The Ancient Period
The Middle Ages
The Armenians, an ancient civilisation whose history is long, complex,
and in many ways epic and heroic. The descendants of Aram the Brave and
Haik the forefather and establisher of the first Armenian kingdom in
third millennium BC. A nation who had Kings, Royal dynasties and a
widespread Armenian empire in the first century BC. under King Tigran II
Armenians are the first nation to adopt Christianity
as the official religion of their state (301 A.D.). Throughout the
centuries they have been persecuted and harassed by neighbouring
countries and empires, but through all the turbulence and foreign
domination, however, Armenians created a rich and a colourful culture,
their own alphabet and a socioeconomic structure that has allowed them
to preserve their distinct way of life.
The Ancient Period
Armenia has been populated since prehistoric times, and has been proposed as the site of the Biblical Garden of Eden. Armenia lies in the highlands surrounding the Biblical mountains of Ararat, upon which Noah's Ark came to rest after the flood. (Gen. 8:4). Armenic Sumerian
records written ca. 2,700 BC, tell us the story of the Great Flood and
the rebirth of Life [the Tree of Life or the Garden [Partez - Paradise -
the main motif in the Armenian-Hurrian Mitanni
and Araratian reliefs] of Eden located in Armenia - the Land of Four
Rivers. Archeologists continue to uncover evidence that Armenia and the
Armenian Highlands was the earliest site of human civilization. The
earliest record identified with Armenians is from Armenic Sumerian inscriptions around 2700 BC, in which the Armenians are referred to as the sons of Haya,
after the regional god of the Armenian Highlands. Another early record
identified with Armenians, is from an inscription which mentions Armani together with Ibla, as territories conquered by Naram-Sin (2300 BC) identified with an Akkadian colony in the Diarbekr region. To this day the Assyrians refer to Armenians by this form Armani. Another mention by Thutmose III of Egypt, mentions the people of Ermenen
in 1446 BC, and says in their land "heaven rests upon its four pillars"
(Thutmose was the first Pharoah to cross the Euphrates to reach the
To this day Kurds and Turks refer to Armenians by Ermeni.
From 10,000 BC to 1000 BC, Indo-European
tools and trinkets of copper, bronze and iron were commonly produced in
Armenia and traded in neighbouring lands where those metals were less
abundant. Several Armenian states speaking the Indo-European language flourished in the area of Greater Armenia,
including Aratta (Haik Nahabed's time), mentioned in Armenic Sumerian
records (3rd millennium BC), the Hittite Empire (at the height of its
power), Mitanni (Aram Nahabed's time) and Hayasa-Azzi (15th - 12th cc BC), and in the Iron Age the Nairi (12th - 9th cc BC) and the Kingdom of Ararat (Ara the Beautiful's time) (9th - 6th cc BC). Each of the aformentioned Armenian tribes participated in the ethnogenesis of the Armenian people. Yerevan, the modern capital of Armenia, was founded in 782 BC by king Argishti I.
(Aryan) migrations pointing off the starting point: Armenia.
Scholars V.V.Ivanov and Tamaz Gamreklide place the Indo-European (Aryan) homeland in Armenian Highland, postulating the Armenian language
as an in situated development of a 3rd millennium BC
The first major state in the region was the kingdom of Aratta.
The word Armani - an early form of Armen-Armin [Armen or Arman denotes
the national affiliation, as with many cultures standing for the
particular nation thus, the God AR being the primary deity in the Indo-European
pantheon - thus AR MAN denotes -- Men of Ar or Children of Ar, again
initially AR standing for ARAREL-ARARICH [hence Ar-Ar-At the Place of
ARAR] -- Create-Creator, also Sun, Light, Life and Love.
The modern Armenian name for the country was Hayk, or Hayastan.
Haya, combined with the suffix '-stan' (land). Hayk was one of the great
Armenian leaders after whom the The Land of Hayk was named. Hayk is
also used in place of Orion, in the Armenian translation of the Bible.
He is said to have settled at the foot of Mount Ararat, traveled to
assist in building the Tower of Babel, and, after his return, defeated
the Babylonian king Bel (believed by some researchers to be Nimrod) in
2492 BC near the mountains of Lake Van, in the southwestern part of
historic Armenia (present-day eastern Turkey). One of Hayk's most famous
scions, Aram, considerably extended the borders of his country,
transforming it into a powerful state of Mitanni (Nahrin
from Armenian Nar, Nareh, Narin-eh). Since then, Greeks and Persian
began to call the country Armenia, i.e. the country of Aram. Nairi
(Nahrin), meaning "land of rivers", used to be an ancient name for
Armenia and Armenians, used by Assyrians and Egyptians.
Greek historians first mentioned the Armenians in the mid-fifth
century B.C. Ruled for many centuries by the Persians, Armenia became a
buffer state between the Greeks and Romans to the west and the Persians
and Arabs of the Middle East. It reached its greatest size and influence
under King Tigran II, also known as Tigranes or Tigran the Great (r.
