Arsameia on the Nymphaios

Arsameia on the Nymphaios

Arsameia on the Nymphaios - History

Dexiosis of king Mithridates

Arsameia on the Nymphaios, Turkey

The town of Arsameia was decorated with very large stela, all facing south and which probably could be seen from the villages in the valley this could explain why they were not part of the decoration of buildings or squares. The most important stela has survived to our times its importance is testified to by the fact that Mithridates I or his son Antiochus I, the kings who are thought to have founded/enlarged the town, dictated a very lengthy inscription on a nearby rock.

The inscription is placed on a rock above a tunnel which probably was used as an escape from the town or for sallies the inscription is in Greek and it provides a detailed account of the history of the town and its facilities.
The relief portrays a meeting between King Mithridates and Hercules consistent with the Greek iconography of gods and demigods Hercules is naked and he carries a club and a lion&rsquos skin. Handshaking is unusual in Greek iconography, but it is found in the Persian one.

he dress and the arms of the king are very elaborate and they are depicted very accurately the king wears a crown (atypical of Greece), but also a wreath of leaves, another indication of Commagene being in between two worlds. A question comes to mind were his trousers (long pants) practical to wear?


Back inscription of the fragmented dexiosis scene with Mithras and the river Nymphaios in the distance. The right half of a dexiosis scene: the sun god Mithras shakes hand with a King, Mithridates or Antiochus. Only Mithra survives of his counterpart only a shoulder has been found. Mithras is shown with the characteristic rays of the sun radiating from the god’s head and wearing a Phrygian cap
(photo: Ste.caneva, Wikimedia) A monumental niche with barrel vault carved into the rock almost ten meters long, wide, and high. This underground chamber may be the burial chamber of king Mithridates or a Mithraeum (temple to Mithras). Relief of a dexiosis scene inside the chamber. The unidentified king is shaking hands with Mithras who can be identified because of his solar rays.

Fragments of a relief depicting Mithridates and Antiochus. Dexiosis relief depicting king Antiochus shaking hands with Herakles-Artagnes and the Great Cult Inscription which contains the history of the founding of Arsameia. The entrance to the 158m long tunnel with, above it, the Great Cult Inscription that describes the building activities of Antiochus at Arsameia and specifies the ritual celebrations to be practised in honour of his father. The tunnel that might lead down to a cistern/spring but its purpose remains uncertain. Close-up to the Great Cult Inscription, the longest Greek inscription found in Turkey. It is written in Greek in five columns.

I erected altars and sacred votive offerings as benefits the manes of my father in
accordance with my piety, and I have established statues and images of the gods, together with the representation of myself, lifelike in shape and form, for eternal memory’.

Dexiosis relief depicting King Mithridates I Callinicus, father of Antiochus I Theos, shaking hands with the Persian deity Artagnes, identified by the Greeks as Heracles. The processional way leading up to the Acropolis. It was punctuated with monumental pedestals upon which stood relief sculptures and inscriptions. The Acropolis of Arsameia. A fragmented column with beautiful fruit motifs, possibly a part of an altar. The Acropolis of Arsameia. The Acropolis of Arsameia.

Gezer Water System—Is It a Water System?

The tunnel descends 150 feet below the surface and has a barrel-shaped ceiling and stairs. There are two carved arches some distance apart, sort of like ribs, that have no real architectural purpose and appear to be ornamental. One of the rib-arches can be seen in the photo below. There are also niches carved into the walls of the upper part of the tunnel, some of them decorated with arches or recessed frames, and one of them with a betyl. Some of the niches can also be seen in the photo below.

Dan Warner’s team has now cleared 80 feet beyond the earlier excavation of Macalister. At the base of the tunnel, there is a basin and beyond that a man-made cavern which extends east. According the geologists, the aquifer is 30 meters beneath the cavern, so this is not obviously a water system. If it is a water system, why did they carve niches and arches and a cavern? And why is it so large? Could the tunnel have instead had a different function?

I was struck by some similarities to a cultic tunnel at Arsameia on the Nymphaios River, near the more famous site of Nemrut Dağ in Turkey. Dan Warner did make mention of the cultic use of caves in the Greek world (both in literature and archaeology), so I proceed to note the similarities here even though there is really no apparent geographical or chronological connection between Gezer and Arsameia. Arsameia-on-Nymphaios is a cultic center which occupies the highest elevation in the photo below.

At the site, there is a Great Rock Chamber carved into the mountain, various stelae, and a monumental staircase. But there is also a tunnel which descends diagonally into the mountain. Above the tunnel there is a relief of Heracles (Hercules) and Antiochus I Theos, king of Commagene, and the longest Greek inscription in all of Anatolia. Like Gezer, the tunnel has stairs and a barrel-shaped ceiling. The tunnel is 520 feet long and terminates in a small cavity with no indication of its function.

Arsameia-on-Nymphaios tunnel entrance with inscription and stairs (also from PLBL vol. 9 ).

The tunnel at Arsameia-on-Nymphaios is described in Brijder’s new book. He calls it “a mysterious, dark and incredibly long tunnel in rock.”

After such enormous labour and effort it was disappointing that the very long, deep and dark tunnel had not yielded any evidence as to its function. It is clear that it did not lead to a subterranean spring. The suggestion of a water tunnel does not seem to be very convincing either, although it cannot be excluded. Dörner notes: ‘The tremendous effort that went into digging this rock tunnel of Arsameia could only have served a very special purpose, and since the tunnel is situated at a particularly central spot in the cultic area of the hierothesion, the thought of a cultic function of the tunnel simply occurred to me’ (figs. 161–162). According to him, the making of a rock tunnel was not defined by practical intentions, but by religious ones. ‘It seems rather logical to assign the large rock tunnel in Arsameia to the cult sphere of the god Mithras, who is the “God born from the rock.”’ (Brijder 2014: 255)

As a side note, the Great Rock Chamber/Hall also has a tunnel with barrel-shaped ceiling and stairs. The tunnel is not nearly as long—only 33 feet. The tunnel leads to a small platform which overlooks a square, 20-foot-deep chamber without any doors or stairs. Again, the function of the tunnel and chamber are unclear, but Brijder inquires whether this could have been intended as a burial chamber and later converted to a cenotaph.

It will be interesting to see what new developments come from Gezer this summer, and if Dan Warner can come closer to determining the tunnel’s function. An article about last year’s work on Gezer tunnel can be read here, and the excavation website is here.

Brijder, Herman A. G., ed.
2014 Nemrud Dağı: Recent Archaeological Research and Conservation Activities in the Tomb Sanctuary of Mount Nemrud. Berlin: Walter de Gruyter.

Voices of Mesopotamia

Arsameia, located at the foot of the Mount Nemrut, is one of those magical places in Turkey that hide in the shadow of a famous tourist attraction located nearby. While the peak of Mount Nemrut regularly fills with an international crowd, especially at sunrise and sunset times, the ruins of ancient Arsameia silently wait for someone to drop by. Undoubtedly, this is for the benefit of those lucky people who decide to visit Arsameia, because they will be able to calmly and peacefully contemplate its wonderful reliefs, explore the tunnels and admire the picturesque views from the Acropolis of this summer capital of the Commagene Kingdom.

