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Parthia ( peo, 𐎱𐎼𐎰𐎺 ''Parθava''; xpr, 𐭐𐭓𐭕𐭅 ''Parθaw''; pal, 𐭯𐭫𐭮𐭥𐭡𐭥 ''Pahlaw'') is a historical region located in north-eastern
Iran Iran ( fa, ایران ), also called Persia, and officially the Islamic Republic of Iran, is a country in Western Asia Western Asia, West Asia, or Southwest Asia, is the westernmost subregion A subregion is a part of a larger regio ...

Iran
. It was conquered and subjugated by the empire of the
Medes The Medes ( peo, 𐎶𐎠𐎭 ; akk, , ; grc, Μῆδοι ) were an Iranian peoples, ancient Iranian people who spoke the Median language and who inhabited an area known as Media (region), Media between western Iran, western and nor ...
during the 7th century BC, was incorporated into the subsequent
Achaemenid Empire The Achaemenid Empire (; peo, , translit=Xšāça, translation=The Empire), also called the First Persian Empire, was an ancient based in founded by . Ranging at its greatest extent from the and proper in the west to the in the east, it ...

Achaemenid Empire
under
Cyrus the Great Cyrus II of Persia ( peo, 𐎤𐎢𐎽𐎢𐏁, translit=Kūruš; ; ) commonly known as Cyrus the Great, and also called Cyrus the Elder by the Greeks The Greeks or Hellenes (; el, Έλληνες, ''Éllines'' ) are an ethnic group native ...

Cyrus the Great
in the 6th century BC, and formed part of the
Hellenistic The Hellenistic period spans the period of Mediterranean history The Mediterranean Sea is a sea connected to the Atlantic Ocean, surrounded by the Mediterranean Basin and almost completely enclosed by land: on the north by Western Europe, We ...

Hellenistic
Seleucid Empire The Seleucid Empire (; grc, Βασιλεία τῶν Σελευκιδῶν, ''Basileía tōn Seleukidōn'') was a Greece, Greek state in Western Asia, during the Hellenistic period, Hellenistic Period, that existed from 312 BC to 63 BC. The Sele ...
following the 4th-century-BC conquests of
Alexander the Great Alexander III of Macedon ( grc-gre, Αλέξανδρος}, ; 20/21 July 356 BC – 10/11 June 323 BC), commonly known as Alexander the Great, was a king (') of the kingdom of and a member of the . He was born in in 356 BC and succeeded his ...

Alexander the Great
. The region later served as the political and cultural base of the Eastern-Iranian
Parni The Parni (; grc, Πάρνοι, ''Parnoi'') or Aparni (; Ἄπαρνοι, ''Aparnoi'') were an East Iranian people who lived around the Ochus ( grc, Ὧχος ''Okhos'') (Tejen Tejen (older spellings: Tedzhen, Tejend, Tejent) is an oasis ...
people and Arsacid dynasty, rulers of the
Parthian Empire The Parthian Empire (), also known as the Arsacid Empire (), was a major political and cultural power in from 247 BC to 224 AD. Its latter name comes from its founder, , who led the tribe in conquering the region of in 's northeast, ...

Parthian Empire
(247 BC – 224 AD). The
Sasanian Empire The Sasanian () or Sassanid Empire, officially known as the Empire of Iranians (, ''Iran (word), Ērānshahr''), and also called the Neo-Persian Empire by historians, was the last Persian Empire, Persian imperial dynasty before the spread of I ...

Sasanian Empire
, the last state of
pre-Islamic Iran
pre-Islamic Iran
, also held the region and maintained the
Seven Parthian clansThe Seven Great Houses of Iran, also known as the seven Parthian clans, were seven feudal aristocracies of Parthian origin, who were allied with the Sasanian Empire, Sasanian court. The seven great houses of Iran had played an active role in Iranian ...
as part of their feudal aristocracy.


