The Other Coin: Armenia-- First Among Nations
Armenia is home of Mt. Ararat where Noah’s ark landed and his sons spread out to
populate the world (Genesis chap. 5-9). With recent science suggesting the flood
should be related to the c. 7500BC flood of the Mediterranean into the Black Sea,
both science and Bible agree that the Black Sea area sent tribes into Europe, Egypt,
and the eastern Mediterranean to escape the flood. This might explain the sudden rise
of a common agrarian, copper smelting, and animal husbandry culture throughout
the area that brought a close to the Neolithic era.
There are no Greek tales originating in Armenia , nor did Alexander the Great travel
there. However, during the waning of the Seleucid Empire established by one of
Alexander’s generals, the Kingdom of Armenia founded in 190BC was lead out of the
Caucasus by Tigranes the Great to conquer the whole of Asia Minor. Defeating one
Roman army, Tigranes was pushed back by Pompey Magnus himself from the
coast, but he and his sons maintained the largest Armenia Empire in history. Tigranes
the Great coins are plentiful, all bearing the Armenian tiara. Coins of predecessors
and successors are rarer. His kingdom did not fall to Rome until 1AD.
Armenia became a buffer state between Rome and the Persian Empire of first Parthia
(238BC-226AD), then Sassanids (226-651AD). Conquests in Armenia are
commemorated on several Roman coins, especially those of Mark Anthony, who
gave his conquest to Cleopatra. Their son Helios was the last independent Roman
ruler of Armenia . Roman’s minted coins in Greater Armenia including Zeugma,
Samosata, Commagene as well as in Rome . Often the Armenia tiara is on the coin or
the Roman Emperor adds the name Armenicus (conqueror of Armenia ) to his name.
Armenia plausibly claims to be the first Christian nation. Two of Christ’s apostles—
Thaddeus and Bartholomew—are said to have preached in Armenia in the 50’s and
60’s AD, establishing the Church. Shortly after the year 300, and before Constantine
converted the Roman Empire in 312AD, Armenia converted to Christianity.
(traditionally 301AD).
Armenia struggled to maintain its independence between Byzantine and Sassanian  
Empires, usually having its territory divided between the two empires, but
maintaining its independence in language and religion. Many of Byzantine emperors
were of Armenian descent including Heraclius (610-641) Basil I (867-886), and Leo
the Armenian (813-820). Parts of Armenia were conquered by Muslims as early as
645, but not until 1071 and the destruction of the Byzantine army at Manzikert did
the Turks take over Greater Armenia.
Fleeing Turks and allying with the Byzantine, the Armenia nobles and their people set
up a kingdom in Cilicia, southern Turkey that lasted from 1080-1375, minting a
series of coins often with the distinctive Orthodox cross. With the arrival of the
Crusaders in 1099, the Armenian nobles intermarried and allied into the Crusader
kingdoms of Syria and Cyprus. After 1375 Greater Armenia was the battle ground
between opposing Muslim armies from Persia, Egypt (the Mamelukes), and the
Turks, now the Ottoman Empire. All these Muslim dynasties minted coins in
Armenia .
Not until 1829 was part of Armenia freed from Muslim control by the Russian
Empire. However, Armenia’s hope of independence were ruthlessly crushed by the
Ottoman Turks beginning in 1890 and resulting in the first modern mass genocide
from 1915-1923, when 1.5 million Armenia (as well as millions of Greeks, Romas
(Gypsies), and Jews were ethnically cleansed and piled up in mass graves. Armenia
briefly gained independence in 1920 after being part of the Transcaucasian Republic
in 1918-1919 during the Russian Civil War. Civil war currency bears the Armenian
script and has some of the highest denominations of currency (250,000,000 rubles,
see below) After 1920 Armenia became a Soviet Republic appearing in
commemoration on only 3 Soviet coins—the earthquake of 1988, Matenadarin
library, and the David Sasun monument of a mounted swordsman.
Armenia gained independence in 1991 with so many other Soviet states and minted
their own coins and currency. The Armenia enclave in neighboring Azerbaijan gained
independence as Nagorno-Karabakh in 1991, seeking to unite with Armenia has their
own set of coins.(see below)  

Numismatically yours, David Elliott