Parthian Empire

Parthian Empire

Overview
The Parthian Empire also known as the Arsacid Empire (Modern Persian
Persian language
Persian is an Iranian language within the Indo-Iranian branch of the Indo-European languages. It is primarily spoken in Iran, Afghanistan, Tajikistan and countries which historically came under Persian influence...

: اشکانیان Ashkāniān), was a major Iranian
Iranian peoples
The Iranian peoples are an Indo-European ethnic-linguistic group, consisting of the speakers of Iranian languages, a major branch of the Indo-European language family, as such forming a branch of Indo-European-speaking peoples...

 political and cultural power in ancient Persia. Its latter name comes from Arsaces I of Parthia
Arsaces I of Parthia
Arsaces I was the founder of the Arsacid dynasty, and after whom all 30+ monarchs of the Arsacid empire officially named themselves. A celebrated descent from antiquity begins with Arsaces.A 1st century AD tradition casts Arsaces as descending from the 5th-century BC Achaemenid monarch...

 who, as leader of the Parni
Parni
The Parni or Aparni were an east Iranian people of the Ochus River valley, southeast of the Caspian Sea...

 tribe, founded it in the mid-3rd century BC when he conquered the Parthia
Parthia
Parthia is a region of north-eastern Iran, best known for having been the political and cultural base of the Arsacid dynasty, rulers of the Parthian Empire....

 region in Iran
Iran
Iran , officially the Islamic Republic of Iran , is a country in Southern and Western Asia. The name "Iran" has been in use natively since the Sassanian era and came into use internationally in 1935, before which the country was known to the Western world as Persia...

's northeast, then a satrapy (province) in rebellion against the Seleucid Empire
Seleucid Empire
The Seleucid Empire was a Greek-Macedonian state that was created out of the eastern conquests of Alexander the Great. At the height of its power, it included central Anatolia, the Levant, Mesopotamia, Persia, today's Turkmenistan, Pamir and parts of Pakistan.The Seleucid Empire was a major centre...

. Mithridates I of Parthia
Mithridates I of Parthia
Mithridates or Mithradates I was the "Great King" of Parthia from ca. 171 BC - 138 BC, succeeding his brother Phraates I. His father was King Phriapatius of Parthia, who died ca. 176 BC). Mithridates I made Parthia into a major political power by expanding the empire to the east, south, and west...

 (r. c. 171–138 BC) greatly expanded the empire by seizing Media
Medes
The MedesThe Medes...

 and Mesopotamia
Mesopotamia
Mesopotamia is a toponym for the area of the Tigris–Euphrates river system, largely corresponding to modern-day Iraq, northeastern Syria, southeastern Turkey and southwestern Iran.Widely considered to be the cradle of civilization, Bronze Age Mesopotamia included Sumer and the...

 from the Seleucids.
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The Parthian Empire also known as the Arsacid Empire (Modern Persian
Persian language
Persian is an Iranian language within the Indo-Iranian branch of the Indo-European languages. It is primarily spoken in Iran, Afghanistan, Tajikistan and countries which historically came under Persian influence...

: اشکانیان Ashkāniān), was a major Iranian
Iranian peoples
The Iranian peoples are an Indo-European ethnic-linguistic group, consisting of the speakers of Iranian languages, a major branch of the Indo-European language family, as such forming a branch of Indo-European-speaking peoples...

 political and cultural power in ancient Persia. Its latter name comes from Arsaces I of Parthia
Arsaces I of Parthia
Arsaces I was the founder of the Arsacid dynasty, and after whom all 30+ monarchs of the Arsacid empire officially named themselves. A celebrated descent from antiquity begins with Arsaces.A 1st century AD tradition casts Arsaces as descending from the 5th-century BC Achaemenid monarch...

 who, as leader of the Parni
Parni
The Parni or Aparni were an east Iranian people of the Ochus River valley, southeast of the Caspian Sea...

 tribe, founded it in the mid-3rd century BC when he conquered the Parthia
Parthia
Parthia is a region of north-eastern Iran, best known for having been the political and cultural base of the Arsacid dynasty, rulers of the Parthian Empire....

 region in Iran
Iran
Iran , officially the Islamic Republic of Iran , is a country in Southern and Western Asia. The name "Iran" has been in use natively since the Sassanian era and came into use internationally in 1935, before which the country was known to the Western world as Persia...

's northeast, then a satrapy (province) in rebellion against the Seleucid Empire
Seleucid Empire
The Seleucid Empire was a Greek-Macedonian state that was created out of the eastern conquests of Alexander the Great. At the height of its power, it included central Anatolia, the Levant, Mesopotamia, Persia, today's Turkmenistan, Pamir and parts of Pakistan.The Seleucid Empire was a major centre...

. Mithridates I of Parthia
Mithridates I of Parthia
Mithridates or Mithradates I was the "Great King" of Parthia from ca. 171 BC - 138 BC, succeeding his brother Phraates I. His father was King Phriapatius of Parthia, who died ca. 176 BC). Mithridates I made Parthia into a major political power by expanding the empire to the east, south, and west...

 (r. c. 171–138 BC) greatly expanded the empire by seizing Media
Medes
The MedesThe Medes...

 and Mesopotamia
Mesopotamia
Mesopotamia is a toponym for the area of the Tigris–Euphrates river system, largely corresponding to modern-day Iraq, northeastern Syria, southeastern Turkey and southwestern Iran.Widely considered to be the cradle of civilization, Bronze Age Mesopotamia included Sumer and the...

 from the Seleucids. At its height, the Parthian Empire stretched from the northern reaches of the Euphrates
Euphrates
The Euphrates is the longest and one of the most historically important rivers of Western Asia. Together with the Tigris, it is one of the two defining rivers of Mesopotamia...

, in what is now south-eastern Turkey
Turkey
Turkey , known officially as the Republic of Turkey , is a Eurasian country located in Western Asia and in East Thrace in Southeastern Europe...

, to eastern Iran
Iran
Iran , officially the Islamic Republic of Iran , is a country in Southern and Western Asia. The name "Iran" has been in use natively since the Sassanian era and came into use internationally in 1935, before which the country was known to the Western world as Persia...

. The empire, located on the Silk Road
Silk Road
The Silk Road or Silk Route refers to a historical network of interlinking trade routes across the Afro-Eurasian landmass that connected East, South, and Western Asia with the Mediterranean and European world, as well as parts of North and East Africa...

 trade route between the Roman Empire
Roman Empire
The Roman Empire was the post-Republican period of the ancient Roman civilization, characterised by an autocratic form of government and large territorial holdings in Europe and around the Mediterranean....

 in the Mediterranean Basin
Mediterranean Basin
In biogeography, the Mediterranean Basin refers to the lands around the Mediterranean Sea that have a Mediterranean climate, with mild, rainy winters and hot, dry summers, which supports characteristic Mediterranean forests, woodlands, and scrub vegetation...

 and Han Empire of China
China
Chinese civilization may refer to:* China for more general discussion of the country.* Chinese culture* Greater China, the transnational community of ethnic Chinese.* History of China* Sinosphere, the area historically affected by Chinese culture...

, 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
Culture of Iran
To best understand Iran, Afghanistan, their related societies and their people, one must first attempt to acquire an understanding of their culture. It is in the study of this area where the Persian identity optimally expresses itself...

, Hellenistic
Hellenistic civilization
Hellenistic civilization represents the zenith of Greek influence in the ancient world from 323 BCE to about 146 BCE...

, and regional cultures. For about the first half of its existence, the Arsacid court adopted elements of Greek culture
Culture of Greece
The culture of Greece has evolved over thousands of years, beginning in Mycenaean Greece, continuing most notably into Classical Greece, through the influence of the Roman Empire and its Greek Eastern successor the Byzantine Empire...

, though it eventually saw a gradual revival of Iranian traditions. The Arsacid rulers were titled the "King of Kings
King of Kings
King of Kings is a title that has been used by several monarchies and empires throughout history. The title originates in the Ancient Near East. It is broadly the equivalent of the later title Emperor....

", as a claim to be the heirs to the Achaemenid Empire
Achaemenid Empire
The Achaemenid Empire , sometimes known as First Persian Empire and/or Persian Empire, was founded in the 6th century BCE by Cyrus the Great who overthrew the Median confederation...

; indeed, they accepted many local kings as vassals where the Achaemenids would have had centrally appointed, albeit largely autonomous, satraps. 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, Turkmenistan
Nisa, Turkmenistan
Nisa was an ancient city, located near modern-day Bagir village, 18 km northwest of Ashgabat, Turkmenistan.Nisa is described by some as one of the first capitals of the Parthians. It was traditionally founded by Arsaces I Nisa (also Parthaunisa) was an ancient city, located near modern-day...

 to Ctesiphon
Ctesiphon
Ctesiphon, the imperial capital of the Parthian Arsacids and of the Persian Sassanids, was one of the great cities of ancient Mesopotamia.The ruins of the city are located on the east bank of the Tigris, across the river from the Hellenistic city of Seleucia...

 along the Tigris
Tigris
The Tigris River is the eastern member of the two great rivers that define Mesopotamia, the other being the Euphrates. The river flows south from the mountains of southeastern Turkey through Iraq.-Geography:...

 (south of modern Baghdad
Baghdad
Baghdad is the capital of Iraq, as well as the coterminous Baghdad Governorate. The population of Baghdad in 2011 is approximately 7,216,040...

, Iraq), although several other sites also served as capitals.

The earliest enemies of the Parthians were the Seleucids
Seleucid–Parthian wars
The Seleucid–Parthian wars were a series of conflicts between the Seleucid Empire and Parthia which resulted in the ultimate expulsion of the Seleucids from Persia and the establishment of the Parthian Empire...

 in the west and the Scythians in the east. However, as Parthia expanded westward, they came into conflict with the Kingdom of Armenia, and eventually the late Roman Republic
Roman Republic
The Roman Republic was the period of the ancient Roman civilization where the government operated as a republic. It began with the overthrow of the Roman monarchy, traditionally dated around 508 BC, and its replacement by a government headed by two consuls, elected annually by the citizens and...

. Rome and Parthia competed with each other to establish the kings of Armenia as their subordinate clients
Client state
Client state is one of several terms used to describe the economic, political and/or military subordination of one state to a more powerful state in international affairs...

. The Parthians soundly defeated Marcus Licinius Crassus
Marcus Licinius Crassus
Marcus Licinius Crassus was a Roman general and politician who commanded the right wing of Sulla's army at the Battle of the Colline Gate, suppressed the slave revolt led by Spartacus, provided political and financial support to Julius Caesar and entered into the political alliance known as the...

 at the Battle of Carrhae
Battle of Carrhae
The Battle of Carrhae, fought in 53 BC near the town of Carrhae, was a major battle between the Parthian Empire and the Roman Republic. The Parthian Spahbod Surena decisively defeated a Roman invasion force led by Marcus Licinius Crassus...

 in 53 BC, and in 40–39 BC, Parthian forces captured the whole of the Levant
Levant
The Levant or ) is the geographic region and culture zone of the "eastern Mediterranean littoral between Anatolia and Egypt" . The Levant includes most of modern Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Israel, the Palestinian territories, and sometimes parts of Turkey and Iraq, and corresponds roughly to the...

, excepting Tyre, from the Romans. However, Mark Antony
Mark Antony
Marcus Antonius , known in English as Mark Antony, was a Roman politician and general. As a military commander and administrator, he was an important supporter and loyal friend of his mother's cousin Julius Caesar...

 led a counterattack
Antony's Parthian War
Antony's Parthian War or the Roman-Parthian War of 40-33 BC was a major conflict, which followed the Battle of Carrhae, between the Roman Republic, represented in the East by the triumvir Mark Antony, and the Parthians...

 against Parthia and several Roman emperors invaded Mesopotamia during the Roman-Parthian Wars. The Romans captured the cities of Seleucia
Seleucia
Seleucia was the first capital of the Seleucid Empire, and one of the great cities of antiquity standing in Mesopotamia, on the Tigris River.Seleucia may refer to:...

 and Ctesiphon on multiple occasions during these conflicts, but were never able to hold onto them. Frequent civil war between Parthian contenders to the throne proved more dangerous than foreign invasion, and Parthian power evaporated when Ardashir I
Ardashir I
Ardashir I was the founder of the Sassanid Empire, was ruler of Istakhr , subsequently Fars Province , and finally "King of Kings of Sassanid Empire " with the overthrow of the Parthian Empire...

, ruler of Estakhr in Fars, revolted against the Arsacids and killed their last ruler, Artabanus IV
Artabanus IV of Parthia
Artabanus IV of Parthia ruled the Parthian Empire . He was the younger son of Vologases V who died in 208. Artabanus rebelled against his brother Vologases VI, and soon gained the upper hand, although Vologases VI maintained himself in a part of Babylonia until about 228.The Roman emperor...

, in 224 AD. Ardashir established the Sassanid Empire
Sassanid Empire
The Sassanid Empire , known to its inhabitants as Ērānshahr and Ērān in Middle Persian and resulting in the New Persian terms Iranshahr and Iran , was the last pre-Islamic Persian Empire, ruled by the Sasanian Dynasty from 224 to 651...

, which ruled Iran and much of the Near East until the Muslim conquests
Muslim conquests
Muslim conquests also referred to as the Islamic conquests or Arab conquests, began with the Islamic prophet Muhammad. He established a new unified polity in the Arabian Peninsula which under the subsequent Rashidun and Umayyad Caliphates saw a century of rapid expansion of Muslim power.They...

 of the 7th century AD, although the Arsacid dynasty lived on through the Arsacid Dynasty of Armenia
Arsacid Dynasty of Armenia
The Arsacid dynasty or Arshakuni dynasty ruled the Kingdom of Armenia from 54 AD to 428 AD. Formerly a branch of the Iranian Parthian Arsacids, they became a distinctly Armenian dynasty. Arsacid Kings reigned intermittently throughout the chaotic years following the fall of the Artaxiad Dynasty...

.

Native Parthian sources, written in Parthian
Parthian language
The Parthian language, also known as Arsacid Pahlavi and Pahlavanik, is a now-extinct ancient Northwestern Iranian language spoken in Parthia, a region of northeastern ancient Persia during the rule of the Parthian empire....

, Greek
Ancient Greek
Ancient Greek is the stage of the Greek language in the periods spanning the times c. 9th–6th centuries BC, , c. 5th–4th centuries BC , and the c. 3rd century BC – 6th century AD of ancient Greece and the ancient world; being predated in the 2nd millennium BC by Mycenaean Greek...

 and other languages, are scarce when compared to Sassanid and even earlier Achaemenid sources. Aside from scattered cuneiform
Cuneiform
Cuneiform can refer to:*Cuneiform script, an ancient writing system originating in Mesopotamia in the 4th millennium BC*Cuneiform , three bones in the human foot*Cuneiform Records, a music record label...

 tablets, fragmentary ostraca, rock inscriptions, drachma coins, and the chance survival of some parchment
Parchment
Parchment is a thin material made from calfskin, sheepskin or goatskin, often split. Its most common use was as a material for writing on, for documents, notes, or the pages of a book, codex or manuscript. It is distinct from leather in that parchment is limed but not tanned; therefore, it is very...

 documents, much of Parthian history is only known through external sources. These include mainly Greek
Greek historiography
The historical period of Ancient Greece is unique in world history as the first period attested directly in proper historiography, while earlier ancient history or proto-history is known by much more circumstantial evidence, such as annals, chronicles, king lists, and pragmatic epigraphy.Herodotus...

 and Roman histories
Roman historiography
Roman Historiography is indebted to the Greeks, who invented the form. The Romans had great models to base their works upon, such as Herodotus and Thucydides. Roman historiographical forms are different from the Greek ones however, and voice very Roman concerns. Unlike the Greeks, Roman...

, but also Chinese histories
Chinese historiography
Chinese historiography refers to the study of methods and assumptions made in studying Chinese history.-History of Chinese Historians:Record of Chinese history dated back to the Shang Dynasty. The Classic of History, one of the Five Classics of Chinese classic texts is one of the earliest...

 prompted by the market for Chinese goods in Parthia. Parthian artwork is viewed by historians as a valid source for understanding aspects of society and culture that are otherwise absent in textual sources.

Origins and establishment


Before Arsaces I of Parthia
Arsaces I of Parthia
Arsaces I was the founder of the Arsacid dynasty, and after whom all 30+ monarchs of the Arsacid empire officially named themselves. A celebrated descent from antiquity begins with Arsaces.A 1st century AD tradition casts Arsaces as descending from the 5th-century BC Achaemenid monarch...

 founded the Arsacid Dynasty, he was chieftain of the Parni
Parni
The Parni or Aparni were an east Iranian people of the Ochus River valley, southeast of the Caspian Sea...

