User:PericlesofAthens/Sandbox Parthian Empire

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For my Cambridge History of Iran notes, see User:PericlesofAthens/Sandbox Parthian Empire Cambridge.

For my other sandboxes, see User:PericlesofAthens/Sandbox

For my draft, see User:PericlesofAthens/Draft for Parthian Empire.

The Persians: An Introduction (Maria Brosius)[edit]

  • Brosius, Maria. (2006). The Persians: An Introduction. London & New York: Routledge. ISBN 0-415-32089-5 (hbk).

The following are sub-sections for the chapter "The Parthians (Arsacids)," from pages 79-138.

Preliminary remarks[edit]

  • Page 79-80: There is a general lack of Parthian historical texts which would allow us to reconstruct their history. Archaeology has aided in this, but to a small degree. Greek and Roman texts are also used, but in many cases they do not offer enough detail, mention things only in passing, and mention places which have yet to be identified. Brosius argues that the best primary sources for Parthian history are its minted coins, which have been used to piece together the chronological succession of Parthian kings.
  • Page 80: Seleucid and Roman written sources treat the Parthian Empire with a fair degree of hostility and thus cannot be fully relied on to present an accurate history and description of Parthia. However, Han Chinese written sources are neutral and "less opinionated" according to Maria Brosius.

Historical Survey[edit]


  • Page 81-82: Here Brosius sets the stage by discussing the decline of the Seleucid Empire, Rome's arch-nemesis and greatest political opponent becoming the Parthian Empire, and China as an emerging power under the Han Dynasty, which established diplomatic and commercial relations with Parthia.

The beginnings[edit]

  • Page 83-84: QUOTE: "Parthia had been a satrapy of the Achaemenid empire, and, after its collapse, became a Seleucid province with the city of Shar-e Qumis/Hekatompylos (Chin: Ho-tu or Fan-tou) as its capital. Other cities, like Asaak, were located across the mountain ranges of the Kopet Dağ adn Binalut. Parthia bordered on Hyrcania on the southeastern shore of the Caspian Sea and the desert Dasht-e Kavir in the south, while the River Oxus probably formed a natural border in the northeast. In the 3rd century BC, more than 700 years after the migration of the first Persian peoples to the Iranian plateau, a nomadic tribe called the Parni, or Aparni, crossed into the northern border of Parthia. The Parni were an Iranian-speaking people who belonged to a larger confederation known as the Dahae. After a period of an apparently peaceful settlement in Parthia the Parni adopted the name of the province, and became subsequently known to the outside world as Parthians. With their establishment as a political power the term 'Parthia' became a generic term for their empire as a whole, and the term 'Parthians' for the many different peoples which inhabited it."
  • Page 84: QUOTE: "The Parni-Parthians also adopted Parthian, a northwest Iranian language, as their official language. It was distinct from another Iranian language, Middle Persian, which was spoken by the Persians of Persis. Parthian became the official court language, and remained so well into the Sasanian period. However, it must be emphasized that the Parthian empire was multi-ethnic and multilingual, where Parthian and Middle Persian were spoken alongside Aramaic, Babylonian, Greek, Armenian, Sogdian and Chorasmian, amongst others."
  • Page 84: QUOTE: "The emergence of the Parthians as a new world power in the ancient Near East was a gradual process which took over 100 years. Parthian control was first limited to the region north of the mountain range of the Kopet Dağ, with Asaak as its regional centre. It was in this city that the leader of the Parthians, Arsaces, was crowned king."
  • Page 84: QUOTE: "In line with Achaemenid and Seleucid traditions, and as an expression of his political ambition, Arsaces introduced a new dating era, the Arsacid era, in 247. Arsaces' name became the designated title for the kings of Parthia, who referred to themselves as 'Arsaces' in preference to their personal name. As the eponymous founder of the empire, Arsaces also gave his name to the royal dynasty, and references to the 'Arsacid dynasty', or the 'Arsacids', are therefore interchangeable with the denominations 'Parthian dynasty' and 'Parthians'."
  • Page 84-85: QUOTE "After the Parni's settlement of northern Parthia, Arsaces made a first attempt to expand southward into Margiana, a province of the Seleucid empire. In response to this military aggression the Seleucid king sent an army under the command of his general Demodamas against Arsaces and forced him into retreat. Yet some time before 246 Arsaces made a second incursion into Margiana, only to be forced out once again, this time by Diodotus, the Seleucid satrap of Bactria."
  • Page 85: QUOTE: "Unable to expand his power southward, Arsaces moved into central Parthia. His decision to do so may have been facilitated by several events which affected the Seleucids' ability to launch a successful counterattack. This chain of events was triggered by the death of the Seleucid king Antiochus II in 246, which prompted Ptolemy III of Egypt to challenge Antiochus' successor Seleucus II and invade Syria and Mesopotamia in the hope of expanding his power. Ptolemy III's invasion triggered the so-called Third Syrian War (246-241) which forced Seleucus II to concentrate his forces for the next five years on the western part of his realm. His preoccupation with the war provided an opportunity for two Seleucid satraps, Diodotus of Bactria and Andragoras of Parthia, to rebel against Seleucid rule and proclaim their independence. Seleucus II was unable to respond instantly to these rebellions. However, when Andragoras was faced with a rebellion within his own realm, he found himself without Seleucid alliance to provide military support. Arsaces used this vulnerable position to his advantage, and in 239/8 Andragoras was killed. Arsaces now controlled the entire province of Parthia and its capital Hekatompylos."
  • Page 85-86: QUOTE: "From Parthia Arsaces advanced west into Hyrcania. Potentially, he had to expect military opposition from Seleucus II or even Diodotus I, but once again, political events worked in his favour. Diodotus I died in 234, and his son and heir, also named Diodotus, entered an alliance with Arsaces. As defectors from the Seleucid empire they both recognised the advantage of mutual military support against a potential Seleucid attack. Yet, during the eastern campaign of Seleucus II, the king succeeded in expelling Arsaces from Parthia, who was thus forced to take refuge with the tribe of the Apasiacae to the north towards Chorasmia. But soon afterwards Arsaces led a victorious counterattack against Seleucus' army. Due to further unrest in the west Seleucus II was unable to maintain a military presence in Parthia. Seleucid power was further threatened when a civil war broke out between 222 and 220, in which Seleucus' successor, Antiochus III (223-187), was confronted with a rebellion of Molon, the governor of Media. He quashed the rebellion and brought Media back under Seleucid control. In eastern Iran the establishment of the Greco-Bactrian kingdom still rested on fragile foundations, as became apparent when, in 221, Diodotus II was killed by Euthydemus, who then assumed power."
  • Page 86: QUOTE: "Arsaces died — apparently a natural death — in 217 and was succeeded by his son Arsaces II (217-191). He continued his father's policy, maintaining control of Parthia and Hyrcania, while confronting military reprisals of Antiochus III. In 210/9 Antiochus III launched an extensive eastern campaign, intent on regaining control of both provinces, as well as Bactria (Justin 41.5.7; Polyb. 10.28-31; 10.49; 11.34.1-11). Despite initial successes, however, Antiochus III ceased his campaign after reaching an agreement with the Parthian king. Arsaces acknowledged the supremacy of the Seleucid king, but Antiochus III recognised Arsaces' rule by bestowing on him the title of king (Gr. basileus) (cf. Sherwin-White, Kuhrt 1993: 199). Under Arsaces' successors Phriapatius (c. 191-176) and his son Phraates I (176-171) Parthian control remained uncontested."

Establishing an empire[edit]

  • Page 86: QUOTE: "With the reign of Mithridates I (171-139/8), a brother of Phraates I, the history of Parthia entered a new phase of growing political power and geographical expansion. The death of Diodotus II signalled the end of the Greco-Bactrian alliance with Parthia. Indeed, it appears that the relationship between the two kingdoms deteriorated to the extent that sometime between 160 and 155 Mithridates I conducted a campaign against the Bactrian kingdom, taking control of two regions, Turiva and Asponius (Strabo 11.11.2). Westward expansion resulted in Parthian control of Media, where Mithridates I deposed the Seleucid governor Timarchos and installed a Parthian called Bacasis in the capital Ecbatana (Justin 41.6.7). From Media Mithridates I moved south towards Mesopotamia, where he took control of the neighboring cities of Seleucia and Ctesiphon."
  • Page 86-87: QUOTE: "In the province of Elymais in Khuzestan Mithridates I found considerable opposition, however. In October/November 145 the leader of the Elymaians, Kamniskares, attacked Babylonian cities, which at that point were under Seleucid control, and was met with a counteroffensive in June/July 144. After Mithridates had taken control of Babylonia, the Elymaians attacked Apamea-Silhu in 141, demonstrating their resistance against the Parthians. This power struggle continued into the reign of Phraates II, at least until May/June 138."
  • Page 87: QUOTE: "Despite the political unrest, Babylonia recognised Mithridates I as king by summer 141, and an official investiture ceremony held in Seleucia signalled the beginning of Parthia's imperial power:"
  • Page 87: QUOTE: "Expressing the growing confidence of kingship, Mithridates' coins minted in Seleucia showed the Parthian king no longer wearing the soft cap, but the royal diadem (see Fig. 19). Ctesiphon became the royal centre of the empire, while the foundation of Mithradatkert/Nisa in Parthia proper emphasised the province's recognition as the homeland of the Parthians."
  • Page 89: QUOTE: "Shortly after the conquest of Media Mithridates I returned with his army to Hyrcania to fend off an attack by invading nomads from among the Scythian tribes. These tribes had been forced to give up their territory after attacks from the Tocharians, probably identical with the Yüeh-chih, who had emerged from the eastern steppes in search of new land. A result of these raids may have been the first measure to secure the Parthian frontier, the construction of a defence wall in Hyrcania, north of the Gurgan River, which extended eastward from the Caspian Sea over a distance of 170 km."
  • Page 89: QUOTE: "But the withdrawal of his army from Mesopotamia created a military weakness which allowed the Seleucid king Demetrius II Nicator (145-141) to regain control of Mesopotamia. In a way, these events epitomised the conundrum Parthian kings (and the Seleucids before them) were faced with throughout their rule: the difficulty of controlling the vast borders and territories of the empire and conducting wars on two fronts. The king was the leader of the army in war, but two fronts necessitated a military commander who could be entrusted with a sizeable army to fight the king's cause, but who would not abuse his military position to obtain power. The latent threat of wars on two fronts may explain to some extent why the Parthians endeavoured to reach a diplomatic solution before resorting to military conflict. In this case, however, a Parthian force was dispatched to fight Demetrius II Nicator, who was defeated and taken prisoner. Mithridates I treated the Seleucid king with honour and even gave him his daughter Rhodogune in marriage. This may have been a symbolic gesture which served to legitimise Mithridates' political takeover of Seleucid power."
  • Page 89-90: QUOTE: "Within his thirty-year reign Mithridates I had changed the political landscape of the Near East and established Parthian imperial power. With his successful expansion of the empire, and, more importantly, his ability to maintain control over the newly gained territories, he had changed Parthia from a small kingdom east of the Caspian Sea to an imperial contender for Seleucid power. His successors, Phraates II (139/8-128) and Artabanus I (128/7-124), were able to maintain control over the empire, though they each faced threats both from the Seleucid army in the west and from nomadic invasions in the northeast. But the Seleucids finally had to acknowledge that they could not recover their former eastern provinces. Further east, the Greco-Bactrian kingdom succumbed to invading tribes, who established their power in the capital Bactra. Known as the Kushans, these tribes established an empire to the east as far as northern India and the Ganges basin. They remained a political power from 128 BC to AD 99."

Consolidation of power[edit]

  • Page 90: QUOTE: "Under their king Antiochus VII Sidetes (138-129) the Seleucids were able to regain temporary control of Babylonia and Media (130-129/8), but their success was undermined by internal opposition. Their own garrisons rebelled against them, forming an alliance with the Parthians. Amidst these power struggles a new local dynasty emerged in Characene in southern Mesopotamia. Some time in the 130s a certain Hyspaosines began campaigning in southern Elymais and by 133 was regarded as an enemy of the Parthians. By 130 Susa was under Parthian control, but Hyspaosines, who had proclaimed himself king of Characene, remained in control of the region until his death in 124. Despite attempts by Mithridates II (124/3-88/7) to curb Characene's independence, it remained under the rule of kings throughout the Parthian period."
  • Page 90: QUOTE: "Mithridates II's reign signalled a third phase of Parthian expansion and consolidation of empire. He secured Parthian control in northern Mesopotamia by curbing the power of the kingdoms of Adiabene, Gordyene and Osrhoene, and by bringing the city of Dura-Europos under Parthian control. He also regained control of Babylonia and the eastern provinces."
  • Page 90-91: QUOTE: "Parthia's power was recognised in the east, when China 'discovered' its western neighbours after a reconnaissance mission of Zhang Qian. He had been sent by the Chinese emperor Wu (140-87), and after a long absence, from c. 138 to 126, returned, having gathered information about Parthia, known in Chinese sources as An-hsi. In 121 an embassy was sent by Wu to Mithridates II to establish formal relations between the two empires:"

When the Han envoys first reached Parthia, the king of Parthia (Mithridates II) ordered (a general) to take a force of 20,000 cavalry and welcome them at the eastern frontier. The eastern frontier is several thousand li distant from the king's capital. Along the way (to the capital) one passes several tens of cities; settlements are continuous and the population is very numerous. Only when the Han envoys returned (to China) did (the king) send out his own envoys to accompany the Han envoys and to come and observe the size of Han territory. They brought skilful [sic] conjurers from Li-Kan (the Seleucid Empire) and ostrich eggs as a tribute for the Han (emperor).

