Through the plains of the Armenian Highlands located at the crossroads of Europe and Asia, nomadic tribes, Mongol hordes, troops of Tamerlane, Arabs, and Turkmen marched repeatedly, destroying and plundering everything on their way.
The silent mountains witnessed countless battles: the gorges were echoed by the blows of Assyrian and Median swords, and the Persian “kings of kings” Cyrus the Great and Darius left traces of their chariots on the plain. The slopes of the mountains saw the formidable phalanxes of Alexander the Great marching and the sandals of disciplined Roman legionnaires raising tuff dust.
Armenia, as 18th-century English historian Edward Gibbon writes, “has been a theater of continuous wars from the very beginning of its history.” Surrounded by unfriendly neighbors who sought to seize it and put an end not only to its statehood but also its culture and even its people, Armenia often turned out to be an apple of discord between the great powers.
Thus, the Armenians experienced the oppression of many rulers who repeatedly divided their land among themselves: Seleucids and Persians, Parthians and Romans, Byzantines and Sassanids, Arabs and Seljuks, Mongols and Turkmen, Ottomans and Russians.
The Armenian people survived the bitter experience of the loss of statehood, deportation, dispersion, and a monstrous genocide. Over the last century, Armenians who lived in their own country underwent the 70-year rule of the communist regime.
Thus, the big book of the history of Armenia has many pages of misery. And yet, despite all these tests which could seriously threaten their existence, the Armenians not only survived all the vicissitudes of their history but also created one of the most peculiar and interesting civilizations.
The Christian faith was the power that strengthened the Armenians’ spirit, helped them each time to rise to their feet, to maintain loyalty to their cultural identity, and to defend it even at the cost of blood. Since the 4th century, Christianity has become a real spiritual core of the nation.
For centuries, in the conditions of the lack of statehood and subordination to non-Christian powers, the only authority for the people was the Armenian Apostolic Church which united and directed Armenians, sharing the fate of its adherents both in the historical homeland and in the diaspora.
An excerpt from the book “1700 years of Fidelity: History of Armenia and its Church” by Giovanni Guaita