7. NARSI or NARSES (Νάρσης
), who reigned from A. D. 294-303.
He carried on a formidable war against the emperor Diocletian, which arose out of the state of Armenian affairs.
As early as 286, in the reign of Bahram II., Diocletian Lad put Tiridates, the fugitive son of King Chosroes, of Armenia, on the throne of his forefathers, and kept him there by his assistance, although not without an obstinate resistance on the part of the Persians. Narses succeeded in expelling Tiridates, and re-united his kingdom with Persia.
This led to an immediate war with Diocletian, who took proper measures to put a final check on Persian ambition in that quarter. Galerius Caesar commanded the Roman army.
In the first campaign in 296, he sustained most signal defeats in Mesopotamia, and fled in disgrace to Antioch.
In the second campaign Narses was the loser, and among the trophies of Galerius was the harem of the Persian king, a triumph which the Western arms had perhaps not obtained over the Persians since the victory of Alexander
over Darius at Issus.
In his conduct to his female captives, Galerius acted as nobly as Alexander
. At Nisibis Diocletian and Galerius received Apharban, the ambassador of Narses, who sued for peace with a dignity becoming the representative of a great, though vanquished monarch, and the Romans sent Sicorius Probus to the camp of Narses with power to conclude a final peace, of which they dictated the conditions. Probus was not immediately admitted to the presence of Narses, who obliged the ambassador to follow him on various excursions, and caused a considerable delay to the negotiations for the evident purpose of collecting his dispersed forces, and either avoiding the peace altogether, or obtaining more favourable conditions.
At last, however, that famous treaty was made in which Narses ceded to Diocletian Mesopotamia (the northern and north-western portions as far down as Circesium at the junction of the Chaboras and Euphrates), five small provinces beyond the Tigris on the Persian side, the kingdom of Armenia, and some adjacent Median districts, over which Tiridates was re-established as king, and lastly, the supremacy over Iberia, the kings of which were henceforth under the protection of Rome. Narses, disabled from thinking of further conquests west of the Tigris, seems to have occupied himself during the last year of his reign with domestic affairs, and in 303 he abdicated in favour of his son.
It is a strange coincidence of circumstances that both Narses and Diocletian, the vanquished and the victor, were, through quite opposite causes, filled with disgust at absolute power, and retreated into private life. Narses, who, notwithstanding his defeats and the inglorious peace of 297, was a man of no common means and character, died soon after his abdication in the same year, 303.