The Parthian Empire known as the Arsacid Empire, was a major Iranian political and cultural power in ancient Iran. Its latter name comes from Arsaces I of Parthia who, as leader of the Parni tribe, founded it in the mid-3rd century BC when he conquered the region of Parthia in Iran's northeast a satrapy under Andragoras, in rebellion against the Seleucid Empire. Mithridates I of Parthia expanded the empire by seizing Media and Mesopotamia from the Seleucids. At its height, the Parthian Empire stretched from the northern reaches of the Euphrates, in what is now central-eastern Turkey, to eastern Iran; the empire, located on the Silk Road trade route between the Roman Empire in the Mediterranean Basin and the Han dynasty of China, became a center of trade and commerce. The Parthians adopted the art, religious beliefs, royal insignia of their culturally heterogeneous empire, which encompassed Persian and regional cultures. For about the first half of its existence, the Arsacid court adopted elements of Greek culture, though it saw a gradual revival of Iranian traditions.
The Arsacid rulers were titled the "King of Kings", as a claim to be the heirs to the Achaemenid Empire. The court did appoint a small number of satraps outside Iran, but these satrapies were smaller and less powerful than the Achaemenid potentates. With the expansion of Arsacid power, the seat of central government shifted from Nisa to Ctesiphon along the Tigris, although several other sites served as capitals; the earliest enemies of the Parthians were the Scythians in the east. However, as Parthia expanded westward, they came into conflict with the Kingdom of Armenia, the late Roman Republic. Rome and Parthia competed with each other to establish the kings of Armenia as their subordinate clients; the Parthians soundly defeated Marcus Licinius Crassus at the Battle of Carrhae in 53 BC, in 40–39 BC, Parthian forces captured the whole of the Levant except Tyre from the Romans. However, Mark Antony led a counterattack against Parthia, although his successes were achieved in his absence, under the leadership of his lieutenant Ventidius.
Various Roman emperors or their appointed generals invaded Mesopotamia in the course of the ensuing Roman–Parthian Wars of the next few centuries. The Romans captured the cities of Seleucia and Ctesiphon on multiple occasions during these conflicts, but were never able to hold on to them. Frequent civil wars between Parthian contenders to the throne proved more dangerous to the Empire's stability than foreign invasion, Parthian power evaporated when Ardashir I, ruler of Istakhr in Persis, revolted against the Arsacids and killed their last ruler, Artabanus V, in 224 AD. Ardashir established the Sassanid Empire, which ruled Iran and much of the Near East until the Muslim conquests of the 7th century AD, although the Arsacid dynasty lived on through the Arsacid Dynasty of Armenia, the Arsacid dynasty of Iberia, the Arsacid Dynasty of Caucasian Albania. Native Parthian sources, written in Parthian and other languages, are scarce when compared to Sassanid and earlier Achaemenid sources. Aside from scattered cuneiform tablets, fragmentary ostraca, rock inscriptions, drachma coins, the chance survival of some parchment documents, much of Parthian history is only known through external sources.
These include Greek and Roman histories, but Chinese histories, prompted by the Han Chinese desire to form alliances against the Xiongnu. Parthian artwork is viewed by historians as a valid source for understanding aspects of society and culture that are otherwise absent in textual sources. Before Arsaces I of Parthia founded the Arsacid Dynasty, he was chieftain of the Parni, an ancient Central-Asian tribe of Iranian peoples and one of several nomadic tribes within the confederation of the Dahae; the Parni most spoke an eastern Iranian language, in contrast to the northwestern Iranian language spoken at the time in Parthia. The latter was a northeastern province, first under the Achaemenid, the Seleucid empires. After conquering the region, the Parni adopted Parthian as the official court language, speaking it alongside Middle Persian, Greek, Babylonian and other languages in the multilingual territories they would conquer. Why the Arsacid court retroactively chose 247 BC as the first year of the Arsacid era is uncertain.
