Vardanes I of Parthia (Persian: وردان يکم, flourished 1st century) was a Prince of Iranian and Greek ancestry. He ruled the Parthian Empire as King from about 40 until 45 CE. He succeeded his father Artabanus II of Parthia, but had to continually fight against his brother Gotarzes II, a rival claimant to the throne.
His coins show that he was in full possession of the throne from about 40 to 45. In 43, he forced the city of Seleucia to submit to the Parthians again after a rebellion of seven years. Ctesiphon, the residence of the kings on the bank of the Tigris, opposite to Seleucia, naturally profited by this war and Vardanes I is therefore called founder of Ctesiphon by Ammianus Marcellinus. He also prepared for a war against the Roman Empire, with the aim of reconquering Armenia, but ultimately decided against facing the Roman legions.
In a new war with Gotarzes II, he gained a great success against the eastern nomads. According to Tacitus (Annales 9.8-10), Vardanes I was expelled temporarily from the throne by Gotarzes II, and fled to take refuge "in the plains of the Bactrians" (possibly the Yuezhi, who occupied Bactria at that time). Once he resumed power, he led a victorious campaign against the Dahae army of Gotarzes II, as far as the Sindes River (the Tejen) (Annales 11.10). Vardanes I was praised by Tacitus as a young and highly gifted ruler of great energy, but fierce (ferox) and intolerable to his subjects (Annales 11.10). In about 47 he was assassinated while hunting and Gotarzes II became King again.
Vardanes I is mentioned in Life of Apollonius of Tyana as a benefactor to Apollonius of Tyana (2–c. 98). He gives him letters guaranteeing safe passage to India, so that he can meet there the ruler of India, Phraotes:
And with that, he showed them a letter, written to that effect, and this gave them occasion to marvel afresh at the humanity and foresight of Vardanes. For he had addressed the letter in question to the satrap of the Indus, although he was not subject to his dominion; and in it he reminded him of the good service he had done him, but declared that he would not ask any recompense for the same, "for", he said, "it is not my habit to ask for a return of favors." But he said he would be very grateful, if he could give a welcome to Apollonius and send him on wherever he wished to go. And he had given gold to the guide, so that in case he found Apollonius in want thereof, he might give it him and save him from looking to the generosity of anyone else. – Book II:17
- Bury, John (1893). The student's Roman Empire: A History of the Roman Empire from its Foundation to the Death of Marcus Aurelius. Harper & Brothers. p. 322.
- One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Vardanes s.v. Vardanes I.x". Encyclopædia Britannica. 27 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.
- Life of Apollonius Tyana II 17
- Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, xx, 3, 4
- Tacitus, Annals, xi, 9, 10
- Life of Apollonius Tyana, II, 17
- Ammianus Marcellinus, Res Gestae, xxiii, 6, 23
- J. Bury, The student's Roman Empire: A History of the Roman Empire from its Foundation to the Death of Marcus Aurelius, Harper & Brothers, 1893
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