Bagratid Armenia, the Last Historical Armenian State

Bagratid Armenia, the Last Historical Armenian StateThe last dynasty to reign over the traditional Armenian territory was the Bagratouni (Pakradouni in Western Armenian pronunciation, referred to as Bagratid in Western languages).

The roots of this noble house went back to antiquity, namely, to the 1sth century BC. Traditionally, the Bagratids are the descendants of David of the Old Testament. This fact was much celebrated by the Georgian branch of the dynasty known as the Bagrationi. In the years of the Arsacid dynasty’s rule over Armenia during the 3rd-4th centuries AD, the Bagratids bore the tile of “Tagatir” or “Coronant” – the one who places the crown on the head of the king during coronation.

In the 8th century AD, the Arab rule resulted in the decimation of most aristocratic families in Armenia. Subsequently, the Bagratids slowly rose to their power over the coming decades, eventually being able to rebel and incite the Byzantine and Arab powers to each other. Both the Baghdad caliph and the emperor in Constantinople acknowledged Ashot Bagratuni as the king of Armenia by sending him crowns in 884 – 885 AD. According to some accounts, Byzantine Emperor Basil I was a descendant of the Armenian Arsacid dynasty, meaning that the transfer of a crown from the hands of an Arsacid to the Bagratids signified a historical reversal of roles.

However, unlike the Arsacid period, the head of the Bagratids wasn’t a ruler of a centralized order but rather a “High King” among the lords in various lands of Armenia. Some rulers of such regions as Vaspurakan, Syunik, and Taron maintained some degree of autonomy for centuries either under the caliph or the emperor. And even long after Armenia was finally conquered by the Byzantine Empire in 1045, those rulers remained the masters of their own independence. Even the fact of the Seljuk Turks invasions from the east didn’t shatter their realms.

In the meantime, while Bagratid Armenia was filled with a fair share of battles and intrigues, it has lived an age of grand architecture, which is most celebrated in Ani, the last capital of historical Armenia. The renowned monastic complexes Sanahin and Haghpat also relate to this time period. It is also worth mentioning that those two sights are now inscribed in the UNESCO World Heritage List. Another contemporary monument was the fort of Amberd located not too far from present-day Yerevan. Apart from that, the reign of the Bagratids was also marked by the creation of the mystic work of prayer known as the “Book of Lamentations”, the author of which was Gregory of Narek (or Krikor Naregatsi) who is today venerated as a saint in the Armenian Church.

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