Vassal of the Kingdom of Armenia, Parthian Empire, Sasanid Empire
Province of the Sasanian Empire (226–649)
Adiabene within Armenian Empire under the reign of Tigranes the Great
Capital Arbela
Languages Classical Syriac
Religion Judaism, Ashurism, Christianity, Manichaeism
Government Monarchy
   around 15 CE Izates I
  20s? – c. 36[1] Monobaz I
  c. 36 - c. 55/59 Izates II[2]
  c. 55/59[1] - late 60s/mid-70s

- - - - - - - - - - - -

Monobaz II
  ? - 116 Meharaspes
Historical era Antiquity
   Established 15
   Disestablished 116
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Parthian Empire
Roman Empire
This article is part of the series on the

History of the Assyrian people

Early history

Old Assyrian Empire (20th–15th c. BCE)
Neo-Assyrian Empire (911–612 BCE)
Achaemenid Assyria (539–330 BCE)

Classical Antiquity

Seleucid Empire (312–63 BCE)
Parthian Empire (247 BCE – 224 CE)
Osroene (132 BCE – 244 CE)
Syrian Wars (66 BCE – 217 CE)
Roman Syria (64 BCE – 637 CE)
Adiabene (15–116)
Roman Assyria (116–118)
Christianization (1st to 3rd c.)
Nestorian Schism (5th c.)
Asōristān (226–651)
Byzantine–Sasanian wars (502–628)

Middle Ages

Muslim conquest of Persia (630s-640s)
Abbasid Caliphate (750–1258)
Emirs of Mosul (905–1383)
Buyid amirate (945–1055)
Principality of Antioch (1098–1268)
Ilkhanate (1258–1335)
Jalairid Sultanate (1335–1432)
Kara Koyunlu (1375–1468)
Ağ Qoyunlu (1453–1501)

Modern History

Safavid dynasty (1508-1555)
Ottoman Empire (1555–1917)
Schism of 1552 (16th c.)
Massacres of Badr Khan (1840s)
Massacres of Diyarbakir (1895)
Rise of nationalism (19th c.)
Adana massacre (1909)
Assyrian genocide (1914–1920)
Assyrian independence movement (since 1919)
Simele massacre (1933)
Post-Saddam Iraq (since 2003)

See also

Assyrian continuity
Assyrian–Chaldean–Syriac diaspora

Adiabene (from the Ancient Greek Ἀδιαβηνή, Adiabene, itself derived from Syriac: ܚܕܝܐܒ, Ḥaḏy’aḇ or Ḥḏay’aḇ, Old Persian: Nodshirakan,[3] Armenian: Նոր Շիրական, Nor Shirakan) was an ancient kingdom in Assyria,[4][5][6][7] with its capital at Arbela (modern-day Arbil, Iraq).

Adiabenian rulers converted to Judaism from Ashurism in the 1st century.[8] Queen Helena of Adiabene (known in Jewish sources as Heleni HaMalka) moved to Jerusalem where she built palaces for herself and her sons, Izates bar Monobaz and Monobaz II at the northern part of the city of David, south of the Temple Mount, and aided Israel in their war with Rome.[9] According to the Talmud, both Helena and Monobaz donated large funds for the Temple of Jerusalem.


Adiabene occupied a district in Assyria between the Upper Zab (Lycus) and the Lower Zab (Caprus), though Ammianus speaks of Nineveh, Ecbatana, and Gaugamela as also belonging to it.[10] Although nominally a dependency of the Parthian Empire, for some centuries, beginning with the 1st century BCE, it was independent. By the late 1st century CE, its borders extended as far as Nisibis.[lower-alpha 1] In the Talmudic writings the name occurs as חדייב ,חדייף and הדייב, which is parallel to its Syriac form "Hadyab" or "Hedayab". Its chief city was Arbela (Arba-ilu), where Mar Uqba had a school, or the neighboring Hazzah, by which name the later Arabs also called Arbela.[13]

In Kiddushin 72a the Biblical Habor is identified with Adiabene,[14] but in Yerushalmi Megillah i. 71b with Riphath.[15] In the Targum to Jeremiah li. 27, Ararat, Minni, and Ashkenaz are paraphrased by Kordu, Harmini, and Hadayab, i.e., Corduene, Armenia, and Adiabene; while in Ezekiel xxvii. 23 Harran, Caneh, and Eden are interpreted by the Aramaic translator as "Harwan, Nisibis, and Adiabene."


