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Parthians (or Arsacids) and Sasanians

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As far as i know, armored elephants frequently appears in Ghaznavid and Ghurid Sultante. While historians like Ammianus Marcellinus mentioned elephantorum fulgentium but it doen't mean elephant armor at all because no strong evidence to support it. If armored elephants exists, it would certainly appeared in monuments and rock carvings.

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Due to the team member's request, i will do some adjustments in my posts.
ARSACIDS (Persian Aškānīān), Parthian dynasty which ruled Iran from about 250 B.C. to about 226 A.D.

i. Origins

Our sources on the ancestry of the eponymous founder of the dynasty, Arsaces, vary irreconcilably. He is introduced as a bandit who seized Parthia by attacking and killing its satrap, Andragoras (Justin 41.4; Ammianus Marcellinus 23.6.2); as a Bactrian who found the rise of Diodotus unbearable, moved to Parthia, and securing the leadership of the province, rose against the Seleucids (Strabo 11.9.3); or as a Parni chief of the Dahae Sacians, who conquered Parthia shortly before Diodotus’ revolt (ibid., 11.9.2). A fourth account alleges that “the Persian” Andragoras whom Alexander left as satrap of Parthia was the ancestor of the subsequent kings of Parthia (Justin 12.4.12). A fifth version had been provided by Arrian in his Parthica, now lost, which was epitomized on this point by Photius (Bibliotheca 58) and the twelfth-century Syncellus (Corpus scriptorum historiae Byzantinae XIII, ed. W. Dindorf, Bonn, 1829, p. 539). Photius’ epitome runs as follows: “Arsaces and Tiridates were brothers, descendants of Phriapites, the son of Arsaces [syncellus: the brothers “were allegedly descendants of the Persian Artaxerxes”]. Pherecles [syncellus: Agathocles], who had been made satrap of their country by Antiochus Theus, offered a gross insult to one of them, whereupon ... they took five men into counsel, and with their aid slew the insolent one. They then induced their nation to revolt from the Macedonians and set up a government of their own.” Finally, the Iranian national history traced Arsaces’ lineage to Kay Qobād (Ferdowsī, Šāh-nāma VII, p. 116; Ṭabarī, I, p. 710), or to his son Kay Āraš (Ṯaʿālebī, p. 457), or to Dārā the son of Homāy (Ṭabarī, I, p. 704; Bīrūnī, The Chronology, p. 118), or even to the famous archer, Āraš (Šāh-nāma VII, p. 115; anonymous “authorities” apud Bīrūnī, op. cit., p. 119).

These reports reflect developments in political ideologies. Humble origin and robbery are folkstories told also of Cyrus, Sāsān, and other dynastic heroes. The association with Āraš the archer was occasioned by similarity in names and the fact that Arsaces is figured on Parthian coins as a bowman (cf. A. v. Gutschmid in ZDMG 34, 1880, p. 743), although the bow was always regarded as a royal symbol. “The Persian Artaxerxes” in Syncellus has generally been taken to mean Artaxerxes II because Ctesias said (apud Plutarch, Artoxares 2) that he was called Arsaces prior to his coronation (A. v. Gutschmid, Geschichte Irans und seiner Nachbarländer, Tübingen, 1888, p. 30, and others). But this ignores the fact that Artaxerxes I also was called Aršak/Arsaces, Babylonian Aršu (A. Sachs, “Achaemenid Royal Names in Babylonian Astronomical Texts,” American Journal of Ancient History 4, 1979, pp. 131ff.).

The tradition that Arsaces was a Parni chief is supported, as R. N. Frye has noticed (The History of Ancient Iran, Munich, 1983, p. 206), by a statement in Bundahišn (35.43f.) according to which Dastān (= Zāl), “Prince of the Sacas” and Aparnak, Lord of Aparšahr (later Nīšāpūr) were descendants of Sām: “Aparšahr is thus named because it is the land of the Aparnak” (corrected translation in Frye, loc. cit., with n. 3). By the middle of the third century B.C., the Parni appear to have been assimilated to the Iranian Parthians: They adopted the latter’s name, bore purely Iranian—even Zoroastrian—names (Lassen, Indische Altertumskunde II, Bonn, 1847, p. 285 n. 3, could connect the name of Arsaces’ father, Phriapites, with an Avestan *Friya pitā “father-lover” = Greek Philopatros). On his coins, Arsaces wears Sacian dress but sits on a stool (later ampholas) with a bow in hand, as Achaemenid satraps, such as Datames, had done before. He deliberately diverges from Seleucid coins to emphasize his nationalistic and royal aspirations, and he calls himself Kārny/Karny (Greek Autocratos), a title already borne by Achaemenid supreme generals, such as Cyrus the Younger (see for details M. T. Abgarians and D. G. Sellwood, “A Hoard of Early Parthian Drachms,” NC, 1971, pp. 103ff.). Later Parthian kings assumed Achaemenid descent, revived Achaemenid protocols (J. Neusner, “Parthian Political Ideology,” Iranica Antiqua 3, 1963, pp. 45ff.), and Artabanus III, who named one of his sons Darius (Dio Cassius 59.27), laid claim to Cyrus’ heritage (Tacitus, Annals 4.31). On the whole, then, onomastic, numismatic, and epigraphic considerations point to the conclusion that the Parthian dynasty was “local, Iranian by origin;” on this ground “the Zoroastrian character of all the names of the Parthian kings, and the fact that some of these names . . . belong to the "heroic background" of the Avesta,” afford logical explanation (G. V. Lukonin in Camb. Hist. Iran III/2, 1983, p. 687).

Bibliography : Given in the text.

(A. Sh. Shahbazi)

ii. The Arsacid Dynasty

1. History. The rise of the Arsacids is closely linked to the history of another dynasty, that of the Seleucids (q.v.). After 308 B.C. its founder, Seleucus I, had conquered the eastern part of Iran and also, after the battle of Ipsus (301 B.C.), annexed large portions of Syria. In the following decades the Seleucids were mostly to concentrate their interest and their power on the western half of their vast kingdom, particularly as a result of their struggles against the Lagids for dominance in Syria. This led to the Seleucids losing large parts of their Iranian possessions within a period of roughly fifteen years from 250 to 235 B.C. (Although there is some dispute amongst historians as to the chronological sequence of events, it is at least agreed that they occurred within this span of time.)

The most important role during this period was played by the Parni, an Iranian tribe belonging to the Dahae who, according to the ancient writers (Arrian, Anabasis 3.28.8, 10; Quintus Curtius 8.1.8) lived in the territories between the Oxus and the Jaxartes at the time of Alexander the Great. About the end of the fourth or at the latest by the middle of the third century B.C. the Parni had advanced as far as the frontiers of the Seleucid kingdom, whether in the vicinity of the Caspian Sea or on the river Tejen (Turkmenistan). The movements of the Parni and Dahae, beginning in the area between the Oxus and the Jaxartes and ending in the immediate vicinity of the Seleucid satrapy of Parthava, are difficult to reconstruct and therefore a matter of dispute among historians. (cf. K. Schippmann, Grundzüge der parthischen Geschichte, Darmstadt, 1980, pp. 15ff.)

Around 250 B.C. at any rate, the Parni, under their leader Arsaces, penetrated into the Astauene, that is to say probably into the territory along the Atrek valley. (See however also I. N. Chlopin, Iranica Antiqua 12, 1977, pp. 143ff.) Shortly afterwards, probably ca. 247 B.C., Arsaces was proclaimed king in Asaak, the exact location of which has still to be identified. This event, it is widely assumed, marks the beginning of the Arsacid era. (See most recently P. H. L. Eggermont, Bibliotheca Orientalis 32, 1975, pp. 15ff.)

In about 245 B.C., during the reign of the Seleucid monarch Seleucus II (r. 246-25 B.C.), Andragoras, the Seleucid satrap of the province of Parthava, made himself independent. Soon afterwards, ca. 239 B.C., his example was followed by Diodotus, satrap of Bactria, a Seleucid satrapy which was to play a significant role for more than a hundred years as the Greco-Bactrian kingdom.

The reasons for the defection of these two satrapies in such rapid succession are not known, nor is the extent to which the inhabitants, i.e. Macedonians, Greeks, and the natives, participated in the rebellions (cf. E. Will, Histoire politique du monde hellénistique [323-30 av. J. C.] I2, 1979, pp. 281ff.) At any rate, the Parni exploited the defection of these two eastern provinces of the Seleucid kingdom by launching an invasion into Parthia, ca. 238 B.C., in the course of which Andragoras met his death. Shortly afterwards they also occupied Hyrcania. It is likely that the term Parthians was applied to the Parni during this period after their occupation of the satrapy of Parthava and subsequently, no doubt, they came to use the designation themselves. Originally, therefore, Parthava is to be understood as a geographical term; then, in the form “Parthian,” it became the name of a people when the Parni invaders started to extend their kingdom.

The Seleucids did not mount a counter-campaign in the east until the year 231-27 B.C., by which time it was already too late. Above all else it failed because unrest in Asia Minor soon forced Seleucus II to break off operations.

Fully two decades passed before the great Seleucid ruler Antiochus III made a renewed attempt, ca. 209 B.C., to regain the Parthian and Greco-Bactrian territories, but this, too, was a failure. Although he was able to register a certain degree of success, in the end the warring parties concluded treaties, according to which the Parthians and Greco-Bactrians nominally recognized the Seleucids as overlords, but the letter conceded de facto independence to the two kingdoms.

In the Parthian kingdom itself, from 217 B.C. onwards, Arsaces I had been succeeded by his son Arsaces II. (Some historians also take the view that after a reign of 2-3 years Arsaces I was replaced by his brother Tiridates, see A. D. H. Bivar in Camb. Hist. Iran III/3, 1983, p. 37.) Very little is known of events during the reign of Arsaces II or those of his successors Phriapatius (ca. 191-ca. 76 B.C.) and Phraates I (ca. 176-ca. 71 B.C.), but it is certainly true to say that their small kingdom had consolidated its position on the shores of the Caspian Sea.

The Parthian empire from Mithridates I (ca. 171-39/8) to Mithridates II (ca. 124/3-88/7 B.C.). The next ruler, Mithridates I, ushered in that great and decisive epoch in the history of his people during which Parthia rose to become a major power in the Ancient East. This Mithridates and his successors achieved in a series of campaigns against the Seleucids and later the Romans in the west, and in the east against the Greco-Bactrian kingdom and the nomadic peoples who again and again emerged from the steppes between the Oxus and the Jaxartes. More source materials are available for this period in Parthian history than for the initial phase, but the exact chronology of events is still in many ways unclear.

The first campaign of Mithridates I was probably directed against the Greco-Bactrian kingdom (between 160 and 155 B.C.) with the aim of reconquering the territories that had been lost in that region during the reign of Arsaces I, especially the area around Nisa. What is certain is that the Parthians then conquered Media in the second half of 148 B.C. (According to the Seleucid inscription of June 148 at Bīsotūn a Seleucid governor was at any rate still in office there at that point in time. Cf. L. Robert, Gnomon 35, 1963, p. 76; H. Luschey, Archäologischer Anzeiger, 1974, p. 123.) On the evidence of a cuneiform text it is also known that by 12 October 141, Mithridates’ power was recognized as far afield as the ancient Sumerian city Uruk in southern Mesopotamia. Shortly before this he had had himself crowned king in Seleucia. It is also possible that the capital was transferred to Ctesiphon as early as his reign.

Not long afterwards the Parthians were for the first but not the last time forced to defend themselves against a fierce attack by nomads, possibly the Sakas, in the east. Mithridates took personal command of the campaign, even though the Seleucids were just then making ready to reconquer Mesopotamia. Presumably he considered the adversary in the east to be the more dangerous, an assessment of the situation which subsequent events confirmed as correct. The invasion in the northeast was successfully repulsed, then the Seleucid ruler Demetrius II, after making initial gains, was taken prisoner. Shortly before his death in 139/8 B.C. Mithridates also went on to conquer Elymais.

His greatest achievement had been to make the Parthians a world power. It seems quite probable, as J. Wolski has suggested (in H. Temporini and W. Haase, eds., Aufstieg und Niedergang der römischen Welt II/9.1, Berlin, 1976, pp. 198ff.), that the western policies of the Parthian king were based on a strategy involving not only the conquest of Mesopotamia but also the subsequent overthrow of Syria in order to gain access to the Mediterranean. Certainly, the exploits of Mithridates can no longer simply be classified as a series of raids for the purpose of pillaging and capturing booty.

His son and successor, Phraates II (ca. 139/8-ca. 28 B.C.) had to face the final, fruitless attempt on the part of the Seleucids to regain their power in the east. In 130 B.C., his adversary Antiochus VII Sidetes (139/8-29 B.C.) gained fairly substantially—reconquering Babylonia and Media, but soon afterwards the inhabitants of the Seleucid garrison towns revolted and allied themselves with the Parthians. The Seleucids then suffered a crushing defeat and Antiochus VII himself met his death (on these events see Th. Fischer, Untersuchungen zum Partherkrieg Antiochus VII im Rahmen der Seleukidengeschichte, Tübingen, 1970). From this point on the Seleucid kingdom effectively ceased to be a rival for the Parthians.

For their part, however, the Parthians were unable to rejoice in the victory for long because in the next few years they were again forced to come to terms with the nomads on their eastern frontier. As a result of the movements of the Huns in inner Asia various nomadic peoples began to appear in the region of the Oxus approximately during the period 133-129 B.C. The most important ones were the Yüeh-chih, who conquered the Greco-Bactrian kingdom and founded the empire of the Kushans (q.v.), the Sakas, and the Massagetae who turned against the Parthian empire. (For an account of these events, see P. Daffinà, L’immigrazione dei Saka nella Drangiane, Rome, 1967.) Both Phraates II and his successor Artabanus I (ca. 127-24/3) lost their lives in the course of these struggles. In addition to this, Hyspaosines, the ruler of the newly-founded kingdom of Characene in southern Mesopotamia, conquered fairly large parts of Mesopotamia, reaching as far up as Babylon. (For the history of this kingdom, see S. A. Nodelmann, Berytus 13, 1959-60, pp. 83ff.)

Under these difficult circumstances Mithridates II (ca. 124/3-88/7 B.C.), one of the most outstanding ruling figures of the ancient East, ascended the throne. First, he succeeded in defeating Hyspaosines (ca. 122/1), then he made the northern Mesopotamian kingdoms of Adiabene, Gordyene, and Osrhoene into vassal states, and conquered Dura-Europos in 113 B.C. Then he established contact between Parthia and Armenia (ca. 97 B.C.), deposed King Artavasdes and replaced him with his son Tigranes on the throne, in exchange for which he received “seventy valleys” (Strabo 11.14.15). The two countries were henceforth to be in virtually constant contact with one another, whether on a friendly or a hostile basis.

Mithridates II, known as “the Great” and from ca. 109/8 B.C. assuming the title “King of Kings,” also presided over events of a more peaceful nature. Around 115 B.C. he was visited by an embassy from the Chinese emperor Wu-ti, and the two rulers reached an agreement on the opening of the trade route later known as the “Silk Road.” A meeting also took place with Rome, the major world power in the West, on the Euphrates in 96 B.C. not in 92 B.C. as hitherto accepted. (E. Badian, Studies in Greek and Roman History, Oxford, 1964, pp. 157ff.; see also J. Wolski, op. cit., p. 196 n. 5. On relations between Rome and Parthia since Mithridates II see E. Dabrowa, La politique de l’état Parthe à l’égard de Rome—d’Artaban II à Vologèse I (ca. 11-ca 72 de N. E.) et les facteurs qui la conditionnaient, Cracow, 1983, pp. 15-69. The Parthian ambassador Orobazos offered Sulla, the propraetor of the province of Cilicia, the “friendship” and “alliance” of his master. Though the exact outcome of this meeting is unclear, the agreements with China and Rome prove Parthia’s rise to world status.

Even Mithridates II, however, soon came up against an internal problem which was eventually to prove a contributory factor in the downfall of the Parthian empire: the power and influence of the Parthian nobility, represented by a few great families, were from now on in a position to oppose the monarch frequently.

The ancient writers characterize this period as a “time of internal disorder,” an indication of how difficult it is to reconstruct events precisely. (Historians, especially those who take Babylonian texts as their sources, differ radically in their interpretations. For recent views, see G. Le Rider, Suse sous les Séleucides et les Parthes, MDAFI XXXVIII, 1965, pp. 391ff.; M. L. Chaumont, Syria 48, 1971, pp. 152ff.; K. W. Dobbins, NC, 1975, pp. 19ff.; D. G. Sellwood, JRAS, 1976, pp. 2ff.) One can not discount reports that Mithridates II had to contend at the end of his reign with a rival monarch called Gotarzes, probably the same Gotarzes who is depicted on the well-known bas-relief in Bīsotūn. (E. Herzfeld, Am Tor von Asien, Berlin, 1920, pp. 35ff., is firmly of the view that the two are identical, but see also M. L. Chaumont, Syria 48, 1971, pp. 156f.)

Parthia and Rome. Disorder persisted after the death of Mithridates II in 88/7 B.C., and the Armenians seized the opportunity to reconquer the “seventy valleys” they had ceded to the Parthians. At this time a series of monarchs ruled in the Parthian empire, such as Gotarzes, Orodes I, Sinatruces, and Phraates III, of whom little more than names is known. (Cf. Schippmann, Grundzüge der parthischen Geschichte, pp. 33f. Also Orodes and Mithridates, sons of Phraates III, who struggled for power after having murdered their father, are obscure figures. In 54/3 B.C. Mithridates defeated his brother, averting a fraternal strife, which would surely have diminished the chances of success in the impending great conflict with Rome.

The Romans had no real reason to seek conflict. Its main cause lay rather in the ambition of Crassus. At the end of 60 B.C. or the beginning of 59 B.C. Pompey, Caesar, and Crassus had established an alliance, the so-called “triumvirate” in Rome, and shortly afterwards (55 B.C.) control of the province of Syria had been assigned to Crassus with special powers. He wanted to use this position to enhance his standing and authority by fighting a war against the Parthians.

Even in Rome opinion was against such a campaign. Nevertheless, at the end of 55 B.C. Crassus marched off to Syria, where he arrived in the late spring of 54 B.C., and set out for Mesopotamia in the spring of 53 B.C.

At this time the Romans knew little about the Parthians and their army, which explains why Crassus “in addition to the campaign itself, which was the greatest mistake of all” (Plutarch, Crassus 17), made every other conceivable mistake. At the beginning of May, 53 B.C. Crassus and his Roman army fell into a trap set by the Parthians under their young commander Surena at Carrhae. Roughly one half of the Roman army of about 40,000 men, including Crassus and his son perished, 10,000 men were made captive, and only ten thousand were able to escape. (For details of this campaign, see N. C. Debevoise, A Political History of Parthia, Chicago, 1938, p. 78, n. 38, and E. Gabba in La Persia e il mondo greco-romano, Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei, Quaderno 76, Rome, 1966, pp. 51ff.)

This victory produced a mighty echo amongst the peoples of the East without however causing any decisive shift in the balance of power. (Cf. D. Timpe, “Die Bedeutung der Schlacht von Carrhae,” Museum Helveticum 19, 1962, pp. 104ff.) As for Surena, the victor of Carrhae, it soon cost him his life. Probably fearing that he would constitute a threat to himself, King Orodes II had him executed.

In the next few years the Parthians proved incapable of exploiting their victory, even when, after 50 B.C., the Romans were preoccupied with the conflicts between Pompey and Caesar and the subsequent civil war. Not until 41 B.C. or the start of 40 B.C. did the Parthians launch a major attack. Their army was led by Pacorus, son of Orodes, and the Roman, Quintus Labienus, who had been sent as an ambassador by Cassius, the Roman commander in chief in Syria, to conduct negotiations at the Parthian court and had remained there after the defeat of the republicans in the Roman civil war.

At the outset the Parthian attack was crowned with success: Labienus conquered large parts of Asia Minor, while Pacorus occupied Syria and Palestine. Soon, however, the situation changed. Mounting a counterattack in the year 39 B.C., the Romans defeated first Labienus and then Pacorus, who both lost their lives.

The death of his son Pacorus caused Orodes to appoint his eldest son Phraates IV (ca. 40-3/2) as successor. This was to prove a fatal error because Phraates murdered not only his father and brothers but also his own son and persecuted the nobility, many of whom left the country. The Romans under Antony saw an opportunity to attack the Parthians when the latter rejected a peace offer, coupled with a demand to hand back the Roman standards and captives taken at Carrhae, and Antony began the war in 36 B.C. According to Plutarch (Antonius 37.3) he marched with 100,000 men across Armenia to Media. But this campaign, too, was destined to fail. The Parthians inflicted a crushing defeat on the Roman rearguard, destroying the siege engines, while Antony, marching on ahead with the main body of his troops, started to besiege Phraata (Phraaspa), the exact location of which remains unknown. The widely-held suggestion that it is identical with Taḵt-e Solaymān to the southeast of Lake Urmia, where excavations have been carried out by the German Archeological Institute since 1959, is unproven (see K. Schippmann, Die iranischen Feuerheiligtümer, Berlin, 1971, pp. 309ff.; H. Bengtson, Zum Parther-Feldzug des Antonius, Munich, 1974). Because his Armenian auxiliaries had withdrawn and since the season was advancing and his supplies were running low, Antony had to break off the siege and embark on what proved to be a costly retreat. Plutarch (Antonius 50) puts the Roman losses at 24,000 men.

Like after Carrhae, however, the Parthians were unable to use this victory, because of a civil war which lasted from 32/1 B.C. to 25 B.C. A certain Tiridates revolted against Phraates IV, probably with the support of aristocratic circles and also, it seems likely, abetted by the Romans from time to time. After certain initial successes this rebellion failed, but the difficulties of the Parthian king were by no means at an end, as can be seen from the fact that his coinage ceased in about 24/3 B.C. Also, according to Josephus (Jewish Antiquities 16.253), Phraates had to contend with a further rival king by the name of Mithridates in the years 12-9 B.C.

