The Battle of Avarayr (Armenian: Ավարայրի ճակատամարտ Avarayri čakatamart) was fought on 26 May 451 AD on the Avarayr Plain in Vaspurakan between the Armenian Army under Vardan Mamikonian and Sassanid Persia. It is considered one of the first battles in defense of the Christian faith in history. Although the Persians were victorious on the battlefield, the battle proved to be a major strategic victory for Armenians, as Avarayr paved the way to the Nvarsak Treaty of 484 AD, which affirmed Armenia's right to practise Christianity freely.
The battle is seen as one of the most significant events in Armenian history. The commander of the Armenian forces, Vardan Mamikonian, is considered a national hero and has been canonized by the Armenian Apostolic Church.
|Battle of Avarayr|
A 15th century Armenian miniature depicting the battle
|Commanders and leaders|
Vartan Mamikonian †|
60,000 Armenian loyalists
Unknown number of elephants
|Casualties and losses|
The Kingdom of Armenia under the Arsacid dynasty of Armenia was the first nation to officially convert to Christianity, in 301 AD under Tiridates III. In 428, Armenian nobles petitioned Bahram V to depose Artaxias IV (Artashir IV). As a result, the country became a Sassanid dependency with a Sassanid governor. The Armenian nobles initially welcomed Persian rule, provided they were allowed to practise Christianity; but Yazdegerd II, concerned that the Armenian Church was hierarchically dependent on the Latin- and Greek-speaking Christian Church (aligned with Rome and Constantinople rather than the Aramaic-speaking & Persian-backed Church of the East) tried to compel the Armenian Church to abandon Rome and Byzantium in favour of the Church of the East or simply convert to Zoroastrianism. He summoned the leading Armenian nobles to Ctesiphon, and pressured them into cutting their ties with the Orthodox Church as he had intended. Yazdegerd II himself was a Zoroastrian rather than a Christian, and his concern was not religious but securing political loyalty.
According to Armenian tradition, attempts at demolishing churches and building fire-temples were made and a number of Zoroastrian magi were sent, with Persian military backing, to replace Armenian clergy and suppress Christianity.
But Yazdegerd's policy provoked, rather than forestalled, a Christian rebellion in Armenia. When news about the compulsion of the nobles reached Armenia, a mass revolt broke out; on their return, the nobility, led by Vardan Mamikonian, joined the rebels. Yazdegerd II, hearing the news, gathered a massive army to attack Armenia. Vardan Mamikonian sent to Constantinople for aid, as he had good personal relations with Theodosius II, who had made him a general, and he was after all fighting to remain in the Orthodox Church; but this assistance did not arrive in time.
The 66,000-strong Armenian army took Holy Communion before the battle. The army was a popular uprising, rather than a professional force, but the Armenian nobility who led it and their respective retinues were accomplished soldiers, many of them veterans of the Sassanid dynasty's wars with Rome and the nomads of Central Asia. The Armenians were allowed to maintain a core of their national army led by a supreme commander (sparapet) who was traditionally of the Mamikonian noble family. The Armenian cavalry was, at the time, practically an elite force greatly appreciated as a tactical ally by both Persia and Byzantium. In this particular case, both officers and men were additionally motivated by a desire to save their religion and their way of life. The Persian army, said to be three times larger, included war elephants and the famous Savārān, or New Immortal, cavalry. Several Armenian noblemen with weaker Christian sympathies, led by Vasak Siuni, went over to the Persians before the battle, and fought on their side; in the battle, Vardan won initial successes, but was eventually slain along with eight of his top officers.
Following the victory, Yazdegerd jailed some Armenian priests and nobles and appointed a new governor for Armenia.
The Armenian Church was also unable to send a delegation to the Council of Chalcedon, as it was heavily involved in the war. In the 6th century, the Armenian Church would decide not to accept the Council of Chalcedon, instead adhering to Miaphysitism.
Armenian resistance continued in the decades following the battle, led by Vardan's successor and nephew, Vahan Mamikonian. In 484 AD, Sahag Bedros I signed the Nvarsak Treaty, which guaranteed religious freedom to the Christian Armenians and granted a general amnesty with permission to construct new churches. Thus, the Armenians see the Battle of Avarayr as a moral victory; 26 May is considered to be a holy day by Armenians, and is one of the most important national and religious days in Armenia.
