Kingdom of Armenia (antiquity)

Source: Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
Մեծ Հայք
331 BC–428 AD
• 331–317 BC
Orontes III
• 422–428
Artaxias IV
Historical eraAntiquity, Middle Ages
• Satrapy of Armenia is formed
c. 533 BC
• Reign of Orontes III begins
331 BC
63 AD
• Christianity declared state religion
301 AD
387 AD
• Last Arsacid king of Armenia deposed
428 AD
ISO 3166 codeAM
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Satrapy of Armenia
Byzantine Armenia Byzantine Calvary cross potent (transparent).png
Persian Armenia
Redgate, Anne Elizabeth (2000). The Armenians. Wiley-Blackwell. p. 7. .

Armenia, also the Kingdom of Greater Armenia,

Latin: Armenia Maior) sometimes referred to as the Armenian Empire, was a kingdom in the Ancient Near East which existed from 331 BC to 428 AD. Its history is divided into the successive reigns of three royal dynasties: Orontid (331 BC–200 BC),[6][7] Artaxiad (189 BC–12 AD)[8][9][10] and Arsacid (52–428).[11]

The root of the kingdom lies in one of the

satrapies of the Achaemenid Empire of Persia called Armenia (Satrapy of Armenia), which was formed from the territory of the Kingdom of Ararat (860 BC–590 BC) after it was conquered by the Median Empire in 590 BC. The satrapy became a kingdom in 321 BC during the reign of the Orontid dynasty after the conquest of Persia by Alexander the Great, which was then incorporated as one of the Hellenistic kingdoms of the Seleucid Empire

Under the Seleucid Empire (312–63 BC), the Armenian throne was divided in two – Greater Armenia and Sophene – both of which passed to members of the Artaxiad dynasty in 189 BC. During the Roman Republic's eastern expansion, the Kingdom of Armenia, under Tigranes the Great, reached its peak, from 83 to 69 BC, after it reincorporated Sophene and conquered the remaining territories of the falling Seleucid Empire, effectively ending its existence and raising Armenia into an empire for a brief period, until it was itself conquered by Rome in 69 BC. The remaining Artaxiad kings ruled as clients of Rome until they were overthrown in 12 AD due to their possible allegiance to Rome's main rival in the region, Parthia.

During the Roman–Parthian Wars, the Arsacid dynasty of Armenia was founded when Tiridates I, a member of the Parthian Arsacid dynasty, was proclaimed King of Armenia in 52. Throughout most of its history during this period, Armenia was heavily contested between Rome and Parthia, and the Armenian nobility was divided among pro-Roman, pro-Parthian or neutral factions. From 114 to 118, Armenia briefly became a province of the Roman Empire under Emperor Trajan. The Kingdom of Armenia often served as a client state or vassal at the frontier of the two large empires and their successors, the Byzantine and Sassanid empires. In 301, Tiridates III proclaimed Christianity as the state religion of Armenia, making the Armenian kingdom the first state to embrace Christianity officially.

In 387, Armenia was partitioned into Byzantine Armenia and Persian Armenia. The last Arsacid king of Armenia was deposed in 428, ending independent Armenian statehood until the emergence of Bagratid Armenia in the 9th century.



Prior to the 9th century BC, the geographic region known as the

Armenian Highlands was inhabited by Proto-Armenian and other tribes which did not yet constitute a unitary state or nation. The first state to rule over a significant part of the Armenian Highlands was the Kingdom of Urartu, also known as the Kingdom of Van or Ararat and called Biainili in the Urartian language used by its rulers. The kingdom competed with Assyria over supremacy in the highlands of Ararat and the Fertile Crescent

Both kingdoms fell to

Macedonian Empire at the Battle of Gaugamela in 331 BC. After Alexander's death in 323 BC, a Macedonian general named Neoptolemus
obtained Armenia until he died in 321 BC and the Orontids returned, not as satraps, but as kings.

Orontid dynasty

Orontes III and the ruler of Lesser Armenia, Mithridates, recognized themselves independent, thus elevating the former Armenian satrapy into a kingdom, giving birth to the kingdoms of Armenia and Lesser Armenia. Orontes III also defeated the Thessalian commander Menon, who wanted to capture Sper's gold mines.

Weakened by the Seleucid Empire which succeeded the Macedonian Empire, the last Orontid king, Orontes IV, was overthrown in 201/200 BC and the kingdom was taken over by a commander of the Seleucid Empire, Artaxias (Artashes) I, who is presumed to have been related to the Orontid dynasty himself.

