The tapestry of the Byzantine Empire’s history is rich with cultural and ethnic diversity, with one of the most influential groups being the Armenians. This influence was so profound during the 8th to 10th centuries that historians refer to it as the ‘Armenian Century.’
Greek historian Kedrenos documents that from the 8th century onwards, the region known as Pontos was actually called Armenia, reflecting the demographic dominance of Armenians in the area. This is a testament to the significant Armenian presence throughout Asia Minor at the time.
The ‘Armenian Century’ is further validated by English Byzantine scholar F. N. Bussell, who concluded that Armenians were the principal population in Asia Minor during the 8th and 9th centuries. His extensive research into historical records led him to characterize this period as the ‘Armenian Age’ of the Byzantine Empire.
Scottish historian George Finlay noted the comparative roles of ethnic groups within the empire, highlighting that while Greeks held secondary positions, it was the Armenians who occupied pivotal roles in the political and military spheres of Byzantine life.
Armenian Ecclesiastical Expansion
By the 10th century, the Armenian population had grown so significantly in regions like Isauria and Cilicia that Catholicos Khachik I Arsharuni established new episcopal dioceses to cater to the religious and administrative needs of Armenians.
One of the most notable figures of this era was Barsegh I (867-886), who is depicted in the historical illustration as a foundational pillar of the Armenian wealth in Byzantium. His contributions are a reflection of the wider Armenian influence on the empire’s economic and cultural prosperity.
The ‘Armenian Century’ was a period when Armenians were not merely residents of the Byzantine Empire but were integral to its governance, military, and ecclesiastical structures. Their impact was so enduring that it remains a significant chapter in the history of both Armenia and Byzantium, offering insight into the complexities of medieval geopolitical dynamics.