The existence of an important Armenian colony within the empire of Darius, the King of Kings, may be deduced from the cuneiform inscriptions of the Persian monarch. Dadarses, the Armenian general, was commissioned by Darius to suppress the revolt of his fellow-nationals, while he himself was engaged in the siege of Babylon.
Some years after the conquests of Alexander the Great, about the end of the fourth century B.C., Armenian names are found among those of the princes to whom the Seleucidae entrusted the government of Armenia. Later on, during the expansion of the Roman power in the East, in its struggles against the Arsacids of Persia, there existed large Armenian colonies in both capitals, Rome and Ctesiphon.
The partition of the Roman Empire between the two sons of the Emperor Theodosius was soon followed by a predominance of foreign elements in the court of Byzantium, the eastern half of the divided world. The proximity of this capital of the East to Armenia attracted to the shores of the Bosporus a great number of Armenians, and for three centuries they played a distinguished part in the history of the Eastern Empire.
The first Armenian who wore the Imperial mantle was Maurice (Moric). Born in Arabissus, Cilicia, in 539, he attained the rank of p461general, won several victories against the Persians, married Constantia, daughter of the Emperor Tiberius Constantine (578‑582), and was crowned Emperor upon the death of his father-in‑law. After twenty years of reign, he was dethroned by Phocas and was put to death. His wife and nine children were subjected thereafter to the same fate at various times. Only a daughter, Maria, escaped to Persia and became the wife of King Khosrov II.
Heraclius, the patrice and prefect of Africa, a former governor of Armenia and probably a kinsman of Maurice, sent his son, Flavius Heraclius, at the head of a fleet, to Constantinople, to avenge the murder of Maurice. Phocas took flight and young Heraclius assumed the crown. He then led his army against Khosrov II and victoriously entered Armenia in 622. But upon his return to the capital, he neglected military affairs to engage in religious controversies. The Arabs did not fail to take advantage of this. Damascus was captured by Abubekr in 632, and Jerusalem by Omar in 638. With these two strokes the Byzantine Empire had forever lost Mesopotamia, Syria and Palestine. In the reign of Constantine IV ("Pogonat," 668‑685), the Arabs laid siege to Constantinople seven times. During the first year of his reign, Constantine found it necessary to suppress an Armenian general, Mazizius (Mzhézh), who had proclaimed himself Emperor in Syracuse, Sicily.
Tiberius IV, son of Justinian II, was four years old when his father proclaimed him an associate monarch. But in 711, the people in revolt enthroned the Armenian general Philippicusº Bardanes p462(Vardan). His reign, however, lasted only two years. Plotters belonging to the faction of the "Greens," seized and blinded him.
Artavazd, the commander-in‑chief of the Armenian army, had married Anna, daughter of the Emperor Leon III. He proclaimed himself Emperor in 742, but was defeated and deposed by his brother-in‑law, Constantin V, and his eyes, also those of his two sons were put out.
In 813, Leon V, known in history as "The Armenian," was enthroned by the army, which had just inflicted a severe defeat upon the Bulgarians. The Armenian chroniclers call him Leon Ardzruni. The Greek orthodox church regards him as an iconoclast (image-breaker). Leon had married Theodosia, daughter of the Armenian patrice, Arshavir, and had four sons — Sabatius (Sempad), Basil, Gregory and Theodosius. He was assassinated by Michael the Stammerer, who seized the throne. Upon Leon's death, the Greek Patriarch Nikephorus said, "Religion is saved from a great enemy, but the State has lost a needed prince."
