|The Birth of The
Armenian Nation (Part 2)
Armenian Unity Under Artashesian Kingdom
|From the death of Alexander the Great until the establishment of
Artashesian kingdom, all the events are uncertain and the information
is contradictory. The most important feature is that Alexander the
Great brought the culture and the high Greek civilization to the Middle
East during the 6th century. This had a very important influence on
Armenian kings, Armenian literature, even in the formation of an Armenian
nation. After the decline of the Seleucid Empire, new semi-independent
states had been founded in 250 B.C. They were Cappadocia, Pontus,
Armenia and Aterpatakan (Azerbeydjian). Greek political power ceded
to the Roman Empire. In Iran a new kingdom had taken over the Parthian
Iran, they were Arsaces-Arshakouny dynasty in 249 B.C.
|Strobo gives this event as follows: Armenia was first ruled over
by the Persians, then by Macedonians and Seleucians. The last ruler
of Armenia was Oronted, who was from Persian origin. After him the
country was divided into two nations by Artaxis and Zariandres. This
Orontes is the Erouand of Khorenatsi's history, but he is confused
by time, name and place.
|We saw Armenia was passed under Seleucian rule. The head of one
state was Artaxis-Artashes and the governor of a second was Zaradries-Zareh.
When they saw the great power of the Roman army, they slowly sided
with Rome and declared their country independent. Artashes became
the king of the greatest part of Armenia, including provinces of Vaspouragan,
Paidagaran, Sunek, Kars, Artahan, Gougarq, Erzroum and some other
territories. According to some historians, Artashes was one of the
Roman army's generals. He constructed a new city near the Arax River,
30 kilometers north of Yerevan. He called it by his name Artashat,
which became the real and first capital of Armenia. Artashessian dynasty
was established in 190 B.C.
| Artashes did unforgettable and virtuous deeds. He fixed boundaries
by establishing landmarks by square stones; he encouraged farm workers,
brought people from outside and increased his countries population.
(Discoveries show that there were Armenian inscriptions on the square
pillars erected by Artashes; therefore there was a language before
Mesrop). Seleucians attacked Armenia in 165 B.C. Artashes suffered
defeat, but he kept the kingdom and recovered independency. Zareh
also organized his country "the small Armenia". He was loke Artashes
from the great army of Antiochus the Great. We are sure their names
are Persian. They were from the Roman army but were they Armenians?
|The Roman senate backed the creation of these two states or kingdoms.
They started to develop and encourage the Armenian language, which
became the only language spoken by the entire area, in all the territories.
Artashes was a very wise, intellectual and capable king, with the
skill of administration. He had two objectives: to unify the nation
under one part and language and to fight against foreign enemies.
|He died in 160 B.C. and his son, Artavazd, succeeded him. Hannibal
escaped from Roman rivalry and took refuge in Armenia for a short
time. During the first century B.C. another power started to develop
and occupy other countries. It was the kingdom of Pontus and the famous
king was Mithridates Mehertad. Mithridates knew that one day Persia
would confront the Roman Empire, and the battlefield would be a very
strong army. At the time Artavazd was the king of Armenia. When Tigran
obtained the throne by ceding to the Parthians some Armenian territories
came to Armenia and ruled from 95 to 54 B.C. He had taken hostage
in the Persian capital.
|Tigran the Great began to enlarge his kingdom. He attacked first
on Sothene and conquered the country, then he attacked Persia and
took back all the 70 vallies that he was forced to give to be able
to return to Armenia. As we saw Pontus king Mithritades was very ambitious.
Tigran got married to one of his daughters Cleopatra. Tigran was even
thinking to state his supremacy over the king of kings. He marched
on Ekbatan, Persian capital, where he had been held as hostage. He
was a slave at that time, now was entering as the king of kings and
that title has been inscribed on the coins issued on his glory. Then
he turned his army towards the Seleucid Empire, in Syria, but without
fighting he has been offered the crown in an official ceremony at
Antioch in 83 B.C.
|He ruled very peacefully for 18 years on Syria, Palestine, and Cilicia.
People were so happy, so prosperous. He built a new capital, Tigranagert,
northeast of Nissibin, with beautiful palaces and parks. He was considering
himself as a god, all the four vassal kings were stood near his throne
to serve him like servants, crossed hands. Greek culture was dominant
in Tigranagert. Tigran was involved with Greek theatre; he invited
Greek actors to play in his new amphitheatre. His son Artavazd also
was a famous play-writer.
|Cleopatra was also very cultured, very beautiful queen. In 84 B.C.,
Lucullus (a Roman general) came from Rome to occupy Pontus. He conquered
the country, and king Mithritades; Tigran's father-in-law escaped
from his country and took refuge in Armenia. Lucullus came afterwards
to Armenia; Armenian armies were defeated and Tigran fled to the northern
mountains. But he continued to fight. Al the neighboring kings, even
the Arabs came to his aid. Strengthened Tigran passed to counter-attack
in October 6, 69 B.C. and he retook the very rich Armenian capital
Tigrannagert. Lucullus lost the war. Tigran mastered the northern
provinces of Tigris River.
|But Rome was so angry seeing one of its greatest general defeated.