For their part the Romans under Augustus exploited this difficult situation of the Parthian king. In 20 B.C. they sent an army against Armenia, then ruled by King Artaxes who was hostile to Rome. In the circumstances, Phraates felt obliged to comply with the frequently expressed demands of the Romans that the captives and standards of the legions seized at Carrhae and other standards taken from Decidius Saxa (40 B.C.) and Marc Antony (36 B.C.) should be returned. In Rome this act of restoration was celebrated as if a great victory had been won over the Parthians on the field of battle. In the context of these events both sides seem also to have concluded an informal peace treaty. (For details see K. H. Ziegler, Die Beziehungen zwischen Rom und dem Partherreich, 1964, Wiesbaden, pp. 48ff., Dabrowa, op. cit., pp. 91ff.) Rome recognized the Euphrates as a frontier whilst the Parthians on their side accepted Roman overlordship over Armenia. Now, however, the “personal” difficulties of Phraates IV really began. Augustus had sent the Parthian monarch a “Greek gift,” an Italian slave-girl called Musa. She rose to become his favorite wife and bore him a son named Phraataces, the later Phraates V. Hoping to obviate any problems over the succession, Phraates IV sent his four first-born sons to Rome where they would be protected by loyal hands, but Musa seized the opportunity to poison him, and her own son mounted the throne.

Soon afterwards conflict arose between Rome and Parthia over the question of Armenia. As a result the Romans appeared with a large force in Syria. Phraates gave way, and negotiations held in A.D. 1 ended with the Parthians relinquishing any claims to influence affairs in Armenia and the Romans granting recognition to Phraataces as a legitimate and sovereign ruler. Only a few years later, however, an uprising led to his being driven from the country (A.D. 4), and he died shortly afterwards in Syria. His successor, Orodes III, was murdered two years later in A.D. 6.

The Parthian nobility now turned to one of the sons of Phraates IV who had been sent to Rome. Augustus returned the eldest of them, Vonones, to Parthia where he was crowned king in 8/9. But life in Rome, in the opinion of the Parthians at least, had made Vonones “soft,” and they were unhappy about his tight budgetary control, so a rival candidate was set up by a section of the nobility. This was Artabanus who came from the northeast of Iran, probably Hyrcania. (For a comprehensive, specialist study see U. Kahrstedt, Artabanos III. und seine Erben, Bern, 1950.) When he first tried to seize power he was defeated by Vonones. Only at the second attempt was he successful, being crowned king in Ctesiphon in 10/11. Vonones withdrew to Armenia where he occupied the vacant throne for a short time, probably with Roman approval. However, when Artabanus threatened military action against him, the Romans withdrew their support from Vonones.

Encouraged by the Romans’ willingness to yield to him in this way, Artabanus now attempted to make his own son king of Armenia, but Rome was not prepared to accept this. Instead, the emperor Tiberius sent his adoptive son Germanicus to Armenia at the head of a large army, and he appointed a son of the king of Pontus as monarch there with the title Artaxes III. After this Artabanus gave way, with the result that about 18/19, amicable relations were apparently re-established on the pattern of the treaties concluded in 20 B.C. and 1 B.C. The main loser was Vonones who was deported to Cilicia by the Romans and died there in A.D. 19 when attempting to escape.

The following decade and a half was a period of peaceful coexistence for the two powers, and Artabanus profited from this to consolidate his own position within the Parthian empire. In Media Atropatene, Mesene-Characene, Persis, and Elymais the native dynasties were removed and replaced by Parthian secundogenitures. Only in the eastern part of the empire did Artabanus encounter difficulties. Here a dynasty of Parthian provincial rulers, frequently referred to as “Pahlawa,” held sway (probably the Surena family from eastern Iran; on the internal policy of Artabanus II see Dabrowa, op. cit., pp. 73ff.).

In A.D. 35 conflict with Rome was to break out again, and once more Armenia was the cause: King Artaxes had died without leaving an heir, and Artabanus moved to install his eldest son Arsaces on the throne. However, fearing that Artabanus was becoming too powerful, the nobility negotiated with the Romans against him: Emperor Tiberius then sent them Phraates, one of the four sons of Phraates IV, and when he died en route in Syria, Tiridates, a grandson of Phraates IV, was sent in his place. The Romans in addition appointed Mithridates, a brother of the ruler of Iberia, as king of Armenia. An Iberian army then conquered Armenia and beat off a counter-attack by the Parthians. With the backing of a Roman army commanded by L. Vitellius, the governor of Syria, Tiridates was crowned supreme king in Ctesiphon, and Artabanus withdrew to Hyrcania. However, Rome’s efforts to maintain “Roman” Parthians on the throne met with little success. Very quickly the Parthians became dissatisfied with Tiridates; indeed, before the year 36 was out, a section of the nobility was inviting Artabanus to take over the monarchy again. The Romans therefore arranged a meeting on the Euphrates between Vitellius and Artabanus in the spring of A.D. 37. The precise outcome of these negotiations is not known, but in all likelihood “status quo” was re-established: the Parthians agreed not to intervene in Armenia, and the Romans recognized the existing frontiers as well as Parthian sovereignty. (On the foreign policy of Artabanus, see Dabrowa, op. cit., pp. 103ff.)

However, the internal political problems of Artabanus were not over yet. Seleucia, one of the most important cities in the Parthian empire rose in rebellion from A.D. 36 to 42 perhaps due to a struggle between the indigenous and the Greek aristocracies (so R. H. McDowell, Coins from Seleucia on the Tigris, Ann Arbor, 1935, pp. 224ff.; but see also U. Kahrstedt, Artabanos III., pp. 25ff., 44ff.) or possibly because of a “class struggle” between rich and poor (thus N. Pigulevskaja, Les villes de l’état iranien aux époques parthes et sassanides, Paris, 1963, pp. 61ff., 85). Furthermore, Artabanus had to contend with a rival who enjoyed the support of the Parthian nobility, Cinnamus, one of his own foster sons. Eventually the ruler of Adiabene, Izates II, into whose kingdom Artabanus had withdrawn, managed to reconcile the two rivals. Artabanus probably died in A.D. 38 after a reign of some twenty-eight years.

He was succeeded by his son Vardanes I (ca. 39-ca. 45, thus Le Rider, MDAFI, 1965, p. 461, who does not rule out the possibility that Vardanes reigned until 47/8, see p. 426 n. 1; Kahrstedt, Artabanos III., pp. 24ff. et alibi; R. Hanslik, Pauly-Wissowa, VIII/A, 1, 1955, col. 369, and others name Gotarzes as direct successor). A rival monarch, Gotarzes II, (43/4-51), a nephew of Artabanus caused several years of conflicts which ended with the murder of Vardanes.

Dissatisfied with Gotarzes, the Parthians requested the return of a rival, Meherdates, son of Vonones, who lived in Rome. In A.D. 49, however, Gotarzes managed to win a decisive victory over his new rival in Kurdistan. A famous bas-relief on the rock at Bīsotūn may refer to this event. (Thus E. Herzfeld, Am Tor von Asien, p. 46, and others, who take the view that the Gotarzes mentioned in the accompanying inscription is identical with Gotarzes II, whereas M. L. Chaumont, Syria 48, 1971, pp. 156f. argues against their identity.) The joys of victory were, however, short-lived since Gotarzes died in A.D. 51.

It is not clear whether a certain Vonones, brother of Artabanus II and king of Armenia now took over the reins of power, to be followed by his son Vologases, or whether the latter succeeded directly. Certainly, Vologases I (ca. 51-77/9) reigned for a long time by Parthian standards; even though he too had to come to terms with a series of political problems at home and abroad.

In A.D. 53 Vologases succeeded in appointing his brother Tiridates king of Armenia after King Mithridates had been murdered. At first the Romans were unable to do much about the situation because of the poor condition of their forces in the region, and merely wrote to Vologases, recommending him to make peace and to give hostages.

In 58, however, the Romans proceeded to attack. They enjoyed some initial success, but in the winter of 62 Vologases managed to surround a Roman army near Rhandeia (on the Arsanias, a tributary of the Euphrates) and force it to capitulate. After negotiations, the Parthian lifted their siege and the Romans withdrew from Armenia, leaving Vologases to apply directly to Rome to have Tiridates invested with the Armenian crown in fief (on the relations between Parthia and Rome from 63 to 79, see Dabrowa, op. cit., pp. 154ff.). In A.D. 66 Tiridates traveled to Rome, where he received the crown of Armenia from the hands of the emperor Nero himself (see Dio Cassius 53.5, 2). The two empires then co-existed peacefully for a few decades.

Vologases died in A.D. 80 or perhaps earlier if certain coins are to be ascribed to him (see R. H. McDowell, op. cit., pp. 119ff., 230, but also Le Rider, MDAFI, London, 1965, pp. 174f. and G. D. Sellwood, An Introduction to the Coinage of Parthia, 1971, p. 220). Parthian history in the next few decades is difficult to reconstruct. Various pretenders to the throne, Pacorus II, Vologases II, and Osroes must have held sway over fairly large territories within the Parthian empire. In view of the apparently very long reign of Vologases II (A.D. 77/8-146/7), Le Rider, op. cit., introduced a further king, to whom he ascribed the coinage of the years 77/78, 89/90, and 106/08; the ruler referred to as Vologases II thus becomes Vologases III; according to Le Rider’s account, he ruled from A.D. 111/12 (see also E. J. Keall, JAOS 95, 1975, p. 630 n. 36). At any rate, after the internal conflicts came to an end (from 114) Osroes probably occupied the Parthian throne; he was the adversary of the Romans in the Parthian war begun in 114 under the emperor Trajan. The precise reasons for this war are unknown. Economic factors may have played a part, such as the desire to gain control of the trade routes through Mesopotamia (thus J. Guey, Essai sur la guerre parthique de Trajan, Bucharest, 1937, or military aims such as the attainment of a secure frontier by annexing Armenia and northern Mesopotamia (thus F. A. Lepper, Trajan’s Parthian Way, London, 1948, or simply the pursuit of personal glory on the emperor’s part (thus Dio Cassius 68.17.1). It may well be, however, that all three reasons played a part.

In 114 the Romans marched into Armenia, killing Parthamasiris whom Osroes had installed as king there. From there Trajan conquered northern Mesopotamia (by the end of 115) and shortly afterwards the Parthian capital Ctesiphon. The Romans even managed to advance as far as the Persian Gulf, but then the reverses began. Trajan was in Babylon on the march back when he heard that a rebellion had broken out in many parts of the territory he had conquered. In addition, a revolt by the Jews had begun in Cyrenaica and was spreading throughout the Levant as far as Egypt. In the end the Romans once again proved masters of the situation, but not without suffering losses, both materially and in terms of prestige. Trajan also profited from power struggles within Parthia itself, but ultimately his victory cost too much. The Parthian Great King still had sufficient military forces at his disposal, and Trajan’s attempt to conquer Hatra, one of the main Parthian bulwarks in northern Mesopotamia, ended in failure. Before he could contemplate a new campaign Trajan died in the summer of A.D. 117.

His successor Hadrian recognized only too clearly that apart from a few spectacular but momentary successes, such as the capture of Ctesiphon and the advance to the Persian gulf, Trajan’s campaign had produced little of value for Rome. Thus more peaceful times returned. The Euphrates once again became the frontier and Rome relinquished Armenia, Mesopotamia, and Assyria, a province re-established by Trajan, which corresponded roughly to the territory of ancient Babylonia. No doubt the peace must have been welcome to both sides.

Osroes, however, had conflicts with his rival Vologases III, which must have ended in victory for Vologases after 129 since Osroes’ coinage ceased to appear in Seleucia in 127/8.

Vologases III (after 129-146/8), too, had to contend with a rival king: Mithridates IV, who met with little success. Probably more dangerous were the Alans who between 134 and 136 attacked Albania, Media, and Armenia, penetrating as far as Cappadocia. The only way Vologases was able to persuade them to withdraw was probably by paying them. The Romans, too, under Hadrian’s successor Antoninus Pius (138-161), were active, installing a new king in Armenia. The Parthians did not react possibly because their forces were inadequate or in order to preserve peace and the flourishing, highly profitable caravan trade that came with it.

Peaceful conditions also prevailed in the early part of the reign of Vologases IV (147/8-190/1 or 192/3). On the death of Antoninus Pius, the Parthians reopened hostilities and gained some successes against Marcus Aurelius: they conquered Armenia, installing a new king named Pacorus, and also marched into Syria. But a Roman counter-offensive in 163 won back Armenia, where a new ruler by the name of Sohaemus was crowned king by the grace of Rome, and in 164 they forced the Parthians to give up Syria, and their general Avidius Cassius began to march into Mesopotamia. At the end of 165 or the beginning of 166 the Romans took Seleucia and Ctesiphon, but once again the Parthians were fortunate: an epidemic, probably of small pox, broke out forcing the Romans to retreat in the spring of A.D. 166. In the process they suffered heavy losses.

For the next three decades peace reigned, partly perhaps because various Roman emperors struggled for power. Finally Septimius Severus gained the upper hand, and began a new war against the Parthians, who by this time were ruled by Vologases V (190/1 or 193-208/09). This war lasted from 195 to 199, but although Seleucia and Ctesiphon again fell to the Romans, and Hatra was besieged, shortage of food and supplies forced Septimius Severus and his army to withdraw. Still, the Romans had managed this time to secure their frontier against Parthia by creating two new provinces, Osrhoene and Mesopotamia. According to some recent investigations (see M. G. A. Bertinelli, in Temporini and Haase, op. cit., II, 9/1, pp. 41ff.) the southeastern frontier ran from Alaina (Tell Ḥayal) via Singara (Beled Sinǰar) further east via Zagurae (ʿAin Sinu) to Vicat (Tell ʿIbra) and possibly up to the Tigris (Mosul).

After 207/8 Vologases VI followed his father on the throne, but soon (ca. 213) had to fight his younger brother Artabanus IV. In the year 216 the emperor Caracalla asked Artabanus IV for the hand of his daughter in marriage, in itself a clear evidence of the fact that the latter was then monarch, even though the coinage of Vologases VI continued to appear in Seleucia until at least 221/2.

Artabanus turned down Caracalla’s request, thus giving the Roman emperor a pretext for a new Parthian war. Although Caracalla and his army succeeded in advancing as far as Arbela, the capital of Adiabene, he does not appear to have achieved any decisive victory over the Parthians.

In April 217 the Parthians mounted a fairly big offensive to avenge Caracalla’s action, demanding from his successor, Macrinus, the withdrawal of the Romans from Mesopotamia and restitution for the damage they had caused. Macrinus was neither able nor willing to agree to these demands, so the war continued and the Romans were defeated at Nisibis, as suggested by the terms of the peace treaty: The Romans paid the Parthian king and the nobility a total of fifty million dinars in cash and gifts at the beginning of A.D. 218.

The peace brought little advantage to Macrinus and his successors, Elagabal (218-222) and Severus Alexander (222-35), since the Parthian era now came to an end.

It was Ardašīr, a minor Parthian vassal in Persis, who was to bring about the demise of the Parthian empire. From roughly A.D. 220 onwards he began to subjugate nearby territories and others further afield, such as Kermān. (For details of these events, see G. Widengren in La Persia nel Medioevo, Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei, Quaderno 160, Rome, 1971, pp. 711ff.) When Artabanus IV proceeded to take counter-measures it was too late. The decisive battle, probably on 28 April 224 in the region of what is now Golpāyegān, between Isfahan and Nehāvand (see Widengren, op. cit., p. 743-44), cost the Parthian Great King his life and in practice meant the end of the Parthian empire, even though Ardašīr only had himself crowned “King of Kings” some years later, probably in A.D. 226. At all events it can be assumed that the Sasanian dynasty, so named after an ancestor of Ardašīr, possibly his grandfather Sāsān, already exercised power throughout the Parthian empire before the year A.D. 230.

Résumé. The Parthian empire remained in existence for roughly 475 years and constituted, even during its periodic weak phases, the most significant power factor in the ancient East alongside the Romans. Though even today the Parthians are frequently classified as “barbarians” (thus, for instance, A. R. Bellinger, “The End of the Seleucids,” Transactions of the Connecticut Academy of Arts and Sciences 38, 1949, p. 75) or as “princes on horseback” for whom the conquering of Iran and Mesopotamia meant nothing more than new grazing grounds or feudal tenure, and who, unlike the Achaemenids and Sasanians, had no great political aim in mind, this is a view which is no longer tenable. The Parthians have every right to be considered on a par with the Seleucid and Sasanian dynasties not only politically but also culturally. One must also not view Parthian history solely in terms of the struggles against the Seleucids and the Romans, for the Parthian empire was not only aligned against the West, but also occupied a position between the Greco-Roman world to the west and that of Central Asia to the east.

There is also ample evidence to show that the Parthians felt themselves to be the heirs of the Achaemenids. Thus, for example, they adopted the Achaemenid title “King of Kings” on their coinage. The figure of the seated archer that appears very early on the reverse of their coins also derives from the Achaemenids, for whom the bow, as depicted on coins, seals, and reliefs, symbolized royalty (see R. Ghirshman, in Temporini and Haase, op. cit., II, 9/1, 1976, p. 215). In addition, Tacitus (Annals 6.31) records that the envoys of Artabanus II demanded from the Romans the return of all the territories that had once belonged to the Achaemenids (for a detailed account, see J. Wolski, in Temporini and Haase, op. cit. II, 9/1, 1976, pp. 204f.)

On the basis of details like these and others, J. Neusner (Iranica Antiqua 3, 1963, pp. 40ff.) and Wolski have arrived at the opinion that the Arsacids had a political idea, central to which was a commitment to Iran as a national concept. The somewhat disparaging term “Philhellenes,” which even today is sometimes used to characterize the Parthians, was no doubt justified to a certain extent, given the very poor state of findings and historical research in the early days.

However, quite aside from the fact that new findings have now established Iranian elements also in the art of the period, it is possible that the Parthian kings deliberately used the designation “Philhellene” on their coinage as a political device to make it easier for them to ensure the cooperation of the Greeks in their empire, especially in Mesopotamia.

One question remains to be answered: What were the reasons for the downfall of such an important empire or, more precisely, how did a minor Parthian vassal contrive to bring about its destruction? No doubt there were several reasons. One was the latent antagonism between the monarch and the nobility or even, as was frequently the case, the dependence of the ruler on this group. Another important reason was the fact that the Parthian empire often fought or frequently had to fight wars on two fronts, for in addition to the Seleucids and Romans in the west they had great adversaries in the east, such as the Greco-Bactrians, the Kushans who succeeded them, the Sakas, the Alans and other peoples of Central Asia. In the long run these conflicts overtaxed both the military and the economic strength of the Parthian empire (see also Dabrowa, op. cit., pp. 174f.).

2. Parthian society from the third century B.C. to the third century A.D. As a result of archeological research, particularly the work carried out by the Russians in Turkmenistan and Chorasmia, it must now be accepted that political entities of some considerable size existed in Parthia and Margiane, i.e. in the territory of the present-day SSR Turkmenistan, as early as the first millennium B.C. and not just from the times of the Achaemenids or the Seleucids (see V. M. Masson and V. I. Sarianidi, Central Asia, London, 1972, pp. 155ff.). The existence of fairly large towns can also be assumed, such as Samarkand, Marv, Elken Tepe, and Yaz Tepe, to name only a few. For the most part, however, there were villages of varying sizes, and large irrigation systems played a significant role (Polybius 10.28, pp. 3ff., Justin 41.5.4). Life in southern Turkmenistan was dominated by big landowners who had large numbers of serfs at their disposal. Beyond this there was certainly a considerable number of slaves, although village communities with free peasants also existed.

Such were the prevailing conditions when the Parni arrived. To label the latter simply as nomads from the steppes would be injudicious. Soviet Russian excavations in the territories adjacent to southern Turkmenistan, such as Chorasmia, have demonstrated that in the sixth and fifth centuries B.C. the area was inhabited by the so-called “Massagetae Federation,” an association of different tribes who lived a sedentary life, raising cattle and tilling the land (for details, see S. P. Tolstov, Auf den Spuren der altchoresmischen Kultur, Berlin, 1953, pp. 101ff.). After the Parni chieftain had been crowned king in Asaak, conditions must have changed, for now he had to rule not only over the Parni but also over the inhabitants of the conquered territory, who were predominantly Parthians. In other words, he had to try to strengthen his position. (J. Wolski estimated that despotism was established as early as the first half of the second century B.C., cf. Deutsche Historiker-Gesellschaft, Neue Beiträge zur Geschichte der Alten Welt, ed. E. Weiskopf, I, Berlin, 1964, pp. 379ff.).

It is reasonable to assume that a further change in the social structure of the empire took place from the time of Mithridates I (ca. 171 to 139/8 B.C.). Then and in the following period the Parthian empire increased enormously in size, especially as a result of the conquest of Mesopotamia, so that it now had large Hellenistic cities such as Seleucia, Dura-Europos, and Susa. The rulers now had to administer and direct the affairs of an empire of world status, which must frequently have made it necessary for them to disregard old tribal traditions. One instance of this was the accession of Mithridates I. It was customary for the eldest son to succeed to the throne, but in this case Phraates I passed over his numerous sons and appointed as king his brother Mithridates. The execution of Surena, the victor at Carrhae shows the relatively unlimited power of the supreme monarch in Parthia.

In this period the nobility must also have extended its power and influence considerably, not least as a result of the vast estates it acquired in the course of the various conquests (J. Wolski, “L’aristocratie foncière et l’organisation de l’armée parthe,” Klio 63, 1981, pp. 105ff.).

Historians differ in their judgment as to whether it is legitimate to talk of a feudal system at this epoch in Parthian history. The view that such a state of feudalism did exist is taken by Widengren (Temporini and Haase, op. cit., II, 9/1, 1976, pp. 249ff.) and others (for example N. C. Debevoise, Political History, p. xlii, and E. Herzfeld, AMI 4, 1932, p. 54). In my opinion, however, Parthian history falls into different stages of development, and it is therefore impossible simply to refer to the state of Parthia as a single feudal state (thus also K. H. Ziegler, Beziehungen zwischen Rom und dem Partherreich, Wiesbaden, 1964, pp. 16f.; F. Altheim and R. Stiehl, Geschichte Mittelasiens, Berlin, 1970, p. 528). Thus we know little about Parthian history from the beginnings until into the first century B.C., and what information we have about the subsequent period derives predominantly from the western part of the empire, i.e. Mesopotamia.

