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ARMENIAN CONTINUING HISTORY

 

BEDROS KEDATARZ CATHOLICOS AND "VESD" SARKIS DONATE THE CITY OF ANI TO EMPEROR CONSTANTIN MONOMAKHOS (A.D. 1046)

THE BAHLAVOUNI DYNASTY

The glorious last days of Ani City are linked with the name of Bahlavouni Dynasty. Indeed,in the midst of tenth century the name of this ancient and noble family has been evident, issued from an ancestor named Aboughamr who gave the appellation of Abougham-renk to the future generations living in the city. The grand-son of Aboughamr was Vahram (born in 967), who later called himself Bahlavouni, as the offspring of St. Gregory the Illuminator.

In the following centuries, two eminent figures, well known by the Armenians, emerged from the Bahlavouni dynasty, Krikor Makisdros and Nerses Shnorhali. The first was a layman, and the second a clergyman. Nerses was elected also Catholicos, that's chief of the Armenian Church. Both were excelled in literature. Nerses is also remembered in the liturgy of the Armenian Church as one of its saints.

The properties belonging to Bahlavounis were located in Pechni city, near the Hraz-tan river neighboring lands. Along the years some members of this family have been notorious among the people with their extremely important constructive initiatives of great and enormous churches and other sanctuaries as schools for spiritual studies and monasteries, such as the Holy Savior church, Mariama-shene, Holy Apostles monastery, St. Gregory Illuminator church, etc.

One of the most eminent political and military figure, however during the reign of Pak-radouni dynasty was Vahram Bahlavouni, a very distinguished person whose name is cited in many actes of war and political managements which he marked with an audacious boldness and his own charisma.

THE AGREEMENT OF TREBIZONDE

Armenia, which under the pressure of foreign invading intruders coming from the Far East, tried to do its best to avoid occupation and evident destruction, had no choice but to rely upon the friendship of powerful emperors of Constan-tinople. Soon a helleno-phile group has been formed by certain noble personalities in order to find security for the people and for their own properties threatened by nomadic tribes coming from the Siberian deserts, even if the price of this friendship could be heavily expensive and unexpectedly painful: they have decided to give the City of Ani to the Byzantines and pass it under their domination.

Catholicos Bedros Keda-tarz being the principal promoter of this donation of the city, Vesd Sarkis was his instigator to hasten the realization of this agreement with the Byzantines. The Byzan-tines called him Patrick, or Anti-badros (which would mean: a prince, a noble man)... Indeed, he was a prince from the region of Sunik, (nowadays: the region of Karabagh) with the military rank of commander or royal house governor. So very easily he was elected chief of the hellenophile or byzan-tinophile party.

After four years from the Trebizonde agreement to give Ani to the Byzantine government, Bedros Kedatarz was back to Armenia from Byzantium (A.D. 1020). The king Hovanness-Sempad being aware of the treacherous remitting of the city to the Byzan-tines, asked his resignation on the spot. Without results however; consequently they remained serious antagonists. The people were indecisive and the poor king had no more enough authority to supervise the situation.

In A.D. 1040 when the brave Ashod died, Vesd Sarkis the hellenophile tried to grab the political rudder of the nation, but Vahram Bahlavouni soon expulsed this pretentious man harshly.

THE ACTION OF THE BYZANTINES

When two years later king Hovanness-Sempad also died (A.D. 1042), Mikhail IV sent a delegation claiming Ani and all properties pertaining to Pakradouni dynasty , according to the terms of the Trebi-zonde agreement. The hellenophile group was on duty to commit the promise, but the Bahlavounis, as a national party under the command of Vahram, tried to avoid the silly business.

Then emperor Mikhail decided to manifest the force of his armies. In order to frighten the Armenians, he ordered to organize large-scale looting assaults in the region of Shirag, but without any meritorious result, because the brave inhabitants expelled them out the region with ferocious opposition.

