Vologases I of Parthia
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Vologases I of Parthia

Vologases I of Parthia

The basics
Quick Facts
A.K.A. Vologases I
Gender male
Father: Vonones II of Parthia
Children: Osroes I of Parthia
Vologases I of Parthia
The details

Vologases I of Parthia (Persian: ولاش يکم‎‎) sometimes called Vologaeses or Vologeses or following Parthian usage, Walagash (Persian: بلاش‎‎ Balāsh) was king of the Parthian Empire from about 51 until his death in 78.

Family and ascension

Vologases I was a Prince of Iranian and Greek ancestry. He was one of the sons born to Vonones II from a Greek concubine, he succeeded his father in 51. When he ascended the Parthian throne, he appointed his brother Pacorus II as king of Atropatene.

Invasion of Armenia

In 52, Vologases I invaded Armenia, conquering Artaxata (Artashat in Armenia) and proclaiming his younger brother Tiridates I as king. This action violated the treaty that had been signed by the Roman emperor Augustus and Parthian king Phraates IV which gave the Romans the explicit right to appoint and crown the kings of Armenia. Vologases I considered the throne of Armenia to have been once the property of his ancestors, now usurped by a foreign monarch in virtue of a crime. A winter epidemic as well as an insurrection initiated by his son Vardanes forced him to withdraw his troops from Armenia, allowing Rhadamistus to come back and punish locals as traitors; they eventually revolted and replaced him with the Parthian prince Tiridates I in early 55. Rhadamistus escaped along with his wife Zenobia who was pregnant. Unable to continue fleeing, she asked her husband to end her life rather than be captured. Rhadamistus stabbed her with a Median dagger and flung her body into the river Araxes. Zenobia was not fatally injured and was recovered by shepherds who sent her to Tiridates. Tiridates I received her kindly and treated her as a member of the monarchy. Rhadamistus himself returned to Iberia and was soon put to death by his father Parasmanes I of Iberia for having plotted against the royal power.

War with Rome

Unhappy with the growing Parthian influence at their doorstep, Roman Emperor Nero sent General Corbulo with a large army to the east in order to restore Roman client kings. A Hasmonean named Aristobulus was given Lesser Armenia (Nicopolis and Satala) and Sohaemus of Emesa received Armenia Sophene. In the spring of 58, Corbulo entered Greater Armenia from Cappadocia and advanced towards Artaxata, while Parasmanes I of Iberia attacked from the north, and Antiochus IV of Commagene attacked from the southwest. Supported by his brother, Tiridates I sent flying columns to raid the Romans far and wide. Corbulo retaliated using the same tactics and the use of the Moschoi tribes who raided outlying regions of Armenia. Tiridates I fled from the capital, and Corbulo burned Artaxata to the ground. In the summer, Corbulo began moving towards Tigranocerta through rough terrain and passing through the Taronitida (Taron), where several of his commanders died in an ambush by the Armenian resistance; however, the city opened its doors, with the exception of one of the citadels, which was destroyed in the ensuing assault. By this time the majority of Armenians had abandoned resistance and accepted the prince favored by Rome.

Nero gave the crown to the last royal descendant of the Kings of Cappadocia, the grandson of Glaphyra (daughter of Archelaus of Cappadocia) and Alexander of Judea (the brother of Herod Archelaus and the son of Herod the Great), who assumed the Armenian name Tigranes (his uncle was Tigranes V). His son, named Gaius Julius Alexander, married Iotapa, the daughter of Antiochus IV of Commagene and was made King of Cilicia. Nero was hailed vigorously in public for this initial victory and Corbulo was appointed governor of Syria as a reward. A guard of 1000 legionary soldiers, three auxiliary cohorts and two wings of horses were allotted to Tigranes in order to defend the country. Border districts were bestowed to Roman allies that assisted Corbulo including Polemon, Parasmanes, Aristobolus and Antiochus.

Vologases I was infuriated by the fact that an alien now sat on the Armenian throne but hesitated to reinstate his brother as he was engaged in a conflict with the Hyrcanians who were revolting. Tigranes invaded the Kingdom of Adiabene and deposed its King Monobazes in 61, who was a vassal of Parthians.

