The Hellenistic Seleucid Empire, controlled Syria, Armenia, and vast other eastern regions. However, after their defeat by Rome in 190 BC, the Seleucids relinquished control of any regional claim past the Taurus Mountains, limiting Seleucids to a quickly diminishing area of Syria. A Hellenistic Armenian state was founded in 190 BC. It was a Hellenistic successor state of Alexander the Great's short-lived empire, with Artaxias becoming its first king and the founder of the Artaxiad dynasty (190 BC–AD 1). At the same time, a western portion of the kingdom split as a separate state under Zariadris, which became known as Lesser Armenia while the main kingdom acquired the name of Greater Armenia.
According to the geographer Strabo, Artaxias and Zariadres were two satraps of the Seleucid Empire, who ruled over the provinces of Greater Armenia and Sophene respectively. After the Seleucid defeat at the Battle of Magnesia in 190 BC, a coup by the Armenian noble family of Artashes toppled the Yervanduni dynasty and declared their independence, with Artaxias becoming the first king of the Artaxiad dynasty of Armenia in 188 BC. The Artaxiad dynasty or Ardaxiad dynasty ruled the Kingdom of Armenia from 189 BC until their overthrow by the Romans in AD 12. Their realm included Greater Armenia, Sophene and intermittently Lesser Armenia and parts of Mesopotamia. Their main enemies were the Romans, the Seleucids and the Parthians, against whom the Armenians had to conduct multiple wars.
Scholars believe that Artaxias and Zariadres were not foreign generals but local figures related to the previous Orontid dynasty, as their Irano-Armenian (and not Greek) names would indicate. According to Nina Garsoïan / Encyclopaedia Iranica, the Artaxiads were a branch of the earlier Orontid (Eruandid) dynasty of Iranian origin attested as ruling in Armenia from at least the 5th century BC.