ANTONY, MARK, Roman general (ca. 82-30 B.C.; Figure 1) who led a campaign in Armenia during the Parthian period. Following the defeat of Crassus at Carrhae (Ḥarrān) in 53 B.C., the Roman leadership sought a war of revenge. After Mark Antony became master of the East through a pact with Octavian (the future emperor Augustus) at Brundisium in 40 B.C., he began preparations for a campaign against the Parthians (Plutarch Caesar 58.6; Appian Bella civilia 2.110; Suetonius Julius 44.6. See also J. Carcopino, Les étapes de l’impérialisme romain, Paris, 1961, pp. 168-69; H. Bengtson, “Zum Partherfeldzug des Antonius,” Sb. der Bayr. Ak. Wiss., Phil.-hist. Kl., 1974, 1, pp. 4-9). According to a plan already devised by Julius Caesar, the prospective route passed through Armenia Minor and hence through Armenia Major. To ensure the success of the expedition, the Romans needed an alliance with the king of Armenia Major, Artavazdes II, who had drawn perceptibly near to the Parthians after the battle of Carrhae. It was also necessary to deal with the Iberians and Albanians of Transcaucasia, who had been subdued by Pompey in 65 B.C. but had later rebelled against Roman domination; the pacification of these strategically important countries was entrusted to Canidius Crassus, who quickly and successfully fulfilled the task in late 37 and early 36 B.C. Antony and a large army reached Zeugma Balqīs (opposite the present Bīreǰek) on the Euphrates in the early spring of 36 B.C. (Dio Cassius Historia Romana 49.25). Strabo (Geography 11.13.4) and Plutarch (Antony 38.1) agree in reckoning the length of Antony’s march from Zeugma to Atropatene (Azerbaijan) as 8,000 stadia (about 1,480 km). On the basis of this credible estimate, many scholars have inferred that Antony marched from Zeugma up the Euphrates through Melitene (Malaṭīa) and Armenia Minor to the district of Carana (Karin, the present Erzurum) near the river’s sources (J. Kromayer, in Hermes 31, 1896, p. 76; T. Rice Holmes, Architect of the Roman Empire I, Oxford, 1925, p. 123 and map; W. Tarn, in CAH X, p. 73; N. C. Debevoise, Political History of Parthia, Chicago, 1938, p. 124; Bengtson, “Partherfeldzug,” pp. 21f.). The district’s geographical situation made it suitable for mustering the troops that were to be supplied by the allied rulers. It is also possible that the army assembled in the Araxes valley near Artaxata. The Armenian king Artavazdes brought the biggest contingent of 6,000 fully equipped and armored cavalry and 7,000 infantry (Strabo Geography 11.14.9; Plutarch Antony 37.4, 50.4).

Knowing that the king of Atropatene, also called Artavazdes, and his troops were away with the Parthians, the Armenian king persuaded Antony to attack Atropatene (Dio Cassius 49.25), which was under Parthian suzerainty. Antony, after reviewing the troops, then set out for Atropatene by a route that Artavazdes had recommended to him (Strabo 11.13.4). Scholars infer that Antony and the bulk of the army followed the caravan route through Diyadin, Bāyazīd, Naḵǰavān, Jolfā (or Artaxata-Naḵǰavān-Jolfa, see above), and Marand, and then skirted the shore of the Urmia salt lake (see Kromayer, in Hermes, pp. 84f.; Bengtson, “Partherfeldzug,” pp. 23-24; criticism in A. N. Sherwin-White, Roman Foreign Policy in the East, London, 1984, pp. 298-321). The legate Oppius Statianus, who was in charge of the baggage train, and the King Artavazdes took an easier but longer route (perhaps the great Artaxata-Ecbatana road). When this convoy entered Atropatene, it was suddenly attacked by a body of Parthian horsemen sent by the Parthian king Phraates IV, killing 10,000 legionnaires and destroying the siege engines. Artavazdes, together with his own cavalry, had prudently retreated and thus was not involved in the fight (Plutarch Antony 38-39.1; Dio Cassius Historia Romana 49.27.4-5). In Antony’s camp the Armenian king’s hasty retreat with all his forces was construed as treason. A pro-Antony bias, however, can he detected in both Strabo (Geography 11.13.4, 4.15) and Plutarch (Antony 39.1, 50.3-4), whose accounts, based on a report written by Antony’s friend and companion on the campaign, Quintus Dellius, with the primary aim of masking Antony’s mismanagement of the expedition and putting the blame for its failure on Artavazdes (see the comments of A. von Gutschmid, Geschichte Irans und seiner Nachbarländer, Tübingen, 1888, p. 97 n. 3; H. Bengtson, “Partherfeldzug,” pp. 10-11).

Antony, however, proceeded with his march toward Phraata/Praaspa (probably the present Marāḡa, or less probably Ganzak/Taḵt-e Solaymān), the well-fortified capital of Atropatene with its fortress Vera, where the wife and children of Artavazdes resided. Laying siege to Phraata, Antony tried to make up for the loss of his engines, by having mounds of earth thrown up against the city walls, which were defended by a strong garrison. The siege dragged on for some time without much success. Finally, suffering from shortage of supplies and ceaselessly harassed by the Parthian and Atropatenian cavalry, Antony realized his defeat and decided to abandon the siege. Using a certain Mardian (or Marsus, see Camb. Hist. Iran III/1, pp. 61-62), who knew the country well, as its guide, the army started twenty-seven days of exhausting, excruciating retreat along a difficult, mountainous road, while constantly harried by the Parthian cavalry for much of the journey. More lives were lost, but finally the army reached the river Araxes (at Jolfā?), which then marked the frontier between Atropatene and Armenia Major (Strabo Geography 11.13.3; Plutarch Antony 39, 40, 49.5; Debevoise, A Political History, pp. 121-31; Camb. Hist. Iran III/1, pp. 58-66).

