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of the populace. Every indignity was inflicted upon him, and
each refinement of Oriental cruelty ; after he had expired, his body

Ani, and the Arvienian Kingdom of the Middle Ages 347

was nailed to a wooden stake and exhibited to the townspeople
(A.D. 914 [C.]).

A desperate effort was made by his son Ashot to retrieve the Ashot ii.
fortunes of the Armenian arms. He expelled the Mohammedans \ ^ ^oiLoaS.
from many of the fortified places which they had occupied, and
allied himself closely with the king of Georgia, who placed the
crown of Armenia upon his head. Yusuf was not slow to revenge
the reverses of his adherents, and the whole country was given
over to war. The wretched inhabitants fled to the mountains
and the deserts ; the remnant wandered about in a state of
nakedness, and experienced all the tortures of famine. When
winter came thousands perished in the snow. If they fell into
the hands of the enemy they were either massacred or subjected
to every description of torture. In many cases they were offered
liberty and even affluence if they would abjure the Christian
religion ; but these advances were almost always without effect.
Our historian relates with pride the tragic incidents of this period
of martyrdom ; and the profession of faith which he puts in the
mouth of one of the victims is worthy of the highest conceptions
of religious minds. " We are Christians," exclaimed a young
noble in the presence of Yusuf ; " we believe in God, Who is Truth
and Who dwells in the midst of Light without limits." These
afflictions might have excited the compassion of their Christian
neighbours. But perhaps these neighbours were conscious of
their own helplessness ; they preferred to ride on the wave of the
Mussulman invasion, and to share in the spoils of the Armenian
provinces. Whole towns were destroyed and whole countrysides
depopulated ; while the nobles, instead of combining, were involved
in civil war. This state of affairs continued for no less than seven
years, exhausting the country and denuding it of cultivation.
" We sow, but we do not reap ; we plant, but gather not the
fruit ; the fig-tree bears not, and the vine and olive-tree are barren.
We collect a little and abandon the rest." Page after page our
author unfolds the tale of all the miseries which were endured by
himself and his countrymen. He himself was a refugee at the
court of the king of Georgia, where he was in correspondence
with the patriarch of Constantinople. It was the aim of
Byzantine policy to unite the Christian nations of Transcaucasia
with the Armenians ; and the historian, as the spiritual head of
the latter people, used his best endeavours towards this end.
Issuing from his retreat, he made his way to the province of

34^ Armenia

Taron (Mush), whence he addressed a long missive to the
Byzantine Caesar (a.d. 920 [C.]). In touching terms he entreated
him to become the avenger of the Armenian Christians, whom he
represented as the spiritual sons and servants of Constantine. At
his instance the Byzantine court despatched an imperial legate
to the son of Sembat, with the view of renewing the relations
which had subsisted between his father and the deceased ruler of
the Eastern Empire. Our writer met this envoy in the territory
of Taron, and accompanied him to the presence of Ashot. The
prince returned with the legate to Constantinople (A.D. 921 [C.]),
where he was received in a manner becoming his royal rank. He
was addressed as the son of a martyr and the spiritual son
of the Caesar, was arrayed in purple and invested with the insignia
of royalty. Meanwhile the historian was sojourning in the
province of Terjan, a district which has retained its name to the
present day. He naively exhibits the difficulties of his position,
endeavouring, as he was, to avoid complying with the pressing
invitations to the imperial city which were lavished upon him
by. his spiritual brothers of the Greek Church. He was deterred
by the fear that he would be pressed to conform to the doctrine
which had been laid down at the Council of Chalcedon. His
peregrinations brought him to the scenes where St. Gregory the
Illuminator passed his later years in the seclusion of an anchorite.
He describes the cavern where the saint lived, and where his re-
mains were deposited, to be removed by an angel to a grave in the
vicinity. His account of this lonely place,so difficult of access, agrees
in a striking manner with that of a modern traveller, which it invests
with an impressive reality.^ The patriarch found the district in-
habited by anchorites, who maintained an altar in "the holy cave.

In the meantime Yusuf had become embroiled with his old
ally of Vaspurakan, and the war was being carried into the
southern province. A vigorous resistance was offered by King
Gagik, who owed his title to his enemy. Hostilities appear to
have lingered on without decisive result. Such was the state of
affairs when King Ashot II. returned to his dominions, accom-
panied by several generals of the Roman Empire, together with

1 Eugene Bore (Corrcspondancc et Mcmoircs, Paris, 1840, vol. ii. p. 28). The place
is situated in the neighbourhood of the town of Erzinjan, and the historian mentions the
adjacent village of Tortan, which still appears to exist and to be known under that name.
I have not been able to trace it upon any map ; but the monastery of Surb Lusavorich
and Mount Sepuh, the modern Kohanam Dagh, will be found indicated upon my map,
accompanying this work.

