Keith Hunt - Parthia - the Forgotten Superpower - Page Four   Restitution of All Things

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The Parthian Empire - Superpower #2

The Rise of an Empire against Rome


From the book "The Lost Ten Tribes of Israel...Found!"

by Steven Collins


Continued from previous page:

we will see that the governmental systems of the modern western
world are actually based on the Parthian system, not the Roman
     There is one important event in Parthian history which must
be discussed before we examine its historic rivalry with Rome.
After the Seleucid Greek Empire had been defeated by the
Parthians, the eastern portion of Parthia's empire was "invaded"
by a number of nomadic "Sacae" from central Asia. In fact, this
"invasion" gave the Parthians a major infusion of related Sacae
(Scythian) people. These Sacae entered the eastern regions of the
Parthian Empire in the first century B.C. after migrating
southward out of the Caspian Sea region. Besides bearing the name
of Isaac, these Scythian tribes had tribal names which can be
linked to the names of various Israelite tribes or clans. The
principal Scythian tribe which resettled into the Parthian Empire
was the Massagetae (the same Scythian tribe which crushed an
invading Persian army under King Cyrus several centuries
earlier), and they were accompanied by the Dahae, the Tochari,
the Asii, the Sacaruli, and various clans such as the Parni,
Aparni, Chorasmii, etc. 23 Rawlinson opined that this invasion
was a major "barbaric peril" from Asia; however, the facts do not
support such a view. For example, the Parni and Aparni are
frequently cited as being the original tribe of Arsaces, the
first Parthian kmg. 24 Another Scythian tribe was the Dahae, who
periodically aided the Parthians in various wars. These
"invaders" were the Scythian kinsmen of the Parthians. History
records that after some fighting over territories, the Scythian
tribes settled down and became a part of the Parthian Empire,
with their new homeland being named "Sacastane (land of the Saka
or Scyths)." 25 These Scythian newcomers, who named their new
territory in honor of Isaac (an Israelite patriarch), had a
common racial and cultural heritage with the Parthians. There is
some disagreement about whether these Scythians were part of the
Parthian Empire or lived adjacent to it, but in a map of
Parthia's empire, Rawlinson shows "Sacastana" as part of the
Parthian Empire. 26
     The fact that Israelite tribes should fight among themselves
is not surprising, given that they had to find territory to
contain their large populations. It has been proposed that these
migrating Scythians were themselves pushed into Parthia by tribes
of Huns who were expanding within central Asia. 27
     The Scythian names do not exactly reflect the names of
Israelites tribes as they are the names which Greco-Roman
historians gave to them centuries after these tribes left
Palestine. Even so, several names (in addition to their overall
name as "Sacae") are recognizable as Israelite. The Massagetae,
as explained in chapter six, were the Israelite tribe of
Manasseh. The Dahae may have been part of the tribe of Dan. The
Tocahri likely descended from the Israelite tribe of Issachar as
Tola was one of the clans of Issachar (Numbers 26:23). Combining
syllables from the names "Tola" and "Issachar" results in the
term "To-chari." The Chorasmii may have been a clan of the tribe
of Reuben (descended from the Carmites of Numbers 26:6). On this
specific case of ancient root words, I wish to acknowledge the
help of Dr. Charles Dorothy, a graduate of the Claremont Graduate
School for pointing out that such a relationship is possible
"since 'Carmite' of Numbers 26 uses the Hebrew caph, sometimes
transliterated 'c,' 'ch,' 'k,' or 'kh."' On the other hand, since
Rawlinson records that the Chorasmii were a subdivision of the
Massagetae, 28 they may have been named after the Machirites, a
clan of the tribe of Manasseh (Numbers 26:29).
     While this infusion of Scythians into Parthia's empire
greatly increased Parthia's strength, it needs to be understood
that Parthia was not a monolithic Israelite empire joining all
the Parthians and Scythian/Sacae tribes. There were still many
Scythians near the Black and Caspian Seas who were not part of
Parthia's empire, and there were many subject people in Parthia's
provinces who were not Israelites (Medes, Persians, Babylonians,
Elamites, Assyrians, etc.)
     Another large mass of people, the Yue-chi, was being pushed
out of inner Asia toward Scythia and Parthia. Early Chinese
chronicles record that the "Ephthalites" were one of the tribes
of the Yue-chi. 29 The Ephthalites were also called "White Huns"
because they were "fair-skinned" (indicating a Semitic origin).
30 Other names for the Ephthalites include the "Hephthalites" or
"Naphthalites," although the Encyclopaedia Britannica adds that
"the initial believed to be a clerical error." 31 It
should be easy for anyone with a knowledge of biblical history to
