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
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
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.