(Shih-Chih 123, 3172-3173; trans. Leslie, Gardiner 1996: 34-35)

  • NOTE: According to this site (by the University of Washington), the Chinese characters for the Seleucid Empire, or "Li-Kan", are 犂鞬 (Pinyu: Lijian; Wade-Giles: Li-chien)
  • Page 91: QUOTE: "The initial reason for Chinese contact with Parthia may have been military, for the Chinese empire was threatened by invading Hsiung-nu, Huns, the same people who had pushed the Tocharians into Greco-Bactria. Not only was there a Chinese demand for the famous Persian horses, but also for the trained skills of the Parthian cavalry. In the event, it was not a military alliance which was concluded between the two empires, but a trading agreement. Recognising a mutual demand for luxury goods, the Chinese opened a network of overland trade routes between China, Central Asia and the Iranian plateau, collectively known as the Silk Road."
  • Page 91: QUOTE: "The establishment of these trade routes, which connected China with the eastern Mediterranean coast and Asia Minor, was perhaps one of the reasons why Mithridates II wanted to gain more control over the northwestern border of his empire, for in 97 he subjected Armenia, an independent kingdom, to Parthian rule. He deposed the Armenian king and replaced him with his pro-Parthian son Tigranes. Through Tigranes, the Parthians began to establish contacts with other kingdoms of Asia Minor. Tigranes entered into an alliance with the king of Pontus, also called Mithridates, which was cemented by a marriage to the latter's daughter Cleopatra, and both Tigranes and the king of Pontus then led a campaign against King Ariobarzanes of Cappadocia. A year after the Parthian subjection of Armenia a Roman delegation led by Sulla met the Parthian ambassador Orobazus at the Euphrates River, to acknowledge the river formally as the border between the two powers."
  • Page 91-92: QUOTE: "Mithridates II himself ensured his influence in the west by marrying a daughter of Tigranes, called Aryazate Automa, and by establishing an alliance with Mithridates of Pontus. Yet despite his successful foreign policy and his attempts to tie the different powers closer together, Mithridates II's reign did not remain unchallenged. A contender for the throne, Gotarzes I (91/0-81/0), assumed the kingship of parts of the Parthian empire as an independent ruler of Babylon, and gained full political power after Mithridates' death in 88/7. Before assuming the kingship Gotarzes I seems to have held a very high position in the empire, for an inscription at Bisitun refers to him as 'Satrap of Satraps', a title hitherto unknown, and clearly echoing the royal title of 'King of Kings', which Mithridates II had adopted from the Achaemenids. However, Gotarzes I, who was not a member of the Arsacid dynasty, was opposed by Tigranes of Armenia, who, on several occasions, sent forces into Parthia to contest Gotarzes' power. With the accession of Sinatruces (78/7-71/0) and his son Phraates III (71/0-58/7) power was restored to the Arsacids."

Enmity with Rome[edit]

  • Page 92: QUOTE: "From the mid 1st-century BC to the end of the second century AD Parthia's main political and military focus was turned towards the western frontier. That this focus was a 'real' one and not just once perceived through the dominant Roman sources seems to be proved by the fact that the Kushans made no attempt to expand their empire westward. The settlement of these previously nomadic tribes had temporarily calmed the migration into Parthian territory."
  • Page 92: QUOTE: "Rome, the new Mediterranean power in the ascent, had a political interest in the Seleucid provinces in Asia Minor and the Near East, and was able to exert its political influence in Asia Minor after the defeat of Antiochus III and the peace of Apameia in 188. Rome was a willing ally for anti-Seleucid powers as well as for anti-Parthian activities. Thus, it found eager allies in some of the Armenian kings as well as in Parthian pretenders to the throne who sought external military support. However, pro-Roman attitudes seldom penetrated deeply below the political surface. 'Romanised' Parthian kings were never able to persuade the Parthian aristocracy to give them full political support."
  • Page 92-94 (map on page 93): QUOTE: "After the initial diplomatic exchange between Parthia and the Roman Republic in 97 in which both sides seemed to express mutual acknowledgment, tension increased over the next few decades, and Rome seemed to be increasingly determined to head for a military encounter with Parthia. The conflict of interest between the two empires lay in the control over Armenia and the kingdoms of Asia Minor. Syria became a further zone of conflict as the Parthians undertook campaigns into Syrian territory in retaliation for Roman aggression towards Parthia. What marked the Roman attitude towards the Parthians was a staggering lack of intelligence about the make-up of their empire in terms of geography, political set-up, resources and military strength. After 20 BC imperial Rome lost itself in propaganda and myth-making about Parthia as yet another inferior barbarian country, the Parthians themselves as a people on horseback lacking culture, discipline, political and moral values. Rome paid for its unwillingness to understand what Parthia and the Parthian empire meant with considerable losses in return for minor and short-lived military successes, dragging itself into an unnecessary two-frontier war it could ill-afford, to the detriment of the defence of its northern frontiers where the Roman empire was increasingly threatened by rebellions."
  • Page 94: QUOTE: "The growing Roman aggression can be sensed in the actions of the Roman commander Lucullus and those of his successors Pompey and Crassus. Rome led several campaigns against Asia Minor. After Mithridates VI of Pontus had been defeated by Lucullus he fled to his ally, Tigranes of Armenia. In 69, without considering the political consequences, Lucullus decided to attack the Armenian city of Tigranocerta. When both kings, Mithridates and Tigranes, sought the support of their Parthian ally, Lucullus pretended to adhere to the Parthian king's reminder that the Euphrates had been recognised as the border between Rome and Parthia, but secretly prepared an attack on Parthia. He was only prevented from doing so because his own forces threatened to rebel if he carried out his plan (Plut.Luc.30; Cic.Manil.23-24). Lucullus appears to have acted on his own initiative, rather than on the orders of Rome. His campaign was a spontaneous spurt of military aggression which failed to take any account of the strength of the Parthian army and to consider the potentially disastrous situation he exposed his army to."
  • Page 94-95: QUOTE: "Under Lucullus' successor Pompey Rome actively supported a contender to the Parthian throne, thereby openly attacking the Parthian king Orodes II (58/7-38). With Crassus' appointment as commander of Syria in 55, Rome was set to go to war against Parthia. Crassus' own ambition, not only to conquer Parthia, but also take to [sic] control of Bactria and even India, expressed a fatal mixture of arrogance and ignorance about the new power structures in the Near and Further East, as well as lacking any realistic view about the logistics for such a campaign. In the event, Crassus did not advance beyond northern Babylonia. At Carrhae, ancient Harran, he was confronted by the Parthian forces and suffered a colossal defeat, losing many soldiers in battle. While Crassus advanced with his army from the south, Orodes had marched into Armenia to cut off Crassus' vital ally. Crassus reached Carrhae after a long and exhausting march along the Royal Road, but instead of resting his army he ordered them to engage immediately with the Parthian forces. Crassus had given no consideration to Parthian strategy and supplies, and he was now faced with an army which may have been smaller than the Roman forces, but which was rested and extremely well equipped. The Parthian army was led by 1,000 horsemen in full mail armour, followed by 9,000 archers on horseback who shot with composite bows. To support the archers on horseback, 1,000 camels carried further supplies of arrows to secure continuous fighting. The Roman forces were unable to withstand the storm of arrows with which they were attacked, and were furthermore deceived when the Parthians seemingly retreated only to turn their bodies backwards in their apparent flight and to shoot the pursuing enemy, a tactic which became known as the 'Parthian shot'."
  • Page 96: QUOTE: "Crassus retreated with the remaining force to Carrhae, only to be killed after failed negotiations led to an immediate attack on the Roman troops. The scale of the Roman losses was massive: of the 42,000 soldiers only 10,000 returned to safety. Of the remaining army, those who had not been killed were made prisoners of war. The Roman standards were lost to Parthia. Crassus had gone to war against Parthia lacking any profound intelligence about the empire, and Rome paid a heavy price for this folly. Parthia was now Rome's prime enemy; fighting it with, or without, cause became the greatest goal of the most ambitious generals and emperors of Rome."
  • Page 96: QUOTE: "Following Caesar's assassination in 44, Rome fell into civic strife between the republicans and the imperialists, culminating in the war between Caesar's successor Octavian Augustus and Antony, which ended with Antony's defeat at Philippi in 42. Supporters of the Republic including the then Roman governor of Syria, Cassius, and his envoy Labienus, found themselves seeking the support of Parthia. After Octavian's victory against Antony in 42, Parthia demonstrated its position against the new powers with invasions into Syria and Asia Minor. In the course of these campaigns Pacorus, son of Orodes and heir to the throne, was killed, as was Labienus, who had remained in Parthia to fight against Rome. Pacorus' death caused a serious succession problem for Orodes, who, in 38, selected his son Phraates IV (38-3/2) as his successor. Phraates IV failed to use Antony as a potential support against Rome, and his refusal to enter into an alliance led to Antony's attack on Parthia with the support of Armenia. Phraates IV did not wait to offer a proper battle. His forces attacked the Roman military supplies and the baggage train, destroying the siege engines, vital for any attack on cities, and diminishing the army's food supplies. At this point, the Armenian king Artavasdes deserted Antony's cause, realising that the campaign was doomed to failure. Regardless, Antony marched on as far as Phraaspa in Media, a city probably located near the modern city of Maragheh in Iranian Azerbaijan. The siege of Phraaspa soon had to be abandoned and Antony was forced to retreat to the Araxes River. His campaign cost the lives of 24,000 Roman soldiers."
  • Page 96-97: QUOTE: "In 20 BC Phraates IV came to a diplomatic agreement with the new ruler of Rome, Augustus. Rome once again confirmed the Euphrates as the border between the two empires, and Phraates IV agreed to return the Roman standards captured during the battles with Lucullus, Crassus and Antony. Ten years later, Phraates sent four of his sons, Seraspadanes, Phraates, Rhodaspes and Vonones, as well as members of their families, to Rome. This was the first of many 'evacuations' of members of the Persian court to Rome, and they occurred for different reasons. On the one hand this action could be taken in order to confirm an alliance between the kings of Rome and Parthia. On the other, it is possible that Parthian kings sent their sons to the Roman court in order to ensure their upbringing and survival away from their own court. However, in Rome this was used as a splendid piece of propaganda, presenting the members of the Parthian royal family as 'hostages'. Their presence in Rome was used as a means to demonstrate Parthia's acceptance of Rome's political supremacy, if not moral superiority. It tied in perfectly with the way Augustus had 'marketed' the return of the Roman standards in 20 BC: in word and image this event was presented as a major diplomatic achievement on the part of Augustus, in which he had persuaded the Parthian king to accept Roman rule. The famous statue of Augustus from Prima Porta shows the emperor wearing military dress; the central motif on his breastplate is the return of the standards by a Parthian. In contrast to the erect stature of the recipient, the figure of the Parthian is curved, his hair in disarray, and his many-folded Parthian clothing untidy (see Fig. 20)."
  • Page 97: QUOTE: "Roman coins were issued which showed a man in Parthian dress, presumably representing the king himself, in a kneeling position, offering the Roman standard with his right hand, the left hand in open submission (see Fig. 21)."
  • Page 97: QUOTE: "A triumphal arch was built to commemorate the historic event, and by 2 BC the standards were housed in the temple of Mars Ultor, Mars the Avenger, built specifically for that purpose. For Rome, Augustus had achieved the impossible: the 'takeover' of Parthia without a war. It was the beginning of a myth created by Augustus which was to cloud the judgment of subsequent emperors with regard to Parthia, and shrouded the Parthian empire and its real political and military force in mystery. It was a brilliant piece of spin, based on no fact. Roman supremacy had to be demonstrated to the (Roman) world, and that was precisely what Augustus did."
  • Page 97-99 (images on page 98): QUOTE: "Phraates' political connection with Rome ultimately can be seen as one of the causes of the considerable dynastic upheavals which were to plague Parthia for the next two centuries. First, in the question of royal succession he gave preference to a son born not to a daughter of the Parthian aristocracy, but to a 'foreigner', a woman called Musa, whom Phraates IV had accepted as a gift from Augustus. She succeeded in securing the throne for her son, thereby elevating herself to the status of king's mother (Jos.Ant.18.2.4). Her ambitions went even further. She married her own son and thus became recognised as queen. But the resentment of the Parthian nobility towards the selection of a king not of full Arsacid descent was soon to be apparent. Phraates V survived only four years on the throne before he was killed, and the Parthian nobility placed Orodes III on the throne. His reign ended two years later, and was followed by a stream of successors, beginning with an Arsacid, Vonones I (AD 8/9), one of the sons of Phraates IV who had been sent to Rome. But the hopes of the Parthian nobility to get a 'pure' Arsacid back on the throne were dashed when they realised that Vonones I had adopted more Roman manners than they considered acceptable. They therefore backed another 'candidate', Artabanus II (10/11-38), who had a maternal link to the Arsacid dynasty. Eventually Artabanus II was able to defeat Vonones I and proceeded to restore Parthia's relationship with Rome. Armenia remained the bone of contention between Rome and Parthia, and while Artabanus II's diplomacy in the matter led to a renewal in AD 18/19 of the earlier agreements made between Rome and Parthia, his interference in Armenian politics in AD 35 led once again to an eruption of hostilities. The political situation was worsened by the Parthian nobility's dissatisfaction with Artabanus II, which led them to seek Roman support in order to place another of Phraates' descendants on the Parthian throne. For a brief period of time this caused some dynastic upheavals, but by the spring of 37 Artabanus could reassert his position. When he died a year later, his son Vardanes (AD 38-45) was able to secure his succession."
  • Page 99-100: QUOTE: "Politically Parthia had pushed itself into a difficult corner. This was mainly for two reasons: first, the latest hostility between Parthia and Rome over Armenia, and second, perhaps more damaging, the considerable power wielded by the Parthian nobility, whose status and influence had risen to such a degree that they could 'make or break' the king. In this power game Rome was a key player, offering itself as a potential supporter of one side or another, without losing sight of its own interests. It meant that Rome took advantage of the debacle of Parthian internal political factions as much as it could. A temporary reprieve was achieved only in AD 63, when the Parthian king Vologeses I (51-76/80) concluded a treaty with Rome in which both sides took a share of control over Armenia — Parthia, because it secured the right to appoint the Armenian king from among the Parthian royal family, and Rome, because it maintained political supremacy over Armenia. Tiridates, an Arsacid and king of Armenia, travelled with the royal family to Rome to receive his kingship from Nero, which was publicly celebrated in a lavish ceremony. One of his daughters remained in Rome, possibly as a confirmation of the alliance (Tac.Ann.15.30)."
  • Page 100: QUOTE: "In the struggle of royal succession, kings and contenders for the throne appeared on the Parthian political stage until the reign of Vologeses IV (147/8-191/2) brought a degree of political calm back to Parthian rule. All the while hostilities with Rome continued to flare up over Armenia, culminating in the great eastern campaign of Trajan between 114 and 117, in which Ctesiphon was taken, and territories east of the Euphrates River came under Roman occupation. Roman success was short-lived, however, for by the winter of 115 most of the newly conquered regions were in rebellion from their Roman oppressors and had killed or expelled their garrisons. Hadrian, who succeeded Trajan after his death in 117, immediately implemented a return to a status ante quem, ordering that the new territorial acquisitions be returned to Parthia. The main reason for Hadrian's decision was the fact that Rome did not possess sufficient military resources to maintain a presence east of the Euphrates."
  • Page 100: QUOTE: "Rome staged three further attacks on Parthia. One was led in 165 by Avidius Cassius, who was able to take Seleucia and Ctesiphon, only to retreat soon afterwards after the outbreak of an epidemic. During the reign of Vologeses V (191/2-207/8) the emperor Septimius Severus led a war against Parthia between 195 and 199. His army was able to take the cities of the western part of the Parthian empire once again: Seleucia, Babylon and Ctesiphon. Hatra, as it had done before, withstood the Roman siege."
  • Page 100-101: QUOTE: "The last Roman attacks on Parthia occurred between 216 and 218 under Caracalla and Macrinus. The whole campaign ended in disaster for the Romans and the humiliating demand to pay the Parthians a sum of money amounting to 200 million dinars and additional gifts (Dio Cassius 79 [78.27.1]). In total denial of the historical facts even this disastrous defeat was presented in Rome as a victory, and coins were minted bearing the legend 'VIC(TORIA) PART(HICA)', 'Victory over Parthia'."
  • Page 101: QUOTE: "The end of the Parthian empire was not, however, brought about by Rome, but by internal opposition. The king of Persis, Ardashir, son of Papak ruler of Istakhr, rose in rebellion and challenged the last Parthian king, Artabanus IV (213-224). On 28 April 224 Artabanus IV and his son were defeated and killed in battle. Ardashir's victory opened a new chapter in the history of ancient Persia, which he entered as the founder of the Sasanian dynasty."