, an ancient Central-Asian tribe of Iranian peoples
Iranian peoples
The Iranian peoples are an Indo-European ethnic-linguistic group, consisting of the speakers of Iranian languages, a major branch of the Indo-European language family, as such forming a branch of Indo-European-speaking peoples...

 and one of several nomad
Nomad
Nomadic people , commonly known as itinerants in modern-day contexts, are communities of people who move from one place to another, rather than settling permanently in one location. There are an estimated 30-40 million nomads in the world. Many cultures have traditionally been nomadic, but...

ic tribes within the Dahae
Dahae
The Dahae , or Dahaeans were a confederacy of three Ancient Iranian tribes who lived in the region to the immediate east of the Caspian Sea. They spoke an Eastern Iranian language.-Records:...

 confederacy. The Parni most likely spoke an eastern Iranian language, in contrast to the northwestern Iranian language
Western Iranian languages
The Western Iranian languages are a subgroup of the Iranian languages, attested from the time of Old Persian .The two sub-branches are:*Northwestern Iranian languages*Southwestern Iranian languages...

 spoken at the time in Parthia
Parthia
Parthia is a region of north-eastern Iran, best known for having been the political and cultural base of the Arsacid dynasty, rulers of the Parthian Empire....

. The latter was a northeastern province, first under the Achaemenid
Achaemenid Empire
The Achaemenid Empire , sometimes known as First Persian Empire and/or Persian Empire, was founded in the 6th century BCE by Cyrus the Great who overthrew the Median confederation...

, and then the Seleucid
Seleucid Empire
The Seleucid Empire was a Greek-Macedonian state that was created out of the eastern conquests of Alexander the Great. At the height of its power, it included central Anatolia, the Levant, Mesopotamia, Persia, today's Turkmenistan, Pamir and parts of Pakistan.The Seleucid Empire was a major centre...

 empires. After conquering the region, the Parni adopted Parthian
Parthian language
The Parthian language, also known as Arsacid Pahlavi and Pahlavanik, is a now-extinct ancient Northwestern Iranian language spoken in Parthia, a region of northeastern ancient Persia during the rule of the Parthian empire....

 as the official court language, speaking it alongside Middle Persian
Middle Persian
Middle Persian , indigenously known as "Pârsig" sometimes referred to as Pahlavi or Pehlevi, is the Middle Iranian language/ethnolect of Southwestern Iran that during Sassanid times became a prestige dialect and so came to be spoken in other regions as well. Middle Persian is classified as a...

, Aramaic
Aramaic language
Aramaic is a group of languages belonging to the Afroasiatic language phylum. The name of the language is based on the name of Aram, an ancient region in central Syria. Within this family, Aramaic belongs to the Semitic family, and more specifically, is a part of the Northwest Semitic subfamily,...

, Greek
Greek language
Greek is an independent branch of the Indo-European family of languages. Native to the southern Balkans, it has the longest documented history of any Indo-European language, spanning 34 centuries of written records. Its writing system has been the Greek alphabet for the majority of its history;...

, Babylonian
Akkadian language
Akkadian is an extinct Semitic language that was spoken in ancient Mesopotamia. The earliest attested Semitic language, it used the cuneiform writing system derived ultimately from ancient Sumerian, an unrelated language isolate...

, Sogdian
Sogdian language
The Sogdian language is a Middle Iranian language that was spoken in Sogdiana , located in modern day Uzbekistan and Tajikistan ....

 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
Adrian David Hugh Bivar
Adrian David Hugh Bivar is an Emeritus Professor of Iranian Studies at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London. As a numismatist and archaeologist, he specializes in Sasanian seals and rock–reliefs, Kushano-Sasanian coins and chronology, Mithraic iconography, Arsacid...

 concludes that this was the year the Seleucids lost control of Parthia to Andragoras, the appointed satrap
Satrap
Satrap was the name given to the governors of the provinces of the ancient Median and Achaemenid Empires and in several of their successors, such as the Sassanid Empire and the Hellenistic empires....

 who rebelled against them. Hence, Arsaces I "backdated his regnal year
Regnal year
A regnal year is a year of the reign of a sovereign, from the Latin regnum meaning kingdom, rule.The oldest dating systems were in regnal years, and considered the date as an ordinal, not a cardinal number. For example, a monarch could have a first year of rule, a second year of rule, a third, and...

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
Tiridates I of Parthia
Tiridates, or Teridates is a Persian name, given by Arrian in his Parthica to the brother of Arsaces I, the founder of the Parthian kingdom, whom he is said to have succeeded in about 246 BC...

, who in turn was succeeded by his son Arsaces II of Parthia
Arsaces II of Parthia
Arsaces II, also Artabanus I, of the Arsacid dynasty was King of Parthia between 211 BC and 191 BC. Greek 'Arsaces' appears as 'Artabanus' in Latin sources, and both forms appear in history books....

 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. Later on, some of the Parthian Kings would claim Achaemenid descent. The claim has recently received support from numismatic and other written evidence suggesting that both Achaemenid and Parthian kings sufffered from the hereditery disease neurofibromatosis
Neurofibromatosis
Neurofibromatosis is a genetically-inherited disorder in which the nerve tissue grows tumors that may be benign or may cause serious damage by compressing nerves and other tissues...

.


For a time, Arsaces consolidated his position in Parthia and Hyrcania
Hyrcania
Hyrcania was the name of a satrapy located in the territories of present day Gilan, Golestan, Mazandaran and part of Turkmenistan, lands south of the Caspian Sea. To the Greeks, the Caspian Sea was the "Hyrcanian Sea".-Etymology:...

 by taking advantage of the invasion of Seleucid territory in the west by Ptolemy III Euergetes
Ptolemy III Euergetes
-Family:Euergetes was the eldest son of Ptolemy II Philadelphus and his first wife, Arsinoe I, and came to power in 246 BC upon the death of his father.He married Berenice of Cyrene in the year corresponding to 244/243 BC; and their children were:...

 (r. 246–222 BC) of Egypt. This conflict with Ptolemy, the Third Syrian War (246–241 BC), also allowed Diodotus I
Diodotus I
Diodotus I Soter was Seleucid satrap of Bactria, rebelled against Seleucid rule soon after the death of Antiochus II in c. 255 or 246 BC, and wrested independence for his territory. He died in 239 BC....

 to rebel and form the Greco-Bactrian Kingdom
Greco-Bactrian Kingdom
The Greco-Bactrian Kingdom was the easternmost part of the Hellenistic world, covering Bactria and Sogdiana in Central Asia from 250 to 125 BC...

 in Central Asia. The latter's successor, Diodotus II
Diodotus II
Diodotus II was a Greco-Bactrian king from c. 239 BC, son of Diodotus I. He is known for concluding a peace treaty with the Parthian king Arsaces, in order to forestall the Seleucid reconquest of both Parthia and Bactria:...

, 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
Seleucus II Callinicus or Pogon , was a ruler of the Hellenistic Seleucid Empire, who reigned from 246 to 225 BC...

 (r. 246–225 BC). After spending some time in exile among the nomadic Apasiacae
Apasiacae
Apasiacae is the name of a nomadic tribe belonging to the Scythian Massagetae. The Apasiacae lived in between of Oxus and Tanais , in the east coast of the Aral Sea, since Tanais indisputably means here the Jaxartes river, or near the Oxus river in the west of Bactria . The Parthian king Arsaces I...

 tribe, Arsaces led a counterattack and recaptured Parthia. Seleucus II's successor, Antiochus III the Great
Antiochus III the Great
Antiochus III the Great Seleucid Greek king who became the 6th ruler of the Seleucid Empire as a youth of about eighteen in 223 BC. Antiochus was an ambitious ruler who ruled over Greater Syria and western Asia towards the end of the 3rd century BC...

 (r. 222–187 BC), was unable to immediately retaliate because his troops were engaged in putting down the rebellion of Molon
Molon
Molon or Molo was a general and satrap of the Seleucid king Antiochus the Great . He held the satrapy of Media at the accession of that monarch ; in addition to which, Antiochus conferred upon him and his brother Alexander the government of all the upper provinces of his empire...

 in Media
Medes
The MedesThe Medes...

.

Antiochus III launched a massive campaign to retake Parthia and Bactria in 210 or 209 BC. He was unsuccessful, but did negotiate a peace settlement with Arsaces II. The latter was granted the title of king (Greek
Ancient Greek
Ancient Greek is the stage of the Greek language in the periods spanning the times c. 9th–6th centuries BC, , c. 5th–4th centuries BC , and the c. 3rd century BC – 6th century AD of ancient Greece and the ancient world; being predated in the 2nd millennium BC by Mycenaean Greek...

: basileus
Basileus
Basileus is a Greek term and title that has signified various types of monarchs in history. It is perhaps best known in English as a title used by the Byzantine Emperors, but also has a longer history of use for persons of authority and sovereigns in ancient Greece, as well as for the kings of...

) in return for his submission to Antiochus III as his superior. The Seleucids were unable to further intervene in Parthian affairs following increasing Roman Republic
Roman Republic
The Roman Republic was the period of the ancient Roman civilization where the government operated as a republic. It began with the overthrow of the Roman monarchy, traditionally dated around 508 BC, and its replacement by a government headed by two consuls, elected annually by the citizens and...

 encroachment and the Seleucid defeat at Magnesia
Battle of Magnesia
The Battle of Magnesia was fought in 190 BC near Magnesia ad Sipylum, on the plains of Lydia , between the Romans, led by the consul Lucius Cornelius Scipio and his brother, the famed general Scipio Africanus, with their ally Eumenes II of Pergamum against the army of Antiochus III the Great of the...

 in 190 BC. Phriapatius of Parthia
Phriapatius of Parthia
Phriapatius , sometimes called Phriapites, ruled the Parthian Empire from 191 BC to 176 BC. He was the grandson of Tiridates I of Parthia , the brother of Arsaces I of Parthia , the founder of the Parthian Empire.He ruled in the period following the invasion of Parthia by the Seleucid king...

 (r. c. 191–176 BC) succeeded Arsaces II, and Phraates I of Parthia
Phraates I of Parthia
Phraates I of Parthia, ruler of the Parthian Empire from 176-171 BCE, succeed his father Phriapatius on the throne. Died relatively young, and appointed as his successor not one of his sons, but his brother Mithridates I ....

 (r. c. 176–171 BC) eventually ascended the 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 of Alexander
The Gates of Alexander was a legendary barrier supposedly built by Alexander the Great in the Caucasus to keep the uncivilized barbarians of the north from invading the land to the south. The gates were a popular subject in medieval travel literature, starting with the Alexander Romance in a...

 and occupied Apamea Ragiana
Apamea Ragiana
Apamea Ragiana – Apamea Rhagiana, Apamea Raphiana, or Apameia Rhagiane; previously, Arsace, Khuvar, and Choara – was an ancient Hellenistic city of Choarene, Media , according to Strabo 500 stadia south of the Caspian Gates, southeast of Rhagae. The city was founded after the...

, the locations of which are unknown. Yet the greatest expansion of Parthian power and territory took place during the reign of his brother and successor Mithridates I of Parthia
Mithridates I of Parthia
Mithridates or Mithradates I was the "Great King" of Parthia from ca. 171 BC - 138 BC, succeeding his brother Phraates I. His father was King Phriapatius of Parthia, who died ca. 176 BC). Mithridates I made Parthia into a major political power by expanding the empire to the east, south, and west...

 (r. c. 171–138), whom Katouzian compares to Cyrus the Great
Cyrus the Great
Cyrus II of Persia , commonly known as Cyrus the Great, also known as Cyrus the Elder, was the founder of the Achaemenid Empire. Under his rule, the empire embraced all the previous civilized states of the ancient Near East, expanded vastly and eventually conquered most of Southwest Asia and much...

 (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
Eparchy is an anglicized Greek word , authentically Latinized as eparchia and loosely translating as 'rule over something,' like province, prefecture, or territory, to have the jurisdiction over, it has specific meanings both in politics, history and in the hierarchy of the Eastern Christian...

 of the latter kingdom, then under Eucratides I
Eucratides I
Eucratides I Megas was one of the most important Greco-Bactrian kings, descendants of dignitaries of Alexander the Great. He uprooted the Euthydemid dynasty of Greco-Bactrian kings and replaced it with his own lineage...

 (r. c. 170–145 BC). Turning his sights on the Seleucid realm, Mithridates invaded Media and occupied Ecbatana
Ecbatana
Ecbatana is supposed to be the capital of Astyages , which was taken by the Persian emperor Cyrus the Great in the sixth year of Nabonidus...

 in 148 or 147 BC; the region had been destabilized by a recent Seleucid suppression of a rebellion there led by Timarchus
Timarchus
Timarchus or Timarch was a usurper in the Seleucid empire between 163-160 BCE.A Greek nobleman, possibly from Miletus in Asia Minor, Timarchus was a friend of the Seleucid prince Antiochus IV Epiphanes during his time as hostage to Rome...

. This victory was followed by the Parthian conquest of Babylonia
Babylonia
Babylonia was an ancient cultural region in central-southern Mesopotamia , with Babylon as its capital. Babylonia emerged as a major power when Hammurabi Babylonia was an ancient cultural region in central-southern Mesopotamia (present-day Iraq), with Babylon as its capital. Babylonia emerged as...

 in Mesopotamia
Mesopotamia
Mesopotamia is a toponym for the area of the Tigris–Euphrates river system, largely corresponding to modern-day Iraq, northeastern Syria, southeastern Turkey and southwestern Iran.Widely considered to be the cradle of civilization, Bronze Age Mesopotamia included Sumer and the...

, where Mithridates had coins minted at Seleucia
Seleucia
Seleucia was the first capital of the Seleucid Empire, and one of the great cities of antiquity standing in Mesopotamia, on the Tigris River.Seleucia may refer to:...

 in 141 BC and held an official investiture
Investiture
Investiture, from the Latin is a rather general term for the formal installation of an incumbent...

 ceremony. While Mithridates retired to Hyrcania, his forces subdued the kingdoms of Elymais
Elymais
Elymais or Elamais was a semi-independent state of the 2nd century BC to the early 3rd century AD, frequently a vassalary under Parthian control, and located at the head of the Persian Gulf in the present-day region of Khuzestan, Iran...

 and Characene
Characene
Characene, also known as Mesene , was a kingdom within the Parthian Empire at the head of the Persian Gulf. Its capital was Charax Spasinou, "The Fort of Hyspaosines"...

 and occupied Susa
Susa
Susa was an ancient city of the Elamite, Persian and Parthian empires of Iran. It is located in the lower Zagros Mountains about east of the Tigris River, between the Karkheh and Dez Rivers....

. By this time, Parthian authority extended as far east as the Indus River
Indus River
The Indus River is a major river which flows through Pakistan. It also has courses through China and India.Originating in the Tibetan plateau of western China in the vicinity of Lake Mansarovar in Tibet Autonomous Region, the river runs a course through the Ladakh district of Jammu and Kashmir and...

.

Whereas Hecatompylos
Hecatompylos
Hecatompylos was an ancient city in west Khurasan, Iran, which was the capital of the Parthian Arsacid dynasty by 200 BCE. The Greek name Hekatompylos means "one hundred gates", but this title was commonly used for cities which had more than the traditional four gates...

 had served as the first Parthian capital, Mithridates established royal residences at Seleucia, Ecbatana, Ctesiphon
Ctesiphon
Ctesiphon, the imperial capital of the Parthian Arsacids and of the Persian Sassanids, was one of the great cities of ancient Mesopotamia.The ruins of the city are located on the east bank of the Tigris, across the river from the Hellenistic city of Seleucia...

 and his newly founded city, Mithradatkert (Nisa, Turkmenistan
Nisa, Turkmenistan
Nisa was an ancient city, located near modern-day Bagir village, 18 km northwest of Ashgabat, Turkmenistan.Nisa is described by some as one of the first capitals of the Parthians. It was traditionally founded by Arsaces I Nisa (also Parthaunisa) was an ancient city, located near modern-day...

), 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 of Parthia
Gotarzes I of Parthia
Gotarzes I of Parthia ruled parts of the Parthian Empire c. 95–90 BC. He was the grandson of Phriapatius and came to power during the troubled times around the end of the reign of Mithridates II. He is mentioned on some astronomical tablets from Babylon and appears to have reigned for some...

