Formerly a kingdom of western Asia, now (1902) apportioned among Russia, Turkey, and Persia. According to the Peshiṭta and Targum Onkelos, the "Minni" of the Bible (Jer. li. 27) is Armenia—or rather a part of that country, as Ararat is also mentioned (Isa. xxxvii. 38; II Kings xix. 37) as a part of Armenia. The cuneiform inscriptions speak of "Mannai" in the same neighborhood (Schrader, "K. A. T." 2d ed., p. 423). In ancient times the Armenians were in communication with Tyre and other Phenician cities, in which they traded with horses and mules (Ezek. xxvii. 14). The Meshech mentioned in Ezek. xxvii. 13; xxxii. 26; xxxviii. 2, 3; xxxix. 1, and in Ps. cxx. 5, are probably the Moschi (Assyrian, Mushku and Musku), the inhabitants of the Moschian mountains, between the Black and the Caspian seas, which contained rich copper mines. "Tubal" (Assyrian, Tabal), which is always mentioned in connection with Meshech, is the name of the Tibareni, who lived to the south-east of the Black sea. The name of the Moschi is perhaps preserved in Mzchet, the ancient capital of Iberia (Georgia), now a small village and station on the Transcaucasian railroad, about fourteen English miles from Tiflis.
Descendants of the Jewish captives who were carried away from Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar have lived in great numbers in the Parthian and Persian countries adjoining Armenia, and, occupying themselves with agriculture and handicrafts, attained wealth and lived peacefully under the rule of their "Princes of the Diaspora" ("resh galuta"), who were supposed to be descendants of David (M. Brann and D. Chwolson, in the article "Yevrei," in Entziklopedicheski Slovar," vol. xi., s.v., St. Petersburg, 1894).Early Settlement.
According to Moses of Chorene (fifth century), King Hratchai (Fiery-Eye) obtained from Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, a distinguished Jewish captive, named Shambat (which name, according to A. Harkavy, is identical with "Sabbat"), whom he loaded with honors. From Shambat descended the family of Bagratuni (or Bagration), which heads the list of the Russian nobility (see Bobrinski, "Dvoryanskie Rody," i. 1, St. Petersburg, 1890). When Vagharshak, brother of the Parthian king Mithridates I., and the founder of the Arshak dynasty, ascended the throne of Armenia 150
During his expedition to Palestine, to take vengeance on Queen Cleopatra of Egypt, Tigranes took a great number of Jews captive. He settled them in Armavir and in the city of Vardges, on the river Ksakh, which subsequently became a large commercial center. King Arsham, the brother of Tigranes, imprisoned the coronator Hanania, and deprived him of all honors, because he liberated from bondage the Jewish high priest Hyrcanus. Josephus relates that Cleopatra took part in Antony's expedition to Armenia, when Antony subdued Armenia and "sent Artabazes, the son of Tigranes, in bonds, with his children and procurators, to Egypt" ("Ant." xv. 4, § 3). He also states that the Herodian house was related to the royal house of Armenia ("Ant." xviii. 5, § 4; ib. xiii. 16, § 4).
Many captive Jews were removed by Arsaces (85-127 of the common era) from the city of Ernanda and settled by him in the capital of Artashat. According to tradition, the family of Amatuni, which was of Jewish origin, came from Oriental Aryan countries to Armenia in the reign of Arsaces.Carried Away by Persians.
At the end of the reign of Arshak, during his iniquitous persecution, the Persian king Sapor II. (about 360) ordered the destruction of the fortifications surrounding all the Armenian cities, and also commanded that all the Jews and Judaizers of the city of Van, who had been transferred to that city during the reign of Tigranes, should be taken into captivity and settled in Aspahan.
Faustus, the Byzantine (4th century), in describing the invasion of the Persians in the time of King Sapor II. (310-380), relates that the Persians removed from the city of Artashat 40,000 Armenian and 9,000 Jewish families; from Ernandashat 20,000 Armenian and 30,000 Jewish; from Zeragavan 5,000 Armenian and 8,000 Jewish; from Zarishat 14,000 Armenian and 10,000 Jewish; from Van 5,000 Armenian and 18,000 Jewish; and from Nakhichevan 2,000 Armenian and 16,000 Jewish families (360-370). This great mass of Jews, according to Faustus, had originally been transported from Palestine by King Tigranes Arshakuni. While these figures may be exaggerated, there can be hardly any doubt that Armenia at that time possessed a large Jewish population (see Ersch and Gruber, "Encyklopädie," xxvii. 440 et seq.; Grätz, "Gesch. der Juden," iv. 422; Jost, "Gesch. der Israel.," ii. 128, Leipsic, 1858; Harkavy, "Vyestnik Russkikh Yevreyev,"1871; "Razsvyet," 1882-83; F. Lazarus, in Brüll's "Jahrbuch," x. 34, 35).In Jewish Literature.
In the Talmud (Yer. Giṭ. vi. 48a) a rabbi, Jacob of Armenia, and the Academy of Nisibis are referred to, which goes to prove that Jewish scholarship flourished there. In the second century Jewish prisoners of war were brought from Armenia to Antiochia, and were ransomed by the Jews there (Yeb. 45a). To the question (Bab. Sanh. 94a) whither were the Ten Tribes driven, Mar Zuṭra (third century) answers: "To Africa;" and Rabbi Ḥanina: "To the Slug  mountains." Africa is said to be Iberia (Georgia), and Slug may be, as Harkavy suggests, Cilici, between Assyria and Armenia (A. Harkavy, "Ha-Yehudim u-Sefat ha-Slavim," pp. 105-109, and his reply to Steinschneider, H.B. ix. 15, 52 in "Roman ob Alexandrye," 1892, p. 32, note).
