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A History of Armenia
by Vahan M. Kurkjian

Background

When I became interested in Armenia, mostly because of my focus on Antiquity, I discovered there was not that much historical and antiquarian material online about the country, so this is my first contribution.

The dust-jacket of the 1964 edition (for which, since my own copy is nude, I am indebted to Gerald Ottenbreit, Jr. of the Armenian Research Center at the University of Michigan-Dearborn) includes the following information on Mr. Kurkjian:


[image ALT: A photograph of a distinguished-looking old man.]
Author, teacher, and community leader, Vahan M. Kurkjian was born in Aleppo in 1863.

In 1904 Mr. Kurkjian published in Cairo, Egypt, the Armenian newspaper Loussaper (The Morning Star), in whose pages he and other noted intellectuals called for a national union for the Armenian people. The idea eventually materialized in the form of the Armenian General Benevolent Union, established in Cairo, in 1906, with Boghos Nubar, distinguished humanitarian, as founder and first president.

In 1907 he emigrated to the United States and studied law at Boston University. Two years later he founded the first American chapter of the Armenian General Benevolent Union in Boston, after which the organization spread its branches throughout the States. From its inception he has been inseparably identified with the Union, serving as its executive director until his retirement in 1939.

Mr. Kurkjian contributed countless articles to Armenian newspapers, and published a number of books and pamphlets. He died in New York City in 1961.

Vahan Kurkjian's intended audience was thus the Armenian community in the United States: he has done them a great service, as well as to anyone seeking comprehensive basic information on Armenian history; and indeed, when he wrote, there seems to have been no other general history of Armenia in English: at any rate I know of none other in the public domain that could therefore be presented online.

Caution, though, is unfortunately in order. The author is clearly not a professional historian, and his book is not a scholarly work; rather, a general text based on ill assimilated (and now dated) secondary works. To boot, the book is both disordered and not well written, and in spots very poorly; a good copy editor would have much improved it.

This short list of additional resources may therefore also prove useful:

  1. General summaries of Armenian history, much briefer of course than our book:

    Armeniapedia

    Dennis Papazian

    Tourism Armenia

    Livius.Org (ancient Armenia thru 330 A.D.)

    More generally, the other external sites listed on my Armenia homepage.

  2. Source material online, of great benefit to the serious student of Armenian history:

    Robert Bedrosian's site, a mine of excellent information on Armenian, Persian, Georgian, Turkish, and Iranian history: and specifically, detailed chronological tables and primary sources in his own English translations.

  3. On ancient Armenia, an accurate, up-to‑date, scholarly book:

    Amélie Kuhrt, The Ancient Near East. c. 3000‑330 B.C. (2 vols., Routledge, London and New York, 1995). Vol. I Ch. 5 is relevant to chapters V‑VI of Kurkjian; Vol. II Ch. 10 is relevant to chapters VII‑X.

Copyright, Proofreading

A History of Armenia by Vahan M. Kurkjian was first published in 1958 by the Armenian General Benevolent Union of America. The text, actually taken here from the 1964 reprinting, is in the public domain since the 1958 copyright was not renewed at the appropriate time (1985‑1986), and the work has therefore fallen into the public domain. (Details here on the copyright law involved.)

As usual, I retyped the text rather than scanning it: not only to minimize errors prior to proofreading, but as an opportunity for me to become intimately familiar with the work, an exercise which I heartily recommend. (Well-meaning attempts to get me to scan text, if successful, would merely turn me into some kind of machine: gambit declined.)

In the table of contents below, the chapters and sections are given on blue backgrounds, indicating that they have been thoroughly proofread; any red backgrounds would indicate that my transcription had not yet been proofread. The header bar at the top of each webpage will remind you with the same color scheme. In any case, should you spot an error, please do report it, of course.

The book contains 65 engravings and 28 photographs. Some of them relate directly to the text, others illustrate it only loosely; I've reproduced all of them. Since a Web transcription is not bound by the same constraints as a print edition (no need to fit in a certain slot on a printed page, for example), occasionally they're not at quite the same point in the text. The original page location is given in the name of the image.

Further details on the technical aspects of the site layout follow the Table of Contents below.


