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The Parthian Empire

Parthian Empire


The Parthian Empire (which lasted from 247 BC to 224 AD),was a powerful middle eastern Empire. At its height, the Parthian Empire included most of present day Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, and parts of Turkey and Syria, and the Gulf States and sections of eastern Saudi Arabia.

Wealthy and expansionist, the Parthian Empire soon came into conflict with the expanding Roman Republic and the two empires fought several wars in the Middle East. An attempt by the Romans to conquer the Parthian provinces in modern Iraq was soundly defeated when the Roman army under Crassus was crushed at the Battle of Carrhae. This was followed by a Parthian attempt to conquer most of the Levant area, namely modern day Syria, Turkey, Lebanon, Israel and Jordan.

The Parthian advance was initially successful but was eventually beaten back by Roman Legions commanded by Mark Anthony. Eventually the two great powers settled into an uneasy peace marked by occasional conflicts and proxy wars involving client states, particularly the Kingdom of Armenia. This peace was broken by occasional wars over the centuries, some of which ended in Roman successes while at times Rome was the victor. Neither side was able to conclusively defeat the other.

Internal strife eventually led to the fall of the Parthian Empire around 224 AD, which was replaced by the Persian Sassanian Empire. This empire would continue to be a thorn in Rome's side for about 400 years. In the Byzantine-Sassanian war of 602-628 AD, the Sassanians successfully invaded the eastern Roman Empire and conquered Syria, Lebanon, Egypt, and much of Turkey. They were beaten back by the Romans but the war left the Roman empire exhausted and easy prey to the invading Muslim armies who invaded in their turn shortly thereafter.

Parthian Coin

It can be said that the Parthian Empire played a pivotal role in the history of the Roman Empire as well as the world; first by stopping the Roman Empire's eastern expansion, secondly by tying down much of its military strength which could have been used instead on the German frontier, and finally by weakening the empire and paving the way for the Muslim conquest.

More About the Parthian Empire and its Conflicts with the Roman Empire



  • CHAPTER I. -- Geography of Parthia Proper, Character of the Region, Climate, Character of the Surrounding Countries.

  • CHAPTER II. -- Early notices of the Parthians. Their Ethnic character and connections. Their position under the Persian Monarchs, from Cyrus the Great to Darius III. (Codomannus.)

  • CHAPTER III. -- Condition of Western Asia under the earlier Seleucidce. Revolts of Bactria and Parthia. Conflicting accounts of the establishment of the Parthian Kingdom. First War with Syria.

  • CHAPTER IV. -- Consolidation of the Parthian Kingdom. Death of Tiridates and accession of Arsaces III. Attack on Media. War of Artabanus (Arsaces III.) with Antiochus the Great. Period of inaction. Great development of Bactrian power. Reigns of Priapatius (Arsaces IV.) and Phraates I. (Arsaces V.)

  • CHAPTER V. -- Reign of Mithridates I. Position of Bactria and Syria at his accession. His first war with Bactria. His great Expedition against the Eastern Syrian provinces, and its results. His second war with Bactria, terminating in its conquest. Extent of his Empire. Attempt of Demetrius Nicator to recover the lost Provinces fails. Captivity of Demetrius. Death of Mithridates.

  • CHAPTER VI. -- System of government established by Mithridates I. Constitution of the Parthians. Government of the Provinces. Laws and Institutions. Character of Mithridates I.

  • CHAPTER VII. -- Reign of Phraates II. Expedition of Antiochus Sidetes against Parthia. Release of Demetrius. Defeat and Death of Sidetes. War of Phraates with the Northern Nomads. His death and character.

  • CHAPTER VIII. -- Accession of Artabanus II. Position of Parthia. Growing pressure upon her, and general advance towards the south, of the Saka or Scyths. Causes and extent of the movement. Character and principal tribes of the Saka. Scythic war of Artabanus. His death.

  • CHAPTER IX. -- Accession of Mithridates II. Termination of the Scythic Wars. Commencement of the struggle with Armenia. Previous history of Armenia. Result of the first Armenian War. First contact of Rome with Parthia. Attitude of Rome towards the East at this time. Second Armenian War. Death of Mithridates.

