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Daniel Potts

Mesene, from Aramaic Maišān, the southernmost part of Iraq, around modern Basra, basically coterminous with the Seleucid satrapy of the Erythraean Sea, the capital of which was Alexandria-on-the-Tigris (later refounded as Antioch). Following the death of *Antiochus (7) VII, Spaosines (Hyspaosines), his former *satrap there, restored Antioch, renaming it after himself as Spasinou Charax, ‘City of Spaosines’ (Plin.HN 6. 31. 138; Charax from Aramaic karekā, ‘city’), and establishing the independent kingdom of Characene. The kingdom survived, enjoying varying degrees of independence from *Parthia, until it was incorporated into the *Sasanid empire by Ardashir around ce 222. From the mid-1st to the late 2nd cent. ce Palmyrene caravans regularly travelled between Charax and *Palmyra, transporting goods arriving via the *Persian Gulf from the east. In 131 Meredat, king of Charax, employed a Palmyrene named Yarhai as satrapēs Thilouanōn, ‘satrap of the Thilouanoi’, i.e. inhabitants of *Tylos (mod.



Margaret Stephana Drower, Eric William Gray, and Susan Mary Sherwin-White

The country between the *Tigris and the *Euphrates. The name is generally used to include the whole alluvial country south of the mountains, and the deserts on either side, i.e. the ancient kingdoms of *Assyria and *Babylonia, modern Iraq. Classical writers usually regarded Mesopotamia as excluding Babylonia.

As an important political and commercial link between *Syria, *Cappadocia, and Babylonia, Mesopotamia was colonized extensively by the *Seleucids. It was a frequent battle-ground of Roman and Parthian armies. Mesopotamia was overrun by *Trajan (ce 114–17) (his Provincia Mesopotamia was promptly abandoned by *Hadrian) and again overrun by L. *Verus (162–5) and *Septimius Severus (197–9) but was not permanently occupied. Part of Upper Mesopotamia, however, became Roman after the campaigns of Verus and was formed into a separate province, ‘Mesopotamia’, by Severus. See also Hatra; Osroëne.


metrology, Mesopotamia  

Grégory Chambon

The study of metrology in the Ancient Near East has, since the 19th century, approached ancient political and economical reality by quantifying and estimating, among other things, the dimensions of urban centres and the number of rations, or war booty, delivered to palaces. A new interdisciplinary practice, from the perspective of the social and cultural history of Mesopotamian metrology, has developed over the last few decades, taking into account the scribal background and weighing and measuring practices in daily life.

The study of metrology has always been important for archaeologists and philologists of the Ancient Near East. Since the first decipherments of cuneiform writing and the first excavations in the 19th centuryce, metrological research has usually focused on reconstructing the relative values in each measures system (capacity, length, area, weight), that is to say, the values by which one unit of the system was converted into another, either as a multiple or a submultiple, as well as of identifying the absolute values of these units, expressed in our modern system (litre, kilogram, meter, etc.). Metrology has been traditionally used for economic history of the Ancient Near East, by providing quantitative data which inform us about, among other things, livestock farming, available resources in the organizing communities (households, cities, temples, and palaces), commercial transactions, or war booty. This led to the Marvin Powell’s synthesis in the 1980s, which still represents a key reference work in ancient Near Eastern research.


Midas (2), king of Phrygia, 738–696/695 BCE  

Percy Neville Ure and Simon Hornblower

Midas (2), historical king of *Phrygia, 738–696/5 bce (dates from *Eusebius). He was the first *barbarian king to make presents to *Delphi (Hdt. 1. 14), and is said to have married the daughter of Agamemnon king of *Cyme (Arist. fr. 611. 37 Rose; Poll. 9. 83, mentioning Agamemnon, who is not the famous one), and to have committed suicide by drinking bull's blood when the *Cimmerians overthrew his kingdom (Strabo 1. 3. 21). In Assyrian records he appears as Mita: he joined a confederacy against King Sargon (717), but became his vassal (707). His story anticipates that of the Lydian *Gyges.



B. C. McGing

Persian name borne most famously by six of the eight Hellenistic kings of *Pontus in Asia Minor. Later sources reported a noble ancestry for the royal line—*Cyrus(1), *Darius(1), and *Alexander(3) the Great were among those claimed as ancestors—and the Persian family of dynasts who held sway in north-west Asia Minor in the 5th and 4th cents. bce, from whom the Pontic kings descended, may well have been directly related to the Achaemenid house.The family history is obscure, but it was probably Mithradates III of Cius, who, having been forced to flee to *Paphlagonia, took advantage of the major powers' lack of interest in northern Asia Minor to carve out a principality in the area, and proclaim himself the first king of Pontus, Mithradates I Ctistes or ‘*founder’ (302–266 bce). His consolidation of Pontic independence included in .



