Tigranes I

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Tigranes I
Great King
Obverse Coin of Tigranes I.jpg
Coin of Tigranes I
King of Armenia
Reign120 – 95 BC (disputed)
Predecessor Artavasdes I
Successor Tigranes II the Great
Died95 BC
Issue Two sons:
Tigranes II
House Artaxiad
Father Artaxias I
Mother Satenik (?)

Tigranes I (Ancient Greek : Τιγράνης) was an Artaxiad king of Armenia at the end of the 2nd and the beginning of the 1st century BC. Few records have survived about his and his predecessor Artavasdes I's reign, which has led to some confusion. [1] Some modern scholars have doubted that such a king reigned at all. [2] [3] Other historians, such as Hakob Manandian, David Marshall Lang and Rouben Paul Adalian consider him a real figure but differ or are uncertain on the exact dates of his reign. [4] [5] [6] [7] [8] [9] [10] Although it has been proposed that Tigranes I reigned from 123 BC to 96 BC, [9] [11] this view has been criticized. [3] Another suggestion is that Tigranes I ruled in 120 BC - 95 BC and this has been recently corroborated by historian Christian Marek. [5] [12]



The name Tigránēs (Τιγράνης) is the Greek form of Old Iranian Tigrāna (TigranՏիգրան in Armenian). [13] The exact etymology is disputed but it is likely an Old Iranian patronymic formation of the suffix *-āna- and the name *Tigrā- (meaning 'slender'). [14] [15] The Armenian historian Movses Khorenatsi mentions a Tiran, "son of Artaxias and brother of Artavasdes", who has been identified as Tigranes I. [4] [16] [17]


Tigranes I is assumed to be the fourth oldest son of five between Artaxias I and Satenik.[ according to whom? ] He ascended to the throne due to Artavasdes I not having an available heir, as well as his other brothers being kicked out of the royal estates by Artavasdes I. [18] [19] [4] [20] [1] [8] He was made sparapet (commander) over the western army by Artaxias I. [18]

After the departure of Artaxias's most trusted general, Smbat Bagratuni, Tigranes's brother, Mazhan, requested King Artaxias that Artavasdes's and Tigranes's roles be stripped from the army and instead be entrusted to Zariadres. Artaxias rejected the request and Mazhan began plotting against Tigranes. However, Artavasdes and Tigranes caught wind of the plot and ambushed and killed Mazhan during a hunting trip. They then buried him at Bagaran. [18]

Seleucid and Iberian invasion

In 165/4 BC, the Seleucid army, led by Antiochus IV Epiphanes, invaded Armenia and defeated Tigranes's army, forcing him to retreat to Basen and await aid from Artavasdes I and Smbat Bagratuni. Eventually the Armenian army defeated the Seleucid army, which had to return to Syria due to internal troubles at home. [18] Tigranes's brother, Zariadres was captured after a defeat in Javakhk, three years later Tigranes, Artavasdes, and Smbat marched towards Trialeti, but negotiate for Zariadres's freedom, as well as scoring an alliance with the Iberian kingdom while ceding Javakhk and Ardahan. [21] [18]

Parthian invasion

In 120 BC, the Parthian king Mithradates II invaded Armenia. Artavasdes I was forced to give Tigranes's son, the future Tigranes II the Great, to Mithradates II as a hostage and recognize Parthian suzerainty over Armenia. [22] [23]

Near East in 100 BC, during Tigran I's reign. Armenia is shown in green Alter Orient 0100BC.svg
Near East in 100 BC, during Tigran I's reign. Armenia is shown in green


In 120 BC, after the death of Artavasdes I, Tigranes I ascended the throne. [5] [12] Hakob Manandian, citing Strabo, mentions that Tigranes I put up a strong resistance against the Parthians and successfully defended Armenia and faced no conflict afterwards. [24] [25] He also stripped the Vahevunis of their priesthood after finding out that they had moved the gold plated statue of Vahagn located in Armavir to their domain in Ashtishat after the death of Artaxias I. [26] [27] [18]

Tigranes entered into a rivalry with a Bznuni prince named Datake, who boasted that he was richer than the king. Tigranes also had to deal with the inheritance issues of his and other families, as his relatives living in the region of Hashteank complained that there was not enough land to divide among themselves. Tigranes told them to move to Aghiovit or Arberan; however, they protested. Eventually Tigranes told them that they either move to Arberan or Aghiovit or split what they had among themselves. Seeing that not enough land could be split among themselves in Hashteank, some of the Artaxiads moved. [18]

