced a whole series of defeats. After the eighteenth or nineteenth campaign Armenia surrendered in 782—780 BC, and for a forty-year period the Assyrians remained the uncontested rulers of the Upper Tigris valley. Throughout this period they tried to expand their civilization.

During these attempts of the Semitic peoples to settle, the Armenian tribes of Urartu resisted these efforts and consequently they were able to preserve more effectively than the others their Aryan blood and spirits.[2]

Without dwelling on its geographical and historical inconsistency, we understand that the: author claims that during the period of the Great Migrations the Armenians migrated from the Pamir Plateau to this region. What is interesting here is that the Armenians were considered simply as one of the tribes which comprised the Urartu Empire, and that the word Armenian itself may have been used as a geographic term to indicate the Urartu borders.
The ideas of Jacques de Morgan on this point are as follows:
In any case according to the documents at our disposal the movement of the Armenians from Cappadocia to the Erzurum Plateau occurred between the VIII and VII centuries BC and this group of people had been occupying the Lake Van and Ararat regions for at least 600 years.[3]

Macler says

.... Armenia, or that geographical region known as Armenia since the earliest period of history, was not always occupied by those people whom we call Armenians... even if this region was not the home of another race per se, it certainly was the home of a people who spoke another language than Armenian.

The first recorded references to the Armenian people are inscriptions in stone found in Bissutun which date from 515 BC, that is from the Achemenid period of Darius. These inscriptions show that Armenia was a Satrap, or province of Darius’ Empire.[4]

As we see, Macler’s view was that Armenia was called Armenia long before the people we know as Armenians inhabited it. Later we shall return to a discussion of the Darius inscriptions.

Let us look at Pastermadjian’s book:

....The Armenians, who are an Indo-European people, first appear in the East in Urartu, that is Armenia, together with the Kimers who were another Indo-European group from the Caucasus; or alternatively, they may have come from the West via the Balkans and Asia Minor in the company of another Indo-European people, the Phrygians with whom they shared blood ties. They appear to have arrived in the VII or, VI century BC. This second thesis, which is still accepted in the academic world, is that the Indo-European Armenians entered Anatolia from the Balkans.

According to legends the Chieftain of these Indo-European peoples was named Haik. According to the Armenians, Haik was the founder of their state and their first king. They gave themselves the name ‘Hai,’ that is, the sons of Haik.

The Armenian Chroniclers relate that Haik and his people came and settled in Armenia in the year 2200 BC, and in support of this they provide a list of Kings and Rulers who lived between 2200 BC and 800 BC. This is a legend which modern historical scholarship has rejected. Nations, unlike individuals, like to age...[5]

As we read these lines, although it is not clear what theory Pastermadjian embraced, it is clear that he accepted the idea that Armenians came to the region called Armenia in the 7th or 6th century BC. As a result, Pastermadjian accepts the arrival of the Armenians as having occurred one hundred years later than does Jacques de Morgan.

Let us now examine Nalbandian:
.... The Urartu Kingdom was not only a powerful military state but it also had a highly developed civilization. Its people spoke a non-Aryan language, which has been deciphered and they believed in a single supreme god whom they named Khaldi....

In the Eighth and Seventh centuries BC a new people invaded Urartu and conquered it. According to Herodotus, the people who overthrew Urartu were Phrygian colonists known as Armenians. As time passed, the Armeno-Phrygian tribes imposed their Indo-European language on the Urartians, and the amalgamation of the two peoples resulted in the formation of the Armenian nation.[6]

Let us first say that Herodotus in no way made the claims attributed to him by Nalbandian. (We shall prove this later.) On the other hand, it would be a unique process if a language which had its own script had been replaced by a language that did not have a script. Normal progress dictates just the reverse process. Nalbandian’s contribution to the discussion is the idea that the Armenian people resulted from the combination of some Phrygian tribes who migrated to this region and the local populace: in other words, the idea that prior to this time there had been no such thing as the Armenian people.

Hovannisian’s view is: ‘They had moved on to the Plateau as Indo-European conquerors and extended their hegemony over the indigenous peoples whom they eventually assimilated. Then, after a period of submission to the Achaemenids and Seleucids, they regained independence under a dynasty that wielded authority throughout the two centuries before Christ.’[7]

From his style, it is not very clear from where and when Hovannisian thinks the Armenians arrived. His sense of scholarship prevents him from writing about points which have not been scientifically proved. What is clear is that he believes the Armenians to have migrated from another region to Armenia, and that this occurred prior to the Achaemenid invasion. In this respect it is worth recalling that the formation of the Achaemenid dynasty, that is the invasion of Armenia by the Medes, took place in the 6th century BC.

