The Artaxiad (pronounced Artashes in Armenian) was a royal dynasty of ancient Armenia. They are believed to have been related to the older dynasty the Orontids (Yervanduni in Armenian), and ruled the Kingdom of Armenia from 189 BC until their overthrow by the Romans in AD 12. Under king Tigranes II the Great of the Artaxiad dynasty Armenia has become an empire after he subdued both the Seleucid and the Parthian empires. His coins, along with those of his relative Antiochus I of the Armenian kingdom of Commagene, today are best surviving examples of the flag/coat of arms of the Artaxiad dynasty.
Previously I have attempted to examine the shape of the Artaxiad Tiara (effectively demonstrating that it was shaped like a triangular prism rather than a cylinder) and reconstruct the face of Tigranes the Great by combining as many coins with his bust as I could gather. Both of these undertakings I have initiated due to my discomfort of the inaccurate depictions in popular media and the internet. However, for quite some time now I have also been bothered by the way the Artaxiad flag/coat of arms have been portrayed in popular media. Be it logo’s, posters, book covers, or more recently popular series, they almost always use the design of the Artaxiad flag from Wikipedia. Which is quite inaccurate from the historic point of view, not to mention its artistic deficiencies. Either that or even less accurate reconstructions, which can often be seen in paintings, prints and statues. See bellow some examples:
Now I shouldn’t be too critical of the wikipedia design, after all it’s a worthy attempt and has been published free of copyrights by the author, which is commendable. But most of all I am glad that at least someone put in the effort to recreate and depict the coat of arms of the great Artaxiad dynasty. No I am not at all criticizing the author or any other artist who has attempted a recreation, I actually like much of his work that I’ve seen online. What I am disappointed about though is the fact that since the creation of this flag in 2009, for already 8 years, no one has attempted to recreate a better one. One could only wander what our historians, illustrators and artists are illustrating if not the flag/coat of arms of the most famous and successful Armenian dynasty in our entire history. I can’t say I’m a great artist or illustrator myself, but I will attempt to reconstruct the flag/coat of arms of the Artaxiad royal house to the best of my abilities, which include attention to detail, historic research and academic rigor.
And while we’re at it, let’s bust another myth popularized by Wikipedia. The map of the empire that Tigranes conquered is not as it’s depicted on his wikipedia page. In fact the content clearly describes how Tigranes conquered and ascended both the thrones of the Seleucid and the Parthian empires. Most of the territories of these empires are wrongfully not included in the map used for wikipedia. See bellow a comparison of the false wikipedia map and the most accurate map of Tigranes’s II empire based on the records of several Greco-Roman sources including Strabo, Plutarch, and Pliny. Tigranes was after all called the King of Kings by authors in the antiquity, a title even the Parthian King did not receive. All those kingdoms fell under his rule, making him an emperor. If we’re to believe the incorrect wikipedia map he couldn’t have had a title superseding the Parthians or be eligible to be called the King of Kings.
Now that we’ve got that out of the way, let us look first at the sources that I have used for my reconstruction and my final thoughts on why I’ve chosen the particular art style.
Let us first examine some of the evidence we have depicting the Artaxiad royal emblems. First and foremost we have many illustrations of eagles flanking a star as seen on the coins of Tigranes the Great and his relative Antiochus I of Commagene. See a compilation bellow:
These illustrations are of course important evidence for the shape of the royal coat of arms, but they are not very detailed because of their small size as used on Tigranes’s coins. So let us look at some other depictions of eagles and stars from the same era as used by the members of the Artaxiad family.
Thus I have used these images (and more) to comprise the shape. For example I have traced the shapes from coins as seen above and combined them with the more detailed illustrations of eagles from other artifacts of the Artaxiad era.
Another impotent icon of the design is the star. If we look at the star illustrated on most coins, we might assume that it’s supposed to be shaped like a flower. That’s exactly how the wikipedia design of the Artaxiad flag has been illustrated. However this is wrong! Let me explain why. Perhaps due to the delicate nature of the coins and the available techniques at the time both of the endings of the rays look pointy. However if we look at some of the more detailed examples and examples from statues such as those of Antiochus I Theos of Commagene we can clearly see that the star depicted on his clothes, on slabs representing constellations and even on his Artaxiad family tiara, supposed to have pointy endings but rounded center. See some of the examples bellow.
In addition we should consider the art style of the Hellenistic age in general, which clearly shows stars depicted with rounded rays from the center to more pointy ends. Similar to the star design of Alexander the Great.
