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Parthian Empire – Who are they?

Parthian empire was a major Iranian political and cultural power in ancient Iran

Today, most people know little about the Parthian Empire and if they do it is in reference to the Parthians being the enemies of Rome. The Parthians and Romans were eternal enemies for much of Rome’s late Republic and early Imperial phases, with the Parthians often inflicting humiliating defeats on the Romans. The Parthians defeated the Roman general Crassus at Carrhae in 53 BC, Mark Antony in 36 BC, and took several Roman eagle standard over the course of their many wars.

The Parthian Empire was established in the third century BC and lasted until the third century AD, making it one of the longest enduring empires and dynasties in world history. In terms of geographic scope, the Parthian Empire stretched from Bactria (present day Afghanistan) in the east to the Euphrates River in the west and comprised scores of different ethnicities, languages, and religions.

The men who ruled the Parthian Empire were descended from an ethnic group known as the Parni, which is where the people and the region of Parthia in Persia received their names. The Parni originally hailed from the eastern shores of the Caspian Sea and later migrated west after Alexander the Great’s invasions into the region during the fourth century BC

Silver Coin of Parthian King Vologases V (Ruled AD 192-208)

Although the Parthians spoke a Persian dialect and followed many Persian religious and cultural conventions, they were not linked directly by blood to their Achaemenid Persian predecessors.

The Parthians built one of the greatest and most powerful, although often overlooked, empires of the ancient world. For nearly 500 years, the Parthians ruled a large swath of land that stretched from Bactria to Mesopotamia and ruled over millions of different peoples.

The Parthians were able to do this due to an excellent economy and military. Because Parthia was located strategically on the middle of the Silk Road, the Parthians were able to extract princely fees from merchants who wished to move goods between the West and East.

Statue of a Mounted Parthian Archer

After profiting from the Silk Road trade, the Parthian kings were able to fund a highly effective and unique army that relied on noble horsemen. Those horsemen expanded the Parthian Empire’s borders and successfully defended it from incursions by the Romans for many years before internal problems and a new Persian dynasty, the Sassanians, led to the collapse of the long-lived Parthian Dynasty.


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