Eurasia in 2nd Century

Map showing the four empires of Eurasia in 2nd Century AD

Empires, since the 2nd Century, that have influenced our present day world, was the Han Dynasty, the Kushan Empire, the Parthian Empire, and the Roman Empire.

Han EmpireEdit

In China of the Axial Age, the era of the Warring States ended in 221 BCE with the universal conquest of Qin. The King of Qin, Ying Zheng, became China's First Emperor and began the pattern of successive dynasties. Ying Zheng connected all the existing defense walls of northern China into what is known today Great Wall of China which marked the northern frontier of China. The Qin Dynasty was short lived and in 207 BCE was overthrown by the Han Dynasty (207 BCE - 220) which became one of East Asia's most long-lived dynasties. In the Second century CE the Han Empire expanded into Central Asia. By this time only four Empires stretched between the Pacific and the Atlantic—Han, Parthia, Rome, and the Kushans.

Kushan EmpireEdit

Pakistan and the northern parts of India have inscriptions dating to the era of the Kushan Emperor Kanishka the Great (127 CE).[1] Kanishka was a great patron of Buddhism; however, as Kushans expanded southward toward the Indian subcontinent the deities of their later coinage came to reflect its new Hindu majority.[2][3] After the death of Vasudeva I in 225, the Kushan empire split into western and eastern halves. The Western Kushans (in Afghanistan) were soon subjugated by the Persian Sasanian Empire and lost Sogdiana, Bactria and Gandhara to them. The Sasanians deposed the Western dynasty and replaced them with Persian vassals known as the Kushanshas (also called Indo-Sasanians or Kushano-Sasanians). The Eastern Kushan kingdom was based in the Punjab. Around 270 their territories on the Gangetic plain became independent under local dynasties such as the Yaudheyas. Then in the mid-4th century they were subjugated by the Gupta Empire under Samudragupta. In 360 a Kidarite Hun named Kidara overthrew the Indo-Sasanians and remnants of the old Kushan dynasty, and established the Kidarite Kingdom. The Kushan style of Kidarite coins indicates they claimed Kushan heritage. The Kidarite seem to have been rather prosperous, although on a smaller scale than their Kushan predecessors. These remnants of the Kushan empire were ultimately wiped out in the 5th century by the invasions of the Hephthalites, the Alchon Huns and the Nezak Huns in the northwest, and the rise of the Gupta empire in the east.

Parthia EmpireEdit

The Parthian Empire was a major Iranian political and cultural power in ancient Iran and Iraq.[4] The Parthians largely adopted the art, architecture, religious beliefs, and royal insignia of their culturally heterogeneous empire, which encompassed Persian, Hellenistic, and regional cultures. For about the first half of its existence, the Arsacid court adopted elements of Greek culture, though it eventually saw a gradual revival of Iranian traditions. The Arsacid rulers were titled the "King of Kings", as a claim to be the heirs to the Achaemenid Empire; indeed, they accepted many local kings as vassals where the Achaemenids would have had centrally appointed, albeit largely autonomous, satraps. The court did appoint a small number of satraps, largely outside Iran, but these satrapies were smaller and less powerful than the Achaemenid potentates. With the expansion of Arsacid power, the seat of central government shifted from Nisa to Ctesiphon along the Tigris (south of modern Baghdad, Iraq), although several other sites also served as capitals.

A long period of peace existed between Parthia and Rome, with only the invasion of Alans into Parthia's eastern territories around 72, mentioned by Roman historians.[5] Whereas Augustus and Nero had chosen a cautious military policy when confronting Parthia, later Roman emperors invaded and attempted to conquer the eastern Fertile Crescent, the heart of the Parthian Empire along the Tigris and Euphrates. The heightened aggression can be explained in part by Rome's military reforms.[6] To match Parthia's strength in missile troops and mounted warriors, the Romans at first used foreign allies (especially Nabataeans), but later established a permanent auxilia force to complement their heavy legionary infantry.[7] The Romans eventually maintained regiments of horse archers (sagittarii) and even mail-armored cataphracts in their eastern provinces.[8] Yet the Romans had no discernible grand strategy in dealing with Parthia and gained very little territory from these invasions.[9] The primary motivations for war were the advancement of the personal glory and political position of the emperor, as well as defending Roman honor against perceived slights such as Parthian interference in the affairs of Rome's client states.[10]

