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Encyclopedia > Surena
Parthian-era bronze statue believed to represent General Surena.
Parthian-era bronze statue believed to represent General Surena.
Emblem purported to be the crest of the House of Suren.
Emblem purported to be the crest of the House of Suren.

Surena may refer to either a noble family of Parthia also known as the House of Suren, or to a renowned 1st century BCE General Surena who was a member of that family. Image File history File linksMetadata Download high-resolution version (838x1032, 755 KB) Statues thought to represent Surena. ... Image File history File linksMetadata Download high-resolution version (838x1032, 755 KB) Statues thought to represent Surena. ... Image File history File links Crest_(Black_Back). ... Image File history File links Crest_(Black_Back). ... Parthia[1] (Middle Persian: اشکانیان Ashkâniân) was a civilization situated in the northeast of modern Iran, but at its height covering all of Iran proper, as well as regions of the modern countries of Armenia, Iraq, Georgia, eastern Turkey, eastern Syria, Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Pakistan, Kuwait, the Persian Gulf...

From Ammianus Marcellinus (24.2.4) and other historiographers of late antiquity, it appears that 'Surena' was also a title of office. "The highest dignity in the kingdom, next to the Crown, was that of Surena, or 'Field-Marshal', and this position was hereditary in a particular family."[1] 'Surena' is the Greek and Latin form of Sûrên[2] or Sūrēn.[3] As 'Suren', the name remains common in Armenia.[4] Ammianus Marcellinus (325/330-after 391) was a Roman historian who wrote during Late Antiquity. ...


House of Suren

The Surenas or "House of Suren"[5][6] are one of two[c] Parthian noble families explicitely mentioned by name in sources dateable to the Arsacid period.[7] The Arsacid Dynasty ruled Persia. ...

For at least the second half of the Arsacid era (which extends from 247 BCE to 224 CE), the Surena family had the privilege to crown the Parthian kings.[7][a] Following the 3rd century CE defeat of the Arsacids and the subsequent rise of the Sassanids, the Surenas then switched sides and began to serve the Persians.[2][8] The last attested scion of the family was a military commander active in northern Chine during the 9th century.[9] Head of king Shapur II (Sasanian dynasty A.D. 4th century). ...

It is "probable"[2] that the Surenas were landowners in Sakastan, that is, in the region between Arachosia and Drangiana in present-day southwestern Afghanistan, where they expelled the aboriginal Sakas who then migrated to the Punjab. The Surenas appear to have governed Sistan (which derives its name from 'Sakastan' and was once a much larger region than the present day province) as their personal fiefdom.[2] Sakastan Sakasthana or Sakasthan is a term indicating certain regions of the South Asia where the Scythians or Sakas settled around 100 BC. Sakastan region includes southern Afghanistan; Punjab, NWFP, and Sindh provinces of Pakistan; Northern Maharashtra, Gujarat, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and Punjab states of India. ... Arachosia is the ancient name of an area that corresponds to the southern part of today s Afghanistan, around the city of Kandahar. ... Drangiana (Old Persian: Zranka waterland) was a historical region of the Achaemenid Empire, now part of Afghanistan and Eastern Iran. ... A cataphract-style parade armour of a Saka royal from the Issyk kurgan. ... This article is about the geographical region. ... Categories: Iran geography stubs | Provinces of Iran ... Fief depiction in a book of hours Under the system of feudalism, a fiefdom, fief, feud, feoff, or fee, often consisted of inheritable lands or revenue-producing property granted by a liege lord in return for a form of allegiance, originally to give him the means to fulfill his military...

"Ernst Herzfeld maintained that the dynasty of [the Indo-Parthian emperor] Gondophares represented the [H]ouse of Suren."[10] Other notable members of the family include the 1st century BCE cavalry commander General Surena (see below) and a 6th century CE governor (satrap) of Armenia who attempted to reestablish Zoroastrianism in that province.[11] Coin of Gondophares (20-50 AD), first king of the Indo-Parthians kingdom. ... Gondophares (Parthian: Vindapharna, lit. ... Look up satrap in Wiktionary, the free dictionary. ... Zoroastrianism is the religion and philosophy based on the teachings ascribed to the prophet Zoroaster (Zarathustra, Zartosht). ...

General Surena

General Surena (84 - 52 BCE) was a famed commander of cavalry during the reign of the Arsacid dynast Orodes II (r. 57 - 38 BCE). The Arsacid Dynasty ruled Persia. ... Coin of Orodes II from the mint at Seleucia. ...

According to Plutarch (Life of Crassus, 21[2]), this "Surena was 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.[12] Mestrius Plutarchus (Greek: Πλούταρχος; 46 - 127), better known in English as Plutarch, was a Greek historian, biographer, essayist, and Middle Platonist. ...

In 54 BCE, 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.[13] Seleucia (Greek: Σέλεύχεια) – also transliterated as Seleuceia, Seleukeia, or Seleukheia – may refer to many cities of the Seleucid Empire (Syria): Seleucia on the Tigris (first capital of the Seleucid Empire; currently in Iraq) Seleucia (Sittacene) – in antiquity, across the Tigris from the above city, currently in Iraq Seleucia above Zeugma – on... Coin of Mithridates III from the mint at Nisa. ...

