The “Philhellenic” Complex of the Parthia Dynasty

Social Sciences in China (Chinese Edition)

No.11, 2013


The “Philhellenic” Complex of the Parthia Dynasty



Yang Juping


The Parthian Empire was a peculiar country that existed during the period of Hellenism. It was built by the local Arsaces family on the basis of the eastern territory of ancient Seleucia. Despite its long-established conflicts with the Greco-Macedonians, the Parthians proclaimed that they were philhellene. The seemingly paradoxical phenomenon was attributable to Parthia’s cultural backwardness and the ongoing geo-political changes, such that it found it hard to resist the domestic cultural heritage of Hellenism and the strong influence of Hellenist neighborhood. This was especially so in the earlier period of state building. To cajole and gain favor with the Greeks both at home and abroad, and to consolidate and expand its rule, the Parthia Empire had to make some cultural compromise. “Philhellenism” was then adopted both as a propaganda strategy with explicit political goals and as a public statement of accepting Hellenist culture for its own purpose. With the disappearance of the Hellenist world and the arrival of Romans, the philhellenic rhetoric became increasingly formalized and existed merely as a symbol with no practical meaning.