Arshak II, Pap, and Parandzem – Rulers of Armenia during the period of escalation between Rome and Persia

Amid the escalation of the Roman-Persian conflict, Arshak’s brother Trdat is killed in Rome to intimidate Armenia. Through the grandson of Catholicos Yousik Nerses A Partev (353-373), other hostages – Tirit and Gnel, were returned to their homeland, released by the emperor.

King Pap aimed to use them against Arshak if necessary, giving the Armenian throne to one of them. Gnel marries the daughter of Andovk Syuni, Parandzem. Tirit, who, like Gnel, was in love with Parandzem, turned Arshak against Gnel, convincing the king that he was trying to become the king of Armenia in a treacherous way.

Gnel is sentenced to death. Arshak, upon learning that Tirit had deceived him, also sentenced him to death, and later married Parandzem himself. The gradually increasing tension between the royal court and the noble houses began to threaten the internal stability of the country.

In 354, in the church of the Taron district of the village of Ashtishat, Catholicos Nerses A convened the first church council, during which laws concerning both secular and spiritual life of the country were adopted.

It was decided to build monasteries, schools, hospitals, and shelters. The law, adopted by the council, called on the Armenian king and elders to be merciful towards their servants and subordinates, to love them as members of their families, and not to oppress the common people unlawfully and with excessively high taxes.

Servants were commanded to be obedient and loyal to their masters. The law of Ashtishat banned many pagan customs: polygamy, unrestrained crying over the deceased, drunkenness, etc.

Arshak II

Arshak II was a strong personality, firmly leading his independent policy. To strengthen royal power and curb centrifugal tendencies of the noble houses, he began the construction of the city of Arshakavan in the Kogovit region.

Arshak allowed anyone who wanted to settle freely there, including criminals. This fact caused dissatisfaction among the nobles, as debtors, creditors, disgruntled servants, and peasants began to flee from their estates to Arshakavan.

The disgruntled nobles, seizing the opportunity that the king had gone to Georgia, attacked and destroyed Arshakavan. Arshak punished some of them.

The policy of Arshak II and the Persian-Roman war. In 359, the war between Rome and Persia begins. Persian troops plunder the city of Amid. In this war, the position of Armenia was most important. Shapuh appeals to the Armenian king, who had earlier reached the city of Mtsbin with the Persian forces and won a victory over the Romans.

However, Arshak decisively rejected Shapuh’s proposal to marry his daughter. Andovk Syuni finds out that Shapuh is planning to kill Arshak. Upon learning this, Arshak immediately returns to his homeland.

The brief Armenian-Persian alliance ceased to exist. At the invitation of Constans II, who came to the East to personally lead the military operations, Arshak II travels to the city of Majak, where they reinforce the Armenian-Roman alliance by marrying Arshak and Olympia – the bride of the emperor’s deceased brother. Parandzem could not come to terms with this turn of events, and one of her servants poisons Olympia.

The Persian-Roman war ends with the defeat and death of Emperor Julian the Apostate near Tisbon. According to the agreement concluded between the Persian king and the new Roman emperor Jovian in 363, the emperor pledged not to assist the Armenian king.

According to Pavstos Buzand, the emperor convinced Shapuh – “if you can conquer and make them serve, I will not protect them.” Roman historian Ammianus Marcellinus (4th century) called this agreement “shameful”.

Armenian-Persian war. Commanders of the border regiment, located in the south of the kingdom of Greater Armenia in the city of Ganjak (Shahastan), informed King Arshak of the danger of Shapuh II’s troops invading. By the king’s order, the troops of Sparapet Vasak confronted the enemy and achieved victory over them in 363.

The next year, the Sassanid troops attacked from three sides: Arshak, Vasak, and his brother won several battles over them. At this time, Meruzhan Artsruni presented himself to Shapuh and expressed his subordination to him, betraying Christianity, he adopted Mazdaism. Shapuh promised to help him seize the Armenian throne, provided that he, in turn, would subject the country to Persian rule and religion.

The invasions of the Persian army subjected the country to destruction. Vasak Mamikonian managed to drive the enemy out of the country, however, the next time Shapuh’s numerous army reached the impregnable fortress of Angekh, where the treasures and tombs of the Arshakuni kings were located.

The Persians failed to capture this fortress and they moved towards the fortress of Ani in Daranagia, and later conquered it. They were only unable to open the tomb of King Sanatruk, the rest of the royal tombs they opened and captured the royal relics saying, “We are taking the relics of Armenian kings to our country so that the glory, luck, and courage of the kings of this country along with the bones of these kings would pass into our country.”

