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Faction Proposal: Late Sassanid

Mega Mania

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As the Mod covers only 500 - 1000 in Part 1, i will begin from the reign of Kawad I:

The sources for Kawād’s rule are diverse, as is usual for Sasanian history. Among the original products of the Sasanian state we have a large number of coins, which provide us with information on administrative, and also in some cases historical, topics. Some pieces of silverware and gemstones might depict Kawād, but since Ḵosrow I and Ohrmazd IV (579-90) wear basically the same crown, the identification is not as easy as it is in the case of the 4th- and 5th-century rulers. As regards the Oriental historiographical tradition—represented especially by Moḥammad b. Jarir Ṭabari—we can observe, on the one hand, a focus on the Mazdakite movement and, on the other hand, a rather negative portrait of Kawād as a weak ruler whom his son easily outshines. This is clearly due to an element of propaganda employed by Ḵosrow I after his ascent to the throne.

In the Western (Greco-Roman) tradition, the most important and substantial author is Procopius of Caesarea (all references below are to his De Bello Persico); he is generally friendly towards Kawād, at the expense of Ḵosrow I. Another important contemporary is an author in Syriac, Joshua Stylites, whose perception of Kawād certainly is much less benign. Many scattered notes can be found in various other authors, which sometimes add important pieces of information but also are marked by much confusion. It has to be emphasized that, for example, in Ṭabari and Procopius, contradictions can be observed even within their own respective narratives. Trying to forge together the different traditions into one single narrative is therefore next to impossible. I have tried to show how uncertain are the dating and interpretation of many of the basic events in Kawād’s reign, while stating which version seems more plausible to me.

FIRST REIGN (488-96)

It is certain that Kawād was a son of Pērōz (r. 457-84). Two conflicting views exist on his age when he ascended the throne. According to John Malalas (p. 471/18.68), he died at the age of 82; Ferdowsi (Šāh-nāma VII, p. 82, vv. 368-69) says that he was then 80 years old. Procopius (1.4.2), to the contrary, states that Kawād was too young to participate in Pērōz’s disastrous campaign of 484; the Greek word he uses actually refers to an age of around 14 to 16 years. This would be perfectly in accord with a notice in Dinavari (p. 66) that Kawād ascended the throne at the age of 15. Most coins of his first reign show him with only short whiskers and without a moustache. This is a unique depiction, since the usual convention is to show Sasanian Kings of Kings heavily bearded. The only other exceptions are the boy kings Ardašīr III and Ḵosrow III as well as the crown princes of Wahrām II (see BAHRĀM ii), so the numismatic evidence lends great plausibility to the assumption that Kawād was rather young when he ascended the throne. In the early coinage of his second reign, he is already shown with the usual moustache, so that a certain development in age can be observed in the coinage. Kawād thus probably was born in 473. The fact that Walāxš, rather than Kawād, became king after Pērōz’s death also might be an indication that the fallen ruler’s son was considered to be too young to effectively rule the realm, especially in a time of crisis, even if the example of Šāpūr II (r. 309–79)—allegedly designated by his father as successor to the throne when still in his mother’s womb (Ṭabari, I/2, p. 836; tr., V, p. 49)—proves that there was no binding law against child kings.

Walāxš, however, was dethroned in 488, and Kawād ascended the throne in his stead. According to Ṭabari (I/2, pp. 877-78; tr., V, pp. 116-17), Dinavari (p. 61: Šuḵar), and Ferdowsi (Šāh-nāma VII, pp. 44-47: Sufrāy), the main character during the reign of Walāxš had been Suḵrā, of the Karin family (for the great families, see COURTS AND COURTIERS ii). According to Meskawayh (I, p. 89: Suḵrā, as in Ṭabari), he was Kawād’s maternal uncle. He is also credited by Ferdowsi (VII, pp. 45-47) with dethroning Walāxš, while according to Joshua Stylites (sec. 19), it was the Zoroastrian clergy who were responsible for Walāxš’s removal due to his violation of Zoroastrian practices; his lack of ready cash is said at the same time to have lost him the respect of the army.

The larger-than-life image of Suḵrā—he is said to have avenged Pērōz by successfully fighting against the Hephthalites and to have regained the fallen king’s treasure as well as his captured daughter (Ṭabari, I/2, p. 880; tr., V, p. 120)—certainly inspires some doubts. Still, it seems unlikely that his important position in the Sasanian state during the reign of Walāxš and the early years of Kawād is totally unhistorical. It seems likely that at a moment when most power in the realm had been shifted from the king to this great nobleman, the power struggle between individual grandees and their families drastically intensified. A certain Šāpūr of Ray, from the Mehrān family, managed to break Suḵrā’s power and have him executed. According to Ferdowsi (VII, pp. 53-60), this happened in the course of a civil war; other variants—like those of Ṭabari (I/2, p. 885; tr., V, pp. 131-32), Dinavari (p. 66), and Meskawayh (I, pp. 89-90)—have Šāpur of Ray following a plan made with Kawād and simply dragging Suḵrā from the king’s side to prison for execution. The dating of the episode is problematic because of the conflict between Ṭabari’s late dating (“the greater part of his days had gone by,” I/2, p. 885.5-6; tr., V, pp. 133) and the other sources. Ferdowsi dates the slaying of Suḵrā in Kawād’s seventh regnal year (at age 23, having begun ruling at age 16; VII, p. 53, vv. 23-27). Dinavari (p. 66) states that Suḵrā served as tutor to the young Kawād during his first five regnal years; this would imply that Suḵrā’s removal took place in 493. Ṭabari’s narrative, stressing Kawād’s restiveness in subordination in Suḵrā, fits with this date (as does Yaʿqubi’s briefer account, I, p. 185). As argued above, it seems very likely that Kawād was in fact quite young upon his ascension, which makes Dinavari’s version appear plausible. The idea that Kawād, having grown up, wanted to do away with his tutor is perfectly logical. As Dinavari relates, Kawād, a king but in an inferior position as pupil, was looked down on by other people. According to one tradition in Balʿami, one of the reasons for replacing Kawād with his brother Zamāsp (see JĀMĀSP) in 496 was that he had killed Suḵrā.

The main argument in favor of dating the execution of Suḵrā in Kawād’s first reign, however, is the following: Ṭabari (I/2, p. 886; tr., V, pp. 132-34), Dinavari (pp. 66-67), Balʿami (pp. 967-69), Procopius (1.5.1), and Joshua Stylites (sec. 23) are unanimous in stating that the main reason for dethroning Kawād was his connection with the Mazdakites (see also Agathias, pp. 267-68; tr., p. 129). It is impossible, I believe, to imagine that Kawād could have acted in such a fashion when the all-powerful Suḵrā was still active and practically controlling the king. Since these reports, taken seriously, would require some time to have passed from the beginning of Kawād’s involvement with the Mazdakites until his actual dethronement, the date 493 indicated by Dinavari as the end of Suḵrā’s tutorship makes perfect sense. In addition, by this date Kawād would have been about 20 years of age and thus certainly in a position to rule the empire in his own right.

Little is known of the external political history of the Sasanian empire during Kawād’s first reign. With all probability, the Sasanians still had to pay tribute to the Hephthalites. In 491, Kawād sent an embassy to the Byzantine emperor Anastasius I (r. 491-518) to ask for money—similar to Pērōz’s request for a subvention to Leo I (r. 457-74; see FIRUZ; J. Styl., secs. 8-10). The rationale for Byzantine payments to Persia in order to defray mutually beneficial defense costs is argued in a later letter (529 CE, to Justinian), which is attributed to Kawād in the chronicle of John Malalas (p. 449/18.44). The king’s present request, like his later ones, was to no avail (J. Styl., secs. 19-21), whether or not due to dispute over continued Persian occupation of the city of Nisibis (for the historical background, see JOVIAN). The historicity of an Armenian uprising in Persarmenia at approximately the same time is doubtful (J. Styl., sec. 21). Meanwhile Arab tribes freely plundered Persian territory (J. Styl., sec. 22). All told, the impression is that the Sasanian empire was rather weak politically during this period; to this we probably have to add that it suffered from the lack of money (see J. Styl., sec. 19; J. Mal., p. 449/18.44; see also ECONOMY iv).

Because of all the problems concerning the Mazdakites, it is impossible to say which developments took place during Kawād’s first reign, and which only after his return to power. In any case, already in his first regnal period a serious involvement of the king in what is generally labeled the Mazdakite movement must have taken place; as noted above, this involvement was the reason for his deposition. This proves, on the one hand, that the nobility—or at least its anti-Mazdakite parts—were still powerful enough to remove a king. But it also proves that Kawād had had the opportunity and the freedom to maneuver to inaugurate a policy which threatened the vital interests of his adversaries, a feat that would have been impossible to imagine if he still had been merely a puppet under the grandee’s control. At an assembly of the Persian nobles, it was agreed—against the advice of those who wanted to have him executed—that Kawād should be imprisoned. He managed to flee from his prison, however, and found shelter at the Hephthalite court (Proc., 1.6.1-10; J. Styl., sec. 24; Agathias, p. 268; tr., pp. 129, 131).

SECOND REIGN (498-531)

Kawād persuaded the Hephthalite king to support him in regaining the Iranian throne, after having received the king’s daughter (who was his own niece, according to J. Styl., sec. 24) as bride. For chronology, the only reliable evidence at our disposal is the coinage of Zamāsp: regnal years 1 to 3 are known; thereafter Kawād’s resumed coinage starts with his regnal year 11 (498/9). It seems that not much fighting took place (Ṭabari, I/2, p. 887; tr., V, p. 136; Dinavari, pp. 66-67; Meskawayh, I, pp. 90-91; Agathias, p. 269; tr., p. 131). Zamāsp’s life was spared, even if he was probably blinded (Proc., 1.6.17), and his most important aide among the nobility, Gušnaspdād (Gk. Gousanastádēs), who had argued for Kawād’s death, was executed (Proc., 1.5.4-6, 1.6.18).

Two members of the Iranian nobility are mentioned most prominently in the Arabic and Persian sources in the context of Kawād’s flight and successful return. The first is Zarmehr, son of Suḵrā; he is said in Ṭabari (I/2, p. 886; tr., V, pp. 133-34) to have accompanied Kawād during his flight; later he took a firm stand against the Mazdakites, who then managed to have him executed on Kawād’s order. Some scholars have claimed that Suḵrā and Zarmehr are not father and son, but rather the same person, but this is very unlikely; it is much more probable that Suḵrā had been killed in Kawād’s first reign (see above), which makes it impossible that he assisted Kawād in his flight. Furthermore, while the death of Suḵrā is explained in the context of the hostility and machinations of Šāpūr of Ray, the motivation of Zarmehr’s execution is altogether different. That Zarmehr should have loyally served his father’s murderer cannot be used as an argument against the clear statements of our sources (see discussion, Bosworth, p. 134, n. 344), since parallels for such loyalty are found throughout history.

The second important helper of Kawād is Siyāwuš (Gk. Seósēs in Procopius). Although instrumental in freeing Kawād from his prison, he was later brought to trial at a nobles’ court at the instigation of Mahbod (Gk. Mebódēs), a military commander or else palace official (judging by his title magister in Procopius, 1.11.25). The episode can be dated by the evidence in Procopius (1.11.24) to the reign of the Byzantine emperor Justin I (r. 518-27), apparently rather early in this period. Siyāwuš was accused of deliberately mishandling peace negotiations with Byzantine representatives and thus sabotaging the proposal for adoption of the prince Ḵosrow by the emperor (see below), to which charge were added the veneration of new deities and violation of Persian customs—for instance, by having his deceased wife interred; he was sentenced to death (Proc., 1.7.31-36). Thus, it seems quite likely that he was a sympathizer of the Mazdakites; despite their friendship, Kawād did nothing to save his life, apparently with the intention of curbing Siyāwuš’s power as overall military commander (arteštārān-sālār), which was resented by his judges as well (Proc., 1.11.32-33). Siyāwuš had achieved the position during the first reign, and it was discontinued after his death (Proc., 1.6.19). Mahbod was to be instrumental in the transfer of power to Ḵosrow I upon Kawād’s death, but he himself later fell victim to court intrigue (Proc., 1.21.20-22, 1.23.25-29).

The history of the Mazdakites is too complex to be dealt with here in detail; suffice it to say that it seems certain that they were pivotal for the success of Kawād against the nobility. However, the situation cannot have been as simple as a pro-Mazdakite population confronted with a unified, anti-Mazdakite nobility; we have already seen that Siyāwuš, a member of the high nobility, apparently had Mazdakite leanings. What the Mazdakite movement was all about, and to what extent Kawād sincerely believed in it—or rather used it in a Machiavellian way to enlarge his own power—is impossible to find out, due especially to the partisan nature of most of our sources.

Apart from his political and military successes, which brought about a strengthening of the role of the king and repaired the weakness of the Sasanian dynasty manifest after 484, Kawād also successfully worked to change the administration of his realm. Different views on the implications of this reform exist; what seems certain is that a cadastral survey was begun late in his reign (Tabari, I/2, p. 960-61; tr., V, pp. 255-56) and was still incomplete at his death. Based on it, Ḵosrow I would levy taxes to be paid in three annual installments in money, not in kind—both for the land tax (ḵarāj; see FISCAL SYSTEM ii) and for poll tax (see JEZYA). Apparently the majority of administrative seals date only after this reform, so that the administrative practices in Sasanian Iran also must have been heavily affected.

In the military and provincial organization, too, significant changes can be observed in the sixth century. A body of cavalry troops (see ASĀWERA; Mid. Pers aswār) directly under the king’s command which received fixed wages seems to have been established from among the gentry (see Altheim and Stiehl, pp. 62-63; cf., among Ṭabari’s references to the asāwera, the 300 ʿoẓamāʾ “grandees” in the cavalry force under the king's commander assigned to resist the Arab advance into Persia after the battle of Jalula, Ṭabari, I/5, p. 2062.2; tr., XIII, p. 142). The high rank and military leadership of the cavalry commander may be exemplified under Kawād by the “Aspebedes” (Proc., 1.11.5, 9.24, 21.4, etc.), unless this ‘name’ represents, instead, the overall military leader (spahbed; on the term “cavalry commander,” see ASPBED, ASPET, and ASTABED).

Moreover, the structure of command was changed. Four local military commands (spahbeds of the four quarters) were established, which are attested in the sigillographic material (Gyselen, 2001, see p. 33); a bulla of one of the commanders also gives him the title “cavalry commander of the empire” (šahr-aspbed, Gyselen, 2001, pp. 26-27, 45). Abolition of the office of arteštārān-sālār or Erān-spahbed that was held by Siyāwuš around 520 gives us some general chronological indication about the terminus post quem for the creation of the four regional spahbeds. Ṭabari (I/2, p. 894; tr., V, 149-50) attributes these changes to the reign of Ḵosrow I (pt. ii).

Approximately at the same time, more specifically in regnal year 33 (520/1), we first encounter some unusual mint signatures, such as GNCKL or DYWAN, which one might link to Kawād’s administrative reforms. Since these two types of evidence—Procopius’s report about the show trial of Siyāwuš and the numismatic evidence—support each other in a quite remarkable way, one further conclusion seems possible. Since Siyāwuš was with all probability sentenced to death for his pro-Mazdakite sentiments, by around 520 Kawād must have withdrawn officially his support from the Mazdakites. Therefore, a connection between the administrative reform and the king’s earlier pro-Mazdakite leanings seems highly unlikely.

Kawād was one of the kings to whom several city foundations are credited, such as Ērān-āsān-kar-Kawād in Media, Weh-Kawād and Ērān-win(n)ārd-Kawād in Fārs (Gyselen, 2002), Weh-az-Amid Kawād in Fārs (Gyselen, 1989), and *Kawād-xwarrah (Ṭabari, I/2, p. 885; tr., V, p. 130) in Fārs.

Kawād’s own religious leanings certainly are a complex matter, given the context of the Mazdakite controversy. His relationship with Christians is somewhat obscure. In Christian Iberia, where the Sasanians had sought to propagate Mazda-worship in the past (see GEORGIA ii), he presented himself as a champion of orthodox Zoroastrianism (Proc., 1.2.5; see Schindel, p. 489). But in Persarmenia, Kawād is said to have compromised with his Christian subjects in the area of religious observance immediately after his return to the throne (J. Styl., sec. 24), and he seems to have continued the conciliatory policy of Walāxš (see ARMENIA ii, secs. 6a-6b). In Mesopotamia and Persia, the reign seems free of persecution (see MARTYRS, CHRISTIAN, reviewing the list of martyrs presented in Hoffmann), although the punishment of Christians in Persia is briefly mentioned for ca. 512/13 (Theophanes, p. 160; tr., p. 241). Kawād may have taken a pragmatic attitude comparable to that of Pērōz, who had close rapport with the cooperative Nestorian bishop Barṣauma of Nisibis, or that of Zamāsp, the “peaceful and kind” (Synodicon Orientale, tr., p. 311 [year 497], as was Walāxš, p. 299 [year 486]; cf. Agathias on both, pp. 268, 269; tr., pp. 129, 131). Zamāsp supported the catholicos Bābay on marriage of the clergy; and their example and teaching in family matters would have stood in opposition to the tenets of Mazdakism (Synodicon, tr., p. 312; Labourt, pp. 154-55). Kawād continued this support (Chronique de Séert, sec. 15/VII, p. 37), and Christians are attested at his court in high positions.

According to the chroniclers (J. Mal., p. 444/18.32; Theo., pp. 168-70; tr., pp. 259-61), Kawād proscribed “Manicheism” (generally understood to mean Mazdakism) and turned over confiscated churches to the Christians. This followed a council called by the king in 528/9 in order to entrap the sect’s leadership. A Christian bishop named Boazanes (Theo., p. 170.13) was present at the council, but possibly as court physician rather than in any ecclesiastical capacity. (For the chronological question—attribution of this event to Kawād or Ḵosrow—see Chrone, pp. 30-31.)

Around 520, Kawād tried to safeguard the right of ascent to the throne for his favorite, Ḵosrow I, by having the emperor Justin I adopt him. Justin, after initial favorable reaction to the proposal, was dissuaded by his counselor, Proclus, who raised the fear that Ḵosrow might later lay claim to the Byzantine empire as his own heritage, and this initiative finally came to nothing (detailed account in Proc., 1.11.1-30). Kawād’s use of this strategy for purposes of internal politics remains interesting, especially in light of the plot against Ḵosrow some time after his accession (Proc., 1.23.1-6). The adoption proposal and its failure, which was attributed to Siyāwuš (see his parlay with the Byzantines, Proc., 1.11.26-30), led to the general’s downfall (see above) and apparently poisoned the attitude of Ḵosrow I towards the Byzantines (Proc., 1.11.30). In the end, as noted above, the transfer of power to Ḵosrow was successfully carried out; the reasons why Kawād preferred his youngest son as successor remain obscure.