Interestingly enough the creators of the popular video game Rome Total War II got the Artaxiad star right (well partially right, they did decrease the size of half of the rays for some unknown reason). This is how they depicted the Artaxiad faction flag in the video game. See icon bellow.[UPDATE] Thanks to Narek Hovhannisyan‘s accurate feedback I have increased sizes of the eagles to fit better with the depictions on the coins and retraced the star from the most detailed coin of the Artaxiad familly, that of Artavasdes II (son of Tigranes), see illustration bellow.
Yet another important aspect of the flag is the color. So I ask myself; what colors were originally used for the Artaxiad flag? Well, the best evidence for the colors I was able to find is from a very interesting book titled: “Nemrud Dagi: Recent Archaeological Research and Preservation and Restoration Activities in the Tomb Sanctuary on Mount Nemrud” The author of this book describes in great detail all of the research done on the monuments of one of the Artaxiad family members at mount Nemrut. The statues of deities and those of Antiochus I Theos of Commagene used to be brightly colored and researchers have found traces of pigmentation on the limestone.
Regarding the colors on the Armenian tiara seen on the statue of Antiochus I, the author remarks the following:
“A tiara or a divine or royal cloak or mantle devoid of all the colour, did not impress the viewer. Tiaras and royal garments should have regal colours, like purplish red or blue, and be decorated with golden brocade or embroidery, such as stars, floral patterns, etc, as indicated by the representations on the relief stelae (see fig. 49-52). The vertical rows of discs (sculpted in low relief) on the front and back ridges of all the tiaras suggest appliques of gold-plate discs; their colour is golden yellow. Surely, Antiochus I’s Armenian tiara was not plain but must have been decorated with the golden-yellow thunderbolt, lion, eagle, or star, just as the relief stelae and coins with Antiochus’ portrait indicate (gold-embroidered in reality).”
See bellow for a reconstruction based on research at mount Nemrut.
Another interesting source of evidence of ancient royal headgear in general can be seen on Scythian artifacts found in kurgan burials. See several examples bellow:
What we see here is that it was quite common to use bright red as the base color of the headgear on which golden decorations were applied. We can assume that this wasn’t just limited to the Scythian culture.
Another example I would like to mention is the flag of the Roman Empire at the time. Let us look at that flag, since it was the contemporary adversary of Tigranes the Great and his royal Artaxiad dynasty. Most common reconstructions of the flag/banner of the Roman Empire look something like this:
So if we take all of this into consideration, including the fact that Armenia, since antiquity, was a rich source of the red dye for the entire ancient world, due to a particular cochineal found almost exclusively on the Araratian plains as I have explained in several earlier posts such as: The search for the Armenian color – Vordan Karmir and The Red Color of Armenian Garments and Rugs, we can safely assume that the royal banners, flags and tiaras of the Artaxiad family would have used a deep crimson red color (known as the Vordan Karmir) as a base and decorated with golden illustrations such as a star at the center flanked with two reverse looking eagles. The Armenian red dye was in use as early as 714 B.C., when the Neo-Assyrian king Sargon II was recorded as seizing red textiles as spoils of war from the kingdoms of Urartu/Ararat and Kilhu. The Roman-era physician and pharmacologist Dioscorides, writing in the 1st century A.D., noted that the best insects from which the red dye was created came from Armenia.
Therefore in my opinion the flag as seen in the wikipedia article has a bit too much purple and too little gold. I’ve decided to correct this in my reconstruction.
The art style of the time was heavily influenced by Hellenistic art which was market by anatomical realism. This means that the flag/coat of arms of the Artaxiad family most probably supposed to look very realistic. We can see some of it in some coins with more details. We can see clear signs of feathers and other small details. We also see the same level of details on the medallions, statues and other artifacts of the era.
However for the purpose of using it online and modernizing its iconic appeal, I have chosen to deviate a little bit from the classical realism and have created a more of a 2D Art Deco style logotype. Which ironically looks a lot like the Urartian era art. I have chose this particular style for a few reasons:
1) It’s easily recognizable as a flag and/or coat of arms.
2) This style looks good in all colors against all kinds of backgrounds.
3) It can also be seen in the antiquity
For example the statues at mount Nemrut also show some form of less realistic illustrations. The eagle and the lion seated next to Antiochus’s statue aren’t very anatomically realistic, nor is the large eagle’s head as seen on the left.
