The Full Wiki

Tigranes the Great: Wikis


Note: Many of our articles have direct quotes from sources you can cite, within the Wikipedia article! This article doesn't yet, but we're working on it! See more info or our list of citable articles.


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

This article is about a king of Armenia in the 1st century BCE For other historical figures with the same name (including other kings of Armenia) see Tigranes.

Tigranes II
King of Armenia
Tigranes II
Reign 95 – 55 BCE
Predecessor Tigranes I
Successor Artavasdes II
Wife Cleopatra
Royal House Artaxiad
Father Artavasdes I or Tigranes I

Tigranes the Great (Armenian: Տիգրան Մեծ; EA: Tigran Mets, WA: Dikran Medz, Greek: Τιγράνης ο Μέγας) (140 – 55 BCE; also called Tigranes II and sometimes Tigranes I) was emperor of Armenia under whom the country became, for a short time, the strongest state east of the Roman Republic.[1] He was a member of the Artaxiad Royal House. Under his reign, the Armenian kingdom expanded beyond its traditional boundaries, temporarily becoming an empire, and involved itself in many battles against opponents such as the Parthian and Seleucid empires, and the Roman Republic.


Early years

Tigranes had been a hostage until the age of 40 at the court of King Mithradates II of Parthia who defeated the Armenians in 105 BCE Other sources give the date as much earlier, at around 112-111 BCE.[2] After the death of King Tigranes I in 95 BCE, Tigranes bought his freedom, according to Strabo, by handing over "seventy valleys" in Atropatene to the Parthians.[3]

When he came to power, the foundation upon which Tigranes was to build his Empire was already in place, thanks to the founder of the Artaxiad Dynasty, Artaxias I, and subsequent kings. The mountains of Armenia, however, formed natural borders between the different regions of the country and as a result, the feudalistic nakharars had significant influence over the regions or provinces in which they were based. This did not suit Tigranes, who wanted to create a centralist empire. He thus proceeded by consolidating his power within Armenia before embarking on his campaign.[4]

He deposed Artanes, the last king of Armenian Sophene and a descendant of Zariadres.[3]

Alliance with Pontus

During the First Mithridatic War (90-85 BCE), Tigranes supported Mithridates VI of Pontus but was careful not to become directly involved in the war.

He rapidly built up his power, allying with Mithridates VI of Pontus and marrying his daughter Cleopatra. Tigranes had agreed that he was to extend his influence in the East, while Mithridates was to conquer Roman land in Anatolia and in Europe. By creating a stronger Hellenistic state, Mithridates was to contend with the well-established Roman foothold in Europe.[4] At that time, the Romans had accused Mithridates of massacring about 80,000 Romans in the Anatolian province of Asia. Ultimately, the two kings' attempts to control Cappadocia, as well as the alleged massacres, resulted in Roman intervention. The senate decided on Lucius Cornelius Sulla, who was then one of the current consuls, to be commander of the army against Mithridates.[5]

Wars against the Parthians and Seleucids

After the death of Mithridates II of Parthia in 88 BCE, Tigranes took advantage of the fact that the Parthian Empire had been weakened by Scythian invasions and internal squabbling:

When he acquired power, he recovered these (seventy) valleys, and devastated the country of the Parthians, the territory about Ninus (Nineveh), and that about Arbela. He subjected to his authority the Atropatenians , and the Goryaeans (on the Upper Tigris); by force of arms he obtained possession also of the rest of Mesopotamia and, after crossing the Euphrates, of Syria and Phoenicea.[6]

Tigranes the Great's Empire

In 83 BCE, after a bloody strife for the throne of Syria, governed by the Seleucids, the Syrians decided to choose Tigranes as the protector of their kingdom and offered him the crown of Syria.[2] He then conquered Phoenicia and Cilicia, effectively putting an end to the last remnants of the Seleucid Empire, though a few holdout cities appear to have recognized the shadowy boy-king Seleucus VII Philometor as the legitimate king during his reign. The southern border of his domain reached as far as Ptolemais (modern Akko). Many of the inhabitants of conquered cities were sent to his new metropolis of Tigranakert (Latin name, Tigranocerta).