After decades of peace between Sasanian Iran and Byzantium, war broke out in 502. Kawād again, as in the first reign, asked the emperor Anastasius I for money so the king could pay what he owed the Hephthalites, but Anastasius refused to help him. Kawād answered with a lightning attack against the frontier city of Theodosiopolis and the adjoining Roman parts of Armenia, then descended on Amida on the upper Tigris river, one of the main fortresses of the Byzantine frontier (J. Styl., sec. 48; Proc., 1.7.1-3). He captured it after a lengthy siege in early 503 (Proc., 1.7.4-32). The same year saw an unsuccessful siege of Edessa begun by Nuʿmān II, the Lakhmid king of Ḥira, and continued by Kawād after the death of his ally (J. Styl., secs. 52, 58-63). In 504 and 505 the Byzantine army was able to gain further military successes (e.g., J. Styl., secs. 64-66, 69, 75), and Amida was restored to the Byzantines upon payment of an indemnity (Proc., 1.9.4, 1.9.20; J. Styl., sec. 81). From 503 on, Kawād’s war efforts were troubled by unrest in the east of his realm (see below), so in 506 a peace for the duration of seven years was concluded (Proc., 1.9.24; J. Styl., sec. 98). Even if this first Roman war did not end with a clear winner, the capture of Amida was the most conspicuous success gained by a Sasanian army since 359, when the same city had been taken by Šāpūr II.

A second war was launched against Rome in 528, early in the sole reign of the emperor Justinian I (r. 527-65), allegedly because the Byzantines had decided against supporting Ḵosrow I as heir to Kawād I. According to John Malalas (p. 441/18.26), military operations began first in Lazica—which had been the focus of Kawād’s dispute with the emperor Justin that went back to the year 522, regarding claimed intrusion on Persian sovereignty; invasion of Mesopotamia followed (J. Mal., pp. 414/17.9, 427/18.4, 441/18.26; see also ABḴĀZ, COLCHIS). After a severe defeat of the Byzantines at the border (Proc., 1.13.6-7), there occurred in 530 one of the greatest open-field battles between a Byzantine and a Sasanian army at the frontier city of Dara (Gk. Anastasiopolis), which ended with a great Roman victory (Proc., 1.14); it failed, however, to bring about an end to the fighting. Kawād again mustered an army in 531, which won a costly victory over the Byzantines near the major emporium of Callinicum in Syria, but no cities were captured (Proc., 1.18). Later that year a siege was in progress at Martyropolis, east of Amida, when Kawād became sick and died (Proc., 1.21.19-20; J. Mal., p. 471/18.68). This event led to an immediate truce and to subsequent negotiation of a comprehensive peace treaty between his successor Ḵosrow I and Justinian (Proc., 1.21.20-27; 1.22).

Of Kawād’s eastern wars, we know next to nothing; Procopius (1.8.19) relates that Kawād, after the fighting in 503 (see above), had to withdraw in order to confront an invasion of “hostile Huns” (Oúnnōn polemíōn)—one more episode in an ongoing “long war” to secure the northern frontiers of the empire. (See HUNS for the problematic identities indicated by this term.) Again, coinage is our main source for at least some conjectures. After the catastrophe of Pērōz in 484, all Khorasan was lost to the Sasanian empire; no coins from mints in this region (Abaršahr, Herat, Marw) are attested until the 20s of Kawād’s reign: the earliest specimen is a Marw drachm from regnal year 24 (512/3). This chronology seems to imply that the Sasanians managed to regain Khorasan, and one wonders whether there is any explanation for this other than that Kawād had been successfully waging war against the Hephthalites, his former allies.

In the northwest of the empire, Lazica, Iberia, and Armenia would continue, after Kawād as during his reign (e.g., the campaigns of 513 and 515: Schindel, p. 489, note 2170), to figure in the Sasanian/Byzantine wars of the sixth century. On the southeast frontier, a close relationship continued with the Lakhmids of Ḥira, counterposed to Justinian’s Arab allies, the Ghassanids. The conquest of Yemen by the Abyssinians (see ETHIOPIA) in 525 carried the potential for a new threat in the south from Byzantine allies (hoped for by Justinian; see Procopius, 1.19-20); this event would eventually, during Ḵosrow I’s reign, lead to a Sasanian presence as far as the Gulf of Aden

Reign of Kosrow I/Xusro i

XUSRO I (531-579)

Son of Kawād I, Xusrō came to the throne following the death of his father in 531. Although Xusrō had the support of the nobility, his rise to power was not smooth. He is reported to have had an older brother named Kāwus who was disliked by the nobility and the Zoroastrian clergy because of his pro-Mazdakite tendencies. Kāwus who was the ruler of Tabarestān at the time of Kawād’s death fought with Xusrō over the throne but was eventually defeated.
After securing his position as king, Xusrō brutally and mercilessly suppressed the Mazdakite movement by murdering a large number of its followers. He continued with the reforms initiated by his father and eventually created a new system in which the small landholding gentry called dehgān became dominant. He changed the system of taxing by making production, both the type and the amount, the basis for tax instead of the land itself.
He also built walls (war) on four borders of the empire in order to protect his realm and he also divided the kingdom into four quarters putting a general (Spāhbed) in charge of each one of them. He was successful in defeating the Hephthalites in a war that lasted from 572 to 577 and in the west managed to conclude a favorable treaty in 532 with the Roman Emperor Justinian in which the Iranians regained control over most of Iberia and Armenia and the Romans promised to abandon their bases in Mesopotamia.
In 540 however the campaigns of Justinian in the North African and Italy as well as Armenia’s plea for help, resulted in Xusrō starting a campaign himself against the Roman Emperor. He took the city of Antioch and although had to stop temporarily because of the plague he continued his campaign in 543 and eventually the Romans were defeated in Armenia and Edessa was taken in 544. The war concluded in 557 in a truce and after that Xusrō was free to give his attention to the eastern borders and the Hephthalites.
The truce of 577 came to an end with the death of Justinian and the rise to power of Emperor Justine II in 573. This new war was a disaster for Romans since the Iranians managed to score important victories in Mesopotamia, the Caucasus, and Syria. The struggle continued with the new emperor Tiberius and went all the way to the time of Emperor Maurice and beyond.
Xusrō I is one of the most famous and celebrated monarchs of the Sasanian dynasty and Near Eastern history in general. The legends about his rule lived long after the king himself and he became the model ruler to which most future Kings, Sultans and Caliphs aspired.
He became known as the philosopher king who encouraged exchange with other cultures and countries such as India and Rome. He welcomed Greek philosophers in his court and was tolerant of Christian and Jews. During his reign works of medicine, astrology as well as stories and fables and games such as chess were brought from India and introduced to the Iranian court. He is referred to as the just king (ādel) in later Islamic sources and is and referred to as Anošeh-ruwān (immortal soul) in Pahlavi literature.
Xusrō I was succeeded by his son Hormizd IV in 579 and according to Tabari Xusrō had chosen Hormizd IV as his heir during his own lifetime.

Kosrow Reforms



A series of reforms in the taxation of the Sasanian monarchy and in its military organization, probably initiated already under Kawāḏ I, were carried out to their full extent by his son, Ḵosrow I Anuširwān (r. 531-79).

Sources. The two most detailed surviving accounts in Arabic are Ṭabari’s Taʾriḵal-rosul wa’l-moluk and the Nehāyat al-erab fi aḵbār al-fors wa’l-ʿarab, falsely attributed to al-Asmaʿi. In New Persian, Ferdowsi’s Šāh-nāma is likewise valuable. Balʿami’s modified translation of Ṭabari into Persian adds at least one important detail. These sources appear to derive, through different lines of transmission, from various redactions of the lost Sasanian Xwadāy-nāmag (Khwadāy-nāmag). A literary source which seems to have used good sources independent of the Xwadāy-nāmag tradition is the so-called Sirat Anuširwān, professedly an autobiography of King Ḵosrow I, embedded in Meskawayh’s Tajāreb al-omam. Other sources in which some valuable details about the reforms have been preserved are the geographical surveys of Ebn Ḵorrdāḏbeh, Ebn Ḥawqal, and Ebn Rosta (see Bibliography).

Background of the reforms. There are clear signs that the economy of the Sasanian kingdom had never been based on full-scale monetary circulation, in spite of its fairly stable silver drahm denomination (see DIRHAM i). The absence of a convenient, universally applicable small change circulation (Göbl in Altheim and Stiehl, 1954, pp. 96-99; Göbl, 1971, pp. 25-30; Simon, 1976, pp. 150-51) entailed an economy based to a large extent on the barter of natural produce. The little that we know about the military organization of the kingdom before the reign of Ḵosrow I appears to reflect this situation. From our meager information about remuneration for the professional core of soldiery, we may conclude that it was supported through land grants or through rations in kind rather than paid in money. This has given rise to the notion of a feudal army based on enfeoffment, entailing bonds of trust and dependence, either to the king himself or to the other grandees of his realm, which may be described as ties of vassalage (Widengren, 1956).

This situation explains a good deal about the Sasanian system of taxation before the beginning of the sixth century. It was based on crop-sharing, the exaction of agricultural produce proportionate to annual yield as assessed by royal tax-collectors on the spot, and levied in kind. In addition, a poll tax was imposed on most subjects, which may have been paid mostly in money, though part was perhaps commuted to goods. It must be conceded that this picture, based on the later Islamic sources, is hardly consonant with the one that emerges from details scattered in the Babylonian Talmud. Apparent discrepancies may, however, be explained by the assumption that, whereas the Talmud reflects the experience of Jews (in places where most of the Jewish population of the realm was concentrated) regarding the manner in which the system was actually applied, the later Islamic sources record mainly the principles according to which it was supposed to have been run (see mainly Newman, 1932, pp. 161-86; Solodukho, 1948; and Goodblatt, 1979, for the evidence; cf. Rubin, 1995, pp. 231-33, for a tentative solution of the problems it creates).

The system was inefficient and wasteful, especially with regard to the land-tax; it was subject to frequent fluctuations, and allowed little scope for financial planning. The necessity of waiting for the tax-collector with the crops untouched in the field or on the tree involved the risk that some would be damaged or destroyed before being enjoyed by farmers or the king (as exemplified by one particular episode preserved in Ṯaʿālebi, p. 595; Ebn Ḥawqal, pp. 203-4; and Balʿami, p. 148; see also Pigulevskaya, 1937, pp. 145-46). Only lands held directly by the king could be effectively taxed in this manner, but even on royal domains the avarice of corrupt tax-assessors will have hampered collection.

The tax reform. Towards the end of the fifth century, the burden of taxation on the peasantry seems to have become increasingly oppressive: the complex relations with the Hephthalite khanate, whose threat loomed in the east, resulted in heavy demands, though recurrent famines were compelling kings to grant occasional, and not entirely adequate, tax remissions. This oppression contributed significantly to the popularity of Mazdak (on whom see IRAN ix. RELIGIONS IN IRAN, XIII/4, pp. 437-38), and to the temporary success of his revolt. For some time he managed to enlist the support of King Kawāḏ I himself, who appears to have used this movement to humble his recalcitrant nobility.

When the king ultimately turned his back upon the movement and allowed his son, Ḵosrow I Anuširwān, to put it down, the battered nobles were in no position to form a viable opposition to the one serious attempt to introduce a tax reform in the Sasanian realm. It was apparently begun towards the end of Kawāḏ I’s reign (Ebn Ḵorrdāḏbeh, p. 14; Ebn Ḥawqal, p. 234; and Ebn Rosta, p. 104, ascribe it mainly to him) and continued by his son (for a more detailed discussion, see Rubin, 1995, pp. 229-31, 290-91). The reform involved the following features:

(1) The land-tax (ḵarāj in the Arabic sources). On the basis of a general land survey, a new system for exacting the land tax was devised. Fixed money rates of taxation were imposed on agricultural land according to its size and according to the kind of crops raised. According to Ṭabari (pp. 990 -91; cf. Bosworth, pp. 255-56) these rates were, 1 drahm for every jarib of cereals; 8 drahms for every jarib of vine; 7 drahms for every jarib of clover; and 1 drahm for every four Persian date palms, or for every six plain date palms (on the misleading suggestion of Grignaschi that the calculation was made according to area units, applying one fixed rate to all sorts of land and produce, see Rubin, 1995, pp. 266-68). The tax was calculated in the drahm currency, but at least some probably continued to be levied in kind, calculated according to the current value of the produce in drahms (thus, e.g., Pigulevskaya, 1937). This new system, if efficiently applied, would enable a monarch to anticipate incomes and budget expenses. It might be seen as oppressive on the peasantry, primarily because the fixed drahm rates allegedly disregarded fluctuations in agricultural yield caused by drought, other natural calamities or war (thus Grignaschi, 1971, followed by Crone, 1991), but this is to ignore its almost unanimous positive evaluation in the sources. A control mechanism allowing for rebates and remissions whenever and wherever needed, based mainly on mobads (mūbadān) acting as district judges, was incorporated in the system (Rubin, 1995, pp. 261-66; 293-94).

(2) The poll tax (jezya in the Arabic sources). It is Ḵosrow’s revised poll-tax which bears out, by the very nature of its progressive rates, according to the taxpayer’s means, his basic intention to devise a fundamentally fair system. It is true that it did not do away with the exemptions granted to members of the higher classes, but even these were somewhat counterbalanced by the exemption of people below twenty and above fifty of all classes (Ṭabari, p. 962; cf. Bosworth, pp. 259-60).

If a distinction is drawn between the tax reform’s institution and operation in Ḵosrow’s reign, and what it subsequently became, the system appears reasonably efficient and fair (Nehāyat al-erab, p. 330, describing it as unfair and oppressive, appears to be the one discordant voice among the sources we possess). It considerably augmented crown revenues, but, as already stated, it also included a mechanism that enabled constant revision and adaptation.

(3) The rehabilitation of agriculture. The fiscal reform was accompanied by an agricultural reform. Dispossessed farmers were restored to their lands, financial help was available to enable them to restart cultivation, and a mechanism was instituted to assist farms affected by natural disasters (Rubin, 1995, pp. 254-66). The overall intended result seems to have been to maintain a system of small farms that might be easily taxed, and to prevent the growth of huge estates whose powerful owners might accumulate privileges and immunities, and obstruct effective taxation.

The question whether Ḵosrow I’s system was inspired by that of Diocletian in the Roman Empire (see Althein and Stiehl, 1958, pp. 41-42, and Pigulevakaya, 1937; cf. Hahn, 1959) may be left aside. More than two centuries separate the institution of the two systems, and there was enough in the Iranian background to account for devising the former without recourse to the latter (Rubin, 1995, pp. 295 -96).

(4) The military reform. Ḵosrow’s reform was meant to have a lasting impact on Sasanian military organization by providing the king with a standing army of crack units of horsemen (asavarān; see ASWĀR), under his direct command and permanently at his disposal, who received a salary, at least when on foreign campaigns (for the evidence and its analysis, see Rubin, 1995, pp. 286-91). This body of choice warriors was recruited among young nobles as well as from the country gentry (dehkanān; see DEHQĀN) who wished to embark on a military career. On the frontiers, other troops recruited from the nomadic periphery of the Sasanian Empire, such as Turks (Meskawayh, pp. 102-3, cf. pp. 106-7), might be employed to repel invasions or check them until the arrival of the mobile crack units. Yet other forces, recruited from semi-independent enclaves within the kingdom, might even be used as special task forces, as the one sent to occupy Yemen (see ABNĀʾ), which was recruited in Daylam in the mountainous region of Gilan. The need to resort to such additional sources of manpower, without a clear notion of how they were to be remunerated in the long run, exposes one of the system’s major weaknesses (for the evidence see Rubin, 1995, p. 272, n.122, pp. 284-85).

The supreme command was brought under stricter direct royal control: the single commander in chief, the Erānspāhbed (Artēštārānsālār; see ARTĒŠTĀR), was replaced by four spāhbeds, each one at the head of the forces of one-quarter of the realm, and each one beholden directly to the king (Ṭabari, p. 894, with Bosworth, p. 149, n. 385, updating Nöldeke, 1879, p. 155, n.2; cf. Christensen, 1944, pp. 131-32). The commanders of the frontier marches—the marzbāns—were likewise supposed to take their orders directly from the king (Christensen, 1944, pp. 521-22; Rubin, 1995, pp. 292-93, commenting on Meskawayh, pp. 106-7).

The operation of the reforms and their long-term effect. Ḵosrow’s system appears to have enjoyed moderate success for a few decades, until the difficulties that beset the Sasanian monarchy exposed its weaknesses. According to Ebn Ḵorrdāḏbeh (p.14) the amount levied in the Sawād alone (i.e., the province of Āsōristān), already under Kawāḏ, was 150,000,000 weight-unit drahm (derhām mithqāl). Effective central rule was, however, as necessary for the maintenance of the system as its proper functioning was for the endurance of effective central rule. The Sirat Anuširwān indicates that towards the end of his reign, Ḵosrow was hard put to keep his system functioning (Meskawayh, pp. 104-6; Rubin, 1995, pp. 237-39, 279-84). The control mechanism he had instituted proved to be as susceptible to corruption as the taxation machinery that had to be controlled. Furthermore, the strained relations between soldier and civilian, especially in the remoter zones, exacted their toll. In effect, the king could restrain only the soldiers under his direct command from despoiling the rural taxpayers, as is shown by the restrictions imposed by Hormozd IV (r. 579-90) on a journey to Mah (Ṭabari, p. 989; cf. Bosworth, p. 296). As time went on taxation in the Sasanian realm became more and more extortionate. Even so, the huge sums of money reported to have accumulated in Ḵosrow II’s coffers (Ṭabari, p.1042; cf. Bosworth, p. 377) were by no means due to effective taxation alone (see Altheim and Stiehl, 1958, pp. 52-53; cf. Rubin, 2000, pp. 656-57). It may be concluded that assertions like the one made by Ṭabari (p. 962; cf. Bosworth, p. 260), can hardly be used to support the prevalent notion that the Muslim conquerors took over Ḵosrow’s system in its original, fully fledged, and uncorrupted form.

The long-run failure to maintain the financial resources on which Ḵosrow’s reformed standing army was to be based inevitably led to its gradual degeneration. Already in his own lifetime the asavarān were increasingly reverting to an enfeoffed estate, even though the tendency of such allotments to become hereditary, with the consequent problems caused by alienation, had to be faced (Rubin, 1995, pp. 294-95, with n. 159 for additional bibliography; Rubin, 2000, pp. 658-59).

The high nobility was a more serious problem than the cavalrymen. Restored by Ḵosrow himself after its humiliation during the Mazdakite revolt, it soon returned to its pristine positions of power. The notion that the supreme military commanders (such as the spāhbeds and the marzbāns whose offices were created by Ḵosrow himself), and ministers of state were now salaried civil servants is contradicted by the limited available evidence (Rubin, 2000, pp. 657-58). Dinawari’s statement (p.102) that Besṭām remitted half of the land tax in territories under his control during his rebellion against Ḵosrow II suggests what other potentates, not in direct revolt, some of them in royal employ, may have done, less openly but less generously.

