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Genealogy of the First Arsacids - Page 36

Draft translation of 10 May 2008:

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remove Arsaces II and, instead, praise the role of Tiridates becomes absolutely inexplicable. When we turn to the data of the Nisa commemorative note, however, and to the stemma based upon it — from which it emerges that after Arsaces II, Phriapatius the grandson of the brother of Arsaces I became king12 and that all the subsequent early Parthian kings were his descendents — it becomes clear that the creation of the new, fictional version of the history concerning the rise of the Parthian state had one more aim: to rewrite the history in such a way that the largest possible role in the creation of the Parthian state was played by the brother of Arsaces I, Tiridates (according to the authors of Arrian's circle), who was the real ancestor of the Parthian kings 13. It is clear that the brother of Arsaces I existed. Probably, he had a significant role in the conquest of Parthia and annihilation of Andragoras' power. However, he never was king, which is confirmed by the inscription on the Nisa document, since he is represented anonymously there like all other ancestors of Gotarzes who do not bear the royal title.

If we accept this explanation, we think that all facts are in agreement and mutually explain each other. After the death or overthrow of Arsaces II, power was transferred to the descendants of Tiridates. However, as is testified by the antique tradition, the glory of Arsaces I was great, he was officially deified, and so it was impossible to eliminate him from Parthian history. Thus, the history was gradually changed by complete elimination of Arsaces II (probably a figure too odious for the Parthian nobles) and also by sharply shortening the reign of Arsaces I who supposedly died at the very beginning of the struggle. The time reserve of almost four decades created as a result of these changes was used for the reign of Tiridates which never took place in reality.14

So it seems to us that the Nisa ostracon allows us not only to restore the genuine genealogy of the kings of early Parthia, but also to illuminate the previously unknown reasons for the discrepancies between the data of Justin and Arrian. It allows us to finally understand that the version of Arrian does not reflect the Parthian folk tradition, but is an artificial creation, a deliberate reworking of the genuine facts with the purpose to first prove the rights of Arsacids for power in Iran and, second, to elevate the role of Tiridates who was the real ancestor of the early Parthian kings.


12 Two other ostraca found during the excavations of Old Nisa (NOV 307, NOV 366) serve as confirmation of this; unfortunately, their preservation is worse. The editors assume that document Nov 366 mentions the ascent to the throne of Sinatruces, brother of Mithradates II. In his family tree Phriapatius is also mentioned as the "connecting link" between Sinatruces and Arsaces. In document NOV 307, the grand-grandson of Phriapatius, possibly Phraates III, is mentioned [3, p. 143-144]. Unconditionally, the peculiar place which is occupied by Phriapatius, who was the first of the descendants of Tiridates ascending to the Arsacid throne, should somehow be reflected in the official genealogy. And it is because of this that, in all the documents recording royal accessions that have been discovered until now during the excavations of Old Nisa, Phriapatius is inevitably mentioned.

13 One can believe that Arrian's passage regarding the ancestors of Arsaces I and Tiridates (Ἀρσάκης καὶ Τηριδάτης ἤστινb ἀδελφὼ Ἀρσακίδαι, τοῦ ὑιοῦ Ἀρσάκου τοῦ Φριαπίτίου ἀπόγοναιk) was included especially in order to show that the dynasty was named not after Arsaces I, as it is stated by the other authors (see, for example, in Eusebius [11a, p. 207]: Πάρθοι Μακεδόνων ἀπέστησαν καὶ πρῶτος ἐβασίλευσεν Ἀρσάκης, ὅθεν Ἀρσακίδαι, — "the Parthians revolted from the Macedonians and Arsaces was first king, whence the Arsacids"), but after another Arsaces who was a common ancestor of Arsaces I and Tiridates.

14 If we take into account the chronological guidelines of Arrian (37 year reign of Tiridates and 2 year reign of Arsaces I) and lay them on the real chronological outline in correspondence with our considerations, then it will be possible to think that Arsaces II lost power in 208 B.C., i.e. immediately after his subjugation to Antiochus III, which agrees well with our assumption that he might have been dethroned.

Translation notes:
k In repeating this passage from Arrian's Parthica fr. 1 (ed. Müller) Koshelenko (copied by Invernizzi, p. 143 n. 13) erroneously gives the last two words as Φριαπίτίου ἀπόγοναι. Ιn the earlier rendering (p. 34, paragr. 4, and in Karl Müller's text of Photius) it is given correctly: Φριαπίτου ἀπόγονοι.

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