Name

The name "Parthia" is a continuation from
Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language A classical language is a language A language is a structured system of communication Communication (from Latin ''communicare'', meaning "to share" or "to be in relation with") is "an appa ...
', from
Old Persian Old Persian is one of the two directly attested Old Iranian languages The Iranian or Iranic languages are a branch of the Indo-Iranian languagesIndo-Iranian may refer to: * Indo-Iranian languages * Indo-Iranians, the various peoples speaking ...
', which was the
Parthian language The Parthian language, also known as Arsacid Pahlavi and Pahlawānīg, is an extinct ancient Northwestern Iranian language spoken in Parthia, a region situated in present-day northeastern Iran and Turkmenistan. Parthian was the language of state o ...
self-designator signifying "of the Parthians" who were an
Iranian Iranian may refer to: * Iran Iran ( fa, ایران ), also called Persia and officially the Islamic Republic of Iran ( fa, جمهوری اسلامی ایران ), is a country in Western Asia. It is bordered to the northwest by Armenia ...
people. In context to its
Hellenistic period The Hellenistic period covers the period of Mediterranean history between the death of Alexander the Great in 323 BC and the emergence of the Roman Empire, as signified by the Battle of Actium in 31 BC and the conquest of Ptolemaic ...
, ''Parthia'' also appears as ''Parthyaea''. Parthia was known as ''Pahlaw'' in the Middle Persian sources of the Sasanian period, and ''Pahla'' or ''Fahla'' by later Islamic authors.


Geography

The original location of Parthia roughly corresponds to a region in northeastern Iran, though part is in Southern
Turkmenistan Turkmenistan ( or ; tk, Türkmenistan, ), also known as Turkmenia, is a Landlocked country, landlocked country in Central Asia, bordered by Kazakhstan to the Kazakhstan-Turkmenistan border, northwest, Uzbekistan to the Turkmenistan–Uzbekista ...

Turkmenistan
. It was bordered by the
Kopet Dag The Köpet Dag, Kopet Dagh, or Koppeh Dagh ( tk, Köpetdag; fa, کپه‌داغ), also known as the Turkmen-Khorasan Mountain Range, is a mountain range on the border between Turkmenistan and Iran Iran ( fa, ایران ), also called ...
mountain range in the north, and the
Dasht-e-Kavir Dasht-e Kavir ( fa, دشت كوير, lit=Low Plains in classical Persian, from ''khwar'' (low), and ''dasht'' (plain, flatland), also known as Kavir-e Namak () and the Great Salt Desert, is a large desert lying in the middle of the Iranian Platea ...
desert in the south. It bordered
Media Media may refer to: Physical means Communication * Media (communication), tools used to deliver information or data ** Advertising media, various media, content, buying and placement for advertising ** Broadcast media, communications deliv ...
on the west,
Hyrcania Hyrcania () ( el, ''Hyrkania'', Old Persian: 𐎺𐎼𐎣𐎠𐎴 ''Varkâna'',Lendering (1996) Middle Persian: 𐭢𐭥𐭫𐭢𐭠𐭭 ''Gurgān'', Akkadian (language), Akkadian: ''Urqananu'') is a historical region composed of the land south ...
on the north west,
Margiana Margiana ( el, ''Margianḗ'', Old Persian: ''Marguš'', Middle Persian: ''Marv'') is a historical region centred on the oasis of Merv and was a minor satrapy within the Achaemenid Empire, Achaemenid satrapy of Bactria (satrapy), Bactria, and a ...
on the northeast, and
Aria In music, an aria (; it, Air (music), air, links=no; plural: ''arie'' , or ''arias'' in common usage, diminutive form arietta , plural ariette, or in English simply air) is a self-contained piece for one voice, with or without instrument (music ...
on the east. During Arsacid times, Parthia was united with
Hyrcania Hyrcania () ( el, ''Hyrkania'', Old Persian: 𐎺𐎼𐎣𐎠𐎴 ''Varkâna'',Lendering (1996) Middle Persian: 𐭢𐭥𐭫𐭢𐭠𐭭 ''Gurgān'', Akkadian (language), Akkadian: ''Urqananu'') is a historical region composed of the land south ...
as one administrative unit, and that region is therefore often (subject to context) considered a part of Parthia proper. By the early Sasanian period, Parthia was located in the central part of the Iranian plateau, neighboring
Pars Pars may refer to: * Fars Province Fars Province (; fa, استان فارس, , ), also known as Pars (, ) as well as Persis and Persia, is one of the thirty-one provinces of Iran Iran is subdivided into thirty-one province, provinces ( f ...
to the south,
Khuzistan Khuzestan Province ( fa, استان خوزستان ''Ostān-e Khūzestān'') is one of the 31 provinces of Iran Iran is subdivided into thirty-one province, provinces ( fa, استان ''Ostān''), each governed from a local centre, usually ...
to the south-west,
Media Media may refer to: Physical means Communication * Media (communication), tools used to deliver information or data ** Advertising media, various media, content, buying and placement for advertising ** Broadcast media, communications deliv ...
to the north-west, the Alborz Mountains to the north,
Abarshahr Abarshahr was a Sasanian province in Late Antiquity, that lay within the kust of Khorasan. The province bordered Media (region), Media in the west, Hyrcania in the north west, Margiana in the north east, and Harev (province), Harev in the south e ...
to the north-east, and
Kirman Kerman ( fa, ; also as Kermān, Kermun, and Karmana), known in ancient times as the of Carmania, is the of , . At the 2011 census, its population was 821,394, in 221,389 households, making it the 10th most populous city of Iran. It is the lar ...
to the east. In the late Sasanian era, Parthia came to embrace not only central and north-central Iran, but extended to the western parts of the plateau as well. In the Islamic era, Parthia was believed to be located in central and western Iran. Ibn al-Muqaffa considered Parthia as encompassing the regions of
Isfahan Isfahan ( fa, اصفهان, Esfahān ), from its Achaemenid empire, ancient designation ''Aspadana'' and later ''Spahan'' in Sassanian Empire, middle Persian, rendered in English as ''Ispahan'', is a major city in Greater Isfahan Region, Is ...

