Principality of Hamamshen
Principality of Hamamshen
|Historical era||Middle Ages|
|History of Armenia|
The Principality of Hamamshen was a small principality established in about 790 century by Armenians who fled the Arab invasions of Armenia and the creation of the Muslim Arab ruled state of Arminiya.
Prior to the 8th Century, the entire region was populated by Laz and was part of the Abkhazian Kingdom of Abasgoi until the later part of the century when Prince Hamam, his father Prince Shapuh Amatuni and 12,000 of their subjects migrated North to the Black Sea region in order to escape incoming Arab invasions of Vaspurakan, the land of their origin. They settled in the ruined city of Tambur and its surrounding villages. Prince Hamam rebuilt the city and named it Hamamshen, meaning "Hamam's hamlet" in Armenian. It is north of the historic Armenian region of Tayk.
Establishment to Decline
The Amatuni dynasty became the Nakharar of the principality, and originated in the Artaz region in Vaspurakan and specialized in agriculture and architectural engineering. the medieval line of princes recorded from the last prince David II. Were Arakel d.1400, David I d.1425, Vart d.1440 , Veke d.1460.
The Principality of Hamamshen was surrounded by foreign states, but they preserved their autonomy and even assimilated various numbers of Laz. As an indirect result of the fall of the Empire of Trebizond in 1461 to the Ottomans and the breakup of a greater Christian power in the region: Between 1480-1486, the region was conquered by the Ottoman Empire.
The last prince of Hamamshen, Baron David II was exiled to Ispir by the Ottomans following the conquest of Trebizond. Khachkar(now Kaçkar), which was the center of the principality was demolished by the Ottomans. Der Hovhannes Hamshentsi d.1497 was a prominent monk, philosopher, and orator during this time..
After the fall of the Principality, the Hamshentsi Armenians were scattered throughout the Black Sea region in the Trabzon Eyalet establishing communities in towns and villages from Samsun in the west to Hopa in the east. During Ottoman rule taxation and Islamization of the Laz people pressured some Hamshen communities to converting to Islam to have equality and avoid harassment from their Muslim neighbors, many others fled to remote regions in mountains and forests to avoid taxation and oppression, notably a man named Husep who led a group into Sera Dere to found the hidden village of Cevizlik where they remained hidden for 30 years. 
After several centuries, the name Hamamshen evolved into Hamshen in the Armenian language, and Hemshin in the Turkish language. The Armenians of Hamamshen were cut off from the rest of the Armenian social and cultural world and developed their own distinct ethnic identity. Those who converted to islam also lost their Millet Armenian identity and were Ottomanized ethnically and forgot their Armenian roots. While those who remained Gregorian Christians retained their Armenian identity and later fled to Abkhazia under the Russian Empire
- Simonian. "Hamshen Before Hemshin", p. 31.
- Simonian, Hovann (2015-07-31). Hemshin : history, society and identity in the highlands of northeast Turkey. Simonian, Hovann H. London. p. 3. ISBN 1138874612. OCLC 921268078.
The foundation of Hamshen, in about AD 790, came at the end of almost a century in which the fortunes of Armenians in Armenia had steadily declined, a period and a process that culminated in the transformation of the political organization of Armenia, a transformation to which the foundation of Hamshen itself contributed.
- Simonian, Hovann (2015-07-31). Hemshin : history, society and identity in the highlands of northeast Turkey. Simonian, Hovann H. London. p. 26. ISBN 1138874612. OCLC 921268078.
[...] the principality of Hamshen must have lived through these centuries as a vassal of the larger powers surrounding it, such as the Bagratid Armenian kingdom, the Byzantine Empire, its successor the Empire of Trebizond, the Jalayirids, and [...]
- Simonian, Hovann (2007-01-24). The Hemshin: History, Society and Identity in the Highlands of Northeast Turkey. ISBN 9781135798307.