1902 Encyclopedia > Armenia


ARMENIA (Hayasdani or Haikh, in the native lan-guage), formerly an extensive country of Western Asia, which is now divided between Turkey, Russia, and Persia. Its political relations, and consequently its geographical limits, were subject to frequent variation, but in its widest extent it may be described as reaching from the Caucasus-in the N. to the Mountains of Kurdistan in the S., and from the Caspian Sea in the E. to Asia Minor in the W., frequently, indeed, somewhat overlapping with the last-mentioned geographical division. From a very early period a distinction was drawn between Greater Armenia (Armenia Major, Medz Hayotz), to the east of the Euphrates, and Lesser Armenia (Armenia Minor, Phokhr Hayotz), lying to the west. The former is more properly Armenia. It consists for the most part of an elevated table-land, about 7000 feet above tbe level of the sea, culminating in the peaks of Mount Ararat, and sinking towards the plains of Iran on the east and those of Asia Minor in the west, while it is frequently broken by glens and valleys. It is watered by the Euphrates, the Tigris, the Aras, and the Kur, all of which have their sources within its borders; and, like other mountainous countries, it possesses a large number of lakes. The most important of these are Van or Aghtamar, Sevan or Khabodan, and Urmiah or Keghem. The country is naturally fertile, pro-ducing grain, cotton, tobacco, and grapes, but for many centuries it has been sadly neglected. It abounds in romantic scenery and luxuriant pasture. The beauty of the district of Ararat especially has been celebrated by patriotic historians like Moses of Khorene and Lazarus of Pharb. In the time of its greatest prosperity, Armenia Major was divided into fifteen provinces, and contained a large number of flourishing and important towns. The capital for many centuries, under the Haikian dynasty, was Armavir, to the north of the Araxes, but it was changed for Artaxata (Ardashad) towards the close of the first century of our era. Erovant II. (58-78 A.D.) built Erovantashad and Pakaran, and adorned them with the spoils of the earlier cities. From the 2d to the 4th cen-tury the royal residence was at Valarsabad, which no longer exists, and, under the Pagratid dynasty, the chief town was first Shiragavan and afterwards Ani, the remains of which still testify to its magnificence. (Texier, Descrip-tion de V Armenie; Brosset, Ruines d'Ani, 1860, 1861.) Other places of importance were Erzeroum, Van or Shamira-maguerd, Nakhjuan, Amid, and Pakovan. Divided and in-corporated by the three great empires already mentioned, Armenia has no longer a separate existence, and details re-garding the present condition of the country that formerly bore the name come more appropriately elsewhere. The Russian portion extends south to the Aras, and is mainly included in the government of Erivan; the Persian share is absorbed in Azerbijan; and Turkish Armenia is principally contained in the province of Erzeroum. The chief towns in the first are Erivan, Etchmiadzin, Ordubad, and Alexand-ropol; in the second, Urumiyah; and in the third, Erze-roum and Van.

History. According to their own legendary history, in which ancient traditions are curiously incorporated with Biblical lore, the Armenians are descendants of Haik, a son of Togarmah, the grandson of Japhet, who fled from the tyranny of Belus of Assyria and settled in the country which now, in their language, bears his name. The con-quest of the land by Semiramis, and the revolt of Barvir against Sardanapalus, are the chief events in the early ages. Tigranes or Dikran is regarded as the contemporary and ally of Cyrus, and the history of his reign is recorded in detail. His son, Vahakin, who succeeded him, was cele-brated for his strength, and was deified after his death. The dynasty came to an end in the person of Vahi, who was defeated by Alexander the Great, 328 B.C.

The Armenians threw off the Macedonian yoke in 317 B.C., and chose Ardvates as their king; but on his death, about thirty-three years afterwards, they submitted to the Seleucids of Syria. About 190 B.C., Artaxias, who had been appointed governor by Antiochus the Great, took advantage of that monarch's defeat by the Romans and proclaimed Armenia Major independent. It was this 'prince who afforded an asylum in his court to the exiled Hannibal The example of revolt was followed in Lesser Armenia by Zadriades, whose descendants maintained their position till the time of Tigranes II., when their territory was annexed to Greater Armenia.