Isfahan
,
Ray Ray may refer to: Science and mathematics * Ray (geometry), half of a line proceeding from an initial point * Ray (graph theory), an infinite sequence of vertices such that each vertex appears at most once in the sequence and each two consecutive ...
, Hamadan, Mah-i Nihawand and
Azerbaijan Azerbaijan (, ; az, Azərbaycan ), officially the Republic of Azerbaijan ( az, Azərbaycan Respublikası ), is a country in the Transcaucasia, Caucasus region of Eurasia. Located at the crossroads of Eastern Europe and Western Asia, it is boun ...

Azerbaijan
. The same definition is found in the works of and
Hamza al-IsfahaniHamza ibn al-Hasan bnal-Mu'addib al-Isfahani ( ar, حمزه الاصفهانی) (ca. 893-after 961) was a Persian philologist and historian. A Persian nationalist with strong prejudices against Arabs, he spent most of his life in his native town, ...
.
Al-Dinawari Abū Ḥanīfah Aḥmad ibn Dāwūd Dīnawarī (815–896 CE, Kurdish languages, Kurdish: Dînewerî; fa, ابوحنيفه دينوری) was an Iranian peoples, Iranian Islamic Golden Age polymath, Islamic astronomy, astronomer, Muslim Agricult ...
, while not using the word Parthia, considered
Jibal Jibāl ( ar, جبال), also al-Jabal ( ar, الجبل), was the name given by the Arabs The Arabs (singular Arab ; singular ar, عَرَبِيٌّ, : , Arabic pronunciation: , plural ar, عَرَبٌ, : , Arabic pronunciation: ) are an ma ...

Jibal
to be the realm of the last Parthian king,


History


Under the Achaemenids

As the region inhabited by Parthians, Parthia first appears as a political entity in
Achaemenid The Achaemenid Empire (; peo, 𐎧𐏁𐏂, translit=Xšāça, translation=The Empire), also called the First Persian Empire, was an ancient Iranian empire An empire is a sovereign state consisting of several territories and peoples subj ...
lists of governorates ("satrapies") under their dominion. Prior to this, the people of the region seem to have been subjects of the
Medes The Medes ( peo, 𐎶𐎠𐎭 ; akk, , ; grc, Μῆδοι ) were an Iranian peoples, ancient Iranian people who spoke the Median language and who inhabited an area known as Media (region), Media between western Iran, western and nor ...
, and 7th century BC Assyrian texts mention a country named Partakka or Partukka (though this "need not have coincided topographically with the later Parthia"). A year after
Cyrus the Great Cyrus II of Persia ( peo, 𐎤𐎢𐎽𐎢𐏁, translit=Kūruš; ; ) commonly known as Cyrus the Great, and also called Cyrus the Elder by the Greeks The Greeks or Hellenes (; el, Έλληνες, ''Éllines'' ) are an ethnic group native ...

