06 January 2007

1351) Ottoman-Armenian Relations In The Light Of Medieval Historical Sources

Prof Dr. Mansura Haidar

The Ottoman-Armenian relations had a long history and a living past with a background of variegated and multi-dimensional contacts.

Valuable works have already been produced in English language on the Armenian role in Persian Gulf, Red sea and Indian Ocean trade, Ottoman penchant for possession and control of all maritime trade routes, subsequent Turco Armenian commercial enterprises and resultant imperialist wars which shook Europe and Asia alike. Studies on the more enduring socio-religious and cultural bonds between Turkey and Armenia have presumably been ignored or overlooked simply due to being overshadowed by more compulsive political and economic issues.. In this paper, an attempt is being made to highlight and discuss certain socio- religious, economic and cultural features of this age-old relationship in the light of medieval travelogues and Indo – Persian sources. Geographically speaking, India and Turkey were distantly located from each other, yet the travelogues and Indo-Persian historical sources of ancient and particularly those of medieval period had plenty of interesting and novel historical material throwing light on the relationship between Turkey and Armenia on a regular basis. .

The socio religious activities of sages and Sufis and continuous ingress and egress of merchants and missionaries had removed the barriers between the heterogenous people in the region as ‘ great efflorescence of culture, learning, art and architecture had brought the fortune seekers together. Since cities in Gujrat emerged as a gateway of Hind and as ’ a great kingdom’ in this era, Armenian merchants and navigators frequented this and other thriving ports and stray references to them are available in Indian sources. Travelers from Marco polo to Burnes confirm the multifarious bonds. [1]. During medieval period, the presence of Portuguese in the Indian waters, the Ottoman concerns goading them to maintain friendly relations or at least hobnobbing with powers that be in Gujarat and other relevant corners of India, the professed love of Gujaratis and others for the Ottoman Sultan as confirmed by Sidi Ali Reis also as well as the continuous touch with the Armenians who were the dominant element in the commercial activities were the factors which had necessitated recording of various details about Ottoman Empire and its relations with the Armenians. The geographical accounts[like Surat ul Arz,Jughrafiai Hafiz Abru, Ajaibul Makhluqat, Ajaibul Tabaqat,Haft Iqlim, Majmaul Gharaib, and so on], provincial histories [like Tarikhi Gujarat, Tarikhi Ahmadi, Tarikhi Masumi, etc.], the chronicles compiled under the sultans of Delhi and the Mughal Emperors in which stray information is available [like Akbarnama,,Tarikhi Alfi, etc.], the court records and the travelogues[from, Ibni Batuta to Abu Talib Isfahani and several others] are full of useful information. As per reports available, both Armenia and Turkey had a long record of close connections which is being discussed here to fill a historical void.

Ecology plays an important role in determining the common cultural traits and subsequent mutual affinity. The historical sources refer to this ecological commonness between Turkey and Armenia as both belonged to the fourth and fifth climate though parts of Turkey fell in the sixth climate also.[2]. Besides, there did exist harmonious relationship between these two heterogenous people due to close and continuous contacts. The brisk exchange of ideas, commodities and people between the two lands since time immemorial was made possible due to geographical proximity and contiguous borders particularly at Arzinjan and Oj.The Armenian state ----then a gateway to wilayati Ifranj,--- had its special strategic and geo-political significance and was connected with Rum[Turkey] by four roads ---the first one ran through Kaisariya, called as the “rahi Khushkhwar and rahi Dulu “; the second was said to be “rahi Luluh “ ie silver mines and passed through the upper Baluch fort and was “caravan sipar “. The third was “ rahi Qaraman” stretching from bank of Rum river upto the city of Asas; the fourth went from Malatia to Helb and dayari Sham [3].

Since Armenia lay on the main road from north west to Sultaniah and from Tabriz to Black sea, [4], its active relations with the territories on Silk road had all the possibilities of outreach and it served as a bridge between several cultures including India which was also connected with the western countries through Armenia [5]

At regional level, the mutual solidarity between Armenia and Turkey was often exhibited in the manifold ways --be it a military alliance or cultural exchange even in earlier days also. The imminent invasion of Sultan Jalaluddin Mangbarni Khwarazm Shah had brought the sultans of Rum, Syria, Armenia and other nearby regions to form a confederacy and in order to repel him they unitedly raised a force consisting of Georgians, Alans, Armenians, Sarir, Lakz, Qifchaq, Svn Abkhaz, Chanet, Syrians and Rumis.[6].Examples of varied forms of such solidarity can be multiplied.

Claude Cahen writes “ In Western Asia the most favoured group were the Armenians.” It is interesting to note that this traders ‘community had always followed a circumspect attitude, expedient amicability, and carefully calculated conginiality. They had, therefore, maintained all along subdued subtle civilities. History reveals that Armenian rulers also adopted, well thought out and appeasing policies towards their contemporary kings.The king of Armenia had journeyed all the way to have an audience with Chingiz Khan who was appreciative of the gesture that he came on his own accord. Claude Cahen affirms that “from the very start [the Armenians] deliberately made themselves the Mongol agents.

Michael Palaeologus and the Ilkhans together---- and the Trebizond, like the Armenians of Cilicia,had been their vassals. Contigents of Armenia sometimes appeared locally in the Mongol armies in Syria though the Armenians of Armenia proper no longer served in arms ever since the conquest in which they had lost their political independence and they
remained excluded from military life inspite of an effort by the Bishop of
Arzinjan”.[7]. The mutual relations with the Turks whom they accepted
as their lords could,therefore, never be different.

Writing about his motherland as early as in 1307, Anthony the Armenian appreciates that “ The kingdom of Armenia is at this day in a good and peaceable estate, and emphasizes two main points –the contiguous borders between Turkey and Armenia and the close active role played by the Armenians in the glory of Turkish domain.He records that:“there are four kingdoms. The length of Armenia begins at the confines of Persia and reaching out westward even to the kingdom of Turkey. The breadth of Armenia begins at the city called the Iron Gate and extended even to the kingdom of Media.”Although he takes pride in the fact that “when the Turks had invaded the kingdom of Turkey and had conquered it, they could not prevail against Trebizond nor the territories thereof, because of their strong castles and other fortifications by reason whereof it remained still under the government of the Emperor of Constantinople.” He adds further: “Cilicia at this day is called Armenia by reason that after the enemies of the Christian faith had gotten that country and held it a long time from the Greeks, the Armenians endeavoued so well that they won it again from the Pagans.”.

However the presence of Armenians who were fruitfully engaged in varied type of works in the Turkish domain even at that time is also recorded by Anthony. He says: ‘there are four nations inhabiting the kingdom of Turkey. namely the Greeks, Armenians, and Jacobins [Jacobites] who are Christians, living on merchandise and manuring the Earth and the Turks who are Saracens and have invaded that land and gotten the Government from the Greeks. Some of them live on merchandise and labouring of Ground, inhabiting in cities and towns, others keeping in the woods and fields both winter and summer, being shepherds and very good Bowmen. Ibni Batuta had also noticed that’ in Arzinjan,Armenians formed the greater part of the population.’ At the time of Timur’s invasion also, the Timurid and Indo- Persian sources mentioned the existence of rich Armenians in the cities of Siwas, Ablistan and other places [8], as the conqueror had not only chosen them[presumably due to their expertise in various professions and arts] to be taken to his homeland as captives [alongwith the Nusranis] but was impressed by their richness which had also attracted his attention.

