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Roman Empire

The settlement with Rome compromised the territorial integrity of Orontid Armenia but also marked the start of a period of territorial expansion which saw the reacquisition, for the first time since defeat by the Medes in 590bc, of much of present-day Armenia. In particular the area south of Lake Sevan as far as the present-day Iranian border was taken back from the Medes. The acquisition of empire reached its apogee under Tigranes the Great who came to power in c95bc but Tigranes's success clearly created a hindrance to further Roman expansion in the east. Tigranes's father-in-law was Mithridates VI, King of Pontus, and Tigranes unwillingly got dragged into the (third) war between Rome and Pontus when he refused to surrender his father-in-law to the brusque and offensive Roman envoy.

Tigranes's new capital Tigranocerta, which he had modestly named after himself, consequently fell to a Roman siege in 69bc and, although Tigranes subsequently made good some of the losses, his son deserted him for Rome and formed an alliance with Pompey. Tigranes was forced to make peace and Pompey rearranged the political geography. Armenia suffered considerable territorial losses and Antiochus I, a distant descendant of Darius the Great, became king. For the next 80 years Armenia, although independent, had kings appointed by Rome and it became increasingly dependent on Rome for keeping them in power. In due course Roman authority weakened and by the 50s ad Rome was unable to prevent the Parthians imposing their choice of king, Trdat I, on Armenia. After a period of instability reflected in further lighting it was agreed by Parthians and Romans in ad63 that Tidal would he king of Armenia but crowned by the Roman emperor Nero.

There then began a fairly stable period for the Armenian kingdom with the kings holding the throne with Roman approval. This was punctuated by the Roman emperor Trajan's policy of expansion which saw Armenia conquered in ad114 only for the Romans to suffer defeat and withdraw after a rebellion in ad116. In ad253, Armenia was captured by the Persian Sasanians and it remained under Persian rule until a Roman victory over Persia in ad298. There were Christians elsewhere in the region from around ad 100 and by ad300 there were Christians in Armenia, albeit in small numbers and with few in the elite. Zoroastrianism remained the main religion and animal sacrifice continued to be practised.


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