Tag Archives: Parthian

Regional History and the Coin Finds from Assur: From the Achaemenids to the Nineteenth Century

Butcher, Kevin & Heidemann, Stefan. 2017. Regional History and the Coin Finds from Assur: From the Achaemenids to the Nineteenth Century. (Wissenschaftliche Veröffentlichungen der Deutschen Orient-Gesellschaft 148). Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz Verlag.

In July 1914, the excavation of one of the most significant capitals in human history, Assur, ended successfully. After a division of finds, the objects were dispatched to Berlin on the eve of the First World War. Assur is currently the most important reference site for coin finds in northern Iraq. They constitute an independent source for the history of the settlement, the Tigris region, and for coin circulation after the fall of the Assyrian empire in 614 BC, from the Achaemenid to the late Ottoman empire. These coin finds fill an important gap in the history of Assur, whose name in the post-Assyrian period is hardly attested to. For the Arsacid period, the coin finds highlight the surprising permeability of the border from the Roman provinces to Arsacid north-eastern Mesopotamia.

With the Sasanian conquest in about 240/1, life in Assur apparently stopped. For the following 1,600 years we can distinguish at least three separate settlement phases, and almost each phase corresponds to changing names for the city. While we do not know what the settlement between the 7th and 8th century was called, in the 12th and 14th centuries it was referred to as al-‘Aqr. For this period, we have more literary references to its history, at least compared with the preceding 1,800 years. The coin finds, together with the textual references, allow for an insight into the political and economic development of “a large village”. For the 17th and 18th centuries, the coins point to a revived settlement, now under the name of Qal’at Shirqat.

 

Parthian Great King’s rule over vassal Kingdoms

Gregoratti, Leonardo. 2017. “Sinews of the other Empire: Parthian Great King’s rule over vassal Kingdoms” in H. Teigen and E. Seland (eds.), Sinews of Empire: Networks in the Roman Near East and Beyond, 95-104. Oxford, Oxbow Books.

The Great Kings of Parthia, belonging to the Arsacid dynasty, ruled a large empire in south-western Asia, from India to the Euphrates, for more than three centuries (first century BC–third century AD). Within the large geographical area controlled by the Arsacids, next to the satrapies directly controlled by royal officers, a series of autonomous kingdoms existed, ruled by local dynasties, which in some cases existed before the coming of the Parthians, and whose authority over their territories was acknowledged by the Great King. Unlike the Roman ones, the Parthian vassal kingdoms never ceased to be one of the most important means the Great King had at his disposal to control key areas of his vast dominions. This paper investigates the different solutions the Arsacids conceived and put into action in order to keep control over those political subjects. The employment of three main forms of action: maintaining a local dynasty, temporary direct occupation and the creation of a client kingdom ruled by an Arsacid monarch, over the whole spectrum of client states will be the subject of the investigation.

Archaeological Discoveries at Tillya–tepe and Parthia’s Relations with Bactria

Olbrycht, Marek Jan. 2016. “Archaeological Discoveries at Tillya–tepe and Parthia’s Relations with Bactria“, Parthica 18.

A number of studies have been published on a variety of aspects of the Tillya-tepe necroplis, its cultural associations and ethnic interpretations. However, the determination both of its date and origin, as well as of the ethnicity of the nomads who established the necroplis has proved an extremely controversial issue. A closer examination is needed of the coins and the attributes of power discovered in the furnishings of the Tillya-tepe graves. The necropolis should be seen in the context of Parthian history in the 40s and 50s A.D., when during the reigns of Vardanes, Gotarzes II and Vologases I the clans of Bactria engaged in the Parthian domestic conflict. Taking the historical developments into account, it seems reasonable to reduce the time interval for the death of the prince of Tillya-tepe to ca. A.D. 41-53, when the Sakas and other peoples of the north-eastern marches of Parthia were taking an active part in the battle of the Parthian giants.

Greek and Roman Authors’ Views of the Arsacid Empire

Wiesehöfer, Josef & Sabine Müller (eds.). 2017. Parthika. Greek and Roman authors’ views of the Arsacid Empire (Classica et Orientalia 15). Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz Verlag.

Established in the third century BC, the multi-cultural and multi-lingual Arsacid Empire became Rome’s major opponent in the East from the first century BC to its end in the third century AD. According to a Roman idea, the orbis was evenly divided between the Parthians and the Romans. However, in the Arsacid Empire oral tradition prevailed and, for a long time, there was no Arsacid historiography concerning perception, reception and interpretation. Therefore, Greco-Roman views and images of the Parthians, Arsacids and their Empire predominated.
Focusing on literary depictions in ancient Greek and Roman literature and examining stereotypes, this volume brings together twelve papers on Greco-Roman perceptions and images of the Arsacid Empire. Part I consists of eight papers primarily concerned with re-assessments of Apollodorus of Artemita and Isidorus of Charax regarding their value as source of information on the Arsacid Empire. Part II contains four papers dealing with the images of the Arsacid Empire in the works of Josephus, Trogus-Justin, Tacitus and Arrian, viewed against their respective socio-political and cultural background.

