Kingdom of Armenia (antiquity)

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The Kingdom of Armenia also known as Greater Armenia[1] (Armenian: Մեծ Հայք, romanized: Mets Hayk), was an Armenian kingdom ruling in the Ancient Near East from 321 BC to 428 AD. It's history is divided into reigns by three royal dynasties: Orontid (321 BC–200 BC), Artaxiad (190 BC–12 AD) and Arsacid (52 AD–428 AD).

Kingdom of Armenia
Մեծ Հայք
321 BC–428 AD
Flag of
Standard of the Arshakuni Arsacid dynasty.svg
Left: The reconstructed standard of the Artaxiad dynasty
Right: The standard of the Arsacid dynasty
Armenia, the broadest limits under Tigranes the Great (including vassals)
Armenia, the broadest limits under Tigranes the Great (including vassals)
Status
  • Kingdom
  • Empire (during the Tigranes the Great)[2]
CapitalArmavir (321–210 BC)
Yervandashat (210–176 BC)
Artashat (176–77 BC; 69–120 AD)
Tigranocerta (77 BC–69 AD)
Vagharshapat (120–330)
Dvin (336–428)
Common languagesArmenian (spoken native language)[3]
Greek
Aramaic[4]
Iranian languages (Parthian and Pahlavi)
Religion
  • Zoroastrianism[5]
    (321 BC–301 AD)
  • Christianity (Armenian Apostolic Church) (301–428)
GovernmentMonarchy
King, King of Kings 
• 321–260 BC
Orontes III (first)
• 212–200 BC
Orontes IV
• 190–159 BC
Artaxias I
• 95–55 BC
Tigranes II the Great
• 62–88
Tiridates I
• 287–330
Tiridates III
• 422–428
Artaxias IV (last)
Historical eraAntiquity, Middle Ages
• Established
321 BC
• Disestablished
428 AD

History[change | change source]

Kingdom of Armenia, under the Orontid dynasty, 250 BC

The Kingdom of Armenia was ruled by the Orontid (also known as Yervanduni or Eurandids) dynasty from 321 BC to 200 BC. The Orontids (Eurandids) were an Armenian[6][7] dynasty of probably Iranian[8] origin. Around 200 BC a coup by the Armenian noble family of Artaxias toppled the Orontid (Yervanduni) dynasty,[9] Thus the Artaxiad dynasty came to power, as depending on the Seleucids. The Artaxiad dynasty was been identified as a branch of the Orontid (Eurandid) dynasty.[8] The Seleucid Empire's influence over Armenia had weakened after it was defeated by the Romans in the Battle of Magnesia in 190 BC. A Hellenistic Armenian state was thus founded in the same year by Artaxias I alongside the Armenian kingdom of Sophene led by Zariadres. Artaxias seized Yervandashat, united the Armenian Highlands at the expense of neighboring tribes and founded the new royal capital of Artaxata near the Araxes River.[10] The new city was laid on a strategic position at the juncture of trade routes that connected the Ancient Greek world with Bactria, India and the Black Sea which permitted the Armenians to prosper.[10]

Tigranes the Great

Portrait of Tigranes the Great

After the death of Mithridates II of Parthia his son Gotarzes I succeeded him.[11] He reigned during a period coined in scholarship as the "Parthian Dark Age," due to the lack of clear information on the events of this period in the empire, except a series of, apparently overlapping, reigns.[12][13] This system of split monarchy weakened Parthia, allowing Tigranes II of Armenia to annex Parthian territory in western Mesopotamia. This land would not be restored to Parthia until the reign of Sinatruces (r. c. 78–69 BC).[14] In 83 BC, after bloody strife for the throne of Syria, governed by the Seleucids, the Syrians decided to choose Tigranes as the protector of their kingdom and offered him the crown of Syria.[15] He then conquered Phoenicia and Cilicia, effectively putting an end to the last remnants of the Seleucid Empire, though a few holdout cities appear to have recognized the shadowy boy-king Seleucus VII Philometor as the legitimate king during his reign. The southern border of his domain reached as far as Ptolemais. Many of the inhabitants of conquered cities were sent to his new metropolis of Tigranocerta.

Detailed map of Tigranes the Great's Armenian Empire
The King of Kings Tigranes the Great with four vassal Kings surrounding him (19th century illustration)

Under reign of Tigranes the Great, Kingdom of Armenia stretched from the Caspian Sea to the Mediterranean and the Kingdom of Armenia was called the "Armenian empire" during her reign.[16] At one time, the domains of Tigranes the Great stretched from the shores of the Caspian Sea to the Mediterranean, from Mesopotamia up to the Pontic Alps. The vast empire, formed of a varied mixture of diverse tribes, with their own dialects and cultures, could hardly be turned over- night into a cohesive and durable political structure. Inner disunity aided the designs of the Romans, who launched a series of onslaughts on the Armenian dynast, beginning with the invasion by Lucullus in 69-68 B.C, and culminating in the campaigns of Pompey in Armenia, Iberia and Colchis in 66-65 B.C. The downfall of Tigranes the Great was precipitated by the flight of his son, Tigranes the Younger, to the court of the Parthian king Phraates III, who supplied him with an army with which to invade Armenia, and join forces with the victorious Romans.[2]

