Zenobia, Queen of Greater Armenia, in European Works of Art

Zenobia, Queen of Greater Armenia

A number of famous European artists of the 17-19th centuries dedicated numerous paintings to Queen Zenobia of Armenia (1st century AD).

Aside from that, she was featured in several operas. For example, composer George Frideric Handel wrote the opera Radamisto where the main characters of the opera were the rulers of Greater Armenia who lived 2 thousand years ago, including Queen Zenobia and Trdat. Among authors who’ve dedicated operas to Zenobia were Giovanni Bononcini, Georges de Scudéry, and Tommaso Traetta.

Zenobia (Armenian: Զենոբիա; Georgian: ზენობია) was the daughter of King of Greater Armenia Mithridates of Iberia. She was married to her uncle Rhadamistus. She is mainly known from the works of Roman senator and historian Tacitus.

Since 34 AD, Rhadamistus commanded the Caucasian Iberians and sought to occupy the Armenian throne. In 51, he succeeded. Zenobia occupied the throne of the Queen of Armenia in 51-53 and 54-55 in the years of Rhadamistus’ reign.

After Rhadamistus was overthrown for the second time, he and his wife fled. During the flight from Trdat, the new ruler of Armenia, the pregnant Zenobia asked Rhadamistus to kill her so that she could avoid shameful captivity.

Her husband stabbed her and threw her into the waters of Araks. However, the wound was not fatal, and shepherds pulled her out of the water along the way. Zenobia decided to go to Trdat who treated her with respect and reverence.

Below, we present to you only some of the masterpieces of European artists dedicated to Queen Zenobia.

Nicola Poussin. “Zenobia on the banks of the Araks.” 1634 year.
Luigi Sabatelli. “The Radamist kills Zenobia.” 1803 year.
Paul Baudry. “Zenobia found by the shepherds on the banks of the Araks.” 1848 year.
William Bouguereau. “Zenobia on the banks of the Araks.” 1850 year.

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