Friday, August 1, 2008

Armenia becomes the first Christian nation

I think that to understand and to know Armenian Genocide better and deeper one has to know the ancient history of Armenia especially the age when Armenia became the fisrt Christian state in the world and ever since has never adopted any other religion and has never converted its Christian religion into another one (especially Muslim) (even under horrible tortures, wars, genocide).
I decided to post this article in order to make you more familiar with Armenian nation,Armenian history.

Armenia becomes the first Christian nation.

For all that, it's only two and half centuries later that Armenia was Christianized. In 301, the king Tiridates established Christianity as a sole religion of Armenia. Some modern researchers unsubstantially pretend the event took place in 314, and not in 301. The fact remains that the Edict of Milan decreed by Constantine the Great in 313 simply mandated tolerance of the Christians in the Roman Empire, while Tiridates the Great proclaimed Christianity as a sole religion throughout all Armenian lands. Thus, Armenia became the first Christian State in the history of the world.
Gregory the Illuminator, the first Patriarch of the Armenian Church, converted Tiridates and his court. Before his conversion Tiridates, famous for his tyranny, persecuted Christians. After many horrible tortures, he threw Gregory into an underground pit full of serpents and dead bodies, where Gregory spent 13 long years.
Agathangeghos, historian of 4th century, states that during Gregory's imprisonment a group of Christian virgins under the guidance of Gayane Abbess arrived in the city of Vagharshapat. The King Tiridates fell in love with Hripsime, one of the virgins. As Hripsime rejected his love, he put the whole group of virgins to the sword. As a result of this evil deed, Tiridates was stricken with an incurable illness. Then Khosroviducht, his Christian sister, urged him to free Gregory. The King did so, and was miraculously healed.
During the following years, Tiridates and Gregory implanted the new religion with fire and sword. The sanctuaries and heathen temples were destroyed throughout the country. The only pagan temple remained intact to this day is Garni (1-st century AD-H.A.)
The first Christian churches appeared in Vagharshapat (Echmiadzin), in Nakhijevan, in Artsakh (Karabakh!). According to different accounts presented in ancient legends and in the History of Moses Khorenatzi, the first cathedral of St.Echmiadzin (now the official center of the Armenian Church) was built between 301 and 303. The exact design and place came to St.Gregory in a divine vision: Christ himself descended to the Ararat valley and struck with a golden hammer to indicate the future location of the cathedral.

Arshak II, Papes and Varazdat.
The adoption of Christianity put an end to the pagan traditions and abolished the secular fine arts and poetry. The Persian influence was still very strong in Armenia, but now Armenia and Persia worshipped different Gods. The political consequences of the evolution were tragic. A series of wars weakened Armenia during the ruling of Arshak II. The Persian King Shapur II succeeded in sowing discord between Arshak II and his principal feudal lords, called Nakharars. Some of the lords defected to Shapur. The Armenian King was summoned to Persia and then imprisoned for life in the Castle of Oblivion. His wife, Queen Parandzem, led the Armenian defense in the Artagers castle, but after 14 months of siege was also imprisoned, taken to Persia and then killed.
Arshak's successor, King Papes was as contradictory figure as his father. He was assassinated by order of the Emperor Flavius Theodosius after he allegedly had ordered the Armenian Catholicos Nerses the Great be poisoned. At that time Papes' two sons were not of age to take the throne, so Theodosius crowned Varazdat, Papes's nephew. This Varazdat was a handsome young man, a formidable warrior and a skillful fisticuffs fighter. He took part in the Olympic Games at Olympia, Greece and became victor. But the end of his ruling was unfortunate. His intention to marry the Persian Princess angered Theodosius, Persia's sworn enemy. The perfidious Emperor ordered that Varazdat be enchained and exiled to an island.

