Part I: Internal and international situation of the Bagratid’s kingdom in the first period of the reign of Smbat II (late 970s – first half of the 980s)


Arman S. Yeghiazaryan
Studies show that in a relatively stable peace at the beginning of the reign, when Byzantium and neighboring Muslim emirates dealt with internal issues, Smbat II Bagratuni (978-990) was engaged in peaceful construction. At that time, the capital of the kingdom of Ani expanded greatly, and it became necessary to build a new, larger wall. Immediately after ascending to the throne, Smbat II began to implement a large-scale project of new defensive walls and adjacent protection systems, which lasted about 10 years. The author of this project was the famous medieval architect Trdat, who was also the author of the project for the restoration of the Church of Hagia Sophia in Constantinople after the earthquake of 989.

The new protection system of Ani and, above all, the city walls made a great impression on contemporaries, as they were simply huge. Thanks to the new defense system, Ani became one of the most impregnable cities of that era. Inside the fence in 989 the foundation was laid for the construction of the city cathedral, many other buildings and bridges were built.

During the reign of Smbat II, the process of division, begun during the reign of King Ashot III (953-978), continued. In the very first year of his reign, Smbat II proclaimed his younger brother Gurgen as king in the northeastern province of the royal possessions, in Tashirk, thus forming third kingdom in the possessions of the Bagratids. King Gurgen of Tashirk recognized the priority of his brother, who, as in the case of the Kars kingdom, had the right to approve the accession of each new king of Tashirk.

With the establishment of the kingdom of Tashir, the central power of Ani was significantly weakened. This reality first manifested itself when Smbat II captured the Shatik fortress belonging to the kingdom of Kars, after which the combined troops of King Mushegh of Kars (975-984) and David Curopalates of Tayk (961- 1000/1001) invaded the central province of Shirak and Smbat II was forced to return the fortress. However, this did not violate the seniority rights of Smbat II and, for example, in 984, when Abbas, the son of King Mushegh, ascended the throne in Kars, he asked for the consent of Smbat II.

During the reign of Smbat II, the Muslim emirates in Armenia were initially unstable and did not pose a threat to the kingdom of the Bagratids. The situation changed in the 980s, when they significantly intensified, began to interfere in the internal development of the kingdom, creating a significant threat to the central government of Ani and Vaspurakan.