CHAPTER 3 ARRAN IN THE PERIOD OF ARAB DOMINATION

At the end of the ninth century the weakening in the Abbacid inheritance arouse vivacity in the subordinative countries. The Caliphate was unable to command and keep armies in the farthest ends of its domain. The Armenian, Georgian and the native Albanian(Armenian) nobility was active in Transcaucasia. In 870-ies the revolt broke out against the Arabs in eastern Persia, under the leadership of Jakob (Saffi’s son). Ashot I Bagratuni was appointed “Prince of Princes” to rule over a vast administrative Unit named Arminiyya covering Georgia and the entire Albania. He was responsible for realizing the taxation in the mentioned territories.

The Byzantine Empire supported the centrifugal tendences against the Caliphate, intending to exercise his own influence on the area.

In 867 Basil I came to throne in Byzantium. He was Armenian by origin and as he assumed himself, a descendant of the Armenian Arsacid dynasty. Knowing that traditionally the Arsacid kings were ordained by the representatives of Bagratuni dynasty, he asked Ashot Bagratuni to enthrone him. Basil first founded the Macedonian (he was born in Alexandretta) or Armenian dynasty, which held the power for 160 years.

In 887 an Armenian delegation was sent to Baghdat. They asked the Caliph Motamid-Billah to recognize Ashot Bagratuni as king of Armenia. The Abbasid court approved the idea, considering Ashot Bagratuni a suitable candidate and sent a throne and other presents to the newly elected king. Ashot Bagratuni was crowned a king by the Armenian Catholicos Gevorg. Basil I sent presents to the king in his turn. Thus, Byzantium recognized the royal status of Armenia, although Basil I continued to apply to the Armenian monarch as “Prince of Princes”.

Thus, the largest of the Armenian lands achieved recognition of royal status from both the Caliphate and the Byzantine Empire. It was centred in Shirak under the Bagratuni dynasty. This was followed by Dizak and Khachen in southern Artsakh under the Arranshahikids, calling itself the “Kingdom of Albania”. Prince Hamam, whose Christian name was Grigor (Gregory), was enthroned as the king of Albania. He was the grandson of Shaki and Kambechan ruler Sahl Smbatian. It’s interesting to note that after 450 years of abolishment (in 428), monarchies were restored in Armenia and Albania. The kingdoms set up on the Artsakh territories (present day Karabakh) and Iberia, subsequently integrated as vassal states in the Bagratid kingdom of Armenia.

Iran also assumed royal power, achieving recognition of royal status.

The Atropateni governor Mohammed Apshin, showed enmity to the Bagratuni inheritance, trying to create a semi-independent situation. He was looking forward to a chance to occupy Armenia and Albania (Aghvank).

Soon Basil I died and was replaced by Leo YII, (888-912), Emperor of Byzantium. He was famous by the name Leo the Philosopher. He set up a new trading route to Arabia via Armenian territory. Dvin and Partav became commercial centres connecting the two ends of the world.

Smbat I Bagratuni replaced the deceased King Ashot in 892. The Atropateni governor did not like Smbat’s and Leo’s unification and launched a sudden attack on Dvin. Smbat won a victory over him. But Afshin had taken Catholicos Gevorg hostage. The Armenian king and nobility applied to the Albanian king Hamam-Grigor, who was in good relation with Afshin, and asked for his help. Hamam obtained the freedom of the Catholicos in exchange for a great ransom.

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