Antiochus I Theos Dikaios Epiphanes Philorhomaios Philhellen (Ancient Greek: Ἀντίοχος ὁ Θεὸς Δίκαιος Ἐπιφανὴς Φιλορωμαῖος Φιλέλλην, meaning “Antiochos, the just, eminent god, friend of Romans and friend of Greeks
After this overblown introduction of himself (we get it, he was friends with everyone) let me introduce Antiochus I, king of Commagene
Between 70 BC and 31 BC. Let me also burst a few bubbles!! Like many nobles of Asia Minor, he boasted descent from a rich lineage of royalties. His father, Mithridates I, was a descendant from both the Orontid and the Achaemenid dynasties.
That claim could be traced back almost 2 centuries when Orontes I (Yervant) had married the daughter of king Artaxerxes II, Rhodogune. Antiochus’ mother was a descendant of the Greek Seleucids with blood connections to the Egyptian Ptolemies. Quite an impressive résumé really.
We have to remember that his father was one of the vassal kings of Tigranes the Great, possibly even one of those misfortunate “four kings” who -as rumors had it – would attend to him on foot every time he was seen in public on his horse.
But right around 70 BC, when Antiochus succeeded him, Tigranes would within a year lose the holdings of his vast empire to Lucullus and later to Pompey. When Pompey invaded Commagene on his way to Armenia in 64 BC he was compelled to surrender and vow allegiance to him against Tigranes.
From then on, Antiochus I and all the Commagenian kings succeeding him would be very loyal to Rome. As a matter of fact, every Roman expedition that would invade Armenia and Parthia would have the support of Commagenian contingents.
They had no choice. After Pompey reorganized the East, Tigranes settled in his ancestral kingdom, and Antiochus in his. It is not clear how their mutual relations were, however with Tigranes eliminated as a threat, Antiochus tried to keep good relations with both Parthia and Rome.
He saw himself as a sort of “successor” of king Tigranes as he started brandishing the Armenian Tiara on his coins and statues. Personally I think the act was a symbolic “plagiarism” to give himself an air of importance despite having assisted in the downfall of Tigranes. His other actions also hint towards a sense of deified megalomania.
He created a cult for himself and assembled a sanctuary with huge statues of gods on Nemrut, so that he would be worshipped after his death. His gods were a syncretism of Eastern Iranian and Western Greek gods and are now a unesco heritage site.
Armenians, obsessed as we are with everything that resembles our culture or mythology, are of course infatuated by the sanctuary of Nemrut, or the Armenian Tiara on his coins. I doubt that Tigranes would have ever allowed any other king except an Artaxiat king wear the royal Tiara. I believe, bluntly put, that it was a stolen logo.
Most of us aren’t aware of the real story behind Antiochus, or that he wasn’t even Armenian by pure blood, or the fact that Commagene was merely a post-Seleucid small province with a mixed population which tried to survive as a small kingship.
Its armies never were powerful enough to stand up to an external threat except provide military assistance to the big boys on the block. A century later emperor Vespasian did away with Commagene altogether – and incorporated it into the province of Syria. as simple as that.