By the third century BC, the outskirts of the Armenian highlands were already involved in the sphere of the Armenian language and ethnos,
but in part they remained within other States and only in later period the formation of the Armenian Kingdom joined to Armenia.
Small Armenian kingdoms in the West covered only a part of the Armenian ethnic group.
Under these conditions, the Kingdom of Yervandakans (Great Armenia), which occupied the Central regions of the highlands,
turned out to be the core around which the united Armenian state was to be formed.
Formation of the Armenian Kingdom
This took place under Artashes I (189-about 160), one of the most prominent figures of ancient Armenia.
The Greek author of the first century BC, Strabo, paints a picture of the events of this time.
“It is said,” he writes, ” that Armenia was small at first and increased by the efforts of Artashes and Zarekh…
Reigned… one in Sophene…, the other on the lands surrounding Artashat,
they pushed their limits by conquering lands from neighboring peoples;
the Medes—the Caspian, Panichida and Baseraped (Paratonic), the Iberians (Georgians)—
(foothills Paragra, Garzeno, Gogarene that on the other side of the river Cyrus (Kura),
Carentino and Derksen that are adjacent to the lesser Armenia, or part of it, have Katanov—
Akileine and the land around Anticura, the Syrians—Amoricide. So they all became monolingual.”
The fact that the population of all the mentioned regions is monolingual, i.e.
Armenian – speaking for the majority of them, was hardly the result of joining the Armenian state,
as Strabo apparently thought, but rather the basis and incentive for joining.
Conquests in themselves do not lead to monolingualism, to the formation of a people, as we can see from the example of Urartu.
Therefore, the “conquest” of the Armenian-speaking regions would be more accurate to call them unification.
Campaigns of the king Artashes
Sophene’s participation in these events was modest, and the decisive role belonged to Armenia itself.
This state under Artashes I expanded in all directions-to the North, South, East and West. Strabo’s message is confirmed by a number of other sources.
Thus, Artashes ‘campaign-to the East, to the” revolted” country of the Kasps- is described in detail by Movses Khorenatsi.
It also tells about the campaigns made by the king to the North, towards Georgia.
They are described in even more detail in the oldest Georgian source “Kartlis Tskhovreba”.
In the West, Armenia faced a more complex and difficult political situation between small but very strong states in Asia minor.
Armenia and the Seleucid Empire
In 183-179, there was a fierce war between two groups of countries—
on the one hand, Pontus and his ally Little Armenia, on the other hand, Cappadocia and its allies.
This second camp had the support of Rome, and the Seleucids stood behind the first.
King I of Pontus Pharnaces and the ruler of Lesser Armenia Mithridates,
who at first achieved some success, eventually lost the war and were forced to make peace on difficult terms.
Armenia’s position in relation to the two camps was very definite — traditionally anti-Seleucid, i.e.
It supported Cappadocia and Pergamum against Pontus and Lesser Armenia. In the peace Treaty,
the text of which was preserved by the historian of the second century BC Polybius, Artashes,
“the ruler of most of Armenia“, is also mentioned among the interested parties.
In these circumstances, taking advantage of the defeat of Armenia Minor and Pontus supporting her,
Artashes, apparently, and managed by military or diplomatic push to seize and to Annex his state to Carentino the Carina and Derksen Dergan,
(who, as stated Strabo, “are adjacent to lesser Armenia, or part of it“.
The Seleucid state continued to be Armenia’s most dangerous neighbor. After Antiochus III the Great, his son Seleucus IV (187-175) reigned here.
Uniting of new Armenian-speaking territories
Over the years, Armenia has grown stronger and has sought to cover the marginal Armenian-speaking regions within its borders.
These included the regions south of Lake Van as far as Adiabena, where, according to Strabo, the Armenian element was very strong from time immemorial.
In 168, Armenian troops entered Tmorik (Tamoritida), an area subordinated to the Seleucids,
and annexed it to the Armenian state, bringing its borders to the Tigris river in this segment as well.
