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Armenians in Constantinople

Author(s) : Trkulja Jelena , (proofread.) Lees Christopher (2/21/2008)

For citation: Trkulja Jelena , (proofread.) Lees Christopher, "Armenians in Constantinople", 2008,
Encyclopaedia of the Hellenic World, Constantinople
URL: <http://www.ehw.gr/l.aspx?id=12208>

Armenians in Constantinople (7/11/2009 v.1) Αρμένιοι στην Κωνσταντινούπολη (7/21/2011 v.1) 


Armenian presence in Constantinople

Finally, there is some evidence that Armenians were residing in the capital, although their presence in Constantinople is poorly documented. Citing the late 12th-C. Chronicle of Michael the Syrian, Peter Charanis speaks of an Armenian colony in the city, but gives no details to support this assertion beyond the presence of Armenians in defence of the city during the siege of 626. These may, however, have been some of Heraclius' recruits, rather than permanent civilian inhabitants. [...] Anna Komnena, in her turn, noted the presence of a large number of Armenians in the city at the time of the trial of Neilos of Calabria around 1094; here too, it is not altogether clear whether these were visitors or permanent residents. Given these assertions, it is curious that no Armenian quarter has been recorded in Constantinople, even though those of other nations have been identified.[...]

To be sure, distinguished Armenians, such as Vardan II Mamikonean and the kat‘olikos Yovhannes II Gabelean late in the 6th C., the young Bagratid king Asot II in 914, or King Gagik II of Ani and the kat‘olikos Petros I Getadarj visited and even resided in the capital for a time, albeit not always of their free will. By their nature, however, such episodes were necessarily brief. Some of the great noble families of Armenian descent unquestionably had palaces in Constantinople. We hear of the house of Alexios Musele and of the lengthy negotiations of the Taronite princes with Leo VI and Romanos I Lekapenos to keep the ‘‘house of Barbaros’’ in the capital, as well as a suburban estate. Other aristocratic families must also have moved from the eastern frontier as part of the gradual ‘‘Constantinopolization’’ of the aristocracy, but, as we shall see, the degree to which they were still to be considered ‘‘Armenian’’ is open to question.

Finally, we are told by Michael the Syrian that an Armenian church had existed in the city until the time of Alexios I Komnenos when it was burned. Yet more than two centuries later, the patriarch Athanasios I (1303-9) still complained of the harm done to the Orthodox by the presence in Constantinople of Armenians and of their church, whose location unfortunately remains unknown. Scattered and unsatisfactory though these indications may be, they nevertheless identify some degree of Armenian residence in the capital, as well as throughout most of the empire, over a long period. Of necessity, such a massive and pervasive Armenian presence made it impossible for the imperial authorities to ignore their existence, while simultaneously serving as evidence that the Armenians, on their part, had also achieved a modus vivendi.

Garsoïan, N. G., «The problem of Armenian integration into the Byzantine Empire», in Ahrweiler, H. - Laiou, A. E., (ed.), Studies on the internal diaspora of the Byzantine Empire (Washington D.C. 1998), pp. 58-61.

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