The following passages are quoted from Grousset, who was the author of a large work on Armenian history:

Towards the year 1200 BC one portion of the Thracian tribes passed over into Asia where they were assimilated into the Hittite Empire, under the name of Phrygians. These Phrygians settled on the Anatolian Plateau, and extended their sovereignty up to the Cilician Gates in the Southeast, and in the Northeast as far as Hoyuk (the former capital city of the Hittites, Bogazkoy), which lies to the North of Hattus. According to the Assyrians they must have been the same Phrygians who are mentioned in their sources under the name, ‘Mouchki...        
In the year 677 BC the Assyrian King, Assarhaddon, defeated a Cimmerian force which was commanded by one Teuchpa or Tiochpa. This Cimmerian group then moved into Anatolia, where, between the years 676—675 BC they destroyed the remaining Phrygians and brought an end to their sovereignty, if not to their ethnic identity....

These Cimmerians were unable to follow up their victory, but the Phrygian Empire was not reconstructed, and ultimately it was partially replaced by the Lydian Empire. Thus, one group of the defeated Phrygian tribes moved to the east in search of a new homeland. In all likelihood, this is the manner in which the people known as Armenians came into being.[8]

Grousset in this way accepts that the group of people whom we today call Armenians first entered the geographical region of Armenia after 675 BC.

Particularly today, when Urartian history is no longer a mystery, owing to the findings of various archaeological excavations, we have every right to expect that contemporary scholars will incorporate these new findings into their works. Those readers who feel this way will be disappointed by Professor Lang’s study which makes the following statement in regard to Urartian history:

The founder of the unified Urartian kingdom was evidently King Arame or Aramu, mentioned in Assyrian inscriptions of King Salmanesar III under the years 860, 858 and 846 BC, and no doubt to be identified with the half-legendary Armenian king, Ara the Fair, loved by Queen Semiramis.... The Armenian chronicler Moses of Khorene regards the Urartian king Aramu as the eponymous ancestor of the Armenian Nation.[9]

Is it really possible that a professor of history has so failed to read the current research on Urartian history, that he can still accept myths written by Moses of Khorene (legends which are even rejected by many Armenian historians) as historical fact, and in this manner to find a connection between the Urartians and Armenians?

Professor Lang goes even further than this, and on page 114 of his work we read:

As mentioned, the Armenians term themselves ‘Haik,’ and their land ‘Hayastan.’ There seems good reason to connect this ethnic name with the old eastern Hittite province of Hayasa, in mountainous western Armenia, along the upper reaches of the River Euphrates or Kara-Su. The Hayasa people’s language was evidently related to the ancient Indo-European languages.

After noting the fact that Professor Lang is not a linguist, let us answer him with Grousset’s pen:

The name Hayasa does not go further than to draw attention to the Armenian name of Armenia. In reality, this is a fortuitous analogy. As for the location of this region, Louis Dalaporte placed it near Trebizond... Contrary to his opinion, N. Adontz feels that it was located in the Dersim Mountains on the upper Euphrates.

The name of the country of Hayasa is also found in a Hittite inscription which belongs to the reign of Murshilish II, the Hittite ruler who reigned from 1345 to 1320 BC. Bedrich Hrozny, the famous Hittitologist and archaeologist, describes this period of Hittite history as follows:

The Hittite Empire comes to an end around the year 1200 BC. This catastrophe occurred in the reign of Tuthaliyash V (around 1200 BC), who was the son and successor of Arnuvantash. Groups of Phrygians, Thracians, and Mycinians, and other Balkan peoples including Armenians, were pushed into Asia Minor by the Illyrians. These ‘migrations’ were flnally stopped by the Pharaoh Ramses III at the gateway of Egypt. When these waves of migrations ceased it becomes clear that the principal heirs of the Hittite Empire were the Phrygians in the west, and the Mouchkis in the east. Further to the south in the Toros and Anti-Toros mountain ranges a number of small Hittite states continued to exist right up until the year 717 BC when Sharruken (Sargon) the Assyrian king conquered the last great Hittite fortress of Kargemish, thereby bringing the political existence of the Hittites to an end.[11]

The first appearance of the word Armenia occurs in the Bissutun inscriptions from the reign of Darius. These inscriptions belong to the year 515 BC. After this date, the next appearance of the words Armenia and Armenian in historical texts are found in the work of Herodotus, who lived between the years 484 and 430 BC.

In Herodotus’ works the words ‘Armenia’ and ‘Armenian’ are mentioned on pp. 120, 244, 358, 360 and 468.12 On p. 120, he mentions the area of ‘Armenia’; on p. 244, while listing the various Iranian states, he writes: ‘Pattyica, together with the Armenians and their neighbours as far as the Black Sea’; on p. 358, after mentioning the ‘lonians’, ‘Lydians’, ‘Phrygians’, ‘Cappadocians’, and ‘Cilicians’, he adds: ‘now the Armenians.... On p. 360 he uses the word ‘Armenia’, writing: ‘Leaving Armenia and entering Matiene....‘On page 468 we flnd the following paragraph:

The dress of the Phrygians was, with a few small differences, like the Paphlagonian. This people, according to the Macedonian account, were known as the ‘Briges’ during the period when they lived in Macedonia, and changed their name at the same time as, by migrating to Asia, they changed their country. The Armenians, who are Phrygian colonists, were armed in the Phrygian fashion and both contingents were commanded by Artochmes, the husband of one of Darius’ daughters.