 (r. c. 90–80 BC). It became the site of the royal coronation
Coronation
A coronation is a ceremony marking the formal investiture of a monarch and/or their consort with regal power, usually involving the placement of a crown upon their head and the presentation of other items of regalia...

 ceremony and the representational city of the Arsacids, according to Brosius.

The Seleucids were unable to retaliate immediately as general Diodotus Tryphon
Diodotus Tryphon
Diodotus Tryphon was king of the Hellenistic Seleucid kingdom. As a general of the army, he promoted the claims of Antiochus VI Dionysus, the infant son of Alexander Balas, in Antioch after Alexander's death, but then in 142 deposed the child and himself seized power in Coele-Syria where Demetrius...

 led a rebellion at the capital Antioch
Antioch
Antioch on the Orontes was an ancient city on the eastern side of the Orontes River. It is near the modern city of Antakya, Turkey.Founded near the end of the 4th century BC by Seleucus I Nicator, one of Alexander the Great's generals, Antioch eventually rivaled Alexandria as the chief city of the...

 in 142 BC. However, by 140 BC Demetrius II Nicator
Demetrius II Nicator
For the similarly named Macedonian ruler, see Demetrius II of Macedon. For the Macedonian prince, see Demetrius the Fair.Demetrius II , called Nicator , was one of the sons of Demetrius I Soter, brother of Antiochus VII Sidetes and his mother could have been Laodice V...

 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 Sidetes
Antiochus VII Euergetes, nicknamed Sidetes , ruler of the Hellenistic Seleucid Empire, reigned from 138 to 129 BC. He was the last Seleucid king of any stature....

 (r. 138–129 BC), a brother of Demetrius, assumed the Seleucid throne and married the latter's wife Cleopatra Thea
Cleopatra Thea
Cleopatra Thea surnamed Eueteria was the ruler of the Hellenistic Seleucid Empire. She ruled Syria from 125 BC after the death of Demetrius II Nicator...

. After defeating Diodotus Tryphon, Antiochus initiated a campaign in 130 BC to retake Mesopotamia, now under the rule of Phraates II of Parthia
Phraates II of Parthia
Phraates II of Parthia, son of Mithridates I of Parthia , the conqueror of Babylon, ruled the Parthian Empire from 138 BC to 128 BC. He was attacked in 130 BC by Antiochus VII Sidetes , ruler of the Seleucid Empire...

 (r. c. 138–128 BC). The Parthian general Indates was defeated along the Great Zab
Great Zab
The Great Zab , , , ) 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 the Great Zab covers approximately , and during its course, the rivers collects the water from a large number...

, 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
History of Syria
The history of Syria:*Prehistory and Ancient Near East: see Pre-history of the Southern Levant, Fertile Crescent, Ebla, Mitanni*Antiquity: see Syro-Hittite states, Greater Syria, Roman Syria...

, 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 in battle. His body was sent back to Syria in a silver coffin; his son Seleucus was made a Parthian prince and a daughter joined Phraates' harem
Harem
Harem refers to the sphere of women in what is usually a polygynous household and their enclosed quarters which are forbidden to men...

.
While the Parthians regained the territories lost in the west, another threat arose in the east. In 177–176 BC the nomadic Xiongnu
Xiongnu
The Xiongnu were ancient nomadic-based people that formed a state or confederation north of the agriculture-based empire of the Han Dynasty. Most of the information on the Xiongnu comes from Chinese sources...

 confederation dislodged the nomadic Yuezhi
Yuezhi
The Yuezhi, or Rouzhi , also known as the Da Yuezhi or Da Rouzhi , were an ancient Central Asian people....

 from their homelands in what is now Gansu
Gansu
' is a province located in the northwest of the People's Republic of China.It lies between the Tibetan and Huangtu plateaus, and borders Mongolia, Inner Mongolia, and Ningxia to the north, Xinjiang and Qinghai to the west, Sichuan to the south, and Shaanxi to the east...

 province in Northwest China; the Yuezhi then migrated west into Bactria and displaced the Saka
Saka
The Saka were a Scythian tribe or group of tribes....

 (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 reports that his successor Artabanus I of Parthia
Artabanus I of Parthia
Artabanus I of Parthia ruled the Parthian Empire from c. 128 to 124 BC. He succeeded his nephew Phraates II and died, just like his predecessor, in battle against the Tochari - a name commonly identified with the Yuezhi of the Chinese sources, who had fled from Gansu in northwest China, via the Ili...

 (r. c. 128–124 BC) shared a similar fate fighting nomads in the east. He claims Artabanus was killed by the Tocharians
Tocharians
The Tocharians were the Tocharian-speaking inhabitants of the Tarim Basin, making them the easternmost speakers of Indo-European languages in antiquity. They were known as, or at least closely related to, the Yuezhi of Chinese sources...

 (identified as the Yuezhi), although Bivar believes Justin conflated them with the Saka. Mithridates II of Parthia
Mithridates II of Parthia
Mithridates II the Great was king of Parthian Empire from 123 to 88 BC. His name invokes the protection of Mithra. He adopted the title Epiphanes, "god manifest" and introduced new designs on his extensive coinage....

 (r. c. 124–90 BC) later recovered the lands lost to the Saka in Sistan
Sistan
Sīstān is a border region in eastern Iran , southwestern Afghanistan and northern tip of Southwestern Pakistan .-Etymology:...

.


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
Hyspaosines or Aspasine was a satrap installed by Antiochus IV Epiphanes and later the first king of Characene or Mesene . Hyspaosines is mainly known from coins, but also appears in texts of cuneiform script...

 from Charax Spasinu
Charax Spasinu
Charax Spasinu, or Charax Pasinu, Charax Spasinou , Alexandria , and Antiochia in Susiana was an ancient port at the head of the Persian Gulf, and the capital of the ancient kingdom of Characene.The exact location of Charax is unknown...

. 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
Vassal
A vassal or feudatory is a person who has entered into a mutual obligation to a lord or monarch in the context of the feudal system in medieval Europe. The obligations often included military support and mutual protection, in exchange for certain privileges, usually including the grant of land held...

s under Parthian suzerainty
Suzerainty
Suzerainty occurs where a region or people is a tributary to a more powerful entity which controls its foreign affairs while allowing the tributary vassal state some limited domestic autonomy. The dominant entity in the suzerainty relationship, or the more powerful entity itself, is called a...

. After Mithridates extended Parthian control further west, occupying Dura-Europos
Dura-Europos
Dura-Europos , also spelled Dura-Europus, was a Hellenistic, Parthian and Roman border city built on an escarpment 90 m above the right bank of the Euphrates river. It is located near the village of Salhiyé, in today's Syria....

 in 113 BC, he became embroiled in a conflict with the Kingdom of Armenia. His forces defeated and deposed Artavasdes I of Armenia
Artavasdes I of Armenia
Artavasdes I of Armenia was the son of Artaxias I and Queen Satenik....

 in 97 BC, taking his son Tigranes hostage, who would later become Tigranes II "the Great" of Armenia
Tigranes the Great
Tigranes the Great was emperor of Armenia under whom the country became, for a short time, the strongest state east of the Roman Republic. He was a member of the Artaxiad Royal House...

 (r. c. 95–55 BC).

The Indo-Parthian Kingdom
Indo-Parthian Kingdom
The Gondopharid dynasty, and other so-called Indo-Parthian rulers, were a group of ancient kings from present day eastern Afghanistan and Pakistan who ruled India, during or slightly before the 1st century AD...

, located in modern-day Afghanistan
Afghanistan
Afghanistan , officially the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, is a landlocked country located in the centre of Asia, forming South Asia, Central Asia and the Middle East. With a population of about 29 million, it has an area of , making it the 42nd most populous and 41st largest nation in the world...

, Pakistan
Pakistan
Pakistan , officially the Islamic Republic of Pakistan is a sovereign state in South Asia. It has a coastline along the Arabian Sea and the Gulf of Oman in the south and is bordered by Afghanistan and Iran in the west, India in the east and China in the far northeast. In the north, Tajikistan...

, and northern India
India
India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

, 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
Apollonius of Tyana was a Greek Neopythagorean philosopher from the town of Tyana in the Roman province of Cappadocia in Asia Minor. Little is certainly known about him...

 visited the court of Vardanes I of Parthia
Vardanes I of Parthia
Vardanes I of Parthia ruled the Parthian Empire from about 40–45. He succeeded his father Artabanus II, but had to continually fight against Gotarzes II, a rival claimant to the throne....

 (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
Taxila is a Tehsil in the Rawalpindi District of Punjab province of Pakistan. It is an important archaeological site.Taxila is situated about northwest of Islamabad Capital Territory and Rawalpindi in Panjab; just off the Grand Trunk Road...

, 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
Foreign relations of Imperial China
Imperial China had a long tradition of foreign relations. From the Qin Dynasty until the Qing Dynasty, the Culture of China had an impact upon neighboring and distant countries, while gradually being transformed by outside influences as well....

 of Zhang Qian
Zhang Qian
Zhang Qian was an imperial envoy to the world outside of China in the 2nd century BCE, during the time of the Han Dynasty...

 into Central Asia during the reign of Emperor Wu of Han
Emperor Wu of Han
Emperor Wu of Han , , personal name Liu Che , was the seventh emperor of the Han Dynasty of China, ruling from 141 BC to 87 BC. Emperor Wu is best remembered for the vast territorial expansion that occurred under his reign, as well as the strong and centralized Confucian state he organized...

 (r. 141–87 BC), the Han Empire
Han Dynasty
The Han Dynasty was the second imperial dynasty of China, preceded by the Qin Dynasty and succeeded by the Three Kingdoms . It was founded by the rebel leader Liu Bang, known posthumously as Emperor Gaozu of Han. It was briefly interrupted by the Xin Dynasty of the former regent Wang Mang...

 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
Silk Road
The Silk Road or Silk Route refers to a historical network of interlinking trade routes across the Afro-Eurasian landmass that connected East, South, and Western Asia with the Mediterranean and European world, as well as parts of North and East Africa...

 yet did not achieve a desired military alliance against the Xiongnu confederation. The Parthian Empire was enriched by taxing the Eurasian caravan trade in silk
History of silk
According to Chinese tradition, the history of silk begins in the 27th century BCE. Its use was confined to China until the Silk Road opened at some point during the latter half of the first millennium BCE. China maintained its virtual monopoly over silk for another thousand years...

, the most highly priced luxury good imported by the Romans
Roman commerce
Roman trade was the engine that drove the Roman economy of the late Republic and the early Empire. Fashions and trends in historiography and in popular culture have tended to neglect the economic basis of the empire in favor of the lingua franca of Latin and the exploits of the Roman legions...

. 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 of Parthia
Pacorus II of Parthia ruled the Parthian Empire from about 78 to 105. A son of Vonones II and brother of Vologases I, he was given the kingdom of Media Atropatene by the latter after his succession to the throne. After Vologases' death, Pacorus revolted against his brother's son and successor,...

 sent lions and Persian gazelles to Emperor Zhang of Han
Emperor Zhang of Han
Emperor Zhang of Han, ch. 漢章帝, py. hàn zhāng dì, wg. Han Chang-ti, was an emperor of the Chinese Han Dynasty from 75 to 88. He was the third emperor of the Chinese Eastern Han Dynasty....

 (r. 75–88 AD). Besides silk, Parthian goods purchased by Roman merchants included iron from India, spices, and fine leather. Caravans traveling through the Parthian Empire brought West Asian and sometimes Roman
Roman glass
Roman glass objects have been recovered across the Roman Empire in domestic, industrial and funerary contexts. Glass was used primarily for the production of vessels, although mosaic tiles and window glass were also produced. Roman glass production developed from Hellenistic technical traditions,...

 luxury glasswares to China.

Rome and Armenia



The Yuezhi Kushan Empire
Kushan Empire
The Kushan Empire originally formed in the early 1st century AD under Kujula Kadphises in the territories of ancient Bactria on either side of the middle course of the Oxus in what is now northern Afghanistan, Pakistan, and southern Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.During the 1st and early 2nd centuries...

 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
Lucius Cornelius Sulla Felix , known commonly as Sulla, was a Roman general and statesman. He had the rare distinction of holding the office of consul twice, as well as that of dictator...

, the Roman proconsul
Proconsul
A proconsul was a governor of a province in the Roman Republic appointed for one year by the senate. In modern usage, the title has been used for a person from one country ruling another country or bluntly interfering in another country's internal affairs.-Ancient Rome:In the Roman Republic, a...

 of Cilicia
Cilicia
In antiquity, Cilicia was the south coastal region of Asia Minor, south of the central Anatolian plateau. It existed as a political entity from Hittite times into the Byzantine empire...

, convened with the Parthian diplomat Orobazus
Orobazus
Orobazus was the ambassador of the Parthian king Mithridates II who contacted the Roman magistrate Lucius Cornelius Sulla. This was the first meeting between a Parthian and a Roman official. The results of this meeting are not clear, but it is generally known that during the meeting Sulla was...

 at the Euphrates
Euphrates
The Euphrates is the longest and one of the most historically important rivers of Western Asia. Together with the Tigris, it is one of the two defining rivers of Mesopotamia...

 river. The two agreed that the river would serve as the border between Parthia and Rome, although Rose Mary Sheldon argues 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 Laodice and her Seleucid ally Antiochus X Eusebes
Antiochus X Eusebes
Antiochus X Eusebes Philopator, ruler of the Greek Seleucid kingdom, was a contestant in the tangled-up family feuds among the last Seleucids. Beginning his reign in 95 BC his first achievement was to defeat his double half-cousin/second cousin Seleucus VI Epiphanes, thus avenging the recent death...

 (r. 95–92? BC), killing the latter. When one of the last Seleucid monarchs, Demetrius III Eucaerus
Demetrius III Eucaerus
Demetrius III , called Eucaerus and Philopator, was a ruler of the Seleucid kingdom, the son of Antiochus VIII Grypus and his wife Tryphaena.By the assistance of Ptolemy IX Lathyros, king of Egypt, he recovered part of his father's Syrian dominions ca 95 BC, and...

, attempted to siege Beroea (modern Aleppo
Aleppo
Aleppo is the largest city in Syria and the capital of Aleppo Governorate, the most populous Syrian governorate. With an official population of 2,301,570 , expanding to over 2.5 million in the metropolitan area, it is also one of the largest cities in the Levant...

), Parthia sent military aid to the inhabitants and Demetrius was defeated.
Following the rule of Mithridates II, Gotarzes I ruled Babylonia, while Orodes I
Orodes I of Parthia
King Orodes I of Parthia ruled the Parthian Empire from c. 90 to 80 BC in succession to Gotarzes I. Until 88 BC his reign coincided with that of Mithridates II, the rival king against whom Gotarzes had revolted...

 (r. c. 90–80 BC) ruled Parthia separately. 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 Sanatruces of Parthia
Sanatruces of Parthia
King Sanatruces of Parthia ruled the Parthian Empire from c. 77 to c. 70 BC. He was a member of the Arsacid house, who, according to work attributed to Lucian, in the troubled times after the death of Mithridates II in ca...

 (r. c. 78–71 BC). Following the outbreak of the Third Mithridatic War
Third Mithridatic War
The Third Mithridatic War was the last and longest of three Mithridatic Wars fought between Mithridates VI of Pontus and his allies and the Roman Republic...

, Mithridates VI of Pontus
Mithridates VI of Pontus
Mithridates VI or Mithradates VI Mithradates , from Old Persian Mithradatha, "gift of Mithra"; 134 BC – 63 BC, also known as Mithradates the Great and Eupator Dionysius, was king of Pontus and Armenia Minor in northern Anatolia from about 120 BC to 63 BC...

 (r. 119–63 BC), an ally of Tigranes II of Armenia, requested aid from Parthia against Rome, but Sanatruces refused help. When the Roman commander Lucullus
Lucullus
Lucius Licinius Lucullus , was an optimate politician of the late Roman Republic, closely connected with Sulla Felix...

 marched against the Armenian capital Tigranocerta in 69 BC, Mithridates VI and Tigranes II requested the aid of Phraates III of Parthia
Phraates III of Parthia
King Phraates III of Parthia succeeded his father Sanatruces and ruled the Parthian Empire from 70 to 57 BC. He was called "the God" because of his coins, that were ideal for sailors because they were polished with gold dust, so that people from other countries considered their value higher than...

 (r. c. 71–58). Phraates did not send aid either, and after the fall of Tigranocerta
Battle of Tigranocerta
The Battle of Tigranocerta was fought on October 6, 69 BC between the forces of the Roman Republic and the army of the Kingdom of Armenia led by King Tigranes the Great. The Roman force was led by Consul Lucius Licinius Lucullus, and Tigranes was defeated...

