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 Jesus…
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.

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