A. D. H. Bivar concludes that this was the year the Seleucids lost control of Parthia to Andragoras, the appointed satrap who rebelled against them. Hence, Arsaces I "backdated his regnal years" to the moment when Seleucid control over Parthia ceased. However, Vesta Sarkhosh Curtis asserts that this was the year Arsaces was made chief of the Parni tribe. Homa Katouzian and Gene Ralph Garthwaite claim it was the year Arsaces conquered Parthia and expelled the Seleucid authorities, yet Curtis and Maria Brosius state that Andragoras was not overthrown by the Arsacids until 238 BC, it is unclear who succeeded Arsaces I. Bivar and Katouzian affirm that it was his brother Tiridates I of Parthia, who in turn was succeeded by his son Arsaces II of Parthia in 211 BC, yet Curtis and Brosius state that Arsaces II was the immediate successor of Arsaces I, with Curtis claiming the succession took place in 211 BC, Brosius in 217 BC. Bivar insists that 138 BC, the last regnal year of Mithridates I, is "the first established regnal date of Parthian history."
Due to these and other discrepancies
The Indo-Parthian Kingdom known as the Suren Kingdom, was a Parthian kingdom founded by the Gondopharid branch of the House of Suren, ruling from 19 to c. 240. At their zenith, they ruled an area covering parts of eastern Iran, various parts of Afghanistan and the northwest regions of the Indian subcontinent; the kingdom was founded in 19 when the Surenid governor of Drangiana Gondophares declared independence from the Parthian Empire. He would make expeditions into the west, conquering territory from the Indo-Scythians and Indo-Greeks, thus transforming his kingdom into an empire; the domains of the Indo-Parthians were reduced following the invasions of the Kushans in the second half of the 1st. Century, they managed to retain control of Sakastan, until its conquest by the Sasanian Empire in c. 240. The Indo-Parthians are noted for the construction of the Buddhist monastery Takht-i-Bahi. Gondophares I seems to have been a ruler of Seistan in what is today eastern Iran a vassal or relative of the Apracarajas.
Around 20–10 BC, he made conquests in the former Indo-Scythian kingdom after the death of the important ruler Azes. Gondophares became the ruler of areas comprising Arachosia, Sindh and the Kabul valley, but it does not seem as though he held territory beyond eastern Punjab. Gondophares called himself "King of Kings", a Parthian title that in his case reflects that the Indo-Parthian empire was only a loose framework: a number of smaller dynasts maintained their positions during the Indo-Parthian period in exchange for their recognition of Gondophares and his successors; these smaller dynasts included the Apracarajas themselves, Indo-Scythian satraps such as Zeionises and Rajuvula, as well as anonymous Scythians who struck imitations of Azes coins. The Ksaharatas held sway in Gujarat just outside Gondophares' dominions. After the death of Gondophares I, the empire started to fragment; the name or title Gondophares was adapted by Sarpedones, who become Gondophares II and was son of the first Gondophares.
Though he claimed to be the main ruler, Sarpedones’ rule was shaky and he issued a fragmented coinage in Sind, eastern Punjab and Arachosia in southern Afghanistan. The most important successor was Abdagases, Gondophares’ nephew, who ruled in Punjab and in the homeland of Seistan. After a short reign, Sarpedones seems to have been succeeded by Orthagnes, who became Gondophares III Gadana. Orthagnes ruled in Seistan and Arachosia, with Abdagases further east, during the first decades AD, was succeeded by his son Ubouzanes Coin. After 20 AD, a king named Sases, a nephew of the Apracaraja ruler Aspavarma, took over Abdagases’ territories and became Gondophares IV Sases. According to Senior, this is the Gondophares referred to in the Takht-i-Bahi inscription. There were other minor kings: Sanabares was an ephemeral usurper in Seistan, who called himself Great King of Kings, there was a second Abdagases Coin, a ruler named Agata in Sind, another ruler called Satavastres Coin, an anonymous prince who claimed to be brother of the king Arsaces, in that case an actual member of the ruling dynasty in Parthia.
