Gotarzes II of Parthia

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Gotarzes II
"King of kings of Iran"
Coin of Gotarzes II.
Reign 40 – 51
Predecessor Vardanes I
Successor Vonones II
Died 51
Dynasty Arsacid dynasty
Father Artabanus III
Religion Zoroastrianism

Gotarzes II of Parthia (Parthian: 𐭂𐭅𐭕𐭓𐭆 Gōtarz, Ancient Greek: Γωτάρζης Gōtarzēs; flourished 1st century) was a Prince of Iranian ancestry. He ruled the Parthian Empire as King intermittently between about 40 to 51. He was one of the sons of Artabanus III. When his father died in 38 and his brother Vardanes I succeeded to the throne, Gotarzes II rebelled.


Little is known on the early life of Gotarzes II, prior to becoming King of Parthia. Although Gotarzes II was a son of Artabanus III, it is unknown whether if he was a biological or adoptive son of his. Josephus calls Gotarzes II as a brother of Vologases I.[1] Tacitus does not explicitly describe Gotarzes II as a son of Artabanus III. However he considers him as a Parthian Usurper who was responsible for the murder of his brother, Artabanus and his family.[2] The Roman sources are obscure on his background however surviving evidence reveals a lot more about the origins of Gotarzes II.

An inscription on a rock relief that was discovered by Rawlinson Sarpul-I-Zohab on a main road in Iranian Kurdistan, introduces him as Gotarzes, son of Gev.[3] From this inscription, Gotarzes II has been considered as a son of a Hyrcanian nobleman called Gev who served as a Satrap in that region, whose son was adopted by Artabanus III during his exile in recognition of a debt that his father had to Artabanus III, so that Gotarzes II would become an adopted Parthian Royal Prince.[4] When Gotarzes II served as Parthian King, he called himself as a son of Artabanus III, as known from a surviving coin calling him, Arsaces, king of kings, called Gotarzes, son of Artabanos.[5]


Gotarzes II made himself detested by his cruelty: among many other murders he even slew his brother Artabanus and his whole family. When Vardanes I regained the throne; Gotarzes II fled to Hyrcania and gathered an army from the Dahae nomads. The war between the two kings was at last ended by a treaty, as both were afraid of the conspiracies of their nobles. Gotarzes II returned to Hyrcania and when Vardanes I was killed in about 47, Gotzares II was acknowledged in the whole empire. Gotarzes II then added to his coins the usual Parthian titles, "king of kings Arsaces the benefactor, the just, the illustrious (Epiphanes), the friend of the Hellenes (Philhellen)", without mentioning his proper name.

The discontent excited by his cruelty and luxury induced the hostile party to apply to the Roman emperor Claudius to fetch from Rome an Arsacid prince Meherdates, who lived there as hostage. Meherdates crossed the Euphrates in 49, but was beaten and taken prisoner by Gotarzes II, who cut off his ears.

Soon afterwards Gotarzes II died, according to Tacitus of an illness; Josephus says that he was murdered. His last coin is dated from June 51. Gotarzes II was succeeded briefly by his uncle Vonones II and then by his cousin (one of the sons of Vonones II) Vologases I.

In Fiction[edit]

Gortazes II is unfavorably portrayed in Robert Graves' novel Claudius the God. Gortazes is presented as a cruel tyrant. The gravest of insults lobbied by Claudius against Gortazes is that he was idolized by Caligula, and was a close advisor of the mad Roman Emperor.


  1. ^ Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, 20.3.4
  2. ^ Tacitus, Annals, 6, 8-9
  3. ^ Verstandig, History of the Parthian Empire (-250 – 227)", p.p.251-252
  4. ^ Verstandig, History of the Parthian Empire (-250 – 227)", p.p.251-252
  5. ^ Ptolemaic Genealogy: Tryphaena, Footnote 13 Archived 2013-05-09 at the Wayback Machine.


External links[edit]

Gotarzes II of Parthia
Preceded by
Vardanes I
Great King (Shah) of Parthia
Succeeded by
Vonones II