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7-08-2015, 20:29

Relations with the syrians, justinian and his successors

The Armenians do not seem to have taken any definite steps to repudiate the Byzantine return to Chalcedonian orthodoxy until they were prompted to do so by another Syrian delegation from Persia, which appeared at another council held in Dvin in 555, again requesting consecration for one of their company. These Syrians were members of a splinter group within the monophysite church, the Julianists, who held that Christ’s body had remained ‘incorruptible’.24 The Armenian catholicosNerses II (548–57) and his bishops found the Syrians’ profession of faith orthodox and consecrated Abdisho. The impact of Julianist ideas was not the most important result of this encounter in 555; in later years there was no unanimity among Armenian theologians on that issue. The significant fact was that the Armenians not only rejected Chalcedon again; they also, for the first time, specifically anathematised the imperial church for upholding that council – which to Armenian eyes had approved the ideas of Nestorius.25 Despite these important developments, whose significance was perhaps not obvious at the time, Armenian historians have remarkably little to say about Armenian affairs during the reigns of Justin and Justinian (527– 65). The first Persian war, which ended in 532, brought no change to the frontiers or the status of the divided country. Even the reorganisation of the Armenian territories within the empire by Justinian is passed over by Armenian sources. In 528 the right of Armenian princes to maintain their private military forces was abrogated when the office of magister militum per Armeniam was created. The civil standing of the princes was diminished when their traditional rights of inheritance were brought into line with imperial practice. In 536 Armenian territory was reorganised into First, Second, Third and Fourth Armenia at the expense of neighbouring land in Cappadocia. The use of the name ‘Armenia’ is an indication of the strongly Armenian presence west of the Euphrates, which had been increasing rather than diminishing. Now, not only were the Armenians inside the imperial borders deprived of their long-standing rights and governance by traditional princely families (which had been guaranteed in the original treaty), but this significant portion of the total Armenian population was lost to Armenia proper. Imperial authorities did not speak Armenian or encourage allegiance to the Armenian church, as Justinian attempted to impose imperial orthodoxy on his realms. Armenians were useful to the empire in many ways, especially in the army. But an individual Armenian culture flourished henceforth only on the Persian side of the frontier. Justinian’s treatment of his Armenian nobles led to complaints to the shah26 and Armenian involvement in war plans against the emperor.27 In 540 hostilities between Byzantium and Persia reopened. Antioch was captured, but Dara resisted the invading Persians.Military operations were confined toMesopotamia and Lazica during the war, save for an encounter at Dvin in 543. The peace of 545 was one of many made during the long confrontation, which continued into the following century (see above, pp. 120, 135–6). There was no overt sign of unrest in Persian Armenia until the latter part of the sixth century. When trouble did break out, it seems to have been caused by the attitude of the Persian marzban of the time, Suren, not by the official policy of the shah. In 571 Suren set up a fire-temple in Dvin and attempted to impose Zoroastrianism on the country. The reaction was parallel to that of 450. Led by Vardan, prince of the Mamikoneans (not to be confused with the leader of the fifth-century revolt), the Armenians rebelled. When Suren returned the following year with reinforcements, he perished in the encounter. However, the Persians retook Dvin, and Vardan fled to Constantinople. Now, for the first time, the consequences of the religious differences became clear. Vardan had to accept communion with the imperial church, while Catholicos John II (557–74), who had fled with him, remained at Constantinople under the cloud of submission to Chalcedon until his death in 574.28 Justin II (565–78) gave Vardan military forces, and Dvin was retaken. But Byzantine success was not lasting. In 576 Persian forces under Khusro I (531–79) crossed Armenia but failed to capture Theodosioupolis. After advancing as far as Sebasteia, Khusro withdrew and sacked Melitene, but after a confrontation there, he fled back to Persia in confusion. During negotiations the following year, the Byzantine general Justinian was defeated by Khusro in Basean and Bagrevand,29 and the Persians retained the frontier fortress of Dara, which they had captured in 573.30 Imperial fortunes revived in 590 when the general Bahram Chobin seized the Sasanian throne upon the murder of Shah Hormizd IV (579–90). The legitimate heir, Hormizd’s son Khusro II, appealed to Emperor Maurice for help, promising in return to cede to the empire all Armenia as far as Lake Van and Dvin, plus part of Georgia. The offer was accepted, and the Armenians under Mushegh Mamikonean sided with Khusro and the Byzantines. Their combined forces defeated Bahram the following year at Gandzak in eastern Armenia. Installed as ruler of Persia, Khusro II (591– 628) fulfilled his promise: Armenia west of the Hrazdan and Azat rivers passed to Byzantium (see above, pp. 127, 