They sent this time another famous general, Pompey, who marched with
his huge army against Tigran and Mithritades in 66 B.C. Unfortunately,
Parthian king sided with Pompey and he convinced Tigran's son, gave
him an army and sent him to Armenia. Tigran was again in a very bad
situation. His son betrayed from inside and Roman armies on the doors
of the country. Tigran the great was obliged to go up to the mountains.
But he was so hopeless that he preferred to surrender himself. But
general Pompey respected him very much, even he agreed to give his
county back to him, but he took all the other countries, put high
was indemnities and as reward gave to Tigran junior the state of Sophene.
|There are some serious causes for the fast decline of the first
Armenian Empire in the history. Tigran the Great was very capable
administrator but he got some family problems. As we saw, his son
rebelled against him, he slained his other son and he overestimated
very much his power and the bad spirit of his father-in-law, king
of Pontus, who advised him from victory to another, but his armies
were not ready to this expansion policy, the empire was very large
and the time was very short to assimilate all the peoples of the empire.
But still the history considers him as a unique king, as a great warrior,
great cultural leader, and great patriotic.
|After Tigran the Great, his son Artavazd came to throne in 54 B.C.,
but after three kings, Artashessian dynasty ended in 2 A.D. When we
study the reasons and the characters of wars we cannot see any evidence
or religious differences amongst the nations, because the civilization
and the culture arrived from Greece and their gods were adopted like
and with their culture by many other peoples, who took them and adjusted
to their local, national tendencies and requirements.
|But it is necessary to emphasize that religion always gave an inner
and implicit power to individual and national heroism. The Greek empire's
expansion was indubitably backed by its powerful and rich mythology.
Parthians, the ancestors of Persian, were not so strong in the past,
until they changed the paganism and converted into Mazdeism or Zoroastrianism,
which by worshipping god had its new and national philosophy. Persia
became strong, established an empire, which was as strong as could
be a rival of Roman Empire.
|Armenia, from its first days of national formation was in much trouble.
It was first of all a new state under Persian control. Even Arshagouny
dynasty was the Persian main kingdom (Arsacids). But let us have a
brief look upon the political history from the date of Artashessian
kingdom until the rise of new dynasty. From the 2 A.D., until 53 A.D.
we had some 9 kings on Armenian throne, some of them were non-Armenian,
Parthian, Jewish, etc.
|In Persia, as we said, Arsacids were on power and they sent king
from their dynasty to Armenia, but this supremacy was not welcomed
in Rome. The Persian Ardashessian kings of kings, Volotes Vagharsh,
sent his brother Arshak who became the first Arshagouny king in 54.
But Rome refused and he sent another Arshagouny Deled in 66 and the
Arshagouny dynasty was established. But in Persia Sassanide Empire
came and hit with its new faith, Arshagouny kingdom in Persia, in
228, and from that date until its fall. In 428 Artashessian kingdom
gave to our country its highest national and political achievement.
|It is true that from the fist century, Christianity has been taught
among the Armenian people. Thaddaeus and Bartholomew, two apostles
came and preached the new religion in some of Armenian countries.
It is perhaps true also that Apkar, king of Edessa, 9-46 A.D., wrote
a letter to Jesus to come to cure him and to enjoy his protection,
|But Dertad the III, king Tiridates, 238-314 got a very intelligent
coordinator in his court whose name was Krikor, Gregory. After a victory
coming back home, it happen that Dertad wanted to offer some flowers
to our gods, and he forced Krikor to do the same, but Krikor who was
Christian strictly refused and Dertad subjected him to cruel tortures
and confined in a pit for thirteen years.
|But afterwards Dertad became serious sick, all the doctors of the
county tried in vain to heal him, but Dertad's sister saw 3 times
in her dream an angel telling her that only Krikor can cure him. Then
they took him out of the pit and from 228-303 Armenia adopted officially
Christianity, being the first state in the world. That was more than
a religious act; it was a sharp separation from Persia. Krikor took
the name Illuminator
( ??????????? , because he brought the
Christian light in our county. They destroyed all the ancient monuments,
temples, courts, everything remembering pagan culture, manuscripts,
and monasteries with state power to extension of Christianity.