David Frendo, Roman Expansion and the Graeco-Iranian World: Carrhae, Its Explanation and Aftermath in Plutarch


The present article focusses on Plutarch's account in his life of Crassus of the sequence of events immediately following the defeat and death at Carrhae of the Triumvir M.  Licinius Crassus. An attempt is made to elucidate some of the less well understood elements of this account by relating them to important but neglected details of their immediate historical context and to the general background of Roman expansion in Asia Minor during a period of forty-three years. A critical analysis of Plutarch's sources reveals the extent to which the historical record has been distorted; initially in order to serve the aims of a political faction in Rome and subsequently to explain away the failure of Roman arms. These fictional elements, which first arose in the context of a political struggle centered in Rome and later elaborated to serve the needs of Augustan propaganda, have all too often formed the basis of modern attempts to reconstruct and set on an unwarrantedly formal diplomatic footing the chequered course of relations between Rome and Parthia, a course played out against a series of events in reality largely determined by the haphazard but relentless pressure of Roman expansion.