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A Question Concerning Certain Views of Parthian History


Dr. B. G. Zichy-Woinarski[1]




            In the course of a study of the Arsacids, the three histories, which have appeared in England recently, unexpectedly posed a problem, which became of great interest. 

            The classical reference to Parthia seemed to provide a picture of a people who appeared in what is today Iran and Iraq, where from 248-247 BC to 226-227 AD, they created a vast empire.

            For three hundred years they defied continual pressure from Rome in the West, and withstood the inroads of nomad hordes from the East, even while they created for themselves a pervasive, unique and ubiquitous culture, which, like the laws of the Medes and Persians, with whom they were often equated, “altered not”.  

            It was this picture, derived almost entirely from classical sources, which was presented by the historians of the nineteenth century – in England, G. Rawlinson, in Germany, A. von Gutschmidt, who produced their histories of Parthia in 1873 and 1888 respectively.  They presented the history of a great empire, militarily the equal of Rome, creating in the face of an all-pervasive Hellenism, its own unique environment.  The power and the control of the Arsacids convinced Rawlinson and von Gutschmidt that they had, in fact, created a “great oriental monarchy”.  The sudden end, which overtook an apparently strongly entrenched dynasty surprised both men, but neither ascribed it to a gradual inexplicable decline;  Rawlinson, indeed, reasoning from historical sources, declared that the Parthian Empire “ was still as great and as powerful as it had ever been”, when the last Arsacid fell before the rebellious client-king, Ardashir.

            This satisfactory picture was to be the only one presented to the world for the next fifty years, for it was considered to be accurate, being subject to but minor criticism. 

            The rapid disappearance of the Arsacids after the successful coup of Ardashir was an enigma, which did not greatly disturb historians until the new discoveries at Dura Europos and on sites in Iraq and Iran were made, ca. 1930 AD.  These new facts seemed to call for a fresh evaluation of the Arsacids, for the extent of their power and importance had lapsed into obscurity, the histories of Rawlinson and von Gutschmidt literally decaying on library shelves.  Consequently Professor N. C. Debevoise’ book: “A Political History of Parthia”, came, in 1938, almost as a new work to the world and as a complete surprise to a student familiar with Rawlinson and von Gutschmidt.

            Subsequent Parthian material, incorporated into the “Cambridge Ancient History”, and in a definitive chapter in Professor Frye’s “Heritage of Persia” was augmented in 1968, by the most recent study to appear, “The Parthians”, by Dr. M. A. R. Colledge; it is particularly these four works, which can be considered as those of the later school. 

            From a study of these new histories it became apparent that the views of some modern scholars, since the appearance of “A Political History”, had veered away from one of admiration in the 9th and 10th century to one of derogatory denigration in the 20th from the early view of an “unexpected fall of a proud and powerful monarchy” to the “overthrow of a tottering and decrepit Arsacid line wherein the name “Arsaces” had become but a “shuttlecock”, as Professor Debevoise declared in the introduction to “A Political History of Parthia”.

            One would have thought that the volume of critical articles, together with the augmented body of archeological and cultural evidence becoming available during the thirty years which had elapsed between the histories of Debevoise and Colledge, might have supported the early views of the Parthian image, but strangely this was not the case.   The critical chapter in “The Heritage of Persia” and the historical section of “The Parthians”, repeated the very words of the derogatory conclusion of Professor Debevoise.  Indeed, a complete change of attitude became apparent, the Parthians suffering a sea-change of drastic proportions.

            Would it be possible to discover why these differences occurred and whether a valid explanation for their appearance could be found?  The intriguing situation caused by the width of the gulf fixed between the views of the 19th and 20th century scholars needed clarification.  That it was due to the appearance of some other new material was obvious.  This material, factual or literary, had forced historians – certainly as early as 1936, (for the alteration in the point of view occurs first in “A Political History”) radically to change their views of late Parthian history, in mid-stream as it were, for this material carried such weight that it clearly brooked no argument. 

            Was this mysterious force exerted by material from a newly-opened site or by fresh material from an old one revalued?  Was it new literary material of such undoubted origin that it was able to justify the Sassanians’ Zoroasterian eschatological alteration of Parthian history?  Was it part of some hitherto unknown Parthian chronicle?  Could it be linked with some excavation by the bulldozers of this modern age?  Could it be the discovery of a hoard of documents, inscriptions or coins such as might be unearthed on hitherto unrecognized Parthian sites by the oil prospectors of Iran and Iraq?   

            Whatever it was, this material had not been accorded much discussion by scholars interested in Parthian history, per se, nor did it seem to have caused much critical appraisals in archeological journals.  It seems, indeed, to have been accepted at first sight!  It became necessary to search for this material, both for its origin and for any corroborative detail wherewith to evaluate it, to try to set the new facts into workable equation with the ancient, formerly acceptable, classical records.  This appeared to be the only possible way once more to update 500 years of human endeavor, which had in fact produced a viable culture in a unique and valid empire. 

            Incidentally, this material must have been presented to the world of scholarship by a powerful intellect capable of impressing its immediate worth upon what is, as a rule, a skeptical, highly critical audience. 

            “Man is a genius: he has himself species, Greek, Roman, Parthian”, as Seneca once remarked.

            Interest in Seneca’s third species, the Parthians, has been comparatively slight, and in most cases extremely controversial.  Most of the later Roman historians, dealing with military confrontation and political controversy, are biased and prejudiced in favor of the policies of Roman leaders; also the extraordinary Sassanian non-historical approach to their own chronicles succeeded, for many centuries, in the partial suppression of the Empire which should bear inclusion in any world history. 

            Nevertheless, the impact of the many classical references to Parthia struck George Rawlinson in 1868, so strongly that he had felt compelled to produce a volume devoted entirely to the Parthian Monarchy, for he had come to the conclusion that all the references with which he was so familiar, could lead to but one decision – that the Parthian Empire had existed for at least 500 years, that it was a power, which was able to deny Rome any permanent advance east of the Euphrates River, governing many peoples in a manner obviously more tolerant than, and as capable as, that of Rome, and controlling a wealth far vaster than man had imagined. 

            In “The Sixth Great Oriental Monarchy” he described Parthia as “counterpoised to the power of Rome, a rival state dividing with Rome the attention of mankind and the Sovereignty of the known earth.”  He also mentioned his surprise “that moderns have generally overlooked these passages”!

            The German professor, A. von Gutschmidt, produced his “Geschichte Irans” in 1888.  The Parthian section was based almost entirely on classical references and used the very extensive but not entirely accurately catalogued Parthian coinage to uphold his arguments he also came to the conclusion that the Parthian Empire fell suddenly while still basically powerful.   

