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Maraedes/Mariades/Mariadnes/Cyriades (252 or 253 or 256 or 259 A.D.)

Thomas Banchich
Canisius College

In the course of a digression on a Persian surprise attack on Antioch during the reign of Gallienus (253-268), Ammianus Marcellinus (23.5.3) mentions that at certain "Mareades [PIR 273], who had inconsiderately brought the Persians there to the destructions of his own people, was burned alive" (23.5.3, trans. Rolfe, II, p. 335). A fragment of the so-called Anonymous Continuator of Cassius Dio, who is probably to be identified with Peter the Patrician, clearly deals with the same individual, though calling him Mariadnes [[1]] and granting to the Antiochenes advance knowledge of the Persian approach.  In addition, the Anonymous asserts that "the great multitude" of the population of Antioch "remained [in the city], being well-disposed toward Mariadnes and also favoring changes, exactly as usually happens as a result of lack of understanding" (Fr. 1, ed. Müller FHG IV, p. 192 = Excerpta de Sententiis 157, p. 264). Since this fragment immediately precedes one which deals with the prelude to formal recognition of Aemilianus as Augustus in 253, its author set the event described therein in the early 250s.[[2]]

John Malalas (Chronographia 295-296, trans. Jeffreys, et al., p. 162) provides more detail: "During his [Valerian's] reign, one of the officials of Antioch the Great, named Mariades, was expelled from the council through cooperation between the whole council and the people, because of deficiencies in his administration of chariot-racing: he had not bought horses for whichever faction it was that he led but had embezzled the public funds that were set aside for the hippodrome. So he went to Persia and told the Persian emperor Sapor that he would betray to him Antioch the Great, his own city. [Sapor] captured the city of Antioch the Great in the evening and plundered it, and then destroyed and burnt it in the year 314 according to the era of Antioch the Great [A.D. 265/6]. He beheaded the official [Mariades] since he was a traitor to his own country..."

The precision of Malalas' date is deceptive, for it is the result of suspect emendation of an impossible date transmitted in the sole manuscript witness.[[3]]   Perhaps a better chronological guide is the situation of the account of Mareades just before that of Samsigeramus, who has been convincingly identified as Uranius, the usurper of 253/4.   Mareades is also the likely subject of Sibylline Oracle XIII. 89-99 and 119-130 (trans. Collins, pp. 456-457), which describes the havoc wreaked on the East by "deceitful man , a foreign ally, appearing as a bandit from Syria, an inconspicuous Roman" (lines 89-90), "the fugitive of Rome" (line 122) in collusion with the Persians.[[4]]      Combined with the other evidence so far discussed, this testimony has prompted the assertion that Mareades was "a figure of considerable importance" whose "career as a raider began in the latter part of 250 and extended into 251."[[5]]

Finally, the Lives of the Thirty Pretenders (II.1-4, trans. Magie, Vol. III, pp. 67-69) of the Historia Augusta includes an account of a despicable Cyriades obviously inspired by the same individual variously styled Mareades, Mariadnes, and Mariades by Ammianus, the Anonymous, and Malalas:
"This man, rich and well born, fled from his father Cyriades when, by his excesses and profligate ways, he had become a burden to the righteous old man, and after robbing him of a great part of his gold and an enormous amount of silver he departed to the Persians. Thereupon he joined King Sapor and became his ally, and after urging him to make war on the Romans, he brought first Odomastes and then Sapor himself into the Roman dominions; and also by capturing Antioch and Caesarea he won for himself the name of Caesar. Then, when he had been hailed Augustus, after he had caused all the Orient to tremble in terror at his strength or his daring, and when, moreover, he had slain his father (which some historians deny), he himself, at the time that Valerian was on his way to the Persian Wars, was put to death by the treachery of his ["suorum," i.e., Cyriades' own] followers. Nor has anything more that seems worthy of mention been committed to history about this man, who has obtained a place in letters solely by reason of his famous flight, his act of parricide, his cruel tyranny, and his boundless excesses."

