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The Parthian Empire (), also known as the Arsacid Empire (), was a major
Iranian Iranian may refer to: * Iran Iran ( fa, ایران ), also called Persia and officially the Islamic Republic of Iran ( fa, جمهوری اسلامی ایران ), is a country in Western Asia. It is bordered to the northwest by Armenia ...
political and cultural power in
ancient Iran The history of Iran, which was commonly known until the mid-20th century as Persia in the Western world, is intertwined with the history of a larger region, also to an extent known as Greater Iran, comprising the area from Anatolia Anato ...
from 247 BC to 224 AD. Its latter name comes from its founder,
Arsaces I Arsaces I (; from grc-gre, Ἀρσάκης; in xpr, 𐭀𐭓𐭔𐭊 ''Aršak'', fa, اشک ''Ašk'') was the first king of , as well as the founder and eponym of the of , ruling from 247 BC to 217 BC. The leader of the , one of the three trib ...
, who led the
Parni The Parni (; grc, Πάρνοι, ''Parnoi'') or Aparni (; Ἄπαρνοι, ''Aparnoi'') were an East Iranian people who lived around the Ochus ( grc, Ὧχος ''Okhos'') (Tejen Tejen (older spellings: Tedzhen, Tejend, Tejent) is an oasis ...
tribe in conquering the region of
Parthia Parthia ( peo, 𐎱𐎼𐎰𐎺 ''Parθava''; xpr, 𐭐𐭓𐭕𐭅 ''Parθaw''; pal, 𐭯𐭫𐭮𐭥𐭡𐭥 ''Pahlaw'') is a historical region located in north-eastern . It was conquered and subjugated by the empire of the during the 7th ...

Parthia
in
Iran Iran ( fa, ایران ), also called Persia, and officially the Islamic Republic of Iran, is a country in Western Asia Western Asia, West Asia, or Southwest Asia, is the westernmost subregion A subregion is a part of a larger regio ...

Iran
's northeast, then a
satrap Satraps () were the governors of the provinces of the ancient Medes, Median and Achaemenid Empires and in several of their successors, such as in the Sasanian Empire and the Hellenistic period, Hellenistic empires. The satrap served as viceroy to ...
y (province) under Andragoras, in rebellion against the
Seleucid Empire The Seleucid Empire (; grc, Βασιλεία τῶν Σελευκιδῶν, ''Basileía tōn Seleukidōn'') was a Greece, Greek state in Western Asia, during the Hellenistic period, Hellenistic Period, that existed from 312 BC to 63 BC. The Sele ...
. Mithridates I (r. c. 171–132 BC) greatly expanded the empire by seizing
Media Media may refer to: Physical means Communication * Media (communication), tools used to deliver information or data ** Advertising media, various media, content, buying and placement for advertising ** Broadcast media, communications deliv ...
and
Mesopotamia Mesopotamia ( grc, Μεσοποταμία ''Mesopotamíā''; ar, بِلَاد ٱلرَّافِدَيْن ; syc, ܐܪܡ ܢܗܪ̈ܝܢ, or , ) is a historical region of Western Asia situated within the Tigris–Euphrates river system, in the ...

Mesopotamia
from the Seleucids. At its height, the Parthian Empire stretched from the northern reaches of the
Euphrates The Euphrates () is the longest and one of the most historically important rivers of Western Asia. Tigris–Euphrates river system, Together with the Tigris, it is one of the two defining rivers of Mesopotamia (the "Land Between the Rivers"). Or ...
, in what is now central-eastern Turkey, to present-day
Afghanistan Afghanistan (; Pashto/Dari language, Dari: , Pashto: , Dari: ), officially the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, is a landlocked country at the crossroads of Central Asia, Central and South Asia. Afghanistan is bordered by Pakistan to the ea ...

Afghanistan
and western Pakistan. The empire, located on the
Silk Road The Silk Road () was and is a network of trade route A trade route is a logistical network identified as a series of pathways and stoppages used for the commercial transport of cargo. The term can also be used to refer to trade over bodies of ...

Silk Road
trade route between the
Roman Empire The Roman Empire ( la, Imperium Rōmānum ; grc-gre, Βασιλεία τῶν Ῥωμαίων, Basileía tôn Rhōmaíōn) was the post-Republican Republican can refer to: Political ideology * An advocate of a republic, a type of governme ...

Roman Empire
in the
Mediterranean Basin In biogeography, the Mediterranean Basin (also known as the Mediterranean region or sometimes Mediterranea) is the region of lands around the Mediterranean Sea The Mediterranean Sea is a sea connected to the Atlantic Ocean, surrounded by ...
and the
Han dynasty#REDIRECT Han dynasty The Han dynasty () was the second Dynasties in Chinese history, imperial dynasty of China (202 BC – 220 AD), established by the rebel leader Liu Bang and ruled by the House of Liu. Preceded by the short-lived Qin dynas ...

Han dynasty
of
China China (), officially the People's Republic of China (PRC; ), is a country in . It is the world's , with a of more than 1.4 billion. China spans five geographical and 14 different countries, the in the world after . Covering an area of ap ...
, became a center of trade and commerce. The Parthians largely adopted the art, architecture, religious beliefs, and royal insignia of their culturally heterogeneous empire, which encompassed
Persian Persian may refer to: * People and things from Iran, historically called ''Persia'' in the English language ** Persians, Persian people, the majority ethnic group in Iran, not to be conflated with the Iranian peoples ** Persian language, an Iranian ...
,
Hellenistic The Hellenistic period spans the period of Mediterranean history The Mediterranean Sea is a sea connected to the Atlantic Ocean, surrounded by the Mediterranean Basin and almost completely enclosed by land: on the north by Western Europe, We ...
, and regional cultures. For about the first half of its existence, the Arsacid court adopted elements of
Greek culture The culture of Greece has evolved over thousands of years, beginning in Minoan and later in Mycenaean Greece, continuing most notably into Classical Greece Classical Greece was a period of around 200 years (5th and 4th centuries BC) in Gree ...
, though it eventually saw a gradual revival of
Iranian traditions Iranian may refer to: * Iran Iran ( fa, ایران ), also called Persia and officially the Islamic Republic of Iran ( fa, جمهوری اسلامی ایران ), is a country in Western Asia. It is bordered to the northwest by Armenia ...
. The Arsacid rulers were titled the "
King of Kings King of Kings was a ruling title employed primarily by monarchs based in the Middle East. Though most commonly associated with History of Iran, Iran (historically known as name of Iran, Persia in Western world, the West), especially the Achae ...
", as a claim to be the heirs to the
Achaemenid Empire The Achaemenid Empire (; peo, 𐎧𐏁𐏂, translit=Xšāça, translation=The Empire), also called the First Persian Empire, was an ancient Iranian Iranian may refer to: * Iran Iran ( fa, ایران ), also called Persia and offi ...

Achaemenid Empire
; indeed, they accepted many local kings as
vassal A vassal or liege subject is a person regarded as having a mutual obligation to a lord Lord is an appellation for a person or deity who has authority, control, or power (social and political), power over others, acting as a master, a chief ...
s where the Achaemenids would have had centrally appointed, albeit largely autonomous,
satrap Satraps () were the governors of the provinces of the ancient Medes, Median and Achaemenid Empires and in several of their successors, such as in the Sasanian Empire and the Hellenistic period, Hellenistic empires. The satrap served as viceroy to ...
s. The court did appoint a small number of satraps, largely outside Iran, but these satrapies were smaller and less powerful than the Achaemenid potentates. With the expansion of Arsacid power, the seat of central government shifted from Nisa to
Ctesiphon Ctesiphon ( ; Middle Persian: 𐭲𐭩𐭮𐭯𐭥𐭭 ''tyspwn'' or ''tysfwn''; fa, تیسفون; grc-gre, Κτησιφῶν, ; syr, ܩܛܝܣܦܘܢThomas A. Carlson et al., “Ctesiphon — ܩܛܝܣܦܘܢ ” in The Syriac Gazetteer last modi ...

Ctesiphon
along the
Tigris The Tigris () is the easternmost of the two great river A river is a natural flowing watercourse, usually freshwater, flowing towards an ocean, sea, lake or another river. In some cases, a river flows into the ground and becomes dry at ...

Tigris
(south of modern
Baghdad Baghdad (; ar, بَغْدَاد ) is the capital of and one of the in the , and compared to its large population it has a small area at just 673 square kilometers (260 sq mi). Located along the , near the ruins of the city of and the anc ...

Baghdad
,
Iraq Iraq ( ar, الْعِرَاق, translit=al-ʿIrāq; ku, عێراق, translit=Êraq), officially the Republic of Iraq ( ar, جُمْهُورِيَّة ٱلْعِرَاق '; ku, کۆماری عێراق, translit=Komarî Êraq), is a country i ...

Iraq
), although several other sites also served as capitals. The earliest enemies of the Parthians were the
Seleucids The Seleucid Empire (; grc, Βασιλεία τῶν Σελευκιδῶν, ''Basileía tōn Seleukidōn'') was a Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially the Hell ...
in the west and the
Scythians The Scythians (from grc, Σκύθης , ) or Scyths, also known as Saka and Sakae ( ; egy, 𓋴𓎝𓎡𓈉 The ancient Egyptian Hill-country or "Foreign land" hieroglyph (𓈉) is a member of the sky, earth, and water hieroglyphs. A ...
in the north. However, as Parthia expanded westward, they came into conflict with the
Kingdom of ArmeniaKingdom of Armenia may refer to: *Kingdom of Armenia (antiquity), also known as Artaxiad or Arsacid Armenia, 380 BC to AD 387/428 *Kingdom of Armenia (Middle Ages), also known as Bagratid Armenia, AD 885 to 1045 Other ancient Armenian kingdoms *Satr ...
, and eventually the late
Roman Republic The Roman Republic ( la, Rēs pūblica Rōmāna ) was a state of the classical Roman civilization, run through public In public relations Public relations (PR) is the practice of managing and disseminating information from an indiv ...
. Rome and Parthia competed with each other to establish the kings of Armenia as their subordinate clients. The Parthians destroyed the army of
Marcus Licinius Crassus Marcus Licinius Crassus (; 115 – 53 BC) was a general and statesman who played a key role in the transformation of the into the . He is often called "the richest man in Rome." & .. Trivia-Library. '. 1975–1981. Web. 23 December 2009."Ofte ...

Marcus Licinius Crassus
at the
Battle of Carrhae The Battle of Carrhae () was fought in 53 BC between the Roman Republic and the Parthian Empire near the ancient town of Carrhae (present-day Harran, Turkey). The Parthian general Surena decisively defeated a Roman invasion force under the comma ...
in 53 BC, and in 40–39 BC, Parthian forces captured the whole of the
Levant The Levant () is an term referring to a large area in the region of . In its narrowest sense, it is equivalent to the , which included present-day , , , , and most of southwest of the middle . In its widest historical sense, the Levant ...

Levant
except
Tyre Tyre may refer to: * Tire, the outer part of a wheel Places * Tyre, Lebanon, a city ** See of Tyre, a Christian diocese seated in Tyre, Lebanon ** Tyre Hippodrome, a UNESCO World Heritage site * Tyre District, Lebanon * Tyre, New York, a town in t ...
from the Romans. However,
Mark Antony Marcus Antonius (14 January 1 August 30 BC), commonly known in English as Mark Antony, was a Ancient Rome, Roman politician and general who played a critical role in the Crisis of the Roman Republic, transformation of the Roman Republic f ...
led a
counterattack Closing the Falaise-Argentan Pocket and the Mortain counterattack 6–17 August 1944 A counterattack is a tactic employed in response to an attack, with the term originating in " war games". The general objective is to negate or thwart the adv ...
against Parthia, although his successes were generally achieved in his absence, under the leadership of his lieutenant
VentidiusPublius Ventidius Bassus was a Ancient Rome, Roman general and one of Julius Caesar's protégés. He won key victories against the Parthian Empire, Parthians which resulted in the deaths of key leaders – victories which redeemed the losses of Marcu ...
. Various Roman emperors or their appointed generals invaded Mesopotamia in the course of the ensuing Roman–Parthian Wars of the next few centuries. The Romans captured the cities of
Seleucia Seleucia (; grc-gre, Σελεύκεια), also known as or , was a major Mesopotamia Mesopotamia ( grc, Μεσοποταμία ''Mesopotamíā''; ar, بِلَاد ٱلرَّافِدَيْن ; syc, ܐܪܡ ܢܗܪ̈ܝܢ, or , ) is a his ...
and Ctesiphon on multiple occasions during these conflicts, but were never able to hold on to them. Frequent civil wars between Parthian contenders to the throne proved more dangerous to the Empire's stability than foreign invasion, and Parthian power evaporated when
Ardashir I Ardashir I or Ardeshir I (Middle Persian Middle Persian or Pahlavi, also known by its endonym Pārsīk or Pārsīg (𐭯𐭠𐭫𐭮𐭩𐭪) in its later form, is a Western Middle Iranian language which became the literary language of the Sa ...

Ardashir I
, ruler of
Istakhr Istakhr ( Middle Persian romanized: ''Stakhr'', fa, اصطخر, translit=Estakhr) was an ancient city in Fars province, north of Persepolis in southwestern Iran. It flourished as the capital of the Persian ''Frataraka'' governors and Kings of Pers ...
in
Persis Persis ( grc-gre, , ''Persís''), better known in English as Persia (Old Persian Old Persian is one of the two directly attested Old Iranian languages (the other being Avestan language, Avestan) and it is the ancestor of Middle Persian (the l ...
, revolted against the Arsacids and killed their last ruler,
Artabanus IV Artabanus IV, also known as Ardavan IV ( Parthian: 𐭍𐭐𐭕𐭓), incorrectly known in older scholarship as Artabanus V, was the last ruler of Parthian Empire The Parthian Empire (), also known as the Arsacid Empire (), was a major Iranian ...

Artabanus IV
, in 224 AD. Ardashir established the
Sasanian Empire The Sasanian () or Sassanid Empire, officially known as the Empire of Iranians (, ''Ērānshahr The Sasanian () or Sassanid Empire, officially known as the Empire of Iranians (Middle Persian Middle Persian or Pahlavi, also known by its ...

Sasanian Empire
, which ruled Iran and much of the Near East until the
Muslim conquests History of Islam, The history of the spread of Islam spans about 1,400 years. Muslim conquests following Muhammad's death led to the creation of the caliphates, occupying a vast geographical area; conversion to Islam was boosted by Islamic missio ...
of the 7th century AD, although the Arsacid dynasty lived on through branches of the family that ruled
Armenia Armenia (; hy, Հայաստան, translit=Hayastan, ), officially the Republic of Armenia,, is a landlocked country A landlocked country is a country A country is a distinct territory, territorial body or political entity. It is ...
,
Iberia The Iberian Peninsula , ** * Aragonese language, Aragonese and Occitan language, Occitan: ''Peninsula Iberica'' ** ** * french: Péninsule Ibérique * mwl, Península Eibérica * eu, Iberiar penintsula also known as Iberia, is a penin ...
, and
Albania Albania ( ; sq, Shqipëri or Shqipëria), officially the Republic of Albania ( sq, Republika e Shqipërisë), is a country in Southeastern Europe Southeast Europe or Southeastern Europe () is a geographical subregion A subregion is a par ...
in the Caucasus. Native Parthian sources, written in Parthian,
Greek#REDIRECT Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially the Hellenic Republic, is a country located in Southeast Europe. Its population is approximately 10.7 million as of ...
and other languages, are scarce when compared to Sasanian and even earlier
Achaemenid The Achaemenid Empire (; peo, 𐎧𐏁𐏂, translit=Xšāça, translation=The Empire), also called the First Persian Empire, was an ancient Iranian empire An empire is a sovereign state consisting of several territories and peoples subj ...

Achaemenid
sources. Aside from scattered
cuneiform Cuneiform is a Logogram, logo-Syllabary, syllabic writing system, script that was used to write several languages of the Ancient Near East. The script was in active use from the early Bronze Age until the beginning of the Common Era. It is nam ...

cuneiform
tablets, fragmentary
ostraca , an Athenian , image_skyline = File:Athens Montage L.png, center, 275px, alt=Athens montage. Clicking on an image in the picture causes the browser to load the appropriate article. rect 15 15 985 460 Acropolis of Athens ...
, rock inscriptions,
drachma The drachma ( el, δραχμή The drachma ( el, wikt:δραχμή, δραχμή , ; pl. ''drachmae'' or ''drachmas'') was the currency used in Greece during several periods in its history: # An Ancient Greece, ancient Greek currency unit ...
coins, and the chance survival of some
parchment Parchment is a writing material Writing material refers to the materials that provide the surfaces on which humans use writing instruments A writing implement or writing instrument is an object used to produce writing Writing is a mediu ...

parchment
documents, much of Parthian history is only known through external sources. These include mainly
Greek#REDIRECT Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially the Hellenic Republic, is a country located in Southeast Europe. Its population is approximately 10.7 million as of ...
and Roman histories, but also Chinese histories, prompted by the Han Chinese desire to form alliances against the Xiongnu.
Parthian art. According to the principle of "Parthian frontality", all figures, human or divine, face directly forward, with eyes fixed on the spectator. Image:Arm less man edit 3.jpg, A Statue, National Museum of Iran 2401, bronze statue of a Parthian nobleman ...
work is viewed by historians as a valid source for understanding aspects of society and culture that are otherwise absent in textual sources.


History


Origins and establishment

Before
Arsaces I Arsaces I (; from grc-gre, Ἀρσάκης; in xpr, 𐭀𐭓𐭔𐭊 ''Aršak'', fa, اشک ''Ašk'') was the first king of , as well as the founder and eponym of the of , ruling from 247 BC to 217 BC. The leader of the , one of the three trib ...
founded the Arsacid Dynasty, he was chieftain of the
Parni The Parni (; grc, Πάρνοι, ''Parnoi'') or Aparni (; Ἄπαρνοι, ''Aparnoi'') were an East Iranian people who lived around the Ochus ( grc, Ὧχος ''Okhos'') (Tejen Tejen (older spellings: Tedzhen, Tejend, Tejent) is an oasis ...
, an ancient
Central Asia Central Asia is a region in Asia Asia () is 's largest and most populous , located primarily in the and . It shares the continental of with the continent of and the continental landmass of with both Europe and . Asia covers an area ...

Central Asia
n tribe of
Iranian peoples The Iranian peoples or Iranic peoples are a diverse Indo-European The Indo-European languages are a language family native to western and southern Eurasia. It comprises most of the languages of Europe together with those of the norther ...
and one of several
nomad A nomad ( frm, nomade "people without fixed habitation") is a member of a community without fixed habitation who regularly moves to and from the same areas. Such groups include hunter-gatherer A hunter-gatherer is a human Humans (''Homo ...

nomad
ic tribes within the confederation of the
Dahae The Dahae, also known as the Daae, Dahas or Dahaeans ( la, Dahae; fa, داه‍ان ''Dāhān''; grc, Δάοι, Δάαι, Δαι, Δάσαι ''Dáoi'', ''Dáai'', ''Dai'', ''Dasai''; Sanskrit Sanskrit (, attributively , ''saṃskṛta-'', n ...
. The Parni most likely spoke an
eastern Iranian language The Eastern Iranian languages are a subgroup of the Iranian languages The Iranian or Iranic languages are a branch of the Indo-Iranian languages in the Indo-European languages, Indo-European language family that are spoken natively by the Ira ...
, in contrast to the
northwestern Iranian language The Western Iranian languages are a branch of the Iranian languages The Iranian or Iranic languages are a branch of the Indo-Iranian languages in the Indo-European languages, Indo-European language family that are spoken natively by the Irani ...
spoken at the time in
Parthia Parthia ( peo, 𐎱𐎼𐎰𐎺 ''Parθava''; xpr, 𐭐𐭓𐭕𐭅 ''Parθaw''; pal, 𐭯𐭫𐭮𐭥𐭡𐭥 ''Pahlaw'') is a historical region located in north-eastern . It was conquered and subjugated by the empire of the during the 7th ...

Parthia
. The latter was a northeastern province, first under the
Achaemenid Empire The Achaemenid Empire (; peo, 𐎧𐏁𐏂, translit=Xšāça, translation=The Empire), also called the First Persian Empire, was an ancient Iranian Iranian may refer to: * Iran Iran ( fa, ایران ), also called Persia and offi ...