In conclusion I have to say that this post is in no way a critique of the previous reconstructions floating around the internet, even if by now it might seem as such. I am glad that artists put in the time and effort to reconstruct the flag, however we shouldn’t be afraid to look at them critically and improve when necessary. My main concern is that certain incorrect illustrations are used in popular media and take on a life of their own. I hope that in the future we will keep improving the illustrations of our ancient past, and I would invite our artists and historians to take on this challenge. So considering all of the above mentioned shapes, colors, styles and to the best of my artistic abilities I have reconstructed the following image of the flag/coat of arms of the Artaxiad royal dynasty.
Before I leave you with the files in several formats, I also want to mention that I release this design under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license. This means it can be used by anyone for whatever purpose they see fit, I only ask to be attributed in the sources as PeopleOfAr and/or linked in the description.
So let me know in the comment section what you think of the design, this post in general and if you’d like me to reconstruct any other flags.
Or download the vector file >>HERE<<
Some Armenians believe the double-headed eagle insignia, flag, coat-of-arms was invented in Armenia, and that Byzantium borrowed it and passed it to the Slavs. From there it spread to other parts of Europe.
I have also read that the origin of the double-headed is Sumerian.
Does anyone know the true story?
I believe the double-headed eagle insignia is traced to the Hittite or even older the Hattian kingdoms of central Anatolia. Here is one example from an Hittite monument. http://www.greatcommission.com/hittite/AlacahoyukIMG_0763.JPG Generally in Anatolian/Armenian and Assyrian art polycephalous mythological creatures were quite common in the antiquity. It is not unfair to say that this image emerged in that region, who was the first is hard to tell I think, but it was used by the people in and around the Armenian Highlands. The Byzantines indeed adopted it, and later spread to the Russian kingdom due to its Byzantine orthodoxy. In Armenia however… Read more »
I forgot to add that ancient Paphlaogonia also contains the ancient River Parthanieus (largest in Anatolia). Parthanieus = Parthians
Additionally, My belief is that the first Egyptians were actually Armenian. The Egyptian correlation I provided in the previous post is linked to the ancient Egyptian “Hawk City” known as Nekhen /ˈnɛkən/ or Hierakonpolis (again Linguistically one can see the close connection to Hayk. Hierakonpolis was built by the the Amratian culture, named by scholars after the archaeological site of el-Amra, located around 120 km (75 mi) south of Badari in Upper Egypt.
The double headed eagle originates from ancient Paphlagonia (this is actually where the Byzantine Emperor adopted it as the coat of arms for the empire). The “eagle” used in Parthian and Armenian iconagraphy is actually the “Falcon” (connected to the Horus Falcon). In fact one of the very early Pharaoh’s Serekh Cartouche (Pharaoh Khasekhem in 2690BC) shows two Falcons perched facing each other standing on two peaks (the Egyptian glyph indicating the Kings origin / reign from a Mountain Region) and also contains the Persian 4 ray sun symbol placed in between them (I personally do not believe this to… Read more »
Long before the Paphlagonians existed people of Armenian Highlands and the rest of Anatolia used double headed eagle as a symbol. Especially the Hittites. Here are a few examples. http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-OIyLClwYRpE/UkBbPTxh9II/AAAAAAAAHuQ/T3n4XDs8BYA/s1600/h-6.JPG
Hi People Of Ar, I’ve been following your posts for years, thank you for everything you do, this is amazing. I’m not a historian but as an Armenian it’s very interesting for me to discover more and more stunning facts about our history, culture, genetics. And for sure you should reconstruct more Armenian(royal or other) flags!!!!!!!!! Also it would be nice if you could download this reconstructed flag and map to Wikipedia. By the way have you seen the video saying that our recent coat of arms of the Republic of Armenia is not designed according to Heraldry(scitentific branch that… Read more »
Thank you! No I haven’t seen that video, but it wouldn’t surprise me, the current Armenian coat of arms is riddled with inaccuracies, and I’m not even talking about the heraldic flaws. Do you by any chance have a link to this video?
And yes I will add it to Wikipedia, but first I will wait a while and see if people have some critique or some feedback for improvement. If not then I will replace the one on wikipedia with this one yes.
Thank you very much for replying to my comment. I have one more question , very very interesting for me to know, what do you think: the coat of arms of the RA shoud be reconstructed or totally replaced. I am for recontrustruction , and if you’re for replacement what would tou suggest instead?
Yeah totally agree, I think it needs some upgrades. I wouldn’t replace it, it’s a very interesting design as it is and the style resembles that of Urartu, which I rather like, but it certainly is flawed and needs to be corrected.
Thank you very much for answers!!!!