The Kingdom of Armenia at its greatest
extent under Tigranes the Great

Approximately half a century after the collapse of the Artaxiad dynasty Armenia was under the rule of the Arshakunis, the Armenian branch of the Parthian Arsacids.[17] Next, in 314, under King Tiridates (Trdat) the Great and through the apostolate of St. Gregory the Illuminator, Armenia, nearly simultaneously with the Roman empire, officially accepted Christianity, a turning point in its history.[18] An event of importance in the Arshakuni period was the invention, on the threshold of the fifth century, of the Armenian alphabet by St. Mesrop. With this Armenian became the language of the educated; it was introduced into the liturgy; and national literature was born (under Hellenistic and Syrian influences). Armenia’s identity and individuality were thus saved and an absorption by either Byzantine or Iranian civilization was precluded.[18]

Kingdom of Armenia under the Arshakuni dynasty, 150 AD

The Arsacid dynasty was overthrown by the Sasanid Empire in 428, and this was the end of the Kingdom of Armenia.

Religion[change | change source]

Until the late Parthian period, Armenia was a predominantly Zoroastrian-adhering land.[19] With the advent of Christianity, both paganism and Zoroastrianism gradually started to diminish. The founder of the Arsacid branch in Armenia, Tiridates I was a Zoroastrian priest or magus.[20][19] A noted episode which illustrates the observance by the Armenian Arsacids is the famous journey of Tiridates I to Rome in A.D. 65–66.[21] With the adoption of Christianity in the early 4th century, Zoroastrianism's influence in the kingdom gradually started to decline.

Kings of Armenia[change | change source]

References[change | change source]

  1. (in Armenian) Suren Yeremian, "Soviet Armenian Encyclopedia", vol. 7, pp. 434–435: "Մեծ Հայք, Հայաստանի հիմնական տարածքի և նրանում ձևավորված հին հայկական թագավորության անվանումը" [Greater Armenia, the name of the main territory of Armenia and the ancient Armenian kingdom formed in it]
  2. 2.0 2.1 Lang 1983a, p. 516.
  3. Lang 1970, p. 126.
  4. Canepa 2020, p. 101.
  5. Curtis 2016, p. 185; Boyce 1984, p. 84; de Jong 2015, pp. 119–120, 123–125; Russell 1987, pp. 170–171, 268
  6. Lang 1983, p. 535.
  7. Versluys 2017, p. 48.
  8. 8.0 8.1 Garsoïan 2005.
  9. Panossian 2006, p. 36: "Around 200 BC a coup by the Armenian noble family of Artashes(Artaxias) toppled the Yervanduni dynasty."
  10. 10.0 10.1 Garsoïan 2004, p. 49.
  11. Assar 2006, p. 62; Shayegan 2011, p. 225; Rezakhani 2013, p. 770.
  12. Shayegan 2011, pp. 188–189.
  13. Sellwood 1976, p. 2.
  14. Brosius 2006, pp. 91–92.
  15. Litovchenko 2015, p. 179–188.
  16. Wilken 2012, p. 229.
  17. Panossian 2006, p. 38: "Approximately half a century after the collapse of the Artashesian dynasty Armenia was ruled by the Arshakunis, the Armenian branch of the Parthian Arsacids."
  18. 18.0 18.1 Toumanoff 1986, pp. 543–546.
  19. 19.0 19.1 Boyce 1984, p. 84.
  20. Lang 1970, p. 141: "Though Tiridates was to be a client king of the Romans, Nero rightly judged that his investiture would satisfy the honour of the Parthians as well. Three years later, Tiridates made the journey to Rome. As a magus or priest of the Zoroastrian faith, he had to observe the rites which forbade him to defile water by travelling."
  21. Russell 1987, pp. 170–171, 268.

Sources[change | change source]

History[change | change source]

