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Lesser Armenia

Lesser Armenia (Armeniac Theme under the Byzantine Empire.


  • Geography 1
  • Initial history 2
    • Early history 2.1
    • Roman-Persian wars 2.2
  • Roman and Byzantine Lesser Armenia 3
  • Mongol and Ottoman influence 4
  • Episcopal sees 5
  • Later history 6
  • See also 7
  • Notes 8
  • References 9


Lesser Armenia (or Armenia Minor) was the portion of historic Armenia and the Armenian Highlands lying west and northwest of the river Euphrates. It received its name to distinguish it from the much larger eastern portion of historic Armenia—Greater Armenia (or Armenia Major).

Initial history

Lesser Armenia (in greenish yellow, near the Black Sea) at the end of the 2nd century BC, just before the Roman conquest

Early history

Prior to 4th century BC, the territory of Lesser Armenia was part of the ancient Armenian Kingdom, which was ruled by the royal dynasty of Orontids (Yervanduni, Armenian: Երուանդունի) and, in the mid 6th century BC, was subject to the Persian Achaemenid Empire, becoming administrated through the Satrapy of Armenia.

Following the campaigns of Alexander the Great in 330s BC, as the Persian Empire collapsed, Mithridates, a general of Greek-Persian ancestry of the Persian army, declared himself king known as the Kingdom of Pontus. As the kingdom grew in strength, it included Lesser Armenia well.

Roman-Persian wars

The Roman-Persian frontier and the Armenian provinces in the 5th century

Armenia was disputed kingdom between Rome and Parthia during the Roman-Persian Wars from 66 BC to the 2nd century AD. Roman influence was first established with Pompey's campaign of 66/65 BC, and again in 59 AD in the Roman–Parthian War campaign of Gnaeus Domitius Corbulo; which resulted in the deposition of Tiridates I.

Roman and Byzantine Lesser Armenia

All of Armenia became a Roman province in AD 114 under Roman emperor Trajan, but Roman Armenia was soon after abandoned by the legions in 118 AD and became a vassal kingdom. Romans lost Armenia again to Vologases IV of Parthia in AD 161. In 163, a Roman counter-attack under Statius Priscus once again installed a favoured candidate on the throne of Armenia, and Roman influence in Armenia remained until the Roman temporary defeat at the Battle of Barbalissos in 253. But a few years later, at the end of the 3rd century, Rome was again in control of Armenia and successively promoted the Christianization of all Armenia.

Lesser Armenia was reunited with the kingdom of Greater Armenia under the Arshakuni king Tiridates III in AD 287, until the temporary conquest of Shapur II in 337.

Then it was formed into a regular province under Diocletian, and in the 4th century, was divided in two provinces: First Armenia and Second Armenia.

Its population remained Armenian, but was being gradually Romanized. Since the 3rd century many Armenian soldiers were in the Roman army: later–in the 4th century–they made up two Roman legions, the Legio I Armeniaca and the Legio II Armeniaca.[3]

In 536, the emperor Justinian I reorganized the provincial administration, and First and Second Armenia were renamed Second and Third respectively, while some of their territory was split off to the other Armenian provinces.

The borders of the Byzantine part of Armenia were expanded in 591 into Persarmenia, but the region was the focus of decades of warfare between the Byzantines and the Persians (the Byzantine-Sassanid Wars) until the Arab conquest of Armenia in 639.

After this, the part of Lesser Armenia remaining under Byzantine control (in a lesser extent) became part of the theme of Armeniakon.

Mongol and Ottoman influence

After the downfall of Bagratid Armenia in 1045 and resulting subsequent losses of Byzantine Empire in the East in 1071 (after the Battle of Manzikert), Lesser Armenia fell to the Seljuks and then was parts of Mongol Empire for 92 years and Ottoman Empire for the entire duration of the latter's existence.

Between the 11th and 14th centuries the term Lesser Armenia (sometimes called "Little Armenia") was applied to the Armenian Kingdom of Cilicia, until the formation of Turkey in 1923.

Episcopal sees

Ancient episcopal sees of the Roman province of Armenia I listed in the Annuario Pontificio as titular sees:[4]

Ancient episcopal sees of the Roman province of Armenia II listed in the Annuario Pontificio as titular sees:[4]

For ancient episcopal sees of the Roman province of Armenia III, see Roman Armenia#Episcopal sees.

Later history

Lesser Armenia is traditionally considered as part of Western Armenia, especially after the acquisition of Eastern Armenia by the Russian Empire in the aftermath of the Russo-Persian War of 1826-1828.[5]

The Christian Armenian population of Lesser Armenia continued its existence in the area until the Armenian Genocide of 1915-23. Some Armenians still live in the area, albeit converted to muslim religion under Ottoman influence, mainly in the 17th century.[6]

See also


  1. ^ Adontz, Nicolas (1970). The Reform of Justinian Armenia (PDF). Lisbon: Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation. p. 311. 
  2. ^ "Kingdom of Greater Armenia".  
  3. ^ Legio II Armeniaca
  4. ^ a b Annuario Pontificio 2013 (Libreria Editrice Vaticana 2013 ISBN 978-88-209-9070-1), "Sedi titolari", pp. 819-1013
  5. ^ Timothy C. Dowling Russia at War: From the Mongol Conquest to Afghanistan, Chechnya, and Beyond pp 729 ABC-CLIO, 2 dec. 2014 ISBN 1598849484
  6. ^ Armenian History and Presence in Hemşin


  • Bert Vaux, Hemshinli: The Forgotten Black Sea Armenians, Harvard University, 2001.
  • Mack Chahin, The Kingdom of Armenia: A History, Routledge, London, 2001. (ISBN 0-7007-1452-9)
  • Robert H. Hewsen, Armenia: A Historical Atlas, University Of Chicago Press, 2000. (ISBN 0-226-33228-4)

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