Arsacid Kings of Armenia



The Romans tell us that Artaxias governor of Armenia Magna for Antiochus the Great king of Syria made himself independent in his government B.C. 188; and that Zadriates became king of Armenia Minor, of which country he was praefect. The descendents of Artaxias became extinct with Tigranes III, who was driven out by Caius Caesar; and among the kings who reigned after him, there are many who were not Arsacidae but belonged to other Asiatic dynasties.

The Armenians on the contrary say that the dynasty of the Arsacidae was founded by Valarsaces or Wagharshag the brother of Mithridates Arsaces [ARSACES III], king of Parthia, by whom he was established on the throne of Armenia in B.C. 149.  A younger branch of the Arsacidae was founded by Arsham or Ardsham son of Ardashes (Artaxes) and brother of the great Tigranes, who reigned at Edessa, and whose descendants became masters of Armenia Magna after the extinction of the Arsacidae in that country with the death of Tiridates I,  who was established on the throne by Nero and who died most probably in A.D. 62.

Artaxias I, praefect of Armenia Magna under Antiochus the Great, became the independent king of Armenia in B.C. 188 [Artaxias I]

Tigranes I, the ally of Mithridates the Great the against the Romans [Tigranes I]

Artavasdes I, the son of Tigranes I, taken prisoner by M Antonius [Artavasdes I]

Artaxias II, the son of Artavasdes I, killed by his rebellious subjects [Artaxias II]

Tigranes II, the son of Artavasdes I, and the brother of Artaxias II, established in Armenia by order of Augustus, by Tiberius Nero [Tigranes II]

Artavasdes II, perhaps the son of Artaxias II, driven out by his subjects [Artavasdes II]

Tigranes III, the son of Tigranes II, the competitor of Artavasdes II, driven out by Caius Caesar.  He was the last of his race [Tigranes III]

Ariobarzanes. After Artavasdes II and Tigranes III had been driven out by the Romans, the choice of Augustus for a king of the Armenians fell upon one Ariobarzanes, a Median or Parthian prince, who seems not to have belonged to the dynasty of the Arsacidae. As Ariobarzanes was a man of great talents and distinguished by bodily beauty, a quality which the eastern nations have always liked to see in their kings, the Armenians applauded the choice of Augustus. He died suddenly after a short reign in A.D. 2, according to the chronology of St Martin. He left male issue, but the Armenians disliked his children, and chose Erato their queen. She was, perhaps the widow of Tigranes III (Tac. Ann. iii. 4.)

Vonones. Erato was deposed by the Armenians after a short reign, and the throne remained vacant for several years, till the Armenians at length chose Vonones as their king, the son of Phraates IV, and the exiled king of Parthia. (A.D. 16) Vonones maintained himself but one year on the throne, as he was compelled to fly into Syria through fear of Artabanus III, the king of Parthia [Arsaces XVIII]

Artaxias III chosen king A.D. 18 about two years after Vonones had fled into Syria [Artaxias III]

Arsaces I, the eldest son of Artabanus, king of the Parthians, was placed on the throne of Armenia by his father, after the death of Artaxias III. He perished by the treachery of Mithridates, the brother of Pharasmanes, king of Iberia, who had bribed some of the attendants of Arsaces to kill their master. After his death which happened in A.D. 35 Mithridates invaded Armenia and took its capital, Artaxata. Josephus (xviii 3 4) calls this Armenian king Orodes, but this was the name of his brother, who, as we learn from Tacitus, was sent by the Parthian king to revenge his death. (Tac. Ann. vi 31--33; Dion Cass. lviii 26)

Mithridates, the aforesaid brother of Pharasmanes, was established on the throne of Armenia by the emperor Tiberius, A.D. 35. He was recalled to Rome by Caligula, but sent into Armenia again by Claudius, about A.D. 47, where he continued to reign, supported by the Romans, till he was expelled and put to death by his nephew Rhadamistus A.D. 52 (Tac Ann vi 33, ix 8, 9, xii 44--47; Dion Cass Ix 8)

