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Parthian Empire

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 Parthian Empire

The Parthian Empire at its greatest extent
The Parthian Empire at its greatest extent

The Parthian Empire, also known as the Arsacid Empire / ərsɪsɪd /, was a major Iranian political and cultural power in ancient Iran, also known as ancient Persia. His last name comes from Arsace I of Parthien, who, as leader of the Parni tribe, founded him in the middle of the 3rd century BC, when he conquered the region of Parthia in northeastern Iran, then a satrapie in the insurrection against the Seleucid kingdom. Mithridates I of Parthia (r., 171-138 BC) Expands the empire considerably by seizing media and Mesopotamia from the Seleucids. At its height the Parthian Empire stretched from the northern regions of the Euphrates, in today's south-eastern Turkey to the east of Iran. The Empire, which is on the trade route between the Roman Empire in the Mediterranean and the Han Empire, became a trading and trading center.
The Parthians largely adopted the art, architecture, religious beliefs, and the royal insignia of their culturally heterogeneous empire, including Persian, Hellenistic, and regional cultures. For about the first half of its existence, the Arsacid took court elements of Greek culture, although it finally saw a gradual revival of Iranian traditions. The Arsacid rulers were named king of the kings, as claim to the heirs of the Achaemenid empire; In fact, they took many local kings as vassals, where the Achaemenids should have had middle, though largely autonomous, satraps. The court ordered a small number of satraps, mostly outside Iran, but these satrapies were smaller and less powerful than the Achaemenid potentates. With the expansion of the Arsakidian power, the seat of the central government shifted from Nisa to Ctesiphon on the Tigris (south of modern Baghdad, Iraq), although several other places also served as capital cities.
The first enemies of the Parthians were the Seleucids in the west and the Scythians in the east. However, when Parthia expanded to the west, they came into conflict with the kingdom of Armenia, and finally the late Roman republic. Rome and Parthia competed with each other to establish the kings of Armenia as their subordinate clients. The Parthians defeated Marcus Licinius Crassus in the battle of Carrhae in 53 BC. And 40-39 BC, the Parthian troops occupied the entire Levante with the exception of Tire from the Romans. However, Mark Antony led a counter-attack against Parthia, though his successes were generally achieved in his absence, under the leadership of his lieutenant, Ventidius.
Also various Roman emperors or their appointed generals in Mesopotamia, during the course of several Roman-parthian wars, which followed in the next centuries. The Romans conquered the cities of Seleucia and Ctesiphon several times in these conflicts, but could not hold them. Frequent civil war between Parthian competitors to the throne proved to be more dangerous than the invasion abroad, and evaporated Parthia's power when Ardaschir I, ruler of Estakhr in the Fars, rebelled against the Arsacids, and her last ruler, Artabanus IV, Killed Ardashir built the Sassanid empire that dominated Iran and a major part of the Middle East until the Muslim conquests of the 7th century AD, although the Arsacid dynasty lived through the Arsacid Dynasty of Armenia.

The silver drachma of Arsaces I of Parthia

The silver drachma of Arsaces I of Parthia

(r. c. 247–211 BC) with a Greek-alphabet inscription

of his name (ΑΡΣΑΚΟΥ)

Native parthian sources written in Parthian, Greek and other language are scarce compared to Sassanid and even former Achaemenid sources. Apart from scattered cuneiform tablets, fragmentary ostracs, rock inscriptions, drachma coins, and the chance survival of some parchment documents, a large part of Parthian history is known only from external sources. These include, in particular, Greek and Roman stories, as well as Chinese stories prompted by the Chinese goods market. Parthian works of art are regarded by historians as a valid source for the understanding of aspects of society and culture, which are otherwise lacking in text sources.

History of the Parthian Empire
Origins and establishment
Before Arsaces I of Parthia founded the Arsacid dynasty, he was chief of the Parni, an ancient Central Asian tribe of Iranian peoples and one of several nomadic tribes in the Confederation of the Dahae. The Parni most likely spoke an Eastern Iranian language contrast to the north-western Iranian language, which was then spoken in Parthia. The latter was a north-eastern province, first under the Achaemenid, and then the Seleucid kingdoms. After the conquest of the region, the Parni Parthian adopted as an official language, speaking alongside the Middle Aphaic, Aramaic, Greek, Babylonian, Slavic and other languages in the multilingual areas they were to conquer.
Why the Arsacid Court chose retrospectively 247 BC When the first year of the Arsacid era is uncertain. A.D.H. Bivar concludes that this was the year when the Seleucids lost control over Parthians at Andragoras, the Satrap, who rebelled against them. Therefore, Arsaces I saved his regnal years "until the moment when Seleukid's rule over Parthien ceased, but Vesta Sarkhosh Curtis claimed that this was simply the year Arsaces became head of the Parni tribe When Arsaces conquered Parthia and expelled the Seleucid authorities, Curtis and Maria Brosius declared that Andragoras was not overthrown by the Arsacids until 238 BC.
Before Arsaces I of Parthia founded the Arsacid dynasty, he was chief of the Parni, an ancient Central Asian tribe of Iranian peoples and one of several nomadic tribes in the Confederation of the Dahae. The Parni most likely spoke an Eastern Iranian language contrary to the north-western Iranian language, which was then spoken in Parthia. The latter was a north-eastern province, first under the Achaemenid, and then the Seleucid kingdoms. After the conquest of the region, the Parni Parthian adopted as an official language, speaking alongside the Middle Aphaic, Aramaic, Greek, Babylonian, Slavic and other languages in the multilingual areas they were to conquer.