King and court[edit]


Pdc 24586.jpg
Coin of Arsaces I of Parthia.jpg
  • Page 101: QUOTE: "Arsaces I, the founder of the Parthian empire, was the primus inter pares of the clan leaders of the Parni, a position which allowed him to claim kingship. His coronation in 247 BC in Asaak officially marked that status. If the early Arsacid coins can be dated securely to Arsaces' reign, the obverse pictured the king wearing the distinctive Iranian soft cap with cheek flaps, the bashlyk (Gr. kyrbasia). The image on the reverse shows a man seated on a backless chair wearing a soft cap and the riding costume, a tunic worn over trousers, and holding a bow in his outstretched hand. It was consistently maintained on coins throughout the Parthian period. The image is reminiscent of fourth-century Achaemenid coins representing satraps of the western Asiatic provinces, as can be seen on the coins of Datames, and may have served as a model for the early Arsacid coins. It has also been suggested that the figure depicts Arsaces I himself, wearing the traditional costume, while the bow symbolises his royal power. These two interpretations are not incompatible, however, for Arsaces may well have chosen an image whose tradition went back to Achaemenid coins, but which was given a contemporary meaning as an image of the founder of the Parthian empire. The accompanying Greek legend reading 'Arsaces basileus', 'Arsaces, the king', perfectly complements this combination of Achaemenid and Seleucid iconography (see Fig. 22). As successors of both empires the Parthians adopted symbols of power and iconography of kingship from both realms."
  • Page 101-102: QUOTE: "Following the reign of Mithridates I and Parthia's establishment as an empire Arsacid kingship became more pronounced and imperial sentiments more strongly expressed. The Parthian kings laid claim to their legitimate succession from the Achaemenids as well as from the Seleucids. The latter, after all, had been rulers of former Achaemenid territory for almost 100 years, and therefore, at least to some extent, had been the inheritors of Persian power, while at the same time they had introduced Hellenistic ideas of kingship to Iran. Greek epithets echoed the Seleucid royal form of address in the king's full royal title: 'Arsaces, King of Kings, the Benefactor, the Just, the Manifest, the Friend of the Greeks'. The royal diadem replaced the soft cap as one of the royal insignia. In the late Parthian period the diadem could be exchanged for or complemented by the upright tiara, a high, rounded headdress, richly embroidered and set with pearls and jewels."
  • Page 102-103: QUOTE: "Owing to the absence of any extensive Parthian royal inscriptions which would shed light on the importance of divine support for the Parthian kings, it is difficult to assess to what extent the Arsacids regarded their kingship as divine. The problem is enhanced further became virtually nothing is known about the religion of the Parthians. Mazdaism had developed into an early form of Zoroastrianism, but it is not clear to what extent the Arsacid kings adhered to the religion. We know that royal fires were lit for the Arsacid kings, and possibly for other members of the royal family. As was the practice during the Achaemenid period, these fires were probably extinguished at the king's death to mark the beginning of the official mourning period, and new fires were lit at the accession of the new king...Parthian rock reliefs and coinage suggest that the practice of religious sacrifice offered before a fire altar continued to be an important form of public representation of kings and local rulers."
  • Page 103: QUOTE: "Elements of Seleucid kingship which were incorporated into Arsacid kingship are discernible not only in the adoption of Greek epithets of the royal title, but also in the more public representation of the royal family in, for example, the inclusion of the names of the king's wives in official documents. The appearance of the king's family in the king's entourage, in the train of the king's migrations between royal residences and on campaigns, followed a long Near Eastern tradition."
  • Page 103: QUOTE: "The Arsacid kings maintained several royal capitals in the empire, concentrating on two regions, Parthia and Mesopotamia. Arsaces I built the city of Dara on Mount Apaortenon near Abivard (Justin 41.4.1-4), a site not yet discovered, while Mithridates I founded Mithradatkert/Nisa. The city was known as the burial place of the Parthian kings (Isidore of Charax, Parth.Stat.12). In the 1st century AD Vologeses I founded a further city, Vologesocerta, in Mesopotamia. Old capital centres were also maintained. Shar-e Qumis/Hekatompylos was the centre of the early Parthian empire, and remained a royal residence even after Ctesiphon became the representational city of the Arsacids and was regarded by the Romans as the Parthian capital. Here the coronation and the official investiture ceremony were held. According to Chinese sources the Parthian capital was called Ho-tu or Fan-tou, thought to be Hekatompylos in Parthia (Leslie, Gardiner 1996: 34 n.13). Hekatompylos, Ecbatana in Media, and Seleucia were the official mint centres of the empire."

Succession to the throne[edit]

  • Page 103-104: QUOTE: "The heir to the throne was selected from among the sons of the Arsacid king, and ideally the choice would fall on the first-born son. Arsacid kings were polygamous, but it seems that an heir born to a wife belonging to the Arsacid dynasty was preferred (Herodian 4.10.5). This accounts for interfamilial marriages, i.e. the king's marriage to nieces and sisters, though it is not clear whether the latter were marriages between full siblings. Regarded as strengthening the dynastic line, brother-sister marriages were known from the Ptolemies, and are attested in the marriages between Ptolemy II and Arsinoe and between Ptolemy VIII and Cleopatra II. They are less well attested among the Seleucids for whom we only know of the brother-sister marriage between Antiochus, son of Antiochus III, and Laodice. Since hardly any details are known about the descent of the Parthian royal wives it is not possible to reach an accurate view on this issue. The case of Musa, a foreigner and a 'gift' of Augustus to Phraates IV, who was elevated to queen, and then, by marrying her son, affirmed her status as the king's wife, appears to have been an extreme case of dynastic marriage and cannot be taken as the 'norm'."
  • Page 104: QUOTE: "With Parthia's rise to empire the Parthian nobility took a more prominent role in the royal succession. They had the right to approve of the chosen king and the head of one of the aristocratic families, the Suren, had the privilege of crowning the king. The Parthians selected and eliminated royal successors according to their assessment of the quality and political stability of the ruling king. While descent from the Arsacid dynasty was the principal factor for choosing a successor, individual kings could be 'dropped' when their attitude did not suit the Parthian nobility. Thus resentment was caused when a successor was considered to be 'Romanised', or simply when a king no longer suited the politics of the aristocracy. It was this power of the nobility which contributed to no small degree to the dynastic instability of the later Parthian empire, as the existence of kings and counter-kings became a frequent appearance on the Parthian political stage. The fact that investiture was a vital point of royal rule is reflected in the investiture reliefs, such as that of Orodes at Tang-e Sarvak, and of the Elymaian king Kamniskares at Khung-e Nouruzi."
  • Page 104-105: Brosius concludes that a hierarchical structure of nobles based on seniority and merit existed at the Parthian court due to titles such as batēsa and āzādān, QUOTE: "which differentiate between different groups of noble freemen." The nobility could act as advisers to the king.
  • Page 106: QUOTE: "The appearance, in the Parthian period, of the court minstrel, the so-called gōsān, gives some indication for the performance of story-telling, recitation of literature and poetry at the royal court, and presumably, at the courts of the regional kings. The performance of the minstrel could be accompanied by a musical instrument; the stories were composed in verse, though it is not possible to determine whether they were written down, or whether the minstrels were trained in an oral transmission of court literature. The tradition survived down to the Sasanian period, when Persian literature was committed to book form in the fifth century, and thus found its way into the early Islamic literature, where Parthian elements of storytelling can be identified in the Shahnameh, the Book of Kings, of Firdowsi." END QUOTE: Here Brosius explains the story of Vis and Rāmin, which I will not include in the article.

Royal women[edit]

  • Page 106-107: Brosius mentions here that Babylonian cuneiform texts, Greek texts, and Roman historians only briefly mention Parthian women and do not reveal much in the way of their status and activities in the court.
  • Page 107: QUOTE: "The documents attest to the fact that the Parthian kings were polygamous. A parchment text from Avroman mentions the names of the wives of Mithridates II, referring to them as the queens 'Siace, his compaternal sister and wife, and Aryazate, surnamed Automa, daughter of the Great King Tigranes and his wife, and of Azate his compaternal sister and wife' (Avroman I: 2-5). Two wives are attested for Gotarzes I, one of whom was called Ashi'abatum (Minns 1915: 34). A further text from Avroman names the wives of Phraates IV as Olenieire, Cleopatra, Baseirta and Bistheibanaps (Avroman II: 5). We only know of one wife of Orodes I, Ispubarza, who also was his sister (cf. Strassmeier 1983: 112; Potts 1999: 392)."
  • Page 107: QUOTE: "The status of a king's wife differed from that of those women belonging to the king's household, but who were not married to the king. These women are usually referred to as concubines, though it has to be emphasised that these women had entered the king's household as part of political alliances, as captives, or even as 'gifts'. One example of such a fate is the story of the daughter of Demetrius and niece of Antiochus, who entered the king's household after she was captured by the Parthians following the death of her uncle (Justin 38.10.10). Apart from the case of the notorious Musa there is evidence for another foreigner, a Greek concubine living at the Parthian court, who became the mother of a king, Vologeses I."
  • Page 107-108: QUOTE: "Women of the king's family played their most important part in the conclusion of political alliances. At royal level, marriages like that of Mithridates I's daughter Rhodogune to Demetrius (App.Syr.67) served to legitimise power, or to consolidate a political alliance, as happened in the case of the sister of Artavasdes of Armenia, who was married to Orodes' son Pacorus, thereby confirming Artavasdes' alliance with the Parthian king (Plut.Crass.33)."
  • Page 108: Brosius writes that royal women followed the Parthian king when he traveled between residences and when he was out on military campaign. The same could be said for ladies following Parthian nobility and regional kings.
Kamnaskires III and his wife Anzaza of Elymais on the same coin
  • Page 108: Brosius writes that Parthian kings did not allow their women to become prisoners of war or hostages of the enemy, and so usually had them killed before this could happen (she provides several tragic examples).
  • Page 108: QUOTE: "Only in exceptional cases were royal women depicted on coins. Thus, the portrait of Musa appears on coins of Phraates V, and the ruler of Elymais, Kamniskares, is depicted together with his wife Anzaza on his coinage (Potts 1999: 392). Women were more commonly depicted in art. Statues and sculptures show wealthy women, wearing splendid Parthian dress, long-sleeved floating robes over a long underdress. They wore high headdresses, equally beautifully crafted and adorned with jewellery [sic]. High-ranking women wore several necklaces, made of pearls and precious stones, as well as earrings and bracelets. The outfits which adorn female statues in Hatra undoubtedly follow Parthian fashion dictated by the centre."
  • Page 110: QUOTE: "Thus, from the admittedly scarce evidence it appears that the position of Parthian royal (and noble) women was defined through the king. Their splendour, the number of their (male) offspring, and their public appearance all were expressions of the king's power."

