The Arabs in Armenia: WHO ARE THEY?
An Abridged Chronology of Their Origin and Their Arrival In The Araratian Land (642 A.D.)
 Before relating the vents of that period of the Armenian history that is specifically marked by the invasion of our country by the Arabs, we consider that it will be of a great importance to have a general but satisfactorily view over the history of that ethnic group whose sudden and unexpected expansion outside its geographical confines created new situations, changing thoroughly the course of the history all over the world: a new era of civilization begins from the deserts of the far Middle East and reaches the African and European shores with astonishing celerity.
 Who are the Arabs?
The name Arab is given to the ancient inhabitants of Arabia, a large country located at the east of Red Sea (entrance by the Suez Channel, near the city of Alexandria in Egypt), and often applied to the peoples closely allied to them in ancestry, language, religion and culture. In present days, Arabs constitute the overwhelming majority of the population in the states of Middle East (Saudi Arabia, Syria, Yemen, Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine, Iraq, and in the states of Africa (Egypt, Sudan, Libya, Morocco…). Culturally and for the most part linguistically they are a Semitic people. Arabia was the site of a flourishing civilization long before the Christian era. Arab influence spread, little by little, throughout the Near East to parts of Europe, particularly the island of Sicily (south of Italy), Spain and France, to Africa, to India and more eastward and southward.
The cultural and scientific contribution of the Arabs to Western civilization during the Middle Ages was highly significant, notably in the fields of astronomy, mathematics, medicine and philosophy. The earliest known events in Arabian history are migration from the Arabian Peninsula into neighboring areas. About 3500 before Christ, semitic-speaking peoples of Arabian origin migrated into the valley of the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers in Mesopotamia, supplanted the Sumerians, and became the Assyro-Babylonians. Another group of Semites left Arabia about 2500 B.C. and settled along the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea; some of these migrants became the Amorites, and Canaanites of later times. In the Arabian land, three early kingdoms were founded: the first, the Minaeas, embraced most of south Arabia. It is generally believed that the Minaean kingdom existed from 1200 to 650 B.C. The second kingdom, the Sabaean, was founded about 930 B.C. and lasted until about 115 B.C.; probably it supplanted the Minaean kingdom and occupied the same territory. The Sabaean city of Marib flourished as did no other city of ancient Arabia, partly because it was an important point of caravan routes between Mediterranean sea-ports, and partly because of a large nearby dam providing water for irrigation.
As a historical fact from those times, it is said that the famous queen of Sheba, mentioned in the Bible, who visited the king Salomon in Jerusalem (in the 10th century before Christ) was Sabaean. The Himyarites followed the Sabaeans as the leaders in southern Arabia; the Himyarite kingdom lasted from about 115 B.C. about 525 A.D. (that is after Christ). In 24 B.C. the Roman emperor Augustus sent his prefect Aelius Galius intending military or political negotiations with the Himyarites, but without success. The Himyarites prospered in the incense, myrrh and spice trade until the Romans began to open the sea routes through the Red Sea. Several states are known to have existed in northern Arabia in the pre-Christian and early Christian era. Earliest among these was the Nabataean kingdom, which for a brief period (about 9 B.C. to 40 A.D.), extended north to Damascus (capital city of Syria). The ruins of Petra, the Nabataean capital city, attest to a high degree of culture. The Nabataean form of writing developed into the Arabic script used in the holy books.
Rome gained control of the Nabataean kingdom in 106 A.D. and established most of it as the Roman province of Arabia Petraea, which lasted longer than a century. Other north Arabian states were established by invading people. In the 4th century, the Abyssians (a country at the east-end-of northern Africa, near Egypt, and facing the Red Sea, spread into Arabia, conquering a large part of it. Late in the following century, Persia, under the Sassanid kings, assumed control of a substantial part of Arabia, particularly of the region occupied by present-day Yemen.
The rise of Islam was the most significant event in the history of Arabia. After 632 A.D., the city of Mecca became the spiritual center of the Arab people, and the city of Medina, was the powerful political center of a unified Arab state under the caliphs (in Arabic language caliph or khalifa means vice-regent). Arabian armies conquered Syria, Egypt, and Sassanid Persia. After Egypt fell (642), the tide of Arab conquest swept west over the whole of northern Africa, and then over Spain (far west-end of Europe). Upon the removal of the caliphate to Damascus in 658, Arabia became less important.
From the 8th to the early 10th century Arabia was merely a province under the Abbasid caliphs of Baghdad. Then the Qarmatians, a new Arab ethnic group, who controlled all of Arabia for a time during the 10th century, successfully contested the role of Baghdad. Toward the end of the 10th century the Qarmatians lost their power to various Bedouin tribes, and by consequence Arabia was divided among numerous small governments. From 1075 to 1094, however, Arabia acknowledged the spiritual leadership of the Abbasid caliph at Baghdad. In 1258 the Mongols conquered Baghdad, and from that time on Baghdad had no influence over Arabia. In 1269 mecca and Hedjaz region came under the control of emirs (princes) from Egypt.