Undoubtedly, the Armenians had been playing an important role in the Ottoman Empire in different capacities and at different levels. They were lingually closer to each other as plenty of loan words suggest and had many similarities in their social structure. They [Armenians] constituted fairly a large number of craftsmen, traders, agriculturists, members from the liberal professions. There were the Armenians ---Industrial bourgeoise in Tiflis [cotton, leather and Tobacco], the civilian population scattered from Istanbul to Van and from Tiflis to Tabriz.There were Armenians well established as International commercial community in Isfahan, Tiflis, Madras, Istanbul,,Izmir, Cairo, Marseilles, Antwerp, Amsterdam and other places. These external networks sustained them economically. Arzinjan continued to be a great Armenian city. Many important events had taken place there and the city “ long remained the Metropolis of those in Turkey “.Trebizond, the state of Armenia [Greater] remained under the Turkish sway for a long time [hukkam I qadim az muluki tawaifi Turk dasht]. [9] The transformation of Erivan from a “village like town” in Timur’s time[as described by the court chroniclers and eye witness] to a full fledged city in the sixteenth century bespeaks for itself pointing to an active and flourishing commercial and business activities and enterprises. [10]

To be sure, the Armenians and the Ottomans shared common interests in the region and lived amidst the same friends and foes hence solidarity over issues was never wanting. The relations of Ottomans with Persians were somewhat strained and sectarian prejudices were being blown out of proportion to cover expansionist ambitions. The Portuguese presence in the Indian waters and ottoman hobnobbing with Central Asia, Gujarat and Egypt is well proved by the mission of Sidi Ali Reis. The other events discussed in the sources [the details regarding the conflict over the possession of Erivan and Kars between Ottoman sultans and Shah of Persia during 16th-17th century, the surrender of Azerbaijan and Caucasus by the Persians in 1590 and subsequent recovery of these and of Kars,division of Erivan and Nakhchiwan and their unification, the role of Armenians in strengthening the Ottoman-Gujarat relations, the Mughal- Portuguese entante etc.] indirectly throw light on Ottoman-Armenian relations with their several significant dimensions and repercussio While the Ottomans extended their full patronage to the Armenians, the latter had repaid them immensely by spreading their cultural attainments to the outside world. As ‘privately organized and highly cohesive commercial diaspora’[11], Armenian communities are said to be ‘so well integrated’ and well entrenched in the Ottoman state and society, that alienness seemed to be nonexistent. --. Even while hanging on and prospering ---the Armenians had considerably enriched Turkish life particularly Istanbul giving it the cosmopolitan flavour of Lawrence Durrel’s Alexandria’[12]. The sources provide details about theis mutually beneficial and long standing bond of relationship. Apart from the description of Suq Erraqiq and “well-built Armenian and fair skinned Turkish women –full of grace and animation, there is a picturesque account of beautiful Armenian carpets which formed a part of many a gifts sent to sultans of Ghazna, Turkey and other such potentates. The impressive sight of the battle array with double backed Armenian camels, the fine Armenian clothes and other rarities.

Characteristics do play an important role in determining the relationships. There are interesting comments available about characteristic features of Armenians and Ottomans. The Ottomans may be’ an inexhaustible race’ but they made their presence felt universally since sixth century and in Eurasia at least for six centuries. As conquerors, state builders, lawgivers, administrators, policy makers, they proved to be most effective specie in the human world. They were not only men of sword but proved their worth as men of pen also.Their attitude towards their Christian compatriots was very clearly defined.Thomas Coryat had jotted down in his travelogue in 1613 that the “Turkes will not suffer these three things to be medled withal by a Christian or Jew, viz, his Religion, his Women, his slave “. Abu Talib Isfahani though conscious of his country’s somewhat cold relations with Turks was discreet enough to acknowledge that the Turks were gallant enough to respect their women—a rare sight in the region. The Turks were not in favour of killing or shedding blood. Thomas Coryat had emphasized the fact that “The true Musulman will scarce kill a louse if he find him in his apparelle, but throwes him away affirming, that it is contrary to the rules of charitie to kill him, or any thing else, that they kill for their sustenance. [13]. The Turco Mongol method of Yarghu Pursidan seems to be an extension of the same conviction.

There is one very curious feature about the Ottoman- Armenian relations in the socio-religious sphere. The coreligionists were zealously engaged in undertaking Ghazawat [Holy wars] in.Central Asia, Persia,Turkey against each other [----funnily enough justified by the fatwas extracted from the religious supremos over strange pretexts and such events are certified by the sources]. In medieval age, religion served as the best motivating and mobilizing force -- being used as another name or form for nationalism. The situation was no different in case of Armenians and their Christian fellow followers. Contrarily, harmony was the keyword in Ottoman- Armenian relations as there was no bone of contention between the two different people. Adherents of Armenian Churches ‘figured among the subjects and were recognized by the Ottoman authorities’ [14]. Breezes of messages of love and peace through the impact of sufi thought also influenced some.Many of the Christians were the disciples of Rumi also. In the sphere of fine arts, the glimpses of Ottoman -Armenian influence on each other’s crafts also seem to flicker [15] exhibiting the sinews of cultural connections.. Armenians seem to be more cordially inclined towards Turks as compared to their own European communities. Toynbee wrote:” To most people, the Armenians remained a name and when we read of their sufferings or traditions they made little impressions than the doings of Hittites and Assyrians, who made across the same Near Eastern amphitheatre several millennium ago. We had no living contacts, no natural relations with Armenians in our personal or even in our political life.” Toynbee’s comment is not surprising and seems to be quite in conformity with what we find in European travelogues. A detailed description of Armenians is also found in ancient and medieval European sources.Purchas included “a description of all the European Christian communities including, Armenians, There is a separate discussion on the Armenian Christians giving details about their beliefs and faith, particularly “Touching the Properties of their Religion” which had certain distinct features carrying somewhat different practices [if not points of view] from that of other Christians. Elsewhere again some rich information about the advance of the Papal monarchy and diverse sects of Christians in the East in 1625 is found. The Armenians are said to be “divided from all other Christians in Rites; having a primate of their owne whom they call Catholicon, observed by all of them as another pope. They have letters and language proper and liturgies -----. At Christmases they fast and at twelf-day they solemniz our Lords Baptisme, and his spiritual. Nativities, as they improperly speaks. Lent they fast so strictly, that they not only abstain from flesh, egges, white meates, but also from fish oyle, and wine, yet fast not but eat fruites and as often as they please. On some fridays they eate flesh. They mix no water with wine in the sacrament.” There are no doubt some medieval notions of unhappiness too. The complaint is however registered in the following words:“The Armenians promised obedience to the Pope, when their king received of Henry the Emperor his land, and the crown of the Archbishop of Mentz; but retayne their old Rites notwithstanding”.[16]

On the basis of the available historical raw material, it can safely be surmised that living together had given rise to the composite Eurasian culture which engulfed the region. This heterogeneity of population and multiplicity of religions had been emphasized time and again.While discussing the rise and decay of Christian religion, it is emphasised that excepting Georgia, Libanus in Syria and “Turkes Dominian, there is not any region in all Asia where Christians live several, without mixture, either of Mohametans or of pagans”. Although Vitriacus – a man well experienced in some parts of the Orient [as being Bishop fo Acon and the papes Legate in the East” hath left registered, that the Christians of the Easterlie parts of Asia, exceeded in multitude the Christians of the Greeks and Latin churches, Yet in his time [for the writ almost four hundred years age], Christianitie began to decline and prime his time, it hath proceeded infinitely to decay, in all those parts of Asia first by the inundations of the idolatrous Tartars who subdued all those regions and after by the entertaining of Mehumetanism in many of them., But yet indeede, in the more southerly parts of Asia [especially in those where

Christianity was first planted and had taken deepest roote as Anatahia, Syria, Palestine, chaldaen, Ossyria, Mesopotamia, Armenia, persia, the north part of part of Arabia and the south of India, Christians are not only to be found, but in certain of those Regions as in Anatolia, Armenia, Syria, Mesopotamia, somewhat thickly mingled with mahumetans as they are in the south of India not far from the Promontovie of comorin....”

[17]In certain areas of Turkey, the situation was such that numerical strength of non Turks surpassed that of Turks: It is written “Although the Government be wholly the Turkes, yet, Muhametans scarcely passe one third past of the inhabitants”. But the Armenians were only a part of that extensive domain. If the American Ambassador, Mr. Morgenthau is to be believed, ‘there were twenty eight million people in Turkey and one million Armenians also formed a segment of the population “ in recent years [18].

As mentioned earlier, living together for centuries left no grounds for alienness. There were indeed internally no tensions between the Armenians and Turks as no such instances have been quoted by any one of the travelers,Pilgrimes of Purchas or by the Indo-- Persian Chroniclers. The only complaint frequently mentioned in the travelogue by certain Explorers and traders during their sojourn in Turkey, Central Asia, India and other places deals with extortion by higher officials [as Jenkinson, Sidi Ali Rais and De goeje have done]and such other complaints. These wailings and a few prejudices were freely aired. Henry Middleton who happened to be in Turkey in 1611 complained how Basha and Aga “robbed” him of his goods -- “such shamefull wrongs which they had falsely charged the Sultan to have commanded them to doe...” He feared,[like Sidi Ali Rais in India against the Portuguese,], even to buy the fresh victuals at Moha doubting poysoning” though he felt reassured later and recovered all pending dues.[19].

