By Catherine Tsounis
I was walking on second ave by NYU Langone hospital and saw a banner of “100: The Armenian Genocide.” I did not realize till later that I was in front of the St. Vartan Armenian Cathedral at 630 2md Ave. I remembered the unique contribution to Eastern Orthodox and Hellenism the Armenian nation played. Few persons know that they carried a lantern of light in the Byzantine Empire throughout its history.
The Byzantine Empire was multi-cultural. Nations and races were united under the Greek language, civilization and Orthodox faith, calling themselves ROMANS. “Due to centuries of foreign domination, much of Armenian history has been neglected and surprised,” according to” https://peopleofar.wordpress.com/2011/10/24/armenians-of-byzantium-part-1/. “As such much of the influence Armenians had on the Byzantine Empire has been swept under the rug by the Ottomans and later the Soviets. Nevertheless the contributions of Armenian people to the Byzantine Empire have been more than significant. As the historian P. Charanis (1959) says: “The important role played in the history of Byzantium by that talented minority, the Armenians, has been generally unrecognized.” Even though Armenia was only in part a vessel of Byzantium, many Armenians became successful in the Byzantine Empire. From bishops, architects, important military figures and even Emperors, Armenians where represented in all walks of Byzantine life. In fact one out of five Byzantine emperors and empresses were ethnically full or in part Armenian.”Basil the Bulgar Slayer
“The best example of this is Emperor Heraclius, whose father was Armenian and mother Cappadocian. Emperor Heraclius began the Heraclean dynasty (610-717 A.D.).,” according tohttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Byzantine_Armenia .The Akathistos Hymn sung during Orthodox Lent commemorates his victory and saving of Constantinople with the help of Our Lady, Virgin Mary. Basil, “The Bulgar Slayer “became one of the strongest Byzantine emperors, winning territory in the Balkans, Mesopotamia, Armenia, and Georgia,” according tohttps://encyclopedia2.thefreedictionary.com/Basil+II+The+Bulgar-Slayer. “He was noted for his victory (1014) in the war with Bulgaria, which ended with his blinding all the soldiers in the defeated Bulgarian army. He increased his domestic authority by attacking the landed interests of the military aristocracy and of the church.”
The Armenian military power, to some scholars, was the basis of the stability and longevity of Byzantium. A strong army was needed. Armenia was the source. “From the 5th century forwards, the Armenians were regarded as the main constituent of the Byzantine army,” stateshttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Byzantine_Armenia.
In the article, “Armenia, Byzantium, and the Byzantine Armenians” (https://www.looys.net/byz_arm.html), “another example of the impact of Armenians within the Byzantine Empire is the Great Church known as Hagia Sophia. As Rummel explains, ‘After the great earthquake of October 25, A.D. 989, which ruined the great dome of Hagia Sophia, the Byzantine emperor Basil II asked for the Armenian architect Trdat (or Tiridates), creator of the great churches of Ani and Agine, to repair the dome. The magnitude of the destruction in the church caused reconstruction to last six years. The church was re-opened on May 13, 994.’ The magnificent reconstructed dome designed by Trdat in the tenth century remains aloft the “Great Church” to this day.” We must not only remember the 100 year genocide, but the unique contribution of Armenians as carriers of the Greek language, civilization and Eastern Orthodoxy.