Roger Beck

An ancient Indo-Iranian god adopted in the Roman empire as the principal deity of a mystery cult which flourished in the 2nd and 3rd cents. ce. Iranian Mithra was a god of compact (the literal meaning of his name), cattle-herding, and the dawn light, aspects of which survive (or were re-created) in his western manifestation, since Roman Mithras was a sun-god (‘deus sol invictus Mithras’, ‘invincible sun god Mithras’), a ‘bull-killer’, and ‘cattle-thief’, and the saviour of the sworn brothers of his cult.

The cult is known primarily from its archaeological remains. Over 400 find-spots are recorded, many of them excavated meeting-places. These and the c. 1,000 dedicatory inscriptions give a good idea of cult life and membership. Some 1,150 pieces of sculpture (and a few frescos) carry an extraordinarily rich sacred art, although the iconography remains frustratingly elusive in default of the explicatory sacred texts. Literary references to Mithras and Mithraism are as scarce as the material remains are abundant.


Mithridates II, king of Parthia, 125/121–91 BCE  

Josef Wiesehöfer

Mithridates (Mihrdād) (125/121–91bce), son (an uncertain relationship) of his predecessor Artabanus I and grandson of Priapatius, was given the epithet “the Great” already in antiquity because of his important deeds (Iust. 42.2.3).1 After Artabanus’s unexpected death, Mithridates, despite Parthia’s latent problems with the Scythae (Sakas) in the east, had first to devote much attention to Babylonia. This region was then—after the defeat of King Hyspaosines of Characene—plagued by Arab raids about which the so-called Astronomical Diaries provide information.2 In the following years, Mithridates and his generals successfully (Iust. 42.2.4f.; cf. Strab. 11.9.2) waged war with the Guti (perhaps the Tochari) in Bactria (Sachs, Hunger 1996, no. -118 A20–22, pp. 326f.). Mithridates’s monetary production of those years seems to point to those efforts to secure the eastern border of the empire. For 121bce, a Chinese delegation to the Parthian court is attested (Shiji 123, 3169); it was followed by other mutual contacts. Possibly in 111bce a concluded campaign against Ḫabigalbat is mentioned (Sachs, Hunger 1996, no.


Moeris, northern lake of the Fayūm  

Dorothy J. Thompson

The classical name for the lake (mod. Birket Qārūn) lying in the northern section of the *Fayūm depression, south-west of Cairo. The Fayūm, and so ultimately Lake Moeris, which forms a sump for water entering the area, was fed by the Bahr Yusuf, a branch of the Nile; it was rich in fish. Drained first in the Twelfth Dynasty, this area was again intensively developed under the early Ptolemies (with both drainage and new canals) and renamed the Arsinoite nome (see ptolemy (1); arsinoë (1); nomos (1)).



Jean-François Salles

Monsoon, a system of perennial winds which regulate navigation between southern *Arabia and India. The SW monsoon (August–September) allows ships to sail through the gulf of Aden and the Arabian sea straight to the east coast of *India, departure from the *Red Sea taking place in July (Plin.HN 6. 104; Perip. M. Rubr.). The return from India uses the NE monsoon, in November–December. It has been argued (S. Mazzarino, Helikon1982/87) that the Greek word ὕφαλος refers to a ‘submarine’ wind, not to the navigator *Hippalus (on this view a misreading of *Pliny(1)HN 6. 100), as usually held. This does not make the adventures of *Eudoxus (3) in the 2nd cent. bce less credible; his voyages probably marked the first exploitation of the monsoon by classical mariners—notwithstanding earlier use by Arabs or Indians.


murrina vasa  

David Edward Eichholz and Antony Spawforth

Murrina vasa, luxury tableware imported into Rome from the middle east and, being extremely costly, a status symbol. According to *Pliny(1), the chief source (HN 37.18.22), it was made from a soft mineral found in *Persia, and especially in Carmania. The mineral showed a variety of pleasing colours, purple and red predominating; his description suits fluorspar. Roman *Thebes (2) produced imitations in millefiori*glass, of which examples survive (Peripl. M. Euxini 6. 26. 6: μορρίνη).



