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c. 323 BC–3rd century AD
Map of Media Atropatene and neighboring countries in 1st century BC
Map of Media Atropatene and neighboring countries in 1st century BC
Historical eraAntiquity
• Established
c. 323 BC
• Disestablished
3rd century AD
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Macedonian Empire
Parthian Empire

Atropatene (in Old Iranian: Ātṛpātakāna; in Greek: Ἀτροπατηνή), also known as Media Atropatene, was an ancient kingdom established and ruled under local ethnic Iranian dynasties, first with Darius III of Persia and later Alexander the Great of Macedonia[1] starting in the 4th century BC and includes the territory of modern-day northern Iran.[2] Its capital was Ganzak. Atropatene also was the nominal ancestor of the name of the historic Azerbaijan region in Iran.[3]


According to Strabo, the name of Atropatene derived from the name of Atropates, the commander of the Achaemenid dynasty. As he writes in his book “Geography”: "Media is divided into two parts. One part of it is called Greater Media, of which the metropolis is Ecbatana. The other part is Atropatian Media, which got its name from the commander. Atropates, who prevented also this country, which was a part of Greater Media, from becoming subject to the Macedonians".[4][5]

From the name of Atropates, different forms of the name of this country such as Atropatene, Atropatios Mēdia, Tropatene, Aturpatakan, Adarbayjan were used in different sources. Nevertheless, medieval Arab geographers suggested another version associating this name with Adorbador (the name of a priest) that means “guardian of the fire”.[6]


Atropatene and neighbouring countries in 2nd century B.C.

In 331 BC, during the Battle of Gaugamela between the Achaemenid ruler Darius III and Alexander the Great, albans, sakasens, cadusians fought alongside the army of Achaemenid in the army of Atropates. After this war, which resulted in the victory of Alexander the Great and the fall of the Achaemenid Empire, Atropates expressed his loyalty to Alexander. In 328-327 BC, Alexander appointed him governor of Media. Following the death of Alexander the Great in 323 BC, the Macedonian's conquests were divided amongst the diadochi at the Partition of Babylon. The former Achaemenid satrapy of Media was divided into two states: The greater (southern) part – Media Magna was assigned to Peithon, one of Alexander's bodyguards. The smaller (northern) region, which had been the sub-satrapy of Matiene, became Media Atropatene under Atropates, the former Achaemenid governor of all Media, who had by then become father-in-law of Perdiccas, regent of Alexander's designated successor.[7][8][9][10]

Shortly thereafter, Atropates refused to pay allegiance to Seleucus, and made Media Atropatene an independent kingdom. Antiochus III (223-187 B.C.) came to power in the State of Seleucids which was one of the states that emerged in the east after the death of Alexander the Great. In 223 B.C. attack toward Atropatene resulted in victory. Consequently, the king of Atropatene- Artabazan accepted the ascendency of Seleucids and became dependent on it, on the other hand, interior independence was preserved... At the same time, the Roman Empire came into sight in the Mediterranean basin and was trying to spread its power in the East and at the battle of Magnesia Selevkids were defeated by Romans in 190 B.C. Then, Parthia and Atropatene considered Rome a threat to their independence and therefore allied themselves in the struggle against Rome. After the battle between Rome and the Parthians in 38 BC, the Romans won and the Roman general Antony attacked Fraaspa (36 BC), one of the central cities of Atropatene. The city was surrounded by strong defenses. After a long blockade, Antony receded, losing approximately thirty-five thousand soldiers. In the face of Parthian attempts to annex Atropatene, Atropatene began to draw closer to Rome, thus, Ariobarzan II, who came to power in Atropatene in 20 BC, lived in Rome for about ten years. The dynasty Atropates founded would rule the kingdom for several centuries, first independently, then as vassals of the Arsacids (who called it 'Aturpatakan'). It was eventually annexed by the Arsacids, who then lost it to the Sassanids, who again called it 'Aturpatakan'.[11][12]

List of rulers[edit]

Although the below list is incomplete, they are the known ruling Kings of Media Atropatene.


  1. ^ Susan M. Sherwin-White, Amélie Kuhrt, "From Samarkhand to Sardis: a new approach to the Seleucid Empire", University of California Press, 1993. pg 78:"The independence of the area Media Atropatene, named after Atropates, satrap of Media under Darius and Alexander (now Azerbaijan), under local Iranian dynasts, was pre-Selecuid"
  2. ^ Benson, Douglas S. (1995), Ancient Egypt's warfare: a survey of armed conflict in the chronology of ancient Egypt, 1600 BC-30 BC, D. S. Benson
  3. ^ Yarshater, Ehsan (1983), The Cambridge history of Iran, Cambridge University Press, p. 1408, ISBN 978-0-521-20092-9, Atropatene see Azarbaijan
  4. ^ "Strabo, Geography, Book 11". Retrieved 2020-04-30.
  5. ^ "AZERBAIJAN i. Geography – Encyclopaedia Iranica". Retrieved 2020-04-30.
  6. ^ "AZERBAIJAN i. Geography – Encyclopaedia Iranica". Retrieved 2020-04-30.
  7. ^ "ATROPATES – Encyclopaedia Iranica". Retrieved 2020-04-30.
  8. ^ "Strabo, Geography, Book 11, chapter 13, section 1". Retrieved 2020-04-30.
  9. ^ Cheshire, Keyne (2009). Alexander the Great. Cambridge University. p. 73. ISBN 9780521707091.
  10. ^ F. Mirwaisi, Hamma (2010). Return of the Medes: An Analysis of Iranian History. Wheatmark. p. 123. ISBN 9781604944495.
  11. ^ "AZERBAIJAN iii. Pre-Islamic History – Encyclopaedia Iranica". Retrieved 2020-04-30.
  12. ^ Geografía. Libros XI-XIV. RBA Libros. 2016. ISBN 9788424934064.
  13. ^ ARTABAZANES, Encyclopædia Iranica
  14. ^ García Sánchez, M (2005): "La figura del sucesor del Gran Rey en la Persia Aqueménida", in V. Troncoso (ed.), Anejos Gerión 9, La figura del sucesor en las monarquías de época helenística.
  15. ^ Hallock, R (1985): "The evidence of the Persepolis Tablets", en I Gershevitch (ed.) The Cambridge History of Iran v. 2, p. 591.
  16. ^ Cassius Dio, 36.14
  17. ^ Azerbaijan iii. Pre-Islamic History, Atropates, Persian satrap of Media, made himself independent in 321 B.C. Thereafter Greek and Latin writers named the territory as Media Atropatene or, less frequently, Media Minor: Parthian period
  18. ^ a b c Swan, P.M. (2004), The Augustan Succession: An Historical Commentary on Cassius Dio's Roman History, Books 55-56 (9 B.C.-A.D. 14), p.114, Oxford University Press


Coordinates: 37°N 48°E / 37°N 48°E / 37; 48