Adiabene (from the Ancient Greek Ἀδιαβηνή, Adiabene, itself derived from Classical Syriac: ܚܕܝܐܒ, Ḥaḏy’aḇ or Ḥḏay’aḇ, Middle Persian: Nodshēragān, Armenian: Նոր Շիրական, Nor Shirakan) was an ancient kingdom in Assyria, with its capital at Arbela (modern-day Erbil, Iraqi Kurdistan).
Adiabenian rulers converted to Judaism from paganism in the 1st century. Queen Helena of Adiabene (known in Jewish sources as Heleni HaMalka) moved to Jerusalem, where she built palaces for herself and her sons, Izates bar Monobaz and Monobaz II at the northern part of the city of David, south of the Temple Mount, and aided Israel in their war with Rome. According to the Talmud, both Helena and Monobaz donated large funds for the Temple of Jerusalem. After 115 CE, there are no historic traces of Jewish royalty in Adiabene.
Adiabene within Armenian Empire under the reign of Tigranes the Great
|Status||Vassal of the Kingdom of Armenia, Parthian Empire, Sasanid Empire|
Province of the Sasanian Empire (226–649)
|Common languages||Classical Syriac|
|Religion||Zoroastrianism, Judaism, Ashurism, Christianity, Manichaeism|
• around 15 CE
• 20s? – c. 36
• c. 36 - c. 55/59
• c. 55/59 - late 60s/mid-70s
- - - - - - - - - - - -
• ? - 116
Adiabene occupied a district in Assyria between the Upper Zab (Lycus) and the Lower Zab (Caprus), though Ammianus speaks of Nineveh, Ecbatana, and Gaugamela as also belonging to it. Although nominally a dependency of the Parthian Empire, for some centuries, beginning with the 1st century BCE, it was independent. By the late 1st century CE, its borders extended as far as Nisibis.[a] In the Talmudic writings the name occurs as חדייב ,חדייף and הדייב, which is parallel to its Syriac form "Hadyab" or "Hedayab". Its chief city was Arbela (Arba-ilu), where Mar Uqba had a school, or the neighboring Hazzah, by which name the later Arabs also called Arbela.
In Kiddushin 72a the Biblical Habor is identified with Adiabene, but in Yerushalmi Megillah i. 71b with Riphath. In the Targum to Jeremiah li. 27, Ararat, Minni, and Ashkenaz are paraphrased by Kordu, Harmini, and Hadayab, i.e., Corduene, Armenia, and Adiabene; while in Ezekiel xxvii. 23 Harran, Caneh, and Eden are interpreted by the Aramaic translator as "Harwan, Nisibis, and Adiabene."
Adiabene had a mixed population, while the Syriac language was dominant spoken by Assyrians. According to Pliny, four tribes inhabited the region of Adiabene: Orontes, Alani, Azones and Silices. The account of Josephus' Antiquities of the Jews shows that there was a substantial Jewish population in the kingdom, which led to the establishment of a prominent rabbinic academy in Arbela. During the Sassanid era, Persians came to the fore politically. The difficult mixing of cultures can be seen in the story of the martyrdom of Mahanuš, a prominent Iranian Zoroastrian who converted to Christianity. In later times Adiabene became an archbishopric, with the seat of the metropolitan at Arbela.
Based on names of the Adiabenian rulers, Ernst Herzfeld suggested a Saka/Scythian origin for the royal house of the kingdom; however, later progress in Iranian linguistic studies showed that these names were common west middle Iranian names. It has been suggested that the royal house of Adiabene, after fleeing Trajan's invasion, established the later Amatuni dynasty which ruled the area between the lakes Urmia and Van.
Adiabene was a district in Mesopotamia between upper and lower Zab and was a part of the Neo Assyrian Empire and inhabited by Assyrians even after the fall of Nineveh. It was an integral part of Achaemenid Assyria (Athura) and Sassanid Assyria (Assuristan). The region was later made a part of the Roman province of Assyria after the invasion by Trajan in 116.
According to Patricia Crone and Michael Cook, when the heartland of Assyria was back into focus in early Christianity (during the Parthian era and about six centuries after the fall of the Assyrian Empire), "it was with an Assyrian, not a Persian let alone Greek, self-identification: the temple of Ashur was restored, the city was rebuilt, and an Assyrian successor state that returned in the shape of the client kingdom of Adiabene." The Jewish historian Flavius Josephus states that the inhabitants of Adiabene were Assyrians.
