History Files


Middle East Kingdoms

Persia and the East





The region known as Parthia lay to the north of Persia itself, nestled between the Greek satrapy of Bactria and the southern third of the Caspian Sea.

(Additional information from Epitome of the Philippic History of Pompeius Trogus: Books 11-12, Volume 1, Marcus Junianus Justinus, John Yardley, & Waldemar Heckel, from Jewish War & Jewish Antiquities, Flavius Josephus, and from External Links: the Ancient History Encyclopaedia, and Appian's History of Rome: The Syrian Wars at Livius.org, and Diodorus of Sicily at the Library of World History.)

c.1000 - 900 BC

The Parsua begin to enter Iran, probably by crossing the Iranian plateau to the north of the great central deserts (through Hyrcania, probably skirting to the north of neighbouring Parthia) but also by working round to the south of the deserts. Already separated during their journey, Parsua groups head in two main directions. In time the northern groups find themselves in the Zagros Mountains alongside their cousins, the Mannaeans and Medians. They are attested there during the ninth and eighth centuries but disappear afterwards. The southern groups, perhaps more numerous, trickle in through Drangiana and Carmania, towards southern Iran and begin to settle there.

Located in the Fārs region of Iran, these Parsua come under the overlordship of their once-powerful western neighbour, the kingdom of Elam. In the later stages of Persian settlement, Assyria and Media also claim some control over the region. As Elam's influence weakens, the Persians begin to assert their own authority in the region, although they remain subjugated by more powerful neighbours for quite some time.

c.843 BC

The Parsua receive their first mention in history. The Assyrian king, Shalmaneser III, records their existence on the Black Obelisk, which covers his campaign of about this year. Their position is not precisely fixed but 'Pasua' seems to lay in what is now Iranian Kurdistan (immediately east of Kurdistan in northern Iraq), far to the north of Persis and the heart of Persian settlement. They also occupy territory which stretches back into the east, seemingly along the Great Khorasan Road which follows the southern edge of the Elburz Mountains on the south coast of the Caspian Sea (largely within the later province of Hyrcania).

c.620 BC

The Medians (possibly) take control of Persia from the weakening Assyrians who themselves had only recently taken control of the region from Elam. According to Herodotus, Media governs all of the tribes of the Iranian steppe. This sudden empire may well include territory to the east which covers Hyrcania, Parthia, Drangiana, and Carmania.

c.546 - 540 BC

The defeat of the Medes opens the floodgates for Cyrus the Great with a wave of conquests, beginning in the west from 549 BC but focussing towards the east of the Persians from about 546 BC. Eastern Iran falls during a more drawn-out campaign between about 546-540 BC, which may be when Maka is taken (presumed to be the southern coastal strip of the Arabian Sea). Further eastern regions now fall, namely Arachosia, Aria, Bactria, Carmania, Chorasmia, Drangiana, Gandhara, Gedrosia, Hyrcania, Margiana, Parthia, Saka (at least part of the broad tribal lands of the Sakas), Sogdiana (with Ferghana), and Thatagush - all added to the empire, although records for these campaigns are characteristically sparse.

Index of Persian SatrapiesIndex of Greek SatrapiesPersian Satraps of Parthawa (Parthia)

Conquered by Cyrus the Great, the region of Parthia was added to the Persian empire. Before that it was an eastern part of the Median empire. Under the Persians, it was formed into an official main satrapy or province which was called Parthawa (Parthia is a Greek mangling of the name). The main satrapy of Parthawa covered a territory that was described in two ways: 'Parthawa and Verkâna' or simply just 'Parthawa' on its own. It follows from this that Verkâna (Hyrcania) was subsumed within Parthawa, from a description which has the Chorasmians living to the east of the Parthians (recorded by Athenaios). Administratively Verkâna belonged to Parthawa, most probably as a minor satrapy. In Seleucid times, Strabo notes that the two provinces were still assessed together for taxation purposes.

