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View Poll Results: Which Persian Empire Was the Most Prestigous?
Achaemenid Empire 60 60.00%
Parthian Empire 5 5.00%
Sasanian Empire 23 23.00%
Safavid Empire 9 9.00%
Afsharid Empire 1 1.00%
Zand Empire 0 0%
Qajar Empire 0 0%
Pahlavi Empire 0 0%
I can't decide for sure. 2 2.00%
Voters: 100. You may not vote on this poll

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Old March 12th, 2015, 06:42 AM   #41

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Originally Posted by Shalmaneser View Post
2) I think this is an old fashioned theory. Roman governors of the various provinces actually had a great autonomy in managing war affairs, independently from the situation in other borders. To give only one example, Crassus used his own authority (as governor of Syria) in order to attack Parthia, despite Caesar's engagement in Gallia.
That was before the establishment of central authority, with Augustus.

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No, I think the main reason was Parthians' different concept of war.
But the Romans invaded Parthia, without much trouble from its military, in the second century. They just couldn't occupy it on a lasting basis--or at least, were unwilling to go through the necessary trouble--because it was so remote from the heart of their empire. Of course, in the third century, the difficulties of dealing with an eastern enemy became worse because the increasing barbarian menace made it harder to spare troops for the East. Nevertheless, rather remarkably, Roman or allied forces advanced to Ctesiphon at least three times after the worst third century defeats and took it twice before 300 CE.
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Old March 13th, 2015, 09:20 AM   #42

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@ Starman

"The barbarian menace" as pretext for not conquering Parthia makes no sense till the second half of the II century, even in presence of the "central authority" established by Augustus.

The fact is that the Parthians had military tacticts (but, in some way, political strategies too) which were completely different from the Achaemenids. They had relatively small armies whose strongpoint was represented by mobility. They did not hesitate to retreat, if necessary, as they were aware that Romans did not have enough troops and logistic support for deeply penetrating into the Partian territory. It was a typical "nomadic" strategy.

Ctesiphon never was decisive: the possess of this town just represented a kind of "scale pointer" aimed to measure the "military and political health" of the two Empires, according to the momentary owner. Still, Ctesiphon was actually the maximum the Romans could hope for their durable expansion to east.
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Old March 13th, 2015, 10:02 AM   #43

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@ Starman
"The barbarian menace" as pretext for not conquering Parthia makes no sense till the second half of the II century, even in presence of the "central authority" established by Augustus.
I know, see above, I said that the problem, prior to the third century (or late second) was the relative remoteness of Parthia. Or Roman lack of interest in further eastern conquest. There was an exception, Trajan, but in his case european enemies--Dacians--delayed his eastern efforts, so he didn't live long enough to finish them.

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The fact is that the Parthians had military tacticts (but, in some way, political strategies too) which were completely different from the Achaemenids. They had relatively small armies whose strongpoint was represented by mobility. They did not hesitate to retreat, if necessary, as they were aware that Romans did not have enough troops and logistic support for deeply penetrating into the Partian territory. It was a typical "nomadic" strategy.
The Romans once got as far as the Persian Gulf, and IIRC Susa. They had an excellent logistical system utilizing ships or river boats. The problem at times, wasn't Parthian strength but unwillingness on the part of Hadrian and others who thought like him, to extend the lines of communication too far. Basically the Romans by the time of Augustus were content with holding the granary of Egypt and saw their Syrian or levantine possessions as basically just a buffer to protect it.

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Ctesiphon never was decisive: the possess of this town just represented a kind of "scale pointer" aimed to measure the "military and political health" of the two Empires, according to the momentary owner.
Roman seizure of Ctesiphon may not have been decisive, but it was the Parthian capital. It was always in Parthian or Sassanid hands except for temporary Roman advances.


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Still, Ctesiphon was actually the maximum the Romans could hope for their durable expansion to east.
In fact the "durable" limit of their eastern domains was Dura or Anatha on the Euphrates. They also held transtigritanian territory for a time after about 299 CE. Theoretically had the Romans been as ambitious as Iskander prior to the latter second century, they probably could've overwhelmed Parthia completely. Trajan might've done it had their been no Dacian trouble, so he could've gotten cracking on it sooner and lived to see it completed or consolidated.
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Old March 13th, 2015, 10:38 AM   #44

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@Starman

I think that Parthians had a different concept of "capital" if compared with us. When we think of a capital, we think of the very core of homeland, something "sacred" and inviolable, but I am not sure they thought the same way.

Even if they had transferred to Ctesiphon most of the burocratic affairs, Parthians' historical capital actually was Nisa and, perhaps, they preserved a special love for that city. But I believe that essentially Parthians never forgot their nomadic origin and it is not a mere chance that Sasanids considered themselves the one and the only offspring of Achaemenids and refused any "link" with Parthians.

The loss of a city is not a big affair for nomads: moreover, they had other "capitals"... What is sure is that I never would have lived in Ctesiphon at that time!!! :-) :-) :-)
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Old March 13th, 2015, 12:33 PM   #45

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@Starman

I think that Parthians had a different concept of "capital" if compared with us. When we think of a capital, we think of the very core of homeland, something "sacred" and inviolable, but I am not sure they thought the same way.

Even if they had transferred to Ctesiphon most of the burocratic affairs, Parthians' historical capital actually was Nisa and, perhaps, they preserved a special love for that city. But I believe that essentially Parthians never forgot their nomadic origin and it is not a mere chance that Sasanids considered themselves the one and the only offspring of Achaemenids and refused any "link" with Parthians.

