From its origins as a minor nomadic tribe to its status as a major world empire, the rise of the Parthian state in the ancient world is nothing short of remarkable. In their early history, the Parthians benefitted from strong leadership, a flexible and accommodating cultural identity, and innovative military characteristics that allowed them to compete against and even overcome Greek, Persian, Central Asian, and eventually Roman rivals. Reign of Arrows provides the first comprehensive study, in almost a century, dedicated entirely to early Parthian history. Assimilating a wide array of especially recent scholarship across numerous fields of study, Nikolaus Overtoom presents the most cogent, well rounded, and up-to-date account of the Parthian empire in its wider context of Hellenistic history. It explains the political and military encounters that shaped the international environment of the Hellenistic Middle East from the middle third to the early first centuries BCE. This study combines traditional historical approaches, such as source criticism and the integration of material evidence, with the incorporation of modern international relations theory to better examine the emergence and expansion of Parthian power. Relevant to historians, classicists, political scientists, and general readers interested in the ancient world and military history, Reign of Arrows reimagines and reconstructs the rise of the Parthians within the hotly contested and dangerously competitive international environment of the Hellenistic world.
In Making Mesopotamia: Geography and Empire in a Romano-Iranian Borderland, Hamish Cameron examines the representation of the Mesopotamian Borderland in the geographical writing of Strabo, Pliny the Elder, Claudius Ptolemy, the anonymous Expositio Totius Mundi, and Ammianus Marcellinus. This inter-imperial borderland between the Roman Empire and the Arsacid and Sasanid Empires provided fertile ground for Roman geographical writers to articulate their ideas about space, boundaries, and imperial power. By examining these geographical descriptions, Hamish Cameron shows how each author constructed an image of Mesopotamia in keeping with the goals and context of their own work, while collectively creating a vision of Mesopotamia as a borderland space of movement, inter-imperial tension, and global engagement.
In the reports of Chinese travellers submitted to the Emperors, they mentioned the places they had visited or heard of. Although some scholars have tried to identify these Chinese names as specific places in the Iranian Plateau and its bordering plains, their locations are still somewhat vague and debatable. This article discusses the place-names mentioned in Chinese sources and attempts to verify that they could have denoted the localities along the ancient Great Khorasan Road and other routes, which were once the main sections of the Silk Road. Among them, the route that Chinese traveller Gan Ying might have passed before he reached the western frontier of the Arsacid Empire will also be discussed in this study.
This article deals with the development of Kushan royal imagery as known from coins in the period between the 1st and the 3rd centuries AD, i.e. from the so-called Heraios series to the coins of Vasudeva. The aim is to challenge the traditional interpretative models which ascribed a crucial role to a Roman contribution, and to highlight instead first the role of the local numismatic tradition, which stretched back to the Graeco-Bactrians, and then the influx of patterns of royal imagery of western Iranian—namely Arsacid Parthian—origin, around the time when Vima Kadphises inaugurated a new imperial coinage.
Fabrizio Sinisi is a scholar of Iranian and numismatic studies at the Austrian Academy of Sciences (ÖAW), Vienna.
For almost 500 years (247 BCE–224 CE), the Arsacid kings of Parthia ruled over a vast multi-cultural empire, which encompassed much of central Asia and the Near East. The inhabitants of this empire included a complex patchwork of Hellenized Greek-speaking elites, Iranian nobility, and semi-nomadic Asian tribesman, all of whom had their own competing cultural and economic interests. Ruling over such a diverse group of subjects required a strong military and careful diplomacy on the part of the Arsacids, who faced the added challenge of competing with the Roman empire for control of the Near East. This collection of new papers examines the cross-cultural interactions among the Arsacids, Romans, and local elites from a variety of scholarly perspectives. Contributors include experts in the fields of ancient history, archaeology, classics, Near Eastern studies, and art history, all of whom participated in a multi-year panel at the annual conference of the American Schools of Oriental Research between 2012 and 2014. The seven chapters investigate different aspects of war, diplomacy, trade, and artistic production as mechanisms of cross-cultural communication and exchange in the Parthian empire. Arsacids, Romans, and Local Elites will prove significant for those interested in the legacy of Hellenistic and Achaemenid art and ideology in the Parthian empire, the sometimes under-appreciated role of diplomacy in creating and maintaining peace in the ancient Middle East, and the importance of local dynasts in kingdoms like Judaea, Osrhoene, and Hatra in shaping the geopolitical landscape of the Near East, alongside the imperial powerhouses of Rome and Parthia.
In a Middle Persian text known as “Khusro and the Page,” one of the most famous kings of the ancient Iranian world, Khusro I Anusheruwan, is called haft kišwar xawadāy “the King of the Seven Climes.” This title harkens back to at least the Achaemenid period when it was in fact used, and even further back to a Zoroastrian/Avestan world view. From the earliest Iranian hymns, those of the Gāthās of Zarathushtra, through the Younger Avesta and later Pahlavi writings, it is known that the ancient Iranians divided the world into seven climes or regions. Indeed, at some point there was even an aspiration that this world should be ruled by a single king. Consequently, the title of the King of the Seven Climes, used by Khusro I in the sixth century CE, suggests the most ambitious imperial vision that one would find in the literary tradition of the ancient Iranian world. Taking this as a point of departure, the present book aims to be a survey of the dynasties and rulers who thought of going beyond their own surroundings to forge larger polities within the Iranian realm.
Thus far, in similar discussions of ancient Iranian history, it has been the convention to set the beginnings of a specifically Iranian world at the rise of Cyrus the Great and the establishment of the Achaemenid Empire. But in fact, this notion is only a recent paradigm, which became popular in Iran in the late 1960s owing to traditions of Classical and European historiography. At the same time, there are other narratives that can be given for the history of the Iranian World, including those that take us to 5000 BCE to sites such as Sialk, near Kashan, or other similar archaeological localities. As attractive as an archaeologically based narrative of local powers can be, however, the aim of the present work is to focus on political entities who aimed at the control of a larger domain beyond their own local contexts. As a result, this book starts its narrative with Elam, the influential civilization and kingdom that existed long before the Achaemenids came to power. Elam boasted a writing system and a complex culture and political organization contemporaneous with that of Mesopotamia, and was made up of cities such as Susa and Anshan. As Kamyar Abdi shows in his chapter, the Iranian civilization owes much to the Elamites and their worldview and conception of rulership. Thus, we do not start the present narrative with 550 BCE and Cyrus, but with 3000 BCE, in the proto-Elamite Period, when signs of a long lasting civilization on the Iranian Plateau first appeared.
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.