Learning the dispersion of his bandits in the far regions of Armenia, the emperor decided to send a huge cohort of 100,000 men to try again for the take-over of the city of Ani.

The inhabitants of Ani, with precaution and deep consternation caused by this inhuman attack over their capital, in a processional march all around the city, protested unanimously and with patriotical emotion: "We need Vahram, our commander, let him conduct us towards victory!".

Young men and elder men, women and children wore their weapons as they could. The iron gate at the west of the city, near Zaghgatzor, was open and a multitude of 30,000 people attacked violently the coming byzantines, whose central position was split into two parts, expelling one of them towards the Akhourian river, and the second one to Zaghgatzor area. A pitiless bloodshed took place among the attackers, and it was time just for Vahram Bahlavouni to intervene in order to stop the carnage, crying: "It's enough, have pity for the vainquished".

GAGIK II CROWNED KING

After this unexpected defeat, the Byzantine emperor, silently was in expectative for a long time. Commander in chief Vahram, with the cooperation of his brother Krikor Makisdros, assigned for the throne of Ani the son of the brave Ashod, a young man named Gagik, 18 years old. He made a joyful and glorious entrance in Ani where Bedros Kedatarz Catholicos ointed him king of Armenians in the cathedral of Ani.

Now was just the turn of Vesd Sarkis. This man seeing the defeat of Byzantines and the coronation on the throne of Gagik II, fearing the popular vengeance, fled surreptitiously into his stronghold with his followers.

Gagik went to that castle, and at the entrance door he tried to persuade the fugitive to come out of the stronghold, in order to prevent any useless bloodshed. The rebel man had but one way ensuring his liberation: to go far from Ani, and so he went to his castle-forteress named Santa Maria (in our days: Surmalu). Being so much stubborn, he anxiously and revengefully waited the arrival of Byzantines to Armenia, hoping to be crowned as king of it too. Gagik returned to the castle, occupied it, ordered him to leave the fortified building, and then brought him to Ani, where he ordered to fustigate Sarkis in the dungeon. On the way, he recovered all the royal treasures Vesd Sarkis had taken with him to the castle.

According to our historians, this king was a clever man, having a perfect education and endowed with rhetorical skill and charm. He spoke fluently the hel-lenic language.

It was after one year of Gagik's enthroning that Con-stantine Monomakhos was elected emperor of Byzantium (1043).

Never forgetting the old hate because of their defeat, he too claimed the city of Ani. He decided the settlement of byzantine power everywhere and abolish armenian authority for ever.

Gagik, the clever and far-sighted man, thought it would be better to reach an agreement with the byzantine people, instead to fight them hopelessly, and so he proposed even to be a vassal king and to pay taxes, however without renouncing to his throne. Mono-makhos refused to yield to such a combination of mutual understanding, remaining harshly intransigent.

New struggles and torments were in perspective. Emperor Constantine ordered his byzantine governor of Dayk region (in northern Armenia) to invade the lands of Chirak, who however never dared to commit such an injustice. Then Monomakhos chose the alliance of Arab Emir of the city of Twin instigating him to invade Armenian lands everywhere he could or liked. And Aboul Souar, - - this was the name of the Arab Emir, - entered into armenian lands, devastating and ravaging villages and monasteries. Being busy at the front with the Byzantines, Gagik never wished to resist against the Arab invasion; he tried instead to stop the eastern (arab) front by promising great gifts and wealth to the Emir. Again Mono-makhos lost his battle with Gagik and returned to his region.

GAGIK TRAVELS TO CONSTANTINOPLE

If the armies of the byzan-tine emperor didn't conquer Ani, Vesd Sarkis, coming into action, succeeded to donate Ani by disloyal ways to the Emperor. Gaining the friendship of Tavit Anhogh (a secondary heir of the Pakra-dounis' throne), he pushed him to enter into the lands of Gagik. But he was expelled by the people.

