Archelaus of Cappadocia

Archelaus of Cappadocia
King of Cappadocia

Silver Drachm of Archaelaus of Cappadocia. The Greek inscription reads "ΒΑΣΙΛΈΩΣ ΑΡΧΕΛΟΥ ΦΙΛΟΠΑΤΡΙΔΟΣ ΤΟΥ ΚΤΙΣΤΟΥ."
Reign 36 BC – 14 AD
Predecessor Ariarathes X of Cappadocia
Born Cappadocia in Asia minor
Died 17 AD
Rome, Roman Empire
Dynasty Ariathids
Father Archelaus
Mother Glaphyra

Archelaus (Greek: Ἀρχέλαος; fl. 1st century BC and 1st century, died 17 AD) was a Roman client prince and the last king of Cappadocia.

Family and early life

Archelaus was a Cappadocian Greek nobleman,[1][2] possibly of Macedonian descent. His full name was Archelaus Sisines.[3] He was the first-born son, namesake of the Roman Client and High Priest Ruler Archelaus, of the temple state of Comana, Cappadocia and the hetaera Glaphyra.[4] Archelaus’ father served as the High Priest of the Roman Goddess of War, Bellona. Archelaus had a brother called Sisines.[5]

The paternal grandfather of Archelaus, also known as Archelaus, was the first in his family to be High Priest and Roman Client Ruler of the temple state of Comana, Cappadocia.[6] His paternal grandfather claimed to be descended from King Mithridates VI of Pontus.[7] Chronologically his paternal grandfather, may have been a maternal grandson of the Pontic King, while his father Archelaus, was the favorite high-ranking general of Mithridates VI, who may have married one of the daughters of Mithridates VI.[8]

In 47 BC the Roman Dictator Gaius Julius Caesar after the conclusion of his military victory against the Triumvir Pompey, deprived and deposed his father of his office of high priest and rule over Comana.[9] His father was replaced by another Greek nobleman called Lycomedes.[10] Pompey was their family patron[11] and it was he that appointed his paternal grandfather as High Priest Ruler of the temple state of Comana.[6]

Glaphyra, Mark Antony and accession to the throne

Years later the mother of Archelaus, Glaphyra, became one of the mistresses to the Roman Triumvir Mark Antony.[12] Glaphyra was a Hetaera,[13] or courtesan. His mother was famed and celebrated in antiquity for her beauty, charm, and seductivness.[14]

Through their affair, Glaphyra had influenced and induced Antony to designate and install her son Archelaus as king of Cappadocia.[3] In 36 BC, Antony removed from his throne and then executed the former Cappadocian King Ariarathes X and installed Archelaus as his successor. His mother appeared to be a powerful lady at the Royal Court and was involved with internal politics in Cappadocia.[3] Glaphyra’s powerful influence can be demonstrated by contemporary invective about the time of the Battle of Actium in 30 BC, especially by certain sexually frank and famous verses which Triumvir Octavian composed about Antony's affair.[3]

Reign as king

After Archelaus assumed the Cappadocian throne, his royal title was in Greek: Ἀρχέλαος Φιλοπατρίς Κτίστης, Archelaus Philopatris Ktistes.[15] Philopatris Ktistes, means in Greek lover and founder of his country. His royal title is known from surviving inscriptions; in particular from coinage.[16] In his early reign Archelaus married his first wife, whom through her marriage to him became Queen of Cappadocia. The identity of an earlier wife or wives has not been recorded.[17] His first wife was an unnamed Princess from Armenia,[17] who died by 8 BC. There is a possibility that his first wife may have been a distant relative of his. His first wife may have been a daughter of King Artavasdes II of Armenia (reigned 53 BC-34 BC) of the Artaxiad Dynasty, who was of Armenian, Persian and Greek Macedonian descent. Artavasdes II was the father of the future Armenian Kings Artaxias II and Tigranes III. The father of Artavasdes II was Tigranes the Great,[18] who married Cleopatra of Pontus, a daughter of Mithridates VI from his first wife, his sister Laodice,[19] thus Artavasdes II was a maternal grandson to Mithridates VI and Laodice. With his first wife, Archelaus had two children: a daughter called Glaphyra [20] through whom he had further descendants, and a son called Archelaus of Cilicia.

