Archelaus (high priest of Comana Cappadocia)
Archelaus was a high priest
High priest
The term "high priest" usually refers either to an individual who holds the office of ruler-priest, or to one who is the head of a religious caste.-Ancient Egypt:...

 of the temple-state of Comana, Cappadocia.

Family background

Archelaus was a Cappadocian
Cappadocia is a historical region in Central Anatolia, largely in Nevşehir Province.In the time of Herodotus, the Cappadocians were reported as occupying the whole region from Mount Taurus to the vicinity of the Euxine...

 Greek nobleman
The Greeks, also known as the Hellenes , are a nation and ethnic group native to Greece, Cyprus and neighboring regions. They also form a significant diaspora, with Greek communities established around the world....

, possibly of Macedonian descent
Macedonia (Greece)
Macedonia is a geographical and historical region of Greece in Southern Europe. Macedonia is the largest and second most populous Greek region...

. He was the first son and namesake of the Pontic high-ranking General
Kingdom of Pontus
The Kingdom of Pontus or Pontic Empire was a state of Persian origin on the southern coast of the Black Sea. It was founded by Mithridates I in 291 BC and lasted until its conquest by the Roman Republic in 63 BC...

Archelaus (general)
Archelaus was a leading military general of the King Mithridates VI of Pontus. Archelaus was the greatest general that had served under Mithridates VI and was also his favorite general....

 who participated in the Mithridatic Wars
Mithridatic Wars
There were three Mithridatic Wars between Rome and the Kingdom of Pontus in the 1st century BC. They are named for Mithridates VI who was King of Pontus at the time....

 while his brother was the Pontic soldier Diogenes, who served in the army of King Mithridates VI of Pontus
Mithridates VI of Pontus
Mithridates VI or Mithradates VI Mithradates , from Old Persian Mithradatha, "gift of Mithra"; 134 BC – 63 BC, also known as Mithradates the Great and Eupator Dionysius, was king of Pontus and Armenia Minor in northern Anatolia from about 120 BC to 63 BC...

. His paternal uncle was the distinguished Pontic General Neoptolemus
Neoptolemus (Pontic general)
Neoptolemus was a distinguished general of King Mithridates VI of Pontus. He was the brother of Archelaus another general of Mithridates VI and the paternal uncle of Archelaus’ sons: Archelaus and Diogenes....

 and the family of Archelaus were active in the Pontic Court.

The identity of his mother is unknown. Archelaus was descended from King Mithridates VI of Pontus
Mithridates VI of Pontus
Mithridates VI or Mithradates VI Mithradates , from Old Persian Mithradatha, "gift of Mithra"; 134 BC – 63 BC, also known as Mithradates the Great and Eupator Dionysius, was king of Pontus and Armenia Minor in northern Anatolia from about 120 BC to 63 BC...

. According to Strabo
Strabo, also written Strabon was a Greek historian, geographer and philosopher.-Life:Strabo was born to an affluent family from Amaseia in Pontus , a city which he said was situated the approximate equivalent of 75 km from the Black Sea...

, Archelaus claimed to be a son of Mithridates VI, but this claim is not plausible. Chronologically, Archelaus may have been a maternal grandson of the Pontic King; his father, Mithridates VI’s favorite general, may have married one of the daughters of Mithridates VI. There is a possibility that the mother of Archelaus may have been a Pontic princess, one of the daughters born from the concubine of Mithridates VI.


He had a homonymous character. In 63 BC, the Roman Triumvir, General Pompey
Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus, also known as Pompey or Pompey the Great , was a military and political leader of the late Roman Republic...

 appointed Archelaus as High Priest and Roman Client King of the temple state of Comana, Cappadocia. When Pompey raised him to the priesthood, Archelaus became the priest of the Roman Goddess of War, Bellona
Bellona (goddess)
Bellona was an Ancient Roman goddess of war, similar to the Ancient Greek Enyo. Bellona's attribute is a sword and she is depicted wearing a helmet and armed with a spear and a torch....

. The dignity of the priest to the Goddess at Comana conferred upon the person who held it the power of a monarch over the place and its immediate vicinity.

Archelaus had control over the temple serfs, numbering 6,000, and he was not empowered to sell them. A considerable revenue accrued to the priest from the associated territories. By the time of his appointed priesthood and rule, Archelaus had married an unnamed Greek woman as his first wife and she died by 56 BC. From his first wife, he had two children: one son called Archelaus
Archelaus (father of Archelaus of Cappadocia)
Archelaus was a High priest of the temple-state of Comana, Cappadocia.Archelaus was a Cappadocian Greek nobleman, possibly of Macedonian descent. He was the son and namesake of the Roman Client Ruler and High Priest of Comana, Cappadocia, Archelaus by an unnamed Greek woman...

 and an unnamed daughter.

