ANCIENT HAMSHEN INHABITANTS
A lot has been said and written about the Hemşin region, but at the same time, much has remained behind the curtain.
There is a famous historical episode on how the Vaspurakan princes Hamam and Shapur Amatuni founded Hemşin with their subjects in the VIII century, however, only few people know that before their appearance on the southeastern coast of the Black Sea, this land had a different, more archaic name - Khaghtik (in Armenian, Խաղտիք).
It is believed that there was no trace of Armenian presence in Khaghtik and the adjacent areas in the ancient times, thus, the Pontic Mountains and the Black Sea coast have not been associated with historical Armenia from the scientific perspective. At the same time, there are direct and indirect proofs and evidence from the ancient and medieval authors that not only an Armenian trace can be detected in Pontus before the resettlement of the Armenians of Vaspurakan in the VIII century, but the entire Pontic region is part of the cradle of Armenian civilization.
We find mentions of a nation called the Chalybes in the works of the ancient authors. The Chalybes lived near the Pontic mountains and were engaged in the extraction and processing of metals, particularly of steel. Hence, the name of this nation - Chalyb - was derived from the ancient Greek Χάλυψ (Chályps), meaning steel.
Thus, the Greek historian Xenophon (V - IV centuries BC) describes the Chalybes as experienced metalworkers, and the Greco-Roman historian and geographer Strabo (I century BC - I century AD) makes mention of an area rich in iron and silver in the vicinity of the Speri area (also known as Sper), where people, who are mainly engaged in mining, live.
Roman writer of the I century AD Pliny the Elder calls the nation, inhabiting the southeastern coast of the Black Sea, Armenochalybes.
Fragment of the map Asia circa Pontum Euxinum et Maeotim, ex Plinio or Asia near Euxine Pontus and Meotida according to Pliny, compiled in Latin in the XVII century and stored in the catalogs of the National Library of France.
Strabo, mentioned earlier above, emphasizes that the Chalybes were subject to Lesser Armenia (also known as Armenia Minor) and had "friendly relations with the rest of the Armenians." In our opinion, this statement might mean that the Chalybes were Armenians, but differed from the rest in a number of different features.
The Khaghtik region, inhabited by the Armenochalybes, was included in the Kingdom of Pontus as part of Lesser Armenia in the II century BC. Lesser Armenia remained part of the kingdom until the defeat of the Armenian-Pontic union, after which it became an independent kingdom, which was abolished in 71 AD and reorganized into a Roman province. In connection with the collapse of the Roman Empire into Western and Eastern, Lesser Armenia, including Khaghtik, underwent administrative changes as part of the now Eastern Roman Empire - Byzantium.
According to the administrative-territorial division of the Byzantine Empire, Lesser Armenia was divided into two themes (also known as thématas, the military administrative divisions of Byzantium). In 667 (in 629 according to the Theophanes of Byzantium and the Arab author Al-Badur), the Armeniac Theme (also known as the Theme of the Armeniacs) was already formed on the southern and southeastern coasts. Byzantine emperor Stepan, explaining the name of the theme, notes the only reason - the Armenian population of this region.
Thus, based on the above-mentioned, we can come to the conclusion that, being outside the Armenian Highlands, having various names as part of one state or another, the Khaghtik region and the Chalybes (Armenochalybes) inhabiting it have been the cultural and political part of Armenia for centuries.
By Arthur Maghakyan, materials by courtesy of Lusine Sahakyan.