How King Artashes I Made Satenik His Queen

During the reign of King Artashes I (reigned 190/189 BC – 160/159 BC) also referred to as King Artaxias I, a nation called the Alans united with all the people of the mountain country took possession half of Georgia, then they set out to invade the Kingdom of Greater Armenia.

To defend his kingdom Artashes gathered a significantly large army and confronted the invaders at a crossing of the Kur River. According to ancient sources, a fierce war took place between the two armies. The Alans were then forced to retreat somewhat and set up their base camp on the northern bank of the Kur River. In his pursuit to defeat the Alan army, King Artashes set up his camp base on the southern bank of the river.

During the earlier battle between the Armenians and the Alans, the son of the Alan king was captured by the Armenians. This forced the Alan king to seek for “eternal” peace, promising to give the Armenian king whatever he wishes for in return for his son. Artashes refused the offer of the Alan King. In a second attempt to have the prince returned, the sister of the captured prince and the daughter of the Alan King, Princess Satenik tried to reason with Artashes.

According to the story, Satenik came to the river’s bank and stood upon a great rock. With the help of interpreters, she spoke to Artashes by saying:

“O brave Artashes, who hast vanquished the great nation of the Alans, unto thee I speak. Come, hearken unto the bright-eyed daughter of the Alan King, and give back the youth. For it is not the way of heroes to destroy life at the root, nor for the sake of humbling and enslaving a hostage to establish everlasting enmity between two great nations.”

After hearing the princes’ wise words Artashes returned to the bank of the river. When seeing that the maiden was beautiful and wise, he desired her. So he called Smpad, his chamberlain and told him that he wishes to have the maiden as his bride and that in return he would promise to the great Alan nation peace and the safe return of their youth.  So Smpad, sent messengers to the King of the Alans, asking him to give the lady Satenik, his daughter as wife unto Artashes.  And the King of the Alans answered:

“From whence shall brave Artashes give thousands upon thousands and tens of thousands upon tens of thousands unto the Alans in return for the maiden?”

Then, according to the story, Artashes decided to kidnap the princess, since bride abductions were considered honorable during this period. So he mounted his black horse and crossed the Kur River.

Concerning this, the poets of that land sing in their songs:

“Brave King Artashes
Mounted his fine black charger,
And took the red leathern cord
With the golden ring.
Like a swift-winged eagle
He passed over the river,
And cast the golden ring
Round the waist of the Alan Princess;
Causing much pain
To the tender maiden
As he bore her swiftly
Back to his camp.”

The poem can be interpreted as such that Artashes was commanded to give a large amount of gold, leather, and crimson dye in exchange for the maiden.

Regarding the wedding of Artashes and Satenik they also sang:

“It rained showers of gold when Artashes became a bridegroom.
It rained pearls when Satenik became a bride.”

It was the custom of Armenian kings to scatter coins amongst the people when they arrived at the doors of the temple for their wedding, as also for the queens to scatter pearls in their bridechamber.

Later relationship of Satenik and Artashes

Unfortunately, any information regarding the later relationship between Artashes and Satenik remains largely unknown. According to Movses of Khoren in his History of Armenia, states that Satenik had fallen in love with Argavan, a descendant of a race of dragons (vishaps, in Armenian), but that the remaining part of the story that minstrels used to sing, is missing and believed to be lost.

Written by, Hovik Torkomyan


  • Armenian Legends and Poems [1916] by Zabelle C. Boyajian
  • Movses Khorenatsi. History of Armenia, 5th Century (Հայոց Պատմություն, Ե Դար). Annotated translation and commentary by Stepan Malkhasyants. Gagik Sargsyan (ed.) Yerevan: Hayastan Publishing, 1997, 2.50, p. 165. ISBN 5-540-01192-9.
  • Bournoutian, George A. (2006). A Concise History of the Armenian People: From Ancient Times to the Present. Costa Mesa, CA: Mazda, pp. 27-28. ISBN 1-56859-141-1.
  • Anon. «Արտաշես և Սաթենիկ» (“Artashes and Satenik”). Soviet Armenian Encyclopedia. vol. ii. Yerevan: Armenian Academy of Sciences, 1976, p. 140.
  • Movses Khorenatsi. History of Armenia, 2.50, p. 164.
  • Hacikyan, Agop Jack, Gabriel Basmajian, Edward S. Franchuk, and Nourhan Ouzounian. The Heritage of Armenian Literature: From the Oral Tradition to the Golden Age, Vol. I. Detroit: Wayne State University, 2000, p. 54. ISBN 0-8143-2815-6.

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