Achaemenid Empire
, and then the
Seleucid Empire The Seleucid Empire (; grc, Βασιλεία τῶν Σελευκιδῶν, ''Basileía tōn Seleukidōn'') was a Greece, Greek state in Western Asia, during the Hellenistic period, Hellenistic Period, that existed from 312 BC to 63 BC. The Sele ...
. After conquering the region, the Parni adopted Parthian as the official court language, speaking it alongside
Middle Persian Middle Persian or Pahlavi, also known by its endonym Pārsīk or Pārsīg (𐭯𐭠𐭫𐭮𐭩𐭪) in its later form, is a Western Middle Iranian language which became the literary language of the Sasanian Empire. For some time after the Sasan ...
,
Aramaic Aramaic (Classical Syriac The Syriac language (; syc, / '), also known as Syriac Aramaic (''Syrian Aramaic'', ''Syro-Aramaic'') and Classical Syriac (in its literary and liturgical form), is an Aramaic Aramaic (Classical Syriac ...
,
Greek#REDIRECT Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially the Hellenic Republic, is a country located in Southeast Europe. Its population is approximately 10.7 million as of ...
,
Babylonian
Babylonian
, Sogdian and other languages in the multilingual territories they would conquer. Why the Arsacid court retroactively chose 247 BC as the first year of the Arsacid era is uncertain. A.D.H. Bivar concludes that this was the year the Seleucids lost control of Parthia to Andragoras, the appointed
satrap Satraps () were the governors of the provinces of the ancient Medes, Median and Achaemenid Empires and in several of their successors, such as in the Sasanian Empire and the Hellenistic period, Hellenistic empires. The satrap served as viceroy to ...
who rebelled against them. Hence, Arsaces I "backdated his
regnal year A regnal year is a year of the reign of a sovereign Sovereign is a title which can be applied to the highest leader in various categories. The word is borrowed from Old French Old French (, , ; Modern French French ( or ) is a Rom ...
s" to the moment when Seleucid control over Parthia ceased. However, Vesta Sarkhosh Curtis asserts that this was simply the year Arsaces was made chief of the Parni tribe. Homa Katouzian and Gene Ralph Garthwaite claim it was the year Arsaces conquered Parthia and expelled the Seleucid authorities, yet Curtis and Maria Brosius state that Andragoras was not overthrown by the Arsacids until 238 BC. It is unclear who immediately succeeded Arsaces I. Bivar and Katouzian affirm that it was his brother Tiridates I of Parthia, who in turn was succeeded by his son
Arsaces II of Parthia Arsaces II (; from grc-gre, Ἀρσάκης; in xpr, 𐭀𐭓𐭔𐭊 ''Aršak'', fa, اشک ''Ašk''), was the Parthian Empire, Arsacid king of Parthia from 217 BC to 191 BC. Name ' is the Latin form of the Greek language, Greek ''Arsákēs'' ( ...
in 211 BC. Yet Curtis and Brosius state that Arsaces II was the immediate successor of Arsaces I, with Curtis claiming the succession took place in 211 BC, and Brosius in 217 BC. Bivar insists that 138 BC, the last regnal year of Mithridates I, is "the first precisely established regnal date of Parthian history." Due to these and other discrepancies, Bivar outlines two distinct royal chronologies accepted by historians. A fictitious claim was later made from the 2nd-century BC onwards by the Parthians, which represented them as descendants of the Achaemenid king of kings,
Artaxerxes II of Persia Artaxerxes II Mnemon ( peo, 𐎠𐎼𐎫𐎧𐏁𐏂𐎠, transl=Artaxšaçā, lit=whose reign is through truth)R. Schmitt"ARTAXERXES" ''Encyclopædia Iranica ''Encyclopædia Iranica'' is a project whose goal is to create a comprehensive and au ...
(). For a time, Arsaces consolidated his position in Parthia and
Hyrcania Hyrcania () ( el, ''Hyrkania'', Old Persian: 𐎺𐎼𐎣𐎠𐎴 ''Varkâna'',Lendering (1996) Middle Persian: 𐭢𐭥𐭫𐭢𐭠𐭭 ''Gurgān'', Akkadian (language), Akkadian: ''Urqananu'') is a historical region composed of the land south ...
by taking advantage of the invasion of Seleucid territory in the west by
Ptolemy III Euergetes egy, Iwaennetjerwysenwy Sekhemankhre Setepamun#Clayton06, Clayton (2006) p. 208 , predecessor = Ptolemy II , successor = Ptolemy IV , nebty = ''ḳn nḏtj-nṯrw jnb-mnḫ-n-tꜢmrj'Qen nedjtinetjeru inebmenekhentamery''The bra ...

Ptolemy III Euergetes
(''r''. 246–222 BC) of
Egypt Egypt ( ar, مِصر, Miṣr), officially the Arab Republic of Egypt, is a transcontinental country This is a list of countries located on more than one continent A continent is one of several large landmasses. Generally identi ...
. This conflict with Ptolemy, the
Third Syrian War The Syrian Wars were a series of six wars between the Seleucid Empire The Seleucid Empire (; grc, Βασιλεία τῶν Σελευκιδῶν, ''Basileía tōn Seleukidōn'') was a Hellenistic The Hellenistic period covers the period ...
(246–241 BC), also allowed
Diodotus I Diodotus I Soter (Greek#REDIRECT Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially the Hellenic Republic, is a country located in Southeast Europe. Its population is approxima ...
to rebel and form the
Greco-Bactrian Kingdom The Bactrian Kingdom, known to historians as the Greco-Bactrian Kingdom, was a Hellenistic-era Greek#REDIRECT Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially the Hellenic ...
in Central Asia. The latter's successor,
Diodotus II Diodotus II Theos ( Greek: ; died c. 225 BC) was the son of Diodotus I, who led Bactria Bactria ( Bactrian: , ), or Bactriana, was an ancient region in Central Asia Central Asia is a region in Asia which stretches from the Caspian Sea in th ...
, formed an alliance with Arsaces against the Seleucids, but Arsaces was temporarily driven from Parthia by the forces of
Seleucus II Callinicus Seleucus II Callinicus Pogon ( el, ; ''Kallinikos'' means "beautifully triumphant"; ''Pogon'' means "the Beard"; July/August 265 BC – December 225 BC),, . was a ruler of the Hellenistic Seleucid Empire, who reigned from 246 BC to 225 BC. Faced ...

Seleucus II Callinicus
(''r''. 246–225 BC). After spending some time in exile among the nomadic
Apasiacae Apasiacae is the name of a nomadic tribe belonging to the Massagetae. The Apasiacae lived in between of Amu Darya, Oxus and the Tanais River, which in this context meant the east coast of the Aral Sea. That is, "Tanais" here means either the Syr Da ...
tribe, Arsaces led a counterattack and recaptured Parthia. Seleucus II's successor,
Antiochus III the Great Antiochus III the Great ( Greek: ; c. 2413 July 187 BC, ruled April/June 222 – 3 July 187 BC) was a Greek Hellenistic king and the 6th ruler of the Seleucid Empire. He ruled over the Syria (region), region of Syria and large parts of the rest o ...
(''r''. 222–187 BC), was unable to immediately retaliate because his troops were engaged in putting down the rebellion of
Molon Molon ( or ) or Molo (; grc, Mόλων; died 220 BC) was a general and satrap of the Seleucid The Seleucid Empire (; grc, Βασιλεία τῶν Σελευκιδῶν, ''Basileía tōn Seleukidōn'') was a Greek Greek may refer to: Greec ...

Molon
in
Media Media may refer to: Physical means Communication * Media (communication), tools used to deliver information or data ** Advertising media, various media, content, buying and placement for advertising ** Broadcast media, communications deliv ...
. Antiochus III launched a massive campaign to retake Parthia and Bactria in 210 or 209 BC. Despite some victories he was unsuccessful, but did negotiate a peace settlement with Arsaces II. The latter was granted the title of king (
Greek#REDIRECT Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially the Hellenic Republic, is a country located in Southeast Europe. Its population is approximately 10.7 million as of ...
: ''
basileus ''Basileus'' ( el, βασιλεύς) is a Greek term and title A title is one or more words used before or after a person's name, in certain contexts. It may signify either generation, an official position, or a professional or academic quali ...
'') in return for his submission to Antiochus III as his superior.; ; The Seleucids were unable to further intervene in Parthian affairs following increasing encroachment by the
Roman Republic The Roman Republic ( la, Rēs pūblica Rōmāna ) was a state of the classical Roman civilization, run through public In public relations Public relations (PR) is the practice of managing and disseminating information from an indiv ...
and the Seleucid in 190 BC. Priapatius (''r''. c. 191–176 BC) succeeded Arsaces II, and (''r''. c. 176–171 BC) eventually ascended the Parthian throne. Phraates I ruled Parthia without further Seleucid interference.


Expansion and consolidation

Phraates I is recorded as expanding Parthia's control past the
Gates of Alexander Gates may refer to: * Gate, a point of entry to a space which is enclosed by walls People * Gates (surname), various people with the last name * Gates Brown (1939-2013), American Major League Baseball player * Gates McFadden (born 1949), America ...
and occupied
Apamea RagianaApamea Ragiana ( el, Απάμεια) – Apamea Rhagiana, Apamea Raphiana, or Apameia Rhagiane; previously, Arsace, Khuvar, and Choara – was an ancient Hellenistic city of Choarene, Media (region), Media (formerly Parthia), according to Str ...
. The locations of these are unknown. Yet the greatest expansion of Parthian power and territory took place during the reign of his brother and successor Mithridates I (r. c. 171–132 BC), whom Katouzian compares to
Cyrus the Great Cyrus II of Persia (; peo, wikt:𐎤𐎢𐎽𐎢𐏁, 𐎤𐎢𐎽𐎢𐏁, translit=Kūruš), commonly known as Cyrus the Great and also called Cyrus the Elder by the Ancient Greece, Greeks, was the founder of the Achaemenid Empire, the Histo ...

Cyrus the Great
(d. 530 BC), founder of the Achaemenid Empire. Relations between Parthia and Greco-Bactria deteriorated after the death of Diodotus II, when Mithridates' forces captured two
eparchies Eparchy is an anglicize Linguistic anglicisation (or anglicization, occasionally anglification, anglifying, or Englishing) is the practice of modifying foreign words, names, and phrases to make them easier to spell, pronounce, or understand in Eng ...

eparchies
of the latter kingdom, then under
Eucratides I Eucratides I ( Greek: ; reigned c. 171–145 BC), sometimes called Eucratides the Great, was one of the most important Greco-Bactrian kings, descendants of dignitaries of Alexander the Great Alexander III of Macedon ( grc-gre, Αλ ...
(''r''. c. 170–145 BC). Turning his sights on the Seleucid realm, Mithridates invaded Media and occupied
Ecbatana Ecbatana (; peo, 𐏃𐎥𐎶𐎫𐎠𐎴 ''Hagmatāna'' or ''Haŋmatāna'', literally "the place of gathering"; Elamite language, Elamite: 𒀝𒈠𒁕𒈾 ''Ag-ma-da-na''; Middle Persian: 𐭠𐭧𐭬𐭲𐭠𐭭; Parthian language, Parthian: ...

Ecbatana
in 148 or 147 BC; the region had been destabilized by a recent Seleucid suppression of a rebellion there led by
Timarchus Timarchus or Timarch was a usurper A usurper is an illegitimate or controversial claimant to power Power typically refers to: * Power (physics) In physics, power is the amount of energy transferred or converted per unit time. In the Inter ...

Timarchus
. This victory was followed by the Parthian conquest of
Babylonia Babylonia () was an and based in central-southern which was part of Ancient Persia (present-day and ). A small -ruled state emerged in 1894 BCE, which contained the minor administrative town of . It was merely a small provincial town dur ...
in
Mesopotamia Mesopotamia ( grc, Μεσοποταμία ''Mesopotamíā''; ar, بِلَاد ٱلرَّافِدَيْن ; syc, ܐܪܡ ܢܗܪ̈ܝܢ, or , ) is a historical region of Western Asia situated within the Tigris–Euphrates river system, in the ...

Mesopotamia
, where Mithridates had coins minted at
Seleucia Seleucia (; grc-gre, Σελεύκεια), also known as or , was a major Mesopotamia Mesopotamia ( grc, Μεσοποταμία ''Mesopotamíā''; ar, بِلَاد ٱلرَّافِدَيْن ; syc, ܐܪܡ ܢܗܪ̈ܝܢ, or , ) is a his ...
in 141 BC and held an official
investiture Investiture (from the Latin preposition ''in'' and verb ''vestire'', "dress" from ''vestis'' "robe"), is the formal installation or ceremony in which a person is given the authority and regalia of a high office. Investiture can include formal dre ...
ceremony.; ; ; ; While Mithridates retired to Hyrcania, his forces subdued the kingdoms of
Elymais Elymais or Elamais (Ἐλυμαΐς, Hellenic form of the more ancient name, Elam Elam (; Linear Elamite: ''hatamti''; Cuneiform Cuneiform is a Logogram, logo-Syllabary, syllabic writing system, script that was used to write several l ...
and
Characene Characene (Ancient Greek Ancient Greek includes the forms of the Greek language used in ancient Greece and the classical antiquity, ancient world from around 1500 BC to 300 BC. It is often roughly divided into the following periods: Mycena ...
and occupied
Susa Susa (; Cuneiform Cuneiform is a Logogram, logo-Syllabary, syllabic writing system, script that was used to write several languages of the Ancient Near East. The script was in active use from the early Bronze Age until the beginning of the ...

Susa
. By this time, Parthian authority extended as far east as the
Indus River The Indus ( ) is a transboundary river A transboundary river is a river that crosses at least one political border, either a border within a nation or an international boundary. Bangladesh has the highest number of these rivers, including t ...

Indus River
. Whereas
Hecatompylos Qumis ( fa, قومس; Middle Persian ''𐭪𐭥𐭬𐭩𐭮 Kōmis''), also known as Hecatompylos ( grc, Ἑκατόμπυλος, in fa, صددروازه, ''Saddarvazeh'') was an ancient city which was the capital of the Arsacid dynasty by 200 B ...
had served as the first Parthian capital, Mithridates established royal residences at Seleucia, Ecbatana,
Ctesiphon Ctesiphon ( ; Middle Persian: 𐭲𐭩𐭮𐭯𐭥𐭭 ''tyspwn'' or ''tysfwn''; fa, تیسفون; grc-gre, Κτησιφῶν, ; syr, ܩܛܝܣܦܘܢThomas A. Carlson et al., “Ctesiphon — ܩܛܝܣܦܘܢ ” in The Syriac Gazetteer last modi ...

Ctesiphon
and his newly founded city, Mithradatkert ( Nisa), where the tombs of the Arsacid kings were built and maintained. Ecbatana became the main summertime residence for the Arsacid royalty. Ctesiphon may not have become the official capital until the reign of
Gotarzes I Gotarzes I ( xpr, 𐭂𐭅𐭕𐭓𐭆 ''Gōdarz'') was king of the Parthian Empire The Parthian Empire (), also known as the Arsacid Empire (), was a major political and cultural power in from 247 BC to 224 AD. Its latter name comes ...
(''r''. c. 90–80 BC). It became the site of the royal
coronation A coronation is the act of placement or bestowal of a crown '' File:서봉총 금관 금제드리개.jpg, The Seobongchong Golden Crown of Ancient Silla, which is 339th National Treasure of South Korea. It is basically following the stand ...

coronation
ceremony and the representational city of the Arsacids, according to Brosius. The Seleucids were unable to retaliate immediately as general
Diodotus Tryphon Diodotus or Trypho ( el, Διόδοτος) was a king of the Hellenistic The Hellenistic period covers the period of Mediterranean history between the death of Alexander the Great in 323 BC and the emergence of the Roman Empire, as signif ...
led a rebellion at the capital
Antioch Antioch on the Orontes (; grc, Ἀντιόχεια ἡ ἐπὶ Ὀρόντου, ''Antiókheia hē epì Oróntou''; also Syrian Antioch) grc-koi, Ἀντιόχεια ἡ ἐπὶ Ὀρόντου; or Ἀντιόχεια ἡ ἐπὶ Δάφνῃ ...
in 142 BC. However, by 140 BC
Demetrius II Nicator :''For the similarly named Macedonian ruler, see Demetrius II of Macedon. For the Macedonian prince, see Demetrius the Fair.'' Demetrius II ( grc, Δημήτριος Β`, ''Dēmḗtrios B''; died 125 BC), called Nicator ( grc, Νικάτωρ, '' ...
was able to launch a counter-invasion against the Parthians in Mesopotamia. Despite early successes, the Seleucids were defeated and Demetrius himself was captured by Parthian forces and taken to Hyrcania. There Mithridates treated his captive with great hospitality; he even married his daughter Rhodogune of Parthia to Demetrius.
Antiochus VII Sidetes Antiochus VII Euergetes ( el, Ἀντίοχος Ζ΄ Ευεργέτης; c. 164/160 BC129 BC), nicknamed Sidetes ( el, Σιδήτης) (from Side, Turkey, Side, a city in Asia Minor), also known as Antiochus the Pious, was ruler of the Hellenistic ...

Antiochus VII Sidetes
(''r''. 138–129 BC), a brother of Demetrius, assumed the Seleucid throne and married the latter's wife
Cleopatra Thea Cleopatra Thea ( el, Κλεοπάτρα Θεά, which means "Cleopatra the Goddess"; c. 164 – 121 BC) surnamed Eueteria (i.e., "good-harvest/fruitful season") was the ruler of the Hellenistic Seleucid Empire. She was queen consort of Syria from ...

Cleopatra Thea
. After defeating Diodotus Tryphon, Antiochus initiated a campaign in 130 BC to retake Mesopotamia, now under the rule of
Phraates II Phraates II (also spelled Frahad I; xpr, 𐭐𐭓𐭇𐭕 ''Frahāt'') was king of the Parthian Empire The Parthian Empire (), also known as the Arsacid Empire (), was a major Iranian political and cultural power in ancient Iran The history o ...
(''r''. c. 132–127 BC). The Parthian general Indates was defeated along the
Great Zab The Great Zab or Upper Zab ( (''al-Zāb al-Kabīr''), or , , ''(zāba ʻalya)'') is an approximately long river flowing through Turkey and Iraq. It rises in Turkey near Lake Van and joins the Tigris in Iraq south of Mosul. The drainage basin of ...
, followed by a local uprising where the Parthian governor of Babylonia was killed. Antiochus conquered Babylonia and occupied Susa, where he minted coins.; ; After advancing his army into Media, the Parthians pushed for peace, which Antiochus refused to accept unless the Arsacids relinquished all lands to him except Parthia proper, paid heavy tribute, and released Demetrius from captivity. Arsaces released Demetrius and sent him to
Syria Syria ( ar, سُورِيَا or ar, سُورِيَة, ''Sūriyā''), officially the Syrian Arab Republic ( ar, ٱلْجُمْهُورِيَّةُ ٱلْعَرَبِيَّةُ ٱلسُّورِيَّةُ, al-Jumhūrīyah al-ʻArabīyah as-S ...
, but refused the other demands. By spring 129 BC, the Medes were in open revolt against Antiochus, whose army had exhausted the resources of the countryside during winter. While attempting to put down the revolts, the main Parthian force swept into the region and killed Antiochus at the
Battle of Ecbatana The Battle of Ecbatana was fought in 129 BC between the Seleucids The Seleucid Empire (; grc, Βασιλεία τῶν Σελευκιδῶν, ''Basileía tōn Seleukidōn'') was a Hellenistic state in Western Asia that existed from 312 BC to 63 ...
in 129 BC. His body was sent back to Syria in a silver coffin; his son Seleucus was made a Parthian hostage and a daughter joined Phraates'
harem Harem ( ar, حريم ''ḥarīm'', "a sacred inviolable place; harem; female members of the family") properly refers to domestic spaces that are reserved for the women of the house in a Muslim Muslims () are people who follow or practic ...
. While the Parthians regained the territories lost in the west, another threat arose in the east. In 177–176 BC the nomadic confederation of the
Xiongnu The Xiongnu (, ) were a tribal confederation A confederation (also known as a confederacy or league) is a union of sovereign groups or states united for purposes of common action. Usually created by a treaty A treaty is a formal ...

Xiongnu
dislodged the nomadic
Yuezhi The Yuezhi (, ) were an ancient people first described in Chinese Chinese can refer to: * Something related to China China, officially the People's Republic of China (PRC), is a country in East Asia. It is the List of countries and depe ...
from their homelands in what is now
Gansu Gansu (, ; alternately romanized as Kansu) is a landlocked province A province is almost always an administrative division Administrative division, administrative unitArticle 3(1). , country subdivision, administrative region, subnatio ...

Gansu
province in
Northwest China Northwest China () is a statistical region of China This is a list of traditional top-level regions of China. Republic of China (1912–1949) Nationalist government, Nationalist Era regions NRA military regions People's Republic ...

Northwest China
; the Yuezhi then migrated west into Bactria and displaced the
Saka The Saka, Śaka, Shaka, Śāka or Sacae ( ; Kharosthi: ; Brahmi script, Brahmi: , ; sa, wiktionary:शक#Sanskrit, शक , ; grc, Σάκαι ; la, Sacae; , Old Chinese, old , Pinyin, mod. , ; egy, wiktionary:sk#Etymology 2, 𓋴𓎝 ...

Saka
(Scythian) tribes. The Saka were forced to move further west, where they invaded the Parthian Empire's northeastern borders. Mithridates was thus forced to retire to Hyrcania after his conquest of Mesopotamia. Some of the Saka were enlisted in Phraates' forces against Antiochus. However, they arrived too late to engage in the conflict. When Phraates refused to pay their wages, the Saka revolted, which he tried to put down with the aid of former Seleucid soldiers, yet they too abandoned Phraates and joined sides with the Saka. Phraates II marched against this combined force, but he was killed in battle. The Roman historian
Justin Justin may refer to: People * Justin (name), including a list of persons with the given name Justin * Justin (historian), a Latin historian who lived under the Roman Empire * Justin I (c. 450–527), or ''Flavius Iustinius Augustus'', Eastern Roma ...
reports that his successor Artabanus I (''r''. c. 128–124 BC) shared a similar fate fighting nomads in the east. He claims Artabanus was killed by the Tokhari (identified as the Yuezhi), although Bivar believes Justin conflated them with the Saka. Mithridates II (r. c. 124–91 BC) later recovered the lands lost to the Saka in
Sakastan Sistān ( fa, سیستان), known in ancient times as Sakastān ( fa, سَكاستان, "the land of the Saka"), is a historical and Sistan Basin, geographical region in present-day Eastern Iran (Sistan and Baluchestan Province) and Southern ...
. Following the Seleucid withdrawal from Mesopotamia, the Parthian governor of Babylonia, Himerus, was ordered by the Arsacid court to conquer Characene, then ruled by
Hyspaosines Hyspaosines (also spelled Aspasine) was an Iranian Iranian may refer to: * Iran Iran ( fa, ایران ), also called Persia and officially the Islamic Republic of Iran ( fa, جمهوری اسلامی ایران ), is a country in Wes ...