Vologases I considered this an act of aggression from Rome and started a campaign to restore Tiridates I to the Armenian throne. He placed under the command of spahbed Moneses a well-disciplined force of cataphracts along with Adiabenian auxiliaries and ordered him to expel Tigranes from Armenia. Having quelled the Hyrcanian revolt, Vologases I gathered the strength of his dominions and embarked toward Armenia. Corbulo, having been informed of the impending attack, sent two legions under the commands of Verulanus Severus and Vettius Bolanus to the assistance of Tigranes with secret directions that they should act with caution rather than vigour. He also dispatched a message to Nero, urging him to send a second commander with the explicit purpose of defending Armenia as Syria was now also in peril. Corbulo placed the remainder of the legions on the banks of the Euphrates and armed irregular troops of the nearby provinces. Since the region was deficient in water, he erected forts over the fountains and concealed the rivulets by heaping sand over them.

Moneses marched towards Tigranocerta but failed to break the defense of the city walls as his troops were unfit for a long siege. Corbulo, although eminently successful thought it prudent to use his good fortune with moderation. He sent a Roman centurion by the name of Casperius to the camp of Vologases I in Nisibis located 37 miles (60 km) from Tigranocerta with the demand to raise the siege. Because of a recent locust storm and the scarcity of fodder for his horses Vologases I agreed to raise the siege of Tigranocerta and petitioned to be granted Armenia in order to achieve a firm peace. Vologases I demanded that both the Roman and Parthian troops should evacuate Armenia, that Tigranes should be dethroned, and that the position of Tiridates I be recognized. The Roman government declined to accede to these arrangements and sent Lucius Caesennius Paetus, governor of Cappadocia, to settle the question by bringing Armenia under direct Roman administration.

Paetus was an incapable commander and suffered a humiliating defeat at the Battle of Rhandeia in 62, losing the legions of XII Fulminata commanded by Calvisius Sabinus and IIII Scythica commanded by Funisulanus Vettonianus. The command of the troops was returned to Corbulo, who the following year led a strong army into Melitene and beyond into Armenia, eliminating all of the regional governors he suspected were pro-Parthian. Finally in Rhandeia, Corbulo and Tiridates I met to make a peace agreement. The location of Rhandeia suited both Tiridates I and Corbulo. It appealed to Tiridates I because that is where his army had beaten the Romans and sent them away under a capitulation; on the other hand, it appealed to Corbulo because he was about to wipe out the ill repute earned before in the same location. When Tiridates I arrived at the Roman camp he took off his royal diadem and placed it on the ground near a statue of Nero, agreeing to receive it back only from Nero in Rome. Tiridates I was recognized as the vassal king of Armenia; a Roman garrison would remain in the country permanently, in Sophene while Artaxata would be reconstructed. Corbulo left his son-in-law Annius Vinicianus to accompany Tiridates I to Rome in order to attest his own fidelity to Nero.

After Tiridates' visit in Rome, Nero summoned Vologases I to Rome several times, but when the invitations became burdensome to Vologases I, he sent back a dispatch to this effect: "It is far easier for you than for me to traverse so great a body of water. Therefore, if you will come to Asia, we can then arrange to meet each other."

Later life and death

However, Vologases I was still satisfied with this result and honored the memory of Nero, 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 Atropatene and Armenia; Vologases I applied in vain for help to Vespasian, but did not achieve any decisive result. The Alans quickly withdrew with a lot of booty after plundering Armenia and Media Atropatene. Vologases I later died in 78, and was succeeded by his other son Vologases II.

Vologases I 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 Achaemenid times. He replaced the Greek alphabet with the Pahlavi script, and on some coins the initials of his name appear in Pahlavi letters. He also reverted the Greek names of Iranian cities to Iranian names. According to Zoroastrian texts, Vologases I ordered the collection of the ancient Avestan texts. On some of his coins a fire temple appears for the first time, starting a tradition which continued for several hundred years to the end of Sasanians.

Vologases I built cities including Valashabad (also known as Valakhshkert, Vologesocerta, Valakhshgerd and Valakhshkard, literally meaning "Valakhsh 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 was Vologesias on a canal of the Euphrates, south of Babylon (near Al-Hirah).

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