95-55 B.C.). During his reign, Armenia stretched from the Mediterranean
Sea northeast to the Mtkvari River (called the Kura in Azerbaijan) in
present-day Georgia (see fig. 5). Tigran and his son, Artavazd II, made
Armenia a center of Hellenic culture during their reigns.
By 30 B.C., Rome conquered the Armenian Empire, and for the next
200 years Armenia often was a pawn of the Romans in campaigns against
their Central Asian enemies, the Parthians. However, a new dynasty, the
Arsacids, took power in Armenia in 53 A.D. under the Parthian king,
Tiridates I, who defeated Roman forces in 62 A.D. Rome's Emperor Nero
then conciliated the Parthians by personally crowning Tiridates king of
Armenia. For much of its subsequent history, Armenia was not united
under a single sovereign but was usually divided between empires and
among local Armenian rulers.
After contact with centers of early Christianity at Antioch and
Edessa, Armenia accepted Christianity as its state religion in 301 A.D.
(the traditional date - the actual date may have been as late as 314
A.D.), following miracles said to have been performed by Saint Gregory
the Illuminator, son of a Parthian nobleman. Thus Armenians claim that
Tiridates III (238-314 A.D.) was the first ruler to officially
Christianize his people, his conversion predating the conventional date
(312 A.D.) of Constantine the Great's personal acceptance of
Christianity on behalf of the Eastern Roman Empire (the Byzantine
Early in the fifth century A.D., Saint Mesrop, also known as Mashtots, devised an alphabet for the Armenian Language,
and religious and historical works began to appear as part of the
effort to consolidate the influence of Christianity. For the next two
centuries, political unrest paralleled the exceptional development of
literary and religious life that became known as the first golden age of
Armenia. In several administrative forms, Armenia remained part of the
Byzantine Empire until the mid-seventh century. In 653 A.D., the empire,
finding the region difficult to govern, ceded Armenia to the Arabs. In
806 A.D., the Arabs established the noble Bagratid family as governors,
and later kings, of a semiautonomous Armenian state.
The Empire of King Tigran Mets. (c) 2005, Armenica.org
From 87 to 85, Tigran's Army victoriously entered Armenian
Mesopotamia [Northern Mesopotamia], the province of Korduk', Migdonia
and Adiabenē, which were previously under the control of the Parthians.
The kingdoms of Osroyenē and Atrpatakan [Atropatene] also pledged their
loyalty and support to Tigran the Great. In 85, the Parthians officially
recognized him as the supreme ruler of the East. Tigran took the haled
title of King of Kings, from the Parthian monarch, and honorably held it
to the end of his life.
In 83, after a bloody strife for the throne of Syria, governed
by the Seleucids, the Syrians decided to choose Tigran as the protector
of their kingdom and offered him the crown of Syria. Tigran was crowned
the same year with the support of the local aristocracy. Tigran
conducted an "open" policy of free trade within the Hellenistic
metropolitan polis' [cities] of the vast Armenian Empire, granting
autonomy to those important cities, who could mint their own currency
and were judged according to the local laws and customs. The Syrian
mints also issued coins depicting the Emperor, King of Kings Tigran the
Great. According to Justin, Tigran reigned for eighteen years on the
During this period, the Armenian forces advanced and conquered
the kingdoms of Commagene [mostly Armenian in its demographic
composition] and Cilicia [also containing a sizable Armenian community].
Once in Syria, Tigran was confronted with another foe, Queen Alexandra,
ruler of Palestine. Josephus noted "She [Queen Alexandra] was a
sagacious woman…she increased the army the one half, and procured a
great body of foreign troops, till her own nation became not only very
powerful at home, but terrible also to foreign potentates." [Wars,
I.v.3; Antiq. XIII.xvi.4].
The Armenian troops quickly advanced and took the city of Acre
[Ptolemais] in Phoenicia. Tigran's Army successfully besieged the
onetime seat of the Seleucid capital -- Seleucia-on-Tigris. Josephus in
his Antiquities wrote that Queen Alexandra "presented Tigranes, with
many valuable gifts, and also ambassadors…" The Queen pledged her
loyalty by offering all of Phoenicia to the King of Kings.
After the successive campaigns on the eastern sea shore of the
Mediterranean Sea, and conquests in Syria, Phoenicia and Palestine, the
Armenian warriors gained a reputation and respect not only throughout
the Near East, but the Roman domain as well. The famous Greek historian
Strabo wrote: "They fight on foot and on horseback, both in light and
heavy armor. The horses are also protected with armor. They use javelins
and bows and wear breastplates, shields, and coverings'; [XI.xiv.12]
And..."They have a passion for riding and take good care of their
While Plutarch wrote that the Armenian archers could kill from
200 meters with their deadly accurate arrows. The Romans admired and
respected the bravery and the warrior spirit of the Armenian Cavalry --
the hardcore of Tigran's Army. The Roman historian Sallustius Crispus
wrote that the Armenian [Ayrudzi - lit. horsemen] Cavalry was
"remarkable by the beauty of their horses and armor" Horses in Armenia,
since ancient times were considered as the most important part and pride
of the warrior. It was the horse and the wagons [as well as the iron
weaponry], that made possible the vast migrations of Indo-European
peoples from Armenia (Aratta).