It is worth remembering that the full name of the place discussed here is Arsameia on the Nymphaios, as it distinguishes this location from the other Arsameias - on the Euphrates, now known as Gerger. Both Arsameias owe their name to King Arsames from Armenia. He reached for power around 260 BCE, in the turbulent period of the Syrian Wars. They were fought between the Seleucid Empire and the Kingdom of Egypt ruled by Ptolemies, that is between the states that were the heirs of the vast but short-lived empire of Alexander the Great. The Syrian Wars took place in the Coele-Syria, covering the territories of Syria and southern Anatolia, in the third and second centuries BCE. This long-lasting conflict was a huge burden on both sides, depleted their human and material resources, and enabled local rulers to make successful attempts to gain control over fragments of the theatre of war. One of them was Arsames, who founded the Kingdom of Commagene. Of course, all these local disputes ultimately led to the conquest and division of contentious areas between Rome and Parthia.

The figure of Arsames, the founder of both Arsameias, is shrouded in mystery. We get to know him thanks to the inscriptions discovered in Arsameia on the Nymphaios. Most probably, he can be identified with the king of Armenia, described by the Greek author Polyaenus, who supported Antiochus Hierax - the younger brother of King Seleucus II Callinicus. Antiochus rebelled against him, won the battle near Ankara, but eventually lost the war for power, and fled to Egypt, where he was murdered by the robbers. The construction of Arsameia's fortress by Arsames would be justified in this light by the ongoing military activities against Seleucus.

Nemrud Dağı: Recent Archaeological Research and Conservation Activities in the Tomb Sanctuary on Mount Nemrud

The introduction (pp. 1-22) has a capsule description of the monument, its excavation history, a summary of recent field and publication seasons by the Dutch team, a complaint about the lack of permits, a comment about the dispersal of the statue fragments to at least four museums, another on a financial squabble between Dutch and Turkish authorities, a number of photographs of varying quality and relevance including pictures of the Dutch restoration-house and tourists draped all over the statuary, two good plans, and finally a disclaimer: “Since I am not a philologist, one should not expect many new insights in this field.” This last is a pity: Elizabeth Asmis commented after a lecture given by this reviewer at Cornell in 1976 that the nomos inscription is a seriously sophisticated document that shows that these remote Commagenians were in touch with all the latest philosophical ideas in Athens and elsewhere in the Greek-speaking world.

Part I (pp. 38-175) is “A survey of the topography and history of the Kingdom of Commagene, and King Antiochus I’s religious & cultural program and divine-ruler cult.”

The mountain of Nemrud, some 7325 feet (2206 m.) asl, is capped by a huge tumulus of fist-sized rubble (presumably containing the grave of Antiochus), flanked on the East and West Terraces by a row of colossal, limestone, syncretistic, Graeco-Persian deities (Zeus-Oromasdes, the biggest, is 9.70m. high on the West Terrace, and 9.35m. high on the East Terrace and up to some 50 tons each), from left to right as the viewer faces them: Antiochus I, Commagene/ Fortuna personified, Zeus-Oromasdes (Ahuramazda), Apollo-Mithra-Helios-Hermes, Artagnes/ Verathragna-Heracles, the whole row flanked at either end by guardian eagles and lions (drawing, p. 80). Across their backs is the well-known nomos inscription which calls the complex a hierothesion, and tells why Antiochus built it: to honor the gods, himself, and improve the public morals of Commagene. At the end of the book 32 plates of line-drawings reproduce all the statues with details of all the heads.

Antiochus claimed descent on his father’s side from Darius I and on his mother’s side from Alexander the Great. In rows on either side of the East and West terraces are some 15 generations of paternal and maternal ancestors (genealogical tables, p.53 and p.325) carved on sandstone reliefs. The identifications on the reverse sides have become harder to read over the years, but the late nineteenth-century investigators seem to have gotten them in proper order.

Some scholars, especially those who have not visited Nemrud Dağı, have concluded that these attributions and the nomos inscription—ordering the people of Commagene to pay an annual visit and tribute on the occasion of the anniversaries of Antiochus’s birth and accession to the throne—are indicative of megalomania, but the king was merely attaching himself to the two best-known dynasties of his time, and other scholars have concluded that his was indeed a sincerely pious wish. Part of the trouble was the original misidentification of the statue of Apollo-Mithra-Helios-Hermes, seated right next to Zeus, as Antiochus, a matter that was straightened out by John Young in AJA 68 (1964), 29-34, where he pointed out that the Armenian royal tiara is worn only by the king. Thus Antiochus sits at a respectful distance from Zeus, next to the lion and eagle. Although no paint traces exist, aside from some in recently-uncovered inscriptions, Brijder gives us reconstruction proposals of how the statues might have looked if painted (pp. 109-112).

Visitors to Nemrud, overwhelmed by the grandeur of the site, often forget to ask the obvious questions: why is the hierothesion there in the first place? How was it paid for? What kind of manpower was necessary to build it? Commagene is on the silk-road where it crosses the Euphrates at Samosata. Other trade-routes cross the region from north to south, and import duties and transit taxes must have brought in significant wealth. The summit is visible from many miles away, and access routes marked at the upper end by propylaia hodos stelae (with instructions about proper behavior within the sanctuary) give us an idea of how pilgrims marched in from 20-plus towns and cult sites including Samosata, Arsameia-on-the-Euphrates, Selik, Dikili Taş or Sesönk, Palaş, Boybeypınarı, Sofrazköy (45 kms. to the NW), Eski Taş (28 kms. to the NE), Damlacık, Kılafık Höyuk, and Zeugma (the latter with four reliefs). This is the first proper listing in one paper of all of the mountain’s subsidiary towns and sites. In all these localities dexiosis reliefs may be seen with Antiochus being welcomed with a handshake into the afterlife by one of the aforementioned deities. So many copies of the nomos inscription exist, on stelae or carved in solid rock, that the occasional crack or fissure, or in one instance damage where the relief was converted into an oil-press, do not prevent the complete reading of the text . Brijder also has thoughts on the actual ritual itself which he thinks was likely to have been more Greek than Persian. More of these locations of the nomos inscriptions and dexiosis reliefs have been found to the east rather than the west of the mountain, so Antiochus’s assertion that the “whole kingdom” was to come and pay tribute may be stretching his claim a bit.

Part II (pp. 176-312) is a “Survey of previous explorations and archaeological activities on Nemrud Dağı and in other Commagenian sanctuaries and sites: the sites revisited and reviewed.”