  • Panossian, Razmik (2006). The Armenians: From Kings and Priests to Merchants and Commissars. Columbia University Press. ISBN 978-0231139267.
  • Versluys, Miguel John (2017). Visual Style and Constructing Identity in the Hellenistic World: Nemrud Dağ and Commagene under Antiochos I. Cambridge University Press. p. 48. ISBN 978-1-107-14197-1. Most scholars assume that Ptolemy was the first Commagenean king and that he descended from the Armenian Orontids.
  • Wilken, Robert Louis (2012). The First Thousand Years: A Global History of Christianity. Yale University Press. p. 229. ISBN 978-0-300-11884-1. Under Tigranes the Great (95–55 B.C.), the Armenian empire stretched from the Caspian Sea to the Mediterranean.
  • Toumanoff, C. (1986). "Arsacids vii. The Arsacid dynasty of Armenia". Encyclopaedia Iranica, Vol. II, Fasc. 5. pp. 543–546. An event of importance in the Arsacid period was the invention, on the threshold of the fifth century, of the Armenian alphabet by St. Maštocʿ (Mesrop). With this Armenian became the language of the educated; it was introduced into the liturgy; and national literature was born (under Hellenistic and Syrian influences). Armenia’s identity and individuality were thus saved and an absorption by either Byzantine or Iranian civilization was precluded. [...] Next, in 314, under King Tiridates (Trdat) the Great and through the apostolate of St. Gregory the Illuminator, Armenia, nearly simultaneously with the Roman empire, officially accepted Christianity, a turning point in its history.
  • Garsoïan, N. (2005). "TIGRAN II". Encyclopædia Iranica. Tigran (Tigranes) II was the most distinguished member of the so-called Artašēsid/Artaxiad dynasty [...] which has now been identified as a branch of the earlier Eruandid dynasty of Iranian origin attested as ruling in Armenia from at least the 5th century B.C.E (...)
  • Garsoïan, Nina (2004). "The Emergence of Armenia". In Hovannisian, Richard G. (ed.). The Armenian People From Ancient to Modern Times, Volume I: The Dynastic Periods: From Antiquity to the Fourteenth Century. Palgrave Macmillan. ISBN 1-4039-6421-1.
  • Assar, Gholamreza F. (2006). A Revised Parthian Chronology of the Period 91-55 BC. Parthica. Incontri di Culture Nel Mondo Antico. Vol. 8: Papers Presented to David Sellwood. Istituti Editoriali e Poligrafici Internazionali. ISBN 978-8-881-47453-0.
  • Shayegan, Rahim M. (2011). Arsacids and Sasanians: Political Ideology in Post-Hellenistic and Late Antique Persia. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-76641-8.
  • Rezakhani, Khodadad (2013). "Arsacid, Elymaean, and Persid Coinage". The Oxford Handbook of Ancient Iran. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0199733309.
  • Brosius, Maria (2006). The Persians: An Introduction. London & New York: Routledge. ISBN 978-0-415-32089-4.

Cambridge History

  • Lang, David M. (1983). "Iran, Armenia and Georgia". In Yarshater, Ehsan (ed.). The Cambridge History of Iran, Volume 3: The Seleucid, Parthian and Sasanid Periods. Cambridge University Press. p. 535. ISBN 0-521-20092-X. Here a scion of the Armenian Orontid house, King Antiochus I [...] Armenian dynasty of the Orontids.
  • Lang, David M. (1983a). "Iran, Armenia and Georgia". In Yarshater, Ehsan (ed.). The Cambridge History of Iran, Volume 3: The Seleucid, Parthian and Sasanid Periods. Cambridge University Press. p. 516. ISBN 0-521-20092-X. At one time, the domains of Tigranes the Great stretched from the shores of the Caspian Sea to the Mediterranean, from Mesopotamia up to the Pontic Alps. The vast empire, formed of a varied mixture of diverse tribes, with their own dialects and cultures, could hardly be turned overnight into a cohesive and durable political structure. Inner disunity aided the designs of the Romans, who launched a series of onslaughts on the Armenian dynast, beginning with the invasion by Lucullus in 69-68 B.C., and culminating in the campaigns of Pompey in Armenia, Iberia and Colchis in 66-65 B.C. The downfall of Tigranes the Great was precipitated by the flight of his son, Tigranes the Younger, to the court of the Parthian king Phraates III, who supplied him with an army with which to invade Armenia, and join forces with the victorious Romans.

Journal

  • Litovchenko, Sergey (2015). "Царствование Тиграна II Великого в Сирии: проблемы хронологии (The reign of Tigranes the Great in Syria: chronology problems)". Ancient World and Archaeology. 17.
  • Sellwood, David (1976). "The Drachms of the Parthian "Dark Age"". The Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland. Cambridge University Press. 1 (1).

Other[change | change source]

  • Curtis, Vesta Sarkhosh (2016). Ancient Iranian Motifs and Zoroastrian Iconography. I.B. Tauris. pp. 179–203. ISBN 9780857728159.
  • de Jong, Albert (2015). Armenian and Georgian Zoroastrianism. In Stausberg, Michael; Vevaina, Yuhan Sohrab-Dinshaw; Tessmann, Anna (eds.). The Wiley Blackwell Companion to Zoroastrianism. John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. pp. 119–120, 123–12.
  • Boyce, Mary (1984). Zoroastrians: Their Religious Beliefs and Practices. Psychology Press. p. 84. ISBN 9780415239028.
  • Russell, James R. (1987). Zoroastrianism in Armenia. Harvard University Press. pp. 170–171, 268. ISBN 978-0674968509.
  • Lang, David (1970). Armenia; Cradle of Civilization. Routledge. ISBN 978-0-04-956007-9.
  • Canepa, Matthew P. (2020). The Iranian Expanse: Transforming Royal Identity Through Architecture, Landscape, and the Built Environment, 550 BCE–642 CE. University of California Press. ISBN 978-0-520-37920-6.