Kings of Persis

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King of Persis Ardashir II with crown, 1st century BCE. King of Persis Ardashir II with crown 1st century BCE.jpg
King of Persis Ardashir II with crown, 1st century BCE.
Location of Persis. Persis map.jpg
Location of Persis.

The Kings of Persis are a series of Persian kings, who ruled the region of Persis in southwestern Iran, from the 2nd century BCE to the 3rd century CE (c. 230 BCE – c. 210 CE). They ruled as sub-kings of the Parthian Empire, until they toppled the Parthians and established the Sassanid Empire. [1] They effectively form some Persian dynastic continuity between the Achaemenid Empire (6th century BCE-4th century BCE) and the Sasanian Empire (3rd century CE-7th century CE). [1]

Persis Region

Persis, better known as Persia, or "Persia proper", was originally a name of a region near the Zagros mountains at Lake Urmia. The country name Persia was derived directly from the Old Persian Parsa. Over time, the area of settlement shifted to the southwest of modern Iran.

Iran Country in Western Asia

Iran, also called Persia and officially known as the Islamic Republic of Iran, is a country in Western Asia. With over 81 million inhabitants, Iran is the world's 18th most populous country. Comprising a land area of 1,648,195 km2 (636,372 sq mi), it is the second largest country in the Middle East and the 17th largest in the world. Iran is bordered to the northwest by Armenia and the Republic of Azerbaijan, to the north by the Caspian Sea, to the northeast by Turkmenistan, to the east by Afghanistan and Pakistan, to the south by the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman, and to the west by Turkey and Iraq. The country's central location in Eurasia and Western Asia, and its proximity to the Strait of Hormuz, give it geostrategic importance. Tehran is the country's capital and largest city, as well as its leading economic and cultural center.

Parthian Empire Iranian empire ruled by Arsacids

The Parthian Empire, also 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, then a satrapy (province) under Andragoras, in rebellion against the Seleucid Empire. Mithridates I of Parthia (r. c. 171–138 BC) greatly 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 Empire of China, became a center of trade and commerce.

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"Frataraka" governors

Vahbarz portrait.jpg
Portrait of the Frataraka Vahbarz, 3rd c.BCE.
Vahbarz standing.jpg
Vahbarz standing.

From the end of the 3rd century to the beginning of the 2nd century BCE onwards, Persian dynasts are known to have ruled Persis as local governor for the Seleucid Empire, with the title frataraka (Persian: "Governor"). [1] They issued their own coinage. [1]

Seleucid Empire former country

The Seleucid Empire was a Hellenistic state ruled by the Seleucid dynasty, which existed from 312 BC to 63 BC; Seleucus I Nicator founded it following the division of the Macedonian Empire vastly expanded by Alexander the Great. Seleucus received Babylonia, and from there, expanded his dominions to include much of Alexander's near-eastern territories. At the height of its power, the Empire included central Anatolia, Persia, the Levant, Mesopotamia, and what is now Kuwait, Afghanistan, and parts of Pakistan and Turkmenistan.

Frataraka

Frataraka is an ancient Persian title, interpreted variously as “leader, governor, forerunner”. It is an epithet or title of a series of rulers in Persis from 3rd to mid 2nd century BC at the time of the Seleucid Empire, prior to the Parthian conquest of West Asia and Iran. Studies of frataraka coins are important to historians of this period.

They seem to have become independent a short time before the establishment of the Parthian Empire, as for a time ca. 140 BCE, the rulers named Wādfradād II and an "Unknown King I" did not use the word "Frataraka" on their coinage, neither did they use the word mlk for "King" that would become prevalent later. [1]

Sub-kings of the Parthian Empire

Dārēv I (Darios I) used for the first time the tile of mlk (King). 2nd century BCE. KINGS of PERSIS. Dārēv (Darios) I. 2nd century BC.jpg
Dārēv I (Darios I) used for the first time the tile of mlk (King). 2nd century BCE.

The Parthian Empire then took control of Persis under Arsacid king Mithridates I (ca. 171-138 BC), but visibly allowed local rulers to remain, and permitted the emission of coinage bearing the title of Mlk ("King"). [1] From then on, the coinage of the Kings of Persis would become quite Parthian in character and style. [1]

Mithridates I of Parthia Parthian king

Mithridates or Mithradates I, was king of the Parthian Empire from 171 BC to 132 BC, succeeding his brother Phraates I. His father was King Phriapatius of Parthia, who died ca. 176 BC. Mithridates I made Parthia into a major political power by expanding the empire to the east, south, and west. During his reign the Parthians took Herat, Babylonia, Media and Persia. Because of his many conquests and religious tolerance, he has been compared to other Iranian kings such Cyrus the Great, founder of the Achaemenid Empire.

Under the Parthians, these dynasts were called kings and their title appeared on their coins: for example “dʾryw MLKʾ BRH wtprdt MLKʾ” (Dārāyān the King, son of Wādfradād the King). [1] The Arsacid incluence is very clear in the coinage, and Strabo also reports (15. 3.3) that during the time of Augustus (27 BCE–14 CE), the kings of the Persians were as subservient to the Parthians as they had been earlier to the Macedonians: [1]

Strabo Greek geographer, philosopher and historian

Strabo was a Greek geographer, philosopher, and historian who lived in Asia Minor during the transitional period of the Roman Republic into the Roman Empire.