  • CHAPTER X. -- Dark period of Parthian History. Doubtful succession of the Monarchs. Accession of Sanatrceces, ab. B.C. 76. Position of Parthia during the Mithridatic Wars. Accession of Phraates III. His relations with Pompey. His death. Civil War between his two sons, Mithridates and Orodes. Death of Mithridates

  • CHAPTER XI. -- Accession of Orodes I. Roman Expedition of Crassus. His fate. Retaliatory inroad of the Parthians into Syria under Pacorus, the son of Orodes. Defeat of Pacorus by Cassius. His recall. End of the first War with Rome.

  • CHAPTER XII. -- Relations of Orodes with Pompey, and with Brutus and Cassius. Second War with Rome. Great Parthian Expedition against Syria, Palestine, and Asia Minor. Defeat of Saxa. Occupation of Antioch and Jerusalem. Parthians driven out of Syria by Ventidius. Death of Pacorus. Death of Orodes

  • CHAPTER XIII. -- Reign of Phraates IV. His cruelties. Flight of Monceses to Antony. Antony's great Parthian Expedition, or Invasion of Media Atropatene. Its Complete Failure. Subsequent Alliance of the Median King with Antony. War between Parthia and Media. Rebellion raised against Phraates by Tiridates. Phraates expelled. He recovers his Throne with the help of the Scythians. His dealings with Augustus. His death and Character.

  • CHAPTER XIV. -- Short reigns of Phraataces, Orodes II., and Vonones I. Accession of Artabanus III. His relations with Germanicus and Tiberius. His War with Pharasmanes of Iberia. His First Expulsion from his Kingdom, and return to it. His peace with Rome. Internal troubles of the Parthian Kingdom. Second Expulsion and return of Artabanus. His Death.

  • CHAPTER XV. -- Doubts as to the successor of Artabanus III. First short reign of Gotarzes. He is expelled and Vardanes made king. Reign of Vardanes. His ivar with Izates. His Death. Second reign of Gotarzes. His Contest with his Nephew, Meherdates. His Death. Short and inglorious reign of Vonones II.

  • CHAPTER XVI. -- Reign of Volagases I. His first attempt on Armenia fails. His quarrel with Izates. Invasion of Parthia Proper by the Dahce and Sacce. Second attack of Volagases on Armenia. Tiridates established as King. First expedition of Corbulo. Half submission of Volagases. Revolt of Vardanes. Second expedition of Corbulo. Armenia given to Tigranes. Revolt of Hyrcania. Third attack of Volagases on Armenia. Defeat of Paitus, and re-establishment of Tiridates. Last expedition of Corbulo, and arrangement of Terms of Peace. Tiridates at Rome. Probable time of the Death of Volagases.

  • CHAPTER XVII. -- Results of the Establishment of Tiridates in Armenia. Long period of Peace between Parthia and Rome. Obscurity of Parthian History at this time. Relations of Volagases I. with Vespasian. Invasion of Western Asia by Alani. Death of Volagases I. and Character of his Reign. Accession and Long Reign of Pacorus. Relations of Pacorus with Decebalus of Dacia. Internal Condition of Parthia during his Reign. Death of Pacorus and Accession of Chosroes.

  • CHAPTER XVIII. -- Reign of Chosroes. General condition of Oriental Affairs gives a handle to Trajan. Trajan's Schemes of Conquest. Embassy of Chosroes to Trajan fails. Great Expedition of Trajan. Campaign of A. D. 115. Campaign of A.D. 116. Death of Trajan, and relinquishment of his Parthian Conquests by Hadrian. Interview of Chosroes with Hadrian. Its Consequences. Death of Chosroes and Accession of Volagases II.

  • CHAPTER XIX. -- Reign of Volagases II. Invasion of the Alani. Communications between Volagases and Antoninus Pius. Death of Volagases II. and Accession of Volagases III. Aggressive War of Volagases III. on Rome. Campaign of A.D. 162. Verus sent to the East. Sequel of the War. Losses suffered by Parthia. Death of Volagases III.

