Tigranes I. or Tigranes Asiaticus
was a descendant of ARTAXIAS, the founder of the Armenian monarchy.
According to Appian (Syr. 48
) his father's name was Tigranes, but no king of that name preceded his accession, and the native historians represent him as a son of Artaces or Artaxes. [ARSACIDAE, Vol. I. p. 365.] The statement of Plutarch that he had reigned twenty-five years when he received the first embassy of Lucullus in B. C. 71 (Plut. Lucull. 21
), would fix the date of his accession in B. C. 96, but Appian (Mithr. 15
), perhaps inadvertently, alludes to him as already on the throne in B. C. 98. Of the early events of his reign we have very imperfect information.
But it appears that he successively conquered Arsaces or Artanes, king of Sophene, and several other petty princes, so that he united under his sway not only all Armenia, but several of the neighbouring provinces, and thus raised himself to a degree of power far superior to that enjoyed by any of his predecessors. Towards the commencement of his reign he appears to have been worsted by the Parthians, and was compelled to purchase a peace from those formidable neighbours by the cession of a considerable extent of territory.
But at a later period he was not only able to recover possession of these districts, but invaded Parthia in his turn, and carried his arms as far as Ninus and Arbela, while he permanently annexed to his dominions the important provinces of Atropatene and Gordyene. Inflated by these successes, he assumed the pompous title of king of kings, and always appeared in public accompanied by some of his tributary princes as attendants (Strab. xi. p.532
; Plut. Lucull. 21 ;
Appian, Syr. 48
). His power was at the same time greatly strengthened by his alliance with Mithridates the Great, king of Pontus, whose daughter Cleopatra he had married at an early period of his reign. (Appian, Mithr. 15 ;
Plut. Lucull. 22.
An additional field was now opened to his ambition by the dissensions which divided the Seleucidan princes of Syria.
That country had been so long distracted by civil wars, that a large part of its inhabitants appear to have welcomed, if they did not invite, the foreign invader; Antiochus Eusebes was able to offer little opposition, and Tigranes made himself master without difficulty of the whole Syrian monarchy from the Euphrates to the sea, together with the dependent province of Cilicia, B. C. 83 (App. Syr. 48 ; Just. 40.1
). he was now at the summit of his power, and continued in the undisputed possession of these extensive dominions for nearly fourteen years. Of the events of this period we have scarcely any information, but he appears to have consigned the government of Syria to a viceroy Magadates, while he himself continued to reside in the upper provinces of his kingdom (Appian, l.c.
). Here he followed the example of so many other Eastern despots, by founding a new capital which he named after himself, Tigranocerta (Strab. xi. p.532
It was his connection with Mithridates that, by bringing him into collision with the power of Rome, paved the way for his downfal. When that monarch was preparing to renew the contest with Rome after the death of Sulla (B. C. 76), he was desirous to obtain the support of his son-in-law by involving him in the same quarrel, and in consequence instigated Tigranes to invade Cappadocia. The Armenian king swept that country with a large army, and is said to have carried off into captivity no less than 300,000 of the inhabitants, a large portion of whom he settled in his newly-founded capital of Tigranocerta (Appian, Mithr. 67 ; Strab. xi. p.532
; Memnon, 100.43).
But in other respects he appears to have furnished little support to the projects of Mithridates, and left that monarch to carry on the contest with Lucullus single-handed, while he himself turned his attention to his Syrian dominions. And when (in B. C. 71) the vicissitudes of the war at length compelled the king of Pontus to take refuge in the dominions of his son-in-law, Tigranes, though he assigned him a guard of honour, and treated him with all the distinctions of royalty, refused to admit him to a personal interview, and manifested no inclination to espouse his cause.
But when Appius Clodius who had been sent by Lucullus to demand the surrender of the fugitive monarch, at length obtained an interview with Tigranes at Antioch, his haughty demeanour as well as the imperious terms in which his message itself was couched, so offended the pride of the Armeniau king that he returned a peremptory refusal, accompanied with an express declaration of war. (Plut. Lucull. 21, 22 ;
There now remained for him no choice but to prepare for the contest which he had so imprudently provoked.
But he was quite unable to appreciate the character of the enemy with whom he had to cope, and though he now at length condescended to admit Mithridates to his presence and his councils, he was too much inflated with pride to listen to the advice which his experience prompted; and hastened to assume the offensive by sending a force to invade Lycaonia and Cilicia, before his other preparations were completed.
He appears to have been firmly impressed with the idea that Lucullus would await his approach in the Roman provinces, and when that general instead of doing so, boldly crossed the Euphrates and the Tigris, and penetrated into the heart of Armenia itself, Tigranes was completely taken by surprise.
He at first refused to believe the intelligence, and when at length convinced of its truth he opposed Mithrobarzanes with a very inadequate force to the advance of the conqueror.
The destruction of this detachment aroused him to a sense of his error and he now abandoned his capital of Tigranocerta, and withdrew to the mountains. Murena, who was sent in pursuit of him, succeeded in cutting off all his baggage, and converting his retreat into a disorderly flight (Plut. Lucull. 22-25 ;
Appian, Mithr. 84
But notwithstanding this reverse, the mighty host which he was soon able to gather around his standard, inspired him again with the same overweening confidence, and he hastened to attack Lucullus in order to avert the fall of Tigranocerta.
