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 Artaxias I

In the III century BC the Seleucids reigned in Armenian four kingdoms. This was only for a short period. Armenian nobleman Artaxias became a Seleucid ruler in Greater Armenia, Zareh became the ruler of Sophene in 201 BC. The Seleucids planned to occupy Asia Minor.

Roman Republic had also pretentions to the mentioned region. Moreover, Rome intended to defeat the Seleucids and to establish its supremacy in the basin of Mediterranean. Hence, the war was inevitable. The battle took place in 190 BC in Magnesia (in Lydia). The Romans defeated the army of Antiochus III of the Seleucid Empire.

The battle of Magnesia and the Treaty of Apamea of 188 BC were crucial for the world history.

In 189 BC Greater Armenia, Lesser Armenia, Sophene and Commagene were declared independent. 

Artaxias was one of the prominent military and political figures in the Ancient world. He was well-known in that period.  Information about Artaxias was preserved in Armenian, Greek, Roman, Georgian sources, as well as in Aramaic inscriptions. Artaxias was born in 230 BC in the Zareh’s dynasty. After the battle of Magnesia  Armenia was declared independent and Artaxias became the king. He founded Artaxiad Dynasty. Artaxias claimed himself descent of Orontid dynasty.

Reunification of Armenian lands. When Artaxias succeeded to throne, only central provinces were the part of Greater Armenia. As some Armenian provinces were occupied by neighboring countries, such as Marastan, Virq (Georgia), kingdom of Pontus, Seleucid Empire and other countries. Artaxias had to reunify the Armenian lands.

Greek geographer Strabo gives information about Artaxias's intention. According to Strabo in the first period of his reign Artaxias invaded East and reached the shores of Caspian Sea. As a result, Paytakaran and Caspian land (Caspeits yerkir) became the part of Greater Armenia. Then Artaxias invaded North: Gugark province, which had been occupied by Virq (Georgia).  Here military leader Smbat Bagratuni defeated Georgian army and liberated the occupied territories.

According to Georgian sources the Georgians were going to <<mint coins with image of king Artaxias>> and to provide him with army, whenever necessary. In West Artaxias liberated land of Karin (Karno yerkir), Yekeghik and Derjan districts, in south he liberated Tmorik region. The latter was liberated after long battles against Seleucid king Antiochus IV. However, the liberation of  Sophene and Commagene failed.

So, in the reign of Artaxias Armenian some territories became the part of Greater Armenia. That is why, Greek historian Polybius called Artaxias <<Lord of the greatest part of Armenia>>. Strabo indicates that <<Armenia flourished by the efforts of Artaxias, therefore the people living there were monolingual>>, that is to say they spoke only Armenian. This information proves that Artaxias succeeded in uniting Armenian lands in one country. This had an important affect from national-political standpoint.

The growth of international authority of Greater Armenia. 

In the reign of Artaxias Greater Armenia became one of the powerful states in Western Asia. It played an important role in the political life of the region. So, when in 183-179 BC war began between Pontus and Lesser Armenia, Cappadocia, Bithynia and their allies, Artaxias 1, remaining neutral, had his impact on participants of war. The war ended due to his efforts

Artaxias was present during the signing of the peace treaty according to  the will of participants of war. Due to diplomatic steps Artaxias was able to include a special point in the treaty, according to which the territory of Lesser Armenia was extended at the expense of Pontus. This, of course, was a step to unite Lesser Armenia to his kingdom in future. In 165 Seleucids king Antiochus IV, who made great efforts conquer Armenia, but he was defeated by  Artaxias. So, Artaxias did everything to weaken Seleucid power in Near East.

Artaxias contributed to the rebellion of Timarkos, who was Seleucid satrap in Marastan (162-160 BC). This evidently weakened the power of Seleucid Empire. 

Due to efforts of Artaxias Armenia became a large and powerful country. Naturally there was need of reforms within the country too.

So, Artaxias made reforms in the fields of economy, culture, administrative-political, etc. in Ararat valley, near the confluence of Yeraskh and Metsamor rivers. Moses of Chorene (Movses Khorenatsi) mentions <<Artaxias goes to confluence of  Yeraskh and Metsamor rivers,  he likes the hill and  founds a new city naming  it Artashat>>. 

In the 1st century BC Greek historian Plutarch mentions that the place of the city was chosen  by Carthaginian military commander Hannibal (during that period Armenia gave this famous commander political asylum). Artaxias offered Hannibal to conduct the construction works of the city. The project of the city was well planned. <<A big and nice city was built. The city was named after the king and became the capital of the country>>.

Indeed, archeological excavations, which were carried out in the territory near Khor Virap, show that the city was well-planned.

Artashat was surrounded by high and huge walls, moat and barrier. Greco-Roman historian called it <<Armenian Carthage>>, as it was impregnable.  The captives, as well as part of the population of Yervandashat, Armavir moved to the capital. Artashat was built in the crossroad of transit trade. Therefore, it soon became one of the political, economic and cultural centers in Western Asia. Artaxias founded other cities as well, such as Arshat, Artashisyan, Zarehavan, Zarishat.

Land reform. In the reign of Artaxias there was a conflict between land owners and rural community. The farmers occupied the rural lands. This deprived the pheasants from their everyday earning. 

Naturally, the pheasant, who was deprived from his land wasn't able to pay taxes, and couldn't join the army. This also leaded to armed clashes. Hence, the state had to take necessary steps.

In 180 BC Artaxias issues a decree on land reform. According to the decree the borders of private land households (farms) were separated from the community lands. On  one side this decree legalized the occupation of lands by farmers, on the other side it preserved property of the community.

Moses of Chorene (Movses Khorenatsi) states that <<Artaxias ordered to separate borders of villages and farms...and square stones were set >>.

 Over 20 hoarstones were found in various regions of Armenia. On the hoarstones mentioned above, there were Aramaic inscription with the name of Artaxias.

Some of them are exhibited in History Museum of Armenia.

Military-administrative and other reforms. Military reforms were also crucial. In the reign of Artaxias regular and well armed army was formed. Four headquarters were formed for the protection of the motherland. Moses of Chorene (Movses Khorenatsi) writes <<Artaxias divided the army between his sons Artavasdes (the eastern part of the army), Tiran (the western part), Zareh (the northern part) and military commander Smbat (the southern part)>>.

Then the country was divided into 120 regions, which Greco-roman authors called strategia-ստրատեգիա, the governors of the regions were called strategos.

There were reforms in ministries (nakhararutyun-նախարարություն) too. Sparapetutyun – սպարապետություն (military department) and hazarapetutyun – հազարապետություն (department that deals with finances and taxes) were run by relatives of the king.

By order of king Artaxias kings and their ancestors were worshipped by people, like in neighboring Hellenic countries. Temple of pagan goddess Anahit was built in Artashat, where the monuments of the king's ancestors were built too. Such kind of temples were built in other cities of Armenia as well. Such activities contributed to the rise of the authority of king's power.

By Artaxias' order Armenian calendar (tomar-տոմար) was specified.

Artaxias was worshipped by people and had the titles <<the Kind>> (Bari, barepasht), <<the Conqueror>> (Ashkharhakal). There are a lot of songs, poems about Artaxias. Most of them were written by Moses of Chorene (Movses Khorenatsi) (<<Artaxias and Satenik>>, <<Artaxias and Artavasdes>>, and so forth).   These poems praised his wisdom, strength, kindness, love towards motherland. Then coming generations called their beloved kings <<Artaxias>> (such as Zenon, Tiridates I and others).

Artaxias died in 160 BC at 70.

                                                                                                        Hovhannsiyan P.