Armenia After The Death of Ashod I, Founder of The Pakradounis' Dynasty
Soon after the death of King Ashod I, in A.D. 890, his son Sempad I succeeded him on the throne of Pakradounis' dynasty. Since the first days of his reign, the young prince experienced hard days of internal troubles caused by the insubordination and rebellion of many "small kings" of the region, particularly from his uncle Abbas, the ambitious brother of his father, in constant maneuvering for the conquest of the royal crown of Armenia, with the help of some insurgent princes. But Abbas was defeated in the city of Kars, where he had found shelter. During that time, Aphshin, the turbulent Arab ruler of the land of Aderbadagan, considering an independent and prosperous Armenia as an intolerable and undesirable entity in the neighborhood, encouraged the rebellion, trying to intensify the internal dissensions in order to destroy Armenia's unity and power.
However, using ability and fast-moving, and assuring the collaboration of Adernerseh, prince of Georgia (Vrasdan), Sempad subdued the rebels and restored peace everywhere, giving the country secure borders and confines, and concluding friendly alliances with the neighbors. Adequately, he created a strong army of 60,000 men. The consecration of Sempad as king of Armenia took place in A.D. 892, in the Holy Saviour church of Yerazkavors. The catholicos Kevork II presided the ceremonies.
Aphshin, the vosdigan of Aderbadagan, even if defeated, donated a gold crown and gorgeous horses to the new king Sempad, in the name of Bagdad's Sultan. Then the emperor of Byzance, Leon VI, sent to him a precious crown, and many gold woven silk clothes, calling Sempad "my dear son". A new era of friendship and good relations was open for both countries, and soon economical and political agreements were concluded. Sempad intended to free his country from the Arab vassalage. On the other hand, aiming to form and consolidate a strong and unified kingdom, Sempad ought to subdue all those small and relatively independent governments and states all around his country. Backed by a well-trained army, he undertook victorious incursions. After the seizure of Garin city, then reaching the shores of Black Sea, he continued his way to Egeria, crossed the river Kur, occupying the region of Gakhet. Continuing his incursions, Sempad conquered the mountainous regions of Caucasus, till the western shores of the Caspian Sea. The country of Vrasdan yielded before Sempad's forces, and became a vassal kingdom, paying taxes and procuring him soldiers and maintenance. Then came the turn of Sunik, the free country, which was joined lately to Sempad's kingdom, and finally Nakhichevan. However, such incursional victories of the Armenian king, and the friendship with the Byzantine emperor provoked the deadly and bitter grudge of Aphshin.
Conducting his hordes towards Nakhichevan, Aphshin met Sempad's resistance, at the head of 20,000 valorous men. Wishing to avoid war, Sempad assured Aphshin that his relations with the Greeks were simply commercial and economic, which could also benefit enormously the country of Bagdad's Calife. Aphshin left the region and reached Tabriz. His absence from Armenia was not for long time, however; he waited to react and reassume the assault.
Meanwhile, Sempad engaged new battles against the Arabs in the city of Tvin. Many high ranked military men were taken hostage, and sent to the Byzantine emperor. In A.D. 895, Aphshin invaded Nakhichevan, but this time for his own interest, dreaming the creation of separate and independent state, out of the Bagdad Calife's influence. Promptly, king Sempad offered the mediation of the catholicos, the spiritual chief of Armenia, and other messengers and sent them near Aphshin convincing him to avoid destruction, bloodshed, and killings of innocent people.
But the solicitation failed and the Arab ruler projected to capture Sempad perfidiously, with trickery and false words of honor. Trying to reach his aim, he proposed a meeting to the Armenian king, a friendly meeting for further and constructive agreements. Very cautious, Sempad refused resolutely. Immediately, the catholicos and his companions were held under chains, but soon the clergyman was freed, mediating a burdensome ransom.
Backed by his huge army, Aphshin came to Tvin and surrounded it. A bloody and hopeless fight took place under the walls of the city, and the Arab invader lost his soldiers and military wealth. Aphshin swore to leave the Armenian land and decided to never come back again.
The Second invasion of Aphshin
However, in A.D. 897, Ahmed Sheikh, the emir of Assyria (Mesopotamia), assaulting the borders of Aghzenik (near Van Lake), entered into Duruperan and Daron regions. Sempad faced him with 60,000 men. With such a force, he was sure and hopeful of the war issue. So he entrusted the leading of all this human power to Gagik Arzrouni, named the despot, a malicious man, a true betrayer, because he was in secret sympathy with, and collaborator of Aphshin, expecting his help to dominate the kingdom of Vasbouragan. To face the enemy, Sempad prepared his men for the invasion of the shored of Van Lake, where the forces of Ahmed Sheikh had installed their headquarters. During their way to the battle, the newly designated chief Gagik, instead of conducting Sempad's men to the battle front, implacably transferred them into wilderness, deserted and arid zones among valleys and mountains; then pretexting his inexperience and the strangeness of the region, escaped subversively with his men, causing an immense confusion and discomfort among the remaining soldiers, completely tired and exhausted. Discouraged, these men yielded before the enemy's attack, and Sempad lost his battle, laying down his arms.
