Page 0442

442 UNIVERSAL HISTORY-THE ANCIENT WORLD.

on camels, and armed with long spears against which it was difficult for the Romans to

stand. In falling back, however, they sowed the ground with tribuli, which, piercing the

camels' feet, ended the charge. Again night came on with the battle undecided.

On the third day, however, the Parthians began to gain. Their cavalry wings were extended

right and left, and seemed to envelop the legions. These were obliged to thin ranks in

order to confront the enemy. Hereupon, by rapid evolution, the Parthians concentrated

their forces, charged after their furious manner, and drove the Romans from the field. The

latter sought safety in their camp, and were in peril of destruction. But the Parthians,

as well as their foe, had suffered enormous losses, and when Macrinus opened negotiations,

Artabanus was willing to grant more liberal terms than might have been expected from such

a victor on such a field. He, however, demanded and received a sum equal to about seven

and a half million dollars as an indemnity for the injuries inflicted on his people and

provinces.

Such was the end of a conflict which had extended through nearly three centuries of time.

The Romans and the Parthians fought no more battles. Of all the outlying countries of

Europe or Asia, only the Parthian Empire had been able to interpose an immovable bulwark

against the aggressive ambitions of the race of Romulus. It might well appear that now,

when the conflict had been finally decided against the Romans by the sword-when the

Emperor Macrinus himself had been obliged to fly from the field of Nisibis in order to

save his life-the Parthians would revive from their depression and enter upon a new career

of development. Destiny, however, had written it otherwise. That which a foreign enemy had

been unable to accomplish was now to be brought about by internal violence. Through the

whole history of the Empire; the disruptive forces had been at work. The provinces had

been held together with the greatest difficulty. Time and again we have referred to the

fact that no stronger political tie than the Feudal principle had been

discovered wherewith to bind the nations and peoples, brought under a single dominion by

Mithridates, into one great community, having common interests and common conditions of

life. This circumstance was the element of weakness which had ever menaced the stability

of the Empire, and out of this was now to spring the great catastrophe by which the

Parthian dominion was to be subverted.

It remained for Persia-that is, Persia proper-to become the agent of disruption. The

reader will remember that it was under the auspices of Persia that the former great Empire

had been created on the Iranian Plateau. With the conquest of Alexander, the ancient Power

was destroyed, and Persia became a tributary kingdom in the new dominion established by

the Arsacidae. It appears that the Persian kings had had, during the Parthian ascendancy,

a show of respect, a degree of importance, which might not be paralleled among the other

feudatories of the Empire.

There were, however, serious causes of discontent among the Persians. The tradition of

their old-time glory, the memory of the deeds of Cyrus and Darius Hystaspis still lingered

among the people. Outside of the Greek cities no other province of the Empire was

comparable with Persia in culture and refinement. The ancient religious faith tended to

pride of race and con- tempt for the Pagan States. The Imperial Government had for several

centuries pursued a tolerant policy in matters of religion, granting no exclusive favors

to any particular faith. This policy was a matter of great grief to the Persian Magi, who

had all the haughtiness and bigotry of Asiatic Pharisees. To be placed on a level with the

servants of the other gods of the Parthian Empire was a thing intolerable to the Persians

of the ancient sacerdotal order. The secular offices within the limits of Persia were

generally filled by Parthians as against the claims of native warriors and statesmen.

Notwithstanding their great lineage and glorious history, the Persians were unable to see

that they enjoyed any advantages-civil, religious, or social-over the rude and half-

civilized nations of the Northern provinces. The