King Artavazd II’s Insidious Murder – The Forgotten Lessons of History

King Artavazd II’s Insidious Murder – The Forgotten Lessons of HistoryOne of the tragic pages in the history of Armenia is the period of the reign of Armenian King Artavazd II, the son of Tigran II the Great. Unfortunately, the events of that time wouldn’t be accounted for by the future politicians.

This is evidenced by constantly repeating similar situations. King Artavazd himself was invited to Egypt, deceived, captured, and executed by the order Queen Cleopatra and Marcus Antonius.

But then, due to certain events, in which the murder of the Armenian king played an important role, Antonius and Cleopatra shamefully committed suicide, and Egypt fell forever.

There are several similar cases in Armenian history, one of which is the story of King Arshak and Sparapet Vasak, who were also invited as dear guests and then deceived. Vasak was killed while Arshak was imprisoned.

Overall, the Armenian history is rich with such stories with short-sighted politicians involved, including relatively modern Soviet and post-Soviet periods (the 1999 mass murder in the Armenian parliament, for example), which again suggests that the phenomenon of repeating the same mistakes is not only simply left unstudied but becomes forgotten as well.

At this stage, one can only examine the separate pages of Armenian history to draw some conclusions. Let us now present you with the story of Artavazd II.

Artavazd II

Artavazd II

Artavazd II was the king of Greater Armenia, the eldest son of Tigran II the Great from the Artashesyan (Artaxiad) dynasty. He reigned in 55-34 BC. During his rule, Armenia still was one of the most powerful countries of Asia Minor. Artavazd himself wore the title “king of kings” inherited from his father.

However, Armenia’s international position was gradually becoming less and less precarious. In particular, this was due to the desire of the powerful Roman Empire to establish its hegemony over all of Asia Minor.

For this reason, the policy of rapprochement of Armenia with Parthia became urgent in order to confront the common enemy, Rome. Since Armenia still was a powerful state, Rome could not engage with it in a war directly.

This gave Artavazd the opportunity to resist Rome. Near the town of Carrhae in 53 BC, a general battle took place between the Roman and the allied Parthian-Armenian troops. In this battle, the allies were victorious and defeated the Romans.

Marcus Crassus himself was taken prisoner and beheaded. The joyful news of the victory over the enemy along with the head of Marcus Crassus was taken to Artashat by Parthian messengers. At that time, the city was bursting with festivals and the kings of Armenia and Parthia were both present. After the defeat at the Battle of Carrhae, Rome’s position in Asia Minor weakened considerably.

This was taken advantage of by the Allies, who began occupation campaigns throughout the Asia Minor regions controlled by Rome. But since the beginning of the 40s of the 1st century BC, the relations between Parthia and Armenia started to deteriorate.

This led to the disintegration of the Armenian-Parthian Union in 38 BC, but both countries tried to maintain diplomatic relations at least symbolically. Having learned about this, the Roman Empire sought to attract Armenia to its side against the Parthians.

However, Artavazd II did everything in his power to maintain neutrality in relation to both Rome and Parthia. In 36 BC, the Romans (this time under the leadership of Mark Antonius) marched on Parthia through Armenia. And again, Artavazd II took a neutral position.

To force Artavazd II to oppose Parthia, Marcus Antonius started a war against Armenia, which lasted until 34 BC. The war proceeded sluggishly, with varying success, and did not cause any substantial damage to any of the belligerents, but the Armenians had stronger positions.

The queen of Egypt Cleopatra VII of the Ptolemaic dynasty became an ally of Rome in the Roman-Armenian war of 36-34 BC. Seeing the futility of the war, Marcus Antonius invited Artavazd II and his family under the pretext of signing a peace treaty.

To avoid a destructive and bloody war and save his people, Artavazd II was forced to comply and meet Antonius. Artavazd and his family were insidiously arrested and sent to Rome. Artavazd was then moved to Egypt to be held Cleopatra’s hostage.

Only the heir to the throne, Artavazd’s eldest son Artashes, survived, who escaped and was sheltered by his father’s friends. Later, in 30 BC, Artashes undertook an uprising against Romans and managed to drive them out of Armenia. He then acceded the throne under the name of Artashes II.

After the arrest of Artavazd I, Marcus Antonius declared Armenia as a Roman province (34-30 BC). Rome’s supporter Arsham was appointed Armenia’s new ruler. Artavazd II was executed in Egypt in 31 BC.

Artavazd II was an intelligent and far-sighted politician. He did everything to protect his people from external aggressors and he succeeded, at least for some time. In addition, he carried out progressive reforms in many spheres of the internal life of the state.


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