Romanus Lecapenus, son of Abstactus (Vashtakian), was born in Armenia. He was twenty years old when he ascended the throne p463of Byzantium. He married Theophanon, who is accused of having poisoned him, as well as her second husband Nikephorus Phocas, who also became Emperor. John Zimiskes, her accomplice in the latter's murder, profiting by the youth of the sons of Phocas, usurped the throne and sent Theophanon into exile. Upon John's death, the two sons of Romanus II jointly came to power.1
The following are the princesses of Armenian nationality, who were Byzantine Empresses:—
Marina, wife of Constantine VI (780‑797)
Theodosia, wife of Leon V (813‑820)
Euphrosina, wife of Michael II, "The Stammerer" (823‑830)
Theodora II, wife of Theophilus (830‑867)
Helena, wife of Constantine VII, Porphyrogenitus (911‑919) (944‑959)
Theodora III, wife of John Zimiskes (971‑976)
Zoe, wife of Romanus III (1028‑1034)
Theodora IV, wife of Constantine X (1041‑1056)
Rhita-Maria, wife of Michael IX (1295‑1320)
Among the Armenians who have played distinguished roles as State functionaries of the Byzantine Empire, may be cited Narses, the general who crushed the armies of both Goths and Franks, who were overrunning Italy in the 6th century A.D., and returned Rome to Justinian I. From 542 to 568 he governed the reconquered West.a p464Then, from 625 to 643, it was an Armenian, Isaac the Exarch of Ravenna, who presided over the destinies of Italy.
In the Byzantine army, Armenian names are found in striking numbers. The influence of these aliens was felt, not only in military life, but also in other branches of the Government, as well as in the social structure of the Empire. In science, art and business, the Armenians have displayed special aptitudes and made considerable contributions. Samuel of Terjan, King of Bulgaria (989‑995), was an Armenian. He and his brother Manuel, together with their warring followers, had stiffened the Bulgarian army. The Greek orthodox church counts many Armenians among its prominent figures. Atticus, the Patriarch of Constantinople in 420, was an Armenian, a native of Sebastia. Bishop Manuel of Adrinople, martyredº in 812 by the Bulgarian King Modraz, was another of the same race. So was St. Nikon, a preacher of faith in the island of Crete in 960. Of Theodorus, Patriarch of Constantinople, the Emperor Andronicusº I said, "Here is a somber Armenian."
Among all Transcaucasian countries, the superiority of their southern neighbour, Armenia, had been recognized. From the earliest days, Georgia had been divided into many Eristhawates or princely domains, these being subdivided in their turn into estates of Aznavours or feudatories of the Eristhaws. Under the Sassanid domination, the old system having undergone no change, Georgia had remained without political cohesion until the day when Emperor Maurice, himself of Armenian blood, placed on the throne of that land as sovereign a Bagratid prince named Gouaram, who reigned from 575 to 600 A.D. Since that date, Georgia, Aghouania, Mingrelia and all the small Kartvelian states on the southern slopes of the Caucasus had been governed by Armenian princes. Eréklé II (Heracles) the last King of Georgia, was still of Bagratid blood.b Many of these kings were compelled, one after another, to fight against Sassanids, Arabs, Turks, Mongols and Persians. A considerable number of them were forced by the enemy at times to quit their throne in Tiflis or Mtzkhet, unless adequately supported by the Byzantines.
The Georgians, like all other Caucasians, were warriors of the Asiatic type. Their art, inspired by the Byzantines and Armenians, offers, among other things, beautiful examples of Greek and Christian p465architecture. Among all the Kartvelian races, the Georgians have displayed the highest artistic taste and culture.
The political relationship existing between the Persians and Armenians from the remotest antiquity has been traced in preceding chapters of our history. There are in Persia at present about 80,000 Armenians, constituting two ecclesiastical dioceses — that of the Persian Azerbaijan and that of Irano-India. The first group of communities comprises those of Tabriz and its villages; the Irano-India diocese the communities of Teheran, Ispahan, Hamadan, and other localities, all those of India and Indonesia.
All the numerically strong Armenian communities have schools maintained by themselves, the city of Tabriz leading the rest, with its higher institutions, three for boys, one for girls; next comes New Julfa, near Ispahan. Parochial or private schools in Persia were closed under the last rigidly nationalistic regime, but they were permitted to reopen during the Second World War, in 1942. There was a time when the Armenians of Persia were subjected to persecution by fanatical religious leaders, trying to convert them to the Mohammedan religion. This situation was changed, under the new Persian Constitution, to the establishment of which the Armenian commander, Ephrem Khan, known as Sirdar (Generalissimo) contributed his military genius and efforts, and finally sacrificed his life. The Armenians have also rendered important services to the industrial and commercial progress of Iran.2
The Persian Government was represented for a long time in London during Queen Victoria's reign by Malcam (Melcon) Khan,c an Armenian. Ohannes Khan Massehiand was the Persian minister to Berlin, a scholarly diplomat who translated several plays of Shakespeare into Armenian. Nazar Agha, Persian ambassador to France in the 1880's, was likewise an Armenian.e In Iran, as well as in other Moslem countries, many high positions, political and military, have also been held by Armenians turned Moslem. Atabek Azam, the Prime Minister of Nasr-ed‑Din (1848‑96), was one such apostate.
