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The Parthian Empire was the East’s biggest rival to Rome. It defeated the Roman army near the Euphrates and stopped the Romans from further advancing to Asia. In 53 BC, the Parthians defeated the Romans in the Battle of Carrhae, which was one of the worst defeats of the Roman Empire.
See the fact file below for more information on the Parthian Empire or alternatively, you can download our 20-page Parthian Empire worksheet pack to utilise within the classroom or home environment.
Key Facts & Information
- The Parthians ruled from 247 BC to 224 CE, establishing a large empire that extended from the western Mediterranean to India and east China. On the eastern side of the Caspian Sea, a nomadic Scythian tribe called the Parni originated from the steppe of Central Asia.
- Later, they called the Parthians and took over the Seleucid Empire fending off the Romans, and founded themselves as a superpower in their own right.
- The vast area they conquered placed them in contact with goods and cultural backgrounds from various parts of their empire, with a special and extremely successful combat style.
- The Parthians not only combined architectural styles from these sources to create their own Parthian architecture, but also developed their own distinctive Parthian art and dress.
- Parthia’s story begins with Seleucus I, one of the generals of Alexander The Great. His troops split up the captured territories after the death of Alexander.
- Once central to Persia, Seleucus took Mesopotamia and other regions, establishing the Seleucid Empire. Incorporating Greek infrastructure and administrators, Seleucus followed the model of governance in Persia.
- He set up satrapies, or districts, led by satraps (governors) beholden to a central government and eventually the King, and Parthia was one of these. Later, however, Parthia would become its own country, as a Seleucid satrapy.
- The Parthian satrapy was found in its infancy, southeast of the Caspian Sea. Thought to be related to the Central Asian Scythians, the nomadic Parni tribe finally came to rule Parthia. While the Seleucids had been weakened in the west by internal war and confrontation with the Ptolemies, the Parni tribe made their move to the east.
- The door opened in 247 BC for the Parni when the local governor Andragoras started a revolt against the Seleucid rule. Understanding the Seleucids, Arsaces (r. 247-217 BC), the first king of Parthia, invaded Parthia, and Andragoras was weakened.
- Parthia would be taken back by Seleucid ruler Antiochus III in 209 BC.
- By this time the son of Arsaces, Arsaces II, was on the throne (r. 217-191 BC).
- He should have been killed by Antiochus but then he set him up as a satrap, which was possibly a mistake.
- The unusual use of the horse and bow was crucial to Parthian development. With a hit and run battle style, Parthian tactics (including claiming retreat) were well adapted to counterbalance other nations’ concentrated troop movements.
- With archers on horses and camel riders providing a constant supply of arrows, they made sitting infantry ducks incapable of fighting, even at close range. The Parthians replied when the cavalry of the enemy gave chase. They created the ‘Parthian shot’ that was lethal.
- Capable of firing backwards at full gallop from horseback, the Parthian archers fired lethal shots at the cavalry pursuing them.
- Therefore, Parthian horsemen could come from all directions to enemy forces, causing chaos and wreaking havoc.
- Eventually, their heavily armed cavalry (cataphracts) provided offensive support and aid in mopping up residual resistance pockets with long lances and swords.
- The form of government in Parthia was an amalgam of realistic responses to the local needs. Overall rulership was never in question.
- The “king of kings”, as later Parthian rulers called themselves, demanded total allegiance, but the functional nature of government of Parthia was clear from the start when Mithridates I kept Greek nobles in leadership roles to ensure that economic and bureaucratic affairs would continue.
- In reality, Mithridates referred to himself as “Philhellene” or “lover of Greek culture”. In the empire, Greek settlements were left alone as long as they paid tribute to the king.
- In fact, the Seleucid rebellions that occurred due to splitting their provinces into smaller satrapies called eparchies were avoided. This prevented one individual holding all the regional influence.
- The Parthians even allowed their own Kings to have conquered kingdoms within their empire. This provided tribute revenue and military assistance when required.
- Parthia could try its hand at trade with the Romans kept at bay.
- As Richard Frye points out: “The small states in the Fertile Crescent, which favored the decentralized ‘feudal’ form of government of Parthia, developed greatly as mercantile centers of international trade.
- The first two centuries of our era was an age of commerce, and the oasis states of the ‘Fertile Crescent’ flourished as never previously.”
- Commercial development of the Parthians began with the infrastructure which they inherited from the Seleucids. They wisely retained the towns and roads which they got. Their ownership of Armenia and potential access to the Black Sea and control of Hyrcania and the Caspian Sea gave them access to the markets in Central Asia.
- Their conquest of Persis and cities on the Persian Gulf like Antioch-in-Persis meant access to Indian markets by way of salt. Their power over Elam and the strategically significant city of Susa, and the fertile Media area and its prosperous city Ecbatana, would have enriched the Parthians both culturally and materially.
Parthian Empire Worksheets
This is a fantastic bundle which includes everything you need to know about the Parthian Empire across 20 in-depth pages. These are ready-to-use Parthian Empire worksheets that are perfect for teaching students about the Parthian Empire which was the East’s biggest rival to Rome. It defeated the Roman army near the Euphrates and stopped the Romans from further advancing to Asia. In 53 BC, the Parthians defeated the Romans in the Battle of Carrhae, which was one of the worst defeats of the Roman Empire.
Complete List Of Included Worksheets
- Parthian Empire Facts
- Five Facts
- Pop Quiz
- Parthian Government
- Empire’s Culture
- Parthian Flag
- Parthian Review
- Same and Different
- Empires’ Purposes
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Link will appear as Parthian Empire Facts & Worksheets: https://kidskonnect.com - KidsKonnect, June 29, 2020
Use With Any Curriculum
These worksheets have been specifically designed for use with any international curriculum. You can use these worksheets as-is, or edit them using Google Slides to make them more specific to your own student ability levels and curriculum standards.