Artaxiad Armenian
190-66 BC

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.

Tigranes 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.

Armenia 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.