Armenian colonies, already in existence in western Anatolia, centuries before the Christian era, assumed larger proportions, through the facilities offered to commerce by the Roman Empire. They were established in ports on the southern shores of the Pontus-Euxine (Black Sea), such as Trebizond, Cerassus (Kirasson), Amisos, Sinope, Heraclia, and also in various inland centers of mercantile activity. Armenians seem to have been settled at earlier dates in parts of Iberia (Caucasus), in Atropatene, and in Rhaghes. Persepolis, Ecbatana, Babylon, Susa, had formerly been the great commercial centers of the East; they were later on replaced by Pasargada,º Ctesiphon, Shouster, Ahwaz and Koweit (the ancient Teredon). To the north, Armenian business men ventured and gradually settled in Astrakhan (southern Russia) and the Crimea.
Mass emigration from Armenia began after the fall of the Bagratid dynasty in 1045. Cilicia and Cappadocia received a great number of Armenians, especially from Ani and the canton of Shirak, following the exile of Gagik II. A considerable part of the emigrants moved towards the North and took refuge in the Crimean peninsula, then mostly inhabited by Tatars. Sections from among them pushed further west towards Moldavia, Galicia, Podolia and Volhynia — countries in the basins of the Vistula and the Dniester Rivers.
A Polish writer, Adolf Novatchinsky, gives us the following sketch of the Armenians of Poland;—
"Long before the fall of the (Armenian) Kingdom of Cilicia in 1375, the Armenians appeared among us, having been invited here by David, the Prince of Galicia.
"The first dismemberment of their country brought about a great emigration. The Armenian emigrants, taking with them a handful of native soil in a piece of cloth, were scattered in southern Russia, into the Caucasus, in the land of the Cossacks, while 40,000 from among them came to us. From then on, new streams of Armenian emigration periodically proceeded from the banks of the Pontus towards the hospitable country of the Sarmatians, and it must be said that these guests, coming from such a distance, proved themselves really 'the salt of the earth,' an exceedingly useful and desirable element. They settled mostly in the cities, and in many places they became p467the nucleus of theº Polish bourgeois class. The city of Lwow (Lemberg), the most patriotic center of Poland, then the theatre of so many historic turmoils, owes its luster in large degree to Armenian immigrants. Kamenetz-Podolsk, that crown of our old fortresses, received its fame from the Armenians who settled there. In Bukowina and in all Galicia, the Armenian element plays a role of the first order in political and social life, in industry and in intellectual movement. Finally, in Poland proper and its capital, Warsaw, the descendants of those who once were the great nation on the Arax, rendered themselves illustrious in all careers. In the battles of Grünwald and Varna, the forebears of the Alexandrovics, the Augustinovics, the Agopsovics and Apakanovics took part. Also from their ranks came forth later renowned Poles, such as the Malowski, Missasowicz, Piramowicz, Pernatowicz, Yakhowicz, Mrozianovsky, Grigorovicz, Barovitch,º Theodorovicz, etc."
Through successive immigrations, the Armenians of Poland gradually formed a colony, comprising 200,000. They were welcomed by the Kings of Poland and were granted not only religious liberty, but also political privileges. Casimir III (1333‑1370) gave to the Armenians of Kamenetz-Podolsk in 1344 and those of Lwow in 1356 the right of setting up a national council, exclusively Armenian, known as the "Voit." This council, composed of twelve judges, administered Armenian affairs in full independence. All acts and official deliberations were conducted in the Armenian language and in accordance with the laws of that nation. The Armenians of Lwow had built a wooden church in 1183; in 1363 it was replaced by a stone edifice which became the seat of the Armenian prelates of Poland and Moldavia.
