The Kingdom of Armenia or Greater Armenia was an influential monarchy in Near East. It was ruled by the two most powerful Armenian royal families of those times.
The Republic of Armenia is a small landlocked country in South Caucasus. But it’s fair to mention that today’s territory of Armenia is only the small part the ancient, historical Armenia.
There were times when Armenia was a big and influential kingdom. During the history it has gone through lots of changes, many kingdoms, dynasties and conquerers ruled the country.
As a result of historical turbulence, we have a small, but still prospering country in the middle of Europe and Asia. But for now, let’s discover the history of the Kingdom of Armenia.
Briefly about Ancient Armenia
Kingdom of Armenia that existed for centuries is just a part of ancient Armenia. Historical Armenia is the land where mankind was reborn after the Great Flood. It has been around for thousands of years.
In other words, it has been around since the very origin of early civilizations. They lived and created right here. Armenia is a diverse country, home to people with a big love for science and arts.
Condensing time, Armenian history is replete with lots of events and inventions which contributed to the development of modern world! Now let’s turn back the pages of that history and discover what ancient Armenia looked like!
You have probably thought that our ancestors walked around barefooted? In fact, it’s the opposite. Armenians knew how to make leather shoes even 5500 years ago.
According to studies the prehistory of human settlement in Armenia starts from new Stone Age. Stone tools found during excavations make the statement firmer. People have inhabited Armenia since immemorial times.
In Armenian history, an early bronze age culture refers to the period between c. 4000 and 2200 BC. The earliest evidence for this culture is found in the Ararat valley. The natives were well known for making bronze tools.
Famous Areni cave in Vayoc Dzor is another evidence of how developed the natives of ancient Armenia were even at Bronze Age. This actually opened a new epoch of human progress.
At the bronze age, several states developed in the territory of Kingdom of Armenia as well. In most explored parts, both bronze and iron furniture were found. This indicates gradual advance into the Iron Age.
The Iron age lasted shorter than other epochs. It started in 9th century BC up to the 7th century BC. At this time iron was the main toolmaking material. And Armenia was very rich in iron mines, by the way.
When talking about ancient Armenia and Iron age the first thing that comes to mind is Urartu. Another name for this Armenian state is the Kingdom of Van.
This was an organized and strong state with its own army. The inhabitants even spoke their Urartian language. It was the Urartian king Argishti I that built Erebuni which later turned into Yerevan- the capital of Armenia.
Before adopting Christianity in the 4th century Armenians were pagans. Armenian history states that religion in Armenian in pre-Christian times related to various beliefs and Gods.
Three dynasties ruled Armenia. The Kingdom of Armenia was also influenced by Hellenic culture.
The Kingdom of Armenia in Antiquity
The history of the antique kingdom of Armenia lasted nearly 8 centuries. This monarchy started in 321 BC and lasted up to 428 AD. Quite long time to be filled with political clashes, turns and twists and advancements at the same time.
During the first years of establishment, this state occupied 400.000 square km territory. This was just the beginning. Later, it was expanded. It had 3 million population who spoke Armenian as a native tongue. Greek and Aramaic were also quite common.
However, like nowadays, everything depends on the ruler. The strategies and political activities adopted by the head of the country always have a huge impact on the state. The kingdom of Armenia was lucky to have a monarch like Tigranes the Great- the King of Kings.
During his rule, Armenia reached the peak of its greatness and as a superpower played a decisive role in the region. His Royal Highness Tigranes the Great was from Artaxiad Royal House and ruled in 95-55 BC.
During all those years he devoted himself to the development and advancement of Greater Armenia. The very first thing the great ruler did was to unite all Armenia. Then he started to expand the Armenian territory. As a skilled military figure, he carried on with his expansionist policy in the East. Accordingly, the territory of the kingdom of Armenia became over 3 million square km-s.
It stretched from Egypt to the Caucasus, from the Mediterranean Sea to the Caspian. In other words-from “sea to sea”. The population of the enormous empire was 20 million and it carried the influence of Hellenic culture.
Tigranocerta was the newly-founded capital. Greater Armenia experienced peaceful and economically stable years. Soon this influential Asian state became a real threat to ancient Rome. However, when 75 years old Tigranes the Great could reach reconciliation with Rome and saved the kingdom of Armenia from future Roman invasions.
The Army of the Kingdom of Armenia
It goes without saying that Tigranes the Great couldn’t do anything without well-organized and regular forces. Urartian kings also owned army but this one was something different. His army comprised 12000 cavalrymen, chariots, 12,000 mounted archers and 120,000 infantrymen.
Besides he had camels and donkeys to carry baggage, in total, historians talk of 500000 men. This wise man really knew how to protect his homeland.
Interesting Facts about the Kingdom of Armenia
- Through 749 years of existence kingdom of Armenia experienced three beliefs; Armenian polytheism, Zoroastrianism and Christianity
- It was at the times of Arsacid kings of Kingdom of Armenia that Armenian letters were invented (405 AD). The 5th century was a real breakthrough in Armenian history.
- Tigranes the Great was one of the rare Armenian kings that minted his own coins.
- Some Arab tribes and Parthia were vassals of Tigranes the Great.
- 24 operas were composed about this monarch. Most of the composers were from Europe.
- The kingdom of Armenia comprised today’s Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Palestine, Lebanon, Syria, Turkey.
Bagratid Kingdom of Armenia
After the fall of the antique kingdom of Armenia, the Arabs conquered Armenia. Nearly two centuries the former prosperous kingdom was only plundered. Soon the signs of revival were obvious.
The early revolts began in the 8th century and the rise of the new royal line was marked in the early 880’s. The new royal house entered the Armenian history as Bagratid dynasty.
When Bagratid kings came to power Armenia was already a Christian country and had its own alphabet. The territory was 250000 square km and 5 million people lived on that territory. They were skilled merchants and handicraftsmen.
It had four capitals. The last one was Ani-the city of thousand churches. The economy of Bagratid Armenia was based on agriculture and mercantilism.
The Kingdom of Armenia under Ashot Yerkat
As all royal dynasties Bagratid line also gave birth to someone who turned to be one of the most remarkable kings of his times. Ashot Yekat or Ashot the Iron was one of them. He got this epithet Iron after fighting off the foreign invasions successfully.
This iron man took the throne in 914 and ruled 14 years. From early years of his rule, Ashot Yerkat started to drive all Arabs out from his territories. He received support from Christian Byzantine. All rebels instigated by Arabs were defeated successfully. Soon Ashot’s legitimate rule was recognized and he gained the title “the King of kings”.
Golden Age of Bagratid Kingdom of Armenia
Somehow chaotic medieval ages of Armenian history worth remembering. Despite political instability, Roman encroachment and Arab invasions soon a golden age in Armenian culture and economy begun.
Ani became the capital city. It grew quickly and became Bagratid Armenia’s main political, cultural and economic center. Monasteries, hospitals, schools, markets, workshops, and inns were established.
The art of miniatures illustrations revived right in this period. The relative period of peace resulted in an interaction between Armenian artists and their Greek counterparts. Armenian manuscript authors tended to stress the natural look of the human body in their works.
They also concentrated on the aspect of decoration. Armenian architecture under the Bagratid rule was prominent and most of the surviving churches in Armenia are from this golden period.
- Unlike the previous kingdom of Armenia, Bagratid Armenia minted no coins. They used dinar.
- During those time Armenia exported “vordan karmir” in enormous proportion. Actually, vordan karmir (red worm) is a red dye derived from a red worm. In most medieval manuscripts this color is widely used.
- Ruler Ashot Yerkat is especially famous for the fight against Arabs in Lake Sevan.
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