Phraates II

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Phraates II on Wikipedia

Phraates II
Great King, Arsaces, Philhellene
Coin of Phraates II (cropped), Seleucia mint.jpg
Coin of Phraates II, minted at Seleucia in 129 BC
King of the Parthian Empire
Reign132–127 BC
PredecessorMithridates I
SuccessorArtabanus I
Bornc. 147 BC
Died127 BC (aged 19 or 20)
DynastyArsacid dynasty
FatherMithridates I

Phraates II (also spelled Frahad I; Parthian: 𐭐𐭓𐭇𐭕 Frahāt) was king of the Parthian Empire from 132 BC to 127 BC. He was the son and successor of Mithridates I (r. 171–132 BC). Because he was still very young when he came to the throne, his mother Rinnu initially ruled on his behalf. His short reign was mainly marked by his war with the Greek Seleucid Empire, who under king Antiochus VII Sidetes (r. 138–129 BC) attempted to regain the lands lost to Phraates' father. Initially unsuccessful in the conflict, Phraates managed to gain the upper hand and defeated Antiochus VII's forces, with the Seleucid himself dying in battle or committing suicide. Phraates II afterwards rushed to the east to repel an invasion by nomadic tribes—the Saka and Yuezhi, where he met his end. He was succeeded by his uncle Artabanus I.


Phraátēs (Φραάτης) is the Greek form of the Parthian Frahāt (𐭐𐭓𐭇𐭕), itself from the Old Iranian *Frahāta- ("gained, earned").[1] The Modern Persian version is Farhād (فرهاد).[2]


Phraates II was born in c. 147 BC; he was the son of Mithridates I, the fifth Parthian king, and a noblewoman named Rinnu, who was the daughter of a Median magnate.[3]


Phraates succeeded his father in 132 BC; due to still being a minor, his mother ruled with him for a few months.[4] Around this period, Phraates gave Darayan I kingship over the southern Iranian region of Persis.[5] In 130 BC the Parthian empire was attacked from the west. Antiochus VII Sidetes (r. 138–129 BC), king (basileus) of the Seleucid Empire, attacked in the west to reconquer territory lost earlier. After three battles he reclaimed Babylonia.[6][7] After this he offered a peace, by which he would regain Mesopotamia and large parts of Iran. The Parthian realm would be restricted to its core territories and would pay a heavy tribute. Phraates II could not accept these high demands, so he refused the offer. In the following winter (129 BC), Antiochus VII quartered himself and his army in Ecbatana, where he completely alienated the local people by forcing them to pay for the upkeep of his soldiers and because, it seems, the soldiers assaulted the locals.[6] Thus, when Phraates II attacked the Seleucid army in its winter quarters, the local population supported him. Antiochus VII was defeated and killed or committed suicide, ending Seleucid rule east of the Euphrates.[8]

Phraates II succeeded in capturing Seleucus and Laodice, two of his children who had accompanied their father on campaign. Phraates II later married Laodice and showed Seleucus (not to be confused with his cousin Seleucus V) great favour.[9] He allowed Antiochus VII a royal funeral and later returned the body to Syria in a silver coffin along with Seleucus.[10] Phraates II also released Demetrius II Nicator, who had been held by the Parthians as a hostage for several years, to become king of the Seleucid realm for a second time.

Syria, which was now all that was left of the Seleucid empire, lacked military power and Phraates II apparently planned to invade it. However, on the eastern front, various nomadic tribes already infiltrating and usurping the Saka and Tokhari destroyed the Greco-Bactrian Kingdom, penetrated to the borders of the realm in 129 BC, and threatened the Parthian realm.[11] The king had to rush to the eastern front, installing Himeros as governor of Babylon, who quickly became a tyrant. Phraates II marched east, his army including a large force of captured Seleucid soldiers from the army of the late Antiochus VII Sidetes. These soldiers ultimately refused to fight for the Parthian king, and he was defeated and killed in battle.

Coinage and Imperial ideology

Coin of Phraates II

Phraates refrained from using the title of "King of Kings" in his coinage, and instead used the title of "great king".[12] Like the rest of the Parthian kings, he used the title of Arsaces on his coinage, which was the name of the first Parthian ruler Arsaces I (r. 247 – 217 BC), which had become a royal honorific among the Parthian monarchs out of admiration for his achievements.[13][14] Furthermore, he also used the title of Philhellene ("friend of the Greeks"),[15] which had been introduced during the reign of his father Mithridates I (r. 171 – 132 BC) as a political act in order to establish friendly relations with their Greek subjects.[16] An unusual title attested during the reign of Phraates was the title of "King of the Lands" (attested in Babylonian cuneiform tablets as šar mātāti), which was rarely used by the Seleucid monarchs.[17] Like his father, Phraates is wearing a Hellenistic diadem, whilst his beard represents the traditional Iranian/Near Eastern custom.[18]


  1. Schmitt 2005.
  2. Kia 2016, p. 160.
  3. Assar 2006, p. 58.
  4. Assar 2009, p. 134.
  5. Shayegan 2011, p. 178.
  6. 6.0 6.1 Justin, xli. 38.
  7. Shayegan 2011, pp. 128-129.
  8. Bing & Sievers 1986, pp. 125–135.
  9. Ogden, Daniel (1999). Polygamy Prostitutes and Death. The Hellenistic Dynasties. London: Gerald Duckworth & Co. Ltd. p. 150. ISBN 07156-29301.
  10. Justin, xli. 39.
  11. Grousset 1970, p. 31.
  12. Shayegan 2011, pp. 41-42.
  13. Daryaee 2012, p. 169.
  14. Kia 2016, p. 23.
  15. Curtis 2007, p. 11.
  16. Daryaee 2012, p. 170.
  17. Shayegan 2011, p. 43.
  18. Curtis 2007, p. 9.


Ancient works

  • Justin, Epitome of the Philippic History of Pompeius Trogus.

Modern works

Phraates II
 Died: 127 BC
Preceded by
Mithridates I
King of the Parthian Empire
132–127 BC
Succeeded by
Artabanus I