Hyspaosines
from
Charax Spasinu , alternate_name = , image = Hyspaosines.jpg , alt = , caption = Hyspaosines (209–124 BC), founder and king of Characene, had his capital in Charax. , map_type = Iraq , map_alt = , map_size = 250 , location = Iraq Iraq ...
. When this failed, Hyspaosines invaded Babylonia in 127 BC and occupied Seleucia. Yet by 122 BC, Mithridates II forced Hyspaosines out of Babylonia and made the kings of Characene
vassal A vassal or liege subject is a person regarded as having a mutual obligation to a lord Lord is an appellation for a person or deity who has authority, control, or power (social and political), power over others, acting as a master, a chief ...
s under Parthian
suzerainty Suzerainty () is a relationship in which one state or other polity A polity is an identifiable political entity—any group of people who have a collective identity, who are organized by some form of Institutionalisation, institutionalized socia ...
. After Mithridates extended Parthian control further west, occupying
Dura-Europos Dura-Europos ( el, Δοῦρα Εὐρωπός) was a Hellenistic, Parthian Empire, Parthian and Ancient Rome, Roman border city built on an escarpment above the southwestern bank of the Euphrates river. It is located near the village of Al-Sal ...
in 113 BC, he became embroiled in a conflict with the
Kingdom of ArmeniaKingdom of Armenia may refer to: *Kingdom of Armenia (antiquity), also known as Artaxiad or Arsacid Armenia, 380 BC to AD 387/428 *Kingdom of Armenia (Middle Ages), also known as Bagratid Armenia, AD 885 to 1045 Other ancient Armenian kingdoms *Satr ...
. His forces defeated and deposed
Artavasdes I of Armenia Artavasdes I (also spelled Artawazd, hy, Արտավազդ Առաջին) was the Artaxiad king of Armenia Armenia (; hy, Հայաստան, translit=Hayastan, ), officially the Republic of Armenia,, is a landlocked country located in the Ar ...
in 97 BC, taking his son Tigranes hostage, who would later become Tigranes II "the Great" of Armenia (''r''. c. 95–55 BC). The
Indo-Parthian Kingdom The Indo-Parthian Kingdom was a Parthian kingdom founded by Gondophares, and active from 19 to c. 226 CE. At their zenith, they ruled an area covering parts of eastern Iran, various parts of Afghanistan and the northwest regions of the Indian sub ...
, located in modern-day Afghanistan and Pakistan made an alliance with the Parthian Empire in the 1st century BC. Bivar claims that these two states considered each other political equals. After the Greek philosopher
Apollonius of Tyana Apollonius of Tyana ( grc, Ἀπολλώνιος ὁ Τυανεύς; c. 3 BC – c. 97 AD), sometimes also called Apollonios of Tyana, was a Greeks, Greek Neopythagoreanism, Neopythagorean Ancient Greek philosophy, philosopher ...

Apollonius of Tyana
visited the court of
Vardanes I Vardanes I was a king of the Parthian Empire The Parthian Empire (), also known as the Arsacid Empire (), was a major Iranian political and cultural power in ancient Iran The history of Iran, which was commonly known until the mid-20th cent ...

Vardanes I
(''r''. c. 40–47 AD) in 42 AD, Vardanes provided him with the protection of a caravan as he traveled to Indo-Parthia. When Apollonius reached Indo-Parthia's capital
Taxila Taxila (from Pāli Pali () is a Middle Indo-AryanIndo-Aryan refers to: * Indo-Aryan languages ** Indo-Aryan superstrate in Mitanni or Mitanni-Aryan * Indo-Aryan peoples, the various peoples speaking these languages See also *Aryan inva ...
, his caravan leader read Vardanes' official letter, perhaps written in Parthian, to an Indian official who treated Apollonius with great hospitality. Following the diplomatic venture of
Zhang Qian Zhang Qian (; died c. 114) was a Chinese official and diplomat who served as an imperial envoy to the world outside of China in the late 2nd century BC during the Han dynasty. He was one of the first official diplomats to bring back valuable inf ...

Zhang Qian
into Central Asia during the reign of
Emperor Wu of Han Emperor Wu of Han (30 June 156 – 29 March 87BC), formally enshrined as Emperor Wu the Filial Filial may refer to: * Filial church, a Roman Catholic church to which is annexed the cure of souls, but which remains dependent on another church ...

Emperor Wu of Han
(''r''. 141–87 BC), the
Han Empire The Han dynasty () was the second imperial dynasty of China (202 BC – 220 AD), established by the rebel leader Liu Bang Emperor Gaozu of Han (256 – 1 June 195 BC), born Liu Bang () with courtesy name Ji (季), was the founder and f ...

Han Empire
of China sent a delegation to Mithridates II's court in 121 BC. The Han embassy opened official trade relations with Parthia via the
Silk Road The Silk Road () was and is a network of trade route A trade route is a logistical network identified as a series of pathways and stoppages used for the commercial transport of cargo. The term can also be used to refer to trade over bodies of ...

Silk Road
yet did not achieve a desired military alliance against the confederation of the Xiongnu. The Parthian Empire was enriched by taxing the Eurasian caravan trade in
silk Silk is a natural Nature, in the broadest sense, is the natural, physical, material world or universe The universe ( la, universus) is all of space and time and their contents, including planets, stars, galaxies, and all o ...
, the most highly priced luxury good imported by the Romans. Pearls were also a highly valued import from China, while the Chinese purchased Parthian spices, perfumes, and fruits. Exotic animals were also given as gifts from the Arsacid to Han courts; in 87 AD
Pacorus II of Parthia Pacorus II (also spelled Pakoros II; xpr, 𐭐𐭊𐭅𐭓) was the King of Kings of the Parthian Empire from 78 to 110. He was the son and successor of Vologases I of Parthia, Vologases I (). During the latter part of his father's reign, Pacoru ...
sent lions and Persian gazelles to
Emperor Zhang of Han Emperor Zhang of Han (; 56 – 9 April 88) , born Liu Da (), was an emperor An emperor (from la, imperator, via fro, empereor) is a monarch, and usually the sovereignty, sovereign ruler of an empire or another type of imperial realm. Empr ...
(''r''. 75–88 AD). Besides silk, Parthian goods purchased by Roman merchants included iron from India,
spices A spice is a seed A seed is an embryonic ''Embryonic'' is the twelfth studio album by experimental rock band the Flaming Lips released on October 13, 2009, on Warner Bros. Records, Warner Bros. The band's first double album, it was release ...
, and fine leather. Caravans traveling through the Parthian Empire brought West Asian and sometimes Roman luxury glasswares to China. The merchants of
Sogdia Sogdia () ( sog, soɣd) or Sogdiana was an ancient Iranian peoples, Iranian civilization between between the Amu Darya and the Syr Darya, and in present-day Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan. Sogdiana was also a province of the Ac ...
, speaking an
Eastern Iranian language The Eastern Iranian languages are a subgroup of the Iranian languages The Iranian or Iranic languages are a branch of the Indo-Iranian languages in the Indo-European languages, Indo-European language family that are spoken natively by the Ira ...
, served as the primary middlemen of this vital silk trade between Parthia and Han China.


Rome and Armenia

The Yuezhi
Kushan Empire The Kushan Empire ( grc, Βασιλεία Κοσσανῶν; xbc, Κυϸανο, kus, khasano, ; Brahmi script, Late Brahmi Sanskrit: , ', '; Devanagari sa, कुषाण राजवंश, ; Buddhist Hybrid Sanskrit, BHS: ; xpr, 𐭊 ...

Kushan Empire
in northern India largely guaranteed the security of Parthia's eastern border. Thus, from the mid-1st century BC onwards, the Arsacid court focused on securing the western border, primarily against Rome. A year following Mithridates II's subjugation of Armenia,
Lucius Cornelius Sulla Lucius Cornelius Sulla Felix (; 138–78 BC), commonly known as Sulla, was a Ancient Romans, Roman List of Roman generals, general and Politician, statesman. He won the first large-scale civil war in Roman history, and became the first man of Rom ...
, the Roman
proconsul A proconsul was an official of ancient Rome In historiography Historiography is the study of the methods of historian ( 484– 425 BC) was a Greek historian who lived in the 5th century BC and one of the earliest historians whose wo ...

proconsul
of
Cilicia Cilicia (); el, Κιλικία, ''Kilikía''; Middle Persian Middle Persian or Pahlavi, also known by its endonym Pārsīk or Pārsīg (𐭯𐭠𐭫𐭮𐭩𐭪) in its later form, is a Western Middle Iranian language which became the litera ...

Cilicia
, convened with the Parthian diplomat Orobazus at the
Euphrates The Euphrates () is the longest and one of the most historically important rivers of Western Asia. Tigris–Euphrates river system, Together with the Tigris, it is one of the two defining rivers of Mesopotamia (the "Land Between the Rivers"). Or ...
river. The two agreed that the river would serve as the border between Parthia and Rome, although several historians have argued that Sulla only had authority to communicate these terms back to Rome. Despite this agreement, in 93 or 92 BC Parthia fought a war in Syria against the tribal leader
LaodiceLaodice (meaning "people-justice") may refer to: Greek mythology *''see Laodice (Greek myth)'' *Laodice (daughter of Priam), a princess of Troy * Laodice, daughter of Agamemnon, sometimes conflated with Electra * Laodice, one of the Hyperborean mai ...
and her Seleucid ally
Antiochus X Eusebes Antiochus X Eusebes Philopator ( el, Ἀντίοχος Εὐσεβής Φιλοπάτωρ; –92 or 88 BC) was a Hellenistic period, Hellenistic Seleucid Empire, Seleucid monarch who reigned as the List of Syrian monarchs, King of Syria between ...

Antiochus X Eusebes
(''r''. 95–92? BC), killing the latter. When one of the last Seleucid monarchs,
Demetrius III Eucaerus Demetrius III Theos Philopator Soter Philometor Euergetes Callinicus ( grc, Δημήτριος θεός Φιλοπάτωρ σωτήρ Φιλομήτωρ Εὐεργέτης Καλλίνικος, surnamed Eucaerus; between 124 and 109 BCafter 87 ...
, attempted to besiege Beroea (modern
Aleppo )), is an adjective which means "white-colored mixed with black". , motto = , image_map = , mapsize = , map_caption = , image_map1 ...

Aleppo
), Parthia sent military aid to the inhabitants and Demetrius was defeated. Following the rule of Mithridates II, his son
Gotarzes I Gotarzes I ( xpr, 𐭂𐭅𐭕𐭓𐭆 ''Gōdarz'') was king of the Parthian Empire The Parthian Empire (), also known as the Arsacid Empire (), was a major political and cultural power in from 247 BC to 224 AD. Its latter name comes ...
succeeded him. He reigned during a period coined in scholarship as the "
Parthian Dark AgeThe so-called "Parthian Dark Age" refers to a period of three decades in the history of Parthian Empire between the death (or last years) of Mithridates II of Parthia, Mithridates II in 91 BC, and the accession to the throne of Orodes II of Parthia, ...
," due to the lack of clear information on the events of this period in the empire, except a series of, apparently overlapping, reigns. It is only with the beginning of the reign of
Orodes II Orodes II (also spelled Urud II; xpr, 𐭅𐭓𐭅𐭃 ''Wērōd''), was King of Kings King of Kings ( Akkadian: ''šar šarrāni''; Old Persian: ''Xšâyathiya Xšâyathiyânâm'';' Middle Persian: ''šāhān šāh'';' Modern Persian: ش ...
in , that the line of Parthian rulers can again be reliably traced. This system of split monarchy weakened Parthia, allowing Tigranes II of Armenia to annex Parthian territory in western Mesopotamia. This land would not be restored to Parthia until the reign of Sinatruces (''r''. c. 78–69 BC). Following the outbreak of the
Third Mithridatic War The Third Mithridatic War (73–63 BC), the last and longest of the three Mithridatic Wars The Mithridatic Wars were three conflicts fought by Rome , established_title = Founded , established_date = 753 BC , founder ...
,
Mithridates VI of Pontus Mithridates or Mithradates VI Eupator ( grc-gre, Μιθραδάτης; 135–63 BC) was ruler of the Kingdom of Pontus The Kingdom of Pontus ( grc, Βασιλεία τοῦ Πόντου, ''Basileía toû Póntou'') was a Hellenistic-era kingdo ...

Mithridates VI of Pontus
(''r''. 119–63 BC), an ally of Tigranes II of Armenia, requested aid from Parthia against Rome, but Sinatruces refused help. When the Roman commander
Lucullus Lucius Licinius Lucullus (; 118–57/56 BC) was an '' optimatis'' politician of the late Roman Republic, closely connected with Lucius Cornelius Sulla. In the culmination of over twenty years of almost continuous military and government service ...
marched against the Armenian capital
Tigranocerta__NOTOC__ Tigranocerta ( el, Τιγρανόκερτα, ''Tigranόkerta''; Tigranakert; hy, Տիգրանակերտ), also called Cholimma or Chlomaron in antiquity, was a city and the capital Capital most commonly refers to: * Capital letter ...
in 69 BC, Mithridates VI and Tigranes II requested the aid of
Phraates III Phraates III (also spelled Frahad III; xpr, 𐭐𐭓𐭇𐭕 ''Frahāt''), was King of Kings King of Kings ( Akkadian: ''šar šarrāni''; Old Persian: ''Xšâyathiya Xšâyathiyânâm'';' Middle Persian: ''šāhān šāh'';' Modern Persi ...
(''r''. c. 71–58). Phraates did not send aid to either, and after the fall of Tigranocerta he reaffirmed with Lucullus the Euphrates as the boundary between Parthia and Rome. Tigranes the Younger, son of Tigranes II of Armenia, failed to usurp the Armenian throne from his father. He fled to Phraates III and convinced him to march against Armenia's new capital at Artaxarta. When this siege failed, Tigranes the Younger once again fled, this time to the Roman commander
Pompey Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus (; 29 September 106 BC – 28 September 48 BC), known in English as Pompey or Pompey the Great, was a leading Roman Roman or Romans most often refers to: *, the capital city of Italy *, Roman civilization f ...
. He promised Pompey that he would act as a guide through Armenia, but, when Tigranes II submitted to Rome as a
client king A client state, in international relations, is a State (polity), state that is economically, politically, and/or militarily subordinate to another more powerful state (called “controlling state” in this article). A client state may variously be ...
, Tigranes the Younger was brought to Rome as a hostage. Phraates demanded Pompey return Tigranes the Younger to him, but Pompey refused. In retaliation, Phraates launched an invasion into
Corduene Corduene ('; '' hy, Կորճայք, translit=Korchayk''; '; ) was an ancient region located south of Lake Van, present-day eastern Turkey Turkey ( tr, Türkiye ), officially the Republic of Turkey, is a country straddling Southeastern Eu ...
(southeastern Turkey) where, according to two conflicting Roman accounts, the Roman consul Lucius Afranius forced the Parthians out by either military or diplomatic means. Phraates III was assassinated by his sons
Orodes II of Parthia Orodes II (also spelled Urud II; xpr, 𐭅𐭓𐭅𐭃 ''Wērōd''), was King of Kings of the Parthian Empire The Parthian Empire (), also known as the Arsacid Empire (), was a major Iranian political and cultural power in ancient Iran The ...
and
Mithridates IV of Parthia Mithridates IV (also spelled Mithradates IV; xpr, 𐭌𐭄𐭓𐭃𐭕 ''Mihrdāt'') was a Parthian king from to 57 to 54 BC. He was the son and successor of Phraates III (). Mithridates IV's reign was marked by a dynastic struggle with his youn ...

Mithridates IV of Parthia
, after which Orodes turned on Mithridates, forcing him to flee from Media to
Roman Syria Roman Syria was an early Roman province The Roman provinces (Latin: ''provincia'', pl. ''provinciae'') were the administrative regions of Ancient Rome outside Roman Italy that were controlled by the Romans under the Roman Republic and later ...
.
Aulus Gabinius Aulus Gabinius (by 101 BC – 48 or 47 BC) was a Roman Roman or Romans usually refers to: *Rome, the capital city of Italy *Ancient Rome, Roman civilization from 8th century BC to 5th century AD *Roman people, the people of ancient Rome *''Epis ...

Aulus Gabinius
, the Roman proconsul of Syria, marched in support of Mithridates to the Euphrates, but had to turn back to aid
Ptolemy XII Auletes Ptolemy XII Neos Dionysos Philopator Philadelphos ( grc-koi, Πτολεμαῖος Νέος Διόνυσος Φιλοπάτωρ Φιλάδελφος, ; – before 22 March 51 BC) was a Pharaoh of the Ptolemaic dynasty The Ptolemaic dynasty ...

Ptolemy XII Auletes
(''r''. 80–58; 55–51 BC) against a rebellion in Egypt. Despite losing his Roman support, Mithridates managed to conquer Babylonia, and minted coins at Seleucia until 54 BC. In that year, Orodes' general, known only as
Surena Surena or Suren, also known as Rustaham Suren (died 53 BC) was a Parthian Empire, Parthian ''spahbed'' ("general" or "commander") during the 1st century BC. He was the leader of the House of Suren and was best known for defeating the Romans in th ...
after his noble family's clan name, recaptured Seleucia, and Mithridates was executed.
Marcus Licinius Crassus Marcus Licinius Crassus (; 115 – 53 BC) was a general and statesman who played a key role in the transformation of the into the . He is often called "the richest man in Rome." & .. Trivia-Library. '. 1975–1981. Web. 23 December 2009."Ofte ...

Marcus Licinius Crassus
, one of the
triumvirs A triumvirate ( la, triumvirātus) or a triarchy is a political institution ruled or dominated by three powerful individuals known as triumvirs ( la, triumviri). The arrangement can be formal or informal. Though the three are notionally equal, ...
, who was now proconsul of Syria, invaded Parthia in 53 BC in belated support of Mithridates. As his army marched to Carrhae (modern
Harran Ḥarrān, also known as Carrhae, was a major ancient city A city is a large human settlement.Goodall, B. (1987) ''The Penguin Dictionary of Human Geography''. London: Penguin.Kuper, A. and Kuper, J., eds (1996) ''The Social Science Encyclop ...

Harran
, southeastern Turkey), Orodes II invaded Armenia, cutting off support from Rome's ally
Artavasdes II of Armenia Artavasdes II ( hy, Արտավազդ Երկրորդ, grc, ΑΡΤΑΒΑΖΔΟΥ ''Artabázēs'') was king of Armenia Armenia (; hy, Հայաստան, translit=Hayastan, ), officially the Republic of Armenia,, is a landlocked country located ...
(''r''. 53–34 BC). Orodes persuaded Artavasdes to a marriage alliance between the crown prince
Pacorus I of Parthia Pacorus I (also spelled Pakoros I; xpr, 𐭐𐭊𐭅𐭓; died 38 BC) was a Parthian Empire, Parthian prince, who was the son of King Orodes II. It is possible that Pacorus was co-ruler with his father for at least part of his father's reign. His w ...
(d. 38 BC) and Artavasdes' sister. Surena, with an army entirely on horseback, rode to meet Crassus. Surena's 1,000
cataphract A cataphract was a form of armored heavy cavalry 300px, Spanish Heavy Cavalry - Royal Armoury of Madrid, Spain ">Spain.html" ;"title="Royal Armoury of Madrid, Spain">Royal Armoury of Madrid, Spain Heavy cavalry was a class of cavalry ...
s (armed with lances) and 9,000
horse archer A horse archer is a cavalryman armed with a Bow (weapon), bow and able to shoot while riding from horseback. Archery has occasionally been used from the backs of other riding animals. In large open areas, it was a highly successful technique for ...
s were outnumbered roughly four to one by Crassus' army, comprising seven
Roman legion The Roman legion ( la, legiō, ) was the largest military unit of the Roman army The Roman army (: ) was the armed forces deployed by the Romans throughout the duration of , from the (to c. 500 BC) to the (500–31 BC) and the (31 BC– ...

Roman legion
s and auxiliaries including mounted
Gaul Gaul ( la, Gallia) was a region of Western Europe Western Europe is the western region of Europe Europe is a continent A continent is any of several large landmasses. Generally identified by convention (norm), convention rat ...

Gaul
s and light infantry. Using a baggage train of about 1,000 camels, the Parthian army provided the horse archers with a constant supply of arrows. The horse archers employed the "
Parthian shot The Parthian shot is a light horse hit and run military tactic made famous by the Parthians, an ancient Iranian people. While performing a real or feigned retreat at full gallop, their horse archers would turn their bodies back to shoot at ...
" tactic: feigning retreat to draw enemy out, then turning and shooting at them when exposed. This tactic, executed with heavy
composite bow A composite bow is a traditional bow Bow often refers to: * Bow and arrow, a weapon * Bowing, bending the upper body as a social gesture * An ornamental knot made of ribbon Bow may also refer to: Boats * Bow (ship), the foremost part * Bow (ro ...
s on the flat plain, devastated Crassus' infantry. With some 20,000 Romans dead, approximately 10,000 captured, and roughly another 10,000 escaping west, Crassus fled into the Armenian countryside. At the head of his army, Surena approached Crassus, offering a
parley A parley (from french: parler – "to speak") refers to a discussion Conversation is interactive communication Communication (from Latin ''communicare'', meaning "to share") is the act of developing Semantics, meaning among Subject (ph ...

parley
, which Crassus accepted. However, he was killed when one of his junior officers, suspecting a trap, attempted to stop him from riding into Surena's camp. Crassus' defeat at Carrhae was one of the worst military defeats of Roman history. Parthia's victory cemented its reputation as a formidable if not equal power with Rome. With his camp followers, war captives, and precious Roman booty, Surena traveled some 700 km (430 mi) back to Seleucia where his victory was celebrated. However, fearing his ambitions even for the Arsacid throne, Orodes had Surena executed shortly thereafter. Emboldened by the victory over Crassus, the Parthians attempted to capture Roman-held territories in
Western Asia Western Asia, West Asia, or Southwest Asia, is the westernmost subregion of the larger geographical region of Asia, as defined by some academics, UN bodies and other institutions. It is almost entirely a part of the Middle East, and includes Anat ...

Western Asia
.
Crown prince A crown prince or hereditary prince is the heir apparent An heir apparent is a person who is first in an order of succession An order of succession or right of succession is the line of individuals entitled to hold a high office when i ...

Crown prince
Pacorus I and his commander Osaces raided Syria as far as Antioch in 51 BC, but were repulsed by
Gaius Cassius Longinus Gaius Cassius Longinus (3 October, c. 86 BC – 3 October 42 BC), often referred to as simply Cassius, was a Roman Roman or Romans usually refers to: *Rome, the capital city of Italy *Ancient Rome, Roman civilization from 8th century BC to 5th ...

