Page images

chosen from among the Armenians themselves. Many of these princes oppressed and persecuted the people, yet the spirit of liberty and Christian activity stimulated them to great efforts for the intellectual and religions improvement of the nation. Christianity, at this time, through Armenian agency, was extensively carried among other nations, as the Georgians, Albanians, Liphnians, Akhznians, Kartusians, Dsotians, Tasanians; and even in Persia there were many who were secretly Christians.

The taste for Greek literature and civilization, however, which Christianity had inspired, and the introduction, in a imeasure, of the Roman legislation, caused the Sassanidæ erer to regard, the Arinenians with jealousy and suspicion. On the other hand, the emperors of Constantinople, ever wishing to obtain possession of Armenia, favored, in every possible way, these tendencies, and showed themselves ready and eager to sustain all attempts at revolt, by which they hoped to profit.

It was then that the Sassanidæ undertook to proscribe the nise and study of the Greek language, and, to this end, they carefully sought for and burned all books written in that language, and endeavored to extirpate Christianity altogether, and substitute in its place the worship of fire. Missionaries of the

. Magian religion were sent, in large numbers, into the country, but the Armenians strenuously resisted, and at last the Persians, seeing them to be invincible, granted them religious toleration.

About 636, Armenia was invaded by the Saracens. With an army of 18,000, under the chief Abdarrahman, they entered the county, committing horrible excesses of cruelty and devastation. They took Tovin, the capital of Armenia, massacring 12,000 of its inhabitants, taking the women and children captive. The splendid edifices in all the cities were burned or thrown down, and these ruthless barbarians returned to their own country, carrying away with them 35,000 citizens into a hopeless captivity.

Armenia soon passed under the dominion of the Caliphs, who entrusted the government to prefects, vosdigans, invested with sovereign authority. Many of these officers signalized


their administration by exactions withont number upon the people, and excessive rigor towards the princes, whom they compelled to abjure their religion, or suffer death, and, in some instances, sent to groan in the prisons of Bagdad. During the Caliphate (693–585), many attempts were made by the people to regain their independence; the Arab troops were sometimes overwhelmed and massacred, but resistance was in vain against the powerful armies of the Caliphs.

There was, however, under the Saracen rule, a good degree of prosperity throughout all Armenia, and many of the chief families of the nation acquired great wealth and influence. Among these was the house o' Bagratidæ, which, in 859, was invested with regal authority, and retained it till 1079. This family, to which reference has already been made, was of Jewish origin, but early coalesced with the Armenian

The founder, whose name was Sembat, came into Armenia at the time of the captivity by Nebuchadnezzar. One of his posterity was the celebrated Bagarat, who lived in the second century before Christ, and who, in consequence of his eminent services, was ennobled by the title of “Bagarat the Bagratian.” This family is still in existence, as was remarked in our former Article, and can boast of an antiquity with which that of Savoy, one of the oldest in Europe, is both short lived and recent. One of the most distinguished members of this family was Aschod, who ruled with such skill and wisdom, and understood so well how to conciliate, that he became the warm friend of the reigning caliph. The Emperor Basil also recognized him as king of Armenia. There were nine sovereigns of this family that succeeded each other, embracing a period of nearly 200 years. Their authority, however, was restricted to the province of Ararat, and was exercised under the surveillance of the rulers of Bagdad, yet it gave many years

of peace and prosperity to the country. Their capital, Ani, on the river Akhourian (Arpachai), has left ruins which still attest the extent of the city, as well as its ancient splendor and magnificence. While most of the royal cities of the ancient kingdom of Armenia have entirely disappeared, so that it is with difficulty that their sites even can be accurately determined, the ruins of this city, the last Armenian capital of the Ararat region, have been, until quite recently, very abundant, and pro-. nounced by all travelers to be most remarkable. The rich architectural decorations, everywhere found, astonish the beholder. The various arches, columns, capitals, cornices, mosaics, traceries, flutings, headings, etc., indicate an acquaintance with the various styles of ornamental architecture found among the highest civilized nations.

The Armenian historian Clamich gives a detailed account of the many efforts made by the Bagratian rulers to embellish and strengthen this city. In speaking of one Sembat, who ruled from 979 to 959, he says: “ This king first surrounded the city with a wall of exceeding great height and thickness, on which he raised lofty towers for the defenders. He then caused a trench of amazing depth and breadth to be dug outside, so as to encompass all the city and works, the whole being faced with stone and brick. This was a work of such magnitude, that it took him eight years to finish it. In the city he built such a number of churches, that, added to what were there before his accession, they amounted to the surprising number of 1001. This circumstance gave rise to a curions practice in use among the common people in Armenia, who, on making a solemn assertion, would swear by the thousand and one churches of Ani."

