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Licensed Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter November 27, 2021

Reassessing the Role of Parthia and Rome in the Origins of the First Romano-Parthian War (56/5–50 BCE)

Nikolaus Leo Overtoom

Abstract

This article reevaluates the origins of the First Romano-Parthian War (56/5–50 BCE) to better understand the different perspectives, policies, and objectives of the various Parthian and Roman leaders in the early and middle 50 s that helped forge the great rivalry that emerged between Parthia and Rome. This article breaks from the dominate Rome-centric, anti-Crassus traditions concerning the investigation of the origins of this conflict. Centuries of anti-Crassus propaganda have led most scholars to discount or overlook the critical agency of the Parthians in the conflict and the serious implications of Gabinius’ actions in 56–55, while blaming Crassus for indefensible Roman aggression and greed. The propensity of modern scholarship to villainize and criticize Crassus follows ancient propaganda and stems in part from a lack of understanding of the geopolitical realities that Parthia and Rome faced in the middle 50 s. Further, this article challenges the misguided traditions that, first, describe the Parthians as feeble, passive, and duplicitous in their interactions with foreign powers and, second, that blame the incompetence or weakness of the Parthians’ enemies to explain their actions and successes. Indeed, the Parthians were important, active, and powerful agents in these events, something often obscured or overlooked because of the inherent Roman focus and bias of the Graeco-Roman literary tradition and modern scholarship.

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Published Online: 2021-11-27
Published in Print: 2021-11-27

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