Gagik II of Armenia

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Gagik II Bagratuni
King of Ani
Reign 1042–1045
Coronation 1042
Born c. 1025
Died 1080
Place of death Caesarea Mazaca
Predecessor Ashot IV
Royal House Bagrotouni.svgBagratuni
Father Ashot IV

Gagik II (Armenian: Գագիկ Բ) (born c.1025) was the last Armenian King of Bagratuni dynasty. Known as Gagik II King of Ani (Ani being the capital of the kingdom at the time), a juvenile at the time, he was enthroned as Gagik II and ruled for a brief period from 1042 to 1045 before the Bagratid dynasty rule collapsed in Armenia.

Historical background[edit]

During the reign of Hovhannes-Smbat III (John-Smbat), a feudal lord, David, who owned Taik during his battles against the Muslims, gained a large area which stretched all the way to Manzikert. David was a subject of Byzantium and when he died his entire territory was occupied by Basil II, who had resumed the policy of, bit by bit, annexing Armenia to his empire.

This policy of occupation and expansion was also pursued by the successors of Basil II. By the death of Hovhannes-Smbat III around 1040, Michael V, one of the successors of Basil II, was the emperor cornering Armenia. Michael claimed that the Kingdom of Ani by virtue of the will of Smbat III, was bequeathed to the Byzantine Empire upon his death.

When the Armenian sparapet, Vahram Pahlavouni, prepared the coronation of the successor to Smbat III, king's nephew Gagik II who at that time was only fourteen years old, the Byzantine emperor began supporting a rebel, Vest Sarkis, an Armenian pro-Byzantine prince of and minister of the former King who took over the city of Ani with Byzantine support. After this the Kingdom of Ani resisted three assaults of the Byzantine Empire, forcing them to retreat. Byzantium exerted its forces to the outmost in order to conquer Armenia and once and for all annexing it to the empire. To this end, they sent a great army to the southern part of Armenia and at the same time convinced the Albanian king to attack Armenia from the east. At the fierce battle that was fought by the walls of Ani, general Vahram Pahlavuni heavily defeated the Byzantine army, forcing them to leave 20,000 dead behind. This victory allowed Vahram Pahlavuni along with Catholicos Petros Guedadarts to crown Gagik II king of Armenia and subsequently take the fortress of Ani, which was in the hands of Vest Sarkis. Sarkis ran away to the fortress of St. Mary and was eventually captured.

After this great victory, the new Armenian king, together with Vahram, turned towards their second enemy, the Seljuq Turks, who were still intent on conquering the kingdom. In the following two years Gagik reinforced the army and fought against Seljuq hordes. Gregory Pahlavuni nephew of Vahram, defended the fortress of Bjni. The Armenian army hurried to confront the enemy at the location of the present-day lake Sevan, where the king and his commander split the Armenian army into two units. The first division engaged in a battle with the Seljuq Turks and then pretended to run away, drawing the Turks in pursuit toward the second army, that was lying in ambush. The battle ended with a catastrophic defeat for the Seljuq Turks. This defeat of the Turks resounded as a cry for unification across the Armenian feudal Kingdoms. In the Kingdom of Vaspurakan, formerly under the protection of the Byzantine Empire where the population had been deserted by the imperial army, the people eagerly anticipated the Armenian king would be driving the Seljuq Turks out of their homeland. Under leadership of Gagik II, known for his courage as the Lion, the Armenians revolted and the Turks were forced to retreat to Khoy and Salmas.

Betrayal and exile[edit]

