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c. 164 BC-c. 379 AD
The Kingdom of Adiabene in c. 37 AD at its greatest extent, during the reign of Izates II
The Kingdom of Adiabene in c. 37 AD at its greatest extent, during the reign of Izates II
StatusVassal of the Parthian Empire (145 BC-224 AD)
Vassal of the Sasanian Empire (224-379)
Common languagesClassical Syriac
Ashurism, Judaism, Zoroastrianism, Christianity, Manichaeism
o around 15 CE
Izates I
o 20s? - c. 36[1]
Monobaz I
o c. 36 - c. 55/59
Izates II[2]
o c. 55/59[1] - late 60s/mid-70s
- - - - - - - - - - - -
Monobaz II
o ? - 116
Historical eraAntiquity
o Established
c. 164 BC
o Transformed into a Sasanian province
c. 379 AD
Preceded by
Succeeded by

Adiabene (from the Ancient Greek , Adiabene, itself derived from Classical Syriac: ‎, ?a?y'a? or ay'a?, Middle Persian: Nodsh?rag?n,[3][4] Armenian: ?, Nor Shirakan, Hebrew: , Hadaiav) was an ancient kingdom in northern Mesopotamia, corresponding to the northwestern part of ancient Assyria.[5] The size of the kingdom varied over time; initially encompassing an area between the Zab Rivers, it eventually gained control of Nineveh, and starting at least with the rule of Monobazos I (late 1st-century BC), Gordyene became an Adiabenian dependency.[6] It reached its zenith under Izates II, who was granted the district of Nisibis by the Parthian king Artabanus II (r. 12-40) as a reward for helping him regain his throne.[7][8] Adiabene's eastern borders stopped at the Zagros Mountains, adjacent to the region of Media.[9] Arbela served as the capital of Adiabene.[10]

The formation of the kingdom is obscure. The first instance of a recorded Adiabenian ruler is in 69 BC, when an unnamed king of Adiabene participated in the battle of Tigranocerta as an ally of the Armenian king Tigranes the Great (r. 95-55 BC).[11] However, coinage implies the establishment of a kingdom in Adiabene around 164 BC, following the disintegration of Greek Seleucid rule in the Near East.[12][13] Adiabene was conquered by the Parthian king Mithridates I (r. 171-132 BC) in ca. 145-141 BC, and by at least from the reign of Mithridates II (r. 124-91 BC) served as an integral part of the Parthian realm.[14]

Adiabenian rulers converted to Judaism from paganism in the 1st century AD.[15] Queen Helena of Adiabene (known in Jewish sources as Heleni HaMalka, meaning Helene the Queen) 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 the Jews in their war with Rome.[16] According to the Talmud, both Helena and Monobaz donated large funds for the Temple of Jerusalem. After 115 CE, there are no historic traces of Jewish royalty in Adiabene.

The Parthians were overthrown by the Sasanian Empire in 224, who by the time of Shapur I (r. 240-270) had established their rule in Adiabene.[7] Ardashir II is the last figure to be recorded as king of Adiabene, which implies that the kingdom was after his tenure in c. 379 transformed into a province (shahr), governed by a non-royal delegate (marzban or shahrab) of the Sasanian king.[17]


Adiabene occupied a district in Median Empire between the Upper Zab (Lycus) and the Lower Zab (Caprus), though Ammianus speaks of Nineveh, Ecbatana, and Gaugamela as also belonging to it.[18] By the late 1st century CE, its borders extended as far as Nisibis.[a] In the Talmudic writings the name occurs as , and . 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.[21]

In Kiddushin 72a the Biblical Habor is identified with Adiabene,[22] but in Yerushalmi Megillah i. 71b with Riphath.[23] 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 of Jews, Assyrians, Arameans, Greeks, and Iranians.[24] Adiabene was a major-speaking Syriac language kingdom. According to Pliny, four tribes inhabited the region of Adiabene: Orontes, Alani, Azones and Silices.[25] The account of Josephus' Antiquities of the Jews shows that there was a substantial Jewish population in the kingdom. The difficult mixing of cultures can be seen in the story of the martyrdom of Mahanu?, a prominent Iranian Zoroastrian who converted to Christianity.[26] In later times Adiabene became an archbishopric, with the seat of the metropolitan at Arbela.[27]