At its height, his empire extended from the Pontic Alps (in modern north-eastern Turkey) to Mesopotamia, and from the Caspian Sea to the Mediterranean. Tigranes apparently invaded territories as far away as Ecbatana and took the title king of kings which, at the time, according to their coins, even the Parthian kings did not assume. He was called "Tigranes the Great" by many Western historians and writers, such as Plutarch. The "King of Kings" never appeared in public without having four kings attending him. Cicero, referring to his success in the east, said that he "made the Republic of Rome tremble before the prowess of his arms."[7]

Armenian rulers prior to Tigranes did not issue coins, he being the first one to do so. He took up the Seleucid tradition and struck coins of great interest. These were minted at Antioch and Damascus, cities under his rule during his occupation of Syria from 83 to 69 BCE. They consist of tetradrachms and copper coins having on the obverse his portrait wearing a decorated Armenian tiara with ear-flaps. The reverse has a completely original design. There are the seated Tyche of Antioch and the river god Orontes at her feet. There are even specimens struck in gold.[8]

Wars against Rome

Tigranes the Great with four Kings surrounding him

Mithridates had found refuge in Armenian land after confronting Rome, considering the fact that Tigranes was his ally and relative. The "King of Kings" eventually came into direct contact with Rome. The Roman commander, Lucullus, demanded the expulsion of Mithridates from Armenia; such a thing was impossible for Tigranes. Charles Rollins, in his Ancient History, says:

Tigranes, to whom Lucullus had sent an ambassador, though of no great power in the beginning of his reign, had enlarged it so much by a series of successes, of which there are few examples, that he was commonly surnamed "King of Kings." After having overthrown and almost ruined the family of the kings, successors of the great Seleucus; after having very often humbled the pride of the Parthians, transported whole cities of Greeks into Media, conquered all Syria and Palestine, and given laws to the Arabians called Scenites, he reigned with an authority respected by all the princes of Asia. The people paid him honors after the manners of the East, even to adoration.[9]

Lucullus' reaction was an attack that so precipitate that he took Tigranes by surprise. According to Roman historians, the messenger who first brought news of the unexpected Roman attack was executed.[10] Eventually Mithrobazanes, according to Keaveney, told Tigranes of the Roman approach and impressed by Mithrobazanes courage Tigranes appointed him to command and army against Lucullus - he was however defeated and killed. [11] After this defeat Tigranes withdrew north an Lucullus put Tigranocerta under siege. [12] On October 6, 69 BCE, Tigranes' much larger force was decisively defeated by the Roman army under Lucullus in the Battle of Tigranocerta. Tigranes' treatment of the inhabitants (the majority of the population had been forced to move to the city) led disgruntled city guards to open the gates of the city to the Romans. Learning of this, Tigranes hurriedly sent 6000 cavalrymen to the city in order to rescue his wives and some of his assets.[4]. Tigranes escaped capture with a small escort.

On the 6 October 68 BCE, the Romans approached the old capital of Artaxata. Tigranes' and Mithridates' combined Armeno-Pontian army of 70,000 men formed up to face them but were resoundingly defeated. Once again, both Mithridates and Tigranes evaded capture by the victorious Romans.

The long campaigning and hardships that Lucullus' troops had endured for years, combined with a perceived lack of reward in the form of plunder,[4] led to successive mutinies among the legions in 68-67. Frustrated by the rough terrain of Northern Armenia and seeing the worsening moral of his troops, Lucullus moved back south and put Nisibis under siege. Tigranes concluded (wrongly) that Nisibis would hold out and sought to regain those parts of Armenia that the Romans had captured.[13] Despite his continuous success in battle, Lucullus could still not capture either one of the monarchs. With Lucullus' troops now refusing to obey his commands, but agreeing to defend positions from attack, the senate sent Gnaeus Pompey to recall Lucullus to Rome and take over his command.

During this lull, Tigranes defeated the rebellion of his younger son (also named Tigranes) who had been supplied an army by the Parthian king, Phraates III. Tigranes the Great then recovered a large portion of his former territory, while Mithridates returned to Pontus with 8,000 men and readied for Pompey's coming attack.


Tigranes' empire was not a lasting one. In 66 BCE, Pompey advanced into Armenia with the younger Tigranes, and Tigranes the Great, now almost 75 years old, surrendered. Pompey treated him generously and allowed him to retain his kingdom shorn of his conquests[14] in return for 6,000 talents of silver. His unfaithful son was sent back to Rome as a prisoner.

Tigranes continued to rule Armenia as an ally of Rome until his death in 55/54.[15]


Halley's comet

A recent ABC News article on May 19, 2004 noted that according to the Armenian and Italian researchers the "symbol on his crown that features a star with a curved tail may represent the passage of Halley's Comet in 87 BCE."[16][17] Tigranes could have seen Halley's comet when it passed closest to the Sun on August 6 in 87, according to the researchers, who said the comet would have been a 'most recordable event'– heralding the New Era of the King of Kings.