Babak (The King's Agent)

BĀBAK (Mid. Pers.: Pābag), reformer of the Sasanian military and in charge of the department of the warriors (Diwān al-moqātela) during the reign of Ḵosrow I Anušervān in the 6th century CE. Ṭabari, who mentions him as a man of noble birth known for his magnanimous qualities and capability, records his full name as Bābak b. ʾlbyrwʾn, conjectured by Theodor Nöldeke as Bērawān (Ṭabari, I/2, pp. 963-64, tr., pp. 262-63; Nöldeke, p. 247; Dinavari, p. 74, tr., p. 100: Nahrawān). Moḥammad-Taqi Bahār explained the name as Bābak son of Biru, considering Biru a collateral form of Viru, the name of Rāmin’s brother in the romance of Vis o Rāmin (Balʿami, p. 1047, n. 3; see, e.g, Asʿad Gorgāni, p. 39, v. 17). Ahmad Tafazzoli suggested Behrovān (pp. 14 ff., 86).

Bābak is mentioned as one of the secretaries (men al-kottā B), but ultimately seems to have been a priest (mowbed), as suggested in the Šāh-nāma (Ṭabari, I/2, p. 963, tr., p. 262; Šāh-nāma VII, p. 101, v. 180; Rubin, p. 289). There are a number of seals belonging to priests with the name of Bābak (Gignoux, II, p. 53), but none has been identified with this personage so far.

Bābak was placed in charge of the Department of the Warriors (Mid. Pers. Dīwān ī gund; Ar. Diwān al-jond or Diwān al-moqātela; Dinavari, p. 74, tr., p. 100; Ṭabari, I/2, p. 963, tr., p. 262) by Ḵosrow I Anušervān (r. 531-79 CE) as part of his military reforms (see ḴOSROW I ii Reforms). Our sources state that he was to reform the cavalry and infantry forces, which were to be inspected to make sure that they had the proper uniform, equipment, and weapons. Kosrow I appears to have entrusted Bābak with the creation of his standing army, which was mainly drawn up from the nobles of various ranks (Rubin, p. 291). This is also clear from the equipment required for the cavalrymen, which included “horse mail, mailed coat, breastplate, leg armor plates, sword, lance, shield, mace, girdle, battle axe or club, a bow case containing two bows with their strings, thirty arrows, and two plaited cords hanging down the back of the helmet” (Ṭabari, I/2, p. 964, tr., pp. 262-63; Šāh-nāma, VII, p. 103, v. 207, adds lasso (kamand); for lasso as an armament, see Vidēvdād 14.9; cf. ARMY I. PRE-ISLAMIC IRAN).

The cavalry was paraded before Bābak so that he would inspect them. This story is related with some differences by Ṭabari (I/2, pp. 963-65, tr., pp. 262-63), Balʿami (pp. 1047-51), and Ferdowsi (Šāh-nāma VII, pp. 101-4). Troops, fully armed, would present themselves before Bābak for inspection, while he was sitting on a carpet leaning back upon cushions; but he would send them back and have them come the next day until “everyone,” meaning King Ḵosrow, would also present himself, properly dressed and fully armed; otherwise he would not be given his annual sum. The highest pay for the cavalry was 4,000 derhams, but the king would be given an extra derham for his military service. This story went to show that everyone was subject to the king’s law and reform, and that no one would be allowed to disobey Bābak’s command.

Bahrām VI Čōbīn

vii. Bahrām VI Čōbīn

Bahrām VI Čōbīn, chief commander under the Sasanian Hormozd IV and king of Iran in 590-91, was a son of Bahrāmgošnasp, of the family of Mehrān, one of the seven great houses of the Sasanian period (Justi, Namenbuch, p. 363 no. 23). First mentioned in Šāpūr’s Kaʿba-ye Zardošt inscription (“Arštāt, the Mehrān, from Ray,” see W. B. Henning, BSOAS 14, 1952, p. 510), the family remained the hereditary margraves of Ray and produced notable generals (Nöldeke, Geschichte der Perser, p. 139 n. 3). Bahrām was called Mehrbandak (Arm. Mehrevandak; Justi, loc. cit.), but his tall and slender physique earned him the nickname Čōbīn(a), var. Šōpēn “Javelin-like” (Šāh-nāma, Moscow, VIII, p. 377; cf. V. Minorsky, JRAS, 1933, p. 108). Bahrām started as margrave of Ray (Masʿūdī, Morūj II, p. 213), commanded a cavalry force which captured Dārā in 572 (Theophylactos Simocatta, 3.18.10f.), became Spahbaḏ of the North (i.e., satrap of Azerbaijan and Greater Media) under Hormozd IV, and fought a long but indecisive campaign against the Byzantines in northern Mesopotamia (Dīnavarī, p. 94; cf. Šāh-nāma, Moscow, VIII, p. 388. For the campaign see M. J. Higgins, The Persian War of Emperor Maurice, Washington, 1939, pp. 35ff.). Late in 588, a horde of the Hephthalites, subjects of the Western Turks since 558, invaded eastern provinces of the Persian empire; and with the sanction and support of their overlords, reached Bādgīs and Herat. In a council of war, Bahrām was elected commander-in-chief of the Iranian army and satrap of Khorasan, furnished with a trained force, reportedly of 12,000 picked horsemen, and sent against the invaders whom Sasanian-based sources (as well as Theophylactos, 3.6) call Turks. Marching with remarkable speed, Bahrām first engaged and defeated the Western Turks and took the city of Balḵ. He then occupied the land of the Hephthalites, and crossing the Oxus won a resounding victory over the Eastern Turks, personally slaying their Great Ḵāqān (Ču-lo-hóu in Chinese records; J. Marquart, “Historische Glossen zu den alttürkischen Inschriften,” WZKM 12, 1898, pp. 189-90, and E. Chavannes, Documents sur les Toukiue [Turcs] occidentaux, St. Petersburg, 1903, pp. 242ff.; falsely called Šāwa/Sāva/Sāba in Sasanian-based sources, see under Bendōy and Bestām) with an arrowshot which became as proverbial as that of Āraš. Finally, he advanced to the famous Dež-e Rōyēn “Brazen Hold,” at Baykand near Bukhara (Dīnavarī, pp. 81ff.; Baḷʿamī, Tārīḵ, pp. 1074ff.; Šāh-nāma, Moscow, VIII, pp. 331ff.; Ṯaʿālebī, Ḡorar, pp. 642ff.; Ṭabarī, tr. Nöldeke, pp. 268ff.; Nehāyat al-erab fī aḵbār al-Fors wa’l-ʿArab, apud E. G. Browne, JRAS, 1900, pp. 233ff. These Sasanian-based sources must be corrected by the account by [Pseudo-]Sebeos, tr. in Markwart, Ērānšahr, p. 83, and elucidated by him in Wehrōt und Ārang, Leiden, 1938, pp. 137ff., and K. Czeglédy, “Bahrām Čōbīn and the Persian Apocalyptic Literature,” Acta Orientalia Hungarica 8, 1958, pp. 21ff.).

Meanwhile Hormozd had alienated the magnates by imprisoning and executing many renowned men, reducing the size of the cavalry force, and decreasing the army’s pay by 10 percent (Theophylactos, 3.13.16; Ṭabarī, tr. Nöldeke, pp. 264-68). Distrustful of Bahrām even before the eastern expedition (Yaʿqūbī, I, p. 188), Hormozd could not tolerate the popularity of his own general, and giving out that Bahrām’s reserving of a few choice items of the booty for himself was an indication of rebellion, he removed the victor from his posts, and sent him a chain and a spindle to show that he regarded him as a low slave “as ungrateful as a woman” (Dīnavarī, pp. 84ff.; see also Šāh-nāma, Moscow, VIII, pp. 397-98; Theophylactos, 3.6-8, says that Bahrām was again sent to the Roman front and was defeated in Albania, whereupon Hormozd disgraced him; Nöldeke, op. cit., p. 272 n. 3, favored this version in 1879, but one of the best non-Iranian sources, discovered ten years later, Die von Guidi herausgegebene syrische Chronik, tr. Th. Nöldeke, Vienna, 1893, p. 5, confirms that Bahrām rose in arms while still in the east). Bahrām’s noble descent, his cultured manners and generosity, his military accomplishments and leadership skills, and his daring and shrewdness had earned him so elevated a position among his devoted troops and the public (A. Christensen, Romanen om Bahram Tschobin, et Rekonstruktionsforsøg, Copenhagen, 1907) that their rebellion against the ungrateful king followed naturally. Having settled his quarrel with the Turks, Bahrām appointed a satrap for Khorasan (Ṯaʿālebī, op. cit., p. 658; Šāh-nāma, Moscow, VIII, pp. 418f.), then marched on Ctesiphon via Ray, and was joined by many veterans from the western front (Theophylactos, 4.1). To forestall his supremacy, the nobles in the capital seized power, and led by Bendōy and Bestām and supported by Prince Ḵosrow, they slew Hormozd and put his son on the throne. On Bahrām’s approach, however, they fled toward Azerbaijan but were intercepted and defeated, many of their troops deserting to Bahrām. Ḵosrow succeeded, through the heroic self-sacrifice of Bendōy, in escaping into Byzantine territory (Syrische Chronik, pp. 5ff.; Theophylactos, 4.9; Nöldeke, Geschichte der Perser, pp. 272ff., 418-19, 434; Dīnavarī, pp. 89ff.; Baḷʿamī, op. cit., pp. 1079ff.; Nehāya, apud Browne, JRAS, 1900, pp. 237f.; Ṯaʿālebī, op. cit., pp. 657ff.; Yaʿqūbī, I, pp. 190f.; Ebn Balḵī, p. 100; [Ps.-]Sebeos, tr. M. K. Patkanian, Essai d’une histoire de la dynastie des Sasanides, Paris, 1866, pp. 87ff. [= JA, 1866, pp. 187ff.]).

Bahrām entered Ctesiphon and proclaimed himself king of kings (summer, 590), claiming that Ardašīr, the upstart son of Sāsān the shepherd, had usurped the throne of the Arsacids, and now he was reestablishing their right (Šāh-nāma, Moscow, IX, pp. 29-32; Yaʿqūbī, I, p. 192; the humble origin of Ardašīr was already noted by Agathias, 2.27). He tried to support his cause with the following apocalyptic belief then current: The Sasanians had identified the Seleucid era (312 b.c.) with the era of Zoroaster (H. Lewy, JAOS 64, 1944, pp. 197ff.; S. H. Taqizadeh, JRAS, 1947, pp. 33ff.), thereby placing Ardašīr some 500 years after the prophet and leaving 500 years for the duration of their own dynasty (Šāh-nāma, Moscow, VII, pp. 90-91). The close of Zoroaster’s millennium was to witness chaos and destructive wars with the Xyōns (Hephthalites/Huns) and Romans, followed by the appearance of a savior (details and references in Czeglédy, op. cit., pp. 35ff.). And Bahrām had risen some 500 years after Ardašīr (so Šāh-nāma, Moscow, IX, p. 30), and had saved Iran from chaos, the Xyōns and the Romans; he therefore claimed to be and was hailed by many as the promised savior, Kay Bahrām Varjāvand (Czeglédy, op. cit., pp. 36-39). He was to restore the Arsacid empire and commence a millennium of dynastic rule (Šāh-nāma, Moscow, IX, pp. 60-62). He issued coins in his own name. They represent him as a majestic figure, bearded and wearing a crenellated crown adorned with two crescents of the moon; and they are dated to year 1 and 2 (R. Göbl, Sasanian Numismatics, Brunswick, 1971, p. 52).

Bahrām’s hopes were unfulfilled. Many nobles and priests preferred to side with the inexperienced and less imposing Ḵosrow, who, in return for territorial concessions, had obtained a Byzantine force of 40,000 (Chronicle of Seʿert, in Patrologia Orientalis XIII/4, p. 466), and was now marching toward Azerbaijan, where an army of over 12,000 Armenians under Mūšel (cf. Dīnavarī, p. 94) and 8,000 Iranians gathered and led by Bendōy and Bestām ([Ps.-]Sebeos, tr. Patkanian, op. cit., p. 93) awaited him. Hoping to prevent a union of those forces, Bahrām left Ctesiphon with a much smaller army, but arrived too late. The two sides fought for three days in a plain near Lake Urmia, and on the eve of the fourth, Bendōy won over Bahrām’s men by pledging, in the name of Ḵosrow, their pardon and safety. In spite of his bravery and superb generalship, Bahrām was defeated, and his camp, children, and wives were captured. He himself left the battlefield, accompanied by 4,000 men, and since Ḵosrow had in the meantime sent a force to Ctesiphon and had secured it, the only road open was eastward. Bahrām marched to Nīšāpūr, defeating a pursuing royalist force and an army of a local noble of the Kārēn family at Qūmeš. Ceaselessly troubled, Bahrām finally crossed the Oxus, and was received honorably by the Ḵāqān of the Turks, entered his service and achieved heroic feats against his adversaries. Ḵosrow could not feel secure as long as Bahrām lived, and he succeeded in having him assassinated. The remainder of his troops returned to northern Iran and joined the rebellion of Bestām (Syrische Chronik, pp. 5-7; Theophylactos, 4ff.; [Ps.-] Sebeos apud Patkanian, op. cit., pp. 92ff.; Yaʿqūbī, I, pp. 192ff.; Dīnavarī, pp. 90-105; Ṭabarī, tr. Nöldeke, pp. 275-89; Nehāya, pp. 238-42; Baḷʿamī, op. cit., pp. 1083ff.; Higgins, op. cit., chaps. II and III; L. N. Gumilev, “Bakhram Chubin,” in Problemy vostokovedeniya III, 1960, pp. 228-41).

Given time and opportunity to deal with internal problems, Bahrām would have probably achieved no less than Ardašīr I had done, but he was faced with too many odds. It was not Ḵosrow but his superior Byzantine mercenaries who defeated Bahrām (Theophylactos, loc. cit.). The betrayal by his own brother, Gordōy, and the capture of his family severely limited his maneuvering ability. He was handicapped by the lack of cooperation from the bureaucrats, and the animosity of nobles unwilling to serve one of their own equals (Dīnavarī, p. 99; Theophylactos, 4.12; Ṯaʿālebī, op. cit., pp. 660f.). His own chivalry in letting Ḵosrow’s supporters leave the realm unmolested (Dīnavarī, p. 94), and in ignoring the escape of the resolute Bendōy, turned against him by giving his enemies the possibility to unite. His religious tolerance (see G. Widengren, Iranica Antiqua 1, 1961, pp. 146-47) alienated the powerful clergy (Theophylactos, 4.12f.; Ṭabarī, tr. Nöldeke, p. 282). Even the apocalyptic belief he put to use was masterfully turned against him when Ḵosrow employed the following propaganda devices. He initially remitted one half of the annual poll-tax (Dīnavarī, p. 102), and bestowed riches on great fire temples (cf. Šāh-nāma, Moscow, IX, pp. 104f., 136). He then ordered his secretaries to publish an account of the events from the rise of Bahrām to the restoration of Ḵosrow (Bayhaqī, al-Maḥāsen wa’l-masāwī, ed. F. Schwally, Giessen, 1902, p. 481) wherein Bahrām was pictured as a soldier of fortune and an evil usurper. Finally, Ḵosrow circulated a modified version of the apocalyptic prophecy according to which the end of Zoroaster’s millennium was to witness the arrival with a vast army of a lowly false pretender from Khorasan, his usurpation of the throne, and his swift disappearance, followed by a short period of foreign rule over Iran and the restoration of peace and prosperity by a “victorious king” (aparvḕ xvatāy) who would even take many cities from the Romans; and since Ḵosrow had restored the kingdom and destroyed the lowly usurper Bahrām, he now claimed to be the true savior of Iran, and assumed the title Aparvēž, Parvēz (Czeglédy, op. cit., pp. 32ff.).

However, Bahrām’s memory was immortalized in a masterfully composed Pahlavi romance, the Bahrām Čōbīn-nāma (Masʿūdī, Morūj II, p. 223; Fehrest, p. 305; Baḷʿamī, op. cit., p. 1081), which was translated by Jabala b. Sālem (Fehrest, loc. cit.), and found its way—intermingled with another account, favorable to Ḵosrow Parvēz—into the works of Dīnavarī (pp. 81-104), Ferdowsī (Šāh-nāma, Moscow, VIII, pp. 331-430 and IX, pp. 10-178), Baḷʿamī (op. cit., pp. 1073ff.), and the Nehāya (pp. 233ff.). The picture of Bahrām in the romance is that of an illustrious knight of kingly origins and noble disposition, a superb, highly educated and disciplinarian general, and a witty, just, and wise king. He is the best archer, and comes from the family of Mēlād (Mithridates/Mehrdād) the Arsacid, himself of the line of Kay Āraš, son of Kay Qobād (who is here confused with the famous archer: J. Marquart, ZDMG 69, 1895, pp. 633-35). When Iran is simultaneously attacked by the Romans, the Ḵazars, the Arabs, and the Turks, he saves the empire by crushing the most dangerous enemy, the Turks; and he takes action against Hormazd who had unjustly disgraced him, only after his troops and an assembly of nobles urge him to do so. His accession to the throne is sanctioned by the nobles, and he fights for his right with gallantry and pluck. Above all, he is a man of his word, devoted to his men and his fatherland. The novel describes details of his life, thoughts and deeds with such vividness and moving affection that its reflection in the Šāh-nāma counts as one of the masterpieces of Persian literature (Nöldeke, Geschichte der Perser, pp. 474-78). It clearly was published while Bahrām’s memory was still very much alive, and its form and main features have been restored by Arthur Christensen (op. cit.).

Bahrām is credited with the writing of a manual on archery (Fehrest, p. 304). He was survived by three sons: Šāpūr, who supported Bestām’s rebellion and was executed (Syrische Chronik, p. 9); Mehrān, whose own son, Sīāvoš, King of Ray, fell fighting the Arabs in 643 (Justi, Namenbuch, p. 300 no. 9); and Nōšrad, the ancestor of the Samanids (Bīrūnī, Chronology, p. 48). The popularity of Bahrām persisted in Iranian nationalist circles long after his death. Thus, Senbād could claim that Abū Moslem (q.v.) had not died but was staying with the Savior (Mahdī) in a “Brazen Hold” (i.e., Bahrām’s residence in Turkistan), and will soon return (Czeglédy, op. cit., pp. 40-41 citing Neẓām al-molk, Sīar al-molūk [sīāsat-nāma], ed. H. Darke, 1347 Š./ 1968, p. 280).

Kosrow II

ḴOSROW II, the last great king of the Sasanian dynasty (590-628; Table 1).

Ḵosrow II (Khosrow II) was the last great king of the Sasanian dynasty. He is a giant figure who towers over the Middle East in the last few decades before the coming of Islam. The principal extant history of the period, written in Armenia in the early 650s, was appropriately entitled The History of Khosrow (Ps.-Sebeos, p. 72; cf. Howard-Johnston 2002, pp. 43-44). Ḵosrow was held personally responsible for the destruction of the old world order. He lost his throne, then recovered it with Roman help, and, a decade later, went on to emulate the feats of the Achaemenids, conquering the rich Roman provinces of the Middle East, including Egypt, before a sudden vertiginous fall at the very apogee of his career. He is rightly accorded a great deal of space in the Šāh-nāma of Ferdowsi, over six times as much as Ardašir I, founder of the Sasanian dynasty, and not much less than the great sixth-century reforming ruler, Ḵosrow I Anōširavān (531-79).

