1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Gotarzes

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GOTARZES, or Goterzes, king of Parthia (c. A.D. 42-51). In an inscription at the foot of the rock of Behistun[1] he is called Γωτάρζης Γεόποθρος, i.e. “son of Gēw,” and seems to be designated as “satrap of satrap.” This inscription therefore probably dates from the reign of Artabanus II. (A.D. 10-40), to whose family Gotarzes must have belonged. From a very barbarous coin of Gotarzes with the inscription βασιλεως βασιλεων Αρσανοζ υος κεκαλουμενος Αρταβανου Γωτερζης (Wroth, Catalogue of the Coins of Parthia, p. 165; Numism. Chron., 1900, p. 95; the earlier readings of this inscription are wrong), which must be translated “king of kings Arsakes, named son of Artabanos, Gotarzes,” it appears that he was adopted by Artabanus. When the troublesome reign of Artabanus II. ended in A.D. 39 or 40, he was succeeded by Vardanes, probably his son; but against him in 41 rose Gotarzes (the dates are fixed by the coins). He soon made himself detested by his cruelty—among many other murders he even slew his brother Artabanus and his whole family (Tac. Ann. xi. 8)—and Vardanes regained the throne in 42; Gotarzes fled to Hyrcania and gathered an army from the Dahan nomads. The war between the two kings was at last ended by a treaty, as both were afraid of the conspiracies of their nobles. Gotarzes returned to Hyrcania. But when Vardanes was assassinated in 45, Gotarzes was acknowledged in the whole empire (Tac. Ann. xi. 9 ff.; Joseph. Antiq. xx. 3, 4, where Gotarzes is called Kotardes). He now takes on his coins the usual Parthian titles, “king of kings Arsaces the benefactor, the just, the illustrious (Epiphanes), the friend of the Greeks (Philhellen),” without mentioning his proper name. The discontent excited by his cruelty and luxury induced the hostile party to apply to the emperor Claudius and fetch from Rome an Arsacid prince Meherdates (i.e. Mithradates), who lived there as hostage. He crossed the Euphrates in 49, but was beaten and taken prisoner by Gotarzes, who cut off his ears (Tac. Ann. xii. 10 ff.). Soon after Gotarzes died, according to Tacitus, of an illness; Josephus says that he was murdered. His last coin is dated from June 51.

An earlier “Arsakes with the name Gotarzes,” mentioned on some astronomical tablets from Babylon (Strassmaier in Zeitschr. für Assyriologie, vi. 216; Mahler in Wiener Zeitschr. für Kunde des Morgenlands, xv. 63 ff.), appears to have reigned for some time in Babylonia about 87 B.C. (Ed. M.)


  1. Rawlinson, Journ. Roy. Geog. Soc. ix. 114; Flandin and Coste, La Perse ancienne, i. tab. 19; Dittenberger, Orientis Graeci inscr. 431.