The Parthian Ruler's List

The following is a sequential list of the Parthian rulers, including usurpers and, in some cases, rulers whose names are unknown who produced coins.

Arsaces I (238-211 BC)

Founder of the Parthian kingdom. Elected leader of the Parni in about 248 BC and defeated Andragoras, the Seleucid satrap of Parthia, in about 238 BC.  Arsaces I struck the first Parthian coins

Arsaces II (211-191 BC)

Second king, son of Arsaces I. Forced to submit to Seleucid overlordship by Antiochus III. Arsaces was able to strike coins up until his submission to Antiochus III.

Priapatios (191-176 BC)

Son of Arsaces II. Ruler under the Seleucids. Regained Parthian independence after Antiochus III's defeat by the Romans in 189 BC and began to expand the kingdom.  Did not strike coins.

Phraates I (176-171 BC)

Son of Priapatios.  Phraates continued the slow expansion begun by his father, and did not resume striking coins.

Mithradates I (171-138 BC)

Great king who made Parthia into a major power. Son of Priapatios. Expanded the empire westward into Mesopotamia and eastward into Bactria. Actively promoted Hellenism and titled himself "philhellene" (friend of the Greeks) on his coinage. First appearance of a Greek-style portrait showing the royal diadem, the standard Greek symbol for kingship.

Phraates II (138-127 BC)

Son of Mithradates I, he inherited the throne at a young age as shown by his short beard on his coins. Killed in battle against eastern nomads - the Sakas, an Indo-Scythian group.

Inter-regnal Issue (127 BC)

Phraates' death temporarily left the empire in disarray as potential candidates fought for the throne.

Artabanus I (127-124 BC)

Brother of Mithradates I. Loses Babylonia to the kingdom of Characene. Killed in battle with the Sakas. Parthian numismatic art at its finest.

Mithradates II (123-88 BC)

Son of Artabanus I. Second only to Mithradates I as most powerful Parthian king, consolidated the empire and assumed the Achaemenid title "king of kings". The empire reached its greatest extent and had its first contact with Rome. Introduced the Parthian tiara, which became a standard symbol of kingship in many eastern kingdoms and initiated the depiction of the golden throne of the Arsacids on the reverse.

Gotarzes I (95-87 BC)

Assumed power over parts of Parthia in opposition to Mithradates II. Probably never controlled all of the empire.

Orodes I (90-77 BC)

Expelled Gotarzes from Babylonia and eventually reunited the empire. Probably the son of Mithradates II. Has portrait with tiara as sub-king under Mithradates II and with diadem as sole ruler.

Sinatruces (77-70 BC)

Reputedly the brother of Mithradates II. Recalled to the throne from exile among the Scythians at the age of eighty. The civil unrest which followed the death of Mithradates II was finally ended during his reign, and the "regular" order of succession reestablished.

Phraates III (70-57 BC)

Son of Sinatruces. King at the time of Pompey's campaigns in Asia Minor. Killed by his sons, Mithradates and Orodes. First appearance of the facing portrait on Parthian coins.

Mithradates III (57-54 BC)

Son of Phraates III, murdered his father in conjunction with his brother Orodes. The brothers soon fell out. First king to use the star and crescent symbols.

Orodes II (57-38 BC)

Son of Phraates III, murdered his father in conjunction with his brother Mithradates. With the support of the Suren, head of one of the leading families of Parthia, Orodes defeated his brother and executed him. Re-established strong central control in Parthia and influence in Armenian affairs, and was responsible for defeating Roman ambitions in the east, most notably with the defeat of Crassus at Carrhae in 53 BC. One of the most common of Parthian coin types. First appearance of the "royal wart" on Parthian coinage.

Pacorus I (sub-king)(ca. 50 BC)

Eldest son of Orodes II, led two invasions of Roman Syria and Asia Minor. Finally killed in 39 BC. Issued coinage during the reign of Orodes II, possibly as co-ruler of the empire.

Phraates IV (38-2 BC)

Another son of Orodes II, killed his father to secure the throne and then proceeded to wipe out his thirty brothers and their families. This did not engender much trust in his followers, thus explaining the many rebellions which Phraates IV had to face. In addition, the Romans were eager to avenge their defeat at Carrhae, creating even greater turmoil. Despite all of this, the Parthian economy seems to have thrived, as witnessed by the numerous coins of this reign. Defeated Marc Antony's invasion, then returned the standards captured at Carrhae to Augustus, who sent an Italian slave-girl, Musa, as a gift. Killed by his wife and son, Musa and Phraatakes.

Tiridates (29-27 BC)

Usurper who was initially successful, forcing Phraates IV into exile among the Scythians. After being pushed back out of Mesopotamia, Tiridates was able to ally himself with Augustus and force Phraates to retreat again, as witnessed by some his coins on which he calls himself "friend of the Romans". Eventually defeated by Phraates.