Today, almost all serious scholars, relying on the combined testimony of the Darius inscriptions and Herodotus, accept that the Armenians migrated to and settled in the region of Armenia in 515 BC.
Yet in both the Darius inscriptions and in Herodotus’ work the word ‘Armenian’ can also be understood as having the meaning of ‘from Armenia’. Neither the Darius inscriptions nor Herodotus mention a particular race, but rather the people from a given region. As Armenia was known as such long before the people we call Armenians entered the region, it is hard to say that the documents cited prove that the Armenians came to this region prior to 515 BC.

The same comment may be made with regard to the relevant passages in Xenophon’s Return of the Ten Thousand.[13] The third, fourth and fifth chapters of Book IV deal with the armies’ journey through the region of Armenia in 401—400 BC. In these references it is also clear that ‘Armenia’ is used in the sense of a geographical region. The word ‘Armenian’ appears once in the third chapter, as ‘These were Armenian, Mardian and Chaldean mercenaries in the service of Orontas and Artouchas’, and once more at the end of the fifth chapter where we read: ‘Armenian children in local clothes...‘ In both these instances it is possible to define his use of this term as meaning ‘from’ or ‘of’ Armenia. However, throughout his passage on the region of Armenia, he does not call the local villagers Armenian, and the language they used to communicate with the local people is defined as Persian. While there can be no doubt that the name of the region was in fact Armenia, there is no indication in this period that its residents were called ‘Armenians’ as a people.

On the last page of the French translation of the same book (Chapter 7, Book VII), there is a paragraph not written by Xenophon but supposedly added by Sophenete, which lists the names of the states through which the ten thousand passed, and of their governors.

From other sources we know that the Secretary of the Governor ruling the region of West Armenia through which the ten thousand passed was one Tribaz (Orantes was the Persian Governor of the whole region). In the above-mentioned paragraph by Sophenete, Tribaz is presented as being the head of the ‘Phases’ and ‘Hesperites’; there is no mention of ‘Armenians’,[14]

There are also a number of authors who have advanced some rather ‘original’ theories as to the origins of the Armenians. As an example of this type of writer we may mention Ruppen Courian, who makes the following claims:

The Armenians are the former inhabitants of today’s Switzerland. The Romance language has many similarities to Armenian. While there are variations in the formation of words and expressions, the interpositioning of syllables, and loan-words, the background and the rhythm of both languages are the same. Some people will oppose this idea. To understand its basis we have only to examine the map of Switzerland. There, lying between the villages of Oberhalbstein, Muhlen, Piz Julien, and St. Moritz, we find a place called ‘Piz Er’. What is the meaning of this name?
The Turks and other Asians say ‘Ermeni’ to indicate an Armenian. The meaning of ‘er’ is ‘man’, in other words, ‘Ermeni’ means the man who comes from the land.[15]

On page 31 of the same author’s book we are told that the name of the province of Van is derived from the French word ‘vent’ meaning wind because Van in eastern Anatolia is a windy city.

If it were necessary to look for the meaning of the proper name of the Swiss village, Piz Er, in Turkish, surely a more logical explanation could be found. Er means man and pis means dirty, so we could define the ‘Turkish’ meaning of the proper name as ‘Dirty Man’. But this kind of ‘word-game’ has no place in serious scholarship, and its only proper use is in humorous writings!

In conclusion, we may summarize the points we have discussed in the form of quotations from various books, as follows:

Since the very early days of history a particular region of Anatolia has been known as ‘Armenia’. The people whom we now call ‘Armenians’ migrated to this region from the west. The earliest possible date at which they may have arrived in this region was in the course of the 6th century B C. It is equally plausible, however, to suggest that they may not have arrived in the region until the beginning of the 4th century BC. This whole question is shrouded in obscurity.

What we know for certain is that at the time of Alexander the Great’s Anatolia campaign (331 Bc), the Armenians were occupying the region in question. It is equally certain that there can be no question of their having existed as an independent state in this period, for they were simply living in one of the Persian provinces.

Let us now briefly summarize what has been written about Armenian history from the fourth century B C onward.

2. The earliest known history of the Armenians

At the end of September in the year 331 BC, Alexander the Great defeated Darius III, the last Achaemenid ruler. In so doing, he conquered this country, and the region known as Armenia, which had been part of a Persian province, now became part of the Macedonian Empire.

Following the death of Alexander the Great, his Empire was divided and redivided among his generals. In the year 301 Bc, following the last such division, the geographical region of Armenia fell to the share of Seleucas, one of Alexander the Great’s generals. The so-called Seleucid Empire, which was to rule in this region until it was defeated by the Romans in 198 BC, was named after him.
Various historical sources report that following the Roman victory over the Seleucid Empire at Manisa in 198 BC, the geographical region of Armenia was ruled by two governors, Artaksiyas and Zariadris (both these names are Persian), who were under the protection of the Roman state. In other words, they broke away from the Seleucid Empire.