Vahram began negotiations with the new Byzantine emperor Constantine IX Monomachus. Gagik II offered to be a vassal of the emperor, but the Byzantines did not accept it and prepared a new expedition entrusted to the Duke of Iberia, Michael Iasites, but he failed in the face of Armenian resistance. Emperor Constantine wished to continue the policy of his predecessors and therefore sent an army to conquer Armenia, whilst inciting the Arab emir of Dvin, Aboul Asvar, to attack Armenia from the east. King Gagik II, however, managed to placate Aboul Asvar by sending him gifts. This allowed Gagik to concentrate his forces against the Byzantines, eventually forcing them to flee. Thus, King Gagik II proved he was worthy of the throne and the reputation of fighting king, which had passed on to him from the very first kings in the Bagratuni dynasty. The Byzantines soon realised that that if Armenia could not be conquered by force, it could be taken by treachery. Gagik II made the severe mistake of forgiving Vest Sarkis for his crime of high treason against the crown. The traitor was still a loyal subject of Byzantium, constantly fostering the naive hope of being appointed as king of Armenia if Byzantium was to conquer Armenia. With the assistance of Vest Sarkis, the Byzantine emperor invited Gagik II to Constantinople to sign an allegedly permanent peace-treaty. Gagik II was lured into the trap and went to Constantinople. There the emperor demanded that the Armenian king abdicate and hand over the throne to him, and since Gagik II refused to do so he was thrown into jail. The Byzantines promptly sent an army to Armenia, which was now leaderless. In lieu of its rightful king, Armenians considered offering the throne of Ani to David Anholin of Lori or to the emir of Dwin, Abul Uswar, married to the sister of David Anholin. Even Bagrat IV of Georgia was considered but surprisingly not the Bagratuni King Gagik-Abas of Kars. The patriarch Petros did not approve of any of the three candidates and finally conceded the delivery to the Byzantines of the city of Ani and other fortresses. With help from the treachery of Catholicos Petros, the Byzantines were finally able to occupy Ani in 1045. The country was immediately inaugurated as a province in the empire. Not satisfied with the extinction of the political life of the greatest of the Armenian kingdoms, the Byzantine clergy insisted upon converting Armenians to the Greek Orthodox faith. Meanwhile Armenia was economically at the mercy of the imperial functionaries sent from the capital, who crushed the population under the burden of heavy taxes. The Armenian nobility, a favorite subject of persecution, suffered the heaviest losses through systematic purges by the imperial authorities. The only parts of Armenia to continue their independent existence were the kingdom of Kars, which managed to maintain its independence for a couple decades longer, and the kingdom of Lori, which thanks to its geographical position was more secure and continued its independence for another century. By destroying the government of the Bagratuni Armenian Kingdom of Ani, the Byzantines had also removed the only power which could, perhaps, withstand a full scale Seljuq invasion. By itself, Byzantium could not summon the same level of defense that Armenia had managed to concentrate in order to hold off the Seljuqs. Alfred Rambaud express the following on this matter: "The Byzantine occupation of Armenia resulted in catastrophic consequences for both sides, since the empire lost its natural link through which it was connected to the East. Up to that point the Armenians had managed to withstand all assaults, but when Armenia lost its royal dynasty, everything else was lost as well."

Final years[edit]

Gagik received as compensation for his Kingdom the district of Lycandus in Asia Minor and the town of Bizou, in the vicinity of Caesarea. He was also granted the use of a palace on the Bosphorus in Constantinople and a pension from the Imperial treasury. Several seals testify Kakikios Aniotes (Gagik of Ani) as duke of the thema of Charsianon. Michael Iasites, duke of Iberia was entrusted with the government of Ani. Sarkis went in the service of Bagrat IV of Georgia. The Bishop of Caesarea, named Marcus, lost no occasion to express his scorn towards Gagik whom he considered a heretic. After several insults by Marcus directed against him, Gagik eventually murdered the Bishop, an act that made Gagik even more unpopular among the locals. As the story goes, it is said the Bishop had a dog named Armenen, so as to scorn the Armenians. One day, Gagik visited the Bishop, had the dog put in a canvas bag and beat with sticks. He then had the Bishop seized and placed in the same bag with the dog, now maddened by pain. The bishop died in pain from the wounds inflicted by his own dog. Later, Gagik was killed by the Byzantine governors (three brothers) of Kyzistra who had his body mutilated and hanged from the fort for others to see. His body was later buried outside the fort but was later said to have been secretly conveyed by an Armenian from Ani named Banik to a convent he had built in a city called Piza.

Shortly after Gagik was killed, his youngest son David was poisoned by his father-in-law for suspected treachery. Gagik's eldest son Johannes had married the daughter of the governor of Ani and still lived there, but was in Georgia when it was captured. Johannes had a son Ashot who was poisoned and his body brought to Piza. Johannes did not survive his son by long at which time the posterity of the male Bagratian line of kings of Armenia was extinct. During the reign of Thoros I of the Armenian Kingdom of Cilicia the death of king Gagik II was avenged by the Armenian forces who took the fortress of Kyzistra and executed the three Byzantines who killed the last Armenian King of Ani.

In fiction[edit]

Gagik appears as a character in The Fall of Ani, Pakrad Ayvaziants's novel which chronicles the fall of Ani and the Bagratid line.

References[edit]

Vacant
Title last held by
Hovhannes-Bagrat III
as King of Ani
King of Bagratid Armenia Byzantine annexation of Armenia
Vacant
Title last held by
Ashot IV
as King in other provinces