Sohaemus of Armenia

This article is about the Emesene Aristocrat and King of Armenia in the 2nd century. For the Emesene Priest King in the 1st century, see Sohaemus of Emesa.
Sohaemus of Armenia
King of Armenia
House Arsacid

Gaius Julius Sohaemus,[1] also known as Sohaemus of Armenia and Sohaemo[2] (Armenian: Սոհեմոս, Greek: Γάϊος Ἰούλιος Σόαιμος, Sohaemus is Arabic for little dagger, flourished 2nd century) was an Emesene Prince and Aristocrat from Syria who served as a Roman Client King of Armenia. Sohaemus was a prominent person in the Roman Empire in the 2nd century from the Syrian Roman Client Emesene Dynasty.[3] He was a monarch of Assyrian, Greek, Armenian, Medes, Berber, Arab[4] and Roman ancestry. The novelist of the 2nd century, his contemporary Iamblichus[3] claims Sohaemus as his fellow-countryman.[1] Iamblichus calls Sohaemus as an Arsacid and Achaemenid, in his lineage and was a descendant of the Median Princess Iotapa, who was once betrothed to the Ptolemaic Prince Alexander Helios.[5] Little is known about Sohaemus’ family and early life prior to becoming King of Armenia.[6] Before becoming King, Sohaemus had been a Roman Senator and served as a Consul in Rome at an unknown date.[5]

In the year 144, Sohaemus succeeded Vologases I as King of Armenia. The circumstances leading to his appointment to the Armenian throne are unknown. Sohaemus was a contemporary to the rule of the Roman emperors: Antoninus Pius, Marcus Aurelius, Lucius Verus and Commodus of the Nerva–Antonine dynasty. In the first reign, he ruled from the year 144 until 161. Not much is known about his first reign. The novelist Iamblichus living in Armenia at the time of his rule describes his reign as ‘in succession to his ancestors’.[3] This statement can also refer to his former ancestor Sohaemus of Emesa who lived in the 1st century.[3]

In 161 Vologases IV of Parthia, son of the legitimate King Mithridates IV of Parthia, dispatched his troops to seize Armenia and eradicated the Roman legions stationed in the country under the legatus Gaius Severianus. Encouraged by the Spahbod Osroes, Parthian troops marched further West into Roman Syria.[7] After Armenia was seized by the Parthians, Sohaemus became a former ruling monarch living in political exile, possibly living in Rome.[8] Sohaemus was well known in Rome and there were rumors in some quarters that he was not the right man in the right place.[2]

On Roman terms, Parthia had made peace with Rome, Sohaemus was installed as King of Armenia by Lucius Verus in either 163 or 164.[2] The ceremony for Sohaemus in becoming Armenian King for the second time, may have taken place in Antioch or Ephesus.[9] In 164, Latin coinage were struck in Armenia with the inscription L. Verus. Aug. Armeniacus and on the reverse Rex Armen(ii)s datus.[2] The time of his second reign is unknown.[10] Sohaemus reigned from 163 perhaps up to 186. Sometime during his reign, Sohaemus was expelled by elements favorable to Parthia.[11] Sohaemus was expelled because a man called Tiridates stirred up trouble in Armenia who had murdered the King of the Osroenes and had thrust his sword in the face of Publius Martius Verus, the Roman Governor of Cappadocia when he rebuked for it.[11] Tiridates only punishment for his crimes was to be exiled to Roman Britain, by Marcus Aurelius.[11]

As a result of Sohaemus’ second expulsion from Armenia; Roman forces went to war with Parthian soldiers. Parthia retook most of their lost territory in 166, as Sohaemus from his expulsion retreated to Syria.[12] After Marcus Aurelius, Lucius Verus and the Parthian rulers intervened in the conflict, the son of Vologases IV of Parthia, Vologases II assumed the Armenian throne in 186.

It has been suggested that the Garni Temple in Armenia, may have been the tomb probably belonging to Sohaemus, based on the construction date as the temple was probably built in 175.[13] The Emesene prince, Julius Alexander may have been the possible son of Sohaemus.[14] Sohaemus is played by Omar Sharif in the 1964 film The Fall of the Roman Empire.


  1. 1 2 Birley, Septimius Severus: the African emperor, p.224
  2. 1 2 3 4 van den Hout, A commentary on the Letters of M. Cornelius Fronto, pp. 301-2
  3. 1 2 3 4 Birley, Septimius Severus: the African emperor, p.71
  4. Temporini, 2, Principat: 9, 2, Volume 8, p.201
  5. 1 2 Birley, Septimius Severus: the African emperor, pp. 71&224
  6. According to Christian Settipani, Sohaemus was the son of Avitus (Gaius Julius Avitus), son of Sohaemus (Gaius Julius Longinus Sohaemus), son of Sampsiceramus, son of Alexio, son of Sohaemus
  7. Sellwood Coinage of Parthia 257-260, 268-277; Debevoise History of Parthia 245; Dio Cass.71.2.1.
  8. Birley, Marcus Aurelius, p. 131
  9. Bowman, The Cambridge ancient history: The High Empire, A.D. 70-192, p.163
  10. Birley, Septimius Severus: the African emperor, p.72
  11. 1 2 3 Birley, Marcus Aurelius, pp.174-5
  12. HA Verus 8.1-4; Dio Cass. 71.2.
  13. Redgate, The Armenians, pp. 221-244
  14. Birley, Septimius Severus: The African Emperor, p.217


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See also

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