Part II: deepening of the process of fragmentation of the Armenian kingdom

Arman S. Yeghiazaryan

In the 980s, important processes took place in the neighboring countries of Bagratid Armenia. The Middle Eastern regions of the significantly weakened Arab Caliphate were under the rule of the leaders of the Iranian peoples, who managed to capture Baghdad, conquer most of Mesopotamia and Syria, and approach Armenia from the south. At the same time, in the Byzantine Empire, which was at the peak of its power, the struggle for the throne sometimes resumed. Important processes also took place in Atrpatakan, where the Ravvadids, the rulers of Tabriz, were gradually gaining strength. A completely different situation developed in the Christian Transcaucasus, where such actors as the Abkhazian king Bagrat III (978-1014) and the Taik kurapalat David (961-1000) appeared.

During the reign of Smbat II Conqueror of the Universe (978-990), the process of feudal fragmentation deepened, which began during the reign of Ashot III the Merciful (953-978). In the late 970s and early 980s, kingdoms were created in Tashirk, Parisos and Syunik, as a result of which all more or less significant principalities within the kingdom of the Bagratids became kingdoms by the mid980s. Although all these new kingdoms continued to recognize the supremacy of the ruler of Ani, the unity of the state was seriously damaged.

At the same time, Byzantium, which, despite the uprisings, retained its power, being unable to directly interfere in the affairs of Armenia, tried to achieve its ambitious goals through local rulers. Among the latter, it is especially needed to mention the Taik kurapalat of David, to whom Byzantium granted vast provinces in the western and central parts of Armenia with the right to rule for life. Despite this, the viable and powerful Taik principality was condemned as an independent political entity, as David Kurapalat was eventually forced to bequeath the Taik empire. But before that, thanks to the territories received from Byzantium, he increased his military and economic capabilities and began to effectively intervene in the affairs of the Bagratid kingdom. In the end, a rather strong cooperation developed between the rulers of Taik and Ani, the result of which was the promotion of Bagrat III’s ascension to the throne in Abkhazia, and after the latter intended to march against David Kurapalat, forcing him to peace.

In the last years of his reign, Smbat II managed to stabilize the situation in the country, to some extent overcome the consequences of feudal fragmentation, and rally the local kings around him. As a result, according to Asoghik – the historiographer of the end of the 10th century, he was accompanied by success in internal and external affairs. The country was experiencing an economic upsurge, and Smbat II began to successfully expand the royal possessions in the direction of Syunik and the eastern regions of Armenia.

Although his father Ashot III the Merciful was buried in the Horomos monastery, Smbat II found his eternal rest in Ani. According to historian Asoghik, the king “… died and was buried in the same city (i.e., Ani – A. Ye.)”. The reason is that Ani, with its new and majestic appearance, was the work of Smbat II Lord of the Universe. It is no coincidence that the king ordered to bury him there. But it is not known in which part of Ani he was buried.