Philip The Seleucid - An Alternative Interpretation (He Was Assyrian)

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Philip The Seleucid - An Alternative Interpretation (He Was Assyrian)

Post by yakovzutolmai »

This is one of my pet hypotheses, in my explorations of Christian origins. I'll avoid the discussion of that topic, other than saying that the relevance involves the Jewish rulers of Adiabene, which has been observed most prominently by Dr. Robert Eisenmann. The involvement of Edessa in Christian history is less important to me, for reasons I'll make clear. However, I won't be discussing Christian origins in any significant detail. My interest is in Philip himself, and what I see as a "lost history" of Assyria in the final years of the Seleucid kingdom.

First, what is Osroene? The classical understanding is that it is the kingdom lying beyond Coele-Syria, but before Parthia. It's compared with other small kingdoms of the post-Seleucid world such as Sophene or Commagene, though the latter two have more coherent histories. Harran (Carrhae) appears to be its prominent settlement, though later Edessa emerges and it's unclear if Edessa was not always prominent.

I would like to propose that Osroene means nothing more or less than Assyria. Specifically the Achaemenid satrapy of Assyria. The capital of this province became Arbela, and the lands around Arbela - between the two Zab rivers - were lush enough to bring fame to the city. This region was called the Hadyab, and from this the name Adiabene. Adiabene becomes the name associated with the entire province ruled from Arbela, and even Pliny admits that Adiabene and Assyria are synonymous. Thus, the first of the great mistakes history has made is not conflating Osroene and Adiabene. Since the famous Jewish Queen Helena is somehow a Queen of both Adiabene and Osroene, we don't have to resort to the typical excuse about queens being passed around from marriage to marriage (though that wasn't uncommon).

I suggest that the confusion arises from an independent status Edessa gains around the year 100 AD, in which Osroes of Parthia, the formal heir of Osroene, sells Harran to a cousin. Secondly, this act permits Rome to retain Osroene-Edessa as a formal Roman province after retreating from Babylon. Thirdly, during the reign of Abgar the Great, this king's needs to portray a certain specific kind of Christian affiliation causes his court to develop the myth of ancient Edessa corresponding with Jesus himself. This effort, around 200 AD, involves a Syriac court. I would propose that the "kings list" of Edessa is a Syriac recreation of which lord had dominion over Harran going back a few hundred years, but that none were the actual "King of Edessa" until Osroes divested of the principality around 100 AD.

For example, the first known king of Adiabene was Abdissares, around 250 BC as the Seleucids declined. The Syriacs of Edessa, in 200 AD, recording this list Abdissares as "Abdu" the Abgarid. Thus, a name like Menneus, Manahem, Monobazus or Mannai becomes "Ma'nu" in the Arab tongues.

I have used the source of the Edessan kings list - the Chronicle of Zuqnin - and date from two events mentioned (a Parthian invasion of Judea, and the year Herod rebuilds the walls of Jerusalem, or strengthens them - around 38 BC if I remember correctly). The result is a dating slightly different than what scholars have produced traditionally (most scholars try to date backwards from 200 AD).

The result of my dating using that anchor is finding that the Edessan kings list corresponds to events in the Seleucid civil war. I am not the first to notice this, but I have independently observed how "Ma'nu II" of Edessa becomes king, following a 1 year interregnum, in conjunction with the Roman restructuring of Armenia following the war against Tigranes the Great. The 1 year interregnum begins with the defeat of Tigranokerta, and ends in conjunction with the explicit mention in Roman histories of a cohort being sent to deal with holdouts at the margins of the former Armenian empire. There are other such examples, including some up to interesting interpretation correlating to events in the war between Grypus and Cyzenicus. The notion being that dominion of Assyria is being correlated to known histories of this period.

In spite of that, I want to focus on Ma'nu II, who ruled until "Pacor" who is obviously Pacorus the Parthian and the dating matches precisely using the anchor I described (the fact the dating doesn't match according to the classical dating is somehow not a sign of it being incorrect). After Pacor, there are a couple Abgars until 32 BC when Ma'nu III "Saflul" takes power. This coincides with the rise of Tiridates II of Parthia, a usurper who famously captures Phraates's sons and takes them hostage to Augustus. I want to focus on these characters.

Before that, I'd like to introduce Philip Philadelphus. He is a participant in the last years of the Seleucid civil war. Two items of interest surround him. First, by defeating Demetrius III, he becomes the effective "winner" of the civil war, especially after Antiochus XII dies in Judea. The sons of Cleopatra Selene and her domain at Akko are irrelevant. Second, Philip wins thanks to help from both a Parthian army but also an army of Arab tribal warriors.

