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It was divided into two separate categories: royal lands and landowning elites.

The king used the royal lands for the accumulation of wealth and revenues for the royal trea- sury and for the distribution of patronage to military generals, religious leaders, and heads of administrative offices. The landowning elites included the relatives of the king, the temples, the noble families, principal administrators in state agencies, and private landowners. As patriarchal values and customs dominated prefeudal and feudal Armenian society, the head of the nakharar house and his sons gov- erned the affairs of their estates with minimum input by women, who pos- sessed no rights in public life.

Except in rare cases among the noble families, women lacked the legal right to inheritance and the means to secure financial independence.

To be sure, they were not totally power- less, but their influence remained confined to matters of domestic respon- sibilities and family affairs. Armenian kings and elites had promoted ancestor worship, and this practice had led to proliferation of temples with vast properties and wealth. The temples were dedicated to ancestors and pantheons, including, for example, Anahit, Vahagn, Aramazt, and Naneh, all worshiped by the polytheistic Artashesian elite.

The religious leaders, the kurms, especially their chief krmapet, usually were members of the king's dynasty. Although ancestor worship had been central to the Armenian religion, Artashes I was the first to introduce wor- ship of the king's dynasty, although he did not institute deification of the monarch. Like the urban sectors, the temple economies retained a certain degree of autonomy from the central government and possessed rights and privileges in matters of market relations and ownership and manage- ment of property.

In fact, some temple complexes were similar to urban centers. Often referred to as tacharayin kaghakner temple cities , they had their own self-sufficient economic base and commercial networks. The peasants were "free" but paid heavy taxes. The slaves were not "free"; their owners included members of the royal court, households, and temples. The state also employed slaves for the construction and maintenance of roads and canals, irrigation sys- tems, cities, and buildings. Slavery thus constituted an essential compo- nent of the Artashesian economy.

The reforms were in response to the centrifugal tendencies of the emerging urban elites and temple economies that could potentially threaten his rule. He codified landholding to better manage relations between the landowning and the administrative- military elites. Administrative reforms aimed at improving the royal trea- sury and accounting, the efficient use of water transportation for trade and economic development, and the centralization of decision-making authority. For military purposes, Artashes I divided the country into four military regions strategos , 59 each with its own administrative subdivisions and governed by governors appointed by the king.


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These four zones inte- grated into the nakharar structure the semi-autonomous lords, the bdeshkhs, who received vast lands in return for their loyal service and commission as guardians of the monarchy's borders. Although at this time the position of border guards had not yet become a hereditary office, nevertheless, along with the ministerial posts, it set the foundations for the nakharar system.

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Territorial expansion created opportunities for the accumulation of wealth and strengthened the symbiotic ties between the landholding families and the military and administrative agents of the state. However, territorial expansion and centralization of authority also created tensions, as powerful landowners competed for a greater share of the expanding domain. He failed, however, to annex Lesser Armenia and Dsopk, then under the control of Pontus and Zareh, respectively.

He ini- tially pursued an equidistant policy, balancing relations with the two major powers: Rome from the west and Parthia in the east.

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But when com- petition between the two intensified, virtually threatening the survival of Armenia proper, Artashes I sided with Rome. Their bilateral cooperation remained limited to immediate interests, particularly as the government of Dsopk preferred to maintain its independence, despite Artashes's efforts to the contrary. Mithradates III and Parnak I of Pontus pursued close relations with the Seleucids, whose empire had already collapsed, to check Roman geopolitical ambitions, while Cappadocia in turn relied on Rome to defend itself against both Pontus and the Seleucids.

Artashes I sought alliances with Pontus in part to maintain access to its port cities on the Black Sea, which were essential for the Armenian economy, and to exert sufficient influence in the region so as to control Lesser Armenia as a 18 The History ol Armenia buffer zone for his kingdom. The governor of Lesser Armenia, Mithradates, an ally of Parnak in Pontus, was not so inclined, however. As relations among neighbors deteriorated and the constellation of alliances led to wars between and B. The declining Seleucid empire encouraged Artashes I to preempt a potential threat, and in B.

The military offen- sive posed a serious threat to Artashes I, but he defended the capital and maintained his sovereignty. He made a final attempt at invading Parthia and Armenia in B. The dissolution of the Seleucid empire created a geopo- litical vacuum, providing an opportunity for the Parthians, led by Mithradates I the Great r. Artashes I died in about B. His death coincided with the Parthian imperial drive to conquer the neighboring lands. The Persian army defeated Artashes's successors, Artavazd I r.

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In the meantime, however, political stability at home had enabled the Roman empire to redirect its attention to the Near East. The subsequent widening of Roman involvement in regional politics and greater control over Cappadocia, Commagene, and Syria, on one hand, and Parthian territorial ambitions, on the other hand, pit- ted the two empires against each other over Seleucid territories and Armenia. Neither Artavazd I nor Tigran I had the luxury of remaining neutral.

