Arsaces Xix. or Artabanus III.
ARTABANUS III., obtained the Parthian kingdom on the expulsion of Vonones in A. D. 16.
The possession of Armenia was the great cause of contention between him and the Romans; but during the life-time of Germanicus, Artabanus did not attempt to seize the country. Germanicus, on his arrival in Armenia in A. D. 18, recognized as king Zenon, the son of Polemon, whom the Armenians wished to have as their ruler, and who reigned under the name of Artaxias III.; and about the same time, Artabanus sent an embassy to Germanicus to renew the alliance with the Romans. (Tac. Ann. 2.56
After the death of Germanicus, Artabanus began to treat the Romans with contempt, placed Arsaces, one of his sons, over Armenia, and sent an embassy into Syria to demand the treasures which Vonones had carried with him out of Parthia.
He also oppressed his subjects, till at length two of the chief men among the Parthians, Sinnaces, and the eunuch, Abdus, despatched an embassy to Tiberius in A. D. 35, to beg him to send to Parthia Phraates, one of the sons of Phraates IV. Tiberius willingly complied with the request; but Phraates upon arriving in Syria was carried off by a disease, which was brought on by his disusing the Roman mode of living, to which he had been accustomed for so many years, and adopting the Parthian habits.
As soon as Tiberius heard of his death, he set up Tiridates, another of the Arsacidae, as a claimant to the Parthian throne, and induced Mithridates and his brother Pharasmanes, Iberian princes, to invade Armenia. The Iberians accordingly entered Armenia, and after bribing the servants of Arsaces, the son of Artabanus, to put him to death, they subdued the country. Orodes, another son of Artabanus, was sent against them, but was entirely defeated by Pharasmanes; and soon afterwards Artabanus was obliged to leave his kingdom, and to fly for refuge to the Hyrcanians and Carmanians. Hereupon Vitellius, the governor of Syria, crossed the Euphrates, and placed Tiridates on the throne.
In the following year (A. D. 36) some of the Parthian nobles, jealous of the power of Abdageses, the chief minister of Tiridates, recalled Artabanus, who in his turn compelled Tiridates to fly into Syria. (Tac. Ann. 6.31
; D. C. 58.26
; J. AJ 18.5.4
.) When Tiberius received news of these events, he commanded Vitellius to conclude a peace with Artabanus (J. AJ 18.5.5
), although Artabanus, according to Suetonius (Suet. Tib. 100.66
), sent a letter to Tiberius upbraiding him with his crimes, and advising him to satisfy the hatred of his citizens by a voluntary death.
After the death of Tiberius, Artabanus sought to extend his kingdom ; he seized Armenia, and meditated an attack upon Syria, but alarmed by the activity of Vitellius, who advanced to the Euphrates to meet him, he concluded peace with the Romans, and sacrificed to the images of Augustus and Caligula. (D. C. 59.27
; Suet. Vitell.
14, with Ernesti's Excursus.)
Subsequently, Artabanus was again expelled from his kingdom by the Parthian nobles, but was restored by the mediation of Izates, king of Adiabene, who was allowed in consequence to wear his tiara upright, and to sleep upon a golden bed, which were privileges peculiar to the kings of Parthia. Soon afterwards, Artabanus died, and left the kingdom to his son Bardanes. Bardanes made war upon Izates, to whom his family was so deeply indebted, merely because he refused to assist him in making war upon the Romans; but when the Parthians perceived the intentions of Bardanes, they put him to death, and gave the kingdom to his brother, Gotarzes.
This is the account given by Josephus (J. AJ 20.3
) of the reigns of Bardanes and Gotarzes, and differs from that of Tacitus, which is briefly as follows.