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Armenian National Costumes

By Arakel Patrik

he aim of this work is to show the Armenian Costume from ancient historical times up to the I quarter of the XX century. In Armenia as well as every where costume has become liable to the historical evolution of different centuries.

Urartu - In the IX century (B.C.) Urartu was a very powerfull kingdom. During the archaeological excavations there were found many remarkable documents illustrating the Urartian costumes.

The Period of Formation of the Armenian People - From the times of Urartian domination upon the High-lands of Armenia, there were also different tribes living there, the main of which were Hayasa-Azzies and Arim Armens, who merged in the course of centuries: we haven't got any documents illustrating their costumes but according to the evidence supplied by the well-known historian Tacite (55I20 A.D.)- "Armenians as to their geographical position and their customs had intimate relations with Parthas. Their costumes were alike as well".

The Arrnenian Costume in the Period of Artashesian Dynasty - In the year of 189 B.C. on the initiative of king Artashes I an independent kingdom was formed in Armema. The dominating language in the expanded Armenia was Armenian. Tigran II (95-56 B.C.) being himself a great "Hellenophile" tried to spread the hellenistic culture all over Armenia. But as to the costume, he tried to preserve the traditional one as it is seen from the representations on Roman coins.

The Armenian Costume in the Period of Arshakounian Dynasty (66-428 A.D.) - The branch of Parthian-Arshakounies in Armenia founded the dynasty of Armenian-Arshakounies. As has been mentioned above the friendship established between these two people found its reflection in the likeness of costumes as well and, especially, in military and prince's uniforms.

Armenia - The Apple of Discord Between Sassanian Persia and the Byzantiurn Empire. In 226 A.D., when the throne of Iran passed to the Sassanian dynasty there was put an end to the peaceful co-existence between Armenians and Parthians: Sassanians couldn't stand the fact that Armenia became co-religious with their enemy the Byzantium Empire - accepting Christianity in 301 and f ounding their own alphabet and literature in 406 thus preserving independence at least in cultural spheres. But in military and prince's ranks they were obliged to adopt the costume of the Persian court, and it was only the common people that preserved their traditional costume unchangeable and of which we have but very few historical facts. But in Eastern Armenia there were found some tombs of the IV-VII c.c., on which in the form of high-relief are illustrated figures of a prince., a nobleman, a craftsman, of women and common people.

The Period of the Arab Domination (640-885) - This period was disastrous for Armenia. The alien Arab costume was but rarely adopted by those Armenian princes and owners of caravans-merchants, that had any relations with Arabs.

In the period of Bagratounian Reign (885-1045) - Armenia grew economically and culturally. The Armenian court maintained friendly relations with the Arab soultanat from where it used to get precious costumes. But as a rule they wore coronet and a royal garb.

The Armenian-Cilician Reign (1080-1219) - In the XI century the majority of the people of eastern states of Byzantian Empire were Armenians, because Armenian princes being subjected to the Seljuk invasion had to take a refuge together with their armies in Byzantium states and, particularly, in Cilicia. In the XI century Levon II in Cilicia founded the Cilician Kingdom. Due to the favourable geographical position of Cilicia Armenians came into contact with European people. This is the very reason that the Armenian costume of Cilicia to some extent carries foreign influence as it is seen on the Armenian coins of Cilicia and especially in the miniatures.

The Period of Mongolian Domination (XIII-XIV c.c.) - Armenia as well as the Transcaucasus was subjected to the destructive domination of Mongols. In order to make exaction easy they kept local princes who adopted their costumes (as seen in the miniature illustrations of that time) But the working people were faithful to their national costume.

Armenia Under the Turkish Domination - Beginning from the XIII--XIV c.c. the Turks from the Middle Asian tribes invaded the countries of the Middle Eeast and, meeting almost no resistance, advanced from the ruined Armenia up to the dominations of the Byzantine Empire and to the Seljuk Soultanat of Gonia. After that the countries of the decaying empire alternately fell under the domination of the Turkish Osman and in 1453 with the seizure of Constantinople the Byzantine Empire didn't exis't any more. But the newly founded Osmanian Empire had to begin a long war against Persia in the East for domination upon Armenia, the third-fourth of which in the long run remained under the Osmanian domination. Thus Armenia was divided into two parts: Eastern Armenia - under the Persian domination, and western Armenia under the Turkish domination. These two parts varied from the point of view of their costumes. The Musulman religion of the rulers forbade the subject Christians to wear identical costumes and thus Armenians fully preserved their traditional national costume. Armenians as culturally more advanced were busy in all the branches of craft especially in the creation of textures in the art of costume making. This had significant influence in gradual improvement of the ruling tribe's costumes.

Armenian National Costumes Map (19th-1st quarter of the 20th century)

Image MapSection 1Section 2Section 3Section 4Section 5Section 6
This map is divided into 6 sections. Click on a section to see
an enlarged version of the selected area

Due to its many-century evolution and geographical position the Armenian costume played a nodal role among the costumes of the people of the Middle East. Undoubtedly, the Armenian costume as well, especially for men ware was partly influenced by the neighbouring peoples and vice versa, but preserved its national style in general.
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Click on an image to see an enlarged version with caption.

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Costumes of Armenian Women - Continue >

 An excerpt from the book: 
Armenian National Costumes - From Ancient Times to Our Days
By Arakel Patrik
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Updated 7 March, 2000 ..
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