Satrapy of Armenia

The Satrapy of Armenia (Old Persian: 𐎠𐎼𐎷𐎡𐎴 Armina or 𐎠𐎼𐎷𐎡𐎴𐎹 Arminiya), a region controlled by the Orontid dynasty (570–201 BC), was one of the satrapies of the Achaemenid Empire in the 6th century BC that later became an independent kingdom. Its capitals were Tushpa and later Erebuni.

Satrapy of Armenia
570 BC–321 BC
Territory of the Orontid Dynasty in IV-II BC
Territory of the Orontid Dynasty in IV-II BC
Common languagesArmenian
Aramaic (South)
Median (East)
Armenian polytheism
• Established
570 BC
• Disestablished
321 BC
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Kingdom of Armenia (antiquity)
Lesser Armenia



After the collapse of the Kingdom of Urartu (Ararat), the region was placed under the administration of the Median Empire and the Scythians. Later the territory was conquered by the Achaemenid Empire, which incorporated it as a satrapy, and thus named it the land of "Armina" (in Old Persian; "Harminuya" in Elamite; "Urashtu" in Babylonian).

An Armenian tribute bearer carrying a metal vessel with griffin handles. 6th century BC

Orontid DynastyEdit

The Orontid Dynasty, or known by their native name, Eruandid or Yervanduni, was an Iranian[2] hereditary dynasty that ruled the Armenian satrapy, the successor state to the Iron Age kingdom of Urartu (Ararat).[3] It is suggested that it held dynastic familial linkages to the ruling Achaemenid dynasty.[4][5][a][b] Throughout their existence, the Orontids stressed their lineage from the Achaemenids to strengthen their political legitimacy.[7]

Members of the dynasty ruled Armenia intermittently during the period spanning from the 6th to at least the 2nd centuries BC, first as client kings or satraps of the Median[7] and Achaemenid empires and later, after the collapse of the Achaemenid empire,[8] as rulers of an independent kingdom, and later as kings of Sophene and Commagene, which eventually succumbed to the Roman Empire.[9]

The Orontids established their supremacy over Armenia around the time of the Scythian and Median invasion in the 6th century BC.[citation needed] Its founder was Orontes I Sakavakyats (Armenian: Երվանդ Ա Սակավակյաց, Yervand I Sakavakyats). His son, Tigranes Orontid, united his forces with Cyrus the Great and killed Media's king. Moses of Chorene called him "the wisest, most powerful and bravest of Armenian kings."

From 553 BC to 521 BC, Armenia was a subject kingdom of the Achaemenid Empire, but when Darius I was king, he decided to conquer Armenia. He sent an Armenian named Dâdarši to stop a revolt against Persian rule, later replacing him with the Persian general, Vaumisa, who defeated the Armenians in 521 BC. Around the same time, another Armenian by the name of Arakha, son of Haldita, claimed to be the son of the last king of Babylon, Nabonidus, and renamed himself Nebuchadnezzar IV. His rebellion was short-lived and was suppressed by Intaphrenes, Darius' bow carrier.

Following the demise of the Achaemenid Empire, the Satrapy of Armenia was incorporated into Alexander's empire.[10] After Alexander's death, the Orontids gained independence from 321 BC until 301 BC when the Kingdom of Armenia fell to the Seleucid Empire.[10] In 212 BC, Xerxes, King of Armenia revolted against the Seleucids but capitulated when besieged at his capital, Arsamasota, by Antiochus III.[11] In 201 BC, Armenia was conquered by Artashes, a general from the Seleucid Empire, and also said to be a member of Orontid dynasty. The last Orontid king Orontes IV was killed, but the Orontids continued to rule in Sophene and Commagene until the 1st century BC.

In two inscriptions of king Antiochus I of Commagene on his monument at Mount Nemrut, Orontes I (son of Artasouras and husband of Artaxerxes' daughter Rhodogoune), is reckoned as an ancestor of the Orontids ruling over Commagene, who traced back their family to Darius the Great.