Issue seven of Anabasis

Issue seven of “Anabasis“, edited by Marek Jan Olbrycht is out now. Several papers and reviews of this issue are related to ancient Iran:

  •  Marek Jan Olbrycht: The Sacral Kingship of the Early Arsacids I. Fire Cult and Kingly Glory
  • Nikolaus L. Overtoom: The Rivalry of Rome and Parthia in the Sources from the Augustan Age to Late Antiquity
  • Martin Schottky: Vorarbeiten zu einer Königsliste Kaukasisch-Iberiens. 5. Im Schatten Schapurs II
  • Xiaoyan Qi: Elspeth R. M. Dusinberre, Empire, Authority, and Autonomy in Achaemenid Anatolia, Cam-bridge; New York: Cambridge University Press, 2013
  • Jeffrey D. Lerner: Robert Rollinger, Alexander und die großen Ströme. Die Flussüberquerungen im Lichte altorientalischer Pioniertechniken (Schwimmschläuche, Keleks und Pontonbrücken), Wiesbaden: Harrasowitz Verlag, 2013
  • Erich Kettenhofen: Rabbo l‘olmyn «Maître pour l‘Éternité». Florilège offert à Philippe Gignoux pour son 80e anniversaire. Textes réunis par Rika Gyselen et Christelle Jullien, Paris: Association pour l’avancement des Études Iraniennes, 2011

The history of the Parthians in the Geography of Strabo

Dabrowa, Edward . 2015. “L’ histoire des Parthes dans la Geographie de Strabon“, Studi Ellenistici 29, 285-303.

Germanicus, Artabanos II of Parthia, and Zeno Artaxias in Armenia

Olbrycht, Marek J. 2016. Germanicus, Artabanos II of Parthia, and Zeno Artaxias in Armenia. klio 98(2). 605–633.

The aim of this study is to analyse the Roman-Parthian relations under Artabanos II and Tiberius, and the political role played by Armenia, focusing on the agreement between the Roman prince Germanicus and Artabanos II. A scrutiny
of military and diplomatic measures taken by Rome, Parthia, and minor kings of Kappadokia, Pontos and Armenia suggests a new perspective of the Roman and Parthian policies towards Armenia under Tiberius and Artabanos II. Artabanos IIʼs
triumph over Vonones compelled Rome to revise her policy toward Parthia. Artabanos agreed on a compromise with the ruler of Kappadokia Archelaos, a Roman client king, that involved installing Archelaosʼ stepson, Zeno, on the throne of
Armenia. Germanicusʼ intervention in Armenia in A.D. 18 led to the conclusion of a compromise settlement between Rome and the Parthians, securing over a decade of peace between the two powers. Zeno Artaxiasʼ coronation at the hands of Germanicus
was commemorated by the issue of a set of meaningful silver coins.

Manpower Resources and Army Organisation in the Arsakid Empire

Stucco relief of an infantry soldier, from the Iranian Parthian Dynasty (247 BC - 224 AD), Zahhak castle, Haštrūd, Eastern Āzarbāiğān, Iran. Āzarbāiğān Museum, Tabriz (Iran)
Stucco relief of an infantry soldier, from the Iranian Parthian Dynasty (247 BC – 224 AD), Zahhak castle, Haštrūd, Eastern Āzarbāiğān, Iran. Āzarbāiğān Museum, Tabriz (Iran)

Olbrycht, Marek J. 2016. “Manpower Resources and Army Organisation in the Arsakid Empire“. Ancient Society 46, 291-338.

As the territory of the Arsakid state (248 BC – AD 226) increased in size, the Parthians were able to expand their demographic and economic base. This led to an increase in the size and military might of the armed forces. The military strength and effectiveness of the army were key factors in determining the Parthians’ political relations with their neighbours, especially the Seleukid empire, Rome, the Caucasus lands, the nomadic peoples of the Caspian – North Caucasus region, and the peoples of Central Asia. From the 1st century bc onward the Arsakids had a military potential of almost 300,000 soldiers. This mobilisation strength mirrors the size of the Arsakid armed forces in a defensive stance, including the royal forces, Parthian national army, garrisons, and mercenaries. As a number of units were not suitable for offensive operations, one may assume that the power of an offensive army might not have exceeded half of the total figure, i.e. about 140,000-150,000. This is slightly more than the figure of 120,000 soldiers which appears as the total for the largest of Arsakid armies.

Personal names in Parthian epigraphical sources

pnb-schmitt-2016Schmitt, Rüdiger. 2016. Iranisches Personennamenbuch Band 2/Faszikel 5: Personennamen in parthischen epigraphischen Quellen. (Österreichische Akademie Der Wissenschaften. Philosophisch-Historische Klasse; Iranische Onomastik 15). Wien: Verlag der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften (ÖAW).
This volume of the Iranisches Personennamenbuch (Lexicon of Iranian personal names) presents a full collection of the personal names attested between 150 BCE and 300 CE in Parthian epigraphical sources, inclusive of patronymics and family names as well as the topographical names derived from personal names. Also non-Parthian and even non-Iranian (Semitic, Latin, etc.) personal names are taken into account, as they are part of the onomastic material attested in an Iranian language. The presentation of the names in principle is the same as in the earlier volumes of the Iranisches Personennamenbuch: First comes a full listing of all references (with the kind of the text and its provenance given in abbreviated form), then a sketchy prosopographical characterisation of the person(s) bearing the name, and finally the section on the morphological and etymological interpretation of the name, in which a cautious judgement is attempted. Here the names attested in the Old Iranian and the other Middle Iranian languages (together with their collateral tradition), now known in much greater numbers than at the time of Ferdinand Justi’s Iranisches Namenbuch (1895), are quoted in a fitting manner. Full indexes make all the names accessible that are quoted by way of comparison.
About the Autor:
Rüdiger Schmitt ist emer. Professor für Vergleichende Indogermanische Sprachwissenschaft und Indoiranistik der Universität des Saarlandes, Saarbrücken.

Parthian kingship

Edward Dąbrowa, “Kingship ii. Parthian Period,” Encyclopædia Iranica, online edition, 2016, available at http://www.iranicaonline.org/articles/kingship-02-parthian-period (accessed on 25 July 2016).

Parthian kingship started with the Arsacids monarchy and was an original form of Oriental kingship. The royal ideology was created by combining elements of different provenance; Greek elements were systematically removed or relegated to be replaced by Iranian traditions.