Marzpanate Armenia

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The Marzpanate period (Armenian: Մարզպանական Հայաստան) refers to the period in Armenian history after the fall of the Arshakuni Dynasty of Armenia in 428, when Marzpans (governors-general of the boundaries), nominated by the Sassanid Persian King, governed the eastern part of Armenia, better known as Persian Armenia. At that time, Byzantine Armenia was ruled by several princes under Byzantine control, and was finally organized into four provinces under governors by the emperor Justinian in 536. The Marzpanate period ended with the Arab conquest of Armenia in the 7th century, when the Principality of Armenia was established. An estimated three million Armenians fell under the sway of the Persian marzpans during this period.[1]

The Marzpan was invested with supreme power, even imposing death sentences; but he could not interfere with the age-long privileges of the Armenian nakharars. The country as a whole enjoyed considerable autonomy. The office of Hazarapet, corresponding to that of Minister of the Interior, public works and finance, was entrusted to an Armenian, as was the post of Sparapet, commander-in-chief. Each nakharar had his own army, according to the extent of his domain. The "National Cavalry" or "Royal force" was under the Commander-in-chief. The tax collectors were all Armenians. The courts of justice and the schools were directed by the Armenian clergy. Several times, an Armenian nakharar became Marzpan, as did Vahan Mamikonian in 485 after a period of rebellion against the Persians.

Three times during the Marzpanic period, Persian kings launched persecutions against Christianity in Armenia. The Persians had tolerated the invention of the Armenian alphabet and the founding of schools, thinking these would encourage the spiritual separation of Armenia from the Byzantines, but on the contrary, the new cultural movement among the Armenians proved to be conducive to closer relations with Byzantium.