These eastern regions of the new-found empire were ancestral homelands for the Persians. They formed the Indo-Iranian melting pot from which the Parsua had migrated west in the first place to reach Persis. There would have been no language barriers for Cyrus' forces and few cultural differences. Although details of his conquests are relatively poor, he seemingly experienced few problems in uniting the various tribes under his governance. He was the first to exert any form of imperial control here, although his campaign may have been driven partially by a desire to recreate the semi-mythical kingdom of Turan in the land of Tūr, but now under Persian control. Curiously the Persians had little knowledge of what lay to the north of their eastern empire, with the result that Alexander the Great was less well-informed about the region than earlier Ionian settlers on the Black Sea coast had been.

(Additional information from The Persian Empire, J M Cook (1983), from The Histories, Herodotus (Penguin, 1996), and from External Links: Concomitant Replacement of Language and mtDNA in South Caspian Populations of Iran (Science Direct), and Encyclopaedia Iranica, and The Deipnosophists, Athenaeus (C D Yonge, Ed).)

c.546 - 540 BC

During his campaigns in the east, Cyrus the Great initially takes the northern route from Persis towards Bakhtrish to reassure or subdue the provinces. This route probably involves the 'militaris via' by Rhagai to Parthawa. At some point he takes the more difficult southern route, destroying Capisa along the way (possibly Kapisa on the Koh Daman plain to the north of Kabul - which is possibly also the Kapishakanish named at Behistun as a fortress in Harahuwatish).

On a fresh leg of the campaign, Cyrus enters the Dasht-i-Lut desert (the modern Dasht-e Loot) on the eastern route out of Karmana towards Harahuwatish. His army faces crippling loses but for the assistance provided by the Ariaspae on the River Helmand. They are named 'the Benefactors' (Greek 'Euergetai') by Cyrus in thanks. This route appears to have been poorly reconnoitred, hinting at a lack of Persian knowledge of this region and therefore a lack of preceding Median occupation here in its eastern empire.

fl c.540s BC

Hystaspes / Wishtaspa

Son of Arsames of Persia (a king?). Satrap of Parthawa.

Hystaspes, satrap of Parthawa, is the father of Darius the Great according to Darius' own Behistun inscription. In 521 BC, Darius kills the usurper Gaumata (Smerdis) and seizes control of the Persian empire. Hystaspes is the son of Arsames, and brother of Pharnaces, whose own son, Artabazus, becomes the first satrap of Phrygia. Arsames is the son of Ariaramnes, son of Teispes, son of Achaemenes, founder of the Parsua dynasty in Persis.

Ariaramnes and Arsames have been assumed to be a junior (cadet) line of the royal house, although their spans would seem to be rather long for the age in which they lived. Darius claims that both Hystaspes and Arsames are alive when he becomes king (as is Pharnaces). Whilst this is possibly for Hystaspes, could he be speaking figuratively in terms of Arsames? If he is indeed alive, he would be very old indeed, possibly approaching a hundred.

521 BC

Upon the execution of the Persian usurper, Smerdis, the Cyaxarid, Fravartiš, tries to restore Median independence. He is defeated by Persian generals and is executed. Embedded into the report on the rebellion of the Fravartiš in Media is confirmation that Armina belongs to the 'Great Satrapy Media', as suggested by Xenophon and documented by the Behistun inscription. The same happens in Parthawa and Verkâna whose inhabitants, as Darius the Great reports, had also joined Fravartiš. The quashing of the insurrections from Armina to Parthawa is chronologically coordinated in Persian records and occurs between May and June 521 BC. Another major rebellion in Mergu happens towards the end of 522 or 521 BC.

360s/350s BC

Artaxerxes II is occupied fighting the 'revolt of the satraps' in the western part of the empire. Nothing is known of events in the eastern half of the Persian empire at this time, but no word of unrest is mentioned by Greek writers, however briefly. Given the newsworthiness for Greeks of any rebellion against the Persian king, this should be enough to show that the east remains solidly behind the king. It seems that all of the empire's troubles hinge on the Greeks during this period.