In 56 BC the Proconsul
A proconsul was a governor of a province in the Roman Republic appointed for one year by the senate. In modern usage, the title has been used for a person from one country ruling another country or bluntly interfering in another country's internal affairs.-Ancient Rome:In the Roman Republic, a...

 of Syria
Syria (Roman province)
Syria was a Roman province, annexed in 64 BC by Pompey, as a consequence of his military presence after pursuing victory in the Third Mithridatic War. It remained under Roman, and subsequently Byzantine, rule for seven centuries, until 637 when it fell to the Islamic conquests.- Principate :The...

, Aulus Gabinius
Aulus Gabinius
Aulus Gabinius, Roman statesman and general, and supporter of Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus, was a prominent figure in the later days of the Roman Republic....

, was making preparations for the Parthia
Parthia is a region of north-eastern Iran, best known for having been the political and cultural base of the Arsacid dynasty, rulers of the Parthian Empire....

n War and Archelaus travelled to Syria to offer his assistance to Gabinius. As Archelaus planned his trip to Syria, the Greek Ptolemaic Queen
Ptolemaic dynasty
The Ptolemaic dynasty, was a Macedonian Greek royal family which ruled the Ptolemaic Empire in Egypt during the Hellenistic period. Their rule lasted for 275 years, from 305 BC to 30 BC...

 Berenice IV of Egypt
Berenice IV of Egypt
Berenice IV Epiphaneia born and died in Alexandria, Egypt. She was a Greek Princess of the Ptolemaic dynasty. Berenice was the daughter of Ptolemy XII Auletes and probably Cleopatra V Tryphaena, sister of the famous Cleopatra VII , Arsinoe IV, Ptolemy XIII and Ptolemy XIV. Berenice loved...

 wished to marry a prince of royal blood.


In the summer of 56 BC, Archelaus travelled to Alexandria
Alexandria is the second-largest city of Egypt, with a population of 4.1 million, extending about along the coast of the Mediterranean Sea in the north central part of the country; it is also the largest city lying directly on the Mediterranean coast. It is Egypt's largest seaport, serving...

, Egypt
Ancient Egypt
Ancient Egypt was an ancient civilization of Northeastern Africa, concentrated along the lower reaches of the Nile River in what is now the modern country of Egypt. Egyptian civilization coalesced around 3150 BC with the political unification of Upper and Lower Egypt under the first pharaoh...

, to offer his hand in marriage to Berenice IV, claiming to be the son of Mithridates VI. Archelaus gave Berenice IV personal gifts and showed his military capabilities to woo her into marriage. Some time later, Archelaus and Berenice IV married. It was the second marriage for both. There is a possibility that Berenice IV could have made Archelaus her co-regent and could have given Archelaus the title of ‘Pharaoh’. A certain papyri survives dated from their union that could have belonged to Berenice IV and Archelaus.

War and death

The Roman Senate
Roman Senate
The Senate of the Roman Republic was a political institution in the ancient Roman Republic, however, it was not an elected body, but one whose members were appointed by the consuls, and later by the censors. After a magistrate served his term in office, it usually was followed with automatic...

 would not allow Archelaus to take part in the Parthian War. Either Archelaus left Gabinius in secret or Gabinius was induced by bribes to assist Archelaus in his hand-in-marriage for Berenice IV, while at the same time Gabinius received bribes from the father of Berenice IV, Ptolemy XII Auletes
Ptolemy XII Auletes
Ptolemy Neos Dionysos Theos Philopator Theos Philadelphos , more commonly known as "Auletes" or "Nothos" , was an Egyptian king of Macedonian descent...

, to assist him to be restored to the Egyptian throne.

Archelaus enjoyed the honor of being the husband of Berenice IV for only six months, as Gabinius kept his promise to the father of Berenice IV. In January/February 55 BC, Ptolemy XII Auletes marched on Egypt with an army to reclaim his throne. In the fighting, Archelaus had died. Berenice IV and his daughter from his first marriage were put to death. The Roman Triumvir Mark Antony
Mark Antony
Marcus Antonius , known in English as Mark Antony, was a Roman politician and general. As a military commander and administrator, he was an important supporter and loyal friend of his mother's cousin Julius Caesar...

, who was a friend of his family, had Archelaus’ body searched among the dead and buried Archelaus in a manner worthy of a King.

His son succeeded him as High Priest Ruler at Comana.
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