After Artashes two of his sons, Artavazd I and Tigraneses I (about 160-95) reigned one after another in Armenia.
During this period, a radical reshuffle of political forces took place in West Asia. As early as the middle of the 3rd century B.C. Parthian state was formed in the Iranian highlands.
In the II century it was undergoing a rise. Having entered the struggle against Seleucidians, Parthians achieved prevalence in the West Asia.
Their king Mithridates II (123-87) brought the western borders of the state to the Euphrates in Northern Mesopotamia.
He also faced the Armenian king Artavazd I, won the battle and took as a hostage the royal nephew Tigranes (future Tigranes the Great). Soon Parthians let Tigranes go, receiving as a ransom the region “Seventy valleys” located in the n. a. southeast of Armenia.
The beginning of the reign of Tigranes the Great
The first decades of the 1st century BC occupy a special place in the history of Armenia. During this period, the new king of Armenia, Tigranes the Great,
nicknamed the Great (95-55), took the path of external conquests and created a large state. Armenia turned into one of the most powerful powers of that wartime.
Tigranes the Great began his activity with what his grandfather Artashes I left behind, with the annexation of Sophene-Armenian region of Pristina, which was a separate kingdom before that.
The descendant of Zareh Artan ruled in Sophene. Already in 94 troops of Tigranes easily seized the country.
This step brought Armenia into the sphere of lively international relations. From a long time ago Sophene was connected with the neighboring Cappadocia,
with whose help in the main and kept its independence. Now Cappadocia itself was under the threat of being absorbed by the neighboring Pontic state,
which became immensely stronger. The king of Ponta Mithridates VI Eupator was trying to get closer to Armenia.
He sent an embassy to Tigranes with a proposal to conclude an alliance. For Tigranes the alliance with the mighty Pont was beneficial and desirable.
The union was fixed by marriage between Tigranes the Great and the young daughter of Mithridates, Cleopatra.
Among other things, the parties agreed to seize Capadocia, and under the agreement the territory of that country was to move back to the Pont,
and Tigranes could take all the movement and deport the population.
Cappadocia was to become the source, from where Armenia would get the city population and slaves it needed.
The first campaign of Armenian armies to Cappadocia was accepted in 93. The country was captured, king Ariobarzan ran to Rome.
Roman Empire as an enemy of Tigranes
By order of Sulla from Rome, the governor of Rough Cilicia, which by that time had become a Roman province, restored the power of the Cappadocian king.
However, already in 91 the military leaders Mitraas and Vaga again seized Cappadocia. Only two years later, Rome succeeded in bringing Ariobiap back to the throne.
On the way to the realization of the conquest program of Tigranes the Great stood first of all the Parthians, who took over Midia,
Atropatena, the countries of Northern Mesopotamia and settled in the Armenian highland, in the region of “Seventy Valleys”.
About 87 B.C. Armenian troops entered this region and advancing further invaded Midia-Atropaten and Midia proper. Pursuing the Parthian troops,
they approached Ekbatan-one of the Parthian king’s residences. During the siege of the city, the royal castle of Hadrapanah, located outside its walls, was put to fire.
The terrified Parthian king Gottharz hastened to make peace and not only has refused “Seventy valleys”,
but also has transferred to Tigranes the power over Midia-Atropatena and the countries of Northern Mesopotamia.
He also gave up the traditional title of the Parthian rulers “King of Kings” in favor of Tigranes the Great.
The latter secured his power over Midia-Atropatena by marriage of his daughter to the king of this country and paid his attention to the south.
Here a century before, under Artashes I, the region of Tmorik was annexed to the Armenian state.
Now the power of Tigranes has extended also on neighboring small kingdom Corduenu (Corduc) and on Adiabenu located along the middle stream of Tigranes.
After that the regions of Northern Mesopotamia Mildonia with the center of Nissi Bin and Ostroen with the city of Edessa were occupied.
Now only Euphrates separated possessions of the Tiger from the countries which have remained under authority Seleucid.
Extension of power and the throne of Seleucid Empire
Seleucid emperors already lost the former power. The neutral power was powerless to provide political integrity of the state,
safety of trade, to unite the most important component of the state – Hellenistic cities around itself.
The ruling class was not satisfied with the imperial power and thought about changing it. Roman historian Justin tells:
“Some thought it was necessary to invite Mithridates of Pontus, others Egyptian Ptolemy…
All agreed on the candidacy of Tigranes the Great, who not only had its military force, but was an ally of the Parthians and father-in-law of King Mithridates.
So, being invited to occupy the throne of Syria, Tigranes for 17 years ruled in complete tranquility;
he did not interfere with other wars and no one disturbed him, so there was no need to fight.
So in 83 B.C. Tigranes the Great sat on their throne in the capital of Seleucid Antiohian on Oront.
His troops moved further south along the Mediterranean Sea and occupied Fini! Plain Cilicia and Kommage were also conquered.
The Armenian power began to directly border with the Roman Republic, which had previously settled in the mountainous Cilicia.
The power of Tigranes the Great covered a considerable part of the West Asia.
It stretched from the Mediterranean Sea to the Caspian Sea and from the Kura River to Mesopotamia.
Besides, in sphere of its influence there were the neighboring countries and on Iberia and Albania in the north, many Arabian tribes in the south.
The newly created power was a typical Hellenistic state, though smaller in size,
but quite similar in structure and functions to the previous powers Seleucid and Alexander the Great, prototypes of which, in turn, were Achaemenid, Midian, Assyrian states.
