The ideological foundations of royal sovereignty in the Bagratid Armenia

Ruben L. Manasserian
The coronation rite of the Bagratids went through a series of stages that marked the evolution of ideas about royal power as divine institution. Ashot I Bagratid was proclaimed king at a meeting of the highest nobility, i.e., in the adoption of the royal title, the priority was the collective will – a secular act, as an expression of divine will. In the year of 885 Ashot I Bagratid was crowned with the participation of the catholicos, who personally placed the crown on him and gave his blessing. The participation of the highest church hierarchy in the act of coronation conveyed a character of a supreme divine sanction to the investiture. In the year 961 Ashot III the Merciful introduced the rite of anointing in the coronation which meant the consecration of the power and personality of the king, endowing him with God-sent grace (Holy Spirit).

According to church ideas, the king – the anointed of God, was elevated to the rank of a sacred mediator between God and the people. The introduction of the rite of anointing in the coronation by the Bagratids also had external political goals – it was directed against the great-power encroachments of the Byzantine emperors, who monopolized the right to bear the title of Basileus. Byzantium recognized only the title of archon (prince) for the Armenian monarch. Based on this fact, a view was expressed in science by K. N. Yuzbashyan, that the Bagratids, in accordance with the great-power position of Byzantium, equated their title of king with the title of archon, in other words, calling themselves kings, they meant themselves princes. This view does not find confirmation in the rite of anointing of the monarch. Borrowing it from the Bible, Ashot III the Merciful asserted his title of king as identical to that of King David. In the justification of the right of the Bagratids to the rite of anointing, as early as the beginning of the 10th century a legend was put forward about their origin from the family of the biblical David. The origins of this legend are rooted in the history of Moses of Khoren on the conversion of prince Bagarat – the ancestor of the Bagratids into Judaism in the II c. AD.