  • CHAPTER XX. -- Accession of Volagases IV. His Alliance sought by Pescennius Niger, Part taken by Parthia in the Contest between Niger and Severus, Mesopotamia revolts from Rome. First Eastern Expedition of Severus. Its Results. Second Expedition. Successes of Severus. His Failure at Hatra. General Results of the War. Death of Volagases IV.

  • CHAPTER XXI. -- Struggle between the two Sons of Volagases IV., Volagases V. and Artabanus. Continued Sovereignty of both Princes. Ambition of Caracallus. His Proceedings in the East. His Resolve to quarrel with Parthia. First Proposal made by him to Artabanus. Perplexity of Artabanus. Caracallus invades Parthia. His Successes, and Death. Macrinus, defeated by Artabanus, consents to Terms of Peace. Revolt of the Persians under Artaxerxes. Prolonged Struggle. Death of Artabanus, and Downfall of the Parthian Empire.

  • CHAPTER XXII. -- Art in the Parthian Empire

  • CHAPTER XXIII. -- Social Customs and Culture of the Parthians

More About the Parthian Empire and its Conflicts with the Roman Empire



  • CHAPTER I. -- Geography of Parthia Proper, Character of the Region, Climate, Character of the Surrounding Countries.

  • CHAPTER II. -- Early notices of the Parthians. Their Ethnic character and connections. Their position under the Persian Monarchs, from Cyrus the Great to Darius III. (Codomannus.)

  • CHAPTER III. -- Condition of Western Asia under the earlier Seleucidce. Revolts of Bactria and Parthia. Conflicting accounts of the establishment of the Parthian Kingdom. First War with Syria.

  • CHAPTER IV. -- Consolidation of the Parthian Kingdom. Death of Tiridates and accession of Arsaces III. Attack on Media. War of Artabanus (Arsaces III.) with Antiochus the Great. Period of inaction. Great development of Bactrian power. Reigns of Priapatius (Arsaces IV.) and Phraates I. (Arsaces V.)

  • CHAPTER V. -- Reign of Mithridates I. Position of Bactria and Syria at his accession. His first war with Bactria. His great Expedition against the Eastern Syrian provinces, and its results. His second war with Bactria, terminating in its conquest. Extent of his Empire. Attempt of Demetrius Nicator to recover the lost Provinces fails. Captivity of Demetrius. Death of Mithridates.

  • CHAPTER VI. -- System of government established by Mithridates I. Constitution of the Parthians. Government of the Provinces. Laws and Institutions. Character of Mithridates I.

  • CHAPTER VII. -- Reign of Phraates II. Expedition of Antiochus Sidetes against Parthia. Release of Demetrius. Defeat and Death of Sidetes. War of Phraates with the Northern Nomads. His death and character.

  • CHAPTER VIII. -- Accession of Artabanus II. Position of Parthia. Growing pressure upon her, and general advance towards the south, of the Saka or Scyths. Causes and extent of the movement. Character and principal tribes of the Saka. Scythic war of Artabanus. His death.

  • CHAPTER IX. -- Accession of Mithridates II. Termination of the Scythic Wars. Commencement of the struggle with Armenia. Previous history of Armenia. Result of the first Armenian War. First contact of Rome with Parthia. Attitude of Rome towards the East at this time. Second Armenian War. Death of Mithridates.

  • CHAPTER X. -- Dark period of Parthian History. Doubtful succession of the Monarchs. Accession of Sanatrceces, ab. B.C. 76. Position of Parthia during the Mithridatic Wars. Accession of Phraates III. His relations with Pompey. His death. Civil War between his two sons, Mithridates and Orodes. Death of Mithridates

  • CHAPTER XI. -- Accession of Orodes I. Roman Expedition of Crassus. His fate. Retaliatory inroad of the Parthians into Syria under Pacorus, the son of Orodes. Defeat of Pacorus by Cassius. His recall. End of the first War with Rome.