In ancient times Adiabene was an integral part of Assyria.
Under the Achaemenid Persian kings, Adiabene seems for a time to have been a vassal state of the Persian Empire. At times the throne of Adiabene was held by a member of the Achaemenid house; Ardashir III (king from 628 to 630 CE), before he came to the throne of Persia, had the title "King of Hadyab". The Ten Thousand, an army of Greek mercenaries, retreated through Adiabene on their march to the Black Sea after the Battle of Cunaxa.
According to Jewish tradition, Hellena, the Queen of Adiabne converted to Judaism from paganism in the 1st century. Queen Helena of Adiabene (known in Jewish sources as Heleni HaMalka) moved to Jerusalem where she built palaces for herself and her sons, Izates bar Monobaz and Monobaz II at the northern part of the city of David, south of the Temple Mount, and aided Jews in their war with Rome. Queen Helena's sarcophagus was discovered in 1863. A pair of inscriptions on the sarcophagus, "tzaddan malka" and "tzadda malkata," is believed to be a reference to the provisions (tzeda in Hebrew ) that Helena supplied to Jerusalem's poor and to the Jewish kingdom in general. According to Josephus "the queen converted to Judaism together with her son Monobaz II, under the influence of two Jews. Another tradition has it that she met a Jewish jewelry merchant in Adiabene by the name of Hanania or Eliezer, who told her about the people of Israel and persuaded her to join them. All historic traces of Jewish royalty in Adiabne ended around 115 CE, but these stories made huge impact on rabbinic literature and Talmud. Nominally Zoroastrian, the people of Adiabne were tolerant toward Judaism, and permitted the establishment of Jewish communities there, The Jews of Edessa, Nisibis, and Adiabene repaid them by being among the most vigorous opponents of Trajan. In late second century Christianity rapidly spread among Zoroastrians and those formerly professing Judaism. When Christianity became the official religion of the Roman empire under Constantine, the position of Adiabenian Christians was naturally exacerbated, since they were seen as potentially disaffected by the zealously Zoroastrian Sasanians.
It later became one of the client kingdoms of the Parthian empire. During the 1st century BCE and the 1st century CE, it gained a certain prominence under a series of kings descended from Monobaz I and his son Izates I. Monobaz I is known to have been allied with king Abennerig of Characene, in whose court his son Izates II bar Monobaz lived for a time and whose daughter Symacho Izates married, as well as the rulers of other small kingdoms on the periphery of the Parthian sphere of influence.
The chief opponent of Trajan in Mesopotamia during the year 115 was the last king of independent Adiabene, Meharaspes. He had made common cause with Ma'nu (Mannus) of Singar (Singara). Trajan invaded Adiabene, and made it part of the Roman province of Assyria; under Hadrian in 117, however, Rome gave up possession of Assyria, Mesopotamia, and Armenia.
In the summer of 195 Septimius Severus was again warring in Mesopotamia, and in 196 three divisions of the Roman army fell upon Adiabene. According to Dio Cassius, Caracalla took Arbela in the year 216, and searched all the graves there, wishing to ascertain whether the Arsacid kings were buried there. Many of the ancient royal tombs were destroyed.
Despite the overthrow of the Parthians by the Sassanids in 224 CE, the feudatory dynasties remained loyal to the Parthians, and resisted Sassanid advance into Adiabene and Atropatene. Due to this, and religious differences, Adiabene was never regarded as an integral part of Iran, even though the Sassanids controlled it for several centuries.
After the Roman Empire gradually made Christianity its official religion during the fourth century, the inhabitants of Adiabene, who were primarily Assyrian Christians, sided with Christian Rome rather than the Zoroastrian Sassanids. The Byzantine Empire sent armies to the region during the Byzantine-Sassanid Wars, but this did nothing to change the territorial boundaries. Adiabene remained a province of the Sassanid Empire until the Muslim conquest of Persia.
All dates are approximate.