            Interest in the Parthians lapsed however until just prior to the Second World War.  Then “A Political History of Parthia” appeared in 1938; this incorporated much new material, correcting some of Rawlinson’s and von Gutschmidt’s conclusions.  However Debevoise’ conclusions differed radically from Rawlinson’s, for his final words were:


“Thus ended the Parthian Empire, which in truth at this late date was no longer a living organism but was a senile wreck.”  (Debevoise, 1938, p. xliii and p. 269).


            There was another long period of inactivity in the collation of Parthian history, and it was not until 1967 that “The Parthians” by Dr. M. A. R. Colledge was published.  He took a very unkind view of the Arsacids and his final verdict of the Sixth Great Monarchy was:


“The characters of Parthian history, when they are remembered at all, were used merely to point a moral and adorn a tale.”  (Colledge, 1967, [2])


            Professor R. N. Frye’s description written but a few years earlier, was more favorable (although later his opinion was to change), for he said: --


“The social life, the art, oral literature and political organization of the Parthians, such as we know them, all testify to the heroic quality of the Parthian way of life.”  (Frye, 1962.[3])


            As far as the present author can see, if the Parthian “way of life” does emerge, the picture presented by the earlier historians – that of a great and powerful empire, doomed to a sudden tragic eclipse, rather than that of a generate conglomerate, slowly sinking into unworthy obscurity – appears to be the more valid image.  For, rather than behaving as nomadic barbarians under the elusive control of robber-barons, owing scant allegiance to a King of Kings who ruled despotically in the midst of dynastic turmoil, the Parthians were in fact the creators of a far more civilized state than had heretofore been seen in the Orient, a state, in fact, which resembled in many ways the modern, western concept of civilization. 

            It is a sad commentary on our store of knowledge of the past that even the most apparently reliable sources require careful and frequent re-examination, which often results in the overthrow of seemingly stable and definitive arguments. 

            The alteration and falsification of documents, or actual forgeries using the names of well-known ancient authors, although often perpetrated, as a rule are soon recognized and disregarded by reliable historians.  The intrusion of opposite dates and names into the new historical “chronicles” compiled over the centuries, was an easier method, one frequently resorted to by unscrupulous authors, desirous of proving some obscure and inaccurate point – most are, happily, soon uncovered and wisely ignored. 

            Perhaps of all so-called “forgeries” the most popular, the most adopted and the least reliable is the Chronicle of Arbela, reputedly the work of an obscure sixth century monk, one MSHIHA ZKHA.  In regard to this “work”, the words of Le Corbusier, the famous architect, seem particularly apt: --


“It is a question of morality; lack of truth is intolerable, we perish in untruth.”

“Verb: sap, indeed”.


Because of this “lack of truth” many books, the works of honest men’s hands must “perish in untruth”; for the so-called “Chronicle of Arbela” produced by Professor A. Mingana  and incorporated into the “Woodbrook Catalogue” of the “Sources Syriaques” in Volume III. 1939, as parts VIII and IX, has formed the basis of many a paragraph of otherwise reliable information.  Having imputed his “Chronica Arbelae” to an unknown figure, Mingana was virtually able to withstand most of the criticism subsequently leveled at him, for otherwise its peculiar chronology ought to have provided the historical critic, if aware of its incredibility, with some very pertinent ammunition. 

As many scholars, occupied with the history of the early Christian Church in the Syriac-speaking East realized, the so-called “Chronicle” which Mingana began to foist upon an unsuspecting world of 1904, formed a basis upon which much of the history of the early Christian Church appeared to depend.  Not only did ecclesiastical history depend upon its seductively logical sequence of dates and events, but so also did much lay history – that of the last ten years of the Parthian period being a case in point.  Firm grounds for a belief in the falseness of the “Chronicle” need to be established and a short resumé of the facts relevant to its publication must be presented.

Mingana, Professor of Syriac at the Seminary of Mossoul, at the turn of this century, was recognized as a world authority in the Estrangela form of Syriac.  He was also a firm believer in the very early arrival of Christianity in the East, sure that it had arrived sometime in the first century A.D. . . .  His belief, however, found dissenters amongst Western scholars, who dated its advent to the third century.  Definitive dates Mangana had to produce, so in 1904, he began his venture into history.  This he did by adding some extra verses to a codex of one Bar Hadhadhchabba, a monk of the 6th century school of Nisibis,[4] who wrote an “Historia Ecclesiasticae” recognized by Ebedjesu[5] as being very exact, but which is now lost.  Mingana published twenty-five lines of what he termed “square Chaldean” in a suitably antique condition, which he claimed were parts of the Arbelan section of Bar Hadhbhchabba’s “Codex”, that part, in fact, written by the ancient monk, Abel or Mshiha Zkha, as he averred. 

One of Mingana’s scholars, J. B. Chabot, felt that these new paragraphs were forged, and openly stated his belief in 1905.  Nothing daunted, Mingana dismissed the young man’s protests and trading on his position as the foremost Syriac scholar of his day, published an additional “find” in the same year.  In 1913, he was honored by having this “augmented” section of the Chronicle of Bar Hadhbhchabba published in “Patrologia Orientalis”.[6] 

He had previously, in 1907, published the half-baked forgery as “Sources Syriaques et la Chronique d’Arbeles”.  His cleverness lay in choosing as his author an obscure monk whose veracity none could question, so that many scholars blindly accepted its truth.[7]  In fact many today, most still do so, for why otherwise do we find its title amongst the works listed by De Urbini in “Patrologia Syriaca”, 1965?[8]

In 1904, F.C. Burkitt, the English scholar, had questioned Mingana’s beliefs and strongly criticized the “new” evidence when it first appeared.  Mingana had replied in “vingt pages violentes” to J.B. Cabot’s accusation in 1905, but this vituperative outburst did not daunt Burkitt.  However, he did accept the names of many bishops, although he firmly rejected the dates of the false “Chronicle”.[9]  Nevertheless this partial acceptance of the credibility of the “Chronicle of Arbela” by another of the world’s great Syriac scholars must have been one reason for the slow realization of the new hoax.

