Alliance with Hell: Romans vs Armenians and Arabs


International Congress of Byzantine Studies, Belgrade, Belgrad, Serbia And Montenegro, 22 - 27 August 2016

  • Publication Type: Conference Paper / Full Text
  • City: Belgrad
  • Country: Serbia And Montenegro


The conflict between the Romans and the Sasanians continued intermittently until the first quarter of the seventh century and finally came to an end at the battle of Nineveh, in 627, nearly four centuries after the beginning of the wars. However, the final blow hit the Sasanians in the shoulder, not by the Romans but by the Arabs. With tearful eyes and a breaking voice Ferdowsi said that “Where have all the great Sasanians gone?” Immediately after the fall of the Sasanians, the Arabs were the new enemy hiding in the shadows in the eastern borders of Romans. The Arabs came quickly and quietly, “like a snake”, to Roman territories and attacked Armenia which was then under Roman power. The Armenians, suffering from the pressure of Arabs, asked for help from the Roman emperor. Constans II (641-668) tried to use the situation to his advantage and declared naxarar Teotoros Rshdouni as chief commander and marzpan in 643. At that period, Nerses III (641-661) was the catholicos of the Armenians and was standing close to the Romans. Thus, Constans II endeavored to convert the Armenian Church to seize the opportunity. But the council which was convened by Nerses III and Teotoros Rshdouni defied the Roman emperor's proposal; whereupon Constans II dismissed Teotoros Rshdouni and appointed Smbat I Bagratuni as marzpan of Armenia in 653. The humiliated Teotoros Rshdouni now had no choice but to turn to the Arabs. Teotoros Rshdouni and Nerses III accepted the alliance proposal of Muawiyah I, the then commander, and the Armenians therefore collaborated with the Arabs against the Romans. Sebeos, Armenian historian and bishop, who lived in the seventh century, noted that “all the Armenian princes made a pact with death and contracted an alliance with hell”.

The main purpose of this study is to emphasize the historical context of this “alliance with hell” and to examine the gains and losses of the Armenians after this pact.