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147 BC–224 AD
Flag of Elymais
Elymais anchor emblem, Based on Elymais coinage.[1][2]
Approximate extent of Elymais in 51 BC.
Approximate extent of Elymais in 51 BC.
StatusAutonomous state, frequently a vassal of the Parthian Empire
• ca. 147 BC
Kamnaskires I Soter
• 224 AD
Orodes VI
Historical eraClassical antiquity
• Established
147 BC
• Disestablished
224 AD
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Seleucid Empire
Sasanian Empire

Elymais or Elamais (Ἐλυμαΐς, Hellenic form of the more ancient name, Elam) was an autonomous state of the 2nd century BC to the early 3rd century AD, frequently a vassal under Parthian control, and located at the head of the Persian Gulf in the present-day region of Khuzestan, Iran (Susiana).[3] The Elymaeans were skilled archers and natives of Susa, which lay to the east of the territory of Elymais. Most of the people of the kingdom were probably descendants of the ancient Elamites,[3] who once had control of that area in the past. The provinces of Elymais were Massabatice (later Masabadhan), Corbiane and Gabiane.

Nothing is known of their language, even though Elamite was still used by the Achaemenid Empire 250 years before the kingdom of Elymais came into existence.[4] A number of Aramaic inscriptions are found in Elymais.[5] The kingdom of Elymais survived until its extinction by a Sasanian invasion in the early 3rd century AD.

The region's "wealth in silver and gold" is referred to in the deutero-canonical work 1 Maccabees, which refers to Elymais as a "city" of interest to Antiochus IV Epiphanes: the narrative there states that "its temple was very rich, containing golden coverings, breastplates, and weapons left there by Alexander son of Philip, the Macedonian king who first reigned over the Greeks. So [Antiochus] came and tried to take the city and plunder it, but he could not because his plan had become known to the citizens."[6] Jewish historian Uriel Rappaport notes that the author of 1 Maccabees was "mistaken" - "Elymais was not a city but a country" - and that "no story about treasures [Alexander] left in Elymais is mentioned elsewhere".[7]


Coin of Kamnaskires III, king of the Elymais, and his wife Anzaze
Coin of Phraates, Early-mid 2nd century AD

The coins of Elymais depicted a king; it is not known whether this was a Parthian king or a local ruler, as such information has not come to light. These coins were based on Greek standards of debased Drachms and Tetradrachms. The royal picture is generally based on Parthian coinage, usually with an anchor with a star in crescent figure. The reverse has a figure or bust of Artemis with text around it, an eagle, or often only elongated dots (this has led numismatists to believe that the engravers didn't know Greek or copied from coins whose writing was already unintelligible).[8]

A variant of Aramaic, which was more conservative than the contemporary Late Old Eastern Aramaic spoken in eastern Mesopotamia, has been recorded in Elymais until the rise of the Sasanians. The chancellery of Elymais developed its own variant the Aramaic alphabet, which was characterized by cursive letters and frequent use of ligatures, apparently influenced by the contemporary Parthian chancellery script. However, there is no evidence that Aramaic was a spoken language in Elymais.[9] It is recorded only in coins (since Orodes III) and inscriptions, such as those of Tang-e Sarvak.[10]

Kings of Elymais[edit]

The Kamnaskirid line[edit]

List of rulers[11]

  1. Kamnaskires I Megas Soter (c. 147- c.145 BC)
  2. Kamnaskires II Nikephoros (c 145- C. 139 BC)
  3. Okkonapses (c. 139/8 BC)
  4. Tigraios (c. 138/7- c. 133/2 bc)
  5. Darius (before c. 129 BC)
  6. Kamnaskires III (c. 82/1- c. 76/5 BC) with Anzaze (his Queen)
  7. Kamnaskires IV[12] (c. 73/2- c. 46 BC)
  8. Kamnaskires V[13] (c. 46- c. 28 BC)
  9. Kamnaskires VI[14] (c. 28 BC- c. 1 AD)
  10. Kamnaskires VII[15] (c. 1- c. 15 AD)
  11. Kamnaskires VIII[16] (c. 15- c. 25 AD)

The Arsacid line[edit]

Beginning with Orodes, a cadet branch of the Arsacids took over the kingdom.[17]

