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Sabatelli - Rhadamistus killing Zenobia 1803.jpg
Rhadamistus killing Zenobia, by Luigi Sabatelli
King of Armenia
Reign 51–53
Predecessor Mithridates
Tiridates I
Successor Tiridates I
Spouse Zenobia
Issue unknown son
Dynasty Pharnavazid dynasty
Father Pharasmanes I of Iberia
Mother daughter of Tigranes IV
Born Mtskheta, Kingdom of Iberia
Died 58
Kingdom of Iberia
Religion Georgian paganism

Rhadamistus (Georgian: რადამისტი) (died 58) was a Georgian royal prince of the Pharnavazid dynasty of the Kingdom of Iberia who reigned over the Kingdom of Armenia from 51 to 53 and 54 to 55. He was considered an usurper and tyrant, who was overthrown in a rebellion supported by the Parthian Empire.[1][2]


Rhadamistus was one of the sons of King Pharasmanes I of Iberia.[3] His mother was an unnamed Armenian princess of the Artaxiad dynasty, who was the daughter of the Artaxiad Armenian monarchs Tigranes IV and his sister-wife Erato. Rhadamistus was known for his ambition, good looks and valor and Pharasmanes with his own declining years feared usurpation by his son, and thus convinced Rhadamistus to make war upon his uncle, King Mithridates of Armenia, father of Rhadamistus' wife, Zenobia, but with an "artful measures" which would crush him unawares. So Rhadamistus pretended that he was at feud with his father as though his stepmother's hatred was too strong for him and went to his uncle Mithridates. His uncle received Rhadamistus like a son and with an excessive kindness.[4] Later he assumed a show of reconciliation with his father, to whom he returned in Iberia, telling him everything that could be accomplished by treachery all was now ready and that he must complete the affair by using the sword. Meanwhile his father, Pharasmanes invented a pretext for war by recalling when he was fighting with the king of the Albanians and appealing to the Romans for help, his brother, had opposed him and he would now avenge him because of that. Pharasmanes gave his son a large Iberian army, who by a sudden invasion drove Mithridates in terror and forced him into the fortress of Gorneas, which was strongly garrisoned by the Romans under the command of Caelius Pollio, a camp-prefect, Casperius and a centurion.[5] Rhadamistus reminded his uncle of their tie of brotherhood, of the seniority in age of his father, and how he himself was the father-in-law of Rhadamistus. Rhadamistus told him that the Iberians were not against peace and urged Mithridates to conclude a treaty. Pharasmanes by secret messages had recommended Rhadamistus to hurry on the siege by all possible means.[6] Later, Pollio, swayed by Rhadamistus' bribery, induced the Roman soldiers to threaten capitulation of the garrison. Under this compulsion, Mithridates agreed to surrender to his nephew and quit the fortress.[7] Rhadamistus seeing his uncle threw himself into his embraces, feigning respect and calling him father-in-law and parent. He promised that he would do him no harm or violence either by the sword or by poison. He drew him into a neighboring grove, where he assured him that the appointed sacrifice was prepared for their confirmation of peace in the presence of the gods. It was their custom, whenever they joined alliance, to unite their right hands and bind together the thumbs in a tight knot and then, when the blood would flow into the extremities, they would let it escape by a slight puncture and then suck it in turn. But on this occasion the one who was applying the knot pretended that it had fallen off, and suddenly seized the knees of Mithridates flunging him to the ground. At the same moment a rush was made by others, and chains were thrown around him. Rhadamistus was mindful of his oath so he neither unsheathed the sword nor used any poison against his uncle, instead had him thrown on the ground and then smothered his uncle under a mass of heavy clothes. Later the sons of Mithridates were also butchered by Rhadamistus for having shed tears over their parent's death.[8]

