On the occasion of the 2080th anniversary of the victory of Armenia in the battle of Aratsani in 68 B.C.

Ruben L. Manasseryan

The idea of Tigranes II the Great, widespread in historical works of general nature, as a conqueror, guided by the material interests of the ruling class – “landlords”, according to Y.A. Manandyan, and “slave owners” – private and land owners, according to G. Kh. Sargsyan, is not confirmed by data on the social system of Ancient Armenia and the facts regarding the foreign policy activities of the Armenian king. Large-scale private land ownership was not formed in Armenia; more precisely, it was decisively replaced by state property (ownership). The state, represented by the tsar, acted not only as the supreme owner of the land, but also as the direct exploiter of the communal peasantry in the localities. Armenia of the era of Tigranes the Great typologically belongs to the societies of the East, in which the state (the central apparatus and the provincial administration) is the form of existence of the ruling class (military nobility).

The foreign policy of Tigranes was initially aimed at repelling the threat emanating from the expansion of the great powers: Rome from the West, and Parthia from the East. Already in 92 B.C., during the Roman-Parthian negotiations, an agreement was reached on the future division of the Middle East between the two powers along the Euphrates River. They also considered concluding a military alliance against Armenia.

Tigranes assumed of uniting the political forces in the Middle East, interested in preventing the establishment of the dominance of Rome and Parthia. As a result, he united the Middle East into a great Hellenistic power. Rome, represented by a contemporary of Tigranes, greate political thinker M. T. Cicero, highly appreciated the personality and activities of the Armenian king. Cicero emphasizes the originality of Tigranes’ personality, “hic ipse per se vehemens fuit” – “and he was powerful in himself.”

“Vehemens” is a definition meaning a combination of mighty energy and physical strength. In addition to these properties of Tigranes, Cicero notes the steadfastness, unbrokenness of his fighting spirit (animus), his determination to achieve victory after the defeat during the first stage of the war – the loss of the capital, Tigranakert, the collapse of the state and the transition of the countries of the Eastern Mediterranean under the rule of Rome.

On the banks of the Aratsani River, Tigranes inflicted a heavy defeat on the Roman army of Lucullus. Comparing the tactical actions of the parties, the level of their losses, the subsequent course of action, it should be recognized that the Battle of Aratsani was a defeat of the Romans – a very difficult and bloody one, and a victory for the Armenians. Tigranes thwarted Lucullus’ plans to capture the capital of Armenia and conquer the country, turning it into a Roman province. This is the historical significance of the battle on the banks of the Aratsani in mid-September of 68 B.C.

Tigranes, as a political figure, is characterised by his ability of combining military and diplomatic means to achieve the goal. During 32 years in active politics, the struggle on two fronts against Rome and Parthia, he made neither a single serious miscalculation, nor a single mistake. His foreign policy is an example of expanding opportunities, expanding the socio-political base – the basis of his dominance, which was the self-governing Hellenistic policy in the Middle East. Accession in Syria in 83 was his biggest diplomatic success, which resulted in the formation of the largest Hellenistic power in the Middle East, and Rome for 15 years lost hope of conquering the Eastern Mediterranean. The most important diplomatic achievement of Tigranes was the prevention of a war on two fronts in 66, against the superior forces of Rome and Parthia, which concluded a military alliance against Armenia. The agreement with Pompey in 66 meant, first of all, the abolition of the Roman-Parthian alliance. Rome recognized the existence of the Armenian state within the borders from the Euphrates to the Kura and the Caspian Sea. The peace treaty was not a military capitulation of Tigranes – the Armenian troops were not subject to any reduction, disbandment, or captivity. These actions revealed such traits of Tigranes’ personality as the ability to calmly and quickly navigate difficult situations and make clear, unexpected decisions․ It was thanks to these qualities of Tigranes as a politician that determined the final result of his struggle – the salvation of Armenia from the threat of Roman and Parthian conquest. And the result, as you know, is the main criterion in evaluating a statesman.

The activity of Tigranes represents an exceptional milestone in the history of the Hellenistic world. The existence of the state was based on the political interaction of the Armenian and Greek-Syrian societies. The principle of unity and coexistence of peoples representing the Eastern and Greek civilizations was the basis for the existence of Tigranakert, which was possible because the alienation between the peoples, between the Hellenes and the “barbarians”, as well as the alienation between the eastern communities of the city, was overcome. Two monuments were erected close to each other – both symbols of the two civilizations of the West and the East. A Greek theater was erected in the city, and a large Paradise was founded outside the city. Their coexistence reveals the world[1]historical role of Tigranakert as a center of unity and interaction between the cultures of the Hellas and the East, the Western and the Eastern civilizations. The Greek theater and the Eastern Paradise embody opposite ideas about the place of man in the world and about his destiny. In the combination of these two symbolic structures, two fundamental ideas of the West and the East were compared: the freedom of the individual (citizen) and the world harmonious whole, including a person as its constituent element.

Objectively, thanks to the efforts of Tigranes a socio-psychological inter[1]ethnic situation was formed, which was supposed to contribute to the formation of the consciousness of belonging to a new supra-ethnic spiritual community among various peoples, their unity based on the priority of universal ethical ideas. However, the coexistence of the ethnic communities in Tigranakert went not along the path of unity and harmony, but along the path of mutual alienation and deepening hostility between them – between the Hellenes and the “barbarians”.