Armenia between Rome and Parthia, 110 AD

On this beautiful sestertius, we see the personification of Parthia kneeling before emperor Trajan, who is seated on a platform and attended by the commander of the Praetorian guards.

He is presenting Parthamaspates to the kneeling Parthian. The legend REX PARTHIS DATVS – ‘A King gave to the Parthians’ must have been the highest degree of flattery to Roman pride.

What drew me to this intriguing coin was on one hand the interesting patches of green patina and on the other the details of the reverse. You can almost make out the fingers of the outstretched Parthian’s hand.

The story: Trajan was on a roll expanding his empire. Parthia was split between Vologases III ruling in the East and Osroes (Khosrow), the contender, ruling the West, centered in Ctesiphon.

When Osroes placed his nephew Axidares, on the Armenian throne in 110 AD, it violated the Roman-Parthian treaty. Trajan seized the opportunity to wage war on Parthia.

Osroes did not want a destructive war with the Romans, and to defuse the situation he replaced Axidares with his brother Parthamasiris and sent multiple envoys to Trajan to talk terms.

After rejecting proposals by multiple Parthian embassies in Athens and Antioch, Trajan moved into Armenia, deposed Parthamasiris, and for the first time in history reduced Armenia into a province.

He soon realized, however, that the hold on his vast gains was shaky, and to preserve some control over the Parthians he installed the pro-Roman king Parthamaspates on the throne, but his puppet-king did not farewell.

Soon that king was deposed and like wildfire, revolts erupted in Armenia, Mesopotamia, Cyprus, Egypt, Cyrene, western North Africa, and the Empire’s northern borders in Europe. Before Trajan could march westward to address some of these uprisings, he died while encamped in Cilicia.

By Joseph Sarkissian

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