So spirited was the Armenian defence, however, that the Persians suffered enormous losses as well. Their victory was pyrrhic and the king, faced with troubles elsewhere, was forced, at least for the time being, to allow the Armenians to worship as they chose.
The Armenian defeat in the Battle of Avarayr in 451 proved a pyrrhic victory for the Persians. Though the Armenians lost their commander, Vartan Mamikonian, and most of their soldiers, Persian losses were proportionately heavy, and Armenia was allowed to remain Christian.
The Avarayr Plain (Armenian: Ավարայրի Դաշտ) is the location of the Battle of Avarayr in 451, and is described as being along the banks of the Ṭłmut River (Armenian: Տղմուտ գետ) (Rūd-e Zangemār, Iran), apparently the Armeno-Persian frontier at that time. At the time, the Avarayr plain was part of the Armenian region of Vaspurakan. The plain is located today in northwestern Iran close to the village of Chors near the border with Nakhichevan.Churs
Churs (Persian: چورس, also Romanized as Chūrs, Chowras, and Chowrs; also known as Choras, Chors, and Jūres) is a village in Churs Rural District, in the Central District of Chaypareh County, West Azerbaijan Province, Iran. At the 2006 census, its population was 2,367, in 636 families.The location of modern-day Churs proved to be extremely pivotal in Armenian history. On 26 May 451 AD, a decisive battle was fought at the location that would be one of the single most important events in Armenian history. On the Avarayr Plain, at what is modern-day Churs in the West Azerbaijan Province, the Armenian Army under Vardan Mamikonian clashed with Sassanid Persia. Although the Persians were victorious on the battlefield itself, the battle proved to be a major strategic victory for Armenians, as Avarayr paved the way to the Nvarsak Treaty (484 AD), which affirmed Armenia's right to practice Christianity freely.Gevorg Avagyan
Gevorg Avagyan (Armenian: Գևորգ Սիմոնի Ավագյան, Russian: Геворк Семенович Авакян; 1922–2013) was a Soviet Armenian painter, one of the post-war generation of Soviet Armenian artists.
Avagyan was born on July 20, 1922 in Gyumri, Armenia. The artist graduated from the Armenian Fine Arts College named after Terlemezian (1949), and then from the Armenian Fine Arts Academy (1956), where he studied with the artist Gabriel Gyurjyan.
The diploma work “Parcels from home” was created in the socialistic realism style as a scene from the Second World War, in which he served as a soldier for the duration of the war.
In 1971, Avagyan he became a member of the Artists' Union of the USSR and was a constant participant in various Soviet, Armenian and international art exhibitions.
Art works and monumental compositions by Gevorg Avagyan are kept in different national galleries, decorate national theatres, cultural centers and private collections in Armenia and abroad.
Avagyan worked closesly with a number of famous Armenian artists, including Arakel Arakelyan (1929–1990), Mikael Gjurjyan (1935–1995), Hamlet Minasyan (1923–1995), Karlen Rukhikyan (1926–2004). Avagyan was well known among his friends as a master of portrait and beautiful landscapes. He developed the traditional classic school of realistic painting, sometimes coming to impressionism in genres of thematic painting, portrait, landscape and still life.
Avagyan created pictures of different genres, from historical battle canvases and portraits to still-lives and landscapes. Among his big figurative compositions were "Bacchus Women or the First Theater Performance", devoted to the 2000 anniversary of Armenian Theater (Artashat State Theater), "The Battle of Sardarapat", "Davit Bek", "The Battle of Avarayr" and many others.Ghazar Parpetsi
Ghazar Parpetsi (Armenian: Ղազար Փարպեցի, Latin: Lazarus Pharpensis; Ghazar of Parpi, alternatively spelled as Lazar Parpetsi and Łazar Parpetsi) was a 5th to 6th century Armenian chronicler and historian. He had close ties with the powerful Mamikonian noble family and is most prominent for writing a history of Armenia, History of Armenia, sometime in the early sixth century.Kingdom of Syunik
Kingdom of Syunik (Armenian: Սյունիքի թագավորություն), also known as the Kingdom of Baghk and sometimes as the Kingdom of Kapan, was a medieval dependent Armenian kingdom on the territory of Syunik, Artsakh (present-day Nagorno-Karabakh), and Gegharkunik. Ruled by the Siunia dynasty, the town of Kapan was the capital of the kingdom.Kurken Alemshah