This period coincided with that in which the Arsasids were beginning to establish their sovereignty in Persia by reassembling the pieces of what had been the great Persian Empire. We know that the Arsasids reached the height of their power during the reign of Mithridates II, who ruled from 123 to 88 BC. It is also known that during this period of expansion the Arsasids invaded Armenia, and even took Tigran, the son of the Armenian ruler Artavzade II, as a hostage.

Following his father’s death in 95 or 94 BC, Tigran purchased his freedom from Mithridates by relinquishing his claim to certain of his territories, and succeeded his father.

By taking advantage, on the one hand, of ‘civil wars’ which were sapping Roman strength, and on the other, of the fact that the Arsasids were more or less continuously defending themselves against the attacks of the Sakas, Tigran subsequently managed not only to unite several of the Armenian principalities, but also to gain their independence and expand the territories over which he ruled. While he was engaged in these activities, he signed a peace agreement with the King of Pontus, Mithridates IV, Jupiter. While initially he benefited from this agreement, when subsequently war broke out between Rome and the Pontus, it resulted in the loss of his freedom. In the year 66 BC the Roman general Pompey and his armies invaded Armenia. As a result, Tigran was forced to recognize Roman rule and surrender his own independence.

If we date Tigran’s period ofindependence as beginning in 95 BC, we see that it only lasted for thirty years. After this date, Armenia was nothing but a pawn in the struggles between the Romans and Persians. As such it moved from one sphere of influence to the other.

In 53 BC when the Roman general Crassus was defeated and lost his life at the hands of the Persians, the Arsasids once again regained their hold over Armenia.

In 36 BC Antony, wishing to avenge this Persian victory over Rome, marched his armies to Persia via Armenia, where he too was defeated. He blamed his defeat on the Armenian Prince Artavzade III. Consequently, he allowed his soldiers to kill Artavzade and to loot Armenia.From this time on, the Romans appointed various individuals as governors of the region of Armenia.

Beginning in the year AD 11, the Persians began to interfere in the selection of the ruler of Armenia. From time to time Armenia was occupied by Rome or Persia, but overall Roman rule continued to prevail in the region.

This state of affairs continued until the year A D 63, when a modus vivendi was established by Rome and Persia. In accordance with this agreement, Armenia, while officially remaining ‘Roman’, was to be governed by members of the Arsasid dynasty. As a result of this treaty, Tiridates, the brother of Vologese, the Persian Emperor, became ruler of Armenia. In this manner the Arsasid dynasty was established in Armenia. Despite subsequent disputes between Rome and Persia, the status of Armenia remained unchanged.

In the year AD 224 the Arsasid dynasty in Persia came to an end, and was replaced by the Sassanids. From this date onward the Armenian branch of the Arsasids began a struggle aimed at restoring Arsasid rule in Persia. Armenia was again occupied on several occasions by either the Romans or the Sassanids. This struggle, which lasted until AD 297, did not affect the status quo, and Armenia remained under Roman sovereignty and Arsasid rule.

While it is generally understood that Armenia accepted Christianity after AD 301, it was in fact the Armenian Prince Tiridates III and not the Armenian people as a whole who accepted Christianity. It was many years before the other feudal princes and the Armenian people as a whole accepted Christianity. The Roman Emperor Constantine’s acceptance of Christianity was to be an important factor contributing to the success of those peoples who began to gather round the newly formed Armenian Church after the bloody fighting which had occurred between the feudal princes.

In the same period the Zoroastrian religion was becoming firmly established in the Sassanian Empire. For this reason the Sassanids did not look with favour upon the establishment of Christianity in Armenia, and at the same time they viewed the advance of the Roman Empire as a danger to be overcome. For these reasons the long-standing series of wars between the Romans and the Sassanids were resumed. The end result of these events was the division of Armenia into two sections in the year 390. The eastern region’s ruler, appointed by the Sassanids, was Husrev III who was a member of the Arsasid dynasty, while the western region was given to the Romans, who placed it under the control of Arshak III, a member of the former Arsasid dynasty in Armenia.

Following the death of Arshak III, Rome did not appoint a new prince to its region, but instead joined it directly to the Empire.

As for Husrev III, the Sassanid ruler soon became displeased with his actions, and in the year 392 he was replaced by his brother, Vram Chapouh. The development of the Armenian alphabet in the year 406 occurred during this prince’s reign.
Following the death of the last Arsasid prince, Artakes, in the year 428, the then ruling Sassanid Emperor Vahram v, rather than assigning a new prince in his place, agreed to the request of the feudal lords that this region be annexed directly to the Persian crown.

It is known that under the reign of Emperor Yazdigirt II (438—457), a struggle against Christianity began, resulting in a rebellion in 451. Persia, having invaded Armenia, crushed the rebellion in the Avarian region on 2 June, 451.

The war undertaken by Emperor Firuz against the Eftalits in 484 and his death during the battle enabled Armenia to free herself from absolute Persian domination. A prince named Vahan Mamikonian was able to take the right to rule Armenia from the Persian Emperor. However, it is known that after Vahan’s death the area was once again under the domination of the Sassanid throne.

