A bronze statue of an Armenian prince wearing the traditional Armenian Mithraic crown. First Century BCE. Metropolitan Museum of Art New York. This was excavated in Egypt. No one has determined which prince this is, but most probably one of Artavasdes II sons, who was also in Egypt with the king of the Artaxiad Dynasty.
It was found with an identical figure, leading some scholars to believe they were personifications of Armenia Minor and Armenia Major. Parallels for this boy’s costume can be found in works from the borders of the Hellenistic world in the Armenian kingdom of Kamakh (Commagene) and Armenia.
Tiridates I was King of Armenia beginning in 53 and the founder of the Armenian line of the Arsacid Dynasty.
In addition to being a king, Tiridates I was also a Zoroastrian priest and was accompanied by other magi, a term, used since at least the 6th century BC, to denote followers of Zurvanism or Zoroaster, on his journey to Rome in 66. In the early 20th century, Franz Cumont speculated that Tiridates was instrumental in the development of Mithraism which, in Cumont’s view, was simply Romanized Zoroastrianism. This “continuity” theory has since been questioned. The earliest known usage of the word Magi is in the trilingual inscription written by Darius the Great, known as the Behistun Inscription.
The Magi, also referred to as the (Three) Wise Men or (Three) Kings, were in Christian tradition, a group of distinguished foreigners who visited Jesus after his birth, bearing gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. They are regular figures in traditional accounts of the nativity celebrations of Christmas and are an important part of Christian tradition.
According to the Gospel of Matthew, the only one of the four Canonical gospels to mention the Magi, they were the first religious figures to worship Jesus. It states that “they” came “from the east” to worship the Christ, “born King of the Jews.”
Although the account does not mention the number of people “they” or “the Magi” refers to, the three gifts has led to the widespread assumption that there were three men. In the East, the Magi traditionally number twelve. Their identification as kings in later Christian writings is probably linked to Psalms 72:11, “May all kings fall down before him”.
A model for the homage of the Magi might have been provided, it has been suggested, by the journey to Rome of King Tiridates I of Armenia, with his magi, to pay homage to the Emperor Nero, which took place in 66 AD, a few years before the date assigned to the composition of the Gospel of Matthew.