Both Ps.-Sebeos and Ferdowsi recycle material from the Khwadāy-nāmag tradition, which dealt in detail with high politics at the start and close of Ḵosrow’s reign: his flight to Roman territory, his restoration, the rebellion of his uncle Besṭām (see BESṬĀM O BENDŌY), the last harsh phase of his rule, his deposition and execution. Similar material was picked up from the many versions of the tradition in circulation by the tenth century (in Arabic translation as well as Pahlavi) by a number of great Muslim historians, including Dinawari, Ebn Qoṭayba, Yaʿqubi, Ṭabari and Masʿudi (all writing in Arabic), as well as Balʿami who introduced additional Khwadāy-nāmag material into his Persian version of Ṭabari’s Annals (Rubin 2009). It has been argued that the Roman war was passed over in virtual silence in the indigenous Persian historical tradition (Rubin 2005), but this seems unlikely, given the intertwining of foreign and domestic coverage evident in the non-Muslim sources which also drew on the tradition (Ps.-Sebeos, the west Syrian historical tradition which goes back to Theophilus of Edessa [d.785], the Annals of Eutychius, the Chronicle of Seert, and the History of Caucasian Albania by Movsēs Daskhurants‘i), and the requirement that something should explain the change (stressed in the Muslim versions) in the behavior and fortune of Ḵosrow towards the end of his reign.

A wide range of non-Muslim texts, lives of saints as well as histories, dating from the seventh-tenth centuries, written in Greek, Armenian, Syriac, Latin and Arabic, provide more detailed information on military operations and diplomatic dealings, as well as helping to flesh out domestic history (Howard-Johnston 2010). Much might be expected from the Pahlavi papyri emanating from Egypt under Sasanian rule (619-29), but such is the difficulty of the cursive script that only tantalizing glimpses can be gained of the occupation forces and administration (Hansen 1937; Perikhanian 1961; Weber 1992).

Early years. Ḵosrow II Parvēz was the grandson of Ḵosrow I Anōširavān and son of Hormozd IV (579-89), whose rigid sense of justice and autocratic ways soon alienated his leading subjects. His paternal grandmother, Kayēn (Qāqin), was the daughter of the khagan (ḵāqān) of the Hephthalites, whose realm was destroyed in 557 by Ḵosrow I in alliance with the new great power of central Asia, the Turkish khaganate. His mother belonged to one of the great aristocratic families, the Aspābaḏ (see ASPBED) from Parthia. Her brothers, Bendōy and Besṭām, were to play a notable part in his early life (Ps.-Sebeos, pp. 72-3, 75). His birth should be placed around 570 at the earliest, since he is repeatedly described as a boy or very young man (manuk) in 590-1 by Ps.-Sebeos (pp. 75, 76, 81, 82). This makes him an almost exact contemporary of the Prophet Mohammad.

Ḵosrow’s first appearance was at P‘artaw, capital of the Ałuank‘ (Caucasian Albanians) in the reign of his father Hormozd. A significant success is credited to his governorship. When Bakur, king of Iberia (Georgia), died, leaving children who were minors, Ḵosrow’s jurisdiction was enlarged to include two Iberian districts, Ran and Movakan, which neighbored Albania. From this bridgehead he opened negotiations with the Iberian nobility, the erist‘avis, and, by offering inducements and guaranteeing their hereditary rights, secured the formal submission (manifested in tributary payments) of all Iberia, apart from two highland areas held by the two branches of the royal family. Within a very few years, as Iran was gripped by crisis, fighting on two fronts against the Romans in the west and the Turks in the north-east, he was recalled from Albania to his father’s side. At this the Iberian erist‘avis transferred their allegiance to the Romans and invited them to appoint a client-ruler of their choice (Georgian Chronicles, pp. 217-18). Unless Ḵosrow’s governorship was nominal, these events should be dated to the second half of the 580s (contra Toumanoff 1963, pp. 381-86, who puts Bakur’s death in 580).

By the end of 588 the military crisis had been surmounted. The Romans had been fought to a standstill (a mutiny halted all offensive operations in 588). The commander-in-chief in the east, Bahrām Čōbin (see BAHRĀM. vii. Bahrām VI Čōbin), a member of another of the great aristocratic families (the Mehrān), had defeated the Turks and re-asserted Sasanian authority as far as the Oxus river and the city of Balkh in Bactria. But a new, yet graver crisis broke, when Bahrām rebelled, incensed at Hormozd’s perfunctory acknowledgement of his achievements. He had no difficulty in gaining the support of his troops, whom, he claimed, Hormozd meant to deprive of all the spoils of victory (Ps.-Sebeos, pp. 73-4; Georgian Chronicles, p. 220; Ṭabari, pp. 992-93; cf. Simocatta 3.6.9-8.14).

Accession and flight. While little is known of the early life of Ḵosrow, information is relatively plentiful about the circumstances of his accession. The three principal sources, Armenian (Ps.-Sebeos, pp. 74-76), Roman (Simocatta 4.1.1-12.7) and Persian (the Khwadāynāmag as transmitted by Ṭabari, pp. 993-99) are largely independent of each other and relatively forthcoming. Uncertainty, however, surrounds Ḵosrow’s precise role in the events surrounding the deposition, blinding and later execution of his father. Sasanian sources dating from his reign could not be expected to be candid about so sensitive a matter. Simocatta, writing at the climax of his later war against the Romans, was far from objective.

Bahrām marched across Iran, presumably along the northern edge of the plateau, repulsed a Roman-sponsored attack by Iberians and others on Azerbaijan (Ādurbādagān, Atropatene; see AZERBAIJAN. iii), and suffered a minor reverse at the hands of a Roman army operating in Transcaucasia (Georgian Chronicles, pp. 219-20; Simocatta 3.6.6-7.19). He then turned south towards Media where Sasanian kings customarily spent the summer months. When Hormozd slipped away to the south, he continued his march, going west to the Great Zāb, where he could cut communications between Ctesiphon and Persian forces on the Roman frontier. At this the troops camped outside Nisibis, the main Persian city in northern Mesopotamia, rebelled and made common cause with Bahrām. Loyalist forces sent north against them were bombarded with rebel propaganda. Hormozd’s position became untenable when they mutinied, killed their commander, and dispersed. He decided to cross the Tigris and take refuge in Ḥira, capital of the Lakhmid client-kingdom (Ps.-Sebeos, p. 74; Simocatta 4.1.1-3.3). But within three days of his arrival at Ctesiphon, he was overthrown in an apparently bloodless palace revolution. The leaders were his brothers-in-law, Bendōy, who was released from prison, and Besṭām. At a formal court assembly, Bendōy presented a darning indictment of Hormozd and then, after removing him from the throne and divesting him of the crown, ordered that he be detained. At that point or very soon afterwards Hormozd was blinded. The official version of these events, as transmitted by the Khwadāynāmag, places Ḵosrow in Azerbaijan at the time of the coup, thus distancing him from the mutilation of his father. He had, reportedly, come under suspicion when Bahrām declared that he should replace Hormozd, possibly going so far as to issue coins in his name from the mint at Ray. An alternative account, picked up by Simocatta’s source, John of Epiphania, likewise has him flee to Azerbaijan but out of fear of what the conspirators might do, only agreeing to return when Bendōy guaranteed his safety. Back in Ctesiphon, Ḵosrow was enthroned and crowned in the presence of the court (Ps.-Sebeos, p. 75; Ṭabari, pp. 993, 995-96; Simocatta 4.3.4-6.5, 7.1-4; Seert Chronicle, pp. 465-66).

Not long afterwards—it was merely a matter of days according Ps.-Sebeos—Bahrām marched south to the Nahrawān canal on the left bank of the Tigris. A brief phase of diplomacy had ended with his summary rejection of an offer from Ḵosrow of the post of supreme army commander. On reaching the canal, he began to probe the defenses. Ḵosrow’s troops were, without doubt, greatly outnumbered but managed to hold their own in a series of small engagements. Royal propaganda made much of Ḵosrow’s involvement in the fighting and attributed feats of valor to him. But morale began to drop. Treachery was suspected at one point. It became increasingly plain that his cause was lost, that eventually an assault would succeed. The decision was taken that he should leave and seek asylum in the Roman empire. The story of his flight, accompanied by a thirty-strong retinue, his wives and his two maternal uncles, was subsequently transformed in the Khwadāynāmag into a dramatic chase, with Bendōy volunteering to act as decoy to hold up the pursuers. Ḵosrow and the rest of his party escaped and made their way up the Euphrates to Circesium on the frontier. He was received hospitably by the Roman commandant and was allowed to write to the Emperor Maurice (582-602) appealing for aid (Ps.-Sebeos, pp. 75-76; Ṭabari, pp. 993-94, 996-99; Simocatta 4.7.5-10.8, 12.1-2).

There was only one legitimate claimant to the throne by this stage. Hormozd had been put to death after his blinding, with at least the tacit consent of Ḵosrow (Ṭabari, p. 998). Bahrām, who was eventually to have himself crowned in Ctesiphon, could justifiably be dismissed as a usurper, as he was in Ḵosrow’s letter to Maurice. Ḵosrow may well have been little more than a puppet in the hands of his uncles but his Sasanian descent gave him an undeniable claim to rule (Ps.-Sebeos, p. 75; Ṭabari, pp. 998, 999; Simocatta 4.7.2-3, 12.3-7).

It is hard to establish the chronology of the complex political, diplomatic and military events before and after Ḵosrow’s flight from Ctesiphon. There is only one firm datum: Ḵosrow’ reign lasted thirty-eight years and he was crowned after the beginning of the Persian civil new year on 27th June 590, since the first drachms officially issued in his name date from 590-1 (Tyler-Smith 2004, pp. 43-44). From this it follows that Bahrām built up his power in a slow and methodical fashion before making his bid for the throne. He probably spent most of 589 consolidating his position on the eastern marches of the empire and extending his authority over the Iranian plateau. He may also have secured Turkish backing, if there really were three kinsmen of the khagan in his entourage (Ṭabari, pp. 994, 997, 998). The second (military) phase of the rebellion must have been deferred until 590. He marched west, dealt with Iberian and Roman incursions in the far north-west, forced Hormozd to retreat south towards Ctesiphon when he approached Media, crossed the Zagros and established himself on the Great Zāb. Hormozd’s deposition, following the failure of his last military effort, and Ḵosrow’s installation took place at the earliest in mid-summer. There is, however, a telling reference in a mollifying letter sent by Ḵosrow to Bahrām before fighting began on the Nahrawān canal to the coming of autumn (“at the present time the trees have shed their raiment,” Simocatta 4.8.7). So it may well be that Bahrām stayed in the east until early summer 590 and only reached the Great Zāb late in the campaigning season. The confrontation on the Nahrawān canal does not seem to have lasted long—it is presented as a matter of days rather than weeks (Ps.-Sebeos, p. 75; Simocatta 4.9; Ṭabari, pp. 993-94, 996-98). Bahrām’s coronation was delayed for several months while he built up political support for the formal proclamation of a non-Sasanian king, until the celebration of Nowruz at the beginning of the religious new year on 9th March 591 (Simocatta 4.12.3-6; Higgins, pp. 8-10 [with the year emended to 591]).

Restoration. Ḵosrow appealed to Maurice for help first as a fellow-ruler who would naturally be disturbed at the sight of a rebel destroying the established order in the neighboring empire, and second on the grounds that the Romans needed the Persians to manage their sector of the outer world lest 'the fierce, malevolent tribes' might take control of Persia and 'thereby in the course of time gain irresistible might, which will not be without great injury to your tributary nations as well'. This letter (reproduced by Simocatta 4.11) was forwarded to the capital by Comentiolus, senior Roman general in the region, together with a report of his own. Ḵosrow was invited to come to Hierapolis, where Comentiolus had his headquarters. It was from Hierapolis that he sent a delegation to present his case to the emperor and the Senate. He offered generous terms in return for Roman political and military backing: by calling himself Maurice's son, he had already acknowledged a degree of political subordination to the Roman empire; he agreed to return Persian gains in northern Mesopotamia, but his main territorial concessions were in Transcaucasia—the traditional balance of power in favor of the Persians would be redressed, Maurice being offered a roughly equal share both of Armenia and Iberia but Ḵosrow saving face by retaining the provincial capitals, Dvin and Tiflis (Ps.-Sebeos, pp. 76, 84; Simocatta 4.11.11, 13.24).

Ḵosrow moved to Constantia, one of the two main military bases in Roman Mesopotamia, when he received the emperor's favorable response, and set about undermining Bahrām's regime. His uncles Besṭām and Bendōy, the latter of whom managed to escape from prison, rallied support in Azerbaijan, under the watchful eye of John Mystacon, the regional Roman commander, who was mobilizing troops in Armenia. Before long the garrison of Nisibis changed sides and Martyropolis surrendered, events that gravely weakened the northern defenses of Persian Mesopotamia. By the beginning of spring, troops were massing against Bahrām north and south of the Armenian Taurus. The strategic direction of operations was entrusted to Narses, who had replaced Comentiolus as the regional Roman commander in the south, at Ḵosrow’s insistence. Ḵosrow was in nominal command. Narses advanced slowly towards the Tigris, taking control of Mardin and Dārā on the way, paused, then crossed the river and pushed on south-east at a slow and deliberate pace as far as the Lesser Zāb. This was a feint on a grand scale, intended to detain Bahrām in Mesopotamia until the point at which the Roman army could strike north-east and reach Azerbaijan before him. It also distracted attention from the approach of a small fast-moving Persian force, dispatched by Ḵosrow from Dārā past Singara and down the Euphrates, which took over the metropolitan region as soon as Bahrām hurried north. The northern army, under the joint command of John Mystacon and Bendōy, managed narrowly to elude Bahrām by Lake Urmiya before joining the main army. Bahrām, his troops now outnumbered, was forced to retreat south-east, deeper into Azerbaijan. After failing to win over the leaders of the Armenian forces with a promise of increased power and territory for a restored Armenian monarchy, he was engaged in battle near Ganzak. The fighting was fierce and lasted all day, ending in a decisive victory for the Romans and a close pursuit of the broken remnants of Bahrām’s army. The death toll was high. Many prisoners were taken, along with a rich haul of booty and all the elephants that had survived the battle. Bahrām himself escaped to the east, to Balḵ (Balkh), where he was later assassinated on Ḵosrow’s orders.

Ḵosrow’s formal restoration to power—after the victory at Ganzak—is datable to the early months of his second regnal year by coin issues. Drachms, on which his crown was now surmounted by two large wings representing Verethraghna, god of war and victory, were issued in large quantities from thirty-two mints (Tyler-Smith 2004, p. 45). His arrival on Roman territory cannot be dated with precision, but followed his armed confrontation with Bahrām, which is datable, as has been seen, to autumn 590. This leaves a period of some six months or so for negotiations, military preparations and subversion of Bahrām’s regime. Bahrām’s countermeasures, designed to shore up his position in northern Mesopotamia, can be dated to the very beginning of 591, since Ḵosrow had intelligence of them when he petitioned St. Sergius for help on 7th January 591. This is recorded in the inscription on a cross that he dedicated at the shrine of St. Sergius outside Sergiopolis (Simocatta 5.13.4-5). The same inscription records that the head of one of two trusted officers sent north by Bahrām was brought to Ḵosrow on 9th February (Simocatta 5.13.6). By this date the phase of negotiation was over and preparations for war were under way, since Ḵosrow had already moved to Constantia (Simocatta 4.14.5, 5.2.1). The advance from Constantia to Mardin, which opened the campaign, is dated, not unexpectedly, to the beginning of spring (Simocatta 5.3.1). It follows that Simocatta has made a mistake when he also gives the beginning of spring as the time when the second phase of detailed negotiations began (4.13.3). Table 1 summarizes the established chronology.

Consolidation of power (592-602). Ḵosrow remained on good terms with the Romans for the first eleven years of his reign. A Christian from Khuzestan (Ḵuzestān), Širin (Shirin) was represented in public as the most influential of his wives. She it was who acted as the main conduit through which royal favor flowed to Christians in Mesopotamia. She was responsible for the construction of a church and associated monastery close to the palace in Ctesiphon and for the allocation of funds by the treasury for the salaries of the clergy and their vestments. Ḵosrow himself acknowledged St. Sergius’ help, not only in the civil war but also in enabling Širin to conceive, by making public dedications at his shrine in Sergiopolis. The pagan Lakhmid kings, who managed the Arab tribes fronting Mesopotamia from their capital at Ḥira, were able to convert to Nestorian Christianity without objections from the Sasanian court. Far to the north, a neat solution was found to the problem of inter-confessional disagreement in Armenia, Ḵosrow acting as protector of the Monophysite catholicos at Dvin in the Persian sector while the Romans installed a rival Chalcedonian catholicos at Theodosiopolis in their sector. In these various ways, Ḵosrow not only mollified the Romans but also showed that he was mindful both of his Nestorian subjects, a very powerful interest group in Mesopotamia, and of the Monophysites who were entrenched in Transcaucasia and were growing in influence and numbers in Mesopotamia. He was even able to refuse a Roman request for the extradition of the relics of the Prophet Daniel (see DĀNIĀL-E NABI) from Susa, citing the strong feelings of his Christian subjects and the evident displeasure of the prophet himself (Ps.-Sebeos pp. 85-6, 91; Simocatta 5.13-14; Seert Chronicle, pp. 466-67, 468-69, 478-81).

The good relations between the šāhānšāh and his benefactor Maurice were most evident in their handling of the delicate issue of Armenia. The specter of Armenian independence had been raised by Bahrām Čōbin. There was also the perennial problem posed by cross-border movement. In the 590s it was mainly nobles and their followers from the Roman sector who asked for asylum with the Persians when the Romans sought to conscript them for service in their difficult Balkan war. Given the open character of the border, there could be no bar on Ḵosrow’s receiving migrant nobles and giving them preferment, but, when they showed signs of taking up arms and seeking foreign help, as they did in Azerbaijan in 595, the Persian authorities co-operated whole-heartedly and effectively with their Roman counterparts to suppress the danger. Faced with a united front, the Armenians had no choice but to submit to one or other of the great powers. Ḵosrow then took care to weaken those who plumped for Persian service, by taking the nobles off to Ctesiphon and cantoning their followers at Isfahan. Sixty years later, Ps.-Sebeos could imagine that the two rulers had hatched a Machiavellian plot to destroy Armenia, by siphoning off all able-bodied males for service on distant fronts (Ps.-Sebeos, pp. 86-88, 94).

