Vologases I of Parthia

Vologases I of Parthia

Vologases I of Parthia (in Persian: Balash or Valakhsh) ruled the Parthian Empire from about 51 to 78. Son of Vonones II by a Greek concubine, he succeeded his father in 51 AD. He gave the kingdom of Media Atropatene to his brother Pacorus II, and occupied Armenia for another brother, Tiridates. This led to a long war with the Roman Empire (54–63), which was ably conducted by the Roman general Corbulo.

The power of Vologases was weakened by an attack of the Dahae and Sacae nomads, a rebellion of the Hyrcanians, and the usurpation of his son Vardanes II. According to Josephus, he was prevented from attacking the vassal king of Adiabene by an invasion of the eastern nomads. At last, a peace was concluded, by which Tiridates was acknowledged as king of Armenia, but had to become a vassal of the Romans; he went to Rome, where Roman emperor Nero gave him back the diadem; from that time an Arsacid dynasty ruled in Armenia under Roman supremacy.

Vologases was satisfied with this result, and honored the memory of Nero (Suetonius "Nero", 57), though he stood in good relations with Vespasian also, to whom he offered an army of 40,000 archers in the war against Vitellius. Soon afterwards the Alans, a great nomadic tribe beyond the Caucasus, invaded Media and Armenia; Vologases applied in vain for help to Vespasian. It appears that the Persian losses in the east also could not be repaired; Hyrcania remained an independent kingdom. Vologases died in about 78 and was succeeded by his son Vologases II.

Vologases and the Iranian Revival

His reign is marked by a decided reaction against Hellenism. He was influential in reverting the Hellenization by going back to Iranian customs and traditions of Achamenids time. He replaced the Greek alphabet with previously used Aramaic script. On some of his coins the initials of his name appear in Aramaic letters. He reverted the Greek names of Iranian cities to Iranian names.

According to Zoroastrian texts, Vologases ordered the collection of the ancient Avestan texts. One some of his coins a fire temple can be seen and this tradition continued for several hundred years to the end of Sassanians.

He built cities including Vologesocerta (Balashkert or Balashgerd or Balashkard, literally "Balash built it") in the neighborhood of Ctesiphon with the intention of drawing to this new town the inhabitants of Seleucia on the Tigris. Another town founded by him is Vologesias on a canal of the Euphrates, south of Babylon (near Hirah).


* Tacitus, "Annals" xii–xv; "Histories", iv.
* Josephus, "Antiquities of the Jews", vii, xx; "History of the Jewish War", vii.
* Dio Cassius lxii, lxiii, lxvi.
* Suetonius, "Vespasian", 6; "Nero", 57; "Domitian", 2.
* Aurelius Victor Epit. 15, 4.
* Nöldeke, "Zeitschrift der deutschen-morgenl. Gesellschaft", xxviii.
* Pliny vi. 122.

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