“A Parthian Shot”
The expression – “A PARTHIAN SHOT” – is historically apropos for today. Our soldiers are in Iraq for many years now and a solution for withdrawal seems improbable. The neighboring countries of Syria and Iran have an interest in that area.
In Julius Caesar’s time these same countries were very important to the Romans. At that time, as today, there was an overland trade route from the Black Sea on the coast of Armenia that traversed through Mesopotamia into Syria. The Romans were in control of Syria but not the Parthian nation, which is Iraq and Iran today.
For many years the Romans tried unsuccessfully to gain control of the rich trade route through Parthia. Crassus, a member of the triumvirate, who was very wealthy and had his own army, tried to conquer Parthia. He was killed in 53 B.C.; his hands and head chopped off and molten gold poured down his throat.
Marc Antony in concert with Cleopatra was also defeated by the Parthians and barely survived were it not for Cleopatra’s skilled physician who drained the infection he developed from a serious wound.
The Parthians, skilled horsemen, would ride up to the enemy and quickly do an about face. The Romans were dumbfounded. While riding the other way the Parthian horsemen would quickly turn around in their “saddles” and shot their arrows at the unsuspecting enemy.
The Parthians, according to the Romans, were the only horsemen that could do this.
The term Parthian shot is still used but it is invariably transformed into parting shot. The Parthians were skilled horsemen who, if put to flight, would turn around and wreak havoc on their pursuers with ‘parting’ flights of arrows shot while they were in full gallop. But who would be expected to know that?
Today it is a telling remark reserved for the moment of departure.