136). This success for the Roman empire was fraught with a number of consequences for the Armenians.Maurice attempted to integrate Armenia more securely into the empire.He deported significant numbers of Armenians to the Balkans to strengthen his borders there and weaken resistance to imperial rule among Armenians now incorporated into the empire. The Armenian general Mushegh Mamikonean was killed in Thrace.31 But Maurice sometimes encountered resistance by Armenian soldiers. The Bagratuni prince Smbat rebelled and was condemned to the arena. Saved by his strength, according to the Armenian historian (by the clemency of the empress, according to a Greek source), he was exiled to Africa.32 But it was not long before he was back east, serving the shah. The plight of the Armenians between shah and emperor is well expressed in an apocryphal letter which the Armenian historian known as Sebeos claims was sent by Maurice to Khusro: They are a perverse and disobedient nation, who stand between us and disturb us. I shall gather mine and send them off to Thrace. You gather yours and order them to be sent to the east. If they die, it is our enemies who die. If they kill, they kill our enemies. Then we shall live in peace. For if they remain in their own land, there will be no repose for us.33 But the most significant aspect of his policy was the attempt to enforce imperial orthodoxy in the newly acquired territories. The Armenian catholicos was summoned to a synod where the union of the churches might be effected – that is, where the Armenians would accept Chalcedon and take communion with the Byzantines. Catholicos Moses II (574–604) refused to go and remained in Dvin, just across the border. On this occasion he is credited with a riposte that clearly expressed Armenian resistance to assimilation. It is preserved in a rare pro-Chalcedonian document of Armenian origin: ‘I shall not cross the Azat; I shall not eat bread baked [in the oven]; I shall not drink warm water.’ The Azat was the river marking the border and is a pun, the word meaning ‘free’. The other two comments refer to the differing practices of the liturgy, since Armenians used unleavened bread and did not mix warm water with the wine.34 Matters of doctrine may figure more prominently in the written records of historians and theologians, but the development of different rituals was no less potent a factor in the estrangement of the churches. Nevertheless, the Armenian bishops inByzantine territory did go to Constantinople and accept communion, thus causing a schism in the Armenian church. But once Byzantine forces withdrew, then Armenian unity was restored. This pattern recurred in the time of Heraclius (610–41) and again under Justinian II (685–95), but proved no more lasting than under Maurice. Despite the fact that many sympathised with the position of the imperial church – and significant groups of Chalcedonian Armenians existed in the succeeding centuries35 – reunion between the Byzantine and Armenian churches was never achieved. Yet the time ofMaurice was remembered as a time of peace. The curious text known as ‘Pseudo-Shapuh’ – a medley of tales dating from the ninth to the twelfth century, and not the lost work of the ninth-century historian – refers to the proverb: ‘as in the time ofMaurice, when one lived untroubled’. It also reports that when Maurice summoned his father David, who lived in Armenia, the latter said: ‘I cannot come. I prefer my small garden to the Roman empire.’ But by cutting off the heads of the largest beetroots in his garden, he indicated to his son’s messengers how Maurice should treat his magnates.36 Just as Maurice used Armenian arms in the Balkans, so did those Armenian princes on the Persian side of the border continue to provide military service to the shah. The most notable example is the career of Smbat, prince of the Bagratuni, who served at different times both emperor and shah – Armenian loyalties being rarely unequivocal and permanent. Just as Maurice settled colonies of Armenians in the west, so did Smbat find Armenians, Greeks and Syrians deported to Hyrcania when he was serving as governor there for Khusro II. Sebeos notes that the Armenians had even forgotten their own language, and that Smbat remedied this by arranging for the ministry of a priest.37 The role of language and religion as a means of preserving Armenian identity in colonies outside the homeland was already clear. At the same time, the Armenians were estranged from their northern neighbours. The Georgians under their catholicos Kyrion disavowed the Armenian rejection of Chalcedon and henceforth remained firmly committed to the orthodoxy of Constantinople. The final rupture occurred after a series of bitter exchanges. At another council held in Dvin in 608, the Armenians excommunicated the Georgians.38 But contacts between the two peoples could not be stopped by fiat, not least because of the extensive bonds of consanguinity linking noble families on both sides of the frontier. Pro-Chalcedonian Armenians were particularly numerous in Tao and Gugark‘, where the two peoples mingled. Maurice’s downfall in 602 gave Khusro II an opportunity to recover the Armenian lands ceded to his earlier supporter. The reign of Heraclius would see the final defeat of Sasanian Persia and the rise of a new power in theMiddle East. But already by the turn of the sixth century the building-blocks of an independent Armenian culture had been formed.

 

 

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