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Tigranes II ‘the Great’


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Son of Tigranes I (App. Syr. 48) (or of Artavasdes I). Shortly after 100 bc he was set on the throne of Armenia by the Parthians (with whom he had been a hostage for some years) in return for the cession of ‘seventy valleys’ (Strabo 532). He rapidly consolidated his power, forming an alliance with Mithradates VI of Pontus, whose daughter, Cleopatra, he married. The interference of the two kings in Cappadocia led to Roman intervention and a démarche by Sulla. Tigranes turned his attention to expansion at the expense of Parthia, temporarily weakened by invasions on its eastern frontier. He ravaged Media as far as Ecbatana and Assyria as far as Media Atropatene, and Osroëne. In 83 he occupied Syria, Phoenicia, and Cilicia, ejecting warring Seleucid rivals. Greek cities that sided with him were given autonomy and coinage rights, but others, e.g. Soli in Cilicia and Cappadocian Mazaca, were destroyed and their inhabitants transferred to his new southern metropolis Tigranocerta. The empire of Tigranes, ‘King of Kings’, proved to be ephemeral. In 69 his alliance with Mithradates involved him in war with Rome. Lucullus captured Tigranocerta, but the issue remained undecided until Pompey in 66 succeeded in separating the Armenian and Pontic kings. Tigranes' son rebelled and fled to Pompey; together they marched on Artaxata and Tigranes finally surrendered (66). He lost all his territories except Armenia proper, though he later recovered Sophene and Pompey recognized his claim to Gordyene and the seventy valleys. Henceforward, though engaging in frontier disputes with Parthia, he remained a peaceful vassal of Rome until his death in c.56.

Eric William Gray; Barbara M. Levick

Subjects: Classical Studies.


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