Parthian Empire
CKM 2018-19 / Aziz Yardımlı

 

Parthian Empire




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Parthia

 




  Parthia

🗺️ The region of Parthia within the empire of Medes, c. 600 BC

The region of Parthia within the empire of Medes, c. 600 BC (W)

The region of Parthia within the empire of Medes, c. 600 BC; from a historical atlas illustrated by William Robert Shepherd.

 



📹 The Parthian Empire_Kenneth W Harl (VİDEO)

The Parthian Empire / Kenneth W Harl (LINK)

The Parthian Empire (247 BC – 224 AD), also known as the Arsacid Empire was a major Iranian political and cultural power in ancient Iran and Iraq.Its latter name comes from Arsaces I of Parthia who, as leader of the Parni tribe, founded it in the mid-3rd century BC when he conquered the region of Parthia in Iran's northeast, then a satrapy (province) in rebellion against the Seleucid Empire.

This video is extracted from 36 Lectures course called "The Barbarian Empires of the Steppes" instructed by Professor Kenneth W Harl

 



Parthia

Parthia (W)


The region of Parthia within the empire of Medes, c. 600 BC.

Parthia is a historical region located in north-eastern Iran. It was conquered and subjugated by the empire of the Medes during the 7th century BC, was incorporated into the subsequent Achaemenid Empire under Cyrus the Great in the 6th century BC, and formed part of the Hellenistic Seleucid Empire following the 4th-century-BC conquests of Alexander the Great. The region later served as the political and cultural base of the Eastern-Iranian Parni people and Arsacid dynasty, rulers of the Parthian Empire (247 BC-224 AD). The Sasanian Empire, the last state of pre-Islamic Persia, also held the region and maintained the Seven Parthian clans as part of their feudal aristocracy.

 



Parthia Under the Seleucids

Parthia Under the Seleucids (W)


1) Early Parthian horse-archer, 4th century BC.
2) Parthian horse-archer, 2nd century BC.
3)
Parthian horse-archer, 3rd century BC.


Following the death of Alexander, in the Partition of Babylon in 323 BC, Parthia became a Seleucid governorate under Nicanor. Phrataphernes, the former governor, became governor of Hyrcania. In 320 BC, at the Partition of Triparadisus, Parthia was reassigned to Philip, former governor of Sogdiana. A few years later, the province was invaded by Peithon, governor of Media Magna, who then attempted to make his brother Eudamus governor. Peithon and Eudamus were driven back, and Parthia remained a governorate in its own right.

In 316 BC, Stasander, a vassal of Seleucus I Nicator and governor of Bactria (and, it seems, also of Aria and Margiana) was appointed governor of Parthia. For the next 60 years, various Seleucids would be appointed governors of the province.

In 247 BC, following the death of Antiochus II, Ptolemy III seized control of the Seleucid capital at Antioch, and "so left the future of the Seleucid dynasty for a moment in question." Taking advantage of the uncertain political situation, Andragoras, the Seleucid governor of Parthia, proclaimed his independence and began minting his own coins.

Meanwhile, "a man called Arsaces, of Scythian or Bactrian origin, [was] elected leader of the Parni", an eastern-Iranian peoples from the Tajen/Tajend River valley, south-east of the Caspian Sea. Following the secession of Parthia from the Seleucid Empire and the resultant loss of Seleucid military support, Andragoras had difficulty in maintaining his borders, and about 238 BC — under the command of "Arsaces and his brother Tiridates" — the Parni invaded Parthia and seized control of Astabene (Astawa), the northern region of that territory, the administrative capital of which was Kabuchan (Kuchan in the vulgate).

A short while later the Parni seized the rest of Parthia from Andragoras, killing him in the process. Although an initial punitive expedition by the Seleucids under Seleucus II was not successful, the Seleucids under Antiochus III recaptured Arsacid controlled territory in 209 BC from Arsaces' (or Tiridates') successor, Arsaces II. Arsaces II sued for peace and accepted vassal status, and it was not until Arsaces II's grandson (or grand-nephew) Phraates I, that the Arsacids/Parni would again begin to assert their independence.

 



 

Parthia Under the Arsacids

Parthia under the Arsacids (W)


The Parthian Empire at its greatest extent


From their base in Parthia, the Arsacid dynasts eventually extended their dominion to include most of Greater Iran. They also quickly established several eponymous branches on the thrones of Armenia, Iberia, and Caucasian Albania. Even though the Arsacids only sporadically had their capital in Parthia, their power base was there, among the Parthian feudal families, upon whose military and financial support the Arsacids depended. In exchange for this support, these families received large tracts of land among the earliest conquered territories adjacent to Parthia, which the Parthian nobility then ruled as provincial rulers. The largest of these city-states were Kuchan, Semnan, Gorgan, Merv, Zabol and Yazd.

