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ARME´NIA (Ἀρμενία: Eth. Ἀρμένιος, Eth. Armenius, Armeniacus). There is so much difficulty in fixing the natural limits of the country designated by this name, that its political boundaries have been exposed to continual changes.

If taken in the most comprehensive sense, the Euphrates may be considered as forming the central line of the country known to the ancients as Armenia. E. of this river it extended as far as the Caspian Sea, and again W., over a part of what is usually considered as Asia Minor. The former of these two great portions was almost universally known as Armenia Major, and the latter went under the title of Armenia Minor.

The native and Byzantine historians make use of many subdivisions, the names of which they mention; but the Greek and Roman geographers confine themselves to those two great divisions originally made, it would seem, by the successors of Alexander the Great. (Ptol. 5.7.13; Plin. Nat. 6.9.)

In the Scriptures there is no allusion to Armenia by name; though we meet with the following Hebrew designations, referring to it either as a whole, or to particular districts. (1.) TOGARMAH a name which not only appears in the Ethnographic table in Genesis (10.3; comp. 1 Chron. 1.6), but also in Ezekiel (28.6), where it is classed along with Gomer, and (27.14) by the side of Meshech and Tubal. It is curious enough that the national traditions speak of one common progenitor of this name. However little credit may be assigned to the Armenian Chronicles, as regards the remote period of their history, there can be little question but that the Togarmah of Scripture belongs to this country. (2.) ARARAT the land upon the mountains of which the Ark rested (Gen. 8.4); to which the sons of Senaccherib fled after murdering their father (2 Kings, 19.37; Isa. 37.38); and one of the kingdoms summoned along with Mlinni and Ashkenas to arm against Babylon (Jer. 51.27). The province of Ararat lay in the centre of the kingdom, and was according to the native historian, Moses of Chorene (Histor. Armen. 2.100.6, p. 90), divided into twenty provinces. (3.) MINNI, cited above (Jer. l.c.), and probably the same as the Minyas, with regard to which and the accompanying traditions about the Deluge Josephus(Antiq.i. 1.6) quotes Nicholas of Damascus. (Rosenmüller, Bibl. Alt. vol. i. pt. i. p. 251).

Herodotus (5.52) represents Armenia as having Cilicia for its border on the W., being separated from this country by the Euphrates. Towards the N. it included the sources of the same river (1.180). The limits to the S. and E. were not distinctly defined, probably Mount Masius separated it from Mesopotamia, and Mount Ararat from the country of the Saspires, who occupied the valley traversed by the Araxes. (Rennel, Geog. Herod. vol. i. p. 369.)

In Strabo (xi. p.527) Armenia is bounded to the S. by Mesopotamia and the Taurus; on the E. by Great Media and Atropatene; on the N. by the Iberes and Albani, with Mounts Parachoatras and Caucasus; on the W. by the Tibareni, Mts. Paryadres and Skydises as far as the Lesser Armenia, and the country on the Euphrates which separated Armenia from Cappadocia and Commagene. Strabo (p. 530) quotes Theophanes for the statement that Armenia was 100 schoeni in breadth, and 200 schoeni in length; the schoenus here is reckoned at 40 stadia. He objects to this admeasurement, and assigning the same number of schoeni to its length, allows 50 for its breadth. Neither statement, it need hardly be said, is correct (see Groskurd's note); as at no period was its superficies so extended as Theophanes or Strabo would make it. The rough and inaccurate statements of Pliny (l.c.), and Justin (42.2) are equally wide of the truth.

In a natural division of the country Armenia takes its place as belonging to the N. Highlands of the gigantic plateau of Irán, extending in the form of a triangle between the angles of three seas, the Caspian, the Black Sea, and the Gulf of Scanderoon. This great separate mass forms an elevated plateau, from which the principal mountains, rivers and valleys of W. Asia diverge towards the four seas at the furthermost extremities. Its plains rise to 7,000 ft. above the level of the sea, and the highest summits of Mt. Ararat, which overtop the plains, attain the height of 17,260 English feet. If we look at the more striking objects,--the mountains, it will be seen that several great branches quit the high land about the springs of the Euphrates and Tigris, and take different directions; but chiefly E. S. and W. from the summits of Ararat. Ararat, the common root from which these branches spring, raises its snow-clad summits in a district nearly equidistant from the Black and Caspian Seas. The larger plain 10 miles in width at the base of the mountain, is covered with lava, and the formation of the mass itself indicates the presence of that volcanic agency which caused the great earthquake of 1840. Two vast conical peaks rising far above all others in the neighbourhood, form the great centre of the “Mountains of Ararat,” the lower one is steeper and more pointed than the higher, from which it is separated by a sloping plain on the NW. side. The ascent of the greater one is easier, and the summits have been, in effect, gained by the German traveller Parrot.