Parthia, shaded yellow, alongside the Seleucid Empire (blue) and the Roman Republic (purple) around 200 BC

Parthia, shaded yellow, alongside the Seleucid Empire

(blue)and the Roman Republic (purple) around 200 BC

Why the Arsacid Court chose retrospectively 247 BC When the first year of the Arsacid era is uncertain. A.D.H. Bivar concludes that this was the year when the Seleucids lost control over Parthians at Andragoras, the Satrap, who rebelled against them. Therefore, Arsaces I saved his regnal years "until the moment when Seleukid's rule over Parthien ceased, but Vesta Sarkhosh Curtis claimed that this was simply the year Arsaces became head of the Parni tribe When Arsaces conquered Parthia and expelled the Seleucid authorities, Curtis and Maria Brosius declared that Andragoras was not overthrown by the Arsacids until 238 BC.
It is unclear who immediately came to Arsaces I. Bivar and Katouzian confirm that it was his brother Tiridates I of Parthia, to whom his son Arsaces II of Parthia was succeeded in 211 BC. However, Curtis and Brosius argue that Arsaces II was the immediate successor to Arsaces I. Curtis claimed that the succession of 211 BC and Brosius 217 BC. Bivar insists that 138 BC, The Last Season of Mithridates I, "is the first precisely fixed regnal date of Parthian history". Because of this and other discrepancies, Bivar sketched two different royal chronologies accepted by the historians. Later 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 suffered from hereditary neurofibromatosis.
For a time, Arsas strengthened his position in Parthia and Hyrkania, exploiting the invasion of the Seleucid region in the west by Ptolemy III Euergetes (246-222 BC). This conflict with Ptolemy, the Third Syrian War (246-241 BC), allowed Diodotus I. to rebel the Greek-Bactrian kingdom in Central Asia. The successor of Diodotos II formed an alliance with Arsaces against the Seleucids, but Arsaces was temporarily expelled from Parthia by the forces of Seleucus II Callinicus (246-225 BC). After spending some time in the exile of the nomadic tribe of the Apasiacae, Arsaces led a counter-attack and captured Parthia again. Seleucus II. Successor, Antiochus III. The Great (rd 222-187 BC), was unable to retaliate immediately because his troops were engaged in the defeat of the rebellion of Molon in Media.
Antioch III launched a massive campaign to recapture Parthia and Bactria in 210 or 209 BC. He was unsuccessful, but negotiated with Arsaces II. A peace settlement. The latter received the title of the king (Greek: Basileus) in return for his submission to Antiochus III. As his superiors. The Seleucids could no longer interfere with the Parthian affairs after the increasing intervention of the Roman Republic and the Seleucid defeat in Magnesia in 190 BC. Phriapatius of Parthia (right, 191-176 BC) Following the passage of Arsaces II and Phraates I of Parthia (BC 176-171 BC), the throne rose. Phraates I ruled Parthien without further Seleucid disturbance.

Coin of Antiochus VII Sidetes.  British Museum.

Coin of Antiochus VII Sidetes.

British Museum.

Expansion and consolidation
Phraates I is recorded as expanding Parthia's control past the Gates of Alexander and occupied Apamea Ragiana, 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 (r. c. 171–138), whom Katouzian compares to Cyrus the Great (d. 530 BC), founder of the Achaemenid Empire.
he relations between Parthia and Greco-Bactria worsened after the death of Diodotus II. When Mithridates's forces conquered two eparchies of the latter kingdom, then under Eucratides I (around 170-145 BC). When he turned his view of the Seleucid empire, Mithridates conquered the media and occupied Ecbatana in 148 or 147 BC The region was destabilized by a new Seleucid repression of a rebellion led by Timarchus. This victory was followed by the Parthian conquest of Babylonia in Mesopotamia, where Mithridates had minted coins in Seleucia in 141 BC and held an official investment ceremony. While Mithridates retreated to Hyrkania, his forces subdued the kingdoms of Elymais and Characene, and occupied Susa. At this time Parthia's authority expanded far east as the Indus River.
While Hecatompylos served as the first Parthian capital, Mithridates built royal residences in Seleucia, Ecbatana, Ctesiphon and its newly founded city of Mithradatkert (Nisa, Turkmenistan), where the tombs of the Arsacid kings were built and preserved. Ecbatana became the main residence of the Arsakids. Ctesiphon must not have become the official capital until the rule of Gotarzes I of Parthia (c. 90-80 BC). It became the site of the royal coronation ceremony and the representative city of Arsacids, according to Brosius.
The Seleucids were unable to repay immediately, when General Diodotus Tryphon led a rebellion at the capital of Antioch in 142 BC. But around 140 BC Demetrius II. Nicator was able to initiate a counter-invasion against the Parthians in Mesopotamia. Despite the early successes, the Seleucids were defeated and Demetrius himself captured by Parthian troops and taken to Hyrkania. There Mithridates treated his prisoners with great hospitality; He even married his daughter Rhodogune of Parthien to Demetrius.
Antiochus VII. Sidenes (r. 138-129 BC), a brother of Demetrius, took the Seleucid throne and married his wife Cleopatra Thea. After defeating Diodotus Tryphon, Antioch initiated a campaign in 130 BC to recapture Mesopotamia, now under the rule of Phraates II of Parthia (circa 138-128 BC). The Parthian General Indates was defeated at the Great Zab, followed by a local insurrection in which the Parthian governor of Babylonia was killed. Antioch conquered Babylonia and occupied Susa, where he coined coins. After advancing his army into the media, the Parthians pushed for the peace that Antioch refused to accept when the Arsacids duly dumped all the lands to him but Parthia, paid heavy tribute, and published Demetrius from captivity.