Adiabene had a mixed population, while the Syriac language was dominant. According to Pliny, four tribes inhabited the region of Adiabene: Orontes, Alani, Azones and Silices.[16] The account of Josephus' Antiquities of the Jews shows that there was a substantial Jewish population in the kingdom, which led to the establishment of a prominent rabbinic academy in Arbela. During the Sassanid era, Persians came to the fore politically. ]. The difficult mixing of cultures can be seen in the story of the martyrdom of Mahanuš, a prominent Iranian Zoroastrian who converted to Christianity.[17] In later times Adiabene became an archbishopric, with the seat of the metropolitan at Arbela.[18]

Based on names of the Adiabenian rulers, Ernst Herzfeld suggested a Saka/Scythian origin for the royal house of the kingdom;[19][20] however, later progress in Iranian linguistic studies showed that these names were common west middle Iranian names.[21] It has been suggested that the royal house of Adiabene after fleeing Trajan's invasion, established the later Amatuni dynasty who ruled the area between lakes Urmia and Van.[22][23]

Adiabene was a district in Mesopotamia between upper and lower Zab and was a part of the Neo Assyrian Empire and inhabited by Assyrians even after the fall of Nineveh. It was an integral part of Achaemenid Assyria (Athura) and Sassanid Assyria (Assuristan).[24][25] The region was later made a part of the Roman province of Assyria after the invasion by Trajan in the year 116.[26]

According to Patricia Crone and Michael Cook, when the heartland of Assyria was back into focus in early Christianity (during the Parthian era and about six centuries after the fall of the Assyrian Empire), "it was with an Assyrian, not a Persian let alone Greek, self-identification: the temple of Ashur was restored, the city was rebuilt, and an Assyrian successor state that returned in the shape of the client kingdom of Adiabene." The Jewish historian Flavius Josephus states that the inhabitants of Adiabene were Assyrians.[27][27]

(For subsequent history, see Arbil; Assyrian people, Roman Empire, Iraq).


In ancient times Adiabene was an integral part of Assyria.

Achaemenid Persian Empire

Under the Achaemenid Persian kings, Adiabene seems for a time to have been a vassal state of the Persian Empire. At times the throne of Adiabene was held by a member of the Achaemenid house; Ardashir III (king from 628 to 630 CE), before he came to the throne of Persia, had the title "King of Hadyab".[28] The Ten Thousand, an army of Greek mercenaries, retreated through Adiabene on their march to the Black Sea after the Battle of Cunaxa.

Hellenistic Period

The little kingdom may have had a series of native rulers nominally vassal to the Macedonian and later Seleucid empires.

Parthian Persian Empire

It later became one of the client kingdoms of the Parthian empire. During the 1st century BCE and the 1st century CE, it gained a certain prominence under a series of kings descended from Monobaz I and his son Izates I. Monobaz I is known to have been allied with king Abennerig of Characene, in whose court his son Izates II bar Monobaz lived for a time and whose daughter Symacho Izates married, as well as the rulers of other small kingdoms on the periphery of the Parthian sphere of influence.

Royal family converts to Judaism

Izates II, the son of Monobaz I and his wife Helena of Adiabene, became a Jew. His conversion to Judaism took place before he ascended the throne and while he lived in Charax Spasinu. At about the same time his mother, Helena, was also converted.

The period was characterized by chaos in the Parthian empire, with a string of Parthian kings and counter-kings following each other in quick succession. Artabanus II of Parthia was king of Atropatene. He had succeeded Vonones I, who, having been educated entirely at Rome, was unsympathetic toward the Parthians. Artabanus soon had to flee to Hyrcania to escape from the rival king, Tiridates III. He returned, however, in 36, and, being afraid of a conspiracy, took refuge at the court of Izates, who was powerful enough to induce the Parthians to reinstate Artabanus. For this service certain kingly honors were granted Izates, and the city of Nisibis was added to his dominions. However, around 40, Gotarzes II, an adopted son of Artabanus, was raised to the throne by the nobles, in preference to Vardanes I, his half-brother. In 49 Meherdates Mithridates, a son of Vonones, was sent from Rome by Claudius to take possession of the throne of Parthia. Izates played a double game, though he secretly sided with Gotarzes. A few years later, Vologeses I set out with the intention of invading Adiabene and of punishing Izates; but a force of Dahae and Scythians had just entered Parthia, and Vologeses had to return home.

Izates II was followed on the throne by his elder brother, Monobaz II. It is related that in the year 61 he sent a contingent of soldiers to Armenia to assist the Parthian candidate, Tiridates, against Tigranes, who had made an incursion into the territory of Adiabene. The troops of Monobaz, however, were beaten back at Tigranocerta. Monobaz was present when peace was concluded at Rhandea between Parthia and Rome in the year 63.