Meanwhile, Aphshin taking advantage of the situation entered Armenia from Aderbadagan and surrounded the fortress of Kars, in the region of Shirak, city of official residence of the royal family. The queen and the princesses were all taken hostage, and the treasures of Sempad looted and transported to Tvin. Sempad claimed the restitution of the queen and female members of his family. Aphshin promised to execute his request, asking in return the niece of Sempad as wife and Ashod the crown prince, as hostage. Under pressure, willingly or unwillingly, all the conditions being consented, the royal family's members were released. The next year, 901 A.D., Aphshin died.
The Kingdom of Arzrounis
The endeavor of Sempad I was to erect a uniform kingdom and try to be freed from the Arab domination. Meanwhile, the successor of Aphshin, his brother, a craftly man, who had found an independent state in Aderbadagan, tried to weaken the Armenian forces and the people creating internal agitation and restlessness in the country. He promised to crown as king the prince of Sunik, who refused the offer categorically, for the sake of Sempad, who was his maternal uncle. Then he found a faithful follower to his intrigues, the prince Gagik Arzrouni, a second nephew of king Sempad. Gagik was the son of a second sister of Sempad, specially assigned to the high state functions and services.
All along the last centuries, the region of Arzrounis (south of Lake Van) assiduously contended to own its proper independence, searching the separation from the main motherland, and have its kings and governors. The detestable embroilment between Sempad I and Gagik Arzrouni occurred when it has been question to annex the Nekhichevan region to Vaspouragan; Sempad categorically refused this idea. Angry against this decision, he revengeful Gagik strengthened his friendly ties with the enemy Yusup, initiating a subversive activity against his maternal uncle. The Arab vosdigan exulted over this relatives' discord, and soon granted Gagik the crown, declaring him king of Vasbouragan (A.D. 908).
In spite of the king's and the catholicos' exhortations, preventing him from harmful activities against the nation the selfish and arrogant Gagik refused to be submitted to any arbitration. Preferring the slavish submission to Yusup, yet he planned to remove all other princes and personnel in service of Sempad. Once ruler of the land of Arzrouni, Gagik initiated to organize his region systematically. He ordered the construction of palaces, aqueducts, vineyards and schools. The most famous of his creations, was the church of Holy Cross, on the little island of Aghtamar, a portion of land surging out from the still waters of Van Lake. This magnificent monument exists yet now-a-days, partially in ruins, proudly exposing all his ancient and mysterious beauty to any visitor who has the occasion and the chance to be in its presence.
Misfortune! Destiny, cruel destiny of all these lands no more pertaining to Armenia…All is gone, all has eclipsed, all is scratched out from the Armenian land's map. Gagik, who was also called despot or dictator, reigned from 908-935 A.D. This kingdom was soon dismantled because his successors have been unable to create a stable and reasonable situation, be it political, social or economical. One of the successors, Senekerim, left Vasbouragan to take refuge in the middle Asia Minor, in the city of Sebastia, under the Byzantine domination.
The year 1022 marked the end of Arzrounis dynasty.
Plot against Sempad I
Searching freedom from the domination of the Aderbadagan the Calife of Bagdad to transmit his country's tributes directly to him, avoiding the intermediary service of vosdigans, who withheld part of the money for themselves. The Calife agreed to this proposition. Sempad claimed more taxes from the people, nakharars and high ranked rich landlords in order to gain the Calife's sympathy, while losing their affection.
Enraged, all these nakharars, ministers, and other dissatisfied people secretly organized a plot against the king with the collaboration of Adernerseh of Vrasdan, whom Sempad precedently had crowned king of that country. Being aware of the sedition, Sempad subdued all of them, fighting impetuously against them in the region of Shirak. Many of them were captured and severely punished and some blinded.
Yusup's invasion
Yusup, brother and successor of Aphshin, consolidated the occupation of Armenia by the Arabs. Coming from the region of Sunik, he invaded the Airaradian Fields region, spreading ruin and bloodshed everywhere. The repreviously and tried to take his advance toward the castle. Complete blockade, decimated and starving men of arms and extensive famine conducted Sempad to despair. Deceived and disappointed thoroughly, he surrendered himself to Yusup, asking mercy for his men of arms and the people.
Sempad was conducted into the prison of the city of Tvin and jailed for a long time. Meanwhile, Yusup ordered Sempad to abjure his Christian faith. But the king refused categorically to yield before the impudent proposition of the ferocious conqueror. Yusup sentenced him to death. After being submitted to horrible torture, Sempad died valiantly by crucifixion (A.D. 914).
King Sempad is known in the Armenian history as Sempad Khosdovanough, which means the Confessor, or simply, Sempad the Maryr.
We have suspended the description of the City of Ani (as we had promised to do in our last issue). A comprehensive and satisfactory report concerning this historic city will appear in these pages, next year or later, in connection with the life and activities of King Ashod III, named "The Voghormadz" founder of Ani.

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