The 60-thousand-strong Armenian army, led by Sparapet Vasak Mamikonian, defeating the enemy, returned the relics of the kings, and they were reburied in the village of Ahdzk, on the slope of Mount Aragats. The Persian forces attacking Armenia continued to suffer a series of defeats, prolonged wars depleted the forces of both Armenians and Persians and the situation worsened even more when Vahan Mamikonian followed the treacherous example of Meruzhan Artsruni.

Conspiracy and murder of Arshak and Vasak. Shapuh, realizing that it was impossible to suppress the Armenians by military means, decided to arrest Arshak by deception. Through an envoy, he invites the Armenian king to Tisbon under the pretext of resolving disputes.

Shapuh sends salt, sealed with his ring, which was considered the greatest oath among the Persians. Eventually, in 368, King Arshak, accompanied by Sparapet Vasak, travels to Persia.

To test Arshak, Shapuh, as patriotic historian Pavstos Buzand tells, orders to bring soil and water from Armenia, and to cover half of the floor in the royal palace hall with this soil, sprinkling water on top.

Shapuh, holding Arshak’s hand, walked around the hall: on Persian soil Arshak spoke to Shapuh with regret, and on Armenian soil he began to strongly protest against the Persian king and proudly declared “Get away from me, villain and servant, who became the master of his masters, and I will not forgive you and the revenge of my ancestors…”.

Shapuh ordered Arshak to be arrested and imprisoned in the Anhush prison (Armenian: oblivion). The next day, by Shapuh’s order, Sparapet Vasak Mamikonian was brought into the chamber. Shapuh began to mock Vasak, saying, “Fox, it was you who tormented us so much… I will kill you with the death of a fox”.

And Sparapet Vasak responded with dignity: “Now, when you see me as short, you don’t realize my full greatness, because until this moment I was a lion for you, and now I am a fox.

But before I was Vasak, a giant, one foot I relied on one mountain, the other foot on another, when I relied on my right foot, the right mountain went underground, when I relied on my left foot, the left mountain went underground”.

To Shapuh’s question of what these two mountains were, Sparapet Vasak answers “One mountain was you, and the other was the Greek king”. Enraged, Shapuh ordered Vasak to be killed. Soon, King Arshak II, one of the most prominent representatives of the Arshakuni dynasty, also died in captivity.

Queen Parandzem

Defense of Artagers. An expression of the freedom-loving spirit of the Armenian people was the heroic and prolonged resistance of Queen Parandzem and her eleven thousand troops, besieged in the fortress of Artagers.

Two Armenian princes who had infiltrated the fortress, planning to persuade the queen to lay down her arms, seeing her determined attitude, joined the defenders. The queen’s only hope was the return of her son – Pap, whom she sent to Emperor Vages with a request for help.

Shapuh began to intensify the pressure even more. Epidemics started from the long siege, hunger and endless battles weakened the defenders of Artagers. The invaders, having penetrated the fortress, destroyed all the survivors, and Parandzem was killed, subjected to inhumane torture.

At this time, Vahan and Meruzhan, in different parts of the country, were bringing destruction, building temples, and forcibly imposing Zoroastrianism on the Armenians. The traitor Vahan was later killed by his son – Samvel Mamikonian.

King Pap

The reign of King Pap. Pap returns to Armenia with a squad led by the Roman military leader Terentios. In the midst of the war, thanks to Emperor Vages, Pap (370-374 AD) ascends the Armenian throne. The son of the deceased Sparapet Vasak Mamikonian, Mushegh, becomes the Armenian Sparapet and begins the liberation of Armenia.

According to Pavstos Buzand, Mushegh restores the “old border that was between Armenia and Georgia and which was the Kura river”.

Mushegh traveled around the country, destroying Zoroastrian temples built by the Persians and traitors. Those who were favored by the Persian leadership were arrested and punished severely. Thus, Mushegh avenged King Arshak and Sparapet Vasak.

And King Pap became the owner of the treasures kept in the fortress of Daruik in the Kogovit region. In the country, destroyed settlements were being restored, churches were being renovated, and state affairs were being put in order. Mushegh continued the defense of the country.

In 370 AD, Mushegh with an excellent 40,000-strong army went towards the southern border of Armenia. Shapuh also arrived there with his army, and the commander of one Persian regiment was the traitor Meruzhan.

In Atrpatakan, Mushegh attacks first, Shapuh flees, and many of the Persian leadership are arrested by Mushegh’s order and executed. The Armenians seize the treasury and the harem of the Persian king, and Mushegh orders the harem to be returned to Shapuh.