Soviet-Russian historians, who define the concept of feudalism quite differently by focusing attention on the conditions of production (see B. F. Porschnew, Sowjetwissenschaft, Gesellschaftswissenschaftliche Abteilung 1, 1954, pp. 75ff., 84), view the system as one of slave ownership. According to their interpretation, the existence of a feudal system can not be assumed before the subsequent Sasanian era (thus, for instance, N. Pigulevskaja, Les villes de l’état iranien, p. 136 and A. Perikhanjan, VDI, 1952, pp. 14ff.).

3. Economic life in the Parthian empire. Agriculture undoubtedly played the most important role in Parthian economy, but few details are known about it. The same applies to handicraft. Our best information concerns trade. Numerous routes existed for the traffic of goods between East and West, not only the Silk Road. Although trading of some kind must surely have been carried on beforehand, it only began on a significant level in connection with the sending of an embassy by the Chinese to the court of Mithridates II. 114 B.C. is the first known date on which a caravan traveled from China to the west (thus A. Herrmann, Das Land der Seide und Tibet im Licht der Antike, Leipzig, 1938, p. 4 [repr. Amsterdam, 1968]). Isodorus of Charax has supplied us with some sort of survey of the routes in his Parthian Stations, written around the beginning of the Christian era. From Antiochia on the Orontes various routes led via Dura-Europos or across the Syrian desert via Palmyra to Seleucia, Ctesiphon, and Vologasia. (For details of the last named town, the location of which is still not identified exactly, see A. Maricq, Syria 36, 1959, pp. 264ff.; Chaumont, Syria 51, 1974, pp. 77ff., and G. A. Koshelenko, Studi in onore di Edoardo Volterra I, Milan, 1971, pp.761ff.)

From there the route led across the Zagros mountains to Kermānšāh and Hamadān, then on to Marv (Antiochia Margiana). Here it divided, one branch leading via Bukhara and Ferghana past the Issyk Kul into Mongolia, the other, more important one going to Bactria, then on to the “Stone Tower” (probably identical with Tashkurgan or with Darautkurgan in the Alai valley (Kirghizia), where Chinese traders took over the merchandise.

Maritime trade also deserves to be mentioned. The most important port was Charax Spasinu on the Persian Gulf, from where merchandise was shipped to India or sent overland to Seleucia. Besides, the Euphrates with its ramified system of canals played an important part in the trade of Mesopotamia. Here the Parthians acted primarily as middlemen, making their profits from the numerous customs posts they set up and from the various taxes they levied on goods in transit. The well known “Palmyrenian Tariff,” an extensive inscription in Palmyra of the year 137, provides us with an example of these taxes and also of the sorts of merchandise bought and sold at the time. With regard to economic conditions in the Parthian heartlands the ostraca from Nisa are now beginning to yield a certain amount of information (see I. M. Diakonov, M. M Diakonov, and V. A. Livshits, Sowjetwissenschaft, Gesellschaftswissenschaftliche Abt. 4, 1954, pp. 557ff.).

4. The army in the Parthian empire. Unfortunately there is no comprehensive account of the Parthian army. The numerical size of the Parthian army can only be estimated approximately. At the battle of Carrhae: 10,000 cavalry are said to have taken part on the Parthian side (see Plutarch, Crassus 17; Dio Cassius 41.12) and in the struggle against Mark Antony in 36 B.C. their cavalry reportedly numbered as many as 50,000 (Justin 41.2.6). Probably the latter figure represented their maximum strength.

The most important types of forces in the Parthian army were the lightly armed cavalry equipped with bows and arrows and the so-called cataphracts, cavalrymen who were both heavily armed and heavily armored so that both horse and rider were protected by coats of chain mail. Their weapon was the lance or sometimes also the bow. It is not clear whether the terms clibanarii and catafracti were used to designate different kinds of armored cavalry, armed respectively with the lance and the bow (thus R. N. Frye, Persien, Essen, 1975, p. 391), or whether they are merely different terms for one and the same type of force (thus E. Gabba, op. cit., p. 65, n. 66).

The social composition of the armed forces is unclear. Justin (41.2.6) claims that of the 50,000-strong army that fought against Mark Antony 4,000 were “freemen,” by which it is likely that he means nobles. Plutarch (Crassus 21) reports that at the battle of Carrhae the army was composed partly of pelátai (serfs) and partly of doûloi (retainers), but the precise distinction between the two is a matter of dispute. (See G. Widengren in Temporini and Haase, op. cit., II, 9/1, 1976, p. 282, nn. 336, 252; J. Wolski, Iranica Antiqua 7, 1967, pp. 141; Altheim and Stiehl, Geschichte Mithelasiens, p. 464, on the other hand, translate doûloi [servi] as “slaves” as do Pigulevskaja, Les villes de l’état iranien, pp. 81ff., and Wolski, “Les relations de Justin et de Plutarque sur les esclaves et la population dépendante dans l’empire Parthe,” Iranica Antiqua 18, 1938, pp. 148ff.). Finally, mention must be made of the mercenaries in the Parthian army, although historians differ in assessing their significance (see Widengren, op. cit., pp. 285ff. and Wolski, Iranica Antiqua 5, 1965, pp. 103ff.). [see also ARMY i.]


See also for Parthian history: W. W. Tarn, “Parthia,” in CAH2 X, pp. 574-613 (especially the bibliography pp. 946ff.).

J. Wolski, “The Decay of the Iranian Empire of the Seleucids and the Chronology of the Parthian Beginnings,” Berytus 12, 1956-58, pp. 35-52.

M. A. R. Colledge, The Parthians, Nijmegen, 1967.

Archeology: G. A. Pugachenkova, Puti razvitiya arkhitektury Yuzhnogo Turkmenistana pory rabovladeniya i feodalizma (The development of architecture in Southern Turkmenistan during the periods of slavery and feudalism), Yuzhno-Turkmenskaya Arkheologicheskaya Kompleksnaya Ekspeditsiya VI, Moscow, 1958.

G. A. Koshelenko, Kul’tura Parfii, Moscow, 1966 (detailed review by G. Glaesser in East and West 17, 1967, pp. 148-51).

M. Oppermann, “Beiträge zur parthischen Festungs- und Sakralarchitektur,” Wissenschaftliche Zeitschrift der Universität Halle 17, 1968, G, pt. 6, pp. 43-115.

G. Frumkin, “Archaeology in Soviet Central Asia,” in HO 7, 2/1, Leiden, 1970 (especially the section on “The Parthians”).

T. N. Zadneprovskaya, “Bibliographie de travaux soviétiques sur les Parthes,” Studia Iranica 4, pp. 243-60.

L. Vanden Berghe, Bibliographie analytique de l’archéologie de l’Iran ancien, Leiden, 1979 (especially pp. 256-71).

Idem and E. Haerinck, Bibliographie analytique de l’archéologie de l’Iran ancien. Supplement l. 1978-80, Leiden, 1981.

Arts: D. Schlumberger, Der hellenisierte Orient, Baden-Baden, 1969.

M. A. R. Colledge, Parthian Art, London, 1977.

G. A. Koshelenko, Rodina parfyan (The homeland of the Parthians), Moscow, 1977 (detailed review by P. Bernard in Studia Iranica 8, pp. 119-39).

Economy: M. Rostovtzeff, Social and Economic History of the Hellenistic World, 3 vols., Oxford, 1948.

H. Kreissig, Wirtschaft und Seleukidenreich, Schriften zur Geschichte und Kultur der Antike 16, 1978.

The following chapters in Camb. Hist. Iran III, Cambridge, 1983, deal with the Arsacids and contain extensive bibliographies: A. D. H. Bivar, “The Political History of Iran under the Arsacids,” III/I, pp. 21-101; D. Sellwood, “Parthian Coins,” III/I, pp. 279-98; O. Kurz, “Cultural Relations between Parthia and Rome,” III/2, pp. 681ff.; D. Schlumberger, “Parthian Art,” III/2, pp. 1027-54; M. Boyce, “Parthian Writings and Literature,” III/2, pp. 1151-65.

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Parthian Army

The Parthian Period. The Greco-Persian wars and Alexander’s victories proved that light-armed troops could not stop heavy, well-trained, and brilliantly led infantry of the type of hoplites or phalanx. These could only be encountered with heavily armed and highly professional cavalry causing disorder in the massed ranks and then attacking them on vulnerable points with bowshots capable of piercing armor and lances effective against shields. This lesson went home with the Parthians who in ousting the Seleucids from Iran had ample opportunity to experience the effect of heavily armed professional infantry led by Macedonian kings, and soon came to learn about the armament, tactics, and strategy of the Roman empire as well. So they formed their armies on sound bases, taking into consideration what was needed and what was available to them.

In extent, the Parthian empire was smaller than that of the Achaemenids; it was also far less centralized. It lacked, for instance, a standing army (Herodian 3.1). There were of course the garrisons of towns and forts as well as armed retinues of tribal chiefs, feudal lords, and of the Great King himself, but these were limited and disunited. The military concerns were conditioned by the feudal system: when the need arose, the Great King appealed to his subordinate kings (there were 18 of them at one time: Pliny, Natural History 2.26), regional, and tribal lords and garrison commanders to muster what they could and bring them to an appointed place at a given time (Herodian, loc. cit.). The feudal lords and officials brought the mustering levies (*hamspāh: E. Herzfeld, Altpersische Inschriften, Berlin, 1938, pp. 313f.), and sometimes supplemented them with foreign mercenaries (Josephus, Jewish Antiquities 18.9.2, 22.3.4; on the mercenaries in general see J. Wolski, “Le rôle et l’importance des mercenaries dans l’état parthe,” Iranica Antiqua 5, 1965, pp. 103ff.). The backbone of the army (Parth. spā’) and the chief power of controlling the empire consisted of the Parthians themselves. Accustomed from an early age to the art of horsemanship and skilled in archery, the Parthian secured a reputation that is still echoed in the Persian term pahlavān (< Pahlav < Parθava) while Parthian tactic and shooting are examplary in military histories.

The nature of their state and political conditions combined with lessons of history enforced an unusual military structure in Parthia: North Iranian nomads constantly threatened eastern borders while in the west first the Seleucids and then the Romans were ever ready for full-scale invasions. Any stratagem against such a double danger required rapid mobility for going from Armenia to the Jaxartes on short notice; and the solution the Parthians found was to rely on cavalry (asbārān; ʾsbʾr attested in Nisa documents; V. G. Lukonin in Camb. Hist. Iran III/2, 1983, p. 700). It is true that Parthian armies did have foot soldiers, but their numbers were small and their function insignificant (Plutarch, Crassus 19; Appian, Bella civilia 2.18). On tactical considerations, too, only the cavalry could be useful to the Parthians, for the nomads of the east could easily break through any infantry that the Parthians were able to muster, while no Parthian infantry could have matched the Roman phalanxes on the western front. The Parthian nobles (āzāt, misunderstood by Greek and Roman sources as “free-men,” Lukonin, loc. cit.) formed the army by bringing along their dependants (misunderstood by Greek and Roman sources as “slaves,” Lukonin, ibid.). The example par excellence was Sūrēn who was not yet thirty years old when he vanquished Crassus: he came escorted by a thousand heavy-armed horsemen and many more of the light-armed riders, so that an army of 10,000 horsemen was formed by his bondsmen and dependants (Plutarch, Crassus 21 ). 400 Parthian āzāts threw an army of 50,000 mounted warriors against Mark Antony (Justin 41.2).

Experience had shown that light cavalry—armed with a bow and arrows and probably also a sword—was suitable for skirmishes, hit-and-run tactics, and flank attacks, but could not sustain close combat (Justin, loc. cit.; Plutarch, Crassus 24; G. Rawlinson, The Sixth Great Oriental Monarchy, London, 1873, p. 405). For the latter task, heavy cavalry (cataphracti) was formed, which wore steel helmets (Plutarch, Crassus 24), a coat of mail reaching to the knees and made of rawhide covered with scales of iron or steel that enabled it to resist strong blows (ibid., 18, 24, 25; Justin, loc. cit.; on the description of the armor worn by the cataphracti given by the third-century story writer Heliodorus of Emesa, Aethiopica 9.15, see F. Rundgren, “Über einige iranische Lehnwörter im Lateinischen und Griechischen,” Orientalia Suecana 6, 1957, pp. 31-65 esp. pp. 33ff. with references). This was akin to the lamellar armor of the Sacians of the Jaxartes who in 130 B.C. overthrew the Greco-Bactrian kingdom (A. D. H. Bivar, “Cavalry Equipment and Tactics on the Euphrates Frontier,” Dumbarton Oaks Paper 26, 1972, pp. 273f.). The charger too was covered from head to knees by armor made of scale armor said to have been of steel or bronze (Justin, loc. cit., Plutarch, Crassus 24). An actual example of this horse-armor was found at Dura Europos (M. I. Rostovtzeff, The Excavations at Dura-Europos: Preliminary Report of the Second Season, New Haven, 1931, pp. 194ff.), while a famous graffito of the Parthian cataphract from the same site clearly demonstrates his full panoply (idem, Caravan Cities, Oxford, 1932, p. 195; F. E. Brown, “Sketch of the History of Horse Armor,” in M. I. Rostovtzeff and A. R. Bellinger, eds., The Excavations at Dura-Europos: Preliminary Report of the Sixth Season of Work, New Haven, 1936, pp. 444ff.). For offensive weapons the cataphract had a lance and a bow. The spear was of unusual thickness and length (Plutarch, Crassus 27, Antony 45; Dio Cassius 40.22; Herodian 4.30), and was used with such skill—relying on its weight—and power that it “often had impetus enough to pierce through two men at once” (Plutarch, Crassus 27). The bow was of the powerful and large compound type which outranged Roman weapons and its arrows, shot with swiftness, strength, and precision, penetrated the armor of the legionaries (Plutarch, Crassus 18, 24; see further Rawlinson, op. cit., p. 404; N. C. Debevoise, A Political History of Parthia, Chicago, 1938, p. 86; F. E. Brown, “A Recently Discovered Compound Bow,” Seminarium Kondakovianum 9, 1937, pp. 1-10). The cataphract was probably equipped with a knife as well (Rawlinson, loc. cit.). So armed and thus skilled, he was one of the ablest and most feared soldiers of antiquity (on the cataphract see in more detail O. Gamber, “Grundriss einer Geschichte der Schutzwaffen des Altertums,” Jahrbuch der kunsthistorischen Sammlungen in Wien 52, 1966, pp. 7ff. esp. pp. 49-52; idem, “Katafrakten, Clibanarii, Normanenreiter,” ibid., 64, 1968, pp. 7ff.; B. Rubins’s summary of Drevniĭ Khorezm by S. P. Tolstov, Moscow, 1948, in Historia 4, 1955, pp. 264ff.). The Parthian army was at times additionally supported by camel-borne troops (Herodian 4.28, 30). The animal could bear the weight of the warrior and his armor better and endure harshness longer than the horse; also, the archer could discharge his arrows from an elevated position. These would have made the division very desirable had it not been greatly hampered by Roman caltrop (tribulus) which, scattered on the battlefield, injured the spongy feet of the animal (ibid.).

The Parthian tactic was that of harassing the enemy by the hit-and-run action, dividing his forces by pretending retreat and enticing pursuit but then turning unexpectedly back and showering the foe with deadly arrows, and, finally when he was reduced in number and courage, to surround him, and destroy him with volleys of missiles. The tactic was thus unfavorable to close combat operation, and inefficient in laying siege to forts and walled towns; nor could the Parthians sustain long campaigns, especially in the winter months (Rawlinson, op. cit., pp. 406ff.). Since they lacked siege-engines, the Parthians made no use of Roman machines whenever they captured them (Plutarch, Antony 38). And since the army was composed mainly of the dependants of the āzāts, it had to disband sooner or later and go back to the land and the crops. The Parthian general desired to bring to a close a campaign as soon as possible and return home. When the Great King led the army this haste was doubled by the fear of insurrection at home, the frequency of which was the greatest weakness of the Parthian empire. The battle was furious: war cries and kettledrums resounded from all sides, setting fear in enemy ranks (Plutarch, Crassus 23, 26; Justin 41.2; Herodian 4.30); mounted on the light horse the archers showered the enemy with volley after volley, and then retreated but again turned back to shoot while the charger was at full gallop—an ancient art which came to be known as “the Parthian shot” (M. L. Rostovtzeff, “The Parthian Shot,” AJA 47, 1943, p. 174ff.). Then the shock cavalry (cataphracts) moved in, still avoiding hand-to-hand combat but picking up the enemy with their missiles and piercing them with the heavy lance. Charging on large and trained war horses (see under Asb), of which some were brought as reserves (Dio Cassius 41.24), the Parthians avoided the deficiency of the Achaemenid cavalry by carrying camel-loads of arrows for use in the field as soon as their archers ran out of their own; this enabled sustained and effective long-range engagements and reduced the number of the enemy rapidly (Plutarch, Crassus 25, see further Rawlinson, op. cit., pp. 160f.; 402ff.).

The organization of the Parthian army is not clear, and lacking a standing force, a strict and complicated organization was unnecessary in any case. The small company was called wašt; a large unit was drafš; and a division evidently a gund (G. Widengren, “Iran, der grosse Gegner Roms: Königsgewalt, Feudalismus, Militarwesen,” in H. Temporini and W. Haase, eds., Aufstieg und Niedergang der römischen Welt II/9.1, 1976, 220ff. esp. pp. 281f.). The strength of a drafš was 1,000 men (Lucian cited by A. Christensen, Smeden Kāväh og det Gamle Persiske Rigsbanner, Copenhagen, 1919, pp. 23f. [tr. J. M. Unvala, “The Smith Kaveh and the Ancient Persian Imperial Banner,” Journal of the Cama Oriental Institute 5, 1925, pp. 22ff. esp. p. 37 n. 2]), and that of a corps 10,000 (cf. Sūrēn’s army). It seems, therefore, that a decimal grade was observed in the organization of the army. The whole spā’ was under a supreme commander (the Great King, his son, or a spā’pat, chosen from the great noble families). The largest army the Parthians organized was that brought against Mark Antony (50,000: Justin 41.2). At Carrhae the proportion of the lancers to the light horse was about one to ten, but in the first and second centuries the number and importance of the lancers as the major actors of the battle-field increased substantially (Bivar, op. cit., pp. 274-75). The Parthians carried various banners, often ornamented with the figures of dragons (Christensen, op. cit., tr. Unvala, pp. 37f.), but the famous national emblem of Iran, the Drafš-e Kāvīān, appears to have served as the imperial banner (ibid., p. 39). The Parthians marched swiftly but very seldom at dark (Plutarch, Crassus 29; Antony 47). They used no war chariots, and confined the use of the wagon to transporting females accompanying commanders on expeditions (Rawlinson, op. cit., p. 409).

The Parthian period holds an important place in military history. Several Parthian kings—including the first and the last—fell in action, and their three century-long conflicts with Rome had profound effects on Roman military organization. For they not only succeeded in repulsing repeated Roman attempts at the conquest of Iran, but they inflicted severe defeats—even in their last days—upon the Roman invaders; and to face the long-range fighting tactics of the Parthian armored cavalry and mounted archers, the Romans started to supplement their armies of heavy and drilled infantry with auxiliary forces of riders and bowmen, thereby increasingly modifying traditional Roman arms and tactics (for details see E. Gabba, “Sulle influenze reciproche degli ordinamenti militari dei Parti e dei Romani,” in La Persia e il mondo greco-romano. Rome, 1966, pp. 51ff.). The Parthians finally submitted to an Iranian dynasty which had close links with them and retained the power of their nobility, one reason for their defeat being that while they still wore the old style lamellar armor, the Sasanians went to battle with the Roman type mail shirt, i.e., armor of chain links, which was more flexible and afforded better protection (Bivar, op. cit., p. 275).
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SASANIAN DYNASTY, the last Persian lineage of rulers to achieve hegemony over much of Western Asia before Islam, ruled 224 CE–650 CE.

Rise of the Sasanian empire. The overthrow of the Arsacid royal house in 224 CE and the establishment of the Sasanian dynasty was the outcome of the simultaneous decline of the Parthian state brought about by chronic civil strife, a devastating epidemic of smallpox, repeated wars with Roman forces (who sacked Ctesiphon in 165 and 198), and the gradual ascendancy of a Persian family with religious and political bases of support. The Arsacid empire was divided between two rival brothers: Vologeses VI (207-27), who ruled from Ctesiphon, and Ardavān (212-24), who held Media and Khuzistan (see ARTABANUS IV). The Roman emperor Caracalla encouraged discord between the two, and himself trapped and massacred Ardavān’s supporters and sacked Arbela and many Armenian forts in 217. Although Ardavān regrouped and even defeated the Romans in the same year, his authority was seriously weakened (Bivar, 1983, pp. 92-97).

