Parthians in Nineveh: Abstract

Parthians in Nineveh: Abstract


His dislike of the hunt and of traditional feasts, his free and open manners, his failure to show interest in the horses - all these things caused the nationalists to call in another Arsacid...

Debevoise 1938:152

After Orodes was killed in AD 6, one of the sons of a previous ruler who was sent to Rome as a hostage was dispatched to Mesopotamia.  Although his blood line was secure, his manners offended the Parthian court at Ctesiphon.   He was expelled in AD 12, suggesting that at least at the court, there was an expectation that a ruler should have certain nomadic virtues.  This appreciation leads one to an important question:  What do we know about Parthian material culture?  In the case of many ancient civilizations, there may be little cultural difference between the artist and the culture we wish to study.  For a nomadic group, such as the Parthians, one cannot simply assume that the artist and the overlord were from the same ethnic or cultural group.  Can one assume that the Parthians were Hellenized by looking at aspects of material culture found within their realm?  While these bits of material culture may reflect some aspects of a nomadic existence, it is likely that they reflect only the elite segment of the society.  Today, if one were to bury a traditional object of  Turkmen material culture, there may be little left for the archaeological record.  The two main measures of nomadic wealth, animals and  woven products, leave little for the archaeological record.  Our evidence for the bulk of the ‘Parthian horde,’ as written sources suggest played such an important part of Near Eastern history, may be meagre indeed.

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