Armenia and the Byzantine Empire by Sirarpie Der Nersessian

By Sirarpie Der Nersessian

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Their arguments have been rejected by the Armenians. In the opinion of the latter the consecration of St. Gregory the Illuminator by Leontius, archbishop of Caesarea, was due to fortuitous circumstances, to the personal devotion of St. Gregory to Leontius and the fact that he had been educated in Caesarea. They claim that the Byzantine system of jurisdiction and mutual dependency of patriarchs and metropolitans, which was copied from the civil administration of prefects and proconsuls and consulars, could not apply to Armenia since the major part of this country was not under Byzantine rule.

There were also direct communications with Asia Minor. This mountainous country, which rose like a veritable fortress and was furthermore endowed with natural resources, was inevitably coveted throughout the centuries by its powerful neighbors: Greeks, Romans, and Byzantines on the west; Medes, Persians, Arabs, and Turks on the east. The eastern powers strove to hold or to control this highland which dominated the valley of the Euphrates and provided easy access into Asia Minor; the western powers sought possession of the valleys of the Euphrates and of the tributaries of the Tigris which led into Iran and eastern Mesopotamia.

Though they had conferred the title of king of kings on Ashot and sent him a royal crown, the khalifs still considered themselves as the suzerains of the Armenian rulers and they had not renounced their claims over Armenia, any more than had the Greeks. Despite the internal struggles and the wars against the neighboring peoples—Abkhazians, Albanians, Alans, Georgians, the Moslems of Kurdistan and Azerbaijan—the period of Armenian independence under the Bagratids was an era of material prosperity and cultural development, especially at the end of the ninth and in the tenth centuries.

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