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Marcus Junianus Justinus
Epitome of the Philippic History of Pompeius Trogus.
translated, with notes, by the Rev. John Selby Watson.
London: Henry G. Bohn, York Street, Convent Garden (1853).


Table of contents



Phraates, king of the Parthians, is killed by the Greeks in his army, I.—The Parthians make war on Armenia; early history of Armenia, II.—Jason; Armenius; source of the Tigris, III.—Continuation of the history of Parthia; reign of Orodes, IV.—Phraates; Tiridates; relics of the armies of Crassus and Antony given up to Augustus, V.

1 2 3 4 5

1 AFTER the death of Mithridates, king of the Parthians, Phraates his son was made king, who, having proceeded to make war upon Syria, in revenge for the attempts of Antiochus on the Parthian dominions, was recalled, by hostilities on the part of the Scythians, to defend his own country. For the Scythians, having been induced, by the offer of pay, to assist the Parthians against, Antiochus king of Syria, and not having arrived till the war was ended, were disappointed of the expected remuneration, and reproached with having brought their aid too late; and when, in discontent at having made so long a march in vain, they demanded that “either some recompence for their trouble, or another enemy to attack, should be assigned them,” being offended at the haughty reply which they received, they began to ravage the country of the Parthians. Phraates, in consequence, marching against them, left a certain Himerus, who had gained his favours in the bloom of youth, to take care of his kingdom. But Himerus, unmindful both of his past life, and of the duty with which he was entrusted, miserably harassed the people of Babylon, and many other cities, with tyrannical cruelties. Phraates himself, meanwhile, took with him to the war a body of Greeks, who had been made prisoners in the war against Antiochus, and whom he had treated with great pride and severity, not reflecting that captivity had not lessened their hostile feelings, and that the indignity of the outrages which they had suffered must have exasperated them. As soon therefore as they saw the Persians giving ground, they went over to the enemy, and executed that revenge for their captivity, which they had long desired, by a sanguinary destruction of the Parthian army and of king Phraates himself.

2 In his stead Artabanus, his uncle, was made king. The Scythians, content with their victory, and with having laid waste Parthia, returned home. Artabanus, making war upon the Thogarii, received a wound in the arm, of which he immediately died. He was succeeded by his son Mithridates, to whom his achievements procured the surname of Great; for, being fired with a desire to emulate the merit of his ancestors, he was enabled by the vast powers of his mind to surpass their renown. He carried on many wars, with great bravery, against his neighbours, and added many provinces to the Parthian kingdom. He fought successfully, too, several times, against the Scythians, and avenged the injuries received from them by his forefathers. At last he turned his arms against Ortoadistes,1 king of Armenia.

But since we here make a transition to Armenia, we must look a little farther back into its origin; for it is not right that so great a kingdom should be passed in silence, since its territory, next to that of Parthia, is of greater extent than any other kingdom. Armenia, from Cappadocia to the Caspian Sea, stretches over a space of eleven hundred miles, and is seven hundred miles in breadth. It was founded by Armenius, the companion of Jason of Thessaly, whom King Pelias, wishing to procure his death from dread of his extraordinary ability, which was dangerous to his throne, despatched on a prescribed expedition to Colchis, to bring home the fleece of the ram so celebrated throughout the world; hoping that the man would lose his life, either in the perils of so long a voyage, or in war with barbarians so remote. But Jason, having spread abroad the report of so glorious an enterprise, at which the chief of the youth from almost all the world2 came flocking to him, collected a band of heroes, who were called Argonauts. Having brought his troop back safe, and being again driven from Thesssaly by the sons of Pelias, he set out on a second voyage for Colchis, accompanied by a numerous train of followers (who, at the fame of his valour, came daily from all parts to join him), by his wife Medea, whom, having previously divorced her, he had now received again from compassion for her exile, and by his step-son Medus, whom she had by Aegeus king of the Athenians; and he re-established his father-in-law Aeetes3 who had been driven from his throne.

