By Marc Adda
The army list
that follows represents the fighting forces of independent Armenia from
the end of Seleucid rule to the defeat of Tigranes by the Romans after
which Armenia became a Roman vassal state and eventually a (somewhat
unruly) province. However, the basic list can reasonably be used to
represent Armenian forces from the break-up of the Achaemenid Empire to
the division of Armenia between the Sassanid Persians and Romans.
Armenia was and
is a mountainous region whose heartlands lie around Mount Ararat north
of Lake Van. The relative inaccessibility of the region in antiquity
meant that Armenia was able to maintain its independence despite having
powerful neighbours—though Armenian Kings were happy enough to rule as
vassals of more powerful Persians, Seleucids and Parthians.
After defeat in
the Battle of Magnesia in 189BC the Seleucids found their regional
influence somewhat diminished. Their military power had effectively been
broken and their ability to wage war hampered by a punitive peace
treaty. The Armenians took the opportunity to remove themselves from
Seleucid control and establish their own power over their immediate
neighbours. Whist neighbours like the Parthians and Seleucids remained
weak or divided Armenia was able to grow; spreading north into the
Caucasus, eastwards into Media Atropatene, south to the Zagros Mountains
and westward to the Pontic Alps.
The heights of
Armenian ambition and power occurred in the reign of Tigranes—known as
Tigranes the Great—who reigned from 95-55BC. He took advantage of
disunity amongst both the Parthians and Romans to expand his domain
considerably, taking over what used to be the Seleucid Empire and
briefly extending control as far south as Judea and as far west as
Cappadocia. Tigranes allied with Mithridates of Pontus and married his
daughter Cleopatra—forming a combined Empire that encompassed almost all
the territory between the Caspian Sea, Mediterranean and Black Sea
including the Crimea.
ambitions for a lasting Empire were thwarted by the Romans together with
the chief rival for Tigranes throne—his own son also Tigranes.
Eventually Tigranes was obliged to surrender—but he was allowed to
continue to rule ,becoming a Roman vassal and continuing as King of
Armenia until his death in 55BC.
continued to be a source of trouble for the Roman for many years,
although it became Roman province control of Armenia was often
disputed, with Romans and Parthians supporting their own rival claimants
to the throne. Roman armies re-established Roman rule on more than one
occasion until the Roman and Sassanids effectively divided Armenia
between them in the third century AD.