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407 PARTHIA--CIVIL AND MILITARY ANNALS.

was deeply involved with Rome. The shadow of that colossal power had already fallen on

Greece and Egypt and the East. It was therefore out of the question for the king of Syria,

whatever may have been his resentment, to proceed against the Parthian Kingdom in

punishment for its aggression. Perhaps the loss of the country of the Mardi was not much

regarded. The great Powers of Western Asia were nearly all established on the plain. The

massive peoples which were wielded by the kings of Mesopotamia, of Asia Minor, and of

Syria were adjusted to the lowlands, to the alluvial countries, and knew not how to deal

with mountain tribes any more than the ostrich understands the eyrie of the eagle. So the

Mardi were permitted to go to the conqueror.

Phraates, gratified with his success, soon made a bolder move. It would appear that he was

able to consider geography in its relations with political development. It happened that

his point of view took in easily one of the critical positions of Asia. The Greek writers

have dwelt with much interest on the celebrated pass called the Caspian Gates. We have

already had, occasion, in the histories of Media and Persia, to refer to this famous gap

left by nature between the mountains on the one hand and the desert on the other. In

modern geography the place is designated as the Pass of Girduni Sudurrah. It is, in a

word, the gateway between Armenia, Media, and Persia on the one side, and Turkistan,

Khorassan, and Afghanistan on the other. Nor is there any other way by which convenient or

even practicable passage between the East and the West can be found. The situation seems

almost to have been contrived as a military expedient in the strategy of the Asiatic

nations.

For here the Elburz mountains stretch their impassable barrier from the Caspian on the

north to the desert regions of the Great Plateau on the south. At the termination of the

range in this direction a spur projects to a considerable distance desertward, as if to

extend the barrier beyond the natural limit. This mountain spur is broken from the

principal range in such manner as to make human transit

possible, but hardly practicable, through the northern gap. At the lower extremity,

however, where the offshoot abuts against the desert, stand the so-called Caspian Gates.

The approach from either side seems to be absolutely barred by the mountain wall, but an

army winding carefully along finds a narrow and unobstructed pass from Media Rhagiana on

the west into the country of the ancient Sagartians on the east.

The importance of the Caspian Gates was well known to the ancients. Phraates perceived it.

Having conquered the Mardi he next turned his attention to Media Rhagiana; for, could he

but succeed in conquering that country, he could gain possession of the western entrance

to the Gates, and thus be able to bar henceforth the progress eastward of a Syrian army.

The enterprise was one of hazard. It was undertaken by Phraates by transferring a part of

the tribe of the Mardi into the open country westward from the Gates. The movement was

successful. Phraates and his Parthians made their way through the pass and overran at

least a portion of Media Rhagiana. The country west of the Gates was occupied by Parthian

garrisons, and the strategic position was secured by Phraates. His reign, however, was not

marked by any other important events. He wore the crown for only seven years, dying in B.

C. 174.

Thus far the dynasty had been tolerably regular as to the descent of the crown. Tiridates

is reckoned as the brother of the first Arsaces. The succession was then to the son and to

the son's son. With the death of Phraates, however, the crown, in accordance with the

purpose of the late king, was transmitted to his brother MITHRIDATES, as against the

claims of his own son. It is probable that Mithridates had been a strong stay of the

monarchy during the late reign. Phraates had honored himself with the title of

Philadelphus, which would indicate his reliance upon his brother. If we are to judge by

results the lateral transmission of the crown was beneficial in the highest degree, for we

here come to the sudden rise of Parthia to the rank and character of an Empire. More than

any other name among Par-