The traditional date of the conversion of Armenia, however, has now been questioned. A.E. Redgate, in The Armenians [Basil Blackwell, 1998, 2000, pp.116-117], says that it was more like c.314, after Constantine's own conversion. Backdating the event was a later fabrication, during the period of Persian rule, in order to assert that Armenian Christianity was independent of Roman, and that Chistianity therefore did not represent Roman sympathies and disloyality to the Sassanids. Redgate thinks that the conversion of Tiridates III (or IV) was precisely to display loyalty to Rome. If Redgate is right, then Ethiopia probably wins the priority debate.
The kingdom after the end of this period indeed passed for a time under Persian control, then Persian rule, Roman reconquest by Heraclius, and finally the Islâmic conquest. Later independence in the Middle Ages included the Kingdom of the Bagratids and the outlying Kingdom of Lesser Armenia in the Taurus Mountains. The Seljuk conquest ushered in many centuries of Turkish rule. During all this the Armenian Church was always independent -- often regarded as schismatic by the Roman Catholicism of both Constantinople and the Popes. Today the Armenian Catholicos, in a newly independent Republic of Armenia, has been able to travel and freely reestablish contact with Armenian churches around the world.
After the advent of Persian rule, St. Mesrop (Mashtots, 360-440 AD) invented an appropriate alphabet for Armenian (and another one for Georgian) at the beginning of the 5th century -- in fact possibly during the reign of Sassanid King Varahran V (421-439 AD). The alphabet is largely based on the Greek alphabet, but Mesrop had to invent some letters for sounds that didn't exist in the Greek alphabet. At least one of these was later used for the Cyrillic alphabet, which was invented by Saints Cyril and Methodius (d.885) to help convert the Slavs.
An Armenian taxidriver in Los Angeles recently told a friend of mine that the Armenian alphabet was derived from the Ethiopian alphabet (actually, syllabary). This very astonishing notion would involve both dismissal of the historical record for Armenia and remarkable abnegation of national claims that usually only expand, not retreat -- as some Ethiopians say that their alphabet was invented autochthonously rather than derived from Old South Arabian, as it was. I am very curious how this notion got started and if Armenians who pass it on even know about St. Mesrop.
This list is based on E.J. Bickerman, Chronology of the Ancient World [Cornell Univesity Press, 1968-1982, pp. 135-136], and M. Chahin, The Kingdom of Armenia [Dorset Press, New York, 1987, 1991, pp. 211-257]. Bruce R. Gordon's Regnal Chronologies displays several different names, sequences, and dates, but I have not tried to compare or reconcile them.
My knowledge of Armenian is originally from my textbook at UCLA, Modern Armenian by Hagop Andonian (Armenian General Benevolent Union of America, New York, 1966). Many recent Armenian immigrants to the United States, however, coming from the former Soviet Armenia, speak a different dialect (Eastern Armenian) from what earlier immigrants, from Turkey, spoke (Western Armenian).
This list is based on Bruce R. Gordon's Regnal Chronologies. M. Chahin's The Kingdom of Armenia does not give any kings for this period. That is probably because these figures were not kings, but "presiding princes," sometimes with rivals, as some were appointed by the Caliphs, others by the Emperors. The Bagratunis (often named "Ashot"), although later to lead Armenia to independence again, tended to be the Arab candidates, while other families, like the Mamikoneans, were the pro-Roman candidates. The complexity of this is described by A.E. Redgate, in The Armenians [Basil Blackwell, 1998, 2000, pp.166-175]. Redgate provides some genealogy but, like Chahin, gives no list of succession. He dispenses with attempting to number the names. Gordon's numbering is not entirely accounted for, since I do not otherwise find an "Ashot I" on the list. This may be because the numbering is by heads of family rather than by the office.
As Romania recovered against Islâm and her other enemies, Armenia recovered also and freed herself, to enjoy nearly two centuries of independence. Ashot Bagratuni was recognized as King by the Caliph in 884, and by the Emperor shortly afterwards. This restored the Armenian monarchy after a lapse of 456 years (since 428). But in time, Armenia, at first an ally of Constantinople, became a victim of the Roman recovery. The foolish later Macedonian Emperors wasted strength reducing Armenia that would have been better spent against more threatening targets. Gagik II, invited to Constantinople, was imprisoned on his arrival. But the dominion of Rome this time lasted barely 20 years, as Armenia was left stranded in a sea of Turks and Mongols for nine centuries, until during World War I, leaving only the small domain ruled by Orthodox Russia, now the independent Republic of Armenia. The next Armenian Kingdom would actually not be in Armenia at all, but in the Taurus Mountains of Cilicia: the Kingdom of Lesser Armenia.
The list is based on M. Chahin, The Kingdom of Armenia [Dorset Press, New York, 1987, 1991, pp. 264-269]. The genealogy is from A.E. Redgate, The Armenians [Basil Blackwell, 1998, 2000, pp.198-199]. Where Redgate did not number the princely Bagratids, he does number the Kings.
The Kingdom of Armenia in the Taurus Mountains of Cilicia is called "Lesser" Armenia in contrast to the "Greater Armenia" of the Armenian homeland to the northeast.