Cyrus the Great
's defeat of the Median
Astyages Astyages (Median language, Median: wiktionary:Reconstruction:Old Median/R̥štivaigah, ''R̥štivaigah''; Akkadian language, Babylonian: ''Ištumegu''; spelled by Herodotus as ''Astyages'', by Ctesias as ''Astyigas'', by Diodorus as ''Aspadas'') ...

Astyages
, Parthia became one of the first provinces to acknowledge Cyrus as their ruler, "and this allegiance secured Cyrus' eastern flanks and enabled him to conduct the first of his imperial campaigns – against
Sardis Sardis () or Sardes (; Lydian: 𐤮𐤱𐤠𐤭𐤣 ''Sfard''; grc, Σάρδεις ''Sardeis''; peo, Sparda; hbo, ספרד ''Sfarad'') was an ancient city at the location of modern ''Sart'' (Sartmahmut before 19 October 2005), near Salihli, ...

Sardis
." According to Greek sources, following the seizure of the Achaemenid throne by
Darius I Darius I ( peo, wiktionary:𐎭𐎠𐎼𐎹𐎺𐎢𐏁, 𐎭𐎠𐎼𐎹𐎺𐎢𐏁 ; New Persian: ''Dāryuš''; grc, wiktionary:Δαρεῖος, Δαρεῖος ; ; c. 550 – 486 BCE), commonly known as Darius the Great, was the third List ...
, the Parthians united with the Median king Phraortes to revolt against him. Hystaspes, the Achaemenid governor of the province (said to be father of Darius I), managed to suppress the revolt, which seems to have occurred around 522–521 BC. The first indigenous Iranian mention of Parthia is in the
Behistun inscription The Behistun Inscription (also Bisotun, Bistun or Bisutun; fa, بیستون, Old Persian Old Persian is one of the two directly attested Old Iranian languages (the other being Avestan language, Avestan) and it is the ancestor of Middle Persian ...
of
Darius I Darius I ( peo, wiktionary:𐎭𐎠𐎼𐎹𐎺𐎢𐏁, 𐎭𐎠𐎼𐎹𐎺𐎢𐏁 ; New Persian: ''Dāryuš''; grc, wiktionary:Δαρεῖος, Δαρεῖος ; ; c. 550 – 486 BCE), commonly known as Darius the Great, was the third List ...
, where Parthia is listed (in the typical Iranian clockwise order) among the governorates in the vicinity of
Drangiana Drangiana or Zarangiana ( el, Δραγγιανή, ''Drangianē''; also attested in Old Persian language, Old Western Iranian as Wikt:𐏀𐎼𐎣, 𐏀𐎼𐎣, ''Zraka'' or ''Zranka'', was a historical region and administrative division of the Ac ...
. The inscription dates to c. 520 BC. The center of the administration "may have been at hat would later be known as Hecatompylus". The Parthians also appear in Herodotus' list of peoples subject to the Achaemenids; the historiographer treats the Parthians, Chorasmians, Sogdians and Areioi as peoples of a single satrapy (the 16th), whose annual tribute to the king he states to be only 300 talents of silver. This "has rightly caused disquiet to modern scholars." At the
Battle of Gaugamela The Battle of Gaugamela (; el, Γαυγάμηλα), also called the Battle of Arbela ( el, Ἄρβηλα), was the decisive battle of Alexander the Great Alexander III of Macedon ( grc-gre, Αλέξανδρος}, ; 20/21 July 356 BC – 10/ ...

Battle of Gaugamela
in 331 BC between the forces of Darius III and those of
Alexander the Great Alexander III of Macedon ( grc-gre, Αλέξανδρος}, ; 20/21 July 356 BC – 10/11 June 323 BC), commonly known as Alexander the Great, was a king (') of the kingdom of and a member of the . He was born in in 356 BC and succeeded his ...