The Historia Augusta's Cyriades is possibly the result of the hellenization of the Aramaic name Maryad'a, "My Lord Knows," CYRI being a Latin transliteration of the Greek KURI of kÊriow, "lord," or a combination of Marea - from the Semitic root mr, i.e., "lord" followed by the Greek suffix -adhw.[[6]]    Is this behind the unique (playful?) assertion of the Histora Augusta that Mareades was proclaimed Caesar and Augustus, for kÊriow in Greek could designate holders of either title? The problematic nature Historia Augusta as a historical source, especially given the absence of numismatic and epigraphic evidence along with what the other Greek and Latin sources do not say, casts reasonable doubt on whether Mareades ever was actually a Caesar or an Augustus. However, the inclusion of a Cyriades (Vqrydvs) as the third in a list of usurpers -- the others being Macrianus and Carus -- in a rabbinical commentary on Daniel 7:8 (Bereshith Rabba LXXVI.6, edd. Theodor and Albeck, p. 903) confirms the broader existence of such a tradition, whatever the historical circumstances behind it.[[7]]   This, in turn, furnishes just enough justification to entertain -- but far from enough to accecpt -- the suggestion of the 19th-century traveler and artist Sir Robert Ker Porter that one of the famous rock reliefs of Naqsh-I-Rustam depicts Sapor I's recognition of Mareades.[[8]]

May anything more be inferred about Mareades? Some modern scholars have seen in him the leader of an Antiochene pro-Iranian or anti-Roman faction which, it is hypothesized, formed in reaction to certain policies of Philip the Arab; others are very guarded about inferring from the evidence on Mareades the existence of any popular support for Persia, let alone of Mareades as its leader.[[9]]


[[1]]Mariadnes seems best explained as the result of inattention on the part of the Constantinian excerptors, who regularly botch names in short entries or at the beginnings of long ones. Potter, pp. 395-397, disputes the identification of the Anonymous with Peter.

[[2]]On the date of the capture of Antioch, see Dodgeon and Lieu's n. 23, pp. 363-364.

[[3]]The nonsensical dti´ (d = 4, t = 300, i = 10) of the Oxford manuscript Baroccianus Graecus 182 was corrected to tid´ (314 = A. D. 265/6) by E. Chilmead in his 1691 edition and accepted by Dindorf in his Bonn edition. Müller FHG IV, p. 192, thought this too early and posited td´ (304), thus A.D. 255/6. Von Stauffenberg, p. 366, n. 89, agrees with Müller, while Ensslin, pp. 33-35, argues for ti´ (310). On the problematic chronology of Sapor's campaigns, see Paschoud, p. 149, n. 54, Potter, pp. 290-297, Christol (1997), p. 128, with p. 168, n. 14, and Dodgeon and Lieu, pp. 49-67, who translate and comment on most of the evidence.

[[4]]For a full discussion, see Potter, pp. 268-277, and 300-303.

[[5]]Potter, p. 44.

[[6]]See Potter, p. 269, n. 199.

[[7]]See Lieberman, pp. 37-38 = Texts and Studies, pp. 160-161. Lieberman (p. 38/p. 161) translates the relevant portion of the gloss: "this refers to Macr[ian]us, Carus (?) and Cyriades." The commentator either knew "Cyriades" as an alternative to "Mareades" or knew "Cyriades" alone. In either case, he judged the name Cyriades significant because, just as the names Macrianus and Carus, it contained a "cr" sound shared by the Hebrew word for horn (qrn) in the text of Daniel 7:8.

[[8]]See Ker Porter, Vol. I, p. 543, with the criticisms of MacDermot, p. 77.

[[9]]Ball, pp. 152-153, pro; Millar, p. 161, contra.


I. Texts and Translations.

Ammianus Marcellinus. Rerum gestarum libri qui supersunt. Edited by W. Seyfarth. 2
vols. Leipzig: B. G. Teubner, 1978.

_______. Edited and translated by J. Rolfe. 3 vols. Loeb Classical Library. Reprint of
1940 edition. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1972.

Anonymous Continuator of Cassius Dio. Fragmenta historicorum graecorum. Edited by
K. Müller. 5 vols. Paris: Firmin Didot, 1841-1883. Vol. IV, pp. 191-199.

