Surena

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Surena
Born84 BC
Iran, Parthian Empire
Died53 BC (aged 31)
Iran, Parthian Empire
AllegianceParthian Empire
RankSpahbed
Battles/wars

Seleucid–Parthian wars

Battle of Carrhae
 
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For other uses, see Surena (disambiguation).
"Suren" redirects here. For the village in Iran, see Suren, Iran. For species of tree, see Toona sureni.
Surena
Born84 BC
Iran, Parthian Empire
Died53 BC (aged 31)
Iran, Parthian Empire
AllegianceParthian Empire
RankSpahbed
Battles/wars

Seleucid–Parthian wars

Battle of Carrhae

Surena, Suren, or Soren, also known as Rustaham Suren-Pahlav (84 BC – 53 BC) was a Parthian spahbed during the 1st century BC, he was a member of the House of Suren and was best known for defeating the Romans in the Battle of Carrhae.

'Surena' -and its other variations such as 'Sorena' and 'Soren'- remains popular as a name in Iran. 'Surena' is the Greek and Latin form of Sûrên[1] or Sūrēn.[2] As 'Suren', the name remains common in Armenia.[3] 'Suren' means "the heroic one, Avestan sūra (strong, exalted)."[4][d]

Context[edit]

General Surena was son of Arakhsh (Arash in Persian) and Massis.

In Life of Crassus 21, written c. 225 years after the commander's time, Plutarch described[1] Surena as "an extremely distinguished man. In wealth, birth, and in the honor paid to him, he ranked next after the king; in courage and ability he was the foremost Parthian of his time; and in stature and personal beauty he had no equal."[b] Also according to Plutarch, there were "many slaves" in his army, suggesting the general had great wealth.[5] Plutarch also described him as "the tallest and finest looking man himself, but the delicacy of his looks and effeminacy of his dress did not promise so much manhood as he really was master of; or his face was painted, and his hair parted after the fashion of the Medes."[6]

In 54 BC, Surena commanded troops of Orodes II at the battle for the city of Seleucia. Surena distinguished himself in this battle for dynastic succession (Orodes II had previously been deposed by Mithridates III) and was instrumental in the reinstatement of Orodes upon the Arsacid throne.[7]

In 53 BC, the Romans advanced on the western Parthian vassalaries. In response, Orodes II sent his cavalry units under Surena to combat them. The two armies subsequently met at the Battle of Carrhae (at Harrân in present-day Turkey), where the superior equipment and clever tactics of the Parthians to lure the Romans out into the middle of the desert enabled them to defeat the numerically superior Romans.[8]

Although this feat of arms took a severe toll on the Roman troops (Plutarch speaks of 20,000 dead and 10,000 prisoners), and "produced a mighty echo amongst the peoples of the East," it did not cause "any decisive shift in the balance of power,"[9] that is, the Arsacid victory did not gain them territory. For Surena, "it soon cost him his life. Probably fearing that he would constitute a threat to himself, King Orodes II had him executed."[9]

"In some ways, the position of [Surena] in the historical tradition is curiously parallel to that of Rustam in the [Shahnameh]." "Yet despite the predominance of Rustam in the epic tradition, it has never been possible to find him a convincingly historical niche."[10]

Portrayals of Surena[edit]

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

a.^The right to crown Parthian kings did not specifically denote power over those kings. "The execution of Surena, the victor at Carrhae shows the relatively unlimited power of the supreme monarch in Parthia."[11]
b.^Plutarch's 2nd century AD description of the 1st century BC commander reads: "Surena was no ordinary person; but in fortune, family and honour, the first after the king; and in point of courage and capacity, as well as in size and beauty, superior to the Parthians of his time. If he went only upon an excursion into the country, he had a thousand camels to carry his baggage, and two hundred carriages for his concubines. He was attended by thousand heavy-armed horse, and many more of the light-armed rode before him. Indeed, his vassals and slaves made up a body of cavalry little less than ten thousand."[12]
c.^The other noble family explicitly mentioned is the House of Karen.[13]
d.^Justi 1895, p. 317, col. 2, ¶ 2: "d. i. der heldenhafte, awest. sūra (stark, hehr)."

References[edit]

Bibliography[edit]

  • Bivar, A. D. H. (1983), "The Political History of Iran under the Arsacids", in Yarshater, Ehsan, Cambridge History of Iran 3.1, London: Cambridge UP, pp. 21–100 
  • Bivar, A. D. H. (2003), "Gondophares", Encyclopaedia Iranica 11.2, Costa Mesa: Mazda 
  • Frye, R. N. (1983), "The Political History of Iran under the Sassanians", in Yarshater, Ehsan, Cambridge History of Iran 3.1, London: Cambridge UP, pp. 116–181 
  • Herzfeld, Ernst Emil, ed. (1929), "Das Haus Sūrēn von Sakastan-->", Archæologische Mitteilungen aus Iran I, Berlin: Dietrich Reimer, pp. 70–80 
  • Justi, Ferdinand (1895), "Sūrēn", Iranisches Namenbuch, Leipzig/Marburg: Elwert, pp. 316–317 .
  • Lang, David M. (1983), "Iran, Armenia and Georgia", in Yarshater, Ehsan, Cambridge History of Iran 3.1, London: Cambridge UP, pp. 505–537 
  • Lendering, Jona (2006), Surena, Amsterdam: livius.org 
  • Lukonin, V. G. (1983), "Political, Social and Administrative Institutions", in Yarshater, Ehsan, Cambridge History of Iran 3.2, London: Cambridge UP, pp. 681–747 
  • Plutarch, "Marcus Crassus", in Langhorne, John; Langhorne, William, eds. (1934), Plutarch's Lives, London: J. Crissy 
  • Rawlinson, George (1901), The Seven Great Monarchies Of The Ancient Eastern World 6, London: Dodd, Mead & Company 
  • Perikanian, A. (1983), "Iranian Society and Law", in Yarshater, Ehsan, Cambridge History of Iran 3.2, London: Cambridge UP, pp. 627–681 
  • Schippmann, K. (1987), "Arsacid ii: The Arsacid Dynasty", Encyclopaedia Iranica 2, New York: Routledge & Kegan Paul, pp. 525–536