3 He then carried on great wars with the neighbouring nations; and of the cities which he took, he added part to the kingdom of his father-in-law, to make amends for the injury that he had done him in his former expedition, in which he had carried off his daughter Medea and put to death his son Aegialeus,4 and part he assigned to the people that he had brought with him; and he is said to have been the first of mankind, after Hercules and Bacchus (whom tradition declares to have been kings of the east), that subdued that quarter of the world. Over some of these nations he appointed Recas and Amphistratus, the charioteers of Castor and Pollux, to be their rulers. With the Albanians he formed an alliance, a people who are said to have followed Hercules out of Italy, from the Alban mount, when, after having killed Geryon, he was driving his herds through Italy, and who, remembering their Italian descent, saluted the soldiers of Pompey in the Mithridatic war as their brothers. Hence almost the whole east appointed divine honours, and erected temples, to Jason, as their founder; temples which Parmenio, one of the generals of Alexander the Great, caused many years after to be pulled down, that no name might be more venerated in the east than that of Alexander After the death of Jason, Medus, emulous of his virtues, built a city named Medea in honour of his mother, and established the kingdom of the Medes after his own name, under whose dominion the empire of the east afterwards fell. On the Albanians border the Amazons, whose queen Thalestris, as many authors relate, sought the couch of Alexander. Armenius, too, who was himself a Thessalian, and one of the captains of Jason, having re-assembled a body of men, who, after the death of Jason were wandering about, founded Armenia, from the mountains of which the river Tigris issues, at first with a very small stream, out after running some distance, is lost in the earth, and then, flowing five and twenty miles underground,5 rises up a great river in the province of Sophene; and thus it is received into the marshes of the Euphrates.

4 Mithridates king of the Parthians, after his war with Armenia, was banished from his kingdom for his cruelty by the Parthian seriate. His brother Orodes, who took possession of the vacant throne, besieged Babylon, whither Mithridates had fled, for some time, and reduced the people, under the influence of famine, to surrender. Mithridates, from confidence in his relationship to Orodes, voluntarily put himself into his hands; but Orodes, contemplating him rather as an enemy than a brother, ordered him to be put to death before his face. After this, he carried on a war with the Romans, and overthrew their general Crassus, together with his son and all the Roman army. His son Pacorus, who was sent to pursue what remained of the Roman forces, after achieving great actions in Syria, incurred some jealousy on the part of his father, and was recalled into Parthia; and during his absence the Parthian army left in Syria was cut off, with all its commanders, by Cassius the quaestor of Crassus. Not long after these occurrences the civil war among the Romans, between Caesar and Pompey, broke out, in which the Parthians took the side of Pompey, both from the friendship that they had formed with him in the Mithridatic war, and because of the death of Crassus, whose son they understood to be of Caesar’s party, and supposed that, if Caesar were victorious, he would avenge his father’s fate. When Pompey’s party was worsted, they sent assistance to Cassius and Brutus against Augustus and Antony; and, after the war was ended, they made an alliance with Labienus, and, under the leadership of Pacorus, again laid waste Syria and Asia, and assailed, with a vast force, the camp of Ventidius, who, like Cassius before him, had routed the Parthian army in the absence of Pacorus. Ventidius, pretending to be afraid, kept himself a long time in his camp, and suffered the Parthians to insult him. At last, however, when they were full of security and exultation, he sent out part of his legions upon them, and the Parthians, put to flight by their onset, went off in several directions; when Pacorus, supposing that his fugitive troops had drawn off all the Roman forces in pursuit of them, attacked Ventidius’s camp, as if it had been left without defenders. Upon this, Ventidius, pouring forth the rest of his troops, put the whole force of the Parthians, with their king Pacorus, to the sword; nor did the Parthians, in any war, ever suffer a greater slaughter.

When the news of this discomfiture reached Parthia, Orodes, the father of Pacorus, who had just before heard that Syria had been ravaged, and Asia occupied by his Parthians, and was boasting of his son Pacorus as the conqueror of the Romans, was affected, on hearing of the death of his son and the destruction of his army, at first with grief, and afterwards with disorder of the intellect. For several days he neither spoke to any one, nor took food, nor uttered a sound, so that he seemed to have become dumb. Some time after, when his sorrow found vent in words, he did nothing but call upon Pacorus; Pacorus seemed to be seen and heard by him; Pacorus appeared to talk with him, and stand by him; though at other times he mourned and wept for him as lost. After long indulgence in grief, another cause of concern troubled the unhappy old man, as he had to determine which of his thirty sons he should choose for his successor in the room of Pacorus. His numerous concubines, from whom so large a progeny had sprung, were perpetually working on the old man’s feelings, each anxious for her own offspring, But the fate of Parthia, in which it is now, as it were, customary that the princes should be assassins of their kindred; ordained that the most cruel of them all, Phraates by name should be fixed upon for their king.

