FIRST SELJOUKID INVASION IN ARMENIA,
THE REGION OF VASBOURAGAN:
NEAR VAN LAKE (1047 A.D.)
the facts narrated in our issue of Armenian ancient history,
are related by the contemporary historians of those facts. Exposing
some details of the events, we avoided any personal comment
and often we tried to modify as much as possible the outrageous
vocabulary in use near the defeated people qualifying their
oppressors (or vice versa) tousand years ago, politically, socially
and even in matter of religion).
After the domination of all India
and Persia, in 1047 A.D., the Seljoukids made their entrance
by little hordes on the Armenian lands at the south of Van Lake,
in Vasbouragan region, and subdued immense lands and territories
under their authority. They continued
the domination taking the direction of nearby city of Passen,
in the valley of Arazani. It was uneasy for the Greek soldiers
in the neighborhood to stop all these invaders who immediately
tried to reach Trebizonde, a city on the shores
of the Black Sea, north of Asia Minor.
But they were defeated by the intense resistance of the inhabitants
all around, and were obliged to withdraw and go to Tavrej,
their stronghold in Persia.
Soon later, this revengeful people decided to return for their
easy business to conquer other people and their lands. Their
chief, Doughril Bek, with the support of his strong-man Ibrahim
Ibn Imal leading a horde of 100,000 men, came again into Armenia.
All this irregular guerilleros surrounded our country at the
location called Daron till Lazistan (Black Sea), and from Nakhichevan
to Dayk, near the city of Sempadasar, where huge bloodshed occurred.
The local population were attacked, and all their animals and
belongings were destroyed.
On the spot, the imperial byzantine soldiers dared not to counterattack,
except at the north of Vanant near Kars, where they defended
themselves hidden inside the trenches.
Then Ibn Imal, neglecting the imperial Greek forces, conducted
his armies in the direction of Arzen city, eastbound of
Arzen was a magnificent and flourishing commercial city, with
its 150,000 inhabitants. It was on the way of Black Sea to Persia.
Prosperously rich, this city can gave successful opportunities
for everyone to be happy as one could by own endeavour. 700
glorious churches and a multitude of magnificent
palaces were the proud of the environment, because of their
heavy and gorgeous decorations.
Arriving at the doors of the city, Ibn Imal ordered the
surrender of it, nevertheless without bloodshed. There were
no Greek or Byzantine soldiers in the city, but only the
inhabitants, in majority Armenians, who refused categorically
to open the doors, and consequently the war begun.
The popular army of the city was too small, but with energy
it got out of the city, trying to attack the intruders. But
after a short skirmish it returned inside the city where it
was pursued by the Seljoukid soldiers and a street war
begun. From the roofs the invaders were attacked by a down-pour
of stones, woods and melted oil and spears. Courageously
women and children shared the attack, which lasted in an inequal
fighting for six days. Every house was a stronghold, to be occupied
one by one.
Ibn Imal, confused and unable to dominate that vigorous popular
army, ordered the arson of the city, where the extent
of the fire has been so immense that everything was reduced
to ashes. (1048 A.D.).
Ibrahim Ibn Imal permitted his men to plunder what remained
after the arson, and gathering huge quantities of gold, silver
and precious goods, went to Persia. But on his way Ibn
Imal met a Greek army conducted by Libarid Orbelian, and reinforced
by the Caucasian cohorts. Ibn Imal was victorious, and he brought
Libarid as prisoner with him to Doughril Bek, with many lootings.
In Persia, Doughril Bek was busy to subdue many popular revolts,
specially his brother Ibn Inal, whom he killed with his own
sword. Hearing about a revolt raging in Vrasdan, Doughril Bek
soon reached that country, and murdered the rebel army commander
with other people (1053 A.D).
One year later, Doughril came back to Vasbouragan leading a
strong army, aiming to attack the armies of Monomakhos, emperor
of Byzance: The emperor s forces were concentrated in the city
of Cesarea, preparing the defense of eastern borders of the
empire. He neglected thoroughly to protect or to support his
neighbors, the Armenians, who were suffering enormously.
Doughril Bek reached at first the city of Pergri (north-east
of Van Lake). The inhabitants of the city, being unaware what
was happening elsewhere, locked the heavy doors
of the city, preparing their own defense. After
eight days of resistance Doughril set fire to the city.
Then came the turn of Paghesh, a city erected at the shore of
Van Lake. The horrified inhabitants offered gifts and a considerable
quantity of valuables, under surveillance of delegates, promising
obedience to the Sultan, declaring: If you occupy Manazgerd,
whole Armenia will be submitted to you .
Doughril spared the city of Argesh, however his free-booters
reached till the shores of the Black Sea, Vrasdan and
the region of nearby Dayk .
It was 1054 A.D. The impetuous tyrant s innumerable followers
surrounded the city of Manazgerd. For the population,this
city was a natural stronghold of the fatherland, but when Arabs
occupied it, they created there an emirate, with equal opportunity
Formerly, in 1000 A.D., the Armenian-Georgian unified armies
had occupied this city when Gagik the First was reigning, under
Pakradounis rule: Byzantine emperors made it their watch-tower,
protecting it by Armenian, European and Greek soldiers. When
Doughril came to besiege it, as we mentioned above, the
commander in chief was an Armenian named Vassil.
Doughril checked the huge walls all around the city, seemingly
anxious to bring at a end the useless fightings. Then
leaving a section of his guerilleros at the doors of Manazgerd,
he went to Passen, aiming to occupy another
city at the vicinity, Garin, a powerful strategic point of defense
serving as stronghold for national guardians. But Garin
was an impregnable fort, so he came back to continue
the encircling of Manazgerd.
