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Smbat I (Armenian: Սմբատ Ա; c. 850–912/14) was the second king of the medieval Kingdom of Armenia of the Bagratuni dynasty, and son of Ashot I. He is the father of Ashot II (known as Ashot Yerkat) and Abas I.


Smbat I was crowned king in 892 in Shirakavan (Yerazgavors), following a brief attempt by his uncle Abas to disrupt his succession to the throne. Smbat continued his father's policy of maintaining cordial relations with the Byzantine Empire but remained mindful of the Arabs' fears of the Armeno-Byzantine alliance. Speaking with the Arab ostikan (governor) Muhammad Ibn Abi'l-Saj (Afshin), Smbat convinced him that the alliance would not only be for the dual benefit of Byzantium and Armenia but would also work to the economic favor of the Arabs.[1] Smbat also achieved a major victory when on April 21, 892, he recaptured the former Armenian capital of Dvin from the Arabs. In some of these endeavors Smbat received strong support from his neighbor to the north, Adarnase IV of Iberia.[2]

Smbat's successes shortly came to a halt when Afshin decided that he could not countenance a powerful Armenia so close to his domains. He retook Dvin and managed to take Smbat's wife as a hostage until she was released in exchange for Smbat's son and nephew. The wars against Armenia continued even after Afshin's death in 901, when his brother Yusuf Ibn Abi'l-Saj became ostikan of Arminiya.[3] While Yusuf's reign was not immediately hostile, Smbat committed a series of blunders that led to several of his allies to turn their backs on him: having sought to placate his eastern ally, Smbat of Syunik', by ceding to him Nakhichevan city, Smbat inadvertently drove Gagik Artsruni of Vaspurakan into Yusuf's arms since the city was a part of Gagik's domains.[4] Yusuf took advantage of this feud by awarding Gagik a crown in 908, thus making him King Gagik I of Vaspurakan and creating an Armenian state opposed to the one led by Smbat.[5]

As Yusuf began a new campaign against Smbat in conjunction with Gagik in 909, neither the Byzantines nor the Abbasid caliph, Yusuf's nominal sovereign, sent aid to Smbat; several Armenian princes also chose to withhold their support. Those who did ally with Smbat were brutally dealt with by Yusuf: Smbat's son Mushegh, his nephew Smbat Bagratuni, and Grigor II of Western Syunik were all poisoned.[6]


Yusuf's army ravaged the rest of Armenia as it advanced toward Berd Kapoyt (Blue Fortress), where Smbat had taken refuge, and besieged it for some time. Smbat finally decided to surrender himself to Yusuf in 914 in hopes of ending the Arab onslaught;[7] Yusuf, however, showed no compassion toward his prisoner as he brought him to Yernjak, tortured the Armenian king to death, beheaded him, and put the headless body on display on a cross in Dvin. Smbat's contemporary, Hovhannes Draskhanakerttsi, writes that the ground where the crucifix was raised became a site for pilgrimage for both Christians and non-Christians. Information provided by later Armenian authors suggested that Smbat's body was taken down and brought to the monastery at Artsvanist.[8]


  1. ^ Yovhannes Drasxanakertc'i (1987), History of Armenia, trans. Krikor Maksoudian. Atlanta, GA: Scholar's Press, p. 138.
  2. ^ Suny, Ronald Grigor (1994). The Making of the Georgian Nation, 2nd ed. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, pp. 30-31.
  3. ^ Madelung, Wilfred (1975). "The Minor Dynasties of Northern Iran," in The Cambridge History of Iran, ed. Richard N. Frye. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, vol. 4, pp. 227ff.
  4. ^ Ter-Ghewondyan, Aram (1976) [1965]. The Arab Emirates in Bagratid Armenia. Translated by Nina G. Garsoïan. Lisbon: Livraria Bertrand. pp. 63–74. OCLC 490638192.
  5. ^ (in Armenian) Arakelyan, Babken N. (1976), "Երկիրը միավորելու ձգտում և պայքար օտար ներխուժման դեմ" [Attempts to Unify the Country and the Struggle against Foreign Invasion] in Հայ Ժողովրդի Պատմություն [History of the Armenian People], eds. Tsatur Aghayan et al. Yerevan: Armenian Academy of Sciences, vol. 3, pp. 36-67.
  6. ^ Garsoïan, Nina G. (1997), "The Independent Kingdoms of Medieval Armenia" in The Armenian People from Ancient to Modern Times, Volume I, The Dynastic Periods: From Antiquity to the Fourteenth Century, ed. Richard G. Hovannisian. New York: St. Martin's Press, p. 157.
  7. ^ Garsoian. "Independent Kingdoms," pp. 157-158.
  8. ^ Manuk-Khaloyan, Armen, "In the Cemetery of their Ancestors: The Royal Burial Tombs of the Bagratuni Kings of Greater Armenia (890-1073/79)," Revue des Études Arméniennes 35 (2013), pp. 143-44, 158.