Vologases III of Parthia
Coin of Vologases III, minted at Seleucia in 121/2
|King of the Parthian Empire|
|Reign||110 – 147|
|Predecessor||Pacorus II (predecessor)|
Osroes I (rival king)
Mithridates V (rival king)
Vologases III's reign was marked by civil strife and warfare. At his ascension, he had to deal with the usurper Osroes I (r. 109–129), who managed to seize the western part of the empire, which left Vologases III in control of its eastern parts. After Osroes I violated the Treaty of Rhandeia with the Romans by deposing appointing Parthamasiris as the king of Armenia, the Roman emperor Trajan (r. 98–117) invaded the Parthian lands, briefly seizing the Parthian cities of Seleucia and Ctesiphon and reaching as far as the Persian Gulf. These gains were short-lived; after Trajan's death in 117, all the Roman gains had been lost. Vologases III, whose eastern domains were untouched, took advantage of the weakened state of Osroes I to regain lost territory, and by 129 finally defeated him. Another contender named Mithridates V shortly appeared afterwards, but was also defeated by Vologases III, in 140.
From 134 to 136, Vologases III had to face an invasion by the nomadic Alans, while in the east, he sought to increase the political and military actions as a response to the enlargement of the Kushan Empire. Under the Roman emperor Antoninus Pius (r. 138–161), disturbance once occurred in Armenia due to the Romans appointing a new king in Armenia. Vologases III, however, did not protest, either due to not being powerful enough, or possibly because he did not want to put the thriving long-distance in jeopardy, from which the Parthian state was gaining hefty income from. In 147, Vologases III was succeeded by Mithridates V's son Vologases IV.
Vologases is the Greek and Latin form of the Parthian Walagash (𐭅𐭋𐭂𐭔). The name is also attested in New Persian as Balāsh and Middle Persian Wardākhsh (also spelled Walākhsh). The etymology of the name is unclear. A suggestion has been made that the name could mean "strength".
Vologases III was a son of Pacorus II (r. 78–110). During the last years of Pacorus' reign, Vologases III co-ruled with him. In 109, an Parthian contender named Osroes I appeared. Pacorus died in the same year, and was succeeded by Vologases III, who continued his fathers struggle with Osroes I over the Parthian crown. Osroes I managed to seize the western part of the empire, including Mesopotamia, while Vologases III ruled in the east. In 113, Osroes I violated the Treaty of Rhandeia with the Romans by deposing Vologases III's brother Axidares and appointing the latters brother Parthamasiris as the king of Armenia. This gave the Roman emperor Trajan (r. 98–117) the pretext to invade the Parthian domain and take advantage of the civil war ongoing between Vologases III and Osroes. In 114, Trajan conquered Armenia and turned it into a Roman province. In 116, Trajan captured Seleucia and Ctesiphon, the capital of the Parthians. Trajan even reached as far as the Persian Gulf, where he forced the Parthian vassal ruler of Characene, Attambelos VII, to pay tribute. Fearing a revolt by the Parthians, Trajan installed Osroes I's son Parthamaspates on the throne at Ctesiphon.
However, these gains were short-lived; revolts occurred in all the conquered territories, with the Babylonians and Jews pushing the Romans out of Mesopotamia, and the Armenians under a certain Sanatruk causing the Romans problems. After Trajans death in 117, the Parthians removed Parthamaspates from the throne and reinstated Osroes I. Trajan's successor, Hadrian (r. 117–138) renounced the remnants of Trajan's conquests in the east, and acknowledged the Treaty of Rhandeia, with the Parthian prince Vologases becoming the new king of Armenia. The weakened state of the western part of the Parthian Empire gave Vologases III—whose eastern domains were untouched—the opportunity to regain lost territory seized by Osroes I.
In 129, Vologases III finally managed to remove Osroes I from power. However, shortly afterwards, a new contender named Mithridates V appeared. Vologases III also faced new challenges other places; in 134, the king of Iberia, Pharasmanes II (r. 117–138) caused the nomadic Alans to invade the domains of the Parthians and Romans. They reached as far as Caucasian Albania, Media, Armenia, and also Cappadocia; they were eventually repelled two years later after many obstacles and heavy economic cost. In the east, Vologases III sought to increase the political and military actions as a response to the enlargement of the Kushan Empire. In 140, he defeated and deposed Mithridates V.
Under Hadrian's successor Antoninus Pius (r. 138–161), disturbance once occurred in Armenia due to the Romans appointing a new king in Armenia. Vologases III, however, did not protest, either due to not being powerful enough, or possibly because he did not want to put the thriving long-distance trade in jeopardy, from which the Parthian state was gaining hefty income from. In 147, Vologases III was succeeded by Mithridates V's son Vologases IV.
Coinage and Rock reliefs
Under Pacorus II, the usage of the image of the Greek goddess Tyche on the reverse of the Parthian coins became more regular than that of the seated king with a bow, specifically on the coin mints from Ecbatana. This was reversed under Vologases III. Rarely, a fire temple is depicted on the reverse of his coins. On the obverse of his coins is a portrait of him using the same tiara as his father. A rock relief at Behistun portrays an Parthian monarch, most likely Vologases III.
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Vologases III of Parthia
Pacorus II (predecessor)
Osroes I (rival king)
Mithridates V (rival king)
| King of the Parthian Empire