Table of Contents

Chapter
Page

 

I

1

II

6

III

14

IV

19

V

26

VI

32

VII

37

VIII

49

IX

55

X

60

XI

64

XII

68

XIII

74

XIV

84

XV

90

XVI

100

XVII

105

XVIII

113

XIX

123

XX

139

XXI

153

XXII

164

XXIII

173

XXIV

186

XXV

195

XXVI

206

XXVII

213

XXVIII

227

XXIX

235

XXX

246

XXXI

258

XXXII

278

XXXIII

293

XXXIV

300

XXXV

311

XXXVI

329

XXXVII

345

XXXVIII

349

XXXIX

353

XL

365

XLI

369

XLII

406

XLIII

425

XLIV

435

XLV

441

XLVI

447

XLVII

460

XLVIII

474

489

XLIX

490

494

501

507

Spelling and Typographical Conventions

The 1964 printing of Kurkjian's book was very poorly proofread. I've made some few corrections: not as many as I would have liked to make — thus avoiding the slippery slope to rewriting the whole book! — but I repaired obvious errors, as well as the most distracting mispunctuations, marking with visible bullet-promptsº those worthy of note, and flagging the others in the sourcecode. Even more grating, to me, was the author's consistent capitalization of the centuries (". . . in the Eleventh Century . . ."): I tacitly restored normal usage thruout. If all these errors and quirks are finally of very little importance, correcting them does make the text more readable, and making the corrections visible serves as a reminder to the careful reader that the text as a whole is not as reliable as it could be.

There also seem to be, however, a number of typographical errors in Armenian words and proper nouns, correcting which is both more important and much harder to do. Well aware of my own limitations, I've made only those very few corrections where I felt on safe ground.

In addition to actual errors, variant spellings are a particular problem in this book. Kurkjian did not reduce his multiple sources to a single consistent system, and we thus have a frequently bewildering panoply of spellings for the same place or person, often two or even three different spellings in a single paragraph. Some of these variants are clearly due to his reliance on secondary sources in languages other than English (in particular, French); others we owe to dozens of local languages and transcription systems over several millennia of history; to different forms in Western, Eastern, and Classical Armenian; and finally others again, here too, are outright typographical errors. Yet I've refrained altogether from any attempt at homogenizing the text, not only because I'm the wrong person to be deciding on the transcription of Armenian and other Asiatic languages, but also because it will actually be useful to leave multiple spellings to be picked up by the search engines. Very occasionally, where one would like to see a standard English spelling — as in Parthian, Persian and Greek names — I've added a footnote.

Notes and Links

In addition to the author's notes, here and there I've added some of my own, mostly by way of clarification, or steering the reader to other online resources. Where a major online resource is particularly germane to an entire chapter, you'll find a link to it in the footer bar at the bottom of that page.

I am happy to acknowledge the expert help of my friend Jona Lendering, webmaster of Livius and author of several books on the ancient Middle East, in harmonizing some of Kurkjian's statements and identifications with the current scholarly consensus: at Jona's request, I haven't marked each of his individual contributions, but in general the less it looks like I could have written something, the less I probably did.

Disclaimers

I am no Armenian expert, have never been to Armenia, have no Armenian ancestry that I know of, and take only the following very general positions on Armenian questions: I have long been aware of the important historical role of Armenia and her people in Antiquity and in early Christianity, I am still horrified by the Turkish genocide of 1915 (and outraged by disingenuous claims that it didn't happen), and I feel it's a good thing for Armenia to exist as a sovereign nation.

I also have very little taste for polemics, and in general feel that there are many sides to most questions: a reminder therefore that this is just a transcription, and that the author speaks for himself. Specifically I take no sides on any of the theological points raised, on Nestorianism, Chalcedon, Monophysitism, or the Uniate movement; nor on the relative merits or otherwise of the Armenian Church, the Roman Catholic Church, and the Orthodox Churches (although I do fault their disunity for allowing the Mohammedan takeover of the Christian homeland of the Near East); nor on the identification of various ethnic or linguistic entities — i.e., the various Greek and Macedonian questions, the Indo-European question, etc.

"Albania" in this book refers to the region known as such in Antiquity, a Transcaucasian area completely unrelated to the modern country by the same name: if you are looking for information on the ancient history of the area on the Mediterranean coast now called Albania, you should be looking for "Epirus". Similarly, "Iberia" in this book refers to the Transcaucasian area roughly corresponding to the modern Republic of Georgia, and never to what is now Spain and Portugal (also known as Iberia in Antiquity, mind you).



[image ALT: An eight-pointed star flanked by birds. It is a motif associated with the Artaxiad royal dynasty of Armenia, and serves as an icon for this subsite.]

The icon I use to indicate this subsite is a colorized detail of a motif associated with the Artaxiad dynasty of Armenia, that appears on the tiara of Tigran the Great as depicted on a coin of his reproduced on p74. This same eight-pointed star flanked by birds also appears on the tiara of Artavazd II on p85.


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Site updated: 25 Apr 05