The monument was seen by a number of 19th century travelers, beginning with Moltke (not yet von Moltke) in 1838, Ainsworth in 1839, Sester, a highway engineer whose report inspired the visit by Humann and Puchstein in 1882, and which led to their excavations in 1883, Osman Hamdi Bey and Osgan Efendi (referred to in the text as Effendi, or Mr. “Mister”) also in 1883. Brijder provides a translation of much of their German and French texts, respectively. Osman Hamdi Bey and Osgan Efendi also spotted the Karakuş tumulus with columns surmounted by lions and recumbent bulls and a dexiosis relief of King Mithradates II and his sister Laodice shaking hands in a farewell gesture, the identification later confirmed by Friedrich Karl Doerner who was able to read the inscription when the light was just right. Doerner and Rudolf Naumann commenced excavations at nearby Arsameia-on-the-Nymphaios in 1938, followed by a collaboration between Doerner and Theresa Goell in the 1950s. There they found an enormous stela of Antiochus shaking hands with Apollo-Mithra-Helios-Hermes, now re-erected and possibly in the best condition of any such relief in all of Commagene. The great cult inscription, a version of the nomos, carved into the solid rock at the mouth of a tunnel whose end has not yet been reached, was found nearby in 1953. Brijder gives us a translated version of the rest of Doerner’s campaigns at Arsameia. There is virtually no criticism of Doerner, aside from a complaint about his use of iron reinforcing rods on the statuary—in contrast to everybody else who has worked in Commagene —which is a welcome change in tone.

Part III (pp.312-434) “Nemrud Dağı, a survey of the activities on the mountain in the second half of the 20th century: a critical review,” is indeed critical, largely about the activities of Theresa Goell between 1953 and 1956. She moved things around without proper documentation and changed her mind about identifications of figures so many times that, until the two-volume posthumous summary of her work edited by Donald Sanders appeared in 1996, the actual situation on the mountain was well-nigh incomprehensible. Line drawings (pp. 327-328 and 337-338) show all the ancestors with superimposed fragments of sandstone that are still assignable to a stela on about half of them. The West Terrace figures are in a marginally better state of preservation as are the investiture stelae on the N pedestal of the W Terrace.

The building techniques of the colossal figures are discussed, including the damage caused to the statues by the 50 one-kg. dynamite charges used by Goell and the Lerici Foundation to try to locate the grave chamber which—if unplundered—would have been the first Hellenistic royal grave ever found. The results of the new geophysical explorations by the Dutch team are at the end.

Part IV (pp. 435-504) “The International Nemrud Dağı Project, 2001-2003: documentation, stone deterioration research & archaeological preserving [sic] activities” is a stone-by-stone analysis of what the Dutch group did, including the development of a Site Information System, the results of a GPS survey, the difficulties caused by heavy snow slides and the building of a steel and wood barrier to prevent more snow damage. The LisCAD contour map (p. 448) incorporating the latest technology shows that Humann and Puchstein came remarkably close in 1883 to what the latest technology can do. Photographs show the resetting by the construction firm ENKA of some of the colossal figures.

Short essays on the petrography of the monument, diagnosis of weathering damage, deterioration of the statuary, methods of preservation, stabilization, transportation of particularly fragile items to the temporary restoration-house on the site, and the damage caused by thousands of tourists will be of interest to anybody interested in site-preservation. This reviewer knows of no classical archaeological site subject to more extremes of temperature (below freezing to over 110 o F. in less than 12 hours), hailstorms, snowstorms, violent windstorms which blow particles of rock across the surfaces of the statuary, and from time to time the odd earthquake.

Part V (pp. 506-611) “Further research on Mount Nemrud by members of the International Nemrud Dağı Project and others,” includes a mixed bag of epigraphic information (M. P. Schipperheijn and O. M. van Nijf, pp. 506-510). Humann’s is still the best for the nomos, but there is now evidence for a partly-erased earlier inscription. There is a short piece regarding conservation of sandstone, a repetition of the tale of woe caused by earlier excavators, an interesting discussion (Rudy Dillen, pp. 533-562) of the coins of Commagene issued by 13 kings and civic entities (black-and-white photographs might have been more decipherable), the largest number—some 494 coins of 11 types—from Antiochus IV.

An important rediscussion by Maurice Crijns (pp. 563-599) of the Lion Horoscope, now dates it to July 14, 109 BC, commemorating possibly both the birth of Antiochus I and the coronation of his father Mithradates I. Efforts to date the orientation of the East Terrace, because of the alignment ca. 50 BC with Regulus, and the West Terrace with the winter solstice (Mithras’s birthday) are unconvincing. Earlier attempts to make some sense of this were hampered by the fact that magnetic north had been used by the surveyors instead of true north. The plaster cast of the lion made in 1883 by Osman Hamdi Bey, now in the Berlin Museum, is the best-preserved image from the mountain.

A penultimate note by Miguel John Versluys on the Hellenistic context of Nemrud Dağı sums up the characteristics of the monument in four words: monumentality, visibility, ideology, and eclecticism, as a “ bricolage of ‘Greek’ and ‘Persian’ elements-as-cultural-concepts” in the Hellenistic world.

The past 120 years of excavation and other interventions, and the building of access roads from Adiyaman and Malatya that provide easy tourist access, have wreaked havoc on this formerly isolated, and therefore protected, sanctuary. The monument might yet be “saved” by an international effort to build a museum, collect and reassemble the scattered reliefs, and possibly erect weatherproof replicas on the terraces, but the failed effort to start such a project—even with a Dutch pledge of over two million Euros toward it—shows how difficult this is likely to be.

De Gruyter—who normally publishes clean texts—should be taken to task for the dismal lack of proofreading/copyediting by a native English-speaker. On one page alone there are 13 misspellings or other infelicities. Since the volume was not printed on glossy stock, the decision to publish most of the 316 figures in color should have been rethought. The black-and-white plans (p. 231) reproduced from Humann and Puchstein’s visit in 1883 are among the clearest—and therefore effective—in the book. Finally, figures are supposed to tell a story that words cannot. A color photograph of empty bottles thrown away by visitors to Arsameia (p. 261) is typical of what hinders appreciation of this expensive book and negates the effort that Brijder and colleagues put into it.


COMMAGENE, the portion of southwestern Asia Minor (modern Turkey) bordered on the east by the Euphrates river, on the west by the Taurus mountains, and on the south by the plains of northern Syria. It was part of the Achaemenid empire and its successor kingdoms and did not achieve status as an independent kingdom until the mid-2nd century B.C.E. Commagene is unique in that indigenous documentation is more extensive than the notices in Greek and Roman sources nevertheless, that documentation, which consists of official inscriptions in Greek, is skewed: The royal monuments of Antiochus I (ca. 69-30s b.c.e.) predominate, and the inscriptions (identified here by letters, following Wagner, 1983 and Waldmann) reflect his claims for himself and his dynasty.

Commagene controlled Euphrates crossings from Mesopotamia and was thus the favored invasion route for Persian troops moving west (Cicero, Ad Familiares 8.10.1 Strabo, 16.746, 749 Appian, Syriaca 48 Dio Cassius, 49.13 Pliny, Naturalis Historia 5.86). The kingdom became wealthy from trade and agriculture, particularly on the fertile lands around the capital, Samosata (Strabo, 16.749 cf. 12.535 on fruit trees). Although the means by which the rulers of Commagene developed their land economically are not entirely clear, the existence of great wealth is obvious from the array of royal monuments, the number of festivals celebrated throughout the kingdom, invaders&rsquo expectations of booty (Plutarch, Antony 34), and contemporary notices of royal wealth (Tacitus, Annales 2.81 ).

Political history. Under Achaemenid rule Commagene was administered by a minor official, stationed at Samosata or a similar site and responsible for protecting the Euphrates crossings. Antiochus claimed to be descended from Achaemenid royalty through Orontes, the noted satrap of Armenia in the 4th century b.c.e. (e.g.. Plutarch, Artoxerxes 27) this claim suggests that in the Achaemenid period Commagene may have been part of the satrapy of Armenia and that intermarriage among Persian and Persianized nobility was common in the region. During the Hellenistic period Commagene was part of the Seleucid empire and was at times subject to the nominally Seleucid dynasts of Armenia. Antiochus&rsquo royal inscriptions at Arsameia on the Euphrates (modern Gerger inscription G) and Arsameia on the Nymphaios (modern Eski Kahta inscription A) include references to his ancestor Arsames, &ldquofounder&rdquo of both cities. This Arsames can be identified with the Arsames whom Polyaenus (4.17) described as an Armenian dynast supporting the rebel Seleucid Antiochus Hierax in the mid-3nd century b.c.e. Arsames fortified Arsameia on the Nymphaios as part of his building of a power base against the legitimate Seleucid king, Seleucus II Callinicus (246-26 b.c.e.).

The history of the kingdom of Commagene begins with the reign of Ptolemaeus, a Seleucid officer who became king in 163 or 162 b.c.e. Despite Antiochus&rsquo grandiose claims, the royal family of Commagene was probably an indigenous and somewhat Hellenized dynasty, the early members of which had been assigned Greek titles in the Seleucid administrative hierarchy (e.g. Ptolemaeus Epistates Diodorus Siculus, 31.19a). At first Commagene was a third-ranking power, weaker than the former Achaemenid satrapies of Armenia and Cappadocia, which were then in conflict over the region of Sophene (Diodorus Siculus, 31.22). Ptolemaeus took advantage of such strife to establish Commagene as a kingdom, which he immediately enlarged by occupying northern strong points in Melitene, part of Cappadocia. His successor, his son Samus, is known only from coins, on which he is represented in both Seleucid and Persian style, and from his grandson Antiochus&rsquo monuments at Nimrud Dagh (inscription Nfa/Nfb = OGI 396 in part) and Arsameia on the Euphrates (inscription Gf = OGI 402).

The reigns of Mithradates I and Antiochus I are better documented. Commagene was clearly a minor power with a limited range of political options, maintaining a semblance of independence by accommodating adjoining larger powers. A tie to the Seleucid house was viewed as a necessity, and Mithradates married Laodice, daughter of Antiochus VIII. A more serious threat was posed from Armenia by Tigranes II the Great (ca. 95-55 b.c.e.), who must have marched across Commagene to occupy the province of Seleucus in the mid-80s b.c.e. and subsequently, as self-styled king of kings, exercised hegemony over it. Mithradates built his royal monuments at Arsameia on the Nymphaios, at that point a somewhat more secure location within the kingdom.

During Antiochus&rsquo reign the Roman army put an end to the Armenian threat. Shortly after the Armenian retreat in 69 or 68 b.c.e. Antiochus set up a stela (found at Sofraz Köy Wagner and Petzl) depicting himself greeting the Greek god Apollo, putative ancestor of the Seleucid dynasty and, according to Antiochus&rsquo claims, his own Apollo was depicted nude in the Greek style. In the accompanying inscription (SO) the king emphasized that he was the first of his line to take up the kidaris (see EIr. V, p. 724 fig. 50). Nevertheless, Antiochus had to accommodate the Roman generals operating in the east (successors to the last warring Seleucids) and the Parthian rulers, who were pursuing a forward policy on their western frontier. The relations with the Romans are better documented, especially in connection with the late republican wars and the careers of the generals involved. Initial hostilities with the Roman general Pompey gave way to friendship (64-63 b.c.e.). Antiochus was entrusted with control of Seleucia on the Euphrates (Zeugma) and portions of Mesopotamia (Appian, Mithridatica 100, 114) and thus styled himself megas (great). The Parthian rout of Crassus in 53 b.c.e. left the Roman east and Rome&rsquos allies in a precarious position. At some point Antiochus arranged the marriage of his daughter Laodice to Orodes of Parthia (inscription Kb, on the royal monument at Karakus Wagner, 1983). Parthian forces under Pacorus, Orodes&rsquo son were allowed to cross Commagene to raid Syria in 51-50 b.c.e., though Antiochus did notify Roman officers of such troop movements (Cicero, Ad Familiares 8.10.1, 15.1-2, 4.4). Antiochus managed to forestall serious damage to his realm by deploying some of his troops in support of more powerful forces, paying out money, and welcoming refugees before they ravaged the countryside (e.g., Appian, Bellum Civile 2.49 Caesar, Bellum Alexandrinum 65 Plutarch, Antony 34 Dio Cassius 48.41, 49.20 Josephus, Bellum 1.321-22).

Mithradates II had shared power with his lather for a number of years and as king functioned increasingly on behalf of the princeps at Rome, repeating the pattern of his ancestors under the Achaemenids. Augustus forgave Antiochus&rsquo early support for Antony (Plutarch, Antony 61 Suetonius, Augustus 48) and later intervened to stabilize the Commagenian royal family (Dio Cassius, 52.43, 54.9) during dynastic quarrels. After the death of Antiochus III Commagene was administered by Rome through his son Gaius Julius Antiochus IV Epiphanes, who had spent his youth in the imperial capital. During his reign Commagene was first enlarged, then taken away, then restored during the reign of the emperor Claudius (Dio Cassius, 59.8, 60.8 Josephus, Antiquitates 19.276), who was expected to assist Roman forces against the Parthians (Tacitus, Annales 13.7, 37, 14.26) and in subduing rebellious peoples (Tacitus, Historiae 5.1 Josephus, Bellum 5.460-63). With the accession of the Flavian dynasty at Rome Commagene was suspected of favoring the Parthians and was again reduced to provincial status after an invasion and the flight of the royal family (Josephus, Bellum 7.219ff). Members of the family settled at Rome as citizens and remained prominent into the 2nd century c.e. (OGI 407-13).

Administrative structure. The administration of Commagene was parallel in structure to that of an Achaemenid satrapy, based on estates, agriculture, and village life. For example, Antiochus assigned villages, their inhabitants, and their revenues to his cult centers and identified the rural population who were to participate in various royal festivals. With the passage of time, the administration had gradually became Hellenized in many respects. Greek was adopted as the language of official documents. In Antiochus&rsquo inscriptions classes of political officers are enumerated: dynastai, stratēgoi, ethnarchoi, archontes (cf. OGI 229 for a Seleucid parallel). The title stratēgos on a stele set up by Apollas, son of Apollas to honor Antiochus (inscription KI from Kilafik Hüyük) suggests Hellenistic influence at court, but it is not certain whether it meant &ldquoprovincial officer,&rdquo as it did in neighboring Cappadocia (Strabo, 12.534 cf. the use of monokritēs &ldquochief judge,&rdquo borne by another Commagenian official Schmitz et al.).

There were three main cities in the kingdom: Samosata, Arsameia on the Nymphaios, and Arsameia on the Euphrates, the latter two improved by Antiochus (cf. his use of the title ktistēs in inscription SO). Each remained inhabited long after the fall of the kingdom, but excavations have been centered on the more visible royal monuments. Samosata (modern Samsat), on the fertile lands of the upper Euphrates, was walled as the capital, perhaps superseding in importance the two earlier cities. In recent excavations in the palace area mosaics and other finds similar to those at the royal cult center at Arsameia on the Nymphaios have been found. The latter city consisted of two high points, which Arsames, the founder, had surrounded with one wall (for site maps, see Hoepfner). One of Antiochus&rsquo inscriptions (A) indicates that he improved and expanded the palace, defenses, and royal cult center (hierothesion) founded by his father, Mithradates I. A processional way led to Arsameia on the Euphrates, also founded by Arsames, which appears to have been the early burial site of the royal family. Antiochus (inscription G) mentioned cult centers of his royal ancestors there and the precinct of a local deity, the goddess Argandene. Nothing is known about the civil administration of the cities, except that politai, members of the citizen body, are mentioned in royal inscriptions. Antiochus improved the defenses at all three cities, providing the two Arsemeias with garrisons.

According to Josephus (Bellum 5.460ff.), in the 70s c.e. one section of the royal army was known as Macedones because of its equipment and training (cf. Antiochus&rsquo claim of a dual Persian and Macedonian heritage).

Royal monuments. Commagene is best known today for its royal burial monuments, with or without associated buildings, at which festivals in honor of the gods were led by priests in Persian dress. The major sites are Arsameia on the Euphrates, where festivals were held to honor the royal ancestors Arsameia on the Nymphaios, where the burial monuments of Mithradates I have been found (festivals for him and for Mithra-Helios-Apollo-Hermes, depicted in Persian fashion) Nimrud Dagh, a short distance from Arsameia, with the tumulus of Antiochus I (festivals for him and the fully syncretized deities Zeus Oromasdes, Apollo-Mithra-Helios-Hermes, Artagnes [Vərə&thetara&gammana]-Herakles-Ares, and the personification of Commagene [instead of Hera, who was mentioned on the Nymphaios at Arsameia]) and Karakus, the burial place for royal women, established by Mithradates II. At Nimrud Dagh Antiochus established monumental images of himself greeting the deities and galleries of images of his claimed royal ancestors: the family of Orontes, including Darius I and his heirs, and the Seleucid house back to Alexander the Great.

Much of the building activity throughout Commagene was owing to Antiochus I, and it is reasonable to conclude that it was part of a program to revitalize the kingdom and the position of the dynasty after the end of the Armenian occupation (cf. the Sofraz Köy stele), especially through the establishment of ornate cult centers and frequent festivals throughout the realm. The royal monuments were designed to have both a programmatic (as demonstrated by inscriptions setting forth cult laws and identifying the figures depicted) and, even more importantly, a visual impact. They were located on high places (e.g., Arsameia of Nymphaios and Nimrud Dagh) that were visible from afar and reached only by exhausting ascents. In the dexiōsis (hand clasping) reliefs and in the giant sculptures at Nimrud Dagh Antiochus is depicted as equal in size to the gods of the realm, emphasized their support for his rule. At the latter site the galleries of ancestors must have appeared to the illiterate as rows of local and foreign nobles paying homage to the king. The style of all these works is representative of the Hellenized east, reflecting both western, Hellenistic and eastern, Persian traditions, parallel to Antiochus&rsquo claims of dual descent from Macedonians and Achaemenids (Colledge Dörner, 1967 cf. Petzl) The siting of the monuments (e.g., on the terraces at Nimrud Dagh) evokes earlier Achaemenid use of the natural landscape for imposing royal monuments, for example, the rock reliefs at Bīsotūn (q.v.). Contemporary influence can be seen in the relatively flat reliefs on the stelas and the meticulous attention paid to the details of Antiochus&rsquo and the deities&rsquo dress and iconography, in order to establish clearly the status of the figures represented. The Hellenistic tradition is recognizable in the architectural remains at Arsameia on the Nymphaios (where western craftsmen worked), the columns at Karakus and Sesönk, and the naturalistic representations of Artagnes-Herakles and Apollo Epēkoos (on the Sofraz Köy stele) as nude figures. After the fall of the monarchy many of the royal monuments fell into ruin stones from the royal tumulus at Karakus, for example, were used in construction of the Roman bridge over the Chabinas river.

Table 2. The Dynasty of Antiochus I.

M. A. R. Colledge, Parthian Art, Ithaca, 1977.

F. K. Dörner, &ldquoZur Rekonstruktion der Ahnengallerie des Königs Antiochos I von Kommagene,&rdquo Istanbuler Mitteilungen 17, 1967, pp. 195-210.

Idem, ed., &ldquoKommagene. Geschichte und Kultur einer Antike Landschaft,&rdquo Antike Welt 6, 1975.

Idem, Kommagene, Götterthrone und Königsgräber am Euphrat. Neue Entdeckungen der Archäologie, Bergisch Gladbach, Germany, 1981.

Idem and T. Goell, Arsameia am Nymphaios, Istanbuler Forschungen 23, Berlin, 1963.

F. K. Dörner and R. Naumann, Forschungen in Kommagene, Istanbuler Forschungen 10, Berlin, 1939.

H. Dorrie, Der Königskult des Antiochos von Kommagene im Lichte neuer Inschriften-Funde, Abh. der Akademie der Wissenschaften, Göttingen, Phil.- hist. Kl., ser. 13/ 60, 1964.

J. Duchesne-Guillemin, Iran und Griechenland in der Kommagene, Xenia (Konstanzer althistorische Vorträge und Forschungen) 12, Constance, 1984 (review by P. Gignoux in Stud. Ir. 14. 1985, pp. 128-29).

W. Hoepfner, Arsameia am Nymphaios II, Istanbuler Forschungen 33, Tübingen, 1983.

K. Humann and O. Puchstein, Reisen in Kleinasien und Nordsyrien, Berlin, 1890 (the first modern description of Nimrud Dagh) ed. F. K. and E. Dörner as Von Pergamon zum Nemrud Dag. Die archäologischen Entdeckungen Carl Humanns, Mainz, 1989.

E. Levante, &ldquoThe Coinage of Selinus in Cilicia,&rdquo NC 150, 1990, pp. 226-33.

G. Petzl, &ldquoDie Epigramme des Gregor von Nazianz über Grabräuberei und das Hierothesion des kommagenischen Königs Antiochos I,&rdquo Epigraphica Anatolica 10, 1987, pp. 117-29.

D. Schlumberger, L&rsquoOrient hellénisé, Paris, 1970.

G. Schmitz, S. Şahin, and J. Wagner, &ldquoEin Grabaltar mil einer genealogischen Inschrift aus Kommagene,&rdquo Epigraphica Anatolica II, 1988, pp. 81-95.

R. D. Sullivan, &ldquoThe Dynasty of Commagene,&rdquo in ANRW II/8, Berlin, 1977, pp. 732-798.

J. Wagner, &ldquoDynastie und Herrscherkult in Kommagene. Forschungsgeschichte und neue Funde,&rdquo Istanbuler Mitteilungen 33, 1983, pp. 177-224.

Idem, Kommagene, Heimat der Götter, Dortmund, 1987.

J. Wagner and G. Petzl, &ldquoEine neue Temenos-Stele des Königs Antiochos von Kommagene,&rdquo Zeitschrift für Papyrologie und Epigraphik 20, 1976, pp. 201-23.