Between the 5th and the 14th centuries Adiabene was a metropolitan province of the Assyrian Church of the East. The Chronicle of Erbil, a purported history of Christianity in Adiabene under the Parthians and Sassanians, lists a number of early bishops of Erbil. The authenticity of the Chronicle of Erbil has been questioned, and scholars remain divided on how much credence to place in its evidence. Some of the bishops in the following list are attested in other sources, but the early bishops are probably legendary.
In 115, the Romans invaded Adiabene and named it Assyria.
Abraham of Nethpra (died 6th century) was a monk of the Assyrian Church of the East.
He was born in Beith-Nethpra in Adiabene. He became a hermit there and, after returning from Egypt, returned to hermiticism. He lived for thirty years in a cave before dying in the 6th century.
He changed the religious habit of the monks of the Church of the East to make it easier to distinguish them from similar Miaphysite monks.
He is regarded as a saint of the Assyrian Church. His feast day is March 13.Adarbaigan (East Syriac diocese)
Diocese of Adarbaigan was one of the classical East Syriac dioceses of the Church of the East. The diocese, attested between the fifth and eighth centuries, was centred on the town of Ganzak and was included in the metropolitan province of Adiabene.Adiabene (East Syriac ecclesiastical province)
Metropolitanate of Adiabene (Syriac: Hadyab ܚܕܝܐܒ) was an East Syriac metropolitan province of the Church of the East between the 5th and 14th centuries, with more than fifteen known suffragan dioceses at different periods in its history. Although the name Hadyab normally connoted the region around Erbil and Mosul in present-day Iraq, the boundaries of the East Syriac metropolitan province went well beyond the Erbil and Mosul districts. Its known suffragan dioceses included Beth Bgash (the Hakkari region of eastern Turkey) and Adarbaigan (the Ganzak district, to the southeast of Lake Urmi), well to the east of Adiabene proper.Ananias of Adiabene
Ananias of Adiabene (; c. 15 BCE – c. 30 CE) was a Jewish merchant and mendicant proselytizer, probably of Hellenistic origin, who, in the opening years of the common era, was prominent at the court of Abinergaos I (Abennerig), king of Characene. He was instrumental in the conversion to Judaism of numerous native and foreign inhabitants of Charax Spasinu. This city, the capital of Characene, was situated at the confluence of the two arms of the Tigris and was at the time a great mercantile center.
Among Ananias' most prominent converts were several women of high position at the court, particularly the princess Symacho, the king's daughter. This princess married Izates bar Monobaz, a young prince who had been sent to Abennerig's court by his parents, Monobaz I and Helena, the rulers of Adiabene. Through his wife, Izates' attention was directed to Ananias, with whom he formed an acquaintance that eventually ripened into a strong attachment. Around the year 18 CE, Ananias won the prince over to the Jewish faith. Moreover, Izates was named as successor to the throne by Monobaz, who, in so doing, passed over his elder sons. Upon his accession (about 22), Izates, in order to show his genuine attachment to the new religion, declared his determination to undergo the rite of circumcision. Helena opposed this, fearing that the adoption of foreign ceremonies might arouse against the young king the indignation of his pagan subjects. Ananias, who had come to Adiabene with Izates, supported Helena's contention, arguing that such a step on the part of the king would endanger the life of his Jewish instructor, and, further, that circumcision was not vital to the fulfilment of the Jewish religion and the worship of God.
Izates seemed convinced by the latter argument, until there came to his court another Jew, Eleazar, who, in contradistinction to Ananias' Hellenic leniency, was a rigorous legalist from Galilee. He persuaded Izates to undergo the rite. Ananias and Helena were strongly agitated when Izates disclosed his action, but the trouble they predicted did not immediately ensue. Whether Ananias made further converts in Izates' country is not stated.
