Map of the Caucasus and of Arminiya c. 740
|Status||Province (largely autonomous vassal principalities) of the Umayyad and Abbasid Caliphates|
|Common languages||Armenian (native language)|
|Religion||Christianity (Armenian Apostolic Church, Paulicianism)|
|Historical era||Middle Ages|
|ISO 3166 code||AM|
Arminiya, also known as the Ostikanate of Arminiya (Armenian: ? ,Arminia vostikanut'yun), Emirate of Armenia (Arabic: ?, im?rat Arminiya), was a political and geographic designation given by the Muslim Arabs to the lands of Greater Armenia, Caucasian Iberia, and Caucasian Albania, following their conquest of these regions in the 7th century. Though the caliphs initially permitted an Armenian prince to represent the province of Arminiya in exchange for tribute and the Armenians' loyalty during times of war, Caliph Abd al-Malik ibn Marwan introduced direct Arab rule of the region, headed by an ostikan with his capital in Dvin.
The details of the early conquest of Armenia by the Arabs are uncertain, as the various Arabic sources conflict with the Greek and Armenian sources, both in chronology and in the details of the events. However, the broad thrust of the Arab campaigns is consistent between the sources, allowing for a reconstruction of events by modern scholars.
According to the Arabic sources, the first Arab expedition reached Armenia in 639/640, on the heels of their conquest of the Levant from the Byzantines and the start of the Muslim conquest of Persia. The Arabs were led by Iyad ibn Ghanim and penetrated as far as Bitlis. A second expedition occurred in 642, only to be defeated and pushed out of the country. After this setback, the Arabs only undertook a raid from Adharbayjan in 645, led by Salman ibn Rabi'a, but this only touched the Armenian borderlands. The Muslim sources place the actual conquest of the country in 645/646, under the command of Habib ibn Maslama al-Fihri. The Arabs first moved against the western, Byzantine portion of the country, captured Theodosiopolis and defeated a Byzantine army, before subduing the Armenian princes around Lake Van and marching onto Dvin, the capital of the former Persian portion of Armenia. Dvin capitulated after a few days of siege, as did Tiflis further north in Caucasian Iberia. During the same time, another Arab army from Iraq, under Salman ibn Rabi'a, conquered Caucasian Albania (Arran).
Although the Arab sources imply that the country was hence effectively under Arab rule, modern historians generally consider the contemporary account of the Armenian bishop Sebeos (which is partly corroborated by the Byzantine chronicler Theophanes the Confessor) to be more reliable, and have proposed different reconstructions of the early Arab raids between 640 and 650, based on a critical reading of the sources; it is clear, however, that the country did not submit to Arab rule at this time.
The Armenian histories report that the Arabs first arrived in 642, penetrating up to the central region of Ayrarat, and sacked Dvin, returning with over 35,000 captives. In 643, the Arabs invaded again, from the direction of Adharbayjan, ravaged Ayrarat and reached Iberia, but were defeated in battle by the Armenian leader Theodore Rshtuni and forced back. After this success, Rshtuni was recognized as ruler of Armenia by the Byzantine emperor Constans II, in exchange for accepting Byzantine suzerainty. When Constans' truce with the Arabs ended in 653, however, to avoid a new Arab invasion, Rshtuni voluntarily agreed to submit to Muslim overlordship. Emperor Constans then campaigned in person in Armenia, restoring Byzantine rule, but soon after his departure in early 654 the Arabs invaded the country. With their assistance, Rshtuni evicted the Byzantine garrisons from Armenia and secured Arab recognition as presiding prince of Armenia, Iberia, and Albania. The Byzantines under general Maurianos tried to recover control of the region, but without success. In 655, even Byzantine Armenia was invaded, and the Arabs occupied Theodosiopolis (Arabic Qaliqala) and cemented their control of the country by taking Rhstuni to Damascus, where he died in 656, and appointing his rival Hamazasp Mamikonian in his stead. However, with the outbreak of the First Muslim Civil War in 657, effective Arab authority in the country ceased, and Mamikonian returned to Byzantine overlordship almost immediately.
In 661, however, Mu'awiya, now the victor of the Muslim civil war, ordered the Armenian princes to re-submit to his authority and pay tribute. In order to avoid another war, the princes complied. The Arab policy of demanding that the tribute be paid in money had an effect on Armenian economy and society. Coins were struck in Dvin. The Armenians were forced to produce a surplus of food and manufactured goods for sale. A strong urban life was developed in Caucasia as the economy revived.
