The territory in which the Armenians lived together for a time never was ruled by them as an independent, sovereign state. This territory was ruled by others from the earliest times from which there is evidence that Armenians lived there. From 521 to 344 B.C. it was a province of Persia. From 334 to 215 B.C. it was part of the Macedonian Empire. From 215 to 190 B.C. it was controlled by the Selephkites. From 190 until 220 A.D. it frequently changed hands between the Roman Empire and the Parthians. From 220 until the start of the fifth century it was a Sassanian province, and from then until the seventh century it belonged to Byzantium. From the seventh to the tenth centuries it was controlled by the Arabs. It returned again to Byzantine rule in the tenth century and, finally, it came under the domination of the Turks starting in the eleventh century.
The Armenians living in this territory who remained under the rule of these various empires, could not continuously maintain any sort of independent or unified Armenian state. At the most, a few Armenian noble families dominated certain districts as feudal vassals of the neighboring imperial suzerains, serving as buffers between the powerful empires that surrounded them. Most of these Armenian "principalities" were, thus, simply set up by local Armenian nobles within their own feudal dominions, or by the neighboring empires, who in this way secured their military services against their enemies. The best example of this was the Baghratid family, long brought forward by Armenian nationalist historians as an example of their historic independent existence, which was in fact put in charge of its territory by the Arab Caliphs. Some of the "Armenian" families which assumed the title of principality at this time were, moreover, really Persian rather than Armenian in origin. That they did not constitute any sort of independent nation is shown in the statement of the Armenian historian Kevork Asian:
"The Armenians lived as local notables. They had no feeling of national unity. There were no political bonds or ties among them. Their only attachments were to the neighboring notables. Thus whatever national feelings they had were local."
These Armenian principalities existed for centuries under the control of various great empires and states, often changing sides to secure maximum advantage, and thus earning for Armenians often caustic and critical remarks from contemporary historians, as for example the Roman historian Tacitus, who in his Annalium liber wrote: "The Armenians change their position relating to Rome and the Persian Empire, sometimes supporting one and sometimes the other", concluding that they are "a strange people."
It was as a result of these conditions, and then, the Armenians' lack of unity and strength, their very failure to create a real state, their weakness in relation to their neighbors, the fact that the territory in which they lived was the scene of constant conflict among their more powerful suzerains from all sides, that they often were deported, or moved voluntarily, from the lands where they first lived when they appeared in history. Thus when they fled from the Persians they settled in the area ofKayseri, in Central Anatolia. They were deported by the Sassanians into central Iran, by the Arabs into Syria and the Arabian Peninsula, by the Byzantines into Central Anatolia and to Istanbul, Thrace, Macedonia, Bulgaria, Rumania, Hungary, Transylvania and the Crimea. During the Crusades, they went to Cyprus, Crete and Italy. In flight from the Mongols they settled in Kazan and Astrakhan in Central Asia, and finally, they were subsequently deported by the Russians from the Crimea and the Caucasus into the interior of Russia. As a result of these centuries-long deportations and migrations, then, the Armenians were widely scattered from Sicily to India and from the Crimea to Arabia, thus forming what they call "the Armenian diaspora" centuries before they were deported by the Ottomans in 1915.
The Armenians broke away from the Byzantine church in 451,150 years after they accepted Christianity, leading to long centuries of Armenian-Byzantine clashes which went on until the Turks settled in Anatolia starting in the late 11th century, with the Byzantines working to wipe out the Armenians and eliminate the Armenian principalities in order to maintain Greek Orthodoxy throughout their dominions. Contemporary Armenian historians report in great detail how the Byzantines deported Armenians as well as using them against enemy forces in the vanguard of the Byzantine armies. As a result of this, when the Seljuk Turks started flooding into Anatolia starting in the late llth century, they did not encounter any Armenian principalities; the only force remaining to resist them was that of Byzantium.
The Seljuk ruler Alparslan captured the lands of the Armenian Principality ofAni in 1064, but it had previously been brought to an end by the Byzantine in 1045, nineteen years earlier, with Greeks being brought in to replace the Armenians who had been deported. It is therefore false to claim that the Seljuk Turks destroyed any Armenian principality, let alone a state. This already had been done by the Byzantines, and it was in fact the social and economic ferment that resulted which greatly facilitated the subsequent Turkish settlement. Contemporary Armenian historians interpret this Turkish conquest of Anatolia to have constituted their liberation from the long centuries of Byzantine misrule and oppression. The Armenian historian Asoghik thus reports that "Because of the Armenians' enmity toward Byzantium, they welcomed the Turkish entry into Anatolia and even helped them." The Armenian historian Mathias of Edessa likewise relates that the Armenians rejoiced and celebrated publicly when the Turks conquered his city, Edessa (today's Urfa).
An Armenian principality did arise in Cilicia starting in 1080 but it was the result, not of the Turkish settlement in Anatolia, as has been claimed, but, rather, of the Byzantine destruction of the last Armenian principalities in eastern Anatolia, which caused a flood of Armenians fleeing into Cilicia. This principality maintained good relations with the Turks even as it provided assistance to the Crusaders who passed through its territory on their way to the Holy Land, while accepting the suzerainty, first of Byzantium, and then after it declined, of the Crusader Kingdoms, the Mongols, and, finally, the Catholic Lusignan family which gained control of Cyprus. This sort of relationship with "unbelievers^, however, displeased the Gregorian Armenian Church, with the resulting internal divisions playing a significant role in the Principality's conquest by the Mamluks of Syria and Egypt in 1375. In the end, the most significant consequence of this last Armenian principality was the establishment of a separate Armenian church from the one centered at Echmiadzin, which added to the internal divisions within Armenian Orthodoxy which remain important to the present day.
Thus, when eastern Anatolia was conquered by Fatih Mehmet II and Yavuz Sultan Selim I, it was taken from the White Sheep Turkomans and from the Safavids of Iran, who had occupied it after the Byzantines had retired; while Yavuz Selim took Cilicia from the Mamluks. MIn no case, therefore, did the Ottoman Turks conquer or occupy an existing Armenian state or principality. In every case, these Armenians had previously been conquered by peoples other than the Turks.
ASLAN, Kevork, L'Armenie et les Armeniens, Istanbul, 1914.