Page 0378


Parthian Power did not reach its climax until after the successors of Alexander the Great

had quarreled and fought themselves into silence. The Empire then extended throughout the

period which covered the entire decline and extinction of the Grecian commonwealths, and

lay alongside in time with the development of the later Republic and Empire of Rome. Of

the dominions of the latter, Parthia was destined to constitute the thus-far on the East.

Against the Parthian arrows in the far East not even the Roman legions could prevail. The

strong men, the wild warriors of Central Asia, held the legionaries at bay, or buried them

by multiplied thousands in the desert. In time, therefore, the consideration of Parthia

before the history of Greece and Rome is a derangement of historical relations; but in

place the narrative must be given here. The reader will therefore retain his point of

observation on the Great Plateau, and note the development of the Parthian Empire down to

the beginning of the second century of our era, before transferring his station to

Macedonia and the Hellenic peninsula.

The relations of the Parthian Empire with Persia were remarkable, but not without

precedent. We have seen Babylonia revived from the grave of ancient Chaldaea. We have seen

the Persians themselves flourishing in the land of the Medes. We shall hereafter see many

examples of the upspringing of a new national growth from the roots of the fallen tree of

some old nationality. In the present instance Parthia may be said to have come forth from

the ruins of Persia. The Parthians had long existed as a distinct people, subject to

Persian authority. It was reserved for them, by their greater vitality, to survive the

wreck of the other Iranian nations, to expand over the ruins of the Alexandrian conquests,

to establish a true Empire, and to defend it through several revolutionary epochs, until

the drama of Ancient History was closed, and that of Modern History begun. It might almost

be said that the Parthian Power has never ceased until the present time, and that the

Persian Shah is the living representative of Arsaces 1.

At the beginning, then, it will be proper for us to consider briefly the Country of

ancient Parthia and the territories subsequently included in the Empire. This will be

followed by a view of the people and their civilization; after which the narrative of

their civil and military^ career will be given to the beginning of the third century of

our era. The distinction must be borne in mind between the Province of Parthia proper and

the Imperial country ruled by the great kings during the last century of the ancient

epoch. Parthia proper may be said to have corresponded with tolerable exactitude to the

modern province of Khorassan. The position and extent of the country can be noted by the

reader by a simple reference to a map of the Persian Empire of the present time. The

country now includes the districts of Damaghan, Sharud, Sebzawar, Nishapur, Meshed,

Shebri-No, and Tershiz. The length from east to west is -about three hundred miles, and

the extreme width a hundred and twenty miles. The area is thirty-three thousand square

miles, being a little greater than that of Ireland in Europe, or the State of Indiana in


The position of Parthia may be defined in general geographical terms as lying about midway

between the south-eastern borders of the Caspian and the northern shore of the Arabian

sea. The country had on its western side the province of Hyrcania, but the latter was

generally included under the common name of Parthia. To the east and north lay Margiana,

and to the south and west Sagartia and Sarangia. On the south-east the country was bounded

by ancient Arya-a name significant to all the Indo-European peoples. The reader will

already have noted that Parthia as here defined is not far removed from the primitive

seats of those tribes out of whose fecund loins all the great races of Europe and America

have been ultimately derived.

Of the general character pf Parthia proper, and of the surrounding regions, sufficient has

already been said in the description of the same countries in connection with Media and

Persia. The mountain region extending eastward in a chain from the southern extremity of

the Caspian, branches out into many ranges in the Parthian territory; and from these

brooks and rivers descend into the plains, furnishing