The Arab warriors, led by a "Aziz", becomes the founder of the Emesene, or Sampsiceramid, dynasty of Syria. I would like to note here that the title for some like Aziz, in Rome something like ethnarch, is "Abia" in Syriac. For the Arabs, it is something like the chief of all tribes, but subordinate to a great king.

It is odd that Philip has a Parthian army behind him, and even more revealing to have - effectively - the Arabs of Assyria supporting his claim. Philip, by his epithet, is supposedly the twin brother of another son of Grypus. Although sources don't seem to agree on which. If you have insights on these sources (I think Eusebius is one), please let me know. I've read Appian and his information about the final years of the Seleucids are not only unhelpful, but curiously silent.

What's more odd about Philip is his end. He has defeated Demetrius, and is occupying Damascus waiting for Antiochus XII. While there, attending events at the hippodrome, the mayor of Damascus closes the gates on him. Antiochus's presence in Judea convinces Philip not to attempt a prolonged siege of the city. After that, Philip disappears. There are theories of his end, but after about a decade, the urban leaders in Syria invite Tigranes of Armenia to govern the region.

For context, after Philip's disappearance (Antioch's status being unclear, perhaps Philip ruled there for a while), Damascus sees three figures contest for dominion over it. Cleopatra Selene from Ptolemais, Aretas III and finally a figure named Ptolemy Menneus. The latter's domain is the mysterious "Iturea" in this case vaguely the Valley of Lebanon. Menneus's border with Emesa is unclear, and the very prominent Baalbek's loyalty is unknown. There is a theory that the Emesenes migrated their holy idol between Emesa and Baalbek seasonally, making the latter important to the Emesenes. On the other hand, Ptolemy Menneus's coins style him as Tetrarch and High Priest. Of what?

I would like to propose this hypothesis: Philip was not a son of Grypus, whatever the provenance of his "Philadelphus" epithet. Rather, he was of Seleucid descent, but most importantly he was the King of Assyria/Adiabene.

One of the missing pieces of history in this narrative has to do with the status of Assyria in the post-Seleucid era. Assyriologists note a profound revival of Assyrian culture, even an excavation and rebuilding of former temples, from 250BC until the rise of Christianity replaced Assyrian religion among the Assyrian ethnos. This corresponds to the reign of Abdissares.

I would like to propose that the decline of the Seleucids left from for Assyria to assert itself for the first time, meaningfully, since the collapse of Neo-Assyria around 500 years prior. We have to observe that the last Neo-Assyrian kings were consigned to Harran, and their last warriors were loyal Arabs and Israelites. This had led me to study the history of Arab tribes in Syria, and their relationship to Neo-Assyria.

As it happens, when Neo-Assyria drove Egypt from Canaan, they cut off the Nile as a trade route. It became necessary to use the deserts of Western Arabia to bring trade goods up from Yemen and Ethiopia. The Bactrian camel was introduced for this purpose, and later the Dromedary emerges. Whatever deliberate role Neo-Assyria played in this, a couple centuries later there was a massive rebellion of Arab kingdoms (which had grown because of and since the shift in trade) against Neo-Assyria. The Assyrians won, and subjugated the Arabs.

I hypothesize that even by 250BC, there were Assyrians of royal blood who commanded the loyalty of Arab tribes in spite of Parthia or Rome. I have even identified what is probably a major mechanism of this loyalty. Multiple histories of the Adiabene royals form multiple cultures frequently mention the importance of the household idols of the kings. Even by the Hatrene period (descended from Arbela), there is still an emphasis on idols. You can even find similar discussions in the history of Islam pertaining to Mecca.

I think that these early Arab kingdoms, ca. 700 BC, grew up around the importance of certain national or tribal idols. Neo-Assyria stole these idols, and through physically possessing them, command the loyalty of Arabs (who were nomadic warriors that lent loyalty to their own kings for similar reasons). I would guess that the kings of Adiabene, ca. 250 BC possessed these same idols, and these are what are so frequently discussed in the histories. They are usually portrayed as an emblem of vulgar paganism, but I think they might be of profound political significance.

Thus, if Philip is Assyrian, he becomes a potent political wildcard at the border of Parthia and Rome. If he is part Seleucid and part Assyrian, then his claim on Antioch's throne might not be palatable to Syrian-Macedonian nobility (not to mention his allegiance to Parthia).

I have no evidence of this particular point, but using the pieces on the chess board to accommodate a need for Philip to be Seleucid-Assyrian, I would guess that the "Seleucus" who was the son of Antiochus Sidetes who was captured at Ecbatana may be the father of Philip. It is said that Phraates greatly honored this Seleucus (in addition to marrying his sister). There is no mention of what this honor might be, or any further mention of the man in spite of the later wars of his own brothers.

