History of Armenia

Muslim conquest of Armenia
Rashidun Caliphate Army ©Angus McBride
645 Jan 1 - 885

Muslim conquest of Armenia

Armenia

Armenia remained under Arab rule for approximately 200 years, formally starting in 645 CE. Through many years of Umayyad and Abbasid rule, the Armenian Christians benefited from political autonomy and relative religious freedom, but were considered second-class citizens (dhimmi status). This was, however, not the case in the beginning. The invaders first tried to force the Armenians to accept Islam, prompting many citizens to flee to Byzantine-held Armenia, which the Muslims had largely left alone due to its rugged and mountainous terrain. The policy also caused several uprisings until the Armenian Church finally enjoyed greater recognition even more than it experienced under Byzantine or Sassanid jurisdiction. The Caliph assigned Ostikans as governors and representatives, who sometimes were of Armenian origin. The first ostikan, for example, was Theodorus Rshtuni. However, the commander of the 15,000-strong army was always of Armenian origin, often from the Mamikonian, Bagratuni or Artsruni families, with the Rshtuni family having the highest number of troops at 10,000. He would either defend the country from foreigners, or assist the Caliph in his military expeditions. For example, the Armenians helped the Caliphate against Khazar invaders.


Arab rule was interrupted by many revolts whenever Arabs attempted to enforce Islam, or higher taxes (jizya) to the people of Armenia. However, these revolts were sporadic and intermittent. They never had a pan-Armenian character. Arabs used rivalries between the different Armenian nakharars in order to curb the rebellions. Thus, the Mamikonian, Rshtuni, Kamsarakan and Gnuni families were gradually weakened in favor of the Bagratuni and Artsruni families. The rebellions led to the creation of the legendary character, David of Sassoun. During Islamic rule, Arabs from other parts of the Caliphate settled in Armenia. By the 9th century, there was a well-established class of Arab emirs, more or less equivalent to the Armenian nakharars.


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Last Updated: : Fri Aug 19 2022