But the Indo-Parthians never regained the position of Gondophares I, from the middle of the 1st century AD the Kushans under Kujula Kadphises began absorbing the northern Indian part of the kingdom. The Indo-Parthians managed to retain control of Sakastan, which they ruled until the fall of the Parthian Empire by Sasanian Empire; the city of Taxila is thought to have been a capital of the Indo-Parthians. Large strata were excavated by Sir John Marshall with a quantity of Parthian-style artifacts; the nearby temple of Jandial is interpreted as a Zoroastrian fire temple from the period of the Indo-Parthians. Some ancient writings describe the presence of the Indo-Parthians in the area, such as the story of Saint Thomas the Apostle, recruited as a carpenter to serve at the court of king "Gudnaphar" in India; the Acts of Thomas describes in chapter 17 Thomas' visit to king Gudnaphar in northern India. As Senior points out, this Gudnaphar has been identified with the first Gondophares, who has thus been dated after the advent of Christianity, but there is no evidence for this assumption, Senior's research shows that Gondophares I could be dated before 1 AD.
If the account is historical, Saint Thomas may have encountered one of the kings who bore the same title. The Greek philosopher Apollonius of Tyana is related by Philostratus in Life of Apollonius Tyana to have visited India, the city of Taxila around 46 AD, he describes constructions of the Greek type referring to Sirkap, explains that the Indo-Parthian king of Taxila, named Phraotes, received a Greek education at the court of his father and spoke Greek fluently: "Tell me, O King, how you acquired such a command of the Greek tongue, whence you derived all your philosophical attainments in this place?" -"My father, after a Greek education, brought me to the sages at an age somewhat too early for I was only twelve at the time, but they brought me up like their own son. It describes the presence of Parthian kings fighting with each other
Indo-Scythians were a group of nomadic Iranian peoples of Saka and Scythian origin who migrated southward into western and northern South Asia from the middle of the 2nd century BC to the 4th century AD. The first Saka king in South Asia was Maues/Moga who established Saka power in Gandhara, Indus Valley; the Indo-Scythians extended their supremacy over north-western India, conquering the Indo-Greeks and other local kingdoms. The Indo-Scythians were subjugated by the Kushan Empire, by either Kujula Kadphises or Kanishka, yet the Saka continued forming the Northern Satraps and Western Satraps. The power of the Saka rulers started to decline in the 2nd century CE after the Indo-Scythians were defeated by the Satavahana emperor Gautamiputra Satakarni. Indo-Scythian rule in the northwestern Indian subcontinent ceased when the last Western Satrap Rudrasimha III was defeated by the Gupta emperor Chandragupta II in 395 CE; the invasion of northern regions of the Indian subcontinent by Scythian tribes from Central Asia referred to as the Indo-Scythian invasion, played a significant part in the history of the Indian subcontinent as well as nearby countries.
In fact, the Indo-Scythian war is just one chapter in the events triggered by the nomadic flight of Central Asians from conflict with tribes such as the Xiongnu in the 2nd century AD, which had lasting effects on Bactria and the Indian subcontinent as well as far-off Rome in the west, more nearby to the west in Parthia. Ancient Roman historians including Arrian and Claudius Ptolemy have mentioned that the ancient Sakas were nomadic people. However, Italo Ronca, in his detailed study of Ptolemy's chapter vi, states: "The land of the Sakai belongs to nomads, they have no towns but dwell in forests and caves" as spurious; the ancestors of the Indo-Scythians are thought to be Sakas tribes. "One group of Indo-European speakers that makes an early appearance on the Xinjiang stage is the Saka. Saka is more a generic term than a name for ethnic group. Like the Scythians whom Herodotus describes in book four of his History, Sakas were Iranian-speaking horse nomads who deployed chariots in battle, sacrificed horses, buried their dead in barrows or mound tombs called kurgans."