The commander Vassil was too busy on his military
duty. There was a miserable situation inside the city, where
no maintenance and no water supply were available... Surrounding
from far the city, and being in expectative, Doughril s soldiers
were passing lazy and negligent days all around the city, so
Vassil profiting from the circumstance, provided the population
with food and animals inside the walls, and fortified
them quickly. The resistance was ready for a long term
war against the foreign intruder. Otherwise, says the Armenian
contemporary historian Lasdiverdzi, the city could be fallen
in ten days in the hands of the enemy.
During one month period, Doughril furiously attacked the city
all day long, and with catapults he pounded all the walls and
inside the city.
It is related in our national history that a priest invented
and constructed a machine or apparatus which could throw stones
in the air and knock forcefully the enemy s bombes arriving
just from the opposite front, sending them back on the heads
of the attackers themselves or pulverizing them on the
midway. Even if the name of this clergyman is not mentioned,
the fact is amazingly extraordinary: that machine could
be a very rudimentary original copy of a missile-anti-missile
defensive system of modern nuclear strategy.
Reaching the foot of the walls, Doughril spoke,
apparently willing to jock with a fake sentimentalism:
If I occupy Manazgerd, I will take as wife the most beautiful
girl among you , upon which an insipid wrangle followed between
the defenders of the walls and the conqueror, with some irreverent
Then Doughril, at the edge of anger, ordered to bring new defense
material, specially those immensely destructive catapults
from the nearby city of Paghesh, willing to animate more
fiercely the fighting and pound the walls heavily. The
insiders were all frightened, and desperation dominated their
souls. Even if they were encouraged by some successful
skirmishes, their eyes were full of deadly fear, but vindictive
feelings pushed them to continue the fightings.
Burn at any cost that catapult, ordered the commander
Vassil to his soldiers.
And he promised precious rewards to anybody who could
commit fearless and heroically such a dangerous and deadly
French soldier presented himself, and spoke with an ardent
I will do it, I can burn and destroy that catapult. I don t
fear to die, I have no wife, no children or other people
to mourn me, anyway...
Then, he took three bottles, filled them with a mixture of fuel
oil and sulfur, and with ability hid it inside his armoured
waist coat. Riding his horse with proud and boldness, holding
a huge spear on his hand supporting a parchment on its
edge with some writing, he rushed out of the walls.
My patrons send me as their delegate to see the Sultan, he
cried to the Seljoukid guardians.
Suddenly he approched the catapult, made a quick inspection
of it, and taking out the bottles threw them on that infernal
machine, which caught fire on the spot.
The foreign soldiers were confused and stupefied, incapable
to put out the fire. They didn t arrest the Frechman, who fled
rapidly back inside the walls after completing his mission.
Doughril, desperately ordered the retreat of his entire
armies and left the city.
By that time, the theoreticians of the History
assert that the heroical resistance of Manazkerd rescued in
some way the byzantine and european civilization, because Doughril
could easily reach Constantinople with all his means in
Leaving Manazgerd, the invader oriented his forces toward
north Armenia, in the direction of Jorokh river,
near Varant region, in the plains of Chirag, where he faced
all the commanders and fighting armies of king Gagik-Abbas III.
Armenians decided to expel the enemy.
Was it possible to do that ?
The chance was against Armenians. The Seljoukids surrounded
them. Armenian horse-riders could not in any way split the enemy
lines, because they were tired by overwork. In a deadly skermish,
the commander Tatoul Vanantezi wounded mortally the son of Arsouran,
a persian friend of Doughril. Tatoul was captured with other
30 army commanders,and taken before Doughril, who has been
deeply astonished when he saw the handsome
young man, under heavy chains:
If he survives, Arsouran son, you will be freed, said
Doughril, but if he dies you will be immolated for him.
Then Tatoul responded.
If he is whom I wounded, he will never survive. If another one
hit him, I never know what can happen...
The son of Arsouran being dead, Tatoul was murdered and his
forearm was sent to Arsouran, to console him, saying
that vengeance has been made.
Doughril continued his incursions also in the interior
lands of Vrasdan, and took with him plenty of sack to
Persia (1054 A.D.).
Doughril died in 1065, leaving immense territories and wealth
to his grand-son Al-Paslan.
Al-Paslan (1063-1072 A.D.) organized new invasions against
the city of Ani, siege of Armenian Pakradouni kings. After
many lootings and destruction, he surrounded that city.
Ani was defended by the Greeks, European mercenary soldiers
and Armenian volunteers. All the population living in the Chirak
region, came inside the city. The long-lasting surrounding caused
many fightings and casualties. Al-Paslan at first was hopeless,
thinking impossible to occupy it, and went to Persia.
The Greek commanders considering the departure of Al-Paslan
a prank, abandoned the defense of the walls, and returned
inside the city. The crowd was frightened, so mourning
was everywhere. They cried: Why did you abandon the city, please
go and defend our country and the city.
There was no means to get out the situation and find a way for
salvation. The people opened the doors of the walls and desperately
begin to flee toward the mountains and woods, to protect themselves.
An Armenian woman, embracing his newly-born child, frantically
rushed towards the enemy, not far from the city. A Seljouk
soldier seeing that woman,plucked up the child and brought him
to Al-Paslan, saying that all the people were fleeing outside
the city. The dictator returned back again with his cohorts,
occupied the magnificent city, destroyed what he could. He came
back to Persia with many prisoners and wealth (6 June