A casual notice of a Parthian monarch in a late writer may supply the gap, either wholly or in part. Lucian speaks of a certain Mnasciras as a Parthian king, who died at the advanced age of ninety-six. As there is no other place in the Parthian history at which the succession is doubtful, and as no such name as Mnascris occurs elsewhere in the list, it seems necessary, unless we reject Lucian's authority altogether, to insert this monarch here. We cannot say, however, how long he reigned, or ascribe to him any particular actions; nor can we say definitely what king he either succeeded or preceded. It is possible that his reign covered the entire interval between Mithridates II. and Sanatroeces; it is possible, on the other hand, that he had successors and predecessors, whose names have altogether perished.
The expression used by the epitomizer of Trogus, and a few words dropped by Plutarch, render it probable that about this time there were contentions between various members of the Arsacid family which issued in actual civil war. Such contentions are a marked feature of the later history; and, according to Plutarch, they commenced at this period. We may suspect, from the great age of two of the monarchs chosen, that the Arsacid stock was now very limited in number, that it offered no candidates for the throne whose claims were indisputable, and that consequently at each vacancy there was a division of opinion among the "Megistanes," which led to the claimants making appeal, if the election went against them, to the arbitrament of arms.
The dark time of Parthian history is terminated by the accession—probably in B.C. 76—of the king above mentioned as known by the three names of Sanatroeces, Sinatroces, and Sintricus. The form, Sanatroeces, which appears upon the Paithian coins, is on that account to be preferred. The king so called had reached when elected the advanced age of eighty. It may be suspected that he was a son of the sixth Arsaces (Mithridates I.), and consequently a brother of Phraates II. He had, perhaps, been made prisoner by that Scythians in the course of the disastrous war waged by that monarch, and had been retained in captivity for above fifty years. At any rate, he appears to have been indebted to the Scythians in some measure for the crown which he acquired so tardily, his enjoyment of it having been secured by the help of a contingent of troops furnished to him by the Scythian tribe of the Sacauracae.
The position of the Empire at the time of his accession was one of considerable difficulty. Parthia, during the period of her civil contentions, had lost much ground in the west, having been deprived by Tigranes of at least two important provinces. At the same time she had been witness of the tremendous struggle between Rome and Pontus which commenced in B.C. 88, was still continuing, and still far from decided, when Sanatroeces came to the throne. An octogenarian monarch was unfit to engage in strife, and if Sanatroeces, notwithstanding this drawback, had been ambitious of military distinction, it would have been difficult for him to determine into which scale the interests of his country required that he should cast the weight of his sword. On the one hand, Parthia had evidently much to fear from the military force and the covetous disposition of Tigranes, king of Armenia, the son-in-law of Mithridates, and at this time his chosen alley. Tigranes had hitherto been continually increasing in strength. By the defeat of Artanes, king of Sophene, or Armenia Minor, he had made himself master of Armenia in its widest extent; by his wars with Parthia herself he had acquired Gordyene, or Northern Mesopotamia, and Adiabene, or the entire rich tract east of the middle Tigris (including Assyria Proper and Arbelitis), as far, at any rate, as the course of the lower Zab; by means which are not stated he had brought under subjection the king of the important country of Media Artropatene, independent since the time of Alexander. Invited into Syria, about B.C. 83, by the wretched inhabitants, wearied with the perpetual civil wars between the princes of the house of the Seleucidae, he had found no difficulty in establishing himself as king over Cilicia, Syria, and most of Phoenicia. About B.C. 80 he had determined on building himself a new capital in the province of Gordyene, a capital of a vast size, provided with all the luxuries required by an Oriental court, and fortified with walls which recalled the glories of the ancient cities of the Assyrians. The position of this huge town on the very borders of the Parthian kingdom, in a province which had till very recently been Parthian, could be no otherwise understood that as a standing menace to Parthia itself, the proclamation of an intention to extend the Armenian dominion southwards, and to absorb at any rate all the rich and fertile country between Gordyene and the sea. Thus threatened by Armenia, it was impossible for Sanatroeces cordially to embrace the side of Mithridates, with which Armenia and its king were so closely allied; it was impossible for him even to wish that the two allies should be free to work their will on the Asiatic continent unchecked by the power which alone had for the last twelve years obstructed their ambitious projects.
On the other hand, there was already among the Asiatic princes generally a deep distrust of Rome—a fear that in the new people, which had crept so quietly into Asia, was to be found a power more permanently formidable than the Macedonians, a power which would make up for want of brilliancy and dash by a dogged perseverance in its aims, and a stealthy, crafty policy, sure in the end to achieve great and striking results. The acceptance of the kingdom of Attalus had not, perhaps, alarmed any one; but the seizure of Phrygia during the minority of Mithridates, without so much as a pretext, and the practice, soon afterwards established, of setting up puppet kings, bound to do the bidding of their Roman allies, had raised suspicions; the ease with which Mithridates notwithstanding his great power and long preparation, had been vanquished in the first war (B.C. 88-84) had aroused fears; and Sanatroeces could not but misdoubt the advisability of lending aid to the Romans, and so helping them to obtain a still firmer hold on Western Asia. Accordingly we find that when the final war broke out, in B.C. 74, his inclination was, in the first instance, to stand wholly aloof, and when that became impossible, then to temporize. To the application for assistance made by Mithridates in B.C. 72 a direct negative was returned; and it was not until, in B.C. 69, the war had approached his own frontier, and both parties made the most earnest appeals to him for aid, that he departed from the line of pure abstention, and had recourse to the expedient of amusing, both sides with promises, while he helped neither. According to Plutarch, this line of procedure offended Lucullus, and had nearly induced him to defer the final struggle with Mithridates and Tigranes, and turn his arms against Parthia. But the prolonged resistance of Nisibis, and the successes of Mithridates in Pontus, diverted the danger; and the war rolling northwards, Parthia was not yet driven to take a side, but was enabled to maintain her neutral position for some years longer.
Meanwhile the aged Sanatroeces died, and was succeeded by his son, Phraates III. This prince followed at first his father's example, and abstained from mixing himself up in the Mithridatic war; but in B.C. 66, being courted by both sides, and promised the restoration of the provinces lost to Tigranes, he made alliance with Pompey, and undertook, while the latter pressed the war against Mithridates, to find occupation for the Armenian monarch in his own land. This engagement he executed with fidelity. It had happened that the eldest living son of Tigranes, a prince bearing the same name as his father, having raised a rebellion in Armenia and been defeated, had taken refuge in Parthia with Phraates. Phraates determined to take advantage of this circumstance. The young Tigranes was supported by a party among his countrymen who wished to see a youthful monarch upon the throne; and Phraates therefore considered that he would best discharge his obligations to the Romans by fomenting this family quarrel, and lending a moderate support to the younger Tigranes against his father. He marched an army into Armenia in the interest of the young prince, overran the open country, and advanced on Artaxata, the capital. Tigranes, the king, fled at his approach, and betook himself to the neighboring mountains. Artaxata was invested; but as the siege promised to be long, the Parthian monarch after a time withdrew, leaving the pretender with as many troops as he thought necessary to press the siege to a successful issue. The result, however, disappointed his expectations. Scarcely was Phraates gone, when the old king fell upon his son, defeated him, and drove him beyond his borders. He was forced, however, soon afterwards, to submit to Pompey, who, while the civil war was raging in Armenia, had defeated Mithridates and driven him to take refuge in the Tauric Chersonese.
Phraates, now, naturally expected the due reward of his services, according to the stipulations of his agreement with Pompey. But that general was either dissatisfied with the mode in which the Parthian had discharged his obligations, or disinclined to strengthen the power which he saw to be the only one in these parts capable of disputing with Rome the headship of Asia. He could scarcely prevent, and he does not seem to have tried to prevent, the recovery of Adiabene by the Parthians; but the nearer province of Gordyene to which they had an equal claim, he would by no means consent to their occupying. At first he destined it for the younger Tigranes. When the prince offended him, he made it over to Ariobarzanes, the Cappadocian monarch. That arrangement not taking effect, and the tract being disputed between Phraates and the elder Tigranes, he sent his legate, Afranius, to drive the Parthians out of the country, and delivered it over into the hands of the Armenians. At the same time he insulted the Parthian monarch by refusing him his generally recognized title of "King of Kings." He thus entirely alienated his late ally, who remonstrated against the injustice with which he was treated, and was only deterred from declaring war by the wholesome fear which he entertained of the Roman arms.
