King Artavazd II – Poet, Prose Writer, And Historian

On the pediment of the Armenian Drama Theater in Yerevan, a bas-relief of King Artavazd II was carved in recognition of his achievements in the development of Armenian theatrical art. A son of Tigran II, Artavazd, according to Plutarch, wrote tragedies, odes, and historical narratives in Greek. In fact, Artavazd was the first Armenian playwright.

Artavazd II adhered to the political line of his father, attempting to put an end to Armenia’s dependence on Rome. The Armenian King refused to provide Rome with the required military assistance in its war against Parthia (this was based on the conditions of Artashat treaty concluded by his father) and sided with the Parthians.

The commander of the Parthian cavalry and Armenian commander Suren, retreating, lured the Romans into the desert, exhausted them, and then attacked them with fresh forces. This was the Battle of Carrhae fought in 53 BC, where the Romans under the command of Marcus Crassus were crushed.

Crassus himself – as had happened more than once in such cases – tried to flee with a small detachment of bodyguards but was surrounded, seriously wounded in battle, and then killed.

The fate of the Armenian King Artavazd II was tragic. As is known from history, the Roman triumvir Mark Antony deceived and captured him, chained him with gold chains, and took him to Egypt where he was to decorate Antony’s triumphal procession.

At the same time, he announced to Artavazd that he would hand him in to the Egyptian queen. And if the Armenian King kneeled before Cleopatra, called her “the queen of queens”, and asked her for mercy, she would grant him life.

But the old man Artavazd (he was over 60 years old), as Roman historian Cassius Dio testifies, “preserved his greatness.” Not bowing in front of the queen, he became the victim of the evil whim of, Cleopatra, the wife of Mark Antony, and was beheaded by her order.


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