Arsaces I of Parthia

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Arsaces
King of the Arsacid dynasty
Coin of Arsaces I of Parthia.jpg
Coin of Arsaces I. The reverse shows a seated archer carrying a bow. A Greek inscription on the right reads ΑΡΣΑΚ[ΟΥ] (from the outside). The inscription below the bow is in Aramaic.
Reign ca. 250 BC to either 246 BC or 211 BC
Successor Arsaces II
Dynasty Arsacid dynasty
Died 246 BC or 211 BC

Arsaces I (/ˈɑrsəsz/; Persian: ارشکArshak, Greek: Ἀρσάκης,) 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 (the Bagratid "line") begins with Arsaces.[1] Arsaces or Ashk has also given name to the city of Ashkabad.

Origin[edit]

Information on Arsaces I comes solely from non-contemporaneous (1st century) Greek and Latin reiterations of Arsacid legends (Arrian i, preserved in Photius and Syncellus, and Strabo xi). The dates of Arsaces' birth and death are unknown, as is his real name.

There are several opinions about the origin of Arsaces. Most historian believes he was a Parni chief of the Dahae Scythians, who conquered Parthia shortly before Diodotus’ revolt.[2][3][4] Some allege that “the Persian” Andragoras whom Alexander left as satrap of Parthia was the ancestor of the subsequent kings of Parthia [5] According to Strabo the Dahae Parni were an emigrant tribe from the Dahae above the Maeotis, who were called Xandii and Parii. But it is not generally acknowledged that the Dahae are to be found among the Scythians above the Maeotis, yet from these Arsaces according to some was descended; according to others he was a Bactrian, and withdrawing himself from the increasing power of Diodotus, occasioned the revolt of Parthia[6] But he did not trust the accuracy of the subject rather (arashk=arsaces) was a Scythian of the Parni in Gorgan.[7] Another version has been provided by Arrian in his Parthica, now lost, which was epitomized on this point by Photius (Bibliotheca 58) and the twelfth-century Syncellus.[8] Photius’ epitome runs as follows: Arsaces and Tiridates were brothers, descendants of Phriapites, the son of Arsaces. According to Syncellus the brothers “were allegedly descendants of the Persian Artaxerxes II Achaemenid king.[9] Finally, the Iranian national history traced Arsaces lineage to Kai Kobad, an ancient king of Kayanian dynasty.[10][11]

Reign[edit]

In contrast, the circumstances of Arsaces' ascent to power are relatively well known. Around 250 BC, Andragoras, the governor of the Seleucid province of Parthia, proclaimed his independence from the Seleucid monarchs, and made his governorate an independent kingdom. At about the same time, Arsaces was elected leader of the Parni, an eastern Iranian tribe. With the Parni, Arsaces seized Astauene (or Astabene), i.e., northern Parthia. Andragoras was killed during his attempts to recover it, which left the Parni in control over the rest of Parthia as well. A recovery expedition by the Seleucids under Seleucus II did not succeed, and Arsaces and the Parni succeeded in holding Parthia proper during Arsaces' lifetime. (Arsaces II lost it in 209 BC to Antiochus III, to whom the Arsacids became vassals for the next 25 years).

The line of succession is unclear, since his successors adopted the name Arsaces as well, making it difficult to distinguish them from the founder of the dynasty. From legend and secondary accounts, it seems that—at least from 246 BC onwards—Arsaces' brother Tiridates I either ruled in Arsaces' name or co-ruled with him. Then, after 211 BC, when another Arsaces is seen on coinage, either the brother ruled as Arsaces II, or Arsaces II was Arsaces' son (or nephew). Other combinations, e.g. that Tiridates killed his brother (as said by the later Arrian), have also been suggested.

Arsaces issued coins from silver drachmas to copper dikhakloi. All issues bear some similarity in style to the Seleucid pieces of the same time, although the headdress on the Parthian coinage is notably different. The commonest inscription is ΑΡΣΑΚΟΥ ΑΥΤΟΚΡΑΤΟΡΟΣ, translating as Arsaces the Autocrat, however there are many variations on this.

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ A 1st century AD tradition (preserved by Arrian) casts Arsaces as descending from the 5th-century BC Achaemenid monarch Artaxerxes II. The Seleucids (and virtually everyone else after them) propagated the same myth, and such contrived genealogies were used as a justification of the right to rule.
  2. ^ http://www.iranicaonline.org/articles/arsacids-index
  3. ^ ibid., 11.9.2
  4. ^ The History Of Ancient Iran Richard N. Frye,pp. 205-208
  5. ^ Justin 12.4.12
  6. ^ Strabo 11.9.3
  7. ^ History of Ancient Iran Hassan Pirnia pp 2197.2203
  8. ^ (Corpus scriptorum historiae Byzantinae XIII, ed. W. Dindorf, Bonn, 1829, p. 539)
  9. ^ Justin 12.4.12
  10. ^ Ferdowsī. Šāh-nāma VII. p. 116
  11. ^ Ṭabarī, I, p. 710

References[edit]

  • Bivar, A.D.H. (1983), "The Political History of Iran under the Arsacids", in Yarshater, Ehsan, Cambridge History of Iran 3.1, London: Cambridge UP, pp. 21–99, esp. p. 31.
  • Józef Wolski, 'Arsace II et le genealogie des premiers arsacides', Historia XI (1962), 138-45.
  • Józef Wolski, 'Arsaces I:założyciel państwa partyjskiego' (Arsaces I: Founder of the Parthian state), part 1, Eos, (1937), vol. 38, p. 492-511 & part 2, Eos, (1938), vol. 39, p. 244-266
  • http://www.iranicaonline.org/articles/arsacids-index
  • (Strabo 11.9.3), (ibid., 11.9.2), (Justin 12.4.12)
  • The History of Ancient Iran Richard N. Frye 1983, part of Expansion Of Kingdom, pp. 205–208
  • History of Ancient Iran Hassan Pirnia pp. 2197–2203 part of parthia, Ashkanina
  • (Corpus scriptorum historiae Byzantinae XIII, ed. W. Dindorf, Bonn, 1829, p. 539)
  • (Ferdowsi. Šāh-nāma VII. p. 116), (tarikhe tabari History of the Prophets and Kings VI, p. 710)
Arsaces I of Parthia
Born: Unknown Died: 211 BC
Preceded by
Andragoras
King of Parthia
c. 250–211 BC
with Tiridates? (c. 246–211 BC)
Succeeded by
Arsaces II