Alexander the Great
, one such Parthian unit was commanded by
PhrataphernesPhrataphernes (Median language, Median: ''Fratafarnah'', grc, Φραταφέρνης; lived 4th century BC) was a Persian who held the government of Parthia and Hyrcania, under the king Darius III of Persia, Darius III Codomannus, and joined that mo ...
, who was at the time Achaemenid governor of Parthia. Following the defeat of Darius III, Phrataphernes surrendered his governorate to Alexander when the Macedonian arrived there in the summer of 330 BC. Phrataphernes was reappointed governor by Alexander.


Under the Seleucids

Following the death of Alexander, in the
Partition of Babylon The Partition of Babylon was the first of the conferences and ensuing agreements that divided the territories of Alexander the Great. It was held at Babylon in June 323 BC. Alexander’s death at the age of 32 had left an empire that stretched from ...
in 323 BC, Parthia became a
Seleucid The Seleucid Empire (; grc, Βασιλεία τῶν Σελευκιδῶν, ''Basileía tōn Seleukidōn'') was a Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially the Hell ...
governorate under Nicanor. Phrataphernes, the former governor, became governor of
Hyrcania Hyrcania () ( el, ''Hyrkania'', Old Persian: 𐎺𐎼𐎣𐎠𐎴 ''Varkâna'',Lendering (1996) Middle Persian: 𐭢𐭥𐭫𐭢𐭠𐭭 ''Gurgān'', Akkadian (language), Akkadian: ''Urqananu'') is a historical region composed of the land south ...
. In 320 BC, at the
Partition of Triparadisus The Partition of Triparadisus was a power-sharing agreement passed at Triparadisus in 321 BC between the generals (''Diadochi'') of Alexander the Great, in which they named a new regent and arranged the repartition of the satrapies of Alexander's e ...
, Parthia was reassigned to
Philip Philip, also Phillip, is a male given name, derived from the Greek language, Greek (''Philippos'', lit. "horse-loving" or "fond of horses"), from a compound of (''philos'', "dear", "loved", "loving") and (''hippos'', "horse"). Prominent Philip ...
, former governor of
Sogdiana Sogdia () ( sog, soɣd) or Sogdiana was an ancient Iranian peoples, Iranian civilization between between the Amu Darya and the Syr Darya, and in present-day Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan. Sogdiana was also a province of the Ac ...
. A few years later, the province was invaded by
Peithon Peithon or Pithon ( Greek: ''Πείθων'' or ''Πίθων'', c. 355 – c. 314 BC) was the son of Crateuas, a nobleman from Eordaia in western Macedonia. Peithon was of Illyrian origin. He was famous for being one of the bodyguards of Alexa ...
, 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 Seleucus I Nicator (; ; grc-gre, Σέλευκος Νικάτωρ, Séleukos Nikátōr, Seleucus the Victorious) was a Ancient Macedonians, Macedonian Greek general, a Diadochi of Alexander the Great and ultimately king who fought for control over ...
and governor of
Bactria Bactria (BactrianBactrian may refer to *Bactria Bactria ( Bactrian: , ), or Bactriana, was an ancient region in Central Asia Central Asia is a region in Asia which stretches from the Caspian Sea in the west to China and Mongolia in the ...
(and, it seems, also of
Aria In music, an aria (; it, Air (music), air, links=no; plural: ''arie'' , or ''arias'' in common usage, diminutive form arietta , plural ariette, or in English simply air) is a self-contained piece for one voice, with or without instrument (music ...

