Antiochus I Theos of Commagene (Antiochus I Theos Dikaios Epiphanes Philorhomaios Philhellen, Armenian: Անտիոքոս Երվանդունի, Ancient Greek: Ἀντίοχος ὁ Θεὸς Δίκαιος Ἐπιφανὴς Φιλορωμαῖος Φιλέλλην, meaning Antiochos, a just, eminent god, friend of Romans and friend of Greeks, c. 86 BC – 38 BC, ruled 70 BC – 38 BC) was an Armenian king from the Kingdom of Commagene and the most famous king of that kingdom.
Alexander the Great and His influence…
Alexander the Great (356-323 BCE) of Macedon first follwed in his father’s (King Phillip II) footsteps in subduing the city-states of Greece and then lead his army on a series of campaigns which successfully conquered the then-known world from Macedon, through Greece, down to Egypt, across Persia, to India. Alexander’s tutor was the Greek philosopher Aristotle (384-322 BCE) and, as Alexander traveled, he spread Greek thought and culture in his wake, thus “hellenizing” (to make `Greek’ in culture and civilizaion) those he conquered.
After Alexander’s death his Empire was divided among his four generals (known in Latin as the Diadochi, the name by which they are still referenced, from the Greek, Diadokhoi, meaning “successors”): Lysimachus, Cassander, Ptolemy and Seleucus. Lysimachus took Thrace and much of Asia Minor; Cassander, Macedonia and Greece; Ptolemy seized Egypt, Palestine, Cilicia, Petra, and Cyprus (thus beginnng the Ptolemaic Dynasty in Egypt which lasted until the death of Cleopatra VII in 31 BCE) while Seleucus took control of the rest of Asia (so founding the Seleucid Empire which was comprised of Syria, Babylon, Persia, and India).
Hellenic influence continued to spread throughout the lands ruled by the Diadochi and Greek dedications, statues, architecture and inscriptions have been found in abundance in every locale. Greek language introduced Greek literature into the former Persian Empire, thereby influencing the philosophical thought and writing of the region (and the same held true for the area known as Palestine where Greek literature found its way into the religious thought and scripture of Judaism). The Great Library at Alexandria, Egypt, which is said to have been started by Ptolemy I, became the most important center for learning in the ancient world. Greek theatre flourished throughout the lands conquered by Alexander and the amphitheaters built during the Hellenistic Period show markedly Greek features no matter the nationality of the architect nor the country of construction (one example being, Ai-Khanoum on the edge of Bactria, modern day Afghanistan).
Mount Nemrut and the God King of Commagene
Mount Nemrut (Nemrut Dagi in Turkish) is a monumental site belonging to the Kingdom of Commagene, a small, independent Armenian kingdom that was formed in 162 B.C. This was a period during which the once mighty Seleucid Empire was beginning to disintegrate, allowing certain areas of its empire to break free from the centralised control of the Seleucids. Located in the eastern Taurus mountain range in southern Turkey, near the town of Adiyaman, Mount Nemrut is home to an ancient complex built by the fourth, and arguably the most famous, king of Commagene, Antiochus I Theos (the ‘God King’).
King Antiochus I, ruler of Commagene from 70 BC to 36BC, was a most unusual king. He claimed descent from Greek conqueror Alexander the Great on his mother’s side, and from the Persian King Darius the Great on his father’s side, thus combining the west and the east. But what was particularly salient about this king was his unerring pride and his over-extended ego. Antiochus I claimed he had a special relationship with the gods and instituted a royal cult in the Greek form of the religion Zoroastrianism with the clear intention of being worshipped as a god after his death.
King Antiochus I practised astrology of a very esoteric kind, and laid the basis for a calendrical reform, by linking the Commagene year, which till then had been based on the movements of the Sun and Moon, to the Sothic-Anahit (Star of Sirius) and Hayk (Star of Orion) cycle used by the Egyptians as the basis of their calendar. This would suggest that Antiochus was knowledgeable about, if not fully initiated into Hermeticism.