A woman of humble beginnings who rose to queen, we do not know anything about Musa’s life before she was presented as a gift to King Phraates IV of Parthia (modern day Iran) by Emperor Augustus. It is likely that she was an Italian slave girl.
Phraates grew very fond of Musa and she became his favourite concubine. He even appointed their son, Phraates V (or Phraataces – ‘little Phraates’) as heir and successor, despite having legitimate sons.
Seeing an opportunity, Musa persuaded Phraates to send his four legitimate sons to Rome for their education, as pledges of his fidelity to the Empire. With them out of the picture, there was no one to challenge her own son’s path to the throne.
The story goes that Musa and Phraataces then conspired against the king, poisoning him and taking the throne. They ruled together, and appear on Parthian coins as co-regents – Phraataces even gave his mother the title of Goddess.
The historian Josephus wrote that Phraataces was in love with his mother and even married her, resulting in his being overthrown by the people of Parthia. We cannot say whether or not this is true and it seems very unlikely.
Antiquities of the Jews 18.1.4 – Josephus
A to Z of Ancient Greek and Roman Women – Marjorie Lightman, Benjamin Lightman
Parthia – George Rawlinson
“Parthian Queen Bust” by درفش کاویانی – Own work.
Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons
“Rome-Seleucia-Parthia 200bc” by Talessman – Own work.
Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons