Sunday, 10 April 2011

The Artaxiad Dynasty: Artaxias I

Artaxias I (Old Persian: Artakhshathra, Greek: Αρταξιας, Armenian: Արտաշէս) was the founder of the Artaxiad Dynasty that would rule Armenia for the next two centuries.
Coin ascribed to Arsames II 230 BC. It is possible this is a coin of Artaxias. The Reverse legend might by "APTAK.." and the two mountain peaks, those of mount Masis (Ararat) the stars may be the "Farna" the Divine Glory. From his new city, Artaxata, mount Masis could be clearly seen.

Strabo relates in his Geographia, written 200 years after the said events, that king Antiochus III sent general Artaxias and another general called Zariadres to overthrow the kingdom of Sophene and Armenia and rule as Satraps for Antiochus.

He then explains that following king Antiochus III's defeat by the Romans at the Battle of Magnesia in 190 BC, Artaxias and Zariadres revolted and with Roman consent, after the Treaty of Apamea, began to reign as kings, Artaxias over Armenia and Zariadres over Sophene.

Movses Khorenatsi (Moses of Khoren) wrote in the 5th century AD that King Orontes IV was defeated and killed by King Artaxias.

It may have been that Artaxias was bribed by king Antiochus to rebel against King Orontes IV.

*Modern historians such as Richard G. Hovannisian believe that Zariadres was the father of Artaxias.
He cites two Aramaic inscriptions found in Zangezur and near Lake Sevan which state "Artashes, the son of Zareh" and "Artashes, the Eruand king, the Good, the son of Zareh"
My sketch, done in September 2011, of a stele in Aramaic, a proclamation of king Artaxias in 161 BC, found in Teghut, Dilijan, Republic of Armenia. Stele housed in the National Museum Of Armenia, Yerevan.

Until the reign of Artaxias, the region of Armenia had been inhabited by tribes who spoke different languages. Strabo relates that it was Artaxias who unified the realm making Armenian the common language of all, this was in the process of his conquests, which implies that the territory of Armenia had shrunk until his reign. It was probable that tribes such as the Alans invading from the north had occupied eastern regions of Armenia. Strabo relates that "Baspropeda" was annexed by Artaxias, this has been taken to mean Vaspurakan.

Artaxias is said to have failed to annex Sophene, obviously actions against it meant that he was free from Seleucid rule and that Zareh was dead but it was under occupation by the Seleucids.

When Artaxias had a war with the Alans who were raiding across the Caucasus, he is said to have captured their princess Satenik.
According to Movses Khorenatsi this is how it happened:
“King Artashes mounted his handsome black horse, And taking out a red leather rope studded with golden rings, And crossing the river like a sharp-winged eagle, And throwing his red leather rope studded with golden rings, Cast it upon the waist of the Alanian maiden, And this hurt the delicate maiden's waist, Quickly taking her back to his camp.” 
The lasso  is also a battle technique the Scythians used and later Steppe warriors used.
Artaxias married Satenik, they had five sons: Ardamazda (Artavasdes), Vruyr (This is an alternate version of Paruyr, and is a name first heard of with “Paruyr Skayordi” who was the son of the Scythian king Protothyes (Bartatua in Babylonian). Paruyr Skayordi = Son of the Scythian, Paruyr.), Mazhan, Zareh and Tigran.

Artaxias founded a new capital, Artaxata (Artashata) on the Araks River. According to Movses Khorenatsi,  Hannibal found refuge with Artaxias and designed the new city for the king.
Artaxias was taken captive by king Antiochus IV Epiphanes when he attacked Armenia in 165 BC, but soon gained his liberty.
After the death of king Antiochus IV in 163 BC, the ruler of Armenia rebelled again.

At Artaxias' funeral many people are said to have killed themselves. This maybe an exaggeration and more likely they lacerated themselves, which is a Scythian tradition.

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