*Includes accounts of the Parthians written by ancient historians
*Includes online resources and a bibliography for further reading
*Includes a table of contents
"The Parthians in whose hands the empire of the east now is, having divided the world, as it were, with the Romans, were originally exiles from Scythia. This is apparent from their very name; for in the Scythian language exiles are called Parthi. During the time of the Assyrians and Medes, they were the most obscure of all the people of the east. Subsequently, too, when the empire of the east was transferred from the Medes to the Persians, they were but as a herd without a name, and fell under the power of the stronger. At last they became subject to the Macedonians, w hen they conquered the east; so that it must seem wonderful to every one, that they should have reached such a height of good fortune as to rule over those nations under whose sway they had been merely slaves. Being assailed by the Romans, also, in three wars, under the conduct of the greatest generals, and at the most flourishing period of the republic, they alone, of all nations, were not only a match for them, but came off victorious; though it may have been a greater glory to them, indeed, to have been able to rise amidst the Assyrian, Median, and Persian empires, so celebrated of o]d, and the most powerful dominion of Bactria, peopled with a thousand cities, than to have been victorious in war against a people that came from a distance; especially when they were continually harassed by severe wars with the Scythians and other neighboring nations, and pressed with various other formidable contests." - An ancient Roman account of the Parthians
The Parthian people created an empire that lasted almost 500 years, from the mid-3rd century BCE until 224 CE, and it stretched from the Euphrates River in the west to Central Asia and the borders of Bactria in the east (Brosius 2010, 83). In fact, the expansive empire challenged the Romans on numerous occasions for supremacy in the Near East, created the first sustainable link between the peoples of Europe and East Asia, and followed a religion that many consider to be the oldest form of monotheism in the world; but despite these accomplishments the Parthians are often overlooked in favor of the Achaemenid and Sassanid Persians who came before and after them respectively, not to mention the Romans themselves. Although the Parthians may not get top billing in most popular histories of the period, they left an indelible mark on the world that cannot be overstated.
Perhaps part of the reason why the Parthians have been overshadowed by other peoples is due to the nature of the primary sources used to reconstruct their history. Although the Parthians were literate, they wrote no histories of their dynasty and most of the extant ancient historical sources are somewhat biased since they were written by Roman and Greek historians. The Greek and Roman historians provide excellent accounts of some of the battles between the Romans and Parthians, but they are for the most part limited to warfare and view the situations almost totally from the Roman perspective. The Parthians built a number of monuments, temples, and tombs so modern archaeological excavations help scholars reconstruct some aspects of their city and court life, but again the evidence is limited and only of limited use alone. Thus, to construct an accurate chronology of the Parthian dynasty, modern scholars are forced to combine the Roman and Greek historians with the available numismatic evidence from the Parthian period since the Parthians made different coins for the reigns of most of their kings (Brosius 2010, 80). All that said, when historians combine all of the available primary sources concerning the Parthians, not only can an accurate chronology of their dynasty be compiled, but various aspects of their culture, such as economics and religion, are also made clear.