Augustus first emperor of the Roman Empire

Augustus was a Roman statesman and military leader who was the first Emperor of the Roman Empire, controlling Imperial Rome from 27 BC until his death in AD 14. His status as the founder of the Roman Principate has consolidated an enduring legacy as one of the most effective and controversial leaders in human history. The reign of Augustus initiated an era of relative peace known as the Pax Romana. The Roman world was largely free from large-scale conflict for more than two centuries, despite continuous wars of imperial expansion on the Empire's frontiers and the year-long civil war known as the "Year of the Four Emperors" over the imperial succession.

"But afterwards different princes occupied different palaces; some, as was natural, less sumptuous, after the power of Persis had been reduced first by the Macedonians, and secondly still more by the Parthians. For although the Persians have still a kingly government, and a king of their own, yet their power is very much diminished, and they are subject to the king of Parthia."

Strabo, 15.3. [3]

Establishment of the Sasanian Empire

Ardashir I, as King Artaxerxes (Ardaxsir) V of Persis. Circa CE 205/6-223/4. Obv: Bearded facing head, wearing diadem and Parthian-style tiara. Rev: Bearded head of Papak, wearing diadem and Parthian-style tiara. SASANIAN KINGS. Ardashir I. As King of Persis, AD 205-6-223-4.jpg
Ardashir I, as King Artaxerxes (Ardaxsir) V of Persis. Circa CE 205/6-223/4. Obv: Bearded facing head, wearing diadem and Parthian-style tiara. Rev: Bearded head of Papak, wearing diadem and Parthian-style tiara.
Map of the Sasanian Empire. Sassanian Empire 621 A.D.jpg
Map of the Sasanian Empire.

With the reign of Šābuhr, the son of Pāpag, the kingdom of Persis started the process of becoming the Sasanian Empire.

Šābuhr's brother and successor, Ardaxšir (Artaxerxes) V, defeated the last legitimate Parthian king, Artabanos V in 224 CE, and was crowned at Ctesiphon as Ardaxšir I (Ardashir I), šāhanšāh ī Ērān, becoming the first king of the new Sasanian Empire. [4]

The Sasanid dynasty would rule down to 7th century CE until the Muslim conquest of Persia.

List of the dynasts of Persis

The list of the King of Persis is mainly known though the coin sequence, and only a few kings are mentioned in ancient literary sources. [1]

Fratarakā dynasty ("Governors" of the Seleucid Empire)

The Fratarakas appear to have been Governor of the Seleucid Empire.

NameDateCoinageFamily RelationsNote
1 Bagadates/ Baydād (bgdt)3rd century BCE Baydad.jpg Fratarakā dynasty - son of BaykardGovernor of the Seleucid Empire. Coin legend bgdt prtrk’ zy ’lhy’ (“Baydād, fratarakā of the gods”) in Aramaic.
2Ardaxšīr I (rtḥštry)mid-3nd century BCE Coin of Ardashir I (also spelled Artaxerxes I) of Persis, Istakhr mint.jpg Fratarakā dynastyGovernor of the Seleucid Empire
3 Vahbarz (whwbrz - called Oborzos in Polyenus 7.40)mid-3nd century BCE PERSIS. Vahbarz (Oborzos), governor, c. mid 3rd century BC.jpg Fratarakā dynastyGovernor of the Seleucid Empire
4 Vādfradād I (wtprdt)3nd century BCE KINGS of PERSIS. Vādfradād (Autophradates) I. 3rd century BC.jpg Fratarakā dynasty - son of VahbarzGovernor of the Seleucid Empire
5Vadfradad IIc. 140 BCE Coin of Vadfradad (Autophradates) II of Persis, Istakhr mint.jpg Fratarakā dynastyGovernor of the Seleucid Empire. Transition period. Eagle emblem on top of stylized kyrbasia. Aramaic coin legend wtprdt [p]rtrk’ zy ’ly’ (“Vādfradād, frataraka of the gods”). [5]
6‘Unknown king I’ (Syknlt?)2nd half of 2nd century BCE KINGS of PERSIS. Uncertain king I. 2nd century BC.jpg ?Transition period. No inscription on coinage.