Indo-European (Aryan) family tree
By Thomas V. Gamkrelidze and V. V. Ivanov Scientific American, March
This inference is supported by what is known about the portion of the
Indo-European community that remained after the Anatolian family had
broken away. From that community came the languages that persisted into
written history. The first to branch off was the
Greek-Armenian-Indo-lranian language community. It must have begun to do
so in the fourth millennium B.C. because by the middle of the third
millennium B.C. the community was already dividing into two groups,
namely, the Indo-lranian and the Greek-Armenian. Tablets in the Hattusas
archives show that by the middle of the second millennium B.C. the
Indo-lranian group had given rise to a language spoken in the Mitanni
kingdom on the southeast frontier of Anatolia that was already different
from ancient Indian (commonly called Sanskrit) and ancient Iranian.
Cretan Mycenaean texts from the same eras as Mitanni, deciphered in the
early 1950's by the British scholars Michael G. F. Ventris and John
Chadwick, fumed out to be in a previously unknown dialect of Greek. All
these languages had gone their separate ways from Armenian.
The Middle Ages
Particularly under Bagratid kings Ashot I (also known as Ashot the
Great or Ashot V, r. 862-890 A.D.) and Ashot III (r. A.D. 952-977), a
flourishing of art and literature accompanied a second golden age of
Armenian history. The relative prosperity of other kingdoms in the
region enabled the Armenians to develop their culture while remaining
segmented among jurisdictions of varying degrees of autonomy granted by
the Arabs. Then, after eleventh-century invasions from the west by the
Byzantine Greeks and from the east by the Seljuk Turks, the independent
kingdoms in Armenia proper collapsed, and a new Armenian state, the
kingdom of Lesser Armenia, formed in Cilicia along the northeasternmost
shore of the Mediterranean Sea. As an ally of the kingdoms set up by the
European armies of the Crusades, Cilician
Armenia fought against the rising Muslim threat on behalf of the
Christian nations of Europe until internal rebellions and court intrigue
brought its downfall, at the hands of the Central Asian Mamluk Turks in
1375. Cilician Armenia left notable monuments of art, literature,
theology, and jurisprudence. It also served as the door through which
Armenians began emigrating to points west, notably Cyprus, Marseilles,
Cairo, Venice, and even Holland.
The Mamluks controlled Cilician Armenia until the Ottoman Turks
conquered the region in the sixteenth century. Meanwhile, the Ottoman
Turks and the Persians divided Caucasian Armenia to the northeast
between the sixteenth and eighteenth centuries. The Persians dominated
the area of modern Armenia, around Lake Sevan and the city of Erevan.
From the fifteenth century until the early twentieth century, most
Armenians were ruled by the Ottoman Turks through the millet (see
Glossary) system, which recognized the ecclesiastical authority of the
Armenian Apostolic Church over the Armenian people.
Between Russia and Turkey
Beginning in the eighteenth century, the Russian Empire played a
growing role in determining the fate of the Armenians, although those in
Anatolia remained under Turkish control, with tragic consequences that
would endure well into the twentieth century.
Russian Influence Expands
In the eighteenth century, Transcaucasia (the region including the
Greater Caucasus mountain range as well as the lands to the south and
west) became the object of a military-political struggle among three
empires: Ottoman Turkey, tsarist Russia, and Safavid Persia. In 1828
Russia defeated Persia and annexed the area around Erevan, bringing
thousands of Armenians into the Russian Empire. In the next
half-century, three related processes began to intensify the political
and national consciousness of the ethnic and religious communities of
the Caucasus region: the imposition of tsarist rule; the rise of a
market and capitalist economy; and the emergence of secular national
intelligentsias. Tsarism brought Armenians from Russia and from the
former Persian provinces under a single legal order. The tsarist system
also brought relative peace and security by fostering commerce and
industry, the growth of towns, and the building of railroads, thus
gradually ending the isolation of many villages.
In the mid-nineteenth century, a major movement toward
centralization and reform, called the Tanzimat, swept through the
Ottoman Empire, whose authority had been eroded by corruption and
delegation of control to local fiefdoms. Armenian subjects benefited
somewhat from these reforms; for instance, in 1863 a special Armenian
constitution was granted. When the reform movement was ended in the
1870s by reactionary factions, however, Ottoman policy toward subject
nationalities became less tolerant, and the situation of the Armenians
in the empire began to deteriorate rapidly.