Yet another of Mingana’s scholars, Paul Peeters, decided in 1908, that Mingana’s “nouveau document est un faux trčs recent”, and E. Sachau, who, in 1915, edited the German edition of the “Chronicle”[10], felt that it was not an “old” work he was translating, even going so far as to cast doubts on the aptness of the chronology.  Nevertheless, he did add two more bishops’ names to fill up an hiatus left by Mingana, and did not openly doubt its facts, for Mingana, who had left the Church in 1913, was on an extended tour, busily defending his discovery.  However, despite its appearance in the “Woodbrooke Studies” in 1927, criticism was continuing and, in 1930, P. Pelliot had the courage to state his dissatisfaction openly.[11]

In 1937, Mingana died, but his “Chronicle” still remained accepted by many eminent scholars, though the voice of doubt continued to be raised.  In 1966, J. Neusner, discussing the “reliability of the Arbela tradition”, found himself on the horns of a dilemma.[12]  The confusion of names and dates in the “Arbelan Chronicle” forced him to use such phrases as “if the lives are sound”, or “this fact does, however, pose difficulties”, and so on.  He could not entirely reject the “Chronicle’s” information for there was no way of checking it, some of it covering the period for which no other version of Parthian history is available.

 At last, an article published in 1967, by J. M. Fiery in L’Orient Syrien XII. summarized in no uncertain manner the full evidence, proving beyond doubt the falseness of Mingana’s “discovery”. [13]  Fiery told how even the very paper upon which the Chronicle was written, copied in a modern monastery by an old monk, was bought in Baghdad and then burnt to make it appear authentically antique.[14]

Internal evidence was also overwhelmingly on the side of the accusers.  Mingana had ignored the “Diptychs of Arbela”, and contradicted their known data, AD. 362.  The old monk’s grammar was not always correct and did not conform to sixth century usage, the doctrines incorporated into the teaching of the bishops, was Nestorian and the script used was Estrangela.  There has been no further sign of the “original manuscript” for Mingana himself wrote that, nor did Mshiha Zkha exist – he was, in reality, Thomas, son of Hanna, a monk of the convent of Notre Dame des Moissons, where Mingana went to write the manuscript Thomas copied.[15]  Fiery noticed that the chronicle possessed a style which resembled greatly that of the Professor of Syriac at the Seminary of St. Jean between 1902 and 1907, and declared: “Je crois de moins en moins ŕ l’existence de ce manuscript hypothétique.”  To bolster his Church-history, Mingana had also to provide possible historical events in his crucial period, and this necessitated the manufacture of kings as well as of martyrs and bishops, a task he took in his stride.  The chronicle mentions kings of the Medes, Adiabene and Kirkuk, in the west of Parthia, who allegedly assisted Ardashir in his campaign of 220 AD!  It also mentions campaigns of Shapur I. in Chorezmia and Hyrcania  which are unsupported by any other evidence.

Despite the battles blithely imputed to them, Mingana’s “kings” were unlikely candidates as allies of Ardashir, for their kingdoms (?) were in Roman-dominated territory, Kirkuk being in the region then known as Assyria Provincia. 

So much for the so-called historical data; from whence did Mingana draw his facts?  In every case (except those from Eusebius which came from an edition of 1659) they were taken from nineteenth century copies of translations of the classics;  while his Parthian material he probably drew from Noldeke’s translation of “Der Chronik des Tabari”[16] and from a translation of Al-Biruni edited in 1878.  In any case, the Arabic historians were inexact, and for Parthian history unreliable, because Firdausi’s “Shahnama” had affected all subsequent Arabic authors adversely. 

Dependence on the “Chronicle” has caused much discomfort to those historians who have found themselves trapped into a bemused state of belief in improbabilities.  This confusion has caused many attempts to bolster Mingana’s “facts” with classical references, which in many cases is almost possible, for Mingana was careful also to use them; other historians, aware that these two series of facts are not miscible in all proportions, merely quote him in the text but without reference.[17] 

Describing what is known as the “dark period” of the latter history of the Parthians, Professor Frye wrote this paragraph:


“In the Syriac Chronicle of Arbela we read that in the time of Vologases IV.” (note the Roman numeral) “ca. 191-207 AD, the Parthians fought against the Persians”; and later the same Chronicle says: “In earlier times the Persians tried to unseat the Parthians, many times they exerted themselves in war but were defeated.”[18] 


He made no attempt to elucidate this hodge-podge of information but continued with the “Chronicle” list of “the Parthians and the kings of Adiabene and Kirkuk” who were said to have joined Ardashir to overthrow the Parthians.  He quoted this with reservations, for he declared: “we know nothing of a kingdom in the area of Kirkuk.  Such speculation has really little firm basis.” Reservation or no, he still used Mshiha Zkha!

Professor Debevoise also used the same quotations from Sachau’s translation (56, 60) but made them more impressive by adding the quasi-oriental king-names, “Shahrat of Adiabene and King Domitian of Kerk Slukh (Kirkuk)”.  “In a single year”, he quoted from the “Chronicle”, “the allies” (in 220 AD) over-ran Mesopotamia and Beth Aramaye” (?), “made” (of course) “an unsuccessful attack on Hatra”, and “finally overran Arzun”, at present unidentified.  This victorious campaign supposedly occurred in an area where the Arsacid, Artabanus V., had just previously decisively beaten the Roman, Macrinus.[19] 

Not only have these historians used this questionable material, but other scholars, not so immediately interested in things Parthian, have also done so, one of these being Professor W. B. Henning, who even prefaced one article with the words “Thanks to the Chronicle of Arbela. . .”[20]  Professor David Oates also used the “Chronicle” kings (without reference) and based the last ten years of Parthian history on “The Chronicles” of Tabori.[21]  (The pity is that Mingana is still being quoted, for reliance on the “Chronicle” inevitably leads the historian into difficulties.)

One result of this reliance, while attempting to integrate  “Chronicle” information with the evidence of contemporary Roman, Armenian or ecclesiastical authors[22] is the emergence of a picture of Parthian political anarchy, cultural degeneracy and military inefficiency.  This is difficult to reconcile with the evidence of the influence the Parthian culture exerted upon the Sassanians and the East, and upon the civilization of the West, Rome and Byzantium. 

Contemporary historians admired the Parthians and, despite their oriental “barbarity”, accorded them due praise.  As Tacitus said:  “Neither the Semites, not the Carthaginians were so powerful a foe as were the Parthians.”[23] 

Thrice in its last century of power the western provinces of the Parthian Empire suffered a Roman invasion; each time its western capital Seleucia-Ctesiphon was sacked and Mesopotamia overrun.  But in terms of years these Roman incursions were extremely short, extremely limited and extremely disastrous to the invaders’ prestige.  Very soon the Parthians regained control of their lost territory, recovered their markets, and rebuilt their sacked towns.  In 217 AD, Artabanus was able to defeat Macrinus, in the battle fought at Nisibis, which said Herodian, “was the fiercest and best contested which was ever fought between rival powers.”  The historical possession of a large and efficient fighting machine does not tally with the picture of a degenerate ruling house ineffectually controlling an ill-paid corps of mercenary  soldiers.  It seems strange that this picture of degeneracy could appear so suddenly!

