Arab invasion and Byzantine Empire
By the end of the IV century the Byzantine Empire and Sassanid Persia officially
established their spheres of influence in Armenia. The Arshakuni dynasty was dissolved
in the year 428, and eastern part of Armenia was annexed to Persia, while the western
part was put under Byzantine rule. The Sassanids were forcing Armenians to convert to
Zoroastrianism, causing the Armenian revolt of 451 under the leadership of prince Vartan
Mamikonian, commander-in-chief of the Armenian army. Although the Armenian forces, outnumbered by the Persians, actually lost the legendary battle of Avarayr, and Vartan
Mamikonian himself was killed, this turned out to be a significant victory for Armenians,
as Persians eventually gave up their efforts to convert and assimilate Armenians, and
were forced to agree to much higher level of autonomy for Armenia.
The spiritual independence of Armenia
was further asserted in 554, when the second
Council of Dvin (capital of Armenia of that period) rejected the dyophysite formula of
the Council of Chalcedon (451), a decisive step that cut Armenians off from the Roman
and Greek churches as surely as they were already ideologically severed from the East.
By the time of Arab invasion in 634 Armenia, ruled by prince Theodore Rshtuni, was
virtually independent. After conquering Persia, the Arabs started to concentrate their
armies against Armenia, but didn’t manage to conquer the country until 654.
Bagratunian dynasty, Third Armenian Kingdom
After more than two centuries of struggle with the Arab Caliphate, Armenia regained its
independence in 886, and both the Caliphate and Constantinople recognized prince Ashot
Bagratuni as the king of Armenia. During the rule of the Bagratuni dynasty Armenia
reached its peak in political, social and cultural development. The capital of Armenia of
that period, Ani, was a magnificent city, known as “a city of one thousand and one
churches”. The Armenian architecture of the Bagratuni period, especially the dome laying
techniques, for which Armenian architects were notorious, significantly influenced the
Byzantine and European architectural styles.
At the end of the 10th century the Byzantine Empire,
although ruled by an imperial
dynasty of Armenian origin, adopted a near-sighted policy of weakening Armenia and
eventually annexed it in 1045, thus depriving itself of an effective shield against
disastrous invasion of Turkic nomads from Central Asia.
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