In his book, "James the Brother of Jesus," Robert Eisenman contends that this person is the same as the Biblical Ananias from the book of Acts.Erbil
Erbil, also spelt Arbil (Kurdish: ھەولێر / Hewlêr), locally called Hawler by the Kurds, is the capital city of Iraqi Kurdistan and the most populated city in the Kurdish inhabited areas. It is located approximately in the center of Iraqi Kurdistan region and north of Iraq. It has about 850,000 inhabitants, and Erbil governorate has a permanent population of 2,009,367 as of 2015.Human settlement at Erbil can be dated back to possibly 5th millennium BC, and it is one of the oldest continuously inhabited areas in the world. At the heart of the city is the ancient Citadel of Erbil. The earliest historical reference to the region dates to the Third Dynasty of Ur of Sumer, when King Shulgi mentioned the city of Urbilum. The city was later conquered by the Assyrians.Erbil became an integral part of the kingdom of Assyria by at least the 21st century BC through to the end of the seventh century BC, after it was captured by the Gutians, and it was known in Assyrian annals variously as Urbilim, Arbela and Arba-ilu. After this it was part of the geopolitical province of Assyria under several empires in turn, including the Median Empire, the Achaemenid Empire (Achaemenid Assyria), Macedonian Empire, Seleucid Empire, Parthian Empire, Roman Assyria and Sasanian Empire (Asōristān), as well as being the capital of the tributary state of Adiabene between the mid-second century BC and early second century AD.
Following the Muslim conquest of Persia, it no longer remained a unitary region, and during the Middle Ages, the city came to be ruled by the Seljuk and Ottoman empires.Erbil's archaeological museum houses a large collection of pre-Islamic artefacts, particularly the art of Mesopotamia, and is a center for archaeological projects in the area. The city was designated as Arab Tourism Capital 2014 by the Arab Council of Tourism. In July 2014, the Citadel of Arbil was inscribed as a World Heritage site.
The city has an ethnically diverse population of Kurds (the majority ethnic group), Armenians, Assyrians, Arabs, Iraqi Turkmens, Yezidis, Shabakis and Mandaeans. It is equally religiously diverse, with believers of Sunni Islam, Shia Islam, Christianity (mainly followed by Assyrians and Armenians), Yezidism, Yarsanism, Shabakism and Mandaeism extant in and around Erbil.Helena of Adiabene
Helena of Adiabene (Hebrew: הלני מלכת חדייב) (d. ca. 50-56 CE) was a Persian or Magian queen of Adiabene (modern-day Erbil, Iraqi Kurdistan) and Edessa (modern-day Urfa, Turkey) and the wife of Monobaz I, her brother, and Abgarus V. With her husband, Monobaz I, she was the mother of Izates II and Monobaz II. Helena became a convert to Judaism about the year 30 CE. The names of some of her family members and the fact that she was married to her brother indicate an Iranian, Zoroastrian or Magian origin. According to Josephus, Helena was the daughter of King Izates, and according to both Josephus and Moses of Chorene, she was the chief wife of Abgar V king of Edessa.Henana of Adiabene
Henana of Adiabene was director of the School of Nisibis, the theological center of the Church of the East (571–610).His predecessor was Abraham of Beth Rabban who had worked hard to make the legacy of Theodore of Mopsuestia more accessible. Before he became headmaster, Henana of Adiabene had occupied the chair of biblical exegesis. His teacher was a certain Moses, who was probably Byzantine orthodox. Many of Henana's ideas were close to Byzantine theology,
and his appointment as head of the school might have been in line with a general uneasiness with the radical decrees of the Synod of Beth Lapat.
