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Gampr History: Local Changes, from 2000 years ago until 1900s


The goal of this page is to illustrate the continuous presence and influence of the Armenians within the same regions as the dogs originated, unbroken since before written history. Most decisive events are not mentioned, this is about general consistent presence.

All factors necessary and probable for the domestication and development of the dog are present in historical Armenia, and within the current Republic of Armenia.

On this page are maps showing some of the historical influence and occupation of the Armenians, and therefore sharing of their domesticated dogs, for the last ~2000 years, until the political upheavals and massacres of the last 100 years. As you can see, there was a consistent, if changeable, presence of the civilization which created the gampr in a broad area for thousands of years.

This survey of historical changes is relevant to the decisions regarding what is, and what is not, gampr; and becomes relevant to how we handle our breeding programs.

2000 years ago, Yerevan had already been a thriving city for 800 years. Just a short distance away, the people at Metsamor had been breeding gamprs for the previous 2000 years, and had been trading with faraway cultures, including Egypt. Tigran the Great had recently amassed a huge empire. Armenia was not yet a Christian nation; Christ had just been born. There was a pantheon of gods relating to natural forces and civilized ideals, such as beauty, art and literature. Among them was Aralez, a deity in the form of a winged dog who could heal fallen warriors with his tongue.

As had been usual, the kingdoms of the area fluctuated due to wars and treaties. Armenian dynasties came and went, along with brief domination by warring Romans and Parthians followed by Macedonians and Seljuk Turks; Armenians adopted Christianity, the Kingdom of Armenian Cilicia hosted Europeans during the Crusades, and later the last King of Cilicia took refuge in Spain.

And the Armenian presence persisted.

(Gospel art at left by Toros Roslin, ~1210-1270 AD)

The Arshakuni Dynasty, with Sassanids, Roman, Parthians and more (54-428)

Also known as Arsacid, the Arshakuni Dynasty underwent rapid changes of control, ruling parties changing sometimes every two years.

According to tradition, the Armenian Apostolic Church was established by two of Jesus' twelve apostlesThaddaeus and Bartholomew—who preached Christianity in Armenia in the 40s—60s AD. Between 1st and 4th centuries AD, the Armenian Church was headed by patriarchs.The Armenian Apostolic Church is a part of the Oriental Orthodox communion, not to be confused with the Eastern Orthodox communion. It seems that the Christianisation of Armenia by the Arsacids of Armenia was partly in defiance of the Sassanids, who had brought Zoroastrianism.

At left, 150 AD. At right, 299-387 AD.

In 428 AD, the Sassanids abolished the Artacids; Armenia was swallowed up by the Persian Empire and became included in Persian Armenia, which had existed consistently since the time of Cyrus the Great. This was followed by Muslim conquest.

Byzantium & Bagratids (591-1045)

After Byzantine Emperors Maurice and Heraclius took Armenia back from the Persians, various Byzantine rulers of Armenian descent controlled the portion that continued to be retained after a retaliation by the Caliphate.

After this time, Armenia flourished under the Bagratid dynasty, recognized by both Baghdad and Constantinople as an independent kingdom in 885/886. The City of Ani was established as the capital and became known as the City of 1001 Churches, with eventually 200,000 residents.

Left: Cathedral at Talin, 7th century, north of Ani; Right: Cathedral in Ani, 9th century

The Seljuks, Bagratids and Cilicia

The Bagratid Empre of Armenia, a feudal system with little loyalty to a central ruler, fell to the Seljuks, after starting the Bagrationi Empire of Georgia. This also resulted in the creation of Cilician Armenia.

Escaping the Seljuks, Gagik II, the last king of Ani, and his countrymen moved to Clilicia where they took shelter with a Byzantine governor.

"In 1080 Ruben, a relative of the last king of Ani, founded in the heart of the Cilician Taurus a small principality which gradually expanded into the Armenian kingdom of Cilicia. This Christian state, surrounded by Muslim states hostile to its existence, had a stormy history of about 300 years, giving valuable support to the crusaders, and trading with the great commercial cities of Italy."" The kingdom lasted until 1374 when the last king fled to Spain. During its existence, Cilicia was strategically and culturally important to many countries in Europe.

In the north, Yerevan and its surroundings was constantly changing hands between the Ottomans and the Safavids. In 1606, Shah Abbas managed to defeat the Ottomans for a brief time by using a scorched earth policy, which also killed 300,000 Armenians on forced marches.

"It was not only the winter cold that was causing torture and death to the deportees. The greatest suffering came from hunger. The provisions which the deportees had brought with them were soon consumed... The children were crying for food or milk, none of which existed, because the women's breasts had dried up from hunger... Many women, hungry and exhausted, would leave their famished children on the roadside, and continue their tortuous journey. Some would go to nearby forests in search of something to eat. Usually they would not come back. Often those who died, served as food for the living."

The next phase of the battle between the Ottomans and Safavids resulted in a decisive division of Western Armenia, which was then included with the Ottomans and Eastern Armenia under Safavid rule.

Erivan Khanate & Russian Occupation

The Safavids established a Khanate of Erivan, which existed from the mid 1600s until early 1800's when Iran lost vast Caucasus territories to Russia. From 1828-1991, Eastern Armenia was dominated by Russians.


The magazine in the video below describes Armenian life and issues in 1909. It begins with the massacres at Adana, a precursor of what was to come 6 years later.

See Illustration Armenienne for complete details.

Next page in the history of the gampr →