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7-08-2015, 21:09


Although the relationship between Byzantium and Armenia changed repeatedly across these centuries, three particular features stand out. In the first place, relations were continuous – only the period between 790 and 830 lacks evidence for any direct contact, but this mirrors the dearth of information about any aspect of Armenia during these decades. Secondly they were multi-layered. The sources tend to focus upon high-level contacts involving the leading Armenian clerics and princes and treat these as exclusive or representative. In fact, it seems very likely that lesser lords and individual bishops were also in contact with Byzantium throughout this period, although such ties are usually hidden from view. Thirdly they were reciprocal. Byzantium was eager to secure its eastern flank and therefore sought to attract Armenian clients into its service. At the same time, Armenian princes looked to Byzantium to bolster their own status within Armenia through the concession of titles, gifts and money. In a highly competitive, militarised society, there were obvious advantages in gaining recognition from a neighbouring polity, not least in the event of attack, when Byzantium could serve as a far more effective refuge than any mountain redoubt or individual fortress. It is no coincidence that the Byzantine army – and then the state – came to be filled with men of Armenian origin or descent. That, however, is another story.