St. Mesrob and the Golden Age of Armenia
The Armenian Kingdom fell into decay, but Christianity in Armenia strengthened considerably. At that time the necessity emerged to revive the lost Armenian alphabet. The Masses in Armenian churches were sung in Greek, the Royal Court and nobility spoke Greek and Parthian, priesthood, schools and different educational institutions widely used Greek and Syrian. Therefore, the recreation of the alphabet became vital to oppose the possible assimilation.
King Vramshapouh and Catholicos Sahak Partev assigned the task to Mesrob Mashtots, a genius scholar monk. For several years, he traveled throughout Greater and Lesser Armenias and Mediterranean world in quest for the lost scriptures. In Edessa, he finds some of the scrolls in old Armenian, and after carefully reviewing them and exploring the possibilities, he recreates the Armenian alphabet in 405.
In 425, the Bible was translated into the Armenian language from the authentic copies of the Bible brought from Constantinople and Edessa. The Armenian translation is the fifth known translation of the Bible. Earlier, the Bible was only translated into the Syriac, the Latin, the Coptic and the Abyssinian languages. Some specialists estimate this translation, performed by St.Mesrob and his disciples, as the best Bible translation ever. The French linguists of the 19th century termed it as the "Queen of translations". St.Mesrob, later elevated into sainthood, is also known as the author of the actual Georgian alphabet. He also invented an alphabet for the large tribe of Gargareans, that inhabited Aghuank.
Paradoxically, the 5th century, marked by serious political losses, became the Golden Age of the Armenian literature. The works of Faustus the Byzantine, Moses of Khorene, Eliseus , Koriun, Lazarus Barbedzi, Eznik of Kolb, David the Invincible, and others, may be considered milestones of historiography and philosophy.

St. Vardan and the first war for the Christian faith.
Meanwhile, Armenia lost independence. Over the next 200 years the eastern provinces were ruled by the Persian marzpans. A number of insurrections took place during that period. The most famous among them was the so-called Vardanank, War of St.Vardan in 451, described in details by Eliseus and Lazarus Barbedzi. The Persian King Yazdegerd II tried to put an end to Christianity in Armenia, and to disseminate the doctrine of Zoroaster. Armenians revolted when the numerous Persian priests were sent to Armenia to build temples and conduct fire worship. On May 6, 451 a horrifically bloody battle took place in the Avarayr place. 66 thousand Armenians heroically fought the overwhelmingly superior Persian troops. Most of the Armenian lords including St.Vardan fell in battle, but Armenia undoubtedly won a great moral victory. Over 60 thousand of Persian soldiers were killed, and Yazdegerd's hopes were dashed. That was the first known war for Christian faith in history.

Vahan Mamikonean.
30 years later a new resurrection took place, headed by Prince Vahan Mamikonean, St.Vardan's nephew. This commander fought the Persian king Firuz II with changeable success. Firuz's successor was a moderate ruler conceding the freedom of religion. Vahan was granted the title of marzpan. Another offspring of Mamikonean family, known as Red Vardan, rose against Persians in the middle of the next century. He captured the city of Dvin, the old Armenian capital. But soon the rising was put down, and Vardan made his escape to Greece. In 551 Moses , the Armenian Catholicos set a new Armenian calendar from AD 551.

The Bagradouni Princes and the Arab expansion.

Around 590, a new partition of Armenia between Persia and Byzantine Empire took place. Western provinces of the Greater Armenia were ruled by the kuropalats - governors of the Greek Emperor. The Mamikonean Princes gradually conceded their leading role to the other noble Armenian families. The Bagradouni Princes became especially powerful and influential.

>Meanwhile, the Persian Empire fell into decay. In the early seventh century, a new power emerged in the Middle East. The Arabian Caliphate began first great expansions. Egypt and Syria became Islamic countries. The Persian troops were routed several times. By 680, Arabs destroyed the last remains of the Persian resistance and invaded all Persian territories. Zoroastrianism was replaced with Islam.

Arab invasions and Armenian revolts.
The Arabs first invaded Armenia in 640. Prince Theodoros Rshtuni led the Armenian defense. In 652, a piece agreement was made, allowing Armenians freedom of religion. Prince Theidoros traveled to Damask, where he was recognized by the Arabs as the ruler of Armenia, Georgia and Albania.
By the end of the seventh century, the Caliphate's policy toward Armenia and the Christian faith hardened. Special representatives of Caliph called ostigans were sent to govern Armenia. The ostigans made the city of Dvin their residence. Before Dvin was the residence of Armenian Catholicos.
Although declared domain of Caliph, Armenia remained faithful to the Christian religion. The Arabs failed in several attempts to convert the Armenians to Islam. The Armenian obstinacy exasperated caliph Abd al-Malik. In 705, he gave to one of the ostigans an unprecedented order to murder all Armenian Nakharars. More than 400 Armenian noblemen were entrapped to one of Nakhichevan churches, then the doors were closed and the church was set in fire. Later, the Arab historians termed that time as The Year of Great Burning. Quoting Armenian History.','#cc9966')" onmouseout=kill() href="" target=_blank ;>John VI, "...ocean of tears flooded Armenia". A number of unsuccessful insurrections followed that tragic event during the 8th century.
By 850, the Bagradouni Princes strengthened their position among the other noble Armenian families. The Prince Bagarat Bagradouni was the one who enjoyed the confidence of the high-ranking Arab officials. The Caliph granted him the title of Grand Prince. But soon thereafter, other Armenian Nakharars rebelled against him.
In 851 Yussouf, a Caliph's commander, arrived to Armenia to put down the mutiny. To his surprise, he found nobody submissive. Enraged, Yussouf arrested the Grand Prince and sent him to the Caliph. A few later, the two sons of Bagarat revenged his father, raising the highlanders of Sassun province against Arabs. At nighttime, the armed multitude suddenly attacked the castle of Yussouf and killed him.
Furious, the Caliph sent a huge army, headed by Bugha. This commander, former slave, was known for his particular cruelty. Bugha's campaign was truly devastating. Many Armenian cities and fortresses were destroyed and set ablaze. Historians termed Bugha as "butcher" and "brutal urderer". The panic prevailed throughout the country. Only some few of the Armenian Nakharars put a stout resistance. Isaiah, the valiant Prince of Artsakh was Bugha's most uncompromising opponent, but in the end Bugha seized him and sent to Baghdad together with other captive Nakharars.
Many of these noble prisoners met their death in the Baghdad dungeons. Being aware of the particular authority of Bagradouni Princes, the Caliph tried to convert them to Islam. Sembat Bagradouni, Sparabet of Armenia, refused to apostatize and was murdered after many cruel tortures.

