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Saturday, 9 April 2011

The Orontid Dynasty: Orontes I

After researching the real rulers of Armenia from the 7th century BC to the 5th century AD I had made Wikipedia pages for them, alas Wikipedia also allows anyone to edit what is posted and add nonsense.
So I will post here my findings.
Some of the sources I read for this were J. M. Cook's "The Persian Empire" and Richard G. Hovannisian's "The Armenian People from Ancient to Modern Times".

This is about Orontes I, who is cited as an Armenian king in Armenian history, but was actually an Achaemenid Persian, and a Satrap for the Achaemenid Persian empire.

This is a gold Drachm minted in Ionia, western Asia Minor, around 363 BC. It depicts Orontes, who at that time had occupied Ionia in rebellion against king Artaxerxes III. Note the Scythian hat he wears.


The name Orontes is a Greek corruption of the original Persian name '''Auruand''' which meant "Great Warrior" in the Avestan language.
It is likely this was a special title given by the Persian king to a chosen man of the Achaemenid family, though this seems to have become a hereditary name in that family. 

According to the Greek sources (Herodotus, Strabo) Orontes was made Satrap of Sophene and Matiene, these comprised western and eastern Urartu. He was given these Satrapies after the Battle of Cunaxa in 401 BC for supporting Artaxerxes II against Cyrus the Younger

Xenophon in his "Anabasis" mentions Orontes and that he had a son called Tigran. Movses Khorenatsi confused this Tigran with king Tigran II.

It is likely Orontes ruled from Armavir as the previous Satrap of Armenia, Hydarnes, had ruled from there.
He also married Rodogoune, the daughter of king Artaxerxes II by one of his concubines.

He is next recorded in 381 BC for the campaign to recapture Cyprus from its rebel leader, King Evagoras, commanding the army, whilst the navy was under the command of Tiribazus. They managed to lay siege to the city of Salamis, however Orontes then impeached Tiribazus to king Artaxerxes II. Before three Persian noble judges, Orontes was found guilty.

In 362 BC a great rebellion occurred in Anatolia, led by Datames, Satrap of Cappadocia. Some sources say that it was Orontes who was chosen by the rebels as their leader. However Orontes stayed loyal to king Artaxerxes II and aided in the collapse of the rebellion.
Apparently he wanted to rule Anatolia and Armenia alone. 

In 355 BC he rebelled against the new king of the Achaemenid Empire, Artaxerxes III.
The Satrapy of Ionia was captured by him, including the city of Pergamon and he sent bribe money to Athens, where a decree records his name for an alliance. 
He had enough funds to plot such things as he is recorded to have had a personal fortune of 3,000 talents of silver. He also minted his own coins, such as the one displayed here from the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris.
He still had possession of parts of western Anatolia when he fought a battle against the satrap of Daskyleion. After being defeated he handed back Pergamon to the king's men and subsequently died.

The next Satrap of Armenia is known as "Orontes II" though if he really was the son of Orontes is not definitively proven.
The kings of  Commagene claimed descent from Orontes with Darius I of Persia as their ancestor, by his marriage to Rodogoune, daughter of Artaxerxes II who had a family descent from king Darius I.

Some ancient Greek sources called Orontes a "Bactrian", though it was because his father, Artasyrus (Artaxerxes), had been the Satrap of Bactria in the reign of king Artaxerxes II. It is interesting that during the Achaemenid Empire Bactria was ruled by the heir to the throne. It is possible that Artasyrus is the same person as king Artaxerxes II.
This king had seven known children and eleven children whose names are not known in western historical records.

A quote about king Orontes I from "The Mythology of All Races: Volume VII;  Armenian Mythology: The World of Spirits and Monsters. XI, by Mardiros H. Ananikian, New York, 1925....
"King Erwand also, whose name, according to Father Ghevont Alishan, means serpent, was held captive by the dragons in rivers and mist. He must have been a changeling, or rather born of a serpent-father. For he was a worshipper of Devs and, according to Moses of Khoren, the son of a royal princess from an unknown father. He was proverbially ugly and wicked and possessed an evil eye under the gaze of which rocks crumbled to pieces.
According to Djvanshir, a historian of the Iberians of Transcaucasia, the wicked King Erwand built a temple to the Kaches (Brave Ones) at Dsung, near Akhalkaghak in Iberia (Georgia)"

This all reflects the rapacious character of Orontes I.


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