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Date Permissions Signed


Date of Award

Spring 2018

Document Type

Masters Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Garfinkle, Steven J.

Second Advisor

Thompson, Roger R.

Third Advisor

Goldman, Tristan


The Parthian Empire has long been disregarded in the historiography because of the relative scarcity of primary sources and the lingering effects of orientalism which hang over the secondary sources that do exist. This thesis aims to refute the orientalist practices that have thus far defined the rise and fall of the Parthian Empire and return their political and military agency. I accomplished this through a study of the Parthian Empire in relation to their control over the Silk Road and other long-distance trade routes, with particular effort placed towards linking the periods of success and failure within the Parthian Empire to the status of the long-distance trade routes and who dominated them at the time.

I found that the periods of Parthian success and dominance in the Near East, particularly regarding their relations with the Roman Republic and Empire, correlate strongly with their control over the Silk and Steppe Roads, as well as the rise and fall of the maritime Spice Route. In conclusion, this shows that the political and military history of the Parthian Empire is better understood in terms of their political-economic history than some vague orientalist idea that the Parthians are ‘destined’ to collapse simply because they are not ‘western’.





Western Washington University

OCLC Number


Subject – LCSH

Parthians; Sassanids; Iran--History--To 640; Iran--Foreign relations--To 640; Iran--Foreign relations--Rome; Rome--Foreign relations--Iran; Iran--Economic conditions; Iran--Political aspects

Geographic Coverage

Iran; Rome




masters theses




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