A Roman marble head of the triumvir Marcus Licinius Crassus, who was defeated at Carrhae by Surena

A Roman marble headof the

triumvir MarcusLicinius Crassus,

whowas defeated at Carrhae

by Surena


Arsaces released Demetrius and sent him to 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.
While the Parthians recaptured the lost territories in the West, another threat arose in the East. In the year 177-176 BC The Nomad confederation of the Xiongnu displaced the nomadic Yuezhi from their home in today's province Gansu in North-West China; The Yuezhi then migrated westwards into Bactria and expelled the sacred tribes. The Saka were forced to move further west, where they penetrated into the northeastern borders of the Parthian Empire. Mithridates was therefore compelled to retreat from Mesopotamia to Hyrkania after his conquest.
Some of the Saka were recruited in the fighting of the Phracies against Antiochus. However, they came too late to engage in the conflict. When Phraates refused to pay their wages, the Saka, who he tried with the help of former Seleucid soldiers, fell, but they left Phraates and joined the Saka. Phraates II marched against this combined force, but he was killed in the battle. The Roman historian Justin reports that his successor, Artabanus I of Parthia (about 128-124 BC), shared similar fate-fighting denominations in the East. He claims that Artabanus was killed by the Tocharians (identified as the Yuezhi), although Bivar believes that Justin will bring her into conflict with the Saka. Mithridates II of Parthien (right: 124-90 BC) Later the country Saka had lost in Sistan.
After the Seleucid withdrawal from Mesopotamia, the Parthian governor of Babylonia, Himerus, was ordered from the Arsacid court to conquer Characene, who was then governed by Hyspaosines of Charax Spasinu. When this failed, Hyspaosine forced Babylonia in 127 BC and occupied Seleucia. But around 122 BC, Mithridates II forced the Hyspaosine from Babylonia and made the kings of Charakken vassals under parthian supremacy. After Mithridates expanded Parthian control further west, occupied Dura-Europos 113 BC, He was involved in conflict with the Kingdom of Armenia. His troops defeated Artavasdes I of Armenia in 97 BC and took his son Tigranes as hostage, which later became Tigranes II "the great" of Armenia (around 95-55 BC).
The Indo-Parthian kingdom in today's Afghanistan and Pakistan has in the 1st century BC. An alliance with the Parthian Empire closed. Bivar argues that these two states have viewed each other as politically equal. After the visit of the Greek philosopher Apollonius of Tyana in 42 AD. Visited the court of Vardanes I of Parthien (about 40-47 AD) when Vardanes led the protection of a caravan to Indo-Parthien. When Apollonius reached the capital of Taxila of Indo-Parthia, the caravan leader read Vardane's official letter, which was perhaps written in parthia, to an Indian official who treated Apollonius with great hospitality.
After the diplomatic project of Zhang Qian in Central Asia during the reign of the emperor Wu of Han (141-87 BC) Sent the Han Empire of China 121 BC A delegation to the court of Mithridates II The Han- Embassy opened official trade relations with Parthia on the Silk Road has not yet reached a desired military alliance against the Xiongnu confederation. The Parthian empire was enriched by the taxation of the Eurasian caravan trade in silk, the highest-priced luxury goods imported by the Romans. Pearls were also a highly regarded import from China, while the Chinese Parthian bought spices, perfumes and fruits. Exotic animals were also given as gifts from the Arsacid to Han dishes; In 87 AD Sandte Pacorus II. Of Parthien Lions and Persian gazelles to Emperor Zhang of Han (75-88 AD). In addition to silk, parthian goods purchased from Roman merchants from India also contain spices and fine leather. Caravans traveling through the Parthian Empire brought West Asian and sometimes Roman luxury glass to China.

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