Rhadamistus, the son of Pharasmanes, king of Iberia, was a highly gifted but ambitious youth, whom his old father tried to get rid of by exciting him to invade Armenia, for which purpose he gave him an army. (A.D. 52) Rhadamistus, seconded by the perfidy of the Roman praefect in Armenia, Pollio, succeeded in seizing upon the person of his uncle, whom he put to death with his wife and his children. Rhadamistus then ascended the throne; but Vologeses I, the king of the Parthians, took advantage of the distracted state of the country to send his brother Tiridates into Armenia, and proclaim him king. Tiridates advanced upon Tigranocerta, took this city and Artaxata, and compelled Rhadamistus to fly. Rhadamistus was subsequently killed by his father Pharasmanes. (Tac Ann xii 44--51, xiii 6, 37)

Tiridates I, the brother of Vologeses I, king of the Parthians, was driven out of Armenia by Corbulo, who appointed in his place Tigranes IV, the grandson of king Archelaus, A.D. 60. [Tigranes IV]  Tiridates subsequently received the crown as a gift from Nero, A.D. 63 [Arsaces XXIII, Tiridates I]

Exedares (Ardashes III), an Arsacid (of the younger Armenian branch), was driven out by Chosroes or Khosrew, king of the Parthians (Dion Cass lxviii 17) According to Moses Chorenensis (ii 44-57), Exedares, who is called Ardashes III, was a mighty prince, who humbled the armies of Domitian, but was finally driven out by Trajan. Chosroes placed on the throne in his stead Parthamasiris, a Parthian prince. Exedares reigned during forty two years, from AD 78 to 120, but was several times compelled to fly from his kingdom.

Parthamasiris the son of Pacorus (Arsaces XXIV), king of Parthia, and the nephew of Chosroes, who supported him against Trajan. Parthamasiris, reduced to extremity, humbled himself before Trajan, and placed his royal diadem at the feet of the emperor, hoping that Trajan would restore it to him and recognize him as a subject king. But he was deceived in his expectation, and Armenia was changed into a Roman province. According to some accounts he was put to death by Trajan (Dion Cass lxviii 17--20; comp. Eutrop viii 2; Fronto, Princip Hist p 248, ed Niebuhr.)

Parthamaspates, was appointed by Trajan king of Parthia, but after he had been expelled by the Parthians [Arsaces XXV]; he seems to have subsequently received the kingdom of Armenia from Hadrian. (Comp Spartan Hadr cc 21, 5, where he is called Psamatossiris).

Achaemenides, the son of Parthamaspates. There are some coins on which he is represented with the diadem, which seems to have been given to him by Antoninus Pius. (Iamblichus ap Phot Cod 94 p 75 b ed Bekker)

Soaemus or Sohemus, the son of Achaemenides, was established on the throne by Thucydides, the lieutenant of Lucius (Martius) Verus, during the reign of M Aurelius Antoninus. (lamblich ap Phot l.c.) We learn from Moses Chorenensis (ii 60--64), that the national king, who was supported by Vologeses II of Parthia, was Dikran or Tigranes. Soaemus was an Arsacid. (Dion Cass Fragm lxxi p 1201 ed Reimar)

Sanatruces, the son of Soaemus, as it seems, was established on the throne by Septimius Severus. According to Suidas, he was a man highly distinguished by his warlike qualities and many nobler virtues. He seems to be the king of Armenia mentioned by Dion Cassius, who was treacherously seized upon by Caracalla, about AD 212. The Armenian name of Sanatruces is Sanadrug. (Dion Cass lxxv 9, lxxvii 12; Suidas sv XavarpuvKTit; comp Herodian iii 9)

Vologeses, the son of Sanatruces, whom Dion Cassias (lxxvii 12) calls king of the Parthians. [Arsaces XXIX] Vaillant thinks that he was the king seized upon by Caracalla. On the other hand, the Armenian historians tell us that Wagharsh, in Greek Vologeses or Valarsases, the son of Dikran (Tigranes), reigned over Armenia, or part of Armenia from AD 178 to 198, and that he perished in a battle against the Khazars, near Derbent in 198. It is of course impossible that he should have been seized by Caracalla, who succeeded his father Septimius Severus in 211. Nor do the Armenians mention any king of that name who was a contemporary either of Septimius Severus or Caracalla. (Moscb Choren ii 65 68)

Tiridates II the son of Vologeses [Tiridates II]

Arsaces II, the brother of Artabanus IV, the last Arsacid in Parthia, by whom he was made king of Armenia in the first year of the reign of Alexander Severus (A.D. 222-223) When his brother was killed by Artaxerxes (Ardashir), the first Sassanid on the Persian throne, he resisted the usurper, and united his warriors with those of Alexander Severus in the memorable war against Artaxerxes [Sassanidae] (Procop de Aedificiis Justin iii 1; Dion Cass lxxx 3 4; Herodian vi 2 &c; Agathias pp 65, 134 ed Paris)

