Dynastic Change, Family Networks and Female Genealogies in Medieval Armenia (11th–13th c.)


Zara Pogossian
University of Florence

This lecture will focus on a period of medieval Armenian history – eleventh to late thirteenth centuries – that was characterized by a gradual deterioration and break-down of its until then traditional social structure based on land-holding military families known as nakharars. In this context a number of new military men, mostly with no illustrious lineage and/or previous connection to certain specific regions, rose to power. As they sought ways of legitimizing their control of recently conquered land and resources in various parts of historical Armenia, marriage alliances and, hence, the building of new family networks via women acquired increasing importance. This is especially true in the case of wives that came from older, prestigious dynasties which had lost or were about to lose their significance. There are also cases of women who were themselves from ‘new families’ but who played a key role in entering local networks of power in different ways. These general considerations will be illustrated on specific cases bringing to the audience’s attention the significance of women from (new or old) élite families, particularly from the end of Bagratid rule, and through Seljuk and Mongol (particularly Ilkhanid) periods. The inter-religious aspects of such family networks will be equally highlighted. Although the talk will address various regions of historical Armenia, greater attention will be paid to Syunik‘, reflecting my on-going research-in-progress.

Zara Pogossian is a specialist in medieval Armenian history, culture and religion, especially in relation to other peoples, cultures and religions in the Near East and Asia Minor. She is Associate Professor of Byzantine Civilization at the University of Florence, and the Principal Investigator of the ERC Project ArmEn: Armenia Entangled: Connectivity and Cultural Encounters in Medieval Eurasia 9th–14th Centuries. In her research, Professor Pogossian has explored such diverse topics as female asceticism and ascetic communities in early Christian Armenia, the role of women in the spread of Christianity in Armenia, monastic establishments and territory control, hagiography and cult of relics, and inter-religious (Jewish-Christian-Muslim) dynamics in medieval Armenia, among others. She has contributed significantly to the study of apocalyptic traditions in Armenian, especially between the 11th and 13th centuries. Her critical edition, with comments and a thorough historical study of Agat‘angel, On the End of the World, an anonymous Armenian apocalyptic text which reflects aspects of Late Antique Jewish-Christian debates, is forthcoming. She is the author of a book acclaimed by reviewers (The Letter of Love and Concord, Brill 2011), as well as numerous articles and book reviews. She has been the recipient of several prestigious fellowships, such as from the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, Käte Hamburger Collegium at the Center for Religious Studies (University of Bochum, Germany) and the International Consortium for Research in the Humanities (University of Erlangen, Germany). Dr. Pogossian is on the editorial board of the on-line journal Entangled Religions and a co-founder and co-editor-in-chief of Armeniaca: International Journal of Armenian Studies (first issue forthcoming in September 2022). She is one of the founding members and general editors of the series Eastern Christian Cultures in Contact (Brepols editors). She regularly serves on the evaluation committees of the European Institutes for Advanced Study (EURIAS), European Science Foundation, Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, Austrian Academy of Sciences and the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG).

This lecture will take place live on ZOOM, followed by a question and answer period. Please register to receive the Zoom link.


The Gladzor Gospels (1300-1307 AD), folio 469, Wedding at Cana, detail. UCLA, Armenian Manuscripts collection, no. 1. Image: https://digital.library.ucla.edu/catalog/ark:/21198/zz0009gx6g.
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