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Freed from Hostageship: Iranian Perspectives on the Arsacids of Rome
Jake Nabel (Getty Research Institute)
Over the course of the Julio-Claudian period in Rome (c.30 BCE-68 CE), several Arsacid princes from the ruling family of the Parthian empire were sent to live in the court of the Roman emperor. Ancient Greco-Roman sources describe these figures as “hostages,” and modern scholars have largely followed suit. While contemporary Parthian evidence is scarce, this talk will draw on later Iranian sources and broader histories of the ancient Near East to consider the Arsacids of Rome from a new perspectives – namely, as foster-children rather than hostages. This reinterpretation supports a different view of Roman-Parthian relations in the first century CE, one that departs from the scholarly literature’s usual focus on war and diplomacy between unitary empires and emphasizes instead the interconnection of two royal families through the bonds of fictive kinship.
About the Speaker
Nabel’s research centers on interstate affairs between the early Principate and the Parthian empire, Rome’s imperial peer on the Iranian plateau, but he also maintain active interests in Latin literature, the Hellenistic East, and Sasanian history. In all his work, he draws on both Greco-Roman literary texts and Near Eastern sources to promote the fuller integration of ancient Persia into the study of the classical Mediterranean. In the classroom, he helps students put Roman and Near Eastern history in dialogue with one another and with the historiographic mainstream, combining close readings of primary sources with comparative treatments of topics like political institutions, trade, and slavery. He also enjoys teaching the Greek and Latin texts at the heart of the classical tradition, especially historians like Thucydides and Tacitus. His interest in Near Eastern sources and in the digital humanities led to my creation of Parthian Sources Online (parthiansources.com), a digital collection of texts for the study of the Parthian empire.Event Flyer
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