H. Waldmann, Die kommagenischen Kultreformen unter König Mithridates I Kallinikos und seinem Sohne Antiochos I, Etudes préliminaires aux religions orientales dans l&rsquoempire romain 34, Leiden, 1973 (somewhat superseded by recent discoveries).


ANTIOCHUS OF COMMAGENE (full title Theos Dikaios Epiphanes Philoromaios Philhellen, Theos signifying his divinity), Seleucid ruler, the son of Mithradates Callinicos and Laodice, the daughter of the Seleucid king Antiochus VIII Grypos , reigned in Commagene from 69 (or, less probably, 64) to ca. 31 B.C. According to the horoscope on the large monument which he set up on Nimrud Dag, his likely date of birth was 16 July 98 B.C. Commagene, a small kingdom in the mountainous region of north Syria, bordering on Cappadocia to the north and Osrhoene to the south, had two strongly fortified cities, Arsameia (founded by Arsames [Ar&scaronāma], the founder of the kingdom, on the Nymphaios) and the capital Samosata, dominating the north-south road connection. It is clear from the Nimrud Dag monument that Antiochus claimed Achaemenid descent on his father&rsquos side and Seleucid descent on his mother&rsquos (W. Dittenberger, ed., Orientis Graeci inscriptiones selectae, Leipzig, 1903, repr. Hildesheim, 1960, p. 389 cf. the improved reading of F. Dörner, &ldquoZur Rekonstruktion der Ahnengalerie des Königs Antiochos I. von Kommagene,&rdquo Ist. Mitt. 17, 1967, pp. 195f.). Commagene was a dependency of the Seleucid Kingdom, which probably became independent after the death of Antiochus III in 187. Its situation became difficult when Rome started its Eastern expansion with the wars of Lucullus and Pompey against Mithradates of Pontus and Tigranes of Armenia. When Tigranes extended his rule over northern Syria and Mesopotamia, Antiochus came within his sphere of influence, but in 64 B.C. Pompey made war against him and forced him into an alliance with Rome (Appian Mithridatius 106). In his inscription on Nimrud Dag, Antiochus calls himself a friend of the Romans (philoromaios), but he was looked upon with some suspicion by some of Cicero&rsquos informants (Cicero Ad fam. 15.1,2). His Iranian descent made him gravitate toward Parthia he had friendly relations with Darius, the king of Media Atropatene, who seems to have assisted him against Pompey (Appian 106). After the Roman defeat at Carrhae in 53, Antiochus remained loyal to the Romans and reported to Cicero who was proconsul of Cilicia in 51, about the movements of the Parthian army under Pacorus (Pākōr), the heir to the throne (Cicero Ad. fam. 15.3,1 4,3), but Antiochus had given his daughter in marriage to Orodes (Hurōd), the father of Pacorus (Dio Cassius 49.23) and ultimately went over to the Parthian side. When the great Parthian invasion of 38 B.C. ended in disaster and Pacorus was slain in battle, the surviving Parthians took refuge with Antiochus. The victorious Roman general Ventidius Bassus now tried to punish Antiochus for his desertion and besieged him in Samosata. Antiochus finally promised to pay 1,000 talents as an indemnity and to resume his position as an ally of Rome. Antony, then the Roman commander-in-chief in the Near East, rejected this offer, relieved Ventidius of his command, and took over the siege, but Antiochus defended his capital successfully, and Antony had to be content with 300 talents. Nothing is known of Antiochus after this. According to Dio Cassius (49.23.4) he was murdered by Phraates IV of Parthia (see Dio Cassius 49.2. Plutarch Antony 34).

Antiochus left monuments on Nimrud Dag and at Arsameia along with several Greek inscriptions written in the highly rhetorical style of the period, called &ldquoAsianic.&rdquo At Arsameia Antiochus built a &ldquohierothesion&rdquo dedicated to the dynastic cult, perì patrṓōn daimónōn, for the paternal daímones, and for his own honor (Arsameia Inscr. 1.8.f.). This expression is comparable to the Iranian conception of the fravashis. The original cult was instituted by his father but Antiochus reorganized it and made regulations concerning the days of festival and the duties of the priest responsible for the rites. An inscription from Nimrud Dag ( Dittenberger , Orientis Graeci inscriptiones selectae, I, 383, 1. 54f.) enumerates the deities of the dynastic pantheon. Following the dual tradition of the kingdom, the gods receive both Greek and Iranian names: Antiochus worships Zeus-Oromasdes, Apollo-Mithras-Helios-Hermes, Artagnes-Herakles-Ares, and finally the all-nourishing fatherland of Commagene. These deities are arranged according to the tri-functional system discovered by Dumézil: 1) Ohrmazd ( < Ahura Mazdā) and Mithra representing the religious-juridical function 2) Artagn ( < Vərə&thetara&gammana), the warrior function, and 3) the all-nourishing fatherland, both collective and nourishing function, in this case another symbol for the Iranian Daēnā, the spiritual element in its collective and nourishing function (Nyberg, Widengren). The inscription mentions a deity of Fate and Time, and Xronos Apeiros, Unlimited Time, corresponding to the Iranian Zurvān ī Akanārak (Av. Zrvan akarana), (ibid., 383 1. 114f. Arsameia 1.83f.). It has been argued that the first four deities, Oromazdes, Mithras, Artagnes, and Commagene, are the well-known aspects of the fourfold god Zurvān, the all-embracing deity of Time and Destiny (Schaeder, Nyberg, but see Zaehner for an opposing view). In a clear allusion to eschatological belief, Antiochus expresses the conviction that while his body is reposing in its tomb until eternity his soul will have been sent in advance up to the heavenly thrones of Zeus-Oromazdes (ibid., 383 1. 42f.). The heavenly ascent of the soul that takes place on a throne with Oromazdes is clearly an Iranian conception, found in Avestan texts (Vd. 19.31f., Hadōxt Nask II) and in many passages of Pahlavi literature.

See also L. Jalabert and R. Moutarde, Inscripsions Grecques et Latines de la Syrie I, Commagene et Cyrrhestique, Paris, 1929.

G. Dumézil, L&rsquoidéologie Tripartie des Indo-Européens, Brussels, 1958, pp. 59-61.

F. K. Dörner and T. Goell, Arsameia am Nyphaios, Berlin, 1963.

T. Goell, &ldquoThe Excavation of the "Hierothesion&rsquo of Antiochus I of Commagene on Nemrud Dagh (1953-1956),&rdquo Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research 147, 1957, pp. 4-22.

K. Humann and G. Puchstein, Reisen in Kleinasien und Nordsyrien, Berlin, 1890.

D. Magie, Roman Rule in Asia Minor, Princeton, 1950.

E. Norden, Die antike Kunstprosa, Leipzig and Berlin, 1909.

H. S. Nyberg, Die Religionen des Alten Iran, rep. Osnabrück, 1966, pp. 117f.

M. Rostovtzeff, &ldquoDura and the Problem of Parthian Art,&rdquo Yale Classical Studies 5, 1935, pp. 157-304.

H. H. Schaeder, &ldquoUrform und Fortbildungen des manichäischen Systems,&rdquo Vorträge der Bibliothek Warburg 4, Leipzig, 1927, pp. 65-157.