For Ḵosrow, however, the most pressing task was to disengage from the political embrace of his maternal uncles, Bendōy and Besṭām. They had played a vital part in thwarting the ambitions of Bahrām Čōbin and securing the throne for him. They were undoubtedly the chief men in his new regime, Bendōy taking charge of the government at the center and Besṭām being assigned the most important army command, as spāhbed of Khorasan. But Ḵosrow, young though he was, was not suited to the role of figurehead. He bided his time but then, five years on, staged what was in effect a coup in his own favor. Orders were issued for the arrest and execution of both his uncles as well as other nobles implicated in the killing of his father. Bendōy in Ctesiphon was easily disposed off, but Besṭām managed to escape to Gilān, after getting wind of what was in store for him as he journeyed to the capital on the royal summons. This was the beginning of a dangerous rebellion that gathered momentum swiftly and was to last for eight years (595-602).

Besṭām gathered supporters from all over the Sasanian empire and, in 596, ventured down into the open country around Ray, dispatching raiding forays south across Media. He was, it may be conjectured, hoping to trigger a general rising in north-west Iran. Prompt action by Ḵosrow scotched this plan. Nervous that the Armenian nobles, whom he had, in effect, interned, might be tempted to join in, he arranged for their liquidation, their deaths in most cases being attributed to natural causes. He mobilized a large army, including the now leaderless Armenian units stationed at Isfahan and a Roman contingent, marched north and inflicted a crushing defeat on Besṭām’s forces near Ray, forcing Besṭām himself back into his mountain fastness in Gilān. Besṭām now adopted a more cautious policy and built up support step by step over the next four years. He won over the troops stationed in his home region of Kōmiš (Ar. Qumes, Lat. Comisene; see DĀMḠĀN) far to the east on the northern edge of the plateau, and was joined there by the Isfahan Armenians. Finally, in 600, he succeeded in raising four of the provinces on the fringes of the Alborz mountains in rebellion—Rōyān and Zalēkhān south of Gilān, Āmul and Ṭabarestān on the shores of the Caspian across the mountains from Kumeš. Ḵosrow responded by appointing a distinguished Armenian general, Smbat Bagratuni (see BAGRATIDS), marzbān of Gorgān, with instructions to deal with the rebel provinces. This he did, once again penning Besṭām back into the Alborz. Besṭām now looked for help to Turān. Two rulers from the east, from lands once ruled by Kushans (1st century BCE—middle of 3rd century CE), were induced to join his forces in a bold thrust into the interior of Iran from the eastern marches in 601, but the danger was averted when one of the 'Kushan' rulers was suborned by Ḵosrow and had Besṭām assassinated. At this Besṭām’s army broke up, the Gilān contingent withdrawing immediately to ‘the strongholds of their own land’, the Armenians to Kumeš where they defeated the force pursuing them. So it was left to Smbat in 602 to deal with the last spasm of rebellion. Mobilizing his own forces in Gorgān, he marched into Ṭabarestān and defeated the remaining rebel forces that had united to make a last stand (Ps.-Sebeos, pp. 94-99 with Historical Note 18; Khuzistan Chronicle, pp. 8-9; Seert Chronicle, pp. 481-82).

Roman war, phase I (603-615). As summer yielded to autumn in 602, Ḵosrow was at last the undisputed master of his empire, eleven years after his restoration. But before he could take stock and determine the general direction of policy at home and abroad, a new crisis broke. This time it originated in the Roman empire. A mutiny of the Roman army on the Danube rapidly escalated into a full-blown rebellion which culminated in the seizure of power by Phocas, a middle-ranking army officer, on 23rd November and the execution of the Emperor Maurice and five of his six sons on the 27th. Theodosius, his eldest son and designated heir, who had been crowned co-emperor in 590, managed to escape. This was made plain, despite official denials from the new regime, by the gruesome gallery of severed heads displayed to the population of Constantinople, from which Theodosius’ was missing (Chronicon Paschale, p. 694; Theophanes, pp. 290-91). He made his way eventually to Ḵosrow’s court where he was warmly received, and, in a replay of the events of autumn 590, was promised help by Ḵosrow. His status as Roman emperor was formally acknowledged by Ḵosrow in a coronation ceremony staged in Ctesiphon (Khuzistan Chronicle, pp. 15-16). Roman propaganda naturally portrayed him as an impostor. It is, however, unlikely that both those who saw him in Edessa in 603 and the delegation of notables from Theodosiopolis who came out to meet him in 608 were deceived by an impostor (Ps.-Sebeos, pp. 107, 111).

Persian forces were mobilized north and south of the Taurus, ready for action at the beginning of the campaigning season in 603. Ḵosrow himself took command of operations in the south, which was much the more promising theatre. The regional commander Narses, whom he knew well from their joint campaign in 591 and who was still in post, had rebelled on hearing the news of Phocas’ coup. Ḵosrow laid siege to Dārā, the outer bulwark of the Roman defensive system, and marched on with part of his army to help Narses who was under attack in Edessa from troops loyal to Phocas. After winning a decisive victory outside Edessa, he entered the city, where, in a carefully choreographed ceremony, Narses formally placed Theodosius under his protection. In spite of the disruption caused by Narses’ rebellion, Roman forces achieved considerable success, both in Armenia where they fended off a Persian attack and inflicted heavy losses (603) and on the north Mesopotamian front, where Dārā held out for a year and half and Narses was trapped and killed at Hierapolis (604/5) after being forced out of Edessa. Ḵosrow’s commitment to Theodosius was tested by this hard fighting, but significant gains were made. Dārā fell in 604, and, in the north, the Romans were driven back to the old, pre-591 frontier on the Araxes-Euphrates watershed in the course of 604 and 605. Ḵosrow then halted large-scale operations, in order to conduct a recruiting campaign in 606 and to achieve clear numerical superiority on both fronts (Ps.-Sebeos, pp. 107-10 with Historical Notes, 27-29; Theophanes, pp. 291-93).

Over the following nine years (607-15), the pace of the Persian advance gradually quickened. Key gains were Theodosiopolis, which capitulated once Theodosius was recognized as legitimate claimant in 608, and Edessa, which was captured in 609. Taking advantage of political divisions on the Roman side which climaxed in Heraclius’ usurpation at the beginning of October 610, Persian forces breached the Romans’ innermost line of defense on the Euphrates, taking and holding Caesarea of Cappadocia in the north (611), capturing Antioch and pushing on to the Mediterranean coast in the south (612). They may have been extruded from Cappadocia (in 612), but in the south they defeated a field army commanded by Heraclius in person in 613, occupied Syria and northern Palestine, intervened in Jerusalem to stop a pogrom (614), and were able, in 615, to advance across Asia Minor and appear on the Asian shore of the Bosporus within sight of Constantinople (Ps.-Sebeos, pp. 110-16, 122-23 with Historical Notes, 30-34, 37; Chronicon Paschale, p. 706).

There is no reason to suspect any wavering in Ḵosrow’s commitment to Theodosius in the course of this long war of attrition. It may be conjectured that he had insisted on substantial cessions of territory as a quid pro quo for the aid he was offering, so that the war upon which he embarked held out the prospect of major gains as well as the repaying of a debt to a great benefactor. His determination was not in question at any point in this first phase of the war. It is also clear that he soon became confident of the outcome. For, at a date which cannot be fixed more precisely than the first decade of the seventh century, he abolished the Lakhmid monarchy through which successive šāhānšāhs had managed their Arab clients since the third century. This was an extraordinary act of state, quite inexplicable save as preparation for a prospective extension of Sasanian authority over a new segment of the Fertile Crescent. The traditional unipolar system of client-management would have to be reconfigured to cope with new Arab clients who traditionally belonged to the Roman sphere of influence. When Ḵosrow took this radical step, he was evidently confident of achieving a military breakthrough and confident too that Theodosius would fulfill his side of their agreement, as he himself had done in 591. The deterioration in personal relations between Ḵosrow and the Lakhmid king, Noʿmān, of which much is made in the sources, should be seen as a consequence rather than a cause of this policy change, like the predictable tribal disturbances in the course of which forces loyal to the Sasanians suffered a reverse at Dhu Qār (Seert Chronicle, pp. 539-40; Ṭabari, pp. 1015-37). There was no question of Ḵosrow’s recognizing Heraclius’ regime, when an embassy came, probably early in 611, to present the new emperor’s credentials. Heraclius might have disposed of Phocas, thus avenging the murder of Maurice, but he too had usurped the throne which was properly Theodosius’. Ḵosrow made it very clear that he would have no truck with an upstart, by the simple expedient of executing the three ambassadors from Constantinople (Ps.-Sebeos, p. 113). This was a second extraordinary act, in defiance of well-established convention, which, by removing any possibility of negotiation, was intended to prevent diplomacy ever supplanting brute force in his dealings with Heraclius.

Roman war, phase II (615-26). Nonetheless, within a few years, in 615, a second Roman delegation did set off for the Persian court. This time, the ambassadors, two senior ministers and a representative of the patriarch, were acting on behalf of the Senate, the only authority which Ḵosrow would recognize as empowered to speak for the Roman state. The appearance of a Persian army within sight of Constantinople had prompted the Romans to sue for peace without preconditions. Heraclius had opened negotiations, by going in person across the Bosporus and communicating directly with the Persian commander, Šāhēn (Shāhin), from a ship offshore, after sending over supplies and a donative. He had made it plain that he was ready to stand down in return for peace and that the Romans would accept whomsoever Ḵosrow chose to nominate as their ruler. Šāhēn had then agreed to help transmit what was in effect an offer of Roman obeisance to Ḵosrow. Ambassadors were selected for what was without question a dangerous mission, and a formal letter was drafted, groveling in tone, which made no mention of the unpleasant fate of the previous embassy but simply pleaded for decent treatment of those who were coming now. Heraclius’ offer took the form of a statement of the Senate’s willingness to accept a client-ruler chosen by Ḵosrow, with a rider putting forward Heraclius’ name as a worthy candidate qua avenger of Maurice. Since this was the initial negotiating position, the Senate was plainly ready to make massive territorial concessions and to accept tributary status. It was evidently reconciled to paying almost any price for peace (Ps.-Sebeos, pp. 122-23; Chronicon Paschale, pp. 706-9).

Ḵosrow had gained far more than he could have dreamed of when he attacked in 603. He had reduced the Roman empire to the status of abject petitioner. The Senate had opened the way for the formal restoration of Theodosius. He had thus achieved his principal declared war aim and there was much more there for the taking. But in the end he disregarded the Senate’s offer and had the ambassadors interned. There was presumably considerable debate before the change of policy was agreed, since it entailed the dumping of Theodosius (who is never heard of again) and a prolongation of the war with the aim of dismembering the Roman empire. No insight into Ḵosrow’s reasoning is given by any of the extant sources, even those which drew on the lost Khwadāy-nāmag. But it was probably the menacing presence of a great power in the north and the east, which shaped his thinking. A rump Roman state could pose no serious danger on its own, but it would be a continuing distraction to the Sasanian empire as it confronted its steppe rival. The sedentary peoples of western Eurasia would have to be united under a single political authority, if they were to hold their own in a confrontation with the steppe empire of the Turks. A reminder of Turkish military capability came in 615, when the ‘Kushan’ rulers in the lands fronting Khorasan called on the Turkish khagan for help and Turkish forces proceeded to defeat the army commanded by the elderly Smbat Bagratuni, who had been called out of retirement, and followed up their victory by raiding deep into the interior of Iran, as far west as Ray and Isfahan (Ps.-Sebeos, pp. 100-2).

It is just possible to see the shape of Ḵosrow’s grand strategy in this second phase of his western war, when his ultimate aim was the destruction of the Roman empire. He made full use of the advantage of inner lines which had been gained in 612 when his forces took control of northern Syria and a corridor to the sea beyond Antioch, thereby cutting the land routes connecting Asia Minor to southern Syria, Palestine and Egypt. Over the decade 615-624, the direction of Persian offensive thrusts oscillated between the north-west and the south. Palestine replaced Asia Minor as the target in 616, direct rule being established over the whole region, including its desert frontage, with little or no fighting (Flusin, pp. 177-80). The main operations of the year were taking place far away to the east, in Bactria, where Smbat Bagratuni defeated the principal Kushan ruler (apparently a Hephthalite) who had called in the Turks in 615 (Ps.-Sebeos, pp. 102-3). Asia Minor was targeted again in 617, when two armies invaded and met up in Pisidia (Ps.-Sebeos, p. 113)—a campaign probably intended to give the impression that Ḵosrow was giving a higher priority to the conquest of Asia Minor than of Egypt. In 618 there was a pause, as Persian land forces were redeployed and concentrated in southern Palestine, for an attack in massive force on Egypt. Both Ḵosrow’s leading generals, Šahrwarāz and Šāhēn, took part in the 619 campaign, in the course of which Alexandria was taken (Chronicle to 724, pp. 17-8). By the end of 620 the whole of Egypt was under firm Persian control, and Ḵosrow could switch his attention back to Asia Minor (Altheim-Stiehl 1992).

There was no possibility of disguising the direction of his next attack in force, but something could be done to distract the Romans’ attention. For just as Ḵosrow had to concern himself with his north-eastern, steppe frontier while engaged in warfare in the west, so the Romans had to be assured of security in the Balkans if they were to commit most of their forces to the defense of Asia Minor. This meant that they had to keep on good terms with the nomadic Avars, the great power of central and eastern Europe, who had been gradually pushed back to the Danube once Roman troops were released from the east in autumn 591. Phocas halted Maurice’s long, hard-fought Balkan war, which had proved so unpopular both in Armenia and with the field army, and, within a year or so of his seizure of power, evidently succeeded in concluding a formal peace with the Avars, since he was able to transfer substantial forces to the eastern front in 604 (Michael Whitby, pp. 80-191). Attacked as they had been in their heartland, the Carpathian basin, and stripped of their subject Slav tribes south of the Danube, the Avars made no attempt to break the peace until 622, when they attacked in force and besieged Thessalonica—unless they had a hand in stirring up the Slav tribes who attacked the city two years earlier (Miracula S. Demetrii, 2.1-2). Offensive action by the Avars in 622 was so well-timed from the Persian point of view, that it is tempting to attribute it, at least in part, to Persian initiative. The Avars certainly lay inside the Persians’ diplomatic horizon, since, four years later, they joined in a carefully coordinated attack against Constantinople. There could be no ideological objection to seeking a nomad ally against the Romans since the Romans had done so some fifty years earlier, putting Iran in great peril when they attacked in concert with the Turks.

It seems more likely than not then that the important role of the Avars in the final stage in Ḵosrow’s war of conquest in the west was one consciously allocated to them by Ḵosrow and his policy-planners. If so, Ḵosrow’s own plan of action can be seen in a new light, designed to pull the Romans first east (in 622), then west (622-3), before the final hammer blow was to be struck in the east in 624. His forces invaded Asia Minor in 622. While advance units monitored Roman military exercises which were being conducted by Heraclius in Bithynia and guarded the passes leading to the plateau, the main army undertook the laborious task of imposing Persian authority locality by locality on north-east Asia Minor. Defensive operations initiated by Heraclius at the conclusion of the exercises achieved some success, but petered out in August when he hurried back to Constantinople to deal with the new crisis in the west. In 623, while Heraclius was preoccupied with the Avar problem (temporarily solved by the promise of massive tributary payments but only after long, fraught negotiations, in the course of which he was nearly captured and the suburbs of Constantinople were raided), Ḵosrow’s forces made significant advances both by land, pushing west across northern Asia Minor as far as Ancyra which they captured, and by sea, taking Rhodes, which commanded the south-eastern approaches to the Aegean, and a number of other islands. Ḵosrow himself planned to direct operations in 624, taking command of a large reserve army which was to be mobilized in relative safety, in Azerbaijan. The plan was evidently to overwhelm such forces as the Romans could field, and to complete the conquest of Asia Minor, thereby stripping Heraclius and the Senate of their main resource-base.

The plan went wrong almost from the start. Before the mobilization was complete, a small, swift-moving Roman expeditionary force, commanded by Heraclius, appeared within striking distance of the Persian army, to the consternation of the high command. A counterattack had been expected, once Heraclius was free to return to Asia Minor, but the Roman choice of Caesarea as assembly-point indicated that the target lay across the Taurus and Anti-Taurus to the south-east, in Cilicia or northern Syria. Surprised, Ḵosrow’s great army scattered and Ḵosrow himself fled into the Zagros and made his way south to safety. With the strategic initiative temporarily in his hands, Heraclius caused extensive devastation as he marched through Persian territory. The sack of the great fire temple of Ādur Gušnasp at Taḵt-e Solaymān and the pollution of its sacred pool were particularly damaging blows. Worse was to come, when the Turkish khaganate agreed to come to the Romans’ aid, in response to an embassy sent by Heraclius from his winter-quarters not far from P‘artaw in Albania. Heraclius and his troops proved elusive and dangerous in the following year (625), when three Persian armies were deployed against them in Transcaucasia. But, despite suffering two defeats, the Persian generals succeeded eventually in circumscribing his movements, forcing him first north, back to Albania (where the Laz and Abasgian contingents left for home), and then south-west to the region of Lake Van where both pursuers and pursued wintered. A surprise night attack in mid-winter on the headquarters of the senior Persian general, Šahrwarāz, caused confusion, netted some rich booty, but did not disrupt preparations for the following year’s campaign.

The grand offensive deferred from 624 was scheduled to take place in 626. Such losses as had been suffered in the two intervening years were more than made good. A new army was raised and placed under the command of the second of Ḵosrow’s great generals, Šāhēn. The Avars were also to be brought into play, Persian diplomats having persuaded them to break the treaty they had agreed with the Romans in 623 with an alluring offer: once Roman resistance had been overcome, the rump Roman empire would be partitioned; the Avars would occupy the Balkan provinces, including Constantinople, while the Persians took Asia Minor, a great western bastion, like Egypt, from which they could project their power west over the Mediterranean (Howard-Johnston 1999).

As soon as winter eased, in March 626, Šahrwarāz drove Heraclius from Lake Van, first south over the Armenian Taurus, then west through northern Syria and Cilicia, and finally north over the Taurus on to the Anatolian plateau. He then marched on towards Constantinople (which he reached in the middle of July), ignoring Heraclius when he left the main diagonal road across Asia Minor and veered north to Sebasteia. Šāhēn, meanwhile, was leading the new army, reinforced by troops seconded from Šahrwarāz’s command, across Transcaucasia. The outcome of the war was decided by two engagements fought that summer. In the first, a battle fought near Amaseia on the northern edge of the Anatolian plateau, a Roman army (presumably that commanded by Heraclius, who only returned to Constantinople in late summer or early autumn), intercepted and destroyed Šāhēn’s. Ḵosrow had Šāhēn’s body (he died after the battle) embalmed and brought to him for posthumous punishment. The second engagement took the form of a fierce ten-day siege of Constantinople by a huge Avar host (numbering some 80,000 men), in the course of which twelve siege-towers and Chinese lever artillery were deployed against the city. There was also an ever-present danger that Šahrwarāz would manage to ferry troops over to aid the attackers. Had Constantinople fallen, Ḵosrow would undoubtedly have achieved his second, ambitious war-aim. However, the city had been well prepared, both materially and psychologically, and morale was boosted on the eve of the siege by the arrival of a detachment of hardened soldiers sent by Heraclius. A flotilla of fast cutters also proved their worth, first by making it difficult for Persians and Avars to liaise, then by intercepting and destroying a Persian force, as it was being shipped across the Bosporus. Siege operations climaxed in a general assault which began on 6th August, continued through the following night and was broadened on the 7th to include an amphibious attack across the Golden Horn. The failure of this supreme effort led to restiveness in the besieging host and its hasty withdrawal. Powerless on the Asian shore of the Bosporus, Šahrwarāz could do nothing but follow suit not long afterwards (Howard-Johnston 1995).