Surprised by Mushegh’s action, Shapuh ordered his image to be depicted on horseback on a bowl. Every time he entertained his army, he raised this bowl. When the Armenian army returned from the war, unknown people accused Mushegh in front of Pap.

The king was angry with Mushegh because of his willful act of freeing the harem, as he thereby showed inappropriate nobility towards Shapuh, who had treated Pap’s mother harshly.

The victorious Battle of Dzirav. King Pap, learning that the Persian army had again invaded Armenia and reached Midjnashkhar, orders the Armenian troops to be gathered in the Dzirav field, Bagrevand region, Ayrarat province. Roman military units also joined them.

King Pap, following all the canons of military tactics, prepared the Armenian-Roman combined forces for a decisive battle. The number of Armenian troops exceeded 90,000. Military leader Terentios asked King Pap and Catholicos Nerses to climb Mount Npat for safety.

Mushegh also arrives there, and thanks to the intercession of Catholicos Nerses, Pap’s anger towards Mushegh was smoothed out. The Sparapet (the supreme commander) gave a holy oath and, having received the blessing of the Catholicos and the good wishes of the king, he once again took on the duties of the military leader.

The Battle of Dzirav began at dawn. Catholicos Nerses, spreading his hands, prayed for the victory of the Armenians on Mount Npat. The regiments led by Mushegh successfully attacked the Persians. The military wing under the command of Spandarat Kamasarakan attacked and forced the enemy’s central regiment to flee.

The victory was complete. The remnants of the Persian army fled. Smbat Bagratuni arrested Meruzhan. He, heating an iron lance and shaping it into a wreath, said, “I crown you, Meruzhan, because you wanted to become the king of Armenia, and it is my duty to crown you according to the canons of my ancestors.”

And he put the heated lance on Meruzhan’s head, thus the villain’s execution was carried out. In 372 AD, Mushegh, learning of the approaching attack by Shapuh, moved with his army to Gandzak. The Armenian army with inspiring cries of “For brave Arshak” plunged into battle and defeated the Persian troops, peace reigned in the country.

Pap’s reforms and foreign policy. King Pap and Sparapet Mushegh were engaged in strengthening state security and military-economic power. The number of the army by this time had reached 100,000.

Brothers, sons, and relatives of clergymen were obliged to perform state service. At the same time, the church’s land ownership was limited, for this purpose Pap first of all abolished the order of the tax paid by the church from the harvest – “tithes”. And later he, in favor of the royal court, took from the church a large part of the lands given to it by King Trdat the Great.

By the decree of King Pap, shelters for girls and widows were closed, and they were allowed to get married. Thus, Pap supported the growth of the country’s population and the number of the Armenian army. Pap returns to Spandarat Kamsarakan his native regions of Shirak and Arsharunik, he also rewarded for the service of the nakharars loyal to him.

As a result of Pap’s free foreign policy, Persian troops were expelled from the country. After Nerses’ death, Iusik-Shagak, who became the Catholicos, no longer traveled to Caesarea for ordination by the Metropolitan, establishing the initial independence of the Armenian Catholicosate.

King Pap sent delegates to Emperor Valens with a territorial demand, according to Pavstos Buzand justifying it with the following words: “In ancient times, 10 cities of Caesarea (including Mazhak of Cappadocia) were our cities, return them! And the city of Urfa (Edessa) was built by our ancestors, so if you don’t want enmity to arise between us, return them!”

This testifies to the fact that at one time these territories were part of the Armenian state. Emperor Valens, who was in the city of Tarsus in Cilicia at that time, responded to this with a conspiracy.

He invited the Armenian king to him, who only at the last moment learned about the conspiracy. Pap managed to avoid the trap with great difficulty and return with his regiment to Great Armenia.

By the order of Emperor Valens, Roman military commanders killed Pap during a feast in 374. The Roman historian Ammianus Marcellinus wrote about this: “Such a disgraceful crime paid for credulity.

The blood of the alien splashed on luxurious tablecloths, contrary to hospitality, and the participants of the feast, terrified, scattered”.

This is how the young and energetic Armenian king was treacherously killed, who during his short reign did many patriotic deeds. He strengthened the army, cleared the country of foreign invaders, carried out a number of reforms, and remained in Armenian history as one of the notable kings.

The author of the article is Danielyan E. The article was taken from the site, which does not exist now. As far as I know, it was the site of the State University of Armenia.

Translated by Vigen Avetisyan

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