Royal cities[edit]

  • Page 110: QUOTE: "The Parthian kings migrated between several royal residences across the empire. Shar-e Qumis/Hekatompylos, the central city of Parthia, became the first royal residence of Arsaces I. Following the conquests of Media and Mesopotamia under Mithridates I Ecbatana, the ancient Median and Achaemenid capital, and the cites of Ctesiphon and Seleucia became royal capitals. Among the royal cities Ctesiphon and Mithradatkert/Nisa took a prominent place. Ctesiphon, or Tīsfūn, became the representational capital of the Parthian kings, while neighboring Seleucia remained the administrative centre and housed one of the royal mints. Mithridates I's foundation of Mithradatkert marked the Parthians recognition of their homeland, to which the bodies of the deceased Parthian kings were returned. As the representational capital Ctesiphon probably was the royal centre where the Parthian kings were crowned and celebrated their investiture. According to Strabo,"

(Ctesiphon) has been equipped with buildings by the Parthians themselves; and it has been provided by the Parthians with wares for sale and with the arts that are pleasing to the Parthians; for the Parthian kings are accustomed to spent the winter there because of the salubrity of the air, but the summer in Ectabana and in Hyrcania (Nisa?) because of the prevalence of their ancient renown.

(Strabo 16.1.16)

  • Page 110-111: QUOTE: "Ctesiphon was targeted several times during campaigns of Roman emperors. It appears that the Romans equated the conquest of the city with the conquest of the empire, for in the case of Trajan, his successful attack on the city in AD 115 led to his epithet 'Parthicus' (Dio Cassius 68.30.2-3). The city was taken again in 165 under Avidius Cassius, who destroyed the palace of Vologeses, but did not occupy the city. A final attack on Ctesiphon was commanded by Septimius Severus in 198. His troops plundered the city, but again it was not occupied by the Romans:"

Later, upon capturing Ctesiphon, he permitted his soldiers to plunder the entire city, and he slew a vast number of people, besides taking as many as a hundred thousand captives. He did not, however, pursue Vologeses, nor even occupy Ctesiphon, but, as if the sole purpose of his campaign had been to plunder this place, he was off again, owing partly to a lack of acquaintance with the country and partly to the dearth of provisions.(Dio Cassius 76.9.4-5)

  • Page 111: QUOTE: "But it was Mithradatkert, the city 'built by Mithridates', and known in classical sources as Nisa, which became the first genuine Parthian city, built in the homeland of the Parthians, in northern Parthia. As Invernizzi rightly observes, Nisa is in fact the first city where an Arsacid-Parthian culture can be recognised and defined (cf. Invernizzi 1994: 193)."
  • Page 111: QUOTE: "According to Isidore of Charax, a historian of the first century AD, the Parthian capital housed the tombs of the Parthian kings. Nisa was divided into two walled complexes, the citadel of Old Nisa, and the city of Nisa. Its architecture exemplified the Parthians' ability to incorporate elements of Greek art and architectural styles with Iranian designs. Excavations at Nisa yielded not only exciting forms of architecture, including the so-called Square House and the Round Hall, but also statues made of clay or stone, the famous ivory rhytha, and several hundred ostraca documenting economic activity on the citadel."
  • Page 111-112: QUOTE: "The architecture of Nisa shows no Greek influence, but, as Invernizzi, the principal excavator of the site, suggests, it was modelled on Central Asian and Seleucid architecture, both of which, however, are scarcely known. Few features echo Achaemenid influence. In principle, the Square House could be linked to the palace architecture of the Achaemenids, yet the comparison remains superficial. Likewise, the Round Hall may be compared to round halls known from Hellenistic palaces, but it rests on a different architectural idea, namely to construct the circle and vault inside a square space (Invernizzi 1998a: 52). Elements such as these must originate from Parthian designs, but so far no archaeological data have been recovered which would confirm this assumption. Despite this lacuna, the architecture of Nisa ultimately presents a new, original style of architecture, which may have derived from local forms used in Parthia."
  • Page 113: QUOTE: "In contrast to the architecture, artefacts [sic] which were recovered in the Square House, which for a time served as a kind of treasury, are distinctively Hellenistic. The interior and exterior of the buildings were adorned with marble sculptures crafted in Greek style. They were probably sculpted locally by Greek stonemasons. Most extraordinary are the more than fifty large drinking-horns, rhytha, made of expensive ivory, and with carvings depicting Hellenistic scenes, including Dionysiac scenes."

Organization of the empire[edit]

Satraps and kings[edit]

  • Page 113: QUOTE: "According to Pliny, a Roman writer of the first century AD, Parthia was divided into a number of kingdoms (Lat. regna):"

The Parthians possess in all eighteen kingdoms, such being the divisions of their provinces on the coasts of two seas, as we have stated, the Red Sea on the south, and the Caspian Sea on the north. Of these provinces the eleven designated the 'Upper Kingdoms' begin at the frontiers of Armenia and the shores of the Caspian, and extend to the Scythians, with whom the Parthians live on terms of equality. The remaining seven kingdoms are called the 'Lower Kingdoms'.

(Pliny, nat.hist.6.112)

  • Page 113: QUOTE: "The Upper Kingdoms included Parthia, Hyrcania, Margiana, Aria, Choresmia, Media Atropatene, Armenia, Hatra, Adiabene, Osrhoene, and Sittacene, the Lower Kingdoms Babylonia, Characene, Garmikan [?], Persis, Elymais, Kerman, and Sistan."
  • Page 113-114: QUOTE: "Historians have found it difficult to explain a political system which, as an empire, was under the rule of a dynastic monarchy, but which at the same time was made up of regional kingdoms. This phenomenon has been seen as a lack of central power on the part of the dynasty and as evidence for the political independence of the regional kings. Referred to as 'client kingdoms' or 'semi-independent kingdoms', none of these terms provides an accurate description of such a system of government. Recently D. Potts suggested that the Parthian empire may not have been more 'than a very loosely knit agglomeration of provinces in which local rulers exercised considerable autonomy' (Potts 1999: 354), while Josef Wiesehöfer upholds more firmly to the idea of empire. He emphasises that its kings were 'masters of an ethnically, politically and culturally heterogeneous empire and had to cope with a multiplicity of political institutions and cultural and religious traditions' (Wiesehöfer 1996: 57). In essence, this is a fair assessment, though as a definition, it would also be applicable to the empires of the Achaemenids and Seleucids. Yet the Parthian empire was different from either of these. It was a heterogeneous empire, and distinct through its political make-up of kingdoms. But their kings recognised the Parthian king as the 'king of kings'. How can this phenomenon be explained?"
  • Page 114 QUOTE: "Principally, the existence of semi-independent kings under a central monarch was not a new occurrence. The Achaemenids had divided their empire into satrapies, but alongside these city-kings ruled in the cities of Phoenica, Cyprus and Ionia, while some satraps and local rulers were even able to establish their own dynasties, such as in Hellespontine Phrygia and in Caria. Their rule posed no threat to the Achaemenid kings because they recognised the supremacy of the king, paid tribute and provided military support."
  • Page 114: QUOTE: "The Seleucids took over the satrapal administration of the Achaemenids and the system remained in place during their rule. Thus, Molon and Alexander governed the satrapies of Media and Persis at the time of Antiochus III in 223, and a Cleomenes was still attested as satrap in Media in 149/8. A pahatu, the Babylonian term for 'satrap', was in charge of Seleucid Babylonia. Sistan/Drangiana and Karmania were still Seleucid satrapies at the time of Antiochus III. The Seleucid satraps had to collect tribute and taxes for the royal treasury and provide (and pay for) armed forces as necessary."
  • Page 114-115: QUOTE: "Yet the Seleucid empire increasingly saw the formation of local dynasties which sought independence from the supreme power. In Pontus a royal era began early in the third century BC, in 297/6, though it was not until 281 that Mithridates I was proclaimed king there. By the mid-third century BC an Iranian dynasty rose in Cappadocia, and a royal era started with their king, Ararathes, in 255. Commagene also was a kingdom which was established under Orontes in 230 BC. In 188 BC kingship was established in Armenia. For a satrap of a province like Bactria, rich in natural resources, urbanised, with excellent trade connections and well populated, it must have been more than tempting to revolt from Seleucid domination and proclaim independence, as indeed happened when Diodotus of Bactria rebelled and eventually proclaimed himself king. Similarly Andragoras, satrap of Parthia, defected from Seleucus II. By the second century BC local dynasties had become irreversible political institutions in the Near East. The political landscape of the region had also become more complex with the appearance of Greek-style city-states established by the Greeks who had settled here as citizens, administrators, traders and soldiers."
  • Page 115: QUOTE: "The concept of independent kingdoms which, however, recognised a supreme power first seems to appear when Antiochus III recognised the 'independence' of Parthia and Bactria, while they, in turn, recognised the supremacy of the Seleucid king. This distinction between a local king and a supreme king seems to be implied in Arsaces' coin portrait which shows him wearing the satrapal cap and diadem."
  • Page 115: QUOTE: "The Parthian empire inherited its basic political structure from the Seleucids. The office of satrap continued under their rule, satraps being installed in Media and Mesopotamia. But other regions which enjoyed more independence, like Persis and Elymais, were ruled by kings. Under the Seleucids dynasts called frataraka had governed Persis since the end of the third and the beginning of the second century BC, and by the mid-second century had become independent rulers. Elymais had been governed by kings since 147 and continued to be so after the political takeover by Mithridates I. Furthermore, in the 130s BC Hyspaosines rose as king of Characene, and by the end of the 1st century BC Media was ruled by a king. In the first century AD Izabates was recognised as king of Adiabene."
  • Page 115-116: QUOTE: "Obviously the establishment of Parthian kingdoms was the result of a development which occurred over several decades, and which had begun already in the Seleucid period. One can only speculate why local governors saw the need to distance themselves from the satrapal office and wanted to be regarded as kings. One possible explanation is that through the Macedonian takeover and later the Seleucid organisation, the office of satrap had suffered a loss of its former prestige and social status. Satrapies were no longer the size of the lands of the former Achaemenid empire, and had been subdivided into smaller regions, so-called eparchies. A satrap was also no longer the sole authority in a province, but took an administrative role while a treasurer controlled the finances. If the satrapal office had indeed suffered a loss of authority and overall control, it may explain why it was no longer a desired title for the governor of a province. A local king, a local dynasty, however, would represent that authority. And their exercising local control was compatible with their acceptance of the Parthian king as king of kings. In contrast to the development experienced by the Seleucids, the Parthian local dynasties did not strive for total independence. But their establishment was the result of the development of political institutions, in which the former office of satrap had been devalued, governing smaller territories, and lacking the close networks of alliances with the king. They were not immediate members of the royal family, but local dignitaries. They were powerful in their own right and accordingly exercised considerable influence over the local aristocracy. Both sides benefited. Small kingdoms would not have been able to withstand external threat, while their economy and commerce might have been limited to regional exchange, but as part of the Parthian empire they could count on mutual military support, on central investment in the infrastructure and overland trade, as well as on a share of official recognition as members of the king's court. In return the king of kings needed their support in war, since they formed the core of the Parthian army, the heavy and light-armed cavalry."
  • Page 116: QUOTE: "The regional kingdoms were the result of the change of the political climate...unlike circumstances in the Achaemenid period, there now were constant threats from external political powers, the Seleucids, the Romans, and different groups of nomadic invaders...Now the focus lay much more on military support and securing the defence of the borders of the empire. Armies were recruited and financed at local level. The most important military force, the mailed cavalry, or cataphracts, was formed by members of the aristocracy, who alone could afford the horses and the costly armour. In return for this military service their demand was greater independence from the Parthian king at local level, and this meant having their own king who governed their territory."
  • Page 117: QUOTE: "Thus, the existence of these regional kingdoms should not be regarded as evidence of a weak empire which lacked centralised rule and government, and was therefore bound to collapse. These kingdoms did not exist because the Parthian kings were too weak to exercise control over the empire, but because the political conditions for maintaining power had changed and mutual military alliances between the king of kings and the local ruler determined the running of the empire."