Upon his accession to power, Tigran II revived Artashes I's expansionist policies and con- quered the lands where his grandfather had failed. Mithradates II of Parthia, who had married Tigran IPs daughter Avtoman and sought to strengthen his position in Greater Armenia, supported his father-in-law's return to his homeland and enthroned him as successor to Tigran I. Family ties, albeit briefly, encour- aged amicable relations.

Undoubtedly, a key motivat- ing factor in his expansionist thrust was to avenge past Armenian military defeats and humiliations. Both domestic and external factors contributed to his imperial expan- sion. Decades of population growth had augmented the manpower avail- able for the Armenian military. Further, the expansion in landownership begun under Artashes I had continued under his successors and con- tributed to vibrant commercial relations and rapid economic develop- ment, which in turn enabled the nobility to mobilize vast resources for external expansion at a time when Armenia was not yet fully drawn into East-West imperial scrambles for hegemony.

Unlike Artashes I, Tigran the Great could not maintain good relations with Rome, in part because of his expansionist policies but also because Rome, determined to become increasingly involved in the region, would not tolerate the emer- gence of yet another military and economic competitor. European scholars have viewed western policies of Tigran as a mere extension of the geopo- litical aims of his powerful father-in-law, King Mithradates VI the Eupator of Pontus.

Tigran the Great, however, devised his own calculations and objectives for the strengthening of his economy and imperial expansion. He directed his first operation toward Dsopk, which he conquered in 94 B. The seizure of Dsopk threatened Roman inter- ests in neighboring Cappadocia, although at this point the Roman army refrained from action. In 92 B. Tigran invited Mithradates VI to enter into a mutual security alliance regarding the kingdom of Cappadocia.

They sealed the alliance with the Armenian king mar- rying Cleopatra, one of the daughters of Mithradates VI. Encouraged by the alliance and in cooperation with Tigran, Mithradates invaded Cappadocia, drawing the Roman army directly into the conflict. Although the initial phase of Tigran's territorial ambitions had not moved the Roman empire, his alliance with Mithradates and the latter 's annexation of Cappadocia provoked Roman intervention.

Subsequently, he conquered the kingdom of Osroene and its capital city of Edessa Orhai , Commagene, Cilicia, Syria, and Phoenicia, creating an Armenian empire stretching from the Caspian Sea to the Mediterranean. The new capital, situated near the Achaemenian Royal Road, soon acquired strategic and commercial advantages as a growing center for international trade, while military victories and economic prosperity generated unprecedented wealth for the Armenian empire.

The nakharar system was further solidified during the reign of Tigran the Great, as the empire expanded and provided opportunities for consolidation of power and wealth. Tigran II required the local leaders throughout the empire to provide soldiers for his army and taxed them heavily.

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He resettled large number of Jews and Syrians from the Middle East in the major commercial centers e. By one estimate, over half a million foreigners were resettled in Armenia, and the commercial and industrial develop- ments across his empire were managed by Armenians as well as by Jews, Assyrians, and Greeks. The use of such words as shuka market , khanut Dynasties and the Geopolitics of Empire 21 store , and hashiv account indicate Assyrian influence on Armenia's eco- nomic development.

So long as his subjects pledged loyalty and paid their taxes, they were granted some degree of local auton- omy.

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By about 70 B. Tigran the Great and his supporters did not view the empire as an exclu- sively "Armenian" empire but rather as an international enterprise, whose beneficiaries could include all participants in its promotion and protection. This approach to empire-building contributed to the most seri- ous structural deficiency: Its highly decentralized imperial administra- tion. It not only relied too heavily on local nobilities in the conquered lands, but also on subjects whose loyalty to the Armenian crown were sus- pect. Both groups could claim to be loyal only so long as the benefits of loyalty outweighed the burdens of foreign imperial rule.

Had Tigran the Great achieved the degree of centralization of power witnessed under Artashes I, he could have organized an empire that perhaps could have proved sustainable long after his reign. A related structural deficiency in the imperial scheme was the absence perhaps due to the short duration of the empire of a strong institutional arrangement to facilitate circulation of capital and benefits of commerce between the core and peripheral economies. The relationship was strictly unidirectional: Wealth acquired in the conquered territories served to enrich the royal treasury.

Such shortcomings could be overlooked only so long as the two major empires, Rome and Parthia, did not challenge Tigran II. General Lucius Licinus Lucullus B. Despite warnings of Roman intentions, Tigran the Great ignored the threat. The Armenian shahanshah had become too arrogant and refused to negotiate with Lucullus to avert a crisis. Rather than declare war on Armenia at this time, Roman officials secretly recruited alliances with the nobility at Antioch. Having secured the northern flank by 70 B.