While the royal court in Armenia was busy with the internal affairs of a vast power, in the west there was a thunderstorm:
the danger of the Roman invasion and the beginning of Armenian-Roman war took on a more and more real shape.
The beginning of Armenian-Roman war
By 70 AD, before Tigranes the Great first entered into diplomatic relations with Rome, the neighboring Pont had already managed to conduct three wars against Rome since 89.
At first, the king of Pont Mithridates VI Eupator achieved great success – he owned almost all of Asia Minor and moved the theater of military operations in Europe,
on the Balkan Peninsula. However broken by Romans in two battles Mithridates under the agreement of 84 refused all conquered areas and undertook to pay a large contribution.
The second war of Ponta with Rome (83-81 BC) was local in nature and had no significant consequences.
Armenia did not participate in these wars. Nor did it engage in a new, third war, which broke out in 74.
Only the day before its Armenian troops again invaded Cappadocia and withdrew from there, according to historian Appian, 300 thousand people. Mithridates thoroughly prepared for war.
At first, happiness smiled at Ponto, but then the failures began, which would result into engagement of Armenia into conflict and the beginning of Armenian-Roman war.
Situation in the kingdom before the invasion
Lucius Lucullus, one of the brilliant commanders of Rome, managed step by step to push Mithridates to Pont and inflict him a crushing defeat here.
Mithridates fled to Armenia and thus initiated a conflict, which later grew into the Armenian-Roman war, fraught with serious consequences for Armenia.
Outstanding military leader and experienced politician, Tigranes the Great, however, underestimated the Roman danger. Looking at Ponta’s desperate struggle with Rome from the outside,
he overlooked the fact that his internal enterprises, which at first glance did not seem to concern Rome, very much affected Roman interests.
Sooner or later, Rome had to face a new force that had grown in the East, and that moment was approaching.
In 70, Lucullus sent his representative, Appia Claudius, to Tigranes to demand the extradition of Mithridates: the Pontius was to decorate Lucullus’ triumph in Rome.
Accepting Lucullus’ envoy in Antioch, Tigranes refused to extradite Mithridates, which served as a reason for Lucullus’ war with Armenia.
On his way to Antioch, Claudius Appius made a reconnaissance trip to Armenia, sowing discord between dynasties and kings subordinate to Tigranes.
He managed to persuade many of them to mutiny, in particular, King Cordoba Zarbien. The Romans, thus, were already preparing for war, regardless of the results of the war with Tigranes, or anticipating his refusal.
Tigranes the Great, alone, continued to stay in the south (powers, besieging the city Ptolemaida near borders of Egypt, last stronghold of Seleucid queen Selena. Returning from Antioch, he completed the siege by taking Queen Selena.
To walls of taken Ptolemaida ambassadors of queen of neighboring Palestine have appeared to prevent expected campaign of Tigranes to Palestine by gifts and arrangements.
The invasion of Lucius Lucullus
This was the situation in the spring of 69, when Tigranes, as reported by the historian Josephus Flavius, suddenly received news of Lucullus’ invasion of Armenia.
With his six thousand guards, Tigranes rushed north, ordering Syrian satrap Bagarat to lead troops after him.
In order to stop Lucull’s rapid advance in Armenia, the Armenian commander Meruzhan was sent across to him, but his detachment was insufficient;
Meruzhan was defeated and fell on the battlefield. Upon arrival in Armenia, Tigranesakert capital was already besieged.
On a dark night, his guard, breaking through the ring of Roman troops in the city, took out of there the treasury and harem of the king.
Having collected 70-80 thousand troops, Tigranes the Great came to the Romans who had already besieged Tigranesakert.Armies met near Tigranesakert,
on the bank of the river Nicephorion (now Farkinsu) on October 6, 69 BC Leaving the detachment under the walls of the city to protect its rear from the garrison raid,
Lucullus with the main forces took a position on the river bank.
On the opposite bank was the army of Tigranes. Striking simultaneously from two flanks on numerous, but motley Armenian army, the Romans brought panic and frustration into his ranks and dispersed it.
Now they could pay all attention to the siege of Tigranakert, which lasted for several months.
The task of the Romans was greatly relieved by the betrayal of the Greek mercenaries who were in the service of commander Tigranakert, the Armenian commander Mankai.
Seeing from the towers of the city, which ended the battle with Tigranes, they considered his defeat final and opened the city gates to the Roman troops. By order of Lucullus, the Romans plundered Tigranakert and destroyed it to the ground.
Meanwhile, Tigranes and Mithridates, who had arrived from the fortress given to him, had already recruited and trained a new army, and sought allies.
They appealed to the Parthian king Phraat with a proposal for an alliance against the Romans, promising to return the land seized by Tigranes and warning against the inevitable future attack of the Romans on Parthia.
Phraat hesitated; his reply was also awaited by the embassy of Lucullus. As a result, he made vague promises to both sides.
Lucullus headed north with the intention of capturing Armenia’s second capital, Artashat, and thus ending the war.
The Armenian army was now sticking to a new tactic – wearing out the enemy in small skirmishes, making it difficult to supply food, destroying the separating enemy groups. Having begun a campaign to the north in the beginning of summer,
Lukull only in the autumn reached the crossing across Arazani. He inspired his exhausted legions with the prospect of godly extraction during the capture of “Armenian Carthage” – Artashat.