Rawlinson had given this verdict long before:


“The mighty Parthian Empire came thus suddenly to its end, after giving few signs of weakness or decay, at a moment when it was as great and extensive as it had ever been, in the five-hundred years of its existence.”[24]


Von Gutschmidt concluded his “History of Parthia” in a manner very similar to that of Rawlinson, his conclusion reading:


“Ardashir sent a challenge to Artabanus himself, their armies met by appointment in the Plain of Hormidzdjan and Artabanus fell (28th April, 227.), and the Parthian Empire was at an end.”[25]


            The translations of “Shahnama” and of the Arabic historians had already forced a new concept of late Parthian history upon scholars, to be re-enforced when the more recent “find”, the “Chronicle of Arbela” appeared. 

            Thus, by the time Professor Debevoise wrote “A Political History” (1930), the “Chronicle of Arbela” despite its doubters, had exerted its influence upon the scholarly world, so that he was able to depend heavily on the Arabic historians, for they were now supported by the “Chronicle”. 

            Nevertheless, he did admit to some uncertainty about the latter and of the Arsacids “due”, he said, “to the fact that events in the East did not directly concern the Roman world”.  However, the constant Roman sallies beyond the Euphrates and their records in Herodian, Ammianus Marcellinus, or Dio Cassius, would appear to make this statement untenable. 

            Having first quoted freely from “Der Chronik des Tabari” and from Mshiha Zkha, supported by Dio Cassius (LXXX., 3,) Professor Debevoise wrote, in reference to Parthia’s fall: 


            “Thus ended the Parthian Empire, which in truth at this late date was no longer a living organism, but was a senile wreck, whose ruler had no more power than tradition and his own natural prowess could command.”[26]


 This conclusion was a statement, which was to influence many subsequent dissertations, for the professor had the advantage of first-hand knowledge of Parthian sites and material. 

It certainly influenced Professor Frye when he compiled his “Heritage of Persia” in 1962, for in the first few lines of Chapter 5, appear these contradictory statements:


“During the rule of the Parthians, great changes occurred in Iran in the realms of art, religion and literature . . .  Here and there we find indications of Parthians contributions to the legacy and culture of Persia.”[27]


            The peculiarity of Sassanian chronology also forced another set of reconciliations upon Professor Frye, for he said of the Sassanian chronological data: --


“The Zoroastrian tradition as contained in the Buddhism (ch. 34. on ‘time reckoning’ gives the length of the Parthian rule as 284 years, which does not correspond to any of the tables of Al Biruni, yet does show that the post-Sassanian Zoroastrians too followed a false chronology.”[28] 


If this be a false chronology, how can the student reconcile its use with proved historical facts?  This can only be so reconciled if it is possible to use equally false material, once the ‘Chronicle of Arbela’ had apparently upheld the Sassanid fraud!


“The last century of Parthian rule,” declared the professor, “seems like one continuous war with the Romans and Parthia was greatly weakened.”[29]


This opinion rests on the “Chronicle of Arbela” for the material for this particular period had been drawn by Professor Debevoise almost entirely from that source;  consequently Professor Frye also made use of the peculiar geographical material provided by the “Chronicle”, without in any way doubting its credibility. [30] He was thus forced to conclude that:


“The pre-Sassanian era was one of heroic epics rather than one of sober written history.”[31]


Thus the later Roman accounts are ignored when opposed to the facts provided by the latest “discovery”, and by the false Sassanian traditions. 

It seems clear that the change from the picture of the stable, rich and tolerant government to one of degenerate impotence, can only have been arrived at by reliance on three imponderables – the Arabic historians, the Sassanian chronological and epic concepts, and the “Chronicle of Arbela”

By 1967, in the pages of “The Parthians”, the Arsacids emerged as barbaric, degenerate figures unable to withstand the blows of fate, which overcame both court and political stability, so that “full decadence had become apparent”, Dr. Colledge decided, “by ca. 198 A.D.” ![32]

Despite the use of other Oriental records, and his statement that “the legends of the Arabs and the Persians have little to offer the seeker after historical truth”,  he still fell beneath their spell.  It becomes clear that he did place much reliance on the Arabic histories and on the Syriac of Mshiha Zkha, so that their use led him into many doubtful passages, to be upheld with corroborative details of cleverly integrated material. 

Having drawn attention to the declining state of the Parthian realm, “many of their western cities and territories were devastated . . . and the signs of exhaustion and decline were multiplying”, so he said, the campaign against Macrinus is passed over by Dr. Colledge with sole comment that “a further coin issue appeared”, similar to the coins issued after Caracallas raid on Arbela.  That this coin was issued on behalf of a defeated general by a distant and gullible Roman senate does not merit mention.[33]   Admitting that uncertainty surrounds the events, Dr. Colledge provided a cleverly constructed account, using material from the “Shahnamah” from the Arabic historians and from the “Chronicle of Arbela”, and concluded:


“Under the Sassanid dynasty, which claimed descent from the Archaemenids, firm government, prosperity and cultural standards were to return to Iran.”[34] 


Thus, preferring as he said “the simple and more likely tradition” of the “Chronicle of Arbela”, Dr. Colledge, omitting any reference to Roman historians, wrote his derogatory Epilogue. 

The fact that Mshiha Zkha and the “Chronicle” are only mentioned obliquely by Dr. Colledge as “Syriac writers lucky enough to be writing under Parthian rule”, is unfortunate, while his historical facts, contradictory as they are, contain much material which has no corroborative evidence.[35]

The history of Parthia contained in volumes 8 and 11 of the “Cambridge Ancient History”, is yet another account of the Arsacids in which one is able to find the intrusion of material from the “Chronicle” for Sir W. W. Tarn was also caught in its toils.  His treatment of the work of “Abel, the Teacher, the Source of Meshiha Zekha”, as he called him, was cautious, but nevertheless it was expertly fitted into the smooth flow of his narrative, and he was able to integrate it far less obtrusively than did Professors Debevoise and Frye. 

