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Phraates II (Parthian: Frahāt, literally; the one with [regal] glory) was king of the Parthian Empire from 132 BC to 127 BC. He is mostly known for his attempt to reconquer Babylon. He was the son of Mithridates I (171–132 BC). Because he was still very young when he came to the throne, his mother Rinnu initially ruled on his behalf.

Phraates II
Great King, Arsaces, Philhellene
Coin of Phraates II (cropped), Seleucia mint.jpg
Coin of Phraates II, minted at Seleucia in 129 BC
King of the Parthian Empire
Reign132–127 BC
PredecessorMithridates I
SuccessorArtabanus I
Bornc. 147 BC
Died127 BC
DynastyArsacid dynasty
FatherMithridates I



Phraates II was born in c. 147 BC; he was the son of Mithridates I, the fifth Parthian king, and noblewoman named Rinnu, who was the daughter of a Median magnate.[1] According to Assar, Rinnu's father may have been the leader of the Karen clan in Nahavand.[1] This is, however, unlikely, as the Karenids were formed by the descendants of the Arsacid prince Karen, who lived a century after Phraates.[2]

War with the SeleucidsEdit

In 130 BC the Parthian empire was attacked from the west. Antiochus VII Sidetes (138–129 BC), ruler of the Seleucid Empire, attacked in the west to reconquer territory lost earlier. After three battles he reclaimed Babylonia.[3][4] After this he offered a peace, by which he would regain Mesopotamia and large parts of Iran. The Parthian realm would be restricted to its core territories and would pay a heavy tribute. Phraates II could not accept these high demands, so he refused the offer. In the following winter (129 BC), Antiochus VII quartered himself and his army in Ecbatana, where he completely alienated the local people by forcing them to pay for the upkeep of his soldiers--and because, it seems, the soldiers assaulted the locals.[3] Thus, when Phraates II attacked the Seleucid army in its winter quarters, the local population supported him. Antiochus VII was defeated and killed or committed suicide, ending Seleucid rule east of the Euphrates.[5]

Phraates II succeeded in capturing Seleucus V Philometor and Laodice, the children of Demetrius II Nicator that had accompanied their uncle Antiochus VII on campaign. Phraates II later married Laodice for her beauty.[6] He allowed Antiochus VII a royal funeral and returned the body to Syria in a silver coffin.[7]

Phraates II also released Demetrius II Nicator, who had been held by the Parthians as a hostage for several years, to become king of the Seleucid realm for the second time. Through this the Parthian king hoped to gain more influence in Syria. After Demetrius was killed by instigation of his wife not long after, Phraates send, on 125, his son Seleucus V back to be his puppet king, but he was killed by his own mother.[6]

War in the East and deathEdit

Syria, which was now the Seleucid rump state, lacked military power and Phraates II apparently planned to invade it. However, on the eastern front, various nomadic tribes already infiltrating and usurping the Saka and Tokhari destroyed the Greco-Bactrian Kingdom, penetrated to the borders of the realm in 129 BC, and threatened the Parthian kingdom.[8] The king had to rush to the eastern front, installing Himeros as governor of Babylon, who quickly became a tyrant. Phraates II marched east, his army including a large force of captured Seleucid soldiers from the army of the late Antiochus VII Sidetes. These ultimately refused to fight for the Parthian king, and he was defeated and killed in battle.

Coinage and Imperial ideologyEdit

Phraates refrained from using the title of "king of kings" in his coinage, and instead used the title of "great king".[9] 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.[10][11] Furthermore, he also used the title of Philhellene ("friend of the Greeks"),[12] which had been introduced during the reign of his father Mithridates I (r. 171 – 132 BC) as a political act in order to establish friendly relations with their Greek subjects.[13] A unusual title attested during the reign of Phraates was the title of "king of the lands" (attested in Babylonian cuneiform tablets as šar mātāti), which was usually used by the Seleucid monarchs.[14] Like his father, Phraates is wearing a Hellenistic diadem, whilst his beard represents the traditional Iranian/Near Eastern custom.[15]


  1. ^ a b Assar 2006, p. 58.
  2. ^ Pourshariati 2017.
  3. ^ a b Justin, xli. 38.
  4. ^ Shayegan 2011, pp. 128-129.
  5. ^ Kay Ehling, Untersuchungen zur Geschichte der späten Seleukiden (164-63 v. Chr.), Stuttgart 2008, p. 204 ISBN 978-3-515-09035-3
  6. ^ a b Ogden, Daniel (1999). Polygamy Prostitutes and Death. The Hellenistic Dynasties. London: Gerald Duckworth & Co. Ltd. p. 150. ISBN 07156 29301.
  7. ^ Justin, xli. 39.
  8. ^ Grousset, Rene (1970). The Empire of the Steppes. Rutgers University Press. p. 31. ISBN 0-8135-1304-9.
  9. ^ Shayegan 2011, pp. 41-42.
  10. ^ Daryaee 2012, p. 169.
  11. ^ Kia 2016, p. 23.
  12. ^ Curtis 2007, p. 11.
  13. ^ Daryaee 2012, p. 170.
  14. ^ Shayegan 2011, p. 43.
  15. ^ Curtis 2007, p. 9.


Ancient worksEdit

  • Justin, Epitome of the Philippic History of Pompeius Trogus.

Modern worksEdit

Phraates II
 Died: 127 BC
Preceded by
Mithridates I
King of Parthia
132–127 BC
Succeeded by
Artabanus I