Friday, April 19, 2013

The mystery of Armenia

One of my friends, Noric Dilanchian, is Armenian. Over the years we have known each other, he has often Educated (lectured?) me on Armenia. Now this quote from Wikipeda, "the important role played in the history of Byzantium by that talented minority, the Armenians, has been generally unrecognised" may seem like special pleading, but there is a grain of truth to it.

This is a map of Armenia in Byzantine times. A brief comment follows the map. 


Despite all Noric's lecturing and my own writing on the Byzantine period, I do not have a firm historical picture of Armenia or the Armenians. Maybe it's time that I properly educated myself!


In a comment, Ramana pointed me to this Wikipedia entry on Armenians in India. From time to time I have written about the way location affects our view of the world. Growing up in a Western European/Australian/Greek-Roman centric view of the world, I was impressed by the way that Alexander the Great struck of east into the apparently unknown. We can see the same mind-set in classical or ancient history and the way it centres on Rome, Greece, and Egypt.

We tend to forget that between the Mediterranean sea and the Indian sub continent lay a series of big empires. If you look at the Persian invasions of what is now Greece, we (those with a Euro-centric view) see them as Persian invasions of Greece, a threat from the east. If you look at it from a Persian perspective, they were trying to tidy up on the eastern edge of their empire.

When Alexander headed off to India, he wasn't heading into the unknown, just the opposite. There were well travelled routes. To the Persians, I am using that phrase as a generic term to cover all state entities, what is now India was on the western edge of empire. Remote perhaps, but in world view.

To be worth a "history", you have to have an entity in which to centre the history. At a tiny parochial level, I write about my New England, a place that never existed in a formal sense. and is therefore not recognised. The Armenians are New England writ large. They had entities, but they are a people who generally always "belonged" to others, to the various larger bodies that controlled them.

Just interesting, that's all.  


Rummuser said...

You will not regret it. They are wonderful people and deserve much more recognition than they get.

Jim Belshaw said...

How interesting, Ramana. I will bring that link up as a post script.

Michael O'Rourke, Canberra said...

You are too kind about the Wikipedia author's remark that "the important role played in the history of Byzantium by that talented minority, the Armenians, has been generally unrecognised" . Crap! - Anyone who knows the slightest thing about Byzantium knows about "its" Armenians, including of course several of its emperors. The trouble is "our" ( = Latin Christian) almost wilful ignorance about that part of the 'Middle Ages' east of the Bosphoros.
Also, don't forget so-called Lesser Armenia, i.e. Cilicia.
Cheers. Michael O'R.

Jim Belshaw said...

You are right about that particular line, Michael. There seems to be a very strong desire among modern Armenians throughout the world to assert their identity. I agree, too, about Latin or Frankish blindness.

Thanks for the link on Cilicia. I had actually forgotten that particular piece of the jigsaw.

Noric Dilanchian said...

Jim, Arriving at my RSS feed after a week or more, I saw 12 or so Personal Reflections I'd not read yet. In light of Ramana's comment on the Armenians of India two points. First, the fact that two of my brothers and numerous relatives and friends were educated in Calcutta (as it was then known) due to the Armenian connection with India. Then, on the weekend my son smiled with excitement reading Eighty Days Around the World. Looking up from his iPad he read a passage referring to people in various types of garb in the streets of Bombay as it was then known. Some of them were "Armenians in long robes". I then lectured him too. :)

Jim Belshaw said...

Hi Noric. How interesting! Keep the lectures coming. You know that I need to be educated!