The Marriage of Antiochos and Nanaia: Empire and Religion in Hellenistic Iran

Recorded: February 20, 2020
Event: Contextualizing Iranian Religions in the Ancient World - 14th Melammu Symposium

by Rolf Strootman (Utrecht University)

The Marriage of Antiochos and Nanaia: Empire and Religion in Hellenistic Iran

Starting with the example of Antiochos IV Epiphanes’ (intended) sacred marriage with the goddess Nanaia in Elam (2 Macc. 1.13–17), this paper explores the Seleucid empire’s relation with Iranian sanctuaries. Following the example of the Achaemenids, the Seleucid king and court interacted with local communities by protecting and patronizing indigenous sanctuaries. Moreover, the king and his itinerant court regularly visited cities. During such visits, the king would personally participate in cultic activities, providing offerings and often performing the crucial act of sacrificing to a community’s principal deity. The religious sphere thereby became a contact zone were local elites and the imperial court met under the impartial supervision of a mutually recognized divine power. Temples also functioned as repositories of wealth; but the various stories about royal temple robberies suggest that there was no general agreement as to the degree of access the king had to these riches.