After 457 years, the Kingdom of Armenia was restored in 885 under the Bagratuni (also called Bagratid) dynasty. The Bagratunis had been one of the powerful noble families under the Arshakuni (Arsacid) dynasty, holding the titles of aspet (horse-master) and takatir (coronant of the king).
In the eighth century, under Arab domination, the Bagratunis rose to power after the Mamikonian family lost its preeminence in successive rebellions against foreign rule. During the rebellion of 852-855, Prince of Princes Sembat Bagratuni was imprisoned by the Arab general Bugha and refused to renege his faith. His refusal led to his martyrdom, for which he later received the surname “Confessor.” Ashot, one of his seven children, became his successor as sparapet (general-in-chief). He was thirty-five-years-old. He was married to princess Katranide and had seven children himself.
Ashot strengthened the unity of Armenia, intervening to solve conflicts between princely houses, and established kinship relations between the Bagratuni, Artzruni (in Vaspurakan), and Siuni (in Siunik) families, arranging the marriages of his three daughters with prominent members of the last two families. In 862 Ashot, who ruled over the province of Ayrarat (the plain of Ararat), received the title of Prince of Prince from the Arab caliphate and ceded the position of sparapet to his brother Abas. He was allowed by the caliphate, then in a weakened situation, to become the tax collector for the entire Arab province of Arminiya, which encompassed Armenia, Iberia (Georgia), and Caucasian Albania (now Azerbaijan). This recognition of his position, concentrating the military and economic power of the region, gradually turned the Arab rule into an administrative formality.
The support of other Armenian princes helped Ashot wage war against the Arab emirs in Armenia. He neutralized a conspiracy by the ostikan of Arminiya, the legal representative of the caliphate, and expelled him from Armenia in 877. On the other hand, Emperor Basil I of Byzantium (867-886, of Armenian origin) asked the Armenian prince to crown him as representative of an ancient lineage of coronants and to sign a treaty. Before him, Patriarch Photius had made a proposal for church unity in 862. However, the religious assembly of Shirakavan, gathered in 869, rejected the Patriarch’s proposal, but not the political and military alliance with Byzantium.
At the same time, Ashot also fortified the links with Iberia and Albania, where branches of the Bagratunis had taken an important role among the nobility. The demands of Armenian princes and the Catholicos to recognize Ashot as king were finally met by Caliph al-Mutamid, who decided to send a crown to Ashot in 885 with the aim of getting Armenians out of the Byzantine orbit. On August 26, 885, Catholicos Gevorg II Garnetsi (877-897) consecrated Ashot I as King of Armenia in the fortress of Bagaran, Ashot’s residence and new capital of the country. The new king had also received a crown from Emperor Basil I, which ensured international recognition. The restoration of the Armenian monarchy was accompanied by economic and urban growth and a revival of arts and religion, as well as territorial enlargement. Ashot I restored the court system existing in the Arshakuni period, with some modifications. In 887 he crowned the first King of Eastern Georgia, Atrnerseh IV Bagratuni (Bagrationi, 887-923).
In 890, on his way of return from a trip to Constantinople, Ashot died on the road. He was buried in Bagaran. He was succeeded by his son Sembat I (890-914).