  1. Orodes I (c. 25- c. 50 AD)
  2. Orodes II (c. 50- c. 70 AD) son of Orodes I
  3. Phraates[18] (c. 70- c. 90 AD) son of Orodes (I or II)
  4. Orodes III[19] (c. 90- c. 100 AD) son of Orodes II
  5. Kamnaskires-Orodes[20] (c. 100- c. 120 AD) son of Orodes II
  6. Ariobarzanes (c. 125 AD)
  7. Osroes (c. 125-c. 130 AD)
  8. Unknown King I (c. 130- c. 140 AD)
  9. Orodes IV[21] & Ulpan (c. 140- c. 160 AD)
  10. Abarbasi[22] (c. 160- c. 170 AD)
  11. Orodes V[23] (c. 170- c. 180 AD) son of Beldusa
  12. Vologases[24] (c. 180- c. 190 AD)
  13. Unknown King II[25] (c. 190- c. 210 AD)
  14. Unknown King III[26] (c. 210- c. 220 AD)
  15. Orodes VI[27] (c. 220- 224 AD)

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Hansman, John (1990). "Coins and Mints of Ancient Elymais". Iran. 28: 1–11. doi:10.2307/4299830. JSTOR 4299830.
  2. ^ "Elymais (Elam)".
  3. ^ a b Hansman, John F. "ELYMAIS". Encyclopædia Iranica. Retrieved 2012-12-24.
  4. ^ G. Cameron Persepolis Treasury Tablets (1948), and R. Hallock, Persepolis Fortification Tablets (1969). See also Persepolis Fortification Archive.
  5. ^ Gzella, H. (2008) Aramaic in the Parthian Period: The Arsacid Inscriptions. In Gzella, H. & Folmer, M.L. (Eds.) Aramaic in its Historical and Linguistic Setting. Wiesbaden. P. 107-130
  6. ^ 1 Maccabees 6:1–3: New Revised Standard Version
  7. ^ Rappaport, U., 47. 1 Maccabees in Barton, J. and Muddiman, J. (2001), The Oxford Bible Commentary, p. 719
  8. ^ Coins of Elymais
  9. ^ Gzella, Holger; Folmer, M. L. (2008). Aramaic in Its Historical and Linguistic Setting. Otto Harrassowitz Verlag. p. 112. ISBN 978-3-447-05787-5.
  10. ^ Šafiʿī, I. (30 December 2018). "Aramaic Traces through Coins in the Iranian World". The Oriental Studies. 2018 (82): 101–122. doi:10.15407/skhodoznavstvo2018.82.101.
  11. ^ Wiesehöfer, 1996, p. 318. Pakzadian, 2007, pp. 56-57 & VII-X.
  12. ^ According to Pakzadian, 2007: Kamnaskires V, VI, VII, VIII and IX.
  13. ^ According to Pakzadian, 2007: Kamnaskires X and XI.
  14. ^ According to Pakzadian, 2007: Kamnaskires XII and XIII.
  15. ^ According to Pakzadian, 2007: Kamnaskires XIV and XV.
  16. ^ According to Pakzadian, 2007: Late Kamnaskires Successors types 1, 2 and 3.
  17. ^ Potts 2017, p. 774.
  18. ^ According to Pakzadian, 2007: Phraates I, II and III.
  19. ^ According to Pakzadian, 2007: Orodes III and IV.
  20. ^ According to Pakzadian, 2007: Kamnaskires-Orodes I and II.
  21. ^ According to Pakzadian, 2007: Orodes V, VI and VII.
  22. ^ According to Pakzadian, 2007: 1st Unknown King (A)
  23. ^ According to Pakzadian, 2007: Unknown Kings 2nd(B), 3rd(C) and 4th(D)
  24. ^ According to Pakzadian, 2007: Vologases I and II.
  25. ^ According to Pakzadian, 2007: Unknown Kings 5th(E), 6th(F) and 7th(G)
  26. ^ According to Pakzadian, 2007: Unknown Kings 8th(H) and 9th(I)
  27. ^ According to Pakzadian, 2007: 10th Unknown King (J)


  • Pakzadian, Hasan. "The Coins of Elymais", Tehran, 2007. (in Persian)
  • The Cambridge History of Iran (CHI), vol. 3(I), THE SELEUCID, PARTHIAN AND SASANIAN PERIODS, Cambridge University Press, 1983.
  • The Cambridge History of Iran (CHI), vol. 3(II), THE SELEUCID, PARTHIAN AND SASANIAN PERIODS, Cambridge University Press, 1983.
  • Wiesehöfer, Josef, "ANCIENT PERSIA from 550 BC to 650 AD", tr. by Azizeh Azodi, I.B.Tauris Publishers, London, 1996.
  • www.parthia.com
  • Potts, Daniel T., ed. (2017). The Oxford Handbook of Ancient Iran. Oxford University Press. pp. 1–1021. ISBN 9780190668662.

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 32°19′N 48°26′E / 32.317°N 48.433°E / 32.317; 48.433