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Atropatene (also Media Atropatene ) was an independent kingdom that lay mainly on the territory of the Iranian provinces of Ardabil , West Azerbaijan and East Azerbaijan , and is now often regarded as the predecessor state of Azerbaijan .

Atropatene, approx. 2nd to 1st century BC Chr.


Before the time of the Achaemenid Empire , the area belonged to the media geographically, culturally and politically . The inhabitants of Media were to a large extent Medes and the center of this landscape was in Ekbatana .

After the conquest of the Persian Empire by the Macedonian King Alexander III. Media kept his satrap at the time , Atropates , although he had commanded the Median troops on the Persian side. After Alexander's death, the southern media, including Ekbatana, fell to the Seleucid Empire . Atropates was able to keep control of the northern media and established a dynasty that could rule over an independent kingdom. Contemporaries called the country the Media Atropatene , "Media des Atropates".


One reason that atropatene became independent without major difficulties and that this independence could long be maintained was possibly the lack of natural raw materials. The country was mostly mountainous, but due to the Mediterranean climatic conditions prevailing there, it had favorable agricultural conditions. However, the terrain had great advantages in terms of defense, which made a campaign of conquest seem dangerous and unprofitable.

The capital of Atropatenes was Gazaka, in Persian Ganzak , in the south of Lake Urmi . Near the city was the Phraaspa fortress , which is believed to be on the site of Tacht-e Suleiman . The exact extent of the kingdom is unknown, the northern border was north of Lake Urmi. The ancient geographer Strabo reports in the thirteenth and fourteenth chapters of the eleventh book of his geography of border conflicts with Armenia and Parthians with repeated border shifts.

Atropatene was a kingdom largely isolated from the outside world, which was long regarded as a stronghold of Zoroastrianism , which seems to be confirmed above all by the fact that the later Zoroastrian main shrine Adur Gushnasp was on once atropathic soil. However, this view has been called into question for some time, as no sound evidence has been found for this other than the indicated evidence. Atropatene seems to have successfully resisted the Hellenization and to have preserved its Achaemenid-Iranian tradition.


After breaking away from the Alexander Empire, Atropatene could develop peacefully until Antiochus III. forced the country into the status of a vassal state , which was later continued under Parthian rule. Armenia, itself a vassal of the Parthians, seems to have had a great influence on the Atropatenes. Nevertheless, the Atropatene had a strong army that emphasized cavalry . Presumably it took advantage of the famous Nisean horses .

Pompey succeeded in defeating the atropatenic king Darius . Due to the noticeably high number of coins that bear his image, this Darius is also regarded as a usurper on the Parthian throne. Mark Antony later led a campaign against the Parthians through Armenia and Atropatene, but failed during the siege of Gazaka.

Atropatene remained a vassal kingdom of the Parthians for a long time, but seems to have been tied closer and closer to the Parthian Empire over time. Kings of the House of Arsakiden climbed more frequently the atropanischen throne, and when the Sasanian 226 conquered the country, it was probably more a province of the Parthian Empire as a separate kingdom, even if the rulers still bore the title of king.


Very little is known about atropatene from ancient sources, and archaeological excavations have only revealed sparse indications of the kingdom. The land appears as a marginal note in the works of Plutarch , Ptolemy , Cassius Dios , Appians , Strabons, Pliny the Elder and Polybios , but there is no work that deals with atropatene to a greater extent.


Due to the lack of sources, it is difficult to draw up a list of rulers for atropatenes. Coin minting was, if it existed at all, very limited in atropatene. Larger amounts of coins are known only from Dareios, but it is assumed that they were not issued by himself but by higher Parthian authorities. With the help of the sparse sources, however, an incomplete chronology can be drawn up. Most of the data are guesses or estimates.


  • Atropates (323 - approx. 300 BC)
  • unknown ruler
  • Artavasdes I (also Artabazanes; approx. 270 – after 220 BC)
  • unknown rulers
  • Mithradates (before 85 - approx. 66 BC)
  • Dareios (approx. 66/65 BC)
  • Ariobarzanes I. (approx. 65–? BC)
  • Artavasdes II. (Before 36 - approx. 31 BC)
  • direct Parthian rule
  • Ariobarzanes II. (20 - approx. 6 BC)



  • Fergus Millar (ed.): The Roman Empire and its neighbors (Fischer Weltgeschichte 8) . Frankfurt am Main 1966
  • Josef Wiesehöfer : Ancient Persia . Düsseldorf 2005.

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