The secure and favourable position enjoyed by the Armenians in Turkey is vehemently emphasized in the sources. However, the Armenians were pitied by the Christians some times in earlier decades for their difficult situation. One of the contemporary writers of Polo namely Marino Sanuto, is stated to have “compared the kingdom of the Pope’s faithful Armenians to one between the teeth of four fierce beasts, the lion Tartar, the panther Soldan, the Turkish wolf, the corsair serpent.”[20].

Although the Persian Traveller Mirza Abu Talib Isfahani refers to the miserable plight of Greeks, he writes about the prosperous condition of the Armenians. Expressing his utmost concern with the Greeks, Abu Talib who happened to be in Turkey from 1799-1803 and notes down in his “ intentional record “ that: “The governor and military men are all Turks but the rest of the inhabitants are Greeks, who in consequence of the despotic and tyrannical government of their oppressors are the most abject poor wretches I have ever seen; even the most oppressed subjects in India are princes when compared with these. The Turks adhere strictly to the Muhammedan regulations, of exalting the subjects of their own religion and of depressing those of any other. The spirits of these Greeks are entirely broken and they appear to have been given themselves upto despair. Meloncholy and want are so strongly depicted on their countenance that I could not help feeling for their deplorable condition.”

[21]. Even otherwise Mirza Abu Talib had occasionally criticized the Turks very vehemently [eg. their cookery is said to be a “bad imitation of that of Persia and Hindostan “; their Postal system is said to be poor and their “mode of living is on the whole described to be very disgusting “to him]. The bias could be due to long standing cold war and also several wars fought with no love lost between Ottomans and Persians. However elsewhere he gives a different version highly appreciating the Turks. He writes: “ The Turks are,in general persons of strict honour, intrepid, liberal, hospitable, friendly and compassionate and their Government is conducted with great attention to justice than anyone of the Muhammedan states. They do not have the power of shedding the blood unjustly, nor can they follow the bent of their own inclinations or passion with impunity. They are obliged to consult their nobles who seldom transgress “.[22] The contradictory statements are explained by Mirza’s own comments when he wails how the Ottomans invaded Persia and wrought destruction..

Strangely enough, in the context of Armenians, Isfahani seems to be torn between the two conflicting emotions and somewhat puzzled by their indifference

Understandably, the attitude of Abu Talib towards Armenians was also determined by his own preconceived notions and also by the cold response he received from the circumspect Armenians which must have prompted him to be contemptuous His anger is poured down in some way or another. At Leghorn Abu Taleb found a “great variety of fruit” and there the watermelons were in his view inferior to that of Allahabad and Mainpoory]. Here he saw that the greater number of inhabitants of this city were Jews, Greeks and Armenians – all of whom of a covetous and parsimonious disposition”.For Abu Taleb, the place was indeed “disagreable”. He laments how one of his English acquaintances took him to an Armenian merchant’s house “thinking it would be gratifying for me to meet with a person who understood the Persian language and was born at Jufla – a suburb of Isfahan. The Armenian was at dinner and hurriedly sent out his son with instructions to say that his father was very unwell and had quite forgotten the Persian language”, Even at the coffee house where Abu Talib frequently met with another Armenian named Khwajah Raphael [who was also born at Julfa, but pretended to be ignorant of the language of that city] Mirza remained without an Armenian friend.. Condemning the Armenian as “a complete scoundrel who had seen great deal of the world, understood a number of languages, called on Isfahani several times, but was never of the smallest service and was so over cautious that he would not even assist me with his advice respecting the route I should pursue. “To compensate the want of frendship in the Armenians,” admits Abu Talib, “ I had the pleasure of forming an intimacy with Mr. Darby and an English merchant.... I often tried him with my complaints-- despair. ”. [23]

Undoubtedly, the grandeur of the Ottomans during the middle ages must have been quite dazzling for the inhabitants of the world around. Writing in 1610 George Sandys records: “Thus great at this day is the Ottoman empire; but too great for it are their assumed titles; as God on Earth, Shadow of God, sole monarch of the world, King of Kings, commander of all that can be commanded, sovereign of the most noble Families of Persia and Armenia, Possessor of the Holy cities of Mecca and Jerusalem......”. [24].Perhaps this was the attitude of pride which had prompted the Ottoman Sultans not to write to their global counterparts directly. Instead, their wazirs used to write letters on their behalf and in their own [Wazir’s]name. The tenor of the letters was also a bit egotist which was not appreciated by Shahjahan. In one of his letters, therefore, a visibly irritated Mughal Emperor Shahjahan had once offered him to send Indian scribes if there were no good munshis available in Turkey.

The Ottoman relations with the European communities could at times be variable but with the Armenians, the Ottomans maintained a kind of consistency of cordial amicability and apparent confidence. There was much lingual affinity with several other people also but the mutual closeness enjoyed by the Ottomans with the Armenians was extraordinary --- a fact highlighted and discussed in different sources and travelogues. Language which is the basis of distinctive feature of a nation had lost its exclusive character due to mixing of several words though monopoly of a particular nation on its language continued. To quote an example“Greek tongue” had a deep impact on “A good part of Anatolia” because “Turkish and other nations are gotten into their language by reason of the great Traffique and commerce”. [25]. Nevertheless the importance of the Armenians never dwindled. Even the European sources confirmed that it was ascertained by a Grant Patent and their numerical strength in the Ottoman Empire far exceeded others. It is specifically recorded in Purchas:

“The Armenians, for Trafike to which they are exceedingly addicted, are to be found in multitudes, in most Cities of great Trade, specially in those of the Turkish Empire, obtaining more favour and priviledge among the Turkes, and other Mahmumetans, ‘by a patent granted that nation under Mahumets’ owne hand, than any other sect of Christians. Insomuch that no Nation seemeth more given to merchandize, nor is for that cause more dispersed abroad, than the Armenians, except the Jewes. But yet the native Regions of the Armenians, and where they are still found in the greatest multitude, and their Religion is most supported, are Armenia the Greater [named since the Turkes first possession of it Turcomonia] beyond Euphrates, and Armenia the Lesse on this side. Euphrates, and Cilicia, now termed Caramania.----.[26]

The Armenians,however, continued to maintain their exclusive identity in the socio- religious sphere without bringing any change.

Full freedom to pursue their own way of life was enjoyed by them. It is recorded “They acknowledge obedience, without any further or higher dependence, to two patriarckes of their owne: whom they terme Catholikes. Namely one of the greater Armenia, the Families under whose jurisdiction exceede the number of 150000, beside very many Monasteries.

Of the Armenians the said Bishop of Sidon testifieth, that they are subject to two principall Patriarkes, one of Armenia the Greater, the other of Armenia the lesser. The former resideth in the Monastery and Church of Ecmeazin, neere the Citie Ervan in Persia: the other in the Citie Cis of Cilicia, now called Caramania.” However, other Patriarkes are sometimes by the favour of the Turks created amongst them, and are exacters of Tributes which the Armenian Families are bound to pay the Turkes. Others also are elected Coadjutors of the same Patriarkes with consent of the bishops and people. Further there are others, primates or rather Patriarkes of the same Nation in the remotest parts of Persia and in Constantinople, which although legally they are subject to the Patriarke of Armenia major, yet sometimes doe not acknowledge him.

