King Trdat III

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Written by Gevork Nazaryan

King Trdat III was born in the year 250. He was the firstborn son of the reigning King Xosrov who for nearly three decades [from 226 to 252] fought the Persian Sassanians in order to see the restoration of the Arsacids in Iran. The Sassanians had a hostile stance toward all of the members of the Aršakuni Royal House, which by the Sassanians was viewed as a treat to the Persian Kingdom [the Aršakuni Parthian Royal House ruled Iran for nearly 500 years and was overthrown in Iran in the year 226 by the Sassanians]. Persian Shah, Šapur Sassanian, fearful of ever-growing resentment of Xosrov and his plan of restoration of the rightful heirs of Iran, the Arsacids, in 252 organized a secret plot of assassination of King Xosrov Aršakuni. According to historian Agat'angełos' account, Anak Pahlavi [Parthian], the father of St. Gregory who would later become the first Catholicos, was accused of taking part in the successful assassination plot of the King . In the wake of assassination and confusion that followed, the young Prince Trdat, was quickly smuggled out of the country by Artavazd Mandakuni, member of the royal court and a confidant of the late King Xosrov, to the safety of allied Rome. In the court of the Roman Empire, Trdat was beloved by his benefactor and personal friend the Emperor Licinius. In the Royal court Trdat learned the ways of Royal etiquette and code of behavior as a future royal monarch to be. As Trdat grew into adulthood his immense, almost superhuman strength became ever evident. As Edward Gibbon, the renowned British historian wrote in his monumental magnum opus "He [Trdat] signalised his youth by deeds of valour and displayed matchless dexterity, as well as strength in every martial exercise" [see The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, London, 1862].

A description of Trdat III was given by the Father of Armenian History, the Vth century historian Mowsēs Xorenac‛i, who noted that "Trdat was physically so powerful that he could seize two wild bulls by the horns and break the horns with his bare hands". Another account of Trdat by Xorēnac‛i tells us how in a chariot race, the Prince leapt off his chariot and stopped the charging horses and the chariot of his rival. Yet another account told by Roman historians tells us how Prince Trdat, single handedly held back a group of mercenary soldiers who sought to assassinate Licinius. Finally, Agat'angełos, the fourth century contemporary historian, records that a Gothic chieftain challenged the Roman Emperor Diocletian [successor of emperors Licinius and Aurelius] to meet him in single combat. Trdat successfully stood in for the Emperor. The grateful Emperor gave an army of Roman legions to regain the throne of Armenia, which was before Trdat's return vacant, only to be guarded by the senior aristocracy, the high Naxarars.