Ada (c. 380–c. 323 BCE)

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Ada (c. 380–c. 323 bce)

Ruler of Caria. Born around 380 bce in Caria (South-western Turkey); died around 323 bce; daughter of Hecatomnus, satrap of Caria (r. 392–377); sister of Mausolus (r. 377–353), Artemisia (r. 353–351), Idrieus (r. 351–344), and Pixodarus (r. 341–336); married her brother Idrieus; children: none; adopted Alexander the Great and made him her royal heir (334).

Ruled Caria jointly with her brother-husband, Idrieus (351–344), before assuming the throne on his death; her rule contested by her younger brother, Pixodarus, who seems to have seized most of Caria by 341; refusing to surrender her claim to the throne, regained control of Caria with the help of Alexander theGreat, whom she (being childless) adopted and made her royal heir (334); after her death (c. 323), her family died out and Caria, already absorbed into the Macedonian sphere of influence, came to be ruled by the Macedonian, Philoxenus.

Ada's father Hecatomnus was a product of the Carian aristocracy and probably of the family that traditionally laid claim to that region's throne. However, during the 4th century, Caria was a part of the Persian Empire and Hecatomnus' official status was that of a Persian satrap (governor). Hecatomnus had five children (three sons and two daughters), all of whom eventually assumed power in Caria: Mausolus (r. 377–353), Artemisia II (r. 353–351), Idrieus (r. 351–344), Ada (r. 344–341 and 334–c. 323), and Pixodarus (r. 341–336). (Between 336 and 334, Caria was ruled by an Orontobates—the Persian husband of Pixodarus' daughter, Ada II . Pixodarus alone of his siblings fathered a child who survived into adulthood.) Perhaps the most famous member of this dynasty was Mausolus, whose tomb was so spectacular that his name has ever after been associated with funeral monuments (mausoleums).

The regnal dates here noted disguise the fact that for much of Mausolus' reign, Artemisia ruled beside her brother as his wife and queen. Similarly, Idrieus married Ada and the two jointly ruled after both Mausolus and Artemisia had died. In each case, the sister-wife of the established king succeeded her brother-husband and ruled (at least for a time) as Caria's sole ruler. In the case of Artemisia, uncontested legitimacy lasted until her death, after which her brother and sister (Idrieus and Ada respectively) assumed authority in lieu of any surviving children. Ada, however, was not so fortunate, for not long after the death of Idrieus, Caria was beset by a civil war that saw Pixodarus challenge his sister. The specific issues and events behind Pixodarus' insurrection are unknown, but he was not completely successful in unseating Ada. Although he seems to have seized her satrapal authority, she continued to hold an inland citadel (Alinda) and its region until Pixodarus' death in 336. Despite an inability to dispossess his sister, Pixodarus was ambitious to assert some autonomy from the Persians, for—in perhaps his most famous diplomatic gambit—he offered a daughter in marriage to Arrhidaeus (337), the son of Philip II and half-brother of Alexander the Great of Macedonia. Philip (in the process of laying the foundation for an invasion of Asia) was intrigued by Pixodarus' proposal, but negotiations fell through when Alexander intervened in the negotiations by offering himself to Pixodarus for marriage to his daughter in Arrhidaeus' stead.

Exactly what prompted Pixodarus to seek powerful European friends is unknown, but, when one considers the Hecatomnid dynasty's history, it is quite likely that Pixodarus acted more out of a fear of Ada than out of a desire to free himself from Persia. Full brother-sister marriages such as those between Mausolus-Artemisia and Idrieus-Ada are frequently indicative of matriarchal societies, and it is most likely that this was the case in Caria. In such societies, a king almost always exercises effective sovereignty, yet his claim to legitimacy comes not directly from a royal father, but from his sister-spouse, who is in fact the conduit of sovereignty from her father to her husband. As a result, for the sons of kings to aspire to their fathers' powers, they must marry their sisters—and this appears to have been the primary reason why Mausolus married Artemisia, and Idrieus married Ada. Although power seems to have been the primary motive behind the Hecatomnid endogamy (marriage with near relatives), affection almost certainly played a role in the unfolding of the dynasty's history. Artemisia was famous for her love of Mausolus—a love which in part was manifested in the construction of the Mausoleum. Ada, too, might have been so fond of Idrieus that she refused the overtures of Pixodarus upon the death of her husband.

Whether or not Pixodarus attempted to marry the eligible Ada before trying to overthrow her, it is clear that he alone of his brothers married a woman who was not of his family, and, it is also clear that he alone of these three Carian dynasts had difficulty in winning the uncontested loyalty of his people. In addition, when Orontobates was appointed to rule Caria after his father-in-law's demise, he was secured as the region's satrap not by the good will of his Carian subjects, but by the reality of superior Persian strength. Ada's claims to Caria after 336 were thus buoyed by the expectations of a population used to seeing one of its own ruling locally, albeit one willing to rule as a client of the Persians. If Caria was in fact a matriarchy, then Orontobates could not have expected to have replaced Ada in local hearts, for Pixodarus' wife—the mother of Orontobates' spouse—was not a Hecatomnid, and thus would not have been in line to inherit that dynasty's public legacy.

Having outlived Pixodarus, Ada continued to dispute Orontobates' position within Caria. In this, she was helped enormously by Alexander the Great's invasion of Asia. By the summer of 334, Alexander had advanced into Caria, where Orontobates, working in conjunction with other Persian officials, attempted a vigorous defense of Halicarnassus, Caria's most important port. When that defense fell, Orontobates fled his satrapy, allowing it to fall under the Macedonian sphere of influence. Alexander, wishing to be accepted by the Carians as their overlord, yet not wanting to get bogged down in local politics when the vast majority of the Persian Empire still lay beyond his grasp, shrewdly took stock of the existing situation and approached Ada. Detouring to Alinda, Alexander met with her and hailed her as his "Mother," after which he displayed notable filial piety toward her. Even more important, Alexander confirmed Ada as the ruler of Caria on his behalf. In return for having her rights thus ratified, the childless Ada adopted Alexander as her "son."

Thereafter, Ada appears to have ruled her native land as a loyal dependent of Alexander. Though little evidence exists about her reign, it seems clear that Ada continued the Hellenization of Caria, which had begun in earnest earlier in the 4th century. Greek artists and intellectuals seem to have been welcomed at her court where they helped to redirect Carian culture generally to the west. The process of Hellenization was thorough, and Caria, along with the rest of Anatolia, became completely Greek, to remain so for the better part of 1,500 years. Ada died about the time of her "son" Alexander, and with her passed the Hecatomnid house. After Ada, Caria initially passed under the authority of the Macedonian satrap, Philoxenus. Nevertheless, the turmoil that beset the Macedonian world in the wake of Alexander's death swamped Caria as well. Before becoming a peaceful part of the Roman Empire some 300 years after Ada's death, Caria would pass from political hand to hand, as the great Hellenistic dynasties of the eastern Mediterranean fought for the advantage offered by the control of southwestern Anatolia.

William S. Greenwalt , Associate Professor of Classical History, Santa Clara University, Santa Clara, California