Artavasdes III, the ally of Sapor against the emperor Valerian AD 260 (Trebell Poll Valerian 6)

Eusebius (Hist Eccl ix 8) mentions a Christian king of Armenia during the reign of Diocletian, who seems to have been the son of Artavasdes III. During the war of Diocletian with Narses, king of Persia, this king of Armenia joined the Roman army commanded by Galerius Caesar. After the accession of Maximinianus he was involved in a war with this emperor, who intended to abolish the Christian religion in Armenia.

Tiridates III [Tiridates III]

Arsaces III (Tiranus), the son of Diran (Tiridates III) ascended the throne either in the seventeenth year of the reign of Constantius, that is, in A.D. 354, or perhaps as early as 341 or 342, after his father had been made prisoner and deprived of his sight by Sapor II, king of Persia. After the reconciliation of Sapor with his captive Diran (Tiridates), Arsaces was chosen king, since his father, on account of his blindness, was unable to reign according to the opinion of the eastern nations, which opinion was also entertained by the Greeks of the Lower Empire, whence we so often find that when an emperor or usurper succeeded in making his rival prisoner, he usually blinded him, if he did not venture to put him to death. The nomination of Arsaces was approved by the emperor Constantius. Tho new king nevertheless took the part of Sapor in his war with the Romans, but soon afterwards made peace with the latter. He promised to pay an annual tribute, and Constantius allowed him to marry Olympias, the daughter of the praefect Ablavius, a near relation of the empress Constantia, and who had been betrothed to Constans, the brother of Constantius. Olympias was afterwards poisoned by a mistress of Sapor, an Armenian princess of the name of P'harhandsem. To punish the defection of Arsaces, Sapor invaded Armenia and took Tigranocerta. He was thus involved in a war with the emperor Julian, the successor of Constantius, who opened his famous campaign against the Persians (A.D. 363) in concert with Arsaces, on whose active co-operation the success of the war in a great measure depended. But Julian's sanguine expectations of overthrowing the power of the Sassanidae was destroyed by the pusillanimity, or more probably well calculated treachery, of Arsaces, who withdrew his troops from the Roman camp near Ctesiphon in the month of June 363. Thence the disastrous retreat of the Romans and the death of Julian, who died from a wound on the 26th of the same month. Jovian, who was chosen emperor in the camp, saved the Roman army by a treaty in July, by which he renounced his sovereignty over the tributary kingdoms of Armenia and Iberia. Arsaces, in the hope of receiving the reward of his treachery, ventured into the camp of Sapor. He was at first received with honour, but in the midst of an entertainment was seized by order of Sapor and confined in the tower of Oblivion at Ecbatana, where he was loaded with silver chains. He died there by the hand of a faithful servant, whom he implored to release him with his sword from the humiliation of his captivity. Arsaces reigned tyrannically, and had a strong party against him especially among the nobles. (Amm Marc xx 11, xxi 6, xxiii 2,3, xxv 7, xxvii 12; Procop de Bell Pers i 5)

Para the son of Arsaces III and Olympias. (Tillemont, Histoire des Empereurs) No sooner had Sapor seized Arsaces, than he put one Aspacures on the throne of Armenia. Para, the heir and successor of Arsaces, was reduced to the possession of one fortress, Artogerassa (perhaps Artagara, or Ardis, towards the sources of the Tigris, above Diyarbekr or Amida), where he was besieged with his mother Olympias by the superior forces of Sapor. The fortress surrendered after a gallant defence, Olympias fell into the hands of the conqueror, but Para escaped to Neocaesareia, and implored the aid of the emperor Valens. The emperor ordered him to be well treated and promised to assist him. Terentius, a Roman general, led the fugitive king back into Armenia with a sufficient force, and Para was acknowledged as king; and though attacked by Sapor, he continued to reign with the assistance of the Romans. Para was a tyrant. Misled by the intrigues of Sapor, he killed Cylaces and Artabanus, two of his ministers. As Valens was dissatisfied with the conduct of the Armenian king, Terentius persuaded him to go to Cilicia, pretending that the emperor wished to have an interview with him. When Para arrived at Tarsus, he was treated with due respect, but so closely watched as to be little more than a prisoner. He escaped with a body of light cavalry, and swimming across the Euphrates, arrived safely in Armenia in spite of an ardent pursuit. He continued to show himself a friend of the Romans, but Valens distrusted him and resolved upon his death. Trajanus, a Roman dux or general, executed the emperor's secret order. He invited Para to a banquet, and when the guests were half intoxicated, a band of Roman soldiers rushed in, and Para and his attendants were slain after a brave resistance AD 374 or 377. The Armenian name of Para is Bab (Amm Marc xxvii 12 xxx 1)

