APARNA (Gk. Aparnoi/Parnoi, Lat. Aparni or Parni), an east Iranian tribe established on the Ochos (modern Taǰen, Teǰend) and one of the three tribes in the confederation of the Dahae (Dahā in the inscription of Xerxes, Ph 26, see Kent, Old Persian, p. 151). Their original homeland may have been southern Russia from where they emigrated with other Scythian tribes into the Dahestān, south-east of the Caspian sea. Led by Arsaces I, they invaded Parthia around 240 B.C., defeated its satrap Andragoras, and destroyed several towns. From then on they shared, as a leading aristocracy, the history of the Parthian people. There is some difficulty in exactly identifying the tribes settled in Dahestān. The Aparnoi of Dahestān mentioned by Strabo (11.7.1) should be considered as Sparnoi (Aparnoi is a conjectural emendation of Xylander and Casaubonus). The real Dahestān Aparnoi (var. Eparnoi, Asparioi) should also be distinguished from the Ochos Parnoi (Strabo 10.9.2; see Altheim, Weltgeschichte II, p. 15). The same doubt may arise about Justin’s (41.1.10) Parni or Sparni or Apartani (J. Wolski, Der Zuzammenbruch, p. 206 and note 36).

Some identifications of the Aparna have been tentatively made in Iranian sources. Markwart, quoting a passage in the Bundahišn (p. 233.14-15), concluded that the name Abāršahr (i.e., Nīšāpūr) meant “not the Upper Country but the country of the Aparnak, i.e., the Aparnoi” (Provincial Capitals, p. 52; see also E. Herzfeld, “Zarathustra,” AMI 1, 1929, p. 82 n. 1, p. 108 n. 1; Christensen, Iran Sass., p. 220; W. Eilers, “Demawend,” Archiv Orientalni 22, 1954, p. 373). But, besides a possible different reading of the key word ʾplnk (cf. Bundahišn, tr. p. 299), it should also be noted that the involved passage in the Bundahišn concerns a person and has little to do with the name of a long forgotten people. M. Sprengling (“Shahpuhr I the Great on the Kaabah of Zoroaster,” AJSLL 57, 1940, p. 399) identified the word Aparna in the inscription of Šāpūr I on the Kaʿba-ye Zardošt (Pers. 28, ʾplynk, Parth. 23, ʾprynk, Gk. Abrēnach, see also Eilers, ibid.; M. L. Chaumont, in Acta Iranica 4, 1975, pp. 118-19); but this has been rightly rejected (Henning, Mitteliranisch, p. 95, n. 1; Ph. Gignoux, Glossaire des inscriptions Pehlevies et Parthes, London, 1972, s.v.; idem, in Stud. Ir. 5, 1976, p. 308).

The Aparna originally spoke an East Iranian language, the traces of which survive in some Parthian loan-words in Armenian such as kari (very, cf. Sogd. kʾ’y), margarē (sorcerer, cf. Sogd. mʾrkry, Parth. mʾrygr; cf. W. Henning, “A List of Middle Persian and Parthian Words,” BSOAS 9, 1937, p. 85, repr. Acta Iranica 14, p. 565; R. Gauthiot, in MSL 19, 1915, pp. 125-29). More Aparna words may be traced in Manichaean Parthian; e.g., hnd (blind, cf. Western Iranian kwr; for other examples see Henning, Mitteliranisch, pp. 93-94). Their language, however, was eventually replaced by Parthian, a Northwestern Iranian language.

No convincing etymology has been yet proposed for the word Aparna. Tomaschek’s derivation from apərənāyu-, Pahl. apurnāy is untenable (Pauly-Wissowa, I, 2, col. 2669).



See also 1. Primary sources: Apollodorus of Artemita apud Strabo 11.7.3. Arrian apud Photius 58. Isidore of Charax 11. Justin 41.1.10. Ptolemy 6.10.2. Strabo 8.2., 9.2-3. Trogus 42.1010. 2.

Secondary sources: F. Altheim, Weltgeschichte Asiens im griechischen Zeitalter, Halle, 1948, II, pp. 15-16.

E. R. Bevan, The House of Seleucus, London, 1902, I, pp. 283-84.

M. Colledge, The Parthians, London, 1967, p. 25.

N. C. Debevoise, A Political History of Parthia, Chicago, 1938, p. 2.

M. M. Diakonov, Aškānīān, Tehran, 1344 Š./1965, pp. 39-41 (translated from the Russian).

R. N. Frye, The Heritage of Persia, New York, 1963, pp. 48, 130, 172.

B. P. Lozinski, The Original Homeland of the Parthians, The Hague, 1959.

E. Meyer, Blüte und Niedergang des Hellenismus in Asien, Berlin, 1925, repr. in F. Altheim and J. Rehork, Der Hellenismus in Mittelasien, Darmstadt, 1969, p. 49.

K. Schippmann, Grundzüge der Geschichte der Parther, Darmstadt, 1980, pp. 14-17.

W. W. Tarn, The Greeks in Bactria and India, Cambridge, 1938, p. 80.

J. Wolski, Der Zusammenbruch der Seleukidenherrschaft im Iran im 3. Jahrhundert v. Chr., l947, repr. in F. Altheim and J. Rehork, Der Hellenismus im Mittelasien, Darmstadt, 1969, pp. 188-254.

Camb. Hist. Iran III, pp. 24, 26-30, 187, 686, 689.

(P. Lecoq)

Originally Published: December 15, 1986

Last Updated: August 5, 2011

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