Ani, and the Armenian Kingdom of the Middle Ages 349

a considerable detachment of the imperial troops. This material
support, as well as a subsidy in money, enabled him to recover
his position among his feudatories ; and we may conclude that
the relations between himself and King Gagik had become
improved by the change in the attitude of the latter towards the
Mussulman emir. But that crafty statesman knew too well the
weak spots in the political organisation of the Armenians. If
two kings did not suffice to divide his opponents, it could do no
harm and might bring him fortune to create a third. His choice
fell upon a cousin of King Ashot, who had previously been
invested by that monarch with the title of general-in-chief His
name, which was also Ashot, introduces further confusion into
the turbid narrative of the priestly historian. The stage becomes
filled with a crowd of nobles, contending with each other and
combining to mutual destruction round the persons of the two
Ashots. Behind these figures emerge those of the king of
Kolchis and the king of Georgia, while in the background we
perceive the light cavalry of the Mohammedans and the gorgeous
functionaries of the Byzantine Empire. It is scarcely possible
during this troubled period to follow the threads of the emir's
policy. No sooner has he placed a crown upon the forehead of
the one Ashot, than he invests the other with similar insignia of
royalty.^ Nor does the king of the Van country yield in splendour
to his colleagues ; the caliph himself sends him a crown and
magnificent robes. This act excites the fury of the emir of
Azerbaijan, who presently revolts from his sovereign at Baghdad.
His capture and imprisonment removed for awhile the sword
suspended over the head of Gagik, and were the occasion of a
general although transitory improvement in the condition of the
Armenian provinces. The caliph sent one of the highest in rank
of the officers about his person to take over the administration of
the province of his rebellious emir. This official not only
concluded a treaty of peace and alliance with Ashot II. (son of
King Sembat), but also conferred upon him the title of Shahan-
shah, or king of kings. In this manner the Bagratid dynasty of
Shirak recovered their titular sovereignty over x-Xrmenia ; and the
fact illustrates a marked divergence between the policy of the
caliphate, which appears to have desired a strong Armenia, and
that of the semi-independent emirs of Azerbaijan, who strove

^ Chamchean accounts for this change of policy tovvaixls the legitimate king by
supposing that Vusuf wished to conciliate him prior to revolting from the caliph.

350 Armenia

incessantly to prepare the country for their own yoke. On the
other hand, while the caliphs were anxious to secure a counter-
poise to their turbulent governors, the Byzantine Csesars were
well pleased by any accretion of strength to a buffer state which
was attached to themselves by community of faith.

Our historian was not spared to witness the splendour of this
dynasty, as it is manifested in the noble buildings of their capital,
Ani, which had not yet become a royal residence. His closing
years were spent under a recrudescence of the old troubles — dis-
union from within and new inroads of the Mussulmans from
without. The release of Yusuf restored this malefactor to the
scene of his iniquities ; ^ he crossed the Kurdish mountains, and
descended into the territory of Vaspurakan. King Gagik was
in arrears with several instalments of the annual tribute, and was
obliged to collect all the available riches of his country and
deliver them up to his implacable foe. Yusuf continued his
journey to Persia, and, upon his arrival, sent one of his officers to
assert his authority over the Armenian provinces. There ensued
an era of constant activity on the part of the Mussulmans, The
patriarch became a fugitive, taking refuge in the little island of
Lake Sevan, and proceeding thence to a small castle in his
own possession. But the enemy surrounded the place and took
him prisoner, together with the companions of his flight. Escaping
from their clutches, he made his way to the court of A shot, who
was residing in the royal palace of Bagaran ; and the curtain falls
upon his narrative while he is on a visit to King Gagik, with
whom he appears to have maintained relations which were perhaps
prompted by motives of interest, since the patriarchal palace and
domains were situated within his dominions." Panic had taken
hold of the feudal levies, and his countrymen were being
massacred (924 [C.]). In one of the closing sentences in which he
describes that Reign of Terror he, in fact, resumes the larger
history of his race : " Who can foretell our future ? Spare me
the attempt. We are like a harvest reaped by bad husbandmen
amidst encircling gloom and cloud." ^

We close these graphic pages with the feeling that we have
been privileged to gain some insight into the state of the country

^ I adopt ihc colouring of John Kalholikos. Among the many opprobrious terms
under which he alhides to Yusuf are the following : second Pharaoh, prince of wild
beasts, man-eater, astute serpent, Satan, foul-breathed basilisk. Such is the language
of clerical writers in every age.