Artaxiad dynasty

Tigran II
's Great Armenia


Ancient Greek world with Bactria, India and the Black Sea which permitted the Armenians to prosper.[12] Tigranes the Great saw an opportunity for expansion in the constant civil strife to the south. In 83 BC, at the invitation of one of the factions in the interminable civil wars, he entered Syria, and soon established himself as ruler of Syria—putting the Seleucid Empire virtually at an end—and ruled peacefully for 17 years. During the zenith of his rule, Tigranes the Great extended Armenia's territory outside of the Armenian Highland over parts of the Caucasus and the area that is now south-eastern Turkey, Iran, Syria and Lebanon, becoming one of the most powerful states in the Roman

Roman rule

Roman coin of 141 AD, showing emperor Antoninus Pius
holding a crown on the Armenia King's head

Armenia became a

Final War of the Roman Republic in 32–30 BC. In 20 BC, Augustus negotiated a truce with the Parthians, making Armenia a buffer zone
between the two major powers.

Augustus installed

Iberian invasion sponsored by Parthia, led by Rhadamistus. Tigranes VI of Armenia ruled from AD 58, again installed by Roman support. The period of turmoil ends in AD 66, when Tiridates I of Armenia was crowned king of Armenia by Nero. For the remaining duration of the Armenian kingdom, Rome still considered it a client kingdom de jure, but the ruling dynasty was of Parthian extraction, and contemporary Roman writers thought that Nero had de facto yielded Armenia to the Parthians.[15]

Arsacid dynasty


Syria. In 63, strengthened further by the legions III Gallica, V Macedonica, X Fretensis and XXII, General Corbulo entered into the territories of Vologases I of Parthia, who then returned the Armenian kingdom to Tiridates, king Vologases I's brother. An agreement was reached at the Treaty of Rhandeia
in 63, according to which members of the Parthian Arsacid dynasty would rule Armenia as client kings of Rome.

Another campaign was led by Emperor

client king. But during an epidemic within the Roman forces, Parthians retook most of their lost territory in 166. Sohaemus retreated to Syria, and the Arsacid dynasty
was restored to power in Armenia.

After the fall of the Arsacid dynasty in Persia, the succeeding Sassanid Empire aspired to reestablish Persian control. The Sassanid Persians occupied Armenia in 252. However, in 287, Tiridates III the Great was brought to power by the Roman armies. After Gregory the Illuminator's spreading of Christianity in Armenia, Tiridates accepted Christianity and made it his kingdom's official religion. The date of Armenia's conversion to Christianity is traditionally held to be 301, preceding the Roman Emperor Constantine the Great's conversion and the Edict of Milan by a dozen years.

In 387, the Kingdom of Armenia was split between the

Persian Armenia. Those parts of historical Armenia remained firmly under Persian control until the Muslim conquest of Persia, while the Byzantine parts remained until being conquered, also by invading Arabic armies, in the 7th century. In 885, after years of Roman, Persian, and Arab rule, Armenia regained its independence under the Bagratuni dynasty


Under Tigranes the Great

The army of the Kingdom of Armenia reached its peak under the reign of

mounted archers, also an important feature of the Parthian army. Like the Seleucids, the bulk of Tigranes' army were foot soldiers. The Jewish historian Josephus talks of 500,000 men in total, including camp followers. These followers consisted of camels, donkeys, and mules used for baggage, sheep, cattle, and goats for food, said to be stocked in abundance for each man, and hoards of gold and silver. As a result, the marching Armenian army was listed as "a huge, irregular force, too many to count, like locusts or the dust of the earth", not unlike many other enormous Eastern armies of the time. The smaller Cappadocian, Graeco-Phoenician, and Nabataean armies were generally no match for the sheer number of soldiers, with the organized Roman army with its legions eventually posing a much greater challenge to the Armenians.[16]

Note that the numbers given by Israelite historians of the time were probably exaggerated, considering the fact that the

Jews lost the war against Tigranes.

Plutarch wrote that the Armenian archers could kill from 200 meters with their deadly-accurate arrows. The Romans admired and respected the bravery and the warrior spirit of the Armenian Cavalry – the core of Tigran's Army. The Roman historian Sallustius Crispus wrote that the Armenian [Ayrudzi – lit. horsemen] Cavalry was "remarkable by the beauty of their horses and armor". Horses in Armenia, since ancient times were considered as the most important part and pride of the warrior.[17]


Since antiquity, Kingdom of Armenia had a cavalary called "Azatavrear", which consisted mainly of elite Armenians. "Azatavrear" cavalry made up the main part of the king's court. In medieval times, the cavalry were collected from nobles (usually the youngest sons of Armenian lords), and were known as Ayrudzi, or "horsemen." During times of peace, Armenian cavalry were divided into small groups which took the roles of guarding the King and other Armenian lords, as well as their families. Some part of the Armenian cavalry force was always patrolling Armenian borders, under the command of an Armenian general (sparapet). The group of Armenian cavalry whose main mission was the protection of the Armenian king and his family consisted of 6000 heavily armored horsemen in the ancient period, and 3000 horsemen in the medieval period. During times of war, the number of Armenian cavalry would rise, with estimates ranging from 10,000 to at least 20,000 horsemen. Besides heavy cavalry, there was also light cavalry, which primarily consisted of mounted archers.[citation needed]

