Essay About Armenian History In Armenian

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For the book with the same name, see History of Armenia (book).

See also: Timeline of Armenian history

Armenia lies in the highlands surrounding the Biblical mountains of Ararat. The original Armenian name for the country was Hayk, later Hayastan (Armenian: Հայաստան), translated as the land of Haik, and consisting of the name of the ancient Mesopotamian god Haya[1] (ha-ià) and the Persian suffix '-stan' ("land"). The historical enemy of Hayk (the legendary ruler of Armenia), Hayastan, was Bel, or in other words Baal (Akkadian cognate Bēlu).

The name Armenia was given to the country by the surrounding states, and it is traditionally derived from Armenak or Aram (the great-grandson of Haik's great-grandson, and another leader who is, according to Armenian tradition, the ancestor of all Armenians).[2] In the Bronze Age, several states flourished in the area of Greater Armenia, including the Hittite Empire (at the height of its power), Mitanni (South-Western historical Armenia), and Hayasa-Azzi (1600–1200 BC). Soon after the Hayasa-Azzi were the Nairi (1400–1000 BC) and the Kingdom of Urartu (1000–600 BC), who successively established their sovereignty over the Armenian Highland. Each of the aforementioned nations and tribes participated in the ethnogenesis of the Armenian people.[3][4]Yerevan, the modern capital of Armenia, dates back to the 8th century BC, with the founding of the fortress of Erebuni in 782 BC by King Argishti I at the western extreme of the Ararat plain.[5] Erebuni has been described as "designed as a great administrative and religious centre, a fully royal capital."[6]

The Iron Age kingdom of Urartu (Assyrian for Ararat) was replaced by the Orontid dynasty.[7][8] Following Persian and subsequent 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 before falling under Roman rule.[9]

In 301, Arsacid Armenia was the first sovereign nation to accept Christianity as a state religion. The Armenians later fell under Byzantine, Sassanid Persian, and Islamic hegemony, but reinstated their independence with the Bagratid Dynasty kingdom of Armenia. After the fall of the kingdom in 1045, and the subsequent Seljuk conquest of Armenia in 1064, the Armenians established a kingdom in Cilicia, where they prolonged their sovereignty to 1375.[10]

Starting in the early 16th century, Greater Armenia came under Safavid Persian rule, however over the centuries Eastern Armenia remained under Persian rule while Western Armenia fell under Ottoman rule.[11] By the 19th century, Eastern Armenia was conquered by Russia and Greater Armenia was divided between the Ottoman and Russian Empires.[12]

In the early 20th century Armenians suffered in the genocide inflicted on them by the Ottoman government of Turkey, in which 1.5 million Armenians were killed and many more dispersed throughout the world via Syria and Lebanon. Armenia, from then on corresponding to much of Eastern Armenia, regained independence in 1918, with the establishment of the First Republic of Armenia, and in 1991, the Republic of Armenia.[13][14][15]


Main article: Prehistoric Armenia

Stone tools from 325,000 years ago have been found in Armenia which indicate the presence of early humans at this time.[16] In the 1960s excavations in the Yerevan 1 Cave uncovered evidence of ancient human habitation, including the remains of a 48,000-year-old heart, and a human cranial fragment and tooth of a similar age.[citation needed]

The Armenian Highland shows traces of settlement from the Neolithic era. Archaeological surveys in 2010 and 2011 have resulted in the discovery of the world's earliest known leather shoe (3,500 BC), straw skirt (3,900 BC), and wine-making facility (4,000 BC) at the Areni-1 cave complex.[17][18][19]

The Shulaveri-Shomu culture of the central Transcaucasus region is one of the earliest known prehistoric cultures in the area, carbon-dated to roughly 6000–4000 BC.[citation needed]

Bronze Age[edit]

Main article: Name of Armenia

An early Bronze-Age culture in the area is the Kura-Araxes culture, assigned to the period between c. 4000 and 2200 BC. The earliest evidence for this culture is found on the Ararat plain; thence it spread to Georgia by 3000 BC (but never reaching Colchis), proceeding westward and to the south-east into an area below the Urmia basin and Lake Van. Early 20th-century scholars suggested that the name Armenian may have possibly been recorded for the first time on an inscription which mentions Armanî (or Armânum) together with Ibla, from territories conquered by Naram-Sin (2300 BC) identified with an Akkadian colony in the current region of Diyarbekir; however, the precise locations of both Armani and Ibla are unclear. Today, the Modern Assyrians (who traditionally speak Neo-Aramaic, however, not Akkadian) refer to the Armenians by the name Armani.[20] The word is also speculated to be related to the Mannaeans, which may be identical to the biblical Minni.

