The Third Rebellion of Armenians Against Persia (571 A.D.)
Vartan II Mamigonian
A period of political and social instability followed the death of Vahan Mamigonian (*) (510 A.D.), the valorous army general whose military actions led Armenians and Persians to conclude an agreement, which took place in the city of Nevarsak. Religious and worship freedom and a restrictive political autonomy were conceded to the Armenian people who had been for a long time subjected to Persia, the powerful and intransigent neighbor. In Armenia, in that time, there were no kings, no princes, not even any high officials who could attempt a prominent action in order to recover the full civil rights of Armenians and give them again their proper aspect and the dignity qualifying a proud and independent nation. However, some popular leaders emerged sporadically and took action in the right time. These exceptional leaders tried to contribute actively for the realization of national dreams…
Since 387 A.D., the whole country had been a preferred area for battleground, serving the rivalry between two powerful empires, i.e. Byzantium in the Western borders, and Persia, in the Eastern parts of Armenia. Consequently, a geographical separation was imposed, "cutting" Armenia into two distinctive regions. Armenian ministers have regularly governed the West until 536 A.D. But soon, under the kingdom of Justinianus, king of Byzantium, many territorial modifications occurred, creating an abnormal situation, and a permanent threat for the future of Armenia.
The Byzantine emperors divided the West into four small counties, with specific appellations: First Armenia (Arachin Hayk) having the city of Karin as capital; Second Armenia (Yergrort Hayk): region of Cappadoce, Sebastia as capital; Third Armenia (Yerrort Hayk): with the dominating city of Malatia, and Fourth Armenia (Choorort Hayk): with the central city of Kharpert. The region of First Armenia (Northern part) was governed by the Armenian king Archag III, and the remaining southern regions by five eminent ministerial families. After the death of king Arshag, the Byzantine authorities overtaking the whole West, annexed it thoroughly to their empire, considering it simply as an integrant part of Byzantium.
Armenians never agreed with such arbitrary arrangements, even if they were enable to react properly. They preferred to be cautiously silent and so they feigned faithful subjugation, until a ferocious rebellion broke out in Byzantium itself, aiming to overthrow Zenon, the emperor, 474 A.D. It was a time for Armenians to help the rebels in a large scale, with the hope to recover their own freedom. Unfortunately, the failure of that rebellion furnished a pretext to the furious emperor for further persecutions against the Armenians. Indeed, many of the nakharars (ministers were ordered to be killed by decapitation and their properties confiscated. Others escaped, hardly reaching a safe shelter amongst the remote mountains.
Zenon, in fury, wishing to establish a security zone in the eastern limits of his empire, and aiming to organize a massive, homogeneous and unified army, ordered the Armenians by force to be integrated into the Byzantine central commandment. New governors were designated in the region, which displayed an inhuman behavior toward our people; they neglected the rights of everyone and offended even their national dignity.
The emperor Justinianus proceeded to a complete abolition of the Armenian laws and rules, and reinstalled those by Byzantium. Right was given to women to inherit, so that they could appropriate lands and wealth by means of mixed marriages. Doing this, the emperor intended to impoverish, and then to weaken the wealthy and powerful Armenians in order to reduce the possibility of rebellion, even a resistance. The final aim of Justinianus was the assimilation of whole Armenians into the Byzantine entity.
In spite, a rebellion was being secretly prepared. Meanwhile, an Armenian prince, named Hamazasb, was treacherously murdered by the instigation of Acacius, a Byzantine prince, causing a unanimous discontent among the people. The rebellion was conducted successfully (537 A.D.). However, that was a victory for a short time. Two years later, Armenians yielded; the rebellion was brought down, reserving a severe and cruel end for all the ministers who were arrested, persecuted, executed or sent to exile with their entire families. Their lands and properties were confiscated. That was just the time when Western Armenia lost its civil and political autonomy.
In Eastern Armenia, after the death of Vahan Mamigonian, in 510 A.D., as we cited in the beginning of this history, his brother Vart was nominated as marzban (governor) of Armenia. But Vart, a peaceful man, died soon, in 513, leaving the authority into the hands of Persian marzbans, who came in Armenia to execute the orders OF THRI KING, Khosrov. The king manifested at first, an excellent goodwill and constructive dispositions, so that he was called Khosrov Noushrevan (Khosrov the Sweet Benevolent).
