Aryazate Automa, Daughter of Tigranes the Great

When in 120 BC Mithridates II brought the future Tigranes the Great to Parthia as a royal hostage after his short war with Armenia, then under the reign of King Artavasdes I, he saw in Tigranes a smart and confident ruler, and surely groomed him to one day take over the Armenian throne.

I am confident that Tigranes accompanied him on his expeditions and learned the arts of strategy, warfare, and diplomacy. Tigranes lived in Babylon, one of the oldest cities in antiquity.

During his captivity, he was treated well and married his daughter Aryazate Automa to the son of Mithridates, Gotarzes., who was then “satrap of satraps” of that important city. Mithridates and Tigranes thus became in-laws.

We always read about the stories of the kings, but conveniently overlook the peripheral people who sometimes played a large role in the unfolding events of history.

Who was Automa? She was the daughter of Sosem (Zosima) and Tigranes and was either born in Artaxata, Armenia, or Babylon. She was probably Tigran’s only child during his captivity, and he surely cherished her as his first-born, a princess in captivity, but still royalty, and no doubt the light of his life.

Most of her life was spent in Babylon, and she probably spoke Parthian, Greek, and Armenian. I always wonder what she felt, as a young teen, the moment they introduced her to Gotarzes in marriage, humbled in front of the imposing king of kings Mithridates II, but yet secure in the strong presence of her father, and the great symbolic “handshake” between the two giants that sealed this dynastic marriage and thereby the grand alliance between a future Parthia and Armenia, which as we shall see later, was short-lived.

When the time came, in 95 BC, Mithridates installed Tigranes as king of Armenia, trusting that he would be a stable and powerful neighbor. Together they would be a bulwark against the Seleucids and the rising power of Rome.

Automa stayed behind in Babylon and had children with Gotarzes. 95 BC would have been the last time she saw her father as he departed to Armenia in the accompaniment of a large Parthian/Armenian escort.

When Mithridates II died a few years later in 91 BC, his son, and Tigranes’ son-in-law Gotarzes succeeded him, and Automa became Queen of Parthia.

This grand title was not to last, alas, as a brother of Gotarzes, Mithridates III, organized a coup just 4 years later, in 87 BC, killing the king and his wife Automa.

No one in historical accounts remembers how the last moments of her life unfolded and the emotional turmoil she went through.

The strong and imposing figure of her loving father probably dominated her last flashbacks before she gave up her last breath.

Tigran the Great King was not around to save her from the mad fratricidal Mithridates III, but here is when the course of history changed.

Tigranes, heartbroken in grief, and wild in anger, feeling the frustration of not having been there to rescue her, in a punitive invasion, swung Eastwards and devastated Parthia in a war which resulted in him capturing huge territories including the 70 valleys he had ceded to his father-in-law Mithridates in return for his kingship.

“Tigranes subdued many nations, cut the Parthians off from Asia, and humbled their power as no man before had done. He attacked and destroyed Adrapana, the royal residence in Ecbatana, put a siege on Ecbatana which he could not conquer.

Tigran’s activities show his great hatred for Mithradates, not only because of the murder of his son-in-law Gotarzes but also because his daughter Aryazates possibly lost her life, too.

No doubt the dreadful act of Mithradates III turned the sweet relation between the Parthian and the Armenian during the reign of Gotarzes I to a bitter hostility during the reign of Mithridates III.” (Dilmaghani, J, Parthian dark age. Read More: Parthian Dark Age

After Mithridates III saw his palaces and lands devastated, and was deposed by his nobles for causing this fiasco, the king who succeeded him was … the son of Automa and Gotarzes, Orodes I, who ruled between 80 – 75 BC.

Technically, a grandson of Tigranes the Great ruled Parthia during those years, while Tigranes continued carving out his empire to the West and South.

By Joseph Sarkissian

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