Marzpans of Armenia

Tenure Marzpan Notes
428-442 Veh Mihr Shapur Persian grandee, nominated by Bahram V.
442-451 Vasak, prince of Syunik Armenian nobleman, nominated by Yazdgerd II.
451-465 Adhur Hormizd (in Armenian sources: Adrormizd) Persian grandee, nominated by Yazdgerd II.
465-481 Adhur Gushnasp (in Armenian sources: Arderveshnasp) Persian grandee, nominated by Peroz I.
481-482 Sahak II Bagratuni Armenian nobleman, elected by the rebellious Armenian nobles. Killed at the Battle of Akesga.
482-482 Shapur Mihran Persian military occupation.
482-483 Vahan I Mamikonian Head of provisional government.
483-483 Zarmihr Karen Persian military occupation.
483-484 Shapur of Ray Persian grandee, nominated by Peroz I.
Cyril Toumanoff suggests a marzpan named Andigan for the same period.[2]
484-505/510 Vahan I Mamikonian (2nd term) Armenian nobleman, nominated by Peroz I.
505-509 or 510-514 Vard Mamikonian ("Vard the Patrician") Brother of Vahan I, recognized as marzpan by Kavadh I.
11 years Several Persian marzpans perses According to Samuel of Ani : "After the patrician Vard, brother of Vahan, Persian marzpans governed Armenia for 11 years ... The government of Armenia passed then to Mjej of the Gnuni family, who exercised it for 30 years".[3]
518-548 Mjej I Gnuni Mentioned by Cyril Toumanoff[2] and Gérard Dédéyan,[4] but not included by René Grousset.
548-552[2] or 552-554[5] Gushnasp Bahram
552-560[2] or 554-560[5] Tan-Shapur
560-564 Varazdat
564-572 Chihor-Vishnasp
572-573 Vardan III Mamikonian Leader of anti-Persian rebellion.[5]
572-574 Golon Mihran Persian general tasked by Khosrau I with subduing the revolt.[5] Cyril Toumanoff substitutes him and Vardan with Vardan-Gushnasp.[2]
573-577 Vardan III Mamikonian Under Byzantine protectorate.[5]
For the same period, Krikor Jacob Basmadjian a Cyril Toumanoff have Philip, prince of Syunik.
577-580 Tamkhosrau Persian grandee, nominated by Khosrau I.
580-581 Varaz Vzur Persian grandee, nominated by Hormizd IV
581-582/588 Pahlav Persian grandee, nominated by Hormizd IV.
582/588-588/589 Frahat Persian grandee, nominated by Hormizd IV.
588/589-590 Hrartin (Fravardin) Persian grandee, nominated by Hormizd IV.
590-591 Musel II Mamikonian Installed by the Byzantines.
592-605 Vindatakan These five marzpans are mentioned by Cyril Toumanoff.
604-611 or 616 Smbat IV Bagratuni Christian Settipani records him as marzpan from 599 to 607.[6] He is not mentioned as marzpan by Toumanoff. René Grousset holds that Khosrau II named him marzpan following his victories in Hyrcania, ca. 604, and adds that he possibly continued in office until his death in 616-617.[7] However, he also mentions three other marzpans over the same period (see following).[8]
611-613 Shahrayeanpet Marzpan at Dvin, in eastern Armenia, along with Shahin Vahmanzadegan as pahghospan in western (former Byzantine) Armenia
613-613 Parshenazdat Persian grandee, nominated by Khosrau II.
616-619 Namdar-Gushnasp Persian grandee, nominated by Khosrau II.
619-624 Shahraplakan (Sarablagas) Persian grandee, nominated by Khosrau II.
624-627 Rotshvehan Persian grandee, nominated by Khosrau II.
627-628 A large part of Armenia reverted to Byzantine control.
ca. 628 Varaztirots II Bagratuni Armenian nobleman, named marzpan by Kavadh II for the portions of Armenia remaining under Persian rule. Following the onset of the Muslim conquest of Persia, Varaztirots aligned himself with the Byzantines.
630-635 Mjej II Gnuni Armenian nobleman, named governor of Armenia by the Byzantine emperor Heraclius.
635-638 David Saharuni Armenian nobleman, he murdered Mjej and proclaimed himself governor. He was recognized by Heraclius, who named him kouropalates and ishkhan of Armenia.
638-643 No central authority.
643-645 Theodore Rshtuni
645/646 Varaztirots II Bagratuni Following the complete collapse of Persia, he was named Prince of Armenia by the Byzantines, but died before being formally invested


  1. Yeremyan, Suren. «Մարզպանական Հայաստան» (Marzpan Armenia). Soviet Armenian Encyclopedia. vol. vii. Yerevan: Armenian Academy of Sciences, 1981, pp. 313-315.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 (Toumanoff 1990, pp. 506–507).
  3. (Settipani 2006, p. 133, n.4).
  4. (Dédéyan 2007, p. 195).
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 5.4 (Grousset 1947, pp. 242–247).
  6. (Settipani 2006, pp. 330–334).
  7. (Grousset 1947, p. 264).
  8. (Grousset 1947, p. 272).


  • Basmadjian, Krikor Jacob (1914). "Chronologie de l'histoire d'Arménie". Revue de l’Orient chrétien (in French). IX (XIX): 293–294. <templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Grousset, René (1947). Histoire de l’Arménie des origines à 1071 (in French). Paris: Payot. <templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Toumanoff, Cyrille (1990). "Vice-rois iraniens (Marzpans) d'Arménie". Les dynasties de la Caucasie chrétienne de l'Antiquité jusqu'au xixe siècle : Tables généalogiques et chronologiques (in French). Rome. pp. 506–507. <templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Settipani, Christian (2006). Continuité des élites à Byzance durant les siècles obscurs. Les princes caucasiens et l'Empire du vie au ixe siècle (in French). Paris: de Boccard. ISBN 978-2-7018-0226-8. <templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Dédéyan, Gérard (2007). Histoire du peuple arménien (in French). Toulouse: Éd. Privat. ISBN 978-2-7089-6874-5. <templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>