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.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).
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, 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.
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.
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").They issued their own coinage.
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 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.
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.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.
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 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.
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.
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
According to Strabo, the early kings of Persis were tributaries to the Seleucid rulers, until c.140 BC, when the Parthians conquered the region:
The Persians have kings who are subject to other kings, formerly of the kings of Macedonia, but now to the kings of the Parthians.
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").From then on, the coinage of the Kings of Persis would become quite Parthian in character and style.
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).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:
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
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.
The Sasanid dynasty would rule down to 7th century CE until the Muslim conquest of Persia.
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||Darev I||2nd century BCE (end)||?||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").|
|2||Vadfradad III||1st century BCE (1st half)||?||Sub-king of the Parthian Empire. Coin legend wtprdt mlk (𐡅𐡕𐡐𐡓𐡃𐡕 𐡌𐡋𐡊, "King Vadfradad") in Aramaic script.|
|3||Darev II||1st century BCE||son of Vadfradad III||Sub-king of the Parthian Empire. Aramaic coin legend d’ryw mlk brh wtprdt mlk’ ("King Darius, son of King Vadfradad").|
|4||Ardashir II||1st century BCE (2nd half)||son of Darev II||Sub-king of the Parthian Empire. Killed by his brother Vahshir I|
|5||Vahšīr/ Vahshir I (Oxathres)||1st century BCE (2nd half)||son of Darev II||Sub-king of the Parthian Empire|
|6||Pakor I||1st century CE (1st half)||son of Vahshir I||Sub-king of the Parthian Empire|
|7||Pakor II||1st century CE (1st half)||?||Sub-king of the Parthian Empire|
|8||Nambed||1st century CE (mid)||son of Ardashir II||Sub-king of the Parthian Empire|
|9||Napad||1st century CE (2nd half)||son of Nambed||Sub-king of the Parthian Empire|
|10||‘Unknown king II’||1st century CE (end)||?||Sub-king of the Parthian Empire|
|11||Vadfradad IV||2nd century CE (1st half)||?||Sub-king of the Parthian Empire|
|12||Manchihr I||2nd century CE (1st half)||?||Sub-king of the Parthian Empire|
|13||Ardashir III||2nd century CE (1st half)||son of Manchihr I||Sub-king of the Parthian Empire|
|14||Manchihr II||2nd century CE (mid)||son of Ardashir III||Sub-king of the Parthian Empire|
|15||Uncertain King III/|
tentatively Pakor III
|2nd century CE (2nd half)||?||Sub-king of the Parthian Empire|
|16||Manchihr III||2nd century CE (2nd half)||son of Manchihr II||Sub-king of the Parthian Empire|
|17||Ardashir IV||2nd century CE (end)||son of Manchihr III||Sub-king of the Parthian Empire|
|18||Vahshir II (Oxathres)||c. 206-210 CE||?||Sub-king of the Parthian Empire. The last of Bazarangids.|
|19||Shapur||3rd century CE (beg.)||Brother of the first Sasanian, Ardashir I||Sub-king of the Parthian Empire|
|20|| Ardashir V |
(Sasanian Dynasty Ardashir I)
|3rd century CE (beg.)||First Sasanian ruler, under the name of Ardashir I||Sub-king of the Parthian Empire|
Mithridates II was king of Parthian Empire from 124 to 88 BC. He was already known as "the Great" in antiquity. He is the first Parthian ruler to regularly use the title of "King of Kings", thus stressing the Parthian association with the Achaemenid Empire. Considered one of the most prominent monarchs of the ancient East, his reign marked the rise of the Parthians as a superpower. He spent most of reign consolidating his rule in the Near East, successfully re-conquering Babylonia, and turning the kingdoms of Armenia, Adiabene, Characene, Gordyene, and Osrhoene into vassal states. He also captured Dura-Europos in Syria, and restored Parthian authority in Sakastan, which was given as a fief to the House of Suren. During the last years of his reign, however, his empire fell into disarray, with the Parthian nobility having enough authority to challenge the Parthian king periodically, including a rival-monarch named Gotarzes I, who claimed the throne. Following Mithridates II's death in 88 BC, Gotarzes ruled Babylonia, while Orodes I ruled the eastern territories of the empire separately.
Arsaces I was the first king of Parthia, as well as the founder and eponym of the Arsacid dynasty of Parthia, ruling from 247 BC to 217 BC. The leader of the Parni, one of the three tribes of the Dahae confederacy, Arsaces founded his dynasty in the mid-3rd century BC when he conquered the satrapy of Parthia from Andragoras, who had rebelled against the Seleucid Empire. He spent the rest of his reign consolidating his rule in the region, and successfully stopped the Seleucid efforts to reconquer Parthia. Due to Arsaces' achievements, he became a popular figure amongst the Arsacid monarchs, who used his name as a royal honorific. By the time of his death, Arsaces had laid the foundations of a strong state, which would eventually transform into an empire under his great-grand nephew, Mithridates I, who assumed the ancient Near Eastern royal title of King of Kings. Arsaces was succeeded by his son Arsaces II.