In 1516 King Sigismund I authorized the installation in the wealthy and aristocratic center of Lwow an Armenian tribunal called the Ratoushé. Unfortunately, the peaceful life of the colony was troubled by an abbot named Nicol Thorosowitch, who, over the protests of the Polish Romans, was ordained a bishop in 1626 by Melchisedek, the coadjutor-Katholikos of Etchmiadzin. In the ensuing rift between the majority of the Armenian community and a few followers of Nicol, the Jesuit priests took the side of the latter. The dispute grew to such alarming proportions that the Katholikos, Movses III (1629‑1632), sent a special legate to Poland, and wrote to the King and the Pope, requesting their protection on behalf of his flock. His intervention was doomed to failure. Nicol, p468always encouraged by the Jesuits, finally renounced his ancestral faith, became a Roman Catholic and succeeded in confiscating all the properties of the Armenian churches. Even the King, though friendly to the Armenians, feared to resist so powerful a faction. The life of the Armenian community of Lwow was thereby extinguished. Ninety percent of its members, about 45,000 souls, left the city for good, and the remaining 5,000, yielding to the insistence of Vartan Hovnanian, Nicol's successor, embraced the Roman Catholic faith in 1689.f
The great colony of the refugees from Ani was thus ruined. Nevertheless, the Armenian origin of many Polish families can be traced even now. They have lost their national church connection and their language, but maintain some traditions. They intermarry among themselves; if they go on religious pilgrimages, they prefer visiting the cathedral of Lwow, built under the inspiration of the churches of Ani. Until recent years, Archbishop Theodorowicz, as the head of the community which, although Catholic, used Armenian Church rites, was a member of the Austrian Senate, together with Latin and Greek colleagues.
A part of the Lwow emigrés, numbering some 10,000, who had settled in Moldavia, moved from there during the Turko-Polish war in 1671, to Bukowina and Transylvania. In Bukowina, they lived in the city of Suczava and vicinity. In Transylvania they founded two new cities, Erszebetvaros (Elisabethstadt) and Szamos-ujvar (Armenierstadt), which, as a special favor, were declared free cities by Charles VI, Emperor of Austria (1711‑1740).
The next mass emigration was that from Cilician Armenia, three centuries after the fall of Ani. Immensely outnumbered by aggressor forces — Memlouk, Turk, Turkoman, Kurd and others — the Armenians left behind what had become for them a second national home between the Taurus, the Amanus and the blue waters of the Mediterranean, with dwellings, castles, cities and villages, slowly created and become dear to them through the centuries. They sailed westward, seeking refuge in various harbors; in Cyprus, Rhodes, Crete, Smyrna and Constantinople, still under Byzantine rule. Many families went further still, to Venice, Leghorn, Rome, Milan, Naples, Genoa, Pisa and Marseille. Thirty-six Armenian hostelleries, with p469adjoining chapels, are known to exist in Italy. One of the streets of Marseille still bears the name "Rue des Arméniens."
The oldest Armenian colony in western Europe is the one in Venice, and is also the one which has become the most celebrated as an intellectual, cultural and spiritual center. As related in a precedent chapter the island of St. Lazar has, since 1700, been the home of the religious Congregation of the Mekhitarists, called after the name of its founder, the Abbot Mekhitar. It was in Venice that first printed book in the Armenian language appeared in 1512. The Moorat-Raphael College in Venice has produced a great number of graduates prominent in science, literature, the arts and politics. The Mekhitarists of Vienna have published from their printing press, a great number of books mostly historical and philological, in the original or in translations from classical and modern European languages.