D. Schlumberger, L&rsquoOrient hellénisé, Paris, 1969.

G. Widengren, &ldquoSome Remarks on Riding Costume and Articles of Dress among Iranian Peoples in Antiquity,&rdquo Studia Ethnographica Upsaliensia 11, Uppsala, 1956, pp. 228-76.

Idem, Die Religionen Irans, Stuttgart, 1965 French ed., 1968.

Idem, &ldquoLa Rencontre avec la Daēnā, qui représente les actions de l&rsquohomme,&rdquo Orientalia Romana. Iranian Studies, ed. G. Gnoli, Rome, 1983, pp. 41-79.

Camb. Hist. Iran III, pp. 81, 110, 113, 841-43.

R. C. Zaehner, Zurvan. A Zoroastrian Dilemma, Oxford, 1955, pp. 20, 31.


The mountain lies 40 km (25 mi) north of Kahta, near Adıyaman. In 62 BC, King Antiochus I Theos of Commagene built on the mountain top a tomb-sanctuary flanked by huge statues 8–9-metre high (26–30 ft) of himself, two lions, two eagles and various Greek and Iranian gods, such as Heracles-Artagnes-Ares, Zeus-Oromasdes, and Apollo-Mithras-Helios-Hermes. [1] [2] These statues were once seated, with names of each god inscribed on them. The heads of the statues at some stage have been removed from their bodies, and they are now scattered throughout the site.

The pattern of damage to the heads (notably to noses) suggests that they were deliberately damaged as a result of iconoclasm. The statues have not been restored to their original positions. The site also preserves stone slabs with bas-relief figures that are thought to have formed a large frieze. These slabs display the ancestors of Antiochus, who included Greeks and Persians. [1]

The same statues and ancestors found throughout the site can also be found on the tumulus at the site, which is 49-metre tall (161 ft) and 152 m (499 ft) in diameter. It is possible that the tumulus of loose rock was built to protect a tomb from robbers, since any excavation would quickly fill in. [3] The statues appear to have Greek-style facial features, but Persian clothing and hair-styling.

The western terrace contains a large slab with a lion, showing an arrangement of stars and the planets Jupiter, Mercury and Mars. The composition was taken to be a chart of the sky on 7 July 62 BC. [4] This may be an indication of when construction began on this monument. The eastern portion is well preserved, being composed of several layers of rock, and a path following the base of the mountain is evidence of a walled passageway linking the eastern and western terraces. Possible uses for this site are thought to have included religious ceremonies, owing to the astronomical and religious nature of the monument.

The arrangement of such statues is known by the term hierothesion. Similar arrangements have been found at Arsameia on Nymphaios at the hierothesion of Mithridates I Callinicus, the father of Antiochus.

When the Seleucid Empire was defeated by the Romans in 190 BC at the Battle of Magnesia it began to fall apart and new kingdoms were established on its territory by local authorities. Commagene, one of the Seleucid successor states, occupied a land between the Taurus mountains and the Euphrates. The state of Commagene had a wide range of cultures which left its leader from 62 BC – 38 BC Antiochus I Theos to carry on a peculiar dynastic religious program, which included not only Greek and Iranian deities but Antiochus and his family as well. This religious program was very possibly an attempt by Antiochus to unify his multiethnic kingdom and secure his dynasty's authority. [5]

Antiochus supported the cult as a propagator of happiness and salvation. [6] Many of the ruins on Mount Nemrud are monuments of the imperial cult of Commagene. The most important area to the cult was the tomb of Antiochus I, which was decorated with colossal statues made of limestone. Although the imperial cult did not last long after Antiochus, several of his successors had their own tombs built on Mount Nemrud. [7] For around half of the year, Mount Nemrud is covered in snow, the effect of which increases weathering, which has in part caused the statues to fall in ruin. [5]

The site was excavated in 1881 by Karl Sester [de] , a German engineer assessing transport routes for the Ottomans. After her first visit in 1947, Theresa Goell dedicated her life to the site, starting campaigns in 1954. Subsequent excavations have failed to reveal the tomb of Antiochus. This is nevertheless still believed to be the site of his burial. The statues, all of them "beheaded", have not been restored to their original condition.

In 1987, Mount Nemrut was made a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. [8] Tourists typically visit Nemrut during April through October. The nearby town of Adıyaman is a popular place for car and bus trips to the site, and one can also travel from there by helicopter. There are also overnight tours running out of Malatya or Kahta. [9]

Descent from the Kings of Lydia

As discussed in my book Tracing Your Aristocratic Ancestors, genealogists have long sought proven lines of descent from antiquity for Medieval royalty and their millions of non-royal descendants, but have been defeated by lack of reliable records, caused in part by the violent end of the Roman empire. The internet is awash with ancient lines that are based on pure supposition. The following is the longest line of descent that is generally agreed by responsible genealogists to be likely, and afterwards is another, shorter one, also highly likely to be correct. They are based itself on some suppositions and are not without its own controversies (for example, Prince Toumanoff’s identification of the mother of Chosroes I with the daughter of Pharasmenes III has been questioned by Christian Settipani), but there is still a reasonable chance that they are correct.

Lydia is in western Turkey (its capital, Sardis, is an hour’s drive west from Izmir). It was in Turkey and the countries which neighbour it to the east that our grain-based civilisation began, and it is this region which saw the first cities, the first metal working, and the first writing. Countless genes from this region spread west with the spread of these discoveries, and it is in this region that we have the earliest inscriptions and thus the earliest recorded genealogies. It’s no coincidence or surprise, therefore, that the earliest traceable lines, however uncertain, lead us back into the cradle of civilisation.

Gyges, King of Lydia c. 685 BC, who ‘held sway over all of the Troad [the land of Troy]’ (Strabo XIII, 1.22). The ancient capital of Lydia was Sardis, which we visited in September 2015. The acropolis was on the rocky hill in the background of the photograph above: to my left are the ruins of the later Classical temple of Artemis (Diana). Gyges was father of:

Ardys, King of Lydia c. 657 BC

Sadyattes, King of Lydia, father of wealthy Croesus, King of Lydia who died in 546 BC and also of:

Arcyenis, wife of Astyages, King of Media, whom she married about 615 BC (Astyges was brother of Amytis, who married Nebuchadnezzar: their father was Cyaxares I, King of Media, son of Phraortes in about 660 BC, who was son in turn of Deioces). They had a son Cyaxares II and a daughter:

Mandane, wife of Cambyses I, Great King of Persia (died 560/59 BC). They were parents of:

Cyrus II the Great, 598-529 BC, Great King of Persia and King of Babylon, who married Cassandrane daughter of Pharnaspes and had children Cambyses II (d. 522, Great King of Persia) and:

Atossa. She married first her full brother Cambyses II (Herodotus states clearly that Atossa was a full sister of Cambyses’s) and secondly to her cousin Darius I, Great King of Persia, whose attempt to invade Greece was halted at Marathon, and they had a son:

Xerxes I, Great King of Persia (521-465 BC), who married Amestris and had:

Artaxerxes I, Great King of Persia d. 424, who had by his Babylonian concubine Kosmartydene a son:

