I have heard from people and read on the internet that Armenia is considered to be the first country to adopt Christianity as state religion (the exact date is widely disputed, though 301 AD is the traditional date).

How well-established is this whole claim among modern historians?

I am interested in the core claim, the exact date of conversion does not matter to me, though it would be nice if the answer included information about the date too.

I can't find any definitive answer on the current state of this claim among modern historians, which is why I'm asking this question here on History SE.


1 Answer 1


The ancient state of Osroene did it earlier

Regardless of the validity of the claim that Armenia became Christian in 301 AD, it isn't the first. Osroene - at the time a client state of the Roman Empire - formally adopted Christianity as the state religion under Abgar the Great in 201 AD.

Looking first to the eastward, we find that in Edessa, the capital of Osroene, the Church first ascended a throne.

--Samuel Cheetham, A History of the Christian Church During the First Six Centuries, page 58

This source is from 1905; there is another book from 1988 listed as a source on Wikipedia but Google Books doesn't have that page.

  • From the countless pages on the web I've been to (inlcuding many peer-reviewed scholarly encyclopedias), only Wikipedia mentioned Osroene. See, e.g., this Britannica page.
    – vomadaxela
    May 29, 2018 at 21:23
  • 1
    @vomadaxela It's not "just Wikipedia", the article cites two sources, one of which I linked. Maybe Britannica doesn't consider Osroene a country, who knows.
    – SPavel
    May 29, 2018 at 22:07
  • Anyway, my question is about the consensus among modern historians. The article does cite two (and only two) sources, while the Armenian claim can be found in nearly every history book on this subject. Unfortunately, your answer does not address my question, but only mentions one marginal opinion.
    – vomadaxela
    May 29, 2018 at 22:27
  • 3
    be nice
    – MCW
    May 30, 2018 at 12:59
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    Other debatable candidates for "first christian state" are Silures (historyfiles.co.uk/KingListsBritain/BritainSilures.htm - uncertainty about the conversion(?) of the king(?)), San Marino (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/San_Marino#History - uncertainty about since when it can be dubbed a "state"), Aksum (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ezana_of_Axum - better documented, but would postdate Armenia by a few decades in Armenia's date of 301 is correct), Caucasian Albania (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Urnayr) or Kartil (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kartli)
    – Evargalo
    May 31, 2018 at 8:52

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