Ḵosrow’s regime never recovered from these two serious setbacks. They tore from his grasp the victory which would have compensated for many years of hard fighting, for heavy losses, for massive expenditure. A third blow was struck in the north, when a Turkish raiding army, commanded by the shad, a nephew of the khagan, intervened in support of the Romans, crossing the Caucasus and rampaging freely over Albania and Azerbaijan while Ḵosrow’s field armies were engaged in the west. Ḵosrow replied haughtily to the ultimatum which he received from the khagan, but the tone of lofty disdain in which he was addressed by ‘the king of the north, lord of the whole world, your king and the king of kings’ and the curt demand for the evacuation of Roman territory and the release of Roman prisoners-of-war (as well as the fragments of the True Cross, which had been taken from Jerusalem in 614) assuredly filled him and his advisers with despondency. The war was now likely to be prolonged indefinitely, and there was no guarantee of ultimate success (Movsēs Daskhurants‘i, pp. 81-82, 87-88).

Domestic affairs (602-26). Like the greatest of the early Sasanian kings, Ḵosrow was above all a war-leader. Government for him consisted primarily of the direction of military forces, first against internal enemies, then against Iran’s long-standing imperial rival in the west. After twenty-four years of conflict with the Romans, the strain was beginning to tell. Different interest groups began to voice complaints: for military families, who included much of the landed gentry, it was the losses suffered and the long years of service on distant fronts; for senior post-holders and the aristocracy, it was the increasingly autocratic behavior of the crown; for the mercantile classes it was the growing impediments to the free movement of goods; for all it was the ratcheting up of taxation (Movsēs Daskhurants‘i, pp. 89-90). This, however, is not the image of Ḵosrow presented in the Šāh-nāma, by far the most influential version of the Khwadāy-nāmag to have been handed down to posterity. Once he has secured his throne against the challenge of Bahrām Čōbin and disposed of his uncles, Ferdowsi’s Ḵosrow reigns in peace. Iran prospers, its territory shielded by four frontier armies.

Neighboring rulers dispatch deferential embassies. They send tribute, slaves and precious gems. The Roman emperor addresses Ḵosrow as ‘lord of the world’ and, in addition to the ‘tribute of his country,’ gives forty gold tables with coral legs, jewel-encrusted gold and silver statues of wild animals, silk brocade and furs. Ḵosrow responds graciously by ranking him above the rulers of China, India and the steppes, but does not grant his request for the return of the True Cross. No explanation is given for the presence in Iran of this most venerated of Christian relics. Ḵosrow’s power and wealth are unsurpassed. His seven treasuries are full. His court is magnificent, as are the stables associated with it and the royal menagerie of birds of prey and exotic animals. He is an equitable ruler, who insists that the grand have regard for their inferiors and sets an example with his generosity to the poor.

The omission of Ḵosrow’s western war of conquest must surely have been deliberate. For it featured in Ferdowsi’s source, an amplified version of the Khwadāy-nāmag, albeit with coverage limited to the opening offensive campaigns and the final phase, when there was a dramatic change in fortune and Heraclius led his army deep into Iran. Apart from an elliptical reference to Ḵosrow’s acquisition of the True Cross and an incidental appearance of Roman forces, commanded by the emperor, in his narrative of Ḵosrow’s fall, Ferdowsi says nothing about this dominating concern of Ḵosrow’s reign. His Ḵosrow is already master of the world. So it is the peacetime pattern of Ḵosrow’s life upon which he dwells. In place of battles, long marches and fraught negotiations, he holds forth about Ḵosrow’s reunion with his great love, Širin, after many years of separation, about Širin’s successful intrigue against another of his wives, the Roman Maria (made out, falsely, to be Maurice’s daughter), and her sidelining of Maria’s son Qobād Širōy, about his first encounter with Bārbad the musician, about the great throne which he restored and the palace which he commissioned, after a competition, from a Roman architect. Careful surgery was required to sever the account of Ḵosrow’s fall from the Roman military action which precipitated it. Instead he attributes it entirely to the machinations of two disaffected magnates, a powerful minister at court and the general in command of the Roman frontier. The Roman emperor’s attack is mentioned, but he only acts after a request from the general and is deceived into withdrawing before he has crossed the frontier.

Ferdowsi thus took considerable trouble to suppress all mention of the last and greatest of Persian-Roman wars, filling out his narrative of the reign with entertaining material taken from the Romance of Ḵosrow and Širin (see ḴOSROW O ŠIRIN AND ITS IMITATIONS) which had been incorporated in his version of the Khwadāy-nāmag. As for his motives, it may perhaps be conjectured that he was taking care not offend the sensibilities of his patron, Maḥmud of Ghazna, the dominant ruler in the eastern half of the Islamic world, by expatiating on glorious Roman military achievements in the past, when the rising power in the western reaches of the contemporary Middle East was the Roman successor state, Byzantium, and its fighting forces were widely feared.

In one respect Ferdowsi did not mislead his readers. Širin was the most influential of Ḵosrow’s wives. She did succeed in ousting Qobād Širōy from the court and in securing the promise of the succession for her son, Mardānšāh. Acting in concert with a cabal of Christian court doctors, she also promoted the reformed Nestorianism (closer to the compromise formulae of the Council of Chalcedon) advocated by Henana of Adiabene, head of the theological school at Nisibis. With her help, when the catholicosate fell vacant in 605, they managed to substitute Gregory of Prat for Ḵosrow’s preferred candidate, Gregory Metropolitan of Nisibis, who was Henana’s chief opponent. They tried to job in another candidate of their choice, when Gregory of Prat died in 609, but this time were blocked by the orthodox Nestorians. After the failure of an attempt to break the impasse in 612, the post of catholicos remained vacant for the rest of Ḵosrow’s reign (Flusin, pp. 102-4, 106-10).

It appears that Ḵosrow was less concerned with restoring harmony among the Nestorians than with establishing good relations with the Monophysites who were in the majority in the Roman Levant and Egypt, as well as growing in importance on Sasanian territory. While there was a catholicos in post (so before the death of Gregory of Prat in 609), he organized a conference attended by delegates from the three monotheist faiths with substantial followings among his subjects: Jews, Nestorians and Monophysites. It was chaired jointly by two highly placed Christian laymen, a Monophysite (Smbat Bagratuni) and a reformist Nestorian (the chief court doctor, Gabriel of Singara). As it is presented in a later, far from disinterested Armenian account, the conference—from which the Jewish delegates were ejected at an early stage—was the setting for a doctrinal debate between Nestorians, who had traditionally enjoyed royal favor, and the up and coming Monophysites, the outcome being a clear victory for the Monophysites (Ps.-Sebeos, pp. 148-61- cf. Thomson 1998, and Garsoïan, pp. 355-84). In reality, it was probably an exercise in public relations, Ḵosrow seeking to carry Christian opinion with him as he prepared to authorize Monophysite episcopal appointments on annexed Roman territory and to transfer to the new bishops churches currently in Chalcedonian hands. Besides improving the prospect of his winning the support of Roman Monophysites, the conference also provided him with an independent justification for a new policy of even-handed treatment of the two leading Christian confessions within his realms (Flusin, pp. 111-18).

At no stage, despite considerable provocation from the Romans, did Ḵosrow abandon the long-established policy of religious toleration (on condition that Christians refrained from proselytizing). Propaganda spewed out from Constantinople, which was reworked and lifted on to a high literary plane in the public verse of George of Pisidia, sought to transform the war into a cosmic clash between good and evil, between a Christian empire, duly authorized by God, and a bloodthirsty regime of impious people who worshipped created things (Mary Whitby 1994). Whatever its impact on Romans (in particular on the troops serving with Heraclius, who were offered the crown of martyrdom if they were killed on campaign [Theophanes, pp. 307, 310-11]), this propaganda does not seem to have stirred the emotions of Ḵosrow’s Christian subjects. It failed to tarnish his image as a beneficent ruler, who attended to their concerns. His appropriation of the True Cross, which was ceremonially brought into Ctesiphon in 614, was a well-judged counter-move (Flusin, pp. 170-72).

To the very end of the war, he made little effort to enforce the law against the conversion of Zoroastrians. Only three cases are recorded. Two involved members of the elite: First, Mehr Māh Gošnasp, member of an aristocratic family, who, after his baptism (at a discreet distance from Ctesiphon at Ḥira) in 595/6, lived for many years in obscurity in a monastery on the Tur Ābdin (across the Roman frontier) but was recognized and denounced when he came to court with a delegation of bishops and monks to lobby against the appointment of a Henanian catholicos in 612; and Second, Māhanōš, son of a judge in Adiabene, who did not conceal his change of faith and was denounced to the authorities around 605. Mihr Māh Gošnasp, who had taken the Christian name of George, was only executed after his obduracy was made plain though a written statement of his Christian faith, fourteen months after his initial arrest. Māhanōš was given many opportunities to recant. He was released after a first, short period in detention. Then, when he was arrested again, he was held in loose custody for fifteen years, during which he was allowed to receive many visitors and was invited to renounce Christianity at periodic appearances before different local judges. It was only in 621/2, after the failure of these efforts, that the case was transferred to the royal tribunal at Ctesiphon and he was condemned to death (Flusin, pp. 118-27). The third case was the most spectacular, in the sense that it was picked up and broadcast widely by Christian propagandists. It involved a cavalryman of humbler origin from Ray, who deserted after the Chalcedon campaign of 615 and, some years later, made his way to Jerusalem where he was baptized and tonsured, taking the name Anastasius. Inspired by his reading to emulate the feats of the early Christian martyrs, he went to Caesarea in 627 and flaunted his apostasy, leaving the Persian authorities no choice but to arrest him. By adamant refusals to compromise, he forced them to repatriate him and eventually to sentence him to death, a sentence which was carried out on 22nd December 627 not far from Ḵosrow’s palace at Dastgerd (Flusin, pp. 221-63 who dates his execution a month later).

Within a general policy of toleration shown towards Christians of all denominations and Jews, Ḵosrow brought about some discreet shifts in the balance of favor. They had to be discreet to avoid provoking public opposition from powerful, long-established Jewish and Nestorian Christian constituencies at home. An initial tilt in favor of Jews, allowing them the right to settle in Jerusalem, after the capture of the city in 614, had to be reversed within two years because of growing Christian opposition in Palestine (Ps.-Sebeos, pp. 116-18, with Historical Note 35). Official favor was shown, as has been seen, towards Monophysites in the occupied Roman provinces, but it was not extended to Sasanian territory. There is no evidence of any toughening of policy even late in the reign. Sasanian Persia remained a poly-ethnic, pluralist society as the war approached its climax, twenty-four years on, despite the strains induced in the body politic and the economy.

Expenditure had inevitably grown - as can be seen from documented increases in the volume of drachms issued. Even allowing for dislocation in the monetary system and less recoining in the two decades following Ḵosrow’s death, which allowed a higher than usual percentage of Ḵosrow’s later issues to remain in circulation, hoard evidence shows that there was a sudden jump in aggregate mint output in Ḵosrow’s 25th regnal year (614/5), on the eve of the definitive decision to liquidate the Roman empire, and a further rise to a higher level sustained through regnal years 33-37 (622/3-626/7) when the final assault was launched on Asia Minor (Gyselen 1990). Revenue, however, had also grown, as more and more tax-yielding Roman provinces were brought under Sasanian control and were required, inter alia, to provide large quantities of silver bullion, thus relieving Persian tax-payers of part of the increased burden. Ḵosrow himself remained confident of the outcome of the war as he reached out for ultimate victory. This confidence had been made manifest earlier, in special issues of drachms dating from regnal years 23 (612/3) and 26-8 (615/6-617/8), on which Ḵosrow’s bust appeared twice, crowned and full-face (unlike the usual right-turning profile) on the obverse, likewise looking out full-face on the reverse but bare-headed and surrounded by a flaming nimbus. These coins were almost certainly celebrating victories or prospective victories in the west, as is made plain by their triumphalist legend (‘Ḵosrow, King of Kings, has increased royal glory, has increased Ērān, [he is] well-omened/of good religion’). The confidence was still there in 625/6 and 626/7 (years 36 and 37), when drachms of the same type and with an identical legend, were issued (Göbl, pp. 20, 53-54; Gyselen 2004, pp. 64-65, 86-87, 126-27).

Ḵosrow also made preparations to his celebrate his forthcoming victory in public on a monumental scale. Among the sites chosen were Bisotun in southern Media and Naqš-e Rostam in Fārs, the main venues for the commemoration of the achievements of Achaemenid and early Sasanian kings. At both, he commissioned reliefs which would dwarf those already in place. In the event none of them was finished. The panel prepared at Bisotun was huge (nearly 200 meters across). It was to be the focal point of a royal complex, comprising a massive viewing platform, a palace below, a bridge over the river immediately to the east, and, on the far bank, a new approach road. The great panel was, however, left blank, its surface still in the process of being gouged out and rendered smooth. Work had progressed further on the somewhat smaller panel at Naqš-e Rustam. The surface had been planed flat but the screen so formed remained bare of reliefs. Similar evidence of sudden abandonment of projects is to hand at two other sites, both not far from Bisotun. At Harsin, a small royal complex was built (a palace and, nearby, a rock-cut panel fronted by a narrow terrace and artificial pool) but there too there is no trace of carving on the prepared surface. Only at Tāq-e Bostān, where an ayvān was cut into the rock and three out of four planned reliefs were finished, can some idea be obtained of the iconography which might be used to convey the majesty of the šāhānšāh to the onlooker. The dominating figure is that of Ḵosrow, in the center of an investiture scene carved in deep relief in the upper register on the rear wall of the ayvān. An air of military menace hangs over the heavily armored and helmeted horseman who stands motionless in the lower register and who probably represents Ḵosrow’s fravaši (tutelary spirit, see FARR[AH]). These central images of Ḵosrow’s majesty and might are flanked by scenes of hunting. On the left, in a well-planned and intricately carved scene, the action takes place in the marshlands of lower Mesopotamia, where the prey is wild boar. Ḵosrow (magnified compared to the other figures) stands in a boat and pulls his bow. To the right a deer hunt is in progress, taking place in a royal park under Ḵosrow’s gaze, but the relief is far from finished—men, animals and equipment have been carefully outlined, but the sculptural work proper, of shaping and surface detailing, has not begun. Here too work must have stopped abruptly, when the tide of war turned and Ḵosrow’s regime collapsed (Howard-Johnston 2004, pp. 94-96).

Deposition and death. The general outlook was grim, but not yet desperate at the end of 626. Ḵosrow could expect Heraclius to move on to the offensive in 627. Given the ultimatum that they had issued, an attack by the Turks, in greater force than in 626, was a virtual certainty. Transcaucasia was likely to be their target, but Khorasan could not be ruled out. After the losses of 626, Sasanian forces were now stretched thin, having to maintain control of the occupied Roman provinces as well as to secure outer regions against attack. Their stance had to be defensive. So cities and fortresses of strategic importance were reinforced and readied to withstand long sieges. In Transcaucasia the strongholds assigned key defensive roles were Darband, the principal military base on the long wall blocking the Caspian Gates, and P‘artaw, capital of Albania. A field army was also deployed, to hamper enemy movement and to offer some prospect of relief to besieged garrisons. In the event the commanding general, Rāhzāḏ, was unable to play a significant part in operations until very late in 627, presumably because his troops were outnumbered.

The 627 campaign was disastrous from Ḵosrow’s point of view. A large Turkish army was mobilized from all over western Eurasia, and the yabghu khagan himself took command. Such was the shock of the appearance of the Turks and the ferocity of their assault, that Darband was swiftly stormed and P‘artaw surrendered without a fight, leaving the whole of Albania exposed to attack. Nothing is reported of Roman actions in the first half of the campaigning season, but it may be inferred from their later movements that they too were in or near Transcaucasia (probably prizing loose the Persians’ grip on Lazica). Both armies then converged on Tiflis, capital of Iberia, leaving little time for reinforcement of the garrison (a thousand troops were rushed in at the last moment). A summit meeting between Roman emperor and yabghu khagan was staged outside Tiflis, a ceremonial display of amity which was to be sealed by a marriage alliance between the two ruling families. The two armies then settled down to a siege, which seems to have been designed not so much to take the city as to mask widespread raiding operations in Iberia. Much damage was done, not least to Ḵosrow’s prestige, but the danger abated at the approach of autumn. For the two armies abandoned the siege and parted, the Turks withdrawing east and then north across the Caucasus while Heraclius set off south, intent apparently on devastating hitherto untouched parts of Azerbaijan, before turning west and heading home. Ḵosrow could look forward to a breathing space that winter, in which to re-organize and boost the defenses of his empire (Movsēs Daskhurants‘i, pp. 82-86; Georgian Chronicles, pp. 223-24; Theophanes, p. 316; Nicephorus chap.12).

Such hopes were dashed all too soon. Heraclius continued his march south, past Lake Urmiya, and, after a week’s rest on the northern edge of the Zagros, set off on 16th October and pushed on through the mountains, devastating the upland basins at the heart of what is now Kurdistan as he passed. A month or so later, he reached the open country of Adiabene between the Lesser Zāb and the Great Zāb. There was a palpable sense of crisis in Ctesiphon. Yet another fertile region was open to depredation, and the capital was in range of attack. Ḵosrow sent an urgent message Rāhzāḏ, who had followed Heraclius south down the swathe of destruction left by his troops. He was ordered to move against Heraclius and to bring him to battle, once reinforcements, a crack force of 3,000 guardsmen, arrived from the capital. As the only available field commander, he had the vital task of driving the Roman army out of the soft interior of the Sasanian empire, or, if Heraclius chose to attack, of blocking the route south to Ctesiphon. Heraclius’ plans became clearer, when, on 1st December, he crossed the Great Zāb and marched north. It looked as if he was taking the prudent course of withdrawing towards Roman-held territory. But then he halted and camped near Nineveh. Rāhzāḏ continued to shadow him. The promised reinforcements had not arrived. So he watched the Roman army from a safe distance. When Heraclius resumed his march north, he set off in pursuit, only to find that Heraclius had chosen the ground on which to fight and that his troops were advancing out of the morning mist in battle array.

