The Legend of Tigranes the Great

Through Armenia’s long history, many kings have ruled the territory with better or worse results. However, Tigranes II, also known as Tigranes the Great, is the most remembered one. Supposedly he  was the most powerful, wise and brave king the land ever had.


He was born in 140 BC and he reigned from 95 BC to 55 B.C. During this time he saw the Armenian kingdom grow from the shores of the Mediterranean Sea to the ones of the Caspian Sea, all through the Caucasian lands. “Sea to Sea Armenia” is still a popular expression used by Armenians to refer at the times in which Armenia occupied such a great deal of land. He made the country so prosper and rich that it is said the humble merchants were able to trade commercial activities with real gold and silver pieces, and the peasant women would decorate themselves with expensive stones and jewels, and wore dresses made from the highest quality of colorful fabric.

The Armenian army also grew considerably under his command. He invested a lot of effort in the training of the soldiers, getting them horses and preparing them to be skillful archers. He provided the army with hard, impenetrable shields and steel undefeatable weapons. The legend says that when Tigranes’ enemies saw the Armenian army shining under the sun due to their shields, they were left awestruck, and therefore the Armenians had advantage to shatter their rivals.


The Legend of Tigranes the Great
Coins of the time with Tigranes’ face. Photo by Narek.


He fought wars against the Parthians and Seleucids, in what is today Syria, and later with the Roman Empire. So much was his strength in battle, that the Roman army could not defeat him, so they decided to send one of their greatest warriors, the General Pompey, to defeat Tigranes the Great. Pompey made a deal with Tigranes’ son, also named Tigranes, and they marched together into Armenia. Tigranes the Great, at the age of 75 years, decided then to surrender, allowing the reconciliation of Armenia with the Roman Empire through his son’s deal.  He continued to rule Armenia as anally of Rome until his death.


The legend of Tigranes the Great
The Armenian Empire under the rule of Tigranes. Map by Armenica.Org.

King Tigranes the Great was a powerful warrior, but he was also a wise man. Despite his royal position, he liked to live in a humble way, with no luxury as he preferred to provide this to his people. Among his subjects he was known to be sincere and to always behave exemplary, including during celebrations and feasts where Armenian wine would run uncontrollably.

He treated his servants with respect and he had them in high regard, which explains their loyalty to the king, and he used to hold fair trials even for his enemies.

Could this king be so absolutely flawless? The legend of Tigranes the Great explains what the source of all his power and wisdom was. The King had one eccentric habit: a weird obsession with waterfalls. Every time that he and his army were marching back from a foreign land into Armenia, he always insisted that the way home should include at least one waterfall, even if that meant a longer distance.

After arriving to the waterfall, he would jump on it and have a long bath in the cold, sparkling water. After his mandatory waterfall bath, the army could return home, and the King would always arrive to his palace well refreshed after a battle.

The Legend of Tigranes the Great
Armenian waterfalls. Photo by Ogannes.

For a long time nobody dared to ask him about this strange habit. With such a fair, powerful and sober king, they were happy enough not to question him about his one only eccentricity. Also the king’s Spartan character did not involve giving explanations about his personal habits.  However, one of his loyal servants was defeated by curiosity and finally dared to ask the King about his need to visit waterfalls after a battle. The King decided to answer by revealing a big secret about the magic of Armenian waters: “I bathe in the waterfalls so that the foreign dust upon me may be washed away, so that I may again enjoy all that is Armenian and feel the spirit of my ancestors. The water in Armenia gives me strength and power for new battles ahead.”

The Legend of Tigranes the Great
Statue of Tigranes the Great. Photo by Levon Tokmajyan.


So now you know the ancient secret of Armenian waterfalls: If you want to be as strong and wise as the great king Tigranes, do not forget to bath yourself in an Armenian waterfall during your trip through the Caucasus. You will not regret it!


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