Sunday, 10 April 2011

The Orontid Kings: Sames

Sames (Old Persian: Shama, Greek: Σαμωσ, Armenian: Շամ) was the Satrap of Commagene.

War between the Seleucid Empire and the Ptolemaic Kingdom seems to have allowed Sames an opportunity of independence.
What side he took in the Syrian Wars is unknown as most of the records of that era have been lost, though it would make sense that he would have supported the Ptolemaic Kingdom against his large and powerful neighbour, the Seleucid Empire.

Most sources give Orontes III as his father.
After Orontes III died in 260 BC, there is no record for when Sames began his rule, only his year of death, in 260 BC as well.

It may be that he began his rule in 272 BC.
In that year king Antiochus I conquered Sophene and forced its ruler to pay a tribute of 300 silver talents and 1,000 horses and mules. Then the ruler was murdered. Who that ruler was is not stated, though it could not have been Sames, who is said to have died in 260 BC. The only recorded person in that time ruling that region was Orontes III.

It may well be that Orontes was murdered by order of king Antiochus I in 272 BC and his son was left in control of Sophene whilst a Seleucid Satrap was put in control of Armenia.

Commagene was outside the boundary of historic Armenia, yet the Persian Satraps remained in occupation of many regions of Anatolia, such as Cappadocia and Pontus. It may have been that the son and heir to the Armenian kingdom would rule another region, just as the son or heir to the Achaemenid Empire had always ruled an outlying region, such as Bactria or Hyrkania.
Viewing it from this perspective it would make sense, as his father Orontes III was of the Achaemenian family.

Sames founded the city of Samosata, in Commagene. This has been submerged by the Ataturk Dam since 1989.
  • Shamash was a Babylonian god, equivalent to Mithra, it was a dramatic break from a seemingly continous tradition of Satraps with Persian names. The neighbouring region of Osroene had a majority Aramaic population that the Persian and Greek occupiers never replaced. Although Sames had a very Babylonian (Aramaic) name, his name might have been "Mihrdat" which many of his successors had, but replaced it with the Babylonian equivalent for cultural reasons on taking control of Commagene. however his son was called Arsames (Arshama) and this was the name of king Darius I grandfather.

He was succeeded by his son, Arsames I.


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