- John Katholikos, ch. clxxxv. ^ Ibid. ch. clxxxvii.

Ani, and the Armenian Kingdom of the Afidd/e Ages 351

during the reigns of the Bagratid sovereigns, as well as to estimate
the nature of their rule. If I have eliminated by this brief
abstract whole chapters of our author, I may perhaps have saved
my reader from becoming wearied by his declamations, and from
losing the main thread of his thrilling narrative among the side
issues in which he allows it to become involved. The sovereignty
of the Bagratids was essentially feudal in character ; and the loose
ties of such a political organisation were ill adapted to withstand
the strain to which they were subjected at the hands of their
Mussulman neighbours. Indeed, the fact that such a dynasty
could ever have arisen in the heart of Asia, among a people which
could not have numbered more than a iew millions of souls, can
only be explained by the comparative weakness of their contem-
poraries professing the Mohammedan faith. The Armenian
historians are fond of railing upon their countrymen on account
of the internal divisions which precipitated their political fall.
They are not less inclined to attribute the miseries of their nation
to their desertion in critical moments by the Greek Empire.
But they do not appear to have reflected that the frequent
instances of treachery among the Armenian nobles need not have
been due to any inherent defects in the character of the
Armenian people. Similar examples abound in the annals of
our European nations while they were still in the feudal stage of
development. Again, the Greeks, while they were no doubt
prejudiced by dogmatic differences, might, one cannot doubt, have
established a good case for their abstention from more strenuous
succour of the young state. Their subsidies were spent, and
their troops were marched across Asia with little further result
than the aggrandisement of one princelet at the expense of a
competing claimant of the same race. The lesson which may
be derived from a perusal of this contemporary record explains
to us many points which would otherwise be obscure in the much
more meagre annals of the subsequent period which w^itnessed
the frail blossoming and premature destruction of the Armenian
kingdom of the Middle Ages. When the hordes of Turks
descended from the valleys of the Tien-shan and swept across the
settled territories of Persia towards the richest portions of the
Old World, they found upon the high road of the Armenian
tableland a state which was as little adapted to provide a
bulwark against their invasions as any other of the fissiparous
fragments of the caliphs' empire.

352 Armenia

Abas, The narrative of John the Patriarch brings us down to the

A.D. 928-951. closing years of Ashot, second king of that name. The picture
which he has presented of the troubled reigns of these Bagratid
sovereigns may enable us to dispense with the repetition of similar
struggles during the reigns of their successors. Even were I
permitted by the scope of this work and by the material at my
disposal to assign to that later period the same proportion of
space which has been devoted to the actions of the iirst three
kings, I should run the risk of inflicting upon my reader the same
fatigue which I have myself experienced by the perusal of a
Samuel of Ani ^ and a Matthew of Edessa,^ to say nothing of the
industrious compilers of our own times. The storm-clouds, beneath
which the work of the priestly annalist closes, appear to have
lifted over the setting of Ashot's career ; and a mild light
envelops the reign of his brother Abas, who succeeded him on
the throne. This tranquil era seems to have been induced by
the weakness or somnolence of the neighbours of Abas. The
activity of the Sajid family in Azerbaijan, v/hich had been mani-
fest in the exploits of Afshin and of Yusuf, came to an end at
the commencement of his reign. The caliphate was becoming
more and more the shadow of a reality ; and the death of Radi
(a.d. 940) removed the last of the successors of the Prophet who
sustained a measure of personal power and prestige. In the West
the Armenian monarch might observe without anxiety the en-
forced seclusion of the Caesar, Constantine the Seventh, as well
as the later application of his benignant mind to the affairs of
state. Such a wholesome respite was employed by king and
nobles in adorning Armenia with churches and monasteries. In
the city of Kars, where Abas appears to have placed the seat of
government, a cathedral of unusual grandeur rose into being.^
The pugnacity of the race was exercised in fierce religious
dissensions with the Church of the Empire. The western
provinces, subject to the Caisars and administered by them, were
convulsed by the rival battle-cries of Greeks and Armenians, each
imputing to the other heretical opinions upon the unfathomable
subject of the divinity of Christ. Many Armenians took refuge
within the dominions of the Bagratid king ; and if their babes had
been baptized according to the Greek ritual, the ceremony was

' Samuel of Ani, in Migne, Palroloi^tv cursiis coinpktits, series Gncca, vol. xix.
p. 718.