Pompey, on his side, no doubt took the question into consideration whether or no he should declare the Parthian prince a Roman enemy, and proceed to direct against him the available forces of the Empire. He had purposely made him hostile, and compelled him to take steps which might have furnished a plausible casus belli. But, on the whole, he found that he was not prepared to venture on the encounter. The war had not been formally committed to him; and if he did not prosper in it, he dreaded the accusations of his enemies at Rome. He had seen, moreover, with his own eyes; that the Parthians were an enemy far from despicable, and his knowledge of campaigning told him that success against them was not certain. He feared to risk the loss of all the glory which he had obtained by grasping greedily at more, and preferred enjoying the fruits of the good luck which had hitherto attended him to tempting fortune on a new field. He therefore determined that he would not allow himself to be provoked into hostilities by the reproaches, the dictatorial words, or even the daring acts of the Parthian King. When Phraates demanded his lost provinces he replied, that the question of borders was one which lay, not between Parthia and Rome, but between Parthia and Armenia. When he laid it down that the Euphrates properly bounded the Roman territory, and charged Pompey not to cross it, the latter said he would keep to the just bounds, whatever they were. When Tigranes complained that after having been received into the Roman alliance he was still attacked by the Parthian armies, the reply of Pompey was that he was willing to appoint arbitrators who should decide all the disputes between the two nations. The moderation and caution of these answers proved contagious. The monarchs addressed resolved to compose their differences, or at any rate to defer the settlement of them to a more convenient time. They accepted Pompey's proposal of an arbitration; and in a short time an arrangement was effected by which relations of amity were re-established between the two countries.
It would seem that not very long after the conclusion of this peace and the retirement of Pompey from Asia (B.C. 62), Phraates lost his life. He was assassinated by his two sons, Mithridates and Orodes; for what cause we are not told. Mithridates, the elder of the two, succeeded him (about B.C. 60); and, as all fear of the Romans had now passed away in consequence of their apparently peaceful attitude, he returned soon after his accession to the policy of his namesake, Mithridates II., and resumed the struggle with Armenia from which his father had desisted. The object of the war was probably the recovery of the lost province of Gordyene, which, having been delivered to the elder Tigranes by Pompey, had remained in the occupation of the Armenians. Mithridates seems to have succeeded in his enterprise. When we next obtain a distinct view of the boundary line which divides Parthia from her neighbors towards the north and the north-west, which is within five years of the probable date of Mithridates's accession, we find Gordyene once more a Parthian province. As the later years of this intermediate lustre are a time of civil strife, during which territorial gains can scarcely have been made, we are compelled to refer the conquest to about B.C. 39-57. But in this case it must have been due to Mithridates III., whose reign is fixed with much probability to the years B.C. 60-56.
The credit which Mithridates had acquired by his conduct of the Armenian war he lost soon afterwards by the severity of his home administration. There is reason to believe that he drove his brother, Orodes, into banishment. At any rate, he ruled so harshly and cruelly that within a few years of his accession the Parthian nobles deposed him, and, recalling Orodes from his place of exile, set him up as king in his brother's room. Mithridates was, it would seem, at first allowed to govern Media as a subject monarch; but after a while his brother grew jealous of him, and deprived him of this dignity. Unwilling to acquiesce in his disgrace, Mithridates fled to the Romans, and being favorably received by Gabinius, then proconsul of Syria, endeavored to obtain his aid against his countrymen. Gabinius, who was at once weak and ambitious, lent a ready ear to his entreaties, and was upon the point of conducting an expedition into Parthia, when he received a still more tempting invitation from another quarter. Ptolemy Auletes, expelled from Egypt by his rebellious subjects, asked his aid, and having recommendations from Pompey, and a fair sum of ready money to disburse, found little difficulty in persuading the Syrian proconsul to relinquish his Parthian plans and march the force at his disposal into Egypt. Mithridates, upon this, withdrew from Syria, and re-entering the Parthian territory, commenced a civil war against his brother, finding numerous partisans, especially in the region about Babylon. It may be suspected that Seleucia, the second city in the Empire, embraced his cause. Babylon, into which he had thrown himself, sustained a long siege on his behalf, and only yielded when compelled by famine. Mithridates might again have become a fugitive; but he was weary of the disappointments and hardships which are the ordinary lot of a pretender, and preferred to cast himself on the mercy and affection of his brother. Accordingly he surrendered himself unconditionally to Orodes; but this prince, professing to place the claims of patriotism above those of relationship, caused the traitor who had sought aid from Rome to be instantly executed. Thus perished Mithridates III. after a reign which cannot have exceeded five years, in the winter of B.C. 56, or the early spring of B.C. 55. Orodes, on his death, was accepted as king by the whole nation.
Accession of Orodes I. Expedition of Crassus. His fate. Retaliatory inroad of the Parthians into Syria under Pacorus, the son of Orodes. Defeat of Pacorus by Cassius. His recall. End of the first War with Rome.
The complete triumph of Orodes over Mithridates, and his full establishment in his kingdom, cannot be placed earlier than B.C. 56, and most probably fell in B.C. 55. In this latter year Crassus obtained the consulship at Rome, and, being appointed at the same time to the command of the East, made no secret of his intention to march the Roman legions across the Euphrates, and engage in hostilities with the great Parthian kingdom. According to some writers, his views extended even further. He spoke of the wars which Lucullus had waged against Tigranes and Pompey against Mithridates of Pontus as mere child's play, and announced his intention of carrying the Roman arms to Bactria, India, and the Eastern Ocean. The Parthian king was thus warned betimes of the impending danger, and enabled to make all such preparations against it as he deemed necessary. More than a year elapsed between the assignment to Crassus of Syria as his province, and his first overt act of hostility against Orodes.
It cannot be doubted that this breathing-time was well spent by the Parthian monarch. Besides forming his general plan of campaign at his leisure, and collecting, arming, and exercising his native forces, he was enabled to gain over certain chiefs upon his borders, who had hitherto held a semi-dependent position, and might have been expected to welcome the Romans. One of these, Abgarus, prince of Osrhoene, or the tract east of the Euphrates about the city of Edessa, had been received into the Roman alliance by Pompey, but, with the fickleness common among Orientals, he now readily changed sides, and undertook to play a double part for the advantage of the Parthians. Another, Alchaudonius, an Arab sheikh of these parts, had made his submission to Rome even earlier; but having become convinced that Parthia was the stronger power of the two, he also went over to Orodes. The importance of these adhesions would depend greatly on the line of march which Crassus might determine to follow in making his attack. Three plans were open to him. He might either throw himself on the support of Artavasdes, the Armenian monarch, who had recently succeeded his father Tigranes, and entering Armenia, take the safe but circuitous route through the mountains into Adiabene, and so by the left bank of the Tigris to Ctesiphon; or he might, like the younger Cyrus, follow the course of the Euphrates to the latitude of Seleucia, and then cross the narrow tract of plain which there separates the two rivers; or, finally, he might attempt the shortest but most dangerous line across the Belik and Khabour, and directly through the Mesopotamian desert. If the Armenian route were preferred, neither Abgarus nor Alchaudonius would be able to do the Parthians much service; but if Crassus resolved on following either of the others, their alliance could not but be most valuable.
Crassus, however, on reaching his province, seemed in in haste to make a decision. He must have arrived in Syria tolerably early in the spring but his operations during the first year of his proconsulship were unimportant. He seems at once to have made up his mind to attempt nothing more than a reconnaissance. Crossing the Euphrates at Zeugma, the modern Bir or Bireh-jik, he proceeded to ravage the open country, and to receive the submission of the Greek cities, which were numerous throughout the region between the Euphrates and the Belik. The country was defended by the Parthian satrap with a small force; but this was easily defeated, the satrap himself receiving a wound. One Greek city only, Zenodotium, offered resistance to the invader; its inhabitants, having requested and received a Roman garrison of one hundred men, rose upon them and put them barbarously to the sword; whereupon Crassus besieged and took the place, gave it up to his army to plunder, and sold the entire population for slaves. He then, as winter drew near, determined to withdraw into Syria, leaving garrisons in the various towns. The entire force left behind is estimated at eight thousand men.
It is probable that Orodes had expected a more determined attack, and had retained his army near his capital until it should become evident by which route the enemy would advance against him. Acting on an inner circle, he could readily have interposed his forces, on whichever line the assailants threw themselves. But the tardy proceedings of his antagonist made his caution superfluous. The first campaign was over, and there had scarcely been a collision between the troops of the two nations. Parthia had been insulted by a wanton attack, and had lost some disaffected cities; but no attempt had been made to fulfil the grand boasts with which the war had been undertaken.