Despite the Hellenistic invasion of Persia, Persian and local Armenian culture remained the strongest element within society and the elites.[c][12]

The Orontid administration used Aramaic, where it was used in official documents for centuries.[13] Whereas most inscriptions used Old Persian cuneiform.[13] Xenophon used an interpreter to speak to Armenians, while some Armenian villages were conversant in Persian.[13]

The Greek inscriptions at Armavir indicate that the upper classes used Greek as one of their languages.[14] Under Orontes IV (r. ca. 210–200 B.C.), the structure of government had begun to resemble Greek institutions, and Greek was used as the language of the royal court. Orontes IV had surrounded himself by the Hellenized nobility and sponsored the establishment of a Greek school in Armavir, the capital of the Armenian kingdom.[15]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ It is not known whether the Yervandunis were ethnically Armenian. They probably had marriage links to the rulers of Persia and other leading noble houses in Armenia.[6]
  2. ^ Although the origins of the Ervanduni [Orontid] family is not clear, historians suggest dynastic familial linkages to the ruling Achaemenid dynasty in Persia.[7]
  3. ^ The Hellenistic invasion of Persia partially influenced Armenia as well, but Persian and local Armenian culture remained the strongest element within society and the elites.[12]


  1. ^ Russell 1986, p. 51.
  2. ^ Facella 2021; Sartre 2005, p. 23; Strootman 2020, pp. 205, 210; Michels 2021, p. 485; Toumanoff 1963, p. 278; Garsoian 2005; Gaggero 2016, p. 79; Russell 1986, pp. 438–444; Drower et al. 2021; Olbrycht 2021, p. 38; Ball 2002, pp. 31, 436; Canepa 2015, p. 80
  3. ^ Toumanoff 1963, p. 278.
  4. ^ Allsen 2011, p. 37.
  5. ^ Lang 2000, p. 535.
  6. ^ Panossian 2006, p. 35.
  7. ^ a b c Payaslian 2007, p. 8.
  8. ^ Stausberg & de Jong 2015, p. 120.
  9. ^ Canepa 2015, p. 80.
  10. ^ a b Toumanoff 1963, p. 73.
  11. ^ Chahin 1987, p. 190.
  12. ^ a b Panossian 2006, p. 36.
  13. ^ a b c Bournoutian 2006, p. 23.
  14. ^ Manandian 1965, p. 37.
  15. ^ Payaslian 2007, p. 12.


