I've always been very much interested in the origin of these people and the way they served Iran. However, the origin and fate of these people has always been a mystery for me and despite reading about them I couldn't get my answers. Therefore I pose my questions about them here:

  1. Origin of Parthians: As far as I know they were the third wave of Iranians who reached the Iranian plateau. However, despite them being depicted in base-reliefs of Persepolis, they seem somehow "absent" during the era of the Achaemenid Empire (in the sense that there are not mentioned as the glorious warriors who appeared later in facing Romans). Do we know if they were really absent in the sense of not many of them living under Achaemenid rule?
  2. Seen as Persians?: Later, after the collapse of the empire they somehow got absorbed into the Sassanian court in the sense that they maintained the Seven Parthian clans as part of their feudal aristocracy. But back then were they seen as Persians? Like was it different to live in the Sassanian empire as a Parthian man or as a Persian man?
  3. Where are they now?: After the muslim invasion, the persians were defending their lands side by side with parthians but step by step they had to go deeper into the eastern lands of the empire as they were receiving defeats after defeats. But then after the final fall of the Sassanids, the parthians also disappeared with them from the historical texts (I know this sentence is not fully accurate but to me it seems as if they finally somehow merged with the persians into one). So the question is: where are they now? are they Tajiks or some Afgans? or are they simply reffered to as Persians nowadays?

Please let me know if some parts of the questions have to be put in a more accurate way.

  • Marcus Licinius Crassus, triumvir with Caesar and Pompey, died fighting the Parthians in 53 BC. Where are you getting information that the Parthians disappeared before that time? The Parthian Empire was only weakened in fighting against the Emperor Trajan n the Third Century AD, then succumbing to the Sasanian Empire in the decades following. Commented May 3, 2021 at 14:18
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    @PieterGeerkens I mentioned that the Parthians disappeared with the fall of Sassanids (which I know its already not a very accurate sentence) but I'm talking about almost 700 years after their confrontation with Crassus. Commented May 3, 2021 at 14:20
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    (not an answer) 400 years of Parthian rule plus 400 years of the Sasanian empire are a long time. The Manchu in China were quite indistinguishable from Han Chinese at the end of their 350 year rule. Not sure how long it took Normans in England to become totally English, but can't have been much longer.
    – Jan
    Commented May 3, 2021 at 14:23
  • Do you know whether there are any good Persian-language sources on that topic?
    – Jan
    Commented May 3, 2021 at 14:25
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    @PieterGeerkens Trajan died in 117, so he wasn't fighting anyone in the third century.
    – C Monsour
    Commented May 4, 2021 at 22:37

1 Answer 1


Re. your first question, the somewhat traditional account seems to be that the Achaemenids indeed had a province/satrapy called Parthia (e.g. mentioned here and here). But the people who would later found the Parthian empire did not live in Parthia at that time yet! Rather, towards the end of the Seleucid empire that area was invaded from the north by Iranian steppe peoples (Dahae or Parni) and these invaders went on to found the ruling circles of the Arsacid or "Parthian" empire. So if this account is correct, it seems that the predecessors of the ruling class of the Parthian empire lived outside of Achaemenid control.

Re. your second question, there are several bilingual inscriptions from the third century (but apparently not later). There is also the observation that only two of the seven ancient houses of Iran are actually attested in Arsacid-era sources and the other five may just have made up their genealogies. Both of which IMHO implies that, at least for a while, being Parthians was not a disadvantage in the Sasanian empire.

Re. your third question, there seems to have been a post-Islamic regional dynasty in Northern Iran that traced its origin back to the House of Karen. If I understand correctly, Christensen in L'Iran sous les Sassanides, p.42 asserts that the language (or dialect) of the Parthians is related to those dialects spoken in northern and central Iran today.

This is all just googled and I am by no means a historian, so please take it with a grain of salt.

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