These troubles evoked political ambition in “Lord Sāsān"(Sāsān xʷadāy), “a great warrior and hunter,” the custodian of the “Fire Temple of Anāhid” at Eṣṭaḵr, who married a princess of the Bāzarangid family, the vassal dynasty of Fārs (Ṭabari, I, pp. 813-14). Their son Pāpak (see BĀBAK) consolidated his power with the help of his own sons, Šāpur and Ardašir. The three of them are represented on the wall of the Harem of Xerxes at Persepolis—evidence, it has been suggested, of a claim to Achaemenid heritage (Calmeyer, 1976, pp. 65-67; figs. 3 and 4). The coins of Šāpur bear his image and that of his father, and its combined legend reads: bgy šḥpwḥry MLK’BRH bgy p’pky MLK’ “divine [= Majesty] Shapur the King, son of divine Pāpak the King” (Alram, 1986, p. 185, Pl. 22, nos. 653-56). Ardašir was more ambitious. After making himself the castellan (argbed) of Dārābgerd and enticing his father to kill the Bāzrangid king of Eṣṭaḵr, he rose in open rebellion in the Seleucid year 523, i.e., 212 CE. Claiming that he was the inheritor of the ancient kings and destined to revive their glory and reunite all peoples of Persia, he began to conquer local rulers of Fārs (Ṭabari, I, pp. 813, 815-16; Widengren, 1971). His coins (Alram, 1999) show his father’s image on the reverse but he himself is represented on the obverse and full-faced (a well-known sign of rebellion in Parthian numismatics), with the combined legend bgy’rtḥštr MLK’ BRH bgy p’pky MLK’ “divine [= Majesty] Ardašir, son of divine Pāpk the King” (see also Herzfeld, 1924, I, p. 37; Alram, 1986, Pl. 22, nos. 657-59; 1999, pp. 68 ff.). With the death of Pāpak Šāpur succeeded him in Eṣṭaḵr but was accidentally killed at Persepolis. The mention of Shapur as a legitimate king for whom Shapur, son of Ardašir, endowed pious foundations (Huyse, 1999, I, p. 49) militates against the report in Ṭabari (I, p. 816) that Shapur was about to wage war on Ardasir for his refusal to recognize his authority.

Thereupon Ardašir reigned as the leader of the Sasanian house (Ṭabari, p. 816); and he went on to conquer, within 12 years, local dynasts of Fārs and neighboring regions (Masʿudi, Moruj II, p. 161; Widengren, 1971). Well acquainted with historical reality, he adopted the newer, more flexible chain armor of the Roman type, while the Parthians still used the older lamellar and scale armor (Bivar, 1972, pp. 275-76; see also ARMY i., ARMOR). On 30 Mehr (= 28 May) 224 Ardašir vanquished Ardavān at the battle of Hormzdagān (q.v.) and assumed the title “King of Kings of Iran.” He commemorated the event in his victory relief carved at the approach to his early capital, Ardašir Ḵorra (see FIRUZĀBĀÚD), as well as in three investiture reliefs showing him receiving the symbol of sovereignty from Ohrmazd (see ARDAŠIR I ii.). Afterwards, Ardašir captured Ctesiphon, annexed parts of Armenia and northwest Arabia, and reduced by force or political stratagem eastern Iran and the western provinces of the Kushan empire, an area which henceforth was ruled by Sasanian princes known as the “Kushano-Sasanian” kings (see HORMOZD KUŠĀNŠĀH and INDIA iv.). Then he returned to the western front and took some Roman border towns and besieged Hatra. This brought about the war with Rome (Felix, 1985, pp. 32-42; Winter, 1988, pp. 45-79 with literature). Ardašir, pretending to be the heir of the Achaemenids (Dio Cassius 80.4.1; Herodian 6.2.1-2; see Shahbazi, 2002, with previous literature), laid claim to the eastern provinces of the Roman empire, fought with a good measure of success against Alexander Severus, and again invested Hatra, which fell in 240 (see ARDAŠIR I).

Ardašir symbolized his ideology on an imperial coinage (Lukonin, 1965, pp. 165-66; Alram, 1999), which he introduced in silver (Gk. drachma > NPers. derham), and gold (dinār), the latter in imitation of the Achaemenid practice (Göbl, p. 25; cf. p. 27). The obverse shows his bust, wearing a new type of crown, consisting of a diademed headgear surmounted by the korymbos, a fine, bejeweled fabric encasing the top hair in a glob-like fashion; it became the identifying feature of the Sasanian kings (on the symbolism of Sasanian crowns, see Herzfeld, 1938, pp. 91-158; Erdmann, 1951). The legend is also new (Klima, 1956; Sundermann, 1988): mzdysn bgy ʾrtḥštr MLK’n MLK’’yr’n MNW ctry MN yzd’n “Mazda-worshipping divine [=Majesty] Ardašir King of Kings of Iran whose seed is from gods.” Having re-united the Iranians (hence his traditional epithet, “the Unifier”; Maqdisi, III, p. 156), he adopted what appears to have been the old designation of their lands—Ērānšahr “Empire of the Iranians—”to serve as the official name of his country (Shahbazi, “The History of the Idea of Iran,” forthcoming; for a different interpretation, see Gnoli, 1989). His title, as elaborated by Shapur I (see below), became the standard designations of the Sasanian sovereigns. The reverse of his imperial coins shows a fire holder placed on a platform throne, which is itself supported by a stepped altar (both directly copied from the representations on the Achaemenid tombs, see Pfeiler, 1973), and the legend NWRʾ ZY ʾrtḥštr “Fire of Ardašir” (Alram, 1986, p. 187). Ardašir abandoned the Seleucid and Arsacid practice of dating by dynastic eras and returned to the Achaemenid usage of counting by regnal years. The fire of each king was kindled on his accession (again an Achaemenid tradition, cf. Diodorus Siculus, 17.114, explained by Shahbazi, 1980, p. 132), and later Sasanian kings inscribed their regnal year on the coin reverse next to the fire. The legend conveyed “year X of the sacred fire of King Y” (Henning, 1957, p. 117, n. 2); “years of the sacred fire” meant “regnal years.”

Ardašir succeeded in creating a “Second Persian empire” which was recognized for over four centuries as one of the two great powers in Western Asia and Europe (see BYZANTINE-IRANIAN RELATIONS; see further Widengren, 1976; Howard-Johnston, 1991). It also “stood as a great shield in defense of the culture of Western Asia” against the constant onrush of Central Asian nomads (Ghirshman, 1954, p. 355). He left a lasting memory as a model king (see ARDAŠIR I), a city-builder (no fewer than eight were said to have been founded by him [Ṭabari, I, p. 820; Nöldeke, Geschichte der Perser, pp. 19-20]), an administrative reformer, and a consolidator of the Zoroastrian religion. He did not, however, elevate Zoroastrianism to be the state religion, as Sasanian-based sources claimed; and the clerical hierarchy was not yet fully organized (see Gignoux, 1984). He replaced vassal kings with his own sons and relatives, and he centralized the state revenue and authority by developing an efficient bureaucracy and by strengthening the military.

He continued the Arsacid tradition of entrusting high state positions to great noble families such as the Sūrēn, Mehrān, and Kāren (Henning, 1954, pp. 425-27; Maricq, 1958, p. 66; Lukonin, 1969, p. 38), to the extent that Sasanian Ērānšahr was described as “the empire of Persians and Parthians” (see MacKenzie, 1993, pp. 106, 108). Indeed, during the Sasanian period most of the Great Houses of Persia (see HAFT) were Parthian, more specifically Arsacid (Nöldeke, Geschichte der Perser, pp. 127-28, 139-40, 438-39; Christensen, Iran. Sass., pp.103-6). They intermarried with the Sasanian families and held the highest civil and military positions in the empire. A calendar reform is attributed to Ardašir, as is the introduction of the game of backgammon (Nard-Ardašir > nard, but see F. Rozenthal, “Nard,” EI2 VII, p. 963). A political testament (ʿahd) ascribed to him remained the most respected manual on statecraft well into the Islamic period (ʿAbbās, 1967, pp. 33-45; see also ANDARZ i.). Late Sasanian storytellers shrouded the rise of the dynasty (Nöldeke, 1878; Gutschmid, 1880) and the career of its first kings in a series of legends (see BĀBAK, ŠĀPUR I).

Wars with Rome. In his last years, Ardašir had made Šāpur, his eldest son, co-regent, and the latter participated in the capture of Hatra (Chaumont, 1974; Ghirshman, 1975). Then Ardašir retired, and Shapur succeeded him as the sole ruler (12 April 240) and reigned until May 270. He left several inscriptions, most notably one on the walls of the Kaʿba-ye Zardošt which is in Parthian, Middle Persian, and Greek (hereafter ŠKZ; Huyse, 1999). Historically it is the most important inscriptional record next to that of Darius I at Bisotun; it records his Roman wars (Honnigmann and Maricq, 1953; Maricq, 1958; Kettenhoffen, 1982; Felix, 1985, pp. 43-89; Winter, 1988, pp. 80-123); and it provides a clear picture of the extent of his empire (cf. Gignoux, 1971; Chaumont, 1975) by naming its provinces, describing religious foundations, and mentioning relatives and senior officials who lived at the court of Pāpak, Ardašir, and Šāpur. He tells us that upon his accession, the emperor Gordianus (III) “marched on Assyria, against Ērānšahr and against us” but perished in battle, and his successor Philip “came to us for terms, and he became our tributary.” Afterwards Šāpur annexed most of Roman Armenia, appointed his own son, Hormozd-Ardašir “Great King of Armenia” (see Chaumont, 1968), and took and plundered many cities of Syria, Cilicia, and Cappadocia. Finally, in 260 he trapped and captured the emperor Valerian and his entire army of 70,000 (which included many senators, dignitaries, and officers) near Carrhae. All were deported, together with many of the inhabitants of the captured cities, and settled in royal domains (dstkrt) throughout Iran (see DEPORTATION ii.). A number of the deportees were Christian; no longer persecuted by pagan Roman authorities, they flourished (Labourt, 1904, pp. 18 ff.). For a long time they continued to speak and write in their native Greek or Syriac languages (Brock, 1982).

Because his empire now incorporated so many non-Iranians, Šāpur elaborated his titles to “King of kings of Ērān (Iran) and Anērān (non-Iran),” which henceforth became the customary title of Sasanian sovereigns. Šāpur also illustrated his triumphs in a number of rock-relies at Dārābgerd, Bišāpur, and Naqš-e Rostam, (see Hinz, 1969; see also SASANIAN ROCK-RELIEFS), in which the young Gordianus is represented as fallen, Philip as kneeling (entreating for peace), and Valerian as standing, with his wrist firmly grasped by the victor (a traditional gesture symbolizing capture; see MacDermot, 1959, p. 78). In his eleventh year Šāpur had to march to the eastern borders and quell a rebellion in Khorasan (Ṭabari, I, p. 826). According to ŠKZ, his empire included “Marv, Herāt and all of Aparšahr ... the Kushan Kingdom (Kūšānšahr) up to Peshawar and up to Kāšḡar, Sogdiana and to the mountians of Tashkent” (Huyse 1999, I, pp. 23-24; for the empire and its provinces see Marquart, Ērānšahr; Chaumont, 1975; Brunner, 1983; Gyselen, 1989; Hewsen, 1992).

Šāpur I was known as a builder and a patron of knowledge. He constructed dams and bridges, forts and towns, and developed industries and trade. He had Greeks and Indian works on sciences and Greek scientific works translated into Middle Persian and even incorporated them into the Avesta (Boyce, 1968, pp. 36-37 with literature). His tolerant religious policy encouraged Mani, the founder of Manicheism, to preach freely; he even attempted to convert the Great king. Mani dedicated a compendium of his doctrine in Middle Persian translation to the king, calling it Šāhbuhragān. Šāpur declined the offer of salvation, and kept to his Mazdean faith; but, like his father, he did not give it the status of the national religion.

Particularism and religious conflicts. Sasanian society was basically comprised of three classes (see CLASS SYSTEM ii.): the warriors, the commoners (“cultivators”), and the clergy (see Tafazzoli 2001). They were ideally symbolized by the three great fires of the empire, respectively: Ādur Gošnasp at Šiz in Azerbaijan, Ādur Buzēn Mehr at Rēvand, near Nišāpur, and Ādur Farnbāg at Kāriān in Fārs. The warrior class, usually called the aristocracy or nobility, had five ranks (Nöldeke, Geschichte der Perser, pp. 437-55; Christensen, Iran. Sass., pp. 98-140; Lukonin, 1983, pp. 698-712; for the highest offices see Khurshudian, 1998). Immediately below the “King of kings” were “kings (šahryārān),” who ruled provinces and had their own court and army. Next were “princes (wispuhrān “clan sons,” Ar. ahl al-boyutāt) or great noble houses. Most important of these were “the Seven” Magnates—the Varāz, Kāren, Surēn, Mehrān, Spandiāδ, Žik, and Nehābed. They had feudal rights and large estates scattered throughout the empire; they formed the backbone of the imperial organizations and provided the King of kings with advice and military and financial means. Third were the grandees (wuzurgān, Ar. al-ʿożemāʾ), senior civil servants—the great secretaries (dabirān), viziers, and tax collectors. Fourth were the “householders” (katag xʷatāyān), and fifth the “high born (āzādān), the lesser nobility consisting of the landed gentry (dīhgānān), military elite, particularly the knights (aswārān). (See ASWĀR, ASĀWERA, ARMY i., DABIR, DEHGĀN.)

The particularistic tendencies of the higher aristocracy had bedeviled the Arsacid empire, but Ardašir and Šāpur curbed them. These kings also refrained from creating a state church. Both policies were challenged throughout the Sasanian period; and only Šāpur II, Kavād I, and Ḵosrow I succeeded in exercising absolute power. During the reign of other kings, magnates re-asserted their influence through support of their own candidates for the throne or by deposing, even killing, autocratic kings. In the religious arena, the Mazdean society was threatened first with the spread of Manicheism. In response, the high priest Kirdēr (see KERDĪR) enlisted royal support and began influencing state administration. Later, under Šāpur II, the danger of the Roman domination of Persia through Christianity necessitated the elevation of the Mazdean faith as the “national church” with a canonical organization and hierarchal priesthood capable of countering the Christian church of the Roman empire.

The successor of Šāpur, Hormozd I, died after a short reign (May 270–June 271), and the throne passed, not to his son Hormozdak, but to his brother Bahrām Gēlānšah, evidently with the support of the Kirdēr. Bahrām I (June 271–September 274) was fond of fighting, hunting, and feasting (Henning, 1942, p. 951) but fonder of the Mazdean religion: he adopted a crown adorned with Mithra’s rays, and he showed himself on horseback receiving the diadem of royalty from a mounted Ahuramazda in a superbly carved investiture relief at Bišāpur. If Kirdēr is to be believed, the king gave the priest a free hand in the consolidation of church authority and ended Mani’s career.

Originating from Babylon, Mani claimed the mission of combining and purifying Zoroastrianism, Buddhism, and Christianity. He asserted that “this revelation of mine of the two principles and my vital writings, my wisdom and my knowledge are much better than those of the earlier religion,” and “my creed is in ten things better than other, earlier religions,” including the universalistic nature, the undistorted writings, the ability to serve as “a door towards salvation” for unsuccessful believers of earlier faiths (M 5794, in Boyce, Reader, pp. 29-30; Wiesehöfer, pp. 206-7). These claims enraged the Mazdeans, and since he often described his own concepts in Zoroastrian terminology and even “translated” the names of his gods and angels to those of the Mazdean religion, he and his followers were labeled Zandīks “heretics,” meaning “those who put their own perverse interpretation upon holy texts” (Boyce, 1979 p. 112). His creed has been called “absolutely not suitable as the religion of a people. So spiritualized as it was, if adopted it could only lead to confusion, in contrast to the Mazdean faith with its love of life” (Nöldeke, p. 48, n.). Bahrām summoned him to the court, but Mani disobeyed (Polotsky, 1934, p. 46, ll. 12-16), and His statements that falsehood and evil acts would earn the “fire-worshippers” (meaning Mazdayasnians) the fire [of hell] (Henning, 1951, p. 50, n. 1, Manichean frag. 28) and that Šāpur was known as an evildoer (Sundermann, 1987, p. 80) no doubt increased the Zoroastrian clergy’s animosity. Bahrām, therefore, sought Mani out and had him tried and executed at Gondēšāpur on 2 March 274 (Henning, 1942; 1957, pp. 119-21).

Mani’s archenemy, the Zoroastrian high priest Kirdēr, is mainly known from his own words, written in his heyday, in four Middle Persian texts carved on rocks of Fārs (Hinz, 1971; Gignoux, 1991; MacKenzie, 1989). His assertions are lengthy: he was a hērbed (attendant of a sacred fire)” under Ardašir; Šāpur I titled him Mōbed and Hērbed, “in authority over the order of priests at court” and throughout the empire, and put him in charge of religious documents and endowment deeds; Hormozd I invested him with the rank of nobility and the title “chief priest” (maγupati > mōbed) of Ohrmazd); and Bahrām I retained him in “absolute authority,” while Bahrām II increased his dignity and authority by elaborating his title to “Kirdēr, whose soul (god) Bahrām saved” (on this last title see Huyse, 2001, pp. 116-19) and appointing him “mōbed and dātbar (judge) of the whole empire” and the custodian of “the Fire Temple of Anāhīd the Lady” at Estaḵr—a position hitherto held by the Sasanians themselves. He claims that he destroyed many images and temples of false gods and replaced them with the sacred fire and fire temples, and converted many non-Zoroastrians to the Mazda-worshipping faith. He states that “Jews and Buddhists and Brahmans and Maktaks [= al-moḡtasela “practitioners of ablutions,” i.e., of baptisms] and Christians and Manicheans are being smitten in the land.” This writer regards Kirdēr’s statements as exaggerated. The fact that Zoroastrian scholars, who could very well read his inscriptions, totally ignored him means that his claims were not taken seriously. His own statement that he punished the priests who did not follow his line, but exalted those who did, implies that his actions were not considered as approved Mazdean policy. His rise was unusual and temporary, resulting from the social and political alliance against the danger posed by the success of Manicheism to Persian society and way of life. Narseh referred to him simply as “Kirdēr the Mōbed of Ohrmazd” (Skjærv and Humbach, 1983, III/1, p. 42).

While Bahrām II was engaged in fighting the rebellion of his brother, Hormozd Kūšānšāh, the Emperor Carus marched on Ctesiphon unopposed; but his troops retreated after he died suddenly and mysteriously, and Bahrām crushed the rebellion (Bivar, 1972; contra EIr. III, pp. 516-17). Under Bahrām II Sasanian art achieved mastery of form and a realistic style. He left at least seven rock-reliefs in Fārs, in most of which Kirdēr is present, showing the priest’s importance at the court (see Hinz, 1969, pp. 189-228). He issued a vast number of coins of diverse types; some bear the images of his queen and heir next to his own, and one type even pictures and names “Šāhpuhrduxtak, Queen of queens” on the obverse, in a place usually reserved for a patron deity (Lukonin, 1979, pp. 116-34 [English]; pls., pp. 155-73).

The events following the death of Bahrām II were related in Narseh’s bilingual (Parth. and Mid. Pers.) inscription carved on the base of a memorial tower (now ruined) at Paikuli, in Iraq (see HERZFELD iv.), on the road to QasÂr-e Širin. Though it contains numerous gaps, in historical significance it is surpassed only by Darius’s Bisotun and Šāpur’s KZ inscriptions (see Skjærv, 1985). On the death of Bahrām II some of the Iranian nobility sided with his son Bahrām Sagānšāh (see BAHRĀM III), but a larger party pleaded with Narseh, Great king of Armenia, to regain “the Farra (“[God-given] Glory”) and the realm and to restore the throne and honor of his ancestors and make Ērānšahr safe (Skjærv and Humbach, 1983, III/1, pp. 34-35). Narseh moved “in the name of Ohrmazd and all the gods and Anāhīd the Lady” towards Ērānšahr (ibid., p. 35), and vanquished the “rebels.” “The assembly then deliberated according to the correct procedure for royal succession instituted by Ardašir I and followed by his successors”; having judged him the most qualified candidate for the throne, it elected him King of kings (ibid., pp. 56-74). Since he considered Bahrām I a usurper, he appropriated his investiture relief by carving his own name over that of his brother. He further carved a rock-relief at Naqš-e Rostam, which depicted him either as receiving the diadem of royalty from Anāhid or sharing it with his wife, Šāhpuhrduxtak (Shahbazi, 1983).

Narseh seems to have returned to the religious tolerance of Ardašir I and Šāpur I (Decret, 1979, p. 133; Duchesne-Guillemin, 1983, pp. 884-85). In war with Rome he first won a great victory over Galerius Caesar but was then routed by him. The peace treaty signed in 299 ceded five provinces across the Tigris (Arzanes, Carduene, Zabdicene, Moxoene, and Rehimene) to Rome, recognized the Tigris as the border of the two empires, gave the Persian territories up to the fort of Zintha to Armenia, and made Iberia a Roman protectorate (Petros Patriciaus, frags. 13-14, in Müller, 1885, pp. 181-84; see also Winter, pp. 152-231; Felix, pp. 110-30; Blockley, 1984). Narseh died soon after. His son Hormozd II (r. 302–307) was challenged domestically, as is evidenced by his “victory relief” at Naqš-e Rostam. He was slain in a remote place; and the nobility murdered his heir, imprisoned the second son, Hormozd, blinded the third, and “proclaimed a younger son [i.e., Šāpur] as King” (Suidas, s.v. “Marsuas,” tr. with other sources in Dodgeon and Lieu, pt. 1, pp. 148-49). The stories about Šāpur’s election while in mother’s womb are unfounded (see Seeck, 1920, col. 2334).

The Age of Šāpur II (309-79). Early in his reign, Šāpur led a punitive expedition against the Arabs of the desert who had crossed over to Fārs and Khuzistan and devastated urban centers and ruined the countryside. He relentlessly pursued and harshly punished the Arabs, and built the Šāpur’s ditch (Ḵandaq-e Šāpur), a defensive line south of Ḥira along the southern border of Mesopotamia. The Arabs called him Ḏo’l-aktāf (for Pers. Hūbah-sonbā “Piercer of Shoulder [blades],” see Christensen, Iran Sass., p. 235, n. 2). On the northeastern front, the Chionites, a Hunnic people who by the early fourth century had mixed with north Iranian elements in Transoxiana and adopted the Kushan-Bactrian language, threatened Persia. Several times Šāpur had to interrupt his Roman campaigns and hurry to the east to remove the Hunnic threats. Soon the Kidarite Hunnic rulers replaced the Kushano-Sasanian prince governors (see HUNNIC COINAGE), but Šāpur subjugated some and forced others into a treaty of alliance. Between 372 and 375, Šāpur seems to have been campaigning again in the East against the “Kushans,” i.e., the Chionites (Frye, 1984, p. 345).

