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ARSACES är’ sə sez (̓Αρσάκης). A title, Old Pers. “hero,” assumed by the Parthian kings after their founder (285-250 b.c.). A number of Medo-Pers. kings bore the title. Mithridates I Arsaces is not mentioned in any of the canonical books but is mentioned in 1 Maccabees 14:1-3 RSV. Appian, the Rom. historian from Alexandria, mentions this campaign. Josephus states, “[Demetrius] gathered an army together and made war on Arsaces but he lost his whole army and was captured alive himself” (Jos. Antiq. XIII. 186). The Parthian dynasty of the Arsacidae became one of Rome’s greatest threats. (See Persia III, E.)

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)

ar’-sa-sez (Arsakes): The common name assumed by all the Parthian kings, is mentioned in 1 Macc 14:1- 3, and in 15:22 in connection with the history of Demetrius, one of the Greek, or Seleucid, kings of Syria, and successor to Antiochus Epiphanes, the oppressor of the Jews, who caused the uprising against the Syrian domination under the leadership of the Maccabees. This particular Arsaces was the sixth of the line of independent Parthian rulers which had been founded in 250 BC by Arsaces I, who revolted from Antiochus Theos, killed the Syrian satraps, and with his successor Tiridates I firmly established the independence of the Parthian kingdom. About 243 BC, Tiridates added Hyrcania to his dominions; but it was not till the reign of Arsaces VI, whose pre- regnal name was Mithridates, that Parthia through the conquest of Bactria, Media, Persia, Armenia, Elymais and Babylonia, threatened the very existence of the kingdom of the Seleucids and became a dangerous competitor of Rome itself.

It was this king who about 141 BC was attacked by Demetrius Nicator, king of Syria. According to the account preserved in 1 Macc 14:1-3, Arsaces sent one of his captains, who went and smote the host of Demetrius, and took him alive, and brought him to Arsaces, by whom he was put in ward. At first, the captive king was treated with great severity, being carried in triumph from city to city and exhibited to his enemies. Later, however, Arsaces gave him his daughter in marriage and assigned him a residence in Hyrcania. Some time after the death of Arsaces, Demetrius was sent back to Syria by Phraates, the son of Mithridates, and reigned from 128 to 125 BC. Arsaces VI is mentioned, also, in 1 Macc 15:22, as one of the kings whom the Romans forbade to make war on their Jewish allies.


See 1 Macc 14:1-3, and 15:22; Ant, XIII, v, 11; XIV, viii, 5; Appian, Syria, 67; Strabo, XI, 515; XV, 702; Justin, XLI, 5, 6; XXXVI, 1; Orosius, V, 4; Rawlinson’s Parthia, in the Story of the Nations series and Die Herrschaft der Parther in Justi’s Geschichte des alten Persiens in Oncken’s Allgemeine Geschichte, I, 4.

R. Dick Wilson

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