I hypothesize that Seleucus was married to the daughter of Abdissares. This is important because it creates a Parthian loyal (due to being a hostage) Seleucid who simultaneously has a claim to Syria which is more ancient and more essential than the Seleucids themselves. Since Western Syria is the "fuzzy" area which Parthia at times had hoped to capture but never could, it makes sense to interpret Philip as the ultimate satrap to bring all of the former Seleucid domain into Parthian suzerainty. And, via Seleucid legacy, give Parthia a worthy agent for interacting in the Hellenic world.

Again, no evidence for this, but it's a very logically neat arrangement of the situation. Also, the King of Adiabene is one of the few satraps of Parthia permitted the title of King. If we knew more about this ascendant Assyrian culture, we might understand things better, but we hardly understand Parthia as it is.

In any event, let's assume that Philip is the grandson of Antiochus Sidetes and Abdissares, making him King of Assyria, and having a loose claim to the throne in Antioch.

I would next propose that Philip did not disappear after his humiliation at Damascus. Rather, although he did not directly siege Damascus, he remained the region to resist it. Philip IS Ptolemy Menneus. After a short period of time, the Syrian-Macedonian nobility reject Philip and pledge to Armenia. Philip becomes stuck in Lebanon. Menneus correlating with "Ma'nu".

Josephus is the one of the only substantive sources on the details of Ptolemy Menneus's history. He intervenes in a Ptolemaic civil war, encounters Jewish mercenaries in Egypt, and generally vexes his neighbors - especially Damascus. However, when Pompey conquers Syria, he allows Ptolemy to keep his domain. This also coincides with the reign of "Ma'nu II" in Edessa. I believe that "Ma'nu I" of Edessa is actually also Philip, and the Edessan scholars haven't realized this.

Ptolemy allegedly pays a bribe to Pompey to keep his domain.

There is also a curious practice of Pompey minting Philip I coins in the Roman Era of Syria (which replaced the famous Seleucid Era). The theory, since the only evidence is numismatic, is that Philip coins were so widely circulated that his face had a certain reputation of minted quality, thus Pompey used the face for a time. I would argue that it's possible that Ptolemy Menneus's bribe involves Pompey's soft recognition of Philip's claim over the entire Seleucid domain. This is why Pompey's armies grant "Edessa" or Osroene back to "Ma'nu". This also implies that Sampsiceramus is in fact a loyal agent of Philip/Ptolemy, though the nature of this relationship may be complicated.

During this period, Josephus relates a story of Ptolemy sending his own son Philippion to escort the household of the Hasmonean Jewish king to safety. We should note that Philp Philadelphus's son was Philip (II) Philoromaios, and is considered truly the very last known living Seleucid.

Here are two more curious facts. First, in spite of Philip's alleged disappearance from history, his own son is able to magically appear out of hiding to claim the throne in Antioch decades later. Second, Philip II's own death or final end are as unclear to history as his father's.

Roman history relates that Sampsiceramus was ordered by Pompey to kill the heir of Cleopatra Selene, Antiochus XIII. The heir was approved by the Senate, but Pompey decided in favor of formal annexation of Syria rather than trifle with a weak ruler from a famous dynasty. A parallel story applies to Philip II, who also was briefly recognized in Antioch, and was targeted for assassination, but was able to flee from it. The one source of this is a tangential note in some Greek history that invokes the incident as allegory, if I remember correctly. Philip II apparently received a tip-off. We do not hear of him again or otherwise.

Josephus claims that Philippion bar Ptolemy marries a Jewish Hasmonean princess to the chagrin of his father, who has Philippion killed and then marries the princess herself. Though Josephus makes no mention ever of any progeny. The other descendants of Ptolemy Menneus are prominent enough to receive mention even in the New Testament, as Lysanias is a great grandson of Ptolemy. I even speculate that Philip the Arab, emperor of Rome, could likely descend from Zenodorus (grandson of Ptolemy, and a famous robber in the region). Again, the name Philip.

I hypothesize that the assassination attempt on Philip II's life is actually this alleged murder of Philippion by Ptolemy, and that Philip II survives it. The invasion of Barzapharnes coincides with the death of Ptolemy, and about a decade of non-Ma'nu rulers on the Edessan kings list. In 32 BC, Ma'nu III Saflul (this would be Philip II) is noted as king. This is also the year Tiridates II of Parthia usurps the throne and fights a civil war in Babylon.

Coinage styles this character as "Arsaces Philoromaois". I have speculated that Philip II's mother could easily have been Parthian royalty. Although the epithet is not proof of anything, it's curious that Philip II and Tiridates II both share "Philoromaios" (again, both would have reason to in that era of Syria).

What does serve as some small proof is that Armenian history, which is wrong for many reasons (it's national mythology), has a figure known as Arsham. Arsham is the father of Abgar of Edessa, interpreted as the king who corresponded with Jesus in letters. Although I think this Abgar is a fiction whose invention complicates the chronology of kings during the generation of Ma'nu III's children, nevertheless, Arsham and Ma'nu III are co-generational.

