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
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.
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-