Gaius Cassius Longinus
, who ambushed and killed Osaces. The Arsacids sided with Pompey in and even sent troops to support the anti-Caesarian forces at the
Battle of Philippi The Battle of Philippi was the final battle in the Wars of the Second Triumvirate between the forces of Mark Antony Marcus Antonius (14 January 1 August 30 BC), commonly known in English as Mark Antony, was a Ancient Rome, Roman poli ...
in 42 BC.
Quintus Labienus Quintus Labienus Parthicus (died 39 BC) was a Roman general in the Late Republic A republic ( la, res publica, links=yes, meaning "public affair") is a List of forms of government, form of government in which "power is held by the people and t ...

Quintus Labienus
, a general loyal to Cassius and
Brutus Marcus Junius Brutus (; 85 BC – 23 October 42 BC), often referred to simply as Brutus, was a Roman senator and the most famous of assassination of Julius Caesar, the assassins of Julius Caesar. After being adopted by Quintus Servilius Caepio (u ...
, sided with Parthia against the
Second Triumvirate The Second Triumvirate (43–32 BC) was a political alliance formed after the Roman dictator Julius Caesar Gaius Julius Caesar (; 12 July 100 BC – 15 March 44 BC) was a Roman Roman or Romans most often refers to: *, the capital city o ...
in 40 BC; the following year he invaded Syria alongside Pacorus I.; ; The triumvir
Mark Antony Marcus Antonius (14 January 1 August 30 BC), commonly known in English as Mark Antony, was a Ancient Rome, Roman politician and general who played a critical role in the Crisis of the Roman Republic, transformation of the Roman Republic f ...
was unable to lead the Roman defense against Parthia due to his departure to Italy, where he amassed his forces to confront his rival
Octavian Caesar Augustus (23 September 63 BC19 August AD 14) was the first Roman emperor, reigning from 27 BC until his death in AD 14. His status as the founder of the Roman Principate (the first phase of the Roman Empire) has consolidated ...
and eventually conducted negotiations with him at Brundisium. After Syria was occupied by Pacorus' army, Labienus split from the main Parthian force to invade
Anatolia Anatolia,, tr, Anadolu Yarımadası), and the Anatolian plateau. also known as Asia Minor, is a large peninsula in Western Asia and the westernmost protrusion of the Asian continent. It makes up the majority of modern-day Turkey. The region ...
while Pacorus and his commander
Barzapharnes Barzapharnes was a Parthian general A general officer is an officer of high rank in the armies, and in some nations' air forces, space forces, or marines Marines or naval infantry, are typically a military force trained to operate o ...
invaded the Roman
Levant The Levant () is an term referring to a large area in the region of . In its narrowest sense, it is equivalent to the , which included present-day , , , , and most of southwest of the middle . In its widest historical sense, the Levant ...

Levant
. They subdued all settlements along the Mediterranean coast as far south as Ptolemais (modern
Acre, Israel Acre ( or ), known locally as Akko ( he, עַכּוֹ, ''ʻAkkō'') or Akka ( ar, عكّا, ''ʻAkkā''), is a List of cities in Israel, city in the coastal plain region of the Northern District (Israel), Northern District of Israel. The city ...
), with the lone exception of
Tyre Tyre may refer to: * Tire, the outer part of a wheel Places * Tyre, Lebanon, a city ** See of Tyre, a Christian diocese seated in Tyre, Lebanon ** Tyre Hippodrome, a UNESCO World Heritage site * Tyre District, Lebanon * Tyre, New York, a town in t ...
. In
Judea Judea or Judaea ( or ; from he, יהודה, Hebrew language#Modern Hebrew, Standard ''Yəhūda'', Tiberian vocalization, Tiberian ''Yehūḏā''; el, Ἰουδαία, ; la, Iūdaea) is the ancient, historic, Biblical Hebrew, contemporaneous ...

Judea
, the pro-Roman Jewish forces of high priest
Hyrcanus II John Hyrcanus II (, ''Yohanan Hurqanos'') (died 30 BCE), a member of the Hasmonean dynasty, was for a long time the Jewish Jews ( he, יְהוּדִים ISO 259-2ISO The International Organization for Standardization (ISO; ) is an i ...

Hyrcanus II
,
PhasaelPhasael (died 40 BC; , ''Faṣā'ēl''; Latin: Phasaelus; from , ''Phasaelos''), was a prince from the Herodian Dynasty of Judea. Origins and early career Phasael was born in the Hasmonean Kingdom to a Jewish aristocratic family of Edomite descent. ...
, and Herod were defeated by the Parthians and their Jewish ally
Antigonus II Mattathias Antigonus II Mattathias ( he, מתתיהו אנטיגונוס השני, Matityahu), also known as Antigonus the Hasmonean (died 37 BCE) was the last Hasmonean dynasty, Hasmonean king of Judea. A puppet king installed by the Parthian Empire, Parthia ...

Antigonus II Mattathias
(r. 40–37 BC); the latter was made king of Judea while Herod fled to his fort at
Masada Masada ( he, מצדה ', "fortress") is an ancient fortification in the Southern District (Israel), Southern District of Israel situated on top of an isolated rock plateau, akin to a mesa. It is located on the eastern edge of the Judaean Desert, ...

Masada
. Despite these successes, the Parthians were soon driven out of the Levant by a Roman counteroffensive.
Publius Ventidius BassusPublius Ventidius Bassus was a Roman general A general officer is an officer of high rank in the armies, and in some nations' air forces, space forces, or marines Marines or naval infantry, are typically a military force trained to ope ...
, an officer under Mark Antony, defeated and then executed Labienus at the
Battle of the Cilician Gates } The Battle of the Cilician Gates in 39 BC was a decisive victory for the Roman general Publius Ventidius BassusPublius Ventidius Bassus was a Roman general A general officer is an officer of high rank in the armies, and in some nations' ...
(in modern
Mersin Province Mersin Province ( tr, ), formerly İçel Province ( tr, ), is a Provinces of Turkey, province in southern Turkey, on the Mediterranean Sea, Mediterranean coast between Antalya Province, Antalya and Adana Province, Adana. The provincial capital ...
, Turkey) in 39 BC.; ; ; Shortly afterward, a Parthian force in Syria led by general Pharnapates was defeated by Ventidius at the
Battle of Amanus Pass A battle is an occurrence of combat in warfare War is an intense armed conflict between states, government A government is the system or group of people governing an organized community, generally a State (polity), state. ...
. As a result, Pacorus I temporarily withdrew from Syria. When he returned in the spring of 38 BC, he faced Ventidius at the
Battle of Mount Gindarus The Battle of Mount Gindarus or battle of Cyrrhestica in 38 BC was a decisive victory for the Roman general Publius Ventidius Bassus over the Parthian army of Pacorus, son of King Orodes, in the Greater Syria district of Cyrrhestica. Synop ...
, northeast of Antioch. Pacorus was killed during the battle, and his forces retreated across the Euphrates. His death spurred a succession crisis in which Orodes II chose
Phraates IV Phraates IV (also spelled Frahad IV; xpr, 𐭐𐭓𐭇𐭕 ''Frahāt''), was King of Kings of the Parthian Empire from 37 to 2 BC. He was the son and successor of Orodes II (), and was given the throne after the death of his brother Pacorus I of ...
(''r''. c. 38–2 BC) as his new heir. Upon assuming the throne, Phraates IV eliminated rival claimants by killing and exiling his own brothers. One of them, Monaeses, fled to Antony and convinced him to invade Parthia. Antony defeated Parthia's Judaean ally Antigonus in 37 BC, installing Herod as a client king in his place. The following year, when Antony marched to , Artavasdes II of Armenia once again switched alliances by sending Antony additional troops. Antony invaded Media
Atropatene Atropatene ( peo, Ātṛpātakāna; grc, Aτροπατηνή), also known as Media Atropatene, was an ancient kingdom established in by the Persian satrap Atropates. The kingdom, centered in present-day northern Iran, was ruled by Atropates' d ...
(modern
Iranian Azerbaijan Azerbaijan or Azarbaijan ( fa, آذربایجان, ''Āzarbāijān'' ; az-Arab, آذربایجان, ''Āzerbāyjān'' ), also known as Iranian Azerbaijan, is a historical region in northwestern Iran Iran ( fa, ایران ), also ...

Iranian Azerbaijan
), then ruled by Parthia's ally
Artavasdes I of Media Atropatene Artavasdes I of Media Atropatene, also known as Artavasdes I of Atropatene, Artavasdes I and Artavasdes (before or about 59 BC-about 20 BC) was a Prince who served as a King of Media Atropatene. Artavasdes I was an enemy of King Artavasdes II of A ...
, with the intention of seizing the capital Praaspa, the location of which is now unknown. However, Phraates IV ambushed Antony's rear detachment, destroying a giant
battering ram A battering ram is a siege engine A siege engine is a device that is designed to break or circumvent heavy castle doors, thick city wall A defensive wall is a fortification A fortification is a military construction or building ...

battering ram
meant for the siege of Praaspa; after this, Artavasdes II abandoned Antony's forces. The Parthians pursued and harassed Antony's army as it fled to Armenia. Eventually, the greatly weakened force reached Syria. Antony lured Artavasdes II into a trap with the promise of a marriage alliance. He was taken captive in 34 BC, paraded in Antony's mock
Roman triumph The Roman triumph (') was a civil ceremonyA civil, or registrar, ceremony is a non-religious legal marriage in Stockholm Marriage, also called matrimony or wedlock, is a culturally recognised union between people, called spouses, tha ...
in
Alexandria Alexandria ( or ; ar, الإسكندرية ; arz, اسكندرية ; Coptic language, Coptic: Rakodī; el, Αλεξάνδρεια ''Alexandria'') is the List of cities and towns in Egypt, third-largest city in Egypt after Cairo and Giza, ...

Alexandria
, Egypt, and eventually executed by
Cleopatra VII Cleopatra VII Philopator ( grc-gre, Κλεοπάτρα Φιλοπάτωρ}; 69 BC10 August 30 BC) was queen of the Ptolemaic Kingdom of Ancient Egypt, Egypt from 51 to 30 BC, and its last active ruler.She was also a diplomat, Ancient ...
of the
Ptolemaic Kingdom The Ptolemaic Kingdom (; grc-koi, Πτολεμαϊκὴ βασιλεία, Ptolemaïkḕ basileía) was an Ancient Greek Ancient Greek includes the forms of the Greek language used in ancient Greece and the classical antiquity, ancient w ...
. Antony attempted to strike an alliance with Artavasdes I of Media Atropatene, whose relations with Phraates IV had recently soured. This was abandoned when Antony and his forces withdrew from Armenia in 33 BC; they escaped a Parthian invasion while Antony's rival Octavian attacked his forces to the west. After the defeat and suicides of Antony and Cleopatra in 30 BC, Parthian ally
Artaxias II Artaxias II,Temporini, ''Politische Geschichte (Provinzen Und Randv Lker: Griechischer Balkanraum; Kleinasien): Griechischer Balkanraum; Kleinasien)'', p.979 also known as Artaxes IIDaryaee, ''The Oxford Handbook of Iranian History'', p.173 and Arta ...

Artaxias II
reassumed the throne of Armenia.


Peace with Rome, court intrigue and contact with Chinese generals

Following the defeat and deaths of Antony and
Cleopatra Cleopatra VII Philopator ( grc-gre, Κλεοπάτρα Φιλοπάτωρ}; 69 BC10 August 30 BC) was queen of the Ptolemaic Kingdom of Ancient Egypt, Egypt from 51 to 30 BC, and its last active ruler.She was also a diplomat, Ancient ...
of
Ptolemaic Egypt The Ptolemaic Kingdom (; grc-koi, Πτολεμαϊκὴ βασιλεία, Ptolemaïkḕ basileía) was an Ancient Greek Ancient Greek includes the forms of the used in and the from around 1500 BC to 300 BC. It is often roughly divi ...
after the
Battle of Actium The Battle of Actium was a naval battle in the last war of the Roman Republic The War of Actium (32–30 BC) was the last civil war A civil war, also known as an intrastate war in polemology, is a war between organized groups within ...
in 31 BC, Octavian consolidated his political power and in 27 BC was named
Augustus Caesar Augustus (23 September 63 BC19 August AD 14) was the first Roman emperor The Roman emperor was the ruler of the Roman Empire during the imperial period (starting in 27 BC). The emperors used a variety of different titles through ...

Augustus
by the , becoming the first
Roman emperor The Roman emperor was the ruler of the Roman Empire The Roman Empire ( la, Imperium Rōmānum ; grc-gre, Βασιλεία τῶν Ῥωμαίων, Basileía tôn Rhōmaíōn) was the post-Republican Republican can refer to: Politica ...
. Around this time,
Tiridates II of Parthia Coin of Tiridates II Tiridates II of Parthia was set up by the Parthians against Phraates IV of Parthia, Phraates IV in about 32 BC, but was expelled when Phraates returned with the help of the Scythians. Tiridates fled to Syria, where Augustus Cae ...
briefly overthrew Phraates IV, who was able to quickly reestablish his rule with the aid of Scythian nomads. Tiridates fled to the Romans, taking one of Phraates' sons with him. In negotiations conducted in 20 BC, Phraates arranged for the release of his kidnapped son. In return, the Romans received the lost legionary standards taken at Carrhae in 53 BC, as well as any surviving prisoners of war. The Parthians viewed this exchange as a small price to pay to regain the prince. Augustus hailed the return of the standards as a political victory over Parthia; this propaganda was celebrated in the minting of new coins, the building of a new temple to house the standards, and even in fine art such as the
breastplate A breastplate or chestplate is a device worn over the torso to protect it from injury, as an item of religious significance, or as an item of status. A breastplate is sometimes worn by mythological beings as a distinctive item of clothing. Europ ...
scene on his statue
Augustus of Prima Porta Augustus of Prima Porta ( it, Augusto di Prima Porta) is a full-length portrait statue of Augustus, Augustus Caesar, the first emperor of the Roman Empire. The marble statue stands 2.08 meters tall and weighs 1,000 kg. The statue was discovere ...
. Along with the prince, Augustus also gave Phraates IV an Italian slave-girl, who later became Queen
Musa of Parthia Musa (also spelled Mousa), also known as Thea Musa, was a ruling queen of the Parthian Empire The Parthian Empire (), also known as the Arsacid Empire (), was a major political and cultural power in from 247 BC to 224 AD. Its latte ...
. To ensure that her child Phraataces would inherit the throne without incident, Musa convinced Phraates IV to give his other sons to Augustus as hostages. Again, Augustus used this as propaganda depicting the submission of Parthia to Rome, listing it as a great accomplishment in his ''
Res Gestae Divi Augusti ''Res Gestae Divi Augusti'' (Eng. ''The Deeds of the Divine Augustus'') is a monumental inscription composed by the first Roman emperor The Roman Emperor was the ruler of the Roman Empire during the History of the Roman Empire, imperial period ...

Res Gestae Divi Augusti
''. When Phraataces took the throne as
Phraates V Phraates V ( xpr, 𐭐𐭓𐭇𐭕 ''Frahāt''), also known by the diminutive A diminutive is a root word that has been modified to convey a slighter degree of its root meaning, to convey the smallness of the object or quality named, or to conv ...
(''r''. c. 2 BC – 4 AD), Musa ruled alongside him, and according to
Josephus Flavius Josephus (; grc-gre, Ἰώσηπος, ; 37 – 100) was a first-century and military leader, best known for ', who was born in —then part of —to a father of descent and a mother who claimed royal ancestry. He initially fought a ...

Josephus
, married him. The Parthian nobility, disapproving of the notion of a king with non-Arsacid blood, forced the pair into exile in Roman territory. Phraates' successor
Orodes III of Parthia Orodes III (also spelled Urud III; xpr, 𐭅𐭓𐭅𐭃 ''Wērōd'') was king of the Parthian Empire The Parthian Empire (), also known as the Arsacid Empire (), was a major Iranian political and cultural power in ancient Iran The history o ...
lasted just two years on the throne, and was followed by
Vonones I Vonones I ( ''Onōnēs'' on his coins) was an Arsacid prince, who ruled as King of Kings King of Kings ( Akkadian: ''šar šarrāni''; Old Persian: ''Xšâyathiya Xšâyathiyânâm'';' Middle Persian: ''šāhān šāh'';' Modern Persian: ...

Vonones I
, who had adopted many Roman mannerisms during time in Rome. The Parthian nobility, angered by Vonones' sympathies for the Romans, backed a rival claimant,
Artabanus II of Parthia Artabanus II (also spelled Artabanos II or Ardawan II; xpr, 𐭍𐭐𐭕𐭓 ''Ardawān''), incorrectly known in older scholarship as Artabanus III, was King of Kings of the Parthian Empire from 12 to 38/41, with a one-year interruption. He was th ...
(''r''. c. 10–38 AD), who eventually defeated Vonones and drove him into exile in Roman Syria. During the reign of Artabanus II, two Jewish commoners and brothers, Anilai and Asinai from
Nehardea Nehardea or Nehardeah ( arc, נהרדעא, ''nəhardəʿā'' "river of knowledge") was a city from the area called by ancient Jewish sources Talmudic Academies in Babylonia#Geographic area, Babylonia, situated at or near the junction of the Euphra ...
(near modern
Fallujah Fallujah ( ar, ٱلْفَلُّوجَة, al-Fallūjah, Iraqi pronunciation: ) is a city in the Iraqi province A province is almost always an administrative division Administrative division, administrative unitArticle 3(1). , countr ...
, Iraq), led a revolt against the Parthian governor of Babylonia. After defeating the latter, the two were granted the right to govern the region by Artabanus II, who feared further rebellion elsewhere. Anilai's Parthian wife poisoned Asinai out of fear he would attack Anilai over his marriage to a
gentile Gentile () is a word that usually means "someone who is not a Jews, Jew". Other groups claiming affiliation with Israelites, groups that claim Israelite heritage sometimes use the term ''gentile'' to describe outsiders, notably Mormons. More ...

gentile
. Following this, Anilai became embroiled in an armed conflict with a son-in-law of Artabanus, who eventually defeated him. With the Jewish regime removed, the native Babylonians began to harass the local Jewish community, forcing them to emigrate to Seleucia. When that city rebelled against Parthian rule in 35–36 AD, the Jews were expelled again, this time by the local
Greeks The Greeks or Hellenes (; el, Έλληνες, ''Éllines'' ) are an ethnic group An ethnic group or ethnicity is a grouping of people A people is any plurality of person A person (plural people or persons) is a being that has cer ...

Greeks
and
Aramaeans The Arameans (: 𐤀𐤓𐤌𐤉𐤀; : Ἀραμαῖοι; : ܐܪ̈ܡܝܐ / Ārāmāyē) were an ancient people in the , first recorded in historical sources from the late 12th century . Aramean homeland was known as the land of , encompassing ...
. The exiled Jews fled to Ctesiphon, Nehardea, and
Nisibis Nusaybin (; '; ar, نُصَيْبِيْن, translit=Nuṣaybīn; syr, ܢܨܝܒܝܢ, translit=Nṣībīn), historically known as Nisibis () or Nesbin, is a city in Mardin Province Mardin Province ( tr, Mardin ili, ku, Parêzgeha Mêrdînê, ...
. Although at peace with Parthia, Rome still interfered in its affairs. The Roman emperor
Tiberius Tiberius Caesar Augustus (; 16 November 42 BC – 16 March AD 37) was the second Roman emperor The Roman emperor was the ruler of the Roman Empire during the imperial period (starting in 27 BC). The emperors used a variety of different titl ...

Tiberius
(r. 14–37 AD) became involved in a plot by
Pharasmanes I of Iberia Pharasmanes I ( ka, ფარსმან I) (died 58) was a king of Iberia The Iberian Peninsula , ** * Aragonese language, Aragonese and Occitan language, Occitan: ''Peninsula Iberica'' ** ** * french: Péninsule Ibérique * mwl, Pení ...
to place his brother Mithridates on the throne of Armenia by assassinating the Parthian ally King Arsaces of Armenia. Artabanus II tried and failed to restore Parthian control of Armenia, prompting an aristocratic revolt that forced him to flee to
Scythia Scythia (, ; from Greek#REDIRECT Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially the Hellenic Republic, is a country located in Southeast Europe. Its population is appro ...
. The Romans released a hostage prince,
Tiridates III of Parthia Tiridates III of Parthia ( fa, تيرداد سوم), ruled the Parthian Empire The Parthian Empire (), also known as the Arsacid Empire (), was a major Iranian political and cultural power in ancient Iran The history of Iran, which was common ...
, to rule the region as an ally of Rome. Shortly before his death, Artabanus managed to force Tiridates from the throne using troops from Hyrcania. After Artabanus' death in 38 AD, a long civil war ensued between the rightful successor
Vardanes I Vardanes I was a king of the Parthian Empire The Parthian Empire (), also known as the Arsacid Empire (), was a major Iranian political and cultural power in ancient Iran The history of Iran, which was commonly known until the mid-20th cent ...

Vardanes I
and his brother Gotarzes II. After Vardanes was assassinated during a hunting expedition, the Parthian nobility appealed to Roman emperor
Claudius Claudius ( ; Tiberius Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus; 1 August 10 BC – 13 October AD 54) was the fourth Roman emperor The Roman emperor was the ruler of the Roman Empire during the History of the Roman Empire, imperial p ...