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  • Ball, Warwick (2002). Rome in the East: The Transformation of an Empire. Routledge. ISBN 9781134823871.
  • Bournoutian, George (2006). A Concise History of the Armenian People. California: Mazda Publishers, Inc. p. 23. ISBN 1-56859-141-1. Aramaic, the language of the imperial administration, was introduced into Armenia, where, for centuries, it continued to be used in official documents. Old Persian cuneiform, meanwhile, was used in most inscriptions. Xenophon mentions that he used a Persian interpreter to converse with Armenians and in some Armenian villages they responded in Persian.
  • Canepa, Matthew (2010). "Achaemenid and Seleukid Royal Funerary Practices and Middle Iranian Kingship". In Börm, H.; Wiesehöfer, J. (eds.). Commutatio et Contentio. Studies in the Late Roman, Sasanian, and Early Islamic Near East in Memory of Zeev Rubin. pp. 1–21.
  • Canepa, Matthew P. (2015). "Dynastic Sanctuaries and the Transformation of Iranian Kingship between Alexander and Islam". In Babaie, Sussan; Grigor, Talinn (eds.). Persian Kingship and Architecture: Strategies of Power in Iran from the Achaemenids to the Pahlavis. I.B.Tauris. p. 80. ISBN 978-1848857513. Iranian culture deeply influenced Armenia, and Iranian dynasties ruled Armenia during several important periods, including the Orontids (c. sixth century - c. early second century BCE) and Arsacids (54-428 CE).
  • Chahin, M. (1987). The Kingdom of Armenia: A History. Curzon Press.
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  • Facella, Margherita (2021). "Orontids". In Yarshater, Ehsan (ed.). Encyclopædia Iranica, Online Edition. Encyclopædia Iranica Foundation.
  • Gaggero, Gianfranco (2016). "Armenians in Xenophon". Greek Texts and Armenian Traditions: An Interdisciplinary Approach. De Gruyter. The above mentioned Orontids..[..]..but also because the two satraps who were contemporaries of Xenophon's are explicitly stated to be Persian.
  • Garsoian, N. (2005). "TIGRAN II". Encyclopaedia Iranica. Tigran (Tigranes) II was the most distinguished member of the so-called Artašēsid/Artaxiad dynasty, which has now been identified as a branch of the earlier Eruandid [Orontid] dynasty of Iranian origin attested as ruling in Armenia from at least the 5th century B.C.E
  • Hovannisian, Richard G. (1997). The Armenian People from Ancient to Modern Times. Vol. I: The Dynastic Periods: From Antiquity to the Fourteenth Century. Palgrave Macmillan. ..but the existence of a local Armenian dynasty, probably of Iranian origin..
  • Stausberg, Michael; de Jong, Albert (2015). "Armenian and Georgian Zoroastrianism". The Wiley Blackwell Companion to Zoroastrianism. John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. p. 119-128.
  • Lang, David M. (2000). "Iran, Armenia and Georgia". In Yarshater, Ehsan (ed.). The Cambridge History of Iran, Volume 3: The Seleucid, Parthian and Sasanid Periods. Cambridge University Press. p. 535. ISBN 0-521-20092-X. The most striking example of the syncretism of gods in ancient Parthia actually occurs in a former Armenian satellite kingdom, namely Commagene, the modern Malatya district. Here a scion of the Armenian Orontid house, King Antiochus I (69 — 38 B.C.) built himself a funeral hill at Nimrud Dagh.(..) We see the king's paternal ancestors, traced back to the Achaemenian monarch Darius, son of Hystaspes, while Greek inscriptions record the dead ruler's connections with the Armenian dynasty of the Orontids.
  • Manandian, Hagop (1965). The Trade and Cities of Armenia in Relation to Ancient World Trade. Armenian library of the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation. p. 37.
  • Michels, Christoph (2021). "'Achaemenid' and 'Hellenistic' Strands of Representation in the Minor Kingdoms of Asia Minor". Common Dwelling Place of all the Gods: Commagene in its Local, Regional, and Global Context. Franz Steiner Verlag. pp. 475–496. ISBN 978-3515129251.
  • Olbrycht, Marek Jan (2021). Early Arsakid Parthia (ca. 250-165 B.C.). Brill. ISBN 978-9004460751.
  • Panossian, Razmik (2006). The Armenians From Kings and Priests to Merchants and Commissars. United Kingdom: Columbia University Press. pp. 35. ISBN 9781850657880. It is not known whether the Yervandunis were ethnically Armenian. They probably had marriage links to the rulers of Persia and other leading noble houses in Armenia.
  • Payaslian, Simon (2007). The history of Armenia : from the origins to the present (1st ed.). New York: Palgrave Macmillan. p. 8-9. ISBN 978-1403974679.
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  • Sartre, Maurice (2005). The Middle East Under Rome. Harvard University Press. p. 23. ISBN 978-0674016835. The Commagene kings claimed to be descended from the Orontids, a powerful Iranian family that had ruled the area during the Achaemenid period. They were related to the Achaemenids who had built a kingdom (...)
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  • Toumanoff, Cyril (1963). Studies in Christian Caucasian history. Washington D.C.: Georgetown University Press. p. 278. The eponym's praenomen Orontes is as Iranian as the dynasty itself..
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