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Armenians On Gold Coins Of The Byzantine Empire

The Byzantine Empire, also called the Eastern Roman Empire or Byzantium, was the continuation of the Roman Empire in its eastern provinces during Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages. The capital of Byzantium was Constantinople.

Byzantium survived the fragmentation and fall of the Western Roman Empire in the 5th century AD and continued to exist for another thousand years. In 1453, Byzantium finally fell under the blows of the Ottoman Turks. For most of its existence, the empire was the most powerful economic, cultural and military force in Europe.

Although Armenia was only a part of the Byzantine Empire, many Armenians became extremely successful during its existence. Armenians were represented in all spheres of Byzantine life: from bishops, architects, generals and even emperors.

Below are some examples of gold coins of Byzantine emperors, commanders and generals that were of full or partial Armenian origin, confirmed by at least 3 or more sources.

Armenians on gold coins of the Byzantine Empire
Maurice (ruled 582-602). The outstanding Armenian commander Maurice successfully fought against the Sasanian Empire. Under him, the eastern border of the Byzantine Empire in the South Caucasus expanded significantly. Maurice also waged an active campaign in the Balkans against the Avar Khaganate, pushing them back across the Danube. Maurice also made the first real attempt to stop the advance of the Lombards in Italy. As a result, Byzantine troops were able to hold the line of the Danube. Meanwhile, Maurice was making plans to populate the devastated territories in the Balkans with the help of Armenian settlers.
Armenians on gold coins of the Byzantine Empire
Heraclius (ruled 610-641). Heraclius was the eldest son of Heraclius the Elder and Epiphanius, from a family of Armenian origin in the Arsacid dynasty of Cappadocia. Heraclius drove the Persians out of Asia Minor and invaded deep into their territory, decisively defeating them in 627 at the Battle of Nineveh. Thus, peaceful relations were restored between the two deeply strained empires. After the victory, Heraclius took the title “King of Kings”. Later, starting from 629, he called himself Basileus, which means “Ruler” in Greek. The reason Heraclius chose this title over previous Roman terms such as Augustus is due to its Armenian origin.
Armenians on gold coins of the Byzantine Empire
Myzisios (ruled 668-669). Mizisios (Armenian: Mzhezh) was an Armenian nobleman who served as a general in Byzantium, later usurping the Byzantine throne in Sicily from 668 to 669.
Armenians on gold coins of the Byzantine Empire
Philippicos Bardanes (ruled 711-713). Philip was originally called Bardan (Armenian: Vardan). He was the son of the patrician Nicephorus, an Armenian by origin from the Armenian colony in Pergamon. Among his first acts was the deposition of the orthodox Patriarch Cyrus of Constantinople in favor of John VI, a member of his own sect, and the convening of a council of eastern bishops that abolished the canons of the Sixth Ecumenical Council.
Armenians on gold coins of the Byzantine Empire
Artabasdos (ruled 741-743). Artavasdos or Artabasdos (from Armenian: Artavazd) was a Byzantine general of Armenian origin who seized the throne in June 741. Emperor Anastasius II appointed the Armenian Artabasdos as the viceroy of the Armenian Theme (Theme Armeniakon), the successor of the Army of Armenia, located in Lesser Armenia with its capital in Amasey. After the fall of Anastasius, Artabasdos made an agreement with his colleague Leo, ruler of the Anatolic Theme, to overthrow the new emperor Theodosius III. This agreement was sealed by the engagement of Leo's daughter Anna to Artabasdos, and the marriage took place after Leo III's accession to the throne in March 717. In June 741 or 742, after the accession to the throne of Leo's son Constantine V, Artabasdos decided to seize the throne. He captured Constantinople with popular support and became emperor. Shortly after his accession to the throne, Artabasdos crowned his wife Anna as Augusta, and his son Nicephorus as co-ruler, and appointed his other son Niketas in charge of the Theme of Armenia.
Armenians on gold coins of the Byzantine Empire
Leo V of Armenia (ruled 813-820). Leo was the son of the patrician Bard (Armenian Vardan), who was of Armenian origin. Leo became the viceroy of the Anatolian Theme and performed well in the war against the Arabs in 812, defeating the forces of the Filikian Tughur under the command of Tabit ibn Nasr. Leo V put an end to the ten-year war with the Bulgarians and marked the beginning of the second period of Byzantine iconoclasm.
Armenians on gold coins of the Byzantine Empire