 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
Artashat
Artashat , is a city on Araks River in the Ararat valley, 30 km southeast of Yerevan. Being one of the oldest cities of Armenia, Artashat is the capital of Ararat Province. Modern Artashat is situated on the Yerevan-Nakhichevan-Baku and Nakhichevan-Tabriz railway and on...

. When this siege failed, Tigranes the Younger once again fled, this time to the Roman commander Pompey
Pompey
Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus, also known as Pompey or Pompey the Great , was a military and political leader of the late Roman Republic...

. He promised Pompey that he would act as a guide through Armenia, but, when Tigranes II submitted to Rome as a client king
Client state
Client state is one of several terms used to describe the economic, political and/or military subordination of one state to a more powerful state in international affairs...

, 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
Corduene was an ancient region located in northern Mesopotamia and modern day Kurdish inhabited south east Turkey. It was a province of the Greater Armenia. It was referred to by the Greeks as Karduchia and by both the Greeks and Romans as Corduene...

 (southeastern Turkey) where, according to two conflicting Roman accounts, the Roman consul Lucius Afranius
Lucius Afranius (consul)
Lucius Afranius was an ancient Roman legatus and client of Pompey the Great. He served with Pompey during his Iberian campaigns against Sertorius in the late 70s BC, and remained in his service right through to the Civil War. He died after the Battle of Thapsus in 46 BC.-Early career:Lucius...

 forced the Parthians out by either military or diplomatic means.


Phraates III was assassinated by his sons Orodes II of Parthia
Orodes II of Parthia
Orodes II of Parthia ruled the Parthian Empire from 57 to 38 BC. Orodes was a son of Phraates III, whom he murdered in 57 BC, assisted by his brother Mithridates...

 and Mithridates III of Parthia
Mithridates III of Parthia
King Mithridates III of Parthia ruled the Parthian Empire c. 57–54 BC. With the assistance of his brother Orodes he murdered his father Phraates III. He was made king of Media and waged war against his brother, but was soon deposed on account of his cruelty. He took refuge with Aulus Gabinius, the...

, after which Orodes turned on Mithridates, forcing him to flee from Media to Roman Syria
Syria (Roman province)
Syria was a Roman province, annexed in 64 BC by Pompey, as a consequence of his military presence after pursuing victory in the Third Mithridatic War. It remained under Roman, and subsequently Byzantine, rule for seven centuries, until 637 when it fell to the Islamic conquests.- Principate :The...

. Aulus Gabinius
Aulus Gabinius
Aulus Gabinius, Roman statesman and general, and supporter of Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus, was a prominent figure in the later days of the Roman Republic....

, 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 Auletes
Ptolemy Neos Dionysos Theos Philopator Theos Philadelphos , more commonly known as "Auletes" or "Nothos" , was an Egyptian king of Macedonian descent...

 (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
Surena or Suren may refer to either a noble family of Parthia also known as the House of Suren, or to a renowned 1st century BC General Surena who was a member of that family....

 after his noble family's clan name, recaptured Seleucia, and Mithridates was executed.

Marcus Licinius Crassus
Marcus Licinius Crassus
Marcus Licinius Crassus was a Roman general and politician who commanded the right wing of Sulla's army at the Battle of the Colline Gate, suppressed the slave revolt led by Spartacus, provided political and financial support to Julius Caesar and entered into the political alliance known as the...

, one of the triumvirs
First Triumvirate
The First Triumvirate was the political alliance of Gaius Julius Caesar, Marcus Licinius Crassus, and Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus. Unlike the Second Triumvirate, the First Triumvirate had no official status whatsoever; its overwhelming power in the Roman Republic was strictly unofficial influence, and...

 who was now proconsul of Syria, launched an invasion into Parthia in 53 BC in belated support of Mithridates. As his army marched to Carrhae
Battle of Carrhae
The Battle of Carrhae, fought in 53 BC near the town of Carrhae, was a major battle between the Parthian Empire and the Roman Republic. The Parthian Spahbod Surena decisively defeated a Roman invasion force led by Marcus Licinius Crassus...

 (modern Harran
Harran
Harran was a major ancient city in Upper Mesopotamia whose site is near the modern village of Altınbaşak, Turkey, 24 miles southeast of Şanlıurfa...

, southeastern Turkey), Orodes II invaded Armenia, cutting off support from Rome's ally Artavasdes II of Armenia
Artavasdes II of Armenia
King Artavasdes II ruled Armenia from 53 to 34 BC. He succeeded his father, Tigranes the Great. Artavasdes was an ally of Rome, but when Orodes II of Parthia invaded Armenia following his victory over the Roman general Marcus Licinius Crassus at the Battle of Carrhae in 53 BC, he was forced to...

 (r. 53–34 BC). Orodes persuaded Artavasdes to a marriage alliance between the crown prince Pacorus I of Parthia
Pacorus I of Parthia
Pacorus I of Parthia was the son of king Orodes II and queen Laodice of the Parthian Empire. It is possible that he was co-ruler with his father for at least part of his father's reign...

 (d. 38 BC) and Artavasdes' sister.

Surena, with an army entirely on horseback, rode to meet Crassus. Surena's 1,000 cataphract
Cataphract
A cataphract was a form of armored heavy cavalry utilised in ancient warfare by a number of peoples in Western Eurasia and the Eurasian Steppe....

s, armed with lances, and 9,000 horse archers were outnumbered roughly four to one by Crassus' army, comprising seven Roman legion
Roman legion
A Roman legion normally indicates the basic ancient Roman army unit recruited specifically from Roman citizens. The organization of legions varied greatly over time but they were typically composed of perhaps 5,000 soldiers, divided into maniples and later into "cohorts"...

s and auxiliaries including mounted Gauls
Gauls
The Gauls were a Celtic people living in Gaul, the region roughly corresponding to what is now France, Belgium, Switzerland and Northern Italy, from the Iron Age through the Roman period. They mostly spoke the Continental Celtic language called Gaulish....

 and light infantry. Relying on a baggage train of about 1,000 camels, the Parthian horse archers were given constant supplies of arrows. They employed the "Parthian shot
Parthian shot
The Parthian shot was a military tactic made famous by the Parthians, ancient Iranian people. The Parthian archers, mounted on light horse, would feign retreat; then, while at a full gallop, turn their bodies back to shoot at the pursuing enemy. The maneuver required superb equestrian skills,...

" tactic, where the horsemen would fake a retreat, only to turn and fire upon their opponents. This tactic, combined with the use of heavy composite bow
Composite bow
A composite bow is a bow made from horn, wood, and sinew laminated together. The horn is on the belly, facing the archer, and sinew on the back of a wooden core. Sinew and horn will store more energy than wood for the same length of bow...

s on 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
Parley
Parley is a discussion or conference, especially one between enemies over terms of a truce or other matters. The root of the word parley is parler, which is the French verb "to speak"; specifically the conjugation parlez "you speak", whether as imperative or indicative.Beginning in the High Middle...

, 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. Crown prince
Crown Prince
A crown prince or crown princess is the heir or heiress apparent to the throne in a royal or imperial monarchy. The wife of a crown prince is also titled crown princess....

 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
Gaius Cassius Longinus was a Roman senator, a leading instigator of the plot to kill Julius Caesar, and the brother in-law of Marcus Junius Brutus.-Early life:...

, who ambushed and killed Osaces. The Arsacids sided with Pompey in his civil war
Caesar's civil war
The Great Roman Civil War , also known as Caesar's Civil War, was one of the last politico-military conflicts in the Roman Republic before the establishment of the Roman Empire...

 against Julius Caesar
Julius Caesar
Gaius Julius Caesar was a Roman general and statesman and a distinguished writer of Latin prose. He played a critical role in the gradual transformation of the Roman Republic into the Roman Empire....

 and even sent troops to support the anti-Caesarian forces at the Battle of Philippi
Battle of Philippi
The Battle of Philippi was the final battle in the Wars of the Second Triumvirate between the forces of Mark Antony and Octavian and the forces of Julius Caesar's assassins Marcus Junius Brutus and Gaius Cassius Longinus in 42 BC, at Philippi in Macedonia...

 in 42 BC. Quintus Labienus
Quintus Labienus
Quintus Labienus , the son of Titus Labienus, was a Roman republican general, later in the service of Parthia.After Julius Caesar was murdered in 44 BC, Labienus took the side of Brutus and Cassius, the latter whom he served in the capacity of an ambassador to the Parthians...

, a general loyal to Cassius and Brutus, sided with Parthia against the Second Triumvirate
Second Triumvirate
The Second Triumvirate is the name historians give to the official political alliance of Octavius , Marcus Aemilius Lepidus, and Mark Antony, formed on 26 November 43 BC with the enactment of the Lex Titia, the adoption of which marked the end of the Roman Republic...

 in 40 BC; the following year he invaded Syria alongside Pacorus I. The triumvir Mark Antony
Mark Antony
Marcus Antonius , known in English as Mark Antony, was a Roman politician and general. As a military commander and administrator, he was an important supporter and loyal friend of his mother's cousin Julius Caesar...

 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 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
Anatolia is a geographic and historical term denoting the westernmost protrusion of Asia, comprising the majority of the Republic of Turkey...

 while Pacorus and his commander Barzapharnes
Barzapharnes
Barzapharnes was a Parthian general during the latter half of the 1st century BCE. In 40 BCE, Barzapharnes commanded a Parthian invasion of the Levant, commanded and aided by Pacorus, who allied himself with the Roman outlaw Quintus Labienus, and seized Syria...

 invaded the Roman Levant
Levant
The Levant or ) is the geographic region and culture zone of the "eastern Mediterranean littoral between Anatolia and Egypt" . The Levant includes most of modern Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Israel, the Palestinian territories, and sometimes parts of Turkey and Iraq, and corresponds roughly to the...

. They subdued all settlements along the Mediterranean coast as far south as Ptolemais (modern Acre, Israel
Acre, Israel
Acre , is a city in the Western Galilee region of northern Israel at the northern extremity of Haifa Bay. Acre is one of the oldest continuously inhabited sites in the country....

), with the lone exception of Tyre. In Judea
Judea
Judea or Judæa was the name of the mountainous southern part of the historic Land of Israel from the 8th century BCE to the 2nd century CE, when Roman Judea was renamed Syria Palaestina following the Jewish Bar Kokhba revolt.-Etymology:The...

, the pro-Roman Jewish forces of high priest Hyrcanus II
Hyrcanus II
Hyrcanus II, a member of the Hasmonean dynasty, was the Jewish High Priest and King of Judea in the 1st century BC.-Accession:Hyrcanus was the eldest son of Alexander Jannaeus, King and High Priest, and Alexandra Salome...

, Phasael
Phasael
Phasael was a prince from the Herodian Dynasty of Judea.-Origins and early career:...

, and Herod
Herod the Great
Herod , also known as Herod the Great , was a Roman client king of Judea. His epithet of "the Great" is widely disputed as he is described as "a madman who murdered his own family and a great many rabbis." He is also known for his colossal building projects in Jerusalem and elsewhere, including his...

 were defeated by the Parthians and their Jewish ally Antigonus II Mattathias (r. 40–37 BC); the latter was made king of Judea while Herod fled to his fort at Masada
Masada
Masada is the name for a site of ancient palaces and fortifications in the South District of Israel, on top of an isolated rock plateau, or horst, on the eastern edge of the Judean Desert, overlooking the Dead Sea. Masada is best known for the violence that occurred there in the first century CE...

.

Despite these successes, the Parthians were soon driven out of the Levant by a Roman counteroffensive. Publius Ventidius Bassus
Publius Ventidius Bassus
Publius Ventidius Bassus, or in full, Publius Ventidius Publii filius Bassus, "Publius Ventidius, Publius's son, Bassus" was a Roman general and one of Julius Caesar's protégés...

, an officer under Mark Antony, defeated and then executed Labienus at the Battle of the Cilician Gates
Battle of the Cilician Gates
The battle of the Cilician Gates in 39 BCE was a decisive victory for the Roman general Publius Ventidius Bassus over the Parthian army and its Roman allies who served under Quintus Labienus in Asia Minor.-Prelude:...

 (in modern Mersin Province
Mersin Province
The Mersin Province is a province in southern Turkey, on the Mediterranean coast between Antalya and Adana. The provincial capital is the city of Mersin and the other major town is Tarsus, birthplace of St Paul...

, 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
Battle of Amanus Pass
The Battle of Amanus Pass took place in 39BC, after the Parthian defeat in the battle of the Cilician Gates. The Parthians, alarmed after their recent defeats by the forces of Publius Ventidius Bassus, began to concentrate their forces in northern Syria under the command of one of Parthia's best...

. 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
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 the son of King Orodes on the Greater Syria district of Cyrrhestica.-Prelude:...

, 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 of Parthia
Phraates IV of Parthia
King Phraates IV of Parthia, son of Orodes II, ruled the Parthian Empire from 37–2 BC. He was appointed successor to the throne in 37 BC, after the death of his brother Pacorus I...

 (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's Parthian War
Antony's Parthian War or the Roman-Parthian War of 40-33 BC was a major conflict, which followed the Battle of Carrhae, between the Roman Republic, represented in the East by the triumvir Mark Antony, and the Parthians...

. 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 Erzurum
Erzurum
Erzurum is a city in Turkey. It is the largest city, the capital of Erzurum Province. The city is situated 1757 meters above sea level. Erzurum had a population of 361,235 in the 2000 census. .Erzurum, known as "The Rock" in NATO code, served as NATO's southeastern-most air force post during the...

, Artavasdes II of Armenia once again switched alliances by sending Antony additional troops. Antony invaded Media Atropatene
Atropatene
Atropatene was an ancient kingdom established and ruled under local ethnic Iranian dynasts first with "Darius" of Persia and later "Alexander" of Macedonia, starting in the 4th century BC and includes the territory of modern-day Iranian Azarbaijan and Iranian Kurdistan. Its capital was Gazaca...

 (modern Azerbaijan
Azerbaijan
Azerbaijan , officially the Republic of Azerbaijan is the largest country in the Caucasus region of Eurasia. Located at the crossroads of Western Asia and Eastern Europe, it is bounded by the Caspian Sea to the east, Russia to the north, Georgia to the northwest, Armenia to the west, and Iran to...

), then ruled by Parthia's ally Artavasdes I of Media Atropatene
Artavasdes I of Media Atropatene
Artavasdes I was a king of Media Atropatene. As an enemy of Artavasdes II of Armenia and his son Artaxias II, Artavasdes I was mentioned in diplomatic affairs of Cleopatra VII of Egypt and Mark Anthony.- Biography :...

, 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
Battering ram
A battering ram is a siege engine originating in ancient times and designed to break open the masonry walls of fortifications or splinter their wooden gates...

 meant for the siege
Siege engine
A siege engine is a device that is designed to break or circumvent city walls and other fortifications in siege warfare. Some have been operated close to the fortifications, while others have been used to attack from a distance. From antiquity, siege engines were constructed largely of wood and...

 of Praaspa; after this, Artavasdes abandoned Antony's forces. The Parthians pursued and harassed Antony's army as they fled to Armenia. Eventually, the greatly weakened force reached Syria. After this, Antony lured Artavasdes II into a trap with the promise of a marriage alliance. He was taken captive in 34 BC, sent back to Rome, and executed. 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. Following Antony's departure, the Parthian ally Artaxias II
Artaxias II
Artaxias II was a king of Armenia, the eldest son of Artavasdes II. He ascended the throne when his father was taken prisoner and executed by Triumvir Mark Antony, and after his own skirmish with the Romans was forced to flee to Parthia...

 reassumed the throne of Armenia.

Peace with Rome, court intrigue and contact with Chinese generals



Following the defeat of Antony at the Battle of Actium
Battle of Actium
The Battle of Actium was the decisive confrontation of the Final War of the Roman Republic. It was fought between the forces of Octavian and the combined forces of Mark Antony and Cleopatra VII. The battle took place on 2 September 31 BC, on the Ionian Sea near the city of Actium, at the Roman...

 in 31 BC, Octavian consolidated his political power and in 27 BC was named Augustus
Augustus
Augustus ;23 September 63 BC – 19 August AD 14) is considered the first emperor of the Roman Empire, which he ruled alone from 27 BC until his death in 14 AD.The dates of his rule are contemporary dates; Augustus lived under two calendars, the Roman Republican until 45 BC, and the Julian...

 by the Roman Senate
Roman Senate
The Senate of the Roman Republic was a political institution in the ancient Roman Republic, however, it was not an elected body, but one whose members were appointed by the consuls, and later by the censors. After a magistrate served his term in office, it usually was followed with automatic...