The difficulties of the ascent are considerable, and have given rise to the local and expressive name, of Aghri Tágh, or painful mountain. Though a volcano, it has no crater, and bears no evidence of any recent eruption; it is, however, composed entirely of volcanic matter,--consisting of different varieties of igneous rocks. It seems to be a subaqueous volcano of extreme antiquity, retaining no traces of the movements by which its materials have been brought into their present position.

The first of the numerous chains which descend [p. 1.216]from this culminating point of the whole system, is the elevated range, forming the backbone of the Assyrian mountains, which, with its principal ramifications, is the seat of the valleys, containing a large proportion of the inhabitants of the country. This ridge runs from the slopes of Mt. Ararat at its northern extremity, in a SSE. direction between the Lakes of Ván and Urumíyah, along the W. side of Azerbaijan, the ancient Atropatene, to the extremity of the province. This main range of Kurdistán is identified with the chain which Strabo (p. 522) says some called the Gordyaean Mountains, and to which Mt. Masius belongs, having on the S. the cities of Nisibis and Tigranocerta. It is composed of red sandstone and basalt, terminating in needle points at a considerable elevation, while the irregular sides are frequently wooded, and form basins or amphitheatres. From this chain branches diverge towards the W. These assume the form of an acute triangle, which has its apex W. of the Euphrates, its base resting on the Kscrdistán range, while its sides are formed by portions of the ranges of Taurus and Antitaurus. The S. branches constitute what was properly called the Taurus, and those to the N. the Antitaurus. Antitaurus extends from the borders of Commagene (El Bostan), and Melitene (Málatíyah) towards the N., enclosing Sophene in a valley between it and Taurus Proper. (Strab. xi. p.521.) This statement corresponds with the description of the range running W. from Mt. Ararat in two parallel chains to Deyádín, where it separates into several branches, the upper one taking a general W. direction, having to the northward the great abutments of Aliges-Beg, Keban-Tágh, Kat-Tágh, with others, the Paryadres and mountains of the Moschi of Strabo (l.c.). At Deyádín, the S. chain of the Antitaurus bifurcates; the N. branch taking the upper portion of the Murád; and the lower range, enclosing the S. side of the valley. In these different ridges limestone and gypsum prevail, with basalt and other volcanic rocks. It separates Armenia from Mesopotamia, and also Acisilene from Sophene. (Strab. xi. pp. 521, 527.) Near the S. extremity of the main ridge of Kurdistán, the range designated Taurus Proper diverges from the Zagros in two almost parallel lines, and divides Sophene and part of Armenia from Mesopotamia. (Strab. p. 522.) The formation is chiefly of limestone, with red sandstone, conglomerate, and occasionally jasper; conical bare summits, with irregular sides intersected by deep valleys, less or more peopled, are the characteristics of that portion of the range of Taurus which lies E. of the river Tigris. In crossing Upper Mesopotamia the Taurus is more rocky and less continuous than before,--and at Márdín the height of the limestone summit of Mount Masius scarcely exceeds 2,300 feet. It appears from the investigations of recent travellers, that the whole tract of country comprehended between the Euxine and Caspian Seas exhibits the phenomena of volcanic action. It has been conjectured that this region, at a period not very remote, geologically speaking, was at one time covered with water, which formed a vast inland sea, of which the Caspian and other large sheets of water are the remnants. The first movement belongs to the Jura limestone, or oolitic series; a subsequent deposition of schistose and arenaceous sands then took place, which, from the fossils they contain, are identified with the cretaceous and green sandstone formations. This country must have then presented the picture of a narrow sea, bounded on the N. by the chain belonging to the chalk formation, and to the S. by the Jura limestone range, the result of the previous upheaval. At this epoch the volcanic eruptions began which have so much modified the surface of the country. The eruption of these masses, besides filling up valleys, has in other parts of the chain formed great circular basins, or “amphitheatres,” --some of which now exist as lakes, while others have been filled up with tertiary deposits, showing the prior date of the volcanic rocks by which they are encircled. Belonging to these is the volcanic lake of Sevangha, supposed to be the Lychnitis (Λυχνίτις) of Ptolemy (5.13.8) 5,000 feet from the sea, surrounded by trap and porphyry formations. SW. of this lake is the great volcanic amphitheatre of Central Armenia, composing a circus of several conical mountains containing craters. As the lakes of Ván and Urumíyah have no outlet it may be conjectured that they were produced in the same manner. In addition to this the basin of Central Armenia contains vast deposits of rock-salt, a further proof of the existence of a great salt lake. (Daubeny on Volcanoes, p. 366.)