Legio I Armeniaca-Armenian First Legion

"Legio Armeniaca" translates from Latin as "Armenian Legion" and "prima" as "first". The Armenian First Legion was one of the later-period Roman imperial legions. This Legion was mentioned in the late-antique text known as Notitia Dignitatum. It is most likely that the Armenian First Legion was formed in the 2nd or 3rd century AD, in the western part of the Kingdom, with the mission to protect the lands of Armenia from intrusion. It might first have been the garrison of Armenian lands which had been under the control of the Roman Empire. The Armenian First Legion took part in the ill-fated Persian campaign of the emperor Julianus Apostata in 363.

Legio II Armeniaca-Armenian Second Legion

"Legio Armeniaca" translates from Latin as "Armenian Legion" and "Secunda" as "Second". Like the First legion, the Armenian Second Legion was one of the later-period Roman imperial legions. This legion is also mentioned in the Notitia Dignitatum. The Armenian Second Legion was thought to have been created around the end of the 3rd century or in the beginning of the 4th century. The Armenian Second Legion had a permanent camp in one of the Northern provinces of the Orient, and built a camp in Satala. The Armenian Second legion is mentioned in the year 360 AD as a part of the garrison of Bezabda (anciently called Phoencia) in upper Tigris. In Bezabde the Armenian Second Legion served together with the Legions Parthica and II Flavia. In 390 AD Bezabde was taken by the Persian army, and a terrible bloodbath ensued against the inhabitants and garrison. The legion seemed to have survived this battle, because it appears in Notitia Dignitatum, which was written in the 5th century.

Later on, the Armenian Second legion became a part of the Byzantine army.

Mythology and pre-Christian religion

The pre-Christian Armenian pantheon included:

During the 1st century AD, Christianity spread through Armenia due to (according to legend) the efforts of the apostles

Parthian and Mazdaen influence.[18]


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.


Little is known about pre-Christian Armenian literature. Many literature pieces known to us were saved and then presented to us by Moses of Chorene. This is a pagan Armenian song, telling about the birth of Vahagn:

Armenian version

Երկնէր երկին, երկնէր երկիր,
Երկնէր և ծովն ծիրանի,
Երկն ի ծովուն ունէր և զկարմրիկն եղեգնիկ։

Ընդ եղեգան փող ծուխ ելանէր,
Ընդ եղեգան փող բոց ելանէր,
Եւ ի բոցոյն վազէր խարտեաշ պատանեկիկ։

Նա հուր հեր ունէր,
Բոց ունէր մօրուս,
Եւ աչքունքն էին արեգակունք։


In travail were heaven and earth,
In travail, too, the purple sea,
The travail held in the sea the small red reed.

Through the hollow of the stalk came forth smoke,
Through the hollow of the stalk came forth flame,
And out of the flame a youth ran․

Fiery hair had he,
Ay, too, he had flaming beard,
And his eyes, they were as suns.


Before the Armenian alphabet was created, Armenians used the Aramaic and Greek alphabets, the last of which had a great influence on the Armenian alphabet. The Armenian alphabet was created by Saint

Bible translation into the Armenian language. Traditionally, the following phrase translated from Solomon's Book of Proverbs
is said to be the first sentence to be written down in Armenian by Mashtots:

Ճանաչել զիմաստութիւն եւ զխրատ, իմանալ զբանս հանճարոյ:
Čanačʿel zimastutʿiun yev zxrat, imanal zbans hančaroy.
To know wisdom and instruction; to perceive the words of understanding.

— Book of Proverbs, 1:2.

By the 2nd century BC, according to Strabo, the inhabitants of Greater Armenia spoke the Armenian language, implying that modern Armenians descended from that population.[22][23][24][25]


