Armenia and The Sassanid Empire

Armenia and The Sassanid EmpireThe years of the Sassanian Empire’s existence have been crucial for Armenia. Back in those days occurred significant changes in the direction of the social-economic development of the country. In particular, the rise of feudalism has driven out slave-owning from Armenia before it even managed to establish itself. Feudalism in Armenia mostly developed on the basis of ancient yet topical tribal and communal discipline.

Armenia has played an important role in the conflict between the Roman and the Sassanian Empires. However, the history of Armenia in the 3rd century AD is known to us only thanks to fragments of Greco-Roman literature. Armenian historiography appeared only in the 5th century. Such Armenian historians as Faustus of Byzantium, Ghazar Parpetsi, Movses Khorenatsi, and Agathangelos in detail covered the Armenian history of the 4th century, while the accounts of the preceding periods often delivered inaccurate information.

In the 320s AD, the position of Armenia changed significantly due to the emergence of the Sassanian Empire, a successor of the Parthian Empire. Prior to the Sassanian state’s establishment, Armenia has been the domain of the Armenian royal dynasty of Arsacids. Because this dynasty has been a branch of the Parthian Arsacid dynasty, Armenia has been dependent on the Parthian Empire. However, by the beginning of the 3rd century AD, Armenia had already maintained neutrality towards the Parthians.

After the fall of the Parthian Empire, Armenian Arsacids remained the only opponent of the Sassanid dynasty who had overthrown the Parthian dynasty. To be able to fight against the Sassanid Empire, Armenia entered into an alliance with the Roman Empire, which has no longer been as much of a threat for Armenia because of a developing internal crisis.

Apart from the Romans, Armenia allied with Iberians and Albanians. As a result, a local union of peoples whose goal was to protect their independence was established.

Having come to power, the Sassanid dynasty clashed with Rome in efforts of conquering Mesopotamia, in which the Romans have been repeatedly unsuccessful. Armenia also became a bone of contention between the two Empires. First of all, Sassanid king Shapur I sought to eliminate Armenian King Khosrov I as the latter has actively fought against the Sassanids in an alliance with Rome. Khosrov didn’t put the Armenian-Sassanid conflict to a stop even after a peace treaty had been signed between the Roman and Sassanid Empires in 244.

Khosrov was eventually killed by a Sassanid mercenary. Khosrov’s sun Trdat would soon be forced to flee, allowing Shapur to appoint Artavazd V (253 – 273) a king of Armenia. Artavazd had seemingly been one of the Arsacids who allied with the Sassanid Empire. This has been a key achievement for the Sassanid Empire: Armenia would no longer be a great threat to them.

Shortly thereafter, King Trdat III (287 – 330) acceded to the Armenian throne thanks to the assistance of Roman emperor Diocletian. In 296, Sassanid King Narseh waged war against the Roman Empire and Armenia only to be crushingly defeated.

A 40-year peace treaty was soon signed in Nisibis, in accordance with which the Sassanid Empire gave in Mesopotamia, as well as 5 small territories around the banks of Upper Tigris River. Apart from that, the Sassanids acknowledged the Roman protectorate of Armenia and Iberia. This allowed Armenia to maintain its sovereignty in this difficult times.

Source: “World History”


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