At the beginning of the 17th century, all commerce with the Orient was conducted by Europeans — English, Portugueseº and Dutch — with whom the Moslems could not easily carry on business. Shah Abbas I of Persia, who had transferred thousands of Armenians from Julfa and settled them in the vicinity of his capital Ispahan, encouraged the establishment of Armenian colonies in the important cities of India — in Bombay, Calcutta, Madras also in Ceylon. The Armenians created a vast network of trade, and the hardiest among them ventured to push further east, to Singapore, Java and China. There are records of Armenians in India, dating as far back as 1497. They had in 1690 a center at Calcutta, organized by Job Charnock. The development of that city as a business mart has been credited to Armenians rather than to Europeans.3 The East India Company issued a charter in 1688, authorizing the Armenian merchants to trade in Indian ports, with certain privileges. Armenians were enlisted in the British army during the 18th and 19th centuries. The Armenians were also conducting flourishing businesses before the Second World War in the Malay Archipelago, in the Philippines, p470in Siam, Burma, Canton, Nanking, Tientsin and many other places. Some of these communities had their churches. Including the colony of India, they had reached the number of 30,000. The Mardassirakan (Philanthropic) school for boys, and the Sandukhdian for girls, both in Calcutta, have rendered signal service to the diffusion of education for Armenians in the Middle and Far East. The first newspaper in the Armenian language, the Azdarar (Monitor), was published in 1794 in Madras by the priest Haroutune Shemavonian, of Shiraz, Persia. Another periodical, the Azcasser (Patriot) was launched in Calcutta by Mesrop Taghiatiantz in the year 1844.
During the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries the ports of the Low Countries became great centers of commercial activity. Amsterdam in particular was a rendezvous for myriads of vessels, both Dutch and foreign, and was heaped with merchandise from European and Oriental lands. The city became known as the Empress of Europe. It was in 1594 that the first Dutch vessel entered Constantinople, under the flag of England, with whom Turkey had concluded a treaty in 1580. The maritime importance of Holland had grown to such an extent that the Ottoman Admiral Khalil Pasha, an Armenian by origin, entered into direct negotiation with the Dutch, and made possible, in 1612, the conclusion of a treaty, under which Holland was granted the same mercantile privileges as those enjoyed by the British and the French in Turkish ports.
As a result of rival intrigues, the Sublime Porte forbade the exportation to Holland of Turkish and Persian products on board any other than Dutch vessels. Armenian merchants, already established in Smyrna, Italy, France and Spain, therefore did their shipping exclusively in Dutch ships, and opened warehouses in Amsterdam, thus contributing towards the further extension of the trade of that city with the Near East. Among the ships sailing under the Netherlands flag there were some owned by Armenian firms.
There is in the archives of The Hague today a letter, dated 1568, addressed to the States-General, concerning some dispute between the Dutch consul of Aleppo and the Armenian merchants of that city. The address is written in Armenian characters, but in the Italian language. The beginning of the letter, the complimentary introduction, is in classic Armenian, but the main body of it is in the dialect of the Persian Armenians.
p471 A contact between Armenian and Dutch merchants took place in East India in 1645. Almost the entire trade of Persia was handled by the Dutch East India Company. Certain Armenians of New Julfa, Persia, had already established flourishing businesses in Amsterdam. They were the successors of their co-nationals who had taken refuge in Holland three centuries before when the Armenian kingdom of Cilicia was invaded by Tatars and Egyptians. Armenians have been mentioned as in the city of Bruges, once a Dutch port, earlier still — in fact, in the twelfth century. Later, in 1345, Armenians had been permitted to sell rugs in front of the church in Bruges. In 1478 the Armenians had their "National Hostelry" in that city, and a priest officiating at the Church of the Carmelites. The city of Gand still honors the memory of St. Macarius, an Armenian thaumaturge (wonder-worker) who died there in the eleventh century.
Somewhere around 1560, Armenian merchants came to Amsterdam to sell pearls and diamonds, and to purchase local products for export. The settlement of Armenians in that country began after 1605, when they had been deported from their homeland by Shah-Abbas, to construct New Julfa in Persia. From Smyrna also, Armenian merchants had come about the same time, in sufficient numbers to give them the legal right to operate in the Stock Exchange. An agreement between a Dutch naval captain, Steen, and six Armenian merchants of Amsterdam stipulated the terms under which the merchandise of the latter was to be delivered in Livorno (Leghorn), in Italy. The document, dated 1627, bears, in lieu of signatures, the name-seals of the merchants — Sarhat, Zakar, Ohan, Marcos, Petros and Hovakim.