For most of the second half of the 7th century, Arab presence and control in Armenia was minimal. Armenia was considered conquered land by the Arabs, but enjoyed de facto autonomy, regulated by the treaty signed between Rhstuni and Mu'awiya. Indeed, as Aram Ter-Ghewondyan comments, under Arab suzerainty "the country enjoyed a degree of independence such as it had not known since the fall of the Arsacids" in the 5th century. According to the terms of the treaty, the Armenian princes were submitted to--relatively low--taxation and the obligation to provide soldiers when requested, for which the princes were to be paid an annual subsidy of 100,000 dirhams. In exchange, no Arab garrison or official was installed in Armenian lands, and Arab assistance was even promised in the event of Byzantine attack.
The situation changed in the reign of the caliph Abd al-Malik (r. 685-705). Beginning in 700, the Caliph's brother and governor of Adharbayjan, Muhammad ibn Marwan, subdued the country in a series of campaigns. Although the Armenians rebelled in 703 and received Byzantine aid, Muhammad ibn Marwan defeated them and sealed the failure of the revolt by executing the rebel princes in 705. Armenia, along with the principalities of Caucasian Albania and Iberia (modern Georgia) was grouped into one vast province called al-Arminiya (), with its capital at Dvin (Arabic Dabil), which was rebuilt by the Arabs and served as the seat of the governor (ostikan) and of an Arab garrison. For much of the remaining Umayyad period, Arminiya was usually grouped together with Adharbayjan and the Jazira under a single governor into an ad hoc super-province.
Arminiya was governed by an emir or wali headquartered at Dvin, whose role however was limited to defence and the collection of taxes: the country was largely run by the local princes, the nakharar. The province was divided into four regions: Arminiya I (Caucasian Albania), Arminiya II (Caucasian Iberia), Arminiya III (the area around Aras River), Arminiya IV (Taron). The local nobility was headed, as in Sasanian times, by a presiding prince (ishkhan), a title which in the 9th century, beginning probably with Bagrat II Bagratuni, evolved into the title of "prince of princes" (ishkhan ishkhanats?). Acting as the head of the other princes, the ishkhan was answerable to the Arab governor, being responsible for the collection of the taxes owed to the caliphal government and the raising of military forces when requested.
A census and survey of Arminiya was undertaken c. 725, followed by a significant increase in taxation so as to finance the Caliphate's increasing military needs in the various fronts. The Armenians participated with troops in the hard-fought campaigns of the Second Arab-Khazar War in the 720s and 730s. As a result, in 732, governor Marwan ibn Muhammad (the future Caliph Marwan II) named Ashot III Bagratuni as the presiding prince of Armenia, an act which essentially re-confirmed the country's autonomy within the Caliphate.
With the establishment of the Abbasid Caliphate after the Abbasid Revolution, a period of repression was inaugurated. This was followed by Caliph al-Mansur revoking the privileges and abolishing the subsidies paid to the various Armenian princes (the nakharars) and imposing harsher taxation, leading to the outbreak of another major rebellion in 774. The revolt was suppressed in the Battle of Bagrevand in April 775. The failure of the rebellion saw the near-extinction, reduction to insignificance or exile to Byzantium of some of the most prominent nakharar families, most importantly the Mamikonian. In its aftermath, the Caliphate tightened its grip on the Transcaucasian provinces: the nobility of neighbouring Iberia was also decimated in the 780s, and a process of settlement with Arab tribes began which by the middle of the 9th century led to the Islamization of Caucasian Albania, while Iberia and much of lowland Armenia came under the control of a series of Arab emirates. At the same time, the power vacuum left by the destruction of so many nakharar clans was filled by two other great families, the Artsruni in the south (Vaspurakan) and the Bagratuni in the north.
Despite several insurrections, the Emirate of Armenia lasted until 884, when the Bagratuni Ashot I, who had managed to win control over most of its area, declared himself "King of the Armenians". He received recognition by Caliph Al-Mu'tamid of the Abbasid dynasty in 885 and Byzantine Emperor Basil I of the Macedonian dynasty in 886.
Ashot was swiftly able to expand his power. Through family links with the two next most important princely families, the Artsruni and the Siwnis, and through a cautious policy towards the Abbasids and the Arab emirates of Armenia, by the 860s he had succeeded in becoming in fact, if not yet in name, an autonomous king.