Kurken M. Alemshah (Armenian: Գուրգէն Մ. Ալէմշահ; May 22, 1907 – December 14, 1947) was an Armenian composer and conductor.Mamikonian
Mamikonian or Mamikonean (Classical Armenian: Մամիկոնեան; reformed orthography: Մամիկոնյան; Western Armenian pronunciation: Mamigonian) was an aristocratic dynasty which dominated Armenian politics between the 4th and 8th century. They ruled the Armenian regions of Taron, Sasun, Bagrevand and others. Their patron saint was Saint Hovhannes Karapet (John the Baptist) whose monastery of the same name (also known as Glak) they fiercely defended against the Sassanid invaders.Medieval Armenia
Western Armenia had been under Byzantine control since the partition of the Kingdom of Armenia in AD 387, while Eastern Armenia had been under the occupation of the Sassanid Empire starting 428. Regardless of religious disputes, many Armenians became successful in the Byzantine Empire and occupied key positions. In Sassanid-occupied Armenia, the people struggled to preserve their Christian religion. This struggle reached its culmination in the Battle of Avarayr. Although the battle was a military defeat, Vartan Mamigonian's successor, Vahan, succeeded to force the Persians to grant religious freedom to the Christian Armenians in the Nvarsak Treaty of 484.Persian war elephants
War elephants were used in Iranian military history, most notably in Achaemenid, Seleucid and Sasanian periods. The elephants were Asian elephants, and were recruited from South Asian provinces of Persia, but also possibly Western Asiatic elephants from mainland Iran.Principality of Ake
The Principality of Ake was a Carduchian or possibly Median dynasty who ruled territory in what is now south eastern Turkey. The principality was located between the upper valley of the Centritis and the Zabus (Lycus), southeast of lake Van, between Arzanene and Adiabene, in what later became southern Vaspurakan.
The princes of Ake took part in the insurrection of 451 and were active at the battle of Avarayr. They played a significant regional role until the Arab invasion. At the beginning of 10th century the principality became a vassal of the Artsrunis of Vaspurakan.Principality of Hamamshen
The Principality of Hamamshen was a small principality established in about 790 century by Armenians who fled the Arab invasions of Armenia and the creation of the Muslim Arab ruled state of Arminiya.Pyrrhic victory
A Pyrrhic victory ( (listen) PIRR-ik) is a victory that inflicts such a devastating toll on the victor that it is tantamount to defeat. Someone who wins a Pyrrhic victory has also taken a heavy toll that negates any true sense of achievement.Timeline of the Sasanian Empire
The Sassanid Empire or Sassanian Dynasty is the name mused for the Persian dynasty which lasted from 224 to 651 AD.
224 - Ardashir I introduces the name of Šāhanšāh (king of kings); the Sasanid reign is founded.
c. 224-240 – Zoroastrianism belief experiences an era of recovery under Ardashir I kingdom.
230 - Sassanian army assaults the Roman-controlled fraction of Upper Mesopotamia and lay hands on Nisibis, however is not capable to catch it.
237-238 - Ardashir I begins another rushes on the Eastern Roman Provinces and occupies Harran and Nisibis.
241 - Coronation of Shapur I.
c. 242-273 - Mani makes a journey in Persia.
252-256 - Shapur I moves forward to the Eastern Roman Provinces.
c. 259 - Failure and detention of Valerian by Shapur I.
c. 260 - 2nd foray of the Eastern Roman Provinces by Shapur I.
c. 261 - Odaenathus, the ruler of Palmyra, stops the triumphant Persian troops coming back home following the looting of Antioch, scores a notable conquest against Shapur I and drives the Persians back across the Euphrates.
271 - Coronation of Hormizd I.
273 - Coronation of Bahram I.
274 or 277 - The death penalty of Mani by influential Zoroastrian high priest Kartir.
276 - Coronation of Bahram II.
276 - The Kartir is chosen as extreme power of the Zoroastrian place of worship and victimizes the supporters of other believes; his engravings at Ka'ba-ye Zartosht, Naqsh-e Rajab, and Sar Mashad (south of Kazerun) declare to prove his principles.
283 - Roman Emperor Carus seizes Mesopotamia and catches Ctesiphon, but his troops comes back his unexpected passing.
286 - Tiridates takes the Armenian throne and the Persians are discharged from there.
293 - Narseh overwhelms his competitors and triumphs to the Persian throne.
c. 294 - Narseh’s Paikuli inscription in Iraq next to the Persian frontier.
296 - Narseh raids Armenia, expels Tiridates, and quells the Romans.