The "Tomb of the Kings", built outside the walls of Jerusalem by Queen Helena in the mid 1st century CE. From a lithograph by William Henry Bartlett.

Links with Edessa

Helena of Adiabene, the famous 1st century queen of Adiabene, was said to have also been the wife of King Abgarus of Edessa and thus the queen of Edessa too.[29] This implies that there were strong links between Adiabene and Edessa in the 1st century. Moses of Chorene confirms that this Queen Helena of Edessa was the famous 1st century queen of Adiabene when he says:

"The chief of King Abgar’s wives, who was named Helena ... Helena went away to Jerusalem in the time of Claudius, during the famine which Agabus had predicted. Spending all her treasures she bought an immense amount of grain in Egypt, which she distributed to the poor, to which Josephus bears witness. Her famous mausoleum stands before the gate at Jerusalem to this very day.:[30]

Roman intermezzo (117-118)

The chief opponent of Trajan in Mesopotamia during the year 115 was the last king of independent Adiabene, Meharaspes. He had made common cause with Ma'nu (Mannus) of Singar (Singara). Trajan invaded Adiabene, and made it part of the Roman province of Assyria; under Hadrian in 117,[4] however, Rome gave up possession of Assyria, Mesopotamia, and Armenia.

In the summer of 195 Septimius Severus was again warring in Mesopotamia, and in 196 three divisions of the Roman army fell upon Adiabene. According to Dio Cassius, Caracalla took Arbela in the year 216, and searched all the graves there, wishing to ascertain whether the Arsacid kings were buried there. Many of the ancient royal tombs were destroyed.

As a province of Sassanid Persia

Despite the overthrow of the Parthians by the Sassanids in 224 CE, the feudatory dynasties remained loyal to the Parthians, and resisted Sassanid advance into Adiabene and Atropatene. Due to this, and religious differences, Adiabene was never regarded as an integral part of Iran, even though the Sassanids controlled it for several centuries.

After the Roman Empire gradually made Christianity its official religion during the fourth century, the inhabitants of Adiabene, who were Assyrian Christians, sided with Christian Rome rather than the Zoroastrian Sassanids. The Byzantine Empire sent armies to the region during the Byzantine-Sassanid Wars, but this did nothing to change the territorial boundaries. Adiabene remained a province of the Sassanid Empire until the Muslim conquest of Persia.[31]


All dates are approximate.

  1. Izates I (? - c. 15/30 CE)[32]
  2. Bazeus Monobazus I (20s? – c. 36)[1]
  3. Heleni (c. 30 – c. 58)
  4. Izates II bar Monobazus (c. 36 – 55/59)
  5. Vologases (a Parthian rebel opposing Izates II) (c. 50)
  6. Monobazus II bar Monobazus (55/59[1] – late 60s/mid-70s)
  7. Meharaspes (? – 116)
  8. To the Roman Empire (116–117)
  9. Rakbakt (?-191) (A Parthian governor of Alanian descent)[33]
  10. Narsai of Adiabene (c. 191–200)
  11. Shahrat (Shahrad) (c. 213-224)
  12. To the Sassanid Empire (226–649)
  13. Ardashir II (344-376)
  14. Aphraates (c. 310)


Between the 5th and the 14th centuries Adiabene was a metropolitan province of the Assyrian Church of the East. The Chronicle of Erbil, a purported history of Christianity in Adiabene under the Parthians and Sassanians, lists a number of early bishops of Erbil. The authenticity of the Chronicle of Erbil has been questioned, and scholars remain divided on how much credence to place in its evidence. Some of the bishops in the following list are attested in other sources, but the early bishops are probably legendary.

  1. Pkidha (104–114)
  2. Semsoun (120–123)
  3. Isaac (135–148)
  4. Abraham (148–163)
  5. Noh (163–179)
  6. Habel (183–190)
  7. Abedhmiha (190–225)
  8. Hiran of Adiabene (225–258)
  9. Saloupha (258–273)
  10. Ahadabuhi (273–291)
  11. Sri'a (291–317)
  12. Iohannon (317–346)
  13. Abraham (346–347)
  14. Maran-zkha (347–376)
  15. Soubhaliso (376–407)
  16. Daniel (407–431)
  17. Rhima (431–450)
  18. Abbousta (450–499)
  19. Joseph (499–511)
  20. Huana (511–?)