The loss of a city is not a big affair for nomads: moreover, they had other "capitals"... What is sure is that I never would have lived in Ctesiphon at that time!!! :-) :-) :-)
Very true. Actually the Parthians had like 4 other capitals at the same time. Also The Aracsids claimed that they are the descendants of Artaxerxes II.

I think focusing on the matter on how Ctesiphon kept on reviving its self even though after being captured/sacked for 4 or 5 times is quite amusing.
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Old March 14th, 2015, 03:26 AM   #46

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How can anyone vote something different than Sassanids? It was peak of Iran by all means.
Just like the Parthians, they had their ups and downs i.e, downs as well as ups.
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Old March 14th, 2015, 03:59 AM   #47
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But unlike the Parthians, the Sassanids had more ups than downs.

Last edited by Kartir; March 14th, 2015 at 04:11 AM.
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Old March 14th, 2015, 04:31 AM   #48

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But unlike the Parthians, the Sassanids had more ups than downs.
They won spectacular victories in the mid 200s but suffered from the same pathologies as the Parthians, notably internal conflict and periods of serious weakness. Odaenathus, Carus and Galerius were able to reach/take Ctesiphon. After their glory under Shapur I, the Sassanids had to agree to disgraceful terms in 299. They did prevail in 363 but around the early 7th century, the East Romans finally got the upper hand over them.
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Old March 14th, 2015, 04:46 AM   #49
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Odaenathus reaching Ctesiphon was a result of Shāpur's earlier strategic blunder and his inexplicable idleness later, Carus didn't face serious opposition during his march towards the city, because Bahrām II was fighting rebels in the east, and Galerius' victory in the Battle of Satala that led him to Ctesiphon is explained in post #11, not to mention that his army had been crushed by the Persians before that battle, so that overall campaign during the reign of Narseh wasn't one-sided. The disgraceful treaty of 299 was a result of Narseh's unnecessary defeat in Satala, not the supposed weakness of the Sassanid Empire. The capture of Ctesiphon was nothing more than a symbolic victory from which the Persians easily recovered. It was a city situated perilously close to the frontier, which made it easy for the Romans to capture it. It wasn't an extraordinary feat by any means. Mesopotamia was a periphery of the massive Persian Empire, and a Roman capture of Ctesiphon was nothing in the grand scheme of things. I think this usual emphasis on the capture of Ctesiphon comes from the Roman mentality which considered a capital to be the heart and brain of an empire. For them, taking Ctesiphon was synonymous with "conquering" the Parthian/Persian Empire, and they were of course mistaken.

Of the eight Roman-Persian Wars, the Romans prevailed strategically in four of them of which two resulted in the preservation of the status quo with no Roman gains, and even during these the Persians scored victories on the battlefield. The Eastern Romans prevailed in the final Roman-Persian war, but not after getting almost annihilated by the Persians, something which the Parthians could only dream of. The Parthians hadn't performed well against the Romans, neither on the strategic nor the tactical level, though kudos to them for managing to stay on their feet for more than four hundred years in the face of an enemy enjoying the zenith of its power.

Internal conflict and periods of weakness were inevitable in every empire back in those days, so I don't think these are factors upon which we can base an overall judgement on the Sassanid Empire.

Another thing worth mentioning is that a judgement on the Sassanid Empire should not be based only on political and military aspects. There's much more than that. And even in the aforementioned terms, the Parthians were clearly inferior to their Persian successors.

Last edited by Kartir; March 14th, 2015 at 06:01 AM.
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Old March 14th, 2015, 06:34 AM   #50

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Odaenathus reaching Ctesiphon was a result of Shāpur's earlier strategic blunder and his inexplicable idleness later
It's not quite clear why there was no serious resistance to Odaenathus. Lack of a standing army(?)--I think Shapur would've done something if he could.

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The disgraceful treaty of 299 was a result of Narseh's unnecessary defeat in Satala, not the supposed weakness of the Sassanid Empire.
Well, considering just how disgraceful it was, it may say something about the relative strengths of the two empires that the Persians did not attempt to change things until the war with Julian which of course Julian initiated. Apparently the end third century setback (and the strata Diocletiana) was sobering enough to keep the Sassanids in check for many years, despite the unacceptability of the status quo.



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The capture of Ctesiphon was nothing more than a symbolic victory from which the Persians easily recovered. It was a city situated perilously close to the frontier, which made it easy for the Romans to capture it. It wasn't an extraordinary feat by any means. Mesopotamia was a periphery of the massive Persian Empire, and a Roman capture of Ctesiphon was nothing in the grand scheme of things.
But surely it says something that the Persians like the Parthians tried hard to prevent Ctesiphon's fall whenever possible. "Misiche" is an example.


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The Parthians hadn't performed well against the Romans, neither on the strategic nor the tactical level,
Besides their big victories at Carrhae and against Anthony, they annihilated a legion around 161 CE.

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Another thing worth mentioning is that a judgement on the Sassanid Empire should not be based only on political and military aspects. There's much more than that.
Yes of course. Unfortunately, for them, it says a lot that they sought to plunder the Roman East, and in that sense were little better than some of the northern barbarians. The fact that Sassanids sought loot, or at another occasion, financial help from the Romans, clearly indicates which empire was better at generating wealth. Not only that, Shapur I used Roman prisoners to build some of his monuments. Evidently they had better skills than his countrymen.
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