About the middle of the 2d century B.C., the great Parthian king, Mithridates I., who had already extended his empire over Syria, established his brother, Valarsaces Arsacid (Wagharshag), in Armenia, and thus rendered him the dynasty, founder of one of the most important branches of the 14a BC~ Arsacid family. The new king greatly promoted the pros- 428 AD' perity of the country by founding cities, establishing laws, and rewarding persons of talent. The most celebrated of his successors was his great-grandson, Tigranes II., who made himself master of Syria, the Lesser Armenia, and many Parthian provinces, and would, probably, have been the founder of an extensive empire had not the solicitations of his father-in-law, Mithridates of Pontus, brought him into collision with the Romans. In reward for the sub-mission which he ultimately made to Pompey, he was allowed to keep possession of Armenia, with the exception of the provinces of Sophene and Gordyene, which were erected into a separate kingdom for his son, Tigranes. He Roman in-continued a faithful ally of the Romans till his death, fluence and about 55 B.C., when he was succeeded by bis son, Arta- suPremacy. vasdes, who, having adopted a more independent policy, was taken prisoner by Antony and carried to Alexandria, where he was afterwards beheaded by Cleopatra in 30 B.C.

A period follows of nominal Roman supremacy and actual anarchy; 170 independent families all asserting themselves to the best of their ability, and a few of them succeeding in establishing their petty principalities. At length a usurper, Erovant, an Arsacid by the female line, made himself in some sort master of all the kingdom about 58 A.D., and maintained his position till he was expelled by Ardashes (Exedarus), a more direct representative of the race, who was repeatedly dethroned and restored by Parthian and Roman interference, but managed to do some-thing for the amelioration of his country.

When the Arsacids were driven from the Persian throne Subjection by the Sassanid Artaxerxes (Ardeshir), Chosroes the Great *'?jj>®ls]ja-' of Armenia naturally took up arms in their defence; and A-D-he maintained the contest till his assassination by Anag, an Arsacid prince of Persia, when Armenia became subject to the Persian dynasty, 232 A.D. In the massacre of the royal family which ensued, none escaped but Tiridates (Tirdat), a son of Chosroes, who fled to Rome, and after-wards, with the help of the Romans, established himself on the throne, 259 A.D. The first act of his reign was the persecution of the Christians, who had begun to take root in the country during the previous century. St Gre-gory, surnamed the Illuminator, was cast into prison; but the king being, as he supposed, miraculously cured of a dangerous distemper by the saint, the Christian religion was embraced by himself and most of his people. The introduction of Christianity tended to arouse the animosity of the Persians; and from this period Armenia became the theatre of almost uninterrupted struggles between that nation and the Romans, until Theodosius the Great agreed to cede to Persia the eastern part of the country, which was thence called Persarmenia, while the western part was annexed to the Roman empire. Theodosius nominated Arsaces IV., then nominal king of Armenia, governor of the western division; and the Persian king, to conciliate the people, appointed Chosroes III., a descendant of another branch of the Arsacids, governor of the eastern part. The rule of the Arsacids in Persarmenia ended with Ardashes IV., who was dethroned by Bahram V. of Persia in 428 ; and from that date Armenia ceased to be a king-dom, and was ruled till 632 by Persian marzbans or gover-nors. The Persians had all along endeavoured to subvert Christianity, and for that purpose had recourse to the most cruel persecutions. Frequent insurrections were the con-sequence, one of the most remarkable being that which was led by Vartan (see Neumann's History of Tartan, by Elisanis, 1830). From 632 till 839 Armenia was the scene of almost incessant struggles between the Greeks and Mahometans, while its own native princes added to Pagratid the confusion by their rivalries and strife. Ashod, a mem-dynasty, "ber of the Pagratid family, which claimed to be of ancient 743-1079. jg^gjj origin, became master of Central and Northern Armenia about 743, and, being recognised by the caliphs as an independent prince, founded a dynasty which con-tinued till 1079, when Cakig II was assassinated, and his Ardzmnian kingdom incorporated with the Greek empire. Another dynasty, family, which claimed the parricide sons of Sennacherib as 908-1080. ^g foun^er9j held possession of the province of Vasburagan and some of the neighbouring territory, and maintained its independence till 1080, when it likewise succumbed to Merwanid Byzantium. During the same period the district north-dynasty, west of lake Van was held by the Mussulman race of the 984~108o. Merwanids,—called by the Armenians the princes of Abra-huni,—-who gave a nominal submission now to the Byzan-tine government and now to the sultans. Rhupenian Rhupen (Ruben), a relative of the last king of the dynasty, Pagratid dynasty, retired to the north of Cilicia, and 1080-1393. founded in the shelter of the Taurus a small principality, which gradually extended its boundaries to the Mediter-ranean, and became known as the kingdom of Lesser Armenia. The Rhupenians entered into alliance with the Crusaders, and formed, along with the kings of Cyprus, the last bulwark of Christianity in the East. They welcomed as allies the Mongolian hordes that overran Asia in the 13th century, and shared in the hostility and ven-geance of the Mamelukes. The last king of the family, Leon, or Ghevond VI., was taken prisoner in spite of a vigorous defence at Gaban in 1375, and, after six years of captivity in Egypt, wandered through Europe till his death, at Paris, in 1393. (See Langlois, Essai sur les rois de la dyn. Roupénienne, St Petersb., 1860; Documents pour servir à l'hist. des Lusignans de la P. Arm., 1859; Le Trésor des chartes dArménie, 1863.)

