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Genealogy of the First Arsacids - Page 32


Draft translation of 10 May 2008:

[Click here for the original Russian text of this page]

stemmatahis own suggestion and the stemma composed by him based on the reading of I. M. Diakonoff and V. A. Livshits:

I. (according to E. Bickerman)

Figure 1 (according to E. Bickerman)

II. (according to I. M. Diakonoff and V. A. Livshits)

Figure 2 (according to I. M. Diakonoff and V. A. Livshits)

Since I am not a specialist in Semitic epigraphy I cannot, of course, judge the linguistic side of the question. I will note only that the reconstruction proposed by E. Bickerman leads to very serious chronological strain. If following the stemma of E. Bickerman, in order to fit within the 157 years mentioned in the document, one needs to assume that Phriapatius was just born when Arsaces I was crowned, his son (Arsaces-Gotarzes' father) was born when his father was 70, and Arsaces-Gotarzes in turn was born when his father was 70 years old, but Gotarzes was crowned at age 17. If we remember that it is unlikely that there was such a difference between the age of Arsaces I and his brother Phriapatius (according to E. Bickerman), and that the birth of a son from 70 year old fathers in two consecutive generations is a great rarity, then all this forces us to disregard the stemma proposed by E. Bickerman 2.

Still another interpretation of ostracon 1760 was proposed by F. Altheim [7, p. 445-448]. His view is likewise unacceptable 3, and forces us to return to the stemma presented by I. M. Diakonoff and V. A. Livshits. Theirs is to be preferred all the more because it does not require a change in the reading of the document and the presence of two additional generations eliminates all the chronological difficulties.

Naturally, the question arises how this stemma agrees with other data about the genealogy of the first Arsacid kings 4.

However, before we will discuss this question it is necessary to make several introductory notes. The rise and the early history of the Parthian kingdom are to a great extent still debatable. The main difficulties are created by the two irreconcilable versions in the sources concerning events at the time of the Arsacid state's emergence: the version of Pompeius Trogus (Justin) and Strabo on one hand, and the version of Arrian (and the authors dependent on him) on the other.

Despite the fact that in the field of the study of Parthian history there has long been a tendency to somehow reconcile the two versions, recent works by J. Wolski have shown that, by using such an approach, the questions cannot be solved. J. Wolski proved that the historical version,  [continued...]

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2 M. L. Chaumont [10, p. 16] points out the low probability of the chronological stemma proposed by E. Bickerman. However, her own assumptions are also very contestable. M. L. Chaumont [10, p. 16]; [9, p. 148] translates the text as follows: "Year 157. Arsaces, king, grandson of Phriapatius [and] nephew of a son of Arsaces."a Thus, she believes that BRY ’ḤY BRY means "nephew of a son" and refers to the given Arsaces.

However, this interpretation leads to absolutely insurmountable difficulties of both chronological and genealogical nature: First is the presence of only three generations in the genealogical tree which is impossible, as we tried to show when we analyzed E. Bickerman's stemma. Second, Phriapatius in this case appears to be a brother of Arsaces I which is absolutely impossible. M. L. Chaumont herself realizes these difficulties and so she proposes to translate the formula BRY ’ḤY BRY with the word "descendant" (arriere neveu). However, such translation is absolutely arbitrary and is not supported by any linguistic arguments. Besides, M. L. Chaumont without any reason calls Phriapatius son of Artabanus. But Justin to whom she refers (Just., XLI, 4, 9) says only that this king was the third of Parthian kings and he also had a name of Arsaces ("Tertius Parthis rex Priapatius fuit, sed et ipse Arsaces dictus…"). There is no Artabanus in Justin's report. So, the interpretation of the document proposed by M. L. Chaumont cannot be accepted.

3 Unfortunately, this work has remained out of my reach. The information about the theory of F. Altheim and its criticism is that of V. A. Livshits who kindly reported his observations to the author. F. Altheim believes that the publishers of the archive first of all did not understand that in the ostracon they are dealing with Mithradates II and not with Gotarzes I. However, this correction cannot be accepted for chronological reasons. Besides, the constructions of F. Altheim are based on an erroneous translation and arbitrary interpretation of the text, and also on a distorted interpretation of the order of succession to the early Arsacid throne.

4 M. L. Chaumont [10, p. 18] believes that it is quite possible that the genealogy of Gotarzes is fictitious and he was not a genuine Arsacid. However, this assumption is hardly true. According to the general opinion of the ancient authors, in Parthia according to strict tradition only members of the house of Arsacids could become kings (exactly the same as during the epoch of Achaemenids and Sasanids). During almost all known internal wars contending groups nominated different members of the family of Arsacids as claimants to the Parthian throne which was, generally, not difficult considering their large number.

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Translation notes:
a "Année 157 : Aršak, roi, petit-fils de Friyapātak (et) neveu du fils d'Aršak."


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