Restoration of Kingdom.
Ten years later Ashot Bagradouni, son of Sembat was proclaimed Prince of Princes. Wise and astute politician, Ashot resourcefully balanced between the Arabs and the Greeks. Under his ruling, Armenia enjoyed relative peace and prosperity. In 884, Ashot I was solemnly crowned King of Armenia. Both the Caliph and the Byzantine Emperor sent him a crown with many splendid presents, recognizing him as King. Thus, the Armenian Kingdom was de jure restored.
In the time of Ashot's ruling, Basil I, the first Emperor of the Macedonian dynasty, came to throne in the Byzantine Empire. Basil I and a number of his successors were of Armenian descent. The new Emperor declared himself a descendent of the Armenian Arshakids kings. Traditionally, during the coronation ceremonies of the Armenian kings, it was a representative of Bagradouni family who solemnly laid the crown on the new king's head. That's why Basil I delegated a certain Nikita, his court eunuch, to Armenia asking Ashot Bagradouni to symbolically send him a crown.


After Ashot's death in 890 his son, Sembat I became King of Armenia. Bellicose and energetic, he waged non-stop warfare during 22 years of his ruling. He was very successful in the beginning, putting down a number of revolts in northern Armenia and subjecting the Moslem rulers of Dvin. The major Armenian Nakharars supported Sembat at that time, and his army was very efficient. But later, some of the most ambitious vassals sought independence. As a result the Kingdom was split into several rebellious principalities. Perhaps the King Sembat had only himself to blame. He began the destructive process in 899, when he granted the title of King to his friend and loyal vassal Adrnerseh, the Prince of the vast Vyrk province. The accession of Adrnerseh in Vyrk originated the future Georgian Kingdom.
The jealousy of other influential Princes caused unrest and trouble in Armenia. The ostigan Afshin, sworn enemy of King Sembat, was now able to turn the situation to his profit. He repeatedly attacked the Armenian cities and captured the important fortress of Kars, making Armenian Queen and other members of the royal family his hostages. The truce was established after Sembat I agreed to pay a huge ransom and give one of his nieces in marriage to Afshin. Shortly after, Afshin died, but his brother Yussouf was even worse. He concluded an alliance with Gagik Ardsrouni, ruler of Vaspurakan province. A few later, Gagik was declared King of Armenia. Also the Sparapet Ashot seceded and declared himself King of Armenia. A number of fratricidal wars devastated the country. Then Yussouf, in alliance with the apostate Armenian princes, besieged and destroyed many of key cities and fortresses. At the end of his tether, the King Sembat locked him-self in an impregnable fortress of Kapuit.
The siege of Kapuit lasted over two years. Finally, Sembat surrendered to Yussouf making it a condition to spare his loyal soldiers. Yussouf hypocritically swore eternal friendship, but after a while he perfidiously captured the Armenian King again. Sembat I was accused of preparing a new war, tortured in a barbarous fashion, and finally put to death.