The high mountains, and the snows with which they are covered, are the feeders of a considerable number of rivers. The elevated plateau, which extends from the base of Mt. Ararat into N. Armenia (Κιρδιστάν), and part of Asia Minor, contains the sources of these great channels of communication from Armenia to the several nations of Europe and Asia.

  • 1. The HALYS has its sources at two places, both of which are much further to the E. than generally represented on maps. Of these sources the most northern are on the sides of Gemin Beli-Tagh, but the others are on the W. slopes of the Paryadres or Kuara-Bél group, which separates the springs of this river from those of the Euphrates. [HALYS]
  • 2. The ARAXES which rises nearly in the centre of the space between the E. and W. branches of the Euphrates, and takes a SE. course till it is joined by the Cyrus. [ARAXES; CYRUS.]
  • 3. The ACAMPSIS (Ἄκαμψις; Jorák, Arrian, Períplus; Plin. Nat. 6.4), unites the waters on the N. and W. sides of the mountains, containing the sources of the Cyrus, Araxes, Harpasus and W. Euphrates, which serve as drains to the valleys on the opposite sides of the chain. It bounds Colchis to the W., and is probably the Bathys, which, according to Pliny (6.4), is a river of Colchis.
  • 4. The TIGRIS (Τίγρις) has in Central Armenia two principal sources, both of which spring from the S. slope of the Antitaurus, near those of the Araxes and Euphrates, and not far from those of the Halys. [TIGRIS]
  • 5. The CENTRITES (Κεντρίτης), mentioned by Xenophon (Xen. Anab. 4.3.1), as dividing Armenia from the country of the Carduchi, is identified with the Buhtáncháï, a considerable affluent of the Tigris.
  • 6. The EUPHRATES which is, in fact, the confluence of the two great streams, the Murádcháï and the Kará Sú, has two great sources in the Armenian mountains. [EUPHRATES]

Among the lakes of Armenia is that of ARSENE (Ἀρσηνή: Ván), situated in the S. of the country towards the Tigris. Ptolemy calls it Arsissa (l.c.), and it also went by the name of Thospites. Separated from it to the E. by a chain of hills lies the lake MANTIANE (Μαντιανή: Urumíyah) of Strabo (p. 529), probably the same as the Lake of Spauta, [p. 1.217]of which the same author speaks in his description of Atropatene (p. 523). Near Erivan lies the Lake Goutchka, or Sevangha, which has already been mentioned, and identified with the Lychnitis of Ptolemy (5.13).

Owing to the height of the table-land and the extreme elevation of the mountains the temperature of Armenia is much lower than that of other regions situated on the same parallel of latitude. The thousands of tributary streams which feed its large rivers carry fertility in every direction through its valleys. Its rich pasture lands were famous for their horses. “Horses from the house of Togarmah” are enumerated by Ezekiel (27.14), among other articles brought for sale, or exchanged at Tyre. Strabo (p. 529) praises the breed, and states that the Armenian satrap presented the king with 20,000 young horses at the annual feast of Mithra. Strabo (l.c.), and Pliny (37.23), notice the wealth of Armenia in the precious stones and metals; Strabo, in particular, speaks of gold mines at a place called Kamlala in the country of Hyspiratis, probably in the N. of Armenia, between the rivers Kur and Phasis, which were worked by the natives at the time of Alexander's expedition. The same author informs us that Pompeius demanded, as a contribution from Armenia, 6,000 talents of silver. And we are told that the Romans, on reducing this to one of their provinces, carried king Alavasdus to Rome in golden fetters. (Philost. Vita Apollon. 2.4.) According to Pliny (l.c.) the whole region was divided into 120 praefectures, or στρατήγιαι. Ptolemy gives the names of twenty-one of these subdivisions; Strabo and Tacitus also mention certain names, The native historian, Moses of Chorene, divides Armenia Major into fifteen provinces, and 187 subdivisions. St. Martin (Mém. sur l'Armenie, vol. i. p. 64) enumerates and gives the names of the larger divisions. Malte-Brun (Géog. Universelle, vol. iii. p. 120) has a table of these divisions and subdivisions, and compares them with those known to the Greeks and Romans. As may be supposed there is considerable uncertainty in making out and explaining the presumed correspondence. The difficulty is increased from the circumstance that at no period was the whole of this region comprised under one government; and in the course of its history we find its limits exposed to continual changes. At the present day Armenia is divided among Persia, Russia and Turkey, Mount Ararat forming, as it were, the central boundary stone to these three empires.