, becoming the first Roman emperor
Roman Emperor
The Roman emperor was the ruler of the Roman State during the imperial period . The Romans had no single term for the office although at any given time, a given title was associated with the emperor...

. Around this time, Tiridates II of Parthia
Tiridates II of Parthia
Tiridates II of Parthia was set up by the Parthians against Phraates IV in about 32 BC, but expelled when Phraates returned with the help of the Scythians...

 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
Aquila (Roman)
The Aquila was the eagle standard of a Roman legion, carried by a special grade legionary known as an Aquilifer. One eagle standard was carried by each legion.-History:...

 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
Forum of Augustus
The Forum of Augustus is one of the Imperial forums of Rome, Italy, built by Augustus. It includes the Temple of Mars Ultor.-History:The triumvir Octavian vowed to build a temple honoring Mars, the Roman God of War, during the battle of Philippi in 42 BC...

 to house the standards, and even in fine art such as the breastplate
Breastplate
A breastplate 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.- Armour :...

 scene on his statue Augustus of Prima Porta
Augustus of Prima Porta
Augustus of Prima Porta is a 2.04m high marble statue of Augustus Caesar which was discovered on April 20, 1863, in the Villa of Livia at Prima Porta, near Rome. Augustus Caesar's wife, Livia Drusilla, retired to the villa after his death. The sculpture is now displayed in the Braccio Nuovo of...

.
Along with the prince, Augustus also gave Phraates IV an Italian slave-girl, who later became Queen Musa of Parthia
Musa of Parthia
Musa was Queen of Parthia c. 2 BC – AD 4. She is called as Thermusa by Josephus and is also known as Thea Urania . She was a concubine given by the Roman Emperor Augustus to King Phraates IV of Parthia...

. 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
Res Gestae Divi Augusti, is the funerary inscription of the first Roman emperor, Augustus, giving a first-person record of his life and accomplishments. The Res Gestae is especially significant because it gives an insight into the image Augustus portrayed to the Roman people...

. When Phraataces took the throne as Phraates V of Parthia
Phraates V of Parthia
Phraates V of Persia, known by the diminutive Phraataces , ruled the Iranian Parthian Empire from 2 BC to AD 4. He was the younger son of Phraates IV of Parthia and the Musa of Parthia", with whom he is associated on his coins. Under Phraates V a war threatened to break out with Rome about the...

 (r. c. 2 BC – 4 AD), Musa married her own son and ruled alongside him. The Parthian nobility, disapproving of both the incestuous relationship and 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 of Parthia
King Orodes III of Parthia was raised to the throne of the Parthian Empire around AD 4 by the magnates after the death of Phraates V of Parthia . He was killed after a short reign "on account of his extreme cruelty"...

 lasted just two years on the throne, and was followed by Vonones I of Parthia
Vonones I of Parthia
Vonones I of Parthia ruled the Parthian Empire from about 8 to 12 AD. He was the eldest son of Phraates IV of Parthia Vonones I of Parthia (ΟΝΩΝΗΣ on his coins) ruled the Parthian Empire from about 8 to 12 AD. He was the eldest son of Phraates IV of Parthia Vonones I of Parthia (ΟΝΩΝΗΣ on his...

, 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 of Parthia
Artabanus II of Parthia ruled the Parthian Empire from about AD 10 to 38. He was the son of a princess of the Arsacid Dynasty, who lived in the East among the Dahan nomads...

 (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
Anilai and Asinai
Anilai and Asinai were two Babylonian-Jewish robber chieftains of the Parthian Empire whose exploits were reported by Josephus.They were apprenticed by their widowed mother to a weaver. Having been punished for laziness by their master, they ran away and became freebooters in the marshlands of the...

 from Nehardea
Nehardea
Nehardea or Nehardeah was a city of Babylonia, situated at or near the junction of the Euphrates with the Nahr Malka , one of the earliest centers of Babylonian Judaism. As the seat of the exilarch it traced its origin back to King Jehoiachin...

 (near modern Fallujah
Fallujah
Fallujah is a city in the Iraqi province of Al Anbar, located roughly west of Baghdad on the Euphrates. Fallujah dates from Babylonian times and was host to important Jewish academies for many centuries....

, 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
The term Gentile refers to non-Israelite peoples or nations in English translations of the Bible....

. 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
Greeks
The Greeks, also known as the Hellenes , are a nation and ethnic group native to Greece, Cyprus and neighboring regions. They also form a significant diaspora, with Greek communities established around the world....

 and Aramaeans
Aramaeans
The Aramaeans, also Arameans , were a Northwest Semitic semi-nomadic and pastoralist people who originated in what is now modern Syria during the Late Bronze Age and the Iron Age...

. The exiled Jews fled to Ctesiphon, Nehardea, and Nisibis
Nisibis
Nusaybin Nisêbîn) is a city in Mardin Province, Turkey, populated mainly by Kurds. Earlier Arameans, Arabs, and Armenians lived in the city. The population of the city is 83,832 as of 2009.-Ancient Period:...

.
Although at peace with Parthia, Rome still interfered in its affairs. The Roman emperor Tiberius
Tiberius
Tiberius , was Roman Emperor from 14 AD to 37 AD. Tiberius was by birth a Claudian, son of Tiberius Claudius Nero and Livia Drusilla. His mother divorced Nero and married Augustus in 39 BC, making him a step-son of Octavian...

 (r. 14–37 AD) became involved in a plot by Pharasmanes I of Iberia to place his brother Mithridates
Mithridates of Armenia
Mithridates of Armenia was an Iberian prince and a king of Armenia under the protection of the Roman Empire.Mithridates was installed by his brother Pharasmanes I of Iberia who, encouraged by Tiberius, invaded Armenia and captured its capital Artaxata in 35...

 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
In antiquity, Scythian or Scyths were terms used by the Greeks to refer to certain Iranian groups of horse-riding nomadic pastoralists who dwelt on the Pontic-Caspian steppe...

. The Romans released a hostage prince, Tiridates III of Parthia
Tiridates III of Parthia
Tiridates III of Parthia ruled the Parthian Empire briefly in 35–36. He was the grandson of Phraates IV. He was sent to Rome as a hostage and was educated there....

, 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 of Parthia
Vardanes I of Parthia
Vardanes I of Parthia ruled the Parthian Empire from about 40–45. He succeeded his father Artabanus II, but had to continually fight against Gotarzes II, a rival claimant to the throne....

 and his brother Gotarzes II of Parthia
Gotarzes II of Parthia
Gotarzes II of Parthia ruled the Parthian Empire intermittently between about 40 and 51. He was the son of Artabanus II and when his father died in about 38 and his brother Vardanes I succeeded to the throne, Gotarzes rebelled....

. After Vardanes was assassinated during a hunting expedition, the Parthian nobility appealed to Roman emperor Claudius
Claudius
Claudius , was Roman Emperor from 41 to 54. A member of the Julio-Claudian dynasty, he was the son of Drusus and Antonia Minor. He was born at Lugdunum in Gaul and was the first Roman Emperor to be born outside Italy...

 (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, Mesopotamia
Edessa is the Greek name of an Aramaic town in northern Mesopotamia, as refounded by Seleucus I Nicator. For the modern history of the city, see Şanlıurfa.-Names:...

 and Izates bar Monobaz
Izates bar Monobaz
Izates II or Izates bar Monobaz was a proselyte to Judaism who became King of the Parthian client kingdom of Adiabene. He was the son of Queen Helena of Adiabene and Monobaz I. During his youth he was sent by his father to the court of King Abinergaos I of Characene in Charax Spasinu...

 of Adiabene
Adiabene
Adiabene was an ancient Assyrian independent kingdom in Mesopotamia, with its capital at Arbela...

; 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
Ban Chao , courtesy name Zhongsheng , was born in Xianyang, Shaanxi, and the younger brother of the famous historian, Ban Gu who, with his father Ban Biao, and sister, Ban Zhao, wrote the famous Hanshu, or 'History of the Former Han Dynasty'....

, the Protector-General of the Western Regions
Protectorate of the Western Regions
The Protectorate of the Western Regions was a regional government established by the Han Dynasty to manage and to control the Western Regions, roughly today's Xinjiang ....

, sent his emissary Gan Ying
Gan Ying
Gan Ying , was a Chinese military ambassador who was sent on a mission to Rome in 97 CE by the Chinese general Ban Chao.Although Gan Ying never reached Rome, only travelling to as far as the Parthian coast of the Persian Gulf, he is, at least in the historical records, the Chinese who went the...

 on a diplomatic mission to reach the Roman Empire. Gan visited the court of Pacorus II of Parthia
Pacorus II of Parthia
Pacorus II of Parthia ruled the Parthian Empire from about 78 to 105. A son of Vonones II and brother of Vologases I, he was given the kingdom of Media Atropatene by the latter after his succession to the throne. After Vologases' death, Pacorus revolted against his brother's son and successor,...

 at Hecatompylos before departing towards Rome. He traveled as far west as the Persian Gulf
Persian Gulf
The Persian Gulf, in Southwest Asia, is an extension of the Indian Ocean located between Iran and the Arabian Peninsula.The Persian Gulf was the focus of the 1980–1988 Iran-Iraq War, in which each side attacked the other's oil tankers...

, where Parthian authorities convinced him that an arduous sea voyage around the Arabian Peninsula
Arabian Peninsula
The Arabian Peninsula is a land mass situated north-east of Africa. Also known as Arabia or the Arabian subcontinent, it is the world's largest peninsula and covers 3,237,500 km2...

 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
Emperor He of Han, ch. 漢和帝, py. hàn hé dì, wg. Han Ho-ti, was an emperor of the Chinese Han Dynasty who ruled from 88 to 105. He was the 4th emperor of the Eastern Han dynasty....

 (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
Sino-Xiongnu War
The Sino-Xiongnu War is a name given to a series of battles between the Han Dynasty and the tribes of Xiongnu between 133 BC and 89 AD. The nature of these battles varied through time between Han conquest and the possession of city-states in central Asia. The war culminated in Geng Kui driving the...

 against the Xiongnu
Xiongnu
The Xiongnu were ancient nomadic-based people that formed a state or confederation north of the agriculture-based empire of the Han Dynasty. Most of the information on the Xiongnu comes from Chinese sources...

 in eastern Central Asia
Tarim Basin
The Tarim Basin is a large endorheic basin occupying an area of about . It is located in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region in China's far west. Its northern boundary is the Tian Shan mountain range and its southern is the Kunlun Mountains on the northern edge of the Tibetan Plateau. The...

. However, Chinese records maintain that a Roman embassy
Sino-Roman relations
Romano-Chinese relations were essentially indirect throughout the existence of both empires. The Roman Empire and Han China progressively inched closer in the course of the Roman expansion into the Ancient Near East and simultaneous Chinese military incursions into Central Asia...

, perhaps only a group of Roman merchants
Roman commerce
Roman trade was the engine that drove the Roman economy of the late Republic and the early Empire. Fashions and trends in historiography and in popular culture have tended to neglect the economic basis of the empire in favor of the lingua franca of Latin and the exploits of the Roman legions...

, arrived at the Han capital Luoyang
Luoyang
Luoyang is a prefecture-level city in western Henan province of Central China. It borders the provincial capital of Zhengzhou to the east, Pingdingshan to the southeast, Nanyang to the south, Sanmenxia to the west, Jiyuan to the north, and Jiaozuo to the northeast.Situated on the central plain of...

 in 166 AD, during the reigns of Marcus Aurelius (r. 161–180 AD) and Emperor Huan of Han
Emperor Huan of Han
Emperor Huan of Han, ch. 漢桓帝, py. hàn húan dì, wg. Han Huan-ti, was an emperor of the Chinese Han Dynasty. He was a great-grandson of Emperor Zhang....

 (r. 146–168 AD).

Continuation of Roman hostilities and Parthian decline



After the Iberian king
Caucasian Iberia
Iberia , also known as Iveria , was a name given by the ancient Greeks and Romans to the ancient Georgian kingdom of Kartli , corresponding roughly to the eastern and southern parts of the present day Georgia...

 Pharasmanes I had his son Rhadamistus
Rhadamistus
Rhadamistus was an Iberian prince who reigned in Armenia from 51 to 53 and 54 to 55 CE. Considered to be an usurper and tyrant, he was overthrown in a rebellion supported by the Parthian Empire.- Life :...

 (r. 51–55 AD) invade Armenia to depose the Roman client king Mithridates, Vologeses I of Parthia (r. c. 51–77 AD) planned to invade and place his brother, the later Tiridates I of Armenia
Tiridates I of Armenia
Tiridates I was King of Armenia beginning in AD 53 and the founder of the Arshakuni Dynasty, the Armenian line of the Arsacid Dynasty. The dates of his birth and death are unknown. His early reign was marked by a brief interruption towards the end of the year 54 and a much longer one from 58...

, 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
Arsacid Dynasty of Armenia
The Arsacid dynasty or Arshakuni dynasty ruled the Kingdom of Armenia from 54 AD to 428 AD. Formerly a branch of the Iranian Parthian Arsacids, they became a distinctly Armenian dynasty. Arsacid Kings reigned intermittently throughout the chaotic years following the fall of the Artaxiad Dynasty...

. Even after the fall of the Parthian Empire, the Arsacid line lived on through the Armenian kings.

When Vardanes II of Parthia
Vardanes II of Parthia
Vardanes II of Parthia was the son of Vologases I and briefly ruler of part of the Parthian Empire. He rebelled against his father from about 55 to 58 CE and must have occupied Ecbatana, since he issued coins from the mint there, bearing the likeness of a young beardless king wearing a diadem with...

 rebelled against his father Vologeses I in 55 AD, Vologeses withdrew his forces from Armenia. Rome quickly attempted to fill the political vacuum left behind. In the Roman–Parthian War of 58–63 AD, the commander Gnaeus Domitius Corbulo
Gnaeus Domitius Corbulo
Gnaeus Domitius Corbulo was a Roman general and a brother-in-law of the emperor Caligula.-Descent:Corbulo was born in Italy into a senatorial family...

 achieved some military successes against the Parthians while installing Tigranes VI of Armenia
Tigranes VI of Armenia
Tigranes VI, also known as Tigran VI or by his Roman name Gaius Julius Tigranes was a Herodian Prince and served as a Roman Client King of Armenia in the 1st century....

 as a Roman client. However, Corbulo's successor Lucius Caesennius Paetus
Lucius Caesennius Paetus
Lucius Junius Caesennius Paetus was a Roman aristocrat, member of the Caesennian gens and the Junian gens, who lived in the second half of the 1st century during the Roman Empire. He was Consul Ordinarius for the year 61, and enjoyed several high provincial commands in the East.He was the son of...

 was soundly defeated by Parthian forces and fled Armenia. Following a peace treaty, Tiridates I traveled to Naples
Naples
Naples is a city in Southern Italy, situated on the country's west coast by the Gulf of Naples. Lying between two notable volcanic regions, Mount Vesuvius and the Phlegraean Fields, it is the capital of the region of Campania and of the province of Naples...

 and Rome in 63 AD. At both sites the Roman emperor Nero
Nero
Nero , was Roman Emperor from 54 to 68, and the last in the Julio-Claudian dynasty. Nero was adopted by his great-uncle Claudius to become his heir and successor, and succeeded to the throne in 54 following Claudius' death....

 (r. 54–68 AD) ceremoniously crowned him king of Armenia by placing the royal diadem
Diadem
Diadem may refer to:*Diadem, a type of crown-Military:*HMS Diadem was a 64-gun third rate ship of the line in the Royal Navy launched in 1782 at Chatham and participated in the Battle of Cape St Vincent in 1787...

 on his head.

A long period of peace between Parthia and Rome ensued, with only the invasion of Alans
Alans
The Alans, or the Alani, occasionally termed Alauni or Halani, were a group of Sarmatian tribes, nomadic pastoralists of the 1st millennium AD who spoke an Eastern Iranian language which derived from Scytho-Sarmatian and which in turn evolved into modern Ossetian.-Name:The various forms of Alan —...

 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
Fertile Crescent
The Fertile Crescent, nicknamed "The Cradle of Civilization" for the fact the first civilizations started there, is a crescent-shaped region containing the comparatively moist and fertile land of otherwise arid and semi-arid Western Asia. The term was first used by University of Chicago...

, the heart of the Parthian Empire along the Tigris and Euphrates. 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
Nabataeans
Thamudi3.jpgThe Nabataeans, also Nabateans , were ancient peoples of southern Canaan and the northern part of Arabia, whose oasis settlements in the time of Josephus , gave the name of Nabatene to the borderland between Syria and Arabia, from the Euphrates to the Red Sea...