297- Roman Emperor Galerius undoes Narseh. The Treaty of Nisibis compels Narseh to abandon Armenia and Mesopotamia.
c. 301 - Realm of Armenia is the primitive power to accept Christianity as the kingdom creed.
302 - Resignation of Narseh; Coronation of Hormizd II.
309 - Coronation of Shapur II.
325 - Shapur II falls upon Arab people and makes impregnable the empire’s frontiers.
338 - Shapur II retrieves the five regions gave in by Narseh to Rome.
348 - Shapur II seizes Mesopotamia.
c. 360 - Fondation of the Kidarite kingdom.
363 - War between Julian and Persian troops follows his back off and demise; the surrendered territories and Nisibis are brought back to Persia.
376 - The armistice signed by Rome and Persia.
379 - Death of Shapur II and the accession of Ardashir II.
383 - Coronation of Shapur III.
399 - Coronation of Yazdegerd I, titled “the Sinner” owing to his efforts to control the influence of Zoroastrian clergy and his leniency towards other believes.
409 - Christian are allowed to publicly worship and to construct churches.
420 - Coronation of Bahram V (Bahram Gūr).
421 - Peace between Persia and Rome comes to an end.
422 - Bahram V triumphs in driving off an assault by the Hephtalites.
c. 425 - Bahram V brings in gypsies from India to amuse people according to the Shahnameh.
428 - Dissolution of Arsacid dynasty of Armenia. Establishment of Persian Armenia.
438 - Coronation of Yazdegerd II.
451 - Battle of Avarayr fought against the Christian Armenian rebels led by Vardan Mamikonian.
457 - Coronation of Hormizd III.
459 - Coronation of Peroz I.
484 - Hephthalite Empire conquer Peroz I.
484 - Coronation of Balash. The Nvarsak Treaty grants the Armenians the right to profess Christianity freely.
488 - Coronation of Kavadh I; expedition against Khazars.
c. 490 - Mazdak teaches his ideology, egalitarian idea; he has the benefit of Kavadh I’s help.
c. 490 - Initiation of agrarian and tax reforms.
496 - Kavadh I is dethroned by his brother Djamasp.
499 - Return of Kavadh I with support of Hephtalites.
524 - War between Byzantine Empire and Sassanid Empire.
526 - Romans assault Persia, Armenia, and Mesopotamia, however they are beaten. Start of the Iberian War.
531 - Coronation of Khosrow I.
c. 531 - Slaughter and crackdown of the Mazdak's followers.
c. 531 - Farming, governmental, military, communal reforms.
c. 531 - Conversion of Panchatantra, a Sanskrit-written book-story to Middle Persian.
533 - End of conflict between Persia and Byzantine Empire (the one that started in 524).
541 - Lazic War commences between the Byzantines and the Sassanids for control over Lazica.
c. 554 - Procopius, Byzantine expert and observer to the battles between Khosrow I and Justinian I, which he writes in his De bello Persico (Latin tr., 1833), dies.
c. 570 - Conquest of Yemen.
c. 570 - Birth of the Muḥammad (Prophet of Muslims).
579 - Death of Khosrow I and the Coronation of Hormizd IV.
580 - Sassanids abolish the monarchy of the Kingdom of Iberia. Direct control through self-appointed governors commences.
588 - First Perso-Turkic War (with Göktürks) and their defeat at the hands of the Persian General Bahrām Chobin.
590 - Hormizd IV is assassinated; Coronation of Khosrow II.
590 - Uprising of Bahrām Chobin and his seizure of the Persian throne.
591 - Overwhelming of Bahrām Chobin; he escapes to the Turks in Central Asia but is killed after a year. Khosrow II regains the throne.
596 - Muḥammad gets marry Khadija bint Khuwaylid.
602 - Climactic Byzantine–Sasanian War of 602–628 commences.
603 - Khosrow II’s invasion of Byzantium in revenge for the murder of Emperor Maurice and his relatives by the tyrant Phocas.
611-616 - Khosrow II’s conquest of Syria and Egypt.
622 - Muḥammad moves in secrecy from Mecca to Medina, accompanied by Abu Bakr; Muḥammad gets marry Abu Bakr’s young daughter, Aisha.
626 - The Sassanids alongside the allied Avars and Slavs besiege the Byzantine capital, Constantinople
627 - Heraclius defeats the troops of the Sasanian Empire near Nineveh.