Mary Frazer

Mylitta is the Greek form of Mullissu, the name of a Mesopotamian goddess worshipped in Assur and Babylon. Whether or not the practice of her cult included prostitution, as, e.g., Herodotus alleges, is uncertain.According to Herodotus (1.131.3, 1.199.3), Mylitta was the Assyrian name for Aphrodite. In a passage whose basis in reality has been much discussed (1.199.1–5), he states that “the most disgusting” of Babylonian customs is the one in which every woman in the land has to have intercourse with a stranger once in her lifetime. In order to fulfill this duty, women would wait in the temple of Aphrodite/Mylitta wearing a special headdress until men chose them by tossing a piece of silver into their laps. This silver would then belong to the temple and afterward the women could not be asked for further sexual services. Similar accounts of cultic prostitution in Babylonia are found both in the apocryphal Letter of Jeremiah (Baruch 6.44) and in .



Daniel Potts

Myrrh, a thorny bush (Commiphora myrrha), native to Somalia and Yemen, which yields a reddish resin. Unlike frankincense (see incense), which was principally used in ritual contexts, myrrh was valued for its use in perfumes, cosmetics, and medicines (Theophr. Hist. pl. 9. 4. 2–9; Plin. HN 12.



J. F. Healey

The Nabataean Arabs, whose kingdom was centred on *Petra, achieved great wealth by conveying luxury goods from southern Arabia to the Mediterranean. In 312 bce*Antigonus (1) I tried unsuccessfully to conquer them and, though they had been forced into a treaty with Rome as early as 62 bce, their kings retained independent status until Trajan transformed their kingdom into the Roman province of Arabia (ce 106). More important kings included Obodas I (c.96–85 bce), Aretas III Philhellen (c.84–60/59bce), Aretas IV Philopatris (9/8bc-ad39/40), Malichus II (39/40–69/70), and Rabel II (70/71–106). Their religious traditions are ‘Arabian’ and their main deity, Dushara/Dusares, was probably astral in character. Although they may have spoken some form of Arabic, they used *Aramaic for inscriptions.


Nabonidus, King of Babylon  

Frauke Weiershäuser

Nabonidus was the last native king of Babylon and ruled the Neo-Babylonian empire from 555 to 539 bce. Up to the early 21st century, the evaluation of his reign is influenced by the negative propaganda initiated by his conqueror and successor, the Persian king Cyrus II, who portrayed him as unfaithful to Babylon’s main deity Marduk and devotee to the moon-god Sin. Actually, Nabonidus can be described as an energetic and successful ruler and military leader, as well as an active sponsor of construction work all over Babylonia. His decision to spend ten years in northern Arabia was exceptional but did not affect his rule adversely. His reign finally ended because his opponent was a brilliant strategist and military leader and not because of massive discontent or even rebellion of his own people.Nabonidus1 (Akkadian Nabû-na’id “(the god) Nabû is praised”), the last king of the Neo-Babylonian empire, which existed from .


Naqš-i Rustam  

Michael Vickers

Naqš-i Rustam, 7km. (4½ mi.) north of *Persepolis, impressive rock-cut tombs of *Darius I, *Xerxes I, *Artaxerxes (1) I, and *Darius II. Kings standing on thrones supported by subject peoples are carved in relief above palatial porticoes. Trilingual inscriptions proclaim the royal virtues of Darius I. See also sapor.



Philip de Souza

The oldest navy in the ancient world was probably that of the Egyptian pharaohs; see egypt. Very little is known about Egyptian naval development, however, until the *Saites (672–525 bce), one of whom, Necho II (610–595), reorganized the navy to protect Egyptian interests against the Babylonians. The introduction of *triremes, probably under *Amasis (570–526), further strengthened Egypt's navy prior to the Persian conquest.The Persian navy was created under *Cambyses (530–522). It utilized triremes and was crewed by the king's maritime subjects, arranged in territorial or ethnic squadrons (e.g. Egyptians, *Phoenicians, *Ionians). During much of the 5th cent. bce this navy fought in the eastern Mediterranean against the Greek city-states, led by Athens, whose ships were crewed by her citizens and subject allies. From the battle of *Salamis (480) to the battle of Aegospotami (405) the Athenians were the dominant naval power in the region.