330/329 BC

The victorious Greeks have taken Babylonia and now enter Verkâna. General Craterus is sent by Alexander to subdue the Tapurians. Otherwise known as the Tabari or Mazanderani people, they are an Indo-Iranian group occupying territory in modern Tabiristan in northern Iran, hugging the southern Caspian Sea coast. Following DNA sampling of the modern Tabari population, their origins would seem to be as a South Caucasian people who have incorporated Iranian women over several centuries, which has seen them converted to Iranian speakers.

Index of Greek SatrapsIndex of Greek SatrapiesArgead Dynasty in Parthia

The Argead were the ruling family and founders of Macedonia who reached their greatest extent under Alexander the Great and his two successors before the kingdom broke up into several Hellenic sections. Following Alexander's conquest of central and eastern Persia in 331-328 BC, the Greek empire ruled the region until Alexander's death in 323 BC and the subsequent regency period which ended in 310 BC. Alexander's successors held no real power, being mere figureheads for the generals who really held control of Alexander's empire. Following that latter period and during the course of several wars, Parthia was left in the hands of the Seleucid empire from 312 BC.

Conquered by Cyrus the Great, the region of Parthawa covered a territory that was described in two ways: 'Parthia and Hyrcania' or simply just 'Parthia' on its own. It follows from this that Hyrcania was subsumed within Parthia, from a description which has the Chorasmians living to the east of the Parthians (recorded by Athenaios). Administratively Hyrcania belonged to Parthia, most probably as a minor satrapy. In Seleucid times, Strabo notes that the two provinces were still assessed together for taxation purposes.

(Additional information from The Persian Empire, J M Cook (1983), from The Histories, Herodotus (Penguin, 1996), and from External Links: Encyclopaedia Iranica, and The Deipnosophists, Athenaeus (C D Yonge, Ed).)

330 - 323 BC

Alexander III the Great

King of Macedonia. Conquered Persia.

323 - 317 BC

Philip III Arrhidaeus

Feeble-minded half-brother of Alexander the Great.

317 - 310 BC

Alexander IV of Macedonia

Infant son of Alexander the Great and Roxana.

323 - 320? BC


Greek satrap of Parthia & Hyrcania.

320s BC

At this time the Indo-Scythians appear to reside midway between modern Iran and India, or at least the Amyrgian subset or tribe does. Achaemenid records identify two main divisions of 'Sakas' (an altered form of 'Scythians', these being the Saka Haumavarga and Saka Tigraxauda, with the latter inhabiting territory between Hyrcania and Chorasmia in modern Turkmenistan.

Sakas on a frieze at Persepolis
Sakas (otherwise known as 'Scythians' who in this case can be more precisely identified as Indo-Scythians) depicted on a frieze at Persepolis in Achaemenid Persia, which would have been the greatest military power in the region at this time

308 - 301 BC

The Fourth War of the Diadochi soon breaks out. In 306 BC Antigonus proclaims himself king, so the following year the other generals do the same in their domains. Polyperchon, otherwise quiet in his stronghold in the Peloponnese, dies in 303 BC and Cassander of Macedonia claims his territory. The war ends in the death of Antigonus at the Battle of Ipsus in 301 BC. Seleucus is now king of all Hellenic territory from Syria eastwards, turning Alexander the Great's eastern empire into the Seleucid empire, which includes Parthia.

Index of Greek SatrapsIndex of Greek SatrapiesMacedonian Parthia

The Greek general, Seleucus, fought a number of wars as the empire fragmented in order to secure his own hold on power. In 312 BC he regained Babylon from the Empire of Antigonus and safely held it while Antigonus tried to retrieve it (until 309 BC). After that Seleucus was able to expand his holdings with some ruthlessness, building up his stock of Alexander's far eastern regions as far as the borders of India and the River Indus. Appian's work, The Syrian Wars, provides a detailed list of these regions, which included Arabia, Arachosia, Armenia, Bactria, 'Seleucid' Cappadocia (as it was known) by 301 BC, Cilicia (eventually), Hyrcania, Mesopotamia, Paropamisadae, Parthia, Persia, Sogdiana, and Tapouria (a small satrapy beyond Hyrcania), plus eastern areas of Phrygia.

