Artaxias II, also known as Artaxes II and Artashes (Armenian: Արտաշես Երկրորդ, birth 60s BC – murdered 20 BC) was a Prince of the Kingdom of Armenia and member of the Artaxiad Dynasty who served as a Roman Client King of Armenia from 33 BC until 20 BC.
Family background and early life
Artaxias II was the eldest son of Artavasdes II of Armenia by an unnamed mother and was the namesake of his paternal ancestor, a previous ruling Armenian King Artaxias I. Artaxias II had two siblings: a younger brother called Tigranes III and an unnamed sister who possibly married King Archelaus of Cappadocia. He was born and raised in Armenia.
Artaxias II ascended to the Armenian throne in 34 BC as he regained the throne lost by his father. The Roman Triumvir Mark Antony, had captured Artavasdes II with his family, in which they were taken as political prisoners to Alexandria where Artavasdes II was later executed there on the orders of Ptolemaic Greek Queen Cleopatra VII of Egypt. Artaxias II had escaped and fled to King Phraates IV of Parthia. Phraates IV invaded Armenia and place Artaxias II on the throne. After ascending to the Armenian throne and regaining the country, with the support of Phraates IV, Artaxias II was successful in a military campaign against Artavasdes I of Media Atropatene, a former enemy of Artavasdes II. From this moment on, Artaxias II became pro-Parthian and anti-Roman.
Artaxias II the young King who was spiteful and vengeful, massacred the remaining Roman garrison and slaughtered all the Roman traders in Armenia, as these acts went unavenged. A possible consequence of this action, when Artaxias II sent emissaries in Rome to try to secure the release of his family then in Roman captivity and the Roman emperor Augustus refused Artaxias II’s request.
Artaxias II proved to be an unpopular leader with his people. As the Armenians lost faith in their ruling monarch, they sent messengers to Augustus requesting him to remove Artaxias II from his throne and to install his brother, Tigranes III as his successor. In 20 BC, Tigranes III had lived in Rome for 10 years. Augustus agreed to the request from the Armenians. Augustus sent his step-son Tiberius, with Tigranes III with a large army to depose Artaxias II. Before Tiberius and Tigranes III arrived in Armenia, a cabal within the palace was successful in murdering Artaxias II. The Romans installed Tigranes III as the new King of Armenia unopposed.