According to Arshak Safrastian, the Medes and Scythians mentioned in classical Greek literature existed only as preconceived notions. Equating the Carduchi with the Gutians, he adds that the moment the Ten Thousand began to skirt the lower slopes of the Hamrin Mountains, they were in contact with the tribes of Gutium which are presented here as Medes or Scythians. A direct Gutian connection, however, is unlikely, as the Gutians were not Indo-Iranians and only known to have lived in southern Mesopotamia.
Carduchoi in Xenophon
A people called the Carduchoi () are mentioned in Xenophon's Anabasis. They inhabited the mountains north of the Tigris in 401 BC, living in well-provisioned villages. They were enemies to the king of Persia, as were the Greek mercenaries with Xenophon, but their response to thousands of armed and desperate strangers was hostile. They had no heavy troops who could face the battle-hardened hoplites, but they used longbows and slings effectively, and for the Greeks the "seven days spent in traversing the country of the Carduchians had been one long continuous battle, which had cost them more suffering than the whole of their troubles at the hands of the king [of Persia] and Tissaphernes put together."
The region of Corduene was called Korduk' in Armenian sources. In these records, unlike in the Greek ones, the people of Korduk' were loyal to Armenian rule and the rulers of Korduk' are presented as members of the Armenian nobility. A prince of Korduk' served in the counsel of the Armenian king Trdat and helped to defend Armenia's southern borders. Additionally, it seems that there was the early presence of the Armenian Apostolic Church in Korduk'.
According to the Greek historian and geographer Strabo, the region of Gorduene (, or ?o , "Gordyaean Mts") referred to the mountains between Diyarbak?r and Mu?. He recorded its main cities as Sareisa, Satalca and Pinaca (northwest of Bezabde), and considered its inhabitants (Gordyaeans) as descendants of the ancient Carduchians. According to him, the inhabitants had an exceptional repute as master-builders and as experts in the construction of siege engines and for this reason Tigranes used them in such work; he also notices the country for its naphtha resources.Ammianus Marcellinus visited this region while on a diplomatic visit to the satrap of Corduene.Eretrians who were exiled and deported by the Persians to Mesopotamia, were said to have taken up their dwelling in the region of Gordyene.
According to Strabo the Gordyaeans received their name from Gordys son of Triptolemus, who assisted in searching after Io, and then settled in Gordyaea district of Phrygia.
Pompey and Corduene
Roman dependency of Corduene (as of 31 BC)
Castle of Pinaca (or Finik), northwest of Cizre
Both Phraates III and Tigranes the Great laid claim to this province. However, it was conquered by the Roman troops under Pompey. The local population (called Gordyeni) did not defend the Armenian rule since according to Plutarch, Tigranes had demolished their native cities and had forced them into exile in Tigranocerta. In 69 BC, Zarbienus, the king of Corduene, was secretly planning for a revolt against Tigranes. He was negotiating with Appius Claudius for Roman help. However the plan was revealed and he was killed by Tigranes. After this, Lucullus raised a monument to Zarbienus and then he took over the region of Corduene. He took part in the funeral of Zarbienus, offered royal robes, gold and the spoils (taken from Tigranes), and called him his companion and confederate of the Romans.
After Pompey's success in subjugating Armenia and part of Pontus, and the Roman advance across the Euphrates, Phraates was anxious to have a truce with the Romans. However, Pompey held him in contempt and demanded back the territory of Corduene. He sent envoys, but after receiving no answer, he sent Afranius into the territory and occupied it without a battle. The Parthians who were found in possession were driven beyond the frontier and pursued even as far as Arbela in Adiabene. According to an inscription dedicated to the temple of Venus, Pompey gave protection to the newly acquired territory of Gordyene.
Map showing Corduene as a vassal Kingdom of Armenian Empire.
Tigran retained Gordyene and Nisibis, which Pompeius withheld from the Parthians. Gordyene belonged to Urartu for about 200 years and to Armenia for about 250 years.
While the Parthian dynasty was being weakened by dynastic feuds Tigranes extended his power by the annexation of Sophene and the Submission of Gordyene under its prince.
Corduene was conquered again by Diocletian in the 3rd century and the Roman presence in the region was formally recognized in a peace treaty signed between Diocletian and the Persians. Diocletian then raised an army unit from this region under the title Ala XV Flavia Carduenorum, naming it after his Caesar Flavius Valerius Constantinus.
Following the defeat of Narseh, the Sassanid King, at the hands of the Romans in 296, a peace treaty was signed between the two sides, according to which the steppes of northern Mesopotamia, with Singara and the hill country on the left bank of the Tigris as far as Gordyene (Corduene), were also ceded to the victors (Romans).
The name of the province appears again in the account of the campaign between the Persians led by Shapur II and the Romans led by Julian the Apostate (and after Julian's death, by Jovian). The Romans started to retreat through Corduene after they could not besiege Ctesiphon.
Shapur's campaign against Corduene
Korduene in northern and northeastern Mesopotamia; map from the Encyclopaedia Biblica
In the spring of 360, Shapur II staged a campaign to capture the city of Singara (probably modern Shingar or Sinjar northwest of Mosul). The town fell after a few days of siege. From Singara, Shapur directed his march almost due northwards, and leaving Nisibis unassailed upon his left, proceeded to attack the strong fort known indifferently as Pinaca (Phaenicha) or Bezabde. This was a position on the east bank of the Tigris, near the point where that river quits the mountains and debouches upon the plain; though not on the site, it may be considered the representative of the modern Jezireh (Cizre in southeastern Turkey), which commands the passes from the low country into the Kurdish mountains. It was much valued by Rome, was fortified in places with a double wall, and was guarded by three legions and a large body of Kurdish archers. Shapur sent a flag of truce to demand a surrender, joining with the messengers some prisoners of high rank taken at Singara, lest the enemy should open fire upon his envoys. The device was successful; but the garrison proved staunch, and determined on resisting to the last. After a long siege, the wall was at last breached, the city taken, and its defenders indiscriminately massacred.
Zarbienus; early mid-1st century BC: A king of Corduene who made overtures to Appius Claudius when the latter was staying at Antiocheia, wishing to shake off the yoke of Tigranes. He was betrayed and was assassinated with his wife and children before the Romans entered Armenia. When Lucullus arrived he celebrated his funeral rites with great pomp, setting fire to the funeral pile with his own hand, and had a sumptuous monument erected to him.
Manisarus; ~ 115 AD: He took control over parts of Armenia and Mesopotamia, in the time of Trajan. The Parthian king Osroes declared war against him, which led to Manisarus siding with the Romans.
Map showing kingdoms of Corduene and Adiabene in the last centuries BC. The blue line shows the expedition and then retreat of the ten thousand through Corduene in 401 BC.
19th-century scholars, such as George Rawlinson, identified Corduene and Carduchi with the modern Kurds, considering that Carduchi was the ancient lexical equivalent of "Kurdistan". This view is supported by some recent academic sources which have considered Corduene as proto-Kurdish or as equivalent to modern-day Kurdistan.
Other modern scholars reject a Kurdish connection.
There were numerous forms of this name, partly due to the difficulty of representing kh in Latin. The spelling Karduchoi is itself probably borrowed from Armenian, since the termination -choi represents the Armenian language plural suffix -k'.
^Louis H. Feldman, Josephus' Portrait of Noah and Its Parallels in Philo, Pseudo-Philo's Biblical Antiquities and Rabbinic Midrashim, Proceedings of the American Academy for Jewish Research, pp.31-57, 1988, p.47