It may be suspected that the Parthian monarch began now to despise his enemy. He would compare him with Lucullus and Pompey, and understand that a Roman army, like any other, was formidable, or the reverse, according as it was ably or feebly commanded. He would know that Crassus was a sexagenarian, and may have heard that he had never yet shown himself a captain or even a soldier. Perhaps he almost doubted whether the proconsul had any real intention of pressing the contest to a decision, and might not rather be expected, when he had enriched himself and his troops with Mesopotamian plunder, to withdraw his garrisons across the Euphrates. Crassus was at this time showing the worst side of his character in Syria, despoiling temples of their treasures, and accepting money in lieu of contingents of troops from the dynasts of Syria and Palestine. Orodes, under these circumstances, sent an embassy to him, which was well calculated to stir to action the most sluggish and poor-spirited of commanders. "If the war," said his envoys, "was really waged by Rome, it must be fought out to the bitter end. But if, as they had good reason to believe, Crassus, against the wish of his country, had attacked Parthia and seized her territory for his own private gain, Arsaces would be moderate. He would have pity on the advanced years of the proconsul, and would give the Romans back those men of theirs, who were not so much keeping watch in Mesopotamia as having watch kept on them." Crassus, stung with the taunt, exclaimed, "He would return the ambassadors an answer at Seleucia." Wagises, the chief ambassador, prepared for some such exhibition of feeling, and, glad to heap taunt on taunt, replied, striking the palm of one hand with the fingers' of the other: "Hairs will grow here, Crassus, before you see Seleucia."
Still further to quicken the action of the Romans, before the winter was well over, the offensive was taken against their adherents in Mesopotamia. The towns which held Roman garrisons were attacked by the Parthians in force; and, though we do not hear of any being captured, all of them were menaced, and all suffered considerably.
If Crassus needed to be stimulated, these stimulants were effective; and he entered on his second campaign with a full determination to compel the Parthian monarch to an engagement, and, if possible, to dictate peace to him at his capital. He had not, however, in his second campaign, the same freedom with regard to his movements that he had enjoyed the year previous. The occupation of Western Mesopotamia cramped his choice. It had, in fact, compelled him before quitting Syria to decline, definitely and decidedly, the overtures of Artavasdes, who strongly urged on him to advance by way of Armenia, and promised him in that case an important addition to his forces. Crassus felt himself compelled to support his garrisons, and therefore to make Mesopotamia, and not Armenia, the basis of his operations, He crossed the Euphrates a second time at the same point as before, with an army composed of 35,000 heavy infantry, 4,000 light infantry, and 4,000 horse. There was still open to him a certain choice of routes. The one preferred by his chief officers was the line of the Euphrates, known as that which the Ten Thousand had pursued in an expedition that would have been successful but for the death of its commander. Along this line water would be plentiful; forage and other supplies might be counted on to a certain extent; and the advancing army, resting on the river, could not be surrounded. Another, but one that does not appear to have been suggested till too late, was that which Alexander had taken against Darius; the line along the foot of the Mons Masius, by Edessa, and Nisibis, to Nineveh. Here too waters and supplies would have been readily procurable, and by clinging to the skirts of the hills the Roman infantry would have set the Parthian cavalry at defiance. Between these two extreme courses to the right and to the left were numerous slightly divergent lines across the Mesopotamian plain, all shorter than either of the two above-mentioned, and none offering any great advantage over the remainder.
It is uncertain what choice the proconsul would have made, had the decision been left simply to his own judgment. Probably the Romans had a most dim and indistinct conception of the geographical character of the Mesopotamian region, and were ignorant of its great difficulties. They remained also, it must be remembered, up to this time, absolutely unacquainted with the Parthian tactics and accustomed as they were to triumph over every enemy against whom they fought, it would scarcely occur to them that in an open field they could suffer defeat. They were ready, like Alexander, to encounter any number of Asiatics, and only asked to be led against the foe as quickly as possible. When, therefore, Abgarus, the Osrhoene prince, soon after Crassus had crossed the Euphrates, rode into his camp, and declared that the Parthians did not intend to make a stand, but were quitting Mesopotamia and flying with their treasure to the remote regions of Hyrcania and Scythia, leaving only a rear guard under a couple of generals to cover the retreat, it is not surprising that the resolution was taken to give up the circuitous route of the Euphrates, and to march directly across Mesopotamia in the hope of crushing the covering detachment, and coming upon the flying multitude encumbered with baggage, which would furnish a rich spoil to the victors. In after times it was said that C. Cassius Longinus and some other officers were opposed to this movement, add foresaw its danger; but it must be questioned whether the whole army did not readily obey its leader's order, and commence without any forebodings its march through Upper Mesopotamia. That region has not really the character which the apologists for Roman disaster in later times gave to it. It is a region of swelling hills, and somewhat dry gravelly plains. It possesses several streams and rivers, besides numerous springs. At intervals of a few miles it was studded with cities and villages; nor did the desert really begin until the Khabour was crossed. The army of Crassus had traversed it throughout its whole extent during the summer of the preceding year, and must have been well acquainted with both its advantages and drawbacks. But it is time that we should consider what preparations the Parthian monarch had made against the threatened attack. He had, as already stated, come to terms with his outlying vassals, the prince of Osrhoene, and the sheikh of the Scenite Arabs, and had engaged especially the services of the former against his assailant. He had further, on considering the various possibilities of the campaign, come to the conclusion that it would be best to divide his forces, and, while himself attacking Artavasdes in the mountain fastnesses of his own country, to commit the task of meeting and coping with the Romans to a general of approved talents. It was of the greatest importance to prevent the Armenians from effecting a junction with the Romans, and strengthening them in that arm in which they were especially deficient, the cavalry. Perhaps nothing short of an invasion of his country by the Parthian king in person would have prevented Artavasdes from detaching a portion of his troops to act in Mesopotamia. And no doubt it is also true that Orodes had great confidence in his general, whom he may even have felt to be a better commander than himself. Surenas, as we must call him, since his name has not been preserved to us, was in all respects a person of the highest consideration. He was the second man in the kingdom for birth, wealth, and reputation. In courage and ability he excelled all his countrymen; and he had the physical advantages of commanding height and great personal beauty. When he went to battle, he was accompanied by a train of a thousand camels, which carried his baggage; and the concubines in attendance on him required for their conveyance two hundred chariots. A thousand horseman clad in mail, and a still greater number of light-armed, formed his bodyguard. At the coronation of a Parthian monarch, it was his hereditary right to place the diadem on the brow of the new sovereign. When Orodes was driven into banishment it was he who brought him back to Parthia in triumph. When Seleucia revolted, it was he who at the assault first mounted the breach and, striking terror into the defenders, took the city. Though less than thirty years of age at the time when he was appointed commander, he was believed to possess, besides these various qualifications, consummate prudence and sagacity.
The force which Orodes committed to his brave and skillful lieutenant consisted entirely of horse. This was not the ordinary character of a Parthian army, which often comprised four or five times as many infantry as cavalry. It was, perhaps, rather fortunate accident than profound calculation that caused the sole employment against the Romans of this arm. The foot soldiers were needed for the rough warfare of the Armenian mountains; the horse would, it was known, act with fair effect in the comparatively open and level Mesopotamia. As the king wanted the footmen he took them, and left to his general the troops which were not required for his own operations.
The Parthian horse, like the Persian, was of two kinds, standing in strong contrast the one to the other. The bulk of their cavalry was of the lightest and most agile description. Fleet and active coursers, with scarcely any caparison but a headstall and a single rein, were mounted by riders clad only in a tunic and trousers, and armed with nothing but a strong bow and a quiver full of arrows. A training begun in early boyhood made the rider almost one with his steed; and he could use his weapons with equal ease and effect whether his horse was stationary or at full gallop, and whether he was advancing towards or hurriedly retreating from his enemy. His supply of missiles was almost inexhaustible, for when he found his quiver empty, he had only to retire a short distance and replenish his stock from magazines, borne on the backs of camels, in the rear. It was his ordinary plan to keep constantly in motion when in the presence of an enemy, to gallop backwards and forwards, or round and round his square or column, never charging it, but at a moderate interval plying it with his keen and barbed shafts which were driven by a practised hand from a bow of unusual strength. Clouds of this light cavalry enveloped the advancing or the retreating foe, and inflicted grievous damage without, for the most part, suffering anything in return.