Parthian society[edit]

  • Page 117-118: QUOTE: "Three main classes dominated Parthian society: the aristocracy, free men and a serf population. In addition there existed an unfree [sic] population made up of prisoners of war and slaves. The aristocracy was hierarchically structured, and included noble Parthians as well as members of the local nobility who took high positions at court, in the administration of the empire and in military command. The aristocracy provided the armed cavalry forces in war, and therefore were a fundamental support for the king. Quite possibly the noble families were connected to the Arsacid royal house through political alliances. The aristocracy were known as 'the Greatest' (Gr. megistanes). The group of the 'King's Friends' formed an intimate circle which surrounded the king, but even within this group there existed a hierarchy. Through the rank of a 'First Friend' a noble could be elevated to an 'Honoured Friend', and finally to a 'First and Most Honoured Friend'. Undoubtedly these different grades of King's Friend were expressed in the bestowing of royal privileges and were physically discernible in the Friend's appearance. Items of clothing, the quality of the fabric, its colour and design, the dress ornament, as well as weapons and jewellery [sic] could all signify royal gifts expressing the status of the wearer. Those nobles referred to as 'kinsmen of the king', the syngeneis, may indeed have been relatives of the king, but it could also have been a figurative term for those acting in the king's interest. These groups, together with further advisers known as sages (Gr. sophoi) and magi (Gr. magoi), formed the King's Council (Gr. synhedrion, Lat. senatus). The class of free men (Gr. pelatai) was made up of farmers and peasants, manufacturers, craftsmen, merchants and traders."


  • Page 118: QUOTE: "The Parthian administration used a variety of languages and scripts written on a range of different media such as clay tablets and parchment. The latter was a phenomenon which the Chinese found most noteworthy: 'They keep records by writing horizontally on strips of leather' (Shih-Chih 123; transl. Leslie, Gardiner 1996: 34). The use of parchment explains the almost complete absence of written documents from royal archives and other administrative centres, and is the reason why it is difficult to grasp the structure and organisation of the empire. Descriptions provided by Greek and Roman sources tend to be of a general nature, and we cannot always be certain that their authors understood the genuine meaning of an official title or occupation. Sources from the Sasanian period may shed some light on Parthian organisation, since the basic structure of the society as well as the administrative hierarchy were adopted by the Sasanians. The most genuine records come from Nisa, where administrative documents were found, preserved only because they were written on clay sherds, rather than on perishable material. These are economic texts written in Middle Persian and recording deliveries of wine from different estates and vineyards in the region."
  • Page 118-119: In the documents Brosius quotes here, they provide dates; the first one is dated to the year 176 (72 BCE) and the other to the year 220 (28 BCE). They record the amount of wine in each jar and the people involved in production, transportation, and storage of the wine.
  • Page 119: QUOTE: "Apart from the office of satrap, the ostraca from Nisa also mention margraves (wardens of the marches) and commanders of fortresses, while documents from Dura-Europos mention tax collectors or commanders-in-chief of a fortress (MP argbed), among high administrative positions. The copy of a letter by Artabanus II, dated to AD 21 and written in Greek, addresses the citizens of Susa and their governors, who are described as archons. This rare document allows some insight into the Parthian administration. Not only does it explicitly mention royal offices such as Preferred Friend, Bodyguard and Treasurer, but it also allows us to see that while there were local jurisdictions and proceedings to appointment to high office, the king could intervene on behalf of an individual, review a case and amend the local ruling if he considered it appropriate."

The Army[edit]

  • Page 120: QUOTE: "The backbone of the Parthian army was the cavalry. . .The strongest cavalry force was the cataphracts (probably identical with the later clibinarii)...The cataphracts wore fully mailed armour, and their horses were protected by a blanket of chain mail. As weapons the rider carried a lance, bows an arrows. They were equipped for a full frontal attack on the enemy lines."
  • Page 120: QUOTE: "The lighter cavalry was also equipped with the composite bow and arrows, but their clothing only consisted of a belted tunic and wide trousers and boots (Fig. 27). Their relatively light clothing allowed a freedom of movement needed in an attack, for their task was to deceive the enemy and encourage him to break his ranks. To do that, they attacked and then seemingly retreated from battle, giving the enemy soldiers a false sense of security which made them pursue their attackers, only for the Parthians to turn backwards on their apparently fleeing horses and shoot their arrows in mid-gallop."
  • Page 122 (pictures on page 121): QUOTE: "Infantry, consisting of soldiers and mercenaries, was only employed after a cavalry attack had broken up the enemy lines, and battle was continued on the ground. The infantry probably included peasants who were obliged to do military service, as well as mercenaries and special forces like the Scythians. The fact that the Parthian army was not a standing army had no bearing on the Parthians' ability to muster an army quickly and efficiently. Forces were recruited as close to a military conflict as possible, and reinforcements would be brought in on demand."

Economy and trade[edit]

  • Page 122: Brosius opens this section with a quote from Sima Qian:

"An-hsi is situated some several thousand li west of the Great Yüeh-Chih (Tocharians). It is an agricultural country, where the fields are cultivated, rice and wheat are grown, and wine is made from grapes. They have walled cities like those of Ta-yüan (Ferghana). Several hundred cities large and small are subject to it. It is several thousand li square, the largest of the states. It borders on the Kuei River (the Oxus). They have marketeers, and merchants who travel by cart or boat to neighboring states, even journeying several thousand li."

Shih-Chih 123, transl. Leslie Gardiner 1996: 33-34)

  • Page 122: QUOTE: "This Chinese report from the early Han period essentially sums up the characteristics of the Parthian economy. It was still largely based on agriculture, including farming and the rearing of livestock. To increase the amount of arable land, the existing systems of irrigation channels were extended. Barley and rice were grown, as were other types of grain. Wine was produced on large estates, and orchards allowed the cultivation of different kinds of fruits and nuts."
  • Page 122-123: Brosius explains that Parthia was prosperous due to its prime location along caravan trade routes. Bolstered by the network of roads belonging to the Royal Road (built by the previous Assyrians and Achaemenids), trade caravan routes extended all the way to China by the end of the 2nd century BC (Brosius explicitly mentions Emperor Wu of Han's reign). Brosius asserts that the two most valuable trade items were steel ("seric iron") and silk. Silk was desired by the aristocracy of both Parthia and Rome.
  • Page 123: After exhaustively explaining the entire Silk Road route from the Chinese capital at Chang'an (which Brosius calls Xi'an) all the way to Petra and Damascus in the Near East, she states: QUOTE: "Further east and in Central Asia, Indians, Kushans and Sogdians profited as middlemen from the taxation of the marchandise, but Parthian traders took the bulk of the profit to safeguard the caravan across the Parthian empire from Merv to Charax."
  • Page 123: QUOTE: "In addition to the network of overland routes the Parthians also profited from the maritime routes which passed from the Persian Gulf, via Bahrain and Oman into the Indian Ocean, made possible through the discovery of the monsoon winds which had given the Indians and Arabs a hold over maritime trade until the first century BC."
  • Page 123-125 (picture on 124): QUOTE: "Another significant commodity exchanged between China and Parthia was pearls, which enjoyed a huge market among the Parthian nobility. Pearls were valued as jewellery, but they were also used for richly embroidered textiles worn by the Parthian nobility and the noble classes of the empire. Pearl-encrusted Parthian costumes have been identified on Parthian sculpture, and were a sign of wealth and status. Furthermore there were furs, gold, precious metals and stones, ivory, textiles such as linen, spices, aromatics and perfumes. In return, China had a great demand for horses, but also for Persian fruits like apricots, peaches, dates, and pomegranates, which were aptly known as 'Parthian fruit' in the ancient world. Wine, lucerne and storax, a drug made from lion's dung(!), were goods imported from Parthia as well as Rome. 'Arsacid aromatic', which was a name given to several substances, such as bdellium or gum guggul, was used as an adulterant or frankincense, and, together with frankincense and myrrh, was among the precious goods exported to China."


  • Page 125: QUOTE: "The Parthians and the people of the Parthian empire were polytheistic. Each ethnic group, each city, and each land or kingdom was able to adhere to its own gods, their respective cults and religious rituals. In Babylon the city-god Marduk continued to be the main deity alongside the goddesses Ishtar and Nanai, while Hatra's main god, the sun-god Shamash, was revered alongside a multiplicity of other gods. The Jews practised their religion without restriction from the Parthian rulers, a tolerance which repeatedly led to Jewish support for the Parthians or their use of Parthian territory as refuge from the Romans. Perhaps most interesting is the syncretism between Greek and Iranian gods which occurred during the Hellenistic period and continued throughout the Parthian empire. Thus Greek Zeus was equated with Iranian Ahuramazda, Helios with Mithra, and Heracles with Verethragna."
  • Page 125: QUOTE: "As far as the Arsacids themselves are concerned it can be assumed that they, too, were polytheistic, but they were followers of Mazdaism, the religion which placed Ahuramazda at the head of a pantheon, accompanied by other gods, including Mithra and Anahita. Religious rituals celebrated for the gods included fire altars and the services of priests, referred to as magi."

Art and architecture[edit]

  • Page 126-127: Brosius writes that a distinct Parthian art and architecture is hard to define as it variates from region to region over time. While 20th-century scholarship focused primarily on the Hellenistic/Seleucid/Greek influence on Parthian art and architecture, scholars of the past two decades (i.e. before publish date 2006) have focused on heterogeneous styles and forms of art and architecture which can be said to be distinctively Parthian.
  • Page 127: As to changes in Parthian art, they, QUOTE: "according to Hubertus von Gall, belong to three geo-historical phases: (1) the art of Parthia proper, (2) the art of the Parthians on the Iranian plateau, and (3) the art of the Parthians in Mesopotamia (von Gall 1998: 78). This presentation of Parthian art in a historical-geographical context seems to be preferable to an attempt at one definition which claims to cover the entire period."'
  • Page 127: QUOTE: "In figurative art certain themes were prevalent within the corpus, including the royal hunt and the investiture of the Parthian king. The latter motif was extended to include the depiction of the investiture of local kings. New scenes included the depiction of chivalrous combat and sacrifices at altars. Both motifs are found on rock reliefs, on seals, on frescos, and as graffiti. The most remarkable innovation within these depictions is the appearance of frontality. Until then figures in reliefs or in paintings were shown in profile, but the Parthians introduced the depiction of individuals in frontal positions, either fully frontal or with the head turned in profile."
  • Page 127: QUOTE: "The first phase is characterised by the influence of Hellenistic and Iranian art. This expresses not only the cultural heritage of the Seleucids, the Achaemenids and the Iranian peoples of the steppes, but also the acceptance of their art to form the basis of Parthian culture. This heterogeneity can be found in Nisa, the earliest example of genuine Parthian art."
  • Page 127-128: QUOTE: "In the wake of Seleucid influence in the Near East Greek craftsmen such as stonemasons and sculptors had been employed to cater for the Greek local elite in the Seleucid provinces. In the contemporary world Hellenistic art expressed status and privilege, and was thus a fashion sought after by the ruling elite. At the beginning of Parthian rule, Greek art thus continued to provide a desirable element to be copied by the new rulers. This was done as much for reasons of fashion as of politics. The desire for things Greek can be found in art and architecture, as well as in literature. The Parthians liked Greek designs and copied them in their art, combining them with Iranian traditions. Thus, Greek Dionysiac scenes, plant designs, etc. are shown on the ivory rhytha from Nisa. In Nisa itself, Greek sculptures and statues are well attested but they were placed within an architecture which is not purely Greek, but combined Greek, Achaemenid and Central Asian elements."
  • Page 128: QUOTE: "Most important, however, in the development of Parthian architecture is the move away from using columns to support roofs, and instead to construct a barrel-vaulted rectangular room opening on one side into a courtyard. This construction, called ivan, appears to be an innovation of Parthian architects. Barrel-vaulted constructions have, of course, been found in Mesopotamia as early as the second millennium BC, but never had they been constructed on the scale now found in Parthian monumental art. Ivans first are attested in Seleucia-Tigris in the first century AD, when they replaced the doorway which was supported by two columns, and opened into a court."
  • Page 128: QUOTE: "Walls were decorated with plaster and stucco work, both externally and internally, using geometrical patterns as well as stylised plant patterns and figures. The main buildings of Old Nisa were decorated with clay and marble statues, distinctly Hellenised in style, but crafted locally. Hellenistic influences were never far away, but neither were Achaemenid/Iranian and Central Asian influences. They all merged into new forms, often locally distinct, but adhering to what will have been a core Parthian art."
  • Page 128: QUOTE: "The second artistic phase of the Parthians on the plateau shows the Parthians following Achaemenid tradition, with Mithridates II's investiture relief carved at Bisitun, and the innovative design of Gotarzes' equestrian combat adjacent to Mithridates' relief. Both at Bisitun and in Elymais we find scenes of sacrifice carved into the rock, as well as the investiture scene and hunting. These reliefs are also early examples of an innovative feature of Parthian art, frontality."
  • Page 128-129: QUOTE: "With the establishment of Parthian power in Mesopotamia, a strong influence of Parthian art can be found in Ctesiphon, Assur, Hatra, Palmyra, and Dura-Europos. The rich testimony in architecture and art, especially in sculpture, reveals and adherence to the art of the Parthian elite, with sculptures depicting the embroidered Parthian dress, the distinct high headdress, weapons and jewellery. Wealth of the local elite was characterised by the adaption of Parthian dress as well as their depiction with horses and camels. Religious art of these cities also shows an adherence to Parthian culture and style, using frontal depictions."
  • Page 129: QUOTE: "The relief of Mithridates II, now partly destroyed by an inscription carved in the eighteenth century, originally showed a group of four Parthian noblemen standing before the king, probably Mithridates II, who is seen wearing the high tiara. In this early relief the figures are still depicted in profile. The adjacent second relief uses an image that we counter for the first time in Iran, the combat of two adversaries on horseback holding a lance, and crowned by a Nike, a Victory. Opposite him, his adversary is stumbling over his falling horse. An inscription identifies him as 'Gotarzes, son of Gew'. The image of the chivalrous combat, here seen for the first time, became a favoured motif for the Sasanians, but its echo reaches far into medieval Europe and the combat of the lance-bearing medieval knight."
  • Page 129: QUOTE: "The choice of Bisitun is not without significance. It is, of course, the site known throughout the Achaemenid period for the famous inscription of Darius I, carved shortly after his accession to the throne in 522 BC. The location of the mountain, along the Royal Road leading from Ecbatana to Merv, ensured that it was noticed by travellers. It was a place of historical significance to the Persians, and the Parthians wanted to be seen in a continuous line from their predecessors."
  • Page 129: QUOTE: "Bisitun itself lay within a park-like space, which included a natural spring. Not far from the reliefs a massive boulder was carved with the image of a dignitary in Parthian dress, flanked on both sides by assistants, placing incense on an altar. The relief, dated to the second century AD, now shows the figure in full frontal position (see Fig. 28)."
  • Page 129: After Brosius claims that little in the way of court art has survived except for a few well-known reliefs, she says QUOTE: "Ironically it is in the regional kingdoms where Parthian art has been best preserved, a reflection of the fact that the local nobility modelled their architecture, sculpture and fashion on those of the Parthian court. Most rewarding is the Parthian art of Elymais and Hatra."

