Mosaic on the floor of the bathhouse in Garni, Armenia.
Armenia lies at the cross-roads of the Near East. To the west were the great empires of the eastern Mediterranean (Roman, Byzantine, Ottoman), to the east those of Iran (Achaemenian, Sasanian, Savafid). Dominated by Mount Ararat, the Armenian plateau separates the Caucasian range to the north from the plains of Mesopotamia to the south. A distinct Armenian people is attested from the sixth century BC; and with their conversion to Christianity at the beginning of the fourth century of our era the Armenians developed their own native literature. During the past thousand years a widely scattered diaspora has extended Armenian life and traditions outwards from the homeland over most of the globe. Armenians are thus heirs to many different cultures, and in their turn have made an individual contribution to numerous societies.
Christian Armenians around 1915.
Armenian studies have been pursued at Oxford since the mid nineteenth century. More recently, the establishment in 1965 of the Calouste Gulbenkian Professorship has guaranteed a permanent place for Armenian in the broader field of the Near East. Within the long span of Armenian history study of Armenia at 0xford concentrates on the period when Armenian sources give valuable information not only about Armenian culture itself, but also about neighbouring peoples of the Near East. Emphasis is therefore given to the study of the classical and medieval forms of the language and to Armenian literature from the fifth to the fifteenth centuries. Oxford is the only university in the UK where Armenian may be studied. The Armenian resources of the Bodleian library are excellent; the Oriental Institute also houses a working library for students. The present holder of the Calouste Gulbenkian Professorship of Armenian Studies is Robert W. Thomson, whose particular research interests lie in the general field of Eastern Christian Studies [Armenian, Syriac, Georgian], and in Armenian literature of the early and medieval periods in particular.
Oxford is the only university in the UK where Armenian may be studied. The Armenian resources of the Bodleian Library are excellent; the Oriental Institute also houses a working library for students.