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Law in the Seleucid and Parthian Periods

Following the downfall of the Achaemenian Dynasty, during the Seleucid as well as Parthian periods, the laws laid down by Dāryush more or less continued to remain the main foundation of the legal system of the Persian Empire. However, through the centuries that followed, and particularly during the Parthian period, a need for the augmentation of these laws became palpable. As regards basic rights, mention should be made of a law legislated for the systematization of the transfer of power to the next king and for limiting the authority of the king, which according to Justin, had been legislated by Tirdād I. George Rawlinson has, however, claimed that there is an error in recording the name of the king, which according to him was “Mehrdād I” and not Tirdād I. The Parthian government that had adopted the feudal system of governance and had distanced itself from the monarchial system of the Achaemenian period had laid fertile grounds for the establishment of a consultative system and the decentralization of power. Therefore, during the Parthian period the consultation of the king with two different assemblies viz. the royal assembly consisting of the king’s family members and the assembly of the elite (the Senate) comprising influential nobles was considered as essential in the course of important decision-making and, occasionally, during the course of major decision-making, an assembly comprising a combination of both the aforementioned bodies would sit in consultation, which was popularly referred to as the “Mahestān” or “Moghestān”.

It appears that it was on the orders of Balāsh, the Parthian king (apparently Balash I – 50-70 AD), that the surviving parts of the Avestā had come to be collected and compiled. Although at first glance, such a step appears to have been an effort towards the revival of the Persian religious traditions, keeping in view the legal contents of the Dātik Avestā sections, this can be considered as an important step towards the compilation of religious-legal laws. Keeping in view the shortage of available information concerning the legal system of the Parthian period, the discovery of several rental contracts pertaining to the middle Parthian period is of considerable importance.

* source: Pakatchi , Ahmad "Iran Entry" The Great Islamic Encyclopedia. Ed. Kazem Musavi Bojnourdi.Tehran: The Center of Great Islamic Encyclopaedia , 1989-, V.10 ,pp.622

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