Phraatakes (2 BC - 4 AD)

Son of Phraates IV and Musa. Musa was a slave-girl given to Phraates as part of an exchange of gifts with the Romans. She became Phraates' favorite wife, and proceeded to get rid of her sons' older rivals, including her husband. Following Magian custom, she and her son were then married. Musa's portrait appears on certain issues of Phraatakes' coinage along with his own. Dethroned by the Parthian senate, which did not tolerate foreigners, especially those with Roman connections.

Orodes III (6 AD)

Placed on the throne by the Parthian senate to replace Phraatakes and Musa, and then assassinated for his alleged cruelty.

Vonones I (8-12 AD)

Son of Phraates IV, returned from Rome to take the throne. Unfortunately, his long exile in Rome had made him questionable in the eyes of the Parthian aristocracy, so he was faced with rebellion from the outset of his reign. Defeated by Artabanus II after a long struggle. His coins are notable for the western hair-style on his portrait and the appearance of Nike on the reverse in place of the seated archer.

Artabanus II (10-38 AD)

Defeated Vonones I to assume the throne. His coins show the beginning of a long process of rejection of Greek influence and the resurgence of traditional Persian art and values. Spent most of his reign suppressing rebellions, and was at one point forced to live among the Scythians as a destitute hunter. Upon his return to the throne at the head of an army of the Dahae (another Scythian tribe), he continued to wear the rags - there is a facing portrait of him on a series of tetradrachms from this period. Seleucia, the largest Greek city in the Parthian empire, becomes independent for a short time.

Vardanes I (40-45 AD)

Probably the son of Artabanus II. Reimposed Parthian control over Seleucia. Assassinated by his brother, Gotarzes II during a hunt.

Gotarzes II (40-51 AD)

Another son of Artabanus II, whose coin types are very similar to those of his father. Gotarzes was noted for his cruelty, which resulted in several revolts.

Vonones II (51 AD)

Probably only controlled the empire for a very short time, though he may have remained in control of parts of Persia for much longer. His coins show a facing portrait, similar to that of Phraates III.

Vologases I (51-78 AD)

Son or brother of Vonones II. At one point during his reign he was ousted by his son Vardanes, but he survived to regain control in time to deal with a Roman invasion under Corbulo and a secessionist movement under Sanabares. Finally overthrown by Artabanus and Pacorus.

Vardanes II (55-58 AD)

Son of Vologases I. Successfully wrested the throne from his father for a time, then defeated and presumably executed.

Vologases II (77-80 AD)

Little is known about this ruler- he is possibly related to Vonones II, based on evidence from his coinage.

Pakoros II (78-105 AD)

Eventually reclaimed the whole of the empire, after many years of conflict between many rivals, including Vologases II, Artabanus III and others in the continuing series of civil wars that had afflicted the Parthians since Vonones I. Began his rule very young, as witnessed by his beardless portrait on his coinage. He disappears from coins somewhere around 105 AD.

Artabanus III (80-90 AD)

Another rival for the throne, probably related to Artabanus II, Artabanus III was able to get the Romans' attention by supporting a pseudo-Nero as a contender for the Roman throne. Pushed out of Mesopotamia fairly quickly, he managed to maintain his rule on the Persian plateau for a longer period.

Vologases III (105-147 AD)

Vologases had a long and prosperous reign, with the usual rebellions, but none were permanently successful. Fought against the Kushans and Alani. His drachmas are among the most common of Parthian coins and show a progression from a short beard to a long beard.

Osroes I (109-129 AD)

First of Vologases' challengers, Osroes is the ruler who opposed Trajan, to whom he lost his daughter, and the famous golden throne of Parthia depicted on the reverse of Parthian coins since the time of Mithradates II. Brother of Pakoros II. His coins show him with a bunched hairstyle associated with the Sassanian dynasty of Fars. The coin depicted here is a bronze chalkon.

Parthamaspates (116 AD)

Trajan's puppet, Parthamaspates was a son of Osroes I. He was forced out of Parthia during the troubles following Trajan's death, and was eventually given a throne in Osrhoene by Hadrian, where he founded a dynasty.

Mithradates IV (140 AD)

Another rival of Vologases III, known only from his coins.

Unknown King (140 AD)

Known only from an uncommon series of coins.

Vologases IV (147-191 AD)

Probably a son of Vologases III. Invaded Armenia and defeated a Roman force, but suffered a counter-invasion by the Romans under Lucius Verus.

Osroes II (190 AD)

Known only from his coinage, which is quite common.

Vologases V (191-208 AD)

Supported Pescenius Niger in his unsuccessful bid for the Roman Empire, and was consequently faced with a Roman invasion under Septimius Severus. His coins are rare and feature the bunched hair style introduced by Osroes I.

Vologases VI (208-228 AD)

Son of Vologases V, at war with his brother, Artabanus IV.

Artabanus IV (216-224 AD)

Son of Vologases V, at war with Vologases VI. Defeats Macrinus at Nisibis. Eventually defeated by the Sassanians at Hormuzdagan in 224 AD, thus officially ending the Parthian empire, though parts managed to hold out for a short while in outlying areas.