According to their own origin myths, they claimed descent from Kushtana Maurya, the exiled son of the Indian Emperor Ashokavardhana Maurya who established the Kingdom of Khotan at Tarim Basin. In the 2nd century BC, a fresh nomadic movement started among the Central Asian tribes, producing lasting effects on the history of Rome in Europe, Parthia in Western Asia, Bactria and India in the east in Southern Asia. Recorded in the annals of the Han dynasty and other Chinese records, this great tribal movement began after the Yuezhi tribe was defeated by the Xiongnu, fleeing westwards after their defeat and creating a domino effect as they displaced other central Asian tribes in their path. According to these ancient sources Modu Shanyu of the Xiongnu tribe of Mongolia attacked the Yuezhi and evicted them from their homeland between the Qilian Shan and Dunhuang around 175 BC. Leaving behind a remnant of their number, most of the population moved westwards into the Ili River area. There, they displaced the Sakas, who migrated south into Sogdiana.
According to the Chinese historical chronicles: " attacked the king of the Sai who moved a considerable distance to the south and the Yuezhi occupied his lands."Sometime after 155 BC, the Yuezhi were again defeated by an alliance of the Wusun and the Xiongnu, were forced to move south, again displacing the Scythians, who migrated south towards Bactria and present Afghanistan, south-west closer towards Parthia. The Sakas seem to have entered the territory of the Greco-Bactrian Kingdom around 145 BC, where they burnt to the ground the Greek city of Alexandria on the Oxus; the Yuezhi remained in Sogdiana on the northern bank of the Oxus, but they became suzerains of the Sakas in Bactrian territory, as described by the Chinese ambassador Zhang Qian who visited the region around 126 BC. In Parthia, between 138–124 BC, a tribe known to ancient Greek scholars as the Sacaraucae and an allied non-Saka/Scythian people, the Massagetae came into conflict with the Parthian Empire; the Sacaraucae-Massagetae alliance won several battles and killed, in succession, the Parthian kings Phraates II and Artabanus I.
The Parthian king Mithridates II retook control of parts of Central Asia, first by defeating the Yuezhi in Sogdiana in 115 BC, defeating the Scythians in Parthia and Seistan around 100 BC. After their defeat, the Yuezhi tribes migrated far to the east into Bactria, which they were to control for several centuries, from which they conquered northern India to found the Kushan Empire; the Sakas settled in Drangiana, an area of Southern Afghanistan, western Pakistan and south Iran, called after them as Sakastan or Sistan. From there, they progressively expanded into present day Iran as well as northern India, where they established various kingdoms, where they are known as "Saka"; the Arsacid emperor Mithridates II had scored many successes against the Scythia
The Kidarites were a dynasty that ruled Bactria and adjoining parts of Central Asia and South Asia in the 4th and 5th centuries CE. The Kidarites belonged to a complex of peoples known collectively in India as the Huna and/or in Europe as the Xionites.. Named after Kidara, their founding ruler and purported membership of a clan named Ki, the Kidarites appear to have been a part of a Huna horde known in Latin sources as the Kermichiones or "Red Huna"; the Kidarites established the first of four major Xionite/Huna states in Central Asia, followed by the Hephthalites, the Alchon, the Nezak. In 360–370 CE, a Kidarite kingdom was established in Central Asian regions ruled by the Sasanian Empire, replacing the Kushano-Sasanians in Bactria. Thereafter the Sasanian Empire stopped at Merv. A nomadic people, the Kidarites appear to have originated in the Altai Mountains region; some scholars believe that the Kidarites were "Europid" in appearance, with some East Asian admixture. On Kidarite coins their rulers are depicted as beardless or clean-shaven – a feature of Inner Asian cultures at the time.
