Parthian Empire

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Parthian Empire
247 BC–224 AD
The Parthian Empire in 94 BC at its greatest extent, during the reign of Mithridates II (r. 124–91 BC)
The Parthian Empire in 94 BC at its greatest extent, during the reign of
Hecatompylos, Susa, Mithradatkirt, Asaak
, Rhages
Common languages
• 247–211 BC
Arsaces I (first)
• 208–224 AD
Artabanus IV (last)
Historical eraClassical antiquity
• Established
247 BC
• Disestablished
224 AD
1 AD[9][10]2,800,000 km2 (1,100,000 sq mi)
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Seleucid Empire
Sasanian Empire
flag Iran portal

The Parthian Empire (

, 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

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

in the Caucasus.

Native Parthian sources, written in

is viewed by historians as a valid source for understanding aspects of society and culture that are otherwise absent in textual sources.


Origins and establishment


Aramaic, Greek, Babylonian, Sogdian and other languages in the multilingual territories they would conquer.[19]

Why the Arsacid court retroactively chose 247 BC as the first year of the Arsacid era is uncertain.

Andragoras, the appointed satrap who rebelled against them. Hence, Arsaces I "backdated his regnal years" to the moment when Seleucid control over Parthia ceased.[20] However, Vesta Sarkhosh Curtis asserts that this was simply the year Arsaces was made chief of the Parni tribe.[21] Homa Katouzian[22] and Gene Ralph Garthwaite[23] claim it was the year Arsaces conquered Parthia and expelled the Seleucid authorities, yet Curtis[21] and Maria Brosius[24] state that Andragoras was not overthrown by the Arsacids
until 238 BC.

It is unclear who immediately succeeded Arsaces I. Bivar

Artaxerxes II of Persia (r. 404 – 358 BC).[30]

A map centered on the Mediterranean and Middle East showing the extent of the Roman Republic (Purple), Selucid Empire (Blue), and Parthia (Yellow) around 200 BC.
Parthia, shaded yellow, alongside the Seleucid Empire (blue) and the Roman Republic
(purple) around 200 BC

For a time, Arsaces consolidated his position in Parthia and

Apasiacae tribe, Arsaces led a counterattack and recaptured Parthia. Seleucus II's successor, Antiochus III the Great (r. 222–187 BC), was unable to immediately retaliate because his troops were engaged in putting down the rebellion of Molon in Media.[31]

Antiochus III launched a massive campaign to retake Parthia and Bactria in 210 or 209 BC. Despite some victories he was unsuccessful, but did negotiate a peace settlement with Arsaces II. The latter was granted the title of king (Greek: basileus) in return for his submission to Antiochus III as his superior.[32] The Seleucids were unable to further intervene in Parthian affairs following increasing encroachment by the Roman Republic and the Seleucid defeat at Magnesia in 190 BC.[32] Priapatius (r. c. 191–176 BC) succeeded Arsaces II, and Phraates I (r. c. 176–171 BC) eventually ascended the Parthian throne. Phraates I ruled Parthia without further Seleucid interference.[33]

Expansion and consolidation