These dates constitute the period in which relations between the Armenian Church and the Greek Church deteriorated. (We shall deal with this subject later in Chapter 2.) After these years, Byzantium, which replaced Rome, began a policy of expelling Armenians from Armenia which was under her rule. Byzantium not only expelled feudal heads of clans, replacing them with Byzantine officials, but deported the local inhabitants to Thrace, bringing in people from other regions and slaves obtained in wars and settling them there as well.

In 570, a war between Persia and Byzantium broke out, lasting until 591. During the reign of the Byzantine Emperor Maurice (582—602), the defeat of Persia resulted in Armenia being relinquished to Byzantium with the exception of the area beyond Dwin. The Zonga and the Garnicay rivers were established as the border between the two countries; the area west of these rivers was given to Byzantium and the eastern part including the city of Dwin was left to Persia. It is recorded that Emperor Maurice continued his policy of expelling Armenians from the areas which he occupied.

After the death of Emperor Maurice in 602, a new war lasting twenty-five years began between Byzantium and Persia (604—629). However, not only did Persia lose this war, but Persian Armenia came under Byzantine rule as well.

Under the feudal system of the geographical region called Armenia, during the Sassanid period, the nobility was divided into two groups, the feudal lords (Nakharark), and the lesser nobles or Azat class. Research done by Adontz shows that there were about fifty Nakhararks. These were the owners and rulers of a given land, where they were independent. The most famous of these big families, each of which was an independent principality, were the Kamsarakans, the Mamikonians, the Siunis, the Bagratunis, the Rektunis, the Arzdrunis, the Apahunis, the Vahevunis and the Gnunis. Each had different origins. For example, it is recorded that the Kamsarakans were originally from Persia, that the Mamikonians had come from Central Asia, and that the Siunis were pure Armenian.

These feudal lords would come together only in wartime, when they sent their soldiers to war along with the prince appointed to rule Armenia. It is impossible to say that all the feudal lords were united in every war.

The lesser nobles consisted of members of the old families who were independent on their own lands. They were also compelled to provide the feudal lords with cavalrymen. The common people who were living within the boundaries of feudalism were living as slaves.

While the Sassanids saw advantage in preserving this system in order to benefit from the conflicts between the feudal lords, Byzantium was inclined to destroy the feudal system and establish the power of the central government. Thus the feudal lords along with the local inhabitants (possibly those who were not slaves) were deported to other areas.

The first Arab invasion took place in 639 or 640.[16] It is said that the Arabs entered Dwin in 642, that 12,000 Armenians were killed and 35,000 people taken away as slaves. These raids continued, and in 653 Armenia came under the Arabs’ sphere of influence.

The Byzantine Emperor Constantine II invaded Armenia in 654 and entered Dwin. However, because most of the Armenian feudal lords had preferred to cooperate with the Arabs, the previous situation was restored after the Emperor’s death.

In 690 the Arabs assigned Achot Bagratuni to govern Armenia. In this period, raids were undertaken almost alternately by Byzantium from the west, the Khazars from the north and the Arabs from the south.

During the reign of Khalif Velid, it is said that Muhhamed Ibni Mervan, having defeated Byzantium in 705, invaded Armenia and had all the feudal lords killed.

After this date the city of Dwin became the capital of the Arab governors. When the Abbasids replaced the Omayyads, the rule of Armenia was entrusted to the Khalif’s brother, Mansur. After this, Armenia for many years was ruled by Arab governors. The Armenian feudal lords were constantly fighting one another during these years.

It is understood that, in 885, Achot from the Bagratid family came victorious out of these internal struggles, and upon the common wish of the others, the Khalif Al-Mutemed sent him the Khelaut, the robe of honour. Naturally the sending of the Khelaut had not ended Arab rule over Armenia. However, this was the first time since 430 that a new Armenian prince had been appointed to govern the whole of Armenia.

Although the Bagratid family was brought to the leadership of Armenia, it was never able to control the other big families. Moreover, the Arab governors were successful in preserving their de facto sovereignty, and in crushing revolts by the Bagratids.
From the 970s on, Byzantium regained its power, replacing the Abbasids and organizing campaigns to Armenia.

After 1020 Oguz raids started in the Vaspurakan principality around Van lake. It is recorded that its leader, Senegrin Hovhannes, chose to relinquish his lands to the Byzantine Emperor Basile II, and the Prince of Vaspurakan went to Sivas with 14,000 men followed by the women and children; they all became Byzantine subjects.

Basile II continued to invade the rest of Armenia. At the time of his death in 1025, he had invaded one third of Armenia. The Bagratid Prince in Ani, which was not yet invaded, had bequeathed his lands to the Emperor. The rest of the princes who seemed independent were the Bagratid Prince Abas, the Bagratid Prince of Tasir David and the Siuni Prince Grigor from the south of lake Sevan.