Bereshith rabba = Bereschit rabba. Edited by J. Theodor and C. Albeck. Berlin:
Akademie für die Wissenschaft des Judentums, 1903-1929.

Excerpta de Sententiis. Edited by U. Boissevain. Vol. IV of Excerpta historica iussu
Imp. Constantini Porphyrogeniti. Edited by U. Boissevain, C. de Boor, and Th. Büttner-Wobst. Berlin: Weidmann, 1906.

John Malalas. Chronographia. Edited by L. Dindorf. Corpus Scriptorum
Byzantinae Historiae. Bonn: Ed. Weber, 1831.

_______. Translated by Elizabeth Jeffreys, Michael Jeffreys, and Roger Scott, The Chronicle of John Malalas (Melbourne: Australian Association for Byzantine Studies, 1986).

Die Oracula Sibyllina. Edited by J. Geffcken. Griechischen Christlischen Schriftsteller 8. Leipzig: Hinrich, 1902.

Scriptores Historiae Augustae. Edited and translated by D. Magie. 3 vols. Loeb Classical Library. Reprint of 1931 edition. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1961.

The Sibylline Oracles. Translated by J. J. Collins. In Vol. I of The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, ed. James H. Charlesworth. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday & Company, Inc., 1983.

II. Modern Studies.

Baldini, Antonio. Storie Perdute (III seculo d.C.). Bologna: Patron editorè, 2000.

Ball, Warwick. Rome in the East. London and New York: Routledge, 2000.

Christol, Michel. L'Empire Romain du IIIe Siècle. Paris: Editions Errance, 1997.

_______ . "Les règnes de Valérien et Gallien (253-268): travaus d'ensemble, questions

chronologiques," Aufstieg und Niedergang der Römischen Welt II.2. Berlin and New York: Walter de Gruyter, 1975. Pg. 803-827.

Dodgeon, Michael, and Lieu, Samuel. The Roman Eastern Frontier and the Persian Wars (A.D. 226-363). London and New York: Routledge, 1991.

Ensslin, Wilhelm. Zu den Kriegen des Sassaniden Schapur I. Vol V of the Sitzungsberichte des bayerischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, Phil-hist. Klasse, 1947. Munich: Biderstein-Verlg., 1949.

Felix, W. Antike literarische Quellen zur Aussenpolitik des Sasanidenstaates. Sitzungsberichte der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaft in Wien, Philos-Hist. Klasse 456. Vienna: Akademie der Wissenschaft, 1985.

Gagé, Jean. "Les Perses à Antioche et les courses de l'hippodrome au milieu du IIIe siècle, à propos du transfuge syrien Mariadès," Bulletin de la Faculté des Lettres de Strasbourg 31 (1952-1953), pp. 301-324.

Kienast, Dietmar. Römische Kaisertabelle. 2nd ed.; Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, 1996.

Lieberman, Saul. "Palestine in the Third and Fourth Centuries," Jewish Quarterly Review 37 (1947), pp. 31-54, = Texts and Studies. New York: Ktav Publishing House, Inc., 1971, pp. 154-179.

MacDermot, B. C. "Roman Emperors in the Sassanian Reliefs," Journal of Roman Studies 44 (1954), pp. 76-80.

Millar, Fergus. The Roman Near East, 31 B.C.-A.D. 337. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1993.

Paschoud, François, ed. Zosime. Histoire Nouvelle. Livres I-II. Paris: "Les Belles Lettres," 1971.

Porter, Robert Ker. Travels in Georgia, Persia, Armenia, Ancient Babylonia, &c., &c., during the years 1817, 1818, 1819, and 1820. 2 vols. London: Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme, and Brown, 1821.

Potter, David S. Prophecy and History in the Crisis of the Roman Empire. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1990.

Stauffenberg, A. Schenk von. Die Römische Kaisergeschichte bei Malalas; Griechischer Texte der Bücher IX-XII und Untersuchungen. Stuttgart: Kohlhammer, 1931.

Copyright (C), Thomas Banchich. This file may be copied on the condition that the entire contents, including the header and this copyright notice, remain intact.

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