Hostilities between Rome and Parthia were renewed when Osroes I of Parthia (r. c. 109–128) deposed the Armenian king Tiridates and replaced him with Axidares, son of Pacorus II, without consulting Rome.[11] The Roman emperor Trajan (r. 98–117) had the next Parthian nominee for the throne, Parthamasiris, killed in 114, instead making Armenia a Roman province.[12] His forces, led by Lusius Quietus, also captured Nisibis; its occupation was essential to securing all the major routes across the northern Mesopotamian plain.[13] The following year, Trajan invaded Mesopotamia and met little resistance from only Meharaspes of Adiabene, since Osroes was engaged in a civil war to the east with Vologases III of Parthia.[14] Trajan spent the winter of 115–116 at Antioch, but resumed his campaign in the spring. Marching down the Euphrates, he captured Dura-Europos, the capital Ctesiphon[15] and Seleucia, and even subjugated Characene, where he watched ships depart to India from the Persian Gulf.[16] In the last months of 116, Trajan captured the Persian city of Susa. When Sanatruces II of Parthia gathered forces in eastern Parthia to challenge the Romans, his cousin Parthamaspates of Parthia betrayed and killed him: Trajan crowned him the new king of Parthia.[17] Never again would the Roman Empire advance so far to the east.

The Parthian Empire became weakened by internal strife and wars with Rome. Ardashir I, the local Iranian ruler of Persis (modern Fars Province, Iran) from Estakhr began subjugating the surrounding territories in defiance of Arsacid rule.[18] He confronted Artabanus V at the Battle of Hormozdgān on 28 April 224, perhaps at a site near Isfahan, defeating him and establishing the Sassanid Empire.[18] There is evidence, however, that suggests Vologases VI continued to mint coins at Seleucia as late as 228.[19] The Sassanians would not only assume Parthia's legacy as Rome's Persian nemesis, but they would also attempt to restore the boundaries of the Achaemenid Empire by briefly conquering the Levant, Anatolia, and Egypt from the Eastern Roman Empire during the reign of Khosrau II (r. 590–628).[20] However, they would lose these territories to Heraclius—the last Roman emperor before the Arab conquests. Nevertheless, for a period of more than 400 years, they succeeded the Parthian realm as Rome's principal rival.[21][22][23]

Roman EmpireEdit

The Romans were the first nation to invent and embody the concept of empire in their two mandates: to wage war and to make and execute laws. They were the most extensive Western empire until the early modern period, and left a lasting impact on Western Europe. Many languages, cultural values, religious institutions, political divisions, urban centers, and legal systems can trace their origins to the Roman Empire. The Roman Empire governed and rested on exploitative actions. They took slaves and money from the peripheries to support the imperial center. However, the absolute reliance on conquered peoples to carry out the empire's fortune, sustain wealth, and fight wars would ultimately lead to the collapse of the Roman Empire. The Romans were strong believers in what they called their "civilizing mission". This term was legitimized and justified by writers like Cicero who wrote that only under Roman rule could the world flourish and prosper. This ideology, that was envisioned to bring a new world order, was eventually spread across the Mediterranean world and beyond. People started to build houses like Romans, eat the same food, wear the same clothes and engage in the same cruel games. Even rights of citizenship and authority to rule were granted to people not of Roman or Italian birth.[24]

Roman influence
  • The United States was founded on a model inspired by the Roman Republic, with upper and lower legislative assemblies, and executive power vested in a single individual, the president. The president, as "commander-in-chief" of the armed forces, reflects the ancient Roman titles imperator princeps.[25]
  • The legal systems of France and its former colonies are strongly influenced by Roman law.[26]
  • The Roman Catholic Church, founded in the early Imperial Period, spread across Europe, first by the activities of Christian evangelists, and later by official imperial promulgation.