When the Ani Prince died, the Emperor Michael demanded that the land be handed over to him. When Gagik II, the son of the Prince, did not fulfil the will of his father, the Emperor sent an army. Constantine Monamak, who replaced the Emperor who had died in the meantime, took over Ani in 1045.

During the same year, Kutalmis Bey, the cousin of the Seijuk Emperor, defeated the Byzantine army at Gence, and the Emperor Constantine Monamak, disbanded the Armenian Militia Army of 50,000.

After this date, the Seijuk raids continued regularly, each raid resulting in a new conquest. Those who tried to resist the Turks were the Georgians and Byzantium. The Armenians, who were subdued and whose militia soldiers were disbanded by Byzantium, did not.

Finally, on 26 August 1071, the whole region of Armenia fell into the hands of the Seljuks, with, the defeat of Romain Diogene at the battle of Malazgirt, and the gates of Anatolia were opened to the Oguz Turks.

The geographical area called Armenia stayed under the rule of the Seijuk Empire until 1157, the year of Sultan Sancar’s death. From this date until 1194, it was under the Iraq Seijuks’ rule, later under the Haresmshahs, and then under the Ilkhanids.

When the Ilkhanid dynasty dissolved, the area came under the rule of the Celayirs in 1334; under Timur’s rule in 1383; after Timur’s death, under the rule of the Karakoyunlus and the Akkoyunlus; and after the 1450s completely under the Akkoyunlus.

The last rulers of this region before the Ottomans took over were the Akkoyunlus and the Safavids. Conqueror Mehmet II defeated Uzun Hasan, the ruler of the Akkoyunlus, at Otluk Beli on 11 August 1473, but drew back instead of pursuing him. Uzun Hasan’s country later fell under Safavid domination. In the year 1514, when Sultan Selim I began his Caldiran campaign, the frontier between the two states was the Enderes stream, an affluent of the Kelkit river between Sivas and Erzincan. On the way to Caldiran, Sultan Selim conquered Erzincan, Erzurum, Ahiska and Beyazit. After his victory in Caldiran on 23 August 1514, he entered Tabriz on 8 September, but returned without keeping the city. Kemah and Diyarbekir were conquered in 1515, and Mardin in 1517. The rest of the conquests in the east took place during the reign of Suleiman the Magnificent. The peace treaty with the Safavids was signed on 28 May 1555, and eastern Anatolia and Iraq came under the absolute sovereignty of the Ottomans.

We have not given any references for the history of Armenia from the 4th century BC, for the events which we have narrated are to be found in the works of Armenian historians, as well as every work written on the history of Byzantium and Persia. We have added nothing. On the contrary, we have omitted the various insults written by Armenian annalists against Byzantium and the Byzantines, for we accepted them not as historical evidence, but rather as emotional expression. (These emotional statements are particularly abundant in the works of Matthew of Urfa.)

The conclusion we draw from the information provided to us by foreign historians is as follows.

From the 4th century BC, in the geographical area which is called Armenia, there was a community whom we call Armenians, but whose origins are not well known. There is no knowledge as to which part of the region they occupied and in what numbers. This region was a province under the administration of the Achaemenid dynasty until Alexander the Great defeated Darius in 331 BC. Later it became part of the Macedonian Empire. When the Empire was divided among the generals following Alexander’s death, the region was allotted to Seleucos.

A feudal system prevailed in the region. Various feudal lords were the owners of several lands. It is not known which of these lords were Armenian, and which were of other origin. It is impossible to talk about the existence of Armenian nationalism or of Armenian consciousness in the region. From time to time a given feudal lord imposed his will on the others, but he never took their lands away from them.

The only period when these feudal lords were independent was between 94 and 66 BC, during Tigran’s reign, when the Selucid Empire was dispersed and when the Iranian Arsasid family was not yet powerful. The region was under Roman administration from 66 BC to AD 63; we see that the Prince, a governor-general, was appointed by the Romans; that although Rome continued to rule from 63 BC to 390, the governor-general was selected first by the Arsasids, then by the Sassanids from the Arsasid dynasty; that Armenia was divided in 390 between Rome and the Sassanids, the area belonging to Iran being connected to the capital in 428; that after the Arab invasion Achot of the Bagratid family was appointed in 885 to govern Armenia, that his jurisdiction never extended outside the boundaries of his lands, that the other lands were governed by the rest of the princes and that at least four other principalities existed in Armenia; that towards the end of the 10th century Byzantium slowly began to invade the region, that by 1045 all the principalities had been dissolved, and that the Oguz raids started after this date.

In view of these historical facts, we see no possibility of talking about an independent Armenia, or the existence of a united Armenian nation. Nevertheless, under Tigran an independent Armenia did exist for about thirty years, but not all the feudal lords who preserved their autonomy within the state were Armenian, nor was the entire local population Armenian.

What can be said of Armenia under the feudal system is that the various feudal lords were constantly struggling to preserve their domination of various communities on their lands, whom they considered slaves.

