THE southern parts of Armenia lie in front of the Taurus, which separates Armenia from the whole of the country
situated between the Euphrates and the Tigris, and which is
called Mesopotamia. The eastern parts are contiguous to
the Greater Media, and to Atropatene. To the north are the
range of the mountains of Parachoathras lying above the
Caspian Sea, the Albanians, Iberians, and the Caucasus. The
Caucasus encircles these nations, and approaches close to the
Armenians, the Moschic and Colchic mountains, and extends as far as the country of the people called Tibareni. On
the west are these nations and the mountains Paryadres and
Scydises, extending to the Lesser Armenia, and the country
on the side of the Euphrates, which divides Armenia from
Cappadocia and Commagene.
The Euphrates rises in the northern side of the Taurus, and flows at first towards the west through Armenia, it
then makes a bend to the south, and intersects the Taurus
between the Armenians, Cappadocians, and Commageni.
Then issuing outwards and entering Syria, it turns towards
the winter sun-rise as far as Babylon, and forms Mesopotamia
with the Tigris. Both these rivers terminate in the Persian
Such is the nature of the places around Armenia, almost
all of them mountainous and rugged, except a few tracts
which verge towards Media.
To the above-mentioned Taurus, which commences again
in the country on the other side of the Euphrates, occupied
by the Commageni, and Meliteni formed by the Euphrates,
belongs Mount Masius, which is situated on the south above
the Mygdones in Mesopotamia, in whose territory is Nisibis;
on the northern parts is Sophene, lying between the Masius
and Anti-Taurus. Anti-Taurus begins from the Euphrates and
the Taurus, and terminates at the eastern parts of Armenia,
enclosing within it Sophene. It has on the other side Acilisene, which lies between [Anti-]Taurus and the bed of the
Euphrates before it turns to the south. The royal city of
Sophene is Carcathiocerta.1
Above Mount Masius far to the east along Gordyene is the
Niphates, then the Abus,2
from which flow both the Euphrates
and the Araxes, the former to the west, the latter to the east;
then the Nibarus, which extends as far as Media.
We have described the course of the Euphrates. The
Araxes, after running to the east as far as Atropatene, makes
a bend towards the west and north. It then first flows beside
Azara, then by Artaxata,3
a city of the Armenians; afterwards
it passes through the plain of Araxenus to discharge itself
into the Caspian Sea.
There are many mountains in Armenia, and many
mountain plains, in which not even the vine grows. There
are also many valleys, some are moderately fertile, others
are very productive, as the Araxenian plain, through which
the river Araxes flows to the extremities of Albania, and
empties itself into the Caspian Sea. Next is Sacasene,
which borders upon Albania, and the river Cyrus; then
Gogarene. All this district abounds with products of the soil,
cultivated fruit trees and evergreens. It bears also the olive.
There is Phauene, (Phanenæ, Phasiana?) a province of Armenia, Comisene, and Orchistene, which furnishes large bodies of cavalry.
and Cambysene are the most northerly countries,
and particularly subject to falls of snow. They are contiguous to the Caucasian mountains, to Iberia, and Colchis.
Here, they say, on the passes over mountains, it frequently
happens that whole companies of persons have been overwhelmed in violent snow-storms. Travellers are provided
against such dangerous accidents with poles, which they force
upwards to the surface of the snow, for the purpose of breathing, and of signifying their situation to other travellers who
may come that way, so that they may receive assistance, be
extricated, and so escape alive.
They say that hollow masses are consolidated in the snow,
which contain good water, enveloped as in a coat; that animals are bred in the snow, which Apollonides call scoleces,5
and Theophanes, thripes, and that these hollow masses con
tain good water, which is obtained by breaking open their
coats or coverings. The generation of these animals is supposed to be similar to that of the gnats, (or mosquitos,) from
flames, and the sparks in mines.
According to historians, Armenia, which was formerly
a small country, was enlarged by Artaxias and Zariadris,
who had been generals of Antiochus the Great, and at last,
after his overthrow, when they became kings, (the former
of Sophene, Acisene, (Amphissene?) Odomantis, and some
other places, the latter of the country about Artaxata,) they
simultaneously aggrandized themselves, by taking away portions of the territory of the surrounding nations: from the
Medes they took the Caspiana, Phaunitis, and Basoropeda;
from the Iberians, the country at the foot of the Paryadres, the Chorzene, and Gogarene, which is on the other
side of the Cyrus; from the Chalybes, and the Mosynœci,
Carenitis and Xerxene, which border upon the Lesser Armenia, or are even parts of it; from the Cataones, Acilisene,6
and the country about the Anti-Taurus; from the Syrians,
hence they all speak the same language.