Claudius
(''r''. 41–54 AD) in 49 AD to release the hostage prince Meherdates to challenge Gotarzes. This backfired when Meherdates was betrayed by the governor of
Edessa Edessa (; grc, Ἔδεσσα, Édessa) was an ancient city (''polis'') in Upper Mesopotamia, founded during the Hellenistic period by King Seleucus I Nicator (), founder of the Seleucid Empire. It later became capital of the Kingdom of Osroene ...
and
Izates bar Monobaz Map of the Kingdom of Adiabene in ca 37 CE, during the reign of Izates II Izates II (Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially the Hellenic Republic, is a country loc ...
of
Adiabene Adiabene (from the Ancient Greek , ''Adiabene'', itself derived from syc, ܚܕܝܐܒ, ' or ', Middle Persian: ''Nodshēragān'', Armenian language, Armenian: Նոր Շիրական, ''Nor Shirakan'', Hebrew: ''חדייב'', ''Hadaiav'') was an anci ...
; he was captured and sent to Gotarzes, where he was allowed to live after having his ears mutilated, an act that disqualified him from inheriting the throne. In 97 AD, the Chinese general
Ban Chao Ban Chao (; 32–102 CE), courtesy name Zhongsheng, was a Chinese military general, explorer and diplomat of the Eastern Han Dynasty. He was born in Fufeng (region), Fufeng, now Xianyang, Shaanxi. Three of his family members—father Ban Biao, el ...
, the Protector-General of the Western Regions, sent his emissary
Gan Ying Gan Ying (), was a Chinese military ambassador An ambassador is an official envoy, especially a high-ranking diplomat who represents a state and is usually accredited to another sovereign state or to an international organization as the resi ...
on a diplomatic mission to reach the Roman Empire. Gan visited the court of
Pacorus II Pacorus II (also spelled Pakoros II; ) was the King of Kings King of Kings was a ruling title employed primarily by monarchs based in the Middle East. Though most commonly associated with History of Iran, Iran (historically known as name o ...

Pacorus II
at Hecatompylos before departing towards Rome. He traveled as far west as the
Persian Gulf The Persian Gulf ( fa, خلیج فارس, translit=xalij-e fârs, lit=Gulf of , ) is a in . The body of water is an extension of the () through the and lies between to the northeast and the to the southwest.United Nations Group of Exper ...
, where Parthian authorities convinced him that an arduous sea voyage around the
Arabian Peninsula The Arabian Peninsula (; ar, شِبْهُ الْجَزِيرَةِ الْعَرَبِيَّة, , "Arabian Peninsula" or , , "Island of the Arabs") is a peninsula of Western Asia, situated northeast of Africa on the Arabian Plate. At , the ...
was the only means to reach Rome. Discouraged by this, Gan Ying returned to the Han court and provided
Emperor He of Han Emperor He of Han (; 79 – 13 February 106) was an emperor of the Chinese Han dynasty The Han dynasty () was the second Dynasties in Chinese history, imperial dynasty of China (202 BC – 220 AD), established by the rebel leader Liu Ban ...
(''r''. 88–105 AD) with a detailed report on the Roman Empire based on oral accounts of his Parthian hosts. William Watson speculates that the Parthians would have been relieved at the failed efforts by the Han Empire to open diplomatic relations with Rome, especially after Ban Chao's military victories against the
Xiongnu The Xiongnu (, ) were a tribal confederation A confederation (also known as a confederacy or league) is a union of sovereign groups or states united for purposes of common action. Usually created by a treaty A treaty is a formal ...

Xiongnu
in eastern Central Asia. However, Chinese records maintain that a Roman embassy, perhaps only a group of Roman merchants, arrived at the Han capital
Luoyang Luoyang is a city located in the confluence area of Luo River and Yellow River The Yellow River (Chinese: , Jin Chinese, Jin: uə xɔ Standard Beijing Mandarin, Mandarin: ''Huáng hé'' ) is the second-longest river in China, afte ...

Luoyang
by way of
Jiaozhi Jiaozhi (standard Chinese Standard Chinese (), in linguistics known as Standard Northern Mandarin, Standard Beijing Mandarin or simply Mandarin, is a dialect of Mandarin that emerged as the lingua franca among the speakers of various Man ...
(northern
Vietnam Vietnam ( vi, Việt Nam, ), officially the Socialist Republic of Vietnam,, group="n" is a country in Southeast Asia Southeast Asia, also spelled South East Asia and South-East Asia, and also known as Southeastern Asia or SEA, is the ...

Vietnam
) in 166 AD, during the reigns of
Marcus Aurelius Marcus Aurelius Antoninus ( ; 26 April 121 – 17 March 180) was a Roman emperor The Roman emperor was the ruler of the Roman Empire during the History of the Roman Empire, imperial period (starting in 27 BC). The emperors used a vari ...

Marcus Aurelius
(''r''. 161–180 AD) and
Emperor Huan of Han Emperor Huan of Han (; 132 – 25 January 168) was the 27th emperor An emperor (from la, imperator, via fro, empereor) is a monarch, and usually the sovereignty, sovereign ruler of an empire or another type of imperial realm. Empress, the ...
(''r''. 146–168 AD). Although it could be coincidental, Roman golden
medal A medal or medallion is a small portable artistic object, a thin disc, normally of metal, carrying a design, usually on both sides. They typically have a commemorative purpose of some kind, and many are given as awards. They may be intend ...

medal
lions dated to the reigns of Marcus Aurelius and his predecessor
Antoninus Pius Antoninus Pius (; la, Antōnīnus Pius ; 19 September 86 – 7 March 161) was Roman emperor The Roman emperor was the ruler of the Roman Empire during the History of the Roman Empire, imperial period (starting in 27 BC). The emper ...

Antoninus Pius
have been discovered at , Vietnam (among other Roman artefacts in the
Mekong Delta The Mekong Delta ( vi, Đồng bằng Sông Cửu Long, literally ''Nine Dragon river delta'' or simply vi, Đồng Bằng Sông Mê Kông, "Mekong river delta"), also known as the Western Region ( vi, Miền Tây) or South-western region ( vi ...

Mekong Delta
), a site that is one of the suggested locations for the port city of " Cattigara" along the ''
Magnus Sinus The Magnus Sinus or Sinus Magnus (Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, known as Latium. Through the po ...
'' (i.e.
Gulf of Thailand The Gulf of Thailand, also known as the Gulf of Siam, is a shallow inlet in the southwestern South China Sea The South China Sea is a of the . It is bounded in the north by the shores of (hence the name), in the west by the , in the east ...

Gulf of Thailand
and
South China Sea The South China Sea is a marginal sea This is a list of seas of the World Ocean The ocean (also the sea or the world ocean) is the body of Saline water, salt water that covers approximately 70.8% of the surface of Earth and contains 97 ...

South China Sea
) in
Ptolemy Claudius Ptolemy (; grc-koi, Κλαύδιος Πτολεμαῖος, , ; la, Claudius Ptolemaeus; AD) was a mathematician A mathematician is someone who uses an extensive knowledge of mathematics Mathematics (from Greek: ) includes ...
's ''
Geography Geography (from Ancient Greek, Greek: , ''geographia'', literally "earth description") is a field of science devoted to the study of the lands, features, inhabitants, and phenomena of the Earth and Solar System, planets. The first person t ...
''.


Continuation of Roman hostilities and Parthian decline

After the Iberian king Pharasmanes I had his son
Rhadamistus Rhadamistus ( ka, რადამისტი, radamist'i, hy, Հռադամիզդ, Hřadamizd) (died 58) was a royal prince of the Pharnavazid dynasty The Pharnavazid ( ka, ფარნავაზიანი, tr) is the name of the first dynas ...
(''r''. 51–55 AD) invade Armenia to depose the Roman client king Mithridates,
Vologases I of Parthia Vologases I ( xpr, 𐭅𐭋𐭂𐭔 ''Walagash'') was the King of Kings King of Kings was a ruling title employed primarily by monarchs based in the Middle East. Though most commonly associated with History of Iran, Iran (historically known ...
(''r''. c. 51–77 AD) planned to invade and place his brother, the later
Tiridates I of Armenia Tiridates I ( xpr, 𐭕𐭉𐭓𐭉𐭃𐭕, ''Tīridāt''; el, Τιριδάτης, ''Tiridátes'') was beginning in 53 CE and the founder of the . The dates of his birth and death are unknown. His early reign was marked by a brief interruption ...
, on the throne. Rhadamistus was eventually driven from power, and, beginning with the reign of Tiridates, Parthia would retain firm control over Armenia—with brief interruptions—through the
Arsacid Dynasty of Armenia The Arsacid dynasty or Arshakuni ( hy, wikt:Արշակունի, Արշակունի ''Arshakuni''), ruled the Kingdom of Armenia (antiquity), Kingdom of Armenia from 12 to 428. The dynasty was a branch of the Parthian Empire, Arsacid dynasty of Pa ...
. Even after the fall of the Parthian Empire, the Arsacid line lived on through the Armenian kings. However, not only did the Arsacid line continue through the Armenians, it as well continued through the
Georgian Georgian may refer to: Common meanings * Anything related to, or originating from Georgia (country) **Georgians, an indigenous Caucasian ethnic group **Georgian language, a Kartvelian language spoken by Georgians **Georgian scripts, three scripts ...
kings with the Arsacid dynasty of Iberia, and for many centuries afterwards in
Caucasian Albania Caucasian Albania is a modern exonym for a former state located in ancient times in the Caucasus: mostly in what is now Azerbaijan (where both of its capitals were located). The modern endonyms for the area are ''Aghwank'' and ''Aluank'', among t ...

Caucasian Albania
through the Arsacid Dynasty of Caucasian Albania. When Vardanes II of Parthia rebelled against his father Vologases I in 55 AD, Vologases withdrew his forces from Armenia. Rome quickly attempted to fill the political vacuum left behind. In the
Roman–Parthian War of 58–63 The Roman–Parthian War of 58–63 or the War of the Armenian Succession was fought between the Roman Empire The Roman Empire ( la, Imperium Rōmānum ; grc-gre, Βασιλεία τῶν Ῥωμαίων, Basileía tôn Rhōmaíōn) wa ...
 AD, the commander
Gnaeus Domitius Corbulo Gnaeus Domitius Corbulo (Peltuinum Peltuinum was a Roman Empire, Roman town of the Vestini, on the ancient Via Claudia Nova, 20 km east of L'Aquila, Italy, between the modern-day settlements of Prata d'Ansidonia and Castelnuovo (AQ), Caste ...
achieved some military successes against the Parthians while installing
Tigranes VI of Armenia Tigranes VI, also known as Tigran VI or by his Roman name Gaius Julius Tigranes (Armenian language, Armenian: ''Տիգրան Զ'', el, Γαίος Ιούλιος Τιγράνης, before 25 – after 68) was a Herodian dynasty, Herodian Prince a ...
as a Roman client. However, Corbulo's successor
Lucius Caesennius Paetus Lucius Junius Caesennius Paetus (c. 20 - 72?) was a Roman Roman or Romans usually refers to: *Rome, the capital city of Italy *Ancient Rome, Roman civilization from 8th century BC to 5th century AD *Roman people, the people of ancient Rome *''Epis ...
was soundly defeated by Parthian forces and fled Armenia. Following a peace treaty, Tiridates I traveled to
Naples Naples (; it, Napoli ; nap, Napule ), from grc, Νεάπολις, Neápolis, lit=new city. is the regional capital of and the third-largest city of , after and , with a population of 967,069 within the city's administrative limits as of ...

Naples
and Rome in 63 AD. At both sites the Roman emperor
Nero Nero ( ; full name: Nero Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus; 15 December AD 37 – 9 June AD 68) was the fifth emperor of Rome. He was Adoption in Ancient Rome, adopted by the Roman emperor Claudius at the age of 13 and s ...

Nero
(''r''. 54–68 AD) ceremoniously crowned him king of Armenia by placing the royal
diadem A diadem is a type of crown '' File:서봉총 금관 금제드리개.jpg, The Seobongchong Golden Crown of Ancient Silla, which is 339th National Treasure of South Korea. It is basically following the standard type of Silla's Crown. It wa ...

diadem
on his head. A long period of peace between Parthia and Rome ensued, with only the invasion of
Alans The Alans or Alāns (Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, known as Latium. Through the power of th ...

Alans
into Parthia's eastern territories around 72 AD mentioned by Roman historians. Whereas Augustus and Nero had chosen a cautious military policy when confronting Parthia, later Roman emperors invaded and attempted to conquer the eastern
Fertile Crescent The Fertile Crescent is a crescent-shaped region in the Middle East The Middle East ( ar, الشرق الأوسط, ISO 233 The international standard An international standard is a technical standard A technical standard is an establishe ...

Fertile Crescent
, the heart of the Parthian Empire along the
Tigris The Tigris () is the easternmost of the two great rivers that define Mesopotamia, the other being the Euphrates. The river flows south from the mountains of the Armenian Highlands through the Syrian Desert, Syrian and Arabian Deserts, and empti ...

Tigris
and
Euphrates The Euphrates () is the longest and one of the most historically important rivers of Western Asia. Tigris–Euphrates river system, Together with the Tigris, it is one of the two defining rivers of Mesopotamia (the "Land Between the Rivers"). Or ...
. The heightened aggression can be explained in part by Rome's military reforms. To match Parthia's strength in missile troops and mounted warriors, the Romans at first used foreign allies (especially
Nabataeans The Nabataeans, also Nabateans (; Nabataean Aramaic Nabataean Aramaic was the Western Aramaic The Western Aramaic languages represent a specific group of Aramaic languages, once spoken widely throughout the ancient Levant The Levant ( ...
), but later established a permanent ''
auxilia The lat, Auxilia (: , lit. "auxiliaries") were introduced as non-citizen troops attached to the citizen by after his reorganisation of the from 30 BC. By the 2nd century, the Auxilia contained the same number of infantry as the legions ...
'' force to complement their heavy legionary infantry. The Romans eventually maintained regiments of horse archers (''
sagittarii ''Sagittarii'' (Latin, plural form of ''sagittarius'') is the Latin term for archers. The term ''sagittariorum'' in the title of an infantry or cavalry unit indicated a specialized archer regiment. Regular auxiliary units of foot and horse ar ...
'') and even mail-armored
cataphract A cataphract was a form of armored heavy cavalry 300px, Spanish Heavy Cavalry - Royal Armoury of Madrid, Spain ">Spain.html" ;"title="Royal Armoury of Madrid, Spain">Royal Armoury of Madrid, Spain Heavy cavalry was a class of cavalry ...
s in their eastern provinces. Yet the Romans had no discernible
grand strategy Grand strategy or high strategy is the long-term strategy pursued at the highest levels by a nation to further its interests. Issues of grand strategy typically include the choice of primary versus secondary theaters Theatre or theater is ...
in dealing with Parthia and gained very little territory from these invasions. The primary motivations for war were the advancement of the personal glory and political position of the emperor, as well as defending Roman honor against perceived slights such as Parthian interference in the affairs of Rome's client states. Hostilities between Rome and Parthia were renewed when
Osroes I of Parthia Osroes I (also spelled Chosroes I or Khosrow I; xpr, 𐭇𐭅𐭎𐭓𐭅 ''Husrōw'') was a Parthian Empire, Parthian contender, who ruled the western portion of the Parthian Empire from 109 to 129, with a one-year interruption. For the whole of ...
(''r''. c. 109–128 AD) deposed the Armenian king
Sanatruk Sanatruk ( hy, Սանատրուկ, Latinized as ''Sanatruces'') was a member of the Arsacid dynasty of Armenia who succeeded Tiridates I of Armenia as King of Armenia at the end of the 1st century. He was also King of Osroene (reigned 91–10 ...

Sanatruk
and replaced him with Axidares, son of Pacorus II, without consulting Rome. The Roman emperor
Trajan Trajan ( ; la, Caesar Nerva Trajanus; 18 September 539/11 August 117) was Roman emperor The Roman emperor was the ruler of the Roman Empire during the History of the Roman Empire, imperial period (starting in 27 BC). The emperors use ...

Trajan
(''r''. 98–117 AD) had the next Parthian nominee for the throne, Parthamasiris, killed in 114 AD, instead making Armenia a Roman province. His forces, led by
Lusius Quietus Lusius Quietus ( la, Lusius Quiētus ; grc-koi, Λούσιος Κυήτος, ''Loúsios Kyítos'' ) was a Roman general and governor of Judaea in AD 117. He was the principal commander against the Jewish rebellion known as the Kitos War ("Kito ...
, also captured Nisibis; its occupation was essential to securing all the major routes across the northern Mesopotamian plain. The following year, Trajan invaded Mesopotamia and met little resistance from only Meharaspes of Adiabene, since Osroes was engaged in a civil war to the east with
Vologases III of Parthia Vologases III ( xpr, 𐭅𐭋𐭂𐭔 ''Walagash'') was king of the Parthian Empire The Parthian Empire (), also known as the Arsacid Empire (), was a major Iranian political and cultural power in ancient Iran The history of Iran, which was ...

Vologases III of Parthia
. Trajan spent the winter of 115–116 at Antioch, but resumed his campaign in the spring. Marching down the Euphrates, he captured Dura-Europos, the capital Ctesiphon and Seleucia, and even subjugated Characene, where he watched ships depart to India from the
Persian Gulf The Persian Gulf ( fa, خلیج فارس, translit=xalij-e fârs, lit=Gulf of , ) is a in . The body of water is an extension of the () through the and lies between to the northeast and the to the southwest.United Nations Group of Exper ...
. In the last months of 116 AD, Trajan captured the Persian city of Susa. When
Sanatruces II of Parthia Sanatruces II of Parthia, was a pretender to the throne of the Parthian Empire during the disputed reign of his uncle Osroes I of Parthia, Osroes I. He is only known from the writings of the Byzantine historian John Malalas (''Chronographia''), who ...
gathered forces in eastern Parthia to challenge the Romans, his cousin
Parthamaspates of Parthia 300px, Coin of Parthamaspates. Parthamaspates was a Parthian Empire, Parthian prince who ruled as a Roman Empire, Roman client king in Mesopotamia, and later of Osroene during the early second century AD. He was the son of the Parthian emperor Osro ...
betrayed and killed him: Trajan crowned him the new king of Parthia. Never again would the Roman Empire advance so far to the east. On Trajan's return north, the Babylonian settlements revolted against the Roman garrisons. Trajan was forced to retreat from Mesopotamia in 117 AD, overseeing a failed siege of
Hatra Hatra was an ancient city in Upper Mesopotamia Upper Mesopotamia is the name used for the uplands and great outwash plain In geography, a plain is a flat expanse of land that generally does not change much in elevation. Plains occur as low ...

Hatra
during his withdrawal. His retreat was—in his intentions—temporary, because he wanted to renew the attack on Parthia in 118 AD and "make the subjection of the Parthians a reality," but Trajan died suddenly in August 117 AD. During his campaign, Trajan was granted the title ''Parthicus'' by the Senate and coins were minted proclaiming the conquest of Parthia. However, only the 4th-century AD historians Eutropius and Festus allege that he attempted to establish a
Roman province The Roman provinces (Latin: ''provincia'', pl. ''provinciae'') were the administrative regions of Ancient Rome outside Roman Italy that were controlled by the Romans under the Roman Republic and later the Roman Empire. Each province was ruled ...
in lower Mesopotamia. Trajan's successor
Hadrian Hadrian (; la, Caesar Traianus Hadrianus ; 24 January 76 – 10 July 138) was Roman emperor from 117 to 138. He was born into a Roman Italo-Hispanic family, which settled in Spain from the Italian city of Atri, Abruzzo, Atri in Picenum. Hi ...

Hadrian
(''r''. 117–138 AD) reaffirmed the Roman-Parthian border at the Euphrates, choosing not to invade Mesopotamia due to Rome's now limited military resources. Parthamaspates fled after the Parthians revolted against him, yet the Romans made him king of
Osroene Osroene (; grc, Ὀσροηνή / ''Osrhoēnē'', Romanized as ''Osroëne'', or ''Osrhoene'') was an ancient region and state in Upper Mesopotamia Upper Mesopotamia is the name used for the uplands and great outwash plain of northwestern Iraq ...

Osroene
. Osroes I died during his conflict with Vologases III, the latter succeeded by
Vologases IV of Parthia Vologases IV ( xpr, 𐭅𐭋𐭂𐭔 ''Walagash'') was King of Kings King of Kings ( Akkadian: ''šar šarrāni''; Old Persian: ''Xšâyathiya Xšâyathiyânâm'';' Middle Persian: ''šāhān šāh'';' Modern Persian: شاهنشاه, ''Š ...
(''r''. c. 147–191 AD) who ushered in a period of peace and stability. However, the
Roman–Parthian War of 161–166 The Roman–Parthian War of 161–166 (also called the Parthian War of Lucius Verus) was fought between the Roman and Parthian Empire The Parthian Empire (), also known as the Arsacid Empire (), was a major Iranian political and cul ...
 AD began when Vologases invaded Armenia and Syria, retaking Edessa. Roman emperor
Marcus Aurelius Marcus Aurelius Antoninus ( ; 26 April 121 – 17 March 180) was a Roman emperor The Roman emperor was the ruler of the Roman Empire during the History of the Roman Empire, imperial period (starting in 27 BC). The emperors used a vari ...

Marcus Aurelius
(''r''. 161–180 AD) had co-ruler
Lucius Verus Lucius Aurelius Verus (15 December 130 – January/February 169) was Roman emperor from 161 until his death in 169, alongside his adoptive brother Marcus Aurelius. He was a member of the Nerva-Antonine dynasty. Verus' succession together with ...

Lucius Verus
(''r''. 161–169 AD) guard Syria while
Marcus Statius Priscus Marcus Statius Priscus Licinius Italicus (''M. Statius M. f. Cl. Priscus Licinius Italicus'')The name ''M. Statius M. f. Cl. Priscus Licinius Italicus'' says he is the son of a Marcus as ''M. f.''; ''Cl.'' refers to the Roman tribe, tribe he belonge ...
invaded Armenia in 163 AD, followed by the invasion of Mesopotamia by
Avidius Cassius Gaius Avidius Cassius ( 130 – July 175 AD) was a Roman Roman or Romans most often refers to: *, the capital city of Italy *, Roman civilization from 8th century BC to 5th century AD *, the people of ancient Rome *', shortened to ''Romans'', ...
in 164 AD. The Romans captured and burnt Seleucia and Ctesiphon to the ground, yet they were forced to retreat once the Roman soldiers contracted a deadly disease (possibly
smallpox Smallpox was an infectious disease An infection is the invasion of an organism's body Tissue (biology), tissues by Pathogen, disease-causing agents, their multiplication, and the reaction of host (biology), host tissues to the infectious ...

smallpox
) that soon ravaged the Roman world. Although they withdrew, from this point forward the city of Dura-Europos remained in Roman hands. When Roman emperor
Septimius Severus Lucius Septimius Severus (; 11 April 145 – 4 February 211) was Roman emperor from 193 to 211. He was born in Leptis Magna (present day Al-Khums, Libya) in the Roman province of Africa (Roman province), Africa. As a young man he advanced thro ...
(''r''. 193–211 AD) invaded Mesopotamia in 197 AD during the reign of
Vologases V of Parthia Vologases V ( xpr, 𐭅𐭋𐭂𐭔 ''Walagash'') was King of Kings King of Kings ( Akkadian: ''šar šarrāni''; Old Persian: ''Xšâyathiya Xšâyathiyânâm'';' Middle Persian: ''šāhān šāh'';' Modern Persian: شاهنشاه, ''Šâh ...
(''r''. c. 191–208 AD), the Romans once again marched down the Euphrates and captured Seleucia and Ctesiphon. After assuming the title ''Parthicus Maximus'', he retreated in late 198 AD, failing as Trajan once did to capture Hatra during a siege. Around 212 AD, soon after
Vologases VI of Parthia Vologases VI ( Parthian: ''Walagash'', fa, بلاش, ''Balāsh'') was the uncontested king of the Parthian Empire The Parthian Empire (), also known as the Arsacid Empire (), was a major Iranian political and cultural power in ancient Iran Th ...
(''r''. c. 208–222 AD) took the throne, his brother
Artabanus IV of Parthia Artabanus IV, also known as Ardavan IV ( Parthian: 𐭍𐭐𐭕𐭓), incorrectly known in older scholarship as Artabanus V, was the last ruler of Parthian Empire The Parthian Empire (), also known as the Arsacid Empire (), was a major Iranian ...