identify this tribe as the Israelite tribe of Naphthali! The
consonants of Ephthali (or Nephthali) precisely match Naphthali,
one of the ten tribes of Israel.
     It is interesting that the Encyclopaedia Britannica observed
that the ancient historians who recorded that this tribe's name
began with an "N" are "believed ...[to have made] a clerical
error." No evidence is offered to support a claim that it was a
clerical error, but it is "believed" to be one. Why? The reader
must realize that "establishment" histories have a strong bias
against "finding" any of the "lost" ten tribes of Israel [doing
so would draw interest toward the Bible]. While many Israelite
tribal names can be found in Asia, this similarity between the
"Naphthalites" and an Israelite tribe (the Naphthalites) is
glaringly obvious. The presence of a tribe in Asia bearing a
Hebrew name unchanged from biblical times is an academic "hot
potato!" A "belief' that the "N" is an ancient "clerical error"
helps to obscure the Israelite nature of this tribe. Indeed, if
establishment histories were to examine Scythian or Parthian
history in much depth at all, their identity as the ten tribes of
Israel would be impossible to miss. Perhaps that is why their
history (prominently cited by Greek and Roman historians) is
mostly ignored in the modern world.
     The fact that the Ephthalites were "fair-skinned" (Semitic
or Caucasian) further verifies their identification as Israelites
(since the Israelites were of the Semitic, or "white" race). The
fact that the Ephthalites were called "White Huns" indicates that
while they came out of Asia, they were differentiated from the
rest of the Huns, who were not fair-skinned or white. Indeed, the
Encyclopaedia Britannica itself refers to the Sakas (or Sacae
Scythians), the Yue-Chi and the Ephthalites as being related
"Indo-Scythian" tribes. 32
     The Bible shows us why the tribes of Naphthali, the
Machirite clan of Manasseh, and parts of Dan, Issachar, Asher or
Reuben (i.e. the Nephthalites, Massagetae, Chorasmi, Dahae,
Tochari, etc.) could be located together as a group of proximate
tribes in Asia. 2 Kings 15:29 states that about twenty years
prior to Samaria's fall, the Assyrians invaded Israel and carried
captive the entire tribe of Naphthali, and the Israelites living
in Gilead and Galilee. This occurred in approximately 740 B.C. I
Chronicles 5:26 reveals that "Gilead" means one-half the tribe of
Mannaseh and the tribes of Reuben and Gad. Numbers 26:29 further
shows us that the half-tribe of Manasseh which lived in Gilead
was the Machirites. A look at a biblical atlas will reveal that
the tribes of Issachar and Asher and a portion of Dan lived next
to Naphthali in the region of Galilee, and these tribes would
likely have lost part of their populations when their neighbors,
the Naphthalites, were taken captive. The Assyrians relocated the
tribes of Naphthali, Gad, Reuben, half the tribe of Manasseh, and
portions of other tribes eastward into their empire. At the time
of their captivity, these Israelites were mostly sunworshippers
(followers of Baal).
     The Book of Tobit claims to relate the experiences of a
family of Naphthalites (Tobit 1:1-2) after their Assyrian
captivity, and shows them maintaining contact with each other as
they were resettled in Assyria and in the cities of the Medes.
While Tobit is an apocryphal (non-canonized) book, its historical
context makes it interesting reading for this time period. Tobit
1:21 parallels 2 Kings 19:37 in mentioning the death of the
Assyrian King Sennacherib at the hands of his sons, who then fled
to "Ararat" (Armenia) where they sought refuge. Tobit 14:12-15
shows that Naphthalites lived in Ecbatana in Media when Nineveh
fell. This is consistent with secular history as Ecbatana is
named as a city of the "Scythians" who lived in Media during the
fall of the Assyrian Empire. 33 While the book of Tobit, written
from an Hebrew perspective, calls these people "Nephthalites,"
secular history, written from a non-Hebrew perspective, calls
these people "Scythians."
     When the Assyrian Empire fell, many of their
formerly-subject peoples were free to migrate to new locations.
One such people were the Israelites (including the tribe of
Naphthali according to the book of Tobit) who were known as a
Scythian people that supplanted the old kingdom of Ellip (east of
Assyria). They must have migrated northeastward beyond the
Caspian Sea. The half-tribe of Manasseh later became known as the
sun-worshipping Massagetae who annihilated a Persian army under
Cyrus the Great when he tried to subjugate them. The tribe of
Naphthali went even further into Asia, but were still called the
Nephthalites when they migrate back toward Parthia. The
migrations of the Massagetae and Nephthalites toward Parthia may
not have been a coincidence. If they were being pushed westward
out of Asia by other nations, it may have been an attempt on
their part to retrace the routes they had initially followed into

