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Armenians in the Persian Empire

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Armenians in the Persian Empire

This article is about the eastern half of Armenia after its division during the Marzpanate period. For the western half, see Byzantine Armenia .
Persian Armenia
Պարսկահայաստան
Province

428 AD–646 AD

Flag

Persian Armenia during the Sassanid Empire, AD 428–646
Capital Dvin
Languages Armenian (native language)
Middle Persian
Religion Armenian Apostolic
Zoroastrianism
Government Monarchy
Marzpan
 -  442–51 Vasak of Syunik
 -  482–83 Sahak II Bagratuni
 -  485–505/510 Vahan Mamikonian
 -  505/10–509/514 Vard Mamikonian
 -  518–48 Mjej I Gnuni
 -  574–76 Phillip Syuni
 -  591 Mushegh II Mamikonian
 -  628 Varaz-Tirots II Bagratuni
Historical era Middle Ages
 -  Established 428 AD
 -  Disestablished 646 AD

Persian Armenia or Persarmenia (Armenian: Պարսկահայաստան Parskahayastan) corresponds to the Persian territory in which Armenians have lived until the Arab conquest of Persia. The size of Persian Armenia varied over time. It sometimes simply referred to as Eastern Armenia. According to George A. Bournoutian, professor of Armenian history, "prior to the third century A.D., Iran had more influence on Armenia's culture than any of its other neighbours. Intermarriage among the Iranian and Armenian nobility was common."

Armenians and the Achaemenid Empire

After the fall of the Median empire In 550 B.C. Cyrus the Great, King of the Persians, took control of the Median empire and conquered Asia Minor and Mesopotamia. Cyrus' son continued his father's campaign in Egypt. Eventually, Armenia became a dependency of Persia.

The Armenian contingents, cavalry and infantry, had taken part in Cyrus the Great's conquest of Lydia in 546 and of Babylonia in 539. A rebellion of ten subject nations — one of them Armenia — broke out against Persia during the reign of Darius the Great (522–486)

Behistun inscriptions

In the Behistun inscriptions, Darius I talks of his multiple victories. The inscription includes three versions of the same text, written in three different cuneiform script languages: Old Persian, Elamite, and Babylonian. The name Armenia had been used for the first time, when Darius wanted to describe his conquests in the Armenian Highlands. The shahanshah speaks of bloody battles against the Armenians, and cites the names of three important battles.

The Armenians thus stayed under Persian rule from 519 to 330 B.C. Those years are considered to be relatively peaceful; trade flourished. Herodotus claimed that the Armenians had to pay 50 'talents' and thousands of horses per year to the Persians. When he speaks of Xerxes the Great' invasions to Greek land, he mentions that the Armenian forces rallied with Xerxes, and that they resembled and spoke like the Persians.

Alexander the Great later conquered the Achaemenid Empire, and the Artaxiad dynasty established an independent Armenian kingdom in 190 B.C.

Armenians and the Sassanian Empire

The Armenians chose Christianity as state religion in 301. Armenia was divided between Sassanian Persia and the Roman Empire. The former established control in Eastern Armenia after the fall of the Arsacid Armenian kingdom in 428.

Vardan Mamikonian

As conflict between the Romans and Sassanids escalated about three centuries after the birth of Jesus, Yazdegerd II began to view Christianity in the Northern lands as a political threat to the cohesiveness of the Persian empire. The dispute appears to be based on Persian military considerations of the time given that according to Acts 2:9 in the Acts of the Apostles there were Persians, Parthians and Medes (all Iranian tribes) among the very first new Christian converts at Pentecost and Christianity has had a long history in Iran as a minority religion, dating back to the very early years of the faith. Nevertheless, the conversion to Christianity by Armenians in the North was of particular concern to Yazdegerd II. After a successful invasion of the Eastern Roman Empire, Yazdegerd began summoning Armenian nobles to Ctesiphon and reconverted them to Zoroastrianism (a faith many Armenians shared with Persians prior to Christianity). This upset the Armenian population , and under the leadership of Vardan Mamikonian an army of 66,000 Armenians rebelled against the Sassanian empire. Yazdegerd quickly subdued the rebellion at the Battle of Avarayr.

Aftermath

The military success of the Persians ensured that Armenia would remain part of the Sassanian empire for centuries to come. However, Armenian objections did not end until the Nvarsak Treaty, which guaranteed Armenia more freedom and freedom of religion (Christianity) under Sassanid rule. Ultimately the disputing parties were able to come to terms making Armenians the first people to adopt Christianity as their national faith.

References

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See also

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