Arsham is mentioned in conjunction with the hostage sons of Phraates, and the geographic area of activity for him, Ma'nu III and Tiridates II all overlap. I believe it reasonable to conjecture they are the same person.

What's most interesting about Arsham, in my opinion, is that the Armenian chronicler describes the conditions Rome lays upon him following the treaty (which follows from the hostage exchange between Parthia and Rome in which the Aquilae of Carrhae are returned). Arsham must pay Rome tax, and must pay THROUGH Herod the Great.

In other words, Rome's treaty negotiation is requiring that Parthia continue to recognize Tiridates II as King of Adiabene, while Tiridates II gives up his claim on Babylonia. The price for this condition is the willingness of Adiabene to pay taxes to Rome on trade goods in Upper Mesopotamia. This is not politically impossible, as Rome and Parthia engaged in a great deal of diplomatic cooperation over Armenia as well.

In parallel, making Herod the treasurer of all Mesopotamian trade into Rome provides a powerful explanation of Herod's wealth. What we see quietly appear in the histories are relatives of Herod put in place all over the borders of Armenia and Assyria. As if Adiabene is tolerated, but Herod has been chosen as the regional Arabarch and hegemon.

Armenian history also relates a story validating this relationship where Arsham and Herod are given a mandate from Rome for the joint task of rebuilding Antioch. Arsham sends his son as overseer.

The timing corresponds to Josephus's mention of "in the days of robbers in Trachonitis, a certain Babylonian Jew appeared in Syria with a cohort of skilled horse archers". This is a Jewish, Parthian prince in Syria. If Philip II's wife really did remain the Hasmonean princess, then this character in Josephus, validated by Armenian history, would have to be Ma'nu III son. Effectively, Monobazus or Bazeus.

Josephus calls him Zamaris. He is given the region of Batanea, East of Galilee, and builds the colony of Bathyra. In exchange for patrolling the trade routes from Damascus, his colony will not be required to pay taxes. It becomes a hub of Babylonian Jews from Nisibis to colonize the Holy Land.

The rest of the story ventures into a discussion of Christian origins and Jewish history of the first century, so I'll stop there. I'll only note that Monobazus is not considered to be a practicing Jew, if we can actually call him a Jew other than by speculating he might be this "Zamaris". His sons and wife are the ones with noteworthy conversions to Judaism.

Nevertheless, I have succeeded in conveying the basic structure of my hypothesis about the final years of the Seleucid dynasty. I have invoked a special relationship between Arabs and Assyria, and a neglected resurgence of Assyrian culture. I have given life to the story of the "dead zone" grey area between Parthia and Rome and the role it played and weight it carried up until the Common Era of history. My hypothesis also ties together many characters and integrates the Parthian, Roman, Macedonian, Jewish and Armenian sides of the story rather than treating them as if they are in different universes.

I also think, if these last Seleucids feature so prominently in the Christian history, there would be cause for Eusebius and sympathetic historians to conceal the narrative strings altogether.

Although I skipped the Christian history, I do want to relate one last conclusion.

Izates, the Jewish King of Adiabene, son of Monobazus, angered his grandees by his conversion. Historians assume this is, again the land between the Zab Rivers and maybe extended perhaps to Nisibis, if that. I suggest it is effectively all of Assyria outside of Roman urbii. The grandees are said to have hired an Arab "Abia" to defeat Izates, but instead Izates besieges Abia at his fortress "Arsamus" and he dies subsequently.

I would propose that the name Abia is a title, and it refers to someone with the same position as Aziz had to Philip. In Izates's time, this would have been Sampsiceramus II. The Emesene fortress is called "Ash-Shmamish" (from Shamash or Shem). The timing of Sampsiceramus's death works out. I would say that Izates's ostensible domain was large enough to included Emesa, or at least that Sampsiceramus was still chief of the tribe in the greater region relevant to Izates's domain.

What we see here, then, is the beginning of a family feud between Arbela and Emesa. As the Severan Emperors of Rome were Emesene, we have some explanation for certain behaviors. For example, on Caracalla's conquest of Arbela, he notably overturns many tombs of the city's royal family for unknown reasons.

To wrap this up with a bow, the rise of Septimus Severus coincides with Abgar the Great's conversion to Christianity. I suggest that Abgar's Christianity may have been an Eastern variant a bit too close to the legacy of Adiabene's Jewish royals. Thus, Abgar reinvents Edessa's Christian legacy, contriving the letters to Jesus, so as to avoid the ire of the Emesenes. If anyone would be aware of a grudge between Western Syria and Eastern Assyria, it would have been the guy in the middle.
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