The Kingdom of Parthia is one of the playable factions in Rome: Total War.
002Parthia Flag

The flag of Parthia

They can be played after successfully completing a campaign as a Roman faction or by simple modifications to the game files. Parthia has nearby rebels to conquer and three immediate factions to contend with: Scythia, Armenia, and the Seleucid Empire.

Heavily armor-plated Parthian Cataphracts decimate Roman Cavalry.


The Parthians are a nomadic people who conquered and settled in the area near the Caspian Sea in the 4th century BC as part of the Dahae confederation. Since that time the Parthians, under their Arsacid rulers (named after King Arsaces I), have fiercely maintained their independence. The Seleucids have, from time to time, claimed to be the overlords of Parthia and, from time to time, have actually been strong enough to try and enforce their claim. This is not something that endears the Seleucid Empire to the Parthian kings.

The Parthians have the potential to be a great power – perhaps a great Empire – as they sit close to or astride the main trade routes from the east to the Mediterranean. The wealth of the world flows through these lands: a fortune that could pay for any army that an ambitious king could imagine. This wealth is there for the taking, for the people with the will to stretch out their hands and grasp it. Historically, the Parthians managed to become a great power, and fight off the advance of Rome into their heartlands.

To the north are the barbarian steppes, peopled by fierce tribes who require watching. To the west, though, lie the Seleucid Empire and the lands of Alexander’s successors. These too are ruled by ambitious men. And beyond them, the rising power of Rome, and the traders of Carthage. Perhaps common cause could be made with them, for a while…


Parthia is a secession from the Seleucid Empire brought to life one of the powers in Rome: Total War's time period. Controlling many unique units and having an interesting position in the game, a Parthian shot can easily become a Parthian siege.

The Parthian forces have mainly poor infantry but rely on good cavalry such as extremely heavily armored cataphracts, which can use their base attack to shatter even Roman armored units. Powerful cavalry, consisting of cataphracts and horse archers, is what drives the Parthian war machine. Their infantry leaves much to be desired, but this empire is still a powerful presence on the globe. Parthia, famed for its horse archers, is obviously strong in cavalry. Their ground troops are rather weak, but used to reinforce the cavalry.

Tactics and StrategyEdit

Since Parthia has very strong horse archers building up a good number of them in the begining a good tactic. In battle be sure to set them to skirmish mode and try to lure the enemy army into splitting up its forces. Concentrate your fire on a few of the enemy units and when they are shaken or wavering you can charge them and they will break. Repeat this process until the entire army is fleeing.

Parthia starts at the far eastern edge of the map in and around Asia Minor. The Parthians also may have access to War Elephants, which can be recruited from Elite Cavalry Stables.

Their starting cities are:

  • Arsakia: Parthian Capital City; Region - Media
  • Suza: Persian Capital City; Region - Elymais
  • Campus Sakae: Parthian Large Town; Region - Tribus Sakae

In Rome Total War 1 (on very hard difficulty for both campaign and battles), if Parthia is an AI faction and the player is without influence in Asia, Parthia will initally do well, taking Babylonia from the Seleucid Empire. However as Egypt becomes the most powerful faction in the area, and as Armenia also becomes stronger, the Parthians will struggle, eventually losing all their territory apart from the northernmost territory, Campus Sakae. By this point they will have run out of money and eventually the Scythians will take their last territory, and the Parthians will be wiped from the map.


TotalWarUnitGuideParthianUnits 01

Parthian Units.


Peasants are reluctant warriors, but numbers are useful in all armies. Forcing peasants to fight is one way of getting lots of men in the field quickly and cheaply. They have little tactical sense, and even less willingness to fight - they would rather be defending their own homes than be dragged to a battle they neither care about nor understand. If nothing else, they are useful when there's digging to be done! They are, however, experts at reading the land and hiding whenever there is cover.


Slingers are highly skilled missile troops but are at a huge disadvantage in hand-to-hand combat, especially against cavalry. They can maintain a sustained and concentrated barrage on enemies and then fall back rapidly to avoid hand-to-hand combat. Slingers carry a shoulder bag with many pieces of lead shot (they can also use stones picked up on the battlefield) and several spare slings including slings of different length for greater or lesser range. Other than a knife and a small shield, they carry no other equipment.


Archers are rightly feared for the casualties they can inflict, but they are vulnerable in hand-to-hand combat.

They are drawn from the peasant classes of all societies, as these are the people who need to be skilled hunters in order to survive. Learning to use a bow well is something that takes a lifetime and constant practice, and putting food on the table provides good practice.