The battle of Nineveh, fought on 12th December, was a decisive engagement. Not that Heraclius, the victor, succeeded in destroying his adversary. The Persians fought hard and suffered heavy losses. Rāhzāḏ and many of his senior officers were killed. But their fighting formations did not break up and they did not withdraw from the battlefield until the small hours of the following night, when they took up defensive positions in the foothills of a nearby mountain range. The way south, however, was now open. Heraclius could, if he chose, march on the metropolitan region. For the moment, though, he stayed put, apparently waiting for the reinforcements to join the battered remnants of Rāhzāḏ’s army. Once they had done so on 21st December, he moved swiftly to the Great Zāb and sent a detachment ahead to seize the four bridges over the next river to the south, the Lesser Zāb. He then marched on towards the metropolitan region. At the news that he had crossed the Lesser Zāb (on 23rd December), Ḵosrow, who was at Dastgerd, his favorite palace in Mesopotamia, hastily prepared to leave, evidently having little faith in its formidable defenses. All the treasure there was loaded on to elephants, camels and donkeys, ready for transport to the capital under armed escort. He ordered what remained of Rāhzāḏ' s army (somewhat bolstered by the guards troops from Ctesiphon) to march south at high speed. It was to do its utmost to overtake the Romans. That same day (the 23rd) he and his immediate family slipped out by a secret tunnel. When they were five miles away, the order was issued to begin the evacuation of Dastgerd. Three days later he reached the capital (Theophanes, pp. 317-20, 322-23; Ps.-Sebeos, p. 126 with Historical Note 42; Movsēs Daskhurants‘i, p. 89).

The rump field army from the north managed to overtake the Romans, when they halted for three days to rest and celebrate Christmas. But it was in no condition to fight, as became all too apparent when it abandoned the bridge which it was holding over the Diyala river at the Romans’ approach. Its only success was achieved by deception. Heraclius ordered a day’s halt on 1st January, convinced by false intelligence that a strong force was holding the line of the Ruz canal just to the north of Dastgerd. When he resumed the march the next day, he moved cautiously and at a measured pace, punctuated by a pause of several days when he reached Dastgerd. This slow but remorseless advance was probably intended to heighten tension in Sasanian governing circles, while a final offer (made from Dastgerd) to negotiate an end to the war ‘before the fire consumes everything’ (swiftly rejected) was calculated to exacerbate divisions. The opposition to Ḵosrow was gaining in strength and preparing to take action. The key figure was a retired high-ranking general (Gurdanaspa in Greek), with close ties to Qobād Širōy (he is called his tutor in one version of the Khwadāynāmag). He initiated a conspiracy which took shape during December and January, developing two distinct foci. A military grouping was built up by Gurdanaspa, centering on the court in Ctesiphon and reaching into the officer corps. An aristocratic coterie, of young men from magnate families, gathered around Qobād Širōy, who was living, we are told, outside the capital. He was subsequently portrayed as the prime mover behind the conspiracy, determined to prevent the designation of a younger half-brother, Mardānšāh, son of Širin, as Ḵosrow’s successor. The two parties liaised via an intermediary, who is described as Qobād’s milk-brother (Chronicon Paschale, p. 728; Theophanes, pp. 320-22, 324-26; Movsēs Daskhurants‘i, p. 90).

Meanwhile Ḵosrow did what he could to strengthen the defenses of the capital. The depleted field army arrived with several days to spare and was deployed, together with two hundred elephants, along the Nahrawān canal. The additional manpower needed to hold so long a defensive perimeter was obtained partly by combing the households of the governing elite as well as the court for able-bodied men who could be drafted into service, but came in the main, it may be conjectured, from a local urban militia. Orders were given to cut the bridges at the approach of the Romans. These measures proved effective. Heraclius, who appeared late on 9th January, was deterred from making any attempt to cross the canal. But there was no easing of the military and political pressure. For the fertile Diyala valley, the capital’s bread-basket, was defenseless, a prime candidate for systematic degradation by military action. By early February, when the Roman army had turned its attention to devastating the large upland basin of Šahrazur on the main road north to Azerbaijan, the failure of Ḵosrow’s ambitious foreign policy was all too plain. The army which had conquered the Roman Near East was too far away to intervene. A sense of helplessness was reinforced when a story (probably manufactured by the Romans) began to circulate that Šahrwarāz, commander-in-chief in the west, had come to an agreement with Heraclius (Theophanes, pp. 323-24; Seert Chronicle, pp. 540-41; Ṭabari, pp. 327-30). The conspiracy against Ḵosrow now came to a head. Twenty-two senior officers (called counts by Theophanes) were involved by this stage, as well as two sons of Šahrwarāz and the son of a high-flying, recently deceased Christian finance minister. The plotters were ready to stage a coup, but first they needed to make sure that peace proposals would not be rejected by Heraclius. A small delegation, of four army officers and two civilian officials, was sent to Šahrazur. They informed Heraclius of what was afoot, including the date chosen for the coup. Having obtained the assurances they sought as well as some advice, they returned, leaving their leader, a hazārbed whose name is given as Gusdanaspa, as a point of contact with Heraclius. For his part Heraclius stayed put in Šahrazur until the planned date of the coup, presumably to distract attention.

On the night of 23rd-24th February the plotters went into action. Qobād Širōy left the palace to which he had been confined and entered Veh Ardašir after dark. Troops privy to the conspiracy then secured the Veh Ardašir end of the bridge over the Tigris, thus isolating Ḵosrow in Ctesiphon. A herald proclaimed Qobād Širōy king. The gates of the main prison were opened and the prisoners, who included Roman prisoners-of-war, were released. Horses were spirited out of the royal stables in Ctesiphon and used to mount some of the prisoners. They broadcast news of the coup, galloping round Veh Ardašir and brandishing their broken chains. Many of the palace guards in Ctesiphon now slipped across the bridge and joined the rebels. Ḵosrow, alerted by the sound of shouting and trumpets, discovered belatedly that a coup was taking place. All he could do was to slip out of the palace and into the garden next door where he attempted to hide. He was soon found when the rebels surrounded the palace and searched the grounds. He put up no resistance when he was arrested. Indeed the plotters seem to have encountered no resistance at any stage. No one, it appears, was ready to fight for so discredited a šāhānšāh (Chronicon Paschale, p. 728, 731; Theophanes, pp. 325-26; Ps.-Sebeos, p. 127; Movsēs Daskhurants‘i, pp. 90-92; Khuzistan Chronicle, p. 29).

Ḵosrow was taken under armed guard to a nearby town house, from which he was moved to the new, fortified treasury-building which he had constructed. There he was held for four days, fed on bread and water. Senior ministers were allowed to pay visits, in the course of which they justified the coup by rehearsing the opposition’s charges (which Ḵosrow rebutted at length according to the Khwadāynāmag). Qobād Širōy was formally crowned and proclaimed shāhānshāh on 25th February. His public image was that of a peace-loving king who was determined to ease the burdens imposed by Ḵosrow on his subjects. In private he was ruthless. He ordered the execution of all his brothers and half-brothers, beginning with Ḵosrow’s favorite son and preferred successor, Mardānšah. He was taken to Ḵosrow’s prison so that Ḵosrow could see the execution. On 28th February it was Ḵosrow’s turn. The Khwadāynāmag includes a brief evocation of the scene (Chronicon Paschale; Theophanes, pp. 326-27; Ps.-Sebeos, p. 127; Movsēs Daskhurants‘i, p. 92; Ṭabari, pp. 1045-60).

The death of Ḵosrow opened the way for peace negotiations with Heraclius, who had managed to reach Ganzak in Azerbaijan just before heavy snowfalls blocked the Zagros passes in early March. The negotiations dragged on for two years. The Sasanians’ bargaining position improved when the Turks unexpectedly withdrew of their own accord from Transcaucasia in 629, but this was more than outweighed by domestic political instability. All Ḵosrow’s wartime gains had to be relinquished before a final peace treaty was eventually signed in 630. By that date, the reigns of Qobād Širōy and his young son, Ardašir III, were over, Shahrwarāz had staged a coup only to be assassinated forty days after formally assuming power, and Bōrān, one of Ḵosrow’s daughters, was on the throne. Two more years of political turbulence were to follow, before a grandson, Yazdgerd III, established a firm grip on power. Yazdgerd was to prove a redoubtable adversary to the rising power of Islam, making good use of the formidable fighting forces which had so nearly conquered the east Roman empire.

Kawad II

KAWAD II (628-629)

Son of Xusrō II, Kawād II, Šērōe, came to the throne following the deposition and later execution of his father in 628. He started his reign by killing almost all of his brothers who could later contend the throne.
He then made a peace treaty with Roman Emperor, Heraclius, in 629 and returned all the conquered lands to Roman Empire. He sent the Iranian general Šahrwarāz to meet with the Roman Emperor in order to agree on permanent borderers between the two empires.
He had a very short reign of less than two years and was soon assassinated in Ctesiphon. He is succeeded by his son Ardaxšīr III.
His coins are more similar to that of his great grandfather Xusrō I than that of his father, more than likely out of his reluctance to be associated himself with his father.

Ardašīr III

ARDAŠĪR III, Sasanian king (r. September, 628-29 April, 629). His father Šērōyē (Kawād II) murdered most of the Sasanian princes and died after only a brief reign (Nöldeke, Geschichte der Perser, pp. 383ff.). Nobles and senior officials proclaimed his seven-year-old son Ardašīr king, and one of them, Meh-Ādur Gušnasp (Meh-Āḏar Jošnas), the kᵛān-sālār ([royal] table-master), was elected as his supervisor and regent (Nöldeke op. cit., p. 386; Yaʿqūbī, I, p. 196; Baḷʿamī, Tārīḵ, pp. 1192f.; Dīnavarī, p. 116, where the king’s name is given as Šīrzād). The fact that Ardašīr’s mother was a Byzantine lady (called Anzoi [’?]: Th. Nöldeke, Die von Guidi herausgegebene syrische Chronik, Vienna, 1893, p. 31), probably made him less popular, and he was generally ignored, the real power being in the hands of the great nobles and especially Meh-Ādur Gušnasp (Nöldeke, op. cit., p. 386); he was surnamed “The Little One” (Bīrūnī, Chronology, p. 123). The Šāh-nāma ([Moscow], IX, pp. 293-94) attributes to him a rather stereotyped coronation speech. Meh-Ādur Gušnasp was well-meaning and loyal, and after the catastrophic last years of Ḵosrow II and the plague of 628—which claimed almost half of Iraq’s population (Nöldeke, op. cit., p. 385 n. 4)—his fair rule promised some degree of social justice and reestablishing of the order, as is proven by his acts (Nöldeke, op. cit., p.386; Yāqūt, Moʿǰam al-boldān IV, p. 839; Yaʿqūbī, loc. cit.; Baḷʿamī, op. cit., pp. 1192-93). But as Ṯaʿālebī rightly remarks, the political situation was extremely grave: Local chiefs and army leaders had gained too much power to obey the central government; imperial administration was disintegrating, and the Arabs and the Turks were attacking Iranian border regions (Ṯaʿālebī, Ḡorar, pp. 731-32). In 629 a Ḵazar army descended upon the northern border and was kept in check only by Šahrwarāz (Šahrbarāz; in the Šāh-nāma [Šahrān-] Gorāz), the most distinguished general of Ḵosrow II, who at this time was on the Byzantine frontier to guard against an invasion by Heraclius (K. Patkanian, Essai d’une histoire de la dynastie des Sassanides d’après les renseignements fournis par les historiens armeniens, Paris, 1866, p. 219). The difficult moment, which required a determined and experienced leader, tempted Šahrwarāz to seize power. He secured a pact with Heraclius, marched on Ctesiphon with 6,000 men, besieged it, and took it through treachery, killing Ardabīl, Meh-Ādur Gušnasp, and many other notables, and usurping the throne for himself (27 April 629; Nöldeke, Syrische Chronik, pp. 31f.; idem, Geschichte, p. 388; Baḷʿamī, pp. 1194-95; Yaʿqūbī, I, p. 197; Ṯaʿālebī, p. 732; Šāh-nāma IX, pp. 294-98; Patkanian, loc. cit.).

Ardašīr is usually assigned a reign of one year and six months, but Hešām Kalbī gave him, more correctly, one year and seven months (Nöldeke, Geschichte, pp. 348, 433). His coins show him on the obverse as a youth, wearing a three-stepped crenellated crown (recalling the crowns of Šāpūr I and Yazdegerd II), while the reverse reintroduces the archaic form of the upturned flowing ribbons of the fire altar. On a second series the crown is ornamented with an eagle’s wings (as on the crown of Ḵosrow II) surmounted by a ball (as on the crown of Kawād II), indicating perhaps that his authority had by then been established (R. Göbl, Sasanian Numismatics, Braunschweig, 1971, p. 54, pl. 14, nos. 225-27). In the picture book of Sasanian kings, Ardašīr was represented as standing, leaning on a sword grasped in his left hand, while his right held a lance; his costume included a sky-blue gown and a red crown (Ḥamza, p. 61; Moǰmal, p. 37). According to a late tradition (Moǰmal, p. 464), the infant king was entombed in the land of Mēšān (Mesene).


SAHRWARAZ (620-630)

The famous Sasanian general ascended the throne after seizing the capital and deposing the young king Ardaxšīr III grandson of Xusrō II in 629/630. He is the third monarch who ascended the throne without being a member of the Sasanian dynasty in a period of less than forty years.
Šahrwarāz was one of the most famous generals in the army of Xusrō II who was not only responsible for invading Jerusalem but was later sent by Xusrō’s son Kawād II to meet with Emperor Heraclius to negotiate over the borders of the two empires. It was with the backing of the same emperor that Šahrwarāz decided to take over the throne. He seems to have been very faithful to Xusrō II since after seizing the thorn he harshly punished anyone who was involved in the deposition and later execution of the former monarch.
Šahrwarāz did not last on the throne for more than few months and was soon assassinated.

Yazdgird III

YAZDGIRD III (632-651)

The last Sasanian king and a distant relative of Xusrō II, Yazdgird III ascended the throne in 623. Given the chaotic situation of the empire, the young king was crowned not in the capital Ctesiphon but in the Anāhid temple in province of Persis, the original home of the Sasanian dynasty.
He ruled during the time of the Muslim invasion of the Sasanian Empire and therefore had to move from province to province asking for money and soldiers in order to battle the invading Arabs.
During the chaotic period of 629 to 630 the Sasanian Empire had suffered the loss of Yemen, Oman and Bahrain; soon after in 633 the Sasanian client state of Hira was taken as well and thus a buffer state between the Iranians and Arabs was removed.
In 633 the Sasanian army with Hormizd as leader was defeated by the Muslim army in the battle of D’at al-Salasel. More defeats followed and by 634 Sawād was placed under Muslim dominion.
In 636 at the battle of Madār Sasanians forces lost southern Mesopotamia to the Arab army completely. Finally in 637 the famous battle of Qadisiya took place in which the Iranian general Rustam ī Farroxzad and most of his army were killed.
The king had fled the capital and was moving toward Ray but soon after in 640 the Arabs managed to take over the heartland of Iran and the unfortunate king had no choice but to move further toward the east. After the serious insurrections of the eastern provinces of Sēstān and Kermān also resulted in defeat, the ruler (Marzbān) of Marw refused to help the runaway king. Yazdgird III is believed to have been murdered by a local miller near Marw in 651.
Edited by Mega Mania
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Payg (Infantry)

Daylami Warrior (Arteshtar-i Daylamig)

Dismounted Cavalry (Arteshtar-iPayahdag)

Kurdish Tribesmen

Archer (Kamandar-e Eransahr)

Omani Marine (Laskar-e Mazun)

2. Cavalry

Aswaran-e Dihqanan (Dihqan cavalry)

Aswaran-e Azadan (Azadan cavalry) PS: become Grivpanvar (Clibanarii) when promoted.

Lakhmid cavalry

3. Champion unit

Aswaran-e Zhayedan (Sassanid Household Cavalry)

Pushtighbane Daylamig (Daylami Guards)

Zarrin Nizagan (Golden Spearman)

Kamandar-e Zhayedan (Sassanid Household Archers)

War Elephant or Indian Corps

4. Siege

Onager (Falakan-e Majaniq)
Battering Ram
Siege Tower

5. Navy

Omani Dhow

Roman/Byzantine Dromon

6. Heroes

Kawad I

Kosrow I

Bahrām VI Čōbīn

Kosrow II


Yazdgird III

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Well, the mod was still in development phase so if there's something wrong then it is not my fault.

But i have something for the team:

Sasanian Vocab Syntx -IA-2.pdf

Horse Armor

BARGOSTVĀN, armor, specifically horse armor, a distinctive feature of Iranian warfare from very early times on. The earliest known chamfron has been excavated at Ḥasanlū from a 9th-century B.C. stratum (M. A. Littauer and J. H. Crouvel, “Ancient Iranian Horse Helmets?” Iranica Antiqua 19, 1984, pp. 41-52 pl. VIII, esp. pp. 48-49). Evidence for horse defenses made from iron ringlets, however, appears considerably later at Dura Europos. The site, within the sphere of Iranian influence, has been dated by R. Ghirshman (Parthes et Sassanides, Paris, 1962, pl. 63, p. 52) and others to second and third century A.D. A rough sketch on a wall distinctly depicts a horseman in combined mail and lame body armor mounted on a war horse in a mail caparison. Later, in the fifth or late sixth to early seventh century A.D., depending on which date is given to the rock relief at Ṭāq-e Bostān near Kermānšāh (Bāḵtarān, ibid., pp. 192-93 and pl. 235), we have a unique instance in antiquity of a king in full armor mounting a horse wearing what appears to be a heavy defense (made of iron ringlets?) covered by a layer of fabric of sorts, with tassels.

In early Islamic times the word bargost(o)vān seems to have referred essentially to chain-mail defenses. Its earliest entry in a Persian dictionary, the 8th/14th century Ṣeḥāḥ al-fors by Moḥammad b. Hendūšāh Naḵjavānī (2nd ed., ʿA.-ʿA. Ṭāʿatī, Tehran, 2535 = 1355 Š./1976, p. 233) loosely defines it as “a defense [Persian pūšeš, used with that specialized meaning] thrown on horses in wartime.” But early poetry is more informa­tive. In the Šāh-nāma, its invention is attributed to Jamšēd in a passage praising his ability to make iron soft “by Kayanian glory” (be-farr-e kayī; ed. Mohl, I, p. 39; Moscow, I, p. 39). It is frequently associated with the jowšan, which we know to be a coat of mail. When Gēv leaves the battlefield after defeating the Turanians, their bargostvāns are ripped apart (čāk-čāk,used of iron, not fabric; Šāh-nāma, ed. Mohl, III, p. 202).