But this was not the whole. In addition to these light troops, a Parthian army comprised always a body of heavy cavalry, armed on an entirely different system. The strong horses selected for this service were clad almost wholly in mail. Their head, neck, chest, even their sides and flanks, were protected by scale-armor of brass or iron, sewn, probably, upon leather. Their riders had cuirasses and cuisses of the same materials, and helmets of burnished iron. For an offensive weapon they carried a long and strong spear or pike. They formed a serried line in battle, bearing down with great weight on the enemy whom they charged, and standing firm as an iron wall against the charges that were made upon them. A cavalry answering to this in some respects had been employed by the later Persian monarchs, and was in use also among the Armenians at this period; but the Parthian pike was apparently more formidable than the corresponding weapons of those nations, and the light spear carried at this time by the cavalry of a Roman army was no match for it.
The force entrusted to Surenas comprised troops of both these classes. No estimate is given us of their number, but it was probably considerable. At any rate it was sufficient to induce him to make a movement in advance—to cross the Sinjar range and the river Khabour, and take up his position in the country between that stream and the Belik—instead of merely seeking to cover the capital. The presence of the traitor Abgarus in the camp of Crassus was now of the utmost importance to the Parthian commander. Abgarus, fully trusted, and at the head of a body of light horse, admirably adapted for outpost service, was allowed, upon his own request, to scour the country in front of the advancing Romans, and had thus the means of communicating freely with the Parthian chief. He kept Surenas informed of all the movements and intentions of Crassus, while at the same time he suggested to Crassus such a line of route as suited the views and designs of his adversary. Our chief authority for the details of the expedition tells us that he led the Roman troops through an arid and trackless desert, across plains without tree, or shrub, or even grass, where the soil was composed of a light shifting sand, which the wind raised into a succession of hillocks that resembled the waves of an interminable sea. The soldiers, he says, fainted with the heat and with the drought, while the audacious Osrhoene scoffed at their complaints and reproaches, asking them whether they expected to find the border-tract between Arabia and Assyria a country of cool streams and shady groves, of baths, and hostelries, like their own delicious Campania. But our knowledge of the geographical character of the region through which the march lay makes it impossible for us to accept this account as true. The country between the Euphrates and the Belik, as already observed, is one of alternate hill and plain, neither destitute of trees nor ill-provided with water. The march through it could have presented no great difficulties. All that Abgarus could do to serve the Parthian cause was, first, to induce Crassus to trust himself to the open country, without clinging either to a river or to the mountains, and, secondly, to bring him, after a hasty march, and in the full heat of the day, into the presence of the enemy. Both these things he contrived to effect, and Surenas was, no doubt, so far beholden to him. But the notion that he enticed the Roman army into a trackless desert, and gave it over, when it was perishing through weariness, hunger, and thirst, into the hands of its enraged enemy, is in contradiction with the topographical facts, and is not even maintained consistently by the classical writers.
It was probably on the third or fourth day after he had quitted the Euphrates that Crassus found himself approaching his enemy. After a hasty and hot march he had approached the banks of the Belik, when his scouts brought him word that they had fallen in with the Parthian army, which was advancing in force and seemingly full of confidence. Abgarus had recently quitted him on the plea of doing him some undefined service, but really to range himself on the side of his real friends, the Parthians. His officers now advised Crassus to encamp upon the river, and defer an engagement till the morrow; but he had no fears; his son, Publius, who had lately joined him with a body of Gallic horse sent by Julius Caesar, was anxious for the fray; and accordingly the Roman commander gave the order to his troops to take some refreshment as they stood, and then to push forward rapidly. Surenas, on his side, had taken up a position on wooded and hilly ground, which concealed his numbers, and had even, we are told, made his troops cover their arms with cloths and skins, that the glitter might not betray them. But, as the Romans drew near, all concealment was cast aside; the signal for battle was given; the clang of the kettledrums arose on every side; the squadrons came forward in their brilliant array; and it seemed at first as if the heavy cavalry was about to charge the Roman host, which was formed in a hollow square with the light-armed in the middle, and with supporters of horse along the whole line, as well as upon the flanks. But, if this intention was ever entertained, it was altered almost as soon as formed, and the better plan was adopted of halting at a convenient distance and assailing the legionaries with flight after flight of arrows, delivered without a pause and with extraordinary force. The Roman endeavored to meet this attack by throwing forward his own skirmishers; but they were quite unable to cope with the numbers and the superior weapons of the enemy, who forced them almost immediately to retreat, and take refuge behind the line of the heavy-armed. These were then once more exposed to the deadly missiles, which pierced alike through shield and breast-plate and greaves, and inflicted the most fearful wounds. More than once the legionaries dashed forward, and sought to close with their assailants, but in vain. The Parthian squadrons retired as the Roman infantry advanced, maintaining the distance which they thought best between themselves and their foe, whom they plied with their shafts as incessantly while they fell back as when they rode forward. For a while the Romans entertained the hope that the missiles would at last be all spent; but when they found that each archer constantly obtained a fresh supply from the rear, this expectation deserted them. It became evident to Crassus that some new movement must be attempted; and, as a last resource, he commanded his son, Publius, whom the Parthians were threatening to outflank, to take such troops as he thought proper, and charge. The gallant youth was only too glad to receive the order. Selecting his Gallic cavalry, who numbered 1000, and adding to them 500 other horsemen, 500 archers, and about 4000 legionaries, he advanced at speed against the nearest squadrons of the enemy. The Parthians pretended to be afraid, and beat a hasty retreat. Publius followed with all the impetuosity of youth, and was soon out of the sight of his friends, pressing the flying foe, whom he believed to be panic-stricken. But when they had drawn him on sufficiently, they suddenly made a stand, brought their heavy cavalry up against his line, and completely enveloped him and his detachment with their light-armed. Publius made a desperate resistance. His Gauls seized the Parthian pikes with their hands and dragged the encumbered horsemen to the ground; or dismounting, slipped beneath the horses of their opponents, and stabbing them in the belly, brought steed and rider down upon themselves. His legionaries occupied a slight hillock, and endeavored to make a wall of their shields, but the Parthian archers closed around them, and slew them almost to a man. Of the whole detachment, nearly six thousand strong, no more than 500 were taken prisoners, and scarcely one escaped. The young Crassus might, possibly, had he chosen to make the attempt, have forced his way through the enemy to Ichnee, a Greek town not far distant; but he preferred to share the fate of his men. Rather than fall into the hands of the enemy, he caused his shield-bearer to dispatch him; and his example was followed by his principal officers. The victors struck off his head, and elevating it on a pike, returned to resume their attack on the main body of the Roman army.
The main body, much relieved by the diminution of the pressure upon them, had waited patiently for Publius to return in triumph, regarding the battle as well-nigh over and success as certain. After a time the prolonged absence of the young captain aroused suspicions, which grew into alarms when messengers arrived telling of his extreme danger. Crassus, almost beside himself with anxiety, had given the word to advance, and the army had moved forward a short distance, when the shouts of the returning enemy were heard, and the head of the unfortunate officer was seen displayed aloft, while the Parthian squadrons, closing in once more, renewed the assault on their remaining foes with increased vigor. The mailed horsemen approached close to the legionaries and thrust at them with the long pikes while the light-armed, galloping across the Roman front, discharged their unerring arrows over the heads of their own men. The Romans could neither successfully defend themselves nor effectively retaliate. Still time brought some relief. Bowstrings broke, spears were blunted or splintered, arrows began to fail, thews and sinews to relax; and when night closed in both parties were almost equally glad of the cessation of arms which the darkness rendered compulsory.
It was the custom of the Parthians, as of the Persians, to bivouac at a considerable distance from an enemy. Accordingly, at nightfall they drew off, having first shouted to the Romans that they would grant the general one night in which to bewail his son; on the morrow they would come and take him prisoner, unless he preferred the better course of surrendering himself to the mercy of Arsaces. A short breathing-space was thus allowed the Romans, who took advantage of it to retire towards Carrhae, leaving behind them the greater part of their wounded, to the number of 4,000. A small body of horse reached Carrhae about midnight, and gave the commandant such information as led him to put his men under arms and issue forth to the succor of the proconsul. The Parthians, though the cries of the wounded made them well aware of the Roman retreat, adhered to their system of avoiding night combats, and attempted no pursuit till morning. Even then they allowed themselves to be delayed by comparatively trivial matters—the capture of the Roman camp, the massacre of the wounded, and the slaughter of the numerous stragglers scattered along the line of march—and made no haste to overtake the retreating army. The bulk of the troops were thus enabled to effect their retreat in safety to Carrhae, where, having the protection of walls, they were, at any rate for a time secure.