Based on names of the Adiabenian rulers, Ernst Herzfeld suggested a Saka/Scythian origin for the royal house of the kingdom;[28][29] however, later progress in Iranian linguistic studies showed that these names were common west middle Iranian names.[30] It has been suggested that the royal house of Adiabene, after fleeing Trajan's invasion, established the later Amatuni dynasty which ruled the area between the lakes Urmia and Van.[31][32]

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 Sasanian Assyria (Assuristan).[33][34] The region was later made a part of the Roman province of Assyria after the invasion by Trajan in 116.[35]

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.[36]

(For subsequent history, see Erbil; 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".[37] The Ten Thousand, an army of Greek mercenaries, retreated through Adiabene on their march to the Black Sea after the Battle of Cunaxa.

Queen Helena's conversion to Judaism

According to Jewish tradition, Helena, the Queen of Adiabene converted to Judaism from paganism in the 1st century.[38] 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 Jews in their war with Rome. Queen Helena's sarcophagus was discovered in 1863. A pair of inscriptions on the sarcophagus, "tzaddan malka" and "tzadda malkata," is believed to be a reference to the provisions (tzeda in Hebrew) that Helena supplied to Jerusalem's poor and to the Jewish kingdom in general. According to Josephus "the queen converted to Judaism together with her son Monobaz II, under the influence of two Jews. Another tradition has it that she met a Jewish jewelry merchant in Adiabene by the name of Hanania or Eliezer, who told her about the people of Israel and persuaded her to join them.[39] All historic traces of Jewish royalty in Adiabne ended around 115 CE, but these stories made huge impact on rabbinic literature and Talmud.[40] Nominally Zoroastrian, the people of Adiabne were tolerant toward Judaism, and permitted the establishment of Jewish communities there, The Jews of Edessa, Nisibis, and Adiabene repaid them by being among the most vigorous opponents of Trajan. In late second century Christianity rapidly spread among Zoroastrians and those formerly professing Judaism. When Christianity became the official religion of the Roman empire under Constantine, the position of Adiabenian Christians was naturally exacerbated, since they were seen as potentially disaffected by the zealously Zoroastrian Sasanians.[41]

Hellenistic Period

The little kingdom may have had a series of native rulers nominally vassal to the Macedonian, Seleucid and later Armenian (under Tigranes the Great) empires.

Parthian Empire

It later became one of the client kingdoms of the Parthian empire. During the 1st century BCE[dubious ] 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.

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, 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.

Sasanian rule

Despite the overthrow of the Parthians by the Sasanians in 224 CE, the feudatory dynasties remained loyal to the Parthians, and resisted Sasanian advance into Adiabene and Atropatene. Due to this, and religious differences, Adiabene was never regarded as an integral part of Iran, even though the Sasanians 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 primarily Assyrian Christians, sided with Christian Rome rather than the Zoroastrian Sasanians. The Byzantine Empire sent armies to the region during the Byzantine-Sasanian wars, but this did nothing to change the territorial boundaries. Adiabene remained a province of the Sasanians Empire until the Muslim conquest of Persia.[42]

The region was recorded as Nod-Ardadkhshiragan or Nod-Ardashiragan in Sasanian period.


All dates are approximate.

  1. Abdissares (2nd c. BCE)[43]
  2. Izates I (? - c. 15/30 CE)[44]
  3. Bazeus Monobazus I (20s? - c. 36)[1]
  4. Heleni (c. 30 - c. 58)
  5. Izates II bar Monobazus (c. 36 - 55/59)
  6. Vologases (a Parthian rebel opposing Izates II) (c. 50)
  7. Monobazus II bar Monobazus (55/59[1] - late 60s/mid-70s)
  8. Meharaspes (? - 116)
  9. To the Roman Empire (116-117)
  10. Rakbakt (?-191) (A Parthian governor of Alanian descent)[45]
  11. Narsai of Adiabene (c. 191-200)
  12. Shahrat (Shahrad) (c. 213-224)
  13. To the Sasanian Empire (226-649)
  14. Ardashir II (344-376)


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 Sasanians, 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[19] implies that Nisibis was not part of Adiabene, while Pliny[20] 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): 60-66. doi:10.2307/3264908. JSTOR 3264908.


