Terry Jones' documentary "The Barbarians" takes a fond look at
the Parthians: one of The Roman Empire's Most Fearsome Foes
Terry Jones one of the Members of the Famous Monty Python Band is also a History Enthusiast. In a Documentary for British TV called "The Barbarians", he introduces us to the Ancient Civilizations which fought the Roman Empire.Documentary Description:
Civilization - Parthian Empire - Parts 1-3:
About Terry Jones:
Terence (Graham Parry) Jones (born 1 February 1942) is a Welsh comedian,
screenwriter, actor, film director, children's author, popular historian,
political commentator and TV documentary host. He is best known as a member of
the Monty Python comedy team.
As a member of the Monty Python troupe, Jones is remembered for his roles as middle-aged women and the bowler-hatted "man in the street". He typically wrote sketches in partnership with Palin.
One of Jones's early concerns was devising a fresh format for the Python TV shows, and it was largely Jones who developed the stream-of-consciousness style which abandoned punchlines and instead encouraged the fluid movement of one sketch to another - allowing the team's conceptual humour the space to "breathe". Jones also objected to TV directors' use of sped-up film, over-emphatic music, and static camera style, and took a keen interest in the direction of the shows. He later committed himself to directing the Python films Monty Python and the Holy Grail (with Terry Gilliam), Life of Brian and Monty Python's The Meaning of Life, and as director, finally gained fuller control of the projects, devising a visual style that allowed the performers 'space'; for instance, in the use of wide shots for long exchanges of dialogue, and more economical use of music. As demonstrated in many of his sketches with Palin, Jones was also interested in making comedy that was visually impressive, feeling that interesting settings augmented, rather than detracted from, the humour. His methods encouraged many future television comedians to break away from conventional studio-bound shooting styles, as demonstrated into the 21st century by shows such as Green Wing, Little Britain and The League of Gentlemen.
Of Jones's contributions as a performer, his parodic, screechy-voiced depictions of "pepperpots" (middle-aged women, such as the Waitress in the "Spam" sketch) are among the most memorable. His humour, in collaboration with Palin, tends to be conceptual in nature; a typical Palin/Jones sketch draws its humour from the absurdity of the scenario. For example, in the "Summarise Proust Competition", Jones plays a cheesy game show host giving a series of contestants 15 seconds to condense Marcel Proust's lengthy work À la recherche du temps perdu; in the "Mouse Organ" sketch, he plays a tuxedoed man using mallets to bash mice who have been trained to squeak at a select pitch, and when "played" in the correct order reproduce the tune "Bells of St. Mary". In both cases, the laughs originate in the madness of the idea itself. Jones was also notable for his gifts as a Chaplinesque physical comedian, perhaps best demonstrated in the "Undressing in Public" sketch. He was often cast as the straight man, or as a nerdy or put-upon character, often with ambitions or dreams beyond his abilities, in contrast to the authority figures often played by John Cleese or Graham Chapman.
A History Enthusiast:
He has written
books and presented television documentaries on medieval and ancient history and
the history of numeral systems. His series often challenge popular views of
history: for example,
Terry Jones' Medieval Lives (2004) (for which he received a 2004 Emmy
nomination for "Outstanding Writing for Nonfiction Programming") argues that the
Middle Ages was a more sophisticated period than is popularly thought, and
Terry Jones' Barbarians (2006) presents the cultural achievements of
peoples conquered by the Roman Empire in a more positive light than Roman
historians typically have. He has written numerous editorials for
The Daily Telegraph and
The Observer condemning the Iraq war. Many of these editorials were
published in a paperback collection titled Terry Jones's War on the War on
Apart from a cameo in Terry Gilliam's Jabberwocky and a memorable minor role as a drunken vicar in BBC sitcom The Young Ones, Jones has rarely appeared in work outside of his own projects. Since January 2009, however, he has provided narration for "The Legend of Dick & Dom" , a CBBC fantasy series set in the Middle Ages.
Top: Rome Reconstructed in Stanely Kubrick's epic movie Spartacus ©Spartacus Bottom: Persepolis, Royal capital of Ancient Persia
Parthia roughly corresponds to the western half of (Greater) Khorasan. It was bordered by the Kopet Dag mountain range in the north (today the border between Iran and Turkmenistan) and the Dasht-e-Kavir desert in the south. It bordered Media on the west, Hyrcania on the north west, Margiana on the north east, and Aria on the south east.
times, Parthia was united with
Hyrcania (which today lies partly in Iran and partly in
Turkmenistan) as one administrative unit, and that region is therefore often
(subject to context) considered a part of Parthia proper.