Mithridates I, also known as Mithridates I the Great, was king of the Parthian Empire from 171 BC to 132 BC. During his reign, Parthia was transformed from a small kingdom into a major political power in the Ancient East as a result of his conquests. He was the first Parthian king to assume the ancient Achaemenid title of King of Kings. Due to his accomplishments, he has been compared to Cyrus the Great, the founder of the Achaemenid Empire. Mithridates I died in 132 BC, and was succeeded by his son Phraates II.
King of Kings was a ruling title employed primarily by monarchs based in the Middle East. Though most commonly associated with Iran, especially the Achaemenid and Sasanian Empires, the title was originally introduced during the Middle Assyrian Empire by king Tukulti-Ninurta I and was subsequently used in a number of different kingdoms and empires, including the aforementioned Persia, various Hellenic kingdoms, Armenia, Georgia and Ethiopia.
Phraates II was king of the Parthian Empire from 132 BC to 127 BC. He is mostly known for his attempt to reconquer Babylon. He was the son of Mithridates I. Because he was still very young when he came to the throne, his mother Rinnu initially ruled on his behalf.
Derafsh Kaviani, or Derafsh Kavani, was the legendary royal standard (vexilloid) of Iran (Persia) used since ancient times until the fall of the Sasanian Empire. Following the defeat of the Sassanids at the Arab conquest of Persia, the Sassanid standard was recovered by one Zerar bin Kattab, who received 30,000 dinars for it. After the jewels were removed, Rashidun Caliph Umar is said to have burned the standard. The banner was also sometimes called the "Standard of Jamshid", the "Standard of Fereydun" and the "Royal Standard".
Alexander was brother of Molon. On the accession of the Seleucid king Antiochus III, afterwards called the Great, in 223 BC, he entrusted Alexander with the government of the satrapy of Persis and Molon received Media. Up to that time, local rulers of Persis, the Fratarakas seem to have been in charge of the region, between circa 295 and 220 BC.
Istakhr was an ancient city in Fars province, five kilometres north of Persepolis in southwestern Iran. It flourished as the capital of the Persian Frataraka governors and Kings of Persis from the third century BC to the early 3rd century AD. It reached its apex under the Sasanian Empire, and was the hometown of the Sasanian dynasty. Istakhr briefly served as the first capital of the Sasanian Empire from 224 to 226 AD and then as principal city, region, and religious centre of the Sasanian province of Pars. During the Arab conquest of Iran, Istakhr was noted for its stiff resistance, which resulted in the death of many of its inhabitants. Istakhr remained a stronghold of Zoroastrianism long after the conquests, and remained relatively important in the early Islamic era. It went into gradual decline after the founding of nearby Shiraz, before being destroyed and abandoned under the Buyids. Cursorily explored by Ernst Herzfeld and a team from the University of Chicago in the first half of the 20th century, much of Sasanian Istakhr remains unexcavated.
Andragoras was an Iranian satrap of the Seleucid provinces of Parthia and Hyrcania under the Seleucid rulers Antiochus I Soter and Antiochus II Theos. He later revolted against his overlords, ruling independently from 245 BC till his death.
Bagadates I, also Bagdates or Baydad, was a frataraka or "Keeper of the Fire", and a governor or sub-dynast for the Seleucids during the 3rd century BCE, ruling as a priest-king at Istakhr in the former Achaemenid heartland, the territory of Persis (Fars), after Alexander the Great's conquests. He was the first indigenous Persian satrap to be appointed - or at least tolerated - by the Seleucids, who held the higher administrative posts tightly within the Greco-Macedonian circle that was headed by the "Companions" and their heirs.
Hyspaosines was an Iranian satrap installed by Antiochus IV Epiphanes and later the first King of Characene (Mesene/Meshun). Hyspaosines is mainly known from coins, but also appears in texts of cuneiform script.
Vādfradād I or Autophradates I, was a ruler of Persis, and a member of the Frataraka dynasty. He was the son of Vahbarz and grandson of Bagadates.
Wahbarz, known in Greek sources as Oborzos, was a dynast of Persis in the 1st half of 2nd century BC, ruling from possibly c. 205 to 164 BC. His reign was marked by his efforts to establish Persis as a kingdom independent from Seleucid authority. He was able to reign independently for three decades, and even expanded to the west, seizing the Seleucid province of Characene. In 164 BC, the Seleucids repelled Wahbarz's forces from Characene, forcing him to re-submit as a Seleucid vassal. He was succeeded by Bagadates I.
Ardakhshir I or Artaxerxes I was a ruler of Persis, and a member of the Frataraka dynasty. He was the successor of the founder of the Fratrakas, Bagadates I. Other rulers of the Fratarakā dynasty were: bgdt (Baydād), Vahbarz, and Vadfradad I.
Sagdodonacus was an Iranian statesman, who served as the governor of Characene from c. 184 BC to 164 BC under suzerainty of the Frataraka rulers of Persis. He was the father of Hyspaosines.