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Ancient Authors

The ancient authors and texts most useful for references to Parthia are:

Issuing from one of the three best-documented epochs of the Mesopotamian History, these texts represent an enormous database for the research on the every day life history. The texts (mostly administrative, juridical and economic) permit us an analysis of the material divided by temple, familial and personal archives. Total number of dated texts from the Seleucid Era: 255; from the Arsacid Era: 23. See Babylonian Texts of the First Millennium B.C.

Two Parthian inscriptions in Greek on the Parthian reliefs at Beistun; from Susa various inscriptions especially a letter from Artabanus II (12 - 38 A.D.) to the city; Dura Europus provides much graffiti but also other valuable inscriptions, and an amazing series of parchments of primary importance to the cultural history of the area; the recently published economic documents of Nisa are very important; the parchments in Arsacid Pahlavi found at Avroman in Kurdistan.

The Deeds of the Divine Augustus, A.D. 14, inscribed on two bronze pillars in Rome. Translated by Thomas Bushnell.


Principally Appian, Arrian, Dio Cassius Cocceianus, Isidorus Characenus, Josephus, Lucian, Philostratus, Phlegon, Plutarch, Polybius, Strabo.

Principally Ammianus Marcellinus, Eutropius, Horace, Justin (Epitome of Pompeius Trogus), Orosius, Pliny the Elder, Quintus Dellius, Tacitus, Velleius Paterculus.

Principally the Avesta (translated M. Muller, Oxford 1883), Firdosi (study by T. Noeldeke, Strasbourg, 1904), the Han-Shu, Mas’udi, Mirkhond, Moses of Chorene, Tabari, the Talmud, Yaqut, the Syriac documents which originated in the western Parthian empire

Now lost to us are the ancient histories of Parthia by Arrian, Apollodorus of Artemita, Asinius Quadratus and Quintus Dellius. Fragments of Quadratus and Arrian exist, the latter of particular value in the campaign of Trajan provided they can be properly placed in the narrative. Another work of questionable value (according to Lucian) would be the work of Crepereius Calpurnianus of Pompeiopolis.

This page last updated 23 Feb 2021

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