• Parthia is an ancient land corresponding roughly to the modern region of Khorāsān in Iran.
  • The Parthians ruled from 247 BCE to 224 CE, creating a vast empire that stretched from the Mediterranean in the west to India and China in the east.
  • East of the Caspian Sea there emerged from the steppe of Central Asia a nomadic Scythian tribe called the Parni.
    • Later called the Parthians and taking over the Seleucid Empire and fending off the Romans, they established themselves as a superpower in their own right.
  • The Parthian Empire was founded by Arsaces I of Parthia, when he rebelled against the Seleucid Empire
    • The Parthian kingdom had its reach from Turkey to eastern Iran.
  • The largest of these sub-kingdoms, the Indo Parthian kingdom, located west of the Parthian homeland, was founded in the late 1st century BC by the first of several kings named Gondophares, who was a Scythian (Saka) king
    • Their first capital city was Taxila in present- day South Central Pakistan. Later they shifted their capital city between Kabul and Peshawar.


  • Gondophares at around 20–10 BC, made conquests in the former Indo-Scythian kingdom, perhaps after the death of the important ruler Azes.
    • Gondophares became the ruler of areas comprising Arachosia, Seistan, Sindh, Punjab, and the Kabul valley.
  • After the death of Gondophares I, the empire started to fragment.
  • Later, the name or title Gondophares was adapted by Sarpedones, who become Gondophares II and was possibly son of the first Gondophares.
  • After a short reign, Sarpedones seems to have been succeeded by Orthagnes, who became Gondophares III Gadana
  • Despite many successors, the Indo-Parthians never regained the position of Gondophares I; as from the middle of the 1st century AD the Kushans under Kujula Kadphises began absorbing the northern Indian part of the kingdom.


Archaeology and sources

  • The city of Taxila is thought to have been a capital of the Indo-Parthians.
    • The nearby temple of Jandial is usually interpreted as a Zoroastrian fire temple from the period of the Indo-Parthians.
  • The Periplus of the Erythraean Sea is a surviving 1st century guide to the routes commonly being used for navigating the Arabian Sea.
    • It describes the presence of Parthian kings fighting with each other in the area of Sindh, a region traditionally known at that time as “Scythia” due to the previous rule of the Indo-Scythians.
  • Further, an inscription from Takht-i-Bahi bears two dates, one in the regnal year 26 of the Maharaja Guduvhara (thought to be a Gondophares)
Main Indo-Parthian Rulers Period
Gondophares I c. 19 – 46
Gondophares II Sarpedones first years AD – c. 20 AD
Abdagases I first years AD – mid-1st century AD
Gondophares III Gudana, previously Orthagnes c. 20 AD – 30 AD
Gondophares IV Sases mid-1st century AD
Ubouzanes late-1st century AD
Pacores late 1st century AD


  • Unlike the Indo-Greeks or Indo-Scythians, there are no explicit records of Indo-Parthian rulers supporting Buddhism, such as religious dedications, inscriptions, or even legendary accounts.
    • Also, although Indo-Parthian coins generally closely follow Greek numismatics, they never display the Buddhist triratna symbol (apart from the later Sases), nor do they ever use depictions of the elephant or the bull, possible religious symbols which were profusely used by their predecessors.
  • Hence, they are thought to have retained Zoroastrianism, being of Iranian extraction themselves.
  • Further, Coins of the Hindu deity Shiva have also been found issued in the reign of Gondophares I


Buddhist sculptures

  • The statues found at Sirkap in the late Scythian to Parthian level (level 2, 1–60 AD) suggest an already developed state of Gandharan art at the time or even before Parthian rule.
  • A multiplicity of statues, ranging from Hellenistic gods, to various Gandharan lay devotees, are combined with what are thought as some of the early representations of the Buddha and Bodhisattvas.
  • Today, it is still unclear when the Greco-Buddhist art of Gandhara exactly emerged, but the findings in Sirkap do indicate that this art was already highly developed before the advent of the Kushans.

Stone palettes

  • Numerous stone palettes found in Gandhara are considered as good representatives of Indo-Parthian art.
    • These palettes combine Greek and Persian influences, together with a frontality in representations which is considered as characteristic of Parthian art.


Other known facts

  • Local and foreign texts and also artifacts have proved useful in knowing more about Parthian history but there is still a lot left unknown.
  • Further, The Chinese explorer Zang Qian described Parthia as an advanced urban civilization. Trade between India and China was flourishing under the silk trade route. Parthians were known to supply Chinese silk to the Romans.