After Nicephorus II Phocas recovered the area from the Arabs in 965 and ordered all Moslems to leave, Christians from Syria and Armenia were encouraged to settle and garrison the area. Nicephorus himself even welcomed "schismatic," Armenian Orthodox Monophysites from Armenia, but this tolerance would not always continue and some friction was inevitable between many Armenians and the Imperial (the, strictly speaking, "Roman Catholic") Church. After the
Seljuk breakthrough, more Armenians must have fled from the east as the Turks overran Anatolia. The Armenians in the Taurus found themselves on their own and began organizing their own domains. When the Crusaders passed through, they were welcomed and aided. A daughter of Constantine I was married to
Joscelin I, Count of Edessa, ushering in a long history of association and intermarriage between the Armenians and the Crusader states. This made Lesser Armenia rather like a Crusader State itself, and so it is shown on the map.
This list of kings is mainly based on M. Chahin, The Kingdom of Armenia [Dorset Press, New York, 1987, 1991]. However, Steven Runciman, in his A History of the Crusades, Volume III, The Kingdom of Acre and the Later Crusades [Cambridge, 1951, 1987], gives a more complete family tree, abstracted below. Runciman, maddeningly (but characteristically), gives not a single date; but he does give a number of figures who account for the numbering of the Constantines and Thoroses in the dynasty. According to Chahin's list, these were not reigning kings, but, even if not, they were numbered as members of the dynasty. Or they may have been co-regents unrecognized by Chahin. On the other hand, Constantine IV and V are not listed by Runciman in the dynastic tree because they were both usurpers. "Peter of Cyprus" listed by Chahin is
Peter I of Cyprus. Constantine V offered him the throne but then decided to keep it for himself when Peter was assassinated. This information is supplemented by Warren Threadgold's A History of the Byzantine State and Society [Stanford, 1997]. Chahin fails to mention, for instance, the capture of Leon I and his sons (including Thoros II) by the Emperor John II Comnenus. On the other hand, while Runciman and Chahin agree that the early Rupenids were "princes," without a royal title until 1198, Threadgold says that they began calling themselves "kings" in 1099. Since none of them give the actual terms they were using, perhaps just in Armenian, it is hard to know why there is this disagreement.
Of greatest interest in the genealogy is when the house of Lesser Armenia makes reciprocal marriages with the Lusignan dynasty of Cyprus. This begins with the children of Leon III and Hugh III of Cyprus. Two sons and three daughters of Leon III married children of Hugh III. The result is that the succession of Lesser Armenia actually passes to to Lusignan. Such a close connection might have protected the Armenians, if Cyprus had been enough of a power to resist the Mamlûks, which, at least on land, it was not.
The Kingdom of Lesser Armenia was the last independent Armenian state until the former Soviet Republic of Armenia became independent in 1991.
As Armenians had relocated to Cilicia, so did the Patriarch of Armenia (in 1062). This line continued even after the fall of the Kingdom in 1375. In 1441, however, a new Patriarch was elected in Armenia. The Cilician line continued, as it does down to the present, as the
Great House of Cilicia. It relocated to
Lebanon in 1930.
After centuries dominated by Turkey, Iran, and Russia, the ancient Christian nations of the Caucasus emerged into independence with the break-up of the Soviet Union in 1991. This did not make life any easier. Quite the contrary. Soon Armenia was involved in a war over the province of Nagorno-Karabakh, which had been an autonomous region in neighboring Azerbaijanistan but with a population over 75% Armenian (it had been ceded to Azerbaijan by Stalin for his own political purposes). The Armenians there declared independence at the end of 1991, and forces from the Republic were soon pushing across western Azerbaijan. By 1993 the province and a bridging salient from Armenia were secured. A cease fire in 1994 left the Armenians with their war gains. Nevertheless, independence has been a harsh experience for Armenia. Surrounded on three sides by Azerbeycan and Turkey, Armenia is isolated and the economy has been in terrible shape.
Armenian immigrants in America, initially fleeing Turkey, have been conspicuous for a century. In California, Armenian settlement in Fresno, in the San Juaquin Valley, led to Armenians being called, not always affectionately, "Fresno Jews" -- certainly because of their entrepreneurial and business traditions. Many of this early group of Armenians ended up coming by way of Lebanon, where many refugees had initially settled -- the town of Anjar was almost entirely Armenian. Since the fall of the Soviet Union, many more immigrants have come from Soviet Armenia.
Armenian Americans are usually conspicous by the "-ian" or "-yan" patronomic suffixes of traditional
Armenian names. However, some famous Armenians don't use their Armenian names. The most important of these would be the rock icon and actress Cher, who was born Cherilyn Sarkisian. Similarly, the actor Mike Connors, who played private detective Joe Mannix on the long running television series Mannix (1967-1975), was born Krekor Ohanian (in Fresno). While actors often change their names, the derivation of other Armenians in public life is usually more obvious, for instance as with the author and playwright William Saroyan (1908-1981), who was also born (and died) in Fresno.