Kings and Queens of Armenia

It is believed that Armenians know their history well, easily navigating the events before and after the Birth of Christ. Perhaps, in the recent past, it was so. Today, considering the general decline in the level of education, the weakness of the school, the sharp decrease in interest in non-applied, “useless” knowledge, history is receding into the background.

All the more commendable is the release of two books, two reference books in Russian “Kings of Armenia” and “Queens of Armenia”, prepared by Aik KHACHATRYAN. The Amaras publishing house dedicated them to the author’s 80th birthday.

Starting with the queens, we immediately note that out of the 150 queens mentioned in the book – 103 were Armenian, and there were also 1 Assyrian, 8 Parthian, 6 Persian, 2 Alanian, 9 Greek, 6 Roman, 4 Georgian, 10 French, and 1 Mongolian.

The last 11 rulers ruled in the Cilician Armenian kingdom. Listing the queens of Armenia, Khachatryan starts with the dynasty of Sarduryan (Urartu), then go Askhanazyan, Tsopk-Kommagene and Yervanduni, Artashesyan, Arshakuni, the kingdom of Osroene and the dynasty of Abgaryan, Bagratuni and Cilician Armenia.

The author notes that he did not include in the book over 100 Armenian women who became queens of neighboring Christian states with Armenia (10 of them were Byzantine empresses). There was even a Grand Duchess of Russia – Anna, the wife of Vladimir…

He did not include them because Armenian queens are not Armenian queens. In the huge list of royal persons, there are different women, most of them shone primarily with beauty: kings, as is known, are capricious people and, when choosing a wife, sometimes arranged a beauty pageant. Thus, Argishti I (the founder of Yerevan) could not decide on a choice and, on his father’s advice, married the 40th girl in the row, who was named Bagena.

The wife of another Van king, Rusa I – Rusaina – was, according to legend, divinely beautiful. Therefore, the wife of the Assyrian king Sargon II ordered her husband not to capture, but to kill, if possible, Rusaina. He did just that, killing the queen at the threshold of the Musasir temple. And Rusa I, who idolized his wife, upon receiving the sorrowful news, took his own life.

Armenian queens stood out not only for their beauty, but also for their intelligence and patriotism. Two of them ruled single-handedly or almost single-handedly at a certain period. These are Erato (8 BC – 11 AD, with interruptions) and Parandzem, who replaced her son Pap in 368-369.

History and legends have preserved some features of Armenian beautiful ladies, sometimes bearing exotic names that are strange to today’s ear: Tilama, Tsirane, Susaratu, Morch, Chermakui, Mazeta, Chakhruy, Khushush, Keran and even Kandakuzenia.

Asis, the wife of Argishti II (718-685 BC), was, according to legend, the only woman in the world who gave birth to quadruplets three times in six years – 12 children. And the king issued a decree, according to which multiple mothers were given 12 denarii. Showy spendthrift Susaratu emptied the royal treasury on outfits and jewelry, and Sarduri II (764-735 BC) “demoted” her to the title of a simple concubine, ordering her to be content with only two outfits.

Devoted Patar (626-620 BC) tasted any food or drink before her royal husband Argishti III, saying: “I want to prevent any attempt to poison my husband. And if this is impossible, then let me be the first to say goodbye to life”.

Arshamuyi (wife of Vagarsha II, who ruled in 186-198) breastfed the babies herself. She believed that the queen is the banner of the state and she should be as fit as an arrow. And for this, moderation is needed, and even a delicious piece should not be eaten to the end.

That’s who should be set as an example to dieticians. Nushik (wife of Artavazd V, 252-273) was a great rider and often outran men in races. Why not organize a tournament in her honor today?

However, one can talk about women, especially august ones, endlessly. But the framework of the article does not allow. And one should also speak up for men.

Their, the kings, Khachatryan counted 141. We know more about kings. We know that besides royal affairs, they sometimes expressed themselves in other ways.

The steed of ruler Minua (810-788 BC) jumped 22 cubits (more than 11 meters), and this record was officially broken after 2800 years – in 1975.

Rusa III (610-600 BC) punished a craftsman who sold 40 bags of obsidian to foreigners: “To sell raw material instead of jewelry is the same as selling a wheat field instead of a woman. And the field is a part of the homeland… ” It turns out that not only today’s economists waving prestigious Western diplomas understood market economy.

Khosrov II Kotak (330-338 AD) planted forests that still exist today.

Varazdat (374-378) was the last Olympic champion in fistfight in antiquity.

King Karsa Gagik Abasyan (1029-1065) was a poet.

King of Cilicia Levon III (1270-1289) – the most prolific of the sovereigns – had 14 children from his beloved wife Keran.

And finally, a few words about Tigranes II the Great (95-55 BC). By “work experience”, he is second only to Khosrov I the Great, who occupied the throne for 48 years (211-259 AD). Tigran not only built four Tigranakerts, but also had (being a pagan) four main wives.

The king of kings, the greatest monarch of the East, a worthy opponent of powerful Rome, he minted coins, contributed to the development of sciences and arts.

Metrodorus of Scepsis, a Greek writer who worked at the royal court, once asked the autocrat:

  • What would you like to immortalize after you: the glorification of your crushing victories, the grace of the gods, or the wealth of erected fortresses?
  • Instead of all this, I would wish for Armenia to exist eternally after me, – said Tigran.

Thus simply, without any pretentiousness, the king of kings defined his love for his homeland, who, while conquering foreign countries, did not enslave foreigners.

Today’s politicians could learn a lot from him. Of course, by this we do not mean his four main wives (a Parthian, a Greek, and two Armenians).

Tigran was great not only in his conquests, but also in nobility (he did not betray his father-in-law to the Romans, eventually leading to a war) or diplomacy (he, unarmed, rode into Pompey’s camp, astonishing him and achieving a long and lasting peace with this extraordinary step). Tigran the Great truly wished for a strong Armenia to exist eternally after him.

by Alexander Bakulin

Translated by Vigen Avetisyan

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