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126 BC - 224 AD - Parthians (or Arsacids)

By the absorption of various countries and regions Parthia, obtained her fullest extension towards the east and the north-east, but she was still able to make important additions to her dominions on the opposite side of her empire, especially towards the north-west. At a comparatively early period, certainly before her wars with Rome began, she made herself mistress of the extensive and valuable region of Mesopotamia Proper, which was the tract enclosedbetween the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, bounded on the north by Armenia, and on the south by the Babylonian alluvium. The length of this region from north-west to south-east was at least three hundred and fifty miles, while its breadth, where it was broadest, cannot be estimated at much under two hundred and sixty. But as in some places the width did not exceed fifty miles, the entire area, it is probable, fell short of fifty thousand square miles.

In 126 BC, the Parthians (or Arsacids), an intelligent, nomadic people who had migrated from the steppes of Turkestan to northeastern Iran, captured the Tigris-Euphrates river valley. Much of it was very unproductive, being a treeless plain, the home of the wild ass, the bustard, and the gazelle; but towards the north there was more fertility, and the Mons Masius, together with its southern skirt, and the valley of the Tigris north of it, were tracts of some considerable value. Masius produces abundant timber, together with manna and gall-nuts ; the pistachio grows wild in the district between Orfah and Diabekr ; the Sinjar range of hills is noted for the cultivation of the fig ; and the whole northern region is favourable to the growth of fruit-trees, and produces walnuts, oranges, lemons, pomegranates, apricots, and mulberries.

Having previously conquered Iran, the Parthians were able to control all trade between the East and the Greco-Roman world. For the most part, they chose to retain existing social institutions and to live in cities that already existed. Mesopotamia was immeasurably enriched by this, the mildest of all foreign occupations of the region. The population of Mesopotamia was enormously enlarged, chiefly by Arabs, Iranians, and Aramaeans.

During the period of the wars with Rome the limits of the Parthian Empire fluctuated greatly. Provinces were conquered and reconquered ; large annexations were made and then relinquished ; whole countries were ceded, and, after a time, recovered. With the exception of the Roman occupation under Trajan (AD 98- 117) and Septimius Severus (AD 193-211), the Arsacids ruled until a new force of native Iranian rulers, the Sassanids, conquered the region in AD 227.

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Page last modified: 09-07-2011 02:48:41 ZULU