Who are the Magi, and why have they come to behold a infant born under a star? When one sees the Pharisees as being allied to Jesus – they putting him to a favorable test – then one must wonder if Jesus is a Parthian. If you replace the Pharisees with the Magi, who are presenting a Savior, the meaning of the name Jesus, then one sees the Magi were the earliest Christians whom Saul-Paul persecuted, he claiming he had papers to pursue these early followers into Damascus. How did Paul recognized them? Well, they had very large noses, and they may have been Skythians.
The origins of the Parthian people are clouded. Strabo (xi, 515) says the first Arsaces was a Scythian man with the semi-nomadic Parni tribe, a part of the Dahi, nomads who lived along the Ochus (Tejend or lower Oxus) River, who invaded and conquered Parthia. Strabo also mentions those who claim Arsaces was a Bactrian who escaped from Diodotus after a failed revolt. Justin (xli, 1) agrees Arsaces was a Scythian. Frye’s analysis is that we can believe the Parni origins, but it was more likely a migration than an invasion that brought them, and Arsaces, to Parthia. (History, p. 207) These people would not be known as Parthians until they moved southward into the Persian province of Parthava sometime before 250 B.C. Achaemenian and early Greek references to “Parthians” refer to earlier inhabitants of Parthava, not the Arsacid Parthians. (Debevoise, Political History, 2; W. M. Montgomery, Early Empires).
The Parthians took encouragement from Diodotus’ success and in 247 B.C. rose against Andragoras, satrap of Parthia for Antichus II Theos (261-247 B.C.). This date is fixed by a double-dated tablet discovered by George Smith (Assyrian Discoveries, London, 1875). The revolt was led by the brothers Arsaces and Tiridates. Arsaces became king and his name the honorific used by all subsequent Parthian kings.
During the second century B.C., the Parthians were able to extend their rule to Bactria, Babylonia, Susiana, and Media, and under Mithradates II (c. 123 – 88 B.C.), Parthian conquests stretched from Armenia to India. After the victories of Mithradates II, the Parthians began to claim descent from both the Greeks and the Achaemenids. They spoke a language similar to that of the Achaemenids, used the Pahlavi script, and established an administrative system based on Achaemenid precedents.
Parthian “Dark Age” c. 95 – 57 B.C.
The most confused period of Parthian history is from the late years in the reign of Mithradates II (ended c. 88 B.C.) to the establishment of the sole rule of Orodes II c. 57 B.C. While Mithradates II was still in power, we have coins from Gotarzes I (c. 95 – 90 B.C.), Orodes I (c. 90 – 80 B.C.). And during the period immediately following the reign of Mithradates II, we see overlapping coinages of Orodes I (c. 90 – 80 B.C.), an Unknown King (I) c. 80 B.C., another Unknown King (II) (c. 80 – 70 B.C.), Sinatruces (c. 77 – 70 B.C.), and Darius of Media Atropatene (c. 70 B.C.). Phraates III appears to have consolidated control in the years around and following 70 B.C., and Orodes II took firm control c. 57 B.C. See the expanded discussion of this very confused period at the page on The Dark Age in Parthian History.
In 53 B.C. Crassus and over 40,000 Roman troops were annihilated by the Parthian forces of Orodes II and the peoples from the Mediterranean to the Indus understood the strength of Parthia. But by 40 B.C. even Rome had to acknowledge a Parthia whose forces, under the joint command of Pacorus I and Q. Labienus, a Roman, had struck directly into the heart of the Roman East and captured the provinces of Asia, Pamphylia, Cilicia, and Syria; even as far south as Petra, Parthia’s word was law. For two years this vast area, so vital to Roman interests, was under Parthian occupation. Possession of the Carian and perhaps the Ionian coast by foreigners struck close to home as many Romans were native to that part of the world or did business there. The occupiers were no sooner pushed out by Ventidius than another Roman army under Anthony was defeated and barely escaped annihilation at Parthian hands. [Debevoise, 208]
The tug of war with Rome on the western border of Parthia continued almost without cease while Parthia had to constantly see to other threats from the north and east. The western border between Rome’s dominions and Parthia gradually stabilized on the banks of the Euphrates, but war was always a threat and though major campaigns by the Romans were seen in A.D. 116, 161, 195, 217 and 232, Parthia was never conquered.
The Parthian landed nobility gained power and influence due to their their military power and increasing rights over the land and its peasants. As these grew, they were sufficient to allow the nobles to resist then defy the king, refusing to pay levies and failing to answer the call to arms that had been Parthia’s source of power. Concurrently, the royal Arsacids fell to internal disagreements over succession which often ended in murder and a continued slide in their power. The resulting disorganization and fragmentation of the empire made way for successful Roman incursions into Parthian territories where rich commercial centers and royal treasuries were plundered, and territories lost to invaders. Petty kings rose to fill the power void; this power redistribution culminated in a direct attempts to overthrow the monarchy.
End of Empire
In A.D. 224, Ardashir, Parthian governor in the Achaemenid home province of Persis (Fars), overthrew Artabanus IV and established the Sasanid dynasty. The last Parthian king, Vologases VI, issued his last dated coin in A.D. 228. The Sasanians would rule Iran until the Islamic conquest in A.D. 641. The Sasanians were ardent Zoroastrians in conflict with their Armenian subjects who originally were Zoroastrians but subsequently embraced Christianity. The years of Sasanid rule saw a continuation of the struggle between Persia and Rome begun in the Parthian period. References to Parthia by Romans after A.D. 228 are to the Sasanid empire.
Magi (/ˈmeɪdʒaɪ/; Latin plural of magus; Ancient Greek: μάγος magos; Old Persian: 𐎶𐎦𐎢𐏁 maguš, Persian: مُغ mogh; English singular magian, mage, magus, magusian, magusaean; Kurdish: manji) is a term, used since at least the 6th century BC, to denote followers of Zurvanism or Zoroaster. The earliest known usage of the word Magi is in the trilingual inscription written by Darius the Great, known as the Behistun Inscription.
Starting later, presumably during the Hellenistic period, the word Magi also denotes followers of what the Hellenistic chroniclers incorrectly associated Zoroaster with, which was – in the main – the ability to read the stars, and manipulate the fate that the stars foretold. However, Old Persian texts, pre-dating the Hellenistic period, refer to a Magus as a Zurvanic, and presumably Zoroastrian, priest.
Pervasive throughout the Eastern Mediterranean and Western Asia until late antiquity and beyond, mágos, “Magian” or “magician,” was influenced by (and eventually displaced) Greek goēs (γόης), the older word for a practitioner of magic, to include astrology, alchemy and other forms of esoteric knowledge. This association was in turn the product of the Hellenistic fascination for (Pseudo-)Zoroaster, who was perceived by the Greeks to be the “Chaldean” “founder” of the Magi and “inventor” of both astrology and magic. Among the skeptical thinkers of the period, the term ‘magian’ acquired a negative connotation and was associated with tricksters and conjurers. This pejorative meaning survives in the words “magic” and “magician”.
In English, the term “magi” is most commonly used in reference to the “μάγοι” from the east who visit Jesus in Chapter 2 of the Gospel of Matthew Matthew 2:1, and are now often translated as “wise men” in English versions. The plural “magi” entered the English language from Latin around 1200, in reference to these. The singular appears considerably later, in the late 14th century, when it was borrowed from Old French in the meaning magician together with magic.