Parthian language

Parthian language

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The Parthian language, also known as Arsacid Pahlavi and Pahlavanik, is a now-extinct ancient Northwestern Iranian language spoken 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....

, a region of northeastern ancient Persia during the rule of the Parthian empire
Parthian Empire
The Parthian Empire , also known as the Arsacid Empire , was a major Iranian political and cultural power in ancient Persia...

.

Parthian was the language of state of the Parthian Empire
Parthian Empire
The Parthian Empire , also known as the Arsacid Empire , was a major Iranian political and cultural power in ancient Persia...

 (248 BC-224 AD).

Classification


Parthian was a Western Middle Iranian language
Middle Iranian languages
Middle Iranian may refer to any of a group of the Indo-European Iranian languages spoken between the 4th century BC and the 9th century AD:Western:*Parthian *Middle Persian Eastern:*Bactrian*Aryan*Sogdian*Khwarezmian...

 that, through language contact
Language contact
Language contact occurs when two or more languages or varieties interact. The study of language contact is called contact linguistics.Multilingualism has likely been common throughout much of human history, and today most people in the world are multilingual...

, also had some features of the Eastern Iranian language group, the influence of which is attested primarily in loan words. Some traces of Eastern influence survives in Parthian loan words in the Armenian language
Armenian language
The Armenian language is an Indo-European language spoken by the Armenian people. It is the official language of the Republic of Armenia as well as in the region of Nagorno-Karabakh. The language is also widely spoken by Armenian communities in the Armenian diaspora...

.

Taxonomically, Parthian belongs to the Northwestern Iranian language group while 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...

 belongs to the Southwestern Iranian language group.

Written Parthian



The Parthian language was rendered using 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;...

, which had two essential characteristics: First, its script derived from Aramaic, the script (and language) of the Achaemenid chancellery (i.e. Imperial Aramaic). Second, it had a high incidence of Aramaic words
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,...

, rendered as ideogram
Ideogram
An ideogram or ideograph is a graphic symbol that represents an idea or concept. Some ideograms are comprehensible only by familiarity with prior convention; others convey their meaning through pictorial resemblance to a physical object, and thus may also be referred to as pictograms.Examples of...

s or logogram
Logogram
A logogram, or logograph, is a grapheme which represents a word or a morpheme . This stands in contrast to phonograms, which represent phonemes or combinations of phonemes, and determinatives, which mark semantic categories.Logograms are often commonly known also as "ideograms"...

s, that is, they were written Aramaic words but understood as Parthian ones (See Arsacid Pahlavi for details).

The Parthian language was the language of the old Satrapy of Parthia and was used in the Arsacids courts. The main sources for Parthian are the few remaining inscriptions from Nisa and Hecatompolis
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...

, Manichean texts, Sasanian multi-lingual inscriptions, and remains of Parthian literature in the succeeding Middle Persian. Among these, the Manichean texts, composed shortly after the demise of the Parthian power, play an important role for reconstructing the Parthian language. These Manichean manuscripts contain no ideograms.

Remnants


Remnants of the Parthian language include:
  • The Ostraca (100 BC to found in Nisa
    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...

     and other sides in southern border of modern Turkmenistan
    Turkmenistan
    Turkmenistan , formerly also known as Turkmenia is one of the Turkic states in Central Asia. Until 1991, it was a constituent republic of the Soviet Union, the Turkmen Soviet Socialist Republic . Turkmenistan is one of the six independent Turkic states...

    )
  • The first century BC ostraca from Kumesh
    Semnan Province
    Semnan Province is one of the 31 provinces of Iran. It is in the north of the country, and its center is Semnan. The province of Semnan covers an area of 96,816 square kilometers and stretches along the Alborz mountain range and borders to Dasht-e Kavir desert in its southern parts.Counties of...

     in 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 first century AD parchment from Awraman or Hawraman in Iranian Kurdistan
    Iranian Kurdistan
    Iranian Kurdistan is an unofficial name for the parts of Iran inhabited by Kurds and has borders with Iraq and Turkey. It includes Kurdistan Province, Kermanshah Province, Ilam Province and parts of West Azerbaijan province....

  • Inscription of on the coins of Arsacid Kings in the first century AD
  • The bilingual inscription 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:...

    , on 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:...

     (150-151 AD)
  • The inscription of Ardavan V found in 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....

     (215)
  • Some third century documents discovered in 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....

    , On 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...

  • The inscription at Kal-e Jangal, near Birjand
    Birjand
    Birjand is the east Iranian provincial capital of South Khorasan and the centre of the county Birjand resp. Quhestan, known for its saffron, barberry, rug and handmade carpet exports....

     in South Khorasan (first half of third century)
  • The inscriptions of early Sassanian Kings and priests in Parthian including Ka'ba-ye Zartosht near Shiraz
    Shiraz
    Shiraz may refer to:* Shiraz, Iran, a city in Iran* Shiraz County, an administrative subdivision of Iran* Vosketap, Armenia, formerly called ShirazPeople:* Hovhannes Shiraz, Armenian poet* Ara Shiraz, Armenian sculptor...

     and Paikuli
    Paikuli inscription
    The Paikuli inscription is a bilingual Parthian and Middle Persian text corpus located in what is now southern part of Iraqi Kurdistan. It was set up as a monument to victory, and tells how and why the Sasanian emperor Narseh ousted his grandnephew from power....

     in Iraqi Kurdistan
    Iraqi Kurdistan
    Iraqi Kurdistan or Kurdistan Region is an autonomous region of Iraq. It borders Iran to the east, Turkey to the north, Syria to the west and the rest of Iraq to the south. The regional capital is Arbil, known in Kurdish as Hewlêr...

  • The vast corpus of Manichean Parthian which do not contain any ideograms

Extinction


In 224 AD, 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 ruler of Pars
Pars
Pars may refer to:* Fārs Province, modern Persian language name for Pars Province, central Iranian kingdom of the ancient Persian empire* Pars News Agency and Pars Agency, names of the national Iranian news agency prior to the Iranian Revolution in 1979...

, deposed and replaced Artabanus IV, the last Parthian Emperor, and founded the fourth Iranian dynasty, and the second Persian dynasty, the Sassanian Empire. Parthian was then succeeded by 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...

, which when written is known as Sasanian Pahlavi. Parthian did not die out immediately, but remains attested in a few bi-lingual inscriptions from the Sasanian era.

See also

  • Avestan language
    Avestan language
    Avestan is an East Iranian language known only from its use as the language of Zoroastrian scripture, i.e. the Avesta, from which it derives its name...

  • Old Persian language
    Old Persian language
    The Old Persian language is one of the two directly attested Old Iranian languages . Old Persian appears primarily in the inscriptions, clay tablets, and seals of the Achaemenid era...

  • 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...

  • Persian Language
    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...

  • History of Persian language
  • Pahlavi Literature
    Pahlavi literature
    Middle Persian literature also called Pahlavi literature is Persian literature of the 1st millennium AD, especially of the Sassanid period.- Literature of Pahlavi :Pahlavi Literature can be divided in three parts:...


External links