CINNAMUS (< Gk. kinnamon or kinnamōmon “cinnamon tree,” a word borrowed from the Phoenician, according to Herodotus, 3.111; cf. Hebrew qinnāmōn), putative rival of Artabanus (Ardawān) II (12-38 c.e.) as king of the Arsacids (Flavius Josephus, 20.3.2). During his reign Artabanus faced a succession of challenges to his authority. After the failure in 36 of Tiridates II’s revolt, instigated by the Romans in league with Parthian nobles who feared the king’s power, Artabanus came to terms with the Roman governor of Syria, Vitellius, on a bridge of boats across the Euphrates in 37 (Josephus, 18.4.5; cf. Suetonius, Caligula 14; idem, Vitellius 2; Cassius Dio, 59.27.3; Mommsen, p. 378; Gutschmid, 1888, p. 122; Täubler, pp. 39ff.; Debevoise, p. 164; Ziegler, p. 62). The Parthian nobles remained dissatisfied, however, and Artabanus was forced to take refuge with his loyal vassal Izates II (36-60), king of Adiabene. The nobles are then reported to have chosen Cinnamus, supposedly a foster son of Artabanus, as their king. According to the report, Izates assumed the role of mediator and wrote to the dissidents, urging them to recall Artabanus. The Parthians did not explicitly refuse to receive Artabanus but insisted that they could not restore him to the kingship conferred on Cinnamus. Cinnamus himself, however, wrote privately to Artabanus, offering to yield the crown to him. In 37 or 38 he is supposed to have gone in person to meet the exiled Artabanus; by performing obeisance and by lifting the crown from his own head and placing it on Artabanus’s head, he recognized the latter as king. The only surviving report of this episode is that of Flavius Josephus (20.3.2), repeated by the Byzantine chronicler Ioannes Zonaras (fl. mid-12th century; 6.13; Gutschmid, p. 122; Weissbach, col. 483, s.v. Kinnamos 3; Debevoise, pp. 165-66; Kahrstedt, pp. 12, 20, 21, 26, 35, 52, 64, 65, 69, 80; Bivar, p. 75).
Some independent evidence seems to confirm the details of this report. For example, Strabo (11.9.3), citing the 2nd-century historian Poseidonius as his source, noted that the Parthian monarchs were elected by the assembled “kinsmen” (of the king) and “wise men” (Magians); though the kingship was hereditary in the family of the Arsacids, it thus was not passed on automatically by primogeniture (cf. Mommsen, pp. 343-44; Gutschmid, 1888, p. 57; Breccia, pp. 39-40; Wolski, pp. 61ff.).
On the other hand, Cinnamus is not a Parthian name; it appears in verses by the Latin poet Martial (Epigrams 6.17, 6.64, 7.67) and is also attested in inscriptions and epitaphs, mainly of freedmen and slaves, found at Rome (Weissbach, cols. 482-83; Solin, p. 1092). In the opinion of Ulrich Kahrstedt (pp. 21, 80), Flavius Josephus is likely to have garbled the name, which may actually have been that of Gotarzes (son of Gēv), who succeeded Artabanus II in 38.
Other puzzling features include Flavius’s statement that Cinnamus had been brought up by Artabanus, apparently referring to an educational practice that is well attested for Arsacid Armenia and Sasanian Persia and may also have been in vogue among the Parthians (see Widengren, 1969, pp. 64-65, 75; idem, 1976, pp. 251-52, 268-69, without mention of Cinnamus). The fact that Artabanus was his “foster father” or “tutor” would not, however, have provided sufficient grounds for Cinnamus to claim the throne. His extraordinary willingness to abdicate in favor of Artabanus, against whom he had only recently rebelled, is also unexplained.
There are thus several reasons for questioning the truth of the story of Cinnamus as transmitted by Flavius Josephus, especially as no coins minted for a ruler of that name have been found.
A. D. H. Bivar, “The Political History of Iran under the Arsacids,” in Camb. Hist. Iran III/1, pp. 21-99.
E. Breccia, “Mitridate il Grande di Partia,” Klio 5, 1905, pp. 39-54.
N. C. Debevoise, A Political History of Parthia, Chicago, 1938.
Flavius Josephus, Antiquitates Judaicae, ed. B. Niese, IV, Berlin, 1890.
A. von Gutschmid, Geschichte Irans, Tübingen, 1888.
Idem, Kleine Schriften III, Leipzig 1892.
U. Kahrstedt, Artabanos III und seine Erben, Bern, 1950.
T. Mommsen, Römische Geschichte V, Berlin, 1885.
H. Solin, Die griechischen Eigennamen in Rom II, Berlin, 1982.
E. Taübler, Die Parthernachrichten bei Josephus, Ph.D. diss., Berlin, 1904.
F. M. Weissbach, “Kinnamos,” in Pauly-Wissowa XI/1, cols. 482-83.
G. Widengren, Der Feudalismus im alten Iran, Wissenschaftliche Abh. der Arbeitsgemeinschaft für Forschung des Landes Nordrheinwestfalen 40, Cologne and Opladen, 1969.
Idem, “Iran der grosse Gegner Roms,” in Aufstieg und Niedergang der römischen Welt II, 9/1, Berlin, 1976, pp. 251-52, 268-69.
J. Wolski, “Remarques critiques sur les institutions des Arsacides,” Eos 46/1, 1952-53, pp. 59-82.
K. H. Ziegler, Die Beziehungen zwischen Rom und dem Partherreich, Wiesbaden, 1964.
I. Zonaras, Epitomíēistoriōn, ed. M. Pinder as Annales, I, Bonn, 1841.
(Marie Louise Chaumont)
Originally Published: December 15, 1991
Last Updated: October 20, 2011
This article is available in print.
Vol. V, Fasc. 6, pp. 593-594