The Kidarites were depicted as mounted archers on the reverse of coins. They were known to practice artificial cranial deformation; the Kidarites appear to have been synonymous with the Karmir Xyon, – a major subdivision of the Xionites, alongside the Spet Xyon. The name of their eponymous ruler Kidara may be cognate with the Turkic word Kidirti meaning "west", suggesting that the Kidarites were the westernmost of the Xionites, the first to migrate from Inner Asia. Chinese sources suggest that when the Uar were driven westward by the Later Zhao state, circa 320 CE, from the area around Pingyang, it put pressure on Xionite-affiliated peoples, such as the Kidarites, to migrate. Another theory is that climate change in the Altai during the 4th century caused various tribes to migrate westward and southward. Contemporary Chinese and Roman sources suggest that, during the 4th century, the Kidarites began to encroach on the territory of Greater Khorasan and the Kushan Empire – migrating through Transoxiana into Bactria, where they were vassals of the Kushans and adopted many elements of Kushano-Bactrian culture.
The Kidarites initially put pressure on the Sasanian Empire, but served as mercenaries in the Sassanian army, under which they fought the Romans in Mesopotamia, led by a chief named Grumbates. Some of the Kidarites became a ruling dynasty of the Kushan Empire, leading to the epithet "Little Kushans"; the first 4th century evidence are gold coins discovered in Balkh dating from c. 380, where'Kidara' is interpreted in a legend in the Bactrian language. Most other data we have on the Kidarite kingdom are from Chinese and Byzantine sources from the middle of the 5th century; the Kidarites were the first Huna to bother India. Indian records note that the Hūna had established themselves in modern Afghanistan and the North-West Frontier Province by the first half of the 5th century, the Gupta emperor Skandagupta had repelled a Hūna invasion in 455; the Kidarites are the last dynasty to regard themselves as the inheritors of the Kushan empire, which had disappeared as an independent entity two centuries earlier.
Around 350, the Sasanian Emperor Shapur II had to interrupt his conflict with the Romans, abandon the siege of Nisibis, in order to face nomadic threats in the east: he was attacked in the east by Scythian Massagetae and other Central Asian tribes. Around this time, Xionite/Huna tribes, most the Kidarites, whose king was Grumbates, make an appearance as an encroaching threat upon Sasanian territory as well as a menace to the Gupta Empire. After a prolonged struggle they were forced to conclude an alliance, their king Grumbates accompanied Shapur II in the war against the Romans, agreeing to enlist his light cavalrymen into the Persian army and accompanying Shapur II; the presence of "Grumbates, king of the Chionitae" and his Xionites with Shapur II during campaigns in the Western Caspian lands, in the area of Corduene, is described by the contemporary eyewitness Ammianus Marcellinus: Grumbates Chionitarum rex novus aetate quidem media rugosisque membris sed mente quadam grandifica multisque victoriarum insignibus nobilis."Grumbates, the new king of the Xionites, while he was middle aged, his limbs were wrinkled, he was endowed with a mind that acted grandly, was famous for his many, significant victories."
The presence of Grumbates alongside Shapur II is recorded at the successful Siege of Amida in 359, in which Grumbates lost his son: "Grumbates, king of the Chionitae, went boldly up to the walls to effect that mission, with a brave body of guards. " Later the alliance fell apart, by the time of Bahram IV the Sasanians had lost numerous battles against the Kidarites. The migrating Kidarites settled in Bactria, where they replaced the Kushano-Sasanids, a branch of the Sasanids that had displaced the weakening Kushans in the area two ce
The Indo-Greek Kingdom or Graeco-Indian Kingdom was a Hellenistic kingdom spanning modern-day Afghanistan and the northwest region of the Indian subcontinent, during the last two centuries BC and was ruled by more than thirty kings conflicting with one another. The kingdom was founded when the Graeco-Bactrian king Demetrius invaded the subcontinent early in the 2nd century BC; the Greeks in the Indian Subcontinent were divided from the Graeco-Bactrians centered in Bactria, the Indo-Greeks in the present-day north-western Indian Subcontinent. The most famous Indo-Greek ruler was Menander, he had his capital at Sakala in the Punjab. The expression "Indo-Greek Kingdom" loosely describes a number of various dynastic polities, traditionally associated with a number of regional capitals like Taxila and Sagala. Other potential centers are only hinted at. During the two centuries of their rule, the Indo-Greek kings combined the Greek and Indian languages and symbols, as seen on their coins, blended Greek and Indian ideas, as seen in the archaeological remains.