Arsaces IV (V of Vaillant), the son of Para or Bab. According to Vaillant, he was the nephew of Para, being the son of one Arsaces (IV of Vaillant), who was the brother of Para; this opinion has been adopted by distinguished historians, but it seems untenable. Arsaces IV reigned a short time together with his brother Valarsaces or Wagharshag, who died soon. In a war against an usurper, Waraztad, the son of Anob, who was the brother of Arsaces III, Arsaces IV showed such a want of character and energy that he owed his success merely to the bad conduct of the usurper, who was at first supported by the emperor Theodosius the Great. The weakness of Arsaces being manifest, Theodosius and Sapor III formed and carried into execution the plan of dividing Armenia. Arsaces was allowed to reign as a vassal king of Constantinople in the western and smaller part of Armenia, while the larger and eastern part became the share of Sapor, who gave it to Chosroes or Khosrew, a noble belonging to the house of the Arsacidae, of which there were still some branches living in Persia. According to St Martin this happened in 387. Procopius mentions one Tigranes, brother of Arsaces, who reigned over eastern Armenia, which he ceded to Sapor. The whole history of the division of Armenia is very obscure, and the chief sources, Procopius and Moses Chorenensis are in manifest contradiction. Arsaces IV died in 389, and his dominions were conferred by the emperor upon his general, Casavon, who was descended from the family of the Gamsaragans, which was a branch of the Arsacidae. It seems that this general was a most able diplomatist, and that his nomination was a plot concerted between him and Theodosius to bring all Armenia under the imperial authority; Casavon declared himself a vassal of Chosroes, and this vassal suddenly broke his allegiance towards Sapor, and submitted to Theodosius. On this Bahram IV, the successor of Sapor, invaded Armenia, seized Chosroes and put Bahram Shapur (Sapor), the brother of Chosroes, on the vassal throne of (eastern) Armenia (392). In 414, Chosroes was re-established by Yezdegerd I, the successor of Bahram IV, and after the death of Chosroes, in 415, Yezdegerd's son, Shapur or Sapor, become king. Sapor died in 419, and till 422 there was an interregnum in Armenia till Ardashes (Artasires) ascended the throne. (Procopius de Aedif Justin iii l 5; De Bell Pers ii 3; Moses Choren iii 40 &c 49 &c)

Artasires, the last Arsacid on the throne of Armenia, the son of Bahram Shapur, and the nephew of Chosroes. Moses Chorenensis tells us, that his real name was Ardashes. (Artases or Artaxes.) He was made king of Armenia in 422, by Bahram IV, who ordered or requested him to adopt the name of Ardashir. (Artasires or Artaxerxes) As Artasires was addicted to vices of every description, the people, or rather the nobles of Armenia, wished for another king. Since the conversion of prince Gregory (afterwards St Gregory), the son of Anag, the Arsacid, to the Christian religion, in the time of Constantino the Great, the Armenians had gradually adopted the Christian religion; and there was a law that the patriarch should always be a member of the royal family of the Arsacidae. During the reign of Artasires the office of patriarch was held by Isaac, to whom the nobles applied when they wished to choose another king; but Isaac aware that their choice would fall upon Bahram the heathen king of Persia, refused to assist them. The nobles thereupon applied straightway to Bahram, who invaded Armenia, deposed Artasires, and united his dominions to Persia A.D. 428.  From this time eastern Armenia was called Persarmenia. (Procop De Aedif Justin iii l 5; Moses Choren iii 63 &c;  Assemani Bibliotheca Orientalis voL iii pars i p 396 &c)

The following chronological table which differs in some points from the preceding narrative is taken from St Martin and is founded upon the Armenian histories of Moses Chorenensis and Faustus Byzantinus compared with the Greek and Roman authors.

