The region and former kingdom of Asia Minor that was Greater Armenia lay east of the Euphrates River; Little, or Lesser, Armenia was west of the river. Armenia is generally understood to have included NE Turkey, the area covered by the modern republic of Armenia (the eastern part of ancient Armenia), and parts of Iranian Azerbaijan.
According to tradition, the kingdom was founded in the region of Lake Van by Hayk, or Hayg, a descendant of Noah, in 2492 b.c. Modern scholars, however, believe that the Armenians crossed the Euphrates and came into Asia Minor in the 8th cent. b.c. Invading the country called Urartu by the Assyrians, they intermarried with the indigenous peoples there and formed a homogeneous nation by the 6th cent. b.c. This state was a Persian satrapy from the late 6th cent. b.c. to the late 4th cent. b.c.
Conquered (330 b.c.) by Alexander the Great, it became after his death part of the Syrian kingdom of Seleucus I and his descendants. After the Roman victory over the Seleucids at Magnesia in 190 b.c., the Armenians declared (189 b.c.) their independence under a native dynasty, the Artashesids. The imperialistic ambitions of King Tigranes led to war with Rome; defeated Armenia became tributary to the republic after the campaigns of Lucullus (69 b.c.) and Pompey (67 b.c.). The Romans distinguished between Greater Armenia and Lesser Armenia, respectively east and west of the Euphrates. Tiridates, a Parthian prince, was confirmed as king of Armenia by Nero in a.d. 66. Christianity was introduced early; Armenia is reckoned the oldest Christian state.
In the 3d cent. a.d., Ardashir I, founder of the Sassanid, came to power in Persia and overran Armenia. The persecution of Christians created innumerable martyrs and kindled nationalism among the Armenians, particularly after the partition (387) of the kingdom between Persia and Rome. Attempts at independence were short-lived, as Armenia was the constant prey of Persians, Byzantines, White Huns, Khazars, and Arabs. From 886 to 1046 the kingdom enjoyed autonomy under native rulers, the Bagratids; it was then reconquered by the Byzantines, who promptly lost it to the Seljuk Turks following the Byzantine defeat at the battle of Manzikert in 1071.
With the Mongol invasion of the mid-11th cent., a number of Armenians, led by Prince Reuben, were pushed westward. In 1080 they established in Cilicia the kingdom of Little Armenia, which lasted until its conquest by the Mamluks in 1375. Shortly afterward (1386–94) the Mongol conqueror Timur seized Greater Armenia and massacred a large part of the population. After Timur's death (1405) the Ottoman Turks, whom Timur had defeated in 1402, invaded Armenia and by the 16th cent. held all of it. Under Ottoman rule the Armenians, although often persecuted and always discriminated against because of their religion, nevertheless acquired a vital economic role. Constantinople and all other large cities of the Ottoman Empire had colonies of Armenian merchants and financiers. Eastern Armenia was chronically disputed between Turkey and Persia.
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