Parthian Cities and Strongholds in Turkmenistan

Olbrycht, Marek Jan. 2015. Parthian cities and strongholds in TurkmenistanInternational Journal of Eurasian Studies 2. 117–125.

The Arsacid empire (247 BC – AD 226) emerged as the result of a nomadic invasion in northeastern Iran and in southern Turkmenistan. The Arsacids attached great importance to the erection of fortifications and strongholds. Justin’s account on Arsaces I (247-211/210 BC) shows the unexpected triumph of a leader from the steppes in northeastern Iran and focuses on two aspects: that Arsaces raised a large army (41.4.8) and that he built fortresses and strengthened the cities (41.5.1). No less emphatic about it is Ammianus Marcellinus 23.6.4 who relates that Arsaces “filled Persia with cities, with fortified camps, and with strongholds”. Fortified centers made the dynasty’s basis in the course of internal consolidation of the kingdom, at the same time having become the elements of a defense system against the aggression of the neighboring powers, including the Seleucid monarchy, Graeco-Bactria, and some nomadic tribes of Central Asia. This paper shall point to some questions concerning cities and strongholds in Parthia proper, including the location of Dara, Nisaia, Asaak, Alexandropolis, and the development of Old Nisa as well as New Nisa.