The final of these wars was the Fourth War of the Diadochi ('successors', these being Alexander's generals), which followed the murder of Alexander IV and helped to set Seleucus' own borders. When Antigonus proclaimed himself king in 306 BC, all the other surviving generals followed suite, confirming the dismantling of the empire into various regional domains. The stage was set for the final showdown at the Battle of Ipsus, which left Antigonus and Lysimachus defeated and the Seleucid empire virtually unchallenged between Anatolia and Central Asia.

(Additional information by Edward Dawson, from The Marshals of Alexander's Empire, Waldemar Heckel, from Jewish War & Jewish Antiquities, Flavius Josephus, from Revised Chronology for the Late Seleucids at Antioch, O Hoover, and from External Links: University of Leicester, and Listverse, and Virtual Religion: Into His Own, and Encyclopædia Britannica, and Appian's History of Rome: The Syrian Wars at Livius.org, and Diodorus of Sicily at the Library of World History.)

fl 256 - c.238 BC


Greek satrap of Parthia. Killed by the Parni.

c.256 BC

Andragoras declares independence from Seleucid Greek rule at the same time as Bactria.

c.250 - 248 BC

Areas of Persia are slowly liberated from Greek rule by tribesmen from the Iranian Plateau.

248 - c.238 BC

Parthia secures independence from Seleucid rule, and the Parthians fully establish themselves with the death of the former Greek satrap and now king of Parthia.

Arsacid (Parthian) Persia
248 BC - AD 224

Around 256 BC, Andragoras, Macedonian satrap of Parthia, declared his independence from the Seleucid empire. Almost immediately, he faced a threat to his rule not from the Seleucids in the west but from infiltrating tribesmen from the north. These were Indo-Iranian Parni tribesmen who emerged out of obscurity on the Iranian Plateau and took over north-eastern and central Iran while the Seleucids weakened in the west. By 130 BC the Parthians, as they came to refer to themselves, had conquered all of Iran, and in 126 BC they took Babylonia. The rise of the Parthian Arsacid dynasty also saw Greek Bactria cut off from the Seleucids, and an independent Greco-Bactrian kingdom was declared there. The Bactrian king, Diodotus II, concluded a peace treaty with Arsaces of the Parni to forestall a Seleucid re-conquest both of Persia and Bactria.

FeatureThese Parni tribesmen from the north were originally one of three tribes which formed a confederation in the former Persian satrapy of Dahae. During his reign between 485-465 BC, the Persian King Xerxes added two new regions to the empire, neither of which were very descriptive or clear in their location. The first was Daha, from 'daai' or 'daae', meaning 'men', perhaps in the sense of brigands. Daha or Dahae would appear to be the region on the eastern flank of the Caspian Sea, bordered by the Saka Tigraxauda to the north, and the satrapies of Mergu, Uwarazmiy, and Verkâna to the north-east, south-east, and south respectively. This region contained a confederation of three tribes, the Parni, the Pissuri, and the Xanthii.

Analysing the name Dahae is somewhat complicated but it can be done. Some interchange has been found to exist between the letters 'h' and 's' in the Sanskrit Avesta and the Vedas. For example, in the Avesta, 'hepta hindu' is the 'sapta sindhu' of the Vedas, 'homa' in the Avesta is the 'soma' of the Vedas, and 'daha' is the 'dasas'. Other examples exist. Dasa or das in Sanskrit can also be found in Indo-Aryan texts such as Rigveda and Arthasastra. It usually means either 'enemy' or 'servant', which would gel with the sense given by the use of Dahae as the name of a conquered region. Dahae seemingly remained a conquered region throughout the rest of the Persian empire period and well into the Macedonian period... until Andragoras took took Parthia out of the Seleucid empire.

The dating of the Arsacids is uncertain, as is the sequence of rulers in some cases, and is largely known from coins alone. Not all pretenders and temporary rulers are mentioned in this list, though a fair number of overlapping reigns do seem to be mentioned. It seems to have been rare for Indo-Iranian states to record their histories in any real detail. The Persian empire was largely the same, with the Greeks being the ones to produce the best records concerning it. With Arsacid Persia being largely more eastwards-looking than its predecessor, and the Greeks of Bactria cut off from their fellow Greeks in the west, there was less knowledge in the Classical Greek world of general Parthian events.