The earliest forms of the word Hayastan, an ethonym the Armenians (Hayer) use to designate their country, might possibly come from Hittite sources of the Late Bronze Age, such as the kingdom of Hayasa-Azzi. Another record mentioned by pharaoh Thutmose III of Egypt in the 33rd year of his reign (1446 BC) as the people of Ermenen, and says in their land "heaven rests upon its four pillars".[21] However, what all these attestations refer to cannot be determined with certainty, and the earliest certain attestation of the name Armenia comes from the Behistun Inscription (c. 500 BC).

Between 1500 and 1200 BC, the Hayasa-Azzi existed in the western half of the Armenian Highland, often clashing with the Hittite Empire. Between 1200 and 800 BC, much of Armenia was united under a confederation of kingdoms, which Assyrian sources called Nairi ("Land of Rivers" in Assyrian").[citation needed]

Iron Age[edit]

Main article: Urartu

The Kingdom of Urartu flourished between the 9th century BC[22] and 585 BC[23] in the Armenian Highland. The founder of the Urartian Kingdom, Aramé, united all the principalities of the Armenian Highland and gave himself the title "King of Kings", the traditional title of Urartian Kings.[24] The Urartians established their sovereignty over all of Taron and Vaspurakan. The main rival of Urartu was the Neo-Assyrian Empire.[25]

During the reign of Sarduri I (834–828 BC), Urartu had become a strong and organized state, and imposed taxes to neighbouring tribes. Sarduri made Tushpa (modern Van) the capital of Urartu. His son, Ishpuinis, extended the borders of the state by conquering what would later be known as the Tigranocerta area and by reaching Urmia. Menuas (810–785 BC) extended the Urartian territory up north, by spreading towards the Araratian fields. He left more than 90 inscriptions by using the Mesopotamian cuneiform scriptures in the Urartian language. Argishtis I of Urartu conquered Latakia from the Hittites,[citation needed] and reached Byblos,[citation needed] and Phoenicia.[citation needed] He built the Erebuni Fortress, located in modern-day Yerevan, in 782 BC by using 6600 prisoners of war.[citation needed]

In 714 BC, the Assyrians under Sargon II defeated the Urartian King Rusa I at Lake Urmia and destroyed the holy Urartian temple at Musasir. At the same time, an Indo-European tribe called the Cimmerians attacked Urartu from the north-west region and destroyed the rest of his armies. Under Ashurbanipal (669–627 BC) the boundaries of the Assyrian Empire reached as far as Armenia and the Caucasus Mountains. The Medes under Cyaxares invaded Assyria later on in 612 BC, and then took over the Urartian capital of Van towards 585 BC, effectively ending the sovereignty of Urartu.[26] According to the Armenian tradition, the Medes helped the Armenians establish the Orontid dynasty.[citation needed]


Orontid dynasty[edit]

Main article: Orontid Dynasty

After the fall of Urartu around 585 BC, the Satrapy of Armenia was ruled by the Armenian Orontid Dynasty, which governed the state in 585–190 BC. Under the Orontids, Armenia during this era was a satrapy of the Persian Empire, and after its disintegration (in 330 BC), it became an independent kingdom. During the rule of the Orontid dynasty, most Armenians adopted the Zoroastrian religion.[27]

Artaxiad dynasty[edit]

Main article: Artaxiad Dynasty

After the destruction of the Seleucid Empire, a Hellenistic Armenian state was founded in 190 BC. 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). 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.[23]

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.[28]