Do you mean this video? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hO4BMO7HpMA
lol wow that’s nice to see someone noticed. Yes our coat of arms is utterly inaccurate, including the 4 images of the major Armenian dynasties. Including the false Artaxiad star which looks like a flower in our current coat of arms. The one sketch they showed from this guy (see screenshot) actually looks very similar to the reconstruction of Artaxiad coat of arms that I made here above. It’s much better than we have on our current coat of arms yes: However artistically there are still many improvements to be made with his design. I don’t think what he had… Read more »
The work you are doing is very important and I am very grateful, that someone like you is interested in doing such amazing works. Thank you very much, for all your hard work. I wish I could discuss things with you, so we could share some of our experiences with each other. I am myself working on the reconstructions,currently on Erebuni fortress in 3D dimensional, including the reconstruction of all its murals etc. There are very few people that are interested in such things.
Dear Rouben, that sounds great! You can contact me at email@example.com or leave a PM my facebook page, I usually reply fairly quick. https://www.facebook.com/peopleofar/
What do you think about the flag of Arshakuni? Can you clarify?
I am not very fond of that reconstruction either. I think it is flawed as well.
Those pigeon flags gotta go. :I
Awesome work admin! I really like it. I myself considered making some banner reconstructions but it will take a while before I can make a proper one (I’m not an artist). I’m amazed how little our historians/artists reconstruct parts of our history. When I try to find what our ancient arms and armors looked like I can only find very little material.
I have however found a video of a blacksmith in Artsakh who reconstructed some things like for example Vartan Mamikonians helmet, and other arms. (https://youtu.be/BReiliycXQ0?t=18m) I hope more blacksmiths in Armenia follow his example…
Thanks for you comment, and yes there is still too little done in this respect. As for the reconstruction of Vartan Mamikonians helmet, it is actually false. For some reason everyone copies this one illustrated engraving that appeared in books and postcards in the 19th century. It is used everywhere from paintings to sculptures to comic books to coins, to stamps etc…. Here a few examples: http://www.houshamadyan.org/typo3temp/pics/4b50149299.jpg And the list goes on and on, just Google his name and all the illustrations except for a very few once will show this guy in a Greco-Roman helmet. And now comes the… Read more »
Sorry I accidentally forgot to hit the reply button… But was getting too off topic there. I still had a question about your flag reconstruction. Wouldn’t it make more sense if the flag had a square shape? Like the Roman banner? Whenever a flag reconstruction is made people make it a rectangular flag because that’s what we see in modern times. However in ancient times there existed no such thing as standard national flags. People of high status and military units had their own banners. Back then flags and banners had all kinds of shapes and sizes. But I think… Read more »
No you didn’t get anything wrong, you’re absolutely right about the banner being square. And yes it was not a flag but rather a family logo. That’s a good observation!
I would have to somewhat disagree, the Armenian general and sparapet have been shown to wear helmet of that nature, the helmet itself looks like a mix between Assyrian and Greco-Roman, which would have probably been pretty accurate. Although the average soldier could of possibly worn conical helmets’ like this, https://tinyurl.com/ycs8sgbs , with the elite soldiers having the additions of horse hairs colored red on their tips. I do still think that the brown cloth he put on the helmet was just a creative add on, not historical. But I could also argue his reconstruction is 100 times more realistic… Read more »
Could you show a picture of a helmet or a manuscript of a sparapet from the era wearing such a helmet? I am quite curious.