     The connection is clear. The Massagetae, the "Saka" (or
Sacae) and the "Ephthalites" were related clans of the ten tribes
of Israel. While many settled in the eastern portion of the
Parthian Empire, some Saka founded a kingdom of their own near
the Indus River and the Ephthalites apparently remained outside
the Parthian Empire. It is likely that the tribe of Naphthali
retained its exact Israelite name over many centuries because it
was taken captive in one entire group. The other tribes, which
left Palestine in a piecemeal fashion and in different
directions, were later known by their appropriate clan names.
Since the Ephraimite role in the formation of Parthia was
discussed in chapter seven, this infusion of Scythian Israelites
meant that the Parthian empire came to include portions of the
Israelite tribes of Ephraim, Manasseh, Issachar, Asher, Reuben,
Naphthali, Dan and Gad (while Gad is unnamed among the Scythians,
it was likely present as Gad migrated into Asia with the
half-tribe of Manasseh and the tribe of Reuben). Since there were
many Jews living in Parthia's territory, the tribes of Judah and
Benjamin were present as well. The tribe of Levi was also in
Parthia because there were Levites among the Jews (Ezra 1:5) and
the Parthian Magi may have included Levites. The Israelite
character of the Parthian empire is obvious. The wars between the
Roman and Parthian Empires will be much more interesting to read
when it is realized that the Parthian Empire was composed of the
reunited and revitalized tribes of Israel ruling over native
populations who had previously been Israel's captors.
     Rome and Parthia did not initially come into contact with
each other as enemies. Between them lay the kingdom of Armenia
which had a large domain in Asia Minor. Rome became embroiled in
a war with Armenia while Parthia tried to remain neutral.
Parthia's neutral policy finally became untenable, and the
Parthians entered the war on the side of the Romans. Rome offered
Parthia an alliance with the promise that Rome would respect
Parthia's right to have certain territories as her portion for
assisting the Romans. After the Parthian-Roman alliance was
successful, the Romans reneged, and resisted the Parthians when
they tried to occupy their promised portion of the conquered
territory. Rawlinson comments on this episode that "Phraates (the
Parthian monarch) learnt what Roman promises were worth." 34 Note
that this Parthian king (Phraates) had a name that included the
Hebrew root word for Phares, the dynastic line of David and the
kings of Judah). From this very first Parthian/Roman contact (in
the first century B.C.), the Euphrates River became the border
between their two empires. 35
     Parthia's king was then assassinated by his sons,
Mithridates and Orodes, with the former then banishing the
latter. The Parthian nobles (the "Wise Men" and Magi) later
deposed Mithridates because of his harsh rule, and recalled
Orodes from banishment to be the new king. 36 [The Wise Men and
Magi were powerful enough at this time (circa 56 B.C.) to
dethrone a monarch they disliked. This will become more
significant in the next chapter.
     Crassus, a prominent Roman Consul in a ruling triumvirate
with Julius Caesar and Pompey decided to advance his wealth and
fame by launching an invasion to subjugate Parthia. His campaign
began the first of many Roman-Parthian wars which invariably
occurred as a result of Roman aggression against Parthia. 37
     After he defeated a few weak kingdoms, Crassus turned to
looting the wealth of the Middle East. Full of avarice, he stole
all the gold and treasure that he could find, including an
immense amount of gold from the Temple of God in Jerusalem. 38
Crassus was more interested in looting the weak than in seriously
invading Parthia. Parthia, well-prepared for war and eager to
teach the Romans a lesson, taunted Crassus with a message which
was intended to inflame him into seeking battle. Parthia sent
Crassus this provocative message:

