Erato also known as Queen Erato (flourished second half of 1st century BC & first half of 1st century, died sometime after 12) was a Princess of the Kingdom of Armenia and member of the Artaxiad Dynasty. She served as a Roman Client Queen of Armenia from 10 BC until 2 BC with her brother-husband King Tigranes IV. After a number of years living in political exile, she co-ruled with her distant paternal relative the Herodian Prince Tigranes V as Roman Client Monarchs of Armenia from 6 until 12. She as Armenian Queen ruled on the Armenian throne twice. As a Queen of Armenia, she can be viewed as one of the last hereditary rulers of her nation.
Origin of her name
Erato is a name of ancient Greek origins which means "desired" or "lovely". In Greek mythology, Erato was one of the Muses and the name derived from the same root as Eros the Greek God of love.
Family background & early life
Erato was the second child and the known daughter born to Tigranes III by an unnamed mother. Her known sibling was her older paternal half-brother Tigranes IV born to a previous unnamed wife of Tigranes III. Erato was born and raised either in Rome where her father lived in political exile for 10 years from 30 BC until 20 BC or during her father’s Kingship of Armenia in which he ruled from 20 BC until 10 BC.
Co-rule with Tigranes IV: 10–2 BC
Her father, Tigranes III died before 6 BC. In 10 BC, the Armenians installed Tigranes IV as King to the successor of Tigranes III. In accordance with Oriental custom or Hellenistic custom, Tigranes IV married Erato in order to preserve the purity of the Artaxiad Royal blood line. Erato through marriage to her brother, became Queen and his Queen consort.
Erato was the second Seleucid Greek descendant to have ruled as an Armenian Queen and as an Armenian Queen consort. The previous one was her paternal great, grandmother Cleopatra of Pontus, daughter of King Mithridates VI of Pontus from his first wife, his sister Laodice. The first Seleucid Greek Princess to have married a King of Armenia, in which she became an Armenian Queen and as an Armenian Queen consort, was her ancestor Antiochis, one of the sisters of King Antiochus III the Great.
Between 10 BC until 2 BC at an unknown date from their sibling union, Erato bore Tigranes IV an unnamed daughter. Their daughter went later on to marry King Pharasmanes I of Iberia who ruled from 1 until 58 by whom had three sons: Mithridates I of Iberia, Rhadamistus and Amazaspus (Amazasp) who is known from a Greek inscription found in Rome.
Although Tigranes IV and Erato were Roman Client Monarchs governing Armenia, they were both anti Roman and were not the choices of the Roman emperor Augustus for the Armenian throne, as their dual rule did not have Roman approval and they leaned towards Parthia for support.
Rome and Parthia competed with one another for their protégés to have influence and govern Armenia. Roman Historian of the 4th century, Sextus Rufus informs us that anti-Roman sentiment was building in Armenia during the reign of Tigranes IV and Erato. Rufus also emphasizes that the Kingdom of Armenia was very strong during this period.
The dispossessed and the discontent of the ruling Artaxiad monarchs and their subjects towards Ancient Rome had instigated war with the aid of King Phraates V of Parthia. To avoid a full-scale war with Rome, Phraates V soon ceased his support to the Armenian ruling Monarchs. This lead Tigranes IV and Erato, acknowledging Roman suzerainty; sending their good wishes and submission to Rome. Augustus receiving their submission to Rome and good wishes, allowed them to remain in power.
Sometime about 2 BC Tigranes IV was killed in battle, perhaps ending an internal Armenian revolt of those who were infuriated by the royal couple becoming allies to Rome. The war and the chaos that occurred afterwards, Erato abdicated her throne and ended her rule over Armenia.
From the situation surrounding Tigranes IV and Erato, the Armenians requested to Augustus, a new Armenian King. Augustus found and appointed Ariobarzanes of Media Atropatene as the new King of Armenia in 2 BC. Ariobarzanes through his father was a distant relative of the Artaxiad Dynasty as he was a descendant of an unnamed Artaxiad Princess who was a sister of King Artavasdes II of Armenia who married Ariobarzanes' paternal ancestor Mithridates, a previous ruling King of Media Atropatene.
Political exile: 2 BC – 6 AD
After abdicating her throne, leaving behind the war and chaos in Armenia, Erato had lived in political exile at an unknown location. Little is known of her during this period. Between 2 BC until 6, Armenia saw two Roman Client Kings Ariobarzanes who ruled from 2 BC until 4 and his son, Artavasdes III who ruled from 4 until 6.
Co-rule from Tigranes V: 6–12 AD
In the year 6, Artavasdes III who served as King of Armenia was murdered by his subjects, as he was an unpopular ruler with the Armenians. As the Armenians grew weary of foreign Kings, Augustus revised his foreign policy and appointed the Herodian Prince Tigranes V as King of Armenia. Tigranes V was related to Artaxiad Dynasty as his late maternal grandmother was an Armenian Princess who may have been the daughter of Artavasdes II of Armenia who possibly married King Archelaus of Cappadocia.
Tigranes V was accompanied by his maternal grandfather, Archelaus of Cappadocia and the future Roman emperor Tiberius to Armenia, where he was installed as King at Artaxata. Artaxata became Tigranes V's capital. In 6, Tigranes V ruled Armenia as a sole ruler. Sometime into his reign, the Armenian nobles being unsatisfied with his reign rebelled against Tigranes V. The same Armenian nobles restored Erato back to the Armenian throne. Erato wanting to cooperate with Rome, co-ruled with Tigranes V. Her co-rule with Tigranes V is known and based from numismatic evidence. Erato and Tigranes V co-ruled together in Artaxata. There is a possibility that Erato and Tigranes V may have married and she may had served as a Queen consort to Tigranes V.
Little is known on Erato and Tigranes V co-ruling Armenia together. Erato and Tigranes V were overthrown under unknown circumstances in 12. Augustus kept Armenia as a client kingdom and appointed Vonones I of Parthia as King of Armenia. The fate of Erato afterwards is unknown and Tigranes V may had remained living in Armenia.
The Roman Historians that mentions, discusses and informs us about Erato is Tacitus of the 1st and 2nd centuries, Cassius Dio of the 2nd and 3rd centuries and Sextus Rufus of the 4th century.
At the National Library in Paris, currently have an image of her that appears on an ancient coin. Coinage has survived from her rule with Tigranes IV that they both issued together. Tigranes IV and Erato share issued coins with the inscription in Greek Έρατω βασιλέως Τιγράνου άδελφή (Erato, sister of King Tigranes). Other shared issued coinage of Tigranes IV and Erato, is a portrait of Tigranes IV heavily bearded with Erato with the Greek legend great king, Tigranes. Coinage has also survived from Erato’s co-rule with Tigranes V.
Erato is seen as a major and significant historical figure from pre-Christianity Armenia. From the 1st century until present, Erato is still a highly regarded monarch and woman in Armenian History and society. Erato is commemorated by the Marriott Hotel in Yerevan Armenia, as they have called one of their seven meeting venues the Queen Erato Meeting Room after her. Another meeting venue at the hotel has been named the Tigran Mets Ballroom, named after the Kings of Armenia called Tigranes or Tigran.