Thanks for your response admin. I was actually aware that his helmet design wasn’t accurate and that he used that engraving on his wall as his inspiration for the helmet. I forgot to mention that. The chainmail design on his wall looks it has a Khevsur/Chechen design. The other chainmail design in the video looks Persian/Moghul style. I’m not sure if Armenians even wore armor like that: http://www.strangehistory.net/blog/wp-content/uploads/2010/06/khevsur-1.jpg But the helmet wasn’t actually my main point of sending that link. I wanted to point out that there is a blacksmith who at least tries to reconstruct some things and that… Read more »
Yes I am not judging either, just an observation that I have made a while ago about Vartans helmet. As for Armenian armor, well there is a simple explanation to this really. And that is Armenians were not allowed to have weapons or posses armor for almost 700 years of Ottoman occupation. Khevsurs (the Georgians) and other Caucasians lived under Russian rule which did not impose such discriminatory laws. In fact Armenians weren’t even allowed to wear yellow shoes in the Ottoman empire. Armenians were second class citizens, we had no rights in the court, were not allowed to even… Read more »
That’s true. But what I actually meant is that we kind of have no idea what our ancient/medieval soldiers looked like. It’s true that our warrior culture slowly died out during Ottoman occupation. However, Greeks were under Ottoman occupation too and we know what their ancient soldiers looked like. Same for the Romans. We know what Greek and Roman soldiers looked like, but not Ancient Armenian soldiers. We know what medieval French, English and German soldiers looked like, but not Bagratuni Armenian and Cilician soldiers (apart from that one stone carving on Akhtamar). And their museums are full with survived… Read more »
Well those are images of Greek/Roman helmets from BC. But how did the Medieval Greek armor look like? It was Byzantine! Which is exactly how our armor looked like, no difference at all. After Byzantium fell however there was also nothing left of Greek armor. 90% of historic Armenian territory is still under occupation by Turks. So anything they find on our land they call Byzantine or worse Turkish. Their museums are filled with Armenian artifacts including armor. The Urartian era armor was influenced by different art style so it is very unique and therefore hard to misconstrue. But I… Read more »
Thanks for clearing that up. I’ve heard about the photo ban. I can kind of understand why they do it. I’ll make sure to visit the museums some day. This was a lengthy discussion. A thousand thanks for taking the time to answer my questions 🙂
Thanks for clearing that up. I’ll make sure to visit the museums some day. A thousand thanks for taking the time to answer my questions 🙂
Sadly I do not have access to any kind of manuscript depicting an Armenian sparapet. Although most historians have depicted Armenians like this, https://tinyurl.com/y7gul5vl . So most historians believe Armenians wore helmets similar to https://tinyurl.com/ycs8sgbs. So it is highly likely Mamikonians helmet would have looked like what the blacksmith has made, but then again that is simply my opinion. but we do know that Urartian helmets were all conical like this https://tinyurl.com/ycx5dduq , so its not hard to imagine that those helmets were worn by Armenians since the Orontid Dynasty, and by Mamikonian’s time, it could have been like the… Read more »
So your conclusion supports my point. Then why did you say : “I would have to somewhat disagree”. I don’t understand what you are disagreeing with. The Armenian helmets of that era were conical yes that’s exactly my point. And that’s quite different from the popular centurion helmet worn by Vartan Mamikonian on the 19th century postcards. Like here: I suggest the original Mamikonian headgear must have looked more conical like it is illustrated in the medieval manuscripts, see here: http://www.unitedeuropeanchristendom.com/UEC_photos_to_website/uec_am_yerevan_matenadaran_history_vardan_1569.jpg So that’s my point entirely and you confirm it with your examples. So what exactly do you disagree with… Read more »
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As I understood it was more closer example before. I seen it in books as well as other coats of arms. It seems that in the center there is macedonian sun/star. And eagles are not heraldic. Especially ‘coz of too detailed feet of eagles.
An excellent article supported with a wealth of research! I am a member of the Society for Creative Anachronism and my focus is Ardashessian Armenia, I would like to include your design of the eagles in my heraldry and the star on my shield. You have posted several images I have not come across before, would you mind sharing your your sources for where you found so many coins and close up images of Ardashessian artifacts?
Amazing. Thank you!!!!!!
[…] emblem of this dynasty – somewhat surprisingly, given its antiquity. From the examples here, it’s pretty clearly a star; I’m not sure how it ended up as an octofoil on the arms, which is […]
Great job! But there are some information that don’t match the historical facts. Actually, the rule of the Artaxiad dynasty ended in 1, and not 12 AD as mentioned in this article and Wikipedia. Plus, the title “King of Kings” , which was equivalent to the one of “emperor”, was employed by monarchs in Middle East way before Tigran the Great. Tigran II gained this title after conquering the Parthian Empire, which included Media (Marastan), Atropatene (Atrpatakan) and other countries. Mithritades II, the Emperor of the Parthian empire, was the King of Kings before Tigran II conquered his empire after… Read more »
Great job brother amazing hard work and dedication. You should also do one for HAYK NAHAPET, and VARTAN MAMIKONIAN.
“FOR EVEN THOUGH WE ARE A SMALL AND VERY LIMITED IN NUMBERS AND HAVE BEEN CONQUERED MANY TIMES BY FORIGN KINGDOMS, YET TOO, MANY ACTS OF BRAVERY HAVE BEEN PERFORMED IN OUR LANDS WORTHY OF BEING WRITTEN AND REMEMBERED, BUT OF WHICH NO ONE HAS BOTHERED TO WRITE DOWN.” – MOVSES KHORENATSI 474CE