From about 105 BC onwards, the power and influence of this handful of Parthian noble families was such that they frequently opposed the monarch, and would eventually be a "contributory factor in the downfall" of the dynasty.

 

A sculpted head (broken off from a larger statue) of a Parthian soldier wearing a Hellenistic-style helmet, from the Parthian royal residence and necropolis of Nisa, 2nd century BC.
 
   

From about 130 BC onwards, Parthia suffered numerous incursions by various nomadic tribes, including the Sakas, the Yueh-chi, and the Massagetae. Each time, the Arsacid dynasts responded personally, doing so even when there were more severe threats from Seleucids or Romans looming on the western borders of their empire (as was the case for Mithridates I). Defending the empire against the nomads cost Phraates II and Artabanus I their lives.

Around 32 BC, civil war broke out when a certain Tiridates rebelled against Phraates IV, probably with the support of the nobility that Phraates had previously persecuted. The revolt was initially successful, but failed by 25 BC. In 9/8, the Parthian nobility succeeded in putting their preferred king on the throne, but Vonones proved to have too tight a budgetary control, so he was usurped in favor of Artabanus II, who seems to have been a non-Arsacid Parthian nobleman. But when Artabanus attempted to consolidate his position (at which he was successful in most instances), he failed to do so in the regions where the Parthian provincial rulers held sway,

By the 2nd century AD, the frequent wars with neighboring Rome and with the nomads, and the infighting among the Parthian nobility had weakened the Arsacids to a point where they could no longer defend their subjugated territories. The empire fractured as vassalaries increasingly claimed independence or were subjugated by others, and the Arsacids were themselves finally vanquished by the Persian Sassanids, a formerly minor vassal from southwestern Iran, in April 224.



Under the Sasanians

Under Sasanian (Sassanid) rule, Parthia was folded into a newly formed province, Khorasan, and henceforth ceased to exist as a political entity. Some of the Parthian nobility continued to resist Sasanian dominion for some time, but most switched their allegiance to the Sasanians very early. Several families that claimed descent from the Parthian noble families became a Sasanian institution known as the "Seven houses", five of which are "in all probability" not Parthian, but contrived genealogies "in order to emphasize the antiquity of their families."

 



   

Language and literature

Language and literature (W)

The Parthians spoke Parthian, a north-western Iranian language. No Parthian literature survives from before the Sassanid period in its original form, and they seem to have written down only very little. The Parthians did, however, have a thriving oral minstrel-poet culture, to the extent that their word for minstrel – gosan – survives to this day in many Iranian languages as well as especially in Armenian ("gusan"), on which it practised heavy (especially lexical and vocabulary) influence. These professionals were evident in every facet of Parthian daily life, from cradle to grave, and they were entertainers of kings and commoners alike, proclaiming the worthiness of their patrons through association with mythical heroes and rulers. These Parthian heroic poems, "mainly known through Persian of the lost Middle Persian Xwaday-namag, and notably through Firdausi's Shahnameh, [were] doubtless not yet wholly lost in the Khurasan of [Firdausi's] day."

In Parthia itself, attested use of written Parthian is limited to the nearly 3,000 ostraca found (in what seems to have been a wine storage) at Nisa, in present-day Turkmenistan. A handful of other evidence of written Parthian has also been found outside Parthia; the most important of these being the part of a land-sale document found at Avroman (in the Kermanshah province of Iran), and more ostraca, graffiti and the fragment of a business letter found at Dura-Europos in present-day Syria.

The Parthian Arsacids do not seem to have used Parthian until relatively late, and the language first appears on Arsacid coinage during the reign of Vologases I (51–58 AD). Evidence that use of Parthian was nonetheless widespread comes from early Sassanid times; the declarations of the early Persian kings were – in addition to their native Middle Persian – also inscribed in Parthian.

 

 



Society and Cities

Society and Cities (W)

City-states of "some considerable size" existed in Parthia as early as the 1st millennium BC, "and not just from the time of the Achaemenids or Seleucids." However, for the most part, society was rural, and dominated by large landholders with large numbers of serfs, slaves, and other indentured labor at their disposal. Communities with free peasants also existed.

By Arsacid times, Parthian society was divided into the four classes (limited to freemen). At the top were the kings and near family members of the king. These were followed by the lesser nobility and the general priesthood, followed by the mercantile class and lower-ranking civil servants, and with farmers and herdsmen at the bottom.

Little is known of the Parthian economy, but agriculture must have played the most important role in it. Significant trade first occurs with the establishment of the Silk road in 114 BC, when Hecatompylos became an important junction.