More lasting and consequential were Šāpur’s long wars with the Romans, which started when Constantine supported the refugee prince Hormozd (q.v.), promoted Christianity as the official religion of the Roman empire, and asserted guardianship of the Christians of all lands, including Armenia and Persia (Barnes), and refused the request to return the five provinces ceded by Narseh. Small- or full-scale campaigns were waged almost annually between 337 and 359, frequently in favor of the Persians, who captured the main Roman garrison towns of Amida and Sanjara in their last campaign. In 263, Julian, generally acknowledged as the ablest Roman general since Trajan, led an expedition against Persia, with an army of 83,000 men, well-trained and equipped with the most sophisticated siege engines, and guided by Prince Hormozd. Marching down along the Euphrates, he besieged Ctesiphon and captured its southern sector, but a heavy Persian counterattack forced him to retreat northward (Ammianus Marcellinus, 23-24; other sources in Dodgeon and Lieu, pp. 231-74; detailed studies: Ridley; Wirth). He was killed in the thick of the battle, and his successor, Jovian (363-64), signed a “thirty-year peace treaty,” which obliged the Romans to return the five provinces east of the Tigris ceded by Narse, surrender Nisibis, Singara, and another fort in eastern Mesopotamia, and refrain from interfering in Armenia. Then Šāpur annexed the rest of Armenia as well as Albania. When emperor Valens (364-78) hatched several military and political plots in those provinces, limited local wars continued until Šāpur died in 379. As George Rawlinson says, for twenty-seven years “he fought numerous pitched battles with the Romans, and was never once defeated ... By a combination of courage, perseverance, and promptness, he brought the entire contest to a favorable issue, and restored Persia, in AD 363, to a higher position than that from which she had descended two generations earlier” (pp. 239-40). According to Ammianus (18.6.14), Šāpur’s empire comprised eighteen major provinces “ruled by Bedaxšes (vitaxi), by kings, and by satraps.” They were: Assyria (Asōristān), Susiana (Khuzistan), Media (Māδa/Māh), Persis (Pārs), Parthia (Parthav, Apar-šahr), Greater Carmania (Kermān), Hyrcania (Varkān/Gorgān and Dahestān), Margiana (Marv region), Bactria (Balḵ area), Sogdiani (Sogdian land), the Sacae (Sakastān/Sistān), Scythia at the foot of Imaus (an eastern Sakaland, east of Afghanistan), Aria (Harēv/Herat), the Paropanisadae (Aparsēn, northeast Afghanistan), Drangiana (Zarang), Arachosia (Ruxaδ, Roḵkaj, the Ghazni region), Gedrosia (Mokrān/Baluchistan), and two unidentified eastern regions of Serica and Beyond Imaus.

Šāpur deported the Roman captives into the inner region of his empire to use their skill and technical talents and develop industries (Masʿudi, Moruj II, p. 186; Ghirshman, Bīchāpour I, p. 13). Many were settled in Susa, which after its destruction as the result of a revolt was rebuilt and renamed Ērān Ḵorra Šāpur (Šāpur’s Aryan Glory). On the other hand he repopulated Nisibis with Persians, and it henceforth became the strongest Persian border post. The “founding” of several other towns were also attributed to him. During his reign Christianity posed a grave threat to the empire. It divided the Armenians into those favoring Romans as co-religionists and others holding to the Iranian heritage (cf. EIr. V, p. 525b); it also fostered sympathy with “the Christian emperor” of Rome against “the enemy of God,” Šāpur. Iranian authorities claimed that Christians demeaned his authority, mocked his religious beliefs, disobeyed his commands, refused to pay taxes or serve in the army, and even harbored Roman spies, destroyed fire temples, and instigated rebellion. In about 337, their leader Aphrahat (Farhād) hailed Constantine as the “instrument” of the “prosperity of the People of God” (Labourt, pp. 45-56; Christensen, Iran. Sass., pp. 249-50, 266-68; cf. Brock; Barnes; Decre) and hoped that he would conquer Šāpur the “wicked and proud man.” He even warned that, if the Persians won the war, that would be tantamount to God’s wrath (Demonstration 5.1.24 f.). Šāpur (and his successor) saw such claims as leading to political revolt in favor of the enemy of Persia. Hence, wars with Rome normally brought parallel persecution of Christians (see CHRISTIANITY i.), reported with some exaggerations by Christian authors.

To counter this domestic threat, Šāpur convened religious councils headed by the Zoroastrian high priest Ādurbād son of Mahrspand, which after many disputations “proved” the superiority of the Mazdean faith, whereupon the king issued a decree stating “Now that we have gained an insight into the religion in the worldly existence, we shall not tolerate anyone of false religion, and we shall be still more zealous” (Dēnkard 4.26-27: tr. Shaki, 1981, pp. 114-25). Thus the Zoroastrian Canon was consolidated, and the state finally enforced Zoroastrianism as the “national religion” with a canonical organization and clerical hierarchy which could rival the Christian church of the Roman empire. The development of the Dēn-dipirih “religious script” (the “Avestan alphabet”), “which “permitted the rendering of every vowel and consonant” as accurately as does “the modern international phonetic alphabet” (Boyce, 1979, p. 135) must have followed this canonization (cf. Bailey, 1943, pp. 177-94 and AVESTAN LANGUAGE i.). As Frye (1984, p. 315) remarks, “the ecclesiastical organization of the state church was not identical with the legal structure and the theory of the religious hierarchy was not always evident in reality.” The religious establishment executed the law, but secular input from the royal court and provincial administration prevented theocratic conditions. The Jews had their own court to deal with communal disputes (Neusner, III, pp. 29, 45, 273; IV, p. 131); and, similarly, Christian courts settled affairs of the Christians (Sachau, 1907, pp. 1-27; Morony, 1984, pp. 332-42). Incidentally, the view that in the Sasanian period Zurvanism was important or even prevailed as the state religion may have been founded on doubtful onomastic indications and free interpretation of confused non-Zoroastrian reports (Asmussen, 1983, p. 939; Frye, 1984, pp. 312-13). Duchesne-Guillemin (1983, pp. 898-99) has pointed out that the Dēnkard (ed. Madan, p. 829) condemns it: Those who believed that “Ohrmazd and Ahrīman were two brothers in one womb” were heretics deceived by the demon Ariš(k) “Envy.”

Ironically, the concept of the “twin brotherhood of the state and the faith” (Shaked, 1990, pp. 262-64.) restricted the absolutism of the sovereign with ethical and religious obligations (Dēnkart, tr.de Menasce, 1973, pp. 136-38; Christensen, Iran Sass., pp. 261-62) and the expectation he would show “faith in the high-priest of the Good Religion,” because he is “the wisest among mankind.” If a king was inclined to ignore people’s hardships or was incapable of preventing evil and was weak, then he was “manifestly unfit to administer justice of any kind,” and it behooved other “rulers to war with him for the sake of justice” (Christensen, Iran Sass., p. 262). Another impact of the creation of the state religion was the changes in Iranians’ idea of the past (Shahbazi, 2001; see also HISTORIOGRAPHY i.). To the mōbeds the history of the past was the legends of the Pēšdādian and Kayānian kings as found in the Yašts and later Zoroastrian traditions. As legitimate Zoroastrian sovereigns, the Sasanians now claimed descent from Goštāsp (Ṭabari, I, p. 813), and the Avestan royal title Kay (< Kavī)started to appear on Sasanian coins in addition to the regular MLKʾN MLKʾ “šāhānšāh” (Shahbazi, 1991). The wispuhrān followed suit andalleged that they were descended from the legendary kings and heroes (Manučehr, Goštāsp, Esfandiār), and that their rank and rights had been established by Goštāsp (Ṭabari, I, p. 683).Šāpur II left an enormous quantity of coins, which testify to various stages of his life (cf. Göbl, pp. 46-47; pl. VI and pls. 6-7, nos. 88-120), as well as two magnificent silver plates representing him hunting boars and lions (Harper, 1981, pp. 61-63, 171, 179, 182, Pls. 15, 37), and a stucco bust from the site of a manor house at Ḥājiāb@d, some 60 km south-southwest of Dārābgerd (Azarnoush) There are four rock-reliefs, notably those at Ṭā@q-e Bostān: one depicts him giving the diadem of royalty to his brother Ardašir II while Mithra the Judge supervises the covenant and Julian lies prostrate under the two kings’ feet (see Trumplemann; Sellheim; see also ARDAŠIR II); the other represents Šāpur with his son Šāpur III, both identified in Mid. Pers. texts, the last of the royal inscriptions known to date.

Social and military crises. The successors of Šāpur II tended to religious tolerance and peaceful relations with their neighbors, but their attempt to enforce royal absolutism was constantly challenged by the clergy, who detested kings tolerating Christianity or any other creed, and the higher nobility, who resisted any attempt to curb their particularism while viewing with contempt any king who showed mildness towards the enemies—domestic or foreign. Consequently, from 379 to about 530, the empire witnessed grave internal crises, which culminated in a social upheaval in which the Sasanian king Kavād sided with the mobs in order to reduce the power of the clergy and the nobles.

The nobles deposed Ardašir II (r. 379-83), known as the Benevolent (nikukār), when he turned against them (Ṭabari, I, pp. 845-46). They also murdered Šāpur III (383-88), a just and compassionate ruler much loved by the people (Ṭabari, I, p. 846; Yaʿqubi, I, p. 183), who stopped the persecution of the Christians (Nöldeke, Geschichte der Perser, pp. 70-71, n. 4; Chaumont, 1974b), and concluded a peace treaty with the East Roman (Byzantine) empire, whereby Armenia was divided between the two states, making the larger part, or Persarmenia, a Persian Marzbanate (Adonitz, pp. 209-24; Blockley, 1987, pp. 222-34). His son Bahrām IV (388-99) was known for his pursuit of justice (Yaʿqubi, I, p. 183; cf. Ṭabari, I, p. 847); although his forces defeated a Hunnic inroad into Mesopotamia and Syria (Nöldeke, Geschichte der Perser, p. 72, n. 1), he was shot to death when he tried to tame his commanders (Ṭabari, I, p. 847). It was only natural that his brother and successor, Yazdegerd I (r. 399-421), could not trust the nobility and resolutely prevented them from gaining undue influence and erode the royal authority. Highly intelligent and brilliantly educated, and “from the start” widely known for “the nobility of character” (Procopius 1.2, 8.4; cf. Ṭabari, I, p. 865; Šāh-nāma VII, p. 264), and a contemporary Christian testifies that he championed the cause of “the poor and the wretched” (cited in Nöldeke, Geschichte der Perser, p. 75, n.). He granted religious freedom to all; the Christians began to establish a “Persian Church,” and the Jewish leader hailed him as a new Cyrus (see Neusner, V, pp. 9-13). He maintained friendly relations with Rome, even acting as the guardian of the child emperor Theodosius (Procopius 1.2.1-10; Agathias 4.25). His policy so enraged the clergy and aristocracy that they accused him of many evil deeds, called him the “Sinner, (Persian Bezegar), and killed him in a remote place and then presented the murder as a God-sent miracle (Nöldeke, Geschichte der Perser, p. 77 n. 1; Christensen, Iran Sass., p. 273) They further decided to deny his children the throne and slew his son and heir, Šāpur, but compromised with another son, Bahrām, a 20-year old youth, who threatened Ctesiphon with an Arab army provided by his foster father, the king of Ḥira. He was accepted as Šāhānšāh but was crowned by the mōbedān mōbed (the first recorded instance of such coronation) and had to recognize the nobility’s claimed privileges. Consequently, he was left in peace and is pictured in the “national history” as a merciful king with exemplary generosity, a valiant defender of the faith and country, a heroic fighter, a peerless hunter, a poet, a lover of music and dance, a man of many women, and a paragon of splendor. From his time the Ādur Gošnasp temple in Šiz became the most important sanctuary of the empire and the symbol of its royal house. Also, the Avestan classification of the society into three classes, each headed by a chief, was revived, at least in theory; and his grand vizier, Mehr-Narseh, a Zoroastrian zealot, gave those chietainships to his own three sons (see ARTĒŠTĀRĀN SĀLĀR).Christians’ missionary zeal brought about persecution, causing a short war with the Byzantines (422). The peace agreement obliged the Persians not to resume persecution or to press for the return of Christian fugitives, and the Byzantines to tolerate Zoroastrian religion in the Roman empire and pay a yearly payment to the Persians as assistance in guarding the Caucasian Pass (Nöldeke, p. 109, n.). More threatening was the penetration into the eastern provinces by the Chionites (often anachronistically called the Turks or confused with the Kushans or the Hephthalites). Bahrām defeated them and seized vast booty. The recently discovered stuccos at Daragaz (q.v., 100 km southeast of Ashkhabad) representing victorious Iranian warriors trampling on fallen enemies characterized by Central Asian features (Gignoux, 1998) seem to commemorate this victory.

Bahrām’s successor was Yazdegerd II (439-57), an intelligent and well educated youth whose maxim was “Question, examine, see. Let us choose and hold that which is best” (Ełishe, tr., p. 69). “He made a review of all doctrines” but stayed with his ancestral faith and greatly honored the Mazdean religion, priests, and shrines (ibid, tr., p. 66). He showed friendship toward the Christians until his twelfth year (Łazar, tr., p. 74); but when Christians attacked Mazdeans at home and in Armenia, he ordered Mehr-Narseh to reconvert Armenia, which he failed to do. During his reign, nomadic threats increased. He repulsed an invasion of the Causasus (Priscus, Frag. 47; tr. Blockley, pp. 353-55) and built or strengthened the Persian defenses in the region. He also defeated the Čuls (Šuls, Ar. Ṣul), the Hunnic tribes east of the Caspian Sea, north of Gorgān, and built a stronghold in their region, called Šahrestān-e Yazdegerd, in which he stayed from the fourth to eleventh year of his reign (450), when he marched against the “Kushans” (i.e., the Hunnic tribes). After several victories over them, he was forced in 454 to retreat (Ełishe, tr., pp. 192-93 with p. 10, n. 1; Łazar, tr., p. 133; Christensen, Iran Sass., pp. 288-89).

Yazdegerd’s death inaugurated another period of royal and feudal rivalry. His oldest son, Hormozd III (457-59), was killed by Bahrām the Mehrān, who enthroned his foster son Pērōz (459-84). Pērōz put down a revolt in Albania (which was aided by invading Huns), stopped the invasions from the Caucasus (despite Romans refusal to pay the subsidy for the shared defense of the passes), and defeated the Kidarite Huns, who moved southeastwards and settled in Peshawar (Marquart, Ērānšahr, p. 58). But Pērōz faced a new and more formidable Hunnic people, the Hephthalites, who had taken Toḵārestān, the upper Oxus, and northern Afghanistan. He waged war against them but was defeated and captured. He bought his release with a heavy ransom and in 484 again attacked the Hephthalites, against the advice of his nobles and high priests. This time he and his entire army were annihilated; the Hephthalites captured Bost, Raḵwad (Arachosia), Zābolestān, Bādḡeys, Herat, and Pušanj (Marquart, Ērānšahr, pp. 37, 77), and they imposed a heavy annual tribute on Iran, which had additionally suffered from three (or seven) years of drought. According to the contemporary Armenian historian Łazar (tr., pp. 217-18), the nobility, led by Zarmehr the Suḵrā (a branch of the Mehrān) and Šāpur the Mehrān, blamed Pērōz for having “acted as a tyrant,” not willing to consult anyone; they murdered his son Zarēr, who claimed the throne, and elected Balāš, a brother of Pērōz, laying down the rules for him: “We have all willingly and readily chosen you, as a mild man concerned for the country’s welfare, in order to re-establish under you the prestige of the Aryan throne, and to promote the prosperity of the remaining portions of the Aryan kingdom and of the other lands that are subject to our rule.” They expected him “to reduce by soft words and friendship the nations who have rebelled,” recognize each person’s rank and worth, consult with the wise, and to reward every one according to his service. Balāš was clement, courteous, and fond of peace. He granted Christians freedom of worship. Iranian Christians had resisted the Roman version of dyophysite doctrine (as defined by the Council of Chalcedon in 451), adopting instead Nestorianism. The Nestorians emphasized the distinctness of the two natures in the person of Jesus Christ and stressed the completeness of his human nature. They also outlawed celibacy for priests, thereby appeasing the national faith, which anathemized celibacy. When the Romans closed down the Nestorian school at Edessa in 471, it was reopened and continued to flourish under the Persian authority in Nisibis. However, the empire was in deep trouble, and Balāš had no money to pay the troops, the Emperor Zeno having refused to pay the subsidies traditionally paid to support the guarding of the Caucasus passes (Joshua, 18). The nobility led by Zarmehr and Šāpur the Mehrān lost patience, deposed and blinded Balāš, and elected Kavād, a son of Pērōz, hoping that since the youth had been a hostage of the Hephthalites and had secured their friendship, he could decrease the pressure of the victorious enemy.

When Kavād ascended the throne in 488, troubles appeared everywhere. Wars and recent famines had devastated the land and emptied the treasury, yet a hefty annual tribute had to be paid to the Hephthalites; Armenia, Iberia, Arabs and some tribes of the Zagros regions were in revolt, and the Huns were ravaging the northern regions, while the Romans continued to withhold the subsidy for guarding the Caucasus passes. The nobility had become too powerful and paid no heed to the royal authority, while the commoners had become poor and desperate. It was at this moment that the “Mazdakite revolution,” which preached the distribution of wealth and sharing of women (in the old Platonic ideology; see Altheim), became widespread and received regal support. Social anarchy ensued, nearly destroying the fabric of the Sasanian state. From Byzantine, Syriac, and Sasanian-based accounts, it appears that in the late third century a certain Zarēdošt, who may have borne the title *Windag/bwyndak "Venerable,” Romanized into Boundos (Christensen 1925, pp. 96 ff.; Iran Sass., pp. 337-38), preached a Manichean interpretation of Zoroastrian faith and the Avesta called Drēst-dēn (on the form, see Christensen 1925, pp. 97-98). It persisted, at times openly and at times secretly, until the movement found fertile grounds for growth in the social and military difficulties during the reign of Pērōz. Eager to reform the whole society and ease the plight of his subjects and wishing to rid himself of the yoke of the nobility and Zoroastrian clergy, Kavād accepted (“re-established,” as Joshua specifies) this neo-Manchean creed. It came to be known as the “Mazdakitie” heresy (see Christensen, 1925; Klima, 1957, 1977; Yarshater), after its leader Mazdak (q.v.), son of Bāmdād; however, the historicity or at least the principal role of Mazdak is seriously questioned (Gaube; Fulādpur and Rabiʿi; on the alledged Mazdak-nāma see Tafazzoli, 1984). Extremism resulted in social upheaval, and the nobility and clergy deposed and imprisoned Kavād and enthroned his mild-mannered brother, Jāmāsp. Kavād escaped, returned with a Hephthalite army, and regained his throne.

Reforms of Kavād and Ḵosrow I. Having seen the consequences of lawlessness and radical social practices, Kavād supported Zoroastrian orthodoxy, massacred the Mazdakite heretics, and subjugated the unruly nobility, a good many of whom had been killed, dispersed, or impoverished by the Mazdakite upheaval (Christensen, Iran Sass., pp. 357-58). He eliminated the highest-ranking official, the Artēštārānsālār, whose office was abolished (Procopius 1.11.31-38), demoted from the first to the third rank the Mōbedān Mōbed (chief of the clergy), replaced the Irān-spāhbed (the generalissimo of the empire) by four Spāhbads, each responsible for a quarter (kust) of the empire (see SPĀHBED), and reduced the power of Wuzurg-framadār (approximately: “prime minister”) by the institution of the office of Astabed “Chief of the household” (Stein, 1920; 1940, pp. 54ff.; Christensen, Iran Sass., pp. 521 ff.). Kavād then initiated a new tax system based on a revision of land ownership and on payment in installments and according to a certain percentage of the assessed income. This reform was carried out in full by his successor, Ḵosrow I Anōširavān (“of the immortal soul”), and it severely broke the power bases of the higher nobility while promoting the lower aristocracy and bringing them closer to the crown (Frye, 1984, p. 324). Having thus restored royal absolutism, Kavād re-instituted the right of the king to choose his heir and restricted the role of the magnates and highest clergy in this case to the supervision of the exact execution of the king’s testament. Then Kavād quelled the rebellions of the Arabs and other tribes and waged a war against the Byzantines (502-506), the first military conflict between the two empires in sixty years. He invaded Armenia with an army that included Hephthalite warriors (Joshua 48); he took Theodosiopolis, Martyropolis, and Amida, while his Arab ally, Noʿmān III of Ḥira, raided and plundered Mesopotamia (Joshua, 51-52). After some skirmishes, he returned Amida for a ransom of 1,000 pounds of gold and signed a seven-year truce, which required him to attack and drive out the Hunnic tribes who had invaded Caucasus and plundered Persia’s northern territories (Procopius 1.8-9, 1.10.12; Marquart, Ērānšahr, pp. 63-64). Ten years later he had to subjugate the Sabir Huns who had invaded Armenia and Asia Minor (references in ibid., p. 64). Meanwhile Kavād chose as his heir Ḵosrow, in preference to Kāus Patišwāršāh (king of Ṭabarestān), who had sided with, and was supported by, the Mazdakites. To secure the succession, Kavād requested the Byzantine emperor Justin to act as Ḵosrow’s guardian and adopted father. This act, he urged, “would bind together in kinship and in goodwill” the two royal houses, as well as “all our subjects,” thereby “bring us to a satiety of the blessings of peace” (Procopius, 1.11.7-9; see also Peiler). Justin proposed unacceptable terms, since he feared that a legal adoption might entitle Ḵosrow to “the father’s inheritance,” resulting in the Persian king demanding the Roman empire. Feeling insulted, Kavād started a second war with the Romans (Procopius, 1.11.10 ff.; see also Christensen, Iran Sass., p. 355), which lasted from 527 till 531 and was mainly fought in Armenia, Iberia or Georgia, and Lazestān (Lazica). The two sides won and lost many a battle (described in detail by Procopius, and studied by Greatrex, 1998). In these campaigns Monḏer of Ḥira actively supported the Persians, and Ḥāreṯ of Kinda sided with the Romans. The participation of these clients brought the Arabs into the thick of the Irano-Byzantine wars and increased their political and military influence. Kavād died in 531; and his successor, Ḵosrow, who faced internal dissent, signed the “Endless Peace” with Justinian. The Persians relinquished their gains in Lazica, and the Byzantines did the same in Persarmenia and undertook to pay 11,000 pounds of gold for the defense of the Caucasus passes

Kavād does not appear to have troubled his Nestorian subjects; and his relationship with the Jews seems to have been friendly (Joshua the Stylite, 58; Neusner, V, pp. 105-7). He revived the function of the king as a “town builder” and “founded” Weh-az-Āmed-Kavād (“Kāvād’s better-than-Amida”) in Arrajān and Abaz-Kavād (Abar-Kavād), which lay between Baṣra and Wāseṱ (Nöldeke, Geschichte der Perser, p. 146, n. 2); he created a new settlement (kura)in Arrajān called Kavād-ḵorrah “Ḵavād’s Glory” (Ebn Balḵi, Fārsnāma, pp. 84, 115; Ṯaʿālebi, Ḡorar, p. 594; see further Gyselen, 1989, pp. 45-47, 71-72). Kavād also fortified Partav in Armenia and renamed it Pērōz-Kavād, and he built strong fortification walls in the Caucasus, which Ḵosrow I expanded and strengthened (see DARBAND).

