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Parthian Empire

Archeologists classify the eras or periods following the Ice Age into three categories - the Stone Age, the Bronze Age, and the Iron Age. Bronze Age was the period that followed the Stone Age and the beginning of which was characterized by the introduction of metal and metal implements in human society. The Parthian Empire was the empire founded in Iran by Arsaces I, the Parni leader, who invaded Parthia in 238 BC. After the death of Alexander the Great in 323 BC, Parthia was a province governed by the Seleucid rulers of Persia. By 246 BC, Ptolemy III waged war against the Seleucid Empire and invaded Babylon and Antioch. In 241 BC, Ptolemy III won parts of Syria in his peace negotiation with the Seleucid administration. By this time, the Parni invaded Parthia (247 BC) and established the Arsacid dynasty, named after Arsaces. I.

The Arsacid Dynasty
Andragoras was the Seleucid governor of Parthia in around 250 BC. He proclaimed Parthia’s independence from the Seleucid rule. Arsaces I took advantage of Parthia’s lack of Seleucid backing and invaded Astauene and effectively all of the Parthian Empire. Arsaces I successfully fought off Seleucid II. He successfully maintained the independence and cohesion of his kingdom in the face of Ptolemy’s invasion of the Seleucid Empire. Historical records about the reign of Arsaces I are unclear. It is, however, believed that he ruled until about 211 BC. He was succeeded by his brother Tiridates in 211 BC.

Historical Uncertainties
Historians disagree about the succession of the Arsacid kings. While many historians believe that Arsaces I was succeeded by Artabanus I who styled himself Arsaces II, others maintain that Arsaces I was succeeded by Tiridates I and then by the latter’s son, Artabanus I. The dates of the reign of these kings are not known with any certainty. It is likely that Artabanus I was the nephew of Arsaces I and took on the name Arsaces II, and that his reign lasted until 191 BC. In around 209 BC, Antiochus III, the Seleucid sovereign reclaimed the Parthian Empire. Arsaces II settled for a vassal status but when Antiochus III busied himself with the Roman onslaught, he ruled Parthia without much interference. The Arsacid king who succeeded Arsaces II was Phriapatius who ruled Parthia until 176 BC.

Mithridates the Great
Phriapatius was succeeded by his son, Phraates I. Phraates I ruled for about five years from 176 BC to171 BC. He named Mithridates I, his brother, as his successor. Mithridates I, also known as Mithridates the Great was the greatest among the Arsacid rulers. A very ambitious ruler, Mithridates expanded the eastern, western, and southern boundaries of the Parthian Empire to include Babylonia, Media, Herat, and most of Persia. Mithridates in his reign made Parthia a major empire, far from the vassal state that it had been.

Mithridates’ earliest victory was won against King Eucratides. He annexed Bactria and gained control of the Bactrian stronghold, Herat in 167 BC. In 139 BC, Mithridates defeated King Demetrius II, the Seleucid ruler of Persia. He thus annexed Babylon and most of Persia. Demetrius II was held prisoner by Mithridates. But in a gesture characteristic of the rulers of Persia, Mithridates released him and gave him his daughter in marriage.

Mithridates took control of the famous trade route referred to as the Silk Route. This brought the Parthian Empire much wealth and prosperity. He also was instrumental in spreading the Hellenic culture in his empire. Mithridates the Great was succeeded by his son Phraates II.

Downfall of the Empire
Phraates II took over the empire of Mithridates in 138 BC. He ruled the Parthian Empire for ten years until 128 BC. He successfully beat back the army of Antiochus VII the Seleucid king but died fighting the Scythians in Media. The reign of Artabanus I was a short one that ended in 124 BC, when he died fighting the Scythian invaders. A quick succession of kings - Gotarzes I, Orodes I, Sanatruces, Phraates III, Orodes II, and Phraates IV - ruled the Parthian Empire through the first century BC. Mounting rivalry with Rome and the invasion of many nomadic tribes had greatly weakened the once mighty Parthian Empire. The Parthian kings of the first century AD took on many Roman characteristics. Parthia was ravaged by civil wars and continued hostilities with the Roman rulers. In 224 AD, the Sassanids of Persia invaded Parthia and annexed it.

Downfall of the Empire
Phraates II took over the empire of Mithridates in 138 BC. He ruled the Parthian Empire for ten years until 128 BC. He successfully beat back the army of Antiochus VII the Seleucid king but died fighting the Scythians in Media. The reign of Artabanus I was a short one that ended in 124 BC, when he died fighting the Scythian invaders. A quick succession of kings - Gotarzes I, Orodes I, Sanatruces, Phraates III, Orodes II, and Phraates IV - ruled the Parthian Empire through the first century BC. Mounting rivalry with Rome and the invasion of many nomadic tribes had greatly weakened the once mighty Parthian Empire. The Parthian kings of the first century AD took on many Roman characteristics. Parthia was ravaged by civil wars and continued hostilities with the Roman rulers. In 224 AD, the Sassanids of Persia invaded Parthia and annexed it.
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