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The Kingdom of Armenia (or Greater Armenia) was an independent kingdom from 190 BC to AD 387 and a client state of the Roman and Persian empires until 428, stretching from the Caspianmarker to the Mediterraneanmarker seas.


The predecessor of the kingdom was the Satrapy of Armeniamarker ("Armina" in Old Persian, "Harminuya" in Elamite, and "Urartu" in the Bablylonianmarker parts of Behistun Inscriptionmarker of Darius the Great), which was a protectorate of the Achaemenid Empire, and later an independent kingdom under the Orontid Dynasty (with Macedonian influence).

After the destruction of the Seleucid Empire, a Hellenistic Armenian state was founded in 190 BC by Artaxias I. At its zenith, from 95 to 66 BC, Armenia extended its rule over parts of the Caucasus and the area that is now eastern Turkeymarker, Syriamarker and Lebanonmarker. For a time, Armenia was one of the most powerful states in the Roman East. It came under the Ancient Roman sphere of influence in 66 BC, after the battle of Tigranocerta and the final defeat of Armenia's ally, Mithridates VI of Pontus. Mark Antony invaded and defeated the kingdom in 34 BC, but Romans lost hegemony during the Final war of the Roman Republic in 32-30 BC. In 20 BC, Augustus negotiated a truce with the Parthians, making Armenia a buffer zone between the two major powers.

Subsequently, Armenia was often a focus of contention between Rome and Persia, with both major powers supporting opposing sovereigns and usurpers. The Parthians forced Armenia into submission in 37 CE, but in 47 the Romans retook control of the kingdom.

Under Nero, the Romans fought a campaign (55-63) against the Parthian Empire, which had invaded the Kingdom of Armenia, allied with the Romans. After gaining Armenia in 60, then losing it in 62, the Romans sent the legion XV Apollinaris from Pannonia to Gnaeus Domitius Corbulo, legatus of Syria. In 63, strengthened further by the legions III Gallica, V Macedonica, X Fretensis and XXII, General Corbulo entered into the territories of Vologases I of Parthia, who then returned the Armenian kingdom to Tiridates.

Another campaign was led by Emperor Lucius Verus in 162-165, after Vologases IV of Parthia had invaded Armenia and installed his chief general on its throne. To counter the Parthian threat, Verus set out for the east. His army won significant victories and retook the capital. Sohaemus, a Roman citizen of Armenian heritage, was installed as the new client king. But during an epidemic within the Roman forces, Parthians retook most of their lost territory in 166. Sohaemus retreated to Syria, аnd Arsacid’s dynasty was restored power over Armenia.

After the fall of the Arsacid Dynasty in Persia, the succeeding Sassanian Dynasty aspired to reestablish Persian control. The Sassanid Persians occupied Armenia in 252. However, in 287, Tiridetes III the Great was established King of Armenia by the Roman armies. He soon accepted Christianity. The traditional date is in 301, earlier than many historians date Constantine the Great's conversion, and a dozen years prior to the Edict of Milan.

In 387, the Kingdom of Armenia was split between the East Roman Empire and the Persians. Western Armenia quickly became a province of the Roman Empire under the name of Armenia Minor; Eastern Armenia remained a kingdom within Persia until 428, when the local nobility overthrew the king, and the Sassanids installed a governor in his place.

By the second century BC, the population of Greater Armenia spoke Armenian, implying that today’s Armenians are the direct descendants of those speakers.


Further reading

  • M. Chahin, The Kingdom of Armenia (1987, reissued 1991)
  • Vahan Kurkjian, Tigran the Great (1958)
  • Ashkharbek Kalantar, Armenia: From the Stone Age to the Middle Ages, Civilisations du Proche Orient, Se´rie 1, Vol. 2, Recherches et Publications, Neuchâtel, Paris, 1994;ISBN 978-2-940032-01-3
  • Ashkharbek Kalantar, The Mediaeval Inscriptions of Vanstan, Armenia, Civilisations du Proche-Orient: Series 2 - Philologie - CDPOP 2, Vol. 2, Recherches et Publications, Neuchâtel, Paris, 1999;ISBN 978-2-940032-11-2
  • Ashkharbek Kalantar, Materials on Armenian and Urartian History (with a contribution by Mirjo Salvini), Civilisations du Proche-Orient: Series 4 - Hors Série - CPOHS 3, Neuchâtel, Paris, 2004;ISBN 978-2-940032-14-3

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