Isidore of Charax

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Isidorus Characenus (Ancient Greek: Ἰσίδωρος Χαρακηνός), 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.

Isidore's name has been interpreted by his editor and translator W.H. Schoff[1] to indicate that he was from the city of Charax in Characene, on the northern end of the present Persian Gulf. However, the word 'Charax' merely means "palisade", and there were several fortified towns that bore the name 'Charax'.

Isidore's best known work is Parthian stations (Mansiones Parthicae), an itinerary of the overland trade route from Antioch to India, specifically the caravan stations maintained by the Arsacid government. Isidore must have written Parthian Stations some time after 26 BC, for it refers to the revolt of Tiridates II against Phraates IV, which occurred in that year. In its surviving form, Parthian Stations appears to be a summary of some larger work. A reference in Athenaeus (iii.46) suggests that the title of the greater work was Journey around Parthia. Athenaeus's reference, not included in the present text of Mansiones Parthicae, is a description of pearl fishing.

The 1st century historiographer Pliny the Elder refers to a "description of the world" commissioned by the Emperor Augustus "to gather all necessary information in the east when his eldest son was about to set out for Armenia to take the command against the Parthians and Arabians".[2] Pliny refers to the author as one "Dionysius", but it is assumed that this is a mistake and Isidore was meant; it is Isidore who is cited for measurements of geographic distances (ii.112, iv.5, iv.30, iv.37, v.6, v.9, v.35-39, v.43).

The 2nd century satirist Lucian of Samosata also cites an Isidore (not necessarily Isidore of Charax) for claims of longevity (Macrobii 15 and 18). Lucian does not note the name of the work he cites.

A collection of translations of the various fragments attributed to Isidore of Charax were published with commentary in a forty-six-page booklet by Wilfred Harvey Schoff in 1914. The translation of Parthian Stations in that volume is that of Karl Müller in Geographi Græci Minores I, pp. 244–256, Paris, 1853.


  1. ^ Schoff, Wilfred H. (1914), Parthian Stations by Isidore of Charax: The Greek text, with a translation and commentary, Philadelphia: Commercial Museum 
  2. ^ Pliny, Natural History vi.31.