After Kavād’s death, the eldest son, Kāus, claimed the throne; but the nobility abided by the testament of the late king (Procopius, 1.21.20-22; cf. Malalas, 18.68; tr., p. 274) and helped Ḵosrow to occupy the throne. Later many of them plotted to dethrone Ḵosrow, but he discovered the plot and slew “all the Persian notables” involved (Procopius, loc. cit) This event may have been related to the resurgence of the Mazdakite party and their subsequent slaughter, in which their leader, Mazdak, is said to have perished. Then Ḵosrow eased the social plight of those who had been ruined as the result of the Mazdakite excesses by providing them with work, estates, and legal security. He carried out the reforms his father had started (see ḴOSROW I) consolidated royal authority through direct taxation and extension of the central bureaucracy in every part of the empire, turning the feudal lords into officials of the central government who were loyal to him rather than to their hereditary families (cf. Nöldeke, Geschichte der Perser, p. 163, n. 1 and Christensen, Iran Sass., p. 365). The army was retrained and better equipped, with the aswārān (“mounted nobility or knights”) patronized and promoted to the rank of royal retainers (see ARMY i.). or knights”) patronized and promoted to the rank of royal retainers (see ARMY i.). The tax reform was personally supervised by the king (Grignaschi, 1971, pp. 87-131; cf. Rubin, p. 99, n. 1), whose trusted officials worked with local judges in assessing, registering and exacting the dues. The “death tax” was abolished; and the poll-tax (gazit > jaziya), which was really a substitute for the service to the court and church which the privileged class rendered, was limited to taxable men only; those too young or too old were exempt as being incapable of any type of service (Nöldeke, Geschichte der Perser, pp. 242, n. 1, 246, n. 1; Kārnāmag, pp. 13, 26-27). Cases could be appealed to the supervising judges, and all complaints could be directed to the royal chancellery (Kārnāmag, pp. 17-18). The reform transformed a system which had been arbitrary, burdensome, and liable to every type of cheating into a regulated method of payment by installments (in three or four annual installments, either one-fourth each quarter or one-third every four months) in accordance with the standard yield. In most areas the lowest rate was by far the commonest (Nöldeke, Geschichte der Perser, p. 241, n. 2), and in poorer provinces payment in kind seems to have been permitted (ibid., p. 242, n. 1).

Having consolidated his power, Ḵosrow decided to put an end to the Hephthalite domination over the eastern provinces. By then the Turks, originally an Ural-Altaic steppe people, had established a powerful empire stretching from Mongolia and the northern frontier of China to the Black Sea (Sinor). Under the Ḵāqān Ištämi (called Snijabu in Ṭabari, I, p. 895 and Sizibul/Silzabul in Byzantine sources; Blockley, p. 262, n. 112 with reference), the Turkish empire had extended westward (Sinor, pp. 297-304) and come under heavy Sogdian influence (von Gabain). Ḵosrow and Ištämi made an alliance and destroyed the Hephthalite empire (Widengren, 1951; Grignaschi, 1971). Soon after, the Turks replaced the Hephthalites as the eastern enemies of the Iranians. In 569 or 570 Ištämi/Sizibul, who had conquered the Avars and the remnants of the Caucasian “Huns” and thereby had come to control the Silk Road, attacked Persia with the encouragement of the Romans and pillaged some border areas (cf. Menander, tr., p. 147). Ḵosrow contained the Turkish assault and concluded a treaty with them, but his marriage with the daughter of the Ḵāqān is chronologically impossible (see HORMOZD IV). He fortified the northeastern provinces against their further incursions. Sizibul died soon after, and his successor declined Byzantine’s offer of alliance against Persia and instead invaded the Bosporus area.

Ḵosrow’s wars with the Byzantines were long and consequential. Justinian’s border fortifications in Mesopotamia, Syria, and Armenia, his annexation of Armenia, and his attempts to entice the Lakhmid king’s of Ḥira to come to his side and the “Huns” to attack Persia, led to the first war in 540 (Procopius, 2.1 ff.; Bury, II, pp. 91-93; Güterbock, pp. 37-48). It lasted for five years; and Ḵosrow personally invaded Syria and Lazica and took several cities including Antiochia, which he plundered; he then deported its population to a section of his capital, al-Madāʾen, which he named Weh-Antioch-Ḵosrow “Ḵosrow’s Better Antiochia,” commonly called Rumagān “Roman Town,” Ar. al-Rumiya (on the privileges granted to its population, see Procopius, 2.1-13). In the meantime the Byzantines campaigned in Armenia and northern Mesopotamia. The truce was concluded for five years: Justinian paid 2,000 pounds of gold, and Ḵosrow released a large number of Roman captives but kept Lazica (Procopius, 2.26-28; Evagrius, 4. 8; Bury, II, pp. 107-13; Güterbock, pp. 48-54). However, in the fourth year of the truce, Justinian broke it by sending an army into Lazica, causing a new war, involving Mesopotamia, Syria, Armenia, Lazica, and the participation of the Lakhmids and Ghassanids. The Persians were, on the whole, victorious; during the war, negotiations continued, and Justinian paid 400 pounds of gold annually. After another five-year truce, a peace treaty was signed in 562. This exemplary document of international relation is described in unusual detail by Menander Protector (tr., Blockley, pp. 71-75; studies in Bury, II, pp. 121-23; Güterbock, pp. 58-109). It obligated the Persians to prevent the Huns, Alans, or other barbarians from passing through Darband and the Dariel Pass and reaching Roman territories. It required the Romans not to cross the Persian borders with an army; declared diplomatic relations free and goods of ambassadors tax-exempt; regulated trade relations; and prohibited Arab allies of the two sides from attaching each other or their opponent’s suzerains. It recommended settling disputes between the subjects of the two states by arbitration courts, and intercommunity disputes across the border by the ruling of frontier officials and, if necessary, by appeal to the General of the East or, as a final resort, to the sovereign of the offender.

Following the peace treaty, Ḵosrow defeated the Hephthalites and Khazars, stopped the threat of the Turks (Widengren, 1952; Grignaschi, 1980), and conquered Yemen, which allowed him to effectively control the sea routes and endanger Byzantine trade bases (Harmatta, 1974; 2000). Envious, and enticed by an offer of alliance from Sizibul Ḵāqān, the Byzantines stopped payment for the defense of Caucasian passes to Persia in 572; and a new war started. The Byzantines invaded Armenia; and Ḵosrow, despite advanced age and feebleness, took the field and captured Dārā (q.v.), while his forces raided Syria up to Antiochia, and forced the adversary to buy a truce for one year at the cost of 45,000 aurei. The truce was renewed for another three years at a cost of 30,000 gold aurei per annum and the promise not to interfere in Persarmenia. The conflicts resumed in Armenia; and, when Ḵosrow died of an illness in 579, his successor Hormozd IV had to counter renewed Roman offensive.

Ḵosrow became known as Anōširavān (“of the immortal soul”). He “was praised and admired” by Persians and even some Romans, as “a lover of literature and profound student of philosophy,” who read (in translation) Greek philosophy and whose “mind was filled with the doctrines of Plato” (Agathias, 2.28). Nöldeke studied his achievements and character and concluded that he “was certainly one of the most efficient and best kings that the Iranians have ever had” (Nöldeke, Geschichte der Perser, pp. 160-62, n. 3). Arab-Persian sources consider him the paragon of justice and title him “The Just (dādgar, Ar. ʿādel).” He viewed justice as the “action most pleasing to God,” as the support of the cosmic order and the source of prosperity for the land and all who inhabited it. He maintained that equity and justice must apply both to the weak and to the mighty, to the poor and to the rich (Kārnāmag, pp. 26-27). Although Kosrow had been educated in Zoroastrian religion and respected it (Mas’udi, Moruj IV, pp. 74, 76; Dēnkart, ed. Madan, p. 413; tr. M. Shaki, 1981, pp. 114-25), he followed a certain rationalism, which in a time dominated by religious fanaticism had its advantages (Nöldeke, loc. cit.; see also Morony, 1984, pp. 335, 337-39). Paul the Persian reflects Ḵosrow’s mind when he says, in his dedicatory preface to Aristotle’s Logic, which he translated for the King, that philosophy is superior to faith; since in religious learning doubts always exist, while philosophy is the mental acceptance of explained ideas (Gutas). The introduction of Borzōē (q.v.) to the Kalila wa Dimna (Nöldeke, 1912) also makes the same point. Ḵosrow himself states that “we examined the customs of our forebears,” but, concerned with the discovery of the truth, “we [also] studied the customs and conducts of the Romans and Indians” and accepted those among them which seemed reasonable and praiseworthy, not merely likeable. “We have not rejected anyone because they belonged to a different religion or people.” And having examined “the good customs and laws” of our ancestors as well as those of the foreigners, “we have not declined to adopt anything which was good nor to avoid anything which was bad. Affection for our forebears did not lead us to accept customs which were not good” (Kārnāmag, pp. 27-28). John of Ephesus, who even apologizes for eulogizing a Magian and an enemy, states that Ḵosrow “was a prudent and wise man, and all his lifetime he assiduously devoted himself to the perusal of philosophical works ... He took pains to collect the religious books of all creeds, and read and studied them, that he might learn which one were true and wise and which were foolish” (6.20). When the Academy at Athens was closed down by the Christian emperor, the pagan philosophers fearing persecution fled to Ḵosrow and received warm and generous treatment; when they left him, he enthusiastically included a clause about their protection against the their Christian oppressors in his peace treaty with the inheritor of the Greco-Roman world, the Byzantine emperor (Agathias, 2.30-1). In general, he granted freedom of religion to the Jews (Neusner, V, pp. 111-12, 124-27), and to the Christians, even though Christian clergy was suspected of siding with the Byzantines (see Evagrius, 5.9).

Pahlavi literature flourished under Ḵosrow (Boyce, 1968), as did translations from Syriac, Greek, and Indian sources on science, particularly medicine and astronomy. His interest in history led to the compilation of an official “national history,” the Xwadāy-nāmag (see HISTORIOGRAPHY i.); and his court astronomers compiled the Royal Canon(Zij-e šahriārān), which henceforth served as the basic source for astronomers and chronographers in Sasanian Persian and the Muslim world (see EIr. II, pp. 859, 862 ff.). Ḵosrow’s rationalism had created a society interested in foreign ideas and disputation. Indian and Manichean asceticism and Christian faith had spread, and Zoroastrianism had gone on the defensive (Christensen, Iran Sass., pp. 429-39). Borzōē, the “Chief Physician” of Persia, traveled to India in search of spiritual learning and returned with a copy of Pañcatantra, translated as Kalila and Dimna, which became the highest model of “wisdom literature” (see ANDARZ). Due to Borzōē and ascetics like him, Ḵosrow’s age of progress and enlightenment assimilated pessimistic and wholly non-Iranian worldviews, which had a crushing effect on Iranians’ morale and strength just when they needed the power of self-preservation most (Christensen, Iran Sass., pp. 415-40).

Decline and fall. As soon as Kosrow left the scene, the higher nobility and the clergy attempted to regain their traditional power; but they were determinedly opposed by his successor, Hormozd IV (579-89). He was a highly educated yet haughty and suspicious king (Nöldeke, Geschichte der Perser, pp. 264-65), who proclaimed that he was on the side of the common people and against any who would seek to deprive them of their rights and means (Dinavari, pp. 103-6). He infuriated the clergy by refusing their demand to restrict the non-Zoroastrians of the realm (Ṭabari, I, pp. 990-91). Some said that he “surpassed his father in justice” (Bal’ami, ed. Bahār, p. 1071); others saw him as cruel and unjust. He killed or blinded his own brothers (John of Ephesus, 6.29), put to death a large number of higher priests and senior officials, and refused a peace offer by the Byzantine empire, thereby prolonging the war on the northern front. Arab tribes raided the westerns borderlands, while eastern nomads (called Hephthalites in Armenian sources, but Turks in Arab-Persian texts) invaded Khorasan and even occupied Herāt. The leading Iranian general, Bahrām Čōbin, of the Arsacid family of Mehrān, defeated the Hephthalites and then crossed the Oxus and routed the Turks, while Persian forces contained other sources of trouble in the northwest and west. However, the king’s distrust and ingratitude drove Bahrām to rebel and march on Ctesiphon. Other magnates led by Bestām and Bendōy, the king’s brothers-in-law and of Arsacid lineage, seized Hormozd and, with the approval of his son, Kosrow, first blinded and then murdered him (patricide was one of the charges that led to Kosrow’s execution, see below). Bahrām now captured Ctesiphon and proclaimed himself King of kings and restorer of the Arsacid dynasty (Ya’qubi, I, p. 192; Šāh-nāma, Moscow, IX, pp. 29-32; Shahbazi, 1990, pp. 222-23, 228). He was viewed by many as “King Bahrām the Glorious (Šāh Bahrām varjāvand”), an expected Savior in Iranian traditions (Czeglédy, pp. 36-39). The royalists gathered around Ḵosrow, who after suffering a defeat fled to the Byzantine territory and returned with a Roman army (eastern sources claim that Maurice even gave his daughter, Maria, to Ḵosrow in marriage). Bestām and Bendōy gathered the loyalists around Ḵosrow, and he regained the throne, proclaiming himself the true expected “Victorious King (Aparvēz á/Parwiz).” Defeated, Bahrām fled to the Turks and was murdered by an agent of Ḵosrow. Envious of the power of Bestām and Bendōy, the king relied on a Roman guard and Armenian forces led by Sumbat Bagratuni. He soon murdered Bendōy, who publicly denounced the Sasanians as faithless upstart usurpers unworthy of service or loyalty (Dinavari, pp. 106-7), but Bestām rose in rebellion and carved a kingdom for himself in the territories west of Reyy and even subjugated some Hephthalite princes. Sumbat put down his rebellion after six years, and the king had him executed. In about 600 Ḵosrow imprudently overthrew the faithful vassal dynasty of the Lakhmids of Ḥira and thus removed the state which had acted as a barrier between rich Sasanian provinces and impoverished desert Arabs, who a generation later overran Sasanian territory with remarkable ease (see ARAB CONQUEST OF IRAN).

Ḵosrow now enjoyed several years of peace (due to the goodwill of Maurice), increasingly turning to cruelty, luxury, and intellectual decadence. At first he supported Christians (his favorite wife Širin was a Christian from Khuzistan: Guidi Chronicle, tr. Nöldeke, p. 10), appointed them to the highest state offices, and offered precious gifts to Christian churches (Peeters; Higgins). He built magnificent palaces at Ctesiphon, Dastagerd, Qaṣr-e Širin, and Ṭāq-e Bostān. In the last site, he had a grotto hewn in the Bisotun mountain in front of a park consisting of a large pool, garden, and a pavilion with columns surmounted by capitals with carved representations of the king, Anāhitā, and other divinities (Herzfeld 1920b, pp. 91 ff.). The grotto walls were ornamented with carved panels; one showed Ḵosrow receiving the diadem of royalty from Ahuramazda while Anāhitā supervised the ceremony; another showed the king on his famous steed, Šabdiz; and a pair represented him hunting deer and boars, accompanied by mounted hunters, musicians, and pages (Herzfeld, 1920; 1929; 1938; see SASANIAN ROCK-RELIEFS).

The age of Ḵosrow saw the zenith of splendor and corrupt rulership (Ferdowsi, Šāh-nāma IX, pp. 198-250; Christensen, Iran Sass., pp. 453-87). He combined autocracy with cruelty and ingratitude, love of luxury with avarice. He accumulated immense wealth (his seven treasures became legendary) by ruthlessly exacting heavy taxes from his subject and sending his forces on dangerous campaigns to collect booty. He kept thousands of women in his harem as wives, concubines, dancers, musicians, and singers, although he himself stayed to the last with Širin (their story became the stuff of legend). At Dastagerd he strolled or hunted in a park that contained thousands of wild and domestic animals; he sat on a fabled throne (Taḵt-e Ṭáāqdis) under a dome representing heaven and adorned with mechanically moving celestial spheres (Herzfeld, 1920b; Christensen, Iran Sass., pp. 466-68 with literature). When in 602 Maurice was murdered by the usurper Phocas, Ḵosrow, allegedly to “avenge” his slain patron, sent his finely equipped and well-trained armies to wage an all-out war against the Byzantine east. These were led by the able generals Farroḵān surnamed “Razmyōzan” (“battle seeker”) and entitled “Šahrvarāz” (the “Boar [i.e., the hero] of the empire”) and Šāhēn Vahmanzādagān, one of the four Spāhbeds (Nöldeke, pp. 291-92, n. 2), and other notable commanders. Iranian troops swept through Mesopotamia, Syria, Palestine (Jerusalem was captured in 614, and the “True Cross” was transferred to Ctesiphon [Flussin]), Cilicia, Armenia Minor, Cappadocia, and the rest of Asia Minor. By 616, they were camping at Chalcedon, opposite Constantinople.

In 610, the Byzantine general Heraclius, of Armenian origin and probably of Arsacid descent (Shahid, pp. 310-11; Toumanoff, 1985, pp. 431-34), defeated and slew Phocas, ascended the throne, and repeatedly sought peace. Acceptance could have prevented all the calamities of the seventh century, leaving Persia at the zenith of power and height of prosperity. However, intoxicated by his victories, Ḵosrow imprudently and haughtily refused; and the Persian advances continued. Heraclius was about to flee to Egypt when the news came that Alexandria had fallen. Desperate, the Emperor turned the war into a crusade for “saving Christianity,” and the church mobilized all its resources in his aid. He further reformed the army, replacing mercenaries with local recruits, who were now fighting for their land, family, and faith; and he placed the provinces he still controlled under military officials, thereby unifying the administrative and military commands. Aware that the Persians lacked a navy in the Black Sea, Heraclius sailed with an elite and mobile force to the neck of Armenia in 622, landed behind Persian lines, and devastated Armenia, northern Mesopotamia, and Ādurbāḏagān, killing many enemy troops and amassing much booty. The tactic proved successful, and he repeated it several times in the next few years, while Šahrvarāz and other Persians held Egypt, Syria, Palestine, and Asia Minor. The two sides bled each other to the point of exhaustion (Gerland; Howard-Johston, 1994; 1999). Heraclius also made alliance with the Khazars of the Caucasus and in 627 they descended on the northwestern Iranian provinces, overwhelming Persian forces without mercy. In the same year, Heraclius occupied and pillaged Šiz (the rich shrine of the Persian warrior class) and Dastagerd, where he wintered and continued to threaten Ctesiphon. There Ḵosrow was forced to raise an army of cooks and slave boys, and yet he ordered his commanders to execute the troops who had been defeated on battlefields (for details and sources see BYZANTINE-IRANIAN RELATIONS and Greatrex-Lieu, pp. 198-228). A mutiny ensued, and the warrior aristocracy deposed Ḵosrow and enthroned his son Šērōye (allegedly a grandson of Maurice), who assumed the throne name Kavād (II). Ḵosrow was captured, tried, and found guilty of patricide, treason, inhumane behavior towards subjects especially soldiers and women, ingratitude toward the Romans, illegal orders, injustice, ruinous avarice, and mistreatment of his own children. He was executed, and Šērōye returned Persia’s gains in return for peace.

The country was disintegrating, and Šērōya’s murder of his seventeen brothers, “all well-educated, valiant, and chivalerous men” (Ṭabari, I, p. 1060), deprived Persia of a future able monarch. The highest aristocracy gained full independence, each carving a state for himself within the empire; and the old animosity between the Parthians (led by Farroḵ Hormozd, the Spāhbed of the north), and the Persians led by Hormozān (q.v.), brother-in-law of Šērōye, flared up, further dividing the resources of the country (Ṭabari, I, pp. 2176, 2209). Dams and canals in Mesopotamia broke, turning cultivated areas into swamps. A plague devastated western provinces, killing Šērōya and half of the population (Mas’udi, Moruj II, p. 232; cf. Nöldeke, Geschichte der Perser, p. 385, n. 4). His son and successor, Ardašir III (q.v.), was murdered by Šahrvarāz. The latter, having made a pact with Heraclius and evacuated all Roman territories (Mango), captured Ctesiphon with a small force, demonstrating to all the weakness of the empire. He also ascended the throne, further undermining the legitimacy of the Sasanian house. Nobles killed him after forty days, and two daughters of Ḵosrow reigned in succession. When Farroḵ Hormozd was assassinated in a palace plot, his son Rostam brought his forces to Ctesiphon, murdered the queen, and enthroned Yazdegerd (III), a grandson of Ḵosrow then merely eight years old (Ṭabari, I, p. 1067). Other nobles enthroned and deposed other candidates (ten in two years). The situation was so chaotic, the condition of the people so appalling, that “the Persians openly spoke of the immanent downfall of their empire, and saw its portents in natural calamities” (Balāḏori, p. 292; cf. Tāriḵ-e Sistān, p.81).

