History of Armenia extends for over 3,000 years. Armenians have historically inhabited the "Armenian Highlands", a vast section of mountains and valleys through eastern Anatolia and the Southern Caucasus. Armenian vassal states, counties, kingdoms and empires would rise and fall in different parts of this highland during history. They were only unified once, just before the time of Christ in the empire of Tigran the Great, stretching from the Caspian to the Mediterranean Sea. Much of the history was spent under the domination of the great powers of the region. The western parts of Armenia were for long periods under Byzantine or Ottoman Turkish rule, while the eastern parts were under Persian or Russian rule. These empires often fought their wars on Armenian territory, using soldiers of Armenia. It was a rough neighborhood, but population of Armenia managed to hold on to their language and church, and prosper whenever given a chance. Being located on the Silk Road, Armenians built merchant communities and ties extending from Eastern Asia to Venice. Very often, Armenians had to pay a heavy price for their envy-inducing wealth.