The Families subject to the ptriarke of the Greater Armenia exceed the number of 150,000, besides very many Monasteries, Bishops, Religious persons and Deacons. their Preachers are called Mortabiti, and are obeyed by the people, as the Patriarke himselfe. In the Province Nevuam, in Persia also, in two Cities there live Catholike Armenians subject to an Archbishop of the Dominican Order, and other Friers of that profession, which observe the Latine Rites, and live under the obedience of the Roman Sea.The Patriarke of Armenia Minor hath under his Jurisdiction foure and twentie Prelates, Archbishops and Bishops, and the Election of the Patriarke belongs to 12. Bishops neerer the Patriarchall church. Yet sometimes the Armenian people by favour and command of the Turkish Officers create their Patriarks, and after obtaine the consent of the bishops and Archbishops, and by the favour of the principall people, a coadjutor with future successionis deputed to him, who of a Master and Preacher, after the death of the said predecessor, is received and confirmed by the people for Patriarke. To this Patriarke are subject about 20000. Families, and they live in the villages, Castles and Cities of Cilicia and Syria: there are twentie Monasteries each contayning 100. Religious, 300. Religious, 300. Priests, Deacons and Clerkes many, which live of Almes, and of their owne industry.”[27] While enjoying full religious freedom the Armenians possessed a practical attitude towards life. They were liberal. The European travelers disapprove of their “absurdities”in religious and social practices.and criticize the frugal attitude of their Emperors also. The then contemporary travelogues confirm that system: “This people have two patriarchs, to whom, they give the name of Universall: the one keepeth his seate in the Citie of Sis in Caramania, not farre from tharsus: the other in the Monastery of Ecmeazin, neere unto the Citie Ervan in this countrey. Under these two patriarchs are eighteene Monasteries, full straight with Friers of their Religion; and foure and twentie Bishopricks. the maintenance allowed in times past unto each of these two Patriarchs, was a Maidin on an house: each patriarch having under him twentie thousand housholds: but now that large benevolence the great Turke hath seased into his owne hands; and therefore now they are constrained to live on the Almes of the people, going continually in visitation from one Citie to another, carrying their Wives and whole family with them.. The people of this nation have amongst them the Christian Faith, but at this day it is spotted with many absurdities. They hold with the Church of Rome in the use of the Crosse, affirming it to be meritorious, if they make the same with two fingers, as the Papists use;: but idle and vaine if with one finger, as the Jacobites: They adorne their Churches in every place with the signe of the Crosse, but for other Images they have none, being professed enemies against the use of them. In keeping ancient Reliques they are very superstitious, and much devoted to the blessed Virgin Mary, to whom they direct their prayers. They imitate the Dioscorians in eating White-meats on Saturday, which to doe in Wednesday and Friday were a deadly sin: nevertheless, they will not refraine from the eating of fresh on every Friday, between the Feast of the Passover and the Ascention. They abstain five Sabboths in the year from eating flesh, in a remembrance of that time which the Gentiles did sacrifice their Children unto Idols. they celebrate the Annunciation of the Virgin Marie on the sixt of Aprill, the Nativitie of our blessed Savior on the sixt of january, the Purification the fourth of February, and the Transfiguration the 14 of August. The ministration of their Liturgie or Service is performed in their native language, that all may understand: but in their Service of the Masse for the dead, they are most idolatrous, using at the solemnizing thereof, to sacrifice a Lambe, which they first lead round about the Church, and after they had killed it and rosted it, they spread it on a faire white Linnen cloath, the priest giving to each of the Congregation a part and portion thereof. They are [unlesse some few families] so farre from yeelding obedience unto the Sea of Rome, that they asume all Antiquitie unto themselves, as having retained the Christian Faith from the time of the Apostles. Many Jesuites and Priests have beene sent from Rome, to bring this oppressed Nation under her government, but they have little prevailed; for neither will they yeeld obedience, nor be brought by any perswasion to forsake their ancient and inveterate errours, to become more erronious with her.” [28]. The passage clearly brings out the Christian attitude towards the Armenians As stated earlier, the Armenians were spread throughout the Turkish domain, happily settled and engaged in fruitful professions.Even before the Ottoman power was at its peak, the Armenians fared well. Marco Polo confirms that the plight of the Armenians was extremely enviable.. While discussing the province of Turcoman, he refers to three classes of people namely; the Turcomans, Greeks and Armenians and adds that these people are subject to the Tartars of the Levant as their suzerain”. Commenting upon their prosperity, he pointed out that “the Armenians and the Greeks, who live mixt with the former in the towns and villages, occupying themselves with trade and handicrafts.” It is indeed interesting to note the various handicrafts in which the Armenians excelled. Marco polo says, “ they weave the finest and handsomest carpets in the world, and also a great quantity of fine and rich silks’ of cremoisy and other colours and plenty of other stuffs. their chief cities are Conia, Savast and lasaria besides many other towns and bishops sees”.The Greater Armenia is called as “a great country – “which” begins at a city called Arzinjan at which they weave the best buckrams in the world. the people of the country are Armenians and subject to Tartars. there are many towns and villages in the country, but the nablest of their critics is Arzinga or Arzinjan which the seer of an Archtrishop, and then Arziron and Arzizi. “The country” reiterates Marco Polo” is indeed a passing great one, and in the summer it is frequented by the whole host of the Tartars of the Levant, because it then furnishes them with such excellent pastures for their cattle. It possesses also the best baths from natural springs that are anywhere to be found. But in winter the cold is fast all bounds, so in that season they quit this country and go to a warmer region, where they find other good pastures. At a castle called paipurth, that you pass in going from Tribizand to Tauris, there is a very good silver miner”. Among other wonders of this region, Marco Polo and several Persian chroniclers emphasise that that “it is in this country of Armenia that the Ark of Noah exists on the top of a certain great mountain [on the summit of which snow is so constant that no one can ascend; for the smod never melts, and is constantly added to by new falls. Below, however, the snow does melt, and runs down, producing such rich and abundant herbage that in summer cattle are sent to pasture from a long way round about and it never fails them”. [29].The Persian sources like Ajaibul Buldan,Tuhfatul Gharaib. Habibus Siyar and some others mention strange things to confirm the prosperity of the region. It is recorded in these works, that there is one fireplace [atashkada] in Armenia. Whenever there are no rains, drought, or dreary weather, the khadims of the Atashkada lit the fire there and its sides and corners are washed by dirty water which is later scattered and while this work is still in process, there appear lots of clouds on the sky suddenly and torrential rains follow and enrich it with pure water. [30]. There were, however, certain travelers who noticed poverty among the Armenians also in certain area. In the region of Turis,, the entire population including the Armenians were” poor creatures” despite flourishing trade and handicrafts in the town.. Here stuffs of silk and Gold were woven and rich merchandise was brought from India Garmsir and other places. But Latin and Genoese merchants were.said to be better off in this city. The place had a great market for precious stones. It is a city in fact where merchants make large profits”.When Ibni Batuta had visited Arzanjan – a vast town,where there were Armenians form the greater part of the population and Arz i Rum was “mostly in ruins as the result of a civil war between two Turkmen tribes”.[31].

Nevertheless the prosperous and populous condition of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire is again confirmed through numerous travelogues.

Writing in 1603 during his sojourn in Turkey, John cartwright recorded likewise that the lesser Armenia too was “subject to the Tartars; with its innumerable towns and villages.It had “everything in plenty”. Besides it was “a great country for sport in the Chase of all manner of beasts and birds. All the spicery and the cloths of silk and gold, and the other valuable wares that come from the interior are brought to that city. The merchants of Venice and Genoa and other countries, come thither to sell their goods, and to buy what they lack..It is now called Turcomania, and was the first seate of the Turkes, after their first comming out of Scythia, who left their naturall seates, and by the Caspian Ports passing through the Georgian Countrey, then called Iberia, neere unto the Caspian Sea; first ceased upon this part of Armenia, and that with so strong an hand, that it is by their posteritie yet holden at this day, and of them called Turcomania. “ [32]. Emphasising again how fruitfully engaged the Armenians were in the Turkish domain, Cartwright reiterated:”---To discourse how populous this nation of Armenians is at this day, is needlesse, since they inhabit both in Armenia the greater, and Armenia the lesse; as also in Cilicia, Bithynia, Syria, Mesopotamia and Persia. Besides the Principall Cities of the Turkish Empire, be much appopulated with them, as Brusia, Angori, Trabisonda, Alexandria, Grand-Caire, Constantinople, Caffa, Aleppo, Orpha, Cara-emit, Van, and Julpha: for that they are very laborious in transporting Merchandize from the Citie to another, by which means, through the customes which are paid in every Citie, the Cofers of the Grand Signior are wonderfully enriched. [33]