'^ Matthew of Edcssa, translated by Dulauiier (Paris, 185S).
■• Samuel of Ani ap. Migne, op. cit. \o\. xix. p. 71 8.

Ani, and the Armenian Kingdom of the Middle Ages 353

performed a second time by the jealous clergy of the Armenian
Church (944 [C.]).

But it was under the next two reigns that the brilliancy of Ashot iii.,
the dynasty attained the culminating point. Upon the death ■^•'^' 95i-97;
of Abas his son Ashot assumed the government ; and it was
perhaps due to a combination of domestic dissensions and war
w^ith his neighbours that for ten years he remained an uncrowned
king. On the part of the Mussulmans, an Arab emir, whom
the historians name Hamdun, and who may perhaps be identified
with the powerful adversary of the Caesars in Mesopotamia, Seif-
ed-Daula of the Hamdanid family, made incursions into the
southerly provinces of Armenia, and even threatened the dominions
of Ashot. The signal victory of the Armenian monarch (a.D.
960) ^ appears to have gratified the caliph and his masters the
Buwayhids, a petty dynasty which had arisen in Persia, and into
whose hands had fallen Baghdad (945). The same event may
have been instrumental in consolidating the power of Ashot at
home. In the year 961 he was anointed king at Ani, in the
presence and with the consent of the great nobles. The rulers
of the neighbouring states, Mussulman and Christian, signified
their goodwill by sending valuable presents. His suzerain at
Baghdad bestowed upon him a royal crown, addressing him as
Shah-i-Armen or Armenian shah. But we must impute to this
sovereign a new division of authority, and a consequent reduction
of the resisting powers of the Armenian nation in face of
foreign aggression. By investing his brother Mushegh with royal
prerogatives at Kars, he added yet another to the number of
kinglets whose mutual jealousies prepared the way for the passage
of the Seljuk Turks towards the Mediterranean and the Black
Sea. His successor continued and even developed this baneful
policy, adding to the kings of Kars the kings of Lori, in the
mountains which border Armenia upon the north. This latter
Bagratid dynasty struggled on into the thirteenth century ; but
the kings of Kars made over their realm to the Caesar Constantine
the Tenth after the capture of Ani by the Seljuks under i\lp

The reign of Ashot the Third is contemporary with the cam-
paigns of Nikephorus Phokas and of John Zimiskes against the

1 Matthew of Edessa {op. cit. iii. p. 2) gives the date as A.D. 959-960. He makes
the event contemporary with the expedition of the imperial forces against Crete, which
started in 960 and was continued during 961. Saint-Martin {op. cit. vol. i. p. 364)
assigns the Armenian victory to the latter year, and Chamchean to the year 962.
VOL. I 2 A

354 Armenia

Saracens. Throughout this period the Arab emirs of Syria and
Mesopotamia are actively engaged in harassing the outposts of
the great Christian empire, and are not less actively repulsed.
The conceptions of the Crusaders are anticipated by these generals
over a century before the arrival of the Western chivalry. Both
successively ascended the throne of the Caesars ; and it was in
the capacity of emperor of the Romans that Zimiskes, himself
of Armenian descent, summoned the Armenian monarch to attach
to his army a contingent of troops. His expedition appears to
have excited the alarm of the Armenians ; and the native levies
had been marshalled to the proportions of a large army under the
command of the three Armenian kinglets, Ashot, his colleague
of Kars, and his colleague of Van. Zimiskes advanced into the
territory of Mush ; but an alliance was secured by the despatch
of a body of 1 0,000 Armenian warriors to share in the victories
which were about to secure the triumph of the imperial arms
over the followers of the Prophet. These brilliant feats are
narrated for the benefit of King Ashot in a despatch which was
addressed to him by the emperor, and w^hich has been preserved
by Matthew of Edessa. The Armenian monarch is styled
Shahinshah of Great Armenia, the spiritual son of the Caesar
(A.D. 974).^

The reign of this prince has a special interest for the traveller
to Ani ; for it is at this period that the city on the Arpa emerges
from the condition of a mere fortress into the splendour of a
royal residence and capital of a kingdom. Ashot the Third is
known to have added both to the defences and to the public
buildings of a town which had witnessed the ceremony of his
coronation." It was considerably enlarged by his son and

