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", is a region located to the southwest of modern Iran. The Persians are thought to have initially migrated either from Central Asia or, more probably, from the north through the Caucasus. They would then have migrated to the current region of Persis in the early 1st millennium BC. The country name Persia was derived directly from the Old Persian Parsa.

Iran Islamic Republic in Western Asia

Iran, also called Persia, and officially 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. Its territory spans 1,648,195 km2 (636,372 sq mi), making it 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. Its central location in Eurasia and Western Asia, and its proximity to the Strait of Hormuz, give it geostrategic importance. Tehran is the capital, largest city, and 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 dynasty of China, became a center of trade and commerce.

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Predecessors: "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, 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 Hellenistic state

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 Ancient noble rank of Persia

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, or alternatively between 295 and 220 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]

Pliny relates a battle between Noumenios, a Seleucid general and satrap of the Province of Mesene (Characene), and the Persians sometime in the 3rd or the 2nd century BCE. Pliny describes the current Seleucid ruler as being "Antiochos", but it is unknown which one he is referring to. This event is often used to describe some kind of adversary relationship between the ruler of Persis and the Seleucid Empire during the 3rd or 2nd centuries BCE, and possibly a fight for independence. [2] The rulers of Persis may have gained independence between 205 BCE, when Antiochos III visited Antiochia in Persis in peace, and 190-189 BCE, the latest possible date for the battle led by Noumenios if the Antiochos in question is indeed Antiochos III, since the latter was defeated at the Battle of Magnesia at that time. [3] [2]

Pliny the Elder Roman military commander and writer

Pliny the Elder was a Roman author, a naturalist and natural philosopher, a naval and army commander of the early Roman Empire, and a friend of emperor Vespasian.

Noumenios

Noumenios was a Seleucid general and satrap of the Province of Mesene, who is said to have defeated the Persians sometime in the 3rd or 2nd century BCE. Pliny describes his ruler as being "Antiochos", but it is unknown if this is referring to Antiochos I, Antiochos II or Antiochos III, although the battle necessarily took place before 190-189 BCE, date of the Battle of Magnesia where Antiochos III was vanquished by the Romans. Alternatively, these events may have taken place during the reign of Antiochos IV.

Satrap Ruler of a province in ancient Persia

Satraps were the governors of the provinces of the ancient Median and Achaemenid Empires and in several of their successors, such as in the Sasanian Empire and the Hellenistic empires. The satrap served as viceroy to the king, though with considerable autonomy; and the word also came to suggest tyranny, or ostentatious splendour.

Pliny writes:

Noumenios, who was made governor of Mesene by king Antiochos, while fighting against the Persians, defeated them at sea, and at low water, by land, with an army of cavalry, on the same day; in memory of which event he erected a twofold trophy on the same spot, in honour of Jupiter and Neptune

Pliny, HN 6.152. [2] [3]

Sub-kings of the Parthian Empire

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

According to Strabo, the early kings of Persis were tributaries to the Seleucid rulers, until c.140 BC, when the Parthians conquered the region: [5]

The Persians have kings who are subject to other kings, formerly of the kings of Macedonia, but now to the kings of the Parthians.

Strabo XV 3.24 [5] [6]

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]

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]

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, XV.3.3 [7]

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. Sasanian 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. [8]

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

List of the Kings of Persis, as Sub-Kings of the Parthian Empire

The Kings of Persis were preceded by the Fratarakas. 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]

NameDateCoinageFamily RelationsNote
1Darev I2nd century BCE (end) KINGS of PERSIS. Darev (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"). [9]
2Vadfradad 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.
3 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").
4Ardashir II1st century BCE (2nd half) KINGS of PERSIS. Ardaxsir (Artaxerxes) II. 1st century BC.jpg son of Darev IISub-king of the Parthian Empire. Killed by his brother Vahshir I
5Vahšīr/ Vahshir I (Oxathres)1st century BCE (2nd half) KINGS of PERSIS. Vahsir (Oxathres). 1st century BC - 1st century AD.jpg son of Darev IISub-king of the Parthian Empire
6Pakor I1st century CE (1st half) KINGS of PERSIS. Pakor (Pakor) I. 1st century AD.jpg son of Vahshir ISub-king of the Parthian Empire
7Pakor II1st century CE (1st half) KINGS of PERSIS. Pakor (Pakor) II. 1st century AD.jpg ?Sub-king of the Parthian Empire
8Nambed1st century CE (mid) KINGS of PERSIS. Nambed (Namopat). 1st century AD.jpg son of Ardashir IISub-king of the Parthian Empire
9Napad1st century CE (2nd half) KINGS of PERSIS. Napad (Kapat). 1st century AD.jpg son of NambedSub-king of the Parthian Empire
10‘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
11Vadfradad IV2nd century CE (1st half) KINGS of PERSIS. Vadfradad (Autophradates) IV. 1st century BC.jpg ?Sub-king of the Parthian Empire
12Manchihr I2nd century CE (1st half) KINGS of PERSIS. Manuchtir (Manchihr) I. Early-mid 2nd century AD.jpg ?Sub-king of the Parthian Empire
13Ardashir III2nd century CE (1st half) KINGS of PERSIS. Ardaxsir (Artaxerxes) III. 1st-2nd century AD.jpg son of Manchihr ISub-king of the Parthian Empire
14Manchihr II2nd century CE (mid) KINGS of PERSIS. Manuchtir (Manchihr) II. Mid 2nd century AD.jpg son of Ardashir IIISub-king of the Parthian Empire
15Uncertain King III/
tentatively Pakor III [10]
2nd century CE (2nd half) KINGS of PERSIS. Uncertain king III. 2nd century AD.jpg ?Sub-king of the Parthian Empire
16Manchihr 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
17Ardashir IV2nd century CE (end) KINGS of PERSIS. Ardaxsir (Artaxerxes) IV. Late 2nd - early 3rd century AD.jpg son of Manchihr IIISub-king of the Parthian Empire
18Vahshir 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.
19 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
20 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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References

  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Wiesehöfer, Joseph (2009). PERSIS, KINGS OF – Encyclopaedia Iranica. Encyclopaedia Iranica.
  2. 1 2 3 Engels, David. Iranian Identity and Seleucid Allegiance; Vahbarz, the Frataraka and Early Arsacid Coinage, in: K. Erickson (ed.), The Seleukid Empire, 281-222 BC. War within the Family, Swansea, 2018, 173-196.
  3. 1 2 Shayegan, M. Rahim (2011). Arsacids and Sasanians: Political Ideology in Post-Hellenistic and Late Antique Persia. Cambridge University Press. p. 155. ISBN   9780521766418.
  4. CNG: KINGS of PERSIS. Vādfradād (Autophradates) II. Early-mid 2nd century BC. AR Tetradrachm (25mm, 16.23 g, 11h). Istakhr (Persepolis) mint.
  5. 1 2 A History of Zoroastrianism vol II & III. p. 116.
  6. LacusCurtius • Strabo's Geography — Book XV Chapter 3. p. XV 3.24.
  7. Strabo, Geography, BOOK XV., CHAPTER III.
  8. CNG: KINGS of PERSIS. Vahbarz (Oborzos). 3rd century BC. AR Obol (10mm, 0.50 g, 11h).
  9. CNG: KINGS of PERSIS. Vādfradād (Autophradates) II. Early-mid 2nd century BC. AR Tetradrachm (25mm, 16.23 g, 11h). Istakhr (Persepolis) mint.
  10. Rezakhani, Khodadad (2010). The “Unbekannter König III” and the Coinage of Hellenistic and Arsacid Persis.