Armenia's Arsham; Was Seneca The Elder A Jew?

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Armenia's Arsham; Was Seneca The Elder A Jew?

Post by yakovzutolmai »

In some of my other posts, I've discussed my theory that the Armenian semi-historical figure Arsham is in fact Tiridates II of Parthia. I also think this same person was known as Ma'nu III Saflul of Osrhoene, and Philip II Philoromaois of "Seleucia". Although the Armenian history is unreliable, it does offer a context unseen in other sources and so is at best highly imaginative.

The two sources I use are Moses of Chorene, and then there's also Father Michael Chamich of the Armenian Church.

First, Chamich draws from sources other than Moses. Agathangelus, Zenobius, Buzand, Koreun, and Moses of Chorene. Apparently, among many others. He composed his work by the nineteenth century.

Arsham is best known as the supposed father of Abgar of Edessa, himself a semi-historical figure. Regardless, Chamich relates an account of Arsham missing from Moses of Chorene
Upon the news of the appointment of Augustus to the supreme command of the Romans reaching the ears of Arsham, he dispatched to Rome and ambassador, praying the emperor to set at liberty his nephews the sons of Artavazd. But Augustus, hearing of the recent conduct of Arsham toward the Romans, refused to grant his request. Arsham again sent to Rome, and offered to become tributary to the Roman power, and to pay a sum annually in token of it, through the medium of Herod, by the countris of Mesopotamia and Cesarea, if the emperor would liberate the Armenian princes.

Augustus acceded to this, and a treaty was in consequence signed between the two powers. Arsham then came into Mesopotamia and kept his court at Nisibis.
At this time, Arsham is fancifully the ruler of bother "Upper" and "Lower" Armenia. That is, Armenia and Assyria.

It is Artaxias II who holds the first part of Arsham's story, and he is later killed by the Armenians who have Augustus intercede. Therefore, my theory is that it is Tiridates the usurper who is Arsham, and the historian is whitewashing Armenian history by merging Artaxias with Tiridates (in order to claim Abgar, and because the Adiabenian royals spawn a branch which later exists as Armenian nobility by the fourth century, when these histories would be written).

What's interesting about this account of Arsham is that it has him securing the return of the Parthian princes via treaty, which was Tiridates's role. Moreover, it has Arsham submit to Rome via Herod. It is for this reason that I identify 23 BC, the date of Agrippa's treaty negotiation concerning these princes, as the date after which Tiridates - ruler of Upper Mesopotamia (Adiabene/Osrhoene) - submits to Herod.

We see, in the following years, that Herod's sons are serving as princes on behalf of Rome in Armenia Major and Minor (i.e.: Sophene).

We also now have a definition for the relationship between the "Abgarids" and Herod. Herod is an intermediary who is Rome's agent in the tacit support of the "Abgarids" as an independent Assyrian power.

This is why I believe the appointment of Simon Boethus as Herod's High Priest, in 23BC, is connected to the relationship between Herod and the Orient. Accepting Boethus is Herod's concession to the power of Adiabene, in exchange for his privilege as the collector of Assyrian taxes on behalf of Rome.

The idea that Herod is collecting taxes in Arabia, Armenia and Assyria helps explain his phenomenal wealth.

The brief commentary of Roman history on Tiridates is well summarize by wiki. I think it's all we know about the man under that name:
Tiridates II of Parthia was set up by the Parthians against Phraates IV in about 32 BC, but was expelled when Phraates returned with the help of the Scythians. Tiridates fled to Syria, where Augustus allowed him to stay, but refused to support him.[1]

During the next years Tiridates invaded Parthia again; some coins dated from March and May, 26 BC, with the name of a king "Arsaces Philoromaios," belong to him; on the reverse they show the king seated on the throne, with Tyche stretching out a palm branch towards him. He was soon expelled again, and brought a son of Phraates into Spain to Augustus. Augustus gave the boy back to his father, but declined to surrender "the fugitive slave Tiridates."[1]
Thus, this grand arrangement in the Orient begins with an embassy to Spain.