  1. ^ See (Armenian) Ruben Manaseryan. Տիգրան Մեծ՝ Հայկական Պայքարը Հռոմի և Պարթևաստանի Դեմ, մ.թ.ա. 94-64 թթ. (Tigran the Great: The Armenian Struggle Against Rome and Parthia, 94-64 B.C.). Yerevan: Lusakan Publishing, 2007.
  2. ^ a b (Armenian) Manaseryan, Ruben. «Տիգրան Բ» (Tigran II). Armenian Soviet Encyclopedia. vol. xi. Yerevan: Armenian Academy of Sciences, 1985, 697-698.
  3. ^ a b Strabo. Geography, 11.14.15.
  4. ^ a b c d (Armenian) Kurdoghlian, Mihran (1996). Պատմութիւն Հայոց (History of Armenia, Vo. I). Athens, Greece: Council of National Education Publishing. pp. 67-76. 
  5. ^ Appian. The Civil Wars, 1.55.
  6. ^ Strabo. Geography, 11.14.16.
  7. ^ Boyajian, Zabelle C. (1916). An Anthology of Legends and Poems of Armenia. Aram Raffi; Viscount Bryce. London: J.M. Dent & sons, ltd. p. 117. 
  8. ^ Mørkholm, Otto (1991). Early Hellenistic Coinage from the Accession of Alexander to the Peace of Apamaea. Cambridge University Press. pp. 176. ISBN 0-5213-9504-6. 
  9. ^ Rollins, Charles (1844). Ancient History, vol. 4: History of the Macedonians, the Seleucidae in Syria, and Parthians.. New York: R. Carter. pp. 461. 
  10. ^ Keaveney, Arthur (1992). Lucullus: A Life. London: Routledge. pp. 104-105. 
  11. ^ Keaveney, Arthur (1992). Lucullus: A Life. London: Routledge. pp. 106-107. 
  12. ^ Keaveney, Arthur (1992). Lucullus: A Life. London: Routledge. pp. 107. 
  13. ^ Keaveney, Arthur (1992). Lucullus: A Life. London: Routledge. pp. 119. 
  14. ^ Scullard, H.H (1959). From the Gracchi to Nero: A History of Rome from 133 B.C. to A.D. 68. New York: F.A. Praeger. p. 106. 
  15. ^ Fuller, J.F.C. (1965). Julius Caesar: Man, Soldier, and Tyrant. London: Eyre & Spottiswoode. p. 45. ISBN 0-3068-0422-0. 
  16. ^ "Halley's comet portrayed on ancient coin". ABC Science Online. Retrieved 2007-01-17. 
  17. ^ See V. G. Gurzadyan and Vardanian, R. "Halley's comet of 87 BC on the coins of Armenian king Tigranes?." Astronomy & Geophysics. Vol. 45, 2004.

Further reading

  • Manandyan, Hakob. Tigranes II and Rome: A New Interpretation Based on Primary Sources. Trans. George Bournoutian. Costa Mesa, CA: Mazda Publishers, 2007.
  • (Armenian) Manaseryan, Ruben. Տիգրան Մեծ՝ Հայկական Պայքարը Հռոմի և Պարթևաստանի Դեմ, մ.թ.ա. 94-64 թթ. (Tigran the Great: The Armenian Struggle Against Rome and Parthia, 94-64 B.C.). Yerevan: Lusakan Publishing, 2007.
Preceded by
Philip I and Antiochus XII
Ruler of the Seleucid Empire
83–69 B.C.
Succeeded by
Antiochus XIII
Preceded by
Tigranes I
King of Armenia
95–55 B.C.
Succeeded by
Artavasdes II

Simple English

Tigranes II
King of Armenia
Tigranes II
Reign 95 BCE–55 BCE
Predecessor Tigranes I
Successor Artavasdes II
Wife Cleopatra
Royal House Artaxiad
Father Artavasdes I

Tigranes the Great (Armenian: Տիգրան Մեծ, Greek: Τιγράνης ο Μέγας) (ruled 95 BCE–55 BCE) (also called Tigranes II and sometimes Tigranes I) was the king of Armenia his country became for a short time the strongest state in the Roman East.

Tigranes was born around 140 BCE and was the son or nephew of Artavasdes I or Tigranes I.

Tigranes the Great represented the Artaxiad Royal House.

He was involved in many battles during his reign. He had battles against the Parthian, Seleucid, and Roman empires.

Other pages


Got something to say? Make a comment.
Your name
Your email address