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Foreign rule after Urartu

 The Medes dealt the final blow to Urartu in 590bc. What happened to the Armenians subsequently is not clear but during the 6th century bc the Persian Achaemenids under Darius extended their empire to include the country. Political autonomy vanished, a situation that prevailed until the Persians were defeated by Alexander the Great in 331bc. However, the Persians did not seek to impose their culture or religion on their subject peoples though there was in practice probably some influence on Armenian religion - it is thought that the Persians followed an early form of Zoroastrianism which involved belief in a supreme creator God opposed by an uncreated evil spirit.

The Armenians did not follow Zoroastrianism absolutely: whereas Zoroastrianism disapproved of animal sacrifice the Armenians continued to practise it, notably by sacrificing horses to the sun god. The defeat of the Persians in 331bc did not lead to Greek rule over Armenia. Armenia in fact achieved a greater degree of independence. Alexander's policy in the captured Persian Empire was to continue the existing administrative system under Iranian satraps. For Armenia he appointed Mithrenes who was probably the son of the deposed Persian king Orontes. Mithrenes took the title of King of Armenia. The Greek Empire did not long outlive Alexander's death in 323bc as there was a period of rivalry and war between his erstwhile successors.

By 301bc, Seleucus had become satrap of Armenia but his dynasty was to control Armenia only nominally and sporadically with real power in the hands of the Orontid kings, the successors of Mithrenes. The impact of Greek civilisation was, however, increasingly felt and there was a partial revival of urban life which had largely disappeared under the Persians. In around 200bc the satrap Antiochus III was probably involved in the removal of the last Orontid king, Orontes IV, but ten years later he provoked the wrath of Rome through his invasion of Greece. Defeated at the Battle of Magnesia, his own generals then switched sides to Rome and for this they were rewarded by Rome in 189bc with the title of kings of independent Armenia.


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