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The Parthian Empire was a major Iranian political and cultural power in the Ancient Near East. It was founded in the mid-3rd century BC by Arsaces I. Mithradates I greatly expanded the empire by seizing Media and Mesopotamia from the Seleucids. At its height, the Parthian Empire stretched from the northern reaches of the Euphrates, in what is now Kurdistan, to eastern Iran. The empire, located on the Silk Road trade route between the Roman Empire in the Mediterranean Basin and the Han Dynasty in China, quickly became a center of trade and commerce. The Parthians largely adopted the art, architecture, religious beliefs, and royal insignia of their culturally heterogeneous empire, which encompassed Persian, Hellenistic, and regional cultures. As the Empire expanded westward, they came into conflict with the late Roman Republic. The Parthians captured most of the Levant, but their holdings in Mesopotamia were invaded in turn several times during the Roman–Parthian Wars. Frequent civil war between Parthian contenders to the throne proved more dangerous than foreign invasion, and Parthian power evaporated when Ardashir I, ruler of Estakhr in Fars, revolted against the Arsacids and killed their last ruler, Artabanus IV, in 224 AD. (more...)

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