Armenia is known to have been a nation often occupied by nearby powers, such as the Sassanid Empire. The beginning of the Medieval era was marked by the Arab occupation of Armenia. The people then start to talk of a great hero who would be able to liberate them and reestablish Armenian sovereignty. David of Sasun, known as Sasuntsi Davit', is the medieval Armenian equivalent of Hercules. For over a thousand years the legend of David was passed from grandfathers to their grandsons thanks to the Armenian oral tradition, and it is difficult to classify his stories as ancient or medieval. In 1873, the story was first written down by Archbishop Karekin Servantzdiants, who copied word for word the tale as told by a peasant storyteller from Moush named Grbo. Other versions of the tale from various regions of Armenia were copied down in the ensuing years, and during the early Soviet era in Armenia, the stories were collated into a "united version"; a connected narrative out of dozens isolated episodes, fragments, and near-complete though differing versions of the legend. One of the most famous treatments of the story was the verse rendition made by Hovhannes Toumanian in 1902. His poem only covers the story of David, which is actually only one of 4 parts of the story, although the central portion.
The four portions of the story are named after their heroes: Sanasar & Balthazar (Sanasar yev Baghdasar), Lion-Mher (Aryudz Mher), David of Sassoun (Sassountsi Tavit), and Mher the Younger (Pokr Mher). Sansasar is the father of Lion-Mher, who is the father of David, who is the father of Mher the Younger. Mher the younger is cursed to never bear progeny and his superhuman powers are too much for the world to handle, so he is enclosed in a mountain cave where he waits until the end of the world to come out and restore order. (similar to the western legends of King Arthur or Barbarossa.)
Despite the Christian flavor of the epic, numerous fantastic creatures, good and evil, influence the action.
One of the ancestors of the legendary David is the Lady Dzovinar, who agrees to marry the 90 year old King of Baghdad in order to save her people. Sanasar and Balthasar were their two sons. Sanasar moves to Sassoun, the fortress-town of Armenia, now located in Turkey. He has three children, the eldest of them being the Great Mher of Sassoun, with superhuman powers. Mher's veritable son is David of Sassoun. However, he also gets another son from the Arabic queen of Egypt. He is known as Misra Melik, which literally means "The sovereign of Egypt". He is probably the figure of all of what the Armenians resented; traitors, and foreign oppressors.
Throughout the years the half-brothers fought, and eventually David chops his nemesis in half.
The medieval period opens with comparative sterility. The first name of importance is met with in the eighth century, that of John Otznetzi, surnamed the "Philosopher". A "Discourse against the Paulicians", a "Synodal Discourse", and a collection of the canons of the councils and the Fathers anterior to his day, are the principal works of his now extant. About the same time appeared the translations of the works of several of the Fathers, particularly of St. Gregory of Nyssa and Cyril of Alexandria, from the pen of Stephen, Bishop of Syunik. It was two centuries later that the celebrated "History of Armenia" by the Catholicos John V the Historian came forth, covering the period from the origin of the nation to the year A.D. 925. A contemporary of his, Annine of Mok, an abbot and the most celebrated theologian of the time, composed a treatise against the Tondrakians, a sect imbued with Manicheism. The name of Chosrov, Bishop of Andzevatsentz, is honoured because of his interesting commentaries on the Breviary and Mass-Prayers. Gregory of Narek, his son, is the Armenian Pindar from whose pen came elegies, odes, panegyrics, and homilies. Stephen Asoghtk, whose "Universal History" reaches down to A.D. 1004, and Gregory Magistros, whose long poem on the Old and New Testaments displays much application, are the last writers worthy of mention in this period.
Notable writers from this period include Siamanto, Hagop Baronian, Vahan Tekeyan, Levon Shant, Krikor Zohrab, Rupen Zartarian, Avetis Aharonyan, Garegin Njdeh, Atrpet, Gostan Zarian and Nigol Aghpalian.
The nineteenth century beheld a great literary movement that was to give rise to modern Armenian literature. This period of time during which Armenian culture flourished is known as the Revival period (Zartonk). The Revivalist authors of Constantinople and Tiflis, almost identical to the Romanticists of Europe, were interested in encouraging Armenian nationalism. Most of them adopted the newly created Eastern or Western variants of the Armenian language depending on the targeted audience, and preferred them over classical Armenian (grabar).
The veritable creator of modern Armenian literature was Khachatur Abovian (1804-1848). Abovian was the first author to abandon the classical Armenian and adopt the modern for his works, thus ensuring their diffusion. Abovian's most famed work, The Wounds of Armenia, returns to the theme of the Armenian people's suffering under foreign domination. Abovian dedicated his life to writing and educating others on the subject of Armenia and her people. Mikael Nalbandian's poem "Song of the Italian Girl" may have been the inspiration for the Armenian national anthem, Mer Hayrenik. Raffi (Hakop Melik-Hakopian) was the grand romanticist of Armenian literature. In his works, Raffi revived the grandeur of Armenia's historic past. In the story "Gaizer", the heroes fight for the liberation of their people. This theme of oppression under foreign rule is also evident in the works "Djelaledin" and "Khente".
The Revivalist period ended in 1885-1890, when the Armenian people was passing tumultuous times. Notable events were the Berlin Treaty of 1878, the independence of Balkan nations such as Bulgaria, and of course, the Hamidian massacres of 1895-1896.
Some specialists claim that the Armenian Realist authors appeared when the Arevelk (Orient) newspaper was founded (1884). Writers such as Arpiar Arpiarian, Levon Pashalian, Krikor Zohrab, Melkon Gurjian, Dikran Gamsarian, and others revolved around the said newspaper. The other important newspaper at that time was the Hayrenik (Fatherland) newspaper, which becomes very populist, encourages criticism, etc.
Despite these facts, Armenians weren't allowed to use words like Armenia, nation, fatherland, liberty, and progress in their newspapers and other written productions.
After 1885, Armenian authors were interested in depicting a realistic representation of life, along with all of its nudities. However, there are some authors that have kept some romantic influences, although most of them didn't.