According to Movses Khorenatsi, one of Artashes confidants was put in charge of Tmorik, who began to quickly develop a new area.
Seleucid Antiochus IV Epiphanes (175-164), an energetic but adventurous ruler,
was at war with Egypt at this time. It was only in 165 that he was able to turn north.
He crossed the Euphrates with his troops and encountered the Armenian army, which in turn crossed the Tigris and marched to meet him.
The battle was extremely bloody, especially many Armenian soldiers were killed,
but the situation did not change significantly: Antiochus did not move the Tigris, and Tmorik remained within Armenia.
Artashes tried to attach Sophene to His state, but in vain. Cappadocia strongly opposed this, and Artashes abandoned his intention.
The accession of Sophene lasted for about 70 years, until the time of Tigranes II.
The latest information about Artashes I date back to the very end of the 60s of the second century BC,
when he again entered into confrontation with the Seleucids and supported the revolt of the Seleucid Satrap of Babylonia and Media Timarchus against their masters.
Transformations in the Kingdom
In the first half of the second century BC after the formation of the Armenian Kingdom it has grown into a strong, independent and extensive state and,
of course, needed various transformations in the economy, politics, administration, military, and other fields.
The inscriptions of Artashes I in Aramaic, made on boundary stones, have come down to us;
Movses Khorenatsi indicates that Artashes separated communal and private lands with these stones.
There is some information about the restructuring of military Affairs under Artashes, in particular, the creation of four voivodeships.
New administrative division: intended to facilitate the management of a vast state.
The basis of such transformations was the economic growth of the country,
noticeable both in the village-in the field of agriculture-and in the city-in the development of handicraft production and trade.
The cities founded in the third century BC by representatives of the Yervandakan dynasty in the Ararat valley
and in Sophene have already been mentioned above. In the second century BC, this process continued.
Foundation of Artashat and other cities
The Foundation of Artashat (Artaxata—according to ancient authors), the capital of the Armenian state, was of great historical significance.
It is no accident that Artashat was founded in the Ararat valley.
Almost all the capitals of historical Armenia—Armavir, Yervandashat, Artashat, Vagharshapat, Dvin
– were located here. The Ararat valley became the heart of Armenia in the IV century BC.
Trade transit routes crossed here, leading from South to North and, along the Araks valley,
from West to East, which was a significant city-forming factor.
Artashat was founded by Artashes I and named after the founder king according to the custom of Hellenistic times.
According to the historians Strabo and Plutarch, the Armenian king was assisted in choosing the location of the future capital
and drawing up its plan by the famous Carthaginian commander Hannibal, who fled to the East after the defeat inflicted on him by the Romans.
It is possible that Hannibal was not involved in the creation of Artashat, but the evidence of Plutarch in any case shows,
that the city was built according to a previously developed unified and linked to the area plan, undoubtedly, according to the norms of Hellenistic urban planning.
Strabo reports that Artashat was a well-populated city and a Royal residence, that it was washed on three sides by the river Araks,
and on the fourth side the city was protected by a ditch and rampart.
The ongoing archaeological excavations of Artashat, located on the Bank of the Araks on several hills around Khor Virap monastery,
reveal a lot of new information and confirm the information of ancient authors.
According to Movses Khorenatsi, a part of the population of Yervandashat, the former capital of Armenia, was transferred to Artashat.
Here, therefore, synoecism took place—the formation of the population of the newly founded city by transferring to it a part of the population of the old cities—
the usual way of settling new cities in the Hellenistic world.
In Armenia, however, this method was insufficient due to the small number of urban population.
The migration of foreigners was also used here, both under Artashes I and, especially, under Tigranes II.
In the first half of the second century BC, a number of other cities were founded in Armenia, in addition to Artashat.
They bore the name of Artashes father, Zarekh, and stretched in a chain across the territory of Armenia from the South-East to the North-West.
Preserved information about cities Surenavan in Nariratana, Zarehavan in Bagrevand, Zarishat in Vananda etc Sophene in the same period Arcticat was founded.