Archelaus was an ally to Antony, until his defeat at the Battle of Actium in 31 BC, where Archelaus had deserted him and became an ally to Triumvir Octavian.[16] Before Archelaus became an ally to Octavian, he was Antony’s beneficiary.[21] By Archelaus making peace with Octavian, he was able to retain his crown.[22]

When Octavian became the first Roman Emperor Augustus, Archelaus became an important client monarch to Rome. Augustus considered Archelaus as a loyal ruler to him and of Cappadocia.[23] Augustus had no commitment to provincialization as a matter of policy. In 25 BC, Augustus assigned Archelaus to rule Cilicia Trachea, the harbor city of Elaiussa Sebaste,[24] parts of the surrounding Cilician coast and Armenia Minor.[21] Augustus giving Archelaus all these extra territories to govern he was able to eliminate piracy[24] and able to move to build a more solid bulwark against Parthia.[21]

On the Galatian border, Archelaus possessed crystal and onyx mines. Archelaus transferred his palace from the mainland to Elaiussa Sebaste.[24] After he and his family settled there, Archelaus developed the city. He built a royal residence, built a palace on the island in the harbor and he renamed the city in honor of Augustus.[25] Sebaste is the Greek equivalent word of the Latin word Augusta. Archelaus renamed another city bearing his own name Archelaïs. Archelaïs was originally a village town named Garsaura.[26] He turned the village into an administrative centre, which later became a colony under the Roman Emperor Claudius.[26]

Archelaus was an author of a geographical work and had written treaties called On Stones and Rivers. At some point during the reign of Augustus, Archelaus had a temporary mental illness which resulted in the appointment of a guardian in his realm until he recovered.[20]

In 18/17 BC, his daughter Glaphyra married prince Alexander of Judea in an arranged ceremony. Archelaus began to have friendly relations with the Herodian Dynasty. Archelaus on occasions acted as a mediator in sorting quarrels with members of the dynasty. Archelaus travelled to Jerusalem to visit Herod the Great in order to reconcile him with his son Alexander.[27] For Herod’s appreciation to Archelaus, Herod reconciled him to the Roman Governor of Syria.[28]

In 8 BC, Archelaus married for a second time to the Greek Client Monarch Pythodorida of Pontus, who was previously widowed. Pythodorida had two sons and a daughter from her first husband Polemon I of Pontus. When Archelaus married Pythodorida, she moved her and her family from the Black Sea to Elaiussa Sebaste. Pythodorida remained with Archelaus until he died and they had no children. Archelaus wedding Pythodorida linked their kingdoms together, thus both monarchs had indirect control of their spouses’ realms. Their marriage arrangement too was doubtless orchestrated by Augustus, thereby to bind together the royal houses of Anatolia as surrogates for Roman suzerainty.[21]


Although Archelaus was liked by the Romans, he experienced less success with his subjects.[21] On one occasion during the reign of Augustus, some Cappadocian citizens lodged an accusation against Archelaus in Rome.[21] The future Roman Emperor Tiberius, beginning his civil career, defended Archelaus from these accusations which ended with no action being taken.[21]

Archelaus gave greater attention to Gaius Caesar, one of Augustus’ grandsons, instead of Tiberius who was one of Augustus’ stepsons. This caused Tiberius to become jealous in time, leading to his hatred of him.[16] Between 2 BC–6 AD, Tiberius was living on the Greek island of Rhodes, while Gaius Caesar was in the Eastern Mediterranean performing various political and military duties on behalf of Augustus. Archelaus showed more attention to Gaius Caesar over Tiberius because Gaius was in the ascendant over Tiberius at the time as successor to the throne.

