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About Athenais

Athenais of Media Atropatene

Athenais (flourished 1st century BC) was a Princess from the Kingdom of Commagene whom through marriage became a Queen of Media Atropatene and possibly of Sophene.

Athenais was a monarch of Armenian and Greek descent. She was one of the five children and youngest one born to King Antiochus I Theos of Commagene who reigned from 70 BC until 38 BC, and his wife, Queen Isias Philostorgos. Her paternal grandparents were the previous ruling Commagenean monarchs Mithridates I Callinicus and his wife, the Seleucid Princess and Queen Laodice VII Thea. While her maternal grandparents, was the Roman Client King of Cappadocia, Ariobarzanes I Philoromaios who reigned from 95 BC until 63/62 BC and his wife, Queen Athenais Philostorgos I. Her maternal uncle was the Roman Client King of Cappadocia, Ariobarzanes II Philopator and her maternal aunt-in-marriage was Athenais Philostorgos II. Her maternal aunt-in-marriage was a Pontian Princess who was the daughter of King Mithridates VI of Pontus from his second marriage to the Anatolian Greek Macedonian noblewoman and Pontian Queen Monime. So, Athenais was the namesake of her maternal grandmother, her maternal aunt-in-marriage and was the third woman name called Athenais in the family of Ariobarzanes I Philoromaios.

Athenais was born and raised in the Kingdom of Commagene. At an unknown date, Athenais married King Artavasdes I of Media Atropatene. Artavasdes I was a monarch of Median and possibly of Armenian, Greek descent who served as King of Media Atropatene from 56 BC til 31 BC and later as a Roman Client King of Sophene from 30 BC til 20 BC.

Athenais’ name is known from surviving numismatic evidence, as her royal title on coins is in Greek ΒΑΣΙΛΕΙΑ ΑΘΗΝΑΙΣ or of Queen Athenais. Surviving coinage reveals that Athenais married Artavasdes I as his Queen and probably married her sometime during his kingship of Media Atropatene. In the surviving coinage of Athenais and Artavasdes I, appears on one side a portrait of Artavasdes I wearing his crown showing his royal title in Greek, while on the other side a portrait is shown of Athenais with her royal title in Greek wearing a turreted tiara as a Diadem. These coins are dated from circa 30 BC from his kingship.

Not much is known on her relationship with Artavasdes I and her reign as Queen. Athenais bore Artavasdes I three known children:

  • Daughter, Iotapa who was engaged to the Ptolemaic Greek Prince Alexander Helios[7] who later married her maternal cousin, Mithridates III of Commagene
  • Son, Ariobarzanes II
  • Son, Darius II. He married an unnamed Parthian Arsacid Princess, by whom they had two sons: the Parthian Kings Artabanus III and Vonones II.

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