People lived in historic Armenia by 6000 B.C. The earliest societies in the region were probably tribal groups that lived by farming or raising cattle. In the 800’s B.C., a coalition of several tribes formed the kingdom of Urartu. The Urartians introduced irrigation and built fortresses, palaces and temples. In the 600’s B.C., ancestors of the Armenians migrated-probably from the west-to the Armenian Plateau. They settled with the native population. Urartu was conquered by the Medes, a people from what is now Iran, in the 500’s B.C.
Soon after Urartu fell to the Medes, Urartians were conquered by the Persians. Armenia was under Persian and then Greek rule for hundreds of years. But it maintained a degree of independence. King Tigran II, who came to power in 95 B.C., built an independent Armenia empire that reached from the Caspian Sea to the Mediterranean Sea. The Romans defeated Tigran in 55 B.C., and Armenia became part of the Roman Empire.
In the early A.D. 300’s, Armenia became the first nation to adopt Christianity as its state religion. The Armenian alphabet was developed in the early 400’s by an Armenian cleric Mesrop Mashtots. In 451, Armenians under Vartan Mamikonian defended their religion against the Persian in the Battle of Avarair.
Arabs conquered Armenia in the 600’s. In 884, an independent Armenian kingdom was established in the northern part of the region. Seljuk Turks conquered Armenia in the mid-1000’s, but Armenians established a new state in Cilikia on the Mediterranean cost. This last Armenian kingdom fell to Mameluke invaders in 1375.
By 1514, the Ottoman Empire had gained control of Armenia. The Ottomans ruled western Armenia until their defeat in World War I in 1918. Persians gained control of eastern Armenia in 1639 and ruled it until 1828, when it was annexed by Russia.
Armenia became a battleground between the Ottoman Empire and Russia during World War I. The Empire feared the Armenians would aid the Russians. In 1915, the Ottoman government deported Armenians living in western Armenia into the deserts of what is now Syria. About 1.5 million Armenians died from lack of water and starvation or were killed by Ottoman soldiers. Many survivors fled to Russian Armenia, where, in 1918, an Armenian republic was set up.