  1. "Falk 2001, pp. 121–136", Falk (2001), pp. 121–136, Falk, Harry (2004), pp. 167–176 and Hill (2009), pp. 29, 33, 368–371.
  2. Grégoire Frumkin (1970). Archaeology in Soviet Central Asia. Brill Archive. pp. 51–. GGKEY:4NPLATFACBB. 
  3. Rafi U. Samad (2011). The Grandeur of Gandhara: The Ancient Buddhist Civilization of the Swat, Peshawar, Kabul and Indus Valleys. Algora Publishing. pp. 93–. ISBN 978-0-87586-859-2. 
  4. Waters 1974, p. 424.
  5. Bivar 1983, p. 86
  6. Kennedy 1996, pp. 67, 87–88
  7. Kennedy 1996, p. 87
  8. Kennedy 1996, pp. 87–88; see also Kurz 1983, pp. 561–562
  9. Sheldon 2010, pp. 231–232
  10. Sheldon 2010, pp. 9–10, 231–235
  11. Bivar 1983, pp. 86–87
  12. Bivar 1983, p. 88; Curtis 2007, p. 13; Lightfoot 1990, p. 117
  13. Lightfoot 1990, pp. 117–118; see also Bivar 1983, pp. 90–91
  14. Bivar 1983, pp. 88–89
  15. Dr. Aaron Ralby (2013). "Emperor Trajan, 98—117: Greatest Extent of Rome". Atlas of Military History. Parragon. p. 239. ISBN 978-1-4723-0963-1. 
  16. Bivar 1983, pp. 88–90; Garthwaite 2005, p. 81; Lightfoot 1990, p. 120; see also Katouzian 2009, p. 44
  17. Bivar 1983, pp. 90–91
  18. 18.0 18.1 Brosius 2006, p. 101; Bivar 1983, pp. 95–96; Curtis 2007, p. 14; see also Katouzian 2009, p. 44
  19. Bivar 1983, pp. 95–96
  20. Frye 1983, pp. 173–174
  21. (Shapur Shahbazi 2005)
  22. Norman A. Stillman The Jews of Arab Lands pp 22 Jewish Publication Society, 1979 Template:ISBN
  23. International Congress of Byzantine Studies Proceedings of the 21st International Congress of Byzantine Studies, London, 21–26 August 2006, Volumes 1–3 pp 29. Ashgate Pub Co, 30 sep. 2006 Template:ISBN
  24. Howe, Steven (2002). Empire: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford.
  25. Cynthia Haven (February 19, 2010). "Stanford scholar links Rome and America in Philadelphia exhibition". Stanford Report. 
  26. Ken Pennington. "France – Legal History". Columbus School of Law and School of Canon Law, The Catholic University of America. Retrieved on September 23, 2013. 
  • Bivar, A.D.H. (1983), "The Political History of Iran Under the Arsacids", in Yarshater, Ehsan, Cambridge History of Iran, 3.1, London & New York: Cambridge University Press, pp. 21–99, ISBN 0-521-20092-X .
  • Frye, R.N. (1983), "The Political History of Iran Under the Sasanians", in Yarshater, Ehsan, Cambridge History of Iran, 3.1, London & New York: Cambridge University Press, pp. 116–180, ISBN 0-521-20092-X .
  • Kennedy, David (1996), "Parthia and Rome: eastern perspectives", The Roman Army in the East, Ann Arbor: Cushing Malloy Inc., Journal of Roman Archaeology: Supplementary Series Number Eighteen, pp. 67–90, ISBN 1-887829-18-0 
  • Lightfoot, C.S. (1990), "Trajan's Parthian War and the Fourth-Century Perspective", The Journal of Roman Studies 80: 115–126, doi:10.2307/300283 
  • Waters, Kenneth H. (1974), "The Reign of Trajan, part VII: Trajanic Wars and Frontiers. The Danube and the East", in Temporini, Hildegard, Aufstieg und Niedergang der römischen Welt. Principat. II.2, Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, pp. 415–427 .