The two factors which will enable Armenians today to prove themselves a nation are their religion and their language. However, religion is not a distinguishing characteristic of a nation. Not only are there different nations sharing the same faith, but there are nations having a common origin but different faiths. As for the language, this is a factor that is subject to change. Did the community which came from Phrygia to Armenia speak Armenian as it is spoken today? Or is present-day Armenian a combination of the languages of the various communities interacting with each other for centuries? It is impossible to give a definite answer to this question.

Consequently it will not be an error to accept the various books we read as Armenian history as the history of some feudal principalities whose backgrounds are very much unknown.

3. The Armenian kingdom of Cilicia

After having examined the history of the region which the Armenians claim as their homeland, before we go on to the Ottoman period it is necessary to mention the Armenian kingdom of Cilicia.

There are numerous sources available for us to use in summarizing the history of the Cilician Armenian state, for it was in reality a ‘state’ in the full meaning of the word. In the course of its history it had close relations with the Anatolian Seljuks, with Byzantium, with the Syrian and Iraqui Atabegs, with the Crusaders, and finally with the Ayyubids and Mamelukes. Consequently, it is possible to trace the history of the Cilician Armenian state, in the histories of these other states as well. However, as we have previously stated, it is not our intention to write Armenian history, we are only interested in summarizing its highlights until the time when the Armenians became subject to Ottoman rule. Therefore, to summarize this
period of their history we will rely solely on one authority, Avedis Sanjian, who has not only summarized this period in an impeccable fashion, but also enjoys the respect of the entire Armenian community.[17]

Sanjian summarizes the establishment and political life of this state in the following terms. (Passages in square brackets in the following account are our additions.)

Henceforth, the Armenian church having seceded from the communion of the church of Byzantium became the stronghold of Armenian nationalism and the principal factor of national unity. Fully cognizant of this, the Byzantine emperors and the clergy sought, in pursuance of their assimilatory policies, to eliminate not only the feudal families of Armenia, but also the autonomy of the Armenian church.... In the furtherance of these objectives, they employed every means of persuasion. intimidation, and above all persecution. Mass deportations of the native population from Greek-held western Armenia to other Byzantine territories was but one of the measures. [p. 3]

The Arab occupation of Greater Armenia, which lasted from the close of the seventh to the middle of the ninth century, marked a new phase in Armeno-Syrian relations. During their early marauding expeditions, beginning in 639/640, the Arabs not only plundered several provinces, but also carried off thousands of native captives to the territories adjacent to the Euphrates, principally to Edessa, Antioch and Northern Syria.... [p. 6]

In contrast to the policies of Byzantium, the Arabs during their occupation of Armenia showed a greater degree of tolerance toward Armenian Christianity, and unlike the Greeks they did not threaten Armenian national existence through a policy of assimilation. Indeed, the Arabs provided a haven in their territories for those Armenians who were victimized by the religious persecutions of Byzantium. For instance, when in 711—713 Emperor Philippicus expelled a large group of Armenians from Asia Minor for refusing to conform to the Greek Orthodox faith, the Arabs permitted these refugees to settle not only in Armenia proper, but also in the regions of Melitene and northern Syria. Many were enlisted in the Muslim frontier guards in the Taurus Mountains and in Mesopotamia to defend these lands against Byzantine attacks. [p. 6]

At the beginning of the eleventh century, Byzantium took advantage of Armenia’s weakness to annex the country bit by bit.... [p. 7] They recompensed the Armenian rulers of these territories with lands in Sebastia (Sivas), Caesarea (Kayseri) and Tzamandos in Cappadocia.... When the Armenian nobility were dispossessed of their ancestral territories and were granted, in return, domains in Byzantine territories, a large wave of Armenian emigrants accompanied them to these regions which had already been settled by their fellow countrymen at an earlier period. [p. 8]

Certain Armenians in these regions had been appointed by the Byzantine emperors as governors of important cities and also as commanders of imperial armies. Gradually, however, a number of the Armenian officials took advantage of the weakening of the central authority to break oL the ties that bound them to the empire.
The barony founded in Cilicia by the Armenian Prince Reuben, who declared his independence from Byzantium in 1080, proved to be the most important and enduring of the Armenian principalities established between the Byzantine and Arab domains. The emergence of this state, and its intimate associations with the Crusaders and the subsequently established Frankish principalities of Edessa, Antioch, and Tripoli and the Latin kingdom of Jerusalem, marked a significant turning point in the fortunes of the Armenians in historic Syria.

From its inception the Armenian barony, surrounded as it was by powerful neighbours, enjoyed only brief periods of peace....

Despite this delicate balance of power, the Christian barony was able to maintain its position as a vital Christian state even after the gradual disintegration of the Latin hegemony in the Levant. Indeed, the position of Prince Leon II (1187—1219) had become so strong that he succeeded in raising his barony to the status of a kingdom. In 1198 he received a royal crown from the German Emperor Henry VI and from Pope Celestine III.... Thus having lost their independence in historic Armenia, the Armenians were able not only to establish a new home on the shores of the Mediterranean, but to restore their ancient kingdom. The Cilician state, which reached its apogee under Leon who had extended its territories from Isauria [the region in which the Province of Antalya is located today] to the Amanus, attracted so many Armenians that the region could with justice be referred to as a ‘Little Armenia’. [p. 10]

We have previously seen when and for just what period Armenia was an independent area. Further, it would hardly be an accurate historical concept to attempt to establish some continuity between the Cilician Armenian barony and the feudal Armenian principalities in the region of Armenia.

