Pharasmanes II of Iberia

Pharasmanes II the Valiant or the Brave (Georgian: ფარსმან II ქველი) was a king of Iberia (Kartli) from the Pharnavazid dynasty, contemporary of the Roman emperor Hadrian (r. 117–138). Professor Cyril Toumanoff suggests AD 116–132 as the years of Pharasmanes’ reign. He features in several Classical accounts.

Pharasmanes II
Pharasmanes II relief.jpg
Relief of King Pharasmanes
13th King of Iberia
PredecessorAmazasp I
BornMtskheta, Kingdom of Iberia
DynastyPharnavazid dynasty
FatherAmazasp I of Iberia
ReligionGeorgian paganism


The medieval Georgian annals report Pharasmanes' joint rule with Pharasmanes Avaz, diarchs (one source has the extra pair: Rok and Mihrdat), but several modern scholars consider the Iberian diarchy unlikely as it is not corroborated by the contemporary evidence. Pharasmanes is reported to have been the son of his predecessor, King Amazasp I. He is said to have married Ghadana, daughter of King Vologases III of Parthia who ruled in Armenia. According to the medieval Life of Kings, the traditional friendship of the two dyarchs soured at the instigation of the Iranian wife of Mihrdat. Toumanoff regards this information a back-projection of the historically recorded enmity of Pharasmanes I of Iberia and his brother Mithridates of Armenia.[1] The chronicle then continues a story of an Armenian-Roman alliance and their invasion of the Iranian-backed Iberia in which Pharasmanes finds his death.[2]


Pharasmanes II is mentioned on the Stele of Serapit.

The Georgian royal annals describe Pharasmanes in the following way:

ფარსმან ქუელი იყო კაცი კეთილი და უხუად მომნიჭებელი და შემნდობელი, ასაკითა შუენიერი, ტანითა დიდი და ძლიერი, მჴნე მჴედარი და შემმართებელი ბრძოლისა, უშიში ვითარცა უჴორცო და ყოვლითავე უმჯობესი ყოველთა მეფეთა ქართლისათა, რომელნი გარდაცვალებულ იყვნეს უწინარეს მისსა.
Pharasmanes the Valiant was a man of kindness and abundance and compassion, beautiful of his age, of big and strong body, courageous horseman and inspirational warrior, fearless as fleshless and all the greater with everything of all the kings of Kartli, who were dead before him.[3]

The contemporary Classical authors, with more solid historical background, focus on Pharasmanes’ uneasy relations with Rome. He refused in 129 to come and pay homage to the emperor Hadrian.

According to the Aelius Spartianus, one of the authors of Augustan History:

And when some of the kings came to him, he treated them in such a way that those who had refused to come regretted it. He took this course especially on account of Pharasmanes, who had haughtily scorned his invitation.[4][5]

Pharasmanes then went touring the East, and prompted the Alans to attack the neighboring Roman provinces by giving them a passage through his realm, even though the emperor had sent him greater gifts including a war elephant, than to any other king of the East. In his pique, Hadrian dressed some 300 criminals in the gold-embroidered cloaks which were part of the return gift of Pharasmanes, and sent them into the arena.

According to Spartianus:

He showed a multitude of favours to many kings, but from a number he even purchased peace, and by some he was treated with scorn; to many he gave huge gifts, but none greater than to the king of the Iberians, for to him he gave an elephant and a band of fifty men, in addition to magnificent presents. And having himself received huge gifts from Pharasmanes, including some cloaks embroidered with gold, he sent into the arena three hundred condemned criminals dressed in gold-embroidered cloaks as an insult to the king.[6]

Fragment of the Fasti Ostienses which mentions King Pharasmanes' visit to Rome.

Eventually, the ancient sources report a highly honored visit paid by Pharasmanes to Hadrian's successor Antoninus Pius. According to Cassius Dio, he came to Rome as guest of Antoninus Pius, together with his wife, son, and noble retinue where he was especially honored, being allowed to sacrifice in the Capitol and to have his equestrian statue in the temple of Bellona, and also the emperor increased the territory of his kingdom.[7] This Pharasmanes, however, might have been Pharasmanes III, Pharasmanes II's possible grandson.[1] This visit was recorded on a fragment of the Fasti Ostienses.[8]

According to the Georgian royal annals King Pharasmanes was poisoned by the chef sent by the Parthians.

მაშინ სპარსთა გება-ყვეს სიმარჯუე ესე, რამეთუ მოიყვანეს მზარეული ერთი, და აღუთქუეს მას კეთილი დიდი, და რქუეს ესრეთ, ვითარმედ: "წარვედ და შემწყნარე ფარსმან ქუელსა, და წარიტანე შენ თანა წამალი სასიკუდინე, და შეუზავე საჭმელსა თანა მისსა და შეაჭამე". ხოლო წარვიდა მზარეული იგი და ყო ეგრეთ, ვითარცა უთხრეს სპარსთა მათ. და ესრეთ მოკლა ფარსმან მეფე ქუელი.
And then the Persians tried to have some adroitness, and they brought one chef, and promised him great bestowal, and they told him: "Go and serve Pharasmanes the Valiant, and carry with yourself a medicine of death, and mix it with his meal and make him eat it". And a chef went and did so, as the Persians told him to. And that's how he killed Pharasmanes, the valiant king.[9]


  1. ^ a b Toumanoff, Cyril. Chronology of the Early Kings of Iberia. Traditio 25 (1969), p. 17.
  2. ^ Rapp, Stephen H. (2003), Studies In Medieval Georgian Historiography: Early Texts And Eurasian Contexts, pp. 289-290. Peeters Publishers, ISBN 90-429-1318-5.
  3. ^ Georgian royal annals, p. e. 51, l. e. 2-3-4-5-6
  4. ^ The Historians of Ancient Rome: An Anthology of the Major Writings, Ronald Mellor, p. 552
  5. ^ Aelius Spartianus, The Life of Hadrian, XIII
  6. ^ Aelius Spartianus, The Life of Hadrian, XVII
  7. ^ Kavtaradze, Giorgi Leon (June 2000). "Caucasica II: The Georgian Chronicles and the Raison d'Ètre of the Iberian Kingdom", Orbis Terrarum: p. 218.
  8. ^ Vidman, Ladislav (1982) Fasti Ostienses: edendos, illustrandos, restituendos, curavit Ladislavs Vidman. p.124
  9. ^ Georgian royal annals, p.e. 53, l.e. 3-4-5-6-7
Pharasmanes II of Iberia
 Died: 132 AD
Preceded by King of Kartli
Succeeded by