), but later established a permanent auxilia force to complement their heavy legionary infantry. The Romans eventually maintained regiments of horse archers (sagittarii
Sagittarii
Sagittarii Sagitarii 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 archers appeared in the Roman army during the early empire...

) and even mail-armored cataphract
Cataphract
A cataphract was a form of armored heavy cavalry utilised in ancient warfare by a number of peoples in Western Eurasia and the Eurasian Steppe....

s in their eastern provinces. Yet the Romans had no discernible grand strategy
Grand strategy
Grand strategy comprises the "purposeful employment of all instruments of power available to a security community". Military historian B. H. Liddell Hart says about grand strategy:...

 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 of Parthia
Osroes I of Parthia ruled the Parthian Empire c. 109–129. He succeeded his brother Pacorus II. For the whole of his reign he contended with the rival king Vologases III based in the east of Parthia....

 (r. c. 109–128 AD) deposed the Armenian king Tiridates and replaced him with Axidares, son of Pacorus II, without consulting Rome. The Roman emperor Trajan
Trajan
Trajan , was Roman Emperor from 98 to 117 AD. Born into a non-patrician family in the province of Hispania Baetica, in Spain Trajan rose to prominence during the reign of emperor Domitian. Serving as a legatus legionis in Hispania Tarraconensis, in Spain, in 89 Trajan supported the emperor against...

 (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
thumb|300px|Stylised Moorish Cavalry under Lusius Quietus, fighting against the Dacians. From the Column of Trajan.Lusius Quietus was a Roman general and governor of Iudaea in 117.- Life :...

, 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
Meharaspes
Meharaspes was the Parthian client king of Adiabene in the early 2nd century CE. He was defeated by Trajan in 116; Adiabene was incorporated into the short-lived Roman province of Mesopotamia....

 of Adiabene, since Osroes was engaged in a civil war to the east with Vologases III of Parthia
Vologases III of Parthia
Vologases III of Parthia claimed the throne of the Parthian Empire about 105, in the last days of Pacorus II of Parthia . He reigned over the eastern portion of the kingdom from 105 to 147...

. 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
Persian Gulf
The Persian Gulf, in Southwest Asia, is an extension of the Indian Ocean located between Iran and the Arabian Peninsula.The Persian Gulf was the focus of the 1980–1988 Iran-Iraq War, in which each side attacked the other's oil tankers...

.

In the last months of 116 AD, Trajan captured the Persian city of Susa. When Sanatruces II of Parthia
Sanatruces II of Parthia
Sanatruces II of Parthia, the son of Mithridates IV, was a pretender to the throne of the Parthian Empire during the disputed reign of his uncle Osroes I....

 gathered forces in eastern Parthia to challenge the Romans, his cousin Parthamaspates of Parthia
Parthamaspates of Parthia
Parthamaspates, Roman client king of Parthia and later of Osroene, was the son of the Parthian emperor Osroes I.After spending much of his life in Roman exile, he accompanied the Roman Emperor Trajan on the latter's campaign to conquer Parthia...

 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
Hatra is an ancient city in the Ninawa Governorate and al-Jazira region of Iraq. It is currently known as al-Hadr, a name which appears once in ancient inscriptions, and it was in the ancient Iranian province of Khvarvaran. The city lies northwest of Baghdad and southwest of Mosul.-History: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
Festus (historian)
Festus was a Late Roman historian whose breviary was commissioned by the emperor Valens in preparation for war against Persia....

 allege that he attempted to establish a Roman province
Mesopotamia (Roman province)
Mesopotamia was the name of two distinct Roman provinces, the one a short-lived creation of the Roman Emperor Trajan in 116–117 and the other established by Emperor Septimius Severus in ca. 198, which lasted until the Muslim conquests of the 7th century....

 in lower Mesopotamia.

Trajan's successor Hadrian
Hadrian
Hadrian , was Roman Emperor from 117 to 138. He is best known for building Hadrian's Wall, which marked the northern limit of Roman Britain. In Rome, he re-built the Pantheon and constructed the Temple of Venus and Roma. In addition to being emperor, Hadrian was a humanist and was philhellene in...

 (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
Osroene, also spelled Osrohene and Osrhoene and sometimes known by the name of its capital city, Edessa , was a historic Syriac kingdom located in Mesopotamia, which enjoyed semi-autonomy to complete independence from the years of 132 BC to AD 244.It was a Syriac-speaking kingdom.Osroene, or...

. Osroes I died during his conflict with Vologases III, the latter succeeded by Vologases IV of Parthia
Vologases IV of Parthia
Vologases IV of Parthia ruled the Parthian Empire from 147 to 191. The son of Mithridates IV of Parthia , he united the two halves of the empire which had been split between his father and Vologases III of Parthia...

 (r. c. 147–191 AD) who ushered in a period of peace and stability. However, the Roman–Parthian War of 161–166 AD began when Vologases invaded Armenia and Syria, retaking Edessa. Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius (r. 161–180 AD) had co-ruler Lucius Verus
Lucius Verus
Lucius Verus , was Roman co-emperor with Marcus Aurelius, from 161 until his death.-Early life and career:Lucius Verus was the first born son to Avidia Plautia and Lucius Aelius Verus Caesar, the first adopted son and heir of Roman Emperor Hadrian . He was born and raised in Rome...

 (r. 161–169 AD) guard Syria while Marcus Statius Priscus
Marcus Statius Priscus
Marcus Statius Priscus Licinius Italicus was a Roman politician and general of the mid 2nd century.His career began as an equestrian officer, receiving a decoration from Hadrian during the Jewish rebellion...

 invaded Armenia in 163 AD, followed by the invasion of Mesopotamia by Avidius Cassius
Avidius Cassius
Gaius Avidius Cassius was a Roman general and usurper who briefly ruled Egypt and Syria in 175.-Origins:He was the son of Gaius Avidius Heliodorus, a noted orator who was Prefect of Egypt from 137 to 142 under Hadrian, and wife Junia Cassia Alexandra...

 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
Antonine Plague
The Antonine Plague, AD 165–180, also known as the Plague of Galen, who described it, was an ancient pandemic, either of smallpox or measles, brought back to the Roman Empire by troops returning from campaigns in the Near East...

 (possibly smallpox
Smallpox
Smallpox was an infectious disease unique to humans, caused by either of two virus variants, Variola major and Variola minor. The disease is also known by the Latin names Variola or Variola vera, which is a derivative of the Latin varius, meaning "spotted", or varus, meaning "pimple"...

) 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
Septimius Severus
Septimius Severus , also known as Severus, was Roman Emperor from 193 to 211. Severus was born in Leptis Magna in the province of Africa. As a young man he advanced through the customary succession of offices under the reigns of Marcus Aurelius and Commodus. Severus seized power after the death of...

 (r. 193–211 AD) invaded Mesopotamia in 197 AD during the reign of Vologases V of Parthia
Vologases V of Parthia
Vologases V of Parthia ruled the Parthian Empire from 191 to 208. He was the son of Vologases IV . His succession was not uncontested; a rival King Osroes II had already set himself up in Media before the death of the previous ruler, but Vologases V appears to have quickly put him down.Vologases...

 (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 of Parthia
]Vologases VI of Parthia succeeded his father Vologases V of Parthia to the throne of the Parthian Empire in 208. Soon after his accession his brother Artabanus IV rebelled against him, and became master of the greater part of the empire...

 (r. c. 208–222 AD) took the throne, his brother Artabanus IV of Parthia
Artabanus IV of Parthia
Artabanus IV of Parthia ruled the Parthian Empire . He was the younger son of Vologases V who died in 208. Artabanus rebelled against his brother Vologases VI, and soon gained the upper hand, although Vologases VI maintained himself in a part of Babylonia until about 228.The Roman emperor...

 (d. 224 AD) rebelled against him and gained control over a greater part of the empire. Meanwhile, the Roman emperor Caracalla
Caracalla
Caracalla , was Roman emperor from 198 to 217. The eldest son of Septimius Severus, he ruled jointly with his younger brother Geta until he murdered the latter in 211...

 (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
Arbil
Arbil / Hewlêr is the fourth largest city in Iraq after Baghdad, Basra and Mosul...

 east of the Tigris
Tigris
The Tigris River is the eastern member of the two great rivers that define Mesopotamia, the other being the Euphrates. The river flows south from the mountains of southeastern Turkey through Iraq.-Geography:...

 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
Macrinus , was Roman Emperor from 217 to 218. Macrinus was of "Moorish" descent and the first emperor to become so without membership in the senatorial class.-Background and career:...

 (r. 217–218) where the Romans paid Parthia over two-hundred million denarii
Denarius
In the Roman currency system, the denarius was a small silver coin first minted in 211 BC. It was the most common coin produced for circulation but was slowly debased until its replacement by the antoninianus...

with additional gifts.

But the Parthian Empire, weakened by internal strife and wars with Rome, was soon to be followed by the Sassanid Empire
Sassanid Empire
The Sassanid Empire , known to its inhabitants as Ērānshahr and Ērān in Middle Persian and resulting in the New Persian terms Iranshahr and Iran , was the last pre-Islamic Persian Empire, ruled by the Sasanian Dynasty from 224 to 651...

. Indeed shortly afterward, Ardashir I
Ardashir I
Ardashir I was the founder of the Sassanid Empire, was ruler of Istakhr , subsequently Fars Province , and finally "King of Kings of Sassanid Empire " with the overthrow of the Parthian Empire...

, the local Iranian ruler of Persis (modern Fars Province, Iran) from Estakhr began subjugating the surrounding territories in defiance of Arsacid rule. He confronted Artabanus IV in battle
Battle of Hormizdegan
The Battle of Hormizdgan was the climactic battle of the end of the Parthian Empire between the Parthian Empire and the Sassanid Empire, on April 24, 224 AD. The Sassanid victory broke the power of the Arsacid dynasty, effectively ending almost five centuries of Parthian rule in the Middle East,...

 on 28 April 224 AD, perhaps at a site near Isfahan, defeating him and establishing the Sassanid Empire. There is evidence, however, that suggests Volageses VI continued to mint coins at Seleucia as late as 228 AD.

The Sasanians 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
Byzantine-Sassanid War of 602–628
The Byzantine–Sassanid War of 602–628 was the final and most devastating of the series of wars fought between the Roman Empire and the Sassanid Empire. The previous war had ended in 591 after Emperor Maurice had helped the Sassanian king Khosrau II regain his throne. In 602, Maurice was murdered...

 the Levant, Anatolia, and Egypt from the Eastern Roman Empire during the reign of Khosrau II
Khosrau II
250px|thumb|Khosrau II 250px|thumb|Khosrau II 250px|thumb|Khosrau II (Khosrow II, Chosroes II, or Xosrov II in classical sources, sometimes called Parvez, "the Ever Victorious" – (in Persian: خسرو پرویز), was the twenty-second Sassanid King of Persia, reigning from 590 to 628...

 (r. 590–628 AD). However, they would lose these territories to Heraclius
Heraclius
Heraclius was Byzantine Emperor from 610 to 641.He was responsible for introducing Greek as the empire's official language. His rise to power began in 608, when he and his father, Heraclius the Elder, the exarch of Africa, successfully led a revolt against the unpopular usurper Phocas.Heraclius'...

—the last Roman emperor before the Arab conquests
Muslim conquests
Muslim conquests also referred to as the Islamic conquests or Arab conquests, began with the Islamic prophet Muhammad. He established a new unified polity in the Arabian Peninsula which under the subsequent Rashidun and Umayyad Caliphates saw a century of rapid expansion of Muslim power.They...

.

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
History is the discovery, collection, organization, and presentation of information about past events. History can also mean the period of time after writing was invented. Scholars who write about history are called historians...

; the earliest universal history
Universal history
Universal history is basic to the Western tradition of historiography, especially the Abrahamic wellspring of that tradition. Simply stated, universal history is the presentation of the history of humankind as a whole, as a coherent unit.-Ancient authors:...

 of Iran, the Khwaday-Namag
Khwaday-Namag
The Khwaday-Namag was a Sasanian history text, now lost, imagined first by Theodor Nöldeke to be the common ancestor of all later Arabic histories of the Sasanian Empire. It was supposed to have been first translated into Arabic by Abd-Allāh Ibn al-Muqaffaʿ , who had access to Sassanid court...

, was not compiled until the reign of the last Sassanid ruler Yazdegerd III (r. 632–651 AD). Indigenous sources
Primary source
Primary source is a term used in a number of disciplines to describe source material that is closest to the person, information, period, or idea being studied....

 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
Pahlavi scripts
Pahlavi or Pahlevi denotes a particular and exclusively written form of various Middle Iranian languages. The essential characteristics of Pahlavi are*the use of a specific Aramaic-derived script, the Pahlavi script;...

.

The most valuable indigenous sources for reconstructing an accurate chronology of Arsacid rulers are the metal drachma 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
Cuneiform can refer to:*Cuneiform script, an ancient writing system originating in Mesopotamia in the 4th millennium BC*Cuneiform , three bones in the human foot*Cuneiform Records, a music record label...

 astronomical tablets and colophons discovered in Babylonia. Indigenous textual sources also include stone inscriptions, parchment
Parchment
Parchment is a thin material made from calfskin, sheepskin or goatskin, often split. Its most common use was as a material for writing on, for documents, notes, or the pages of a book, codex or manuscript. It is distinct from leather in that parchment is limed but not tanned; therefore, it is very...

 and papyri documents, and pottery ostraca. 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
Greek historiography
The historical period of Ancient Greece is unique in world history as the first period attested directly in proper historiography, while earlier ancient history or proto-history is known by much more circumstantial evidence, such as annals, chronicles, king lists, and pragmatic epigraphy.Herodotus...

 and Latin histories
Roman historiography
Roman Historiography is indebted to the Greeks, who invented the form. The Romans had great models to base their works upon, such as Herodotus and Thucydides. Roman historiographical forms are different from the Greek ones however, and voice very Roman concerns. Unlike the Greeks, Roman...

, 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
Apicius is the title of a collection of Roman cookery recipes, usually thought to have been compiled in the late 4th or early 5th century AD and written in a language that is in many ways closer to Vulgar than to Classical Latin....

exemplifies their admiration for Parthian cuisine. Apollodorus of Artemita
Apollodorus of Artemita
Apollodorus of Artemita was a Greek writer of the 1st century BCE.Apollodorus wrote a history of the Parthian Empire, the Parthika , in at least four books. He is quoted by Strabo and Athenaeus. Strabo stated that he was very reliable. Apollodorus seems to have used the archives of Artemita and...

 and Arrian
Arrian
Lucius Flavius Arrianus 'Xenophon , known in English as Arrian , and Arrian of Nicomedia, was a Roman historian, public servant, a military commander and a philosopher of the 2nd-century Roman period...

 wrote histories focusing on Parthia, which are now lost and survive only as quoted extracts in other histories. Isidore of Charax
Isidore of Charax
Isidorus Characenus , commonly translated Isidore of Charax, was a geographer of the 1st century BC/1st century AD about whom nothing is known but his name and that he wrote at least one work....

, 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, Strabo
Strabo
Strabo, also written Strabon was a Greek historian, geographer and philosopher.-Life:Strabo was born to an affluent family from Amaseia in Pontus , a city which he said was situated the approximate equivalent of 75 km from the Black Sea...

, Diodorus Siculus
Diodorus Siculus
Diodorus Siculus was a Greek historian who flourished between 60 and 30 BC. According to Diodorus' own work, he was born at Agyrium in Sicily . With one exception, antiquity affords no further information about Diodorus' life and doings beyond what is to be found in his own work, Bibliotheca...

, Plutarch
Plutarch
Plutarch then named, on his becoming a Roman citizen, Lucius Mestrius Plutarchus , c. 46 – 120 AD, was a Greek historian, biographer, essayist, and Middle Platonist known primarily for his Parallel Lives and Moralia...

, Cassius Dio, Appian
Appian
Appian of Alexandria was a Roman historian of Greek ethnicity who flourished during the reigns of Trajan, Hadrian, and Antoninus Pius.He was born ca. 95 in Alexandria. He tells us that, after having filled the chief offices in the province of Egypt, he went to Rome ca. 120, where he practised as...

, Josephus
Josephus
Titus Flavius Josephus , also called Joseph ben Matityahu , was a 1st-century Romano-Jewish historian and hagiographer of priestly and royal ancestry who recorded Jewish history, with special emphasis on the 1st century AD and the First Jewish–Roman War, which resulted in the Destruction of...