The pioneers of the colony, being unacquainted with the Dutch language, had been exploited by alien interpreters. They also made no attempt to correct the Dutch when the latter called them by mistake Persian Christians or Christian Smyrniotes. Even the church built by them was popularly called the Persian Church. The later arrivals, however, were, according to a Dutch historian, "mostly well-bred men who spoke, besides their own language, Italian and French." They soon learned the Dutch language, too, came into close touch with the people and married Dutch girls. They also exhibited a tendency to change their names into Dutch forms — Serkis Bogos becoming Joris Paulusz, while Eghia di Petros was metamorphosed into Elias Pietersz.
p472 The Armenian business houses of Amsterdam threw off branches into other European cities and countries — Venice, Leghorn, Marseilles, Spain. From the coasts of the Baltic Sea they imported yellow amber, for which there was a great demand in Smyrna. The importation of Persian silk was almost entirely in Armenian hands from 1700 to 1765. As the Mediterranean Sea was infested by pirates during that epoch, their ships were escorted through it by war vessels. Among such sailing ships, one was named Coopman van Armenien (Merchant of Armenia). A consular report, dated 1653, states that the Armenische Coopman, escorted by the warship Gelderland, had reached Smyrna in safety.
The Napoleonic wars put an end to the Armenian life in Holland. The city of Amsterdam was almost depopulated after its occupation by the French. A Dutch writer has said in De Amsterdammer, a magazine of the date of August 14th, 1887 that "The story of the Armenian community is a golden page in the history of the city of Amsterdam."
Under the treaty concluded between Turkey and Holland in 1612, these governments mutually guaranteed the religious liberty of their subjects. Armenian Catholic priests could not remain in Holland without special authorization, but the Apostolic Armenians retained the right to have their own priest. In 1713 the city of Amsterdam permitted the Armenian colony to erect a church of their own. After serving its purpose for about a century and a half, this edifice was closed because of the dwindling of its congregation. In 1874, by order of the Katholikos of Etchmiadzin, the building was sold for 10,000 florins, which was transmitted to him.
In the course of less than a century an important Armenian colony came into being in North America. The estimated number of Armenians living in the United States today is 150,000.
Records show that back in 1623 the first Armenians to go to the New World were two experts in silkworm-breeding, who at the invitation of the Governor of Virginia settled in that English colony.
Very few Armenians landed on the shores of America until the middle of theº 19th century. Thereafter began the actual emigration caused by the sufferings of the Armenian people during the Russo-Turkish war of 1876‑77. The arrivals in America intended to earn a livelihood and, if possible, save enough money to go back one day p473to their native land. But few dared to return, as conditions in Turkey not only did not improve but grew worse every day for the Christian minorities. And after the massacres in 1895 and the following years, there was an Armenian exodus on a large scale from Turkey towards the far-off American continent. This immigration swelled by thousands of new refugees in the wake of Turkish atrocities during the First World War.
Another colony has been formed by some 40,000 Armenians who settled in South America since the last 30 years.
1 The Grand-Duchess Vladimir of Russia, whose daughter Anna married Henry I of France, was a granddaughter of Romanus II, says Gibbon in his "Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire."
Thayer's Note: Romanus II was the grandson of Romanus I thru his mother.
2 Sultan Selim I of Turkey (1512‑1520), after his victory over the Persians at Tchalderan in 1514, brought from Tabriz to Constantinople a large number of Armenian artisans, in order to improve the industry of his Empire.
3 N. and H. Buxton, Travels and Politics in Armenia, p194. Mesrovb J. Seth, "Armenians in India," Calcutta, 1937.
a For a full biographical sketch of Narses, see the Encyclopedia Britannica article; and for a full account of the reconquest of Italy and Narses' involvement, Chapters XVIII (§6‑8) and XIX of Bury's History of the Later Roman Empire.
b Eréklé II, a Bagratid who reigned 1762‑1798, was not properly king of Georgia but of Kartli: nor was he the last.
c The proper transliteration, as the man signed himself, is Malcom Khan; although everyone else seems to have had trouble with the spelling as well, his 1973 biography for example by Hamid Algar (University of California Press, 1973) being titled "Mirza Malkum Khan; A Study in the history of Iranian Modernism". Persian scholar Sir Denis Wright writes that the name was originally Melkomian, providing some justification for Kurkjian's Melcon, a sort of shorthand etymology; and at any rate, the name is a cognate of malik, Arabic for "king". Completing the process of Europeanization, his family today spells the name Malcolm.