Artabanus IV of Parthia
(d. 224 AD) rebelled against him and gained control over a greater part of the empire. Meanwhile, the Roman emperor
Caracalla Caracalla ( ; 4 April 188 – 8 April 217), formally known as Antoninus (Marcus Aurelius Antoninus), was Roman emperor from 198 to 217. He was a member of the Severan dynasty, the elder son of Septimius Severus and Julia Domna. Co-ruler ...

Caracalla
(''r''. 211–217 AD) deposed the kings of Osroene and Armenia to make them Roman provinces once more. He marched into Mesopotamia under the pretext of marrying one of Artabanus' daughters, but—because the marriage was not allowed—made war on Parthia and conquered Arbil east of the
Tigris The Tigris () is the easternmost of the two great river A river is a natural flowing watercourse, usually freshwater, flowing towards an ocean, sea, lake or another river. In some cases, a river flows into the ground and becomes dry at ...

Tigris
river. Caracalla was assassinated the next year on the road to Carrhae by his soldiers. After this debacle, the Parthians made a settlement with
Macrinus Macrinus (; Caesar Marcus Opellius Severus Macrinus Augustus; – June 218) was Roman Emperor The Roman Emperor was the ruler of the Roman Empire during the History of the Roman Empire, imperial period (starting in 27 BC). The emperors us ...
(''r''. 217–218) where the Romans paid Parthia over two-hundred million ''
denarii The denarius (, dēnāriī ) was the standard Roman Roman or Romans most often refers to: *, the capital city of Italy *, Roman civilization from 8th century BC to 5th century AD *, the people of ancient Rome *', shortened to ''Romans'', a ...
'' with additional gifts. The Parthian Empire, weakened by internal strife and wars with Rome, was soon to be followed by the
Sasanian Empire The Sasanian () or Sassanid Empire, officially known as the Empire of Iranians (, ''Ērānshahr The Sasanian () or Sassanid Empire, officially known as the Empire of Iranians (Middle Persian Middle Persian or Pahlavi, also known by its ...

Sasanian Empire
. Indeed, shortly afterward,
Ardashir I Ardashir I or Ardeshir I (Middle Persian Middle Persian or Pahlavi, also known by its endonym Pārsīk or Pārsīg (𐭯𐭠𐭫𐭮𐭩𐭪) in its later form, is a Western Middle Iranian language which became the literary language of the Sa ...

Ardashir I
, the local Iranian ruler of Persis (modern
Fars Province Fars Province (; fa, استان فارس, , ), also known as Pars (Sasanian province), Pars (, ) as well as Persis and Persia, is one of the thirty-one provinces of Iran. With an area of 122,400 km², it is located in Iran's southwest, in R ...
, Iran) from
Istakhr Istakhr ( Middle Persian romanized: ''Stakhr'', fa, اصطخر, translit=Estakhr) was an ancient city in Fars province, north of Persepolis in southwestern Iran. It flourished as the capital of the Persian ''Frataraka'' governors and Kings of Pers ...
began subjugating the surrounding territories in defiance of Arsacid rule.; ; ; see also He confronted Artabanus IV at the
Battle of Hormozdgān The Battle of Hormozdgan (also spelled Hormizdagan and Hormozgan) was the climactic battle between the Parthian Empire, Arsacid and the Sasanian Empire, Sasanian dynasties that took place on April 28, 224. The Sasanian victory broke the power of th ...
on 28 April 224 AD, perhaps at a site near
Isfahan Isfahan ( fa, اصفهان, Esfahān ), from its Achaemenid empire, ancient designation ''Aspadana'' and later ''Spahan'' in Sassanian Empire, middle Persian, rendered in English as ''Ispahan'', is a major city in Greater Isfahan Region, Is ...

Isfahan
, defeating him and establishing the Sasanian Empire. There is evidence, however, that suggests Vologases VI continued to mint coins at Seleucia as late as 228 AD. The Sassanians would not only assume Parthia's legacy as Rome's Persian nemesis, but they would also attempt to restore the boundaries of the Achaemenid Empire by briefly conquering the Levant, Anatolia, and Egypt from the
Eastern Roman Empire The Byzantine Empire, also referred to as the Eastern Roman Empire, or Byzantium, was the continuation of the Roman Empire The Roman Empire ( la, Imperium Rōmānum ; grc-gre, Βασιλεία τῶν Ῥωμαίων, Basileía tôn ...

Eastern Roman Empire
during the reign of
Khosrau II Khosrow II (aka. Chosroes II in classical sources; pal, 𐭧𐭥𐭮𐭫𐭥𐭣𐭩; Modern Persian: ''Khosrow (word), Husrō''), also known as Khosrow Parviz (Persian language, New Persian: , "Khosrow the Victorious"), is considered to be th ...

Khosrau II
(''r''. 590–628 AD). However, they would lose these territories to
Heraclius Heraclius ( el, Ἡράκλειος, ''Hērakleios''; c. 575 – 11 February 641), sometimes called Heraclius I, was the Byzantine emperor This is a list of the Byzantine emperors from the foundation of Constantinople la, Constantinop ...
—the last Roman emperor before the
Arab conquests The early Muslim conquests ( ar, الفتوحات الإسلامية, ''al-Futūḥāt al-Islāmiyya''), also referred to as the Arab conquests and the early Islamic conquests began with the Islamic prophet Muhammad ) , birth_date ...
. Nevertheless, for a period of more than 400 years, they succeeded the Parthian realm as Rome's principal rival.


Native and external sources

Local and foreign written accounts, as well as non-textual artifacts, have been used to reconstruct Parthian history. Although the Parthian court maintained records, the Parthians had no formal study of
history History (from Greek#REDIRECT Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially the Hellenic Republic, is a country located in Southeast Europe. Its population is approxima ...

history
; the earliest
universal history A universal history is a work aiming at the presentation of a history History (from Greek , ''historia'', meaning "inquiry; knowledge acquired by investigation") is the study of the past. Events occurring before the invention of writing syst ...
of Iran, the ''
Khwaday-Namag ''Khwadāy-Nāmag'' (Middle Persian Middle Persian or Pahlavi, also known by its endonym Pārsīk or Pārsīg (𐭯𐭠𐭫𐭮𐭩𐭪) in its later form, is a Western Middle Iranian language which became the literary language of the Sasanian E ...
'', was not compiled until the reign of the last Sasanian ruler
Yazdegerd III Yazdegerd III (also spelled Yazdgerd III and Yazdgird III; pal, 𐭩𐭦𐭣𐭪𐭥𐭲𐭩) was the last Sasanian Empire, Sasanian King of Kings of Iran from 632 to 651. His father was Shahriyar (son of Khosrow II), Shahriyar and his grandfathe ...
(r. 632–651 AD). Indigenous
sources Source or subsource or ''variation'', may refer to: Research * Historical document * Historical source * Source (intelligence) or subsource, typically a confidential provider of non open-source intelligence * Source (journalism), a person, public ...

sources
on Parthian history remain scarce, with fewer of them available than for any other period of Iranian history. Most contemporary written records on Parthia contain Greek as well as Parthian and Aramaic inscriptions. The Parthian language was written in a distinct script derived from the Imperial Aramaic chancellery script of the Achaemenids, and later developed into the Pahlavi writing system. The most valuable indigenous sources for reconstructing an accurate chronology of Arsacid rulers are the metal
drachma The drachma ( el, δραχμή The drachma ( el, wikt:δραχμή, δραχμή , ; pl. ''drachmae'' or ''drachmas'') was the currency used in Greece during several periods in its history: # An Ancient Greece, ancient Greek currency unit ...
coins issued by each ruler. These represent a "transition from non-textual to textual remains," according to historian Geo Widengren. Other Parthian sources used for reconstructing chronology include
cuneiform Cuneiform is a Logogram, logo-Syllabary, syllabic writing system, script that was used to write several languages of the Ancient Near East. The script was in active use from the early Bronze Age until the beginning of the Common Era. It is nam ...

cuneiform
astronomical tablets and colophons discovered in Babylonia. Indigenous textual sources also include stone
inscription Epigraphy () is the study of inscriptions, or epigraphs, as writing Writing is a medium of human communication that involves the representation of a language with written symbols. Writing systems are not themselves human languages (with the ...

inscription
s,
parchment Parchment is a writing material Writing material refers to the materials that provide the surfaces on which humans use writing instruments A writing implement or writing instrument is an object used to produce writing Writing is a mediu ...

parchment
and
papyri Papyrus ( ) is a material similar to thick paper Paper is a thin sheet material produced by mechanically or chemically processing cellulose fibres derived from wood, Textile, rags, poaceae, grasses or other vegetable sources in water, dr ...

papyri
documents, and pottery
ostraca , an Athenian , image_skyline = File:Athens Montage L.png, center, 275px, alt=Athens montage. Clicking on an image in the picture causes the browser to load the appropriate article. rect 15 15 985 460 Acropolis of Athens ...
. For example, at the early Parthian capital of Mithradatkert/Nisa in Turkmenistan, large caches of pottery ostraca have been found yielding information on the sale and storage of items like wine. Along with parchment documents found at sites like Dura-Europos, these also provide valuable information on Parthian governmental administration, covering issues such as taxation, military titles, and provincial organization. The
Greek#REDIRECT Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially the Hellenic Republic, is a country located in Southeast Europe. Its population is approximately 10.7 million as of ...
and
Latin histories Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, known as Latium. Through the power of the Roman Republic, it became the ...
, which represent the majority of materials covering Parthian history, are not considered entirely reliable since they were written from the perspective of rivals and wartime enemies. These external sources generally concern major military and political events, and often ignore social and cultural aspects of Parthian history. The Romans usually depicted the Parthians as fierce warriors but also as a culturally refined people; recipes for Parthian dishes in the cookbook ''
Apicius ''Apicius'', also known as ''De re culinaria'' or ''De re coquinaria'' (''On the Subject of Cooking'') is a collection of Roman Roman or Romans usually refers to: *Rome, the capital city of Italy *Ancient Rome, Roman civilization from 8th ce ...

Apicius
'' exemplifies their admiration for Parthian cuisine.
Apollodorus of ArtemitaApollodorus of Artemita ( grc, Ἀπολλόδωρος Ἀρτεμιτηνός) was a Greek historian who flourished between 130 and 87 BC. He hailed from the Greco-Parthian city of Artemita in Apolloniatis and was a citizen of the Parthian Empire ...
and
Arrian Arrian of Nicomedia (; Ancient Greek, Greek: ''Arrianos''; la, Lucius Flavius Arrianus; ) was a Greek people, Greek historian, public servant, military commander and philosopher of the Roman Greece, Roman period. ''The Anabasis of Alex ...

Arrian
wrote histories focusing on Parthia, which are now lost and survive only as quoted extracts in other histories.
Isidore of Charax Isidore of Charax (; grc, Ἰσίδωρος ὁ Χαρακηνός, ''Isídōros o Charakēnós''; la, Isidorus Characenus) was a Greco-Roman Roman Theatre of Mérida, Spain. The term "Greco-Roman world" (also "Greco-Roman culture" or ; spe ...
, who lived during the reign of Augustus, provides an account of Parthian territories, perhaps from a Parthian government survey. To a lesser extent, people and events of Parthian history were also included in the histories of
Justin Justin may refer to: People * Justin (name), including a list of persons with the given name Justin * Justin (historian), a Latin historian who lived under the Roman Empire * Justin I (c. 450–527), or ''Flavius Iustinius Augustus'', Eastern Roma ...
,
Strabo Strabo''Strabo'' (meaning "squinty", as in strabismus Strabismus is a condition in which the eyes do not properly align with each other when looking at an object. The eye that is focused on an object can alternate. The condition may be pre ...

Strabo
,
Diodorus Siculus Diodorus Siculus, or Diodorus of Sicily ( grc-gre, Διόδωρος Σικελιώτης ;  1st century BC), was an ancient Greek Ancient Greek includes the forms of the Greek language Greek ( el, label=Modern Greek Modern ...
,
Plutarch Plutarch (; grc-gre, Πλούταρχος, ''Ploútarchos''; ; AD 46 – after AD 119) was a Greek Middle Platonist Middle Platonism is the modern name given to a stage in the development of Platonic philosophy, lasting from about 90 BC&nbs ...

Plutarch
,
Cassius Dio Lucius Cassius Dio (; ) or Dio Cassius ( ''Dion Kassios'')), Cassius Lucius Dio or Cassius Claudius Dio; alleged to have the ' (nickname) Cocceianus was a Roman statesman and historian of Greek and Roman origin. He published 80 volumes of the ...
,
Appian Appian of Alexandria (; grc-gre, Ἀππιανὸς Ἀλεξανδρεύς ''Appianòs Alexandreús''; la, Appianus Alexandrinus; ) was a historian with citizenship who flourished during the reigns of , , and . He was born c. 95 in . Afte ...
,
Josephus Flavius Josephus (; grc-gre, Ἰώσηπος, ; 37 – 100) was a first-century and military leader, best known for ', who was born in —then part of —to a father of descent and a mother who claimed royal ancestry. He initially fought a ...

Josephus
,
Pliny the Elder #REDIRECT Pliny the Elder #REDIRECT Pliny the Elder#REDIRECT Pliny the Elder Gaius Plinius Secundus (AD 23/2479), called Pliny the Elder (), was a Roman author, a naturalist Natural history is a domain of inquiry involving organisms, includi ...

Pliny the Elder
, and
Herodian Herodian or Herodianus ( el, Ἡρωδιανός) of Syria Syria ( ar, سُورِيَا or ar, سُورِيَة, ''Sūriyā''), officially the Syrian Arab Republic ( ar, ٱلْجُمْهُورِيَّةُ ٱلْعَرَبِيَّةُ ...

Herodian
. Parthian history can also be reconstructed via the Chinese historical records of events. In contrast to Greek and Roman histories, the early Chinese histories maintained a more neutral view when describing Parthia, although the habit of Chinese chroniclers to copy material for their accounts from older works (of undetermined origin) makes it difficult to establish a chronological order of events. The Chinese called Parthia '' Ānxī'' (Chinese: , Old Chinese pronunciation: ansjək''), perhaps after the Greek name for the Parthian city (Greek: Ἀντιόχεια ἡ ἐν τῇ Μαργιανῇ). However, this could also have been a transliteration of "Arsaces", after the dynasty's eponymous founder. The works and historical authors include the ''
Shiji The ''Records of the Grand Historian'', also known by its Chinese Chinese can refer to: * Something related to China China, officially the People's Republic of China (PRC), is a country in East Asia. It is the List of countries and depe ...

Shiji
'' (also known as the ''Records of the Grand Historian'') by
Sima Qian Sima Qian (; ; ) was a Chinese historian of the early Han dynasty#REDIRECT Han dynasty The Han dynasty () was the second Dynasties in Chinese history, imperial dynasty of China (202 BC – 220 AD), established by the rebel leader Liu B ...

Sima Qian
, the ''
Han shu The ''Book of Han'' or ''History of the Former Han'' is a history of China The earliest known written records of the history of China date from as early as 1250 BC, from the Shang dynasty (c. 1600–1046 BC), during the king Wu Ding's re ...
'' (Book of Han) by
Ban Biao Ban Biao (, 3–54 CE), courtesy name A courtesy name (), also known as a style name, is a name bestowed upon one at adulthood in addition to one's given name. This practice is a tradition in the Sinosphere, including China, Japan, Korea, and ...
,
Ban Gu Ban Gu (AD32–92) was a Chinese historian, politician, and poet best known for his part in compiling the ''Book of Han The ''Book of Han'' or ''History of the Former Han'' is a history of China The earliest known written r ...

Ban Gu
, and
Ban Zhao Ban Zhao (; 49 – c. 120 CE or 45 - c. 117 CE), courtesy name A courtesy name (), also known as a style name, is a name bestowed upon one at adulthood in addition to one's given name. This practice is a tradition in the East Asian cultur ...

Ban Zhao
, and the ''
Hou Han shu The ''Book of the Later Han'', also known as the ''History of the Later Han'' and by its Chinese language, Chinese name ''Hòu Hànshū'' (), is one of the Twenty-Four Histories and covers the history of the Han dynasty from 6 to 189 CE, a perio ...
'' (Book of Later Han) by Fan Ye. They provide information on the nomadic migrations leading up to the early
Saka The Saka, Śaka, Shaka, Śāka or Sacae ( ; Kharosthi: ; Brahmi script, Brahmi: , ; sa, wiktionary:शक#Sanskrit, शक , ; grc, Σάκαι ; la, Sacae; , Old Chinese, old , Pinyin, mod. , ; egy, wiktionary:sk#Etymology 2, 𓋴𓎝 ...

Saka
invasion of Parthia and valuable political and geographical information. For example, the ''Shiji'' (ch. 123) describes diplomatic exchanges, exotic gifts given by Mithridates II to the , types of agricultural crops grown in Parthia, production of wine using grapes, itinerant merchants, and the size and location of Parthian territory. The ''Shiji'' also mentions that the Parthians kept records by "writing horizontally on strips of leather," that is, parchment.


Government and administration


Central authority and semi-autonomous kings

Compared with the earlier Achaemenid Empire, the Parthian government was notably
decentralized Decentralization or decentralisation is the process by which the activities of an organization, particularly those regarding planning and decision making, are distributed or delegated away from a central, authoritative location or group. Concep ...

decentralized
. An indigenous historical source reveals that territories overseen by the central government were organized in a similar manner to the Seleucid Empire. They both had a threefold division for their provincial hierarchies: the Parthian marzbān, xšatrap, and dizpat, similar to the Seleucid
satrapy Satraps () were the governors of the provinces of the ancient Medes, Median and Achaemenid Empires and in several of their successors, such as in the Sasanian Empire and the Hellenistic period, Hellenistic empires. The satrap served as viceroy to ...
,
eparchy ''Eparchy'' is an anglicize Linguistic anglicisation (or anglicization, occasionally anglification, anglifying, or Englishing) is the practice of modifying foreign words, names, and phrases to make them easier to spell, pronounce, or understand ...

eparchy
, and hyparchy. The Parthian Empire also contained several subordinate semi-autonomous kingdoms, including the states of
Caucasian Iberia In Greco-Roman geography The history of geography includes many histories of geography Geography (from Greek: , ''geographia'', literally "earth description") is a field of science devoted to the study of the lands, features, inhabi ...
,
Armenia Armenia (; hy, Հայաստան, translit=Hayastan, ), officially the Republic of Armenia,, is a landlocked country A landlocked country is a country A country is a distinct territory, territorial body or political entity. It is ...
,
Atropatene Atropatene ( peo, Ātṛpātakāna; grc, Aτροπατηνή), also known as Media Atropatene, was an ancient kingdom established in by the Persian satrap Atropates. The kingdom, centered in present-day northern Iran, was ruled by Atropates' d ...
,
Gordyene Corduene ('; '' hy, Կորճայք, translit=Korchayk''; '; ) was an ancient region located south of Lake Van, present-day eastern Turkey. According to the '' 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica'', Gordyene is the ancient name of the region of '' Bohta ...
,
Adiabene Adiabene (from the Ancient Greek , ''Adiabene'', itself derived from syc, ܚܕܝܐܒ, ' or ', Middle Persian: ''Nodshēragān'', Armenian language, Armenian: Նոր Շիրական, ''Nor Shirakan'', Hebrew: ''חדייב'', ''Hadaiav'') was an anci ...
,
Edessa Edessa (; grc, Ἔδεσσα, Édessa) was an ancient city (''polis'') in Upper Mesopotamia, founded during the Hellenistic period by King Seleucus I Nicator (), founder of the Seleucid Empire. It later became capital of the Kingdom of Osroene ...
,
Hatra Hatra was an ancient city in Upper Mesopotamia Upper Mesopotamia is the name used for the uplands and great outwash plain In geography, a plain is a flat expanse of land that generally does not change much in elevation. Plains occur as low ...

Hatra
,
Mesene Characene (Ancient Greek: Χαρακηνή), also known as Mesene (Μεσσήνη) or Meshan, was a kingdom founded by the Iranian peoples, Iranian Hyspaosines located at the head of the Persian Gulf mostly within modern day Iraq. Its capital, Char ...
,
Elymais Elymais or Elamais (Ἐλυμαΐς, Hellenic form of the more ancient name, Elam Elam (; Linear Elamite: ''hatamti''; Cuneiform Cuneiform is a Logogram, logo-Syllabary, syllabic writing system, script that was used to write several l ...
, and
Persis Persis ( grc-gre, , ''Persís''), better known in English as Persia (Old Persian Old Persian is one of the two directly attested Old Iranian languages (the other being Avestan language, Avestan) and it is the ancestor of Middle Persian (the l ...
. The state rulers governed their own territories and minted their own coinage distinct from the royal coinage produced at the imperial mints. This was not unlike the earlier Achaemenid Empire, which also had some city-states, and even distant satrapies who were semi-independent but "recognised the supremacy of the king, paid tribute and provided military support", according to Brosius. However, the satraps of Parthian times governed smaller territories, and perhaps had less prestige and influence than their Achaemenid predecessors. During the Seleucid period, the trend of local ruling dynasties with semi-autonomous rule, and sometimes outright rebellious rule, became commonplace, a fact reflected in the later Parthian style of governance.