Henana was a humble man, worked tirelessly, and stood to his convictions. Under his leadership the school initially continued to grow. He wrote extensive commentaries and other works, but only two works and a number of citations have been preserved. A speech for the commencement of the academic year from the time when Henana was director has survived, and in it Henana is described as the equal of Theodore in productivity, and with the authority to choose the best from among all traditions. However, Henana did not reconcile the teaching of Theodore with the other creeds; he tried to replace him.Ishoyahb III
Ishoʿyahb III of Adiabene was Patriarch of the Church of the East from 649 to 659.Izates bar Monobaz
Izates II (Ἰζάτης), son of Monobaz (Μονόβαζος), or Izates bar Monobaz (also known as Izaates, Persian: ایزد or Hebrew: זוטוס בן מונבז) (ca. 1-55 CE). Izates was a king of the Parthian client kingdom of Adiabene who became a proselyte to Judaism. He was the son of Queen Helena of Adiabene and King Monobazus I of Adiabene. Queen Helena was also said to be the wife of King Abgarus of Edessa and thus the queen of Edessa too.During his youth Izates was sent by his father to the court of King Abinergaos I of Characene in Charax Spasinu. While in Charax Izates became acquainted with a Jewish merchant named Ananias, who familiarized him with the tenets of the Jewish religion, in which he became deeply interested. Izates married King Abinergaos' daughter Symacho who had been converted to Judaism through the efforts of Ananias. His mother had been previously won over to Judaism without his knowledge. On returning home and ascending the throne on the death of his father (c. 31 CE), Izates discovered the conversion of his mother; and he himself intended to adopt Judaism, and even to submit to circumcision. He was, however, dissuaded from this step both by his teacher Ananias and by his mother, but was ultimately persuaded thereto by another Jew, Eleazar.For some time Izates enjoyed peace; and he was so highly respected that he was chosen as arbitrator between the Parthian king Artabanus III and his rebellious nobles (c. 39 CE). But when several of Izates' relatives openly acknowledged their conversion to Judaism, some of the nobles of Adiabene secretly induced Abia, an Arab king, to declare war against him. Izates defeated his enemy, who in despair committed suicide. The nobles then conspired with Vologases, King of Parthia, but the latter was at the last moment prevented from carrying out his plans, and Izates continued to reign undisturbed for a total of twenty-four years.
Izates died around 55 CE. His mother Helena survived him for only a short time. He left twenty-four sons and twenty-four daughters. Izates was succeeded by his older brother Monobaz II, who sent Izates' remains and those of Queen Helena to Jerusalem for burial.List of converts to Judaism from paganism
This is a list of converts to Judaism from pagan religions.
Abraham (the founder), probably from Semitic paganism
Aquila of Sinope (Acylas), from traditional Greek religion
Bithiah, from traditional Egyptian religion
Bulan, king of the Khazars, from traditional Khazar religion
Jethro, priest of Midian and father-in-law of Moses , from a Mideastern religion
Makeda, queen of Sheba, from a Mideastern or Ethiopian religion
Dhu Nuwas, king of Yemen, from a Mideastern religion
Obadiah the prophet, from a Mideastern religion
Sh'maya, Sage and President of the Sanhedrin, apparently from a Mideastern religion
Avtalyon, Sage and Vice-President of the Sanhedrin, apparently from a Mideastern religion
Onkelos, Hebrew scholar and translator, from ancient Roman religion
Ruth, great-grandmother of King David, from a Near Eastern religion.
Helena, queen of Adiabene, from traditional Greek religion. 
Izates bar Monobaz, king of Adiabene, from a Persian or Mideastern religion. 
Symacho, wife of Izates bar Monobaz, from a Persian or Mideastern religion. 
Monobaz II, king of Adiabene, from a Persian or Mideastern religion. 
Osenath, from Canaanite religion (her name relates to Anat)
Zipporah, from a Mideastern or northern African religion
Yael, from Canaanite or another Near Eastern religion
Flavia Domitilla, from traditional ancient Roman religion (possibly to Jewish Christianity, as she is also a Christian saint)
Titus Flavius Clemens (consul), great-nephew of the Roman Emperor Vespasian, from traditional Roman religion (possibly to Jewish Christianity, as he is also a Christian saint)
Fulvia (wife of Saturninus), wife of Emperor Tiberius' close friend, Saturninus, from traditional Roman religion.
Tub'a Abu Kariba As'ad, from Arabian religion, was the Himyarite king of Yemen. He ruled Yemen from 390–420 CE.
Paulina Beturia, from traditional Roman religionMeharaspes
Meharaspes (Iranian: Mehrasp) was the Parthian client king of Adiabene in the early 2nd century CE. He was defeated by Trajan in 116; Adiabene was incorporated into the short-lived Roman province of Mesopotamia.Monobaz I
Monobaz I (also known as Bazeus or Monobazus) was king of the neo Assyrian Parthian client state of Adiabene in the 20s and 30s of the 1st century CE. He was the husband (and brother) of Queen Helena of Adiabene. With Helena he fathered Izates bar Monobaz and Monobaz II.