Parthian cities

Nisa (Nissa, Nusay) or Mithridatkirt, located on a main trade route, was one of the earliest capitals of the Parthian Empire (c. 250 BC). The city is located in the northern foothills of the Kopetdag mountains, 11 miles west of present-day Ashgabat city (capital of Turkmenistan). Nisa had a “soaring two-story hall in the Hellenistic Greek style” and temple complexes used by early Arsaces dynasty. During the reign of Mithridates I of Parthia (c. 171-138 BC) it was renamed Mithradatkirt ("fortress of Mithradates").

Merv (modern-day Mary) was another Parthian city.

 

 




  Parthian Empire (Arsacid Empire) (247 BC-224 AD)

Parthian Empire

Parthian Empire (247 BC-224 AD) (W)


The Parthian Empire at its greatest extent


The Parthian Empire (247 BC-224 AD), also known as the Arsacid Empire was a major Iranian political and cultural power in ancient Iran. Its latter name comes from Arsaces I of Parthia who, as leader of the Parni tribe, founded it in the mid-3rd century BC when he conquered the region of Parthia in Iran's northeast, then a satrapy (province) under Andragoras, in rebellion against the Seleucid Empire. Mithridates I of Parthia (r. c. 171-138 BC) greatly expanded the empire by seizing Media and Mesopotamia from the Seleucids. At its height, the Parthian Empire stretched from the northern reaches of the Euphrates, in what is now central-eastern Turkey, to eastern Iran. The empire, located on the Silk Road trade route between the Roman Empire in the Mediterranean Basin and the Han Empire of China, became a center of trade and commerce.

The Parthians largely adopted the art, architecture, religious beliefs, and royal insignia of their culturally heterogeneous empire, which encompassed Persian, Hellenistic, and regional cultures. For about the first half of its existence, the Arsacid court adopted elements of Greek culture, though it eventually saw a gradual revival of Iranian traditions. The Arsacid rulers were titled the “King of Kings,” as a claim to be the heirs to the Achaemenid Empire; indeed, they accepted many local kings as vassals where the Achaemenids would have had centrally appointed, albeit largely autonomous, satraps. The court did appoint a small number of satraps, largely outside Iran, but these satrapies were smaller and less powerful than the Achaemenid potentates. With the expansion of Arsacid power, the seat of central government shifted from Nisa to Ctesiphon along the Tigris (south of modern Baghdad, Iraq), although several other sites also served as capitals.

The earliest enemies of the Parthians were the Seleucids in the west and the Scythians in the east. However, as Parthia expanded westward, they came into conflict with the Kingdom of Armenia, and eventually the late Roman Republic. Rome and Parthia competed with each other to establish the kings of Armenia as their subordinate clients. The Parthians soundly defeated Marcus Licinius Crassus at the Battle of Carrhae in 53 BC, and in 40-39 BC, Parthian forces captured the whole of the Levant except Tyre from the Romans. However, Mark Antony led a counterattack against Parthia, although his successes were generally achieved in his absence, under the leadership of his lieutenant Ventidius. Also, various Roman emperors or their appointed generals invaded Mesopotamia in the course of the several Roman-Parthian Wars which ensued during the next few centuries. The Romans captured the cities of Seleucia and Ctesiphon on multiple occasions during these conflicts, but were never able to hold on to them. Frequent civil wars between Parthian contenders to the throne proved more dangerous to the Empire's stability than foreign invasion, and Parthian power evaporated when Ardashir I, ruler of Istakhr in Persis, revolted against the Arsacids and killed their last ruler, Artabanus V, in 224 AD. Ardashir established the Sassanid Empire, which ruled Iran and much of the Near East until the Muslim conquests of the 7th century AD, although the Arsacid dynasty lived on through the Arsacid Dynasty of Armenia, the Arsacid dynasty of Iberia, and the Arsacid Dynasty of Caucasian Albania; all eponymous branches of the Parthian Arsacids.

Native Parthian sources, written in Parthian, Greek and other languages, are scarce when compared to Sassanid and even earlier Achaemenid sources. Aside from scattered cuneiform tablets, fragmentary ostraca, rock inscriptions, drachma coins, and the chance survival of some parchment documents, much of Parthian history is only known through external sources. These include mainly Greek and Roman histories, but also Chinese histories, prompted by the Han Chinese desire to form alliances against the Xiongnu. Parthian artwork is viewed by historians as a valid source for understanding aspects of society and culture that are otherwise absent in textual sources.


 



 

📹 Trajan / The Parthian Wars 113AD-117AD (VİDEO)

Trajan / The Parthian Wars 113AD-117AD (LINK)

After Trajan success in Dacia, a new threat from the east — the Parthians challenged the might of ROME by overthrowing a pro-Roman king in Armenia in the year 113AD without consulting Rome. This has led Trajan to wage war against the Parthians.

 









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