Rhadamistus became King of Armenia in 51. Rome chose not to aid their Armenian allies, as their summoned council said "any crime in a foreign country was to be welcomed with joy". They only nominally demanded from Pharasmanes to withdraw from Armenian territory and remove his son.[9][10] Despite this, the Roman governor of Cappadocia, Paelignus, invaded Armenia and ravaged the country. Syrian governor Gaius Ummidius Durmius Quadratus sent a force to restore order, but was recalled so as not to provoke a war with Parthia. Consequently, King Vologases I, having recently ascended the Parthian throne and needing a principality for his brother Tiridates, he saw in the situation of Armenia an excellent opportunity of gratifying his brother and advancing his own reputation. To detach Armenia once more from the dominion of Rome and re-attach it to Parthia would be a great inauguration of his reign so he sent his large army into Armenia in 51, eventually driving out the Iberians in 53.[11] A winter epidemic forced the Parthians to withdraw from Armenia, allowing Rhadamistus to return who was now fiercer than ever.[12] He punished those Armenian cities that had surrendered to the Parthians, which soon revolted and replaced him with the Parthian prince Tiridates I in 55.[13] Rhadamistus escaped along with his pregnant wife, Zenobia. Unable to bear a long ride on horse, out of fear of the enemy and love of her husband, she convinced Rhadamistus to kill her with the honourable death to avoid the shame of captivity from their pursuers. Rhadamistus embraced, cheered, and encouraged her wife, admiring her heroism, he unsheathed his scymitar, stabbed her, dragged her to the bank of the Aras River and committed her to the river stream, so that her body might be swept away. Then in headlong flight he hurried to Iberia, his ancestral kingdom. Zenobia meanwhile as she yet breathed and showed signs of life on the calm water at the river's edge, was found by some shepherds, who inferring from her noble appearance and that she was no base-born woman, bound up her wound and applied to it their rustic remedies. When they found out her name and her adventure, they conveyed her to the city of Artaxata to King Tiridates, who received her kindly and treated her as a royal person.[14] Rhadamistus himself returning home to Iberia was soon, in 58,[15] put to death as traitor who had plotted against the royal power by his own father who wanted to prove his loyalty to Rome.[16][17]

In art[edit]





  1. ^ Jean Baptiste Louis Crevier, The History of the Roman Emperors, p. 286
  2. ^ Frederick Guest Tomlins, A Universal History of the Nations of Antiquity, p. 569
  3. ^ Javakhishvili, p. 159
  4. ^ Tacitus, XII, 44
  5. ^ Tacitus, XII, 45
  6. ^ Javakhishvili, p. 160
  7. ^ Tacitus, XII, 46
  8. ^ Tacitus, XII, 47
  9. ^ Javakhishvili, p. 161
  10. ^ Tacitus, XII, 48
  11. ^ George Rawlinson, Parthia, p. 272
  12. ^ Tacitus, XII, 50
  13. ^ Suny, p. 14
  14. ^ Tacitus, XII, 51
  15. ^ Toumanoff, p. 14
  16. ^ Javakhishvili, p. 161, § 5
  17. ^ Tacitus, XIII, 37
  18. ^ Silvestra Bietoletti, Michele Dantini, L'Ottocento italiano: la storia, gli artisti, le opere, pp. 108-109
  19. ^ Oskar Batschmann, Nicolas Poussin: Dialectics of Painting, p. 116
  20. ^ Kimball King, Western Drama Through the Ages, p. 57
  21. ^ Lacy Lockert, The Chief Rivals of Corneille and Racine, p. 511
  22. ^ Stanley Sadie, Laura Macy, The Grove Book of Operas, p. 510
  23. ^ Mary Ann Parker, G. F. Handel: A Guide to Research, p. 159
  24. ^ M. R. James, Collected Ghost Stories, p. 448
  25. ^ А. С. Грибоедов, Горе от ума. Комедии. Драматические сцены. Стихотворения. Путевые заметки, p. 334


Born: NA Died: 58 AD
Preceded by
Crown Prince of Kartli
? - 51 AD
Succeeded by
Mihrdat I
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Mithridates I
King of Armenia
51 – 53
54 – 55
(2nd reign)
Succeeded by
Tiridates I
Preceded by
Tiridates II
Succeeded by
Arsacid Dynasty
(Tiridates I)