The best books on the Parthian Empire from a history lover

Who am I? Why this topic?

My interest in Parthia began with a desire to write a novel about the Spartacus slave rebellion. I first became interested in the Thracian after seeing the Stanley Kubrick film Spartacus as a boy, my interest growing over the years. Knowing there were quite a few fiction accounts of the slave leader, I wanted to find a new perspective. This led me to devise a story around a Parthian prince who is captured by the Romans and ends up fighting in the slave army. ‘The Parthian’ was born, as was my interest in the Parthian Empire, which would lead to the Parthian Chronicles series of novels and to date over 10 years of research into the Parthian Empire. I do not pretend to be an expert on the topic, but I hope my novels have shed light on an empire that lasted nearly 500 years but is almost unknown in the West. I also hope they spur readers on to explore the history of Parthia for themselves and to discover more about a fascinating people.

I wrote...


By Peter Darman,

Book cover of Pacorus

What is my book about?

The Romans took my freedom, albeit briefly. But Parthia took my youth, my best years, my friends, and my family. And now it wants me to surrender the things that made all the sacrifices if not worthwhile, then at least bearable. It is thirty years since the Battle of Carrhae and the wheel of fate has come full circle. Pacorus heads the Parthian delegation that will oversee the exchange of the eagles captured from Crassus for the young son of the empire’s king of kings. Much more is at stake than the life of a young boy, however. It is a decisive moment in history for Parthia and Rome are on the verge of agreeing a permanent peace.

Pacorus’ is the fourteenth volume in the Parthian Chronicles series. A series focused on the Parthian Empire in the 1st century BC. 

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of The Parthians: The Forgotten Empire

Why did I love this book?

Compared to the Roman Empire, there are few titles on Rome’s greatest rival in the ancient world. This volume, the result of 30 years of research, goes some way to redress the balance. Scholarly yet very readable, superbly illustrated and exhaustively researched, this should be on the shelves of anyone interested in the Parthian Empire.

By Uwe Ellerbrock,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Parthians as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This volume provides a comprehensive overview of the history and culture of the Parthian Empire, which existed for almost 500 years from 247 BC to 224 AD.

The Parthians were Rome's great opponents in the east, but comparatively little is known about them. The Parthians focuses on the rise, expansion, flowering and decline of the Parthian Empire and covers both the wars with the Romans in the west and the nomads in the east. Sources include the small amount from the Empire itself, as well as those from outside the Parthian world, such as Greek, Roman and Chinese documents. Ellerbrock…

Book cover of Shadows in the Desert: Ancient Persia at War

Why did I love this book?

A single-volume history of the ancient Persian, Seleucid, Parthian, and Sasanian Empires written by an expert on ancient Persia. It is a very readable account of the great powers of the ancient world that inhabited the region that is now Iraq and Iran. It places the Parthians in the context of the story of Persia and from an eastern perspective.

By Kaveh Farrokh,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Shadows in the Desert as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The empires of ancient Persia remain as mysterious today as they were to contemporary Western scholars. Although Alexander the Great's conquest of Persia is legendary, the military successes of the Achaemenid, Parthian, and Sassanian empires, along with their revolutionary military technology, tactics and culture have been almost forgotten in the sands of the East. In its day, Persia was a superpower to rival Greece and Rome, and conflict between them spanned over a millennium. Through these wars, and trade, these foes learnt from each other, not only adopting elements of military technology, but influences in the arts, architecture, religion, technology…

Book cover of Rome's Wars in Parthia: Blood in the Sand

Why did I love this book?

An excellent account of the military and political rivalry between Rome and Parthia, the two superpowers of the ancient world, spanning 300 years. Sheldon shows how the Roman defeat at Carrhae in 53BC resulted in a Roman obsession not only to reclaim the eagles lost in the battle, but also to avenge a humiliating military defeat, leading to 250 years of military campaigns and political intrigues.

By Rose Mary Sheldon,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Rome's Wars in Parthia as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The leader of an empire invades Iraq. He has inadequate intelligence and underestimates the resistance of the locals, but he believes his overwhelming military strength will bring him a swift victory. His army overruns the area between the Tigris and the Euphrates, but as soon as he occupies the area a massive insurgency arises, made up of various ethnic and religious groups. What began as a simple conquest for dominance bogs down in deadly fighting as the once-victorious commander-in-chief now desperately searches for an exit strategy.... This scenario could be any number of Roman campaigns, not to mention America in…

Book cover of Defeat of Rome in the East: Crassus, the Parthians, and the Disastrous Battle of Carrhae, 53 BC

Why did I love this book?

Rome suffered many military reverses during the course of its 800-year history, but of them all the reverse at Carrhae in 53BC was more keenly felt than any other (even the disaster in the Teutoburg Forest resulted in the loss of only three eagles). The loss of seven eagles to the barbarian Parthians stunned the Roman world and led to a crisis of confidence, made worse by the realisation that an army of 50,000 Romans had been defeated by 10,000 Parthians. This excellent title explores the background to the battle and how the numerically inferior Parthians were able to defeat the army of Marcus Licinius Crassus.

By Gareth C. Sampson,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Defeat of Rome in the East as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In 53BC the Proconsul Marcus Crassus and 36,000 of his legionaries were crushed by the Parthians at Carrhae in what is now eastern Turkey. Crassus' defeat and death and the 20,000 casualties his army suffered were an extraordinary disaster for Rome. The event intensified the bitter, destructive struggle for power in the Roman republic, curtailed the empire's eastward expansion and had a lasting impact on the history of the Mediterranean and the Middle East. It was also the first clash between two of the greatest civilizations of the ancient world. Yet this critical episode has often been neglected by writers…

Book cover of Cataphracts: Knights of the Ancient Eastern Empires

Why did I love this book?

The armies of ancient Parthia were mostly composed of two troop types: horse archers and cataphracts. This title explores the development of the latter horsemen, which in fact predated Parthia but were particularly effective in Parthian service. So much so that they were adopted by the Romans in the second century AD as they sought to defend the borders of their threatened empire.

By Erich B. Anderson,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Cataphracts as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Cataphracts were the most heavily armoured form of cavalry in the ancient world, with riders and mounts both clad in heavy armour. Originating among the wealthiest nobles of various central Asian steppe tribes, such as the Massegatae and Scythians, they were adopted and adapted by several major empires. The Achaemenid Persians, Seleucids, Sassanians and eventually the Romans and their Byzantine successors. Usually armed with long lances, they harnessed the mobility and mass of the horse to the durability and solid fighting power of the spear-armed phalanx. Although very expensive to equip and maintain (not least due to the need for…

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in the Parthian Empire, Iran, and Rome?

9,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about the Parthian Empire, Iran, and Rome.

The Parthian Empire Explore 5 books about the Parthian Empire
Iran Explore 106 books about Iran
Rome Explore 281 books about Rome

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