As the region inhabited by Parthians, Parthia first appears as a political entity in Achaemenid lists of governates ("satrapies") under their dominion. Prior to this, the people of the region seem to have been subjects of the Medes. Following the death of Alexander, in the Partition of Babylon in 323 BCE, Parthia became a Seleucid governate under Nicanor. Phrataphernes, the former governor, became governor of Hyrcania. In 320 BCE, at the Partition of Triparadisus, Parthia was reassigned to Philip, former governor of Sogdiana. A few years later, the province was invaded by Peithon, governor of Media major, who then attempted to make his brother Eudamus governor. Peithon and Eudamus were driven back, and Parthia remained a governate in its own right.
From their base in Parthia, the Arsacid dynasts eventually extended their dominion to include most of Greater Iran. Even though the Arsacids only sporadically had their capital in Parthia, their power base was there, among the Parthian feudal families, upon whose military and financial support the Arsacids depended. In exchange for this support, these families received large tracts of land among the earliest conquered territories adjacent to Parthia, which the Parthian nobility then ruled as provincial rulers. The largest of these city-states were Kuchan, Semnan, Gorgan, Merv, Zabol and Yazd.
From about 105 BCE onwards, the power and influence of this handful of Parthian noble families was such that they frequently opposed the monarch, and would eventually be a "contributory factor in the downfall" of the dynasty.
From about 130 BCE onwards, Parthia suffered numerous incursions by various nomadic tribes, including the Sakas, the Yeuchi, and the Massagatae. Each time, the Arsacid dynasts responded personally, doing so even when there were more severe threats from Seleucids or Romans looming on the western borders of their empire (as was the case for Mithridates I). Defending the empire against the nomads cost Phraates II and Artabanus I their lives.
Around 32 BCE, civil war broke out when a certain Tiridates rebelled against Phraates IV, probably with the support of the nobility that Phraates had previously persecuted. The revolt was initially successful, but failed by 25 BCE. In 8/9, the Parthian nobility succeeded in putting their preferred king on the throne, but Vonones proved to have too tight a budgetary control, so he was usurped in favor of Artabanus II, who seems to have been a non-Arsacid Parthian nobleman. But when Artabanus attempted to consolidate his position (at which he was successful in most instances), he failed to do so in the regions where the Parthian provincial rulers held sway.
By the 2nd century CE, the wars with Rome and with the nomads, and the
infighting among the Parthian nobility had weakened the Arsacids to a point
where they could no longer defend their subjugated territories. The empire
fractured as vassalaries increasingly claimed independence or were subjugated by
others, and the Arsacids were themselves finally vanquished by the
Persian Sassanids, a formerly minor vassal from southwestern Iran, in April
Under Sassanid rule, Parthia was folded into a newly formed province, Khorasan, and henceforth ceased to exist as a political entity. Some of the Parthian nobility continued to resist Sassanid dominion for some time, but most switched their allegiance to the Sassanids very early. Several families that claimed descent from the Parthian noble families became a Sassanid institution known as the "Seven houses", five of which are "in all probability" not Parthian, but contrived genealogies "in order to emphasize the antiquity of their families."
City-states of "some considerable size" existed in Parthia as early as the first millennium BCE, "and not just from the time of the Achaemenids or Seleucids."However, for the most part, society was rural, and dominated by large landholders with large numbers of serfs, slaves, and other indentured labor at their disposal. Communities with free peasants also existed.
By Arsacid times, Parthian society was divided into the four classes (limited to freemen). At the top were the kings and near family members of the king. These were followed by the lesser nobility and the general priesthood, followed by the mercantile class and lower-ranking civil servants, and with farmers and herdsmen at the bottom.
Little is known of the Parthian economy, but agriculture must have played the most important role in it. Significant trade first occurs with the establishment of the Silk road in 114 BCE, when Hecatompylos became an important junction.
VIVE LA PERSE ETERNELLE,
VIVE LA TELE !,
VIVE TERRY JONES ! ;0)
DVD of "The Barbarian's" by Terry Jones is Available
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