Tiridates II – One of the most successful rulers of Armenia

This is one of those “what if…” posts regarding random events that shaped Armenia’s history. Again based on coins. What seems to be a trivial series of events. A lunatic Roman emperor, a rumor, a killing in a roadside ditch, and the rise of an Armenian king who probably is one of the most successful of the Arsacid kings, but remains forgotten in Armenian history just because he was shrouded by the fame of his grandson Tiridates III who is credited in adopting Christianity and therefore robbing his predecessors of proper mention in historical narrative, not to mention destroying most of our national heritage which most probably would have included historical inscriptions.

The first coin is that of Roman emperor Macrinus with a beautiful Quadriga of horses. The second coin is of Tiridates II of Armenia. Probably the last ever coin minted in Armenia for the next 800 years.
In 217 AD, during the time Caracalla was wreaking havoc in the East, a dispute between Khosrov I and his sons gave Caracalla a pretense to meddle. Instead of solving the problem, he simply arrested the whole family of king Khosrov, exiling them and placing a governor to rule over Armenia.

The Armenians were outraged and rebelled. Caracalla started senselessly ravaging the country to put the uprising down. At the same time a rumor spread that a general called Macrinus was plotting his assassination. This was news to a dumbfounded Macrinus who now found himself in a bind.

One way or another he was doomed. Soon enough Caracalla would hear the rumor and have him executed without even asking. He decided to beat him to the task. Macrinus had Caracalla assassinated in a roadside ditch while he was urinating. He thus became emperor, the first of equestrian and Mauritanian descent.

After an undecisive battle with Parthia at Nisibis, he made peace and paid them indemnity. He also appeased the Armenians and restored Tiridates II to their throne in as client king, returned his mother back to him from captivity, returned all the lands and booty taken by Caracalla to him, and succeeded in pacifying the area and clearing the mess Caracalla had created. Having cost Rome immense sums of money in this process, he was soon deposed.

After losing a battle in Antioch against forces loyal to Elagabalus, who had been proclaimed emperor by the senate, he escaped, was caught in Chalcedon and executed in Cappadocia. He had “reigned” for 14 months. He was also the first emperor who never reached Rome.

Tiridates II, however, reigned for an amazing 35 years, outliving more than 8 Roman emperors. In 224 AD, a few years into his reign, the Persian Sassanian dynasty led by Ardashir toppled the Parthian kingdom. After vanquishing almost every nation in his wake, and becoming the new nemesis of the Roman Empire, Ardashir for the life of him failed to conquer Armenia.

Tiridates resisted invasion after invasion. His son Khosrov II participated in his father’s military campaigns against Ardashir, who was “alarmed by their victories”. Tiridates II died in 252. I believe Armenia was truly powerful during his reign.

His son Khosrov II succeeded his father, with his capital in Vagharshapat. In 258 AD, Shabouh I finally gave up using invasion tactics and resorted to treachery. He had Anak the Parthian, who had earned Khosrov’s trust in his court, murder him, whereupon Persia finally succeeded in conquering Armenia.

Khosrov’s infant son Tiridates (the future III) was smuggled out of the country and raised in Rome. Everyone knows of him so I will not credit him here. That becomes the subject of another post.

By Joseph Sarkissian

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