Nobility

The King of Kings headed the Parthian government. He maintained
polygamous Polygamy (from Late Greek Late Greek means writings in the Greek language Greek (modern , romanized: ''Elliniká'', Ancient Greek, ancient , ''Hellēnikḗ'') is an independent branch of the Indo-European languages, Indo-European family of ...
relations, and was usually succeeded by his first-born son. Like the Ptolemies of Egypt, there is also record of Arsacid kings marrying their nieces and perhaps even half-sisters; Queen Musa married her own son, though this was an extreme and isolated case. Brosius provides an extract from a letter written in Greek by King Artabanus II in 21 AD, which addresses the governor (titled "
archon ''Archon'' ( gr, ἄρχων, árchōn, plural: ἄρχοντες, ''árchontes'') is a Greek word that means "ruler", frequently used as the title of a specific public office. It is the masculine present participle of the verb stem αρχ-, meanin ...

archon
") and citizens of the city of
Susa Susa (; Cuneiform Cuneiform is a Logogram, logo-Syllabary, syllabic writing system, script that was used to write several languages of the Ancient Near East. The script was in active use from the early Bronze Age until the beginning of the ...

Susa
. Specific government offices of Preferred Friend, Bodyguard and Treasurer are mentioned and the document also proves that "while there were local jurisdictions and proceedings to appointment to high office, the king could intervene on behalf of an individual, review a case and amend the local ruling if he considered it appropriate." The hereditary titles of the hierarchic nobility recorded during the reign of the first Sasanian monarch Ardashir I most likely reflect the titles already in use during the Parthian era. There were three distinct tiers of nobility, the highest being the regional kings directly below the King of Kings, the second being those related to the King of Kings only through marriage, and the lowest order being heads of local clans and small territories. By the 1st century AD, the Parthian nobility had assumed great power and influence in the succession and deposition of Arsacid kings. Some of the nobility functioned as court advisers to the king, as well as holy priests.
Strabo Strabo''Strabo'' (meaning "squinty", as in strabismus Strabismus is a condition in which the eyes do not properly align with each other when looking at an object. The eye that is focused on an object can alternate. The condition may be pre ...

Strabo
, in his ''
Geographica The ''Geographica'' (Ancient Greek Ancient Greek includes the forms of the Greek language used in ancient Greece and the classical antiquity, ancient world from around 1500 BC to 300 BC. It is often roughly divided into the following per ...
'', preserved a claim by the Greek philosopher and historian
Poseidonius Posidonius (; grc-gre, Ποσειδώνιος, ''Poseidonios'', meaning "of Poseidon Poseidon (; grc-gre, Ποσειδῶν, Poseidôn, ) was one of the Twelve Olympians in ancient Greek religion and myth Myth is a folklore gen ...
that the Council of Parthia consisted of noble kinsmen and
magi Magi (; singular magus ; from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language A classical language is a language A language is a structured system of communication Communication (from Latin ''communicare'', meaning "to share" o ...
, two groups from which "the kings were appointed." Of the great noble Parthian families listed at the beginning of the Sassanian period, only two are explicitly mentioned in earlier Parthian documents: the
House of SurenHouse of Suren or Surenas.. ( Parthian: 𐭎𐭅𐭓𐭉𐭍 Surēn, Middle Persian Middle Persian or Pahlavi, also known by its endonym Pārsīk or Pārsīg (𐭯𐭠𐭫𐭮𐭩𐭪) in its later form, is a Western Middle Iranian language which ...
and the
House of Karen House of Karen (Middle Persian: ''Kārēn'', Parthian language, Parthian: ''𐭊𐭓𐭍𐭉 Kārēn,'' fa, کارن ''Kārin'' or ''Kāren'', also known as Karen-Pahlav (''Kārēn-Pahlaw'') was one of the Seven Great Houses of Iran during the ru ...
. The historian
Plutarch Plutarch (; grc-gre, Πλούταρχος, ''Ploútarchos''; ; AD 46 – after AD 119) was a Greek Middle Platonist Middle Platonism is the modern name given to a stage in the development of Platonic philosophy, lasting from about 90 BC&nbs ...

Plutarch
noted that members of the Suren family, the first among the nobility, were given the privilege of crowning each new Arsacid King of Kings during their coronations.


Military

The Parthian Empire had no
standing army A standing army is a permanent, often professional, army. It is composed of full-time soldiers who may be either career soldiers or conscripts. It differs from Military reserve force, army reserves, who are enrolled for the long term, but activate ...
, yet were able to quickly recruit troops in the event of local crises. There was a permanent armed guard attached to the person of the king, comprising nobles,
serf Serfdom was the status of many peasant A peasant is a pre-industrial farmhand, agricultural laborer or a farmer with limited land-ownership, especially one living in the Middle Ages under feudalism and tenant farmer, paying rent, tax, fee ...
s and
mercenaries A mercenary, sometimes known as a soldier of fortune, is a private individual, particularly a soldier, who takes part in military conflict War is an intense armed conflict between states State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and ...
, but this royal retinue was small. Garrisons were also permanently maintained at border forts; Parthian inscriptions reveal some of the military titles granted to the commanders of these locations. Military forces could also be used in diplomatic gestures. For example, when Chinese envoys visited Parthia in the late 2nd century BC, the ''
Shiji The ''Records of the Grand Historian'', also known by its Chinese Chinese can refer to: * Something related to China China, officially the People's Republic of China (PRC), is a country in East Asia. It is the List of countries and depe ...

Shiji
'' maintains that 20,000 horsemen were sent to the eastern borders to serve as escorts for the embassy, although this figure is perhaps an exaggeration. The main striking force of the Parthian army was its
cataphract A cataphract was a form of armored heavy cavalry 300px, Spanish Heavy Cavalry - Royal Armoury of Madrid, Spain ">Spain.html" ;"title="Royal Armoury of Madrid, Spain">Royal Armoury of Madrid, Spain Heavy cavalry was a class of cavalry ...
s, heavy cavalry with man and horse decked in mailed armor.; The cataphracts were equipped with a lance for charging into enemy lines, but were not equipped with bows and arrows which were restricted to horse archers. Due to the cost of their equipment and armor, cataphracts were recruited from among the aristocratic class who, in return for their services, demanded a measure of autonomy at the local level from the Arsacid kings. The light cavalry was recruited from among the commoner class and acted as
horse archer A horse archer is a cavalryman armed with a Bow (weapon), bow and able to shoot while riding from horseback. Archery has occasionally been used from the backs of other riding animals. In large open areas, it was a highly successful technique for ...
s; they wore a simple tunic and trousers into battle. They used
composite bow A composite bow is a traditional bow Bow often refers to: * Bow and arrow, a weapon * Bowing, bending the upper body as a social gesture * An ornamental knot made of ribbon Bow may also refer to: Boats * Bow (ship), the foremost part * Bow (ro ...
s and were able to shoot at enemies while riding and facing away from them; this technique, known as the
Parthian shot The Parthian shot is a light horse hit and run military tactic made famous by the Parthians, an ancient Iranian people. While performing a real or feigned retreat at full gallop, their horse archers would turn their bodies back to shoot at ...
, was a highly effective tactic. The heavy and light cavalry of Parthia proved to be a decisive factor in the
Battle of Carrhae The Battle of Carrhae () was fought in 53 BC between the Roman Republic and the Parthian Empire near the ancient town of Carrhae (present-day Harran, Turkey). The Parthian general Surena decisively defeated a Roman invasion force under the comma ...
where a Parthian force defeated a much larger Roman army under Crassus. Light infantry units, composed of and mercenaries, were used to disperse enemy troops after cavalry charges. The size of the Parthian army is unknown, as is the size of the empire's overall population. However, archaeological excavations in former Parthian urban centers reveal settlements which could have sustained large populations and hence a great resource in manpower. Dense population centers in regions like Babylonia were no doubt attractive to the Romans, whose armies could afford to live off the land.


Currency

Usually made of silver, the
Greek drachma The drachma ( el, wikt:δραχμή, δραχμή , ; pl. ''drachmae'' or ''drachmas'') was the currency used in Greece during several periods in its history: # An Ancient Greece, ancient Greek currency unit issued by many Greek city states dur ...
coin, including the
tetradrachm The tetradrachm ( gr, τετράδραχμον, tetrádrachmon) was an Ancient Greece, Ancient Greek silver coin equivalent to four Greek drachma, drachmae. In Athens it replaced the earlier "heraldic" type of didrachms and it was in wide circulati ...
, was the standard currency used throughout the Parthian Empire. The Arsacids maintained royal mints at the cities of Hecatompylos, Seleucia, and Ecbatana. They most likely operated a mint at Mithridatkert/Nisa as well. From the empire's inception until its collapse, drachmas produced throughout the Parthian period rarely weighed less than 3.5 g or more than 4.2 g. The first Parthian tetradrachms, weighing in principle around 16 g with some variation, appear after Mithridates I conquered Mesopotamia and were minted exclusively at Seleucia.


Society and culture


Hellenism and the Iranian revival

Although
Greek culture The culture of Greece has evolved over thousands of years, beginning in Minoan and later in Mycenaean Greece, continuing most notably into Classical Greece Classical Greece was a period of around 200 years (5th and 4th centuries BC) in Gree ...
of the Seleucids was widely adopted by peoples of the
Near East The Near East ( ar, الشرق الأدنى, al-Sharq al-'Adnā, he, המזרח הקרוב, arc, ܕܢܚܐ ܩܪܒ, fa, خاور نزدیک, Xāvar-e nazdik, tr, Yakın Doğu) is a geographical term which roughly encompasses a transcontinental ...
during the
Hellenistic period The Hellenistic period spans the period of History of the Mediterranean region, Mediterranean history between the death of Alexander the Great in 323 BC and the emergence of the Roman Empire, as signified by the Battle of Actium in 31  ...
, the Parthian era witnessed an Iranian cultural revival in religion, the arts, and even clothing fashions. Conscious of both the Hellenistic and Persian cultural roots of their kingship, the Arsacid rulers styled themselves after the Persian King of Kings and affirmed that they were also ''
philhellenes Philhellenism ("the love of Greek culture") and philhellene ("the admirer of Greeks and everything Greek"), from the Greek ''philos'' "friend, lover" and ''hellênismos'' "Greek", was an intellectual movement prominent mostly at the turn of the 1 ...
'' ("friends of the Greeks"). The word "philhellene" was inscribed on Parthian coins until the reign of Artabanus II. The discontinuation of this phrase signified the revival of Iranian culture in Parthia. Vologases I was the first Arsacid ruler to have the Parthian script and
language A language is a structured system of communication Communication (from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the ...
appear on his minted coins alongside the now almost illegible Greek. However, the use of Greek-alphabet legends on Parthian coins remained until the collapse of the empire. Greek cultural influence did not disappear from the Parthian Empire, however, and there is evidence that the Arsacids enjoyed
Greek theatre Ancient Greek drama was a theatrical culture Culture () is an umbrella term which encompasses the social behavior and Norm (social), norms found in human Society, societies, as well as the knowledge, beliefs, arts, laws, Social norm, customs, ...
. When the head of Crassus was brought to Orodes II, he, alongside Armenian king Artavasdes II, were busy watching a performance of ''
The Bacchae ''The Bacchae'' (; grc-gre, Βάκχαι, ''Bakchai''; also known as ''The Bacchantes'' ) is an ancient Greek Ancient Greek includes the forms of the Greek language Greek ( el, label=Modern Greek Modern Greek (, , or , ''Kin ...
'' by the playwright
Euripides Euripides (; grc, Εὐριπίδης ''Eurīpídēs'', ; ) was a tragedian Tragedy (from the grc-gre, τραγῳδία, ''tragōidia'', ''tragōidia'') is a form of drama based on human suffering and, mainly, the terrible or sorrowfu ...

Euripides
(c. 480–406 BC). The producer of the play decided to use Crassus' actual severed head in place of the stage-prop head of
Pentheus In Greek mythology Greek mythology is the body of myths originally told by the Ancient Greece, ancient Greeks, and a genre of Ancient Greek folklore. These stories concern the Cosmogony, origin and Cosmology#Metaphysical cosmology, nature of th ...
. On his coins, Arsaces I is depicted in apparel similar to Achaemenid satraps. According to A. Shahbazi, Arsaces "deliberately diverges from Seleucid coins to emphasize his nationalistic and royal aspirations, and he calls himself Kārny/Karny (Greek: Autocrator), a title already borne by Achaemenid supreme generals, such as Cyrus the Younger." In line with Achaemenid traditions, rock-relief images of Arsacid rulers were carved at
Mount Behistun Mount Bisotoun (or Behistun and Bisotun) is a mountain of the Zagros Mountains range, located in Kermanshah Province of western Iran. It is located west of Tehran. Cultural history It is well known for the famous Behistun Inscription and rock r ...

Mount Behistun
, where
Darius I of Persia Darius I ( peo, 𐎭𐎠𐎼𐎹𐎺𐎢𐏁, translit=Dārayava(h)uš; New Persian: ; ; c. 550 – 486 BCE), commonly known as Darius the Great, was the third List of kings of Persia, Persian King of Kings of the Achaemenid Empire, reigning from ...
(r. 522–486 BC) made . Moreover, the Arsacids claimed familial descent from
Artaxerxes II of Persia Artaxerxes II Mnemon ( peo, 𐎠𐎼𐎫𐎧𐏁𐏂𐎠, transl=Artaxšaçā, lit=whose reign is through truth)R. Schmitt"ARTAXERXES" ''Encyclopædia Iranica ''Encyclopædia Iranica'' is a project whose goal is to create a comprehensive and au ...
(''r''. 404–358 BC) as a means to bolster their legitimacy in ruling over former Achaemenid territories, i.e. as being "legitimate successors of glorious kings" of ancient Iran. Artabanus II named one of his sons Darius and laid claim to
Cyrus Cyrus (Persian Persian may refer to: * People and things from Iran, historically called ''Persia'' in the English language ** Persians, Persian people, the majority ethnic group in Iran, not to be conflated with the Iranian peoples ** Persian lan ...

Cyrus
' heritage. The Arsacid kings chose typical Zoroastrian names for themselves and some from the " heroic background" of the
Avesta The Avesta () is the primary collection of religious text Religious texts, also known as scripture, scriptures, holy writ, or holy books, are the texts which various religious traditions consider to be sacred, or of central importance to ...

Avesta
, according to V.G. Lukonin. The Parthians also adopted the use of the
Babylonian calendar The Babylonian calendar was a lunisolar calendar with years consisting of 12 lunar months, each beginning when a new lunar phase, crescent moon was first sighted low on the western horizon at sunset, plus an intercalary month inserted as needed b ...
with names from the Achaemenid
Iranian calendar The Iranian calendars or Iranian chronology ( fa, گاه‌شماری ایرانی, ''Gāh-Šomāri-ye Irāni'') are a succession of calendars invented or used for over two millennia in , also known as Persia. One of the longest chronological re ...
, replacing the Macedonian calendar of the Seleucids.


Religion

The Parthian Empire, being culturally and politically heterogeneous, had a variety of religious systems and beliefs, the most widespread being those dedicated to
Greek#REDIRECT Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially the Hellenic Republic, is a country located in Southeast Europe. Its population is approximately 10.7 million as of ...
and
Iranian Iranian may refer to: * Iran Iran ( fa, ایران ), also called Persia, and officially the Islamic Republic of Iran, is a country in Western Asia Western Asia, West Asia, or Southwest Asia, is the westernmost subregion A subreg ...
cults. Aside from a minority of
Jews Jews ( he, יְהוּדִים ISO 259-2 ISO The International Organization for Standardization (ISO ) is an international standard An international standard is a technical standard A technical standard is an established norm (social), ...
and early
Christians Christians () are people who follow or adhere to Christianity Christianity is an Abrahamic religions, Abrahamic, Monotheism, monotheistic religion based on the Life of Jesus in the New Testament, life and Teachings of Jesus, teachings of ...

Christians
, most Parthians were
polytheistic Polytheism is the worship of or belief in multiple deities A deity or god is a supernatural The supernatural encompasses supposed phenomena that are not subject to the laws of nature.https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/supernatura ...
. Greek and Iranian deities were often blended together as one. For example,
Zeus Zeus or , , ; grc, Δῐός, ''Diós'', label=genitive In grammar In linguistics Linguistics is the scientific study of language, meaning that it is a comprehensive, systematic, objective, and precise study of language. Ling ...

Zeus
was often equated with
Ahura Mazda Ahura Mazda (; ae, , translit=Ahura Mazdā also known as Oromasdes, Ohrmazd, Ahuramazda, Hourmazd, Hormazd, and Hurmuz) is the creator deity A creator deity or creator god (often called the Creator) is a deity A deity or god is a su ...

Ahura Mazda
,
Hades Hades (; grc-gre, ᾍδης, Háidēs; ), in the ancient Greek religion Ancient Greek religion encompasses the collection of beliefs, rituals, and Greek mythology, mythology originating in ancient Greece in the form of both popular public ...

Hades
with
Angra Mainyu Angra Mainyu (; Avestan Avestan , also known historically as Zend, comprises two languages: Old Avestan (spoken in the 2nd millennium BCE) and Younger Avestan (spoken in the 1st millennium BCE). The languages are known only from their use as ...
,
Aphrodite Aphrodite; , , ) is an ancient Greek goddess associated with love Love encompasses a range of strong and positive emotion Emotions are mental state, psychological states brought on by neurophysiology, neurophysiological changes, ...

Aphrodite
and
Hera Hera (; grc-gre, Ἥρα, Hḗrā; grc, Ἥρη, Hḗrē, label=none in Ionic Ionic or Ionian may refer to: Arts and entertainment * Ionic meter, a poetic metre in ancient Greek and Latin poetry * Ionian mode, a musical mode or a diatonic s ...

Hera
with
Anahita Anahita is the Old Persian Old Persian is one of the two directly attested Old Iranian languages The Iranian or Iranic languages are a branch of the Indo-Iranian languagesIndo-Iranian may refer to: * Indo-Iranian languages * Indo-Irani ...

Anahita
,
Apollo Apollo, grc, Ἀπόλλωνος, ''Apóllōnos'', label=genitive , ; , grc-dor, Ἀπέλλων, ''Apéllōn'', ; grc, Ἀπείλων, ''Apeílōn'', label=Arcadocypriot Greek, ; grc-aeo, Ἄπλουν, ''Áploun'', la, Apollō, ...

Apollo
with
Mithra Mithra ( ae, ''Miθra'', peo, 𐎷𐎰𐎼 ''Miça'') commonly known as Mehr, is the Zoroastrian Zoroastrianism or Mazdayasna is an Iranian religion and one of the world's oldest continuously-practiced organized faiths, based on the teac ...

Mithra
, and
Hermes Hermes (; grc-gre, Ἑρμῆς) is an Olympian deity in ancient Greek religion and Greek mythology, mythology. Hermes is considered the herald of the gods. He is also considered the protector of human heralds, travellers, thieves, mercha ...

Hermes
with
Shamash Utu, later worshipped by the East Semitic Akkadian language, Akkadian-speaking Babylonians as Shamash, ''šmš'', syc, ܫܡܫܐ ''šemša'', he, שֶׁמֶשׁ ''šemeš'', ar, شمس ''šams'', Ashurian Aramaic: 𐣴𐣬𐣴 ''š'meš(ā)'' ...

Shamash
. Aside from the main gods and goddesses, each ethnic group and city had their own designated deities. As with Seleucid rulers, Parthian art indicates that the Arsacid kings viewed themselves as gods; this cult of the ruler was perhaps the most widespread. The extent of Arsacid patronage of
Zoroastrianism Zoroastrianism or Mazdayasna is an Iranian religions, Iranian religion and one of the world's oldest continuously-practiced organized faiths, based on the teachings of the Iranian peoples, Iranian-speaking prophet Zoroaster (also known as ''Za ...
is debated in modern scholarship. The followers of
Zoroaster Zoroaster (, ; el, Ζωροάστρης, ''Zōroastrēs''), also known as Zarathustra (, ; ae, , ''Zaraθuštra''), Zarathushtra Spitama or Ashu Zarathushtra (Modern fa, زرتشت, ''Zartosht''), was an ancient Iranian Iranian may refer t ...

Zoroaster
would have found the bloody sacrifices of some Parthian-era Iranian cults to be unacceptable. However, there is evidence that Vologases I encouraged the presence of Zoroastrian
magi Magi (; singular magus ; from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language A classical language is a language A language is a structured system of communication Communication (from Latin ''communicare'', meaning "to share" o ...
priests at court and sponsored the compilation of sacred Zoroastrian texts which later formed the
Avesta The Avesta () is the primary collection of religious text Religious texts, also known as scripture, scriptures, holy writ, or holy books, are the texts which various religious traditions consider to be sacred, or of central importance to ...

Avesta
. The Sasanian court would later adopt Zoroastrianism as the official state religion of the empire. Although Mani (216–276 AD), the founding prophet of
Manichaeism Manichaeism (; in New Persian New Persian ( fa, فارسی نو), also known as Modern Persian () and Dari (), is the final stage of the Persian language Persian (), also known by its endonym An endonym (from Greek Greek may refer to ...
, did not proclaim his first religious revelation until 228/229 AD, Bivar asserts that his new faith contained "elements of
Mandaean Mandaeans ( ar, ٱلْمَنْدَائِيُّون, al-Mandāʾiyūn), also known as Sabians ( ar, ٱلصَّابِئَة, aṣ-Ṣābiʾah) or Sabian-Mandaeans ( ar, ٱلصَّابِئَة ٱلْمَنْدَائِيُّون, aṣ-Ṣābiʾah ...
belief, Iranian cosmogony, and even echoes of Christianity ... may be regarded as a typical reflection of the mixed religious doctrines of the late Arsacid period, which the Zoroastrian orthodoxy of the Sasanians was soon to sweep away." There is scant archaeological evidence for the spread of
Buddhism Buddhism (, ) is the world's fourth-largest religion Religion is a social Social organisms, including humans, live collectively in interacting populations. This interaction is considered social whether they are aware of it or not, and ...