Monobaz II, the son of Monobaz I, is quoted in the Talmud in an account where in he was being criticized for not amassing as much wealth as his forefathers had. His response was this: "My fathers stored up below and I am storing up above... My fathers stored in a place which can be tampered with, but I have stored in a place which cannot be tampered with… My fathers gathered treasures of money and I have gathered treasures of souls."(b. Baba Batra 11a).Monobaz II
Monobazus II or Monobazus bar Monobaz was the son of Queen Helena of Adiabene and King Monobazus I. He is known as Monobaz in the Babylonian Talmud.
Like his younger brother Izates bar Monobazus and his mother, Monobazus became a convert to Judaism. He ruled as king of Adiabene after the death of his brother Izates around 55 CE. The date of his death is unknown but he is known to have been alive and on the throne during the First Jewish-Roman War, when he gave aid to the Jewish rebels against the Roman Empire. Two 'kinsmen' of Monobazus, Monobazus and Kenedaeus, fought on the side of the Jews in the battle against Cestius. The 'sons and brothers of Izates the king' were taken hostage to Rome after the war.The Talmud relates that Monobazus: "dissipated all his own hoards and the hoards of his fathers in years of scarcity. His brothers and his father's household came in a delegation to him and said, 'Your father saved money and added to the treasures of his fathers, and you are squandering them.' He replied, 'My fathers stored up below and I am storing up above... My fathers stored in a place which can be tampered with, but I have stored in a place which cannot be tampered with … My fathers gathered treasures of money and I have gathered treasures of souls...' " King Monobaz also donated handsome gifts to the Temple in Jerusalem. "King Monobaz had all the handles of all the vessels used on Yom Kippur made of gold … He also made of gold the base of the vessels, the rims of the vessels, the handles of the vessels, and the handles of the knives..."Queen Helena of Adiabene was also said to be the wife of King Abgarus of Edessa and thus she was also the queen of Edessa.Nor Shirakan
Nor Shirakan (Armenian: Նոր Շիրական), Parskahayk (Armenian: Պարսկահայք) or Persarmenia, was the seventh province of the ancient kingdom of Armenia, situated on the western shore of Lake Urmia, bordered on Adiabene and Atropatene, now in northwestern Iran. Following the partition of Greater Armenia between the Roman Empire and Sassanid Empire in 387, the territory under Sassanid influence came to be known as Persarmenia. The region of Arzanene, traditionally part of Lesser Armenia, also became part of Persarmenia.
Zarehavan was the centre of the province.
Persarmenia had nine cantons:
Sabrisho I (also Sabr-Ishu) was Patriarch of the Church of the East from 596 to 604, during the rule of King Khosrau II.
The son of a shepherd from the mountainous region of Shahrizur, Sabrisho had been a hermit, and was a strong supporter of the monastic way of life, so was influential in integrating monasticism into the church. Another strong supporter of monasticism at the time was Abraham the Great of Kashkar.
Conflicts during Sabrisho's tenure included that of Henana of Adiabene.
Upon Sabrisho's death in 604, there was a power struggle over the election of a new Patriarch, between the King, his wife, and the Synod (council) of bishops.Salakh (East Syriac diocese)
The Diocese of Salakh was an East Syriac diocese of the Church of the East in the metropolitan province of Adiabene, attested in the eighth and ninth centuries.Symacho
Symacho (fl. early 1st century CE) was the daughter of King Abinergaos I of Characene. She was converted to Judaism by Ananias of Adiabene. Symacho married Izates bar Monobaz during the latter's sojourn in Charax as a youth. She presumably went with him when he left to take up his throne in Adiabene.Vologases I of Parthia
Vologases I of Parthia (Persian: ولاش يکم) sometimes called Vologaeses or Vologeses or following Parthian usage, Walagash (Persian: بلاش Balāsh) was king of the Parthian Empire from about 51 until his death in 78.Zabdicene
Zabdicene (Armenian: Ծավդեք or Զավդեք, translit. Tsavdek' or Zavdek'; Greek: Ζαβδιχηνής, translit. Zavdichinis; Latin: Zabdiccena; Classical Syriac: Zawdai) was a Carduchian principality in southeastern Anatolia, in today's south east Turkey. It was located west of Ake, southwest of Anjewaci and north of Adiabene.
Bezabde and Phinika (Pinaka, Finik) were located in Zabdicene. In 363, Zabdicene and its cities and fortresses were ceded to the Sasanian Empire. The principality declined by the mid-fifth century.