It might have been expected that the Romans would here have made a stand. The siege of a fortified place by cavalry is ridiculous, if we understand by siege anything more than a very incomplete blockade. And the Parthians were notoriously inefficient against walls. There was a chance, moreover, that Artavasdes might have been more successful than his ally, and, having repulsed the Parthian monarch, might march his troops to the relief of the Romans. But the soldiers were thoroughly dispirited, and would not listen to these suggestions. Provisions no doubt ran short, since, as there had been no expectation of a disaster, no preparations had been made for standing a siege. The Greek inhabitants of the place could not be trusted to exhibit fidelity to a falling cause. Moreover, Armenia was near; and the Parthian system of abstaining from action during the night seemed to render escape tolerably easy. It was resolved, therefore, instead of clinging to the protection of the walls, to issue forth once more, and to endeavor by a rapid night march to reach the Armenian hills. The various officers seem to have been allowed to arrange matters for themselves. Cassius took his way towards the Euphrates, and succeeded in escaping with 500 horse. Octavius, with a division which is estimated at 5,000 men, reached the outskirts of the the hills at a place called Sinnaca, and found himself in comparative security. Crassus, misled by his guides, made but poor progress during the night; he had, however, arrived within little more than a mile of Octavius before the enemy, who would not stir till daybreak, overtook him. Pressed upon by their advancing squandrons, he, with his small band of 2,000 legionaries and a few horsemen, occupied a low hillock connected by a ridge of rising ground with the position of Sinnaca. Here the Parthian host beset him; and he would infallibly have been slain or captured at once, had not Octavius, deserting his place of safety, descended to the aid of his commander. The united 7,000 held their own against the enemy, having the advantage of the ground, and having perhaps by the experience of some days learnt the weak points of Parthian warfare.
Surenas was anxious, above all things, to secure the person of the Roman commander. In the East an excessive importance is attached to this proof of success; and there were reasons which made Crassus particularly obnoxious to his antagonists. He was believed to have originated, and not merely conducted, the war, incited thereto by simple greed of gold. He had refused with the utmost haughtiness all discussion of terms, and had insulted the majesty of the Parthians by the declaration that he would treat nowhere but at their capital. If he escaped, he would be bound at some future time to repeat his attempt; if he were made prisoner, his fate would be a terrible warning to others. But now, as evening approached, it seemed to the Parthian that the prize which he so much desired was about to elude his grasp. The highlands of Armenia would be gained by the fugitives during the night, and further pursuit of them would be hopeless. It remained that he should effect by craft what he could no longer hope to gain by the employment of force; and to this point all his efforts were now directed. He drew off his troops and left the Romans without further molestation. He allowed some of his prisoners to escape and rejoin their friends, having first contrived that they should overhear a conversation among his men, of which the theme was the Parthian clemency, and the wish of Orodes to come to terms with the Romans. He then, having allowed time for the report of his pacific intentions to spread, rode with a few chiefs towards the Roman camp, carrying his bow unstrung and his right hand stretched out in token of amity. "Let the Roman General," he said, "come forward with an equal number of attendants, and confer with me in the open space between the armies on terms of peace." The aged proconsul was disinclined to trust these overtures; but his men clamored and threatened, upon which he yielded, and went down into the plain, accompanied by Octavius and a few others. Here he was received with apparent honor, and terms were arranged; but Surenas required that they should at once be reduced to writing, "since," he said, with pointed allusion to the bad faith of Pompey, "you Romans are not very apt to remember your engagements." A movement being requisite for the drawing up of the formal instruments, Crassus and his officers were induced to mount upon horses furnished by the Parthians, who had no sooner seated the proconsul on his steed, than he proceeded to hurry him forward, with the evident intention of carrying him off to their camp. The Roman officers took the alarm and resisted. Octavius snatched a sword from a Parthian and killed one of the grooms who was hurrying Crassus away. A blow from behind stretched him on the ground lifeless. A general melee followed, and in the confusion Crassus was killed, whether by one of his own side and with his own consent, or by the hand of a Parthian is uncertain. The army, learning the fate of their general, with but few exceptions, surrendered. Such as sought to escape under cover of the approaching night were hunted down by the Bedouins who served under the Parthian standard, and killed almost to a man. Of the entire army which had crossed the Euphrates, consisting of above 40,000 men, not more than one fourth returned. One half of the whole number perished. Nearly 10,000 prisoners were settled by the victors in the fertile oasis of Margiana, near the northern frontier of the empire, where they intermarried with native wives, and became submissive Parthian subjects.
Such was the result of this great expedition, the first attempt of the grasping and ambitious Romans, not so much to conquer Parthia, as to strike terror into the heart of her people, and to degrade them to the condition of obsequious dependants on the will and pleasure of the "world's lords." The expedition failed so utterly, not from any want of bravery on the part of the soldiers employed in it, nor from any absolute superiority of the Parthian over the Roman tactics, but partly from the incompetence of the commander, partly from the inexperience of the Romans, up to this date, in the nature of the Parthian warfare and in the best manner of meeting it. To attack an enemy whose main arm is the cavalry with a body of foot-soldiers, supported by an insignificant number of horse, must be at all times rash and dangerous. To direct such an attack on the more open part of the country, where cavalry could operate freely, was wantonly to aggravate the peril. After the first disaster, to quit the protection of walls, when it had been obtained, was a piece of reckless folly. Had Crassus taken care to obtain the support of some of the desert tribes, if Armenia could not help him, and had he then advanced either by the way of the Mons Masius and the Tigris, or along the line of the Euphrates, the issue of his attack might have been different. He might have fought his way to Seleucia and Ctesiphon, as did Trajan, Avidius Cassius, and Septimius Severas, and might have taken and plundered those cities. He would no doubt have experienced difficulties in his retreat; but he might have come off no worse than Trajan, whose Parthian expedition has been generally regarded as rather augmenting than detracting from his reputation. But an ignorant and inexperienced commander, venturing on a trial of arms with an enemy of whom he knew little or nothing, in their own country, without support or allies, and then neglecting every precaution suggested by his officers, allowing himself to be deceived by a pretended friend, and marching straight into a net prepared for him, naturally suffered defeat. The credit of the Roman arms does not greatly suffer by the disaster, nor is that of the Parthians greatly enhanced. The latter showed, as they had shown in their wars against the Syro-Macedonians, that there somewhat loose and irregular array was capable of acting with effect against the solid masses and well-ordered movements of disciplined troops. They acquired by their use of the bow a fame like that which the English archers obtained for the employment of the same weapon at Crecy and Agincourt. They forced the arrogant Romans to respect them, and to allow that there was at least one nation in the world which could meet them on equal terms and not be worsted in the encounter. They henceforth obtained recognition from Graeco-Roman writers—albeit a grudging and covert recognition—as the second Power in the world, the admitted rival of Rome, the only real counterpoise upon the earth to the power which ruled from the Euphrates to the Atlantic Ocean.
While the general of King Orodes was thus successful against the Romans in Mesopotamia, the king himself had in Armenia obtained advantages of almost equal value, though of a different kind. Instead of contending with Artavasdes, he had come to terms with him, and had concluded a close alliance, which he had sought to confirm and secure by uniting his son, Pacorus, in marriage with a sister of the Armenian monarch. A series of festivities was being held to celebrate this auspicious event, when news came of Surenas's triumph, and of the fate of Crassus. According to the barbarous customs of the East, the head and hand of the slain proconsul accompanied the intelligence. We are told that at the moment of the messenger's arrival the two sovereigns, with their attendants, were amusing themselves with a dramatic entertainment. Both monarchs had a good knowledge of the Greek literature and language, in which Artavasdes had himself composed historical works and tragedies. The actors were representing the famous scene in the "Bacchae" of Euripides, where Agave and the Bacchanals come upon the stage with the mutilated remains of the murdered Pentheus, when the head of Crassus was thrown in among them. Instantly the player who personated Agave seized the bloody trophy, and placing it on his thyrsus instead of the one he was carrying, paraded it before the delighted spectators, while he chanted the well-known lines:
From the mountain to the hall New-cut tendril, see, we bring— Blessed prey!
The horrible spectacle was one well suited to please an Eastern audience: it was followed by a proceeding of equal barbarity and still more thoroughly Oriental. The Parthians, in derision of the motive which was supposed to have led Crassus to make his attack, had a quantity of gold melted and poured it into his mouth.
