After contact with centers of early Christianity at Antioch and Edessa, Armenia accepted Christianity as its state religion in A.D. 306 (the traditional date--the actual date may have been as late as A.D. 314), following miracles said to have been performed by Saint Gregory the Illuminator, son of a Parthian nobleman. Thus Armenians claim that Tiridates III (A.D. 238-314) was the first ruler to officially Christianize his people, his conversion predating the conventional date (A.D. 312) of Constantine the Great's personal acceptance of Christianity on behalf of the Eastern Roman Empire (the Byzantine Empire).
Early in the fifth century A.D., Saint Mesrop, also known as Mashtots, devised an alphabet for the Armenian language, and religious and historical works began to appear as part of the effort to consolidate the influence of Christianity. For the next two centuries, political unrest paralleled the exceptional development of literary and religious life that became known as the first golden age of Armenia. In several administrative forms, Armenia remained part of the Byzantine Empire until the midseventh century. In A.D. 653, the empire, finding the region difficult to govern, ceded Armenia to the Arabs. In A.D. 806, the Arabs established the noble Bagratid family as governors, and later kings, of a semiautonomous Armenian state.
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