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Encyclopedia >> Armenological Encyclopedia >> Artaxias II and the fall of Artaxiad Dynasty

 Artaxias II and the fall of Artaxiad Dynasty

Armenia was occupied by the Romans. The conquerors plundered the towns and heathen temples of Armenia. Prominent Roman historian Pliny the Elder describes the plunder of the heathen temple of Armenian pagan goddess Anahit in town Yeriza. He describes in details how Roman soldiers broke the golden statue. The Armenian nation with young prince Artaxias began the struggle. Various anti-Roman armed revolts were held in the country, which were oppressed by Roman soldiers. So Artaxias had to leave for Parthia.

Extension of Rome in the East, occupation of Armenia changed the situation in Western Asia. The Parthians understood that they would be the target country for Rome after Armenia that is why Phraates IV changed his attitude towards Armenia.  As a result he gave political asylum to Armenian heir, and the latter married his daughter, Phraates IV provided military aid for the struggle against Roman invaders.

The struggle became more effective after battle of Actium. Armenian-Parthian united army entered Armenia, defeated Roman legions and drove them out of the country. 

Due to these victories Artaxias was crowned in Artashat. 

New king was very enthusiastic. Despite his young age he was a perfect organizer, initiative and brave person. When he heard his father’s: Artavasdes II’s death penalty, he ordered to assassin all the Romans in Armenia. 

Young and enthusiastic king determined to restore power of Armenian Kingdom. He held wars against Atropatene, which was ally of Rome, a serious and dangerous neighbor. Atropatene was defeated during the war. Artaxias II united that country to his kingdom and captured the king. May be this will explain inscription on the coins “king of kings”.  Artaxias II demanded to retrieve his younger brothers Tigranes and Artavasdes from Rome. But Gaius Octavianus refused his demand reminding him the massacre of Romans in Armenia.

Rome followed on-going events in Armenia. Anti-Roman position of Artaxias, the alliance with Parthia was against the political interests of Rome. In such conditions Rome could not tolerate independent Armenian king, especially when younger brother of Artaxias Tigranes could be crowned. Octavianus, who claimed himself Augustus (“the revered one”) in 27 BC and provided basis for imperial regime, had to solve that problem.

Octavianus Augustus made any effort to establish Roman supremacy in Western Asia. Of course, this was possible only by dethroning Artaxias II.

In 20 BC Roman army reached to the borders of Armenia. The army was headed by Tiberius Claudius, who was the adoptee of Augustus. Dio Cassius admitted that he sent Tiberius to Armenia <<in order to dethrone Artaxias and to crown Tigranes>>. At that time Artxias II was assassinated in Artashat. According to Roman sources he <<was assassinated by his relatives>>. Logically these <<relatives>> were instigated by Romans.

When Tiberius heard that Artaxias was dead he entered Armenia and moved to Artashat with new king of Armenia Tigranes (younger brother of Artaxias). 

Last members of Artaxiad dynasty.  In Roman camp not far from Artashat Tiberius crowned Tigranes III (20-8 BC). this was viewed as the establishment of the power in Armenia In Rome. And it is not by coincidence, during that period some coins were minted with such inscriptions <<Conquered Armenia>>. In order to weaken Armenia Atropatene was detached from Armenia and here Aiobarzanes was crowned king.

 During the last period of his reign Tigranes III began to implement independent policy. During his reign various coins were minted in Pahlavi. The king had the titles   of <<Hayaser>> (Armenophil) and <<Hellenaser>> (Hellenophil). 

The successor of Tigranes III was his son Tigranes IV (8-5 BC), who reigned as independent king. Rome took it as rebellion.  One of the Roman historians wrote that <<the Armenians caused us many troublesin East >>.

In 5 BC Augustus sent Gaius Caesar to Armenia, the latter dethroned Tigranes IV and crowned Artavasdes III, who was uncle of Tigranes (5-2 BC). Roman laws dominated in the country during the reign of Artavasdes, as he had lived and had been brought up there for 25 years. 

That’s why the nation with Tigranes IV threw the Roman army out of the country in 2 BC. Tigranes IV again ascended the throne with queen Erato (2-1 BC). 

Tigranes IV was depicted on coins with the crown of Artaxiad dynasty, on the other side of the coin Erato was depicted with the following inscription in Greek <<Erato: sister of king Tigranes>>.

Tigranes understood that Augustus wouldn't tolerate his reign, so he made concessions. He sent valuable gifts to Caesar and asked him to recognize him king of Armenia. So Augustus agreed, only if Tigranes personally paid visit to Gaius Caesar in Asoriq (nowadays Syria) In that case he would be crowned by Gaius Caesar.

But Tigranes didn’t manage to visit Asoriq (nowadays Syria). In 1 AD Tigranes IV died in the battle against Sarmatian nomadic tribes, who invaded Greater Armenia from Caucasian plains. Tacitus depicted this emphasizing that <<the Armenians remained without a king>>. This was crucial for Armenia, as Tigranes IV was the last male representative of Artaxiad dynasty. Thus, there was a need of new dynasty. Though this seemed to be only the problem of the Armenians, it soon acquired an international political resonance.


Hovhannisyan P.