Meanwhile Surenas was amusing his victorious troops, and seeking to annoy the disaffected Seleucians, by the performance of a farcical ceremony. He spread the report that Crassus was not killed but captured; and, selecting from among the prisoners the Roman most like him in appearance, he dressed the man in woman's clothes, mounted him upon a horse, and requiring him to answer to the names of "Crassus" and "Imperator," conducted him in triumph to the Grecian city. Before him went, mounted on camels, a band, arrayed as trumpeters and lictors, the lictors' rods having purses suspended to them, and the axes in their midst being crowned with the bleeding heads of Romans. In the rear followed a train of Seloucian music-girls, who sang songs derisive of the effeminacy and cowardice of the proconsul. After this pretended parade of his prisoner through the streets of the town, Surenas called a meeting of the Seleucian senate, and indignantly denounced to them the indecency of the literature which he had found in the Roman tents. The charge, it is said, was true; but the Seleucians were not greatly impressed by the moral lesson read to them, when they remarked the train of concubines that had accompanied Surenas himself in the field, and thought of the loose crowd of dancers, singers, and prostitutes, that was commonly to be seen in the rear of a Parthian army.
The political consequences of the great triumph which the Parthians had achieved were less than might have been anticipated. Mesopotamia was, of course, recovered to its extremest limit, the Euphrates; Armenia was lost to the Roman alliance, and thrown for the time into complete dependence upon Parthia. The whole East was, to some extent, excited; and the Jews, always impatient of a foreign yoke, and recently aggrieved by the unprovoked spoliation of their Temple by Crassus, flew to arms. But no general movement of the Oriental races took place. It might have been expected that the Syrians, Phoenicians, Cilicians, Oappadocians, Phrygians, and other Asiatic peoples whose proclivities were altogether Oriental, would have seized the opportunity of rising against their Western lords and driving the Romans back upon Europe. It might have been thought that Parthia at least would have assumed the offensive in force, and have made a determined effort to rid herself of neighbors who had proved so troublesome. But though the conjuncture of circumstances was most favorable, the man was wanting. Had Mithridates or Tigranes been living, or had Surenas been king of Parthia, instead of a mere general, advantage would probably have been taken of the occasion, and Rome might have suffered seriously. But Orodes seems to have been neither ambitious as a prince nor skilful as a commander; he lacked at any rate the keen and all-embracing glance which could sweep the political horizon and, comprehending the exact character of the situation, see at the same time how to make the most of it. He allowed the opportunity to slip by without putting forth his strength or making any considerable effort; and the occasion once lost never returned.
In Parthia itself one immediate result of the expedition seems to have been the ruin of Surenas. His services to his sovereign had exceeded the measure which it is safe in the East for a subject to render to the crown. The jealousy of his royal master was aroused, and he had to pay the penalty of over-much success with his life. Parthia was thus left without a general of approved merit, for Sillaces, the second in command during the war with Crassus, had in no way distinguished himself through the campaign. This condition of things may account for the feebleness of the efforts made in B.C. 52 to retaliate on the Romans the damage done by their invasion. A few weak bands only passed the Euphrates, and began the work of plunder and ravage, in which they were speedily disturbed by Cassius, who easily drove them back over the river. The next year, however, a more determined attempt was made. Orodes sent his son, Pacorus, the young bridegroom, to win his spurs in Syria, at the head of a considerable force, and supported by the experience and authority of an officer of ripe age, named Osaces. The army crossed the Euphrates unresisted, for Cassius, the governor, had with him only the broken remains of Crassus's army, consisting of about two legions, and, deeming himself too weak to meet the enemy in the open field, was content to defend the towns. The open country was consequently overrun; and a thrill of mingled alarm and excitement passed through all the Roman provinces in Asia. The provinces were at the time most inadequately supplied with Roman troops, through the desire of Csesar and Pompey to maintain large armies about their own persons. The natives were for the most part disaffected and inclined to hail the Parthians as brethren and deliverers. Excepting Deiotarus of Galatia, and Ariobarzanes of Cappadocia, Rome had, as Cicero (then proconsul of Cilicia) plaintively declared, "not a friend on the Asiatic continent. And Cappadocia was miserably weak," and open to attack on the side of Armenia. Had Orodes and Artavasdes acted in concert, and had the latter, while Orodes sent his armies into Syria, poured the Armenian forces into Cappadocia and then into Cilicia (as it was expected that he would do), there would have been the greatest danger to the Roman possessions. As it was, the excitement in Asia Minor was extreme. Cicero marched into Cappadocia with the bulk of the Roman troops, and summoned to his aid Deiotarus with his Galatians, at the same time writing to the Roman Senate to implore reinforcements. Cassius shut himself up in Antioch, and allowed the Parthian cavalry to pass him by, and even to proceed beyond the bounds of Syria into Cilicia. But the Parthians seem scarcely to have understood the situation of their adversaries, or to have been aware of their own advantages. Instead of spreading themselves wide, raising the natives, and leaving them to blockade the towns, while with their as yet unconquered squandrons they defied the enemy in the open country, we find them engaging in the siege and blockade of cities, for which they were wholly unfit, and confining themselves almost entirely to the narrow valley of the Orontes. Under these circumstances we are not surprised to learn that Cassius, having first beat them back from Antioch, contrived to lead them into an ambush on the banks of the river, and severely handled their troops, even killing the general Osaces. The Parthians withdrew from the neighborhood of the Syrian capital after this defeat, which must have taken place about the end of September, and soon afterwards went into winter quarters in Oyrrhestica, or the part of Syria immediately east of Amanus. Here they remained during the winter months under Pacorus, and it was expected that the war would break out again with fresh fury in the spring; but Bibulus, the new proconsul of Syria, conscious of his military deficiencies, contrived to sow dissensions among the Parthians themselves, and to turn the thoughts of Pacorus in another direction. He suggested to Ornodapantes, a Parthian noble, with whom he had managed to open a correspondence, that Pacorus would be a more worthy occupant of the Parthian throne than his father, and that he would consult well for his own interests if he were to proclaim the young prince, and lead the army of Syria against Orodes. These intrigues seem, to have first caused the war to languish, and then produced the recall of the expedition. Orodes summoned Pacorus to return to Parthia before the plot contrived between him and the Romans was ripe for execution; and Pacorus felt that no course was open to him but to obey. The Parthian legions recrossed the Euphrates in July, B.C. 50; and the First Roman War, which had lasted a little more than four years, terminated without any real recovery by the Romans of the laurels that they had lost at Carrhae.
Relations of Orodes with Pompey, and with Brutus and Cassius. Second War with Rome. Great Parthian Expedition against Syria, Palestine, and Asia Minor. Defeat of Saxa. Occupation of Antioch and Jerusalem. Parthians driven out of Syria by Ventidius. Death of Pacorus. Death of Orodes.
The civil troubles that had seemed to threaten Parthia from the ambition of the youthful Pacorus passed away without any explosion. The son showed his obedience by returning home submissively when he might have flown to arms; and the father accepted the act of obedience as a sufficient indication that no rebellion had been seriously meant. We find Pacorus not only allowed to live, but again entrusted a few years later with high office by the Parthian monarch; and on this occasion we find him showing no signs of disaffection or discontent.
Nine years, however, elapsed between the recall of the young prince and his reappointment to the supreme command against the Romans. Of the internal condition of Parthia during this interval we have no account. Apparently, Orodes ruled quietly and peaceably, contenting himself with the glory which he had gained, and not anxious to tempt fortune by engaging in any fresh enterprise. It was no doubt a satisfaction to him to see the arms of the Romans, instead of being directed upon Asia, employed in intestine strife; and we can well understand that he might even deem it for his interest to foment and encourage the quarrels which, at any rate for the time, secured his own empire from attack. It appears that communications took place in the year B.C. 49 or 48 between him and Pompey, a request for alliance being made by the latter, and an answer being sent by Orodes, containing the terms upon which he would consent to give Pompey effective aid in the war. If the Roman leader would deliver into his hands the province of Syria and make it wholly over to the Parthians, Orodes would conclude an alliance with him and send help; but not otherwise. It is to the credit of Pompey that he rejected these terms, and declined to secure his own private gain by depriving his country of a province. Notwithstanding the failure of these negotiations and the imprisonment of his envoy Hirrus, when a few months later, having lost the battle of Pharsalia, the unhappy Roman was in need of a refuge from his great enemy, he is said to have proposed throwing himself on the friendship, or mercy, of Orodes. He had hopes, perhaps, of enlisting the Parthian battalions in his cause, and of recovering power by means of this foreign aid. But his friends combated his design, and persuaded him that the risk, both to himself and to his wife, Cornelia, was too great to be compatible with prudence. Pompey yielded to their representations; and Orodes escaped the difficulty of having to elect between repulsing a suppliant, and provoking the hostility of the most powerful chieftain and the greatest general of the age.