Buddhism
from the
Kushan Empire The Kushan Empire ( grc, Βασιλεία Κοσσανῶν; xbc, Κυϸανο, kus, khasano, ; Brahmi script, Late Brahmi Sanskrit: , ', '; Devanagari sa, कुषाण राजवंश, ; Buddhist Hybrid Sanskrit, BHS: ; xpr, 𐭊 ...

Kushan Empire
into Iran proper. However, it is known from Chinese sources that
An Shigao An Shigao (, Korean: An Sego, Japanese: An Seikō, Vietnamese: An Thế Cao) (fl. c. 148-180 CE) was an early Buddhist missionary to China, and the earliest known translator of Indian Buddhist texts into Chinese. According to legend, he was a pri ...
(fl. 2nd century AD), a Parthian nobleman and Buddhist monk, traveled to
Luoyang Luoyang is a city located in the confluence area of Luo River and Yellow River The Yellow River (Chinese: , Jin Chinese, Jin: uə xɔ Standard Beijing Mandarin, Mandarin: ''Huáng hé'' ) is the second-longest river in China, afte ...

Luoyang
in Han China as a Buddhist missionary and translated several Buddhist canons into
Chinese Chinese can refer to: * Something related to China China, officially the People's Republic of China (PRC), is a country in East Asia. It is the List of countries and dependencies by population, world's most populous country, with a populat ...
.


Art and architecture

Parthian art can be divided into three geo-historical phases: the art of Parthia proper; the art of the ; and the art of Parthian Mesopotamia. The first genuine Parthian art, found at Mithridatkert/Nisa, combined elements of Greek and Iranian art in line with Achaemenid and Seleucid traditions. In the second phase, Parthian art found inspiration in Achaemenid art, as exemplified by the investiture relief of Mithridates II at Mount Behistun. The third phase occurred gradually after the Parthian conquest of Mesopotamia. Common motifs of the Parthian period include scenes of royal hunting expeditions and the
investiture Investiture (from the Latin preposition ''in'' and verb ''vestire'', "dress" from ''vestis'' "robe"), is the formal installation or ceremony in which a person is given the authority and regalia of a high office. Investiture can include formal dre ...
of Arsacid kings. Use of these motifs extended to include portrayals of local rulers. Common art mediums were rock-reliefs,
fresco Fresco (plural ''frescos'' or ''frescoes'') is a technique of Mural, mural painting executed upon freshly laid ("wet") lime plaster. Water is used as the vehicle for the dry-powder pigment to merge with the plaster, and with the setting of the ...

fresco
s, and even
graffiti Graffiti (both singular and plural; the singular ''graffito'' is rarely used except in archeology) is a type of art genre that means writing or drawings made on a wall or other surface, usually without permission and within public view. Graf ...

graffiti
. Geometric and stylized plant patterns were also used on
stucco Stucco or render is a construction Construction is a general term meaning the and to form , , or ,"Construction" def. 1.a. 1.b. and 1.c. ''Oxford English Dictionary'' Second Edition on CD-ROM (v. 4.0) Oxford University Press 2009 and c ...
and
plaster Plaster is a building material used for the protective or decorative coating of walls and ceilings and for moulding and casting decorative elements. In English, "plaster" usually means a material used for the interiors of buildings, while "rend ...
walls. The common motif of the Sasanian period showing two horsemen engaged in combat with lances first appeared in the Parthian reliefs at Mount Behistun. In
portrait A portrait is a painting Painting is the practice of applying paint Paint is any pigmented liquid, liquefiable, or solid mastic composition that, after application to a substrate in a thin layer, converts to a solid film. It is mo ...

portrait
ure the Parthians favored and emphasized frontality, meaning the person depicted by painting, sculpture, or raised-relief on coins faced the viewer directly instead of showing his or her profile. Although frontality in portraiture was already an old artistic technique by the Parthian period,
Daniel Schlumberger Daniel Théodore Schlumberger (19 December 1904 – 21 October 1972) was a French people, French archaeologist and Professor of Near Eastern Archaeology at the University of Strasbourg and later Princeton University. Biography After having been ...

Daniel Schlumberger
explains the innovation of Parthian frontality:
'Parthian frontality', as we are now accustomed to call it, deeply differs both from ancient Near Eastern and from Greek frontality, though it is, no doubt, an offspring of the latter. For both in Oriental art and in Greek art, frontality was an exceptional treatment: in Oriental art it was a treatment strictly reserved for a small number of traditional characters of cult and myth; in Greek art it was an option resorted to only for definite reasons, when demanded by the subject, and, on the whole, seldom made use of. With Parthian art, on the contrary, frontality becomes the normal treatment of the figure. For the Parthians frontality is really nothing but the habit of showing, in relief and in painting, all figures full-face, even at the expense (as it seems to us moderns) of clearness and intelligibility. So systematic is this use that it amounts to a complete banishment ''de facto'' of the side-view and of all intermediate attitudes. This singular state of things seems to have become established in the course of the 1st century A.D.
Parthian art, with its distinct use of frontality in portraiture, was lost and abandoned with the profound cultural and political changes brought by the Sasanian Empire. However, even after the Roman occupation of Dura-Europos in 165 AD, the use of Parthian frontality in portraiture continued to flourish there. This is exemplified by the early 3rd-century AD wall murals of the
Dura-Europos synagogue The Dura-Europos synagogue (or "Dura Europas", "Dura Europos" etc.) was an ancient synagogue A synagogue, ', 'house of assembly', or ', "house of prayer"; Yiddish Yiddish (, or , ''yidish'' or ''idish'', , ; , ''Yidish-Taytsh'', ) is ...
, a temple in the same city dedicated to Palmyrene gods, and the local
Mithraeum A mithraeum found in the ruins of Ostia Antica, Italy A Mithraeum , sometimes spelled Mithreum, is a Mithraic temple, erected in classical antiquity by the worshippers of Mithras Mithraism, also known as the Mithraic mysteries, was ...
. Parthian architecture adopted elements of
Achaemenid The Achaemenid Empire (; peo, 𐎧𐏁𐏂, translit=Xšāça, translation=The Empire), also called the First Persian Empire, was an ancient Iranian empire An empire is a sovereign state consisting of several territories and peoples subj ...

Achaemenid
and
Greek architecture Ancient Greek architecture came from the Greeks, Greek-speaking people (''Hellenic'' people) whose Ancient Greece, culture flourished on the Greek mainland, the Peloponnese, the Aegean Islands, and in colonies in Asia Minor, Anatolia and Italy for ...
, but remained distinct from the two. The style is first attested at Mithridatkert/Nisa. The Round Hall of Nisa is similar to Hellenistic palaces, but different in that it forms a circle and
vault Vault may refer to: * Jumping, the act of propelling oneself upwards Architecture * Vault (architecture), an arched form above an enclosed space * Bank vault, a reinforced room or compartment where valuables are stored * Burial vault (enclosure) ...
inside a square space. However, the artwork of Nisa, including marble statues and the carved scenes on ivory
rhyton A rhyton (plural rhytons or, following the Greek plural, rhyta) is a roughly conical container from which fluids were intended to be drunk or to be poured in some ceremony such as libation A libation is a ritual A ritual is a sequence ...

rhyton
vessels, is unquestionably influenced by Greek art. A signature feature of Parthian architecture was the ''
iwan An iwan ( fa, ایوان ''eyvān'', ar, إيوان ''Iwan'', also spelled ivan) is a rectangular hall or space, usually vaulted, walled on three sides, with one end entirely open. The formal gateway to the iwan is called ''pishtaq'', a Per ...

iwan
'', an audience hall supported by arches or
barrel vault with a barrel vaulted soffit s. The fascia A fascia (; plural fasciae ; adjective fascial; from Latin: "band") is a band or sheet of connective tissue, primarily collagen, beneath the skin that attaches, stabilizes, encloses, and separates mus ...
s and open on one side.; ; Use of the barrel vault replaced the Hellenic use of columns to support roofs. Although the ''iwan'' was known during the Achaemenid period and earlier in smaller and subterranean structures, it was the Parthians who first built them on a monumental scale. The earliest Parthian ''iwans'' are found at Seleucia, built in the early 1st century AD. Monumental ''iwans'' are also commonly found in the ancient temples of Hatra and perhaps modeled on the Parthian style. The largest Parthian ''iwans'' at that site have a span of 15 m (50 ft).


Clothing and apparel

The typical Parthian riding outfit is exemplified by the famous bronze statue of a Parthian nobleman found at Shami, Elymais. Standing 1.9 m (6 ft), the figure wears a V-shaped jacket, a V-shaped
tunic A tunic is a garment File:KangaSiyu1.jpg, A kanga (African garment), kanga, worn throughout the African Great Lakes region Clothing (also known as clothes, apparel, and attire) are items worn on the body. Typically, clothing is made of fabr ...
fastened in place with a belt, loose-fitting and many-folded trousers held by garters, and a diadem or band over his coiffed, bobbed hair. His outfit is commonly seen in relief images of Parthian coins by the mid-1st century BC. Examples of clothing in Parthian inspired sculptures have been found in excavations at Hatra, in northwestern Iraq. Statues erected there feature the typical Parthian shirt (''qamis''), combined with trousers and made with fine, ornamented materials. The aristocratic elite of Hatra adopted the bobbed hairstyles, headdresses, and belted tunics worn by the nobility belonging to the central Arsacid court. The trouser-suit was even worn by the Arsacid kings, as shown on the reverse images of coins. The Parthian trouser-suit was also adopted in
Palmyra Palmyra (; Palmyrene dialect, Palmyrene: 𐡶𐡣𐡬𐡥𐡴 () ''Tadmor''; ar, تَدْمُر ''Tadmur'') is an ancient Semitic people, Semitic city in present-day Homs Governorate, Syria. Archaeological finds date back to the Neolithic pe ...

Palmyra
, Syria, along with the use of Parthian frontality in art. Parthian sculptures depict wealthy women wearing long-sleeved robes over a dress, with necklaces, earrings, bracelets, and headdresses bedecked in jewelry. Their many-folded dresses were fastened by a
brooch A brooch (or broach ) is a decorative jewelry Jewellery or jewelry consists of decorative items worn for personal adornment, such as brooches, ring (jewellery), rings, necklaces, earrings, pendants, bracelets, and cufflinks. Jewellery may b ...

brooch
at one shoulder. Their headdresses also featured a veil which was draped backwards. As seen in Parthian coinage, the headdresses worn by the Parthian kings changed over time. The earliest Arsacid coins show rulers wearing the soft cap with cheek flaps, known as the bashlyk (Greek: ''kyrbasia''). This may have derived from an Achaemenid-era satrapal headdress and the pointy hats depicted in the Achaemenid reliefs at Behistun and
Persepolis Persepolis (; peo, 𐎱𐎠𐎼𐎿, ; ) was the ceremonial capital of the Achaemenid Empire The Achaemenid Empire (; peo, , translit=Xšāça, translation=The Empire), also called the First Persian Empire, was an ancient based in foun ...

Persepolis
. The earliest coins of Mithridates I show him wearing the soft cap, yet coins from the latter part of his reign show him for the first time wearing the royal Hellenistic diadem. Mithridates II was the first to be shown wearing the Parthian
tiara A tiara (from la, tiara, from grc, τιάρα) is a jeweled, ornamental Crown (headgear), crown traditionally worn by women. It is worn during formal occasions, particularly if the dress code is white tie. History Today, the word "tiara" i ...

tiara
, embroidered with pearls and jewels, a headdress commonly worn in the late Parthian period and by Sasanian monarchs.


Language

As culturally and religiously tolerant as the Parthians were, they adopted
Greek#REDIRECT Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially the Hellenic Republic, is a country located in Southeast Europe. Its population is approximately 10.7 million as of ...
as their
official language An official language is a language given a special status in a particular country, state, or other jurisdiction. Typically the term "official language" does not refer to the language used by a people or country, but by its government (e.g. judiciar ...

official language
, while
Aramaic Aramaic (Classical Syriac The Syriac language (; syc, / '), also known as Syriac Aramaic (''Syrian Aramaic'', ''Syro-Aramaic'') and Classical Syriac (in its literary and liturgical form), is an Aramaic Aramaic (Classical Syriac ...
remained the ''
lingua franca A lingua franca (; ; for plurals see ), also known as a bridge language, common language, trade language, auxiliary language, vehicular language, or link language, is a language or dialect The term dialect (from , , from the word , 'disco ...
'' in the empire. The native
Parthian language The Parthian language, also known as Arsacid Pahlavi and Pahlawānīg, is an extinct ancient Northwestern Iranian language spoken in Parthia, a region situated in present-day northeastern Iran and Turkmenistan. Parthian was the language of state o ...
,
Middle Persian Middle Persian or Pahlavi, also known by its endonym Pārsīk or Pārsīg (𐭯𐭠𐭫𐭮𐭩𐭪) in its later form, is a Western Middle Iranian language which became the literary language of the Sasanian Empire. For some time after the Sasan ...
, and
AkkadianAkkadian or Accadian may refer to: * The Akkadian language Akkadian ( ''akkadû'', ''ak-ka-du-u2''; logogram: ''URIKI'')John Huehnergard & Christopher Woods, "Akkadian and Eblaite", ''The Cambridge Encyclopedia of the World's Ancient Languages' ...

Akkadian
were also used.


Writing and literature

It is known that during the Parthian period the court
minstrel A minstrel was a medieval In the history of Europe The history of Europe concerns itself with the discovery and collection, the study, organization and presentation and the interpretation of past events and affairs of the people of ...
(''gōsān'') recited poetic
oral literature Oral literature or folk literature is a literature Literature broadly is any collection of Writing, written work, but it is also used more narrowly for writings specifically considered to be an art form, especially prose fiction, drama, and ...
accompanied by music. However, their stories, composed in verse form, were not written down until the subsequent Sassanian period. In fact, there is no known Parthian-language literature that survives in original form; all of the surviving texts were written down in the following centuries. It is believed that such stories as the romantic tale ''
Vis and RāminVis and Rāmin ( fa, ويس و رامين, ''Vis o Rāmin'') is a Persian literature, classical Persian Romance novel, love story. The epic was composed in poetry by Fakhruddin As'ad Gurgani (or "Gorgani") in the 11th century. Gorgani claimed a Sass ...
'' and
epic cycle The Epic Cycle ( el, Ἐπικὸς Κύκλος, ''Epikos Kyklos'') was a collection of Ancient Greek Ancient Greek includes the forms of the used in and the from around 1500 BC to 300 BC. It is often roughly divided into the follow ...
of the
Kayanian dynasty The Kayanians (Persian Persian may refer to: * People and things from Iran, historically called ''Persia'' in the English language ** Persians, Persian people, the majority ethnic group in Iran, not to be conflated with the Iranian peoples ** Per ...
were part of the corpus of oral literature from Parthian times, although compiled much later. Although literature of the Parthian language was not committed to written form, there is evidence that the Arsacids acknowledged and respected written
Greek literature Greek literature () dates back from the ancient Greek literature Ancient Greek literature is literature written in the Ancient Greek language from the earliest texts until the time of the Byzantine Empire. The earliest surviving works of anci ...
.


Women in the Parthian Empire

There are very few written and archeological sources about the position of women in the Parthian Empire, and the fragmentary information that does exist is only about royal women, whose position shows many similarities to their predecessors in the Achaemenid Empire and their successors in the Sasanian Empire. The Parthian kings were polygamous and had several wives with the title “queen” (referred to with the Babylonian spelling šarratu or the Greek basilisse), as well as concubines.Maria Brosius, “WOMEN i. In Pre-Islamic Persia”, Encyclopædia Iranica, online edition, 2021, available at WOMEN i. In Pre-Islamic Persia (accessed on 26 January 2021). Originally Published: January 1, 2000. Last Updated: March 15, 2010. Encyclopædia Iranica, online edition, New York, 1996- https://iranicaonline.org/articles/women-i It is known that kings often married their sisters, but it is unknown if they were the kings' full sisters or half sisters. According to Roman sources, Parthian kings had
harem Harem ( ar, حريم ''ḥarīm'', "a sacred inviolable place; harem; female members of the family") properly refers to domestic spaces that are reserved for the women of the house in a Muslim Muslims () are people who follow or practic ...
s full of female slaves and
hetaira Hetaira (plural hetairai (), also hetaera (plural hetaerae ), ( grc, ἑταίρα, "companion", pl. , la, hetaera, pl. ) was a type of prostitution in ancient Greece, prostitute in ancient Greece, who served as an artist, entertainer and tal ...

hetaira
s secluded from contact with men, and royal women were not allowed to participate in the royal banquets. Whether the royal women lived in seclusion from men is unknown, as no evidence of that has been found, but it is known that women at least participated in the royal banquets as entertainers, as women are shown in archeological images entertaining at such occasions with music and dance. It is assumed that royal Parthian women could own and manage their own property, land and manufactures, as could their predecessors in the Achaemenid and Seleucid Empire and their successors in the Sasanian Empire. It is fully attested that royal women, as well as noblewomen, accompanied their husbands in battle with their own entourage. This was the reason why female members of the royal family could sometimes be taken captive by enemies and had to be ransomed, such as the famous occasion when the daughter of King Osroes was held captive by emperor Trajan from the occupation of Ctesiphon in 116 until 129, but also the reason why kings sometimes killed the women of his company after a defeat to prevent them from being taken prisoners. Royal women appear to have been less included in royal representation. Artwork depicts royal women dressed similarly to those of the Achaemenid period: in long-sleeved, many-folded dresses tied by a belt, with a tiara or a veil hanging down their back. While their names and titles did appear in official documents, Parthian women were rarely depicted in art. Only two royal women were ever depicted on Parthian coins: queen
Musa of Parthia Musa (also spelled Mousa), also known as Thea Musa, was a ruling queen of the Parthian Empire The Parthian Empire (), also known as the Arsacid Empire (), was a major political and cultural power in from 247 BC to 224 AD. Its latte ...
and queen Anzaze of Elymais. Musa of Parthia is the only woman confirmed to have ruled as
queen regnant A queen regnant (plural: queens regnant) is a female monarch, equivalent in rank and title to a king (title), king, who reigns in her own right over a realm known as a "kingdom"; as opposed to a queen consort, who is the wife of a reigning king ...
of the Parthian Empire, while Rinnu, mother of underage king
Phraates II Phraates II (also spelled Frahad I; xpr, 𐭐𐭓𐭇𐭕 ''Frahāt'') was king of the Parthian Empire The Parthian Empire (), also known as the Arsacid Empire (), was a major Iranian political and cultural power in ancient Iran The history o ...
, is the only other woman believed to have been a ruler as
queen regent A regent (from the Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, known as Latium. Through the power of the ...
.J. Oelsner, “Recht im hellenistischen Babylon,” in Legal Documents of the Hellenistic World, ed. M. J. Geller and H. Maehler, London, 1995, pp. 106–148.


See also

*
Assyria (Roman province) Assyria () was reputedly a Roman province that lasted only two years (116–118 AD). History According to Eutropius and Festus, two historians who wrote under the direction of the Emperor Valens Flavius Valens (328 – 9 August 378) was ...
*
Baghdad Battery The Baghdad Battery or Parthian Battery is a set of three artifacts which were found together: a ceramic pot, a tube of copper, and a rod of iron. It was discovered in modern Khujut Rabu, Iraq Iraq ( ar, الْعِرَاق, translit=al-ʿI ...
*
Battle of Nisibis (217) A battle is an occurrence of combat Combat ( French for ''fight'') is a purposeful violent conflict meant to physically harm or kill the opposition. Combat may be armed (using weapon A weapon, arm or armament is any implement or devic ...
*
Arsacid dynasty of Armenia The Arsacid dynasty or Arshakuni ( hy, wikt:Արշակունի, Արշակունի ''Arshakuni''), ruled the Kingdom of Armenia (antiquity), Kingdom of Armenia from 12 to 428. The dynasty was a branch of the Parthian Empire, Arsacid dynasty of Pa ...
* Arsacid dynasty of Iberia * Arsacid dynasty of Caucasian Albania * Romans in Persia *
History of Iran The history of Iran, which was commonly known until the mid-20th century as Persia Iran ( fa, ایران ), also called Persia and officially the Islamic Republic of Iran ( fa, جمهوری اسلامی ایران ), is a country in W ...

History of Iran
* Inscription of Parthian imperial power *
List of Zoroastrian states and dynasties This is a list of empires, kingdoms and dynasties who predominantly followed Zoroastrianism, a religion following the teachings of Iranian peoples, Iranian spiritual leader Zoroaster. * Achaemenid Kingdom (705 BCE – 550 BCE) *Medes, Median Emp ...


Notes


References

* . * * * . * . * . * . * . * . * * . * * * . * . * . * . * . * . * (paperback). * . * . * . * . * . * . * * . * * . * . * . * . * . * * . * * * . * * . * * * * * * * * * . * . * . * . * . * . * . * . * . *


Further reading

* *


External links

* Various articles from Iran Chamber Society
Parthian EmpireThe Art of ParthiansParthian Army

Parthia.com
(a website featuring the history, geography, coins, arts and culture of ancient Parthia, including a bibliographic list of scholarly sources) {{coord, 33, 05, 37, N, 44, 34, 51, E, region:IQ_type:country_source:kolossus-dewiki, display=title Former countries in Asia Former empires in Asia Seleucid Empire successor states States and territories established in the 3rd century BC States and territories disestablished in the 3rd century 247 BC 240s BC establishments 224 disestablishments Empires and kingdoms of Iran Arsacid dynasty Ancient history of Afghanistan Ancient history of Pakistan Classical Anatolia Ancient history of the Caucasus History of Turkmenistan Ancient Near East Superpowers History of Western Asia