Persis Sub-Kings of the Parthian Empire

NameDateCoinageFamily RelationsNote
7Darev I2nd century BCE (end) KINGS of PERSIS. Dārēv (Darios) I. 2nd century BC.jpg ?Darev I and his successors were sub-kings of the Parthian Empire. Crescent emblem on top of stylized kyrbasia. Aramaic coin legend d’ryw mlk (𐡃‬𐡀𐡓𐡉‬‬𐡅‬ 𐡌𐡋‬𐡊‬, "King Darius"). [6]
8Vadfradad III1st century BCE (1st half) KINGS of PERSIS. Autophradates (Vadfradad) III. Early 1st century BC.jpg ?Sub-king of the Parthian Empire. Coin legend wtprdt mlk (𐡅‬𐡕‬𐡐‬𐡓‬𐡃‬𐡕 𐡌‬𐡋𐡊‬, "King Vadfradad") in Aramaic script.
9 Darev II 1st century BCE Drachma Darius II.jpg son of Vadfradad IIISub-king of the Parthian Empire. Aramaic coin legend d’ryw mlk brh wtprdt mlk’ ("King Darius, son of King Vadfradad").
10Ardashir II1st century BCE (2nd half) KINGS of PERSIS. Ardaxšir (Artaxerxes) II. 1st century BC.jpg son of Darev IISub-king of the Parthian Empire. Killed by his brother Vahshir I
11Vahšīr/ Vahshir I (Oxathres)1st century BCE (2nd half) KINGS of PERSIS. Vahšīr (Oxathres). 1st century BC – 1st century AD.jpg son of Darev IISub-king of the Parthian Empire
12Pakor I1st century CE (1st half) KINGS of PERSIS. Pakōr (Pakor) I. 1st century AD.jpg son of Vahshir ISub-king of the Parthian Empire
13Pakor II1st century CE (1st half) KINGS of PERSIS. Pakōr (Pakor) II. 1st century AD.jpg ?Sub-king of the Parthian Empire
14Nambed1st century CE (mid) KINGS of PERSIS. Nambed (Namopat). 1st century AD.jpg son of Ardashir IISub-king of the Parthian Empire
15Napad1st century CE (2nd half) KINGS of PERSIS. Napād (Kapat). 1st century AD.jpg son of NambedSub-king of the Parthian Empire
16‘Unknown king II’1st century CE (end) KINGS of PERSIS. Uncertain king II. 1st century BC – 1st century AD.jpg ?Sub-king of the Parthian Empire
17Vadfradad IV2nd century CE (1st half) KINGS of PERSIS. Vādfradād (Autophradates) IV. 1st century BC.jpg ?Sub-king of the Parthian Empire
18Manchihr I2nd century CE (1st half) KINGS of PERSIS. Manuchtir (Manchihr) I. Early-mid 2nd century AD.jpg ?Sub-king of the Parthian Empire
19Ardashir III2nd century CE (1st half) KINGS of PERSIS. Ardaxšir (Artaxerxes) III. 1st-2nd century AD.jpg son of Manchihr ISub-king of the Parthian Empire
20Manchihr II2nd century CE (mid) KINGS of PERSIS. Manuchtir (Manchihr) II. Mid 2nd century AD.jpg son of Ardashir IIISub-king of the Parthian Empire
21Uncertain King III/
tentatively Pakor III [7]
2nd century CE (2nd half) KINGS of PERSIS. Uncertain king III. 2nd century AD.jpg ?Sub-king of the Parthian Empire
22Manchihr III2nd century CE (2nd half) KINGS of PERSIS. Manuchtir (Manchihr) III. Mid-late 2nd century AD.jpg son of Manchihr IISub-king of the Parthian Empire
23Ardashir IV2nd century CE (end) KINGS of PERSIS. Ardaxšir (Artaxerxes) IV. Late 2nd – early 3rd century AD.jpg son of Manchihr IIISub-king of the Parthian Empire
24Vahshir II (Oxathres)c. 206-210 CE KINGS of PERSIS. Oxathres (Vahsir) II. Late 1st century BC.jpg ?Sub-king of the Parthian Empire. The last of Bazarangids.
25 Shapur 3rd century CE (beg.) KINGS of PERSIS. Shapur. Circa 200-212 AD.jpg Brother of the first Sasanian, Ardashir I Sub-king of the Parthian Empire
26 Ardashir V
(Sasanian Dynasty Ardashir I)
3rd century CE (beg.) SASANIAN KINGS. Ardashir I. As King of Persis, AD 205-6-223-4.jpg First Sasanian ruler, under the name of Ardashir I Sub-king of the Parthian Empire

See also

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Vahbarz

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References

  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Wiesehöfer, Joseph (2009). PERSIS, KINGS OF – Encyclopaedia Iranica. Encyclopaedia Iranica.
  2. CNG: KINGS of PERSIS. Vādfradād (Autophradates) II. Early-mid 2nd century BC. AR Tetradrachm (25mm, 16.23 g, 11h). Istakhr (Persepolis) mint.
  3. Strabo, Geography, BOOK XV., CHAPTER III.
  4. CNG: KINGS of PERSIS. Vahbarz (Oborzos). 3rd century BC. AR Obol (10mm, 0.50 g, 11h).
  5. CNG: KINGS of PERSIS. Vādfradād (Autophradates) II. Early-mid 2nd century BC. AR Tetradrachm (25mm, 16.23 g, 11h). Istakhr (Persepolis) mint.
  6. CNG: KINGS of PERSIS. Vādfradād (Autophradates) II. Early-mid 2nd century BC. AR Tetradrachm (25mm, 16.23 g, 11h). Istakhr (Persepolis) mint.
  7. Rezakhani, Khodadad (2010). The “Unbekannter König III” and the Coinage of Hellenistic and Arsacid Persis.