Armenia in The 11th-14th Centuries – Seljuk Turks

Armenia in The 11th-14th Centuries

In the 1040s, Armenia, as we have seen, fell under the rule of Byzantium. However, the Byzantine rule turned out to be short-lived. Soon, the Seljuk Turks from the Central Asian nomadic tribes appeared in Armenia, who in a short time took possession of its vast territories and created a major power.

The Seljuk Turks launched their first campaign against Armenia in 1048. The robber army of the Seljuks, without encountering serious resistance, occupied and ravaged many areas of the country. In 1049, the Seljuks again invaded Armenia. The invaders exterminated tens of thousands of people and devastated many villages.

They captured and destroyed the trade city of Arzn located not far from Karin and slaughtered its population. In the same year, during the battle that took place in Basen, the Byzantine troops suffered a severe defeat. The Seljuks looted and mercilessly destroyed a large number of cities, settlements, and villages.

After the battle in Basen, Byzantium, intimidated by the Seljuk threat, somewhat softened its policy towards Armenia, reducing the tax burden, allowing a number of Armenian feudal lords to return home, returning estates to Armenians, and decreasing religious persecution.

With this belated attempt, Byzantium tried to use the forces of the Armenians to prevent the Seljuk advance. Byzantium pursued a similar policy with regard to Iberia (modern Georgia).

The third Seljuk campaign was carried out under the leadership of Sultan Tughril Bey in 1054. Sultan’s troops scattered throughout the country and ravaged many areas. In some places, they were given heroic resistance — the troops of the King of Vanand Gagik, engaging in battle with the Seljuk hordes, repelled them at the approaches of Kars. Even more stubborn was the resistance of the inhabitants of Manazkert.

Having strengthened their city, the people Manazkert for about a month fought not for life but for death against the huge army of Tughril Bey. Kars and Manazkert survived and did not surrender, but the country was nonetheless subjected to terrible destruction and robbery.

Due to the recurring invasions of the Seljuks, some Armenians migrated to other countries. Many left the plains and moved to mountain areas. The Armenian population of the fertile regions thinned out considerably, with their defense capacity weakening proportionately.

A new major march was carried out by the successor of Tugril Bey, Sultan Alp Arslan, in 1064. In a short time, he managed to subordinate the kingdoms of Lori and Syunik, as well as seize and ravage Ani and the Ararat plain.

Gagik, the king of Kars, also declared his obedience to Alp Arslan. Thus, in 1064-1065, the Seljuk sultan seized Ararat, Syunik, as well as Aghvank and East Georgia. In 1071, Alp Arslan undertook a campaign to Southern Armenia and the eastern provinces of Byzantium.

In August of the same year, in the bloody battle of Manazkert, the huge Byzantine army suffered a major defeat and, having suffered great losses, retreated. The battle of Manazkert was of fatal importance for Armenia. According to the peace treaty concluded after it, the central regions of Armenia, as well as a number of eastern regions of Asia Minor, were ceded to the Seljuks. Thus, the power of the Seljuks was established over most of Armenia.

During the reign of the successor of Alp Arslan Malik-Shah I (reigned in 1072-1092), the Seljuk state became even more powerful. However, two or three decades after the death of Malik-Shah I, it disintegrated into a number of independent emirate principalities which conflicted with each other.

Ani, Dvin, Kars, Khlat, and Karin Emirates were formed in Armenia. Over time, nomadic Seljuks settled in these mostly flat areas of the country, displacing many indigenous people from their native areas.

The remaining Armenian principalities in Vanand, Syunik, Lori, and others waged an unequal struggle against the Seljuk emirates in the 11th-13th centuries. Some principalities managed to maintain their independence, while Syunik and Vanand after a long struggle fell under the power of the Seljuks. Most of the principality of Lori was annexed to Georgia in 1110-1123.

During the period of Seljuk domination, Armenian people were in an extremely difficult situation. Fertile fields turned into pastures, agriculture and gardening largely gave way to nomadic cattle breeding, and many cities were destroyed, including Ani, Dvin, Karin, and Van. The economic and cultural life of the country received a heavy blow.

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