In 634 and 636, the Arabs conquered Assyria and Palestine, expelling the Byzantine forces out of those countries: two successive wars which took place in Nahavend and Kadisha obliged also the Persians to yield before the Arab conquerors who continued their invasion reaching as far as to the heart of Mongolia and Turkestan, (central Asia).
Then came the turn of Armenia, where an entire population lived anxiously, expecting for imminent and fearful events. During the reign of caliph Omar (642 A.D.) an Arab general named Moawiah, who had his stronghold in Mesopotamia, sent his sub-commander Habib into Armenia, backed by 18,000 army soldiers. Near the city of Julfa, this man crossing the river Arax and the region of Ardaz-Vasbouragan reached straightly the city of Dvin, which he overtook easily without any resistance from anybody. As a victorious conductor, then he returned back into his country with all his men, carrying with them thousands and thousands of prisoners, rich treasures and vast booty. One year later, the Arabs tried again to invade Armenia, but this time in the direction of Daron region, where they met the strong opposing forces of Diran Mamigonian and his 8000 warriors. Unfortunately, Diran was defeated and died in cruel circumstances, leaving free passage to the Arabs toward the Araratian region. In their way of return, however, they were obliged to fight against the unexpected and crushing offensive lead by an Armenian general names Theodorus Rushduni, who, with the help of his brave men recaptured from them all the rich loot and delivered the Armenian captives.
The Arab military incursions into Armenian land were primarily intended in order to explore the country. However, being aware of the extreme opulence of the Armenian soil and the importance of its military strongholds, they tried by all means to subdue the native land of Armenians to their sovereignty. After their comfortable victory, the Arabs have been more comprehensive with the population of the country they conquered than the Greeks, the former occupants. Favorable agreements were established between the two parts. In 647 A.D. Theodorus Rushduni accepted the Arab protectoral domination over Armenia, in consequence of which the caliph Osman conceded more extended freedom to Armenians, promising to suspend tax collection for seven years and forbid the Arab troops to get into the Armenian land. Meanwhile, the Byzantine emperor Constance II, being deeply dissatisfied with all these events, especially the mutual concessions between the two nations, and fearing the worse, that is that substitution of power in Armenia in favor of the Arabs, which any time could strike a hard blow to the Byzantine interests in our land, came with his 100,000 men in Armenia in order to compel Theodorus Rushduni to resign. The valorous man took refuge in the island of Aghtamar (Van Lake). Out of success, Constance left Armenia without any important fact. The Arabs helped Rushduni and recalled him to govern the country again.
More later, however, new discord and strife arose between the Arabs and Rushduni, causing many ungrateful conditions of life, and this man, finally, was deported to Damascus, the capital city of caliphs in Syria, where he died in captivity and exile until 656 A.D. The Arabs governed Armenia by their special envoys or constables who were called Vosdigans by the Armenians. In fact, these vosdigans had mission from the Arab caliph to act according to their own will, in what could concern the people, the religion and the tax collection.
The historians consider bitterly that it was reigning in that time an endless internal political and religious dissension, so that the Arabs had the easy way to dominate everywhere. At the arrival of Arabs in Armenia, besides the Mamigonian famous family, and other of less importance, the Pakradouni family was the most influential. Feudal system was availing. It is just to say that in that time, such rich and wealthy families who possessed armies and high financial power governed our country. Often, one of them would declare himself king, neglecting to consult any other feudal family, or any existing authority. Consequently, it was impossible to have a united Armenia. So that the foreign intruders had the door open to invade and subdue our feudal lords one after the other. In fact, the Arabs tried by many ways to liquidate such landlords and powerful families: an awful period of tribulation, distress and affliction was prevailing everywhere.
Little by little, many of these families lost their wealth and their importance, and even ceased to exist. The Arabs designated Hamazasp Mamigonian as vosdigan to govern Armenia, after the death of Theodore Rushduni. His brother Krikor, however, soon substituted this man, for his hellenophil feelings. Krikor was a great gentleman, very clever and constructive person. He governed Armenia during 24 years in peace and prosperity. Many churches and monasteries were built during this time. He died in a battle against the Khazars, a nomade population, who came into Armenia from southern Russia (661-685 A.D.).
The influence of Mamigonian family in Armenia weakened gradually and was in the way of extinction. The Pakradouni family was more fortunate to be powerful. New and sympathetic relations tied it to the Arabs. Ashod Pakradouni was nominated as governor of Armenia. Justinianus II, the Byzanitine emperor had the opportunity to attack our country in order to reoccupy it. Meanwhile the Arabs entered into Armenia from the other side. In total confusion, Ashod was obliged to fight on the both side, but heavily wounded he was transported to the castle of Taruni, where he died. (690 A.D.).
The influence of Mamigonian family in Armenia weakened gradually and was in the way of extinction. The Pakradouni family was more fortunate to be powerful. New and sympathetic relations tied it to the Arabs. Ashod Pakradouni was nominated as governor of Armenia. Justinianus II, the Byzantine emperor had the opportunity to attack our country in order to reoccupy it. Meanwhile the Arabs entered into Armenia from the other side. In total confusion, Ashod was obliged to fight on the both side, but heavily wounded he was transported to the castle of Taruni, where he died. (690 A.D.).

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