End of Arshagouni Dynasty
A Synopsis of The Principal Events After The death of King Drtad III
|After the death of King Drtad (Tiridates) III, the approximately one-century period extending between 331 and 428 A.D. was enormously characterized by an uncommon instability and indetermination, affecting both political and social life in Armenia. Continuous plots, intrigues, murders between antagonists (local and foreign), and the struggle about the newly adopted Christian faith marked tragically the situation throughout the main homeland. Beginning by the Great Drtad III himself, - it was indeed during his reign the Christianism had been introduced solemnly in Armenia, 301 A.D. - was the victim of incomprehensiveness and favoritism among his ministers (nakharar). The aging monarch, once constrained to leave the power, retired in his favorite region of Yegeghyats, where the feudal and non-convinced Christian nobles tried to kill him the first time without success, then by instigation of his own chamberlain, who poisoned him cowardly.
|King Drtad III and Gregory the Illuminator yet in life, the Roman Empire was divided in two parts, so called Western and Eastern. In West, Rome remained the capital of paganism, and in East, Byzantium was selected as the second capital, under the reign of Constantine, converted into Christianism. Consequently, the roman Christian emperor tried to extend his power over other Christian countries, to take them under his own protection. Drtad and Gregory visited Byzantium in order to congratulate Constantine and so to consolidate the position of Armenia against intruders. The treaty between Byzantium and Armenia disturbed the neighboring Persians, who then hardened their relations with our county, and tried to reinstall the pagan religion in Armenia.
|Drtad being dead, his son Khosrov II succeeded to his father: 331-339. - He was patriotic and liked to be constructive. So there has been great prosperity everywhere, even if Shapur II of Persia intended seldom to conquer the country. The Armenian general Vatche Mimigonian, with his courageous soldiers repelled successfully the forces of Shapur. A rebellion was organized against Khosrov by the adversaries of Christianism, who killed the Patriarch Vertanes. But they were subdued soon by the king with the help of his general Vatche Mamigonian. Was also subdued the turbulent tribe of Mazkouts, who were cooperating with Shapur II against the Christian Armenia. Khosrov ordered to build a new city, Dvin, which in the future should have its importance in the Armenian History. He died in 339.
|His son, Diran, who took the power after his father, was an irresolute man. His bad character and dissolute life caused the rupture between him and the religious authorities. Diran had ordered to hang the picture of the paganizing Julian the Apostate in the Armenian churches, which the Patriarch Houssig reproved vigorously. The violent Diran then ordered to kill the Patriarch by fustigation. He ordered also to exterminate many of the members of Resdouni and Manavazian ministerial families. Diran tried to be in good terms with King Shapur, but then he broke the relations with him. He was conducted by treason in Persia and blinded. Shapur remitted the power into the hands of the captive's son, Arshag.
|Arshag II reigned from 350 to 367 A.D. A well-tempered personality
endeavored to reunify all the feudal families under a central government,
and by this way to reconstruct the political and military power of
Armenia. Aiming more success for his ideas, he ordered to build a
new city, Arshagavan, where he gathered all the heteroclite people
of politically persecuted and condemned refugees, with the hope they
can support him. Nevertheless, the Armenian high ranked nobles considered
this act as a threat for their authority and security. But with unified
forces they made soon to attack Arshagavan and destroy it. Arshag
retaliated severely, killing many of the rebels, among which were
also the proper cousins of the king, Knel and Dirit. The Mamigonian
family was designated by Arshag to take the responsibility of Armenia's
|The most important event during Arshag's reign, was the consecration
of the Patriarch Nerses. The king himself chose the person that would
be on the head of the Armenian Church. That person was a simple soldier
in the Armenian army, Nerses the Parth. Tall and handsome, his long
and beautiful curls were cut down before committee in tears. Once
on the ecclesiastical throne, the new Patriarch, very intelligent,
humble and affable personality, dedicated himself thoroughly for the
well being of all. He has been simultaneously a reformer and a benefactor,
who undertook to construct orphanages, schools and hospitals. King
Arshag, whose father was perfidiously blinded by Shapur, being informed
that the Persian king intended to kill him by every means, tried to
consolidate his relations with the roman emperor. On this, the Persians
attacked Armenia, and with the complicity of two Armenian ministers
Merujan Arzrouni and Vahan Mamigonian, invaded our country, causing
huge destructions, murders among women and children. Arshag, lately
with his centralized forces, expelled the intruders out of the country.
But Shapur didn't yield. He sent in Armenia Alezan the Bahlav, who
brought with him the package of sacred salt, sealed by the ring of
the king. It meant all the sincerity of his intentions. Hesitating
and cautious, then Arshag decided to go in Persia, where the malicious
despot arrested him immediately and imprisoned in the Anhoush fortress,
with heavy chains. From the ceiling of the dungeon stayed hanging
the straw-stuffed skin of Vassak Mamigonian, Arshag's most powerful
army commander. Hopeless, the captive king committed suicide.
|After his death, his son Bab was yet a child. So he remained under
the protection of his mother Paranzem and other ministers, notorious
for their loyalty to the throne. Bab was sent to Byzantium, at the
roman court. Meanwhile and immense resistance was organized against
Shapur with the help of the entire people. This time also Shapur,
with the cooperation of two Armenian ministers, Gulag and Artavan,
aimed to encircle Artakers fortress where all the Armenian forces
had sheltered. The two ministers tried to convince the queen and the
notabilities to surrender. But lately, being captivated by the bright
speech of the queen, they changed their mind adjoining the national
forces. They attacked the Persian army sleeping in the night around
the fortress and massacred them. Then they sent Moushegh, son of Vassak
Mamigonian to the roman court, for help and protection.
|Enraged by the shameful defeat, the stubborn Persian monarch surrounded
the fortress again with huge force during one year. There was lack
of food and arms for the encircled Armenians, who were obliged to
surrender, giving by that the occasion for a general manslaughter
and destruction in the county. The queen Paranzem died courageously
crucified on a stake. But all this was not a desperate case for the
Armenian people. They promptly reacted against the Persian atrocities.
