Feudalism in Ancient Armenia

Here are the opening lines of H. Manandian's book, Feudalism in Ancient Armenia (1934):

Historical studies, as it is known, has long considered feudalism to be a particular and distinct system unique to medieval Western Europe. Yet in the 18th century, the English scholar Gibbon, in his renowned work The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, expressed the opinion that social organization during the time of Arsacid rule in Iran were of a feudal nature.

The same view was further substantiated by the French orientalist Saint-Martin in a report he read at the Académie de Paris in 1821.

“If we compare,” says Saint-Martin, “12th century Europe with the monarchy that the Arsacids had founded three centuries before Christ in Asia, we find similar customs and [social] classes, and dignitaries with the same titles: marquis’, barons, aspets and common soldiers. Here, too, a number of people had all the rights to freedom, while most people were completely deprived of those rights.” According to Saint-Martin, neither Europe nor the Parthians invented feudalism, but it emerged from the military captures of extensive lands, and the subsequent division of those lands among the army.”

“The ranks,” he says, “were distributed here in the same way as ranks were distributed among soldiers. That organization [of feudalism], therefore, was the inevitable consequence of military rule or conquest. The Arsacids were, of course, not the inventors of this form of governance, for they were not the first conquerors of Asia.”

Saint-Martin’s last assertion, which concerns the origin of feudalism, is now, of course, unacceptable. However, his other assertion that a feudal form of governance was also characteristic of the Parthian Arsacid kingdom is a most accurate conjecture, as was later established through scrupulous examination…

A PDF of the book can be accessed here (in Armenian).


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