Aria
and
Margiana Margiana ( el, ''Margianḗ'', Old Persian: ''Marguš'', Middle Persian: ''Marv'') is a historical region centred on the oasis of Merv and was a minor satrapy within the Achaemenid Empire, Achaemenid satrapy of Bactria (satrapy), Bactria, and a ...
) 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 egy, Iwaennetjerwysenwy Sekhemankhre Setepamun Clayton (2006) p. 208 , predecessor = Ptolemy II , successor = Ptolemy IV , nebty = ''ḳn nḏtj-nṯrw jnb-mnḫ-n-tꜢmrj'Qen nedjtinetjeru inebmenekhentamery''The brave one wh ...
seized control of the Seleucid capital at
Antioch Antioch on the Orontes (; grc, Ἀντιόχεια ἡ ἐπὶ Ὀρόντου, ''Antiókheia hē epì Oróntou''; also Syrian Antioch) grc-koi, Ἀντιόχεια ἡ ἐπὶ Ὀρόντου; or Ἀντιόχεια ἡ ἐπὶ Δάφνῃ ...
, 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
ArsacesArsaces or Arsakes (Grecized form of Iranian ''Arsh(a)k'') is the eponymous Greek form of the dynastic name of the Parthian Empire The Parthian Empire (), also known as the Arsacid Empire (), was a major Iranian political and cultural power in an ...
, of
Scythian The Scythians (from grc, Σκύθης , ) or Scyths, also known as Saka and Sakae ( ; egy, 𓋴𓎝𓎡𓈉 The ancient Egyptian Hill-country or "Foreign land" hieroglyph (𓈉) is a member of the sky, earth, and water hieroglyphs. A ...
or Bactrian origin, elected leader of the
Parni The Parni (; grc, Πάρνοι, ''Parnoi'') or Aparni (; Ἄπαρνοι, ''Aparnoi'') were an East Iranian people who lived around the Ochus ( grc, Ὧχος ''Okhos'') (Tejen Tejen (older spellings: Tedzhen, Tejend, Tejent) is an oasis ...
",. an eastern-Iranian peoples from the Tajen/Tajend River valley, south-east of the
Caspian Sea The Caspian Sea (also known as Mazandaran Sea, Hyrcanian Ocean, or Khazar Sea), tk, Hazar deňzi, az, Xəzər Dənizi, russian: Каспийское море, script=Latn, fa, دریای مازندران، دریای خزر, script=Latn, tly, ...

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 A punitive expedition is a military journey undertaken to punish a state or any group of persons outside the borders of the punishing state. It is usually undertaken in response to perceived disobedient or morally wrong behavior, either as reven ...
by the Seleucids under
Seleucus II Seleucus II Callinicus Pogon ( el, ; ''Kallinikos'' means "beautifully triumphant"; ''Pogon'' means "the Beard"; July/August 265 BC – December 225 BC),, . was a ruler of the Hellenistic The Hellenistic period covers the period of Mediterran ...
was not successful, the Seleucids under
Antiochus III Antiochus III the Great (Greek#REDIRECT Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially the Hellenic Republic, is a country located in Southeast Europe. Its population is a ...
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) , that the Arsacids/Parni would again begin to assert their independence..


Under the Arsacids

From their base in Parthia, the eventually extended their dominion to include most of
Greater Iran ( BC) at its greatest extent () File:Achaemenid_(greatest_extent).svg, Achaemenid Empire (550 BC–330 BC) at its greatest extent () Greater Iran ( fa, ایران بزرگ, translit=Irān-e Bozorg) refers to the regions of Western Asia, ...
. They also quickly established several eponymous branches on the thrones of
Armenia Armenia (; hy, Հայաստան, translit=Hayastan, ), officially the Republic of Armenia,, is a landlocked country A landlocked country is a country A country is a distinct territory, territorial body or political entity. It is ...
,
Iberia The Iberian Peninsula , ** * Aragonese language, Aragonese and Occitan language, Occitan: ''Peninsula Iberica'' ** ** * french: Péninsule Ibérique * mwl, Península Eibérica * eu, Iberiar penintsula also known as Iberia, is a penin ...
, and
Caucasian Albania Caucasian Albania is a modern exonym for a former state located in ancient times in the Caucasus: mostly in what is now Azerbaijan (where both of its capitals were located). The modern endonyms for the area are ''Aghwank'' and ''Aluank'', among t ...
. 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 Gorgan ( fa, گرگان ; also romanize Romanization or romanisation, in linguistics Linguistics is the science, scientific study of language. It encompasses the analysis of every aspect of language, as well as the methods for study ...

Gorgan
,
Merv Merv ( tk, Merw, ''Мерв'', مرو; fa, مرو, ''Marv''), also known as the Merve Oasis, formerly known as Alexandria ( el, Ἀλεξάνδρεια), Antiochia in Margiana ( el, Ἀντιόχεια ἡ ἐν τῇ Μαργιανῇ) and ...

Merv
,
Zabol Zabol ( fa, , also transliterated as Zâbol or Zābul) is a city and capital of Zabol County, Sistan and Baluchestan Province, Iran. Zabol is near the Afghanistan–Iran border, border with Afghanistan. Referred to as Sistan until the late 1920s, ...

