Armenia under the Yervanduni dynasty
Soon became a satrapy of the mighty
Achemenide Persia, and later part of the Seleucid Empire. It restored its full
independence in 190 BC under the king Artashes I, founder of the Artashesian dynasty
The kingdom started to expand and reached its peak
During the reign of Tigran II, also
called Tigran the Great (95-55 BC). Under Tigran, Armenia ascended to a pinnacle of
power unique in its history and became the strongest state in Asia Minor. Extensive
territories were taken from Parthia, which was compelled to sign a treaty of alliance.
Iberia (Georgia), Caucasian Albania, and Atropatene had already accepted Tigran’
suzerainty when the Syrians offered him their crown (83 BC). Tigran penetrated as far
south as Ptolemais (modern Akko in Israel). As a result, the empire of Tigran II stretched
from the Caspian Sea in the East to the Mediterranean Sea in West, and from
Mesopotamia in the South to the river Kura in North. Political strengthening and
territorial expansion of Armenia was accompanied also by unprecedented cultural
development, with rich cultural heritage of Urartu intermixing with Hellenistic features.
As a result Armenia during the Artashesian period became one of the most Hellenized
and culturally advanced countries of Asia Minor.
After the death of Tigran II,
Armenia was reduced back to its ethnic Armenian territory
and found itself in the middle of a long war campaign between Rome and Persia, with
each superpower trying to have Armenia as its ally, as the military assistance with
Armenia was crucial for gaining political superiority in Asia Minor.
Arshakunian dynasty, Second Armenian Kingdom
In the middle of the I century AD a new royal dynasty
– The Arshakuni (the Arsacids) –
was established in Armenia. This dynasty was related to the royal family of Persia, which
bared the same family name. At this period Armenia and Persia enjoyed a long period of
peace and cooperation, until in 251 AD the Sassanid dynasty came to power in Persia.
Regarding Armenia as the ally of the overthrown dynasty, the Sassanids adopted anti-
Armenian policy, trying to eliminate the Armenian state and to assimilate the Armenian
nation. Since the Armenian religion of that period bared similarities to both
Zoroastrianism and Greco-Roman polytheism, in the realization of their anti-Armenian
policy the Sassanids were trying to capitalize on the religious closeness. In order to
deprive the Persians of this advantage, the Armenian king Trdat III in 301 AD declared
Christianity the state religion of Armenia, thus making Armenia the first Christian state in
the world, with Gregory the Illuminator as the first head (Catholicos) of the Armenian
Apostolic Church. Christianity was officially legalized in the Roman Empire 12 years
after Armenia became officially Christian.
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