Artabanus I of Parthia
|Great King, Arsaces, Philhellene|
Coin of Artabanus I, Seleucia mint
|King of the Parthian Empire|
The son of Phriapatius, Artabanus I succeeded his nephew Phraates II in 127 BC. Determining the dates of Phripatius' reign, Artabanus I must have been relatively old at his accession. Artabanus I refrained from using the title of "king of kings" in his coinage, and instead used the title of "great king". Like the rest of the Parthian kings, he used the title of Arsaces on his coinage, which was the name of the first Parthian ruler Arsaces I (r. 247 – 217 BC), which had become a royal honorific among the Parthian monarchs out of admiration for his achievements. Furthermore, he also used the title of Philhellene ("friend of the Greeks"), which had been introduced during the reign of Mithridates I (r. 171 – 132 BC) as a political act in order to establish friendly relations with their Greek subjects. The earlier Parthian kings were depicted in Hellenistic clothing on the observe of their coins; this changed under Artabanus I, who is depicted on his coins wearing the Parthian trouser-suit, which is a testimony of the ongoing Iranian revival under the Parthians. Like his two predecessors, Artabanus I is wearing a Hellenistic diadem, whilst his long beard represents the traditional Iranian/Near Eastern custom.
Artabanus I's reign was a period of decline in the Parthian Empire. His predecessor, Phraates II had died fighting the invading nomads in the east of the empire. Artabanus I was also forced to fight the nomads—the Saka and Yuezhi, and was reportedly compelled to pay them tribute. Hyspaosines, who had recently created the principality of Characene in southern Mesopotamia, took advantage of the Parthian difficulties in the east by proclaiming his independence from Parthian suzerainty. He then went on to seize Babylon (c. 127 B.C), and by 125/4 BC, he controlled parts of Mesopotamia as indicated by coin mints of him. Artabanus I chose to remain in the east to deal with the nomads, whom he considered more of a danger. In 124/3 BC, just like Phraates II, Artabanus I died during a battle against the Yuezhi in the east. He reportedly died to a wound in the arm. He was succeeded by his son Mithridates II, who not only finally dealt with the nomads pressuring the eastern Parthian borders, but also expanded Parthian authority in the west, transforming the Parthian Empire into a superpower.
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Artabanus I of ParthiaDied: 124 BC
| King of the Parthian Empire