Michael III (ruled 842-867). Michael III was the third and traditionally last member of the Amorian (or Phrygian) dynasty. Michael III played a vital role in the revival of Byzantine power in the 9th century, and his main achievement was the Christianization of Bulgaria. Michael III took an active part in the wars against the Abbasids and their vassals on the eastern frontier, especially in 857 when he sent an army of 50,000 men against Emir Umar al-Aqta of Melitene. In 859, he personally led the siege of Samosata, but in 860 he had to abandon the expedition in order to repel an attack by the Rus on Constantinople. Under the leadership of Patriarch Photius, Michael sponsored the mission of Saints Cyril and Methodius to the Khazar Khagan to stop the spread of Judaism among the Khazars. Although this mission failed, their next mission in 863 ensured the conversion of Great Moravia, and developed the Glagolitic script for writing the Slavic language, which allowed Slavic-speaking peoples to approach conversion to Orthodox Christianity through their own language rather than a foreign one. The mother of Michael III, Theodora, wife of Theophilus, was of Armenian origin.
Armenians on gold coins of the Byzantine Empire
Basil I (ruled 867-886). Born a simple peasant in the Macedonian Theme, he grew up at the imperial court. Earned the attention of Michael III for his abilities as a horse tamer and his victory over the champion of Bulgaria in a wrestling match. Soon he became a comrade, confidant and bodyguard of the Byzantine emperor. During the reign of Basil, a carefully developed genealogy was compiled, which stated that his ancestors were not simple peasants, as everyone believed, but the descendants of the Arshakid (Arshakuni) kings of Armenia. The historians Samuel of Ani and Stefan of Taron write that he was from the village of Til in Taron. Basil I became an efficient and respected monarch, reigning for 19 years despite being a man with no formal education and little military or administrative experience. During his reign, Basil relied heavily on the support of Armenians who held prominent positions in the Byzantine Empire.
Armenians on gold coins of the Byzantine Empire
Roman I Lakapenos (ruled 913-959). Roman Lakapenos, born in Lakapa between Melitene and Samosata (hence the name), was the son of an Armenian peasant with the wonderful name Theophylact the Intolerable. The first four years of Roman's reign were spent in war against Bulgaria, resulting in a 40-year peace with Bulgaria and an alliance with the Serbs. Romanus was also able to effectively put down rebellions in several provinces of the empire, especially in Chaldia, the Peloponnese, and Southern Italy. The capture of Melitene is often considered the first major recovery of Byzantine territory from the Muslims. The Khazars were allies of the Byzantines until the reign of Roman, when he began to persecute the Jews of the empire. The Khazar ruler Joseph responded to the persecution of the Jews by the destruction of many Christians, and Roman in response turned Oleg Novgorodsky against Khazaria.
Armenians on gold coins of the Byzantine Empire
Nikephoros II Phokas (ruled 963-969). His brilliant military exploits contributed to the revival of the Byzantine Empire in the 10th century. Under his rule, relations with the Bulgarians deteriorated. It is likely that he bribed Kievan Rus to raid the Bulgarians in retaliation for not blocking the Magyars. This break in relations provoked the decline of Byzantine-Bulgarian diplomacy for decades and was a precursor to wars between the Bulgarians and the later Byzantine emperors. Nikephoros led an army of 40,000 that conquered Cilicia and raided Upper Mesopotamia and Syria. According to some scholars, Nikephoros was partly of Armenian origin.
Armenians on gold coins of the Byzantine Empire
John I Tzimiskes (ruled 969-976). An intuitive and successful general, he strengthened the Empire and expanded its borders during his short reign. John I Tzimiskes was born into the Kurkuas clan, a family of Armenian origin. Scholars suggest that his nickname “Tzimiskes” comes from the Armenian word “Chmushkik” (Չմշկիկ), meaning “red boot”, or from the Armenian word meaning “low stature”. A more favorable explanation is offered by the medieval Armenian historian Matthew of Edessa, who claims that Tzimiskes was from the area of Khozan, from the area now called Chmushkatsag. Khozan was located in the Pagnatun region, in the Byzantine province of Fourth Armenia (Sofena). He appears to have entered the army at an early age, initially under the command of his maternal uncle Nikephoros Phocas. Partly due to his family connections and partly due to his personal ability, Tzimiskes quickly rose through the ranks. He received political and military leadership of the Armenian Theme before he was twenty-five years old. Tzimiskes distinguished himself during the war, both on the side of his uncle and in the leading parts of the army that fought under his personal command, as, for example, at the Battle of Raban in 958. He enjoyed great popularity among his troops and gained a reputation as a victor.