At its zenith, from 95 to 66 BC, Greater Armenia extended its rule over parts of the Caucasus and the area that is now eastern and central Turkey, north-western Iran, Israel, Syria and Lebanon, forming the second Armenian empire. For a time, Armenia was one of the most powerful states east of Rome. It eventually confronted the Roman Republic in wars, which it lost in 66 BC, but nonetheless preserved its sovereignty. Tigranes continued to rule Armenia as an ally of Rome until his death in 55 BC.[29]

The Third Mithridatic War and defeat of the King of Pontus by Roman Pompeius resulted in the Kingdom of Armenia becoming an allied client state of Rome. Later on, in 1 AD, Armenia came under full Roman control until the establishment of the Armenian Arsacid dynasty. The Armenian people then adopted a Western political, philosophical, and religious orientation. According to Strabo, around this time everyone in Armenia spoke "the same language."[citation needed]

Roman Armenia[edit]

For more details on this topic, see Roman relations with the Armenians.

Main articles: Roman Armenia and Persian Armenia

From Pompeius' campaign Armenia was, for the next few centuries contested between Rome and Parthia/Sassanid Persia on the other hand. Roman emperor Trajan even created a short-lived Province of Armenia between 114–118 AD.[30]

Indeed, Roman supremacy was fully established by the campaigns of Gnaeus Domitius Corbulo,[31] that ended with 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.

Because this agreement was not respected by the Parthian Empire, in 114 Trajan from Antiochia in Syria marched on Armenia and conquered the capital Artaxata. Trajan then deposed the Armenian king Parthamasiris (imposed by the Parthians) and ordered the annexation of Armenia to the Roman Empire as a new province. The new province reached the shores of the Caspian Sea and bordered to the north with Caucasian Iberia and Caucasian Albania, two vassal states of Rome. As a Roman province Armenia was administered by Catilius Severus of the Gens Claudia. After Trajan's death, however, his successor Hadrian decided not to maintain the province of Armenia. In 118 AD, Hadrian gave Armenia up, and installed Parthamaspates as its "vassal" king.

Arsacid dynasty[edit]

Main articles: Arsacid dynasty of Armenia and Roman–Parthian 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.[32] 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.[33]

The Sassanid Persians occupied Armenia in 252 and held it until the Romans returned in 287. In 384 the kingdom was split between the Byzantine or East Roman Empire and the Persians.[34] 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.

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.[35] Between 1st and 4th centuries AD, the Armenian Church was headed by patriarchs.


In 301, Armenia became the first nation to adopt Christianity as a state religion,[36] amidst the long-lasting geo-political rivalry over the region. It 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.[37] 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.[38] 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.[39]

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.[40] It seems that the Christianisation of Armenia by the Arsacids of Armenia was partly in defiance of the Sassanids.[41]

In 405-06, Armenia's political future seemed uncertain. With the help of the King of Armenia, Mesrop Mashtots, a unique alphabet was created to suit the people's needs.[clarification needed][42] By doing so, he ushered in a new Golden Age and strengthened Armenian national identity.[citation needed]

After years of rule, the Arsacid dynasty fell in 428, with Eastern Armenia being subjugated to Persia and Western Armenia, to Rome. In the 5th century, the Sassanid Shah Yazdegerd II tried to tie his Christian Armenian subjects more closely to the Sassanid Empire by reimposing the Zoroastrian religion.[43] 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 took place in 451. The 66,000 Armenian rebels,[44] mostly peasants, lost their morale when Mamikonian died in the battlefield. They were substantially outnumbered by the 180,000- to 220,000-strong[45] Persian army of Immortals and war elephants. Despite being a military defeat, the Battle of Avarayr and the subsequent guerilla war in Armenia eventually resulted in the Treaty of Nvarsak (484), which guaranteed religious freedom to the Armenians.[46]

Persian Armenia[edit]

See also: Persian Armenia and Muslim conquest of Persia

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.[47]

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.[47] Persian Armenia remained in Sassanid hands up to the Muslim conquest of Persia, when the invading Muslim forces annexed the Sassanid realm.[citation needed]

Middle Ages[edit]

Main article: Medieval Armenia

Arab Caliphates, Byzantium and Bagratid Armenia[edit]

Main articles: Muslim conquest of Persia and Arminiya

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. The Emperor Heraclius (610–641) was of Armenian descent, as was the Emperor Philippicus (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 Eastern Roman State.[48]

Evolving as a feudal kingdom in the 9th 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.[49]

Sallarid dynasty[edit]

The Iranian[50][51]Sallarid dynasty conquered parts of Eastern Armenia in the 2nd half of the 10th century.[52]

Seljuq Armenia[edit]

Main article: Seljuq Armenia

See also: 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 Turks under Alp Arslan in turn took the city in 1064.[53]

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.[54] 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 Georgian monarchy. 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 Zacharids/Mkhargrdzeli, a prominent Armeno-Georgian noble family.

