Face Music - History: Horsemen – Nomads
      • History of the Horsemen

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P & C December 1998
- Face Music / Albi

- last update 03-2016

  • Parthians - Persians
    - 3rd century before Christ to 3rd century after Christ.
    Luristans – Lorestan (3rd to 4 th millenium before Christ)
    Medes (2nd millenium to 6th century before Christ)
    Achaemenid Empire (5 th to to 4rd century before Christ)
    Seleucid Empire (3rd/2nd to 1st century before Christ)
    The Greek Bactria (3rd/2nd to 1st century before Christ)
    Kushan Empire (1st to 3rd century after Christ)

- map sketch:

Originally, these people were a part of the Sythians, an Eastern Iranian tribe named Parni settling at the south-eastern end of the Caspian Sea. They migrated to the Satrapie Parthia region and assumed the name “Parthians”. Here they established their empire in the 3rd century BC in today’s Iran. According to the name of the ruling dynasty, they have also been called the Arsacids. Their riding bow hunters were greatly feared. Inner politically, the empire was structured like a feudal state with sub-principalities being in charge and responsible, whereas the central power was considered rather weak. In spite of being close to Zoroastrism, the Hellenic culture, however, was more influential. The Parthian art featuring strictness in frontality and transcendence did exert rather important influence on the Islamic architecture and the Byzantine art as well as the art practised in the Middle Ages. The Iwanis a domed hall that is closed on three sides, with being completely opened towards the outside at its fourth side, is a great example thereof.