The diffusion of Indo-Greek culture had consequences which are still felt today through the influence of Greco-Buddhist art. The ethnicity of the Indo-Greek may have been hybrid to some degree. Euthydemus I was, according to Polybius, a Magnesian Greek, his son, Demetrius I, founder of the Indo-Greek kingdom, was therefore of Greek ethnicity at least by his father. A marriage treaty was arranged for the same Demetrius with a daughter of the Seleucid ruler Antiochus III; the ethnicity of Indo-Greek rulers is sometimes less clear. For example, Artemidoros may have been of Indo-Scythian ascendency. Following the death of Menander, most of his empire splintered and Indo-Greek influence was reduced. Many new kingdoms and republics east of the Ravi River began to mint new coinage depicting military victories; the most prominent entities to form were the Yaudheya Republic and the Audumbaras. The Yaudheyas and Arjunayanas both are said to have won "victory by the sword"; the Datta dynasty and Mitra dynasty soon followed in Mathura.
The Indo-Greeks disappeared as a political entity around 10 AD following the invasions of the Indo-Scythians, although pockets of Greek populations remained for several centuries longer under the subsequent rule of the Indo-Parthians and Kushans. In 326 BC, Alexander the Great conquered the northwestern part of the Indian subcontinent as far as the Hyphasis River, established satrapies and founded several settlements, including Bucephala; the Indian satrapies of the Punjab were left to the rule of Porus and Taxiles, who were confirmed again at the Treaty of Triparadisus in 321 BC, remaining Greek troops in these satrapies were left under the command of general Eudemus. After 321 BC Eudemus toppled Taxiles, until he left India in 316 BC. To the south, another general ruled over the Greek colonies of the Indus: Peithon, son of Agenor, until his departure for Babylon in 316 BC. Around 322 BC, the Greeks may have participated, together with other groups, in the armed uprising of Chandragupta Maurya against the Nanda Dynasty, gone as far as Pataliputra for the capture of the city from the Nandas.
The Mudrarakshasa of Visakhadutta as well as the Jaina work Parisishtaparvan talk of Chandragupta's alliance with the Himalayan king Parvatka identified with Porus, according to these accounts, this alliance gave Chandragupta a composite and powerful army made up of Yavanas, Shakas, Kiratas and Bahlikas who took Pataliputra. In 305 BC, Seleucus I led an army to the Indus; the confrontation ended with a peace treaty, "an intermarriage agreement", meaning either a dynastic marriage or an agreement for intermarriage between Indians and Greeks. Accordingly, Seleucus ceded to Chandragupta his northwestern territories as far as Arachosia and received 500 war elephants: The Indians occupy in part some of the countries situated along the Indus, which belonged to the Persians: Alexander deprived the Ariani of them, established there settlements of his own, but Seleucus Nicator gave them to Sandrocottus in consequence of a marriage contract, received in return five hundred elephants. The details of the marriage agreement are not known, but since the extensive sources available on Seleucus never mention an Indian princess, it is thought that the marital alliance went the other way, with Chandragupta himself or his son Bindusara marrying a Seleucid princess, in accordance with contemporary Greek practices to form dynastic alliances.
An Indian Puranic source, the Pratisarga Parva of the Bhavishya Purana, described the marriage of Chandragupta with a Greek princess, daughter of Seleucus, before detailing early Mauryan genealogy: "Chandragupta married with a daughter of Suluva, the Yavana king of Pausasa. Thus, he mixed the Yavanas, he ruled for 60 years. From him, Vindusara was ruled for the same number of years as his father, his son was Ashoka." Chandragupta, followed