CHARAX, town in the Seleucid and Parthian province of Rhagiana, the area around modern Ray. To judge from its Greek name, which probably means palisade, Charax was a fortified town. It was founded by one of the early Seleucids and, according to Ptolemy (Geography 6.5.4), was situated next to Apameia (cf. Ammianus Marcellinus, 23.6.43), the Seleucid name for the city of Rhaga (modern Ray). According to Isidore of Charax, who is our main source, it was one of the five cities of Rhagiana, the chief town being Rhaga, and was located “at the foot of a mountain called Caspius [i.e., the Alborz], beyond which are the Caspian Gates” (Parthian Stations 8, ed. and tr. W. H. Schoff, Philadel­phia, 1914, p. 6). In about 176 b.c., Phraates I of Parthia extended his domain eastwards, subjugated the Māzandarāni tribe of the Amardioi/Mardi (see āmol i), and resettled a group of them in Charax (Isidore, loc. cit.), thereby creating a stronghold for a planned conquest of Media. The site of Charax has not yet been identified with certainty. Droysen (p. 716) suggested modern Eyvānekey about 70 km southwest of Tehran, which contains extensive historic ruins, but Isidore’s description points to a place “somewhat nearer the Gates” (Rawlinson, p. 67 n. 2). Barthold (p. 122) main­tained it was the medieval town of Arazi, 12 farsaḵs from Ray on the road to Ḵᵛār, but cited no evidence for this identification. No similar-sounding name seems to be attested in the works of the Islamic geographers.

For Charax (Spasinou) in Characene (Mēšān) see characene.



W. Barthold, An Historical Geography of Iran, tr. S. Soucek, Princeton, N.J., 1984.

J. G. Droysen, Geschichte des Hellenismus II, Ham­burg, 1843.

Marquart, Ērānšahr, p. 136. G. Rawlin­son, The Sixth Great Oriental Monarchy, London, 1873.

Tomaschek, “Charax, 9” in Pauly-Wissowa, III/2, cols. 2121-22.

(A. Shapur Shahbazi)

Originally Published: December 15, 1991

Last Updated: October 13, 2011

This article is available in print.
Vol. V, Fasc. 4, pp. 365-366