The Bulgars in Armenia - a key to the earliest Bulgarian history

The dynasty of the Bagratides and the Jewish connection

Now there remains nothing but to return back to the informations of Movses Horenaci. If F. Buzand is unanimously characterized by the researchers as being the historiographer of the Mamikonjans, in contrast M. Horenaci was the historiographer of the Bagratides. As a such he recorded very carefully the role the members of this clan played in the Armenian history. According to the legends and the historical evidence the clan of the Bagratides were ethnical Jews, and the latter cannot be suspected to lack the an idea of clan identification and historicity. It is probable that M. Horenaci utilized some informations about the Bagratides' clan, given to him by the commissioner of that study Sakhak Bagratuni and it is for certain that from the I c. BC the history of the Bagratides is a inseparable part of the Armenian history.

Let us now remark that if one forgets the exact date of a certain event but not the main details and its context, than this event could still maintain its correct place in the chronological (what happens after what?) series of events. ... What was this diversion about? As a rule, the passages in the Armenian historiography referring to the Bulgars occur next to these speaking about the Jewish presence in Armenia:

Valarshak was building a temple of the Sun, the Moon and the ancestors. He was urging Bagarat - the descendant of Shambat, to leave the Judaism and to worship the idols [b. II, 8]. Immediately after that comes the information about the Bulgar migration in Armenia and the story taken from Mar Abas Katina ends with the description of the following event. Under Arshak two of the sons of Bagarat were slain because they refused to worship the idols. The author calls them followers of Anani and Eleazar. The rest of the Bagratuni's clan agreed not to circumcise their children and to go to war and hunt during the Saturdays. Arshak also forbade the other nakharar clans to give wives to the Bagratides [book II, 10].

Later, during the reign of Tigran II there were more repressions against Jews. The Bagratides refused to make sacrifices to the idols, and Asud had his tongue cut. The rest agreed to eat from the meat of the sacrificed animals as well as pork but they did not agree to perform sacrifices. The king had them removed from the command of the army although they still enjoyed the privilege of wearing wreaths.

Jovannes Draskhanakertaci also links directly these (Bulgar and Jewish) informations. He reports that during the rule of Arshak some of the Jews living in the Land of the Bulgars, which was situated in the gorges of Caucasus, separated and settled at the foot of Kol. Two of them were subjected to tortures because they refused to worship idols and were slain.

The ethnical coexistence between Bulgars and Jews is recorded not by the Armenian historiography alone. Theophanes the Confessor says: On the eastern shores of the lake of Meotida (the Sea of Azov) behind (the town of) Phanagoria besides Jews live many other peoples. Behind this lake and above Kuphis (the river of Kuban) is situated the old Great Bulgaria, where the akin Bulgars and Kotrags live.

The reasons driving the Jewish migration towards Armenia and inside it are well described by the ancient authors and there are no big differences in the interpretations of the modern researchers. The legend says that the forefather of the Bagratides appeared in Armenia aa early as the time of the Babylonian exile. The legendary Armenian king Parujr (Khrachea) asked the Babylonian king to give him one of the captured Jews who was called Shambat, from whom came the Bagratides [21]. J. Draskhanakertaci also cites the evidence of Mar Abas Katina that Bagarat was from the clan of David. Leaving the legends aside, the facts are as follows.

The expansion of Armenia under Tigran II (95-55 BC) and its rise to the position of a third power in the Old World is recorded by almost all historians. Strabo tells us the following: He [Tigran II] became so string that he founded a city called Tigranakert and populated it with the inhabitants of the 12 Hellenic cities he laid waste on [Strabo, XI, 14:15]. Josephus Flavius provides more details: the Armenian king Tigran was besieging Cleopatra at Ptolemaida. She tried to dissuade him by pleas and presents but Tigran had to abandon the siege himself when Luculus attacked in Armenia [22]. Tigran the Great besieged Alexandra Salomea/Salina (76-67 BC), a daughter of Alexander Janai.

The captured Jews were settled at Armavir and Vardges. Movses Horenaci recorded these events in book II, 14, 16, 65 and book III, 65. Besides this there was another resettlement. According to Apian 300 000 people were taken by Artavazd II (55-33 BC) the son of Tigran the Great. J. Flavius also recorded the second event. The campaign against Palestine was a Parthian one, but Armenian troops joined it as allies. The preserved Armenian legend about Hyrcan II (63-40 BC) proves the Armenians participated in the campaign.

Another proof is the fact that the Hellenized Jews of Syria and Mesopotamia that had been been taken by Tigran II later adopted Christianity while the Palestinian Jews, taken by Artavazd II and settled in the region of Van, preserved their faith. According to I.A. Orbeli as late as the beginning of the XX c. the Van's peasantry regarded as Jews the citizens of Van. That second migration happened in 40 BC and is described by M. Horenaci in b. II, 19 and b. III, 35. F. Buzand had also recorded it [b. IV, 55]. The research done by G. Sarkisjan [23] made him propose that there were some smaller migrations even before the reign of Tigran II the Great. His argumentation is supported by the information of Apian that after the incorporation of Seleucid Syria by Armenia Bagarat was sent to rule there. This information is very important as it comes from a Roman and not Armenian historian. There is also an epigraphical evidence about a Jewish migration to the north. It is unanimously accepted by the historians that the first Jews who reached the lands to the north of the Black sea had travelled through the Caucasus. They used Greek as evident from the Inscriptions in Pantecapea, Anapa, Olbia, the oldest of which is from 42 AD. The composer of saint's lifes Epiphanius (end of VIII c.) even speaks about the visit of saint Andrew to the Jews of Sinope.

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21. Kalankatuaci M., Op. Cit., s, 24.

22. Flavij J., Judejskaja vojna, Minsk, 1991 g., I.5.3. s. 48.

23. Sarkisjan G., Tigranakert, M., 1960, s. 40.