All of them, as well as the power of Tigranes, were economically and ethnically motley military-political associations consisting of the societies which were on the most different levels of development.
The territory of the empire of Tigranes
The most important, economically and culturally developed of the countries conquered by Tigranes was Syria, the core of the once vast Seleucid power.
It included large and rich policies (cities) – centers of crafts, trade and culture, which had their own agricultural areas, and among them Antioch on Oront, the capital of Seleucid,
which became the southern center of the state of Tigranes. To the south of Syria, along the western coast of the Mediterranean Sea,
the ancient Finnic cities of Tyre, Sidon, Verit (Beirut), Arad and others stretched, which in the I century BC still retained their importance in the traditional trade of Meissdu East and West.
They were also major markets for the slave trade. There were also many cities in Plain Cilicia: Tara, Solas, Mobuesia, Anazarba, Adana and others.
At the head of the countries seized from the Seleucids was one of the neighboring Tigris to Bagarat, his residence was Antioch.
Adjacent to the southern borders of Greater Armenia, Ostroen and Migdonia were the most fertile regions of Northern Mesopotamia.
The economic and especially cultural relations between those countries and Armenia, which arose during the reign of Tigranes,
were further strengthened and played a significant role in the history of the Armenian people.
The ruler of Mesopotamian countries was Guras, brother of the Armenian king, with his residence in Nisibin.
To the east of Migdonia, on the left bank of the Tigris, there was Corduena, already at that time half Armenian speaking. Later it was a part of the historical Armenia.
Downstream of the Tigris the Adiabena covering the most part of historical Assyria, in particular, its capital Nineveh was located.
To the east of these countries, up to Caspian Sea extended extensive Midia-Atro with cities of Ganzak and Fraaspas. In comparison with the western regions of Tigranes’s power,
the eastern regions were significantly behind in economic development.
Economy and laws
The tribute from the conquered countries seemed to be heavy, judging by the wealth and luxury of Tigranes’s yard, the size of the state building, and the amount of military spending.
It is clear that the burden of taxes and taxes fell on Armenia itself. The ancestral countries were obliged to provide troops to Tigranes,
and those countries, which were not a part of the power, had similar obligations.
The army of Tigranes, as described by Plutarch, included, in addition to the Armenian army,
the forces of the Atropaten Midians, Adiabenians, Gordians, Arabs, Mardians, Iberians, Albanians and other nationalities.
The position of different conquered countries was not the same. For example, if the kings of Atropaten and Corinthians remained on their thrones,
and the first of them even became the son-in-law of the Armenian king, Mesopotamia and Syria were turned into administrative units ruled by the satraps appointed by Tigranes.
One of the most important activities of Tigranes was the persistence of trade.
It was important not only for merchants, but also for landowners! The main trade routes from west to east, including the Mediterranean ports from where these routes began,
were located in the territory of the newly created power. Some Arab nomadic tribes were settled by the Tigranes along trade routes, at crossing points, mountain passages, etc.,
to make these routes safe, convenient and to collect customs duties. Such posts were established, for example,
in Zevgma, at the Euphrates crossing, in the Amana mountain pass connecting Cilicia with Syria, etc. In business of ordering sea trade Tigranes,
not having own fleet, also relied on other peoples, in particular, on coastal population of Cilicia.
Well aware of the great role of cities, especially the rich and influential Syrian cities, in the system of kingdom,
Tigranes the Great showed great attention to them. A number of cities received the right to mint coins and other privileges.
The construction of Tigranakert
Artashat, the old capital of Armenia, remained in the north, the new Antioquia was outside the Great Armenia.
There was a necessity to create a capital in such an area of Armenia so that it could simultaneously serve as the center of the power.
In the 80s B.C. on the bank of one of the northern tributaries of the upper Tigris, in the Armenian region Aghdznik was founded the city of Tigranesakert – the new capital of the state.
Tigranesakert made a number of forced relocations from the cities of Cilicia, Cappadocia and Mesopotamia.
For example, the entire population of Cappadocia was deported from its capital Mazaki, from Cilicia, the Hellenistic policies of Sola, Adana, Epiphany and several others.
Of course, these huge, about half a million, masses could not be settled in Tigranesakert alone. In antique sources,
Tigranesakert appears as a large, beautifully built and rich city, with walls 25 meters high, with royal palaces and country parks.
However the first stage of life of this city, before its destruction by Romans, lasted only 10-15 years, and during this time its population could not reach the figure exceeding 100 thousand.
Other immigrants were placed, therefore, in other cities and localities. It is known, in particular, that, besides capital city Tigranesakert,
at Tigranesakert there were two more cities with the same name in the region of Utik and Artsakh, and Tigranesavan in Gohtna.
In addition, the population of the old cities of Artashat, Ervandashat, Zarehavan, Zarishat, etc. was also replenished, as can be seen from Armenian sources.
The foreign population of the Armenian cities, if not the Jews, whose communities in these cities were preserved as early
as the IV century AD, soon embarked on the path of assimilation with Armenians.
The influence of the Hellenistic culture
The influence of the Hellenistic culture that they had introduced, as well as the Hellenistic culture that had previously penetrated through many other channels, was more sustainable.
Especially the upper strata of society, in particular the royal court, were subjected to it,
which was not an exception but a rule for their time when the Hellenistic culture penetrated all the West Asian countries and was adopted by the upper strata of their societies.
The Greek language paved the way for the penetration of this culture, which by that time had become the language of international and trade relations.
Of course, the influence of Hellenistic culture on the masses of people was incomparably weaker, except for part of the urban population.