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Gotarzes II of Parthia (Parthian: 𐭂𐭅𐭕𐭓𐭆 Gōtarz, Ancient Greek: Γωτάρζης Gōtarzēs; flourished 1st century) was a Prince of Iranian ancestry. He ruled the Parthian Empire as King intermittently between about 40 to 51. He was one of the sons of Artabanus III. When his father died in 38 and his brother Vardanes I succeeded to the throne, Gotarzes II rebelled.

Gotarzes II
"King of kings of Iran"
Coin of Gotarzes II.
Reign40 – 51
PredecessorVardanes I
SuccessorVonones II
DynastyArsacid dynasty
FatherArtabanus III



Little is known of the early life of Gotarzes II prior to his becoming King of Parthia. Although Gotarzes II was a son of Artabanus III, it is unknown whether he was a biological or adoptive son. Josephus calls Gotarzes II the brother of Vologases I.[1] Tacitus, on the other hand, does not explicitly describe Gotarzes II as a son of Artabanus III. However, he refers to him as a Parthian usurper who was responsible for the murder of his brother, Artabanus, and his family.[2]

The Roman sources are obscure on his background; however, other surviving evidence reveals a lot more about the origins of Gotarzes II. An inscription on a rock relief that was discovered by Rawlinson at Sarpul-I-Zohab on a main road in Iranian Kurdistan introduces him as Gotarzes, son of Gev.[3] From this inscription, it has been surmised that Gotarzes II was the son of a Hyrcanian nobleman called Gev who served as satrap in that region. Later, he was adopted by Artabanus III during his exile in recognition of a debt that his father owed Artabanus.[4] When Gotarzes II later took the throne, he referred to himself as a son of Artabanus III, as evidenced by a surviving coin bearing the legend: Arsaces, king of kings, called Gotarzes, son of Artabanos.[5]


Damaged equestrian relief of Gotarzes II at Behistun.

Gotarzes II made himself detested by his cruelty: among many other murders he even slew his brother Artabanus and his whole family. When Vardanes I regained the throne, Gotarzes II fled to Hyrcania and gathered an army from the Dahae nomads. The war between the two kings was at last ended by a treaty, as both were afraid of the conspiracies of their nobles. Gotarzes II returned to Hyrcania and, when Vardanes I was killed in about 47, Gotzares II was acknowledged as king throughout the empire. Gotarzes II then added to his coins the usual Parthian titles, "king of kings Arsaces the benefactor, the just, the illustrious (Epiphanes), the friend of the Hellenes (Philhellen)", without mentioning his proper name.

The discontent excited by his cruelty and luxury induced his opponents to apply to the Roman emperor Claudius to release from Rome an Arsacid prince, Meherdates, who lived there as hostage. Meherdates crossed the Euphrates in 49, but was beaten and taken prisoner by Gotarzes II, who cut off his ears.

Soon afterwards Gotarzes II died--according to Tacitus, of an illness, although Josephus says that he was murdered. His last coin is dated from June 51. Gotarzes II was succeeded briefly by his uncle Vonones II and then by the latter's son, Vologases I.

In fictionEdit

Relief a Parthian king on horse, named Gotarzes, probably Gotarzes II, with attendant or satrap. This relief is located below the Anubanini rock relief at Sarpul-I-Zohab.[6][7][3]

Gotarzes II is unfavorably portrayed in Robert Graves' novel Claudius the God. Gotarzes is presented as a cruel tyrant. The gravest of insults lobbed by Claudius against Gortazes is that he was idolized by Caligula, and was a close advisor of the mad Roman Emperor.


  1. ^ Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, 20.3.4
  2. ^ Tacitus, Annals, 6, 8-9
  3. ^ a b Verstandig, History of the Parthian Empire (-250 – 227)", p.p.251-252
  4. ^ Verstandig, History of the Parthian Empire (-250 – 227)", p.p.251-252
  5. ^ Ptolemaic Genealogy: Tryphaena, Footnote 13 Archived 2013-05-09 at the Wayback Machine
  6. ^ Vanden Berghe, Louis. Relief Sculptures de Iran Ancien. p. 45.
  7. ^ Deuren, Greet van (2017). Iran (in Dutch). Gottmer Uitgevers Groep b.v. ISBN 9789025763961.


External linksEdit

Gotarzes II of Parthia
Preceded by
Vardanes I
Great King (Shah) of Parthia
Succeeded by
Vonones II