Page 0379


a fair supply of water. The soil is tolerably fertile, and the climate marked with those

particular vicissitudes under which the energies of the human race are best developed. It

is probable that the flora and fauna of modern Khorassan fairly represent the vegetable

and animal life of the ancient country.

It is sufficient to note the great contrast between the region which we are now

considering and the deserts north and south. The man of antiquity may have well regarded

Parthia with delight on his escape from the sandy waste on either hand. The primitive

tribes, roaming at will through groves of pine, through sloping lands covered with walnut,

ash, and poplar, by river banks lined with the willow and mulberry, may have well chosen

this country in preference to any that they had found, and pledged their lives and

barbarian resources to its defense. Nor could the winters, extending from October to

April, severe in snow and freezing, prevail to destroy the preference of the first

Parthians for the country of their choice.

The situation was favorable for the development of an ancient State, and the character of

the people conduced strongly to that end. We have seen how primeval man at the first chose

the alluvial valleys and lowlands about the estuaries of great rivers; but the second

choice of position was those upland regions whose beauty of situation and abundant

resources invited the first tribes to rest and settlement. In this respect Parthia may be

regarded as most attractive. In addition to the general fruitfulness of the country-its

production of the native cereals and berry fruits of the forest and river banks-the region

might well be selected for the desert defenses on either side. Nature has provided for the

races of men many natural bulwarks, but none superior to a waste of desert sand. It is,

therefore, likely that for long ages before the first authentic annals, the country here

described was peopled by adventurous and warlike tribes. That they did not multiply and

develop at an early epoch into a great State must be attributed to the fact that

agriculture was not suggested with sufficient emphasis to provoke the energies of the

race. A mixed life contained the summary, and for a long time limited the activities, of

the primitive Parthians. But the mixed life signifies a sparse and somewhat fluctuating

population, and this is unfavorable to the early development of social and political


We have thus far considered only the original province of Parthia proper, and not the

character of the countries which were brought under the Parthian sway in the times of the

Empire. We are not here concerned to note the political and historical development, but

only the territorial extension of the primitive kingdom. Suffice it to say, that hard

after the decline of the Persian power came the rise of Parthia and the expansion of her

dominions north, south, east, and west. The reader will not have failed to detect the name

of Parthia in several paragraphs of Persian history. The country was included for a long

time within the dominions of the Achaemenian kings, and constituted no mean part of the

Empire of Cyrus and his successors. There were times, as we shall hereafter see, when the

native force of the Parthian race asserted itself against the Persian rule, and more than

one rebellion gave token of what might be expected as soon as the Persian power should

suffer from foreign violence or fail from inherent weakness.

That event at length arrived, when near the close of the fourth century B. C. the son of

Philip, as we have seen in the preceding Book, ground under his heel not only the

Mesopotamian countries, but all the dominions of the Great Plateau and beyond to the river

Indus. It thus happened that Parthia had, first, her historical relations with the Persian

Empire; afterwards, with the Empire of Alexander and its divisions; and lastly, with the

military governments established by the Romans out of the far West.

But we are here to note merely the extension of territory which came to the Parthians by

war and conquest. This territorial expansion first included the adjacent countries of

Chorasmia, Margiana, Arya, Sarangia, Sagartia, and Hyrcania. The provinces and kingdoms

known by these names were, as we shall hereafter see, overrun and subdued by the armies of

the Parthian