Moses of Chorene treats Arsham in interesting ways as well:
At this time Arsham became greatly angered against Enanos[Ananus], an aspet and coronant[vizier], because he had freed Hyrcanus [II], the high priest of the Jews whom Barzap'ran Rshtuni had captured in the days of Tigran. But Enanos excused himself to the king, saying that he had promised a ransom of a hundred talents: and since he expected to receive this from him, he undertook to give it [sicto Arsham]. Therefore Arsham fixed a set term for him. And he sent one of his brothers, whose name was Senekia, to Judaea to Hyrcanus so that the latter might give him the money for his ransom. But when Enanos' messenger arrived he found that Herod had put Hyrcanus to death to prevent any plot against his rule. So when the appointed time arrived and Enanos did not pay the price of Hyrcanus' ransom, Arsham was angered at him: and depriving him of his rank, he ordered him to be imprisoned.

At that time Zawra, the chief of the Gnt'uni family, calumniated him before the king, saying: "Know, O king, that Enanos wished to revolt against you, and he proposed to me that we should seek an oath from Herod, king of Judaea, that he would receive us and give us hereditary lands in our own native land because we had recently suffered insults in this country. And I did not agree but said to him: 'Why do we deceive ourselves with ancient tales and old wives' fables, putting ourselves out to be Palestinians?'...

King Arsham believed this calumny and ordered all sorts of torments to be inflicted on Enanos...

[Enanos] was reestablished in his former rank. However, the king did not have complete confidence in him but sent him to Armenia, entrusting the land to him merely to remove him from Mesopotamia.
Firstly, Zawra tells Arsham that Ananus believes that their kind are Jews of Palestine, which he finds to be an old wives' tale. Arsham's capital was placed at Nisibis. It is reasonable to think that these are peoples descended from Israelites of the Assyrian captivity. The Jews of Babylon have embraced their Jewishness. Ananus through his piety has as well. Zawra thinks it's an ancient fable. This allows us to identify the idea of a Jew*, the asterisk implying an uncertain relationship to Jerusalem. Such as the one seen in the Dead Sea Scrolls.

We also see Ananus as greatly mistreated by his former patron. I have long speculated about a feud between the Boethusian and Ananian priests during the first century CE. I think this could be an explanation for the genesis of it, if Ananus of Arsham is the same as the High Priest.

Moses of Chorene writes:
In the twenty-fourth year, at the end of the days of the reign of Artashes, the Armenian army mustered and at his command made king over themselves Arjam, that is, Arsham, son of Artashes, Tigran's brother, and father of Abgar. Some Syrians call him Manov
Here again, identifying this semi-historical Arsham, in his role as Abgar's father, as Manov. That is, Ma'nu III Saflul, whose 19+ year reign matches Arsham's alleged 20 years.

Finally, Moses has Herod as the primary civic patron of the Orient, and Herod requests Arsham's help.
After this there occurred a dissension between Herod, king of Judea, and our King Arsham. Herod, after many valiant deeds, devoted himself to works of philanthropy, constructing many buildings in many cities from Rome to Damascus. he asked Arsham for a multitude of unskilled workers to fill in the public squares of Antioch in Syria... But Arsham refused and gathered his army to oppose Herod. Through messengers he sent word to the emperor in Rome not to place him under the authority of Herod. But the emperor not only did not free Arsham from Herod's authority but he also entrusted to the latter all Anatolia.
Here again is the important dynamic of the Orient, 23-12 BCE. Herod collects all the money of Judea, Idumea, Arabia and Assyria (via Manu Saflul). He exerts civic and military authority in Syria and Anatolia, later Armenia. Saflul/Arsham protests, but Rome supports Herod.