The social structure of the Armenians and the joint family system in their country is appreciated by the same traveler which perhaps could be the basis of their strength: “At our first entrance into this Countrey, we travelled through a goodly, large, and spacious Plaine, compassed about with a row of high Mountaines, where were many Villages, wholly inhabited by Armenians; a people very industrious in all kind of labour: their Women very skilful and active in shooting,and managing any sort of weapon, like the fierce Amazones in antick time; and the women at this day, which inhabit the Mountaine Xatach in Persia. Their families are very great; for both Sons, Nephewes, and Neeces, doe dwell under one roofe, having all their substance in common: and when the Father dyeth, the eldest Sonne doth governe the rest, all submiting themselves under his Regiment. but when the eldest Sonne dyeth, the government doth not passe to his Sonnes, but to the eldest Brother. And if it chance to fall out, that all the Brethren doe dye, then the government doth belong to the eldest Sonne of the eldest Brother, and so from one to another. In their dyet and cloathing, they are all fed and clad alike, living in all peace and tranquilitie, grounded on true love and honest simplicitie.[34]

While enjoying full religious freedom the Armenians possessed a practical attitude towards life. They were liberal. The European travelers disapprove of their “absurdities”in religious and social practices.and criticize the frugal attitude of their Emperors also. The then contemporary travelogues confirm that system: “This people have two patriarchs, to whom, they give the name of Universall: the one keepeth his seate in the Citie of Sis in Caramania, not farre from tharsus: the other in the Monastery of Ecmeazin, neere unto the Citie Ervan in this countrey. Under these two patriarchs are eighteene Monasteries, full straight with Friers of their Religion; and foure and twentie Bishopricks. the maintenance allowed in times past unto each of these two Patriarchs, was a Maidin on an house: each patriarch having under him twentie thousand housholds: but now that large benevolence the great Turke hath seased into his owne hands; and therefore now they are constrained to live on the Almes of the people, going continually in visitation from one Citie to another, carrying their Wives and whole family with them.

[35]. The people of this nation have amongst them the Christian Faith, but at this day it is spotted with many absurdities. They hold with the Church of Rome in the use of the Crosse, affirming it to be meritorious, if they make the same with two fingers, as the Papists use;: but idle and vaine if with one finger, as the Jacobites: They adorne their Churches in every place with the signe of the Crosse, but for other Images they have none, being professed enemies against the use of them. In keeping ancient Reliques they are very superstitious, and much devoted to the blessed Virgin Mary, to whom they direct their prayers. They imitate the Dioscorians in eating White-meats on Saturday, which to doe in Wednesday and Friday were a deadly sin: nevertheless, they will not refraine from the eating of fresh on every Friday, between the Feast of the Passover and the Ascention. They abstain five Sabboths in the year from eating flesh, in a remembrance of that time which the Gentiles did sacrifice their Children unto Idols. they celebrate the Annunciation of the Virgin Marie on the sixt of Aprill, the Nativitie of our blessed Savior on the sixt of january, the Purification the fourth of February, and the Transfiguration the 14 of August. The ministration of their Liturgie or Service is performed in their native language, that all may understand: but in their Service of the Masse for the dead, they are most idolatrous, using at the solemnizing thereof, to sacrifice a Lambe, which they first lead round about the Church, and after they had killed it and rosted it, they spread it on a faire white Linnen cloath, the priest giving to each of the Congregation a part and portion thereof. They are [unlesse some few families] so farre from yeelding obedience unto the Sea of Rome, that they asume all Antiquitie unto themselves, as having retained the Christian Faith from the time of the Apostles. Many Jesuites and Priests have beene sent from Rome, to bring this oppressed Nation under her government, but they have little prevailed; for neither will they yeeld obedience, nor be brought by any perswasion to forsake their ancient and inveterate errours, to become more erronious with her.” [36]. The passage clearly brings out the Christian attitude towards the Armenians.

It was, however, not only the diligenceand imagination of the Armenians that had paid dividendsto them. The nature had, endowed Ottoman Armenians with many resources to distinguish and enrich them.

The Armenian possessions were rich in oil also. Marco polo says that, “.... There is a fountain from which oil springs in great abundance, in so much that a hundred shiploads might be taken from it at one time. This oil is not good to use with food, but it is good to burn, and is also used to anoint camels that have the mange. People come from vast distances to fetch it, for in all the countries round about they have no other oil”. Not only Hanikoff refers to naptha in the vicinity of Tiflis but Russian explorers like Berg, Ignatov, Obruchev also refer to it. If Ricold is to be believed, the same naptha was supplied to the whole country as far as Baghdad, and Barbaro says that the camels were being anointed with the oil.[37]John cartwright describes the lake Arctamer ‘which was under the rocke over which they passed and two miles from this shore in the aforesaid lake were two islands called the Ecmenicke Ilands inhabited only by Armenians and some Georgians which two islands do bring forth and yield such store of cattle and plenty of rice, wheat, and barley, the Garners and stonehouses for all the countries round it. On the west side of city Van lay a pleasant and delightful plain wherein the Janisaries do exercise themselves twice a week after their manner in the feats of war. Late Arctamar was called in antique time the more or Marish martiana or Margiana or mantiana, Out of this lake were caught yearly an innumerable quantities of fish like our Herring which being dried in the sun, they dispersed and sell them all over the country. [38]

The mountains of Ararat, the Periardi mountains now called cheilder Monte are renowned and “notable for its great rivers which do so fructiferate the country that the barbarous people call it “leprus” [which is to pay, Fruitful. First the river Araxis which throws its many channels and enriches that Champaine and dry country. this river springs out of the hill Taurus in this part, where Periardo is siluated on the side of the Hill Ado, and so runeth by East even to the confines of Servan, and windeth itselfe towards the West, and by North, where it is joyned with the River Cirus, and then passeth to Artaxata, now called Nassivan, a cities of the Armenians, right against Reivan another Citie, and so watereth Armenia, and coursing along the Plaine of Araxis, dischargeth it selfe into the Caspian Sea, on the one side by South leaving Armenia, and on the other side by North leaving the Countrey Servania; whose chiefe Citie is Eris.The River cirus likewise springeth out of Tauras, and so descending into the champaines and Plaines of Georgie, charging it selfe, and being greatly encreased with other Rivers, it is joyned with Araxis, and so maketh his issue also into the Caspian Sea. This river the Inhabitant of the Country at this day call by the name of Ser, in their owne Language, but the Turkes call it chiur. Out of these Mountaines also springeth the River Canac, which maketh [as it were almost] an Iland, a little on this side the Citie Eris, and afterwards unite it selfe in the Channell with Araxis, and so runneth into the Caspian Sea.Two other Mountaines are of great note in this place; the one is anti-Taurus, now called Mons Niger, the blacke Mountaine, which runneth up into Media; and the other Gordaeus, the tops of which Mountaines are covered continually with white and hoary Snowes. The Mountaine Gordaeus is environed with many other petie Mountaines, called the Gordaean Mountaines; on the tops whereof [as wee passed] wee found many ruines and huge foundations, of which no reason can be rendered.The Turkes call the Mountaine gordiaeus Augri-daugh, the Armenians Messis-Saur: it is so high, that it over-tops all the Mountaines thereabout,there issueth out of the foot of this Hill a thousand little Springs, whereof some doe feed the River Tygris, and some other Rivers, and it hath about it three hundred Villages inhabited by Armenians and Georgians. About this Monasterie of Saint Georgians groweth great plentie of Graine, the Graine being twice as big as ours, as also Roses and Rheubarb, which because they have not the skill to drie it, that Simple is of no esteem or value. On the top of this Mountaine did the Arke of Noah rest, as both Jewes, Turkes and Armenians affirmed. Some Friers of Saint Gregories Monasterie told us, that even at this day some part of the Arke is yet to be seene on the top of this Mountaine, if any could ascend thither”.[39]

The same traveler further informs that “there was also Chiulfal, a Towne situated on the frontiers between the Armenians and the Atropatians, and yet within Armenia, inhabited by Christians, partly Armenians, partly Georgians: a People rather given to the trafficke of Silkes, and other sorts of wares, whereby it waxeth rich and full of money, then instructed in weapons and matters of warre. This Towne consistent of two thousand houses, and ten thousand soules, being built at the foot of a great rockie Mountayne in so barren a soyle, that they are constrained to fetch most of their provision, onely Wine excepted, from the Citie Nassivan, halfe a dayes journey off, which some thinke to be Artaxata, in the confines of Media, and Armenia. The buildings of chiulfal are very faire, all of hard quarrie stone: and the Inhabitants very courteous and affable, great drinkers of Wine, but no brawlers in that drunken humour, and when they are most in drinke, they power out their prayers, especially to the Virgin Mary, as the absolute commander of her Sonne Jesus Christ, and to other Saints as Intercessors. [40]At chiulfal we stayed eight dayes, and passed again the River Araxis, leaving the noble Kingdome of Armenia, called now Turcomania, because of the Turcomanes a people that came out of Scythia [as before wee noted] who live as Sheepeards in their Tents, but the native people give themselves to husbandry, and other manuall sciences, as working of Carpets and fine Chamlets, we were no sooner over, but wee entered into Media: which by some is divided into Media Atropatia, and Media the Great. The whole country is very fruitful, and watered wit the River Araxis, and Cyrus, and other rivers that are famous, even in antique Writers. Divers cities are there in this Kingdome.