Darius II Ochus, Great King of Persia, d. 404, who married his half-sister Parysatis and had a son:

Artaxerxes II, Great King of Persia d. 359, who married Stateira daughter of Hydarnes and had:

Apama, wife of Pharnabazus II, Satrap of Hellespontine Phrygia and Dascylium d. 374 or 367, who defeated the Spartan navy in 394. They were maternal grandparents (according to Settipani, Nos Ancestres de l’Antiquite, 1991) and Balcer’s A Prosopographical Study of the Ancient Persians Royal and Noble, 1993) of:

Spitamenes, Satrap of Bactria d. 328, who was father of:

Apama, wife of Seleucus I Nicator, d. 281 BC, one of Alexander the Great’s generals, and they had:

Antiochus I Soter, King of Syria d. 261 BC, who married Stratonice, daughter of Demetrius I Poliorcets, King of Macedonia, and they had a son:

Antiochus II Theos, King of Syria d. 246, who married Laodice, sister of Achaeus, and they had:

Seleucus II Callinicus, King of Syria d. 226, who married Laodice, daughter of Andromachus, and they had:

Antiochus III Megas, King of Syria, d. 187 BC, who married Laodice, a cousin of the king of Pontus, and they had:

Seleucus IV Philopator, King of Syria d. 175 BC, who married Laodice, probably daughter of Philip V of Macedonia, and they had:

Demetrius I Soter, d. 150, King of Syria, who had been raised as a hostage in Rome, who married Apama and had a son:

Demetrius II Nicator, King of Syria, d. 125 BC, who married Cleopatra daughter of Ptolemy VI Philometor (she died when she was forced to drink the poison she had prepared for her son Antiochus). They had:

Antiochus VIII Philometor Grypus, King of Syria d. 96 BC, who wrote verses about poisonous snakes, who married Cleopatra Tryphaena, daughter of Ptolemy VIII Euergetes II and they had:

Laodice Thea Philadelphos, who married Mithradates I Kallinikos, King of Commagene and they had:

Antiochus I Theos, King of Commagene d. 36 BC, who tried to make himself the deity of a new religion (and created a temple at Arsameia on the Nymphaios in Commagene, which included a great slab depicting his father Mithradates shaking hands with Hercules, as shown above), and who married Isias Philostorgos, perhaps the daughter of Ariobarzanes, King of Cappadocia, and they had:

A daughter who was the wife of Artavazdes I, King of Media Atropatene and Lesser Armenia, who was almost certainly grandfather (probably via Prince Darius, or perhaps Ariobarzanes II, King of Media) of:

Vonones II, King of Media Atropene, Great King of Parthia d. 51 AD who had, by a Greek concubine:

Vologaeses I, Great King of Parthia, d. 77 AD, father of:

Mithradates or Meherdates, King of Armenia d.c. 76 AD, who married Awde, daughter of Mannos VI, King of Edessa, and they had:

Sanatruces, King of Armenia and Edessa, d. 106 AD, who was father of:

Vologaeses I, King of Armenia, d. c. 137 AD, probably father of:

Vologaeses, a pretender to the Armenian throne in 162 AD, probably father of:

Vologaeses IV/V, an imaginative watercolour which I painted in about 1990 from an old coin showing the old boy.

Vologaeses IV/V, King of Armenia and Great King of Parthia d. 207/8, who married the daughter of father of Pharasmenes III, King of Iberia (whose own ancestry is given separately, below), father of:

Chosroes I, King of Armenia d. 216 BC, father of:

Tiridates II, King of Armenia d. 252 (not given by Wagner but in Toumanoff’s 1990 Les dynasties de la Caucasie chrétienne, Table 8, p. 85).

Chosroes II the Valiant, King of Western Armenia, slain in 287

Tiran Tiridates IV King of Armenia (converted to Christianity by St Gregory) d. 330

Chosroes III King of Armenia d. 339

Bambishin of Armenia St Narses the great, Hereditary Bishop and primate of Armenia d. 373

St Isaac the Great, hereditary bishop and primate of Armenia d. 438

Sahakanoysh, wife of Hamazasp I, prince of the Mamikonids

Hamazaspian, Mamikonid prince [there intervening seven or eight generations the names of whom are not known, but scholars of the period do not doubt the descent down to Hmayeak. This and the following question marks in the next couple of generations are from the groundbreaking work of Prince Toumanoff and Nicholas Adontz, who were none the less very sure the line of descent was accurate. This line of ancestry was described by the late Anthony Wagner, Garter King of Arms, as a ‘bridge to antiquity… that will bear weight’], ancestor through seven or eight generations of:

Hmayeak, a prince of the Mamikonid dynasty

Artavzd, Strategus of the Anatolians (778), probable father of:

Hmayeak, known to have been of Mamikonid descent, who married a daughter of Emperor Leo V, Emperor of the East, thought to have been father of:

Constantine Basil I Emperor of the East d. 813

Leo VI Emperor of the East d. 866

Constantine VII Porphyrogenitus, Emperor of the East d.905

Romanus II Emperor of the East d. 940

Empress Theophano d. 991, wife of the western Emperor Otto II

Matilda d. 1025, wife of Ezzo, Count Palatine of Lorraine

Richenza d. 1063 wife of Mieczislav II King of Poland

Casimir I King of Poland d. 1016

Vladislav I King of Poland d. 1043

Boleslav III King of Poland d. 1138

Vladislav II King of Poland d. 1159

Richilda wife of Alfonso VII King of Leon and Castile

Sanchia, wife of Alfonso II King of Aragon

Alfonso Count of Provence d. 1209

Raymond Berengar Count of Provence d. 1245

Eleanor of Provence d. 1291, wife of Henry III King of England d. 1272

Edward I King of England d. 1307

Edward II d. 1327

Edward III d. 1377

For the lines coming down from Edward III through the Fairfax family to the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and genealogist Anthony Adolph, see here.


This is the likely ancestry of Chosroes I King of Armenia d. 216/7 (whose father’s ancestry is given above), through his mother:

Pharnabazus I, King of Iberia (approximating to modern Georgia in the Caucasus) d. 234 BC. His real origins are not known: the early Medieval Georgian Chronicle deduces him back to the mighty “T’orgom, son of T’iras, son of Gamer, son of Japheth”, son of Noah himself.

Sauromaces I, King of Iberia d. 159 BC

Wife of Meribanes I, King of Iberia

Wife of Artaxias I, King of Iberia

Artaces I, King of Iberia d. 63 BC

Pharnabazus II, King of Iberia d. 30 BC

Wife of Kart‘am of Iberia

Pharasmenes I King of Iberia d. 58 AD

Mithradates I, King of Iberia (d. 106 AD)

Amazaspus I, King of Iberia (d. 116 AD)

Pharasmenes II King of Iberia (who married Ghadana, daughter of Vologaeses I, King of Armenia) d. 132 AD

Radamistus, King of Armenia, d. 135

Pharasmenes III, King of Iberia d. 185

Wife of Vologaeses IV Great King of Parthia (whose male line ancestry is given above), parents of:

Chosroes I King of Armenia d. 216/7 (see above)

Chosroes was the ancestor of Edward III and thus of millions of people alive today, as discussed in my book Tracing Your Aristocratic Ancestors.