Antony’s soldiers rejoiced to be back on Armenian soil (Plutarch Antony 49.5). At the subsequent troop review, 24,000 men were found to be missing. Artavazdes, despite his equivocal attitude, was still officially treated as Rome’s main ally. Antony disguised his resentment and continued to make friendly gestures with the aim of getting Artavazdes to contribute necessary food supplies and funds, but he inwardly intended to punish the king for his behavior if circumstances became more favorable (Plutarch Antony 50.5; Dio Cassius Historia Romana 49.31.1-2). The march through the mountains of Armenia in an icy winter was particularly arduous; when Antony’s army reached Syria, its strength was greatly reduced (Plutarch Antony 51.1-2).

After returning to Alexandria, Antony, no doubt goaded by Cleopatra, made persistent efforts to lure and catch Artavazdes, but the mistrustful Armenian king found pretexts to refuse the Roman general’s invitations. In the spring of 34 B.C. Antony again marched into Armenia, heading for Artaxata, the capital of Armenia Major. He sent Quintus Dellius ahead to set a trap for the king. In response to a pressing request, Artavazdes went to the Roman camp, where he was arrested (Dio Cassius Historia Romana 49.39.3-4; Livy Periochae 133; Tacitus Annals 2.3.2). At first he was left unfettered because Antony, who coveted the Armenian royal treasures, needed information from him on where to find them (Dio Cassius 49.39.5). If credence can be given to the 5th century writer Orosius (Contra paganos 6.19.3f.), Antony extracted the necessary information about Armenia by force and stormed a castle, from which he took a quantity of gold and silver.

When the Armenians heard about the arrest of their king, they rose up in arms and enthroned Artaxias II, the eldest son of Artavazdes. In reprisal, according to Dio Cassius (49.39.6 and 40.1), Antony not only fettered his prisoner with silver chains but also occupied and garrisoned the whole country, while Artaxias fled to the Parthians. In reality Antony’s successes in Armenia must have been more limited. It is most unlikely that Armenia became a Roman province for two years, as stated by W. W. Tarn (CAH X, p. 78). All that is certain is that the campaign of 34 B.C. brought in plenty of booty. When Antony’s soldiers passed through Eriza (Erēz) in Akilisenē, they pillaged the temple of Anaitis (Anāhitā, q.v.) and smashed the golden image of the goddess, sharing its fragments among themselves (Pliny Naturalis Historia 33.82-83).

King Artavazdes and his wife and sons were taken to Alexandria and placed under the custody of Cleopatra. In the following year (33 B.C.), Antony reappeared on the Araxes for a meeting with the king of Atropatene, another Artavazdes, who was in revolt against his Parthian suzerain and had betrothed his daughter to one of Antony’s sons. Antony ceded to his new ally a part of the territory of Armenia (Dio Cassius Historia Romana 49.44.1-2), apparently including the frontier district named Symbake in Strabo’s Geography (11.13.3). (On the probable cession of Symbake by Antony and its date, see Von Gutschmid, Geschichte, p. 101; P. Asdourian, Die politischen Beziehungen, p. 63 n. 3; F. Grosso, “La Media Atropatene,” pp. 244-47; A. Schieber, “Antony and Parthia,” pp. 121-24).

Before long, the turn of events at Rome forced Antony to withdraw his troops from Armenia (Dio Cassius Historia Romana 51.16.2). Artavazdes II of Armenia was beheaded in Egypt at Cleopatra’s command in 30 B.C. Throughout this campaign Antony showed no clear perception of how to fight the Parthians nor any consistent strategic plan or political aim. His losses—probably ca. 32,000 men in all—inflicted a serious blow on Roman manpower (cf. Sherwin-White, Roman Foreign Policy, pp. 320-21).



See also J. Kromayer, “Forschungen zur Geschichte des II. Triumvirats IV. Der Partherfeldzug des Antonius,” Hermes 31, 1896, pp. 71-104 (Figure 2).

Idem, Antike Schlachtfelder IV, Berlin, 1931, pp. 121f. with map.

P. Asdourian, Die politischen Beziehungen zwischen Armenien und Rom, Venice, 1911.

L. Craven, Antony’s Oriental Policy until the Defeat of the Parthian Expedition, University of Missouri Studies. Social Sciences Series 3, 1920.

A. Günther, Beiträge zur Geschichte der Kriege zwischen Römern und Parthen, Berlin, 1922.

V. Minorsky, “Roman and Byzantine Campaigns in Atropatene,” BSOAS 11, 1943-45, pp. 243-65.

A. N. Sherwin-White, Roman Foreign Policy in the East, London, 1984, pp. 298-321.

H. Buchheim, “Die Orientpolitik des Triumvirn M. Antonius,” Abh. Heidelb. Ak. Wiss. 3, 1960.

H. Bengtson, “Zum Partherfeldzug des Antonius,” Sb. der Bayr. Ak. Wiss., Phil.-hist. Kl., 1, 1974.

Idem, Marcus Antonius. Triumvir und Herrscher des Orients, Munich, 1977.

A. S. Schieber, “Antony and Parthia,” Rivista storica dell’antichità 9, 1979, pp. 105-24.

(M. L. Chaumont)

Originally Published: December 15, 1986

Last Updated: August 5, 2011

This article is available in print.
Vol. II, Fasc. 2, pp. 136-138