5 Phraates immediately proceeded to kill his father, as if he would not die, and put to death, also, all his thirty6 brothers. But his murders did not end with his father’s sons; for finding that the nobility began to detest him for his constant barbarities, he caused his own son, who was grown up, to be killed, that there might be no one to be nominated king. On this prince Antony made war, with sixteen effective legions, for having sent troops against him and Caesar; but being severely harassed in several engagements, he was forced to retreat from Parthia. Phraates, upon this success, becoming still more insolent, and being guilty of many fresh acts of cruelty, was driven into exile by his subjects. Having then, for a long time, wearied the neighbouring people, and at last the Scythians, with entreaties for aid, he was at last restored to his throne by a powerful Scythian force. During his absence, the Parthians had made one Tiridates king, who, when he heard of the approach of the Scythians, fled with a great body of his partisans to Caesar,7 who was then carrying on war in Spain,8 taking with him, as a hostage for Caesar, the youngest son of Phraates, whom, being but negligently guarded, he had secretly carried off. Phraates, on hearing of his flight, immediately sent ambassadors to Caesar, requesting that “his slave Tiridates, and his son, should be restored to him.” Caesar, after listening to the embassy of Phraates, and deliberating on the application of Tiridates (for he also had asked to be restored to his throne, saying that “Parthia would be wholly in the power of the Romans, if he should hold the kingdom as a gift from them”), replied, that “he would neither give up Tiridates to the Parthians, nor give assistance to Tiridates against the Parthians.” That it might not appear, however, that nothing had been obtained from Caesar by all their applications, he sent back to Phraates his son without ransom, and ordered a handsome maintenance to be furnished to Tiridates, as long as he chose to continue among the Romans. Some time after, when Caesar had finished the Spanish war, and had proceeded to Syria to settle the affairs of the east, he caused some alarm to Phraates, who was afraid that he might contemplate an invasion of Parthia. Whatever prisoners, accordingly, remained of the army of Crassus or Antony throughout, Parthia, were collected together, and sent, with the military standards that had been taken, to Augustus. In addition to this, the sons and grandsons of Phraates were delivered to Augustus as hostages; and thus Caesar effected more by the power of his name, than any other general could have done by his arms.


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1 Or rather Artoadistes, as the name is written in six of the old editions. He is called Artavasdes by Strabo and Plutarch.—Wetzel.

2 A hyperbole; for there were none but Greeks.—Wetzel. Faber, for totius orbis, would read totius Graeciae.

3 Aeetes is a conjecture of Faber for etiam, which is useless. There is no account of Jason’s second voyage to Colchis in any other author.

4 Whom most authors call Absyrtus.

5 Similar instances of rivers entering the ground, and emerging at some distance, are noticed by Pliny, H. N. ii. 103; iii. 16; Strabo, lib. vi.; Q. Curtius, vi. 4, 6.—Berneccerus.

6 Either he killed only twenty-nine, or there were thirty-one survivors of Pacorus.

7 Augustus. Comp.
c. 4.

8 All the texts, except that of Dübner’s little edition, have in Hispaniam, but the sense, as Faber observes and Wetzel admits, evidently requires in Hispania.


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The English translation of Justin's Epitome was entered by David Camden (2003) from Watson's 1853 edition. This text is in the public domain and may be copied and distributed for private and educational use, provided this original notice is kept intact. Any commercial use of this text, including print-publication and inclusion in subscription-based archives, is prohibited.

The Latin text and French translation, along with the secondary material written in French, are copyright © Marie-Pierre Arnaud-Lindet 2003, and are NOT in the public domain.

This material may only be used for private and educational use and provided that its copyright status is properly cited. Any modification, remote loading, publication, reproduction on another site, diffusion on the internet, or commercial use of these texts is strictly prohibited without the prior agreement of the author.