, Pliny the Elder
Pliny the Elder
Gaius Plinius Secundus , better known as Pliny the Elder, was a Roman author, naturalist, and natural philosopher, as well as naval and army commander of the early Roman Empire, and personal friend of the emperor Vespasian...

, and Herodian
Herodian
Herodian or Herodianus of Syria was a minor Roman civil servant who wrote a colourful history in Greek titled History of the Empire from the Death of Marcus in eight books covering the years 180 to 238. His work is not entirely reliable although his relatively unbiased account of Elagabalus is...

.

Parthian history can also be reconstructed via the Chinese historical tradition. 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 from older works makes it difficult to establish a chronological order of events. The Chinese called Parthia Ānxī (Chinese: 安息), perhaps after the Greek name for the Parthian city Antiochia in Margiana
Merv
Merv , formerly Achaemenid Satrapy of Margiana, and later Alexandria and Antiochia in Margiana , was a major oasis-city in Central Asia, on the historical Silk Road, located near today's Mary in Turkmenistan. Several cities have existed on this site, which is significant for the interchange of...

 (Greek: Αντιόχεια της Μαργιανήs). However, this could also have been a transliteration of "Arsaces", after the dynasty's eponymous founder. The works and historical authors include the Shiji
Records of the Grand Historian
The Records of the Grand Historian, also known in English by the Chinese name Shiji , written from 109 BC to 91 BC, was the Magnum opus of Sima Qian, in which he recounted Chinese history from the time of the Yellow Emperor until his own time...

(Records of the Grand Historian) by Sima Qian
Sima Qian
Sima Qian was a Prefect of the Grand Scribes of the Han Dynasty. He is regarded as the father of Chinese historiography for his highly praised work, Records of the Grand Historian , a "Jizhuanti"-style general history of China, covering more than two thousand years from the Yellow Emperor to...

, the Han shu
Book of Han
The Book of Han, Hanshu or History of the Former Han Dynasty |Fan Ye]] . Various scholars have estimated that the earliest material covered in the book dates back to between 206 and 202 BCE...

(Book of Han) by Ban Biao
Ban Biao
Ban Biao , courtesy name , was a Chinese historian, and an official born in what is now Xianyang, Shaanxi during the Han Dynasty. He was the nephew of Consort Ban, a famous poet and concubine to Emperor Cheng....

, Ban Gu
Ban Gu
Ban Gu , courtesy name Mengjian , was a 1st century Chinese historian and poet best known for his part in compiling the Book of Han. He also wrote in the main poetic genre of the Han era, a kind of poetry interspersed with prose called fu. Some are anthologized by Xiao Tong in his Selections of...

, and Ban Zhao
Ban Zhao
Bān Zhāo , courtesy name Huiban , was the first known female Chinese historian. She completed her brother Ban Gu's work as he was imprisoned and executed in the year 92 BCE. because of his association with the family of Empress Dowager Dou. It was said her works could have filled eight volumes...

, and the Hou Han shu
Book of Later Han
The Book of the Later Han or the History of the Later Han is one of the official Chinese historical works which was compiled by Fan Ye in the 5th century, using a number of earlier histories and documents as sources...

(Book of Later Han) by Fan Ye
Fan Ye (historian)
Fan Ye , courtesy name Weizong , was a Chinese historian and the compiler of Book of Later Han of Liu Song. Fan came from an official family background, he was born in present-day Shaoxing, Zhejiang, his ancestry was from Nanyang, Henan. His father was Fan Tai .-References:*Tan, Jiajian, ....

. They provide information on the nomadic migrations leading up to the early Saka
Saka
The Saka were a Scythian tribe or group of tribes....

 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 Han court
Han Dynasty
The Han Dynasty was the second imperial dynasty of China, preceded by the Qin Dynasty and succeeded by the Three Kingdoms . It was founded by the rebel leader Liu Bang, known posthumously as Emperor Gaozu of Han. It was briefly interrupted by the Xin Dynasty of the former regent Wang Mang...

, 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.

Central authority and semi-autonomous kings



Compared with the earlier Achaemenid Empire, the Parthian government was notably decentralized
Decentralization
__FORCETOC__Decentralization or decentralisation is the process of dispersing decision-making governance closer to the people and/or citizens. It includes the dispersal of administration or governance in sectors or areas like engineering, management science, political science, political economy,...

. 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, eparchy
Eparchy
Eparchy is an anglicized Greek word , authentically Latinized as eparchia and loosely translating as 'rule over something,' like province, prefecture, or territory, to have the jurisdiction over, it has specific meanings both in politics, history and in the hierarchy of the Eastern Christian...

, and hyparchy. The Parthian Empire also contained several subordinate semi-autonomous kingdoms, including the states of Caucasian Iberia
Caucasian Iberia
Iberia , also known as Iveria , was a name given by the ancient Greeks and Romans to the ancient Georgian kingdom of Kartli , corresponding roughly to the eastern and southern parts of the present day Georgia...

, Armenia, Atropatene
Atropatene
Atropatene was an ancient kingdom established and ruled under local ethnic Iranian dynasts first with "Darius" of Persia and later "Alexander" of Macedonia, starting in the 4th century BC and includes the territory of modern-day Iranian Azarbaijan and Iranian Kurdistan. Its capital was Gazaca...

, Gordyene, Adiabene
Adiabene
Adiabene was an ancient Assyrian independent kingdom in Mesopotamia, with its capital at Arbela...

, Edessa
Edessa, Mesopotamia
Edessa is the Greek name of an Aramaic town in northern Mesopotamia, as refounded by Seleucus I Nicator. For the modern history of the city, see Şanlıurfa.-Names:...

, Hatra
Hatra
Hatra is an ancient city in the Ninawa Governorate and al-Jazira region of Iraq. It is currently known as al-Hadr, a name which appears once in ancient inscriptions, and it was in the ancient Iranian province of Khvarvaran. The city lies northwest of Baghdad and southwest of Mosul.-History:Hatra...

, Mesene, Elymais
Elymais
Elymais or Elamais was a semi-independent state of the 2nd century BC to the early 3rd century AD, frequently a vassalary under Parthian control, and located at the head of the Persian Gulf in the present-day region of Khuzestan, Iran...

, and Persis. 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 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
Archon is a Greek word that means "ruler" or "lord", frequently used as the title of a specific public office. It is the masculine present participle of the verb stem ἀρχ-, meaning "to rule", derived from the same root as monarch, hierarchy, and anarchy.- Ancient Greece :In ancient Greece the...

") and citizens of the city of Susa
Susa
Susa was an ancient city of the Elamite, Persian and Parthian empires of Iran. It is located in the lower Zagros Mountains about east of the Tigris River, between the Karkheh and Dez Rivers....

. 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 Sassanid 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. Of the great noble Parthian clans listed at the beginning of the Sasanian period, only two are explicitly mentioned in earlier Parthian documents: the House of Suren and the House of Karen
House of Karen
The House of Karen were an aristocratic feudal family of Hyrcania...

. The historian Plutarch noted that members of the Suren clan, the first among the nobility, were given the privilege of crowning each new Arsacid King of Kings during their coronations. Later on, some of the Parthian Kings would claim Achaemenid descent. This has recently been corroborated via the possibility of an inherited disease (neurofibromatosis) demonstrated by the physical descriptions of rulers and from evidence of familial disease on ancient coinage.

Military



The Parthian Empire had no standing army
Standing army
A standing army is a professional permanent army. It is composed of full-time career soldiers and is not disbanded during times of peace. It differs from army reserves, who are activated only during wars or natural disasters...

, 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
SERF
A spin exchange relaxation-free magnetometer is a type of magnetometer developed at Princeton University in the early 2000s. SERF magnetometers measure magnetic fields by using lasers to detect the interaction between alkali metal atoms in a vapor and the magnetic field.The name for the technique...

s and mercenaries, 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 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
Cataphract
A cataphract was a form of armored heavy cavalry utilised in ancient warfare by a number of peoples in Western Eurasia and the Eurasian Steppe....

s, heavy cavalry with man and horse decked in mailed armor
Mail (armour)
Mail is a type of armour consisting of small metal rings linked together in a pattern to form a mesh.-History:Mail was a highly successful type of armour and was used by nearly every metalworking culture....

. The cataphracts were equipped with a lance for charging into enemy lines, as well as bows and arrows. 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 archers; they wore a simple tunic and trousers into battle. They used composite bow
Composite bow
A composite bow is a bow made from horn, wood, and sinew laminated together. The horn is on the belly, facing the archer, and sinew on the back of a wooden core. Sinew and horn will store more energy than wood for the same length of bow...

s and were able to shoot at enemies while riding and facing away from them; this technique, known as the Parthian shot
Parthian shot
The Parthian shot was a military tactic made famous by the Parthians, ancient Iranian people. The Parthian archers, mounted on light horse, would feign retreat; then, while at a full gallop, turn their bodies back to shoot at the pursuing enemy. The maneuver required superb equestrian skills,...

, was a highly effective tactic.
The heavy and light cavalry of Parthia proved to be a decisive factor in the Battle of Carrhae
Battle of Carrhae
The Battle of Carrhae, fought in 53 BC near the town of Carrhae, was a major battle between the Parthian Empire and the Roman Republic. The Parthian Spahbod Surena decisively defeated a Roman invasion force led by Marcus Licinius Crassus...

 where a Persian force defeated a much larger Roman army under Crassus.
Light infantry units, composed of levied commoners
Conscription
Conscription is the compulsory enlistment of people in some sort of national service, most often military service. Conscription dates back to antiquity and continues in some countries to the present day under various names...

 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
Greek drachma
Drachma, pl. drachmas or drachmae was the currency used in Greece during several periods in its history:...

 coin, including the tetradrachm
Tetradrachm
The tetradrachm was an Ancient Greek silver coin equivalent to four drachmae. It was in wide circulation from 510 to 38 BC.-History:Many surviving tetradrachms were minted by the polis of Athens from around the middle of the 5th century BC onwards; the popular coin was widely used in transactions...

, was the standard currency used throughout the Parthian Empire. The Arsacids maintained royal mints
Mint (coin)
A mint is an industrial facility which manufactures coins for currency.The history of mints correlates closely with the history of coins. One difference is that the history of the mint is usually closely tied to the political situation of an era...

 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, drachms 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.

Hellenism and the Iranian revival


Although Greek culture
Culture of Greece
The culture of Greece has evolved over thousands of years, beginning in Mycenaean Greece, continuing most notably into Classical Greece, through the influence of the Roman Empire and its Greek Eastern successor the Byzantine Empire...

 of the Seleucids was widely adopted by peoples of the Near East
Near East
The Near East is a geographical term that covers different countries for geographers, archeologists, and historians, on the one hand, and for political scientists, economists, and journalists, on the other...

 during the Hellenistic period
Hellenistic period
The Hellenistic period or Hellenistic era describes the time which followed the conquests of Alexander the Great. It was so named by the historian J. G. Droysen. During this time, Greek cultural influence and power was at its zenith in Europe and Asia...

, the Parthian era witnessed an Iranian cultural revival
Culture of Iran
To best understand Iran, Afghanistan, their related societies and their people, one must first attempt to acquire an understanding of their culture. It is in the study of this area where the Persian identity optimally expresses itself...

 in religion, the arts, and even clothing fashions. Conscious of both the Hellenistic and Persian roots of their kingship, the Arsacid rulers styled themselves after the Persian King of Kings and affirmed that they were also philhellenes
Philhellenism
Philhellenism was an intellectual fashion prominent at the turn of the 19th century, that led Europeans like Lord Byron or Charles Nicolas Fabvier to advocate for Greek independence from the Ottoman Empire...

("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. Vologeses I was the first Arsacid ruler to have the Parthian script and language
Parthian language
The Parthian language, also known as Arsacid Pahlavi and Pahlavanik, is a now-extinct ancient Northwestern Iranian language spoken in Parthia, a region of northeastern ancient Persia during the rule of the Parthian empire....

 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
Theatre of Ancient Greece
The theatre of Ancient Greece, or ancient Greek drama, is a theatrical culture that flourished in ancient Greece between c. 550 and c. 220 BC. The city-state of Athens, which became a significant cultural, political and military power during this period, was its centre, where it was...

. 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
The Bacchae is an ancient Greek tragedy by the Athenian playwright Euripides, during his final years in Macedon, at the court of Archelaus I of Macedon. It premiered posthumously at the Theatre of Dionysus in 405 BC as part of a tetralogy that also included Iphigeneia at Aulis, and which...

by the playwright Euripides
Euripides
Euripides was one of the three great tragedians of classical Athens, the other two being Aeschylus and Sophocles. Some ancient scholars attributed ninety-five plays to him but according to the Suda it was ninety-two at most...

 (c. 480–406 BC). The producer of the play decided to use Crassus' actual severed head in place of the stage-prop
Theatrical property
A theatrical property, commonly referred to as a prop, is an object used on stage by actors to further the plot or story line of a theatrical production. Smaller props are referred to as "hand props". Larger props may also be set decoration, such as a chair or table. The difference between a set...

 head of Pentheus
Pentheus
In Greek mythology, Pentheus was a king of Thebes, son of the strongest of the Spartes, Echion, and of Agave, daughter of Cadmus, the founder of Thebes, and the goddess Harmonia....

.

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: Autocratos), 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 Behistun
Mount Bisotoun is a mountain in the Kermanshah Province is located in the middle of the western part of Iran. It is located from Tehran.It is well known for its rock relief in which the great Achaemenian King, Darius the Great, had the narrative of his exploits engraved around B.C...

, where Darius I of Persia
Darius I of Persia
Darius I , also known as Darius the Great, was the third king of kings of the Achaemenid Empire...

 (r. 522–486 BC) made royal inscriptions
Behistun Inscription
The Behistun Inscription The Behistun Inscription The Behistun Inscription (also Bistun or Bisutun, Modern Persian: بیستون The Behistun Inscription (also Bistun or Bisutun, Modern Persian: بیستون...

. Moreover, the Arsacids claimed familial descent from Artaxerxes II of Persia
Artaxerxes II of Persia
Artaxerxes II Mnemon was king of Persia from 404 BC until his death. He was a son of Darius II of Persia and Parysatis.-Reign:...

 (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 III named one of his sons Darius and laid claim to Cyrus
Cyrus the Great
Cyrus II of Persia , commonly known as Cyrus the Great, also known as Cyrus the Elder, was the founder of the Achaemenid Empire. Under his rule, the empire embraced all the previous civilized states of the ancient Near East, expanded vastly and eventually conquered most of Southwest Asia and much...

’ heritage. The Arsacid kings chose typical Zoroastrian names for themselves and some from the "heroic background
Kayanian dynasty
The Kayanian, also Kays or Kayanids or Kaianids, are a dynasty of Greater Iranian tradition and folklore. Considered collectively, the Kayanian kings are the heroes of the Avesta, the sacred texts of Zoroastrianism, and of the Shahnameh, Iran's national epic.As an epithet of kings and the reason...

" of the Avesta
Avesta
The Avesta is the primary collection of sacred texts of Zoroastrianism, composed in the Avestan language.-Early transmission:The texts of the Avesta — which are all in the Avestan language — were composed over the course of several hundred years. The most important portion, the Gathas,...

, according to V.G. Lukonin. The Parthians also adopted the use of the Babylonian calendar
Babylonian calendar
The Babylonian calendar was a lunisolar calendar with years consisting of 12 lunar months, each beginning when a new crescent moon was first sighted low on the western horizon at sunset, plus an intercalary month inserted as needed by decree. The calendar is based on a Sumerian precedecessor...

 with names from the Achaemenid Iranian calendar
Iranian calendar
The Iranian calendars or sometimes called Persian calendars are a succession of calendars invented or used for over two millennia in Greater Iran...

, replacing the Macedonian calendar
Ancient Macedonian calendar
The Ancient Macedonian calendar is a lunisolar calendar that was in use in ancient Macedon in the 1st millennium BC. It consisted of 12 synodic lunar months , which needed intercalary months to stay in step with the seasons...

 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
Greek mythology
Greek mythology is the body of myths and legends belonging to the ancient Greeks, concerning their gods and heroes, the nature of the world, and the origins and significance of their own cult and ritual practices. They were a part of religion in ancient Greece...

 and Iranian
Persian mythology
Persian mythology are traditional tales and stories of ancient origin, some involving extraordinary or supernatural beings. Drawn from the legendary past of the Iranian cultural continent which especially consists of the state of Iran, Afghanistan, Tajikistan and Central Asia, they reflect the...

 cults. Aside from a minority of Jews
Judaism
Judaism ) is the "religion, philosophy, and way of life" of the Jewish people...

 and early Christians
Christianity
Christianity is a monotheistic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus as presented in canonical gospels and other New Testament writings...