A. The first or elder Branch in Armenia Magna BC 149 Valarsaces or Wagharshag I, founder of the Armenian dynasty of the Arsacidae, established on the throne of Armenia by his brother, Mithridates Arsaces [ARSACES VI] king of the Parthians -- BC 127 Arsaces or Arshag I, his son -- BC 114 Artaces, Artaxes or Ardashes I, his son -- BC 89 Tigranes or Dikran I (II), his son -- BC 36 Artavasdes or Artawazt I, his son -- BC 30 Artaxes II, his son -- BC 20 Tigranes II, brother of Artaxes II -- BC Tigranes III -- BC 6 Artavasdes II -- BC 5 Tigranes III re-established -- BC 2 Erato, queen.

AD 2 Ariobarzanes, a Parthian prince, established by the Romans -- AD 4 Artavasdes or Artabases, his son -- AD 5 Erato re-established death uncertain -- Interregnum -- AD 16 Vononos -- AD 17 Interregnum -- AD 18 Zeno of Pontus, surnamed Artaxias -- Tigranes IV, son of Alexander Herodes -- AD 35 Arsaces II -- AD 35 Mithridates of Iberia -- AD 51 Rhadamistus of Iberia -- AD 52 Tiridates I -- AD 60 Tigranes V of the race of Herodes -- AD 62 Tiridates I re-established by Nero, reigned about eleven years longer

B The second or younger Branch, at first at Edessa, and sometimes identical with the "Reges Osrhoenenses," afterwards in Armenia Magna. BC 38 Arsham or Ardsham, the Artabazes of Josephus (Ant Jud xx 2) -- BC 10 Manu, his son -- BC 5 Abgarus, the son of Arsham, the Ushama of the Syrians. This is the celebrated Abgarus who is said to have written a letter to our Saviour (Moses Chor ii 29)

AD 32 Anane or Ananus, the son of Abgarus -- AD 36 Sanadrug or Sanatruces, the son of a sister of Abgares, usurps the throne -- AD 58 Erowant, an Anacid by the female line, usurps the throne; conquers all of Armenia; cedes Edessa and Mesopotamia to the Romans -- AD 78 Ardashes or Artaxes III (Exedares or Axidares), the son of Sanadrug, established by Vologeses I, king of the Parthians -- AD 120 Ardawazt or Artavasdes IV, son of Ardashes III, reigns only some months -- AD 121 Diran or Tiranus I, his brother -- AD 142 Dikran or Tigranes VI, driven out by Lucius (Martius) Verus, who puts Soaemus on the throne. -- AD 178 Wagharsh or Vologeses, the son of Tigranes VI -- AD 198 Chosroes or Khosrew I, surnamed Medz, or the Great, the (fabulous) conqueror (overrunner) of Asia Minor; murdered by the Arsacid Anag, who was the father of St Gregory, the apostle of Armenia -- AD 232 Ardashir or Artaxerxes, the first Sassanid of Persia -- AD 259 Dertad or Tiridates II, surnamed Medz, the son of Chosroes, established by the Romans -- AD 314 Interregnum. Sanadrug seizes northern Armenia and Pagur southern Armenia, but only for a short time -- AD 316 Chosroes or Khosrew II, surnamed P'hok'hr, or "the Little," the son of Tiridates Mezd -- AD 325 Diran or Tiranus II, his son -- AD 341 Anaces or Arshag III, his son -- AD 370 Bab or Para -- AD 377 Waraztad, usurper -- AD 382 Arsaces IV (and Valarsaces or Wagharshag II, his brother) -- AD 387 Armenia divided -- AD 389 Arsaces IV dies.  Casavon in Roman Armenia, Chosroes or Khosrew III in Persarmenia -- AD 392 Bahram Shapur (Sapor),  the brother of Chosroes III -- AD 414 Chosroes re-established by Yezdegerd -- AD 415 Shapur or Sapor, the son of Yezdegerd -- AD 419 Interregnum -- AD 422 Ardashes or Ardashir (Artasires IV) -- AD 428 End of the kingdom of Armenia (Comp Vaillant, Regnum Arsacidarum, especially Elenchus Regum Armeniae Majoris, in the 1st vol; Du Four de Longuerue Annales Arsacidarum, Strasb 1732; Richter, Histor Krit Versuch uber die Arsaciden und Sassaniden-Dynastien, Gottingen 1804; St Martin Memoires historiques et geograph sur l'Armenie vol i) [WP]