The Armenians belong to the Indo-European race ; their dialect is allied to the most ancient language of the Arian family: while their early traditions connect them with the history of the Medes and Persians, they are a branch of the stock of the people of Iran, though separated from them at an early period. (Prichard, Nat. Hist. of Man, p. 178; comp. Ritter, Erdkunde, vol. x. p 577.) Xenophon (Anab: 4.5.25) describes the villages of Armenia, which are still built exactly in the same manner. (Kinneir, Trav. in Armenia, p. 487.) The houses were under ground; the mouth resembling that of a well, but spacious below; there was an entrance dug for the cattle, but the inhabitants descended by ladders. In these houses were goats, sheep, cows, and fowls, with their young. There was also wheat and barley, vegetables and beer in jars, in which the malt itself floated even with the brims of the vessels, and with it reeds or straws, some large and others small, without joints. These, when any one was thirsty he was to take into his mouth, and suck; the liquor was strong, and exceedingly pleasant to those who were used to it. The same author speaks of the intense cold. Plutarch (Plut. Luc. 32), in his account of the invasion of Armenia by Lucullus, states that before the close of the autumnal equinox the weather became as severe as in the midst of winter; the whole country was covered with snow, the rivers were frozen; and at night the army was compelled to encamp in damp muddy spots, wet with melting snow. The religion of Armenia appears to have been made up of elements derived partly from the doctrine of Zoroaster, partly from Eastern Natureworship, with certain rites of Scythian origin. Their chief deity was Aramazt, the Ormuzd of the Magian system, but their temples were crowded with statues, and their altars reeked with animal sacrifices; usages revolting to the purer Magianism of Persia. The Babylonian impersonation of the passive principle of generation, Anaites or Anahid, was one of their most celebrated divinities; and at the funeral of their great king Artaces, many persons had immolated themselves, after the Scythian or Getic custom, upon his body. (Milman, Hist. of Christ. vol. ii. p. 320; Chamich, Avdall's Trans. vol. i. p. 145.) It has now been satisfactorily shown that Armenia was the first nation which embraced Christianity as the religion of the king, the nobles, and the people; and the remark of Gibbon (Vindication, Misc. Works, vol. iv. p. 577), “that the renowned Tiridates, the hero of the East, may dispute with Constantine the honour of being the first sovereign who embraced the Christian religion,” placed beyond all question. About A.D. 276, the king Tiridates, of the race of the Arsacidae, was converted by St. Gregory, surnamed the Illuminator (Dict. of Biog. s. v.), like himself of the race of the Arsacidae, but descended from a collateral branch of that family, which had long occupied the throne of Persia. (St. Martin, Add. to Le Beau, Hist. du Bas-Empire, vol. i. p. 76; Mem. sur l'Armenie, vol. i. p. 305.) In A.D. 311 Tiridates had to sustain a war against the Emperor Maximinus, in consequence of the hatred of the latter against Christianity. (Euseb. Hist. Eccl. 9.8.) During the early ages of the Empire Armenia was always an object of open struggle or secret intrigue between the conflicting powers of Parthia and Rome. Every successful invasion, or other means by which Persian predominance in Armenia was established, was the signal for the most cruel and bloody persecutions, which were endured with the most Christian and patriotic heroism by this unhappy people. The Vartobed, or patriarch of Armenia, fell the first victim to the sword of the Persian, and was also the first to raise the standard of independence. The melancholy acknowledgment must, however, be made that the Gospel did not triumph unaccompanied by persecution on the part of the Christians. The province of Dara, the sacred region of the Armenians, crowded with their national temples, made a stern and resolute resistance. The priests fought for their ancient faith, and it was only by the sword that churches could be established in that district.