Alexander the Great, when he warred against the Medes and Persians; at which time also he made a Wall of a wonderfull height and thicknesse, which extended it selfe from this Citie, to a Citie in Armenia, called Teffis, belonging to the Georgians. And though it bee now razed and decayed, yet the foundation remaineth: and it was made to this purpose, that the Inhabitants of that Countrey, newly conquered by Alexander, should not lightly flie, nor their enemies easily invade them. This Citie is seated upon an high Hill, and builded all of Free-stone much after our buildings, being very high and thicke: neverthelesse, it never grew great nor famous, and even in these dayes, there is no reckoning made of it: and the reason is, because of the situation, serving for passage onely out of Tartaria into Persia, and out of Persia into Tartaria, receiving those that travell too and fro, not as Merchants and men of Commerce, but as passengers and travellers; and to speake in a word, it is seated in a very necessary place, as the case standeth, by reason that it is Ports of the Caspian Sea, but not profitable unto it selfe: much like as it is in the passages of the Alpes, where though the French-men Switzers, Dutch-men, and Italians, continually doe passe by the; yet was there never found a meane citie, much lesse any citie of state and importance. The Citie Eres, most fruitfully watered with the River Araxis and cyrus, and hath yeelded in times past great store of those fine white Silkes, commonly termed by the Merchants Mamodean silkes, whereof at this day, there is not to be found, no not a very small quantitie, by reason of the monstrous ruines and overthrowes, that hath happened in thse Countries, partly by the Armies of the great Turke, and partly by the Armie of the Persians, which still had succeeded one another in their cruell incursions, and bloudie invasions.”[41]

Before the success of the Portuguese in India “had already begun to seriously affect the trade thence the Red sea and Persian gulf,” carried on by the Muslims between the cities of Calicut Cambay Ormuz and Aden, the produce of India was taken to Europe by Persian Gulf to Bussora, at the mouth of the Euphrates and then distributed by Caravan through Armenia Trebizond, Tartary, Aleppo and Damascus [42] Broniovius says that “in Taurica or the Peninsula and its cities or towns there were very few merchants but some few practice mechanic crafts and some merchants and artificers are found these either Christian slaves or Turks, Armenians Jews circassians Ptigorens [which are christians] phytistins or cyngans, men of obscure or lowest degree.”[43] The contemptuous statement seems to have emanated from the prosperity of certain communities which were exclusively the beneficiaries.Anthony the Armenian found in his times that “there were many rich and great cities in Armenia of which Tauris is the chief.While stressing that the Armenians did enjoy a special status in the Turkish Empire, Ibni Hauqal highly appreciated the handicrafts of Armenia, which, interestingly enough is included in the sphere of Islam He writes:

“In the sphere of Islam except Armenia which is the best and the most likable and lovable [bihtar o pasandidatar] place, none seems to be superior or could surpass them in excellence, none can equal them. The city of Taiyib is moderately good but varied kinds of clothes and gilims of black colour are manufactured there. Although white cotton cloth is made in other places also but none could surpass or equal those issued from the Armenia in its beauty excellence and its cheap prices. The gitim and curtains as well as different kinds of coulter, bolster, pillow and the like prepared in Armenia are sent in a huge quantity to Ghandjan.” The same chronicler notes that both the Dakhili and “Kharaji” Armenians were under the Muslim rulers’ domination totally [ba kulli taht: badshahani Islam”. The sovereignty of these regions was in the hands of Muslims.

the road from Armenia went to Turkey-Rum through Trebizond where the merchants from Islamic countries flocked and had to go to Rum for an exit. At a time when Ibni Hauqal visited this country [dar zamani ma mali hangufti],the ruler was entitled to the tax or mal called hungufti accruing from the hanguft [cloth of a plain, equal or firm texture, bed counterpane quilted with cotton]. The demand realized earlier is not known. Besides, most of the supplication and prsents to the rulers brought from Trebizond consisted diba, parcha, kalabatun duzi parchahai katani Rumi parchahai postini, pushakahaj Rumi. People in Nakhchi482 van, Khilat Badlis Qahqala, Arzan are prosperous mostly traders though they are said to be haughty and unkind to the poor. the other objects of presents comprised the silk, all kinds of household furniture, sheep, horses and other cattle, parchas, floor covers, inner breeches, drawers, belts are of high quality which is copied in entirely in salmas and its cost comes from one dinar to ten dinar and there is no comparison in excellence between the ones made in Armenia which surpassed others. the tushaks quilts, curtains which are found in Marandd, Tabriz and Ankhakh have no parallels in other places. It is not made any where in such abundance and with such excellence and finesse. In the same way the veils embroidered with figures, napkins, handkerchief, bed clothes, towels which are made in Miyafariqin and other places in Armenia have a unique attraction.” [44]

Besides the Armenian trade also continued to flourish. In 1610, a report of an Armenian detailed the rich merchandise which shows the magnitude of its commercial potentialities though in the context of one single country only ie. Abyssinia:“Heere goeth from thence yearely ten Carravans, whereof eight are great. The commodities they carrie, are all kind of Indian clothing, and likewise of our English Commodities, [Broad-cloth, Kerseys, Lead, Tinne; likewise, Velvets, Damaskes, Sattens, Taffitaes, and all other sorts of Silke Stuffes]. their measure is about halfe a yard; Cloath, which is worth in Moha foure Rials of eight, is there worth eight Rials. the price of Kerseyes, is halfe the price of Broad-cloath: The colours they most desire, are Reds, Greens, voilets, Mureys, and other light colours: Yellowes in no esteeme, nor blacks.Velvets of china of all sorts are worth ten Rials of eight the halfe yard. Velvets of Italy are much more worth: but not so profitable to the Merchants, because they are much deerer. Sattens of florence are worth ten Rials; Damaskes of the better sort, worth eight or ten. Rials. Taffitaes three Rials; all colours well sold, excepting Yellowes and Blackes.

“Civet, great quantitie is to be had, the price is three Wakias, [which is neere upon foure ounces english], for five rials of eight. elephants teeth, the Bahar, worth thirtie rials. the Bahar is three hundred and sixtie rottollies of Moha. Waxe one hundred Rottollies, worth one riall of eight. Gold the Rottolly, worth sixtie rials, the rottolly is neere upon sixteene unces and a halfe. Lead and Tinne in great rquest. tinne worth the Rottolly, one rial, Lead much more worth, because the Turk wil not suffer any to be carried into his country.

“Bezar-stones many are to be had, and little worth: here are many Beasts with one horne in their fore-head like a Unicorne; which horne, they say, is good against poyson. There are of them which weigh eight pound, some seven, foure, and three pound: the greatest and fairest, worth some foure rials the piece, and those of a lesser sort worth lesser: among the Turkes and Moores in Arabia, every pound is worth one Riall of eight.From Grancairo there goeth in August a great Carravan, and likewise anothr in November. the Commodities they carrie from thence, are Broad-cloaths, Kerseyes, Velvets, Sattens, Damaskes, and all sorts of Silkes. From Cayro to Dombia is fiftie daies travell by Caravan. First, he sits on a gilt Bed-sted like those of china, and there commeth great troops of men daily to salute him; some daies two thousand, some daies more, some daies lesse; but Friday being their day of Fast, there commeth a farre greater quantitie.”[45]

Abu Talib Isfahani had found the Armenian merchants not only very prosperous in Turkey but very alert and having awareness of the situation despite the fact that he was terribly disappointed by their indifferent and detached behaviour. While he was all along conscious of Perso-Ottoman strained relations and maintained a somewhat critical and circumspect attitude, he had to depend upon others for satisfying his Grigarious instincts. He,therefore writes: “They compensate for the inattention of the Turks, I had a very extensive society of Persians, Indians, and Armenians. The two former were, in general, well-informed, or religious men, who had come to Constantinople for the purpose of study. The latter reside in Galata, and are mostly engaged in trade: they come hither form Aleppo, Tokat, Amasia, and other cities in subjection to the Turks. Their language is a mixture of Armenian and Turkish. Many of them have acquired great wealth; but, as their national vice is avarice, I never ever experienced any degree of hospitality or liberality from them.”