Such a wretched state enticed Persia’s neighbors to take advantage of its situation. The Turks were marching through the eastern provinces at will, and only alliance with them saved local magnates in charge of those lands. The Khazars were ravaging the northwest provinces; Heraclius was interfering in Persia’s internal affairs, and the Arabs, now inspired by a new faith and united by a call to arms and fully aware of the difficulties of the rich but disintegrating empire (Ṭabari, I, pp. 2187-88), were making inroads into Mesopotamia. Success made the Arabs rich and bold, and they defeated a major Persian army at Qādesiya (southwest of Ḥira), and subjugated local rulers until they captured Ctesiphon, where they found untold riches. Wave after wave of them swept through Iranian lands. Yazdegerd fled from one place to another, begging local lords to help save him and the empire; but the end had come, and no real, united front could be organized. The Arabs subjugated local lords by force or treaty and succeeded in destroying the Persian empire by 650. Yazdegerd was betrayed by Māhōy Suri of Marv and murdered in a mill, in which he had been taking refuge.

With him ended the Sasanian dynasty, for the attempts of his son, Pērōz, and his descendants to regain power with the help of Chinese or Turkish troops proved futile. Although its last days were inglorious, the Sasanian state remained the ideal model of organization, splendor, and justice in Perso-Arab tradition; and its bureaucracy and royal ideology were imitated by successor states, especially the Abbasid, Ottoman, and Safavid empires. The memory of Yazdegerd III remained that of a martyred prince, and many a subsequent ruler or notable in Islamic Iran claimed descent from him. His coins (like that of Ḵosrow II) were used—and continued to be minted, with some gradual alteration in legends—by Arab governors for several generations (Tyler-Smith). According to a Shi’ite tradition, one of his daughters married Imam Ḥosayn and begot ‘Ali Zayn-al-’ābedin, the fourth Imam (Boyce, 1967). Thus, the Hosayni sayyeds claimed superiority over others by virtue of “nobility on both sides” (karim al-tarafayn: Ebn Balki, Fārsnāma, p. 4). Many Iranians, particularly Zoroastrians, took the accession of Yazdegerd (16 June 632), as the beginning of the Era of Yazdegerd; some, however dated from the year of his murder in 650 (Taqizadeh, pp. 917-22).


For works not cited in the bibliography see the “Short References and Abbreviations of Books and Periodicals” in EIr. I. General surveys of the sources of Sasanian history include:

F. Justi in Grundriss II, pp. 512-13; Christensen, Iran. Sass., pp. 50-83; Widengren, Camb. Hist. Iran III, pp. 1269-89; Frye, 1984, pp. 287-91; Wiesehofer, 1996, pp. 283-87; Morony, 1995, pp. 80-83; Morony, 1984, pp. 541-42, 545-65, 575-77; and Cereti, 1995-97.

The bibliography of the entry BYZANTINE-IRANIAN RELATIONS provides a list up to 1985 related to Sasanian political history. Useful anthologies of sources on the same subject are given in annotated translation in Dodgeon and Lieu, 1991 and 2002. The best modern overview of the Sasanian period, with excellent bibliographical essays, is Wiesehöfer, 2001, pp. 153-221, 276-300, 309.

E. ʿAbbās, ed., ʿAhd Ardašīr, Beirut, 1967.

Agathias, The Histories, tr. G. D. Frendo, Berlin and New York, 1975 (see also Cameron 1995).

N. Adontz, Armenia in the period of Justinian, tr. and rev. by N. Garsoïan, Lisbon, 1970.

M. Alram, Alram, Nomina propria iranica in nummis. Materialgrundlagen zu den iranischen Personennamen auf antiken Münzen, Vienna, l986.

Idem, “The Beginning of Sasanian Coinage,” Bulletin of the Asia Institute,N.S. 13, 1999, pp. 67-76.

F. Altheium, “Mazdak und Porphyrios,” La Nouvelle Clio 5, 1953, pp. 356-76.

Ammianus Marcellinus, Rerum Gestarum Libri qui supersunt, ed. and tr. J. Rolfe as Histories, tr. J. C. Rolfe, 3 vols., Cambridge, Mass., 1935.

J. P. Asmussen, “Christians in Iran,” Camb. Hist. Iran 3, 1983, pp. 924-48.

M. Azarnoush, The Sasanian Manor House at Hajiabad, Iran, Florence, 1994.

H. W. Bailey, Zoroastrian problems in the ninth-century books, Oxford, 1943; repr. with a new introd., Oxfoird, 1971.

T. D. Barnes, “Constantine and the Christians of Persia,” Journal of Roman Studies 75, 1985, pp. 126-36.

A. D. H. Bivar, “Cavalry equipment and tactics on the Euphrates frontier,” Dumbarton Oaks Papers 26, 1972, pp. 2, 71-91.

Idem, “The Political history of Iran under the Arsacids,” Camb. Hist. Iran III, 1983, pp. 21-99.

R. C. Blockley, ed. and tr., The Fragmentary Classicising historians of the Later Roman Empire I, Liverpool, 1981 (Eunapius, Malchus and Priscus).

Idem, “The Roman-Persian peace-treaties of AD 299 and 363,” Florilegium, 1984, pp. 62-74.

Idem, East Roman Foreign Policy, Leeds, 1992.

C. E. Bosworth, annotated tr., The History of al-Ṭabarī IV. The Sāsānids, the Byzantines, the Lakhmids and Yemen, Albany, New York, 1999.

M. Boyce, “Bībī Shahrbānū and the Lady of Pārs,” BSOAS 30, 1967, pp. 30-44.

Eadem, “Middle Persian literature,” Handbuch der Orientalistik, Abh. 1, Bd. 4, Abs. 2, Literatur, Lief. 1, Leiden, 1968, pp. 31-66.

Eadem, Zoroastrians, their religious beliefs and practices, London and New York, 1979.

S. Brock, “Christians in the Sasanian Empire: A case of divided loyalties,” in S. Mews, ed., Religion and national identity. Studies in Church history, Oxford, 1982, pp. 1-19.

C. J. Brunner, “Geographical and administrative division: Settlements and economy,” Camb. Hist. Iran III, 1983, pp. 747-77.

J. B. Bury, History of the Later Roman Empire, 2 vols., London, 1923.

P. Calmeyer, “Zur Genese altiranischer Motive. IV: ‘Persönliche Krone’ und Diadem; V. Synarchie,” AMI, N.S. 9, 1979, pp. 45-95.

Averil Cameron, ed., The Byzantine and Early Islamic Near East: III. States, resources and armies, Princeton, 1995.

Cassius Dio, Roma History, tr. E. Cary, Cambridge, Mass. 1955.

C. G. Cereti, “Primary Sources on the History of Inner and Outer Iran in the Sasanian Period,” Archivum Eurasiae Medii Aevi, 9, 1995-97, pp. 17-71.

M. L. Chaumont, “Les grands rois sassanides d’Arménie,” Iranica Antiqua 8, 1968, pp. 81-93.

Eadem, “Corégence et avènement de Shapuhr Ier,” Mémorial Jean de Menasce, Louv ain,1974a, pp. 133-46.

Eadem, “A propos d’une edict religieuse d’époque Sassanide,” Mélange d’Histoire des Religions offerts à H. C. Puech, Paris, 1974b, pp. 71-80.

Eadem, “Etats vassaux dans l’empire des primiers Sassanides, Acta Iranica 4, 1975, pp. 89-156; Addendum in Acta Iranica 6, 1975, p. 356.

Arthur Christensen, La regne du roi Kawadh I et le communisme mazdakite, Copenhagen, 1925.

Idem, “La Legende du sage Buzurjmihr,” Acta Orientalia 8, 1930, pp. 81-113.

J. Cribb, “Numismatic evidence for Kushano-sasanian chronology,” Studia Iranica 19, 1990, pp. 151-93.

K. Czeglédy, “Bahrām Čōbin and the Persian Apocalyptic Literature,” AAASH 8, 1958, pp. 21-43.

E. Dabrowa ed., The Roman and Byzantine army in the East, Kraków, 1994, pp. 227-63.

F. Decret, “Les consequences sur le christianisme en Perse de l’affrontemenet des empire romain et Sassanide de Shapur Ier à Yazdgard Ier,” Recherches Augustiniennes 14, 1979, pp. 91-152.

Michael Dodgeon and Samuel Lieu, eds., The Roman Eastern Frontier and the Persian Wars (AD 226-363), Part 1. A.D. 226-363, a documentary history, compiled and ed. by M. H. Dodgeon and S. N. C. Lieu; London and New York, 1991; Part 2. AD 363-630, a narrative sourcebook, ed. and compiled by Geoffrey Greatrex and S. N. C. Lieu. J. Duchesne-Guillemin, “Zoroastrian religion,” Camb. Hist. Iran 3, 1983, pp. 866-908.

Kurt Erdmann, “Die Entwicklung der Sāsānidischen Kröne,” Ars Islamica 15/16, 1951, pp. 87-123.

Evagrius, tr. M. Whitby, The Ecclesiastical history of Evagrius Scholasticus, Liverpool, 2000.

W. Felix, Antike literarische Quellen zur Aussenpolitik des Sāsānidenstaates, Erster Band (224-309), Vienna, 1985.

B. Flusin, Saint Anastase le Perse et l’histoire de la Palestine au début du VIIe siècle, Paris 1992, II, pp. 151-64.

R. N. Frye, “The Political history of Iran under the Sasanians,” Camb. Hist. Iran III, 1983, pp. 116-80.

Idem, The History of Ancient Iran, Munich, 1984.

A. von Gabain, “Irano-Turkish relations in the Late Sasanian Period,” Camb. Hist. Iran, III, pp. 613-24.

H. Gaube, “Mazdak: historical reality or invention?” Stud. Ir. 9,1982, pp. 111-22.

Ernst Gerland, “Die persischen Feldzüge des Kaisers Herakleios,” Byzantinische Zeitschrift 3, 1894, pp. 231-73.

Roman Ghirshman, Iran. From the earliest times to the Islamic Conquest, Bungay, Suffolk, UK, 1954.

Idem, Fouilles de Châpour: Bîchâpour I, Paris, 1971; II. Les Mosaïques Sassanides, Paris, 1956.

Idem, “Châpur Ier, ‘Roi de rois’ sans couronne,” Acta Iranica 4, 1975, pp. 257-67. Philippe Gignoux, “La Liste de provinces de l’Eran dans les inscriptions de Sabuhr et Kirdir,” AAASH 19, 1971, pp. 83-93.

Idem, “Church-state relations in the Sasanian period,” Bullettin of the Middle Eastern CultureCenter in Japan 1, 1984, pp. 72-80.

Idem, Les quatres inscriptions de mage Kirdēr. Textes et concordance, Paris, 1991.

Idem, “Les inscriptions en moyen-perse de Bandiān,” Stud. Ir. 27, 1998, pp. 251-58.

Gh. Gnoli, The Idea of Iran. An Essay on its Origins, Rome, 1989.

Robert Göbl, Sasanian Numismatics, tr. Paul Severin, Braunschweig, 1971.

Geoffrey Greatrex, Rome and Persia at war: 502-532, Leeds, 1998.

M. Grignaschi, “Quelques spécimens de la litérature Sassanide conservés dans les Bibliotheques d’Istanbul,” JA 1966, pp. 1-142 (containing ed. and tr. of ʿAhd-e Ardašīr, Kārnāmag-e Anoširavān, and ʿAyin-e Ardašīr).

Idem, “ La riforma tributaria di Ḫosrō I e il feudalesimo sasanide,” in La Persia nel Medioevo, Rome, 1971, pp. 87-147.

Idem, “La chute de l’empire Hephthalite dans les sources byzantines et perses et le problème des Avars,” AAASH 28, 1980, pp. 219-40.

D. Gutas, “Paul the Persian on the classification of the parts of Aristotle’s philosophy: a milestone between Alexandria and Bagdad,” Der Islam 40,1985, 231-67.

R. Güterbock, Byzans und Persien in ihren diplomatisch-völkerrechtlichenBeziehungen im Zeitalter Justinians, Berlin, 1906.

A. von Gutschmid, “Zur Geschichte der Sasaniden,” ZDMG 34, 1880, pp. 585-87.

Rika Gyselen, La Géographie administrative de L’empire Sassanide. Les témoignages sigillographiques, (Res Orientales I), Paris, 1989.

Idem, The Four Generals of the Sasanian Empire: Some Sigillographic Evidence, Rome, 2001.

J. Harmatta, “The struggle for the possession of South Arabia between Aksum and the Sasanians,” Actes de IVe congrés international des études éthiopiennes, Rome 1972, Rome, 1974, pp. 95-116.

Idem, “The Struggle for the ‘Silk Route’ between Iran, Byzantium and the Türk Empire from 560 to 630 A.D.,” in Cs. Bálint, ed., Kontakte zwischen Iran, Byzanz und der Steppe in 6.-7. Jh., Budapest, 2000, pp. 249-252.

P. O. Harper and P. Meyers, Silver Vessels of the Sasanian Period. I. Royal Imagery, New York, 1981.

W. B. Henning, Selected Papers I-II (Acta Iranica 14-15), Tehran and Liège, 1977.

Idem, “The great inscription of Šāpūr I,” BSOS 9, 1937-39, pp. 823-49 (Sel. Pap. I, pp. 601-27).

Idem, “Mani’s last journey,” BSOAS 10, 1942, pp. 941-53 (Sel. Pap. II, pp. 81-93).

Idem, “Notes on the great inscription of Šāpur I,” in Professor Jackson Memorial Volume, Bombay, 1954, pp. 40-54 (Sel. Pap. II, pp. 415-29).

W. B. Henning and S. H. Taqizadeh, “The Dates of Mani’s Life,” Asia Major 6, 1957, pp. 106-21 (Sel. Pap. II, pp. 505-20).

A. Henrichs and L. Koenen, “Der Kölner Mani-Kodex...,” Zeitschrift fur Papyriologie und Epigraphik 19, 1975, pp. 1-85 (p. 18, Greek text; p. 21, translation).

Herodian, History of the Empire from the time of Marcus Aurelius, tr. C. R. Whittaker, Cambridge, Mass. 1970.

Ernst Herzfeld, Am Tor von Asien.Felsdenkmäler aus Irans Heldenzeit, Berlin, 1920a.

Idem,"Der Thron des Khosrô,” Jahrbuch der Preussischen Kunstsammlungen 41, 1920b, pp.1-24, 103-45.

Idem, Paikuli: Monument and Inscription of the Early History of the Sasanian Empire, 2 vols., Berlin, 1924.

Idem, “Khusrau Parwēz und der Tāq-i Vastān,” AMI 9, 1938), pp. 91-158.

Robert Hewsen, tr. with introd. and comm., The Geography of Ananias of ҳirak (Aҳxarhac’oyc’). The Long and Short Recensions, Wiesbaden, 1992.

M. J. Higgins, “Chosroe II’s Votive Offerings at Sergiopolis,” Byzantinische Zeitschrift 48/1, 1955, pp. 89-102.

Walther Hinz, Altiranisches Funde und Forschungen, Berlin, 1969.

Idem, “Mani und Kardēr,” La Persia nel Medioevo, Rome, 1971, pp. 485-99.

E. Honigmann and A. Maricq, Recherches sur les Res Gestae Divi Saporis, Bruxelles, 1953.

J. D. Howard-Johnston, “The Official History of Heraclius’ Persian campaigns,” in Dabrowa, 1994, pp. 57-87.

Idem, “The two Great Powers in Late Antiquity: a comparison,” in Cameron, 1995, pp. 157-226.

Idem, “Heraclius’ Persian campaigns and the revival of the East Roman Empire, 622-30,” War in History 6, 1999, pp. 1-44.

H. Humbach and P. O. Skjærvø, The Sassanian Inscription of Paikuli, 3 vols, Wiesbaden, 1978-83.

Philip Huyse, “Kerdīr and the first Sasanians,” in N. Sims-Williams ed., Proceedings of the Third European Conference of Iranian Studies, Wiesbaden, 1998, pp. 109-20.

Idem, Die dreisprachige Inschrift Šābuhrs I. An der Kaʿba-i Žardušt (ŠKZ), Corp. Inscrip. Iran. III, Vol. I, Text I, 2 vols., London 1999.

Joshua the Stylite, The Chronicle of Joshua the Stylite. Syriac text and English tr. by W. Wright, Cambridge, 1882; tr. by Frank R. Trombley and W. Watt as The Chronicle of Pseudo-Jashua the Stylite, Liverpool, 2000; German tr. by A. Luther, Die syrische Chronik des Josua Stylite, Berlin and New York, 1997.

John of Antioch in Müller, 1885, pp. 535-622.

F. Justi, “Herrschaft der Sāsāniden,” in Grundriss II/4, 1900, pp. 512-49.

John of Ephesus, Historiae ecclesiasticae, tr. J. M. Schönfelder as Die Kirchen Geschichte des Johannes von Ephesus, Munich, 1862.

Kārnāmag-e Anōšīravān:seeGrignaschi, 1966; also in Moškōya, Tajāreb al-omam, ed. K. Imāmi, I, Tehran, 1987, pp. 100-14.

E. Kettenhofen, Die römisch-persischen Kriege des 3. Jarhunderts n. Chr. Nach der Inschrift Šāhpuhrs I. an der Kaʿbe-ye Zartošt (ŠKZ), Wiesbaden, 1982.

E. Khurshudian, Die parthischen und sasanidischen Verwaltungsinstitutionen: nach den literarischen und epigraphischen Quellen, 3 JH. v. Chr. - 7 JH. n. Chr.,Jerewan, 1998. O. Klima, “Kē čihr hac yazatān,” Archíiv Orientální 24, 1956, pp. 292-93.

Idem, Beiträge zur Geschichte des Mazdakismus, Prague, 1977.

Idem, Mazdak.Geschichte einr sozialen Bewegung im sassanidischen Persien, Prague, 1957.

Idem, Beiträge zur Geschichte der Mazdakismus, Prague, 1977.

J. Labourt,Le Christianisme dans l’empire perse sous la dynatie Sassanide (224-632) (Bibliothèque de l’enseignement de l’histoire ecclésiastique), Paris, 1904.

V. G. Lukonin, Kultura Sasanidskogo Irana, Moscow, 1969.

Idem, Iran v III veke, Moscow 1979.

Idem, “Politcal, social and administrative institutions: taxes and trade,” Camb.Hist. Iran 3, 1983, pp. 681-746.

B. C. MacDermont, “Roman emperors in the Sasanian Reliefs,” The Journal of Roman studies, 44, 1959, pp. 76-80.

D. N. MacKenzie, “Kerdir’s Inscription (synoptic text in translitteration, transcription, translation and commentary),” in G. Herrmann, D. N. Mackenzie and R. Howell Caldecott, The Sasanian Rock Reliefs at Naqsh-i Rustam. Naqsh-i Rustam 6. The Triumph of Shapur I, Representation of Kerdir and Inscription (Iranishe Denkmäler 13), Berlin, 1989, pp. 35-72.

Idem, “The Fire Altar of Happy *Frayosh,” Bulletin of the Asia Institute, N.S. 7, 1993, pp. 105-9.

John Malalas, Chronographia, ed. L. Dindorf, Bonn 1831; tr. from better manuscripts by E. Jeffreys et al. as The Chronicle of John Malalas, Melbourne, 1986.

C. Mango, “Deux études su Byzance et la Perse sassanide. II. Héraclius, Shahrvaraz et la Vraie Croix,” Travaux et mémoires 9, 1985, pp. 91-118.

A. Maricq, “Res Gestae Divi Saporis,” Syria 35, 1958, pp. 295-360 (repr. in Classica et Orientalia, Paris, 1965, pp. 37-101).

Josef Marquart, “Historische Glossen zu den alttürkischen Inschriften,” WZKM 12, 1898, pp. 157-200.

J. de Menasce, Le troisème livre du Dënkart, Paris, 1973.

Menander Protector, Hitorikon syngramma, ed. and tr. with notes R. C. Blockley as The History of Menander the Guardsman, Classical and Medieval texts, papers and monographs 17, Liverpool, 1985.

Michael G. Morony, Iraq after the Muslim Conquest, Princeton, 1984.

Idem, “Sasanids,” in EI2 IX, 1997, pp. 70-83.

Nāma-ye Tansar, ed. M Minovi, Tehran, 1311 Š./1932; tr. by M. Boyce as The Letter of Tansar, Rome, 1966.

C. Müller, FragmentaHistoricorum Graecorum IV, Paris, 1885.

J. Neusner, A History of Jews in Babylonia, 5 vols., Leiden, 1960-70.

Theodor Nöldeke, “Geschichte des Artachšīr i Pāpkān,” Beiträge zur Kunde der indogermanische Sprachen 4 (Festschrift Theodor Benfeys), Göttingen, 1878, pp. 22-69.

Idem, “Die von Guidi herausgegebene syrische Chronik,” Sitzungsberichte der phil.-hist. Class der kaiserlichen Akademie der Wissenschaften 128, Vienna, 1893, pp. 1-48.

Idem, “Burzōē’s Einteilung zu dem Buche Kalila wa-darna,” Schriften der wissenschaftlichen Gesellschaft in Strassburg 12, 1912, pp. 1-26.

P. Peeters, “Les ex-voto de Khosrau Aparwez à Sergiopolis,” Analecta Bollandiana 65, 1947, pp. 5-56.

P. Pieler, “L’aspect politique et jurisdique de l’adoption de Chosroes proposée par la Perses à Justin,” Revue internationale des droits de l’antiquité 19, 1972, pp. 399-433.

I. Pfeiler, “Der Thron der Achaimeniden als Herrschaftssymbol auf sasanidischen Münzen,” Schweizer Münzblätter 23, 1973, pp. 107-11.

H. J. Polotsky, ed., Manichäische Homlilien, Stuttgart, 1934.

Procopius, History of the Wars, ed. and tr. H. D. Dewing, London, 1961.

