The Parthians : The Forgotten Empire book cover
1st Edition

The Parthians
The Forgotten Empire

ISBN 9780367473099
Published March 25, 2021 by Routledge
362 Pages 217 B/W Illustrations

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Book Description

This volume provides a comprehensive overview of the history and culture of the Parthian Empire, which existed for almost 500 years from 247 BC to 224 AD.

The Parthians were Rome’s great opponents in the east, but comparatively little is known about them. The Parthians focuses on the rise, expansion, flowering and decline of the Parthian Empire and covers both the wars with the Romans in the west and the nomads in the east. Sources include the small amount from the Empire itself, as well as those from outside the Parthian world, such as Greek, Roman and Chinese documents. Ellerbrock also explores the Parthian military, social history, religions, art, architecture and numismatics, all supported by a great number of images and maps.

The Parthians is an invaluable resource for those studying the Ancient Near East during the period of the Parthian Empire, as well as for more general readers interested in this era.

Table of Contents

List of figures

List of tables


Glossary of historic place names

I. The Parthian Empire: A First Approach

II. History of the Great Empires in Iran

III. History of the Parthian Empire

III.1. Phase 1: The development from a Seleucid vassal state to the Parthian Empire: from Arsaces I to Phraates I (c. 247-171 BC)

III.2. Phase 2: Expansion of the Parthian Empire: from Mithradates I to Darius of Media Atropatene (c. 171-70 BC)

III.3. Phase 3: Parthia as Great Power: from Phraates III to Vonones II (c. 70 BC – c. 51 AD)

III.4. Phase 4: Phases of stability – inner turmoil – decline of the Parthian Empire: from Vologases I (ca. 51 – 79 AD) to Artabanus IV (c. 216 – 224 AD)

III.5. Ardashir I and the newly founded Sasanian Empire

III.6. The end of the Parthian Empire - reasons for the downfall

IV. The Structure of the Parthian Empire

IV.1. The king

IV.2. The nobility

IV.3. The Parthian army – standing army - Parthian Shot

IV.4. Administrative structure of the Empire

IV.5. Parthian Queens and marriage policy

V. Vassal States and Kingdoms under Parthian Influence

VI. The Parthian Empire and the Peoples of Eurasia

VII. Cities and Architecture in the Parthian Empire

VII.1. Structure and architecture of the Cities

VII.2. Cities in the homeland of the Parthians and in Iran

VII.3. Cities in Syria and Mesopotamia

VIII. Trade and Business in the Parthian Empire

IX. Insights into Social Life in Parthia

X. Parthian Art: Art in the Arsacid Kingdom

XI. The Parthian Empire and its Religions

XI.1. General information to Zoroastrianism and the Avesta

XI.2. Iconography of Parthian coins - references to the Zoroastrian faith

XI.3. Manichaeism - religion with Parthian origins

XI.4. Mithraism

XI.5. Judaism in Parthia

XI.6. Christianity in Parthia: the proselytizing by the Apostle Thomas


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Uwe Ellerbrock has been studying the Parthian Empire for more than 30 years. His book Die Parther, written with archaeologist Sylvia Winkelmann, was published in 2012 (revised edition 2015).


"This book is a welcome introductory account of the society, culture, and impact of the traditionally much neglected and maligned Parthians in English. It does not address one common narrative or time period, but rather it addresses the entirety of the Parthians’ long history (middle third century BCE to early third century CE) and the evolution of their society from migrants on the Central Asian steppe to world imperialists... Ellerbrock has published an engaging and important work long overdue and much needed for an anglophone audience. This book will quickly become a leading reference for scholars and students interested in the society and culture of the Parthians. No doubt it will help create further awareness of the Parthians as a great and accomplished civilization and stimulate further debate about their place in world history." - Nikolaus Overtoom, Ancient History Bulletin