Armenia/History

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The oldest faction in Rise of Kings, Armenia is a mountain nation strategically located in the Caucasus, controlling the mountain passes between Asia and Europe. This nation, called Greater Armenia, had its origins in the Arsacids and enjoyed close relations with the Romans and their Hellenic descendents, the Byzantines, and even played a crucial role in the Crusades and the Mongol invasions of the West. At its height in 1000 AD, the Armenian kingdom covered parts of present-day Turkey and Syria and completely engulfed Lake Van. However, court intrigues and external pressures would soon result in the destruction of the nation at the hands of the Byzantines. Ethnic Armenians would then found another state on the shores of present-day Turkey, and became a key player in Levantine politics, but by the beginning of the 16th century, this smaller kingdom was soon divided among the Turks and the nascent Safavid sultanate in Iran.

Lords of The Mountains[edit]

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At the onset of the 9th century, the kingdom of Armenia had been in existence for almost a thousand years, although it would often have changed hands between different ruling houses, and would on and off be a part of this or that empire, albeit it would always remain mostly autonomous. It had been under the control of the Muslim Rashidin and the Umayyad caliphates, but with the weakening of the latter, the Bagratid noble family under its lord Ashot eventually took the opportunity to overthrow Arab rule and after a short war, began consolidating the other noble families in Armenia under Bagratid rule. Armenia would remain free for two centuries, depending greatly on the skill of Ashot and his successors in playing off the Saracens and Byzantines against one another. The ruins of Ani (near present-day Kars in modern Turkey), the capital of this state from the onset of the 10th century, attest to a period of peace and prosperity for Armenia during the rule of the Bagratids.

Byzantine Occupation[edit]

However, as a small nation, it was clear that sooner or later Armenia would fall under the influence of greater powers in the region, and the strategic location of Armenia, bordering Syria and Iran, would ensure that it would always never leave the attention of its neighbours. Byzantine and Saracen alike would weaken the Armenian nation by influencing the local noble families to feud with one another, and this weakened the nation as a whole. The Byzantines, sensing easy prey, attacked in 1045, seizing Ani and razing it to the ground, followed by the Selcuk Turks who then conquered all that was left. The last king of Ani, Gagik II was exiled and later murdered to prevent rebellion in Armenia, and his people, in the face of predation by the Byzantines and the Turks, were soon scattered throughout Europe and Asia.

Despite being now part of the Byzantine empire, the Armenians still managed to thrive, with Armenians divided into those serving the Christian Byzantine occupiers, while others found service in the courts of sultans in the Middle East. It, however, fell to the former to found a colony in Cilicia, also known as Little Armenia, in the southeast of present-day Turkey, based around a pre-existing enclave of Armenians dating from pre-Christian days. There, they soon declared independence under their prince Roupen in 1080 when troubles in the Byzantine Empire began to emerge.

The Kingdom of Cilicia: The Roupenids[edit]

Roupen's kingdom thrived and although it would contract in size after the 14th century, would remain mostly independent for more than four centuries. The rise of Armenian Cilicia can be explained by several factors. First was the geography of the area: it was a wise choice to set up a new kingdom, securely ensconced in the Taurus mountains while being near the strategically significant trade routes that led north into the Caucasus and south to the Levant. Protected by mountains and a string of strategically built castles, Armenian Cilicia in its heyday was a culturally cosmopolitan kingdom, although over time it became increasingly Frenchified in culture given its proximity to the Latin Kingdoms established in the wake of the Fourth Crusade.
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At the same time, the Armenians were delivered from eventual reabsorption due to the changing politics of the world by two events: the Crusades and the appearance of the Mongols in the Middle East. Once European princes arrived in the Middle East to liberate Palestine, the Cilicians saw their chance, and established diplomatic relations with the newcomers, as well as assisting them and the Crusader States that would be established throughout the Levant. Indeed, Armenian help was so highly prized that the state itself obtained its own European-styled coat of arms (a red lion on either a white or yellow field), had its children intermarry with the Frankish colonists in the Levant, and even gained recognition from the Pope. This had the effect of ensuring that the Byzantines would never dare attack them.

However, that left out the Muslims, who although bloodied by the Crusaders were never truly defeated and continued to menace the kingdom. This was averted with the arrival of the Mongols under Hulagu in Iraq. Seeing the light, the Armenian king Hetum made entreaties and relations were soon opened between Cilicia and the Mongols in 1254. Hetum himself soon also became chief advisor to the Mongols on their dealings with other Christian sovereigns, and along with the rulers of Kartvelia (also known as Georgia), became the staunchest Christian allies of the Mongols.

"And the Mountains will be like Carded Wool"[edit]

Ultimately, though, the reasons for Cilicia's success would soon result in her downfall. Once Europe lost all interest in crusading and Mongol power was forever broken, the destruction of Cilician Armenia would then be guaranteed.

The alliance with the Mongols, although it helped Armenia in the short run, soon meant that it soon found mortal enemies among its Arab Muslim neighbours. Chief among these foes were the Fatimids of Egypt, who were related in blood to the Abbasid caliphs and thus sought to avenge themselves upon the people who slew the caliph al-Musta'sim in 1258, and the Mamluks and the Armenians were at war with one another. A severe defeat of an Armeno-Mongol force at Homs soon meant that the Egyptians could impose harsh terms, and a punitive peace treaty was signed in 1281, stripping Cilicia of a great deal of territory.

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Once the Mongols and their Muslim descendents, the Ilkhans, began to fall apart, Cilicia attempted to ally itself with the Frankish kingdom of Cyprus, ruled by the Lusignan dynasts who were related by marriage to Armenia's Hetumid rulers, but this only delayed the inevitable. The Mamluks invaded again, and when in 1375, the last Cilician castle, Sis, was taken, the king, Levon V, was captured and then banished to Spain. Upper-class Armenians fled with what little they had to Europe, and Cilicia was occupied by the Egyptians before being absorbed by the Turkish sultanates in Asia Minor. Despite this the Armenians still remained in the mountains, and it would be 150 years before the entire region could be subjugated. But subjugated they were, and as soon as the last independent Cilician stronghold fell to the Ottomans, the Armenians were once more without a nation of their own and would not emerge again as a unified nation for more than five centuries until the end of the First World War.
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