  • CHAPTER XII. -- Relations of Orodes with Pompey, and with Brutus and Cassius. Second War with Rome. Great Parthian Expedition against Syria, Palestine, and Asia Minor. Defeat of Saxa. Occupation of Antioch and Jerusalem. Parthians driven out of Syria by Ventidius. Death of Pacorus. Death of Orodes

  • CHAPTER XIII. -- Reign of Phraates IV. His cruelties. Flight of Monceses to Antony. Antony's great Parthian Expedition, or Invasion of Media Atropatene. Its Complete Failure. Subsequent Alliance of the Median King with Antony. War between Parthia and Media. Rebellion raised against Phraates by Tiridates. Phraates expelled. He recovers his Throne with the help of the Scythians. His dealings with Augustus. His death and Character.

  • CHAPTER XIV. -- Short reigns of Phraataces, Orodes II., and Vonones I. Accession of Artabanus III. His relations with Germanicus and Tiberius. His War with Pharasmanes of Iberia. His First Expulsion from his Kingdom, and return to it. His peace with Rome. Internal troubles of the Parthian Kingdom. Second Expulsion and return of Artabanus. His Death.

  • CHAPTER XV. -- Doubts as to the successor of Artabanus III. First short reign of Gotarzes. He is expelled and Vardanes made king. Reign of Vardanes. His ivar with Izates. His Death. Second reign of Gotarzes. His Contest with his Nephew, Meherdates. His Death. Short and inglorious reign of Vonones II.

  • CHAPTER XVI. -- Reign of Volagases I. His first attempt on Armenia fails. His quarrel with Izates. Invasion of Parthia Proper by the Dahce and Sacce. Second attack of Volagases on Armenia. Tiridates established as King. First expedition of Corbulo. Half submission of Volagases. Revolt of Vardanes. Second expedition of Corbulo. Armenia given to Tigranes. Revolt of Hyrcania. Third attack of Volagases on Armenia. Defeat of Paitus, and re-establishment of Tiridates. Last expedition of Corbulo, and arrangement of Terms of Peace. Tiridates at Rome. Probable time of the Death of Volagases.

  • CHAPTER XVII. -- Results of the Establishment of Tiridates in Armenia. Long period of Peace between Parthia and Rome. Obscurity of Parthian History at this time. Relations of Volagases I. with Vespasian. Invasion of Western Asia by Alani. Death of Volagases I. and Character of his Reign. Accession and Long Reign of Pacorus. Relations of Pacorus with Decebalus of Dacia. Internal Condition of Parthia during his Reign. Death of Pacorus and Accession of Chosroes.

  • CHAPTER XVIII. -- Reign of Chosroes. General condition of Oriental Affairs gives a handle to Trajan. Trajan's Schemes of Conquest. Embassy of Chosroes to Trajan fails. Great Expedition of Trajan. Campaign of A. D. 115. Campaign of A.D. 116. Death of Trajan, and relinquishment of his Parthian Conquests by Hadrian. Interview of Chosroes with Hadrian. Its Consequences. Death of Chosroes and Accession of Volagases II.

  • CHAPTER XIX. -- Reign of Volagases II. Invasion of the Alani. Communications between Volagases and Antoninus Pius. Death of Volagases II. and Accession of Volagases III. Aggressive War of Volagases III. on Rome. Campaign of A.D. 162. Verus sent to the East. Sequel of the War. Losses suffered by Parthia. Death of Volagases III.

  • CHAPTER XX. -- Accession of Volagases IV. His Alliance sought by Pescennius Niger, Part taken by Parthia in the Contest between Niger and Severus, Mesopotamia revolts from Rome. First Eastern Expedition of Severus. Its Results. Second Expedition. Successes of Severus. His Failure at Hatra. General Results of the War. Death of Volagases IV.

  • CHAPTER XXI. -- Struggle between the two Sons of Volagases IV., Volagases V. and Artabanus. Continued Sovereignty of both Princes. Ambition of Caracallus. His Proceedings in the East. His Resolve to quarrel with Parthia. First Proposal made by him to Artabanus. Perplexity of Artabanus. Caracallus invades Parthia. His Successes, and Death. Macrinus, defeated by Artabanus, consents to Terms of Peace. Revolt of the Persians under Artaxerxes. Prolonged Struggle. Death of Artabanus, and Downfall of the Parthian Empire.

  • CHAPTER XXII. -- Art in the Parthian Empire

  • CHAPTER XXIII. -- Social Customs and Culture of the Parthians



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