The Ancient Arsacid Dynasty

The Ancient Arsacid DynastyThe ancient Arsacid royal dynasty was founded by Parthian King Arsaces I in 250 BC. The Arsacid dynasty ruled in Armenia, Persia, Atropatene, Iberia, and Caucasian Albania.

The Parthian branch of the Arsacids (250 BC – 224 AD), having liberated Persia from the Greco-Macedonian dynasty of the Seleucids, proclaimed its connection with the legendary kings –  heroes of Avestan, as evidenced by the name of their divine ancestor Kavi Arshan (could be connected with the word “Caucasus”; also, Armenian “kav” means “clay”).

According to the Encyclopedia Britannica, the forefathers of the dynasty were members of the Parn tribe who lived east of the Caspian Sea. They entered Parthia shortly after the death of Alexander the Great (323 BC) and gradually gained control over most of Iran and Mesopotamia.

Greek historian Arrian also mentioned that the Parthians connected their clan with the Achaemenid king Artaxerxes II. Some experts believe that the Parthians’ idea to associate themselves with antique kings arose at the beginning of the 1st century BC.

For example, in the Parthian documents found in Nis, Artaxšahrakān vineyard is mentioned (resembles the name of the Armenian city of Artashat), which, according to the publishers of documents, “is named, probably, in honor of the legendary ancestor of Arsacids Artaxerxes II”.

The founder of the Arsacid dynasty Arsaces I laid the foundation for the Parthian state. The Arshakuni dynasty or Armenian Arsacids ruled in Armenia in 55 AD – 428 AD.

Parthian and Armenian King Vonones I (died 19 AD) is sometimes mistakenly considered the founder of the Arsacid dynasty. Vonones was dethroned as a result of internecine war in Parthia. He then fled to Armenia where he would be proclaimed a king by the local nobility. He would be again removed from the throne by Roman Emperor Augustus.

Vonones I was a representative of the Parthian Arsacid dynasty who temporarily reigned in Armenia. However, the Armenian King Trdat I (Tiridat) was the one who founded the Armenian Arsacid dynasty. Trdat was the brother of Parthian King Vologases I. Trdat was recognized as the King of Armenia by Parthia and the Roman Empire in 66 AD.

The history of the dynasty has been recorded since the times of Vachagan I the Brave, a native of the Maskut region. He was a descendant of the leaders of the Maskuts (Massaguets) who had come to power in Caucasian Albania in the 1st century AD. Vachagan I was related to the Parthian branch of the Arsacid dynasty as well. He is frequently mentioned in the historiography of the Parthian Pahlavi dynasty.

Sasan, a priest and magician of the temple of the goddess Anahit, belonged to the royal family of Fars and occupied a prominent position. His son Papak was the ruler of Istahra and had the title of a king. The grandson of Sasan and the son of Papak Artashir was strongly supported by priestly circles and some part of the tribal nobility.

Gradually expanding his possessions at the expense of neighboring lands, Artashir grew so strong that he smashed and overthrew the most prominent of the Pars lords. In addition, Artashir fought against his brothers for power in Parthia. He would win his struggle for power. The desire to unite Parthia led him to an inevitable clash with the Arsacids.

© 2017, Vahanyan V., Vahanyan G.

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