See also


  1. Nisibis was not part of Adiabene before 36, when Artabanus presented the city to Izates as a reward for his loyalty. Strabo[11] implies that Nisibis was not part of Adiabene, while Pliny[12] reports that Nisibis and Alexandria were chief cities of Adiabene. On the remnants of the ten tribes in the Khabur area, see Emil Schiirer, The Jewish People in the Time of Jesus Christ, II, ii, pp. 223-25; Avraham Ben-Yaakov, Jewish Communities of Kurdistan, [in Hebrew] (Jerusalem, 1961), pp. 9-11; Neusner, Jacob (1964). "The Conversion of Adiabene to Judaism: A New Perspective". Journal of Biblical Literature. 83 (1): 60 (note 3). Retrieved 20 January 2016 via JSTOR. (registration required (help)).


  1. 1 2 3 4
  2. Nimmo, Douglas John. "Izates II King of Adiabene's Tree". June 8, 2011. Retrieved 30 April 2014.
  3. Richard Nelson Frye, 1984, The history of ancient Iran: Volume 3, Part 7 - Page 222
  4. 1 2 "The Chronicle of Arbela" (PDF). In 115, the Romans invaded Adiabene and named it Assyria.
  5. The Biblical Geography of Central Asia: with a General Introduction, by Ernst Friedrich Karl Rosenmüller. Page 122.
  6. In Memory of Rabbi and Mrs. Carl Friedman: Studies on the Problem of Tannaim in Babylonia (ca. 130-160 C. E.) Author(s): Jacob Neusner Source: Proceedings of the American Academy for Jewish Research, Vol. 30 (1962), pp. 79-127.
  7. Ammianus Marcellinus, another fourth-century writer. In his excursus on the Sasanian Empire he describes Assyria in such a way that there is no mistaking he is talking about lower Mesopotamia (Amm. Marc. XXIII. 6. 15). For Assyria he lists three major cities-Babylon, Ctesiphon and Seleucia (Amm. Marc. xxIII. 6. 23), whereas he refers to Adiabene as 'Assyria priscis temporibus vocitata' (Amm. Marc. xxIII. 6. 20).
  8. Gottheil, Richard. "Adiabene". Jewish Encyclopedia. Retrieved 8 November 2011.
  9. Neusner, Jacob (1964). "The Conversion of Adiabene to Judaism: A New Perspective". Journal of Biblical Literature. 83 (1): 60–66. JSTOR 3264908. (registration required (help)).
  10. "Hist." xviii., vii. 1
  11. Geogr. xvi, 1, 1
  12. Hist. Nat. vi, 16, 42
  13. Yaqut, Geographisches Wörterbuch, ii. 263; Payne-Smith, Thesaurus Syriacus, under "Hadyab"; Hoffmann, Auszüge aus Syrischen Akten, pp. 241, 243.
  14. Compare Yebamot 16b et seq., Yalqut Daniel 1064
  15. Genesis x. 3; compare also Genesis Rabba xxxvii.
  16. Pliny the Elder, The natural history, book VI, chap. 30
  17. Fiey, J. M. (1965). Assyrie chrétienne I. Beirut: Imprimerie catholique.
  18. Hoffmann, "Akten," pp. 259 et seq.
  19. Ernst Herzfeld, 1947, Zoroaster and his world, Volume 1, p. 148, Princeton university press, University of Michigan, 851 pages
  20. Ernst Herzfeld, Gerold Walser, 1968, The Persian Empire: Studies in geography and ethnography of the ancient Near East, p. 23, University of Michigan, 392 pages
  21. Helmut Humbach, Prods Oktor Skjaervo, 1983, The Sassanian Inscription of Paikuli Pt. 3,1, p. 120, Humbach, Helmut und Prods O. Skjaervo, Reichert, 1983, ISBN 3882261560/9783882261561
  22. Jacob Neusner, 1969, A History of the Jews in Babylonia, Volume 2, p. 352-353, Brill, 462 pages
  23. Jacob Neusner, 1990, Judaism, Christianity and Zoroastrianism in Talmudic Babylonia, Volym 204, p. 103-104, University of Michigan, Scholars Press, 228 pages
  24. Whinston, William. Translator. The Works of Josephus. Massachusetts: Hendrickson Publishers Inc. 1999
  25. Gibbon, Edward. The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. David Womersley, ed. Penguin Books, 2000
  26. "Adiabene:". Retrieved 2011-09-19.
  27. 1 2
  28. Nöldeke, Geschichte der Perser, p. 70.
  29. The Sociology of MMT and the Conversions of King Abgarus and Queen Helena of Adiabene, Professor Robert Eisenman.
  30. Moses of Chorene, History of the Armenians 2:35
  31. Encyclopædia Iranica online article on Adiabene
  33. John Bagnell Bury, Stanley Arthur Cook, Frank E. Adcock, 1969, The Cambridge ancient history: Volume 11, p. 111, The University press, University of Michigan


External links

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