"If the war was really waged by Rome, it must be fought 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 [the Parthian
king] would be moderate. He would have pity on the advanced years
of the proconsul [Crassus was a sexagenarian], 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 in Seleucia [a large city near the Parthian capital]'.
Wagises, the chief [Parthian] ambassador ... 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.'" 39
     Infuriated, Crassus invaded the Parthian Empire, but was
deceived into thinking the Parthians were fearful and retreating.
In reality, the Parthian king had invaded Armenia with the
Parthian infantry to prevent the Armenians from aiding the Romans
while the Parthian cavalry remained to face the Romans. The
cavalry was commanded by Surenas (a noble of the Suren family
which crowned Parthian monarchs). The Roman invaders consisted of
39,000 infantry and 4,000 cavalry. 40
     In order to understand what the Romans were up against, one
must realize the nature of the Parthian cavalry. This was no wild
mob from the steppes, but a disciplined and prepared military
force. The Parthians maintained both a heavy cavalry and a light
cavalry. The light cavalry was composed of fleet horses with
riders armed with bows and arrows. These horsemen could rain down
upon an enemy a fairly continuous barrage of arrows as they could
ride in shifts, with each troop resupplying itself from
camel-borne arrow carriers when their supply became exhausted in
battle. 41
     The heavy cavalry must have been truly frightening to the
Roman footsoldier. Rawlinson describes them in the following

"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-armour of brass or iron ... Their
riders had cuirasses and cuisses [breastplates and leg armor] of
the same materials, and helmets of burnished iron. For an
offensive weapon they carried a long ... 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 against them." 42 

     In other words, the Romans were opposed by a superior
phalanx of armored Parthian cavalry. With their armored mounts,
body armor, and long spears, the Parthian heavy cavalry must have
looked like mounted European Lancers from the middle ages! Again
we see another parallel between the ancient Parthians and the
Europeans of the feudal period. The Parthian heavy cavalry sounds
like a huge formation of feudal knights armed for combat instead
of jousts. Indeed, the Encyclopaedia Britannica openly called the
Parthian heavy cavalry "knights." 43
     Having a heavily armed and mail-clad army was a trait of
several ancient Mideast peoples, including Israelite troops. In 2
Chronicles 26:14, Uzziah (a Davidic king of the line of Phares),
equipped his army with "shields, spears and helmets, coats of
mail [and] bows..." (RSV) Put Uzziah's troops on mounts, and you
have a good description of the Parthian cavalry.

