The Influence of the Ancient Armenian Army on the Armenian Society

The Influence of the Ancient Armenian Army

Here, it is necessary to at least briefly cover the strength of the Armenian army. It is only on the basis of its strength that we can get a true idea of the duration and continuity of the Armenian military traditions, as well as the influence that the Armenian army and its system of values passed on from generation to generation had on the mindset, psychology, and ideology of ancient and medieval Armenian society.

Let us turn to information from the ancient period. Based on a number of reports of wars waged by the kingdom of Hayasa against the Hittite state in the 14th-13th centuries BC, it is safe to say that the strength of Armenian troops was not less than 10 thousand, and possibly much more.

The existence in Armenia of a modern army, modern for its time, is confirmed even by the fact that the Armenian army had chariots which were in limited numbers even in the army of Assyria, an army considered the most powerful at the time.

The high level of development of the army of Urartu (the kingdom of Ararat) is evidenced by the hierarchy of its command staff – namely, the existence of the positions of the chief commander, his first & second deputies, regiment commanders, and others.

This hierarchy developed in subsequent centuries. The army of Urartu – that is, the Armenian kingdom of Ararat – probably was the first to unite all the existing armed forces of the country which numbered at least several tens of thousands of soldiers.

One of the surviving inscriptions reports that 66 army chariots, 4,430 horsemen, and 15,760 infantrymen were in the army of the Ararat Kingdom during one of its campaigns to the north.

At the time of the Yervanduni dynasty, the strength of the Armenian army was significant. 1st-century BC Roman author Quintos Kurtzios Rupos reports that in the famous battle of Gaugamela in 331 BC, the right wing of the allied forces led by the Persian king Darius III comprised of 40,000 infantrymen and 7,000 horsemen from the army of Greater Armenia. The Armenian army showed itself brilliantly – it fought until late in the evening and retreated only when it became clear that the Persians in the center and on the left flank had suffered a crushing defeat.

The strength of the troops of Lesser Armenia on the left flank isn’t reported by Rupos. Nevertheless, it is obvious that the 47,000-strong army did not represent all the armed forces of Greater Armenia since Gaugamela was quite far from the borders of Armenia and at least the same number of troops had to remain in the country, primarily to ensure the security of the constantly troubled northern and northeastern borders.

Xenophon’s records that only half of the Armenian troops was sent to the all-Aryan army speaks in favor of this conclusion.

It is significant that in the 9th (or 7th) century BC, the rapidly moving part (in modern terminology, the “expeditionary force”) of the army of King Aram (Arama) also consisted, as Khorenatsi reports, of “approximately 50,000” soldiers.

And again, these 50,000 should not have included serf and border garrisons, or at least their part that did not leave its permanent locations.

Interestingly, the strength of this corps coincides with the total number of Tigran the Great’s cavalry which, according to Plutarch, totaled 55,000 horsemen (17,000 of which were armored).

According to Khorenatsi, subsequently, having strengthened the country’s security, Aram added additional 40,000 infantrymen and 2,000 cavalrymen to the already existing army (50,000 soldiers), and this united 92,000-strong army set out on a campaign to the west to Caesarea.

The exceptionally high quality of the Armenian armed forces and their constant combat readiness is already confirmed by the only fact that almost half of the Armenian army (a very high percentage even for the armies of modern developed countries) was capable, if necessary, of making long and swift campaigns outside the borders of Armenia, although, as we know from Pavstos, Armenian warriors didn’t like this.

Thus, in the 2nd and 1st millennia BC, in the times of Hayasa, Urartu, and the Yervanduni dynasty, the strength of the Armenian army reached several tens of thousands, and during the reigns of the Artashesyan, Arshakuni, and Bagratuni dynasties (according to reliable historical information), the strength of the Armenian regular army ranged from 100,000 to 120,000 soldiers. The army of the Armenian Kingdom of Cilicia during wars exceeded 60,000 soldiers.

This data allows us to state that in ancient and medieval times, the position, role, and significance of the Armenian army in the Armenian society were very important and central.

Over the following centuries, the code of honor of the Armenian army with all its ideological, moral, and psychological values has been passed down and, studied from generation to generation, has left an enduring stamp on the national character, psychology, and worldview of the Armenian people.

The exceptional fighting efficiency of the Armenians was noticed and recorded by many foreign authors. We’ll give only two examples.

According to the report of 6th-century Byzantine historiographer Procopius of Caesarea, until 474, the Roman emperors “when selecting their bodyguards took into account dignity and preferred the Armenians.”

Another Byzantine historiographer, talking about an Armenian commander named Manuel who had served in the Byzantine army in the first half of the 9th century, writes: “Manuel was a very brave man, well-known to all opponents since he was a native Armenian.” Thus, it turns out that in Byzantium, the concepts “Armenian” and “brave” were synonymous.

Codes of military honor is a phenomenon inherent not only in the distant past. For the ideological and moral-psychological training of their students, cadet and officer schools of modern developed states use specially developed codes of honor.

It is necessary that we, the heirs of the rich and distinctive traditions of the national Armenian military-patriotic education, develop a code of honor for the modern Armenian warrior, which should form the basis of the ideological and moral-psychological education of students of the Military Institute of the Ministry of Defense and then the entire Armenian army.

Patriotic and civic education is one of the main means of uniting the Armenian society and thereby strengthening the national security of Armenia. The Armenian army, like centuries ago, bears the mission to forge generations that are devoted to their homeland.

Excerpt from the book “The System of Values of the Armenian Warrior” by Armen Ayvazyan

Historic reconstruction of Armenian warriors from various eras by Arman Avakian

Ancient Armenian Army on the Armenian Society

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