  • Persian King Shapur II
    in the 360s.
  • Asia Minor. Its economic wealth can be gauged in the numerous bathhouses, markets, workshops, and administrative buildings that sprang up during the reign of Artashes I. The city had its own treasury and customs. The amphitheatre of Artashat was built during the reign of king Artavasdes II
    (55–34 BC). The remains of the huge walls surrounding the city built by King Artashes I can still be found in the area. After losing its status as a capital, Artashat gradually lost its significance.
  • amphitheater
  • Vagharshapat – In the first half of the 1st century, during the reign of the Armenian Arshakuni king Vologases I (Vagharsh I) (117–144), the old town of Vardgesavan was renovated and renamed Vaghasrhapat (Վաղարշապատ), which still persists as the official appellation of the city. The original name, as preserved by Byzantine historian Procopius (Persian Wars), was Valashabad—"Valash/Balash city" named after king Balash/Valash/Valarsh of Armenia. The name evolved into its later form by the shift in the medial L into a Gh, which is common in Armenian language. Khorenatsi mentions that the town of Vardges was totally rebuilt and fenced by Vagharsh I, eventually becoming known as Noarakaghak (The New City) or Vagharshapat. The city served as a capital for the Ashakuni Kingdom of Armenia between 120 and 330 AD and remained the country's most important city until the end of the 4th century. When Christianity became the state religion of Armenia, Vagharshapat was eventually called Ejmiatsin (or Etchmiadzin), after the name of the Mother Cathedral. Starting in 301, the city became the spiritual centre of the Armenian nation, home to the Armenian Catholicosate, one of the oldest religious organizations in the world. Vagharshapat was home to one of the oldest schools established by Saint Mashtots and the home of the first manuscripts library in Armenia founded in 480 AD. Starting in the 6th century, the city slowly lost its importance—especially after the transfer of the seat of the Catholicosate to Dvin in 452—until the foundation of the Bagratid Kingdom of Armenia in 885. After the fall of the Bagratid dynasty in 1045, the city gradually became an insignificant place until 1441, when the seat of the Armenian Catholicosate was transferred from the Cilician town of Sis back to Etchmiadzin.
  • Abbasid-appointed ostikans (governors), all of whom were of senior nakharar
    stock. In 640 Dvin was the center of the emirate of Armenia.

Political geography

The Kingdom of Armenia was bordered by

River, which was also the border between Caucasian Albania and Kingdom of Armenia.

After 331 BC, Armenia was divided into

tribes were vassals of Tigranes the Great.


The 15 provinces of the Kingdom of Armenia with their capitals are as follows:

Other Armenian regions:


  • World in 323 BC

    World in 323 BC

  • World in 200 BC

    World in 200 BC

  • World in 100 BC

    World in 100 BC

  • Orontid Armenia

    Orontid Armenia

  • Armenian Empire under Tigranes the Great

    Armenian Empire under Tigranes the Great

  • Arshakuni Armenia in 150 AD

    Arshakuni Armenia in 150 AD

  • Persian Armenia

    Persian Armenia

  • Byzantine Armenia

    Byzantine Armenia



  1. ^ Lang 1970, p. 126.
  2. ^ Canepa 2020, p. 101.
  3. ^ Curtis 2016, p. 185; Boyce 1984, p. 84; de Jong 2015, pp. 119–120, 123–125; Russell 1987, pp. 170–171, 268
  4. ^ "Kingdom of Greater Armenia". Oxford University Press. Archived from the original on 26 December 2018. Retrieved 20 November 2013.
  5. ^ Adontz, Nicolas (1970). The Reform of Justinian Armenia. Lisbon: Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation. p. 310.
  6. ^ Mach Chahin (2001). Kingdom of Armenia. Surrey: Routledge. p185–190.
  7. ^ "Armenia - Geography & History". Archived from the original on 28 April 2015. Retrieved 27 March 2018.
  8. ^ "Artaxias | king of Armenia". Encyclopedia Britannica. Archived from the original on 2020-10-30. Retrieved 2021-09-11.
  9. ^ "Tigranes II The Great | king of Armenia". Encyclopedia Britannica. Archived from the original on 2015-09-05. Retrieved 2021-09-11.
  10. ^ "Artavasdes II | king of Armenia". Encyclopedia Britannica. Archived from the original on 2021-09-17. Retrieved 2021-09-11.
  11. from the original on 2022-10-01. Retrieved 2022-07-18.
  12. ^ a b Garsoïan 2004, p. 49.
  13. ^ Bournoutian 2006, p. 29.
  14. ^ Patterson 2015, p. 77.
  15. .
  16. .
  17. ^ Gevork Nazaryan, Armenian Empire.
  18. from the original on 18 March 2015. Retrieved 27 March 2018 – via Google Books.
  19. ^ a b Boyce 1984, p. 84.
  20. ^ Lang, David Marshall (1980). Armenia: Cradle of Civilization. Allen & Unwin. pp. 84, 141, 149. (..) 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.
  22. .
  23. (PDF) from the original on 2022-10-01. Retrieved 2013-11-24.
  24. from the original on 2021-02-16. Retrieved 2020-11-14.
  25. ^ M. L. Chaumont. "ARMENIA AND IRAN ii. The pre-Islamic period". Encyclopædia Iranica. Archived from the original on October 28, 2009. At the same time Zariadris annexed Acilisene (Ekeleacʿ) and Taraunitis (Taron) (Strabo 11.14.5 and 15). The peoples who were thus brought together in the kingdoms of Armenia and Sophene all spoke one and the same language: Armenian (Strabo, ibid.) Alt URL Archived 2018-12-10 at the Wayback Machine
  26. .


Further reading

External links