Also known as the Arsacid, the Parthian empire existed from 247 B.C. to 224 A.D. It began when Arsaces I of Parthia, the leader of the Parni tribe, conquered the Parthia region in Iran's northeast. At the time of its conquest the province was in rebellion against the Seleucids. The empire reached the height of its power under Mithridates II (123–88 B.C.) when it controlled 1.1 million square miles (2.84 million square kilometers) of territory. Parthia is ranked as the 10th largest and most powerful of the ancient empires (the Persian was the largest).
Interestingly, a Semitic-Israelite connection and a link to King David exists within the Parthian royal family. The Arsacids, who ruled Parthia, were Jewish descendants of Phares and King David. The names of Israelite tribes and clans are also in evidence within the Empire. The first capital city was named after Isaac, the son of Abraham.
Parthia versus the Rome
The Roman and Parthian empires battled each other for dominance in a series of conflicts. These conflicts ran from 66 B.C. to 217 A.D - a span of 281 years! For a period of time Parthia's power so rivaled that of Rome's that it was the one empire that Rome actually FEARED!
The Parthians, just a few decades (c. 53 B.C.) before the birth of Christ, so soundly defeated the Romans that they suffered one of their worst defeats in history. At the battle of Carrhae HALF of Rome's 40,000 man army perished, a quarter fled, and 10,000 Roman troops were captured! They also killed Crassus who, at the time of the battle, governed the Roman Republic with Julius Caesar and Pompey. Parthia also attacked Rome's territory in 40 B.C. Their tactics were so successfull that they conquered almost the entire eastern Mediterranean area known as the Levant (composed of Palestine, Syria, Jordan and other areas) except for the city of Tyre.
According to the Jewish historian Josephus, the Parthian empire was so powerful that they forced Herod the Great (made King of Judea by the Roman Senate in 40 B.C.) to flee for his very life:
"Now, in the second year, Pacorus, the King of Parthia's son, and Barzapharnes, a commander of the Parthians, possessed themselves of Syria. . . . Now Antigonus had promised to give the Parthians a thousand talents, and five hundred women, upon condition they would take the government away from Hyrcanus (the governor of the Jews and Herod the Great's father-in-law), and bestow it upon him, and withal KILL HEROD. And although he did not give them what he had promised . . .
" . . . Herod was under great disturbance of mind, and rather inclining to believe the reports he heard about his brother and the Parthians, than to give heed to what was said on the other side, he determined, that when the evening came on, he would make use of it for his flight, and not make any longer delay, as if the dangers from the enemy were not yet certain. " (History (Antiquities) of the Jews, Book 14, Chapter 13)
When compared to several well-known ancient empires, the duration of Parthia's power was quite long:
Length of well-known
|Name||Years Existed||Number of Years|
|Assyrian||884 - 612 B.C. ||272|
|Babylonian||612 - 539 B.C. ||73|
|Persian||549 - 330 B.C. ||249|
|Athenian||454 - 404 B.C. ||50|
|Alexander the Great|
|334 - 323 B.C. ||11|
|Parthian||247 B.C. - 224 A.D.||469|
|Roman||27 B.C. - 476 A.D.|
(to collapse of Western Empire)
|Roman||27 B.C. - 1453 A.D.|
(to collapse of Eastern (Byzantine))