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Lucius Septimius Odaenathus, or Odenatus (Greek: (Hodainathos), ( ), the Latinized form of Odainath, was a ruler of Palmyramarker, Syriamarker and later of the short lived Palmyrene Empiremarker, in the second half of the 3rd century, who succeeded in recovering the Roman East from the Persians and restoring it to the Empire.

Life

His full name was Lucius Septimius Odainath. His gentilicium Septimius shows that his family received the Roman citizenship under an emperor of the Severan dynasty, and thus it was the leading family in Palmyra since the 190s. He was the son of Lucius Septimius Herod (Hairān), the "senator and chief of Tadmor", the son of Vaballathus (Wahballath), the son of Nasor.

The year when Odaenathus became chief of Palmyra is not known, but already in an inscription dated 258 he is styled "the illustrious consul our lord" (N.S.I. No. 126). In his wife, the renowned Zenobia, he found an able supporter of his policy.

The defeat and captivity of the emperor Valerian in 260 left the eastern provinces largely at the mercy of the Persians; the prospect of Persian supremacy was not one which Palmyra or its ruler had any reason to desire. At first, it seems, Odaenathus attempted to propitiate the Persian monarch Shapur I; but when his gifts were contemptuously rejected (Petr. Patricius, 10) he decided to throw in his lot with the cause of Rome. The neutrality which had made Palmyra's fortune was abandoned for an active military policy which, while it added to Odaenathus's fame, in a short time brought his native city to its ruin. He fell upon the victorious Persians returning home after the sack of Antiochmarker, and before they could cross the Euphrates inflicted upon them a considerable defeat.

Then, when two usurping emperors were proclaimed in the East (261), Odaenathus took the side of Gallienus the son and successor of Valerian, attacked and put to death the usurper Quietus at Emesa (modern Homsmarker) and was rewarded for his loyalty by the grant of an exceptional position (262). He may have assumed the title of king before; but he now became totius Orientis imperator, not indeed joint-ruler, nor Augustus, but independent lieutenant of the emperor for the East (Mommsen, Provinces, ii. p. 103).

In a series of rapid and successful campaigns, during which he left Palmyramarker under the charge of Septimius Worod his deputy (N.S.I. Nos. 127-129), he crossed the Euphrates and relieved Edessamarker, recovered Nisibismarker and Carrhae (modern Harranmarker). He even took the offensive against the power of Persiamarker, and twice invested the Persian capital Ctesiphonmarker itself; probably also he brought back Armeniamarker into the Empire. These successes restored the Roman rule in the East; and Gallienus did not disdain to hold a triumph with the captives and trophies which Odaenathus had won (264). Odaenathus celebrated his victories in the East sharing with his eldest son Hairan (Herodes) the eastern title "king of kings".

While observing all due formalities towards his overlord, there can be little doubt that Odaenathus aimed at forging an independent empire; but during his lifetime no breach with Rome occurred. He was about to start for Cappadociamarker against the Goths when he was assassinated, together with Hairan, by his nephew Maeonius. There is no reason to suppose that this deed of violence was instigated from Romemarker.

According to Historia Augusta, Maeonius killed Odaenathus and his son Hairan during a celebration, because of a conspiracy organized by Zenobia, second wife of Odaenathus, who wanted their son Vaballathus to succeed Odaenathus instead of Hairan (who was the son of Odaenathus by another woman). According to Gibbon, the murder was revenge for a short confinement imposed by Odaenathus to Maeonius for being disrespectful. After his death (266-267), Zenobia succeeded to his position and practically governed Palmyra on behalf of the young Vaballathus.

Notes

  1. Vogüé, Syrie centrale, Nos. 23, 28; Cooke, North-Semitic Inscriptions. Nos. 126, 530
  2. Gawlikowski, Michel, "Les princes de Palmyre", Syria 62 (1985) 251-61.
  3. According to Gibbon, Herodes was son of Odaenathus, but not of Zenobia.

References




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