The Turco-Mongol Invasions and the Lords of Armenia in the 13-14th Centuries

The Turco-Mongol Invasions and the Lords of Armenia in the 13-14th Centuries

By Robert Bedrosian

Ph.D. Dissertation, Columbia University (1979)

Abstract: The 13-14th centuries was a period of great turbulence in the history of the Armenian people. Over roughly 170 years (from ca. 1220 to ca. 1403) Armenia was subjected to no less than 15 invasions of Turco-Mongol peoples. The Armenian societies conquered and controlled by the various nomadic invaders from Central Asia had already experienced conquest and domination by nomadic and sedentarizing Turkic peoples two centuries earlier. The experience of invasion by nomads from Central Asia, consequently, was not new to the Armenian historical experience. But there were differences among the invading groups, and differences within any one invading group.

Just as there were differences among and even within the different invading groups, so the sedentary Armenian societies which came to be dominated were of different sorts. Subject to different political entities, the various districts of “Armenia” in the 13-14th centuries were (and had been, historically) subjected to different [ii] ethnic, economic, and cultural stimuli, The Armenian or part-Armenian populations of these states subscribed to a variety of religions ranging from Apostolic, Orthodox, and Roman Catholic Christianity, to Islam. Even northeastern Armenian society (for which the historical record is the most complete) on the eve of the Turco-Mongol invasions was far from being a homogeneous ethnic, cultural or religious entity. Even where Armenians were in political control of Armenian-inhabited territories, a geographically-derived centrifugalism made the lords (naxarars) of the various districts disinclined to unite. In the 13-14th centuries, therefore, Armenia experienced the effects of a double centrifugation: of Turco-Mongol societies in dissolution, and of native Armenian naxarar society, which was itself characterized by centrifugation.

This study has two principal aims. A review of the salient political and military events associated with the Turco-Mongol invasions of Armenia is one aim. Who were the invaders, and in what ways were they alike and dissimilar? The second aim of the study is an examination of the impact(s) of the invasions and domination(s) of the 13-14th centuries on Armenia’s lordly naxarar rulers. While many aspects of both areas of investigation (i.e, regarding the invasions and dominations and their impacts) have already been examined by scholars, to the present no single study has focussed on the invasions of Armenia as phenomena. Similarly, while diverse aspects of Armenia’s [iii] socio-economic and political history in the 13-14th centuries have been examined by others, no single study of the lordly heads of that society has as yet been undertaken. The present work, therefore, attempts to fill a void existing in Armenian scholarship. It is hoped that this study will likewise serve as an introduction to 13-14th century Armenian history for Western scholars, to whom Armenia in this period has remained terra incognita.

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