This paper deals with the historical geography of Sophene — it aims to determine its original territory and geopolitical developments from Hellenistic times to the eve of the Arab conquests. To achieve this goal, a wide range of sources have been examined with regard to geographical (and ethnographical) information on Sophene — Greek and Latin geographical and ethnographical texts, Greek and Latin historiographical accounts, Byzantine legislations, and finally Armenian writings.In the light of the available data, the heartland of Hellenistic Sophene was located in the triangle marked by the Euphrates (in the west), the Munzur Mountains (in the north), and the Tauros (in the south). This territory includes the modern Dersim (Tunceli), the lower Murat valley (on either side of the river), and the Elaziğ plain, and coincides with the center of the pre-Hellenistic — Suppani. As a political entity Sophene expanded its territory, and especially its expansion in the northeast (including Balabitene and Asthianene) and over the Tauros into the upper Tigris valley (Ingilene, Sophanene) turned out to have more lasting consequences. These territories were closely integrated into Sophene as a political and cultural entity. The first capital of Sophene was ancient Arsamosata (likely located at modern Haraba), but due to the expansion of the kingdom of Sophene over the Tauros, the capital was later moved to the bank of the Tigris as to a more central position (likely today’s Eğil — Strabo’s and Pliny’s Karkathiokerta). Sophene’s political significance resulted from its geographical location — it straddled one of the most important communication lines between West and East in ancient times (the Tomisa crossing).
This paper gives an overview of all major identifications of the site of Tigranokerta, the famous foundation of the Armenian king, Tigranes II (the Great, ca. 95‒55 BCE). Firstly, the paper presents ancient literary evidence; secondly, it discusses all major locations of Tigranokerta suggested to date (Siirt, Silvan, Arzan, Diyarbakιr, Tell Abad, and Kιzιltepe); and finally it reaches its own conclusions. It appears that in the current state of research, it is Arzan which is the most likely candidate for the site of Tigranes II’s new capital. The paper also engages with the latest archaeological excavations in the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, and takes issue with the identification of the site near Shahbulagh as the foundation of Tigranes the Great.