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Vardanes I

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Vardanes I
King of Kings
Coin of Vardanes I (cropped, 2), Seleucia mint.jpg
Coin of Vardanes I, Seleucia mint
King of the Parthian Empire
Reign40 – 46
PredecessorArtabanus II
SuccessorGotarzes II
DynastyArsacid dynasty
FatherArtabanus II

Vardanes I was a king of the Parthian Empire from 40 to 46 AD. He was the heir apparent of his father Artabanus II (r. 12–40), but had to continually fight against his brother Gotarzes II, a rival claimant to the throne. Vardanes' short reign ended when he was assassinated while hunting at the instigation of a party of Parthian nobles .


"Vardanes" (also spelled Bardanes) is the Latin attestation of the Middle Iranian name Wardān, meaning "rose". The name is transliterated in Greek as Ordanes Ὀρδάνης and Ordones Ὀρδώνης, and in Hatran Aramaic as wrdn.[1]


Coin of Gotarzes II

In c. 40 AD, Vardanes' father and reigning Parthian king Artabanus II (r. 12–40) died, entrusting his realm to Vardanes.[2] However, the throne was seized by Gotarzes II, an adopted son of Artabanus II.[2][3] Gotarzes had another of his brothers, Artabanus, along with his wife and child, executed shortly after.[2] An uproar against this execution shortly followed, with an appeal being sent to Vardanes, who took Gotarzes by surprise and defeated him, after travelling 375 miles in two days.[2][4] Vardanes was supported by the governors of the neighbouring Parthian provinces, and quickly gained control over most of the Parthian realm.[2][4] The Mesopotamian city of Seleucia, which had been in rebellion since 35 AD, did not acknowledge Vardanes, who then besieged the city.[2][5] However, the long siege of Seleucia resulted in Gotarzes gaining the upper hand in the conflict, allowing him to raise a new force and drive off Vardanes, who fled to Bactria in Central Asia.[2][6]

At the same time, Armenia suffered turmoil, when its Arsacid king Orodes, the brother of Vardanes, was deposed by the Roman emperor Claudius (r. 41–54), who appointed the Pharnavazid prince Mithridates in his stead.[7]

Just before Vardanes and Gotarzes clashed in battle, they reached an accord after Gotarzes informed Vardanes of a conspiracy being planned against them by a prominent group. Under the accord Vardanes was to keep his crown, while Gotarzes withdrew to Hyrcania.[7] In June 42, Vardanes forced Seleucia to submit to the Parthians again after a rebellion of seven years.[8] He significantly reduced the autonomy of the city and removed its privilege to mint its own coins.[5] Around the same time, the Greek philosopher Apollonius of Tyana visited the court of Vardanes, who provided him with the protection of a caravan as he travelled to the realm of the Indo-Parthians. When Apollonius reached Indo-Parthia's capital Taxila, his caravan leader read Vardanes' official letter, perhaps written in Parthian, to an Indian official who treated Apollonius with great hospitality.[9]

Encouraged by his recent triumphs, Vardanes prepared to invade and reconquer Armenia, but ultimately abandoned his plans, due to threats of war from the Roman governor of Syria, Gaius Vibius Marsus, and the renewed conflict with Gotarzes, who had terminated their accord.[6] Vardanes defeated Gotarzes on the Erindes, a river situated on the Media-Hyrcania border. He then proceeded to conquer the remaining Parthian provinces, reaching as far as Aria.[7] In c. 46 he was assassinated while hunting at the instigation of a party of Parthian nobles, who feared that their status might become endangered.[6][10]


  1. ^ Marcato 2018, p. 55.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g Bivar 1983, p. 75.
  3. ^ Olbrycht 2016, p. 32.
  4. ^ a b Tacitus, 11.8.
  5. ^ a b Lukonin 1983, p. 720.
  6. ^ a b c Dąbrowa 2017, p. 178.
  7. ^ a b c Bivar 1983, p. 76.
  8. ^ Gregoratti 2017, p. 130; Dąbrowa 2012, p. 183; Lukonin 1983, p. 720
  9. ^ Bivar 2007, p. 26.
  10. ^ Gregoratti 2017, p. 131.


Ancient works[edit]

Modern works[edit]

  • Bivar, A.D.H. (1983). "The Political History of Iran Under the Arsacids". In Yarshater, Ehsan (ed.). The Cambridge History of Iran, Volume 3(1): The Seleucid, Parthian and Sasanian Periods. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. pp. 21–99. ISBN 0-521-20092-X.
  • Bivar, A.D.H. (2007), "Gondophares and the Indo-Parthians", in Curtis, Vesta Sarkhosh and Sarah Stewart (ed.), The Age of the Parthians: The Ideas of Iran, 2, London & New York: I.B. Tauris & Co Ltd., in association with the London Middle East Institute at SOAS and the British Museum, pp. 26–36, ISBN 978-1-84511-406-0
  • Dąbrowa, Edward (2012). "The Arsacid Empire". In Daryaee, Touraj (ed.). The Oxford Handbook of Iranian History. Oxford University Press. pp. 1–432. ISBN 978-0-19-987575-7. Archived from the original on 1 January 2019. Retrieved 13 January 2019.
  • Dąbrowa, Edward (2017). "Tacitus on the Parthians". Electrum: 171–189.
  • Gregoratti, Leonardo (2017). "The Arsacid Empire". In Daryaee, Touraj (ed.). King of the Seven Climes: A History of the Ancient Iranian World (3000 BCE - 651 CE). UCI Jordan Center for Persian Studies. pp. 1–236. ISBN 9780692864401.
  • Lukonin, V.G. (1983). "Political, Social and Administrative Institutions: Taxes and Trade". In Yarshater, Ehsan (ed.). The Cambridge History of Iran, Volume 3(2): The Seleucid, Parthian and Sasanian Periods. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. pp. 681–746. ISBN 0-521-24693-8.
  • Marcato, Enrico (2018). Personal Names in the Aramaic Inscriptions of Hatra. Digital Publishing. ISBN 9788869692314.
  • Olbrycht, Marek Jan (2016). "Dynastic Connections in the Arsacid Empire and the Origins of the House of Sāsān". In Curtis, Vesta Sarkhosh; Pendleton, Elizabeth J.; Alram, Michael; Daryaee, Touraj (eds.). The Parthian and Early Sasanian Empires: Adaptation and Expansion. Oxbow Books. ISBN 9781785702082.

Further reading[edit]

Vardanes I
Preceded by
Artabanus II
King of the Parthian Empire
Succeeded by
Gotarzes II