About the middle of the 14th century the Kurds had possession of the south of Armenia, the Persians of the north, and the Ottomans of the west. The whole was subjected to the sway of Timour, of whose cruelties a graphic account has been left by the Armenian, Thomas of Medzoph (see Nève's Etude sur Thomas de Medzoph). It was mainly governed by Persian officials during the next century, the only national authority being the patriarch. In 1604 Shah Abbas, in his contest with Ahmed I., laid the whole country waste, and forcibly transplanted about 40,000 of the inhabitants into Persia, where they settled principally in Ispahan and New Julfa, as they fondly called the city which they founded. Since then the Armenians have had no political position as a nation, though they continue to form an important and valuable portion of the population in Russia, Turkey, and Persia, and their colonies have spread into almost all quarters of the globe. It was calculated, about 1850, that there were approxi-mately four millions of Armenians in the world, of whom 2,500,000 were inhabitants of the Ottoman empire, 1,200,000 of the Russian empire, 25,000 in the empire of Austria, 150,000 in Persia and Azerbijan, 25,000 in continental India and the Archipelago of Asia, and the remaining 100,000 scattered in various countries (Dulau-rier). According to a recent statistician of Turkey (Lejean), there are 400,000 Armenians in the European part of the empire, of whom more than 200,000 are in Constantinople itself. Originally a brave and warlike people, they have become distinguished for their peaceful character and their submissiveness to the government of every country in which they live. (See the articles of Dulaurier and Prince Dadian in Revue des D. Mondes, 1854 and 1867.)

[Further Reading] See Saint-Martin's Mémoires sur l'Arménie, Paris, 1818-19. Brosset's Voy. Archeol. dans la Géorgie et dans l'Arménie en 1847-8, Paris, 1849-51; Bore's "Arménie" in L'Univers Pittoresque; Curzon's Armenia, London, 1854; Jaubert's Voy. en Armenie, &c. ; Morier's Zweite Reise durch Persien u. Armenien; Serpos's Compendio storico concernente la naz. Arm. ; Collection des hist, ane. et mod. de XArm., by Langlois ; Recueil oVactes et document rel.a Vhist. de la nation Arm., 3 vols., Moscow; Chamich's 'History, trans, by Avdall, Calcutta, 1827 ; Phahnazarian's Esquisse de Vhist. de I Arm., 1856; Dulaurier, Rech. sur la chron. Arm.; Goerres, Die Japhetiten und ihre gemeinsame Heimath in Armen., Munich, 1845.

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