Mamikonian or Mamikonean (Classical Armenian: Մամիկոնեան;
reformed orthography: Մամիկոնյան; Western Armenian
pronunciation: Mamigonian) was an aristocratic dynasty which dominated
Armenian politics between the 4th and 8th century. They ruled the
Armenian regions of Taron, Sasun,
Bagrevand and others. Their patron
saint was Saint Hovhannes Karapet (John the Baptist) whose monastery
of the same name (also known as Glak) they fiercely defended against
2 Early history
4 See also
6 Further reading
7 External links
The origin of the Mamikonians is shrouded in the mists of antiquity.
Moses of Chorene
Moses of Chorene in his
History of Armenia
History of Armenia (5th century) claims that
three centuries earlier two noblemen of "Chem" (Arm. "Ճեմ"; plur.
"Ճեմք") origin (which is speculated to mean probably Chinese
origin), Mamik and Konak, rose against their half-brother, Chenbakir,
the king of Chenk (which possibly refers to China). They were defeated
and fled to the king of
Parthia who, braving the Emperor's demands to
extradite the culprits, sent them to live in Armenia, where Mamik
became the progenitor of the Mamikonians.
Another 5th-century Armenian historian, Pavstos Buzand, seconded the
story. In his History of Armenia, he twice mentions that the
Mamikonians descended from the
Han Dynasty of
China and as such were
not inferior to the Arshakid rulers of Armenia. This genealogical
legend may have been part of an agenda by the Bagratid dynasty of
Armenia to take away the legitimacy off the
Although it echoes the Bagratids' claim of Davidic descent and the
Artsruni's claim of the royal Assyrian ancestry, some Armenian
historians tended to interpret it as something more than a piece of
genealogical mythology. A theory from the 1920s postulated that the
Chenk mentioned in the Armenian sources were not Han-Chinese but
probably from a different Iranian-speaking ethnic group from
Transoxania, such as the
Tocharians in Northwest China. Edward
Gibbon in his The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire
also believed that the founder of
Mamikonian clan was not Han-Chinese
but merely from the territory of the Chinese Empire and ascribes a
Scythian origin to Mamgon stating that at the time the borders of the
Chinese Empire reached as far west as Sogdiana.
Another reconstruction, similar to the previous ones but without
references whatsoever to distant China, has that the family originally
immigrated from Bactriana (present northern Afghanistan) under the
reign of Tiridates II of Armenia, likely coinciding with the
accession of the
Sassanids in Iran.
More recent theories, however, suggests that the "Chank" are to be
identified either with the Tzans, a tribe in the southern Caucasus, or
with a Central Asian group living near the
Syr Darya river.
The Expansion of the House of Mamikonian.
Mamikonian illustration in 1898 book «Illustrated
Vardan Mamikonian leading
Armenians in the
Battle of Vartanantz
Battle of Vartanantz (451).
The family first appears in the early 4th century. Under the late
Arsacid Kingdom of Armenia, the family occupied an important position:
they were hereditary commanders-in-chief (sparapet) and royal tutors
(dayeak) and controlled large domains, including most of Taron and
Mamikonian increased their property further with the death
of the last hereditary Patriarch of Armenia, Isaac in ca. 428, when
they inherited many Church lands through the marriage of his only
daughter to Hamazasp Mamikonian.
The first known Mamikonid lord, or nakharar, about whom anything
certain is known was a certain Vatche
Mamikonian (fl. 330-339).
The family reappears in chronicles in 355, when the bulk of their
lands lay in the province of Tayk. At that point the family chief was
Vassak Mamikonian, who was the sparapetof Armenia. Later, the office
of sparapet would become hereditary possession of the Mamikonians.
Vassak Mamikonian was in charge of the Armenian defense against Persia
but was eventually defeated through the treachery of Merujan Artsruni
Following the defeat, Vassak's brother
Vahan Mamikonian and multiple
other feudal lords defected to the Persian side. The Emperor Valens,
however, interfered in Armenian affairs and had the office of sparapet
bestowed on Vassak's son
Mushegh I Mamikonian in 370. Four years later
Varasdates (Varazdat), a new king, confirmed Mushegh in office. The
latter was subsequently assassinated on behest of Sembat
replaced him as sparapet' of Armenia.
On this event, the family leadership passed to Mushegh's brother,
Manuel Mamikonian, who had been formerly kept as a hostage in Persia.
The Mamikonids at once broke into insurrection and routed Varasdates
Saharuni at Karin. Emmanuel, together with his sons Hemaiak and
Artches, took the king prisoner and put him in a fortress, whence
Varasdates escaped abroad. Zarmandukht, the widow of Varasdates'
predecessor, was then proclaimed queen. Emmanuel came to an agreement
with the powerful Sassanids, pledging his loyalty in recompense for
their respect of the Armenian autonomy and laws.
Upon the queen's demise in 384,
Manuel Mamikonian was proclaimed
Armenia pending the minority of her son Arsaces III and had
the infant king married to his daughter Vardandukht. It was Manuel's
death in 385 that precipitated the country's conquest by the Persians
Mamikonian was recorded as the family leader in 393. His wife
is known to have been Sahakanoush, daughter of Patriarch Isaac the
Great. She was a descendant of the Arsacid Kings and Saint Gregory the
Illuminator. They had a son, Vardan Mamikonian, who is revered as one
of the greatest military and spiritual leaders of ancient Armenia.