They are best used to weaken enemy formations, or placed in a spot where they can retreat and find protection from other troops.


To outsiders, the hillmen are a wild savage people, but they are also skilled hunters, making them superb ambushers. Although only armed with spears and shields, they are a valuable addition to many forces. Their skills at reading ground allow them to hide where others cannot, and this makes them valuable to commanders with a penchant for tactical ambushes.

They are expert raiders and thieves (often taking sheep and goats from their lowland neighbours) and this is, unfortunately, something that makes them occasionally difficult to control. They do not see any need for military formalities!

Eastern InfantryEdit

Eastern infantry are easily recruited militia-spearmen, who are good for defence against less able opponents. They are drawn from among the peasantry and urban poor, given minimal training and sent into battle. They are, however, given large shields.

Individually, they are not outstanding warriors, but as a group they have their uses in holding off light cavalry; even medium and heavier troops will be unwilling to charge into a forest of spear points.


Cataphracts are extremely heavily-armoured cavalry who can turn a battle with one thunderous charge. They are the ultimate in shock cavalry, an armoured battering ram to crash into an enemy position and sweep aside all who stand against them. They are armed with heavy lances for the initial charge and maces for use in close combat. They wear armour that is almost unmatched for weight and protection, and their horses are similarly armoured. On the move they are a wall of metal bearing down on enemies, tipped with razor-sharp spear points.

Their armour is their main strength, but it also means that these troops can be quite ponderous and slow moving. That said, sheer weight means that they can often break through (or ride over) an enemy line without too much trouble.

Persian CavalryEdit

Persian cavalry can fight well with either bow or sword, making them valuable skirmishers and general purpose horsemen. They can trace their lineage back to the tribes of the steppes, and this tradition gives them fine skills with both the horse and the compound bow. They wear mail armour and carry swords so that they can defend themselves at need, or even carry the attack to lighter opponents, but they are primarily fine horse archers, able to ruin formations of solidly-packed enemies.

A skilled commander will use these troops in cooperation with heavier cataphracts when he can, softening up an opponent with missiles before delivering an armoured punch, or beating an enemy down before driving them from the field with lighter pursuers.

Horse ArchersEdit

Horse archers are a speciality of the East: swift horses and expert marksmen make a deadly combination. They are armed with a powerful bow and a dagger for defence, but they are not armoured and should not be expected to fight other than to escape. Horse archers rely on the maxim that 'speed is armour' to keep them out of trouble. Infantry have no hope of catching them, but other cavalry may be able to chase them down. Wise eastern commanders know this, and deploy horse archers with other cavalry to act as a deterrent to over-ambitious pursuit by an enemy.

If horse archers have a weakness it is that of all soldiers armed with composite bows: these weapons do not take well to damp or wet weather, as the glues used to construct them become weakened. While this is seldom a problem in their home provinces, it can be in wetter climes.

Cataphract CamelsEdit

Cataphract camels are well armoured - camel and rider both - shock cavalry. Their primary purpose is to charge into the enemy, using weight and speed to cause additional disruption. The riders carry lances for the initial charge and long maces to continue fighting once in hand-to-hand combat. Recruited from among desert dwelling peoples these soldiers rely on their heavy armour for protection, and their camels are equally well protected. This heavy armour also means that, while they are slow to get moving, they are almost unstoppable in a full charge.

They can be used against infantry like any other cataphracts, but their chief virtue is that the smell of the camels upsets horses, giving them an edge when fighting against cavalry.

War ElephantsEdit

War elephants are fierce and terrible beasts, able to trample men and horses into the dirt. Over three metres tall at the shoulder, these are large and bad-tempered animals, and they have been known to run wild with fear and anger in battle. When this happens no one - friend or foe - is safe. For this reason the driver always carries a small mallet and a spike so that he can kill the animal if necessary by driving the spike into the base of the skull.

The crew are armed with bows to shoot down into tightly packed enemy formations, but the elephant itself is also a weapon: it can trample and gore men easily, hurling them around like rag dolls.


The onager is a catapult jokingly named for the tremendous kick it has when fired at the enemy (an "onager" is a wild ass). This war machine is powered by a twisted spring of animal sinew ropes, the most elastic substance available.

The throwing arm is held in tension by the sinews. When pulled back and held by a catch it can fling a boulder with considerable speed and range. This version can be used for reducing stone fortifications, but it can also be used on the battlefield for destroying enemy artillery and harassing troops (although admittedly by killing some of them outright).

The onager can also be used to launch incendiary missiles such as fire pots, making it a versatile piece of artillery to any commander.