(Additional information from Epitome of the Philippic History of Pompeius Trogus: Books 11-12, Volume 1, Marcus Junianus Justinus, John Yardley, & Waldemar Heckel, from Jewish War & Jewish Antiquities, Flavius Josephus, from History of Civilizations of Central Asia, Janos Harmatta, B N Puri, & G F Etemadi (Eds, Delhi 1999), from The Persian Empire, J M Cook (1983), and from External Links: Ancient History Encyclopaedia (Sakas), and Ancient History Encyclopaedia (Aria), and Appian's History of Rome: The Syrian Wars at Livius.org, and Diodorus of Sicily at the Library of World History.)

c.250 - 211? BC

Arsaces I of the Parni People

248 - c.238 BC

Parthia secures independence from Seleucid rule, and the Parthians fully establish themselves with the death of the Greek self-proclaimed king of Parthia.

235 - 229 BC

Antiochus Heirax continues his campaign to wrest the Seleucid empire from his brother by defeating him at the battle of Ancyra in 235 BC, leaving Anatolia outside of Seleucid power. Seleucus II then marches into Parthia, intent on regaining that, but is forced to be satisfied with a peace agreement. Arsaces I is recognised as king of Parthia. The tide of Seleucid defeats turns when Attalus of Pergamum defeats Antiochus at the Battle of Harpasus in 229 BC.

216 - 213 BC

Now strong enough to face his rebellious cousin, Antiochus III of the Seleucid empire is able to march his forces into western Anatolia. By 214 BC Achaeus has been driven back to Sardis where he is captured and executed. The citadel itself is able to hold out until 213 BC under Achaeus' widow Laodice. Central Anatolia has been recovered but several regional dynasties persist in Bithynia, Cappadocia, and Pergamum. Rather than try his hand against these, Antiochus concentrates on the northern and eastern provinces of the empire. Xerxes of Armenia is persuaded to acknowledge his supremacy in 212 BC, but more is to come in 209 BC.

? - 211 BC


c.211 - 191 BC

Artabanus I (?)

c.211 - 191 BC

Arsaces II (?)

209 - 206 BC

Continuing a strong run of victories, Seleucid ruler Antiochus III invades Parthia. Its capital, Hecatompylos, is occupied and Antiochus forces his way into Hyrcania, with the result that the Parthian king, Arsaces II, is forced to sue for peace. Buoyed by his successes in the east, Antiochus continues on to Bactria. This independent former satrapy is now ruled by Euthydemus Theos after he has deposed the son of the original ruler. Euthydemus is defeated at the Battle of the Arius but resists a two-year siege of the fortified capital, Bactra. In 206 BC Antiochus marches across the Hindu Kush.

Map of Bactria and India 200 BC
The kingdom of Bactria (shown in white) was at the height of its power around 200-180 BC, with fresh conquests being made in the south-east, encroaching into India just as the Mauryan empire was on the verge of collapse, while around the northern and eastern borders dwelt various tribes that would eventually contribute to the downfall of the Greeks - the Sakas and Tocharians (click on map to show full sized)

c.200 BC

FeatureThe Persian 'ancient batteries', basic electric cells, are dated to this point in time, although their function and origin remain unclear to this day.

c.191 - 176 BC


c.191 - 176 BC


185 BC

The Parthians expand into eastern Iran at the expense of the Seleucid ruler, Seleucus IV. His reign is otherwise uneventful, mostly due to the disastrous defeat of 188 BC. He is assassinated by his own chief minister, Heliodorus, allowing his brother to seize the throne.

c.176 - 171 BC

Phraates I

171 - 132 BC

Mithradates I

(Not the same as the king of Pontus.)

167 BC

The Parthians take the former province of Aria in what is now northern Afghanistan.

164 BC

The Arsacids have been gradually extending their control over the eastern lands of former Persia, and Seleucid ruler Antiochus IV now campaigns against them. He recovers lost income from the region and forces the defector, Artaxias of Armenia, to recognise his suzerainty. Then he founds the city of Antioch on the Persian Gulf, sets out on an expedition to the Arabian coast and, at the end of 164 BC, dies of illness at Tabae (or Gabae, probably modern Isfahan) in Persis.