In 53 BCE, the Romans advanced on the western Arsacid vassalaries. In response, Orodes II sent his cavalry units under Surena to combat them. The two armies subsequently met at Battle of Carrhae (at Harrân in present-day Turkey), where the superior equipment of the Parthians enabled them to defeat the numerically superior Romans.[14] Combatants Roman Republic Parthia Commanders Marcus Licinius Crassus †, Publius Crassus † Surena Strength 35,000 Roman legionaries, 4,000 cavalry, 4,000 light infantry 10,000 cavalry Casualties 20,000 dead, 10,000 captured, 4,000 wounded Reportedly very light The Battle of Carrhae was a decisive battle fought in 53...

Although this feat of arms "produced a mighty echo amongst the peoples of the East," it did not cause "any decisive shift in the balance of power."[15] For Surena, "it soon cost him his life. Probably fearing that he would constitute a threat to himself, King Orodes II had him executed."[15]

"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."[16] Rostam Slaying the Dragon- A miniature Painting by Master Mahmoud Farshchian. ... Shâhnameh Shāhnāmé, or Shāhnāma (Persian: )(alternative spellings are Shahnama, Shahnameh, Shahname, Shah-Nama, etc. ...

See also

Seven Clans or more accurately Seven Parthian clans (Persian, Haft Khandan) were seven different Parthian clans who constituted the Dahae Confederation. ...


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."[17]
b.^  Plutarch's description of the 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."[18]
c.^  The other noble family explicitely mentioned is the House of Karen.[7]

The House of Karen (also -Karan, -Kiran, -Qaran and -Qaren) were an aristocratic feudal family of Hyrcania (Gorgan). ...


  1. ^ Rawlinson 1901, p. 420.
  2. ^ a b c d e Lendering 2006.
  3. ^ Herzfeld 1929, p. 44,70.
  4. ^ Lang 1983, p. 510.
  5. ^ Bivar 1983, p. 41.
  6. ^ Herzfeld 1929, p. 70.
  7. ^ a b c Lukonin 1983, p. 704.
  8. ^ Frye 1983, p. 130.
  9. ^ Perikanian 1983, p. 683.
  10. ^ Bivar 2003 cf. Bivar 1983, p. 51.
  11. ^ Frye 1983, p. 159.
  12. ^ Perikanian 1983, p. 635.
  13. ^ Bivar 1983, p. 49.
  14. ^ Bivar 1983, pp. 49-51.
  15. ^ a b Schippmann 1987, p. 528.
  16. ^ Bivar 1983, p. 51.
  17. ^ Schippmann 1987, p. 532.
  18. ^ Langhorne & Langhorne 1934, p. 59.


  • Bivar, A. D. H. (1983), "The Political History of Iran under the Arsacids", in Yarshater, Ehsan, Cambridge History of Iran, vol. 3.1, London: Cambridge UP, pp. 21-100
  • Bivar, A. D. H. (2003), "Gondophares", Encyclopaedia Iranica, vol. 11.2, Cosa Mesa: Mazda
  • Frye, R. N. (1983), "The Political History of Iran under the Sassanians", in Yarshater, Ehsan, Cambridge History of Iran, vol. 3.1, London: Cambridge UP, pp. 116-181
  • Herzfeld, Ernst Emil, ed. (1929), Archæologische Mitteilungen aus Iran, vol. I, Berlin: Dietrich Reimer, pp. 70-80
  • Lang, David M. (1983), "Iran, Armenia and Georgia", in Yarshater, Ehsan, Cambridge History of Iran, vol. 3.1, London: Cambridge UP, pp. 505-537
  • Lendering, Jona (2006), Surena, Amsterdam: livius.org, <http://www.livius.org/su-sz/surena/surena.html>
  • Lukonin, V. G. (1983), "Political, Social and Administrative Institutions", in Yarshater, Ehsan, Cambridge History of Iran, vol. 3.2, London: Cambridge UP, pp. 681-747
  • Plutarch, "Marcus Crassus", in Langhorne, John & William Langhorne, eds. (1934), Plutarch's Lives, London: J. Crissy
  • Rawlinson, George (1901), The Seven Great Monarchies Of The Ancient Eastern World, vol. 6, London: Dodd, Mead & Company, <http://www.gutenberg.org/etext/16166>
  • Perikanian, A. (1983), "Iranian Society and Law", in Yarshater, Ehsan, Cambridge History of Iran, vol. 3.2, London: Cambridge UP, pp. 627-681
  • Schippmann, K. (1987), "Arsacid ii: The Arsacid Dynasty", Encyclopaedia Iranica, vol. 2, New York: Routledge & Kegan Paul, pp. 525-536

  Results from FactBites:
GENERAL SURENA - (The Circle of Ancient Iranian Studies - CAIS)© (2277 words)
Surena was 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.
The Iranian forces under Surena consisted, according to Plutarch, of a thousand fully armored lancers, the cataphracts, who formed the bodyguard of the General.
Additionally, the Romans had anticipated that the Iranian cavalry would quickly exhaust their stock of arrows; but the camel train of General Surena made it possible for him to bring up plentiful stocks of arrows as the quivers of his men were emptied.
Crassus by Plutarch (806 words)
Surena, therefore, perceiving his soldiers less inclined to expose themselves, and knowing that if the Romans should prolong the battle till night, they might then gain the mountains and be out of his reach, betook himself to his usual craft.
Surena told him that from that time there was a league between the king his master and the Romans, but that Crassus must go with him to the river to sign it, "for you Romans," said he, "have not good memories for conditions," and so saying, reached out his hand to him.
Surena sent the head and hand of Crassus to Hyrodes the king, into Armenia, but himself by his messengers scattering a report that he was bringing Crassus alive to Seleucia, made a ridiculous procession, which, by way of scorn, he called a triumph.
  More results at FactBites »



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