Anyway, Vesd Sarkis didn't yield to his treacherous intrigues. By means of new procedure and activities, he tried to gain the king's friendship and sympathy in order to take him under his yoke. So easily that, with the help of Catho-licos Bedros Kedatarz, they both instructed him to their ideas. Gagik was childishly imprudent to believe to his solicitors, neglecting the Bahlavounis. Krikor Makisdros and Vahram Bahlavouni feeling deeply offended by this behaviour, preferred to retire in their Pechni property, leaving the king to follow his fate...

Pushed to regret for this enormous mistake, Gagik returned to recall the old Vahram for help. The intelligent commander agreed to do as the king wished. But again the Catholicos and Vesd Sarkis convinced the king to go to Con-stantinople to see in person the emperor and have a final and honorable agreement with him about the city.

Following the advice of Vesd Sarkis, the emperor sent to Gagik a solemn oath, testifying for his fidelity to the Sacred Testament and the Holy Cross, saying. "Let's see each other, all will be for the best, and I will leave Ani to its people".

The Catholicos and Vesd Sarkis guaranteed their young monarch that in case something bad happens to him, they will defend the city of Ani and him with all their force.

The naive king forgot his proper defender, a honest man like Vahram Bahlavouni, then, fearless, Gagik remitted the forty keys of the city to the Catholicos, with the strong hope that the city will be well defended.

That was his last travel outside the city. He never returned to his throne.

A.D. 1045 he left Armenia to take his trip unwillingly to Constantinople where the byzan-tine emperor received him with a showy display and festivities. Then after some weeks, the gloomy days came and the emperor harshly claimed the Armenian city from the young king , which refused to surrender and rejected categorically emperor's proposal . Forcibly Monomakhos exiled him in an island neighboring Bosphorus, the main channel crossing Constan-tinople.

THE SALE OF ANI

Nobody knew exactly what happened to Gagik in the city of Byzantium. Everybody hoped that the final agreement has been made between the two monarchs and Gagik would be soon back home. Because the byzantine emperor had promised to arrange the affair swearing on the Holy Cross and the Holy Sacrament. He had signed his letter soaking the pen into the golden chalice of the Holy Com-mun-ion.Meanwhile messengers had reported that the byzantine army was moving forward, headed to Ani.

Even if the Byzantines thought for their final victory and the occupation of Ani, the crowds behind the walls of that city, anguished with torment, has decided anyway to die defending their cherished capital. It was time for revolu-tionary uprising and all the people coming out from their hiding places stormed on the streets, roaring: ŒUp in arms, take your arms, people'... All these people came out of the walls of the city and attacked the byzantine armies, who never had seen similar out-burst of curse and hate... Akhourian river and Zaghgatzor valley were colored with foreign blood. Many others fled into the thick forests surrounding the city.

But soon the mournful days came. The inhabitants of Ani learn-ed that their young and beloved king Gagik had been exiled insi-diously as a prisoner . They went to the royal cemeteries and there they wept bitterly, crying : - Raise up, our king, and come to liberate your fatherland!

Churches were full with faithful people to pray the Almighty for the return of their sovereign.

Deploring their negligence against the king, princes and ministers tried to find somebody worth to take the place of Gagik on the throne. No suitable person was found. Confused and desperate, the nobles of the city appealed to the byzantine commander of same army which was defeated some months ago; and told him to take the city of Ani under his defense. The emperor from Byzantium appointed a governor, who came and abolished every Armenian authority in that city.

In this cluttering situation, there was only Vesd Sarkis to be cheerful for all the sad events and the loss of the king. He convinced the Catholicos Bedros Kedatarz to send the forty keys of the city to the emperor. In this way, the hellenophile party had the final, it's true, but fraudulent victory.

These keys, symbolizing the power and the ownership of the city, were remitted to the byzantine governor of the city of Samosad in order to bring them safely to the emperor, with an accompanying letter containing a declaration of submission to the authority of king Constantine Mono-makhos, saying frankly but very frantically:

"From now on, you are the master of Ani and all the Orient".

It was A.D. 1046.

 
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