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Also known as the Arsacid empire, the Parthians became a world power in 247 B.C. Arsaces I, the Parni tribe's leader, began its rise to dominance by conquering the northeast region of Iran. At the time of its conquest the province was in rebellion against the Seleucids. It 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. The Parthian Empire is considered the 10th largest and most powerful ancient world power.
There is, surprisingly, a Semitic-Israel connection to David's royal household that exists in the royal ruling family of this world power. The Arsacid dynasty of rule were Jewish descendants of Phares and King David. Israelite tribe and clan names are found throughout the area they controlled. The capital city of the Parthian empire was named after Abraham's only son through Sarah - Isaac.
Taking on Rome
Rome battled this east of the Euphrates River power for dominance and supremacy 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 the power wielded by the Parthians so rivaled that of Rome's that the Romans actually FEARED it!
Just a few short decades prior to Jesus' birth, the empire so roundly defeated Rome's army that they experienced one of the worst defeats ever. At Carrhae FIFTY PERCENT of the Roman army's 40,000 troops died, twenty five percent of the soldiers ran from the battlefield, and 10,000 troops became captives of the Parthians! Crassus, who helped govern Rome with Caesar and Pompey, was also killed in battle.
Roman territory was also attacked by this world power in 40 B.C. Their military tactics proved so successful that almost all the Mediterranean area called the Levant (which comprises areas such as Syria, Jordan, Palestine and other land), will the exception of Tyre, fell into their control.
Josephus, the well-known ancient Jewish historian, states that Parthia was so powerful that they forced Herod the Great, just before the Romans made him king of Palestine, to run so as not to be killed!
"Now Antigonus had promised to give the Parthians a thousand talents (note: which today would be roughly 75,000 U.S. pounds of gold or silver), and five hundred women, upon condition they would take the government away from Hyrcanus (note: Hyrcanus was a relative of Herod's and Rome's governor over the Jewish people in Judea), and bestow it upon him, and withal KILL HEROD.
" . . . Herod (the Great) was under great disturbance of mind, and rather inclining to believe the reports he heard about his brother and the Parthians . . .determined, that when the evening came on, he would make use of it for his flight" (History of the Jews)
Herod's memory of this threat would later haunt him when, in 5 B.C., Magi from this area show up in Jerusalem looking for the Christ child to worship (Matthew 2:1 - 3). The Parthian empire finally fell in 224 A.D. when King Ardashir I, ruler of the Sassanid dynasty, revolted and killed the last ruler.