Parthians: History & Explanation

Instructor: Jessica Elam Miller

Jessica has taught college History and has a Master of Arts in History

This lesson centers on the Parthian Empire. As the Parthians rose to become a major world power, they became a contender against the Roman Empire for control.

Most of us have heard of Ancient Greece and Ancient Rome, but what about the Parthians? This group of people conquered a large area of the Middle East and Southwest Asia to become a superpower in their time.

Who Were the Parthians?

The Parthians ruled over ancient Persia from 247 BC to 228 AD. Persia was located in the Middle East, in an area we now know as Iran. During their reign, the Parthians spread to reside in the regions of Iran, Iraq, Turkey, Armenia, Azerbaidzhan, Afghanistan, Turkmenistan, Georgia, Pakistan, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Palestine, and Israel. Because of a lack of written records, historians study sources like coins (numismatics) to learn more about this time period.

Map of the Parthian Empire
Map of Parthian Empire

As the Parthian empire developed, it absorbed many of the cultural aspects of the native cultures it was overtaking. Greek influence became strong for a short period of time, but eventually faded. Greek culture was heavy in the Seleucids, one of Parthia's major enemies.

The Parthians gained control of the Silk Road to China around 129 BC. The Silk Road was a group of trade routes created by tradesmen in China. They linked trade areas in the ancient world. Parthian control of the routes allowed them to be at the center of trade.


In 53 BC, the Parthians defeated the Romans in a battle at Carrhae. They captured and executed Crassus, who was part of a Roman triumvirate of power with Julius Caesar and Pompey. Crassus's death by the Parthians ultimately led to civil war between Caesar and Pompey.

Fighting continued between Rome and Parthia, but war erupted in 53 AD for control of Armenia. The war lasted 10 years.

In 115 AD, Rome invaded Mesopotamia and proceeded to Parthia, capturing its capital Ctesiphon. However, the Parthians held control of most of their empire and continued to fight back. The fighting finally ended in 228 AD when a group of Persians called the Sassanids finally defeated the Parthians. At this point, any references to Parthians made by Rome refer to the Sassanid Empire.


The Parthian empire contained several religious systems. Some of the belief systems included Judaism, Christianity, cult worship (Greek and Iranian), and polytheism. Some of the major deities became interchangeable with one another. For example, Zeus (a patriarchal Greek god) was sometimes equated with Ahura Mazda (the creator deity of Zoroastrianism).

To unlock this lesson you must be a Member.
Create your account

Register to view this lesson

Are you a student or a teacher?

Unlock Your Education

See for yourself why 30 million people use

Become a member and start learning now.
Become a Member  Back
What teachers are saying about
Try it risk-free for 30 days

Earning College Credit

Did you know… We have over 160 college courses that prepare you to earn credit by exam that is accepted by over 1,500 colleges and universities. You can test out of the first two years of college and save thousands off your degree. Anyone can earn credit-by-exam regardless of age or education level.

To learn more, visit our Earning Credit Page

Transferring credit to the school of your choice

Not sure what college you want to attend yet? has thousands of articles about every imaginable degree, area of study and career path that can help you find the school that's right for you.

Create an account to start this course today
Try it risk-free for 30 days!
Create An Account