, most Parthians were polytheistic. Greek and Iranian deities were oftentimes blended together as one. For example, Zeus
Zeus
In the ancient Greek religion, Zeus was the "Father of Gods and men" who ruled the Olympians of Mount Olympus as a father ruled the family. He was the god of sky and thunder in Greek mythology. His Roman counterpart is Jupiter and his Etruscan counterpart is Tinia.Zeus was the child of Cronus...

 was often equated with Ahura Mazda
Ahura Mazda
Ahura Mazdā is the Avestan name for a divinity of the Old Iranian religion who was proclaimed the uncreated God by Zoroaster, the founder of Zoroastrianism...

, Hades
Hades
Hades , Hadēs, originally , Haidēs or , Aidēs , meaning "the unseen") was the ancient Greek god of the underworld. The genitive , Haidou, was an elision to denote locality: "[the house/dominion] of Hades". Eventually, the nominative came to designate the abode of the dead.In Greek mythology, Hades...

 with Angra Mainyu
Angra Mainyu
Angra Mainyu is the Avestan-language name of Zoroastrianism's hypostasis of the "destructive spirit". The Middle Persian equivalent is Ahriman.-In Zoroaster's revelation:...

, Aphrodite
Aphrodite
Aphrodite is the Greek goddess of love, beauty, pleasure, and procreation.Her Roman equivalent is the goddess .Historically, her cult in Greece was imported from, or influenced by, the cult of Astarte in Phoenicia....

 and Hera
Hera
Hera was the wife and one of three sisters of Zeus in the Olympian pantheon of Greek mythology and religion. Her chief function was as the goddess of women and marriage. Her counterpart in the religion of ancient Rome was Juno. The cow and the peacock were sacred to her...

 with Anahita
Anahita
Anahita is the Old Persian form of the name of an Iranian goddess and appears in complete and earlier form as ' ; the Avestan language name of an Indo-Iranian cosmological figure venerated as the divinity of 'the Waters' and hence associated with fertility, healing and wisdom...

, Apollo
Apollo
Apollo is one of the most important and complex of the Olympian deities in Greek and Roman mythology...

 with Mithra
Mithra
Mithra is the Zoroastrian divinity of covenant and oath. In addition to being the divinity of contracts, Mithra is also a judicial figure, an all-seeing protector of Truth, and the guardian of cattle, the harvest and of The Waters....

, and Hermes
Hermes
Hermes is the great messenger of the gods in Greek mythology and a guide to the Underworld. Hermes was born on Mount Kyllini in Arcadia. An Olympian god, he is also the patron of boundaries and of the travelers who cross them, of shepherds and cowherds, of the cunning of thieves, of orators and...

 with Shamash
Shamash
Shamash was a native Mesopotamian deity and the sun god in the Akkadian, Assyrian and Babylonian pantheons. Shamash was the god of justice in Babylonia and Assyria, corresponding to Sumerian Utu...

. 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
Imperial cult
An imperial cult is a form of state religion in which an emperor, or a dynasty of emperors , are worshipped as messiahs, demigods or deities. "Cult" here is used to mean "worship", not in the modern pejorative sense...

 was perhaps the most widespread.

The extent of Arsacid patronism of Zoroastrianism
Zoroastrianism
Zoroastrianism is a religion and philosophy based on the teachings of prophet Zoroaster and was formerly among the world's largest religions. It was probably founded some time before the 6th century BCE in Greater Iran.In Zoroastrianism, the Creator Ahura Mazda is all good, and no evil...

 is debated in modern scholarship. The followers of Zoroaster
Zoroaster
Zoroaster , also known as Zarathustra , was a prophet and the founder of Zoroastrianism who was either born in North Western or Eastern Iran. He is credited with the authorship of the Yasna Haptanghaiti as well as the Gathas, hymns which are at the liturgical core of Zoroastrianism...

 would have found the bloody sacrifices of some Parthian-era Iranian cults to be unacceptable. However, there is evidence that Vologeses I encouraged the presence of Zoroastrian magi
Magi
Magi is a term, used since at least the 4th century BC, to denote a follower of Zoroaster, or rather, a follower of what the Hellenistic world associated Zoroaster with, which...

 priests at court and sponsored the compilation of sacred Zoroastrian texts which later formed the Avesta
Avesta
The Avesta is the primary collection of sacred texts of Zoroastrianism, composed in the Avestan language.-Early transmission:The texts of the Avesta — which are all in the Avestan language — were composed over the course of several hundred years. The most important portion, the Gathas,...

. The Sassanid court would later adopt Zoroastrianism as the official state religion of the empire.

Although Mani
Mani (prophet)
Mani , of Iranian origin was the prophet and the founder of Manichaeism, a gnostic religion of Late Antiquity which was once widespread but is now extinct...

 (216–276 AD), the founding prophet of Manichaeism
Manichaeism
Manichaeism in Modern Persian Āyin e Māni; ) was one of the major Iranian Gnostic religions, originating in Sassanid Persia.Although most of the original writings of the founding prophet Mani have been lost, numerous translations and fragmentary texts have survived...

, did not proclaim his first religious revelation until 228/229 AD, Bivar asserts that his new faith contained "elements of Mandaean
Mandaeism
Mandaeism or Mandaeanism is a Gnostic religion with a strongly dualistic worldview. Its adherents, the Mandaeans, revere Adam, Abel, Seth, Enosh, Noah, Shem, Aram and especially John the Baptist...

 belief, Iranian cosmogony, and even echoes of Christianity...[it] 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
Buddhism is a religion and philosophy encompassing a variety of traditions, beliefs and practices, largely based on teachings attributed to Siddhartha Gautama, commonly known as the Buddha . The Buddha lived and taught in the northeastern Indian subcontinent some time between the 6th and 4th...

 from the Kushan Empire
Kushan Empire
The Kushan Empire originally formed in the early 1st century AD under Kujula Kadphises in the territories of ancient Bactria on either side of the middle course of the Oxus in what is now northern Afghanistan, Pakistan, and southern Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.During the 1st and early 2nd centuries...

 into Iran proper. However, it is known from Chinese sources that An Shigao (fl. 2nd century AD), a Parthian nobleman and Buddhist monk, traveled to Luoyang
Luoyang
Luoyang is a prefecture-level city in western Henan province of Central China. It borders the provincial capital of Zhengzhou to the east, Pingdingshan to the southeast, Nanyang to the south, Sanmenxia to the west, Jiyuan to the north, and Jiaozuo to the northeast.Situated on the central plain of...

 in Han China as a Buddhist missionary
Silk Road transmission of Buddhism
The Silk Road transmission of Buddhism to China is most commonly thought to have started in the late 2nd or the 1st century CE.The first documented translation efforts by Buddhist monks in China were in the 2nd century CE, possibly as a consequence of the expansion of the Kushan Empire into the...

 and translated several Buddhist canons
Buddhist texts
Buddhist texts can be categorized in a number of ways. The Western terms "scripture" and "canonical" are applied to Buddhism in inconsistent ways by Western scholars: for example, one authority refers to "scriptures and other canonical texts", while another says that scriptures can be categorized...

 into Chinese
Chinese language
The Chinese language is a language or language family consisting of varieties which are mutually intelligible to varying degrees. Originally the indigenous languages spoken by the Han Chinese in China, it forms one of the branches of Sino-Tibetan family of languages...

.

Art and architecture


Parthian art can be divided into three geo-historical phases: the art of Parthia proper; the art of the Iranian plateau
Iranian plateau
The Iranian plateau, or Iranic plateau, is a geological formation in Southwest Asia. It is the part of the Eurasian Plate wedged between the Arabian and Indian plates, situated between the Zagros mountains to the west, the Caspian Sea and the Kopet Dag to the north, the Hormuz Strait and Persian...

; 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
Investiture, from the Latin is a rather general term for the formal installation of an incumbent...

 of Arsacid kings. Use of these motifs extended to include portrayals of local rulers. Common art mediums were rock-reliefs, fresco
Fresco
Fresco is any of several related mural painting types, executed on plaster on walls or ceilings. The word fresco comes from the Greek word affresca which derives from the Latin word for "fresh". Frescoes first developed in the ancient world and continued to be popular through the Renaissance...

s, and even graffiti
Graffiti
Graffiti is the name for images or lettering scratched, scrawled, painted or marked in any manner on property....

. Geometric and stylized plant patterns were also used on stucco
Stucco
Stucco or render is a material made of an aggregate, a binder, and water. Stucco is applied wet and hardens to a very dense solid. It is used as decorative coating for walls and ceilings and as a sculptural and artistic material in architecture...

 and plaster
Plaster
Plaster is a building material used for coating walls and ceilings. Plaster starts as a dry powder similar to mortar or cement and like those materials it is mixed with water to form a paste which liberates heat and then hardens. Unlike mortar and cement, plaster remains quite soft after setting,...

 walls. The common motif of the Sassanid period showing two horsemen engaged in combat with lances first appeared in the Parthian reliefs at Mount Behistun.

In portrait
Portrait
thumb|250px|right|Portrait of [[Thomas Jefferson]] by [[Rembrandt Peale]], 1805. [[New-York Historical Society]].A portrait is a painting, photograph, sculpture, or other artistic representation of a person, in which the face and its expression is predominant. The intent is to display the likeness,...

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 Schlumberger
Daniel Schlumberger was a French archaeologist and Professor of Near Eastern Archaeology at the University of Strasbourg and later the Princeton University. In the 1940s he conducted fieldwork at Ay Khanum in Afghanistan as Director of the Délégation Archéologique Française, discovering ruins and...

 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 Sassanid 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
Dura-Europos synagogue
The Dura-Europos synagogue is an ancient synagogue uncovered at Dura-Europos, Syria, in 1932. The last phase of construction was dated by an Aramaic inscription to 244 CE, making it one of the oldest synagogues in the world...

, a temple in the same city dedicated to Palmyrene gods, and the local Mithraeum
Mithraeum
A Mithraeum is a place of worship for the followers of the mystery religion of Mithraism.The Mithraeum was either an adapted natural cave or cavern or an artificial building imitating a cavern. Mithraea were dark and windowless, even if they were not actually in a subterranean space or in a natural...

.

Parthian architecture adopted elements of Achaemenid
Iranian architecture
Iranian architecture or Persian architecture is the architecture of Iran . It has a continuous history from at least 5000 BCE to the present, with characteristic examples distributed over a vast area from Turkey to North India and the borders of China and from the Caucasus to Zanzibar...

 and Greek architecture
Architecture of Ancient Greece
The architecture of Ancient Greece is the architecture produced by the Greek-speaking people whose culture flourished on the Greek mainland and Peloponnesus, the Aegean Islands, and in colonies in Asia Minor and Italy for a period from about 900 BC until the 1st century AD, with the earliest...

, 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 (architecture)
A Vault is an architectural term for an arched form used to provide a space with a ceiling or roof. The parts of a vault exert lateral thrust that require a counter resistance. When vaults are built underground, the ground gives all the resistance required...

 inside a square space. However, the artwork of Nisa, including marble statues and the carved scenes on ivory rhyton
Rhyton
A rhyton is a container from which fluids were intended to be drunk, or else poured in some ceremony such as libation. Rhytons were very common in ancient Persia, where they were called takuk...

 vessels, is unquestionably influenced by Greek art.

A signature feature of Parthian architecture was the iwan
Iwan
An iwan 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 Persian term for a portal projecting from the facade of a building, usually decorated with calligraphy bands, glazed tilework, and...

, an audience hall supported by arches and/or barrel vault
Barrel vault
A barrel vault, also known as a tunnel vault or a wagon vault, is an architectural element formed by the extrusion of a single curve along a given distance. The curves are typically circular in shape, lending a semi-cylindrical appearance to the total design...

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
Statue, National Museum of Iran 2401
The Statue, National Museum of Iran 2401 is one of the main works of Parthian Art. It is currently in the National Museum of Iran and was found at Shami , where there was an ancient sanctuary....

 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
Tunic
A tunic is any of several types of clothing for the body, of various lengths reaching from the shoulders to somewhere between the hips and the ankles...

 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
Palmyra was an ancient city in Syria. In the age of antiquity, it was an important city of central Syria, located in an oasis 215 km northeast of Damascus and 180 km southwest of the Euphrates at Deir ez-Zor. It had long been a vital caravan city for travellers crossing the Syrian desert...

, 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
Brooch
A brooch ; also known in ancient times as a fibula; is a decorative jewelry item designed to be attached to garments. It is usually made of metal, often silver or gold but sometimes bronze or some other material...

 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
Bashlyk
A bashlyk, also spelled Bashlik / "-lık" - derivative suffix), is a traditional Iranian, Turkic and Cossack cone-shaped headdress hood, usually of leather, felt or wool, an ancient round topped felt bonnet with lappets for wrapping around the neck. Local versions of determine the trim, which may...

 (Greek: kyrbasia). This may have derived from an Achaemenid-era satrapal headdress and the pointy hat
Pointy hat
Pointed hats have been a distinctive item of headgear of a wide range of cultures throughout history. Though often suggesting an ancient Indo-European tradition, they were also traditionally worn by women of Lapland, the Japanese, the Mi'kmaq people of Atlantic Canada, and the Huastecs of Veracruz...

s depicted in the Achaemenid reliefs at Behistun and Persepolis
Persepolis
Perspolis was the ceremonial capital of the Achaemenid Empire . Persepolis is situated northeast of the modern city of Shiraz in the Fars Province of modern Iran. In contemporary Persian, the site is known as Takht-e Jamshid...

. 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
Tiara
A tiara is a form of crown. There are two possible types of crown that this word can refer to.Traditionally, the word "tiara" refers to a high crown, often with the shape of a cylinder narrowed at its top, made of fabric or leather, and richly ornamented. It was used by the kings and emperors of...

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

Writing and literature


It is known that during the Parthian period the court minstrel
Minstrel
A minstrel was a medieval European bard who performed songs whose lyrics told stories of distant places or of existing or imaginary historical events. Although minstrels created their own tales, often they would memorize and embellish the works of others. Frequently they were retained by royalty...

 (gōsān) recited poetic oral literature
Oral literature
Oral literature corresponds in the sphere of the spoken word to literature as literature operates in the domain of the written word. It thus forms a generally more fundamental component of culture, but operates in many ways as one might expect literature to do...

 accompanied by music. However, their stories, composed in verse form, were not written down until the subsequent Sasanian period. In fact, there is no known Parthian-language literature that survives in original form, since it was written down in the following centuries. It is believed that such stories as the romantic tale Vis and Rāmin and epic cycle
Epic poetry
An epic is a lengthy narrative poem, ordinarily concerning a serious subject containing details of heroic deeds and events significant to a culture or nation. Oral poetry may qualify as an epic, and Albert Lord and Milman Parry have argued that classical epics were fundamentally an oral poetic form...

 of the Kayanian dynasty
Kayanian dynasty
The Kayanian, also Kays or Kayanids or Kaianids, are a dynasty of Greater Iranian tradition and folklore. Considered collectively, the Kayanian kings are the heroes of the Avesta, the sacred texts of Zoroastrianism, and of the Shahnameh, Iran's national epic.As an epithet of kings and the reason...

 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
Ancient Greek literature
Ancient Greek literature refers to literature written in the Ancient Greek language until the 4th century.- Classical and Pre-Classical Antiquity :...

.

Chronological table of Parthian kings


See also

  • Assyria (Roman province)
    Assyria (Roman province)
    Assyria or Assyria Provincia was a roman province that lasted only two years .-History:Assyria was one of three provinces created by the Roman emperor Trajan in 116 AD following a successful military campaign against Parthia, in present-day Iraq.Despite Rome's military victory, Trajan's province...

  • Baghdad Battery
    Baghdad Battery
    The Baghdad Battery, sometimes referred to as the Parthian Battery, is the common name for a number of artifacts created in Mesopotamia, during the dynasties of Parthian or Sassanid period , and probably discovered in 1936 in the village of Khuyut Rabbou'a, near Baghdad, Iraq...

  • Battle of Nisibis (217)
    Battle of Nisibis (217)
    The Battle of Nisibis was fought in the summer of 217 between the armies of the Roman Empire under the newly ascended emperor Macrinus and the Parthian army of King Artabanus IV. It lasted for three days, and resulted in a bloody draw, with both sides suffering large casualties...

  • History of Iran
    History of Iran
    The history of Iran has been intertwined with the history of a larger historical region, comprising the area from the Danube River in the west to the Indus River and Jaxartes in the east and from the Caucasus, Caspian Sea, and Aral Sea in the north to the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman and Egypt...


External links