For instance, “The Chronicle” is mentioned first in the account of Trajan’s campaign.  Tarn wrote:

“The invasion of Trajan is mentioned as a kind of era by the Chronicle of Arbela.”[36]


Again, the campaign of Severus was:


“A new humiliation of Parthia.  Persia and Medea revolted, a fact which was unknown until the discovery of a local Chronicle of Arbela.”[37]


“Thus according to the Chronicle of Arbela an army of 20,000 foot was concentrated at Ctesiphon when the Alani invaded Parthia in AD 134.”[38]


The account in the “Chronicle” refers to the invasion of the Alani, in which some hitherto unknown persons appear:


“Rakhbakh, governor of Adiabene and the general Arsak took command of the 20,000 foot troops raised in Ctesiphon by Vologases.”[39]


            This “corroborative detail” Tarn however omitted.  It was, however, essential that he include an explanation for the fact that the “Chronicle” is written in Aramaic and not Greek, so he said: 


“It is probable that the acquaintance with Parthian history of Abel the Teacher, the source of Meshiha Zekha, who wrote about AD. 550, a local ecclesiastical Chronicle of Arbela, was derived from Greek works.  It probably goes back to a Parthian Chronicle or annals, which embodied the official tradition of Parthian history.  It may be assumed that similar chronicles existed in most of the vassal kingdoms and formed, with the Parthian annals, the historical substructure of such works as ‘The Life of Addai, the Apostle of Adiabene and Osrhoene’”.[40]

            Thus did he indirectly place yet another stone on the cenotaph erected by Mingana, by his tacit acknowledgement of Abel the “Teacher”.

            Tarn’s final reference to the “Chronicle” is that paragraph that misled Professor Henning, and Tarn actually corrects Mshiha Zkha:


“According to the ‘Chronicle of Arbela’ Shapur was forced to fight with the Chorezmians” . . . “The chronicler, it is true,” continued Tarn, “ is in error when he dates these operations to the first years of Shapur’s reign.”[41]


(The fact that these references, made in the earlier edition of the Cambridge Ancient History, were not corrected in the revised edition, does not make them any more reliable, but their use even more reprehensible.)  Sir W. Tarn was careful to use the term “according to the Chronicle” as often as possible, yet his account of its authorship lends strong support to this unconvincing narrative. 

The reliance placed on this source may be due to the fact that it appeared quite recently, happily able to bridge the gap between the successful campaigns of Artabanus V. in Mesopotamia, the dramatic appearance of the rebel Ardashir, the rise of the Sassanians and the disappearance of the Arsacids. 

Granted this sudden and recent appearance, why has the inability to correlate this source with recognized records led to a reluctance to state this inability in unequivocal terms?  This question the modern historians have so far failed to answer, for the refuge has always been at hand to use material for previous publications – to quote in other words – a “descent to Avernus” such as must follow the “lack of truth”, slowly becoming evident as the falseness of the “Chronicle of Arbela” becomes more apparent. 

It is difficult to understand how views so diametrically opposed could be held by historians who recognize authority, whose very publications have bestowed on them a type of oracular status thereby making their decisions almost sacrosanct and certainly quotable. 


                                    *            *            *            *            *


It is clear that the denigration of the Parthian image still persists.  The answer to the inevitable “why is it so?” could be found in three human weaknesses. 


The first is the desire to possess an answer to every question, to be infallible, regardless of truth or possibility; the second is a fatal yielding to surface charm and graces; the third can, for want of a better term, be called lazy imitation.  The first has been found in the “Chronicle of Arbela”, so aptly able to fill the void in the history of the later Arsacids; the second in the immediate and lasting effect the spell of “Shahnama” and the Arabic and Islamic literature and art exerted on the scholarship of the West. 

The use of the “Chronicle” is most difficult to understand, for this forced every scholar into a volte-face as soon as his inquiries reached into the “dark periods” which its facts seemed to illuminate.  Its most vocal supporter was the fiery Mingana, its “online begetter”, yet its material was seized upon avidly.  By its use, to the Arsacids much harm has been done, for they have been submitted to a surprisingly sudden degeneration, forced upon their empire and its ruling dynasty by the subtle manner in which the date of the “Chronicle of Arbela” was coordinated with that of the Shahnama, the Arabic historians and the imaginative desires of its creator. 

The third reason for the use of this material is also the most human of the three weaknesses, lazy imitation, fostered by a desire to agree with authority wherever an equivocable point is raised. 

But the sources must be questioned; where there is a doubt it must either be resolved or acknowledged, for firm conclusions cannot be based upon ephemeral and unique material, without question and without argument.  The arguments presented are directed slowly to the use of the “Chronicle of Arbela” as a major source of late Parthian history, bearing, as it does, an implication of infallibility.  There is no attempt to deny the arguments of the many ecclesiastical scholars who support an early date for Eastern Christianity, except insofar as their support for the doubtful material has obviously influenced modern authors of Parthian history.

The need to balance the modern uncomplimentary view of Parthian history on a more even level means that the use of the “Chronicle of Arbela” when unsupported by other evidence, as a factual source must be deplored.  It seems clear that the printed word once accepted as truth becomes almost sacrosanct, worthy of quotation, able to alter, as in the case of the Parthians, former facts into a contrived and unbalanced history.  It is unfortunate that this “accepted truth” was the “Chronicle of Arbela” for it is, as has been well proved, “a thing of shreds and patches”, “ce faux”, “full of sound and fury signifying nothing”. 







PARTHIA = roughly the modern Khurasan (i.e. the Northeast corner of modern Iran),

                     N. of the Iranian desert, between Medea and Bactria.


PARTHIANS = a semi-nomad Iranianized people, who are reported to have invaded

                       Iran from the lands east of the Caspian Sea.  Traditionally they are

identified with a branch of the Dahae, steppe-dwellers in this region.

Contact with the Han rulers of China was established before 100 BC. Around 92 BC. occurred the first contact between Rome and Parthia on the Euphrates River (later on to be the frontier between them).  Disasters of Crassus at Carrhae in Mesopotamia in 53 BC. and Anthony in Medea in 36 BC.  The earliest capital in Parthia might have been Dara (now Abivard), later on Hecatompylos (near modern Damghan), finally Ctesiphon on the Tigris.  First clash between Parthia and Rome came when Emperor Macrinus (217-218) was defeated at Nisibis and had to pay a shameful price for peace.  300 years earlier a serious threat came from the nomadic armies of the Sakas: in 128 BC. Phraates II. was killed fighting them. However, Mithridates II. restored the integrity of the Parthian Empire (after 123 BC.).  Because of declining internal control, finally in 224 AD, Ardashir a local ruler in the southern part of Iran, revolted and established the Sassanian Empire. 



SYRIAC =  a Semitic language, belonging to the northern-central or northwestern

group.  It was an important Christian literary and liturgical language between 200 and 600 AD. 





Burkitt, F. C., 1904.  Early Christianity in the Syriac-speaking East.  St. Margaret’s

lectures.  John Murray, London.

Colledge, M.A. 1967:  The Parthians, London, New York.

Debevoise, N. B., 1938 :  A Political History of Parthia, University of Chicago Press.

De Urbini, I. O. 1965 :  Patrologia Syriaca, Rome.

Eusebius, 1865 :  History of the Church.