Tigranes also gave away Artavasdes's holdings to an Andzevatsi prince named Erakhnavu, who was a distinguished man and had married the last of Artavasdes's wives. He was eventually made second rank and sparapet of the eastern army. He also took care of Druasp, a Persian friend who had become related by marriage to the princes of Vaspurakan and was given the town of Tateawn and its estates, and vineyards as well as establishing his court in the town of Chrmes in the region of Ekegheats. [18]

Tigranes married his daughter Eraneak to a man named Trdat Bagratuni, who was the son of Smbatuhi, the daughter of Smbat Bagratuni. Eraneak hater her husband, complaining about Trdat's ugly appearance. This angered Trdat and he beat Ereneak severely, dragging her outside. He then entered in rebellion to secure the regions of Media; however, upon arriving in Syunik, he received the news of Tigranes's death and ended the rebellion. Tigranes died in a snowstorm in around 95 BC. [18]

After his death, Tigranes II, who was given as hostage to the Parthians by Artavasdes I, returned from his captivity in Parthia and assumed the throne. [28] According to Appian, Tigranes II was the son Tigranes I. [29] This view has also been supported by modern research. [4] [20] [1] [30]

Barring the conflict with Parthians, the reign of Tigranes I has been described as generally peaceful and devoid of major external events. [31]


Coin minted during Tigranes I's reign, eagle on the reverse. Coin of Tigranes I with eagle.jpg
Coin minted during Tigranes I's reign, eagle on the reverse.

According to Kovacs, only three types of coins have been attributed to Tigranes I, all with the Greek inscription ΒΑΣΙΛΕΩΣ ΜΕΓΑΛΟΥ ΤΙΓΡΑΝΟΥ ('King Tigranes the Great') and depicting Tigranes I wearing a five-pointed tiara. The reverses of these coins either depicts an eagle standing, a cornucopia with a grape cluster, or a thunderbolt. [32]

Coin of a deified Tigranes I, minted during Tigranes II's reign. Elephant on the reverse. The word ThEOU
('divine') is visible. Coin of Tigranes I Deified.jpg
Coin of a deified Tigranes I, minted during Tigranes II's reign. Elephant on the reverse. The word ΘΕΟΥ ('divine') is visible.

Following the death of Tigranes I, his son Tigranes II proclaimed him as a god and minted coins with his image and the inscription ΒΑΣΙΛΕΩΣ ΜΕΓΑΛΟΥ ΤΙΓΡΑΝΟΥ ΘΕΟΥ ('King Tigranes the Great and Divine'). Six of these coins were issued, three of which being minted in Artaxata and the other three minted in Tigranocerta. The reverses of these coins either depict an elephant, horse, lion, or the goddess Nike holding a wreath or palm. [32]

Coin of Tigranes II, commonly misattributed to Tigranes I. Coin of the Artaxiad king Tigranes I.jpg
Coin of Tigranes II, commonly misattributed to Tigranes I.

Some numismatists such as Bedoukian and Nupertlian have argued that the coins depicting a crude bust of a beardless king facing left is attributed to Tigranes I. [35] [36] [34] However, Kovacs attributes them to Tigranes II, citing the regnal year visible on the reverse. They were also minted in Nisibis, which was not under Armenian control during the time of Tigranes I. [32] [33]


Tigranes I had four brothers: his predecessor Artavasdes I, Zariadres, Vruyr and Mazhan. [37] Although Alan princess Satenik has been shown to be Artaxias I's wife, [38] there is no concrete evidence that she was their mother.

Tigranes I had two sons and a daughter, his successor Tigranes II (r.95–55 BC) and Guras, who is mentioned by Plutarch as the governor of Nisibis, and Eraneak, who was married off to Trdat Bagratuni. [39] [40] [41] [18] Guras was later captured by Roman general Lucullus. [39] Judging by Roman author Lucian's Macrobii, Tigranes II was born to Tigranes I in c. 140 BC. [42] [43] [ failed verification ]

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Tigranes I
Preceded by King of Armenia
120 BC – 95 BC
Succeeded by