The event was decisive; the army of the Armenian king, though amounting according to the most authentic statement, to 55,000 horse and 150,000 regular infantry, besides light-armed troops, was totally routed by the small force under Lucullus; the king himself fled almost unattended from the field, and Tigranocerta was surrendered to the victorious general. (Plut. Lucull. 26-28 ;
Appian, Mithr. 85, 86 ;
Memnon, 56; Liv. Epit.
xcviii.; Eutrop. 6.9
; Oros. 6.3
During the ensuing winter, while Lucullus was established in Gordyene, several of the neighbouring princes hastened to throw off the yoke of the Armenian king, and tender their submission to the Roman general. Among others, Antiochus (surnamed Asiaticus), the son of Antiochus Eusebes, presented himself to claim the throne of his fathers, and was reinstated, apparently without opposition, in the possession of the whole of Syria, where the yoke of Tigranes had long been odious to his Greek subjects (App. Syr. 49 ; Strab. xi. p.532
). Meanwhile Tigranes, in concert with Mithridates (with whom his disasters had brought him into closer relations), was using every exertion to assemble a fresh army, while they both endeavoured, though without success, to induce Phraates, king of Parthia, to make common cause with them (App. Mithr. 87 ; D. C. 35.3
; Epist. Mithr. apud Sall.
Hist. iv. p. 238, ed. Gerlach.). Failing in this they awaited the approach of Lucullus among the bleak highlands of Armenia, where he was not able to penetrate until late in the summer of 68.
The two kings met him on the river Arsanias, with an army less numerous, but better disciplined than that of the preceding year, but with equal ill success : they were again totally defeated, and it was only a mutiny among the troops of Lucullus that prevented him from making himself master of Artaxata, the ancient capital of Armenia.
But the spirit of disaffection which had by this time pervaded the Roman troops, hampered all the proceedings of their commander; and though in the ensuing winter Lucullus reduced the strong fortress of Nisibis in Mesopotamia, which was held by Guras, the brother of Tigranes, his subsequent movements were completely paralysed by the disobedience of his own soldiers.
The two kings took advantage of this respite, and while Mithridates sought to recover his own dominions, Tigranes regained great part of Armenia, and defeated the Roman lieutenant L. Fannius, whose army was only saved by the arrival of Lucullus himself to his relief (D. C. 35.4
; Plut. Lucull. 31-34
In the following year, also (B. C. 67), he was able to pour his troops into the provinces of Armenia Minor and Cappadocia without opposition, and Lucullus was unable to punish his audacity. (D. C. 35.14
The arrival of Pompey (B. C. 66) soon changed the face of events, and Mithridates, after repeated defeats, was again compelled to seek a refuge in Armenia. Meanwhile, a new enemy had arisen to the Armenian king in his own son Tigranes, who, having engaged in a conspiracy against the life of his father, and finding himself detected, fled for refuge to the Parthian king, Phraates.
That monarch, who had recently concluded a treaty of alliance with Pompey, readily lent his support to the fugitive prince, and invaded Armenia with a large army, with which he advanced as far as Artaxata.
But he was unable to reduce that city, and as soon as the Parthian king withdrew, Tigranes easily drove out his rebel son.
It was at this juncture that Mithridates, after his final defeat by Pompey, once more threw himself upon the support of his son-in-law : but Tigranes, who suspected him of abetting the designs of his son, refused to receive him, and even set a price upon his head, while he himself hastened to make overtures of submission to Pompey.
That general had already advanced into the heart of Armenia, and was approaching Artaxata itself, under the guidance of the young Tigranes, when the old king repaired in person to the Roman camp, and presenting himself as a suppliant before Pompey, laid his tiara at his feet.
By this act of humiliation he at once conciliated the favour of the conqueror, who treated him in a friendly manner, and left him in possession of Armenia Proper with the title of king, depriving him only of the provinces of Sophene and Gordyene, which he erected into a separate kingdom for his son Tigranes.
The elder monarch was so overjoyed at obtaining these unexpectedly favourable terms, that he not only paid the sum of 6000 talents demanded by Pompey, but added a large sum as a donation to his army, and continued ever after the steadfast friend of the Roman general (D. C. 36.33
; Plut. Pomp. 32, 33 ;
Appian, App. Mith. 104
, Syr. 49 ; Vell. 2.37
He soon reaped the advantage of this fidelity, as in B. C. 65 Pompey, on his return from the campaign against Oroeses, finding that the Parthian king Phraates had wrongfully occupied the province of Gordyene, sent his lieutenant Afranius to expel him, and restored the possession of it to Tigranes. (D. C. 37.5
The next year (B. C. 64) we find him again at war with the king of Parthia, but after several engagements with alternations of success, their differences were arranged by the mediation of Pompey, and the two monarchs concluded a treaty of peace (D. C. 37.6
; App. Mithr. 106
This is the last event recorded to us of the reign of Tigranes : the exact date of his death is unknown, but we find him incidentally mentioned by Cicero (pro Sext. 27
) as still alive and reigning in the spring of B. C. 56, while we know that he was succeeded by his son Artavasdes before the expedition of Crassus against the Parthians in B. C. 54 (D. C. 40.16
). His death must therefore have occurred in this interval.
The character of Tigranes seems to have in no respect differed from that of many other Eastern despots.
It was marked by the most extravagant pride and overweening confidence in prosperity, as well as by the most abject humiliation in misfortune.
He alienated not only his Greek subjects and dependent princes by his violent and arbitrary acts, but extended his cruelties even to his own family. Of his sons by the daughter of Mithridates, he put to death two upon various charges, while the civil wars in which he was engaged with the third have been already mentioned. Yet he seems not to have been altogether without a tincture of Greek cultivation; for we learn that he afforded protection to the Athenian rhetorician Amphicrates, and had assembled a company of Greek players to celebrate the opening of a theatre in his new capital of Tigranocerta. (Plut. Lucull. 21, 22, 29 ;
Appian, Mithr. 104.
The coins of Tigranes, which were probably struck in Syria and bear Greek inscriptions, represent him with a tiara in the Oriental fashion, instead of the simple diadem of the Seleucidae.