Caesar quitted the East in B.C. 47 without entering into any communication with Orodes. He had plenty of work upon his hands; and whatever designs he may have even then entertained of punishing the Parthian inroad into Syria, or avenging the defeat of Carrhae, he was wise enough to keep his projects to himself and to leave Asia without exasperating by threats or hostile movements the Power on which the peace of the East principally depended. It was not until he had brought the African and Spanish wars to an end that he allowed his intention of leading an expedition against Parthia to be openly talked about. In B.C. 34, four years after Pharsalia, having put down all his domestic enemies, and arranged matters, as he thought, satisfactorily at Rome, he let a decree be passed formally assigning to him "the Parthian War," and sent the legions across the Adriatic on their way to Asia. What plan of campaign he may have contemplated is uncertain; but there cannot be a doubt that an expedition under his auspices would have been a most serious danger to Parthia, and might have terminated in her subjection. The military talents of the Great Dictator were of the most splendid description; his powers of organization and consolidation enormous; his prudence and caution equal to his ambition and his courage. Once launched on a career of conquest in the East, it is impossible to say whither he might not have carried the Roman eagles, or what countries he might not have added to the Empire. But Parthia was saved from the imminent peril without any effort of her own. The daggers of "the Liberators" struck down on the 15th of March, B.C. 44, the only man whom she had seriously to fear; and with the removal of Julius passed away even from Roman thought for many a years the design which he had entertained, and which he alone could have accomplished.
In the civil war that followed on the murder of Julius the Parthians are declared to have actually taken a part. It appears that—about B.C. 46—a small body of Parthian horse-archers had been sent to the assistance of a certain Bassus, a Roman who amid the troubles of the times was seeking to obtain for himself something like an independent principality in Syria. The soldiers of Bassus, after a while (B.C. 43), went over in a body to Cassius, who was in the East collecting troops for his great struggle with Antony and Octavian; and thus a handful of Parthians came into his power. Of this circumstance he determined to take advantage, in order to obtain, if possible, a considerable body of troops from Orodes. He presented each of the Parthian soldiers with a sum of money, and dismissed them all to their homes, at the same time seizing the opportunity to send some of his own officers, as ambassadors, to Orodes, with a request for substantial aid. On receiving this application the Parthian monarch appears to have come to the conclusion that it was to his interest to comply with it. Whether he made conditions, or no, is uncertain; but he seems to have sent a pretty numerous body of horse to the support of the "Liberators" against their antagonists. Perhaps he trusted to obtain from the gratitude of Cassius what he had failed to extort from the fears of Pompey. Or, perhaps, he was only anxious to prolong the period of civil disturbance in the Roman State, which secured his own territory from attack, and might ultimately give him an opportunity of helping himself to some portion of the Roman dominions in Asia.
The opportunity seemed to him to have arrived in B.C. 40. Philippi had been fought and lost. The "Liberators" were crushed. The struggle between the Republicans and the Monarchists had come to an end. But, instead of being united, the Roman world was more than ever divided; and the chance of making an actual territorial gain at the expense of the tryant power appeared fairer than it had ever been before. Three rivals now held divided sway in the Roman State; each of them jealous of the other two, and anxious for his own aggrandizement. The two chief pretenders to the first place were bitterly hostile; and while the one was detained in Italy by insurrection against his authority, the other was plunged in luxury and dissipation, enjoying the first delights of a lawless passion, at the Egyptian capital. The nations of the East were, moreover, alienated by the recent exactions of the profligate Triumvir, who, to reward his parasites and favorites, had laid upon them a burden that they were scarcely able to bear. Further, the Parthians enjoyed at this time the advantage of having a Roman officer of good position in their service, whose knowledge of the Roman tactics, and influence in Roman provinces, might be expected to turn to their advantage. Under these circumstances, when the spring of the year arrived, Antony being still in Egypt, and Octavian (as far as was known) occupied in the siege of Perusia, the Parthian hordes, under Labienus and Pacorus, burst upon Syria in greater force than on any previous occasion. Overrunning with their numerous cavalry the country between the Euphrates and Antioch, and thence the valley of the Orontes, they had (as usual) some difficulty with the towns. From Apamaea, placed (like Durham) on a rocky peninsula almost surrounded by the river, they were at first repulsed; but, having shortly afterwards defeated Decidius Saxa, the governor of Syria, in the open field, they received the submission of Apamaea and Antioch, which latter city Saxa abandoned at their approach, flying precipitately into Cilicia. Encouraged by these successes, Labienus and Pacorus agreed to divide their troops, and to engage simultaneously in two great expeditions. Pacorus undertook to carry the Parthian standard throughout the entire extent of Syria, Phoenicia, and Palestine, while Labienus determined to invade Asia Minor, and to see if he could not wrest some of its more fertile regions from the Romans. Both expeditions were crowned with success. Pacorus reduced all Syria, and all Phoenicia, except the single city of Tyre, which he was unable to capture for want of a naval force. He then advanced into Palestine, which he found in its normal condition of intestine commotion. Hyrcanus and Antigonus, two princes of the Asmonsean house, were rivals for the Jewish crown; and the latter, whom Hyrcanus had expelled, was content to make common cause with the invader, and to be indebted to a rude foreigner for the possession of the kingdom whereto he aspired. He offered Pacorus a thousand talents, and five hundred Jewish women, if he would espouse his cause and seat him upon his uncle's throne. The offer was readily embraced, and by the irresistible help of the Parthians a revolution was effected at Jerusalem. Hyrcanus was deposed and mutilated. A new priest-king was set up in the person of Antigonus, the last Asmonsean prince, who held the capital for three years—B.C. 40-37—as a Parthian satrap, the creature and dependant of the great monarchy on the further side of the Euphrates. Meanwhile in Asia Minor Labienus carried all before him. Decidius Saxa, having once more (in Cilicia) ventured upon a battle, was not only defeated, but slain. Pamphylia, Lycia, and Caria were overrun. Stratonicea was besieged; Mylasa and Alabanda were taken. According to some writers the Parthians even pillaged Lydia and Ionia, and were in possession of Asia to the shores of the Hellespont. It may be said that for a full year Western Asia changed masters; the rule and authority of Rome disappeared; and the Parthians were recognized as the dominant power. But the fortune of war now began to turn. In the autumn of B.C. 39 Antony, having set out from Italy to resume his command in the East, despatched his lieutenant, Publius Ventidius, into Asia, with orders to act against Labienus and the triumphant Parthians. Ventidius landed unexpectedly on the coast of Asia Minor, and so alarmed Labienus, who had no Parthian troops with him, that the latter fell back hurriedly towards Cilicia, evacuating all the more western provinces, and at the same time sending urgent messages to Pacorus to implore succor. Pacorus sent a body of horse to his aid; but these troops, instead of putting themselves under his command, acted independently, and, in a rash attempt to surprise the Roman camp, were defeated by Ventidius, whereupon they fled hastily into Cilicia, leaving Labienus to his fate. The self-styled "Imperator," upon this, deserted his men, and sought safety in flight; but his retreat was soon discovered, and he was pursued, captured, and put to death.
The Parthians, meanwhile, alarmed at the turn which affairs had taken, left Antigonus to maintain their interests in Palestine, and concentrated themselves in Northern Syria and Commagene, where they awaited the advance of the Romans. A strong detachment, under Pharnapates, was appointed to guard the Syrian Gates, or narrow pass over Mount Amanus, leading from Cilicia into Syria. Here Ventidius gained another victory. He had sent forward an officer named Pompsedius Silo with some cavalry to endeavor to seize this post, and Pompaedius had found himself compelled to an engagement with Pharnapates, in which he was on the point of suffering defeat, when Ventidius himself, who had probably feared for his subordinate's safety, appeared on the scene, and turned the scale in favor of the Romans. The detachment under Pharnapates was overpowered, and Pharnapates himself was among the slain. When news of this defeat reached Pacorus, he resolved to retreat, and withdrew his troops across the Euphrates. This movement he appears to have executed without being molested by Ventidius, who thus recovered Syria to the Romans towards the close of B.C. 39, or early in B.C. 38.