     The invading Romans met the Parthian defenders at the battle
of Carrhae in 53 B.C. (near the modern border of Syria and
Turkey). The Romans suffered one of the worst defeats in the
history of the Roman Empire; half the 40,000 man army perished, a
quarter fled, and 10,000 Romans were captured. Crassus, a member
of the triumvirate ruling the Roman Empire, was slain. Parthia's
treatment of the captured Romans was unusually magnanimous,
especially considering that the Romans were the aggressors. The
10,000 captured Romans were resettled east of the Caspian Sea,
given wives, and later even served as Parthian soldiers. 44
Rawlinson comments that the Parthians:

"... acquired by their use of the bow a fame like that [of] the
English archers ... at Crecy and Agincourt. They forced the
arrogant Romans to ... allow that there was at least one nation
in the world which could meet them on equal terms ... They
henceforth obtained recognition from the Graeco-Roman writers ...
as the second Power in the world." 45

     Richard Frye's "Heritage of Persia" also notes that, after
the battle of Carrhae: "the world was divided between Rome and
Parthia according to Greek and Latin authors." 46

     Crassus was due one final, gristly insult at the hands of
the Parthians. Surenas sent the head of Crassus to the Parthian
king in Armenia, where Armenia had made peace with the Parthian
king. The Parthians, mindful of Crassus' avarice, poured molten
gold into the mouth of Crassus's decapitated head. This was done
in the presence of the Armenians, apparently to impress upon them
the utter superiority of the Parthians over the Romans.

     Perhaps fearing that the great victory of Surenas would make
him a rival, Orodes, the Parthian king, had his successful
commander killed. This illustrates a paradox in Parthian history.
Although Parthian rule over its subjects was generally wise and
temperate, the Parthian royal family, the Arsacids, had a history
of murderous, internecine struggles. Since any Arsacid could be
king, there was always a host of pretenders and schemers with
kingly ambitions, causing many Arsacids to kill each other to
eliminate potential rivals. This violent family history fulfilled
a biblical prophecy (2 Samuel 12:10) that the "sword [violent
deaths] would never depart" from the progeny of David because of
David's murder of Uriah.
     Parthia retaliated for Rome's invasion by attacking Rome's
territory in 40 B.C. The Parthian attack was so successful that
they conquered Syria, Palestine, and Asia Minor. Emboldened by
Parthian successes, the Jews revolted against Rome and a Jewish
prince, Antigonus, ruled Palestine as a satrap of the Parthians
until 37 B.C. 47 The Romans counterattacked, recovered their lost
territories and reestablished the Euphrates River as the border
between the two empires. Rawlinson records that the short
Parthian rule of the conquered Roman provinces was "mild and
just,"48 and was preferred by the natives over Roman rule.
Indeed, Antigonus, the Parthiansponsored ruler, successfully
resisted King Herod, his Roman sponsored replacement for a short
     In chapter six it was noted that when the Scythian
Israelites reconquered Palestine around 620 B.C., it resulted in
the descendants of the ten tribes of Israel again briefly ruling
over Palestine. They stayed only a few years, and left
voluntarily. When the Parthians controlled Palestine, it was a
second instance when the ten tribes of Israel again dominated
Palestine. Once more, it lasted only a few short years.
     During the three years of Parthian rule over Palestine,
there would have been a considerable exchange of information
between the Jews and the Parthians. The Jews would have become
aware (if they did not already know) that the Parthians were
descendants of the ten tribes of Israel (their "brother" tribes).
Under Parthian rule the Jews would have enjoyed unhindered
contacts with the large Jewish communities living in the Parthian
Empire. Josephus, a prominent Jewish historian, likely drew on
this knowledge when he later designated the Parthian Empire (the
land "beyond the Euphrates") as the region inhabited by the
numerous descendants of the ten tribes of Israel. 49 As of the
first century A.D., it is clear that the "lost ten tribes of
Israel" were not "lost" at all.


To be continued

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