Orontids

Orontids: modern name of the rulers in Armenia between c.330 and c.200 BCE.

The land of the Araxes

After the conquests of Alexander the Great (r.336-323 BCE), there were several wars between his successors. The authors of our sources are focused on these events and are not interested in the events in the periphery, which are consequently poorly understand. For example, we know that Alexander sent a new satrap to Armenia, Mithrenes, but we cannot know whether he established his rule.

We know several names, however, of people who exercised power in Armenia. Orontes II is mentioned as independent ruler in the years after the death of Alexander;note Orontes III is mentioned as an opponent of the Seleucid Empire in Syria, Iraq, and Iran;note Samus and Arsames are mentioned as father and son in an inscription from Nemrud Dagi; they were ancestors of Antiochus I Theos of Commagene. Arsames is known to have opposed the Seleucids.note Orontes IV may have been a descendant of Orontes II and Orontes III and Arsames. If this is correct, Samus and Arsames were descendants of the earlier Oronteses as well, and we know five names of one dynasty, but we must be cautious because the evidence is scarse and ambiguous.

What is certain, is that during the reign of the Seleucid king Antiochus III the Great (r.222-187), Armenia temporarily lost its independence. The last king, Orontes IV, was succeeded by two Seleucid generals, Artaxias and Zariadris, who started for themselves and accepted the title of king when Antiochus III had been defeated by the Romans in the Syrian War (192-188).note Orontids continued to rule in Commagene, first as Seleucid satraps, later as independent kings.

What is also certain, is that under the Armenian Orontids, new cities were created. Samus is credited with the building of Samosata and Samocarta; Arsames was the founder of Arsamosata in Sophene (modern Elazığ), and Arsameia on the Euphrates (Gerger) and Arsameia on the Nymphaeus (Eski Kale) in Commagene. Orontes IV moved his residence from Armavir to the new city of Yervandashat. His successor, general Artaxias, continued this policy and founded Artaxata.

Orontes II

c.330 - c.315

Orontes III

c.280

Samus

c.260

Arsames

c.240

Orontes IV

c.220 - c.200

This page was created in 2019; last modified on 25 May 2019.