The Kingdom of Sophene – Ancient Armenia

The Kingdom of Sophene – Ancient ArmeniaThe Kingdom of Sophene was an ancient Armenian state which existed from the 3rd century BC to 94 BC. It has lost its status after the King of the Kingdom of Armenia Tigranes II the Great put it under Greater Armenia’s control. Sophene was the first Armenian kingdom to have its own mint.

The Armenian Kingdom of Sophene (Tsopk) was established in the 3rd century BC in the historical region of Armenia named Tsopani. Before the collapse of the Seleucid Empire, it was unified with the Kingdom of Commagene, rulers of which traditionally were the descendants of the younger branch of the Yervanduni (Orontid) dynasty.

According to various notes, one of the first kings of the unified state was Sames (Samos), who founded the town of Samosata on Euphrates River.

Initially, the kingdom was dependent on the Seleucid Empire, being its special satrapy obliged to pay tribute and provide troops, but it was ruled by local hereditary dynasties, had inner independence, and at times escaped from the power of the Seleucids.

In the middle of the 3rd century BC, the king Arsham (Arsam), the successor of Sames, ruled the kingdom. During his reign, the first coins in honor of Armenian kings have been stamped. On the left bank of the inflow of the Euphrates River the Aratsani River, he founded the city of Arsamosat (called Arshamashat by the Armenians).

Around 240 BC, Arsham tried to declare himself an independent king, but was unable to reach his goals and submitted his kingdom to Seleucids. Then, Arsham’s son Xerxes inherited the throne.

Gaining power, Xerxes refused to pay tribute to the Seleucids. In response, Antiochus III besieged the capital of Sophene Arshamashat. After negotiations, the conflict was settled. Antiochus married his sister Antiochis off to the rebellious Armenian king. In turn, Xerxes had to recognize the power of the Seleucids. However, after some time, Antiochis killed Xerxes for her brother to seize control over the Kingdom of Sophene.

• A coin with the image of King Xerxes, the ruler of Sophene and Commagene, 220 BC.
Source: Ancient Coin Collecting VI: Non-Classical Cultures.

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