Archiver > GEN-MEDIEVAL > 1998-08 > 0903422361

From: Chris Bennett< >
Subject: [Long]: Settipani on Baldwin on the Commagenian DFA link Part 2 of 3
Date: 17 Aug 1998 23:39:21 -0700

These consideration are not simply hypotheses or personal preferences, but
are really the obvious meaning of Strabo's text placed in context. The
principal commentator on this passage, Sullivan (1990, pp295-300) notes
moreover, concerning the Syrian union: "But Strabo probably had in mind the
well-known ones with effects still visible when he wrote" (op cit n. 62, p.
453). The only "visible" effect of a matrimonial alliance several decades
later consists of the descendants who issued from it and/or any territorial
or political gain which resulted from it. And indeed two of the three
unions are identifiable, the first and the last.

So, what have we established? That they conform to the schema that we have
deduced, in their chronological order, in the fact that they indeed consist
of marriages between foreign princesses and Median kings, and finally in
the fact that the following Median kings were their issue. This being
said, we should note that, most often, diplomatic marital alliances were
exchanges, and that it is therefore probable that, in the same fashion,
Median princesses were given to Armenian, Syrian or Parthian kings.
Moreover, we actually know of a (supposed) marriage between a king of
Commagene and a Median princess. But if this marriage supports our
identification of Commagene as actually being Syria, of which there is
elsewhere a question, we do not believe it is the marriage mentioned in
Strabo. Thus, while it remains possible that our precision is illusory,
even "ridiculous" as M Baldwin assesses it (p 10), we frankly do not
believe so, and, indeed without being assured, it appears to us, to the
contrary, that our position has a certain solidity.

Let us reply now to each of the points raised by M Baldwin's analysis:

a)We come to reply to the first point by noting that, in context, it is
logical, and in fact extremely probable, that the unions mentioned by
Strabo concern Atropatenian princes marrying foreign princesses, which is
actually verifiable in two of the cases.

b)We know precisely what Strabo meant by "Syria" since he defines it
elsewhere. It consists of Commagene, Seleucid Syria, Coile-Syria and
Emesa. Here again our choice does not depend on chance or an arbitrary
decision to choose the solution which favours us (of which there are two of
the four). Here again, Strabo's context serves as a guide. This Syrian
alliance was concluded between the Armenian and Parthian alliances, between
95 and 15 BC, and more likely between 70 and 30 BC (see the following
point). And it was politically important and beneficial to Media. This
allows us to discard Coile-Syria, which is excluded since it did not have a
hereditary dynasty. The same applies to Emesa, which some have sometimes
considered a possibility. But it is only a generation later that the
semitic dynasty of Emesa, of recent origin, began to ally itself to
neighbouring dynasties. Around 40BC, the latest date for the marriage,
their dynasty was not yet firmly established, and Strabo (XVI,2,10) still
only knew their princes as phylarchs, and did not always give them a royal
title. Their kingdom was still in the process of formation (Cf R Sullivan,
1990, p199-200). And, similarly for the Seleucids, whose dynasty was
certainly most prestigious, but who were then politically non-existent and
about to disappear completely. A diplomatic marriage with the Seleucids is
very unlikely after 90, and almost certainly excluded after 65. Only
Commagene remains. And it is indeed with a king of Commagene that the
Median princess Iotape is joined at this moment.

c)The Armenian marriage concerns Mithridates of Media (…67 to before 65)
who had married a daughter of Tigranes II (95-56). The union is attested
in 67, but we don't know when it took place. All the same, the name of the
Median king Artavasdes (…56-31) allows us to suppose that he was issue from
it, since the name Artavasdes seems characteristic of the Armenian dynasty
and the descendants of Artvazdes inherited the throne of Armenia [Pace M
Schottky, 1989, p73, one cannot reasonably assimilate "Artabazanes" with
"Artavasdes"]. Artavasdes of Media, already king in 56, must be born
towards 75. As we know that his father was called Ariobarzanes, it is the
latter who must have been born to king Mithridates and the Armenian
princess, thus towards 95 [we will correct therefore the dates of birth
given in our table (p100) for Tigranes II (c130), his daughter (c110) and
his son-in-law Mithridates of Media (c120)]. As to the Parthian marriage,
if it indeed concerns the parents of Artabanos II and Vonones II, it
occurred around 15BC, the likely birthdate of Artabanos considering his
tumultuous career. Thus the second marriage is situated between these two
dates. Two or three kings of Media Atropatene are known in this interval:
Darius (after 67-65), [Ariobarzanes I (65-before 56)], Artavasdes (…56-31).
Whichever of these kings married a Commagenian princess, she was probably
a daughter of the king of Commagene who reigned throughout this period
-–Antiochos I (70-36).

d)We have supposed that of these three kings it was Artavasdes who must
have been the spouse of the Syrian princess. If it were in fact his father
Ariobarzanes. This would change none of our conclusions. But it is true
that it could also have been Darius, probable uncle of Artavasdes, who has
no known posterity. We recognise that we don't know enough to be
affirmative, and that the ensemble is weakened at this point. But the
reign of Darius was very short, less than two years, and perhaps only a few
months. He did not leave any known posterity. The likelihood that it was
his marriage which was one of the glories of the dynasty seems extremely
remote. It is also true that there remains the possibility that the king
concerned was the successor of Artavasdes, i.e. Ariobarzanes II (20-8 BC).
But what makes this possibility very unlikely is the fact that the third
marriage seems to have been quite distant in time from the preceding ones.
Strabo says that the Medians kings formed unions with the Armenian, the
Syrian, and MORE RECENTLY ("meta tauta") the Parthian kings. It does not
seem therefore that the third union could be contemporary, or very close
to, the second.

e)That being said, obviously nothing proves that the Median prince (or
king), father of Artabanos and Vonones, was issue of the union concluded
between one of his predecessors and the Syrian princess. We think so, not
because it suits us, but because it is the best way to give full meaning to
Strabo's phrase if the contemporary Median kings of whom he speaks were
indeed issue of the three unions which he enumerates in connection with
them. And again, it is actually verifiable for two of the three marriages
which encourages us to accept the same principle for the third.

In this connection, M Baldwin reproaches us for having invented the
[Darius] who we give as father of Artabanos II and Vonones II. It is
absolutely correct that this personage is hypothetical and that his name
could have been anything else, or, better, that he was simply king
Ariobarzanes II. It seems to us more prudent not to retain an
identification in our table in order to show clearly that it is not
necessary. Perhaps we were finally in error and at least we should leave
this generation anonymous rather than to dress it up with the name

In summary, the data which we deduced from Strabo's text goes well beyond
what M Baldwin considers as an arbitrary and preferential choice on our
part, on the one hand because we studied this passage based on the text
itself, and not in translation, and on the other hand because we have fully
considered the context of the citation and the aims of the author.

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