This could explain Zamaris the Babylonian Jew. The timing of his entry into Bashan was around 20 BC, in conjunction with Zenodorus's revolt. However,
Accordingly, when [Herod] understood that there was a man that was a Jew come out of Babylon, with five hundred horsemen, all of whom could shoot their arrows as they rode on horse-back, and, with a hundred of his relations, had passed over Euphrates, and now abode at Antioch by Daphne of Syria, where Saturninus, who was then president, had given them a place for habitation, called Valatha, he sent for this man, with the multitude that followed him, and promised to give him land in the toparchy called Batanea, which country is bounded with Trachonitis, as desirous to make that his habitation a guard to himself. He also engaged to let him hold the country free from tribute, and that they should dwell entirely without paying such customs as used to be paid, and gave it him tax-free.
(Antiquities XVII 2:1)

It would seem that Zamaris would have occasion to be in Antioch in conjunction with Herod's request that Arsham support the civic investments there with a work force.

It is tempting to paint Zamaris as Arsham's prince, in this case Abgar Ukkama, but there's no explicit evidence for this.

Nevertheless, Abgar, according to Moses, has troubles with Herod near the latter's death:
In those same days there took place a quarrel between Abgar and Herod, for Herod commanded his own image to be set up near to the emperor's in the temples of Armenia. Since Abgar did not accept this, Herod sought a pretext [for war] against him. He sent an army of Thracians and Germans on a foray for plunder into Persia and commanded them to cross Abgar's land. But Abgar did not submit to this and opposed them, saying that it was the emperor's command that this army should cross into Persia through the desert. Herod became angered at this, but he was unable to do anything in person since he had to endure all sorts of pain - on account of his presumption against Christ, worms grew inside him, as Josephus narrates. He sent his nephew Joseph [???Phasael II by logic] to whom he had given his sister, who had previously been the wife of his brother P'erur. he took a great army, marched to Mesopotamia, and met Abgar in the province of Bugnan where he was encamped. In the battle he was killed and his army fled. Immediately thereafter Herod also died...
This is consistent with the narrative. Arsham/Saflul is desperate for Rome's patronage, but Rome favors Herod. Herod is slowly trying to extend his authority over Upper Mesopotamia, and crosses a line.

This open conflict with Herod is a much better explanation for the disgrace and downfall of the Boethus family by Herod than some gossipy slight by Mariamne.
Germanicus became Caesar [to Tiberius] and led in triumph the princes of Arshavir and Abgar who had been sent to Rome because of their war in which they had killed Herod's nephew. At this Abgar became embittered, planned revolt, and prepared for war. Then he built a city on the site of the Armenian army's encampment, where earlier they had protected the Euphrates from Cassius; it was called Edessa. And he transferred there his palace, which had been at Nisibis and all his idols, Nabog and Bel and Bat'nik'al and T'arat'a, the books of the temple school, and also the royal archives.
It appears the war with Phasael occurred around 5 BC. It seems as if Moses is saying that later, the hostage princes are paraded in Germanicus's triumph (18 AD). 18 is the year of the uprising of Anileus, and so it logically corresponds to the departure of "Abgar" from Nisibis to Edessa.

Conclusion and Seneca

The history of Arsham provides outstanding context, missing from other histories, concerning the relationship of Herod to the Orient, and clarifies the situation pertaining to the "Abgarids" whomever we would presume they are.

As a final note, Moses of Chorene calls the brother of Ananus, "Senekia". He is professionally an agent of Arsham's kingdom.

Tiridates, perhaps our Arsham, visits Augustus in Spain one would think at Terraco during the emperor's illness and respite from the Cantabrian campaign. Perhaps Senekia, brother of Ananus, is with him. Apparently, Tiridates earns Augustus's favor.

Meanwhile, we have the father of the famous Seneca, Lucius Annaeus Seneca. A private man with trumped up excuses for having not left Cordova in his youth. A homo novus. Perhaps Senekia - Seneca was a rhetorician - had learned Latin and impressed Augustus, earning an equestrian status for some unknown act.

Thus, he is Senekia ben Ananus, becoming Lucius Annaeus Seneca. This is only interesting because of the family's prominent involvement in the Piso conspiracy. I have previously discussed the possibility that there is a link between the Piso conspiracy and the instigation of the Jewish Revolt. The Ananians under Ananus ben Ananus supporting Vespasian. Of course, we have Nero's freedman Epaphroditus.

Something of a long shot, but interesting to consider.
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