The Roman Recognition of Trdat I – The Establishment of the Armenian Arsacid Dynasty

The Roman Recognition of Trdat I We possess limited data of the rule of Trdat I (Tiridates I), which is remarkable for the restoration of Artashat, as well as large-scale construction throughout Armenia. One of the built structures, the Garni Fortress, bears the Greek inscription of Trdat I: “King Helios Trdat reigned in Greater Armenia. On the 11th year of his reign, he built it [fortress] for the queen”.

The traditions of the previous Artaxiad dynasty were so influential that the representatives of the Parthian Arsacid dynasty were soon Armenized, starting with Trdat I. Armenians welcomed Trdat as one of their worn. Shortly, he became one of the favorite heroes of Armenian folklore.

Trdat I waged several wars. During one of his battles against Alans, who had invaded Armenia from the north, Trdat was almost killed by a lasso, which he managed to quickly cut down with his sword. He then brought the battle to a victorious conclusion.

However, Rome did not accept the accession of Trdat in Armenia, which started a 10-year war between the Roman Empire and the Armenian-Parthian coalition. The war developed slowly, and after five years, Roman general Gnaeus Domitius Corbulo seized Armenia’s capital Artashat and razed it to the ground in 59 AD. Vologases I (also known as Vaghasrh I) of Parthia then counterattacked.  Corbulo preferred negotiations to new battles. It was agreed to remove both Roman and Parthian troops from Armenia.

In accordance with the treaty, Vologases sent ambassadors to Rome to ask the Roman emperor Nero to crown Trdat I the king of Armenia. Nero refused to crown Trdat in absentia. Nero thus sent legions to Armenia under the command of Paetus to overthrow Trdat.

Arrogant Paetus was assured that he would win with ease. He didn’t even bother to put guards around his army. In the Battle of Rhandeia in 62 AD, the Roman army got surrounded by the Armenian-Parthian troops and capitulated without a fight.

To possibly save the prestige of Rome, despite the defeat of his army, Nero demanded Trdat to personally arrive in Rome to be crowned. Nero wished to demonstrate that Trdat receives the crown not because of the Roman Empire’s defeat but thanks to Nero’s generosity.

Accompanied by a 3-thousand escort, Trdat arrived in Rome in 65 AD. According to Roman accounts, Nero received Trdat wonderfully and organized several scenic events for the Armenian to-be king.

The celebrations lasted quite long, and Trdat returned to Armenia in 66 AD. As a compensation for the ruined Artashat, Nero passed Trdat large sums of money and sent craftsmen to help Armenians restore the city.

Thus Trdat I, who reigned in 66 – 68 AD, became the founder of a new Armenian dynasty, the royal dynasty of Arsacids.


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