Ashot Erkat.
The internecine strife continued to destroy Armenia during the next decade. Ashot II, son of Sembat, came to throne of his father. He forthwith began the war against another King Ashot, his cousin and namesake who had for residence the city of Bagharan. The third Armenian king, Gagik Ardsrouni, ruled in relative peace the Vaspurakan province. An unprecedented renaissance in architecture marked his ruling. A number of splendid churches and a beautiful palace were built on the Akhtamar Island. Later, the Church of Holy Cross became the residence of the Catholicosate of Aghtamar. In 914, Ashot II visited Constantinople. The Emperor Constantine VII Porphyrogenitus treated him with affection and sent him back to Armenia with a huge army. Now Ashot II was able to rout Yussouf and put an end to the Arab dominance. Historians called Ashot, Erkat i.e. Iron.

Heyday of Trade and Literature.
Under the ruling of Abas I, and Ashot III, Armenia reentered the period of peace and prosperity. The capital moved into the glorious city of Ani, known as "the city of one thousand and one churches". Under the next kings, Sembat II and his brother Gaguik I, the resumption oftrade made Ani one of the most prosperous cities of that time. Its population reached 200 000 inhabitants.
The 10th and the 11th century produced new illustrious names in Armenian historical and ecclesiastic literature, such as John of Draskhanakert, Thomas Ardsrouni, Moses Kaghankatvatsi, Asoghik and Gregory Narekatsi.

The Turks emerge.
However, new disastrous invasions marked the beginning of a new millennium. The Seljuk Turks emerged as a new dangerous power. The Vaspurakan province was the first to be attacked. As mentioned above, this province was ruled by Ardsrouni princes who proclaimed themselves kings. Unable to secure the country against the new enemy, the King Senekerim sought the protection of Emperor Basil II. As a result of their mutual accord, Basil II took the possession of Vaspurakan giving Senekerim one of the Greek provinces in exchange. Meanwhile, the Seljuks tried to capture the old Armenian city of Dvin, but were put to rout by Vahram Pahlavouni, Sparapet of Armenia.

Gagik II.
During the next 50 years the Greeks gradually annexed the important part of the Great Armenia. Torn between the Turkish danger and co-religionist Byzantine power, Armenia was at the threshold of a national disaster. The army of Constantine IX besieged Ani in 1041. The Sparapet Vahram Pahlavouni, at the time 80 years old, repeatedly repulsed the enemy. Soon after, the Greeks raised the siege. A 16-year-old Gaguik II arrived in Ani and was proclaimed King of Armenia. However, Gaguik II was fated to be the last king of the Armenian Bagratouni dynasty. Young and inexperienced, he was betrayed by some of his pro-Greek princes, especially by Prince Sarkis. During Gaguik's visit in Constantinople the Emperor Constantine IX told him that Sarkis and the other Armenian grandees had recognized the Greek authority over Armenia. Confused and upset, Gagik refused to return to Armenia.

Armenia falls under the Turks
The Greek dominance in Armenia ended in 1071, after the famous battle of Manzikert. The 100-thousandth army of Byzantines including the Armenian forces met with the huge army of Seljuks under Alp Aslan. The Christians led by the Emperor Romanus Diogenes were defeated, and Diogenes was imprisoned by Alp Aslan. The Turks took control over all of the Greater Armenia.

Armenians and Georgians unite.
In the 12th century and in the beginning of the 13th century, a number of Armenian nobles joined with the neighboring Georgians, in an attempt to liberate the Armenian lands. The strengthening Georgian Kingdom was at the time ruled by a branch of the Armenian Bagradouni dynasty. After a number of uprisings that took place in 1124, 1161 and 1174, the Seljuk rule was overthrown in different cities of Greater Armenia. During the reign of Queen Tamar (1184-1213), some important cities of Greater Armenia, such as Ani, Kars and Dvin were retaken from the Turks. The military expeditions were led by Armenian nobles Zakare Zakarian and his brother Ivane, favorite of Queen Tamar.

Mongols and Turkomans in Armenia.
The short revival in Armenia ended with the first Mongol invasions in the early 1220's. During the next 100 years the country was subjected to new campaigns of terror and destruction. The cities and the entire provinces, such as Ani, Kars, Lori, Gandzak, Shamkhor, Khachen, Nakhichevan and many others were destroyed, plundered and set ablaze. After the census taken in 1254, the population was overtaxed. According to Kirakos Gandzaketsi, eyewitness to the events, "…they demanded the most severe taxes, more than a man could bear…They harassed the people with incredible beatings and tortures… Those who hid were seized and killed."
A number of rebellions led by Armenian and Georgian lords were brutally crushed by Mongols.
From the beginning of the 14th century, the Mongol dominance in the region recedes. Now numerous Turkoman nomadic tribes invade the Armenian lands. Different parts of Armenia become the theater of warfare for the various nomadic clans, such as Kara Koyunlu (Black Sheep) and Ak Koyunlu(White Sheep) .

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