Frye, R. N., 1962: The Heritage of Persia.

Ghirsman, R. 1954, 1962: Iran. Chapter 6,:  Parthians and Sassanids.

Ghilain, A., 1939: Essai sur la Langue Parthe. Lowem.

Gignoux, P. 1972:  Glossaire – Inscriptions Pehlevies at Parthes, London. 

Graffin, R. and F. Nau, 1898: Patrologia Orientalis, Paris.

Gray, E. W., 1973: Parthians. In: Chambers’ Encyclopedia.

Gutschmidt, A. von, 1885:  The Ancient History of Parthia.

                                    In: Encyclopedia Brittanica 9th. Ed.

Hersfeld, E. E., 1935: Archeological History of Iran.

Junge, P. J. and W. Schur, 1949: in: Real. Enc. der Class. Altertums

                                                Wiss. hg. v. A. Pauly u. G. Wissowa, 18, 2, p. 1987.

Kahrstedt, U., 1950: Artabanus III. u. seine Erben.

Lepper, F. 1948 : Trajan’s Parthian War. London.

Mingana, A. 1931: Woodbrooke’s Studies. Heffer and Sons, Cambridge.

Mingana, A. 1939: Catalogue of the Mingana Collection of Manuscripts., Heffer and

Sons, Cambridge.

Rawlinson, G., 1871:  The Five Great Oriental Monarchies.

Rawlinson, G., 1873:  The Sixth Great Oriental Monarchy. Longman’s, Green and

Company, London.

Rawlinson, G., 1882:  The Seventh Great Oriental Monarchy: On the Geography,

 History and Antiquities of the Sassanian or New Persian Empire

Rawlinson, G., 1893: Parthia.

Sachau, E., 1915:  Die Chronik von Arbela.

Turn, W. W., 1930: Seleucid-Parthian Studies.

Weisner, J. 1968:  Die Kulturen der Eurasischen Volker,

                              In: Hb. der Kulturgeschichte, 2. 10.

Wright, W. 1966: A Short History of Syriac Literature. Amsterdam.

Ziegler, K. – H. 1964. : Die Beziehungen zwischen Rom u. dem Parther-reich






Excerpts from:


by Mshiha Zkha.




(Translated from the French of A. Mingana, who found the fragments in the Catalogue of Ebed-Jesu.)


4th. Bishop. Abraham (148-163)


“. . . King Vologases died, and Vologases III. had succeeded him. . . The confused affairs of the kingdom did not allow him, however, to achieve his aim, because of numerous troops which were gathered together there from all lands (allegedly composed of 400,000 men) and were preparing to advance upon the lands of the Romans. . .  (However, finally) the Parthians were beaten and pursued by the Roman troops, until they were shut up in Ctesiphon.  (After a plug decimated the adversaries) the Romans were forced to return to their country. . .  They abandoned considerable wealth to the Parthians . . .”   


The 6th Bishop Habel (183-190)


“. . . At this time Vologases IV, King of the Parthians, having taken his forces, wrested several countries from the Romans, and turned against the Persians, who for a long while had prepared to attack him.  Vologases, himself, marched against them with 120,000 soldiers.  They met in the land of Khorassan.  The Parthians, having crossed first a little river, found themselves surrounded on all sides by the troops of the Persians and the Medes, and after a great battle, were vanquished and put to flight.  They clambered up the mountains of the country in confusion, and abandoned all their horses to the Persians.  These latter pursued them and climbed all the mountains, killed an incalculable number of them.  When the Parthians saw that without any heroic courage they would all infallibly be killed, they revived their spirits and flinging themselves on the Persians with matchless violence, they put them to flight and struck them with panic.  They pursued them to the sea, strewing the earth with their corpses, like locusts.  On their return, they met other Persians who were separated from their companions;  a new battle began between them and lasted for two days.  The night of the third day having arrived, the two camps rested at last, to take up the battle on the following morning; but when the Parthians woke up, they could no longer see the Persians.  They had all flown during the night, in order to rejoin their companions and make company with them.  The Parthians then returned victorious and proud of themselves.”[42]


8th. Bishop Hiran (225-258)


“. . . .The Parthians showed themselves then as very strong, very powerful and very proud; they only breathed murder; but God, who said by his prophet:  ‘Even though you raise yourself up like an eagle and nest in the midst of the stars, I will make you fall down from there’,  curbed them, and prepared their fall.  Of old times the Persians wished to dethrone the Parthians and several times they tried to make war with their forces;  but repulsed they were unable to cope with the Parthians.  However, the latter were enfeebled by the great number of (their) wars and battles.  The Persians and the Medes understanding that, joined with Shahrat, King of Adiabene, to Domitian, King of Kerk-Sloukh and engaged in the spring in a great struggle with the Parthians.  The latter were defeated and their kingdom seized forever.  From the beginning, they had hurled themselves on Mesopotamia, then on Beth Aramaye and Arzun.  In the space of one year, they took all these lands and all the activity of the Parthians served them for nothing;  because their day had come and their hour had sounded.  Finally, they fled completely into the high mountains, leaving to the Parthians all their lands and their riches all laid up in the Towns. (= Seleucid, Ctesiphon).  The young son of Artabanus, called Arsak, was killed without mercy by the Persians at Ctesiphon, where (the conquerors) installed themselves and which they made their capital.  The day which saw the end of the Kingdom of the Parthians, the children of the brave Arsak, was a Wednesday, 27th of the month, Nissan, in the year 535 of the Kingdom of the Greeks.” (Note:  This campaign took place toward the end of the year 216 AD).



Source: Magyar Múlt. No. 2. – 1977, Vol. VI. pp. 61-80





A párthus történelem szemlélet kérdéséhez


B. G. Zichy-Woinarskiné dr.



            A párthusok történetében (K. e. 248/7 – K. u. 226/7) az Arszacida uralkodóház végső éveivel foglalkozik a jelen cikk, azokkal a pártusokkal, akik három évszázadon keresztül a Romai Birodalom legkomolyabb ellenlábasai voltak és feltartoztatták azoknak keleti irányú terjeszkedését.

            A párthusokról szóló 19 szd-i történelmi írások szinte kivétel nélkül klasszikus kútfőkből merítették, mint pl. Rawlinson (1873) és Gutschmidt (1888) szerintük nagyon meglepő, hogy egy látszólag olyan jól megalapozott dinasztia annyira hirtelen omlott össze, nem pedig egy lassú hanyatlás eredménye volt.  Minden esetre Ardashir K. u. 226-os coup d’état-ját  különösnek találták. 