Zabol
and
Yazd Yazd ( fa, یزد ), formerly also known as Yezd, is the capital of Yazd Province Yazd Province ( fa, استان یزد, ''Ostān-e Yazd'') is one of the 31 provinces of Iran A province is almost always an administrative division within a cou ...

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.. From about 130 BC onwards, Parthia suffered numerous incursions by various nomadic tribes, including the
Sakas The Saka, Śaka, Shaka, Śāka or Sacae ( ; Kharosthi The Kharosthi script, also spelled Kharoshthi or Kharoṣṭhī (Kharosthi: 𐨑𐨪𐨆𐨯𐨠𐨁) was an ancient Indian script used in Gandhara (now Pakistan and north-eastern Af ...
, the
Yuezhi The Yuezhi (, ) were an ancient people first described in Chinese Chinese can refer to: * Something related to China China, officially the People's Republic of China (PRC), is a country in East Asia. It is the List of countries and depe ...
, and the
Massagetae The Massagetae, or Massageteans, (Greek#REDIRECT Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially the Hellenic Republic, is a country located in Southeast Europe. Its popul ...
. Each time, the Arsacid dynasts responded personally, doing so even when there were more severe threats from
Seleucids The Seleucid Empire (; grc, Βασιλεία τῶν Σελευκιδῶν, ''Basileía tōn Seleukidōn'') was a Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially the Hell ...
or
Romans Roman or Romans usually refers to: *Rome , established_title = Founded , established_date = 753 BC , founder = King Romulus , image_map = Map of comune of Rome (metropolitan city of Capital Rome, region Lazio, ...
looming on the western borders of their empire (as was the case for Mithridates I). Defending the empire against the nomads cost
Phraates II Phraates II (also spelled Frahad I; xpr, 𐭐𐭓𐭇𐭕 ''Frahāt'') was king of the Parthian Empire The Parthian Empire (), also known as the Arsacid Empire (), was a major Iranian political and cultural power in ancient Iran The history o ...
and Artabanus I their lives. The Roman
Crassus Marcus Licinius Crassus (; 115 – 53 BC) was a ancient Rome, Roman general and statesman who played a key role in the transformation of the Roman Republic into the Roman Empire. He is often called "the richest man in Rome."Wallechinsky, David & ...

Crassus
attempted to conquer Parthia in 52 BC but was decisively defeated at the
Battle of Carrhae The Battle of Carrhae () was fought in 53 BC between the Roman Republic and the Parthian Empire near the ancient town of Carrhae (present-day Harran, Turkey). The Parthian general Surena decisively defeated a Roman invasion force under the comma ...
.
Caesar Gaius Julius Caesar (; 12 July 100 BC – 15 March 44 BC) was a Roman people, Roman general and statesman. A member of the First Triumvirate, Caesar led the Roman armies in the Gallic Wars before defeating his political rival Pompey Caesar's C ...

Caesar
was planning another invasion when he was assassinated in 44 BC. A long series of Roman-Parthian wars followed. Around 32 BC, civil war broke out when a certain Tiridates rebelled against
Phraates IV Phraates IV (also spelled Frahad IV; xpr, 𐭐𐭓𐭇𐭕 ''Frahāt''), was King of Kings of the Parthian Empire from 37 to 2 BC. He was the son and successor of Orodes II (), and was given the throne after the death of his brother Pacorus I of ...
, 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 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

Parthia was likely the first region conquered by Ardashir I after his victory over Artabanus IV, showing the importance of the province to the founder of the Sasanian dynasty. 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.". Parthia continued to hold importance throughout the 3rd century. In his Ka'be-ye Zardusht inscription
Shapur I Shapur I (also spelled Shabuhr I; pal, 𐭱𐭧𐭯𐭥𐭧𐭥𐭩, Šābuhr ) was the second of . The dating of his reign is disputed, but it is generally agreed that he ruled from 240 to 270, with his father as co-regent until the death ...
lists the province of Parthia in second place after Pars. The Abnun inscription describes the Roman invasion of 243/44 as an attack on Pars and Parthia. Considering the Romans never went further than Mesopotamia, "Pars and Parthia" may stand for the Sasanian Empire itself. Parthia was also the second province chosen for settlement by Roman prisoners of war after the Battle of Edessa in 260.


