King Gagik II – The Last Of The Bagratunis

Constantine IX Monomachos on the pretext of negotiations summoned the last representative of the Bagratid dynasty King Gagik II to Constantinople, which allowed him to occupy the Kingdom of Ani in 1045.

Constantine forbade Gagik II to return to his homeland. Then, granting Gagik the district of Lycandus and the town of Pizu in Cappadocia as compensation for his kingdom, the Emperor ordered Gagik to bring the royal family to Byzantium.

King Gagik settled in the fortress of Pizu. He established a small army with which he would protect his small property from the encroachments of neighbors. Gagik would also attempt to unite neighboring Armenian princes and establish an Armenian principality and a separate state in Cilicia.

In 1042, the Armenian prince Ablgharib Artsruni (who was devoted to the Emperor) married the daughter of the last King of Vaspurakan Senekerim Artsruni and was appointed manager of Cilicia.

Gagik II attempted to agree with Ablgharib Artsruni on the establishment of an Armenian state in Cilicia by joint efforts. However, Ablgharib was adamant and did not intend to jeopardize his principality, vast lands, and great fortune. He decided to remain faithful to the Byzantine court. Trying to reach an agreement, Gagik married his son David off to the daughter of Ablgharib.

After the battle of Manazkert (1071), the positions of Byzantium began to deteriorate. The Seljuks were seizing imperial possessions one by one. These troubled times gave King Gagik the opportunity to restore, even if away from his native Ani, the lost royal power. Thus, next to the Artsruni possessions, the Armenian prince Filartos Varazhnuni established his own principality with the center in Marash.

Fearing that King Gagik with the support of the Armenian princely houses based in Cilicia would take decisive steps and rebel against Byzantium, Ablgharib arrested his son-in-law. Upon learning of the arrest of his son, the king invaded the possessions of Ablgharib and captured some of the princes subject to Ablgharib in order to ransom them for his son.

The Armenian strategist of Cilicia sent instructions to his Greek princes to cut off Gagik’s retreat routes, liberate the prisoners, and cruelly deal with Gagik. And so it happened.

As Matthew of Edessa (Մատթեոս Ուռհայեցի) writes, “when King Gagik with a 1000-strong unit arrived at the fortress belonging to the three sons of the Greek Mandel, they came out and bowed their heads before the Armenian king, threw him off the horse, captured him, and took him to the fortress.

In 8 days, the entire Armenian country rose against them. The struggle continued for several days – without any success for the Armenian side since the fortress was impregnable.

Then, the Greek brothers strangled King Gagik and hung his body from the ramparts. After keeping Gagik’s body on the fortress wall for one day, they buried it outside the fortress.”

6 months later, one Banik dug out the body of King Gagik at night, took it the Pizu fortress, and buried him in the courtyard of the Surb Khach Church. Upon learning of the death of King Gagik, Ablgharib poisoned his son David who at the time was held prisoner in the Paperon fortress.

Pictured below is the Corycus fortress, Cilicia

Arshaluis Zurabyan

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