            Ezt a nézetet megváltoztatták az új felfedezések Dura Europosnál, Irakban és magában Iránban is (1930 körül) de főleg hatott A. Mingana, (az ó-szir nyelv professzora a Mosszul-i Papneveldében) hamisított „Arbelai Krónika”-ja, melyet ő 1904-ben adott ki. 

            Ez nem csak a korai kereszténység közép-keleti elterjedését adja a K. u. 1. szd.-ban (a 3. szd. helyett), de a párthusok utolsó évtizedi uralkodásának történetét is befolyásolja, éspedig rájuk nézve hátrányos beállításban.

            Mingana szerint, egy szinte ismeretlen 6. szd.-i szerzetes, Mshika Zkha írta a krónikát (ezáltal Mingana megtámadhatatlanná téve magát).  Mingana az eredeti kódexhez hozzá fűzött még néhány versszakot, amit egy Bar Hadhbhchabba nevű szerzetes írt, aki a 6. szd-i Nisibis Iskolájának volt a terméke.  A hozzáfűzés állítólag nagyon pontos és megbízható írás volt, de az eredetije elveszett.  Az Arbelai részhez (melyet Abel vagy Mshika Zkha szerzett) hozzáfűzött 25 sort Mingana „tiszta kaldeusi” alakban írta le; még meg is égette a papírt, hogy megfelelően régies kinézése legyen.  Így a mit sem sejtő tudós világ nagy része persze elfogadta a krónika valódiságát.

            Közvetlenül e hamisítvány megjelenése után kétségek merültek fel valódisága felől.  F. C. Burkitt 1904-ben, J. B. Chabot 1905-ben megkérdőjelezte; később pedig P. Peeters 1908-ban, E. Sachau 1915-ben és P. Pelliot 1930-ban fejezték ki kétségüket nyilvánosan.  Mingana, kihasználva professzori hírnevét, ezeket a kétségeket önkényesen és vad nyelven utasította vissza és torkolta le.  Végül Mingana meghalt 1937-ben;  a kétségek koronázásaképpen jött 1967-ben J. M. Fiery összefoglaló kritikája a krónika valódisága ellen, amelyben még belső bizonyítékokat is hozott fel cáfolatul.  A „krónika” a korabeli római, örmény és egyházi kútfőknek a pártosokra nézve előnyős véleményét igyekszik megváltoztatni és egészen helytelenül a párthus állami élet politikai anarchiáját kulturális elfajulását és katonai hatástalanságát, tehát teljes dekadenciáját akarja az uralkodó nézetté tenni.  Ezt nehéz lenne összeegyeztetni a párthusoknak a szasszanidákra és a Keletre gyakorolt kulturális befolyásával, nem is szólva a Nyugatra, Rómára és Bizáncra kifejtett hatásával. 

            Mind ezek ellenére mi olyan, általában kiválóan megbízható művek is, mint a „Cambridge Ancient History”, melynek párthus részét Sir W. W. Tarn írta, eltűrik a hamis krónika befolyását az arszacid történetre.  Több emberi gyöngeséget is fölhoz a jelen cikk írója, mint valószínű előmozdítóját ennek a krónika hamisítási ügynek.  Valószínűleg kellemesen érinteni a nyugat-európai tudós világot, a párthusok végső dekadenciája megfelelne a valóságnak.  De nem felel meg.    


Szerkesztői megjegyzés:


Dr. Zichy-Woinarskiné B. J. a Melbourne-i egyetemen, Ausztrália – volt egyetemi előadó, nyugdíjba vonulása előtt.  A fentiekben közölt tanulmányát, 1971. január havában adta elő – a: 28-ik Nemzetközi Orientalista Kongresszuson, -- 28th. International Congress of Orientalists – Canberra-ban, Ausztrália. 


Forrás: Magyar Múlt. No. 2 – 1977, Vol. VI, Évf.








[1] Madame Beatrix G. Zichy/Woinarski, now in retirement, was formerly a lecturer in the Department of Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Melbourne, Australia.  The above paper was read to the 28th. International Congress of Orientalists in Canberra in January, 1971, under the title: “A Justification of the Parthians and their Place in History: with some Queries as to the reason why modern Historians tend to downgrade their Image”.  With minor modifications, the present text is the same.  Originally it formed one of the chapters of the author’s thesis for Doctorate of Philosophy.

[2] (Colledge, (1967). The final plate, 76, is a print from an Indian miniature of the Moghul period in a manuscript of the “Shahnama”, A.D. 1602, a work which, in any case, wrongly debased the Arsacid era.  This author also used material derived from the “Chronicle of Arbela”.

[3] Frye (1962), p. 198.  Nevertheless, his ultimate conclusions negate this opinion.

[4] De Urbini, I. O. (1965) : « Patrologia Syriaca ». Rome, pp. 115, 120, 132, par. 66. 

[5] De Urbini, I. O. (1965) : « Patrologia Syriaca », p. 219, par. 161

[6] Graffin R. and F. Nau, 1898.  “Patrologia Orientalis”, Paris.  This collection is also listed in “Patrologia Syriaca”, p. 25, par. 6.  This also shows that the “Woodbrooke Studies” were published under their aegis in 1927, 1933. 

[7] Wright, W. (1966) “A Short History of Syriac Literature”, Amsterdam, pp. 130-131.  He gives a brief mention to the original “Meshihaze-Kha”, who wrote the history commanded by “Abbdh-isho”.  This is a reprint from the article in the “Encyclopedia Britannica”, 9th edition, 1887, Vol. 22.

[8]  De Urbini, I. O. (1965) : « Patrologia Syriaca » in Part IV, Ch. III, « Chronica Arbelae ».  One wonders at its retention!  The paragraph does, however, give a translation of Mshiha Zkha – “Christus Vicit” = “Christ has conquered” – most apt for Mingana’s purpose!

[9] Burkitt, F.C. (1904) “Early Christianity in the Syriac-speaking East”, St. Margaret Lectures, John Murray, London; pp. 2-31, 165-192.

[10] Sachau, E. (1915). “Die Chronik von Arbela”.  Abhandlungen der Preuss. Akad. Der Wiss., Berlin.

[11] Pelliot, P. 1930. “La Chronique d’Arbeles”, ‘T’ oung Pao’, p. 114. In this article, he lists the facts contra Mingana and agrees with the decision of Chabot and Peeters, saying « J’en suis d’accord avec lui ». 

[12]  Neisner, J., 1966. “The Conversion of the Royal House of Adiabene to Christianity”. Numen  Volume. XIII, Fasc. 2.

[13]   Fiery, J.M., 1967. (Prof. a la Seminaire de Mossoul): “Auteur et date de la Chronique d’Arbeles”.

« L’Orient Syrien » XII. Fasc. 3, 3/ieme trim. Baghdad.

