This rare Armenian language map showcases historical greater Armenia during the period of the Bagratid (Bagratuni) Dynasty during the 9th and 10th Centuries AD, which is billed as the ‘Second Gold Age’ of Armenia. During the reign of King Ashot I (861-890), Armenia managed to play off its Byzantine and Persian rivals, forming a massive independent state that embraced almost all the Armenian Highlands in Eastern Anatolia and the Western Caucasus. The empire was a land of splendid economic and cultural wealth, fuelled by its strategic location along the Silk Road.
To be clear, this is not a ‘school map’ copied from other sources, but an important academic work predicated upon the ground-breaking archival research of Professor Suren Yeremian, the foremost historical geographer of Armenia of the 20th Century.
The map shows the territory of Bagratid Armenia shaded in orange, while areas temporarily under its control are shaded by diagonal lines. The various ancient districts are named, as are the precise locations of dozens of major cities and towns, many of which had by modern times long vanished. Roads and caravan routes are delineated, as are the locations of certain key historical events. Importantly, much of this information appears for the first time in Yeremian’s work.
Suren Yeremian: The Father of Armenian Historical Geography
While the approximate locations of the boundaries and some of the key centres of Bagratid Armenia were commonly known over the succeeding last 1,000 years, precise knowledge of the extent and nature of the civilization had been lost. Indeed, the locations of many important places that were still named in the history books was completely unknown. Recently, the horror of the Armenian Genocide (1914-23) destroyed many ancient documents and archaeological sites that could fill in some of the blanks.
Enter Suren Tigrani Yeremian (1908 - 1992), a historian and the most important Armenian historical geographer of the 20th Century. Born in Tbilisi to an Armenian family, as a child he voraciously devoured any and all books he could find on Armenian history. He studied history at the Yerevan State University, graduating with his first degree in 1931. From 1935 to 1941, he accepted a prestigious position at the Oriental Department at the Soviet Academy of Sciences in Leningrad, where he made many valuable Russian contacts. He earned his Ph.D. from the Moscow State University and in 1953 became the director of the Institute of Material Culture and History in Yerevan.
Beginning in the late 1920s, Yeremian spent hours every day searching for archival sources on ancient Armenia in institutions and in monastery libraries. Fortunately, he uncovered many mediaeval manuscripts that contained detailed and hitherto undiscovered information on ancient Armenia, including the state of the Bagratid Dynasty. The problem was that these sources were scattered in many places and contained inconsistencies. Yeremian meticulously investigated and verified the sources, eventually sorting the wheat from the chaff.
Over the coming years, Yeremian went on to publish several large format maps covering different periods of Armenian history, such as a map of the Armenia Kingdom of Urartu (860 and 590 BCE); Arsacid (Early Christian) Armenia; as well as the present map of Bagratid (Medieval) Armenia, considered the country’s ‘Second Gold Age’. These maps are still today of profound value to scholars and enthusiasts of Armenian history and culture.
Yeremian published innumerable books and articles in both Armenian and Russian, and by the 1960s was an internationally renowned historical geographer, a fact recognized by the important commendations he received from the Kremlin. His most important works included Hayastane est Ashkharhatsuytsi [Armenia According to the Ashkharhatsuyts] (Yerevan, 1963), a reconstruction of the geography book created by the legendary 7th Century CE Armenian geographer Anania Shirakatsi, as well as seminal contributions to the monumental History of the Armenian People, 8 volumes (Yerevan, 1971–1984). In many respects Yeremian’s work has not been, and probably never will be, equalled, for we owe him much of what we today know about Historical Armenia.