Near Eastern and Old Iranian myths  

Jenny Rose

This entry concerns mythological narratives that developed in ancient times in lands extending from the eastern Mediterranean seaboard as far as Central Asia. Whereas the term Near Eastern applies to a range of different cultures—including Mesopotamian, Elamite, Hittite, Canaanite, Hebrew, Urartian, Phoenician, and Egyptian—the expression Old Iranian is used only of ancient Iranian culture as evidenced primarily in the texts of the Avesta, and in certain Old Persian inscriptions and iconography. From the early 1st millennium onwards, as ancient Iranians moved across the plateau into Mesopotamia and beyond, so Iranian culture, including its mythology, interacted with that of the Near East. The ensuing worldviews continue to impact the religions that evolved within the region, specifically, the Jewish, Christian, and Muslim traditions.Mesopotamian myths comprise the earliest literature committed to writing. Alongside the discovery of archaeological sites in which some of the myths are set and of material objects relating to those myths, these texts provide insight into the general ethos, ritual activity, and social structure of the pertinent cultures of Mesopotamia—notably, Sumerian, Babylonian, and Assyrian. The contemporary ancient Egyptians present a similar richness of material and literary culture. In contrast, the Old Iranian myths of the Avesta endured within an oral context until about the 6th century ce, with only cursory allusion to a cosmogony in Old Persian inscriptions, Achaemenid reliefs, and stamp seals.


Near Eastern Myths, Sumerian-Akkadian  

J. Cale Johnson

Sumerian-Akkadian mythology reaches back to the earliest lists of gods in the third millennium bce and preoccupied the Mesopotamian intellectuals for more than 2000 years. This overview describes four major moments in the earlier phases of that history, each putting in place a different type of cosmic building block: ontologies, infrastructures, genealogies, and interfaces. These four phases stretch from the first mythological narratives in the mid-third millennium down to the late second and first millennium bce, when Mesopotamian materials are reconfigured and adapted for cuneiform scribal traditions in northern Mesopotamia, Syria and the Levant. Rather than limiting ourselves to late, somewhat heterodox recompilations such as the Enuma Elish or the Baal Epic, this contribution argues that the most important and long-lived features of the mythological tradition in Mesopotamia came into existence between 2500 and 1500bce.Like the poetry of a particular language or the usual turns of phrase in a family, the mythology embedded in a particular culture or civilization provides decisive clues to the central concerns of that society. These clues are indirect hints at most, constrained by the need to transmit specific textual materials (mythologems, proverbs, or narratives), while at the same time producing the local pragmatic effects that they are thought to achieve. Surprisingly, then, mythological materials are also usually quite susceptible to translation, giving the unknowing reader the impression that things were not so very different four thousand years ago in ancient Iraq. If we adopt a definition of myth that limits our quarry to “stories about deities that describe how the basic structures of reality came into existence,” excluding thereby .


Nebuchadnezzar II  

Frauke Weiershäuser

Nebuchadnezzar II was one of the most famous Babylonian kings and the most prominent ruler of the Neo-Babylonian period. After inheriting the throne from his father Nabopolassar, he successfully ruled Babylonia for more than forty years. During this time, he secured and enlarged the empire that his father had founded, strengthened Babylonian military dominance in the Levant against Egypt, claimed supremacy over Judah by conquering its capital, Jerusalem, twice and exiled the upper stratum of Judah’s population in Babylonia. According to extant sources, the main focus of Nebuchadnezzar’s politics was in the Syro-Palestine area; little is known about his policies towards his eastern neighbour Media. In Babylonia, Nebuchadnezzar sponsored large-scale construction work all over the country, but he paid special attention to his capital, Babylon, which he transformed into the most splendid and world-famous megacity, a metropolis that was praised centuries later and is still the basis for the modern image of Babylon.


Nemrut Dağ  

Antony Spawforth

Nemrut Dağ (Mt. Nemrut), the highest mountain in *Commagene, its peak—commanding spectacular views over SE Turkey—the site of a monumental hierothesion (mausoleum-cum-cult-centre) built c.40 bce by the Commagenian king *Antiochus (9) I; of interest for its grandiose divinizing (see ruler-cult, greek) of this Roman *client king and for its mix of Greek and Persian imagery and religious ideas (see syncretism). The complex comprised a vast tumulus (probably the royal burial-mound) flanked by two terraces for sculpture, each repeating the same row of colossal enthroned divinities (8–9 m. (26–9 ft.) high), among them Antiochus himself, and the same two series of inscribed relief-slabs portraying respectively his Persian and Macedonian ancestors. In two long (Greek) inscriptions (duplicates), Antiochus expounded his lifelong piety and prescribed details of the cult (OGI 383; partial Eng. trans.: S. Burstein, The Hellenistic Age from the Battle of Ipsos to the Death of Kleopatra VII (1985), no.