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Genealogy of the First Arsacids - Page 33

Draft translation of 10 May 2008:

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reflecting the genuine events of Parthian history, is that of Justin [see especially 18, p. 222-238].

The pattern of events which originates from Arrian is a later phenomenon born in the period when the dynasty of Arsacids was compelled to seek new arguments to prove its "legitimacy" [14, p. 40-59]; [5, p. 212-218]. The solution proposed by J. Wolski was only a very probable assumption for several years until it was confirmed by new epigraphic discoveries. In particular, an inscription dated 3d century B.C. was found which mentions Andragoras, who probably held the post of strategos of the "upper satrapies" [15, p. 85-91]. So it was proven that the version of Justin is correct because only he reports that the opponent of Arsaces was Andragoras, whereas in Arrian's version it is Pherecles, and in Syncellus' version it is Agathocles. In addition, both the numismatic material [4, p. 53-60] and the document in question here serve as confirmations of J. Wolski's deductions. I. M. Diakonoff and V. A. Livshits correctly stress that this document is evidence in favor of the historical existence of Arsaces which was often doubted [1, p. 20-21] 5.

Thus, there are sufficient grounds to raise the question of how the data obtained from the study of the Nisa ostracon correspond to the data of Justin's report. From the point of view of the problem under discussion, the report of Justin was studied by J. Wolski who proposed his genealogical tree of the first Parthian kings (until Mithradates I) [17, p. 138-145] which is reproduced here with some additions from a later time. These additions are unquestionable so we can allow ourselves to make this extension which is needed to better clarify the question.

Figure 3

If we compare these two stemmata, the most striking difference between them is that according to Wolski, Phriapatius is the son of Arsaces II and thus the grandson of Arsaces I, but according to I. M. Diakonoff and V. A. Livshits, Phriapatius is the grand-nephew of Arsaces I. In this situation it is natural to ask which of the solutions is to be preferred. It seems to us that I. M. Diakonoff and V. A. Livshits are more correct because, for one reason, the Nisa document is documentary evidence to which preference should be accorded before the literary data. Now, the text of Justin itself, as we will see further down, does not contradict the ostracon at all. In Justin's text, there is no reference to the nature of the blood relationship between Phriapatius and Arsaces II. This author writes the following: "Third Parthian king was Phriapatius, but he was called Arsaces too. Since, as it was said before, the Parthians called all their kings by this name…" (Just., XLI, 5, 8). This omission is all the more significant because, for all other Parthian kings of the early era, Justin shows the precise character of their blood relationships: Arsaces II is a son of Arsaces I; Phraates I and Mithradates I are sons of Phriapatius; Phraates II is a son of Mithradates I; Artabanus I is paternal  uncle of Phraates II; Mithradates II is a son of Artabanus I. Thus, in reality, there are no contradictions between the Nisa ostracon and Justin, and it is possible to correct the genealogical chart proposed by Wolski based on this document:

Figure 4

Thus arranged, the stemma is consistent both with the data in the literary tradition and with the documentary evidence, which permits several deductions to be made regarding important matters of early Parthian history.

The first conclusion is that the direct line of the ancestors of Arsaces I terminates with his son Arsaces II and all following kings of early Parthia are the heirs of Phriapatius who, in turn, is the grandson of the brother of Arsaces I. Currently one can only make assumptions regarding how and why [continued...]

5 Let us note that M. L. Chaumont in both of her works fails to take into account the conclusions of J. Wolski, mixing together the data of Arrian and Justin. As a result, a series of obvious errors appear.

This page last updated 26 Jan 2011

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