In the first half of the thirteenth century the Mongols swept through Armenia and far into Anatolia. Hence, with a view to protecting the integrity of Cilicia, King Het’um ? concluded military alliances with the Mongol Goyuk Khan in 1247 and also with his successor Mangu Khan in 1253 [One cannot call these ‘alliances’; in fact Het’um came under Mongol rule.]... Not only did the Armenians cooperate with the Mongols in the economic blockade of Egypt by witholding exports of Cilician timber, but Armenian contingents fought side by side with the Mongols in Anatolia as well as in Syria. The arrival of the Mongols in Syria had coincided with the disintegration of the Ayyubids and the rise of the Mamelukes in Egypt. [p. 14]

In the 1250’s Het’urn I and his Armenian contingents joined forces with Hulagu in the occupation of Aleppo, Hama, Horns, Heliopolis, Damascus, and other Syrian cities [The Mongols were defeated by the Mamelukes in 1260.]... The weakening of the Mongol power in Syria made the Cilician kingdom one of the principal targets of Mameluk attacks. In 1266 they invaded Cilicia, slaughtering the inhabitants or carrying them off as captives into Egypt. [p. 15]

The preceding passage has been written in such a way as to suggest that there was not a single living person left in Cilicia. At the same time it neglects to mention the activities of the Armenian forces in Syria. French sources contain interesting accounts of these activities.

In 1274/5 Baybars launched another expedition into Cilicia and also carried out raids into the Taurus. Especially hard hit was Tarsus, then capital of Cilicia, some ten thousand of whose inhabitants were carried off into Egypt. [p. 15]

When the Mongols renewed their Syrian expedition they, together with Het’urn, scored temporary victories at Horns and Damascus in 1299; but another invasion in 1303 ended in the decisive defeat of the Mongols near Damascus. [p. 15]

Nevertheless, until 1342 the Cilician kingdom had been ruled by the Reubenian and Het’umian dynasties, which were of Armenian origin. Leon IV, the last of the Het’umian kings, having no male heir, named as successor his nearest kinsman, Guy de Luisignan, nephew of Henry II of Cyprus, both of whom were related by marriage to the Armenian ruling family. The crown of Cilicia thus passed from the Armenian princes to a French noble family, and the Armenian kingdom became a country under the Latin government. [p. 16]

With the fall of the capital of Sis and the capture of Leon v in the final expedition of 1375, the Armenian kingdom of Cilicia became incorporated into the Mameluke empire. [p. 16]

Subsequent to the fall of Sis, the Mamelukes carried off some 40,000 Armenian captives, a number of whom settled at Aleppo. [p. 18]

It was in this manner that the Cilician Armenian state, which had existed for three hundred years, was brought to an end by the Mamelukes in 1375.

The transfer of these territories to the Ottomans occurred in 1516 after the Ottoman Sultan Selim, by defeating the Mamelukes in the battles of Mercidabik and Ridaniye, brought an end to their state.

The Armenian feudal principalities, which had been located in the geographical region of Armenia, were completely destroyed by Byzantium in the year 1045 and their populations were to a large extent moved and resettled in other territories. Then in 1071 the geographical region of Armenia was conquered by the Seljuks. Following various exchanges of’ rulers they were finally transferred to the Ottomans in 1514.

While the Armenian Kingdom of Cilicia had ceased to exist in 1375, its former territories came under Ottoman administration in 1516.

Consequently, when the Ottomans took over these territories, there had been neither an Armenian principality for 470 years in the east, nor an Armenian kingdom of Cilicia for the previous 150 years. No one then was mentioning the Armenians as being part of a nation. Thus, none of the contemporary sources written in the fi?rst half of the sixteenth century make any mention of an Armenian race or nation. The appearance of the Armenian millet within the framework of the Ottoman Empire is another

In a work of this nature, which is designed solely to examine events which occurred at the end of the nineteenth and the beginning of the twentieth centuries, there is only one reason for us to have examined, even if in summary form, the former history of the Armenian people: that is, to show that the belief still current in certain Armenian circles, that the Ottomans conquered Armenian territory, thereby bringing to an end the existing Armenian state and enslaving the population, is false.
As the historical summary we have provided has been based solely on the writings of Armenian historians and their sympathizers (without benefit of any additions on our part) there may well be some people who are surprised at how these Armenian claims ever developed in the first place.

However, one should not be surprised, because the so-called ‘Armenian Question’ which passes from mouth to mouth is, just like the claims we have examined above, a figment of the imagination; in other words, an imaginary building whose only foundation is similar baseless claims.
* -
- The Armenian File
   «  Back

ERAREN - Institute for Armenian Research

This site is best viewed at 1024 x 768 pixel resolution.