The Byzantine Invasion of Armenia in 654 AD

In the 7th century, Armenia was a contested land between the Byzantine Empire and the Sassanid Empire, both of which sought to impose their religious doctrines and political influence on the Armenian people. The Armenians, who had adopted Christianity as their state religion in the early 4th century, had rejected the Council of Chalcedon in 451 AD, which defined Christ as having two natures, divine and human, in one person. The Armenians adhered to the doctrine of Miaphysitism, which held that Christ had one nature, both divine and human. This theological difference led to a schism between the Armenian Church and the Byzantine Church, which followed the Chalcedonian Christology.

In 654 AD, the Byzantine Emperor Constans II, who was facing the threat of the Arab conquests in the Middle East, decided to launch a campaign against Armenia, hoping to secure his eastern frontier and to enforce his religious authority over the Armenians. He ignored the pleas of the Armenian Catholicos Nerses III and the Sparabed (general) Mushegh Mamikonian, who begged him not to invade their country. Constans II led 20,000 soldiers to the Armenian capital of Dvin, where he appointed Maurianos as the governor of Armenia. He also ordered that the Chalcedonian Christology be preached and celebrated in all the churches of Dvin, and that the catholicos, the bishops and the nakharars (nobles) receive Holy Communion with him. This was a grave insult and a violation of the Armenian religious autonomy, which the Armenians had defended for centuries against the Sassanids and the Byzantines.

The Armenians did not submit to the Byzantine domination, and soon after the departure of the emperor, they rose up in rebellion. The leader of the revolt was Theodore Rshtuni, the former chief nakharar, who had been exiled by the Byzantines for his opposition to their rule. He made an alliance with the new caliph in Damascus, Muawiyah I, who was eager to weaken the Byzantine power in the region. With the help of the Arab forces, Theodore Rshtuni drove the Byzantines out of Armenia, and restored the Armenian independence. The caliph recognized him as the ruler of Armenia, and granted him a degree of autonomy, as long as he paid tribute and acknowledged the caliph’s suzerainty. Thus, Armenia entered a new phase of its history, under the shadow of the Arab caliphate, but still preserving its identity and faith

Learn more

  1. Arab–Byzantine wars – Wikipedia
  2. List of wars involving Armenia – Wikipedia
  3. Byzantine Armenia – Wikipedia
  4. Arab–Byzantine wars – Alchetron, The Free Social Encyclopedia
  5. Arab Wars with the Byzantines in the Umayyad Period | 2 | Arab-Byzanti (


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