Language and literature

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 Armenian may refer to: * Something of, from, or related to Armenia, a country in the South Caucasus region of Eurasia * Armenians, the national people of Armenia, or people of Armenian descent ** Armenian language, the Indo-European language spoken ...
( "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 Middle Persian or Pahlavi, also known by its endonym Pārsīk or Pārsīg (𐭯𐭠𐭫𐭮𐭩𐭪) in its later form, is a Western Middle Iranian language which became the literary language of the Sasanian Empire. For some time after the Sasan ...
''Xwaday-namag'', and notably through Firdausi's ''
Shahnameh The ''Shahnameh'' or ''Shahnama'' ( fa, شاهنامه, Šāhnāme ; ) is a long epic poem written by the Persian literature, Persian poet Ferdowsi for Sultan Mahmud of Ghazni between c. 977 and 1010 CE and is the national epic of Greater Iran ...
'',
ere Ere or ERE may refer to: * ''Environmental and Resource Economics ''Environmental and Resource Economics'' (''ERE'') is a peer-reviewed academic journal covering environmental economics published monthly in three volumes per year. It is the offici ...

ere
doubtless not yet wholly lost in the Khurasan of irdausi'sday." 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, Turkmenistan, 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 Iran ( fa, ایران ), also called Persia, and officially the Islamic Republic of Iran, is a country in Western Asia Western Asia, West Asia, or Southwest Asia, is the westernmost subregion A subregion is a part of a larger regio ...

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 Persis, Persian kings were – in addition to their native
Middle Persian Middle Persian or Pahlavi, also known by its endonym Pārsīk or Pārsīg (𐭯𐭠𐭫𐭮𐭩𐭪) in its later form, is a Western Middle Iranian language which became the literary language of the Sasanian Empire. For some time after the Sasan ...
– also inscribed in Parthian. The old poems known as Fahlavīyāt, ''fahlaviyat'' mostly come from the areas which were considered part of Parthia in the Islamic period. These poems have the characteristics of oral literature and may have continued the oral traditions of Parthian minstrels.


Society

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, Turkmenistan, 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 city of Ashgabat (the capital of
Turkmenistan Turkmenistan ( or ; tk, Türkmenistan, ), also known as Turkmenia, is a Landlocked country, landlocked country in Central Asia, bordered by Kazakhstan to the Kazakhstan-Turkmenistan border, northwest, Uzbekistan to the Turkmenistan–Uzbekista ...

Turkmenistan
). Nisa had a "soaring two-story hall in the Hellenistic Greek style" and temple complexes used by early Arsaces I of Parthia, Arsaces dynasty. During the reign of Mithridates I of Parthia (c. 171 BC–138 BC) it was renamed ''Mithradatkirt'' ("fortress of Mithradates").
Merv Merv ( tk, Merw, ''Мерв'', مرو; fa, مرو, ''Marv''), also known as the Merve Oasis, formerly known as Alexandria ( el, Ἀλεξάνδρεια), Antiochia in Margiana ( el, Ἀντιόχεια ἡ ἐν τῇ Μαργιανῇ) and ...

Merv
(modern-day Mary) was another Parthian city. *Asaak *Hecatompylos *Gurgan


See also

* List of Parthian kings * Khwarasan * Greater Khorasan * Adur Burzen-Mihr * Parthian shot


References


Bibliography

* . * . * . * . * . * . * . * . * . * Olbrycht, Marek Jan (1998), Parthia et ulteriores gentes. Die politischen Beziehungen zwischen dem arsakidischen Iran und den Nomaden der eurasischen Steppen, Munich. * Olbrycht, Marek Jan (2016), "Manpower Resources and Army Organisation in the Arsakid Empire", ''Ancient Society,'' 46, pp. 291–338 (DOI: 10.2143/AS.46.0.3167457). * . * Verstandig Andre,(2001) Histoire de l'Empire Parthe. Brussels, Le Cri. * Wolski, Józef (1993), L’Empire des Arsacides (= Acta Iranica 32), Lovanii: Peeters * . {{Authority control Parthia, Parthian Empire Historical regions of Iran Provinces of the Sasanian Empire Achaemenid satrapies Iranian countries and territories ja:パルティア