145 - 141 BC

Seleucid rival claimant Antiochus VI is recognised in Antioch, and Demetrius is forced to flee to Seleucia near Babylon, although he only makes it thanks to soldiers from Judea who save his life. However, the Parthians under the very able Mithradates I make the most of the Seleucid civil war by taking Media in 141 BC. In the same year Mithradates also captures Seleucia and then Uruk.

140 - 138 BC

In 140 BC, another Seleucid rival claimant, Diodotus, kills Antiochus VI and proclaims himself ruler of the empire with the name Tryphon. Diodotus Tryphon then goes on to destroy Beirut in his contest with Demetrius. The following year, Mithradates of Parthia conquers Susa in Elam, leaving the Seleucids denuded of all lands east of the Euphrates.

c.132 - 126 BC

Phraates II

Son. Killed by Sakas.

132 - 129 BC

Antiochus VII takes up the reins of regaining lost eastern territories, but he turns out to be the last Seleucid emperor of the east. After the death of Mithradates I around 132 BC (138 BC is given as an alternate date, although this may mark the point at which Phraates is raised to a senior supporting role), Antiochus launches a campaign which is initially successful, recapturing Media and Babylonia in 130 BC. Antiochus demands that the Parthians restore all Seleucid territories in Iran, so they defeat him in battle in 129 BC and he commits suicide later that year. His death ends Seleucid rule in Mesopotamia and Iran. The Parthians release the captive Demetrius II and allow him to return to the remnants of the empire in Syria and Cilicia (plus Babylonia until 126 BC).

138 - 126 BC

In the core Parthian homeland, Phraates comes into conflict with western elements of the Sakas. The Parthians are defeated in several battles, the last of which ends with the death of Phraates himself in the same year in which he regains Babylonia, removing the very last eastern territory from the Seleucid empire.

c.126 BC

Bacasis / Bagasis

Son of Phriapatius.

c.128 - 124 BC

Artabanus II (I)

c.126 - 124 BC

Having already caused the death of Artabanus' predecessor, the Sakas continue to press Parthian borders for territory. Artabanus is killed in one such encounter.

c.121 BC


Unnamed king with the throne name of Arsaces XI.

129 - 126 BC

The Parthians invade and conquer Mesopotamia and Babylonia, dethroning and killing the Seleucid king.

121 - 87 BC

Mithradates II the Great

Cousin of Phraates II.

115 BC

With Parthian territory having been harried for years by the Sakas, Mithridates II is finally able to take control of the situation. First he defeats the Yuezhi in Sogdiana in 115 BC, and then he defeats the Scythians in Parthia and Seistan around 100 BC. After their defeat, the Yuezhi tribes concentrate on consolidation in Bactria. Drangiana and Aria would appear to remain Parthian dependencies.

92 - 90 BC

A treaty is formed with Rome. Within two years the Parthians take control of eastern Iran, and Mithradates launches an attack against the Seleucid empire with Aziz the Arab as his ally. The target is Antiochus X who is killed during the fighting.

89 - 87 BC

Mithradates launches an attack against the Seleucid empire with Aziz the Arab as his ally. The target is Antiochus X who is killed during the fighting. The weakened and distracted Seleucids also lose Harran to Armenia as Tigranes the Great conquers much of Syria (between this point and 69 BC). The civil war at least would seem to be over - until Philip and Demetrius fight each other for the throne. The spark seems to be Demetrius breaking off his attacks against the Hasmonaeans to capture Antioch. Unbelievably, Philip invites the Arsacids to help him, and in 88/87 BC they capture Demetrius. He later dies in captivity. Philip seizes the northern part of the empire and is recognised in Antioch but his younger brother, Antiochus XII, now claims Damascus in the south and a fresh civil war is triggered.

c.90 - 80 BC

Gotarzes I

c.80 - 78 BC

Orodes I

c.80 BC

On the eastern edge of Parthian territory, the Yeuh Chi (Tocharians) continue to drive the Indo-Scythian Sakas southwards from Central Asia. In turn, the Parthians divert the Sakas from Persian territory into Indo-Greek Gandhara, ensuring that their future lies in entering India.

c.77 - 70 BC


c.70 - 58 BC

Phraates III

c.70 BC

Indo-Scythians expel the Indo-Greeks from Arachosia but subsequently lose the region to the Parthians. Parthian rule seems to be limited and perhaps does not include the entire region.

