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CIVIL STRIFE (FROM 890 TO 14th CENTURY)

After Ashot's death in 890 his son, Sembat I became King of Armenia. Bellicose and energetic, he
waged non-stop warfare during 22 years of his ruling. He was very successful in the beginning, putting down a number of revolts in northern Armenia and subjecting the Moslem rulers of Dvin. The major Armenian Nakharars supported Sembat at that time, and his army was very efficient. But later, some of the most ambitious vassals sought independence. As a result the Kingdom was split into several rebellious principalities. Perhaps the King Sembat had only himself to blame. He began the destructive process in 899, when he granted the title of King to his friend and loyal vassal Adrnerseh, the Prince of the vast Vyrk province. The accession of Adrnerseh in Vyrk originated the future Georgian Kingdom.
The jealousy of other influential Princes caused unrest and trouble in Armenia. The ostigan Afshin, sworn enemy of King Sembat, was now able to turn the situation to his profit. He repeatedly attacked the Armenian cities and captured the important fortress of Kars, making Armenian Queen and other members of the royal family his hostages. The truce was established after Sembat I agreed to pay a huge ransom and give one of his nieces in marriage to Afshin.
Shortly after, Afshin died, but his brother Yussouf was even worse. He concluded an alliance with Gagik Ardsrouni, ruler of Vaspurakan province. A few later, Gagik was declared King of Armenia. Also the Sparapet Ashot seceded and declared himself King of Armenia. A number of fratricidal wars devastated the country. Then Yussouf, in alliance with the apostate Armenian princes, besieged and destroyed many of key cities and fortresses. At the end of his tether, the King Sembat locked him-self in an impregnable fortress of Kapuit.
The siege of Kapuit lasted over two years. Finally, Sembat surrendered to Yussouf making it a condition to spare his loyal soldiers. Yussouf hypocritically swore eternal friendship, but after a while he perfidiously captured the Armenian King again. Sembat I was accused of preparing a new war, tortured in a barbarous fashion, and finally put to death.


Ashot Erkat

The internecine strife continued to destroy Armenia during the next decade. Ashot II, son of Sembat, came to throne of his father. He forthwith began the war against another King Ashot, his cousin and namesake who had for residence the city of Bagharan. The third Armenian king, Gagik Ardsrouni, ruled in relative peace the Vaspurakan province. An unprecedented renaissance in architecture marked his ruling. A number of splendid churches and a beautiful palace were built on the Akhtamar Island. Later, the Church of Holy Cross became the residence of the Catholicosate of Aghtamar.
In 914, Ashot II visited Constantinople. The Emperor Constantine VII Porphyrogenitus treated him with affection and sent him back to Armenia with a huge army. Now Ashot II was able to rout Yussouf and put an end to the Arab dominance. Historians called Ashot, Erkat i.e. Iron.


Heyday of Trade and Literature

Under the ruling of Abas I, and Ashot III, Armenia reentered the period of peace and prosperity. The capital moved into the glorious city of Ani, known as "the city of one thousand and one churches". Under the next kings, Sembat II and his brother Gaguik I, the resumption oftrade made Ani one of the most prosperous cities of that time. Its population reached 200 000 inhabitants.
The 10th and the 11th century produced new illustrious names in Armenian historical and ecclesiastic literature, such as John of Draskhanakert, Thomas Ardsrouni, Moses Kaghankatvatsi, Asoghik and Gregory Narekatsi.


The Turks emerge
However, new disastrous invasions marked the beginning of a new millennium. The Seljuk Turks emerged as a new dangerous power. The Vaspurakan province was the first to be attacked. As mentioned above, this province was ruled by Ardsrouni princes who proclaimed themselves kings. Unable to secure the country against the new enemy, the King Senekerim sought the protection of Emperor Basil II. As a result of their mutual accord, Basil II took the possession of Vaspurakan giving Senekerim one of the Greek provinces in exchange. Meanwhile, the Seljuks tried to capture the old Armenian city of Dvin, but were put to rout by Vahram Pahlavouni, Sparapet of Armenia.

Gagik II
During the next 50 years the Greeks gradually annexed the important part of the Great Armenia. Torn between the Turkish danger and co-religionist Byzantine power, Armenia was at the threshold of a national disaster. The army of Constantine IX besieged Ani in 1041. The Sparapet Vahram Pahlavouni, at the time 80 years old, repeatedly repulsed the enemy. Soon after, the Greeks raised the siege. A 16-year-old Gaguik II arrived in Ani and was proclaimed King of Armenia.
However, Gaguik II was fated to be the last king of the Armenian Bagratouni dynasty. Young and inexperienced, he was betrayed by some of his pro-Greek princes, especially by Prince Sarkis. During Gaguik's visit in Constantinople the Emperor Constantine IX told him that Sarkis and the other Armenian grandees had recognized the Greek authority over Armenia. Confused and upset, Gaguik refused to return to Armenia.

Armenia falls under the Turks
The Greek dominance in Armenia ended in 1071, after the famous battle of Manzikert. The 100-thousandth army of Byzantines including the Armenian forces met with the huge army of Seljuks under Alp Aslan. The Christians led by the Emperor Romanus Diogenes were defeated, and Diogenes was imprisoned by Alp Aslan. The Turks took control over all of the Greater Armenia.

Armenians and Georgians unite
In the 12th century and in the beginning of the 13th century, a number of Armenian nobles joined with the neighboring Georgians, in an attempt to liberate the Armenian lands. The strengthening Georgian Kingdom was at the time ruled by a branch of the Armenian Bagradouni dynasty. After a number of uprisings that took place in 1124, 1161 and 1174, the Seljuk rule was overthrown in different cities of Greater Armenia. During the reign of Queen Tamar (1184-1213), some important cities of Greater Armenia, such as Ani, Kars and Dvin were retaken from the Turks. The military expeditions were led by Armenian nobles Zakare Zakarian and his brother Ivane, favorite of Queen Tamar.

Mongols and Turkomans in Armenia

The short revival in Armenia ended with the first Mongol invasions in the early 1220's. During the next 100 years the country was subjected to new campaigns of terror and destruction. The cities and the entire provinces, such as Ani, Kars, Lori, Gandzak, Shamkhor, Khachen, Nakhichevan and many others were destroyed, plundered and set ablaze. After the census taken in 1254, the population was overtaxed. According to Kirakos Gandzaketsi, eyewitness to the events, "they demanded the most severe taxes, more than a man could bearThey harassed the people with incredible beatings and tortures Those who hid were seized and killed."
A number of rebellions led by Armenian and Georgian lords were brutally crushed by Mongols.
From the beginning of the 14th century, the Mongol dominance in the region recedes. Now numerous Turkoman nomadic tribes invade the Armenian lands. Different parts of Armenia become the theater of warfare for the various nomadic clans, such as Kara Koyunlu (Black Sheep) and Ak Koyunlu(White Sheep) .

ArmenianHistory.info

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