G. Rawlinson, The Seventh Great Oriental Monarchy or the Geography, History, and Antiquities of the Sassanians or New Persian Empire, New York, 1882.

R. T. Ridley, “Three notes on Julian’s Persian expedition,” Historia 22, 1973, pp. 317-30.

Z. Rubin, “The reforms of Khusro Anushirwan,” in Cameron, 1995, pp. 227-97.

E. Sachau, “Von den rechtlichen Verhältnissen der Christen im Sasanidenreich,” Mitteilungen des Seminar für orientalische Sprachen zu Berlin 10/2, 1907, pp. 69-95.

Klaus Schippmann, Grundzüge der Geschichte des sasanidischenReiches, Darmstadt, 1990.

Sebeos, The Armenian History Attributed to Sebeos, Vol. I, tr. with notes by R. W. Thomson; Vol. II: Historical Commentary by J. Howard-Johnston (with Tim Greenwood), Liverpool, 1999.

Otto Seeck, “Sapor II,” in Pauly-Wissowa IA/2, 1920, cols. 2334-54.

Rudolf Sellheim, “Tāq-I Bustān und Kaiser Julian (361-63),” Oriens 34, 1994, pp. 354-66.

A. Sh. Shahbazi, “An Achaemenid Symbol. II. Farnah ‘(God-given) Fortune’ Symbolized,” AMI 13, 1980, pp. 119-47.

Idem, “Studes in Sasanian Prosopography I: Narse’s Relief at Naqsh-i Rustam,” AMI 16, 1983, pp. 255-68.

Idem, “On the Xwadāy-nāmag,” Acta Iranica 30 (Papers in Honor of Professor Ehsan Yarshater), Leiden 1990, pp. 208-29.

Idem, “Early Sasanians’ claim to Achaemenid heitage,” Nāme-ye Irān-e Bāstān 1/1, 2001, pp. 61-73.

I. Shahid, “The Iranian factor in Byzantium during the reign of Heraclius,” Dumbarton Oaks Papers, 26, 1972, pp. 295-320.

S. Shaked, “Some Legal and Administrative Terms of the Sasanian Period,” Monumentum H.S. Nyberg II (Acta Iranica 5, Hommages et opera minora), Leiden, Téhéran, Liège, 1975, pp. 213-25.

Idem, “Administrative functions of priests in the Sasanian period,” in Proceedings of the First European Conference of Iranian Studies held in Turin, Rome, 1990, pp. 260-73.

M. Shaki, “The Dēnkard Account of the History of the Zoroastrian scriptures,” Archív Orientální 49, 1981, pp. 114-25 (esp. 116, 119).

D. Sinor, “The establishment and dissolution of the Türk empire,” in D. Sinor, ed., Cambridge History of Inner Asia, Cambridge, 1990, pp. 285-316; bibliog., pp. 478-82.

P. O. Skjærvø and H. Humbach, The Sassanian Inscription of Paikuli, 3 vols. in 4 pts, Wiesbaden, 1983.

S. Tyler Smith, “Coinage in the name of Yazdgerd III (AD 632-651) and the Arab conquest of Iran,” NC 160, 2000, pp. 135-70.

E. Stein, “Perse Sassanide,” La Museón 53, 1940, pp. 123-33.

Idem, “Ein kapitel vom persischen und byzantinischen Staate,” Byzantinisch-neugrichische Jahrbucher 1, 1920, pp. 50-89.

W. Sundermann, “Studien zur kirchengeschichtlichen Literatur der iranischen Manichäer III,” Altorientalische Forschungen 14, 1987, pp. 41-107.

Idem, “Kē čihr az yazdān. Zur Titulatur der Sasnidenkonige,” Archív Orientální 56, 1988, pp. 338-40.

A. Tafazzoli, “Observations su le soi-disant Mazdak-Nāmag,” in Acta Iranica 23, 1984.

Idem, Sasanian Society, Winona Lake, 2000.

S. H. Taqizadeh, “Various eras and calendars used in countries of Islam,” BSOS 9, 1937-39, pp. 903-22.

Theophylact Simocatta, Historiae, tr. Michael and Mary Whitby as The History of Theophylact Simocatta Simocatta, Oxford and New York, 1986.

Cyril Toumanoff, "The Heraclids and the Arsacids,” REA, N.S. 19, 1985, pp. 431-34.

Leo Trümpelmann, “Triumph über Julian Apostata,” Jahrbuch für Numismatick und Geldgeschichte 25, 1975, pp. 107-11.

Geo Widengren, “Xosrau Anōšurvān, les Hephthalites et les peuplese turcs,” Orientalia Suecana 1, 1952, pp. 69-94.

Idem, “The Establishment of the Sasanian Dynasty in the Light of New Evidence,” in La Persia nel Medioevo, Rome, 1971, pp. 711-82.

Idem, Der Feudalismus im alten Iran, Cologne and Opladen, 1967.

Idem, Iran der grosse Gegner Roms: Königsgewalt, Feudalismus, Militärwesen, Aufstieg und Niedergang der römischen WeltII/9.1, 1976, pp. 219-306.

Idem, “Sources of Parthian and Sasanian History,” Camb. Hist. Iran 3, 1983, pp. 1261-83.

Josef Wiesehöfer, Ancient Persia From 550 BC to 650 AD, tr. from German by Azizeh Azodi, London and New York, 1996; 2nd ed., 2001.

Engelbert Winter, Die Sāsānidisch-römischen Friedensverträge des 3. Jahrhunderts n. Chr. ein Beitrag zum Verhständnis der aussen politischen Beziehungen zwischen den beiden Grossmächten, Frankfurt on the Main and New York, 1988.

G. Wirth, “Julians Perserkrieg. Kriterien einer Katastrophe,” in R. Klein, ed., Julian Apostata, Darmstadt, 1978, pp. 419-507.

Ehsan Yarshater, “Mazdakism,” Camb. Hist. Iran 3, pp. 991-1026.

(A. Shapur Shahbazi)
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Sassanid Army

The Sasanian period. The Iranian society under the Sasanians was divided—allegedly by Ardašīr I—into four groups: priests, warriors (artēštār), state officials, and artisans and peasants. The second category embraced princes, lords, and landed aristocracy (Christensen, Iran Sass., p. 98), and one of the three great fires of the empire, Ādur Gušnasp at Šīz (Taḵt-e Solaymān in Azerbaijan) belonged to them (ibid., pp. 166f.). With a clear military plan aimed at the revival of the Persian empire (Dio Cassius 80.4.2; Herodian 6.2.2), Ardašīr I formed a standing army which was under his personal command and its officers were separate from satraps and local princes and nobility (Agathangelos [Greek version] 1.8). Ardašīr had started as the military commander of Dārābgerd (Ṭabarī, tr. Nöldeke, Geschichte der Perser, p. 5), and was knowledgeable in older and contemporary military history, from which he benefited, as history shows, substantially. For he restored Achaemenid military organizations, retained Parthian cavalry, and employed Roman-style armor and siege-engines, thereby creating a standing army (Mid. Pers. spāh) which served his successors for over four centuries, and defended Iran against Central Asiatic nomads and Roman armies (Christensen, op. cit., p. 207).

The backbone of the spāh was its heavy cavalry “in which all the nobles and men of rank” underwent “hard service” (Ammianus Marcellinus 23.6.83) and became professional soldiers “through military training and discipline, through constant exercise in warfare and military manoeuvers” (ibid.). From the third century the Romans also formed units of heavy cavalry of the Oriental type (Rundgren, Orientalia Suecana 6, 1957, pp. 35ff.); they called such horsemen clibanarii “mail-clad [riders]” (e.g. Ammianus Marcellinus 16.10.8), a term thought to have derived from an Iranian *grīwbānar < *grīwbānwar < *grīva-pāna-bara “neck-guard wearer” (Rundgren, op. cit., pp. 48f., evidently unaware that the Pahlavi grīwbān “neck-guard” is attested inVendidad 14.9: A.V. W. Jackson, “Herodotus VII. 61, or the Arms of the Ancient Persians Illustrated from Iranian Sources,” in Classical Studies in Honour of Henry Drisler, New York, 1894, pp. 95ff., esp. p. 118). The heavy cavalry of Šāpūr II is described by an eye-witness historian as follows: “all the companies were clad in iron, and all parts of their bodies were covered with thick plates, so fitted that the stiff joints conformed with those of their limbs; and the forms of human faces were so skillfully fitted to their heads, that since their entire body was covered with metal, arrows that fell upon them could lodge only where they could see a little through tiny openings opposite the pupil of the eye, or where through the tip of their nose they were able to get a little breath. Of these some who were armed with pikes, stood so motionless that you would have thought them held fast by clamps of bronze” (Ammianus Marcellinus 25.1. 12-13, cf. 24.6.8). The described horsemen are represented by the seventh-century knight depicting Ḵosrow Parvēz on his steed Šabdīz on a rock relief at Ṭāq-e Bostān in Kermānšāh (E. Herzfeld, AMI 9/1938, pp. 91ff.). Since the Sasanian horseman lacked the stirrup (A. D. H. Bivar, “The Stirrup and its origins,” Oriental Art, N.S. 1, 1965, pp. 61-65), he used a war saddle which, like the medieval type, had a cantle at the back and two guard clamps curving across the top of the rider’s thighs enabling him thereby to stay in the saddle especially during violent contact in battle (E. F. Schmidt, Persepolis III, Chicago, 1970, p. 135). The inventory of weapons ascribed to Sasanian horsemen at the time of Ḵosrow Anōšīravān (Ṭabarī, I, p. 964 [tr. Nöldeke, pp. 248f.]; Baḷʿami, Tārīḵ, p. 1048; Ferdowsī, Šāh-nāma VIII, p. 63), resembles the twelve items of war mentioned in Vendidad 14.9 (Jackson, loc. cit.), thus showing that this part of the text had been revised in the later Sasanian period. More interestingly, the most important Byzantine treatise on the art of war, the Strategicon, also written at this period, requires the same equipments from a heavily-armed horseman (Bivar in Dumbarton Oaks Papers 26, 1972, pp. 287-88). This was due to the gradual orientalization of the Roman army to the extent that in the sixth century “the military usages of the Romans and the Persians become more and more assimilated, so that the armies of Justinian and Khosrow are already very much like each other;” and, indeed, the military literatures of the two sides show strong affinities and interrelations (C. A. Inostrantsev, “Sasanian Military Theory,” tr. L. Bogdanov in Journal of the Cama Oriental Institute 7, 1926, pp. 7ff. esp. p. 23). According to the Iranian sources mentioned above, the martial equipments of a heavily-armed Sasanian horseman were as follows: helmet, hauberk (Pahlavi grīwbān), breastplate, mail, gauntlet (Pahlavi abdast), girdle, thigh-guards (Pahlavi rān-ban), lance, sword, battle-axe, mace, bowcase with two bows and two bowstrings, quiver with 30 arrows, two extra bowstrings, spear, and horse armor (zēn-abzār); to these some have added a lasso (kamand), or a sling with slingstones (Nöldeke, Geschichte der Perser, pp. 248f.; Jackson, op. cit., pp. 108ff.). The elite corps of the cavalry was called “the Immortals,” evidently numbering—like their Achaemenid namesakes—10,000 men (Christensen, Iran Sass., p. 208 with references). On one occasion (under Bahrām V) the force attacked a Roman army but outnumbered, it stood firm and was cut down to a man (Socrates Scholasticus 7.20). Another elite cavalry group was the Armenian one, whom the Persians accorded particular honor (Christensen, op. cit., p. 210). In due course the importance of the heavy cavalry increased and the distinguished horseman assumed the meaning of “knight” as in European chivalry; if not of royal blood, he ranked next to the members of the ruling families and was among the king’s boon companions (ibid., pp. 112, 368-69; J. M. Unvala, The Pahlavi Text “King Ḫusrav and his Boy,” Paris, 1921).

The Sasanians did not form light-armed cavalry but extensively employed—as allies or mercenaries—troops from warlike tribes who fought under their own chiefs. “The Sagestani were the bravest of all” (Ammianus Marcellinus 19.2.3); the Gelani, Albani and the Hephthalites, the Kushans and the Khazars were the main suppliers of light-armed cavalry. The skill of the Dailamites in the use of sword and dagger made them valuable troopers in close combat (Agathias 3.17), while Arabs were efficient in desert warfare (Christensen, op. cit., pp. 209, 275).

The infantry (paygān) consisted of the archers and ordinary footmen. The former were protected “by an oblong curved shield, covered with wickerwork and rawhide” (Ammianus Marcellinus 24.6.8). Advancing in close order, they showered the enemy with storms of arrows. The ordinary footmen were recruited from peasants and received no pay (ibid., 23.6.83), serving mainly as pages to the mounted warriors; they also attacked walls, excavated mines and looked after the baggage train, their weapons being a spear and a shield (ibid., 23.6.83; Procopius 1.14.24, 52; Christensen, op. cit., p. 209). The cavalry was better supported by war elephants “looking like walking towers” (Ammianus Marcellinus 25.1.14; sec also E. Herzfeld AMI 3, 1931, pp. 26ff.), which could cause disorder and damage in enemy ranks in open and level fields. War chariots were not used by the Sasanians (contra Alexander Severus in Lampridius, Vita Alex. Sev. 56). Unlike the Parthians, however, the Persians organized an efficient siege machine for reducing enemy forts and walled towns. They learned this system of defense from the Romans but soon came to match them not only in the use of offensive siege engines—such as scorpions, balistae, battering rams, and moving towers—but also in the methods of defending their own fortifications against such devices by catapults, by throwing stones or pouring boiling liquid on the attackers or hurling fire brands and blazing missiles (Ammianus Marcellinus 19.5f., 20.6-7, 11).

The organization of the Sasanian army is not quite clear, and it is not even certain that a decimal scale prevailed, although such titles as hazārmard (Nöldeke, Geschichte der Perser, p. 284 n. 2) might indicate such a system. Yet the proverbial strength of an army was 12,000 men (Ferdowsī, Šāh-nāma VIII, p. 343). The total strength of the registered warriors in 578 was 70,000 (Ṭabarī, tr. Nöldeke, p. 271). The army was divided, as in the Parthian times, into several gunds, each consisting of a number of drafšs (units with particular banners), each made up of some wašts (Christensen, op. cit., p. 210). The imperial banner was the Drafš-e Kāvīān, a talismanic emblem accompanying the Great King or the commander-in-chief of the army who was stationed in the center of his forces and managed the affairs of the combat from the elevation of a throne (A. Christensen, Smeden Kāväh, tr. Unvala, pp. 28f.). At least from the time of Ḵosrow Anōšīravān a seven-grade hierarchical system seems to have been favored in the organization of the army (M. Grignaschi, “Quelques spécimens de la litterature sassanide conservés dans les bibliothèques d’Istanbul,” JA, 1966, pp. 1ff. esp. pp. 24, 42 n. 76). The highest military title was argbed (q.v.) which was a prerogative of the Sasanian family (Nöldeke, op. cit., p. 5 n. 3). Until Ḵosrow Anōšīravān’s military reforms, the whole of the Persian army was under a supreme commander, Ērān-spāhbed, who acted as the minister of defense, empowered to conduct peace negotiations; he usually came from one of the great noble families and was counted as a counselor of the Great King (Christensen, Iran Sass., pp. 130f.). Along with the revival of “heroic” names in the middle of the Sasanian period, an anachronistic title, artēštārān sālār (q.v., Greek rendering adrastadaran salanes: Procopius 1.6. 18) was coined to designate a generalissimo with extraordinary authority, but this was soon abandoned when Anōšīravān abolished the office of Ērān-spāhbed and replaced it with those of the four marshals (spāhbed) of the empire, each of whom was the military authority in one quarter of the realm (Christensen, op. cit., pp. 131, 370). Other senior officials connected with the army were: Ērān-ambāragbed “minister of the magazines of empire,” responsible for the arms and armaments of warriors (ibid., pp. 107-108); the marzbāns “margraves”—rulers of important border provinces (ibid., pp. 102, 108, 371ff.; 518ff.); kanārang—evidently a hereditary title of the ruler of Ṭūs (ibid., pp. 108, 351, 507); gund-sālār “general” (ibid., p. 210); paygān-sālār “commander of the infantry” (ibid.); and puštigbān-sālār “commander of the royal guard” (ibid.).

A good deal of what is known of the Sasanian army dates from the sixth and seventh centuries when, as the results of Anōšīravān’s reforms, four main corps were established; soldiers were enrolled as state officials receiving pay and subsidies as well as arms and horses; and many vulnerable border areas were garrisoned by resettled warlike tribes (ibid., pp. 367ff.). The sources are particularly rich in accounts of the Sasanian art of warfare because there existed a substantial military literature, traces of which are found in the Šāh-nāma, Dēnkard 8.26—an abstract of a chapter of the Sasanian Avesta entitled Artēštārestān “warrior code”—and in the extracts from the Āʾīn-nāma which Ebn Qotayba has preserved in his ʿOyūn al-aḵbār and Inostrantsev has explained in detail (in Journal of the Cama Oriental Institute 7, 1926, pp. 7-52; see also Christensen, op. cit., pp. 215f.). The Artēštārestān was a complete manual for the military: it described in detail the regulations on recruitments, arms and armor, horses and their equipments, trainings, ranks, and pay of the soldiers and provisions for them, gathering military intelligence and taking precaution against surprise attack, qualifications of commanders and their duties in arraying the lines, preserving the lives of their men, safeguarding Iran, rewarding the brave and treating the vanquished (Sanjana’s tr. in Dēnkard, vol. XVI, Bombay, 1917, pp. 6ff.). The Āʾīn-nāma furnished valuable instructions on tactics, strategy and logistics. It enjoined, for instance, that the cavalry should be placed in front, left-handed archers capable of shooting to both sides be positioned on the left wing, which was to remain defensive and be used as support in case of enemy advance, the center be stationed in an elevated place so that its two main parts (i.e., the chief line of cavalry, and the lesser line of infantry behind them) could resist enemy charges more efficiently, and that the men should be so lined up as to have the sun and wind to their back (Inostrantsev, op. cit., pp. 13ff.).

Battles were usually decided by the shock cavalry of the front line charging the opposite ranks with heavy lances while archers gave support by discharging storms of arrows. The center, where the commander-in-chief took his position on a throne under the Drafš-e Kāvīān, was defended by the strongest units. Since the carrying of the shield on the left made a soldier inefficient in using his weapons leftwards, the right was considered the line of attack, each side trying to outflank the enemy from that direction, i.e., at the respective opponent’s left; hence, the left wing was made stronger but assigned a defensive role (ibid., pp. 16ff.; Bivar, op. cit., pp. 289f.). The chief weakness of the Persian army was its lack of endurance in close combat (Ammianus Marcellinus 25.1.18). Another fault was the Persian’s too great a reliance on the presence of their leader: the moment the commander fell or fled his men gave way regardless of the course of action.

During the Sasanian period the ancient tradition of single combat (mard o-mard) developed to a firm code (Christensen, op. cit., p. 216). In 421 Bahrām V opposed a Roman army but accepted the war as lost when his champion in a single contest was slain by a Goth from the Roman side (Johannes Malalas [in B. G. Niebuhr, ed., Hist. Byzant. Scriptores, Bonn, 1831], p. 14a). Such duels are represented on several Sasanian rock-reliefs at Naqš-e Rostam (Schmidt, Persepolis III, pp. 130ff.), and on a famous cameo in Paris depicting Šāpūr I capturing Valerian (R. Ghirshman, Iran 249 B.C.-A.D. 657: The Parthian and Sassanian Dynasties, London, 1962, fig. 195).

Sasanian kings were conscious of their role as military leaders: many took part in battle, and some were killed; the Picture Book of Sasanian Kings showed them as warriors with lance or sword (Ḥamza, pp. 50-54; Moǰmal, pp. 33ff.). Some are credited with writing manuals on archery (Bivar, op. cit., p. 284), and they are known to have kept accounts of their campaigns (e.g., Šāpūr’s inscription on the Kaʿba-ye Zardošt, and cf. Ebrāhīm b. Moḥammad Bayhaqī, al-Moḥāsen wa’l-mosāwī, ed. F. Schwally, Giessen, 1902, p. 481: “When Ḵosrow Parvēz concluded his wars with Bahrām-e Čūbīna and consolidated his rule over the empire, he ordered his secretary to write down an account of those wars and related events in full, from the beginning to the end”).

While heavy cavalry proved efficient against Roman armies, it was too slow and regimentalized to act with full force against agile and unpredictable light-armed cavalry and rapid foot archers; the Persians who in the early seventh century conquered Egypt and Asia Minor lost decisive battles a generation later when nimble, lightly armed Arabs accustomed to skirmishes and desert warfare attacked them. Hired light-armed Arab or East Iranian mercenaries could have served them much better.

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Chemical warfare in Dura

In January 2009, researchers claimed they had found evidence that the Persian Empire used poisonous gases at Dura against the Roman defenders during the siege. Excavations at Dura have discovered the remains of 19 Roman and 1 Persian soldiers at the base of the city walls.[19] An archaeologist at the University of Leicester suggested that bitumen and sulphur crystals were ignited to create poisonous gas, which was then funnelled through the tunnel with the use of underground chimneys and bellows.[20] The Roman soldiers had been constructing a countermine, and Sassanian forces are believed to have released the gas when their mine was breached by the Roman countermine. The lone Persian soldier discovered among the bodies is believed to be the individual responsible for releasing the gas before the fumes overcame him as well.[21]


In fact the "chemical warfare" was very common in History, the poisoning water sources, and burn feathers for doing pioning smoke and kill invader forces! was common

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Parthian Army

1. Infantry

Parthian spearman

Parthian heavy infantry or swordsman

Hyrcanian hillman

Persian archers

2. Cavalry

Parthian light cavalry (Kamandar-e Pahlavanig)

Azadan cavalry (Aswaran-e Azadan)

Clibanarii (Grivpanvar)

3. Champion unit

Parthian Guard Cavalry (Pushtigban)

4. Siege


5. Ships


6. Heroes


Mithridates II The Great

Surena (Rostam Suren-Pahlav)

Vologases I (Valakhsh)

Artabanus IV

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