Armenia is also mentioned in the Midrashim: "God said, if I let them pass through the deserts, they will die of starvation. Therefore I lead them by the road of Armenia, where they will find cities and fortresses and plenty of provisions" (Lam. R. i. 14). See also Cant. R., Amsterdam ed., p. 198.
The Karaite Ibn Yusuf Ya'ḳub al-Ḳirḳisani, in treating of Jewish sects in his Arabic work, written in 937, speaks of the sect founded by Musa al-Za'farani. Musa—known under the name of Abu-Imran of Tiflis—lived in the ninth century. He was born in Bagdad, but settled in the Armenian city of Tiflis, where he found followers, who spread all over Armenia, and under the name of "Tiflisites" (Tiflisiyim), still existed in Ḳirḳisani's time. "It is interesting to know, by the way," says Harkavy, "that in the ninth and tenth centuries such a large Jewish community existed in Tiflis, in which a separate sect could be formed" (A. Harkavy, in "Zapiski Vostochnavo Otdyeleniya Imperatorskavo Russkavo Archeologicheskavo Obshchestva," viii. 247; idem, in "Voskhod," 1896, ii. 35, 36).
Ḥasdai ben Isaac, in his letters to the king of the Chazars (about 960), says that it was his intention to send his letters by way of Jerusalem, Nisibis, Armenia, and Bardaa, which fact is proof of the existence at that time of Jewish communities in Armenia (see A. Harkavy, "Soobshcheniya o Chazarakh," in "Yevreiskaya Biblioteka," vii. 143-153).
Benjamin of Tudela in his "Travels" (Mas'ot: 1160-1173) says that the power of the Prince of the Exile (Exilarch) extends itself over all the communities in the following countries: Mesopotamia, Persia, all of Armenia, and the country of Kota, near Mt. Ararat. In Nisibis—"a large city, richly watered"—he found a Jewish community of about 1,000 souls. PethaḦiah of Regensburg, in his "Sibbub ha-'Olam" (1175-1185), narrates that from Chazaria he traversed the land of Togarma, and from Togarma entered into the land of Ararat (Armenia), reaching Nisibis in eight days. In another passage he speaks of large Armenian cities, containing few Jews. "In ancient times the Jewish population [of these cities] was large; but owing to internal strife, their numbers were greatly reduced. They scattered and went to various cities of Babylon, Media, Persia, and Kush."
In 1646 the Spanish adventurer Don Juan Menesses came to Constantinople to offer Turkey the dominion of a whole Armenian province inhabited by Jews (Hammer, "Gesch. des Osmanischen Reiches," v. 392). For modern history, reference may be made to the respective cities and countries.
- For the main facts of this article Moses of Chorene has been relied upon. Moses Chorenesis, ed. Whiston, London, 1736;
- Istoriya Armenii Moiseya Chorenskavo, transl. by N. O. Emin, pp. 36-37, 54-56, 60-69, 75, 82, 98, 104-105, 109-110, 113, 172;
- Langlois, Collection des Histoires Arméniennes; Faustus de Byzance, i. 274-275;
- Drevnosti, Trudy Moskovskavo Archeologicheskavo Obshchestva, 1880, supplement, p. 100;
- Regesty i Nadpisi, Nos. 134, 135, 136;
- Schürer, Geschichte, 3d ed., iii. 1-38;
- A. Harkavy, Ob Yazykye Yevreyev Zhivshikh v Drevneye Vremya na Russi, etc., St. Petersburg, 1865, and the above-mentioned works;
- Hamburger, R. B. T. ii. 72, 1281-1286, 1307-1310, 1883, iii. 9-24, 1892;
- Jost, Gesch. des Judenthums, i. 336-340, Leipsic, 1857;
- Mommsen, Römische Gesch. v. 489, Berlin, 1894;
- M. I. Saint-Martin, Mémoires Historiques et Géographiques sur l'Arménie, i. passim, Paris, 1818;
- Neubauer, G. T. 370, 400-407, Paris, 1868; and works mentioned in the text.
According to an old tradition, which has found striking verification in recent discoveries in Assyria, Mt. Ararat (Gen. viii. 4) was held to be an Armenian locality (Targ. Yer. ad loc.; Josephus, "Ant." i. 35). The rendering of "Minni" (Jer. li. 27) by "Armenia," as given in the Targum, has also been verified. On the other hand, the identification of Harmonah ("Harmon," Amos iv. 3, R. V.) with Armenia (Targum, ad loc.) is probably based upon the false etymology of , as if the word were composed of har (mountain) and monah () (Armenia).
It is probably on this false etymology that the Haggadah bases the statement that upon their journey from Palestine to the places whither they were deported, the Ten Tribes passed through Armenia. "This," adds the Midrash, "was probably ordained by God in order that the Israelites might pass through cultivated regions where they could easily procure food and drink, and not through the desert, where they would suffer from hunger and thirst" (Lam. R. to I, 14). Apart from Nisibis, which can not well be included in its limits, the Talmudic and Midrashic sources know almost nothing of Armenia. An amora, Jacob Armenaya by name, is mentioned (Yer. Giṭ. vi. 48a, below); yet it is doubtful whether the epithet "Armenaya" here really signifies "Armenian." Equally doubtful is the import of the passage (Yeb. 45a), where Jewish captives are mentioned as having been transported from Armon to Tiberias. This Armon, contrary to the statements of Rapoport and Neubauer, can not be identical with Armenia.
- Neubauer, G. T. pp. 370 et seq.;
- Rapoport, 'Erek Millin, pp. 205, 206;
- Kerem Ḥemed, v, 213, vi. 172.