The cities of Armenia are Artaxata, called also Artax-
iasata, built by Hannibal for the king Artaxias, and Arxata,
both situated on the Araxes; Arxata on the confines of
Atropatia, and Artaxata near the Araxenian plain; it is
well inhabited, and the seat of the kings of the country. It
lies upon a peninsular elbow of land; the river encircles the
walls except at the isthmus, which is enclosed by a ditch
Not far from the city are the treasure-storehouses of Tigranes and Artavasdes, the strong fortresses Babyrsa, and
Olane. There were others also upon the Euphrates. Ador,
(Addon?) the governor of the fortress, occasioned the revolt
of Artageræ, but the generals of Cæsar retook it after a
long siege, and destroyed the walls.
There are many rivers in the country. The most celebrated are the Phasis and Lycus; they empty themselves
into the Euxine; (Eratosthenes instead of the Lycus mentions the Thermodon, but erroneously;) the Cyrus and the
Araxes into the Caspian, and the Euphrates and the Tigris
into the Persian Gulf.
There are also large lakes in Armenia; one the Mantiane,8
which word translated signifies Cyane, or Blue, the
largest salt-water lake, it is said, after the Palus Mæotis, extending as far as (Media-) Atropatia. It has salt pans for
the concretion of salt.
The next is Arsene,9
which is also called Thopitis. Its
waters contain nitre, and are used for cleaning and fulling
clothes. It is unfit by these qualities for drinking. The
Tigris passes through this lake10
after issuing from the mountainous country near the Niphates, and by its rapidity keeps
its stream unmixed with the water of the lake, whence it has
its name, for the Medes call an arrow, Tigris. This river
contains fish of various kinds, but the lake one kind only.
At the extremity of the lake the river falls into a deep cavity
in the earth. After pursuing a long course under-ground, it
re-appears in the Chalonitis; thence it goes to Opis, and to
the wall of Semiramis, as it is called, leaving the Gordyæi11
and the whole of Mesopotamia on the right hand. The Euphrates, on the contrary, has the same country on the left.
Having approached one another, and formed Mesopotamia, one
traverses Seleucia in its course to the Persian Gulf, the other
Babylon, as I have said in replying to Eratosthenes and
There are mines of gold in the Hyspiratis,12
near Caballa. Alexander sent Menon to the mines with a body of
soldiers, but he was strangled13
by the inhabitants of the coun-
try. There are other mines, and also a mine of Sandyx as
it is called, to which is given the name of Armenian colour,
it resembles the Calche.14
This country is so well adapted, being nothing inferior in this
respect to Media, for breeding horses, that the race of Nesean
horses, which the kings of Persia used, is found here also;
the satrap of Armenia used to send annually to the king
of Persia 20,000 foals at the time of the festival of the Mithracina. Artavasdes, when he accompanied Antony in his
invasion of Media, exhibited, besides other bodies of cavalry,
6000 horse covered with complete armour drawn up in array.
Not only do the Medes and Armenians, but the Albanians
also, admire this kind of cavalry, for the latter use horses
covered with armour.
Of the riches and power of this country, this is no
slight proof, that when Pompey imposed upon Tigranes, the
father of Artavasdes, the payment of 6000 talents of silver, he
immediately distributed the money among the Roman army,
to each soldier 50 drachmæ, 1000 to a centurion, and a talent
to a Hipparch and a Chiliarch.
Theophanes represents this as the size of the country;
its breadth to be 100 schœni, and its length double this number, reckoning the schœnus at 40 stadia; but this computation exceeds the truth. It is nearer the truth to take the
length as he has given it, and the breadth at one half, or a
Such then is the nature of the country of Armenia, and its
There exists an ancient account of the origin of this
nation to the following effect. Armenus of Armenium, a Thessalian city, which lies between Pheræ and Larisa on the lake
Bœbe, accompanied Jason, as we have already said, in his expedition into Armenia, and from Armenus the country had
its name, according to Cyrsilus the Pharsalian and Medius
the Larisæan, persons who had accompanied the army of
Alexander. Some of the followers of Armenus settled in
Acilisene, which was formerly subject to the Sopheni; others
in the Syspiritis, and spread as far as Calachene and Adiabene, beyond the borders of Armenia.
The dress of the Armenian people is said to be of Thessalian origin; such are the long tunics, which in tragedies are called Thessalian; they are fastened about the body with a girdle,
and with a clasp on the shoulder. The tragedians, for they
required some additional decoration of this kind, imitate the
Thessalians in their attire. The Thessalians in particular,
from wearing a long dress, (probably because they inhabit the
most northerly and the coldest country in all Greece,) afforded the most appropriate subject of imitation to actors for their
theatrical representations. The passion for riding and the
care of horses characterize the Thessalians, and are common
to Armenians and Medes.