628 - Deposition, trial, and execution of Khosrow II by his son and successor Kavadh II (Shīrūya); peace concluded with Byzantine Empire.
628 - Murdering of many Sasanian princes by Kavadh II.
628 - Kavadh II dies.
628-635 - Weakening of the Sasanian dynasty due to a succession of ineffectual kings and queens including the queens Boran and Azarmidokht; chaotic situation prevails.
632 - Pond of Khumm event.
632 - The Prophet Moḥammad dies; there ensues a dispute over his succession.
632-634 - Abu Bakr’s caliphate.
633 - Yazdegerd III succeeds to the Persian throne.
634 - Umar elected caliph; he plans a successful invasion of Byzantine and Persian (Sasanian) lands.
635 - Arabs capture Damascus.
635-641 - Arab troops capture Jerusalem, Antioch, Tripoli, and Egypt.
636 - Persians are beaten by Arab Muslims at Qādisiyyah.
637 - Arab Muslims capture Ctesiphon, the Sasanian capital; Yazdegerd III escapes to Ray.
637 - Arab Muslim conquest of Mesopotamia.
642 - Final defeat of Persians by Arab Muslims at Nehavand.
644 - Umar (Muslims Caliph) is assassinated by Piruz Nahavandi (Hormozan), a Persian captive.
644-656 - Othman’s caliphate.
651 - Murder of Yazdegerd III; end of the Sasanian dynasty; Persia is annexed to the Rashidun Caliphate (Islamic Empire).Vahan Mamikonian
Vahan Mamikonian (Armenian: Վահան Մամիկոնյան) (440/445 – 503/510) was an Armenian nobleman from the Mamikonian family. In 481 he rebelled against the Sasanian Empire that controlled the eastern part of Armenia known as Persian Armenia. He was appointed as marzban (governor) of Persian Armenia in 485 and remained in that post until his death around 503-510.Vardan Mamikonian
Vardan Mamikonian (Armenian: Վարդան Մամիկոնյան; 387–451 AD) was an Armenian military leader, a martyr and a saint of the Armenian Church. He is best known for leading the Armenian army at the Battle of Avarayr in 451, which ultimately secured the Armenians' right to practice Christianity.
A member of the Mamikonian family of Armenia's highest caliber aristocrats (known as nakharars), he is revered as one of the greatest military and spiritual leaders of Armenia, and is considered a national hero by Armenians. According to Arshag Chobanian "To the Armenian nation, Vartan [...] is the most beloved figure, the most sacred in their history, the symbolical hero who typifies the national spirit." Major Armenian churches are named after Saint Vardan. Equestrian statues of St. Vardan are found in the Armenian capital Yerevan and in the country's second largest city, Gyumri.Vartanants Square
Vartanants Square (Armenian: Վարդանանց Հրապարակ Vartanants Hraparak) or Vardanants Square, is the large central town square in Gyumri, Armenia. It is bordered by the Abovyan street from the west, Gai street from the north, Shahumyan street from the east and Vahan Cheraz street from the south. It has a rectangular shape (280 by 140 meters).
The square was known as the May Uprising Square (Armenian: Մայիսյան Ապստամբության հրապարակ), named after the failed Bolshevik uprising against the Dashnak government of the First Republic of Armenia in May 1920. The square was opened during the 1930s under the Soviet rule, based on the original plan of Alexander Tamanian and the revised plan of D. Chislian.Vren of Tashir
Vren of Tashir ruled Tashir in the fifth century. The History of Vardan by Yeghishe Vardapet records him as having led a contingent to the battle of Avarayr in 451.Yeghishe
Yeghishe (Armenian: Եղիշե, pronounced [jɛʁiˈʃɛ], AD 410 – 475; anglicized as Eliseus, spelled alternatively Yeghisheh, Yeghishé, Eghishe or Ełišē) was an Armenian historian from the time of late antiquity. He was the author of a history documenting the successful revolt of the Armenians in the fifth century against the rule and religion of the Sassanid Persians.Zhayedan
Zhāyēdān (literally "The Immortals") were warriors of an elite unit within the Sassanian army, numbering 10,000 men. They are possibly modeled on the former Immortals, who served the rulers of the Achaemenid Empire, and possibly wore the same clothing as their predecessors. These warriors bore the very finest quality weaponry and armor of the entire Sassanian military. The Zhayedan were led by a commander bearing the title of "Varhranighan-khvadhay".