  1. ^ a b c d (Frankfurt/Main), Bringmann, Klaus. "Monobazus". Retrieved 2018.
  2. ^ Nimmo, Douglas John. "Izates II King of Adiabene's Tree". June 8, 2011. Retrieved 2014.
  3. ^ ?KZ
  4. ^ Frye 1984, p. 222.
  5. ^ Kia 2016, p. 54.
  6. ^ Marciak 2017, pp. 269-270, 447.
  7. ^ a b Frye 1984, p. 279.
  8. ^ Sellwood 1983, pp. 456-459.
  9. ^ Marciak 2017, p. 270.
  10. ^ Marciak 2017, p. 269.
  11. ^ Marciak 2017, p. 345.
  12. ^ Marciak 2017, pp. 347, 422.
  13. ^ Marciak & Wójcikowski 2016, pp. 79-101.
  14. ^ Marciak 2017, p. 347.
  15. ^ Gottheil, Richard. "Adiabene". Jewish Encyclopedia. Retrieved 2011.
  16. ^ Neusner, Jacob (1964). "The Conversion of Adiabene to Judaism: A New Perspective". Journal of Biblical Literature. 83 (1): 60-66. doi:10.2307/3264908. JSTOR 3264908.
  17. ^ Marciak 2017, p. 412.
  18. ^ "Hist." xviii., vii. 1
  19. ^ Geogr. xvi, 1, 1
  20. ^ Hist. Nat. vi, 16, 42
  21. ^ Yaqut, Geographisches Wörterbuch, ii. 263; Payne-Smith, Thesaurus Syriacus, under "Hadyab"; Hoffmann, Auszüge aus Syrischen Akten, pp. 241, 243.
  22. ^ Compare Yebamot 16b et seq., Yalqut Daniel 1064
  23. ^ Genesis x. 3; compare also Genesis Rabba xxxvii.
  24. ^$002facrefore$002f9780199381135.001.0001$002facrefore-9780199381135-e-4435
  25. ^ Pliny the Elder, The natural history, book VI, chap. 30
  26. ^ Fiey, J. M. (1965). Assyrie chrétienne I. Beirut: Imprimerie catholique.
  27. ^ Hoffmann, "Akten," pp. 259 et seq.
  28. ^ Ernst Herzfeld, 1947, Zoroaster and his world, Volume 1, p. 148, Princeton university press, University of Michigan, 851 pages
  29. ^ 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
  30. ^ Helmut Humbach, Prods Oktor Skjaervo, 1983, The Sasanian Inscription of Paikuli Pt. 3,1, p. 120, Humbach, Helmut und Prods O. Skjaervo, Reichert, 1983, ISBN 3882261560/9783882261561
  31. ^ Jacob Neusner, 1969, A History of the Jews in Babylonia, Volume 2, p. 352-353, Brill, 462 pages
  32. ^ Jacob Neusner, 1990, Judaism, Christianity and Zoroastrianism in Talmudic Babylonia, Volym 204, p. 103-104, University of Michigan, Scholars Press, 228 pages
  33. ^ Whinston, William. Translator. The Works of Josephus. Massachusetts: Hendrickson Publishers Inc. 1999
  34. ^ Gibbon, Edward. The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. David Womersley, ed. Penguin Books, 2000
  35. ^ "Adiabene". Retrieved .
  36. ^ Crone, Patricia; Cook, Michael (21 April 1977). Hagarism: The Making of the Islamic World. CUP Archive. ISBN 9780521211338. Retrieved 2018 – via Google Books.
  37. ^ Nöldeke, Geschichte der Perser, p. 70.
  38. ^ "Helena". Retrieved 2018.
  39. ^ Shapira, Ran (1 October 2010). "A Royal Return". Retrieved 2018 – via Haaretz.
  40. ^ The Other Zions: The Lost Histories of Jewish Nations By Eric Maroney P:97
  41. ^ "ADIABENE - Encyclopaedia Iranica". Retrieved 2018.
  42. ^ "Encyclopædia Iranica - Home". Retrieved 2018.
  43. ^ (Merciak), Michal. "Abdissar". Retrieved 2020.
  44. ^ (Pretzfeld), Schottky, Martin. "Izates". Retrieved 2018.
  45. ^ 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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