The Jasonia are evidence of the expedition of Jason: some
of these memorials the sovereigns of the country restored, as
Parmenio restored the temple of Jason at Abdera.
It is supposed that Armenus and his companions called
the Araxes by this name on account of its resemblance to
the Peneius, for the Peneius had the name of Araxes from
bursting through Tempe, and rending (ἀπαοͅάξαι
) Ossa from
Olympus. The Araxes also in Armenia, descending from the
mountains, is said to have spread itself in ancient times, and
to have overflowed the plains, like a sea, having no outlet;
that Jason, in imitation of what is to be seen at Tempe, made
the opening through which the water at present precipitates
itself into the Caspian Sea; that upon this the Araxenian
plain, through which the river flows to the cataract, became
uncovered. This story which is told of the river Araxes
contains some probability; that of Herodotus15
For he says that, after flowing out of the country of the Matiani, it is divided into forty rivers, and separates the Scythians
from the Bactrians. Callisthenes has followed Herodotus.
Some tribes of Ænianes are mentioned, some of whom
settled in Vitia, others above the Armenians beyond the Abus
and the Nibarus. These latter are branches of Taurus; the
Abus is near the road which leads to Ecbatana by the temple
of Baris (Zaris?).
Some tribes of Thracians, surnamed Saraparæ, or decapitators, are said to live above Armenia, near the Gouranii and
Medes. They are a savage people, intractable mountaineers,
and scalp and decapitate strangers; for such is the meaning
of the term Saraparæ.
I have spoken of Medeia in the account of Media, and it is
conjectured from all the circumstances that the Medes and
Armenians are allied in some way to the Thessalians, descended from Jason and Medeia.
This is the ancient account, but the more recent, anc
extending from the time of the Persians to our own age, may
be given summarily, and in part only (as follows); Persians
and Macedonians gained possession of Armenia, next those
who were masters of Syria and Media. The last was Orontes,
a descendant of Hydarnes, one of the seven Persians: it was
then divided into two portions by Artaxias and Zariadris,
generals of Antiochus the Great, who made war against the
Romans. These were governors by permission of the king,
but upon his overthrow they attached themselves to the Romans, were declared independent, and had the title of kings.
Tigranes was a descendant of Artaxias, and had Armenia,
properly so called. This country was contiguous to Media,
to the Albani, and to the Iberes, and extended as far as Colchis, and Cappadocia upon the Euxine.
Artanes the Sophenian was the descendant of Zariadris, and had the southern parts of Armenia, which verge
rather to the west. He was defeated by Tigranes, who became master of the whole country. He had experienced
many vicissitudes of fortune. At first he had served as a
hostage among the Parthians; then by their means he return
ed to his country, in compensation for which service they obtained seventy valleys in Armenia. When he acquired power,
he recovered these valleys, and devastated the country of the
Parthians, the territory about Ninus, and that about Arbela.16
He subjected to his authority the Atropatenians, and the
Gordyæans; by force of arms he obtained possession also of
the rest of Mesopotamia, and, after crossing the Euphrates, of
Syria and Phœnicia. Having attained this height of prosperity, he even founded near Iberia,17
between this country
and the Zeugma on the Euphrates, a city, which he named
Tigranocerta, and collected inhabitants out of twelve Grecian
cities, which he had depopulated. But Lucullus, who had
commanded in the war against Mithridates, surprised him,
thus engaged, and dismissed the inhabitants to their respective homes. The buildings which were half finished he demolished, and left a small village remaining. He drove Tigranes both out of Syria and Phœnicia.
Artavasdes, his successor, prospered as long as he continued a friend of the Romans. But having betrayed Antony to the Parthians in the war with that people, he suffered
punishment for his treachery. He was carried in chains to
Alexandria, by order of Antony, led in procession through
the city, and kept in prison for a time. On the breaking
out of the Actiac war he was then put to death. Many
kings reigned after Artavasdes, who were dependent upon
Cæsar and the Romans. The country is still governed in
the same manner.
Both the Medes and Armenians have adopted all the
sacred rites of the Persians, but the Armenians pay particu-
lar reverence to Anaitis, and have built temples to her honour in several places, especially in Acilisene. They dedicate
there to her service male and female slaves; in this there
is nothing remarkable, but it is surprising that persons of the
highest rank in the nation consecrate their virgin daughters
to the goddess. It is customary for these women, after being
prostituted a long period at the temple of Anaitis, to be dis-
posed of in marriage, no one disdaining a connexion with
such persons. Herodotus mentions something similar respecting the Lydian women, all of whom prostitute themselves. But they treat their paramours with much kindness,
they entertain them hospitably, and frequently make a return
of more presents than they receive, being amply supplied
with means derived from their wealthy connexions. They
do not admit into their dwellings accidental strangers, but
prefer those of a rank equal to their own.