The art of Elymais[edit]

  • Page 130-131: Brosius provides a description of various artificial terraces and rock reliefs throughout the Parthian empire, most notably in Elymais. She describes the sites at Masjed-Soleyman, Tang-e Sarvak and Khung-e Nouruzi. She dates the reliefs at Tang-e Sarvak to the late Parthian period (c. 150-224 AD).
The famous bronze statue which Brosius explains here, now housed in the National Museum of Iran
  • Page 132: QUOTE: "Both Tang-e Sarvak and Bisitun provide us with examples of a new artistic motif introduced by the Parthians, the knights' combat. The scene shows two riders on horseback, in full armour, in the moment of attacking each other with their lances at full speed."
  • Page 132-134: QUOTE: "The latest testimony is a Parthian relief from Susa, dated by an inscription to 14 September, AD 215. It depicts the Parthian king Artabanus seated on a throne, handing the ring, the symbol of power, to Khwasak, the satrap of Susa. The quality of the relief is rather poor, but despite this it shows that certain themes belonged to a catalogue of official motifs which local rulers wanted to follow. The reliefs of Khung-e Nouruzi and Tang-e Sarvak attest to the importance for a local ruler of commemorating his investiture and thereby demonstrating that the Parthian king sanctioned his rule. The best example known is undoubtedly the bronze statue of a Parthian prince from the sanctuary at Shami in Elymais (see Fig. 31). The figure, more than life-size at 1.90 m, shows a man in Parthian dress, a V-shaped short tunic draped around his waist and held by a belt, his trousers covered in loose-fitting, many-folded riding trousers which were held by garters. His hair is carefully coiffed to result in a bobbed hairstyle. He wears a broad band or diadem, probably a mark of status, and a thick, heavy torque around his neck. he is clean-shaven except for a moustache."
  • Page 134: QUOTE: "His costume is the standard riding costume of the Parthians, the over-trousers allowing for comfort when riding, and the V-shaped loose jacket allowing for good mobility of the upper body for riding and shooting with bow and arrow."


An iwan, i.e. barrel vault, entrance at the ancient site of Hatra, Iraq, built c. 50 AD during the Parthian Empire.
  • Page 134-135: QUOTE: "Hatra was founded in the first century BC. It was a wealthy trading city, alongside Nisibis, Dura-Europos and Palmyra. Throughout its history it resisted repeated attempts from both the Romans and the Parthians to take the city, and only collapsed after a Sasanian attack in AD 240. The art and architecture of Hatra has revealed a rich culture influenced by both Hellenistic and Parthian art. Temples dominate the city's architecture, especially the temple for the sun-god Shamash which features five ivans, revealing a direct borrowing from Parthian architecture. Of special interest are the numerous statues of the Hatran deities as well as Hatran kings, their families, and members of the local nobility, for these are particularly exquisite examples of art following Parthian models. These statues show that the Hatran aristocracy wanted to be depicted in Parthian fashion, with curly, bobbed hairstyles, elaborately worked headdresses, Parthian dress, i.e. a long belted tunic worn over many-folded trousers, and jewellery following Parthian designs (see Fig. 32). The headdresses and garments are crafted with considerable care, carefully showing the geometric pattern of the dress, and, with the use of a relief technique, depicting the richness of the embroidery which consisted of appliqués made of precious material, including precious stones and pearls. The tunics are belted, often showing an elaborate design and beautifully crafted clasps made of metal. They were probably made of very fine material, dyed in fashionable colours which may have given evidence of the wearer's social standing. Textiles were woven in intricate geometrical designs or richly embroidered. Those who could afford it would have women gold and silver into the cloth, and, as the ultimate demonstration of wealth, had pearls sown onto the garment in geometrical designs. Pearls were also used to decorate the headdresses, which could be similar to the high tiara worn by Parthian kings. Women's clothing also was used to reflect a person's status and wealth. As statues from Hatra show, women wore long, many-folded dressed, fastened with a brooch on one shoulder. High elaborate headdresses, from which a long veil draped backwards, were adorned with pearls and jewellery. Necklaces would also be worn and earrings, rings and bracelets (see above Fig. 24b). The extravagance of dress, the style of the belt, the headdress, as well as the amount of jewellery worn, indicated the status of the wearer."
  • Page 135: QUOTE: "Religious sculpture depicting local deities reveals a syncretism of Greek and Near Eastern deities, with artistic elements and religious symbolism of both cultures incorporated into Hatran religious culture."

Excursus II: The Parthians in the eyes of the Romans[edit]

Parthian soldiers depicted as prisoners of war in chains; one is wearing a Phrygian cap, from the Arch of Septimius Severus, Rome, 2nd century AD.
  • Page 136: QUOTE: "One of the most fascinating and revealing issues in the discussion of artistic representations of Parthians is not the way the Parthians and their subjects wanted to depict themselves in all their heterogeneity, but the way in which the Parthians were depicted by their main enemy, the Romans. Here, recent research has brought to light fascinating evidence of how the Romans created, and fervently fostered, the image of the alter orbis, the 'other world', the world of the eastern 'barbarian', standing in total opposition to its own."
  • Page 136: QUOTE: "A terminus post quem for the beginning of the Roman artistic propaganda machine operating against Parthia can be set at 20 BC, the date when Augustus received the lost Roman standards from the Parthian king Phraates. To appreciate the Roman propaganda which was unleashed after this event it has to be emphasised that these standards were recovered in a peaceful act of diplomacy, and without the involvement of military force. Yet in Rome, the event was hailed as a victory of military proportions, and publicly entailed all elements of such a victory, including the erection of a Parthian arch, coins commemorating the event, Parthian Games, and the building of a temple of Mars Ultor to house the standards."
  • Page 136: QUOTE: "The Parthians were depicted as the stereotype of the eastern barbarian. Their otherness was shown physically in their body posture, dress, their hair and beards, and figuratively in the context in which they were used, as supporting figures on public buildings, as leg supporters for tables and bronze stands, as support for inscriptions, as defeated enemies, lying on the ground, or with bent heads. In any case, they were depicted in a submissive, subservient and defeatist posture. Distinctive was the V-shaped tunic worn over the many-folded trousers, and made to look untidy and unkempt. The hair was depicted in wild and unruly curls, with and without a soft cap, which became known as the Phrygian cap. The men wore beards and moustaches, adding to their foreignness."
  • Page 136-137: QUOTE: "A Schneider revealed, the otherness of the Parthians was signified in a very pronounced manner in Augustan Rome. After 14 BC we find over-life-sized figures which decorated public buildings in the city, representing Parthians as supporting figures, either in kneeling or upright positions. In contrast to the white marble used to carve statues of Roman dignitaries, these statues were made from coloured marble imported from Numidia and Phyrgia. The marble emphasised the foreignness of the Parthian costume, and clearly identified these figures as 'coloured barbarians'."
  • Page 137: QUOTE: "On coins, Parthians were easily identified by their distinctive costume. Most notable among the depictions are probably those which show a single Parthian on the reverse of the coin, in kneeling position, offering the Roman standards. The image of the kneeling Parthian was seen on denarii minted in 19/18 BC. Figures of standing Parthians were erected on the Parthian arch, which was erected on the Forum Romanum, and was depicted on several mint series. Trajan minted coins in commemoration of his victory over Parthia, showing the submission of the Parthian king, with a legend reading 'PARTHIA CAPTA' ('Parthia has been conquered'), and the installation of a king with the legend 'REX PARTHIS DATUS' ('A king has been given to the Parthians')(see Fig. 33)."
  • Page 137-138: QUOTE: "The irony of mints like these was that the Roman emperors claimed victory and hence control over an empire, which they never had. Augustus pretended to have won a military victory when in fact no battle was fought. Even though Trajan took Ctesiphon and some territories east of the Euphrates, it did not amount to a conquest of the Parthian empire. It was inconceivable within Roman propaganda that Parthia could stand on an equal political footing with Rome — which it did. Therefore, in contrast to the political reality, Rome emphasised the image of Parthia as a barbarian country, its inhabitants as uncivilised, without order, culture or political strength. When they were not depicted as bearded barbarians, they were depicted as beautiful youths, still in Parthian garments, but clean-faced, with beautifully symmetrical features. The Parthian youth wearing a Phrygian cap became the image of the foreign, mythical being representing the god Mithra as well as Ganymede."
  • Page 138: QUOTE: "Curiously, at the same time as the Parthian was depicted as uncivilised, he was also 'orientalised' in traditional fashion, being described as luxury-loving, leading an effeminate lifestyle, and demonstrating excessive sexuality. These traits were not new. The Romans discovered them in history to justify and legitimise their anti-Parthian sentiments. For that reason the Romans regarded themselves as the new Greeks, especially the Greeks of 480/479 BC who had won victories against the Persian army of Xerxes at Salamis and Plataea. To make this connection, Medes, Achaemenids, Persians, and Parthians were all conflated. The terms 'Parthian' and 'Persian' became interchangeable; any historical differentiation was denied to present the 'East'. It was no longer Greece versus Achaemenid Persia, it was West versus East, Europe versus Asia, Occident versus Orient, the defence of western values against the despotism of the East. The fact that this image did not stand up to reality was irrelevant. Public spectacles restaging the naval battles of the Greek-Persian wars, the inclusion of Spartan auxiliaries in Trajan's army, Nero's bridge across the Bay of Naples resembling Xerxes' bridge over the Hellespont, the parading of Parthian 'hostages' to show Roman superiority, if not victory — all these were ideologically infused demonstrations of Rome's power and Parthia's weakness. For Rome, there was only one world power; the existence of the other was plainly denied."

The Persians: Ancient, Medieval, and Modern Iran (Homa Katouzian)[edit]

