I often find myself, when learning from Roman texts, wishing to hear "the other side of the story".

Are there no Parthian historians, authors, playwrights, poets, etc, whose words have survived? And if not, why not?

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    Sadly, it seems that very little has survived. – Lars Bosteen Jul 17 '18 at 12:50
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    according to wikipedia, there is no known Parthian language literature. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/… however I'm not sure if that would answer the question, as there may have been parthian subjects who wrote in Greek etc. – Orangesandlemons Jul 17 '18 at 12:50
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    @LarsBosteen: That appears to be the answer. – Pieter Geerkens Jul 17 '18 at 12:56
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    Same applies to Persian literature. We know Persian history mainly from Herodotus. All perished after the Muslim conquest. – Alex Jul 17 '18 at 16:49
  • @Alex Not everything. There are primary documents (such as the Cyrus cylinder) in Old Persian cuneiform – b a Jul 17 '18 at 18:21

According to Mary Boyce, in Parthian Writing and Literature (from Cambridge History of Iran, Volume 3(2)),

No Parthian literature survives from the Parthian period in its original form. The only works of any length which exist in the Parthian language were composed under Sasanian rule. For the literature of older times we are dependent on Middle Persian redactions, or even on Persian and Georgian versions of these, to give at second or third remove some impression of the nature and scope of what has been lost.

As to the reasons for Parthian literature not surviving,

One reason for the scale of the loss is presumably that Parthian literature, both religious and secular, was oral, composed and transmitted without the use of books.

Secular oral literature was 'cultivated' memorized and transmitted by a gosan (a kind of minstrel) and

appears to have been almost wholly in verse, sung, and accompanied by a musical instrument.

Elements of Parthian literature have been preserved in some later writings, such as the apocryphal Acts of St Thomas in which can

be found the beautiful “ Hymn of the Pearl ” or “ Hymn of the Soul This Syriac poem not only contains Parthian loan-words, but uses symbolism drawn from the circumstances of the Parthian empire, which in it represents the Kingdom of Heaven.

There are a number of surviving inscriptions and parchments but these contain details of, for example, sales of property inventory lists and the first lines of a business letter rather than literature.

For histories, we are heavily dependent on Roman writers but there are some sources from elsewhere, including the Chinese diplomat Zhang Qian and the Armenian historian Movses Khorenatsi, though the reliability of the latter (on Parthia) is in some doubt.

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    That's interesting. So another indo-european group like the Celts restricted cultural knowledge to oral transmission. – Daniel Jul 19 '18 at 22:37

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