After Vardan became sparapet in 432, the Persians summoned him to
Ctesiphon. Upon his return home in 450, Vardan repudiated the Persian
(Zoroastrian) religion and instigated a great Armenian rebellion
against their Sassanian overlords. Although he died in the doomed
Battle of Avarayr
Battle of Avarayr also known as
Battle of Vartanantz
Battle of Vartanantz (451), the
continued insurrection led by Vahan Mamikonian, the son of Vartan's
brother, resulted in the restoration of Armenian autonomy with the
Nvarsak Treaty (484), thus guaranteeing the survival of Armenian
statehood in later centuries. Vardan is venerated as a saint and
commemorated by many churches in
Armenia and an equestrian statue in
After the country's subjugation by the Persians, the Mamikonians often
sided with the Eastern Roman Empire, with many family members entering
Byzantine service, most notably Vardan II
Mamikonian in the late 6th
century after his failed revolt against Persia.
Arab conquest of Armenia
Arab conquest of Armenia in the late 7th century, the power
Mamikonian began to decline, especially relative to their great
rivals, the Bagratids.
Grigor Mamikonian led a rebellion against Arab
rule but was defeated and forced to flee to Byzantium in ca. 748.
By 750, the Mamikonians had lost Taron, Khelat, and Mouch to the
Bagratids. In the 770s, the family was led by Artavizd Mamikonian,
then by Mushegh IV
Mamikonian (+772) and by Samuel II. The latter
married his daughter to Smbat VII Bagratuni, constable of Armenia. His
Ashot Msaker ("the Carnivorous") became forefather of
Bagratid rulers of
Armenia and Taron.
The final death-blow to the family's power came in the mid-770s, with
the defeat and death of
Mushegh VI Mamikonian at the Battle of
Bagrevand against the Abbasids. In its aftermath, Mushegh's two sons
took refuge in
Vaspurakan and were murdered by Merouzhan II Artsruni,
and his daughter was married off to Djahap al-Qais, a tribal chief who
Armenia and seized part of the former
Mamikonian lands and
legalized it by marrying the daughter of Mushegh VI, the last living
Mamikonian prince. This marriage created the Kaysite dynasty centered
in Manzikert, the most powerful Muslim Arab emirate in Armenia, and
thus ending the main
Mamikonian line in Armenia. Only secondary lines
of the family survived thereafter, both in
Transcaucasia and in
Byzantium. Even in their homeland of Tayk, they were succeeded by
the Bagratids. One Kurdik
Mamikonian was recorded as ruling
800. Half a century later,
Grigor Mamikonian lost
Bagrevand to the
Muslims, reconquered it in the early 860s and then lost it to the
Bagratids for good. After that, the Mamikonians pass out of history.
After their disastrous uprising of 774–775, some of the Mamikonian
princes moved to the Georgian lands. The latter-day Georgian feudal
houses of the Liparitids-Orbeliani and
Tumanishvili are sometimes
surmised to have been descended from those princes.
Several scholars—most notably
Cyril Toumanoff and Nicholas
Adontz—have suggested a
Mamikonian origin for a number of leading
Byzantine families and individuals, beginning with the usurper Phocas
in the early 7th century, emperor Philippikos Bardanes, the general
Artabasdos in the mid-8th century, and the families of men
like Alexios Mosele or Empress Theodora and her brothers
Petronas in the 9th century. However, as the Armenian historian N.
Garsoïan comments, "[a]ttractive though it is, this thesis cannot be
proven for want of sources".
Armenian medal representing Vartan Mamikonian
The history of Mamikonians in the
Early Middle Ages
Early Middle Ages is quite obscure.
In the period between 655 and 750 they are not documented at all. What
follows below is their reconstructed genealogy between the 5th and 7th
Hamazasp I Mamikonian, married to Sahankanoysh of Armenia
1. Vardan I (+451) (saint)
Shushanik (+472) (saint)
2. Hmayeak I (+452)
2.2.2. Vardan II
126.96.36.199. Mamak (fl. 590)
188.8.131.52. Mushegh II (+c. 593)
184.108.40.206.1. Kahan Gail (fl. 592-604)
220.127.116.11.1.1. Smbat the Valiant (fl. 604)
18.104.22.168.1.1.1. Mushegh III (+636)
22.214.171.124.126.96.36.199. Grigor I (fl. 650)
188.8.131.52.184.108.40.206. Hamazasp II (fl. 655)
The necropolis of the
Mamikonian family was at the 4th century Saint
Karapet Monastery (also known as the monastery of Glak) in the
mountains directly northwest of the plain of Mush in Taron.
Battle of Avarayr
Sophie Audouin-Mamikonian, French pretender to the throne of the
Ancient Kingdom of Armenia.
^ Mamikonean, John (1985), "Translator's Preface", in Robert
Bedrosian, History of Taron, New York "Archived copy". Archived
from the original on December 15, 2005. Retrieved 2005-12-15. CS1
maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link)
^ H. Skold, "L'Origine des Mamiconiens", Revue des etudes armeniennes
(1925) pp. 134-35.
^ Edward Gibbon, The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman
Empire:Chapter XIII, Part II, Reign of Diocletian and This Three
^ Vahan M. Kurkjian, A History of Armenia, Armenian General Benevolent
Union of America 1958: Chapter XVII The Arsacids (Arshakunis) of
^ a b c d e f Garsoïan, Nika (1991). "Mamikonean". In Kazhdan,
Alexander. The Oxford Dictionary of Byzantium. Oxford University
Press. pp. 1278–1279. ISBN 978-0-19-504652-6.
Mamikonian illustration in 1898 book «Illustrated Armenia
and Armenians» 
^ Toumanoff, Cyril. "The Mamikonids and the Liparitids", Armeniaca
(Venice, 1969), pp. 125-137.
Mamikonean, John (1985), Robert Bedrosian, ed., History of Taron, New
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