I am indebted for this information to Mr. David Arathoon, a collateral descendant, who also supplied the following item of interest, Malcom Khan's obituary in the London Times, 1908:
Death of Prince Malcom Khan.
Lausanne, July 13.*
Prince Malcom Khan, who was formerly private secretary to the Shah Nasr‑ed‑Din, died this morning at the Hotel du Parc at Ouchy, where he arrived some days ago, in a weak state of health, with the Princess and three daughters. The body will be cremated in Paris.
The death of Prince Nazem ud Dowleh Malcom Khan removes from the scene one of the most prominent representatives of modern Persia, and one who perhaps did more than any of his countrymen to bring Persia into touch with European politics and civilization. He was the son of Yacoub Khan, himself an eminent Persian statesman of noble and very ancient family, and was born at Ispahan in 1832. At an early age he was sent to Paris, where he received his education and became an ardent student of European institutions. On his return to Persia his promotion was rapid, and in 1854 he was sent by the Shah on a special diplomatic mission to the European Courts and to the United States. His object was to conclude treaties of commerce and friendship with the European Powers and with America. The result of his experience abroad was to make him a keen advocate of reform at home. In this he was in advance of his time, and in 1860 he found it convenient to leave his own country and proceed to Constantinople, where he resided up to the year 1872. He had succeeded, however, in exercising a considerable influence upon the literary style of his Persian contemporaries, and in particular he entirely reformed and simplified the elaborate diplomatic language of his country. In 1872 he was recalled from exile, and entrusted with a post second only to that of the Grand Vizier, so that he was enabled to exercise a real control over both the home and foreign affairs of Persia. The reforms which he was able to carry were so considerable that he received the title of Nazem ud Dowleh (Reformer of the Empire). Perhaps the most remarkable of his achievements, however, was his success in inducing the Shah to undertake his first journey to Europe in 1872. Prince Malcom Khan not only prepared the European Courts for the visit, which excited popular interest in England and elsewhere to an extraordinary degree, he also accompanied his Imperial master, and remained behind him in Europe as the representative of Persia who was best fitted to consolidate the results of the visit. In 1878 Prince Malcom Khan acted with credit as Persian Plenipotentiary at the Congress of Berlin and was instrumental in securing for his country the restoration of a province which had been in the possession of Turkey. As Persian Minister in London the Prince was a well-known figure throughout the eighties up to his resignation in 1889. In that year he had arranged another visit of the Shah, which again attracted unusual public interest in his country. In 1899 he was appointed Minister to Rome, a post which he held at the time of his death. Throughout his long life Prince Malcom Khan was remarkable for the interest which he took in the intellectual and political development of his country. He promoted a new system of public instruction and published an edition of "Gulistan" and other works in a new phonetic system of Arabic writing which he invented. In 1865 he married, at Constantinople, the Princess Daelian, by whom he is survived. There were three daughters of the marriage, and a son who was educated at Eton.
Not the least noteworthy in this obituary is that nowhere in it is Armenia mentioned; nor do Khan's interests, as indicated in it, suggest any particular Armenian ties.
d Kurkjian should probably have spelled his name Hovhannes Khan Massehian: the name is the Armenian version of "John", Iohannes in ancient Greek, the origin of the Christian name. Massehian (1864‑1931) additionally served as ambassador to London and Tokyo; his translations of Shakespeare, eventually extending to twelve plays, are considered seminal in Armenian literary history. A good biographical sketch may be found on a site devoted to him.
A paper by Sona Seferian, "Shakespeare in Armenian", delivered at the 9th Seminar of Italian Armenists held in Milan in 2005, had further details but has now, irritatingly, been pulled from the Web by the organziers of these seminars to make room for later papers.
e A correspondent writes me that Nazar Agha was Persian ambassador to Paris for 36 years; but that in fact his father was Polish and his mother was a Syriac-speaking Assyrian. His wife was Armenian, though, and for that reason apparently he has been claimed by the Persian Armenians as their own.
Images with borders lead to more information.
Kurkjian's History of Armenia
A page or image on this site is in the public domain ONLY
Page updated: 4 Aug 08