In 564 A.D., a man with the name of Sooren, was designated by the king Khosrov as marzban-governor of Armenia. Sooren was a fanatic of Zoroastrianism, the official state religion of Persia, that fundamentally preaches the adoration of the fire. Consequently, he was a stubborn enemy of Christianism, a religion that was practiced in Armenia. This man tried to subjugate the Armenian people. He ordered the Armenian churches to be transformed into common storehouses, and instigated his servants to fustigate without pity the Armenian bishop, leaving him half-dead in the middle of the street.
Extremely excited, the Armenians were compelled to retaliate for such a horrible profanation! A man, known in our national history as Vartan II Mamigonian, was the new leader who conducted the rebellion. With the aid of some courageous and adventurous soldiers, they captured Sooren at home and stabbed him into pieces, 571 A.D. The king of Persia, Khosrov, was afflicted enormously after hearing the brutal end of his emissary Sooren. Wrathful, he engaged to punish the responsible people of the murder. He swore to revenge with great threats and destroy Armenia.
Vartan, aware of the new danger coming from Persia, tried to get protection from Justinus, king of Byzantium, (565-578 A.D.). The Byzantine emperor replied soon, declaring that the "Christian Armenians were his friends". If Khosrov intends to do harm to his friends, or even touch their "little fingers", he was ready to protect them. "All my soldiers will fight against the Persian king, capture him and enslave him".
It was springtime, 571 A.D., when Khosrov sent his huge army, heavily equipped with horses and elephants, under the commandment of Mihran Mihrevantag. A merciless war took place near the village called Gaghamakh (region of Van Lake), were Vartan and his soldiers fought intrepidly. Soldiers and their leader, had decided to get a honorable victory, or to die. A 24-hour intense war ended with the defeat of Persians. All their horses and elephants were killed and destroyed. Fighting men were captured and killed on the spot. The remnants escaped in a great confusion.
In 578 A.D., Justinus, the emperor of Byzantium, died completely demented. Tiberius followed him and reigned till 582 A.D. For this man, the reconciliatory ways seemed to be the best means which could help him to make an approach toward the Persians and so to reassume the relations of good neighborhood. But Khosrov's conditions were explicit and too hard to be acceptable: he claimed from Tiberius:
  1. To deliver Vartan Mamigonian,
  2. To leave immediately Western Armenia. "Persians, he said, prefer to lose everything, but never the great and wealthy Armenia".
Naturally, the king of Byzantium responded by a categorical rejection of those conditions, thus, the war began again. A new Byzantine general was appointed to conduct the army. His name: Morig, gloriously known by the whole empire. Vartan, with his army, has been obliged to fight again, helping his new friends, the Byzantines. Completely defeated, Khosrov went back to Persia, but the Byzantine soldiers reached him in Persia, capturing his wife, the Lady of the Ladies', his golden throne, the enormous treasure of jewels and the golden-weaven tent.
Khosrov died by heart failure in 578 and his son Gavad succeeded him. After the defeat of the Persians, however, General Morig tried to subject all Armenians, and ordered many of them to be deported to Thrace, in Greece. Tired, but never hopeless, the brave Armenians thought to organize a new rebellion. But this time, it was a useless rebellion. What could a weakened army of some thousand men do against the powerful regiments of Byzantium? Many were arrested and ordered to be decapitated and others were deported to Greece and Bulgaria, to fight the Slavons on the shores of the river Danube.
 Vartan himself left Armenia with all his family, and went to leave near Constantinople. In this city, he visited the magnificent basilica - Greek-roman church. One of the three entrances of this holy building, was named the "Armenian Door" in honor of the valorous Armenian general, Vartan II Mamigonian.
(*) Note: In the issue of the "Armenian Directory" of last year, Vahan Mamigonian was mentioned with the nickname of "Vahan the Wolf". That was simply a mistake. Because the true "Wolf", named also Vahan, is a brave man, who lived 60 years later, in 604 A.D. Next year we will relate about his strange activities.

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