  • Katouzian, Homa. (2009). The Persians: Ancient Medieval, and Modern Iran. New Haven and London: Yale University Press. ISBN 978-0-300-12118-6.
  • Page 41: QUOTE: "In 247 BC two brothers of Iranian Scythian origin dislodged the Seleucids in the north-east of their empire shortly after the Bactrian Greeks had declared independence from them. Arsaces (Arshak; Ashk) was a chief of the Parni tribe, one of the great Scythian (Saka) Dahae nomads from the region between the Caspian and Aral Sea. His rebellion led to the defeat of local Seleucid forces and the conquest of Parthia. The Parthians themselves had been originally a nomadic Iranian people who raided the eastern marches of the Achaemenid empire until they settled in Parthia and became subjects of that empire. At about the same time Arsaces' brother, Tiridates (Tirdad), wrested Hyrcania (Gorgan), from Seleucid hands. He built a strong defensive fortress and a new capital named after the founder of the dynasty, Arshak or Ashk (cf. the modern Ashgabat / Ashkabad, capital of Turkmenistan)."
  • Page 41: QUOTE: "The Seleucids did not succeed against Tiridates in 228 because they had to withdraw their troops to face a revolt in Syria. By the time of his death in 211 Tiridates had extended his kingdom yet further at the expense of the Seleucids, and in the following, second, century BC the Arsacid kingdom regained all the Iranian lands, though they stopped well short of retrieving the whole of Achaemenid Persia. The true founder of the Parthian empire was Mithridates (Mehrdad) I, who between 160 and 140 BC conquered Media, Babylon and Seleucia, on the Tigris, and revived the Achaemenid title King of Kings. As the founder of the Parthian empire he is often compared to Cyrus the Great. He built a vast army camp outside Seleucia which later became Ctesiphon, capital of the empire."
  • Page 41-42: QUOTE: "The Parthians were semi-nomadic north-eastern strangers to the central and western Iranian lands that they conquered. They were therefore greeted with a good deal of hostility by their newly won Greek and Persian subjects, rather than being regarded as liberators. That is why the Seleucid emperor, when he led a major campaign to regain his losses, was welcomed by the peoples of many of the western provinces, although he was defeated and captured. The Greek Seleucids made a final attempt under Phraates (Farhad) II, and it looked as if all was lost to the Parthians. But they were lucky that the people of the reoccupied territories revolted against the Greek army's economic demands and so were able to counter-attack in 129 BC and drive the Seleucids back to Syria."
  • Page 42: QUOTE: "In the next few years fortune turned its back on the Arsacids. As so often happened in Iranian history, there was a massive nomadic invasion, from the east, this time by the Iranian Scythians (Sakas) of eastern Turkistan, which neither Phraates, who fell in battle, nor his uncle and successor, who also fell in battle, could stop. Meanwhile rebellions had broken out in the western provinces, including the Arab kingdom of Characene (cf. Saracen). Once again it looked as if the Arsacid empire was threatened with annihilation when around 123 BC Mithridates II took over the realm. He has been compared with Darius I as the ruler who consolidated and rebuilt the Arsacid empire. But, before that, he first reasserted the Parthian grip in the west of the empire and only then turned to the east, where he pushed the nomads back to the far side of the River Oxus and turned their newly founded kingdom of Sakastan (later Sistan) into a vassal state. In the process, the Graeco-Bactrian kingdom was overrun, and by the beginning of the 1st century BC Saka kingdoms had taken its place."
  • Page 42: QUOTE: "It was under Mithridates that the Romans reached the Euphrates and for the first time became neighbours with the Parthians. He tried to woo them into an alliance against the kingdoms of Armenia and Asia Minor, which had successfully resisted Roman advances; but the famous Roman political and military leader Sulla, who knew little about the Parthians, responded with contempt. Therefore Mithridates, who felt slighted, himself entered into an alliance with those two kingdoms."
  • Page 42: QUOTE: "The foregoing has highlighted how the fortunes of Iranian history changed from one short term to the next. Typically, the death of the able and powerful Mithridates II in 88 BC was followed by almost three decades of decadence and decline. Armenia conquered as far south as Ecbatana (modern Hamedan) while the Armenian king was invited by the Seleucids to occupy the throne of Syria and called himself King of Kings. In this short term it looked as if the sun had completely set on the Arsacid empire, reducing them almost to the level of a vassal state. Yet the Romans, alarmed by the expansion of Armenia in Asia Minor, offered — or almost imposed — a treaty on Phraates III, who adhered to it with complete loyalty, though the Romans, not yet having shaken off their contempt of the Parthians, did not serve them well when they intervened in the settlement of the conflict between them and the Armenians."
  • Page 42-43: QUOTE: "In 58 BC Phraates was killed by his sons Mithridates III and Orodes (Orod) II, who then fought each other for the throne. Orodes won the contest and had his brother killed. A few years later, in 53 BC, Crassus, Roman triumvir and consul of Syria, decided to score a great victory over his fellow triumvirs (Julius Caesar and Pompey) by attacking and inflicting a heavy defeat on the Parthians. This led to the battle of Carrhae (Haran), where the Parthian cavalry, led by the able Iranian general Sorena (Suren), broke Crassus' army, captured 10,000, killed and injured 20,000 more and sent Crassus' head to Orodes' court in Seleucia."
  • Page 43: QUOTE: "Once again there was a meteoric rise in the Iranians' fortunes. Some of this quickly turned, however, when Orodes decided to cash in on Crassus' defeat and march through Syria to the Mediterranean. It is true that the Parthians were usually better on the defensive than on the offensive, but at least some of the defeat of this campaign must have been due to the fact that Orodes had had the great general Sorena killed from fear and jealousy and put his own young and inexperienced son in command. Orodes in turn was killed by his son Phraates IV despite the fact that he had nominated him as his successor."
  • Page 43-44: QUOTE: "From then onwards the Parthians had to face the Romans in the west and deal with the perennial invasion of Iranian nomads from Outer Iran in the east. The campaigns of Mark Antony, a member of the second Roman triumvirate, did not pay off in the end and later he lost ground to Augustus. But the Romans adopted a friendly attitude towards the Parthians, realizing that their frequent palace coups and slaughter of royalty, quarreling amongst the clans, the tendency towards provincial rebellion and frequent invasion from the east would prevent them from becoming a serious menace to the Roman empire. For the same reasons it was not difficult for Rome to interfere in the internal affairs of Parthian Iran."
  • Page 44: QUOTE: "The first major Roman invasion was led by the Emperor Trajan in AD 115 and resulted in the fall of Ctesiphon. For a while it looked as if Parthia was lost for ever, but, in the next short term, pressure from the forces in the north-east pushed the Romans back. Twice more was Ctesiphon to fall into Roman hands before the Parthians were replaced by the Sasanians. Under Vologases (Balash) III the Parthians went on the offensive and made some advances, but the Romans turned the tide against them and in AD 165 once again entered Ctesiphon. Though this victory was short-lived, still some of the western Iranian provinces had to be ceded to Rome, especially as the Parthians' continual struggle for the succession to the throne resulted in feeble and divided leadership. This was what enabled Emperor Septimus Severus to attack and capture Ctesiphon again in AD 197. On the other hand, in AD 217 Artabanus (Ardevan) V defeated the Romans heavily and exacted a high price from them. But fortune had now permanently turned its back on the Parthians, for while Artabanus and his brother Vologases V were busy fighting each other for the throne the rebellion in Persis led to the downfall of the Parthians in AD 224."
  • Page 44: QUOTE: "The Parthian system of administration was loose and, by comparison with the Achaemenid system, decentralized. In fact it did not change much from the late Seleucid system when the vassal states had become stronger and largely autonomous. The Arsacids did not, and perhaps could not, change that system, partly because their own origin was nomadic and partly also because the old western provinces did not look up to them as culturally equal. Indeed, when there was a clash with the Seleucids and later the Romans the old countries of the empire often welcomed the invaders. That is why whenever the Arsacids were in dire trouble they tried to organize support from people of their own origin in the north-east, to the east of the Caspian Sea."
  • Page 44: QUOTE: "Nevertheless, in normal times they were in charge of the empire and the vassal states had to pay tributes and taxes and to contribute to the military forces whenever there was an external war. Hence the description of the Arsacids by early Islamic historians as Muluk al-Tawa'if, literally meaning 'Kings of Tribes' (see the introduction). There were some differences with the Achaemenid system even at the centre, especially with the existence of two councils — one of the great nobles and one of the elders and magi — who advised the king. It is, however, unclear what the nature of these councils and their power was since events took place on a short-term basis and the element of continuity was lacking, but outside periods of weakness, decline and chaos, the emperor held full authority."
  • Page 44: QUOTE: "While there were always men under arms both at the centre and in the vassal states, there was no central army as such, and, as noted above, levies would be called from across the empire at times of war. The cream of the army consisted of heavy and light cavalry, the latter consisting of mounted archers who were especially noted for their mobility and ease of manoeuvring."
  • Page 45: QUOTE: "Perhaps because they had succeeded the Greek Seleucid empire in Iran for centuries, the Arsacids continued to use the inscription 'Philhellene' on their coinage, indicating their positive attitude towards Greek culture, and in fact to Hellenistic Iran. Twentieth-century Iranian historians tended to interpret this as lack of nationalism. But the application of such modern ideologies to ancient times is anachronistic and inappropriate. In fact it is likely that the Parthians, as simple and undeveloped nomads, were themselves influenced by the Hellenized Persians of the Iranian hinterland. However, the first signs of a neo-Iranian cultural revival appeared under Vologases I in the first century AD. On the reverse side of his coinage a fire altar was depicted together with a sacrificing priest, and the money bore letters of the Arsacid Pahlavi (Parthavi/Parti) alphabet, the latter language evolving under the Parthians from Old Persian and later developing into Sasanian Persian or Pahlavi."
  • Page 45: QUOTE: "Scholars disagree about the religion of the Arsacids. The cults of the old Iranian pantheon were certainly worshipped [sic] at this time, but it cannot be easily assumed that the Arsacids were Zoroastrian, since they tolerated Greek as well as Iranian cults, whose bloody sacrifices would be repugnant to Zoroastrians, and great temples flourished particularly dedicated to the worship of the old Iranian triad, Ahura Mazda-Mithra-Anahita (see below). It must be emphasized that in any case the religions of the common people were very likely mixed and varied."
  • Page 45: QUOTE: "The known literature of the period consists largely of religious hymns and traditions, which are likely to have remained mainly oral. The short Pahlavi story Derakht-e Asurik (Assyrian Tree), relating a debate between a goat and a palm tree, is likely to date from the Parthian period, though its origins are in ancient Sumerian culture. The ancient romance Vis o Ramin, which in some ways may be compared with the European Tristana dn Isolde story and which has been rendered in Persian verse by the eleventh-century poet Fakhr al-Din As'ad Gorgani, is normally traced back to the Arsacid period, although it is no longer extant in the Parti-Pahlavi language."
  • Page 45: QUOTE: "Parthian art and architecture reflected the artistic eclecticism of the period. Most of the architectural remains lie in the west and are influenced by Achaemenid, Hellenistic, and Mesopotamian forms, tempered by their own nomadic traditions. Some of the most important features of Sasanian and Islamic art, for example the eyvan (or ivan, the huge portal before the entrance) and stucco decoration, have their origin in the Arsacid period."

The Age of the Parthians: The Ideas of Iran, Volume II (edited by Vesta Sarkhosh Curtis and Sarah Stewart)[edit]

The Iranian Revival in the Parthian Period (Vesta Sarkhosh Curtis)[edit]