The threat of losing Artashat made Tigranes decide to fight. The battle took place at the crossing of Aratsani. This time the Romans were opposed by an army not as numerous as under Tigranakert, but better trained and experienced in fighting the Romans.
In the battle the Romans suffered huge losses and were unable to continue advancing north. A few days later, under pressure from his army, Lucullus began his retreat.
To regain the favor of the army, Lucullus led it to Nisibin, a rich city in northern Mesopotamia, which promised great prey. Taking Nisibin after several months of siege was Lukull’s last success in this Armenian campaign.
Tigranes, meanwhile, resumed active hostilities, cleansing the southern regions of Armenia from the Romans. Mithridates, with the Armenian army attached to him, invaded Pont and conquered his kingdom. Having defeated one of the military leaders left there,
Lucullus Fabius, he moved on the other of them, Tyria. Lucullus rushed to the aid, but he was late – the army of Triarchy was defeated and almost completely exterminated.
Under these circumstances, Lucullus’ soldiers refused to fight Mithridates.Nor did they go against Tigranes. It soon became known that the Roman Senate, dissatisfied with the actions of Lucullus, removed him and transferred the command in the East to Gnaeus Pompey.
The invasion of Gnaeus Pompey to Armenia
Circumstances seemed to favour the restoration of Armenia’s pre-war situation. However, this was hindered by the strife.
Still in the previous 67 the son of Tigranes the Great Tigranes the Younger, leaning on elements dissatisfied with a policy of king, in particular on representatives of patrimonial nobility,
has revolted against the father and, having suffered defeat, has found a shelter at Parthians, thus weakening the positions of Tigranes in Armenian-Roman conflict.
The Parthian King Phraat took him in and clothed him, passed off his daughter and waited for a convenient moment to bring him to the throne of Armenia instead of the hated Tigranes the Great.
There were also rumors that Tigranes the Younger was quarreled by his maternal grandfather Mithridates Eupator.
Soon Fraat and Tigranes the Younger invaded Armenia. At first they were lucky, and they even besieged Artashat, and Tigranes the Great went to the mountains.
However, the siege lasted, Phraat had to leave, leaving only part of the army to Tigranes the Younger. Returning,
Tigranes the Great defeated these forces, and his son, having become convinced of the Parthians, fled this time to Pompey,
who had already arrived at the place of military operations and deployed vigorous activity. The dispute between father and son was extremely favourable for him.
Pompey succeeded in defeating Mithridates and forcing him to flee. Mithridates headed north to the Crimea, to the Bosporan kingdom that belonged to him.
On the way he tried to get the support of Tigranes the Great again. However, the latter was not before him: accompanied by Tigranes the Younger Pompey invaded Armenia, heading along Araks to Artashat.
Armenia was again facing severe trials, it was threatened by a new war. Considering the armed struggle in the created conditions as brilliant as the hard business, Tigranes the Great chose another way.
The 75-year-old made a peace deal with Pompey. This step, no matter how it was considered by ancient authors, was a well thought out, diplomatic and psychologically and logically flawless course;
the character of the simple-minded and conceited Pompey was also taken into account. Pompey preferred his opponent father, then the son, his friend.
Tigranes the Great reigned in Great Armenia for another 10 years, and his son received the throne of Sophene, i.e. almost nothing,
for this throne had already been granted to him by his father. Tigranes the Younger was taken into custody by order of Pompey.
Armenian-Roman peace agreement
In 66, a peace agreement was signed, which under the circumstances can be considered a diplomatic success of Tigranes, despite the gravity of the terms of 1 treaty.
Armenia was deprived of all foreign territorial gains and paid a huge contribution; one state of Great Armenia remained integral. It was declared “friend and ally of the Roman people”.
The army of Pompey was left for winter in the Kura valley.
Here it was attacked by Iberians and Albanians, but repulsed it. In 65 Pompey himself went to the Iberians, defeated them and intended to pursue Mithridates.
However, when Pompey heard the news of the Albanian uprising, he went to Albania and led it to obedience.
In 64, Pompey was engaged in low-Asian and Syrian affairs. He deposed the Asian Seleucid,
who had been placed on the throne by Lucullus, from the Syrian throne of Antioch. Syria was declared a Roman province.
Meanwhile, the Parthians invaded and took over Corduenna. The army sent by Pompey knocked them out of there and returned the province of Armenia. In 64,
the Parthians again invaded Armenia. Tigranes the Great addressed to Pompey and Parthians also addressed to him. The third judges sent by Pompey solved the dispute in favour of Armenia,
as a result of which not only Cordeaux but also some lands of Northern Mesopotamia remained in its composition. Rome has clearly revised its position on Armenia,
flirting with it in anticipation of the future Parthian danger. Pompey even restored the title of Tigranes “King of Kings”, which after the defeat of Tigranes passed again to the Parthians.
Phraat III, who finally began to grasp the essence of Roman policy, yielded and decided to bear, in turn, nourishing hope for an alliance with Armenia in the future struggle against Rome.
In 63, the news of the death of Mithridates Eupator was spread, which the Romans received with delight.
The inflexible old man did not leave his last breath to settle accounts with Rome. In the Bosporus kingdom, he recruited and trained a strong army, with which he was going to invade Italy through Thrace on the Northern Black Sea coast.
After the settlement of territorial disputes with Parthia, when Corduena withdrew to Armenia, about ten years, until the death of Tigranes the Great (55 BC),
Armenia was at peace. The country took a little rest from the military and political storms that had passed over it.