The traveler however admits that “ Once or twice I was asked to their evening parties, and had an opportunity of seeing a number of their young women, many of whom I thought handsome.”[46]

Martin Broniovius de Biezerfedea who had been sent as an Ambassador from Stephen king of Poland to the Crim Tartar in 1605 gives a gloomy picture of the plight of Europeans but stresses the good condition of Armenians. He records: “ The Chan hath a common custom House with the Turkes at Perecopia, Casslovia, Capha, and other cities of Taurica or Peninsula which are of Turkish Empire. He demands annually a contribution of the Tartars, Armenians,, Jews, Circassians, Petigorens, Grecian Christians ---“ He adds further: “ The Romism churches of Christians are demolished the Houses cast down the walls and towers wherein are seine many tokens of honour of the Genoese and Latin inscriptions are fallen”. But he adds further ‘Only two Catholick temples and two Armenians remain which is granted to them by the Turks after their own custom to maintain their proper priests and to be present at their public devotions. It is replenished with Turks, Armenians, Jews but very few Italians, Greeks and Christian inhabitants. Now also it is famous over all that part of Taurica for Navigation and the Haven. It hath almost innumerable vineyards, orchards and gardens. Men sail very often to capha, from all the bordering and remote islands of Greece but oftener from the city Constantinople”. [47] Hasan Beg Rumlu categorically stated that the revenue from Erevan was equal to that of Qandahar[ie. 1000,000].

Referring to numerous tolls, duties on silk, and animals, Olearius says that the Armenians had to pay 100,000men at 2 Rth per head in Persia and poll tax. But instances of their prosperity there is also confirmed by sources. Father Pacific de Provins [1628] records in his voyage that the Armenian merchants brought with them sequins et piastres[each –58 sols], they took them to the seque?or Mint which paid them interest. The coin received a Persian imprint and the king gained some benefit from this operation. The king’s coins never left Persian territory because they were nowhere accepted except by weight. Thus foreign gold penetrated into Persia chiefly in the form of Venetian Ducats probably in payment for silk exported by Armenian merchants. Armenians had served as the agents of Shah also and dispersed silk on which the Shah took one third of the produce. Even court European merchants took the services of their Armenian subjects as their trading agents for disposing of the chief exportable commodity namely silk. [48]

Another feather in the cap of Armenians was that they were never bought or sold as slaves to Baghdad or other places. Ibni Hauqal says that “from all over the infidel lands in the vicinity, the slaves are brought to the city of Babul abwab. However he claims to have noticed personally that not an Armenian was ever sold as a slave. In TazkiratulMuluk and other works Georgian slaves are frequently mentioned. Ibni Hauqal further stresses the fact that no one gave the permission for that venture.

The Armenians were predominantly Nusrani, paid Kharaj to the sultan whose men could have harassed them but they enjoyed the status of zimmis and were not to be sold as slaves as they did possess a farman to that effect.[49].

In Tarikhi Manazili Rum,there is the mention of Istanbul as”Islam bol” presumably to indicate its newly acquired Islamic character.[50] For a variety of reasons,the Turks established an empire which was apparently a Muslim state par excellence. The institution of Devshermah, the decree of Sultan Murad III, Millet system etc. go hand in hand with several social and liberal movements and reforms eg. Bektashia order with pantheistic and eclectic approach, Akhi movement which supported the interests of common man and the sufi thought which preached the message of love and peace..A number of instances can be quoted to substantiate the point.To be sure, a kind of harmony prevailed in the multilingual, multi religious and multi social Eurasian Empire of Turks, despite all kinds of imaginary or somewhat true or biased statements of chroniclers.It is interesting to note that Rumi had a number of Christian disciples. They cried in a state of ecstasy on hearing Rumi’s spiritual discourses. When Rumi was once asked how did these non believers could understand and appreciate Rumi’s spiritual thoughts, Rumi had explained it in a convincing manner: “Although ways are many, the destination is one. Dont you see many a paths to the Kaba... Therefore, if one looks at only one ways, then differences are big and distances among one another are infinite, but if one looks at the end, all agree unanimously that the destination is one and the same.”:The Europeans who went to Quniya to attend the sama and to participate in the ecstasy of dance and music,they were called Darvishan-i-charkh zan or Raqsanda because during the zikr and sama, they keep their right leg firmly on foot and with the music they rotate their body in round circular motions called dast afshani. It is believed that Mevlana Rumi had personally taught them this method of dancing [51]. Thomas Coryat was an eye witness to such an assembly[in 1613] where he went alongwith his friends and some other Englishmen and enjoyed this scene “at the college of Turkish monks in Galata, called Dervishes near to one of their public burial places Every Thursday and Friday, they met in a pretty fair room ---full of Turks to serve God in their superstitious, kind way and had put off their shoes [according to their wonted custome] and placed them upon shelves. The dervishes differed much from the other Turkes,first in the covering of their heads.

These dervishes, though they are religious men have no lands to maintain them as the Christian monastries have but a certain stipend paid them every day by the Grand Signior and partly by certain Bashawes and it is esteemed for so holy an order the diverse bashawas have renounced their dignity and pomp of the world and entered themselves into this order for the better salvation of their souls.” [52]Rumi had pointed out that the religious differences were like the lingual variations. Ibni Arabi conveys this truth directly without recourse to a parable like Rumi “Arabs call to God, O Allah; Persians, O Khoda Greeks O Theo, Armenians O Asolvaz; Turks O Tingri; Frank, O Creator Etheopeons O, Waq. Thus the pronounced words are different but the meaning is one for all the creatures.[53]”

“Proof of the tolerance with which sufism, specifically those of its forms that flourished in Asia Minor, approached other faiths, and their adherents, is provided by the fact that the Armenians, Vartan and Mecnuni, who lived in the 18th century were remarkable exponents of mystic poetry, and belonged the Bektashi Brotherhood. [54] The Bektashia order was popular and had the conviction that the value and significance of this order lay in the fact that all religions are considered to be equal [yaksan] and no religious ceremonies or external rituals of the Bektashir order are given any particular importance.[55]In the Asia Minor, Saurya and Egypt another silsila known as “Tariqai Raushni” became popular in the ninth century, the founder of which was Dadah Umar [d.892]. This silsilah got currency in Azerbaijan, Aran, Armenia and Kudistan and spread from there to the environs of the place. [56] Since this order had reached Afghanistan and its vicinity and there were certain miscreants who often created difficulties on the frontiers of the Mughal Empire in Hindustan, Akbar’s deputy and court chronicler Abul Fazl,therefore, always called them as “Tarikis” in his Akbarnama..[57].

Undoubtedly, the impact of Sufism in the Eurasian region highlighting the monotheism and monism of ancient religions greatly contributed towards bringing the heterogenous people of the region closer. Ibnul Arabi, Rumi, Bhakti saints of India had emphasized it. The messages of Rumi is quite clear and appealing:

‘What is to be done, O Moslems? for I do not recognise myself.
I am neither Christian, nor Jew, nor Gabr, nor Moslem.
I am not of the East, nor of the West, nor of the land, nor of the sea;
I am not of Nature’s mint, nor of the circling heavens.
I am not of India, nor of china, nor of Bulgaria, nor of Saqsin;
I am not of the kingdom of Iraqain, nor of the country of Khurasan.
My place is the Placeless, my trace is the Traceless;

‘Tis neither body nor soul, for I belong to the soul of the Beloved.
I have put duality away, I have seen that the two worlds are one;

One I seek, One I know, One I see, One I call’.[58]

Controversy regarding the antecedents of Ottomans and Armenians and their mutual exchanges in the sphere of music, painting, architecture and their rich common heritage is also found in the sources. The Istanbul albums ‘ seem to reflect this taste for the exotic rather than the native work ‘ [59] There are several manuscripts available in India which carry the royal seal of Ottoman sultans like Sulaiman the magnificent, the seal of Shahjahan and the names of Ottoman and Mughal Emperors and officers indicating that the Armenian traders must have brought the treasure of books also certifying the cultural exchanges taking place in the region.