[14]   Assfalq, J. , 1966. “Oriens Christianus, 50”, Asia Minor pp. 19-36.  Assfalq’s search even produced receipts from the Baghdad merchant, who sold the paper to Mingana. 

[15]  Fiery, J. M., 1966. Review in “Comptes Rendues” p. 561. in: “L’Orient Syrien, in which Fiey replies to a publication by A. King: “Liturgies Antioches, Rite Syrien et Rite Chaldéen”. Paris

[16]  Eusebius: “History of the Church”, Book III, 2; Book IV, 29.  Noldeke, T., 1879: “Geschichte der Perser und Araber zur Zeit der Sasaniden, aus der Arabischen Chronik des Tabari”, Leiden, pp. 1-8.

[17]  Oates, D.: “Studies in the Ancient History of Northern Iraq”, p. 74, where the implication is that Dio Cassius also listed the various kings by name.  But he does at least imply some doubt for he uses the term “maybe at this time”.  Colledge, M. A. R., 1967: “The Parthians”, p. 173; but he never mentions the “Chronicle” in his “sources”, referring to it only obliquely when he says “the Syriac writers used good sources often actually written under Parthian rule.”, p. 21. 

[18]   Frye, R. N., 1962:  “The Heritage of Persia”, p. 208. The quotation is from Sachau’s edition, para. 56, 60.

[19]   Debevoise, N. C. 1938 : « A Political History of Parthia », pp. 266-268. These historians all used, as well as the “Chronicle”, the following classical references: 

a.        Dio Cassius: ixxx, 3.

b.       Heridian: vi, 6,7.

c.        Agathias:  i, 25.

all of whom can be considered reasonably accurate, Dio Cassius in particular, although occasionally one can perceive the careful politician, and not infrequently the hand of the epitomizer in his words!


[20]  Henning, W. B., 1965: “Chorezmian documents”, Asia Major,  11, 12, pp. 166-179 (in 11).

[21]  Oates, D. : “Studies in the Ancient History of Northern Iraq”, pp. 73-74.  The “Chronicle of Tabori” is doubtful where Parthian history is concerned, for his facts were mainly drawn from the “Shahnama”.

[22]  Eusebius, 1867: “The History of the Church”, Penguin Classics, Josephus, 1963: “The Antiquities of the Jews.  The Wars of the Jews.” Translated by W. Whiston, Rep. Pickering and English Ltd. London.

[23]  Tacitus: “The Annals”, Book XIII, 34, Penguin Books, p. 387. 

[24]  Rawlinson, G. 1871: “The Five Great Oriental Monarchies”. Extract from Preface.  However, in the “Sixth Great Monarchy”, Rawlinson modified this view slightly, for he recognized Rome’s retention of Northern Mesopotamia, so that Rome “was thus acknowledged to be the stronger”.  This is debatable, for Parthia’s influence spread much further east – even to India, to which Philostratus and the “Periplus of the Erythrean Sea” witnessed. 

[25]  Gutschmidt, A. von, 1885:  “The Ancient History of Parthia”, Encyclopedia Britannica, 9th. Ed.  Assisted by T. Noldeke, translated by E. Meyer, Volume. XVIII., pp. 605-606.

[26]  Debevoise, N. C. (1938) « A Political History of Parthia ». pp. 268-269; notes 132, 133, 134, on the final page – all attributed to Mshiha Zkha!

[27]  Frye, R. N. 1962: “The Heritage of Persia”, p. 178. 

[28]  Ibidem, p. 188.

[29]  Ibidem, p. 190.  It is to be noted that it was only against the Romans that the Parthians had to contend – they had no other rivals at that time. 

[30]  Frye, Ibidem, p. 208.  His given reference is Sachau’s “Chronik” par. 56. 60.  This quotation is also given in full in Chapter 8 above. 

[31]  Ibidem, p. 206.  Where, one must ask, have gone the victories of Mitridates, the exploits of Pacorus, the ambitions of Artabanus III., where have gone the halls of Hatra, Ctesiphon? 

[32]  Colledge, M. A. R.: “The Parthians”, p. 97. 

[33]  Regling, K. 1903. “Romische Aurei aus dem Funde von Karnak”  Festschrift zu Otto Hirschfeld’s 60. Geburtstage”, Berlin, p. 297, no. 60.  Colledge, Ibidem, p. 172. He also added to his “not to be relied upon” legends the fact “that archeology as little to contribute”.  This appears questionable in the light of excavations at Tepe Hissar, Tel Umar, Takht-I-Suleiman, Shami, Berd-e-Nechandeh, etc., which must have been familiar to him.  It seems also that, since Mshiha Zkha was a “Syrian” monk of the 6th. century for the purpose of Dr. Colledge’s historical facts, he was not considered an “Oriental source”!

[34]  Colledge, Ibidem, p. 173.  This seems another paraphrase, or maybe a précis, of the conclusion of Debevoise’s “Political History of Parthia”. 

[35]  Colledge, Ibidem, pp. 171, 173.  This account is drawn solely from the “Chronicle of Arbela”. 

[36]  Tarn, Sir W. W. 1965, Cambridge Ancient History, Volume 11. p. 108 and note i = “E. Sachau. Berlin. Ath.; 1915, p. 43, sq.” (The quotations used are all from the revised version of 1961-1965.)

[37]  Tarn, Ibidem, p. 1919 and note “Chron. of Arbela” p. 56. sq.  cf. G. Messina, «La Cronica de Arbela », Civilta Cattolica LXXXIII, 1932, pp. 362 sq.

[38]  Tarn, Ibidem, Vol. XI, p. 120. 

[39]  Debevoise, N. C. : « A Political History of Parthia », p. 243. 

[40]  Tarn, Ibidem, Vol. XI., pp. 126, 127. 

[41]  Tarn, Ibidem, Vol. XII, p. 131. A note reads “Sh. 8 in E. Sachau, Berl. Abh. 1915. Nr. 6, p. 64. 

[42]  Editor's note: This account requires some explanation.  The exact same circumstances are attributed to the final outcome of the Battle of Catalaunum between Atilla and the Romans but, unlike the victorious Parthians, Atilla and his Huns were given a bad name.  They are said to have lost the battle, in spite of the fact that they stayed on the battlefield, awaiting the battle the next day, (just like the Parthians did) while Atilla’s enemy, Aetius and his army, stole away in the darkness of the night.  The Huns, who returned home, probably looting on their way, were not pursued by the “victorious” Aetius.  In addition to this, it is said that Atilla was shaking with fear and, making a ring of fire around him out of saddles, he would rather have died than be captured. Lászlo Botos