Under the command of army general Moushegh Mamigonian, they counter-attacked
the enemy. They kept many prisoners, they killed them and sent them
straw-stuffed to Shapur. Many pagan priests were burned alive on the
pyre. In 370's Tabriz was, Moushegh sequestrated the harem of the
Persian king, but honorably let all the women to return home in Persia.
Emotionally affected by the generosity of the Armenian commander in
chief, Shapur engraved the picture of the Armenian hero Moushegh on
a cup, and every time drinking his favorite wines, he repeated constantly:
"Long life, Moushegh"
|In 367, the young Bab was in the age to occupy the throne of his
father. His first idea has been to resume relations with Shapur, in
order to secure peace for his country. In this purpose, the ransom
was too high-priced: the heads of decapitated ministers of the queen,
Paranzem, mother of Bab: Gulag and Artavan. So Bab began his reign
with a first ignominious act, which enraged the people.
|In 371, in a new war against the Persians, Moushegh Mamigonian led
victoriously his soldiers, near the mountain Nebad. The Armenian apostate
general Meroujan Arzrouni was captured and punished horribly, being
crowned by a red-hot iron. The second apostate Vahan Mamigonian was
stabbed dead by his son Samuel. Bab undertook unpopular measures,
by minimizing the rights of the religious authority, by submitting
the church to his own caprices. He also ordered the closure of all
charitable institutions that were created by the Patriarch Nerses.
Even so despotic, Bab liked to pay visit among his people, in order
to recognize personally the needs of everybody. He tried to expel
the roman armies out of Armenia, and so was accused by the antagonist
ministers near the roman emperor. Treacherously invited to a banquet
by the roman commander Trajanus, he has been assassinated, stabbed
on his back.
|His cousin Varaztad, succeeded over the throne. An athletically
complexioned person, nevertheless Varaztad was so credulous and ingenuous,
that when the prince Pad Saharouni accused the brave Moushegh of complicity
in the death of king Bab, Varaztad ordered immediately his execution.
Varaztad's reign commander of the Armenian army, Manuel, son of the
executed Moushegh Mamigonian, a man of exceptional competence, reorganized
the social life in Armenia, where prosperity and cultural institutions
flourished intensely. He ordered the reopening of all the institutions
closed by king Bab, and abolished all the anticlerical dispositions
and rules. He led victorious combats against the Persians, and secured
Armenia from further invasions. Then he asked the protection of Theodosius,
emperor of Byzantium. In peaceful time, Manuel attended the marriages
of two royal princes, Arshag and Vagarshag. The first was crowned
as king of the eastern part of Armenia, and the second, as king of
the western part. Glorious and victorious every time and everywhere,
Manuel ended his life peacefully, in his bed. Before dying, he spoke,
bitterly weeping, to all the people gathered around his death bed,
and showing his body full of cicatrix, he said. "I am unhappy;
I would like to die on a battlefield." Then, one of the two designated
kings being dead, Arshag, called Arshag II, reigned alone over Armenia.
But soon he was destituted by the persophil Khosrov IV (a member of
the Arshagouni dynasty). The new king thought to renew the ties with
the Byzantine emperor. By this, he was accused by his own ministers
before the Persian king Vram, who ordered his imprisonment in the
Anhoush fortress. He died in 415.
|In the order of succession, then came Vramshabouh (382-414), an
instructed and peaceful man. During his reign, the clergyman Mesrob
Mashdotz invented the Armenian alphabet, in 405 A.D. The Bible was
translated in Armenian, so that the people could understand it easily,
instead of Greek or the Assyrian languages. The translation had been
made under the revision of the Patriarch or catholicos Sahak, who
ordered a widely propagation of the Bible throughout Armenia, by competent
persons. It was a perfect and carefully executed translation, so that
it has been considered as a linguistic treasure. It was called "the
queen of translations".
|After the death of Vramshabouh, a transition period was created
with the reign of a propersian personality, named Shapur (416-420),
and the government of a Persian exarch (420-423). The last and unfortunate
Arshagouni king was Ardashes III (423-428). He was a weak-minded man,
who never knew to reign conveniently over the country. Without popularity,
he was accused near the Patriarch Sahag, whom the ministers asked
to call a Persian governor (Marzban) and destitute him. The Catholicos
exhorted them to be tolerant, explaining that a national weak sheep
is preferable to a foreign, healthy, but ferocious beast. Then the
ministers accused both Catholicos Sahag and king Ardashes III before
the Persian king Vram, who called them to Persia, and there they were
so ended the misfortunate Arshagouni dynasty