Armenian Kingdom of Cilicia[edit]

Main article: Armenian Kingdom of Cilicia

To escape death or servitude at the hands of those who had assassinated his relative, Gagik II, King of Ani, an Armenian named Roupen with some of his countrymen went into the gorges of the Taurus Mountains and then into Tarsus of Cilicia. Here the Byzantine governor gave them shelter. Thus, from around 1080 to 1375, the focus of Armenian nationalism moved south, as the Armenian Kingdom of Cilicia.

After the members of the first Crusade appeared in Asia Minor, the Armenians developed close ties to European Crusader States. They flourished in south-eastern Asia Minor until it was conquered by Muslim states. Count Baldwin, who with the rest of the Crusaders was passing through Asia Minor bound for Jerusalem, left the Crusader army and was adopted by Thoros of Edessa, an Armenian ruler of Greek Orthodox faith.[55] As they were hostile towards the Seljuks and unfriendly to the Byzantines, the Armenians took kindly to the crusader count. So when Thoros was assassinated, Baldwin was made ruler of the new crusader County of Edessa. It seems that the Armenians were pleased with Baldwin's rule and with the crusaders in general, and some number of them fought alongside the crusaders. When Antioch had been taken (1097), Constantine, the son of Roupen, received from the crusaders the title of baron.[citation needed]

The Third Crusade and other events elsewhere left Cilicia as the sole substantial Christian presence in the Middle East.[55] World powers, such as Byzantium, the Holy Roman Empire, the Papacy and even the Abbasid Caliph competed and vied for influence over the state and each raced to be the first to recognise Leo II, Prince of Lesser Armenia, as the rightful king. As a result, he had been given a crown by both German and Byzantine emperors. Representatives from across Christendom and a number of Muslim states attended the coronation, thus highlighting the important stature that Cilicia had gained over time.[55] The Armenian authorities was often in touch with the crusaders. No doubt the Armenians aided in some of the other crusades. Cilicia flourished greatly under Armenian rule, as it became the last remnant of Medieval Armenian statehood.[citation needed] Cilcia acquired an Armenian identity, as the kings of Cilicia were called kings of the Armenians, not of the Cilicians.

In Lesser Armenia, Armenian culture was intertwined with both the European culture of the Crusaders and with the Hellenic culture of Cilicia. As the Catholic families extended their influence over Cilicia, the Pope wanted the Armenians to follow Catholicism. This situation divided the kingdom's inhabitants between pro-Catholic and pro-Apostolic camps. Armenian sovereignty lasted until 1375, when the Mamelukes of Egypt profited from the unstable situation in Lesser Armenia and destroyed it.[56]

Early Modern period[edit]

Persian Armenia[edit]

Main article: Armenians in the Persianate

See also: Khanates of the Caucasus, Melikdoms of Karabakh, and Treaty of Turkmenchay

A 5500-year-old leather shoe—the oldest shoe in the world—was discovered in the Areni cave in Armenia. See Areni-1 shoe.
Kingdom of Ararat (Urartu) in the time of Sarduris II, 743 BC
Persis, Parthia, Armenia. Rest Fenner, published in 1835.
Armenia, Mesopotamia, Babylonia and Assyria with Adjacent Regions, Karl von Spruner, published in 1865.
The Roman Empire at its greatest extent, with the "Roman Province of Armenia".
Armenia in the 4th Century, 299–387 AD.
The extent of Persian Armenia.
Armenian Feudal Kingdoms, 1000 AD
The Kingdom of Cilician Armenia, 1199–1375.

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