Sembatii., successor, Scmbat the Second, who built the outer wall in face
977-9 9- Qf which I have brought my reader at the commencement of this
chapter.^ Sembat also laid the foundations of the cathedral, but
died before it was completed.'* The title which is assigned to
this king by the Armenian historians dissembles with truly Oriental
ingenuity the inherent weakness of the structure which supported
his throne. He is styled the king of Armenian kings, Shahinshah-

Gagiki., Armen. Sembat was succeeded by his brother Gagik the First,

A. U. 989- 1019.'

' Matthew of Edessa, op. cit. pp. 14 seq.

- Vardan. See Brossct, Ruines d Ani, St. rcleisburg, 1S60, p. 102.
■^ Samuel of Ani ap. Migne, op. cit. p. 721. * Ibid.

^ These dates are taken from Chamchean. But llie subject is not free from difficulty.
See Prudhomme's note appended to his translation of Aristakes of Lastivert in the Revue

Ani, and the Armenian Kingdom of the Middle Ages 355

a prince who is described as at once victorious in the field and
strenuous in the works of peace. His mihtary qualities may
have been displayed in a campaign against the Mussulmans
under the emir of Azerbaijan, Mamlun. But the credit of the
victory over this successor of the Afshins and the Yusufs belongs
in the principal degree to an Armenian prince of the country of
Akhaltsykh, David, who endeavoured, at the head of forces com-
posed of Georgians and xArmenians, to wrest from the Moslem
yoke the fortresses in the south of Armenia, Melazkert, Akhlat,
Arjish.'^ It is rather in the sphere of a patron of art that we
may be able to remember Gagik. It was during his reign that
the noble cathedral at Ani w^as brought to completion, largely
at the expense and by the initiative of his queen. ^ He built
another of the great churches which adorned his capital, that
of the Illuminator on the side of the Valley of Flowers.^ The
monastery of Marmashen, near Alexandropol, was constructed
at this period by one of the Armenian princes, Vahram.^ Lastly,
the seat of the patriarchate was removed to Ani from the neigh-
bouring town of Arghina.''

Upon the death of King Gagik the eldest of his three sons John Sembat,
ascended the ancestral throne. Rare natural intelligence belonged \oj,\.
to John Sembat — -the monarch is known under either name ;
but these mental qualities were perhaps clouded by an excessive
corpulency. On the other hand, his brother Ashot displayed the Ashot iv.,
union of physical symmetry to ardent courage and passion for war. "^■°" ^°2o-io4o.
The man of action chafed under the supremacy of the peaceable
civilian ; and no sooner was the natural heir in possession of his
heritage than his ambitious brother broke into open revolt. A

de POrient for 1863-64, ch. ii. In general the Armenian historians have a profound
contempt for precision in dates and accuracy in statement. Matthew of Edessa is perhaps
the worst sinner in this respect.

1 Matthew of Edessa, chs. xxii. and xxiii. ; and Asoghik, iii. 38, quoted by Dulaurier.

2 Samuel of Ani ap. Migne, op. cit. p. 723-

3 Samuel of Ani [ibid. ) and Asoghik. ■* Samuel of Ani {ibid. ).

^ Samuel of Ani {ibid. p. 720) and Chamchean. According to Samuel of Ani, it was
in A.D. 971 that the patriarch established the seat of his spiritual government at Arghina.

8 I have taken the dates of the deaths of these two kings from Matthew of Edessa,
who is precise upon the point (see chs. liii. and Ivi.). Chamchean (vol. ii. p. 122) places
the death of John Sembat in 1039, and makes him predecease his brother Ashot IV.
Brosset and Saint-Martin adopt the date 1039, but refuse the next fence, over which
the nimble compiler sails with ease, that of the later death of Ashot IV. Perhaps there
is an error in the English translation of Chamchean. One ends by getting tired of playing
with dates. Happily there is an inscription at Ani which, if rightly translated by the
editor of Aristakes {op. cit. ch. x. note), establishes the fact that John Sembat was
alive in 1041.

356 Armenia

peace was at length concluded upon the terms that John should
reign in Shirak, with the capital Ani, and Ashot over the re-

Online LibraryH. F. B. (Harry Finnis Blosse) LynchArmenia, travels and studies (Volume 1) → online text (page 37 of 49)