Map of Central Asia & India c.50 BC
By the period between 100-50 BC the Greek kingdom of Bactria had fallen and the remaining Indo-Greek territories (shown in white) had been squeezed towards eastern Punjab. India was partially fragmented, and the once tribal Sakas were coming to the end of a period of domination of a large swathe of territory in modern Afghanistan, Pakistan, and north-western India. The dates within their lands (shown in yellow) show their defeats of the Greeks that had gained them those lands, but they were very soon to be overthrown in the north by the Kushans while still battling for survival against the Satvahanas of India (click on map to show full sized)

66 BC

The Parthians take control of Harran.

c.58 - 39 BC

Orodes II

53 BC

The Battle of Carrhae (Harran). Triumvir Crassus is killed and 34,000 legionnaires are captured or killed. Some captured Romans may later be used to fight against China, while others are sold as slaves by the thousand in China and India, as well as closer to home.

c.57 - 55 BC

Mithradates III

Pacorus I

(d.38 BC)

c.40 - 3 BC

Phraates IV

Son of Orodes.

40 - 36 BC

Between 40-37 BC, the Parthians attack and occupy areas of Roman Syria, including the city of Bashan. Rome's Mark Antony leads an army against the Parthians in 36 BC, supported by Polemon I of Cilicia, Kolkis, and Pontus. However, the force is defeated and Polemon is captured and ransomed.

c.30 - 25 BC


3 BC - AD 3

Phraates V

2 - 4

Queen Musa


The empire gradually breaks into smaller kingdoms that remain loosely united for two hundred years.

4 - 7

Orodes III

c.7 - 12

Vonones I

Became king of Armenia 15-16.


The Indo-Greek kingdom disappears under Indo-Scythian pressure. It seems to be Rajuvula, kshatrapa of Mathura, who invades what is virtually the last free Indo-Greek territory in eastern Indus (Punjab), and kills the Greek ruler, Strato II and his son. Pockets of Greek population probably remain for some centuries under the subsequent rule of the Kushans and Indo-Parthian. By now the Parthians already seem to have captured Kashmir from the Indo-Scythians, relieving them of an important prize.

c.10 - 38

Artabanus III (II)

His son became king of Armenia 34-35.


With the empire fragmenting over the course of several decades, the Parthian vassal in the east of Persia, Gondophares, ventures furthers east and establishes an independent Indo-Parthian kingdom in territory which stretches from Arachosia and Gedrosia to northern India.

c.39 - 45

Vardanes I

c.43 - 50

Gotarzes II

c.50 - 76

Vologeses I

Vologeses I is brother to Pacorus of Media, and Tiridates II of Armenia. He is also the father of Tiridates I of Armenia.


Parthian authority is restored in Margiana, at least to an extent.

77 - 78

Vologeses II

77 - 86

Pacorus II

79 - 80

Artabanus IV (III)

89 - 90

Vologeses II

89 - 90


92 - 95

Pacorus II


The Kushans capture the former Bactrian-controlled province of Arachosia from the Indo-Parthians and expand their borders right up to the edge of Persia.

108 - 127



111 - 146

Vologeses III

114 - 117

The Romans under Trajan occupy Mesopotamia right up to the former Elamite capital at Susa (now the Parthian capital), but the conquests are given up following the emperor's death.

113 - 114

Pacorus II

c.130 - 147

Mithradates IV

148 - 190

Vologeses IV

190 - 206

Vologeses V

207 - 221

Vologeses VI

c.213 - 227

Artbanus V (IV)


Weakened by decades of war with Rome, the Parthians are overthrown by a nobleman called Sassa, from the Iranian Highlands.

c.226 - 227