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Mysteries of Armenia

The Battle for Relics


The family burial-vault of Ancient Armenia’s last kings, the Arshakuni (Arshakid), is situated on the territory of Akhtsk village, 30 km west from Yerevan. Having ascended to the throne in the middle of the 1st century, this dynasty ruled over the country for nearly four hundred years. Although the representatives of this royal family did not attain their predecessors’ might and glory, it was during the Arshakunis that Christianity was proclaimed a state religion and the Armenian people obtained their own alphabet. The burial-vault itself was built in the middle of the 4th century which in case of necessity was called to substitute the kings’ traditional burial place situated by the upper stream of the Euphrates (the first Christians had been baptized in the waters of this sacred river). In those times Byzantium, which pretended to the western lands, presented quite a justifiable threat to Armenia. In 359, however, King Shapuh II occupied the burial-vault. Yet he did not plunder it entirely, but tried to carry the Armenian kings’ relics over to Persia in order to underscore the transient nature of the Christian country. It was all in vain though. The Armenian Army Commander Vasak Mamikonyan organized a raid to Persia and brought back the Arshakunis’ relics, which were buried in the Akhtsk burial-vault in 364.

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