The Nuzhatul Arwah of Badruddin found in Muks in Armenia and the Anthology of Arabic poetry entitled as Kitabal Aghani transcribed and illustrated in twenty volumes for Badruddin Lulu an Armenian[earlier a slave captured in a war who later became a regent and then a ruler 1233-59] of which half is now preserved in Istanbul[60]are examples in question. In the illustrated manuscripts of medieval period Armenian natural scenes are often depicted to fill up the void. One such painting included in the Mathnavi of ‘Laila wa Majnun “ depicted Majnun in a woebegone and love stricken state wandering in the woods of Armenia. This painting is considered to be one of the most remarkable productions of Central Asia. The books produced on music from the time of Barbad to this day confirm the exchanges taking place between the Ottoman and Armenian music. The lingual arena of Eurasia presents a marvelous adoption of new words from each other enriching the respective languages preventing them from languishing as dead language. When the mother tongue –an emblem of a peoples’s identity and entity adopts and carries the loan words from that of each other and a lingual fusion is also noticed, it is here that real affinity takes place.The cultural exchange which had taken place over the centuries between Ottomans and the Armenians can well form the subject of a book given the magnitude of the material available, but this is beyond the purview of this article except by way of reference.

The Armenian community is said to have played an important role in the foundation and development of socialist movement in the Ottoman Empire between 1876 –1923. Towards the end of nineteenth century, nearly three to 3.5 million Armenian dispersed over Ottoman Empire.. It is also argued that the Armenian issues at the Congress of Berlin[1878] a precursor of Armenian Nationalist movement and the Treaty of Lausanne 9July 1923] opened a new chapter. Those who are acquainted with historical developments in the region know well that democratic traditions,socialist ideas, revolutionary movements and peoples’ uprisings were not unknown to the region. Armenian community is also said to have ‘one thing in common, they no longer had a country to call their own and the violent fragmentation of Arnenian society---the physical gap between the rural world rooted out in the Yerkir [the old name for Ottoman Armenia] and the Bourgeoisie dispersed all over the world[61]. The Armenian nest in Turkey was no longer existent and uprooting is always agonizing.


1. ACHUYT Yagnikand Shchitra Seth, The Shaping of Modern Gujarat, 2005, p8
2. BANAKITI, Tarikhi Banakiti, p318; Haft Iqlim,
3. BANAKITI, 273
4. BASIL Gray, Persian Painting, Geneva, 1977, p104
5. BARBAD,, Dushanbe 1989,pp139,230’Barthold, V.V Sochinenija vol. 5,Moscow ed. P.111
6. JUVAINI, Tarikhi Jahangusha I Juvaini, vol, 2, pp.438-9
7. CLAUDE Cahen, The formation of Turkey, Eng Tr. By P.M. Holt, Essex 2001,255-9; Anthony the Armenian,, Purchas 327-329 Account of the Traveller Anthony the Armenian [AD 1307], Purchas His Pilgrimes, vol. X1, Glasgow, MCMVI, pp314-6; Ibni Batuta, Travels in Asia and North Africa, New Delhi, 2001, p. 132
8 HASAN Beg Rumlu, Ahsanut Tawarikh Tehran, 1349 pp505-6;Yezdi, Zafar Nama,
194-; Claude Cahen, The formation of Turkey Eng tr. By P.M Holt, Essex 2001 pp255-9
9. RUMLU, op. cit. p505-6;.Renaissance of Islam, 157-64;Anthony the Armenians,358
10. SOCHINENIJA 212; Travels of Mirza Abu Talib Isfahani, Asia, Africa, and Europe during the years 1799-1803, New Delhi,pp 234-5,252-9; Travelogue of Thomas Coryat Purchas His Pilgrimes, vol. X Glasgow MCMV, pp 426-27
11. SURAIYA Farokhi, The Ottoman Empire and the world around it,2004, p, 212
12. MARWIN Howe, Turkey Today, USA, 2000,pp 92-93,97-9
13. THOMAS Coryat, 426-7; Isfahani 234-5,252-59
14. SURAIYA, op. cit. 107
15. BASIL Gray, Persian Painting, Geneva 1977, p.104
16. PURCHAS and His Pilgrimes, vol. 1, Glasgow, MCMV pp380-3;ibid vol.V111 pp 66-76
17. PURCHAS and His Pilgrimes, Vol,1,Glasgow MCMV, pp309-12
18. ibid; also see Ambassador Morgenthau’s story, p.337 The Turkish Transformation, p75
19. PURCHAS His Pilgrimes, Vol 111, Glasgow, MCMV,pp166-169
20. MARCO Polo op. cit, Book 1 note 1
21. TRAVELS of Mirza Abu Talib Khan, Asia Africa and Europe during the years 1799-1803, New Delhi,234-35,252-259
22. ibid 234- 235; 252-9
23. ibid
24. GEORGE Sandys, Purchas His Pilgrimes, Vol, VIII, pp122-23
25. PURCHAS His Pilgrimes Vol. 1 Enquiries of languages of Christians, Glasgow MCMV, pp262-3.
26. PURCHAS His Pilgrimes vol VIII, p.380-81,412-413
27. CARTWRIGHT vol. V111 pp.488-91
28. ibid
29. MARCO POLO, op. cit, p 75
30. ibid; Khwandmir, Habibus Siyar, 2nd.ed. 1353 AH [solar], pp 657
31. Ibni Batuta, Travels in Asia and Africa 1325-1354, Delhi,1986,pp132-3
32. JOHN Cartwright, Travelogue, Purchas and His Pilgrimes, Vol. VIII, pp 488 –91
33. ibid
34. ibid
35. ibid
36. ibid
37. MARCO POLO, 45-46
38. JOHN Cartwright, op. cit. pp 494-501
39. ibid
40. ibid
41. ibid
42. DANVERS.F.C., The Portuguese in India, vol.1,London,1966,p117
43. MARTIN Broniovius, Purchas His Pilgrimes, Vol,XIII, Glasgow,MCMVI,p 480
44. ANTHONY the Armenian [AD. 1307] op. cit. pp 314 –16;Ibni Hauqal, Suratul Arz, op. cit. pp90-91
45. PURCHAS volVIII op. cit. pp 418-19
46. MIRZA Abu Talib op. cit pp264-65
47. MARTIN Broniovius,Purchas His Pilgrimes,vol XIII, pp461,472,480
48. A MANUAL OF SAFAVID ADMINISTRATION, Tazkiratul Muluk, Eng. Tr. By V. Minorsky, London 1943, pp 14, 20, 27; also see Hasan Beg Rumlu, Ahsanut Tawarikh, Tehran, 1349, pp505-6
49. IBNI Hauqal, Suratul Arz, vol. II, Tehran 1350, pp 88, 90-91,293,742.; also see, Tazkiratul Muluk,,pp14, 20,27,179-80
50. TARIKHI Manazili Rum, ed. By Muhibbul Hasan, p. 87
51. ABDUL Rafi Zarrin Kob, Haqeeqat az Bayazid Bistami ta Nur Ali Shah Kanabadi,, Tehran, 1370 pp118-9, 120-121
52. THOMAS Coryat, [1613 A. D.] Purchas His Pilgrimes, Vol, X, Glasgow, MCMV, pp 417-420
53. MASATAKA Takashita, Sufism and the dignity of man, --the Arabi and Rumi, Sufi pp100-101
54. XENIA Celnarova, Sufism and Turkish Literature, Sufismop. Cit. pp130-131
55. ABDULARAFI op. cit 120 -121
56. ibid
57. ABUL Fazl, Akbar Nama, vol 3, Eng tr. By Beveridge, New Delhi 1973, pp18,7780
58. LIFE and Works of Rumi, pp140
59. BASIL Gray, op. cit p104
60. TAZKIRATUL Muluk p26
61. MOTE Tuncay, and Eric J. Zurcher, Socialism and Nationalism in the Ottoman Empire, 1876-1929, Amsterdam,1994,pp109-156

Source: © Erciyes University 2006


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