  • Curtis, Vesta Sarkhosh. (2007). "The Iranian Revival in the Parthian Period," in The Age of the Parthians: The Ideas of Iran Volume II, pp. 7-25. London and New York: I.B. Tauris & Co Ltd., in association with the London Middle East Institute at SOAS and the British Museum. ISBN 978-1-84511-406-0.
  • Page 7: During the Seleucid Empire, the previous Achaemenid satrapies of Hyrcania (modern Gurgan) and Parthava (Khurusan) were combined to form the province of Parthia. Antiochus I Soter (281-261 BCE) appointed a Persian named Andragoras as satrap of Parthia, but the latter rebelled and minted his own coins (showing him wearing the diadem) as a local ruler.
  • Page 7: QUOTE: "Meanwhile, a man called Arsaces, of Scythian or Bactrian origin, was elected leader of the Parni tribes in 247 BCE. This date marks the beginning of the Arsacid era. The Parni or Aparni were part of the confederacy of the Dahae and lived along the river Ochus southeast of the Caspian Sea. Less than ten years after the rebellion of Andragoras against the Seleucids, in 238 BCE, Arsaces and his brother Tiridates invaded the satrapy of Parthia, killed Andragoras and established control over this province."
  • Page 7-8: QUOTE: "The language of Parthia at this time was Parthian, which linguistically is related to Median and belongs to the family of West Iranian languages. The Parni newcomers abandoned their own language in favour of Parthian. The Parni, whose speech was described by Justin as 'midway between Scythian and Median, and contained features of both', now became known as the Arsacids or Parthians."
  • Page 8: QUOTE: "Their kings all took the throne name Arsaces, following the founder of the dynasty. This has made it difficult to identify many Arsacid Parthian kings on coins and cuneiform inscriptions."
  • Page 8: QUOTE: "The earliest coins are those of Arsaces I (c. 238-211 BCE) and Arsaces II (c. 211-191 BCE) which were perhaps minted at Mithradatkirt or Nisa, now in the Republic of Turkmenistan. They show the head of the ruler on the obverse and a seated archer on the reverse, both turned to the right in the Seleucid fashion. Soon, however, the direction of the king's head is changed to the left (Fig. 2)."
  • Page 8: QUOTE: "The soft cap with the top bent over to one side, worn by the ruler, seems to have derived from the tall, pointed Scythian hat, which appears on late sixth-century and fifth-century Achaemenid reliefs (e.g Bisitun and Persepolis)."
  • Page 8: QUOTE: "The coin legends are in Greek, giving the throne name 'Arsaces' and sometimes the additional title autocrat."
  • Page 8: QUOTE: "Both the obverse and reverse type of these early coins are remarkably similar to pre-Hellenistic coins of the Persian satraps. The combination of a soft hat with earflap and neckguard and diadem can be seen on coins of the satraps Tissaphernes, c. 420-395 BCE (Fig. 3), Spithridates, c. 440-330 BCE, and Autophradates, c. 380-320 BCE (Fig. 4)."
  • Page 9: Mithridates I of Parthia (c. 171-138 BCE) at first minted silver drachms with the soft hat as seen on the coins of Arsaces I of Parthia and Arsaces II of Parthia. However, later coins of Mithridates show him wearing only the diadem in the Hellenistic fashion, yet his beard is in the Iranian/Near Eastern fashion. Curtis also compares his beard to that of the earlier Andragoras and some Seleucid rulers.
  • Page 10-11: In 148 or 147 BCE, Mithridates I of Parthia invaded the western portion of the Seleucid Empire, conquering Medes (eastern Iran) and occupying Ecbatana (Hamadan). In the same year, Kamnaskires I of Elymais besieged and captured Susa from the Seleucids. In 141 BCE, Mithridates' forces invaded Babylonia and occupied Seleucia. Demetrius II Nicator launched a counter-invasion in 140-139 BCE but he was defeated and taken prisoner by the Parthians. For a while, Mithridates held his Seleucid captive in Hyrcania. Turning his sights on Iran, Mithridates subjugated Characene, Susa, and Elymais, bringing Persia and Mesopotamia under the Parthian Empire.
  • Page 11: The coins struck by Mithridates II of Parthia at Seleucia featured the phrase "philhellene", most likely an attempt to garner Greek support in the empire. This phrase was used on the coins of Parthian rulers until the reign of Artabanus II of Parthia in the 1st century CE.
  • Page 11: Whereas Mithridates encountered trouble with nomadic groups in the northeast, the threat proved even greater when Phraates II of Parthia took the throne (r. c. 138-127 BCE). The Yuezhi had dislodged the Saka tribes further east, the latter now raiding Parthia's eastern borders. Although Phraates' forces were eventually able to defeat and kill Antiochus VII Sidetes (139/8-129 BCE) in the west after initial Seleucid success, Phraaates himself was killed while facing the nomads in the east. QUOTE: "Artabanus I (c. 127-124 BCE), a brother of Mithridates, succeeded his nephew Phraates on the throne, but was also killed on the eastern front while fighting the Tocharis."
  • Page 11-12: Hyspaosines was ruler of Characene since he broke away from Seleucid authority around the time Demetrius II Nicator was defeated by Parthia in 139 BCE. However, in 122/121 BCE, when Mithridates II of Parthia came to the throne, Hyspaosines rebelled against him and the Parthian governor Himerus of Babylonia. Both cuneiform tablets at Warka (Uruk) and silver tetradrachms minted at Seleucia attest to the fact that Hyspaosines had captured Babylonia. However, Mithridates II soon reasserted his authority in Babylonia, minting his own coins there once more. He then subjugated Characene, which would remain under Parthian control until the 3rd century CE. In addition, Mithridates captured Dura-Europos in northern Mesopotamia around 113 BCE. Stretching from the Euphrates to eastern Iran, the Parthian Empire now found itself engaged in relations with the Kingdom of Armenia, the later source of contention with the expanding Roman Empire.
  • Page 12: Ctesiphon became the major seat of power in the Parthian Empire by the end of the 2nd century BCE. At Bisitun, Mithridates II of Parthia is depicted in rock-relief as receiving tribute from distinguished figures such as the satrap of satraps (according to the Greek inscription there), Gotarzes (Godarz). Cuneiform tables from Warka (Uruk) state that he succeeded Mithridates II as ruler in 91 BCE; he also struck his own tetradrachms in Babylonia. Sanatruces of Parthia was made king of the eastern part of the empire.
  • Page 12-13: QUOTE: "In the middle of the first century BCE, Roman forces received a heavy blow from the Parthian army of King Orodes II. Under the command of Surena, the Parthians defeated and humiliated the Romans at Carrhae, modern Harran in southeastern Turkey, in 53 BCE and Crassus, the Roman consul and general, was killed. The Roman standards were lost to the Parthians and were not returned to Rome until 20 BCE. This military humiliation was then turned into a political victory by the Roman emperor Augustus, when after lengthy negotiations, the Parthians agreed to return the standards (see below, Schneider: figs. 5-6). Augustus successfully portrayed them as barbarians and a defeated enemy."
  • Page 13: QUOTE: "An invasion of Parthia via Armenia took place under Mark Antony, who advanced through northwestern Iran and came face to face with the Parthian army of Phraates (Farhad) IV (c. 38-2 BCE)(Fig. 13). But Antony was forced to withdraw with his army when they suffered heavy losses during the unsuccessful siege of Praata/Praaspa, perhaps at Takht-i Solaiman near modern Takab or Maragheh in northwestern Iran."
  • Page 13: QUOTE: "Roman-Parthian relations were often tense as both powers laid claim to and fought over Armenia. This continued during the reign of Artabanus (Ardavan) II (10-38 CE). In 115 CE the emperor Trajan invaded Armenia and turned it into a Roman province. He then advanced towards northern Mesopotamia, conquered Dura Europos on the river Euphrates, and then took the capital Ctesiphon. Trajan was presented with the title 'Parthicus' by the Roman Senate, but after an unsuccessful siege of the city of Hatra in 117 CE, he was forced to retreat."
  • Page 13: QUOTE: "More confrontation between Parthia and Rome took place in the second half of the second century, when in 161 CE Marcus Aurelius destroyed and burnt Seleucia-on-the-Tigris and Ctesiphon. This took place during the reign of the Parthian king Vologases (Valgash) IV (147-191 CE). Dura Europos was by now firmly part of the Roman empire on their eastern frontier. In 197 CE northern Mesopotamia was invaded by Septimius Severus and after capturing Seleucia and Babylon, he received the title 'Parthicus Maximus' from the Roman Senate. Once again a siege of Hatra in northern Mesopotamia proved unsuccessful. The Roman forces withdrew and peace was made by the Romans under the emperor Caracalla in 211 CE."
  • Page 14: QUOTE: "By now Parthian central authority was no longer in the hands of one ruler. Vologases VI (208-228 CE) struck coins at Seleucia-on-the-Tigris and controlled Mesopotamia even after the defeat of his brother Artabanus (Ardavan) IV (Fig. 14) by Ardashir, a local king from Pars/Fars, in southern Iran."
  • Page 14: QUOTE: "Ardavan controlled Media and also Susa and his name appears on a stele from Susa of 215 CE. The relief shows the king seated on a throne supported by winged mythological beasts. The 'King of Kings' is offering a ring of power to Khwasak, the satrap of Susa. In 224 Ardavan was finally defeated by Ardashir, the son of Papak, a local king in Pars. The historic battle of Hormizdgan appears on the early Sasanian jousting relief of Firuzabad, south of Shiraz. Here, the saddle bag of the toppled Parthian king bears the same royal crest that also appears on the tiara of the dead opponent lying under the horse of Ardashir on his Naqsh-i Rustam relief."
  • Page 14-15: QUOTE: "Evidence for an Iranian revival in the Parthian period is found on coins of this dynasty, as already mentioned above. Under Mithridates II, the ancient Near Eastern title 'King of Kings' or 'Great King of Kings' reappears on both drachms and tetradrachms. Cuneiform tablets from Warka in southern Mesopotamia of c. 94 BCE also mention these royal titles, which were not used by the Seleucids, but became popular also to the east of the Parthian empire. The title 'King of Kings' was also common amongst Kushan kings of the first and second centuries CE, who ruled over Bactria."
  • Page 15: QUOTE: "The costume of the Parthian kings is further evidence of an Iranian revival in this period. Coins show how the trouser-suit became the most popular outfit of the Parthians and was worn by the king himself. While the archer on the reverse of coins appears in tunic and trousers from the very beginning, the ruler on the obverse of the earliest coins wears a Hellenistic over-garment fastened at one shoulder. This can be seen on coins of Arsaces I, Arsaces II and Mithridates I. From the time of Atabanus I (c. 127-124/3 BCE) this type of dress is replaced by a v-necked jacket, which must have been part of the Parthian trouser-suit (Fig. 10). As such, it is shown on the reverse of Parthian coins and is particularly clear on tetradrachms of the second and first centuries BCE and first century CE (Figs. 13 and 17). Mithridates II introduced a new royal headgear, the tiara or kolah, which was bejewelled around the edge and in the centre (Fig. 12). This type of hat, which remained popular until the end of the Parthian period, was sometimes decorated with astral designs and pearls and even rows of stags. The tiara was presented by the Parthian King of Kings as one of the royal insignia to local kings. When Ardashir I of the Sasanian dynasty rose to power as the new King of Kings, he struck gold dinars, silver drachms and billion [sic] tetradrachms on which he appeared with the Parthian tiara (Fig. 16)."
  • Page 15-16: Culture, religion, origins, and dress fashions of Commagene are described here, but does not matter in regards to your research pursuit.
  • Page 16: QUOTE: "During the reign of Artabanus (Ardavan) II (10-38 CE) who was from Media Atropatene (Azarbaijan) in northwestern Iran and an Arsacid through his mother, the process of Iranisation continued. Artabanus dropped the title philhellene from the reverse legends of his tetradrachms. The king on the reverse is shown seated on a throne, as well as riding a horse (Fig. 17). Here he receives a symbol of kingship from a deity, who is iconographically similar to Tyche the goddess of fortune, or Nike the goddess of Victory. Some tetradrachms of this ruler show him in frontal pose, similar to silver drachms of an earlier Parthian king of the early first century BCE (Figs. 17 and 18)." [NOTE: On the following page, p. 17, Curtis shows the silver coin of Artabanus II in the Parthian frontality portrait alongside an earlier silver coin of this unidentified Parthian king, perhaps Darius of Media Atropatene].
  • Page 16: QUOTE: "The large bronze statue from Shami, found in the Bakhtiari region of Iran and now in the National Museum of Iran, shows a larger than life-size male figure facing the spectator (see below, Schneider: fig. 4). He wears the Parthian trouser-suit consisting of a long-sleeved short jacket and leggings. His crossed-over top with its v-shaped opening and wide lapels, a belt made of plaques, a dagger worn on each side and the suspenders of his wide leggings are all clearly seen on Parthian coins of the middle of the first century BCE. These details are especially clear on tetradrachms of Phraates (Farhad) IV (Fig. 13). A similar outfit is also worn by a small statuette from Susa and a figure on a limestone stela from Parthian Ashur in northern Mesopotamia."
  • Page 16-17: QUOTE: "Terracotta figurines from Parthian sites in Mesopotamia, such as Ashur, Babylon, Warka, Nippur and Seleucia, of the first to second centuries CE often wear Parthian costume. The hair of these figures is sometimes arranged in the Parthian tripartite fashion."
  • Page 17: QUOTE: "There are many examples of reliefs, statues and wall paintings showing figures in frontal pose and wearing the Parthian costume during the first to early third centuries CE. To the east of the Parthian empire, the art of the Kushan kings of Bactria depicts worshipping figures wearing trouser-suits. The Kushan kings themselves appear in such outfits both on their coins (Fig. 19 - 20) as well as their sculptures."
  • Page 17: QUOTE: "To the west, at Palmyra, Dura Europos and Hatra we find many elaborate examples of male figures wearing Parthian tunics, jackets and trousers. The wealthy merchants of Palmyra, ancient Tadmor, in the Syrian desert were keen to show themselves and some of their gods in the fashion of the time...They followed the Parthian style of frontality and both gods and mortals, who appear on architectural and funerary reliefs, wear the Parthian trouser-suit."
  • Page 18: QUOTE: "At Dura Europos, which was part of the Parthian empire from c. 113 BCE until 165 CE, the influence of Parthian art continues during the Roman occupation of the city. Examples of Parthian frontality and the Parthian costume are found in various religions and private buildings at Dura. The most famous of these are the Jewish Synagogue and its magnificent wall paintings, the Mithraeum, the temple of the Palmyrene Gods, as well as graffiti in private houses of the early third century CE."
  • Page 18: QUOTE: "At Hatra the local rulers are shown wearing lavish trouser-suits, where the tunic and trousers have geometric and floral designs. The decoration may have been embroidered, woven, or created by sew-on-plaques and pearls."
  • Page 18: The kandys, a type of long-sleeved coat worn over a round-collared and knee-length tunic, was not only common in the Achaemenid period, it was revived during the early Parthian period. The reverse side of coins minted by Arsaces I and Arsaces II show the kandys being worn by an archer.
  • Page 19-20: The local kings of Elymais were under the suzerainty of the Arsacid Parthians, but nevertheless minted their own coins sporting Parthian dress but with their own hairstyles, such as outward curling moustaches.
  • Page 20: QUOTE: "This semi-independence applied to a number of kingdoms within the Parthian empire, where the local kings enjoyed a certain degree of autonomy. This is usually seen as a sign of the political weakness of the Parthian overlords and the consequent growing independence of the local kings, but perhaps one should move away from such modern interpretations and see the existence of various local kingdoms within the political framework of the Parthian empire."
  • Page 20-21: QUOTE: "From the reign of Mithridates I onwards, when the Parthians controlled Mesopotamia and Iran, local kingdoms were granted a certain amount of freedom, as long as they recognised the Parthian sovereign as their overlord. The semi-independence of local kingdoms should not be interpreted as a sign of weakness of Parthian central government. The political framework of the Parthians allowed local kings a degree of independence within their region, as long as they accepted Parthian central authority."
  • Page 21: QUOTE: "It is also within this political framework that we should understand the position of the local kings as subordinates of the Parthian King of Kings. We should be cautious of interpreting the flourishing of local arts as an indication of a decrease in central power. This has been suggested in the case of the late Parthian site of Qaleh Yazdgird in western Iran."
  • Page 21: QUOTE: "The wealth of material from this site in the form of plaster sculpture, elaborate figural and floral decorations painted in polychrome colours and engaged column capitals with female figures, similar to those found to the east at Marv and to the west at Seleucia and Warka in southern Mesopotamia, may simply indicate the growing economy as a result of the flourishing east-west trade, rather than a decline in central power."
  • Page 21: QUOTE: "While the art of Elymais undoubtedly shows local features, the influence of Parthian art on the iconographic details of the hairstyle, regalia and costume cannot be denied. Elymais, as well as Persis, was able to continue with its own local traditions, while at the same time absorbing iconographic and stylistic features of Parthian art, which were then passed on to the Sasanian period that followed. Local kings also adapted certain features of the pre-Hellenistic tradition from the Arsacid Parthians. The Parthians' apparent awareness of this tradition is best seen in the revival of iconographic features known from the Achaemenid period, e.g. the trouser-suit and slung-over coat on early coins, and the revival of the royal title 'King of Kings'."
  • Page 21: QUOTE: "The legends of Parthian coins are in Greek, but Parthian letters and words appear from the late first century BCE / first century CE onwards."
  • Page 22: QUOTE: "The iconography of the coins of Persis brings together Parthian and local motifs. This has long been seen as a sign of revival of Persian iconography, which is then passed on to the Sasanians. The contribution of the Parthians to this process is often ignored. Perhaps such a revival would not have been possible under a different dynasty than the Arsacid Parthians, as they allowed their sub-kings a certain degree of autonomy and self-expression. The local kings created on their coins and reliefs an iconography which was a mixture of Iranian, Hellenistic and local traditions."