Dvin

The forgotten city.

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Sassanid Era

Sassanid Era

The city’s fortunes grew again in the marzpanate period, its place on the Silk route by now secure, its artisans among the most sought after in the ancient world. Its fortunes rose yet again in the 470s when the Holy See at Vagharshapat (Echmiadzin) moved to Dvin, setting up a dual seat of power; the church in the lower plaza of the city, where the katolikos’ palace and the great cathedral of S. Grigor were built; and that on the acropolis, from where the Sassanid marzpan (governors nominated by the Persian king) ruled.

The Marzpan had supreme power, but he could not interfere with the age-long privileges of the Armenian nakharars. The country enjoyed a great deal of autonomy; key positions were held by Armenian nakharars, as were the taxes and much of the administration.

There is little recorded about the city’s involvement in the religious turmoil of the 5th century (when the Sassanid King Yazdgert attempted to force the country to convert to Mazdaism) save its rallying point for battle by the besieged Catholicos and the battle of Avarair (451), which decimated Armenia’s princely houses, but none of it seems not to affected the city’s trade or position, though the great cathedral was converted into a storehouse by the Sassanids.

The Sassanids, besieged by their own troubles, later made compact with the Armenians, whose princely houses revived enough to rise again against their overlords in 572, this time with Byzantine help, capturing the capital and killing the Persian Marzpan Suren. The cathedral burned and the uprising was quickly suppressed. Persians and Byzantines both fought over the country for the next 60 years, the Byzantines taking Dvin in 591 and 624.

According to Sebeos and the katolikos John V the Historian, Dvin was captured in 640 during the reign of Constans II and Catholicos Yezra, when Arabs swept through the region, returning in later years to consolidate their control over the kingdom. On January 6th, 642, they stormed Dvin, slaughtering 12,000 of its inhabitants and carrying 35,000 into slavery.

The city struggled to hold out, hoping for Byzantine reinforcements, but eventually the city commander, Smbat, admitting he could no longer hold out against the “Ishmaelite horde”, submitted to the Caliph Omar, consenting to pay him tribute. Smbat was soon replaced by the Muslim Othman (654).


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