An interesting picture of the religious wars which were waged in Armenia is given in the History of Vartan. (Trans. by C. F. Neumann.) The Armenian church adopted the doctrines of Eutyches and the Monophysites, or Jacobites, as they were called, after the revival of their opinions in the 6th [p. 1.218]century, under Jacob Baradoeus, bishop of Edessa, to which it continues to adhere.

Little or no weight is to be attached to the accounts which the Greek and Roman writers give of the origin of the Armenians. Herodotus (7.73), in mentioning the fact that a body of this people served in the army of Xerxes, expresses his opinion that the Armenians were a colony of Phrygians. According to others they are to be considered of Thessalian origin. (Strab. pp. 503, 530; Just. 42.3; Tac. Ann. 6.34.) The history of the Armenian nation, though not so important or so interesting as that of other Eastern kingdoms, should be studied for the light it throws upon the great empires, which successively established themselves in this region.

This country has been the scene of almost continual wars, either when its kings defended their independence against Persians, Greeks, Arabs and others, or when they stood passive spectators of the great struggles which were to decide the fate of Asia. Passing over Tigranes, the national hero and friend of Cyrus the Elder (Dict. of Biog. vol. iii. p. 1129), we find but little mention of Armenia till the death of Alexander the Great in the Greek historians, though from this period to that of the establishment of the dynasty of the Arsacidae, recourse must be had to them, as the national chroniclers are silent on the history of this epoch. A Persian, named Mithrenes, was appointed governor by the Macedonian conqueror. (Arrian, Arr. Anab. 3.16.) Availing themselves of the dissensions between the generals of Alexander, the Armenians threw off the yoke under Ardoates (B.C. 317), but after his death were compelled to submit to the Seleucidae. Subsequently (B.C. 190), two Armenian nobles, Artaxias and Zariadris, taking advantage of the moment, when Antiochus the Great had been defeated by the Romans, freed their country from the dominion of the Syrian kings. And it was at this time that the country was divided into the two kingdoms of Armenia Major and Armenia Minor. Artaxias became king of Armenia Major, and Zariadris of Armenia Minor. The Sophenian Artanes, or Arsaces, a descendant of Zariadris, was conquered, and deposed by Tigranes, the king of Armenia Major, who thus became ruler of the two Armenias. (Strab. xi. pp. 528, 531.) The descendants of Artaxias reigned in Armenia till their conquest by the Arsacidae, and the establishment of the kings of that family. For the history of Armenia under the dynasty of the Arsacidae, from B.C. 149 to A.D. 428, full particulars are given in the Dict. of Biog. (vol. i. p. 361, seq.), with an account of the dynasties, which for a period of almost a thousand years reigned in this country after the fall of the Arsacidae. This later history, till the death of the last king of Armenia, at Paris, A.D. 1393, has been detailed by St. Martin, along with chronological tables and lists of the different kings and patriarchs.

Ptolemy (l.c.) gives a list of Armenian towns, most of which are never met with in history, and their site remains unknown. The towns which are best known in connection with the writers of Greece and Rome are: ARTAXATA or Artaxiasata; TIGRANOCERTA; THEODOSIOPOLIS ; CARCATHIOCERTA ; ARMOSATA ; ARTAGEIRA ; NAXUANA ; MORUNIDA; BUANA; BIZABDA; AMIDA. (Ritter, Erdkunde, vol. x.; St. Martin, Mem. sur l'Armenie; Chesney, Exped. Euphrat. vol. i.; Kinneir, Memoirs of the Persian Empire, and Travels in Armenia; Morier, Travels in Persia, vol. i. Ker Porter, Travels; London Journal, Geog. vols.iii. vi. x.; Grote's Greece, ix. p. 157.


hide References (9 total)
  • Cross-references from this page (9):
    • Herodotus, Histories, 7.73
    • Herodotus, Histories, 5.52
    • Xenophon, Anabasis, 4.3.1
    • Tacitus, Annales, 6.34
    • Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, 37.23
    • Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, 6.4
    • Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, 6.9
    • Plutarch, Lucullus, 32
    • Arrian, Anabasis, 3.16
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