During the reign of the Bagratian family, the emperors of Constantinople made repeated attempts to get possession of Armenia; and Ani, their beautiful capital, rich and populous, strong in its position, with its solid and towering ramparts, was ever an object of their desire. Constantine Monomacus, finally despairing of getting possession of it by open force, resolved to put in play the habitual artifices of the Byzantine policy, and bring near to him, by demonstrations of friendship, the Armenian king. In this, after long manenvring, he was successful, but though he gained possession of the person of the king, and ultimately of the city, the people would not submit to the Byzantine rule.

There was also another princely family that rnled about this time, having its capital at Kars. Of this family there were three kings, from 908 to 1022.

[ocr errors]

Though there was such hostility between the Armenians and the Greeks, yet there were, in many instances, alliances between the rnling families of both nations; and not only this, but many of the Byzantine emperors were of Armenian extraction. From the latter part of the sixth century to the beginning of the twelfth, it has been estimated, by one author, that, of the emperors of Constantinople, fourteen were Armenians, and many others distinguished themselves as senators and generals of the imperial armies. Indeed, from the beginning of the eighth century, or from the accession of Leo III, (717), the Hellenic race occupied a very subordinate position in the Byzantine empire. The predominant influence in the political administration was in the hands of Asiatics, and particularly of Armenians, who filled the highest military commands, and who composed many of the oldest and most illustrious families of the Constantinopolitan aristocracy; whilst the middle classes in the same city were chiefly Greek, and the lowest class--the servants and day laborers-Slavonian. The Bulgarian, Georgian, Syrian, and Abassian elements were also prominent. In the tenth and the eleventh centuries, the Armenian kingdoms of Ani, Kars, and Vasburagan, although inferior in regard to population, surpassed the Byzantine in active commerce, industry, flourishing state of agriculture and finances. This is shown by the incredible number of cities, towns, fortresses, manufactories, churches, hospitals, convents, bridges, &c., that were built, at a vast expense, in these small kingdoms.

But the Armenians were soon called again to new and severer trials. About 1021, the Scythians, a far more formidable foe than the Greeks, began to make those terrible invasions which proved so disastrous to the Armenian power. They first marched into Media, and from thence into the Armenian kingdom of Vasburagan. This kingdom was contemporary with that of Ani and Kars, and situated in the southeastern part of Armenia, in the vicinity of Lake Van. The king Senacherib for a time successfully opposed these invaders, but, as they increased in numbers and strength, he saw that he should not be able to resist them. He therefore made over

tures to the Emperor Basil for an exchange of territory, lie taking the city of Sivas and its dependencies, and delivering up, in return, his kingdom to the Greek empire. These overtures being acceptable, a regular transfer was made of Vasburagan to the emperor, comprising four thousand towns and villages, ten cities, and seventy-two castles; and the king with about one third of the inhabitants, amounting to more than 400,000 souls, took possession of Sivas and the surrounding region.

Already in 1040 the Turks had penetrated the Armenian territory. At first they were successfully repulsed, but in 1060 they completely inundated, as a devastating torrent, all the fertile and beautiful provinces of Ararat. Alp Arslan, with an immense army, laid waste the country, took Ani, defaced and destroyed its beautiful monuments, and slaughtered all its inhabitants. By the Turks and Moguls, the cities of Armenia were pillaged, burned, and razed to the ground. These followed each other like terrible waves of a desolating scourge, almost annihilating the Armenian nation by fire and sword, and those who survived only saved themselves by fleeing to the fortresses, that were situated in the midst of inaccessible mountains. Thus the whole country of northern Armenia was almost entirely abandoned to families of Kurdish Emirs, to the kings of Georgia, and to the Sultans of the Seljuks, who were continually disputing the possession of it, for nearly two centuries. Nature herself seemed also to second the destructive action of the hand of man, for the remains of cities, edifices, and monuments, left by the many invaders, were overthrown, broken, scattered, and buried by terrible earthqnakes. The whole Ararat region was repeatedly rent and torn by these visitations, the effects of which are, even at the present time, everywhere visible.

About 1180, one of the generals of the Bagratian family, with a band of strong and devoted men, threw himself upon the Grecian territory of Cilicia, in the southern part of Asia Minor, and there, among the mountain gorges and fastnesses of the Taurus, he founded a new Armenian kingdom, which existed about 300 years. It was called the Ronpenian king. dom, or dynasty, from Roupen, the name of the general lim

« PreviousContinue »