But Pacorus was far from intending to relinquish the contest. He had made himself popular among the Syrians by his mild and just administration, and knew that they preferred his government to that of the Romans. He had many allies among the petty princes and dynasts, who occupied a semi-independent position on the borders of the Parthian and Roman empires. Antigonus, whom he had established as king of the Jews, still maintained himself in Judaea against the efforts of Herod, to whom Augustus and Antony had assigned the throne. Pacorus therefore arranged during the remainder of the winter for a fresh invasion of Syria in the spring, and, taking the field earlier than his adversary expected, made ready to recross the Euphrates. We are told that if he had crossed at the usual point, he would have found the Romans unprepared, the legions being still in their winter quarters, some north and some south of the range of Taurus. Ventidius, however, contrived by a stratagem to induce him to effect the passage at a different point, considerably lower down the stream, and in this way to waste some valuable time, which he himself employed in collecting his scattered forces. Thus, when the Parthians appeared on the right bank of the Euphrates, the Roman general was prepared to engage them, and was not even loath to decide the fate of the war by a single battle. He had taken care to provide himself with a strong force of slingers, and had entrenched himself in a position on high ground at some distance from the river. The Parthians, finding their passage of the Euphrates unopposed, and, when they fell in with the enemy, seeing him entrenched, as though resolved to act only on the defensive, became overbold; they thought the force opposed to them must be weak or cowardly, and might yield its position without a blow, if briskly attacked. Accordingly, as on a former occasion, they charged up the hill on which the Roman camp was placed, hoping to take it by sheer audacity. But the troops inside were held ready, and at the proper moment issued forth; the assailants found themselves in their turn assailed, and, fighting at a disadvantage on the slope, were soon driven down the declivity. The battle was renewed in plain below, where the mailed horse of the Parthians made a brave resistance; but the slingers galled them severely, and in the midst of the struggle it happened that by ill-fortune Pacorus was slain. The result followed which is almost invariable with an Oriental army: having lost their leader, the soldiers everywhere gave way; flight became universal, and the Romans gained a complete victory. The Parthian army fled in two directions. Part made for the bridge of boats by which it had crossed the Euphrates, but was intercepted by the Romans and destroyed. Part turned northwards into Commagene, and there took refuge with the king, Antiochus, who refused to surrender them to the demand of Ventidius, and no doubt allowed them to return to their own country.
Thus ended the great Parthian invasion of Syria, and with it ended the prospect of any further spread of the Arsacid dominion towards the west. When the two great powers, Rome and Parthia, first came into collision—when the first blow struck by the latter, the destruction of the army of Crassus, was followed up by the advance of their clouds of horse into Syria, Palestine, and Asia Minor—when Apamsea, Antioch, and Jerusalem fell into their hands, when Decidius Saxa was defeated and slain, Cilicia, Pamphylia, Caria, Lydia, and Ionia occupied—it seemed as if Rome had found, not so much an equal as a superior; it looked as if the power heretofore predominant would be compelled to contract her frontier, and as if Parthia would advance hers to the Egean or the Mediterranean. The history of the contest between the East and the West, between Asia and Europe, is a history of reactions. At one time one of the continents, at another time the other, is in the ascendant. The time appeared to have come when the Asiatics were once more to recover their own, and to beat back the European aggressor to his proper shores and islands. The triumphs achieved by the Seljukian Turks between the eleventh and the fifteenth centuries would in that case have been anticipated by above a thousand years through the efforts of a kindred, and not dissimilar people. But it turned out that the effort made was premature. While the Parthian warfare was admirably adapted for the national defence on the broad plains of inner Asia, it was ill suited for conquest, and, comparatively speaking, ineffective in more contracted and difficult regions. The Parthian military system had not the elasticity of the Roman—it did not in the same way adapt itself to circumstances, or admit of the addition of new arms, or the indefinite expansion of an old one. However loose and seemingly flexible, it was rigid in its uniformity; it never altered; it remained under the thirtieth Arsaces such as it had been under the first, improved in details, perhaps, but essentially the same system. The Romans, on the contrary, were ever modifying their system, ever learning new combinations or new manoeuvres or new modes of warfare from their enemies. They met the Parthian tactics of loose array, continuous distant missiles, and almost exclusive employment of cavalry, with an increase in the number of their own horse, a larger employment of auxiliary irregulars, and a greater use of the sling. At the same time they learnt to take full advantage of the Parthian inefficiency against walls, and to practice against them the arts of pretended retreat and ambush. The result was, that Parthia found she could make no impression upon the dominions of Rome, and, having become persuaded of this by the experience of a decade of years, thenceforth laid aside for ever the idea of attempting Western conquests. She took up, in fact, from this time, a new attitude, Hitherto she had been consistently aggressive. She had labored constantly to extend herself at the expense successively of the Bactrians, the Scythians, the Syro-Macedonians, and the Armenians. She had proceeded from one aggression to another, leaving only short intervals between her wars, and had always been looking out for some fresh enemy. Henceforth she became, comparatively speaking, pacific. She was content for the most part, to maintain her limits. She sought no new foe. Her contest with Rome degenerated into a struggle for influence over the kingdom of Armenia; and her hopes were limited to the reduction of that kingdom into a subject position.
The death of Pacorus is said to have caused Orodes intense grief. For many days he would neither eat nor speak; then his sorrow took another turn. He imagined that his son had returned; he thought continually that he heard or saw him; he could do nothing but repeat his name. Every now and then, however, he awoke to a sense of the actual fact, and mourned the death of his favorite with tears. After a while this extreme grief wore itself out, and the aged king began to direct his attention once more to public affairs. He grew anxious about the succession. Of the thirty sons who still remained to him there was not one who had made himself a name, or was in any way distinguished above the remainder. In the absence of any personal ground of preference, Orodes—who seems to have regarded himself as possessing a right to nominate the son who should succeed him—thought the claims of primogeniture deserved to be considered, and selected as his successor, Phraa-tes, the eldest of the thirty. Not content with nominating him, or perhaps doubtful whether the nomination would be accepted by the Megistanes, he proceeded further to abdicate in his favor, whereupon Phraates became king. The transaction proved a most unhappy one. Phraates, jealous of some of his brothers, who were the sons of a princess married to Orodes, whereas his own mother was only a concubine, removed them by assassination, and when the ex-monarch ventured to express disapproval of the act added the crime of parricide to fratricide by putting to death his aged father. Thus perished Orodes, after a reign of eighteen years—the most memorable in the Parthian annals.
Reign of Phraates IV. His cruelties. Flight of Monceses to Antony. Antony's great Parthian Expedition, or Invasion of Media Atropatene. Its Complete Failure. Subsequent Alliance of the Median King with Antony. War between Parthia and Media. Rebellion raised against Phraates by Tiridates. Phraates expelled. He recovers his Throne with the help of the Scythians. His dealings with Augustus. His death and Character.
The shedding of blood is like, "the letting out of water." When it once begins, none can say where it will stop. The absolute monarch who, for his own fancied security, commences a system of executions, is led on step by step to wholesale atrocities from which he would have shrunk with horror at the outset. Phraates had removed brothers whose superior advantages of birth made them formidable rivals. He had punished with death a father who ventured to blame his act, and to forget that by abdication he had sunk himself to the position of a subject. Could he have stopped here, it might have seemed that his severities proceeded not so much from cruelty of disposition as from political necessity; and historians, always tender in the judgments which they pass on kings under such circumstances, would probably have condoned or justified his conduct. But the taste for bloodshed grows with the indulgence of it. In a short time the young king had killed all his remaining brothers, although their birth was no better than his own, and there was no valid ground for his fearing them; and soon afterwards, not content with the murder of his own relations, he began to vent his fury upon the Parthian nobles. Many of these suffered death; and such a panic seized the order that numbers quitted the country, and dispersed in different directions, content to remain in exile until the danger which threatened them should have passed by. There, were others, however, who were not so patient. A body of chiefs had fled to Antony, among whom was a certain Monseses, a nobleman of the highest rank, who seems to have distinguished himself previously in the Syrian wars. This person represented to Antony that Phraates had by his tyrannical and bloody conduct made himself hateful to his subjects, and that a revolution could easily be effected. If the Romans would support him, he offered to invade Parthia; and he made no doubt of wresting the greater portion of it from the hands of the tyrant, and of being himself accepted as king. In that, case he would consent to hold his crown of the Romans, who might depend upon his fidelity and gratitude. Antony is said to have listened to these overtures, and to have been induced by them to turn his thoughts to an invasion of the Parthian kingdom. He began to collect troops and to obtain allies with this object. He entered into negotiations with Artavasdes, the Armenian king, who seems at this time to have been more afraid of Rome than of Parthia, and engaged him to take a part in his projected campaign. He spoke of employing Monseses in a separate expedition. Under these circumstances Phraates became alarmed. He sent a message to Monseses with promises of pardon and favor, which that chief thought worthy of acceptance. Hereupon Monseses represented to Antony that by a peaceful return he might perhaps do him as much service as by having recourse to arms; and though Antony was not persuaded, he thought it prudent to profess himself well satisfied, and to allow Monseses to quit him. His relations with Parthia, he said, might perhaps be placed on a proper footing without a war, and he was quite willing to try negotiation. His ambassadors should accompany Monasses. They would be instructed to demand nothing of Phraates but the restoration of the Roman standards taken from Crassus, and the liberation of such of the captive soldiers as were still living.'