Between 250 and 238 BC, they conquered parts of the Iranian territories of the Seleucid Empire, led by Arsaces, in this way indirectly continuing the traditions of the earlier Achaemenid Empire. The conquered territories were superficially Hellenized. There were, however, still some regions that were clearly dominated by a relatively strong Greek influence, such as some cities. They adopted Greek coining, and Greek was also, for a very long period of time, used for the official administration language. The majority of the people, however, still maintained and conserved Achaemenid and Seleucid traditions. The Seleucid people launched a last attempt to re-conquer their lost territories, under their King Antiochos III (209–206 AC), and they succeeded; the Parthians, hence, again had to temporarily accept Seleucid dominance. As a consequence, Antiochos turned westwards. Following a defeat against Rome, the Parthians continued to pursue their policy of expansion. In the east, however, they had to fight the growing Greco-Bactrian Empire; but as further steppe peoples from Central Asia invaded, this is the Sakhs (Scythians) and the Kushans, the empire started to crumble. The Parthians would later on also be involved in defensive wars and fighting against these invaders. Under the rule of the successful Parthian King Mithridates II, there was “opened” in 115 BC the
Silk Road: Even a delegation of the Chinese Emperor Han Wudi was present at this formal event. Roman-Parthian wars, however, continued to be fought; also under Emperor Nero (in regard to Armenia: between 54–63 BC – see also under Urartu – Armenia). Further wars were to follow, the state of Armenia, however, remained fought over for the centuries to come; this situation did not change under the rule of the Sassanids, as the country was of significant strategic importance. In the 1st and 2nd century BC, the Parthian empire was torn by several civil wars. Prince Andaschir was able to kill the last Parthian king, Artabanos IV (according to earlier sources: Artabanos V) and defeat his army in a battle. He himself was crowned king in 226 BC, upon his conquest of Ktesiphon, where another Arsacide had been successful in defending his title. In this way, he founded the dynasty of the Sassanids, with their Neo-Parthian empire continuing up to the 7th century BC and only collapsing in the course of the Islamic expansion. (see more under Sassanids)
  • Loristan – Lorestan is one of the oldest regions in the Iran. People have been settling there since the 3rd and 4th millennium BC. The region was initially controlled by the Sumerians, then the Elamites, until in 600 BC the Persians invaded the territory; from then on, the area was part of the Persian empires of the Achaemenides, the Parthians, and the Sassanids. In 660 AD the Arabs conquered this region, and later on it again fell under the dominance of the Persians. The people living there today are mainly Lurs, who supposedly have immigrated from the areas at the Caspian Sea. Furthermore, there may still be found Bakthiari as well as Kurdish people. They were nomads and have not left anything but rather impressing pieces of art in bronze, the artefacts surviving in the ground. In neighbouring Mesopotamia, however, there were found scripts telling of threats by the wild tribes of the Zagros Mountains; these were supposedly rather daring riders, living in their saddles, permanently in search of their prey. It is quite probable that some of the well-equipped caravans transporting all sorts of goods fell victim to these robbers. From the beginning of the 2nd millennium on, Lorestan became rather famous for its art of horse breeding, and the animals were rather important trading objects with the neighbouring countries of the Old Orient. From the 12th to the 15th century BC, the Kurdish people of the Atabeylik was dominating Lorestan. Luristan also shows strong links with an area between the Black Sea and Caspian Sea known in ancient times as the kingdom of Urartu. Urartian (also known as Hurrian) art in turn shows strong links with the art of Syria and Phoenicia. (2) Its colorful style (using enamel and stone accents in their metal work) is a departure from the art of Assyria and Babylonia but more in keeping with the inlay style of the Near East and even that of Egypt.
    It may seem strange that an art from the Near East could have travelled so far inland and manifested itself (as in Luristan) with no apparent signs of early development in more than one place at about the same time. But a significant point to remember is that both Urartu and Luristan (Media) were at that time within the Assyrian administration. The timing of the appearance of Scythian art coincides with the invasions of the
    Assyrians into Syria, Phoenicia and the northern kingdom of Israel. Not only were luxury articles carried away as a result of these invasions, but also craftsmen were deported and put to work in the various Assyrian areas of control. Evidence of this is seen in the flowering of what is called Neo-Assyrian art, the last phase of Assyrian art which is said to have started in the reign of Tiglathpilesar. Another term given by art historians to this new Assyrian style is "Phoenician". It is worth considering that Scythian art (which by its character could carry the name "Phoenician" even more easily) may be evidence not just of the influence of deported craftsmen but of actual population groups deported from the areas of invasion (as was the Assyrian habit when conquering a territory) These groups may have been more than one people of different ethnic origins from the Near East but who had similar or at times indistinguishable art styles.
  • The Medes presumably settled in the Northwest of today’s Iran already at the end of the 2nd millennium BC; their territory was called Media (from Old Persian Màdai). The Medes belonging to the Indo-Germanic language family were related to the Persians in an ethnological as well as linguistic way. They had a polytheistic religion (existence of a plurality of gods or divine creatures) as well as a priest cast that was called magicians.
    About 836 BC, the Medes were for the very first time mentioned in the chronicles of the Assyrian king Salmaneser III. The Assyrians were able to defeat several tribes, which does deem surprising as the Medes were involved in inter-tribal wars. In 715 BC, Daiaukku united the Medes tribes and led them against the army of the Assyrian king Sargon II (ruled 722-705 BC). This plan, however, failed, and Daiaukku was captured; at the same time the Assyrians launched a large-scale deportation programme for the Medes, taking them away from their homelands. Under Phraortes (ruled 646-625 BC), the Medes finally defeated the Assyrians. Later on, Phraortes was killed in a battle against the Scythians invading from the Northwest towards Media. His son Kyaxares (ruled 625-585 BC) resumed this war, and with the help of the Babylonians he was able to expel the Scythians, who had gained then their independence from Assyria under Nabopolassar. Together they moved towards the city of Assur, which was finally defeated in 614 BC; in 612 BC they conquered Ninive. This constituted the end of the power of the Assyrian Empire. Finally, Kyaxares expanded his empire as far as Asia Minor, to today’s Halys (Kizilirmak), which formed the frontier to Lydia upon long-lasting fights. Ekbatana (today‘s Hamadan in the Iran) became the capital of the Medes Empire. Kyaxares’successor was his son Astyages (ruled approximately 585-550 BC). He was able to even further expand his empire because of the Babylonian weakness and then defend his territories against the Persians. It was the Persian vassal king, Cyrus the Great who finally initiated a change. He and his army succeeded in conquering Ekbatana in about 550 BC and dethrone Astyages. From this point on, Media was subordinate to Persia, and the entire Medes power was taken over by the Persian rulers.
  • The Achaemenid Empire (also called Old Persian Empire) was the first Persian Empire covering the territories of today’s Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, Turkey, Cyprus, Syria, Lebanon, Israel, and Egypt. This empire expanded for the first time under Cyrus the Great, by annexing the Medes Empire. His successors succeeded in obtaining the largest expansion ever, having its zenith in 500 BC and comprising Libya, Greece, Bulgaria, Pakistan as well as areas of the Caucasus, the Sudan and Central Asia. In the year 330 BC Alexander the Great put an end to their reign and rule.
  • The Seleucid Empire developed on the territory of the collapsing empire of the Achaemenides (without Egypt). It belonged to the Diadochi states that had been established a new after the death of Alexander the Great. In the 3rd and 2nd century BC, the empire dominated the Middle East, extending at its zenith from the European Thrace to the Indus valley.
  • The Greek-Bactrian kingdom was a state, which had been founded in the 3rd and 2nd century BC by a Greek governor in Bactria and which expanded towards India. After the Bactria territory had been divided and then lost, it continued to exist in Gandhara as Indo-Greek Kingdom as long as the 1st century BC.
  • The Kushan Empire (occasionally also called Tocharian Empire) was an empire in Central Asia and Northern India, which on its zenith covered between 100 and 250 AD territories from today’s Tadzhikistan to the Caspian Sea and from today’s Afghanistan to the Indus valley and the Ganges-Yamun basin. The empire had been founded by the Indo-Scythians and the Yuezhi, respectively, from today’s Sinkiang. The state maintained diplomatic contacts with the Roman Empire, the Sassanid Persia and the Chinese Empire. The rulers developed a large empire extending from the Aral Sea to western China, to the Persian Gulf across the Sind (today’s Pakistan) as far as Central India. They also integrated into their empire the Indo-Parthian colony in Southern India, from where they had had imported pearls of oysters (Morwârid).

September 2010 – Albi - translated by Hermelinde Steiner - February 2011