Forgotten victories of Armenian soldiers

The annals of Armenian history are rich with stories of courage and resilience, and these tales are not merely about overcoming adversity but also achieving victories against formidable enemies with superior numbers. The “This is Armenia” series, curated by Karen Balayan and Hovhannes Hakobyan, delves into these forgotten feats of ancient Armenian warriors.

One such instance occurred in 481 AD, near the hamlet of Akor. The odds seemed daunting for the mere 300 soldiers led by Vahan Mamikonyan, nephew of the esteemed General Vardan Mamikonyan, as they faced a Persian force that outnumbered them by a factor of 23. As dawn broke, the battle ensued.

The Persians, surprised at the audacious courage of the Armenians, presumed it to be foolhardiness, a desperate act of self-destruction. However, the Armenians had a strategic plan and swiftly dispatched the Persian leader during the initial onslaught. The Persians, bereft of their leader, succumbed to chaos and fled the battlefield.

Despite its significance, this feat of military strategy and bravery has been largely overshadowed, even by stories such as the stand of King Leonidas and his three hundred Spartans. Why is this?

Following the clash at Akor, a peace treaty with the Persians was established. Contemporary Armenian historians have tended to downplay this extraordinary victory to maintain diplomatic relations with a formidable neighbor.

There are numerous instances of such remarkable victories throughout Armenia’s long and storied past. In the era of the Arab invasion, King Ashot Yerkat, also known as Ashot the Iron, overcame the Arab forces of Beshir.

Beshir’s army, a force of 5,000 soldiers, had stationed themselves on the western bank of Lake Sevan, opposite an island. As day broke, King Ashot and his battalion launched their attack. Shielded by the sun’s blinding glare on the water, a force of no more than 250 Armenian warriors swiftly struck the unsuspecting enemy. The Arab army was swiftly routed and driven away from the confines of medieval Armenia.

In a similar vein, during World War I, following their victory at Gallipoli, the Turkish army turned towards the Armenian front. Here they were met with a surprising defeat at the hands of Armenian militias near Sardarapat, a defeat that still haunts the Turkish memory.

Vigen Avetisyan

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