In 14 AD Augustus died and Tiberius succeeded his adoptive father as Roman Emperor. By this time, Archelaus’ health had failed.[20] In 17, Archelaus had reigned over Cappadocia for fifty years and had lived to an advanced age.[29]

In Archelaus' final year in the Roman Empire, there was a shortage of funds for military pay and Tiberius wanted to integrate Archelaus’ kingdom into a Roman province.[30] Tiberius enticed Archelaus to come to Rome.[31] When he arrived in Rome he was accused by the Roman Senate of harboring revolutionary schemes. Tiberius hoped Archelaus would be condemned to death by the Senate.[16] However Archelaus was obliged to remain in Rome, where he died of natural causes (Tacitus leaves open the possibility that he may have committed suicide).[31] Cappadocia became a Roman province and his widow with her family returned to Pontus. The Romans gave Armenia Minor to his step-son Artaxias III to rule as Roman Client King, while the Cilician and the remaining territories of his former dominion were given to his son to rule as Roman Client King.

See also


  1. Eder, Walter; Renger, Johannes; Henkelman, Wouter; Chenault, Robert (2007). Brill's chronologies of the ancient world New Pauly names, dates and dynasties. Brill. p. 111. ISBN 9004153209. Of greater historical importance are the Archelai, the descendants of an officer of Greek origin (Archelaus). […] The grandson, Archelaus, was the first to have some success in Cappadocia
  2. Plutarch (2007). Plutarch's Lives, Volume 2 (of 4). Echo Library. p. 312. ISBN 1406823309. This Archelaus was a native of Cappadocia, and probably of Greek stock.
  3. 1 2 3 4 Syme, Anatolica: studies in Strabo, p. 148
  4. Ancient Library, Archelaus no.3&4
  5. Dueck, Strabo’s cultural geography: the making of a kolossourgia, p. 208
  6. 1 2 Ancient Library, Archelaus no.2
  7. Ptolemaic Genealogy, Berenice IV, point19
  8. Mayor, The Poison King: the life and legend of Mithradates, Rome’s deadliest enemy, p. 114
  9. Ancient Library, Archelaus no.3
  10. Dueck, Strabo’s cultural geography: the making of a kolossourgia, p. 197
  11. Syme, Anatolica: studies in Strabo, p. 167
  12. Ptolemaic Genealogy, Cleopatra VII
  13. Syme, Anatolica: studies in Strabo, p. 144
  14. Syme, Anatolica: studies in Strabo, pp. 144 and 148
  15. Temporini, Aufstieg und Niedergang der römischen Welt: Geschichte und Kultur Roms im spiegel der neueren Forschung, p. 1149
  16. 1 2 3 4 Ancient Library, Archelaus no.4
  17. 1 2 Syme, Anatolica: studies in Strabo, p. 150
  18. Sandler, Ground warfare: an international encyclopedia, Volume 1, p. 884
  19. Mayor, The Poison King: the life and legend of Mithradates, Rome’s deadliest enemy, pp. 114&138
  20. 1 2 3 Temporini, Aufstieg und Niedergang der römischen Welt: Geschichte und Kultur Roms im spiegel der neueren Forschung, p. 1159
  21. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Bowman, The Augustan Empire, p. 152
  22. "Archelaus"
  23. Bowman, The Augustan Empire, p. 153
  24. 1 2 3 Dueck, Strabo’s cultural geography: the making of a kolossourgia, p. 205
  25. Rigsby, Asylia: territorial inviolability in the Hellenistic world, p. 464
  26. 1 2 Bowman, The Augustan Empire, p. 672
  27. Josephus, Antiquity of the Jews, 16:261–69
  28. Josephus, Antiquity of the Jews, 16:270
  29. Syme, Anatolica: studies in Strabo, pp. 143 and 148
  30. Bowman, The Augustan Empire, p. 210
  31. 1 2 Tacitus, The Annals 2.42


External links

Preceded by
Ariarathes X Eusebes Philadelphos
King of Cappadocia
38 BC AD 17
Cappadocia is made into
a Roman province
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