In pitched battle the way to deal with the bargostvān is to use a ḵadang wood arrow. As Hajīr shoots a volley of such arrows at Andarīmān, one of them goes through the saddle and the bargostvān, killing the horse (ibid., III, p. 546). Farroḵī Sīstānī (Dīvān, ed. M. Dabīrsīāqī, Tehran, 1349 Š./1970, p. 334, vv. 6729-30) compares the asters with “. . . silver studs which for the sake of fiery battle / Are stuck on the bluish ringlets (ḡeybahā) of the bargostvān.” ʿOnṣorī at about the same time (ed. M. Dabīrsīāqī, Tehran, 1342 Š./1963, p. 253 v. 2382) writes these punning lines: “How would water stay in a sieve? So do stay/His arrows in the ringlets of the coat of mail (jowšan) and the bargostvān.” ʿAbd-al-Wāseʿ Jabalī, who died in 555/1160, coined this vivid image showing that the ringlets could still be left apparent in his day: “Until the moment when from so much blood on the body of his Šabdēz (name of Ḵosrow II’s mount in the Šāh-nāma)/The ringlets of the bargostvān became studded with garnets” (ʿAbd-al-Wāseʿ Jabalī, Dīvān, ed. Ḏ. Ṣafā, I, Qaṣāyed, Tehran, 1339 Š./1960, p. 301, where it is incorrectly noted; accurate version in Sorūrī, Majmaʿ al-fors, ed. M. Dabīrsīāqī, 3 vols., Tehran, 1338 Š./1959, I, p. 183). A famous line by Saʿdī confirms that chain mail bargostvān, which continued to be associated with the jowšan, was in common use in the 7th/13th century: “As for thee, thou art in no need of jowšan and bargostovān/On battle day, thou wrapst thyself in the mail [zereh] of the hair” (Ḡazalīyāt-e Saʿdī, ed. M. ʿA. Forūḡī, Tehran, 1342 Š./1963, p. 16).

It is difficult to ascertain at which stage a second type of bargostvān made of iron lames joined with mail and a variant made of iron scales appeared in Iran. The evidence of literary metaphors shows that they were in use at least as early as the 6th/12th century. When describing animals the anonymous author of the Sendbād-nāma (quoted under bargostvān by Dehḵodā) remarks that “the fish does not don [its] mail garment [zereh]nor the tortoise [its] bargostvān” in reference to the scale-like appearance of mail and the lamellar pattern of tortoise shell with its deep grooves separating roughly rectangular patches. The image recurs in the mid-8th/14th century in a panegyric to Shaikh AbūEsḥāq, the ruler of Fārs: “And for fear of your might, in the depths of the Indian Ocean—The fish forever wears [its] mail garment [zereh]and the tortoise its bargostvān” (ʿObayd Zākānī, Kollīyāt,ed. ʿA. Eqbāl, Tehran, 1352 Š./1963, p. 14). It is this lamellar type of horse armor that Giosafat Barbaro (q.v.), the Venetian ambassador to the court of Uzun Ḥasan, describes in a passage to which attention was drawn (with incorrect identifi­cation of the shah) by Hans Stöcklein (Survey of Persian Art VI, p. 2560, citing W. Thomas, translator of J. Barbaro and A. Contarini, Travels toTana and Persia,London, 1873, p. 66).

The two types would appear to have been used concurrently, judging from literature as well as minia­ture painting (on which see below). However, the lamellar type alone survives through a handful of specimens in Istanbul, Paris (Musée de l’Armée), New York (The Metropolitan Museum of Art), and Bern (Kunsthistorisches Museum, Charlottenfels) which have been assigned various dates (14th, 15th, 16th century) and provenances, ranging from Iran and Turkey to Mamluk Egypt. A systematic study of the extant material (some of which is composite, as those in The Metropolitan Museum) must be undertaken before putting forward any regional attributions.

A fourth type of bargostvān was constructed on the same lines as the kažāḡand—a defense only recently identified (A. S. Melikian-Chirvani, “The Westward Journey of the Kazhagand,” The Arms and Armour Society 12/1, June, 1983, pp. 8-35), mail covered with silk waste (Persian kaj/kaž)glued on and concealed from sight by brocaded silk (dibā)with a silk lining inside. The full name bargostvān-e kajīn or kažīn,literally “the silk-waste bargostvān,” was commonly shortened to either bargostvān or kajīm.The latter form is entered by Jamāl-al-Dīn Ḥosayn Enjū Šīrāzī in the Farhang-e jahāngīrī (ed. R. ʿAfīfī, 3 vols., Mašhad, 1351 Š./1972-1354 Š./1975, I, p. 715) as “bargostvān padded inside with silk waste.” Under ḡayba (ibid., II, p. 2323), the lexicographer specified that it is used for making kajīm.It is to this type that references such as Bayhaqī’s in the 5th/11th century may apply. When describing elephants in the Ghaznavid army, the Iranian historian mentions “the males with brocade bargostvāns . . .”(Tārīḵ-e Bayhaqī,ed. Adīb, p. 424, quoted by Deh­ḵodā). Things had not substantially changed on 21 Rajab 823/28 July 1420 when, in the battle opposing the Timurid army of Šāhroḵ and the Turkmen led by Qarā Yūsof, the former had “war elephants equipped with (their) armament and kajīm” (Ḥasan Rūmlū [Tehran], p. 128). A serious investigation has yet to be conducted through book painting to determine whether statistical evidence points to prevalence of any one type at a given time and, perhaps, in a given area. From a survey of the limited number of combat scenes adequately repro­duced in color, it is clear that different types would be used simultaneously. In a double page from a Ẓafar-­nāma described by authors as having been painted at Shiraz in 1436 (this writer has not seen the colophon) a bargostvān made of iron scales is mounted by Tīmūr, while the horses of an amir charging on and two other warriors wear defenses made from iron lames (The Treasures of Islam,Geneva, 1985, p. 59). In a Šāh-nāma page from a manuscript said to have been illustrated in Gīlān in 1494 (ibid., p. 63), scale armor may be seen on one horse. Lamellar horse defenses, constructed like the lamellar cuirasses (deṛʿ)worn by horsemen, also appear. Thirty years or so later, the Šāh-nāma executed for Shah Ṭahmāsb includes some very precise representations of lamellar horse defenses (ibid., pl. 52.1; 53.4), as well as of quilted defenses, stiff and heavy (with chain mail sewn inside or padding only?). Some other repre­sentations show shaped pieces of (varnished?) material that is likely to be highly resistant rhinoceros (karg)from which leather horse armor mentioned in Persian literature was made. The body of textual and visual evidence of which these are but selected examples makes it clear that the bargostvān played an important role in Iranian military tradition from pre-Islamic times down to the Safavid period. The value set upon horse defenses may be inferred from these lines in Šaraf-al-Dīn Bedlīsī’s Šaraf-nāma (V. Veliamine-Zernof, ed., Scheref-Nameh ou histoire des Kourdes par Scheref, prince de Bidlis,St. Petersburg, 1862, II [Persian], p. 252): “At the time when Shah Esmāʿīl (II) entrusted this writer with inspecting the treasury (ḵazīna),the central reserve (bayt-al-māl),and the other possessions of the late shah (Ṭahmāsb), there were in the armory . . . the arms and outfit (asleḥa wa yarāq) for thirty thousand horsemen, consisting of cuirasses (jobba), coats of mail (jowšan), kajīm,and bargostvān.”

J. W. Allan’s recent assertion (Persian Metal Technology 700-1300 A.D., Oxford, 1979, p. 96) à propos of “horse-armour” (Persian bargostvān,Arabic tajāfīf [sic]; the writer inexplicably uses the plural of Arabic tijfāf)to the effect that “the emphasis on speed and mobility in the Islamic period probably led this item of equipment to fall into disuse in Iran: there are certainly very few references to horse-armour in Iran after the [Arab] conquests (though see Fakhr-i Mudabbir [sic] pp. 216, 260-1)” cannot be maintained, considering the multiple evidence of Iranian lexicography, poetry, his­tory, and book painting to the contrary.


SPEAR in Eastern Iran.

Spear (Av. aršti- ‘spear,’ OPers. aršti ‘throwing weapon’ or ‘javelin’) is mentioned in the Avesta several times (AirWb., col. 205). It also occupies the first place in the list of weapons given in Vid. 14.9. Spears are sometimes provided with the epithet “long” (Yt. 10.102 and Yt. 17.12). In addition to spears being long, the Mihr-Yašt contains several other descriptions of spears: “well-made spears with sharp blades” (Yt. 10.130); “well-sharpened spears, keen and long-shaft” (Yt. 10.39); “well-sharpened spear heads” (Yt. 10.24, meaning the spear points: tiži.arštim darəγa.ārəštaēm; see Gershevitch, pp. 84-85; Malandra, p. 270; Tafazzoli, p. 187). The spear head (or spear point) was called šanman- (Abl. Plur. šanmaoiiō, Yt. 10.24). It is interesting to note that the term bitaēγa-, used in the Avesta to describe a double-blade object, later came to denote a sharp spear blade in the Middle Persian (Henning, 1964, pp. 41-43). The word used to describe a spear (aršti-) was evidently common (in its corresponding forms) in all ancient Iranian languages.

The Old Persian used the same word aršti- for denoting both a spear and a javelin. Besides, there were also words ārštika- (‘armed with a spear’ according to Kent and ‘fighting with a spear’ according to Mayrhofer) and arštibara (‘the one who bears a spear’ according to both Kent and Mayrhofer; see Kent, 1953, s.v.; Brandenstein and Mayrhofer, 1964, p. 106).

Tube-type bronze spearheads were widely spread in Central Asia in the Bronze Age, especially in the second half of the 2nd millennium-early 1st millennium BCE. They were made in different regions across Central Asia. In Semirech’e, bronze spearheads continued to be in use until the Saka times. Thus, the Issyk treasure yielded a bronze spearhead which has a lancet-shaped blade with a longitudinal rib along it and a cylindrical tube. The spearhead is 34.4 cm long, and its blade is 4 cm wide.

Irons spearheads are rare finds in Central Asian burials, which makes them different from the Scythian burials. One of such finds—a long and narrow spear with a lancet-shaped blade—comes from the Pamirs burial of Tegermansu I, burial mound 31. The blade has a convex rib; the tube narrows toward its upper part and has a vertical longitudinal slit. The analogies and the complex of finds allow to suppose that the spearhead from the Pamirs, which has a narrow lancet-type shape but also a central rib, should most probably be datable to the 6th-5th centuries B.C.E. (Litvinskiǐ, 1972, p. 109).

Iron spearheads of two types have been found in the Ay Khanum (Āy Ḵānom) arsenal. Judging by their reproductions (Grenet, Liger, and de Valence, p. 54, pt. XXXVI/b) they are two-blade, tube-type, and have a middle rib going along the blade. The shape of the blade could vary. One of the above spearhead types has a triangular blade (one of the facets is straight, the other slightly convex [Author: what about the third facet?]), which transforms to the cylindrical tube by two slanted concave arcs. Several tube-type spearheads have also been found in the redans of the temple. Two practically intact samples have blades of under-triangular shape with very slightly convex facets and a massive profile rib (Francfort, pts. 24, 33).

Greek sources often mention the use of the spear (called in Greek aikhmē or zustón) by the peoples of Central Asia and also by peoples from the adjacent regions. The “short spear” (Gk. aikhmē brakhéa) was known most of all. The Bactrians had it, and—among the peoples who were armed in the Bactrian manner—so did the Parthians, Choresmians, Sogdians, Areians, peoples who lived behind the Hindukush (the Gandhārians and the Dards), and, besides that, the Hyrkanians as well. Authors of Antiquity obviously had in mind precisely such short spears, when they wrote about the “spear with a throwing belt” (Gk. meságkhulon) as a weapon used by the Bactrians, Sogdians, and Areians and when they opposed it to the long Macedonian spear. Moreover, Arrian once specifically mentioned the use of projectile spears among the Areians. Of the peoples mentioned above, only those who lived behind the Hindukush (the Aspásioi) are reported to have used the “long spear” (Gk. zustòn makrón, see Arrian, An. 4, 23).

The spear was widely used by the Massagetae, who were called “spear-bearers” (Gk. aikhmophóroi; Herodotus 1.215). Their spears had copper (Gk. khalkȭi) tips. Descriptions of the Derbikes that present them as doubles of the Massagetae mention their spears (hastae) the front parts of which (praefixae) were covered with copper (aere) or iron (ferro; see Litvinskiǐ and P’yankov, 1966, p. 40).

The reverse of many coins minted by Greco-Bactrian kings contain representations of divine horsemen with a spear. Spears had spearheads and protectors on the butt ends to prevent their splitting in battle. The length of these spears varied from 1.7 to 4.5 m (Curiel and Fussman, 1965, passim; Bopearachchi, 1991, passim). Spears can be seen on coins of Indo-Scythian rulers as well (Whitehead, 1914/1969, passim; Bachhofer, 1943, passim).

Judging by the iconography and the finds from the temple of the Oxus, the spear remained an important type of offensive weapons under the Kushans. The temple of the Oxus yielded about 150 iron spearheads, all of them tube-type and double-blade. They were prevailingly laurel-leaf shaped and triangular-leaf shaped with a protruding convex rib going along the blade; their length varied within the limits of 22-32 cm. All spears had cylindrical or conical iron butt tubes usually sharpened at the end. The forms of the tubes varied, some were more elaborated. The tubes were put on the rear end of the spear shaft, and their designation was to protect the shaft against splitting and, when necessary, to be used for striking the enemy. The temple of the Oxus also yielded javelins with iron tips (10 to 20 cm long). These were of tube type or hafted, but their number is noticeably smaller (Litvinskiǐ, 2001, pp. 119-65).

The analysis of the spearheads originating from ancient Eastern Iran and Central Asia leads to the conclusion that they continued the Central Asian tradition of weapons which goes back to the Bronze Age. Yet, the influence of the Achaemenid types of weapons is noticeable in the 6th-4th centuries BCE, and that of the Hellenistic types of weapons in the 5th-2nd centuries BCE (Litvinskiǐ, 2001, pp. 165-200).

Judging by the iconographic materials, in particular those from the Orlat burial ground dated to the early 3rd century CE (Ilyasov and Rusanov, 1997-98, pp. 119-120, pts. IV-V), spears were used in both infantry and cavalry combat.

Later, in the 5th-8th centuries, hafted spears were used together with the tube-type ones, whose striking part had three or four facets (Panjikant). A javelin head was found in Adjina-tepa as well. Wall paintings and toreutics contain representations of spear-bearers, their tournaments, and battles of groups of mounted spear-bearers (Raspopova, 1980, pp. 74-75).

Written sources testify that in the Islamic times the spear was one of the main types of weapons. Some of the Ghaznavid rulers (see GHAZNAVIDS) were famous for their skills in spear fighting. Sebuktegin (r. 977-97) was such one, Maḥmud (r. 998-1030) was an excellent spear fighter too, and his son Masʿud (r. 1030-40) would fight with a short spear whose tip was poisoned (Bosworth, 1973, p. 120). Narrative sources and paintings in manuscripts of the 15th-18th centuries, as well as objects exhibited in museums, testify that spears survived in Eastern Iran up until the modern times.


SHIELD in Eastern Iran

In Lurestan, a round bronze shield was found, which has a skirting along the edge, an umbo in the center, and relief depictions of fantastic creatures. This shield, datable to the 10th century BCE, is one of the most ancient of the metal shields found in Iran (Melikian-Chirvani, pp. 6-8, fig. 2). Shield had been known to the Eastern Iranians since olden days. The term spāra-dāšta (‘the one who carries a shield’) occurs in the Avesta twice (Yt. 13.35 and Yt. 19.54; see Jackson, p. 116; cf. AirWb., col. 1618; Malandra, p. 285). Another Avestan designation of the shield is vərəδδra (AirWb., col. 1421). The Ossetic wart (according to V. I. Abaev) or ūart (according to G. Bailey) belongs to a large group of words deriving from the ancient Indo-Iranian word var (or war) which means ‘cover,’ ‘protection.’ ; From it also derive one of the Avestan terms for the designation of the shield vərəδraδra, the Ancient-Iranian *vrədra ; (‘shield’), the Armenian (borrowed from Iranian) vahan (shield), and the Pahlavi vartīk, gartīk (protective cloths). To the same family of words also belongs the Khotanese-Sakan baṭha which means ‘protective chain-mail,’ ‘coat of mail’ (Bailey, pp. 110-12; Abaev, pp. 50-51). In the Ancient-Persian, the term *taka was used to designate the shield. In the opinion of the linguists, this term can probably be etymologized with the Ancient Greek sakhos ncient-Greekσαχος ; (“shield”), the Vedic ; tvand the Vedic tvàk meaning ‘leather,’ ‘fur,’ and, apparently, ‘shield’ (see Brandenstein and Mayrhofer, p. 144). The symbolics of the shield in the Iranian world is first of all connected with the Sun and the heavens.

The authors of the Antiquity knew about the existence of several types of shields among the Central Asian peoples (for the Middle-Persian terminology see Tafazzoli, pp. 190 [magind] and 192 [spar]). Thus, Arrian designates the shield of the Sakas by the term Uerron (Υέρρον (Arrian, Anabasis 4.4.4), presuming a braid shield or a light shield tightly covered with leather. In the imagination of the Greeks, the sakhos shield was invented by the Sakas, which was probably a result of theshield” (σαχος) was invented by the Saks. Maybe, this was the result of the juxtaposing the tribal name with the designation of the shield in the Greek language. The basis for the appearing of such people’s etymology must have been the acquaintance of the Greeks with the weapons of the Sakan tribes (Litvinskiǐ and P’yankov, p. 43; Litvinskiǐ, 1972, pp. 128-29).

Real findings of the shields in Bactria, as well as in the entire Central Asia, are not numerous. In the Saka burials of the middle of the 1st millennium BCE, which were excavated in the eastern Pamirs, remains of several shields have been found. The shields were made of wood (latticed or braid of twigs), and then this frame was tightly covered with leather. Sometimes, shields were made by fixing three layers of leather onto a carcass made of twigs. Similar twig-braided shields of round, rectangular, and other shapes, tightly covered with leather or raw ox-hides, had been widely spread in ancient times. The Scythes from mountainous Altai had shields, which consisted of pieces of leather with wooden sticks of round cross-section braided into them (Litvinskiǐ, 1972, p. 128 where further bibliography is given).

Thus, for example, one of the shields of the Pamiri Sakas represented “a rectangular frame of 1.4 by 1.5 m made of billets with six cross-bars. The two middle bars were positioned close to each other for the fixation of the handle, and the remaining space was filled by braided sea-buckthorn twigs. The shield was tightly covered with leather” (Bernshtam, p. 126, fig. 6). There is a credible suggestion that this was a trophy or an imported Achaemenid shield, or a Saka imitation of the latter (Gorelik, p. 188).

Already in the Achaemenid epoch, and especially in the Hellenistic times, shields of Hellenistic origin had appeared and spread in Iran. One of such shields was found in the Temple of the Oxus. The shield was wooden with metal components. Around the edge, it was tightened by a bronze rim, and in the center it had a bronze umbo in the shape of a disk with an elevated part. The shield had a diameter of 56.5 cm.

The emblem in the shape of the three running legs has received the name triskele (Gk. triskelēs τρισκελησ, “three legs‘three legs’) in scholarship. Depictions of shields with such emblem are known for the Greek vase-painting of the period from the middle of the 6th to the beginning of the 5th centuries BCE, as well as for Athenian coins. The structure of the shield from the Temple of the Oxus is more close to the depictions of the triskele on the Athenian coins minted in the second half of the 6th century BCE (up to 510 BCE). It is possible, however, that this shield was not made in Greece, but it rather represents a local Bactrian copy of a much later time.

Besides the shields with the triskele, other types of shields were also spread in the Eastern Iran, which had come from the Mediterranean, like the shield of the tureos (Gk. dureos) tureosτυρεός) type. Remains of a shield of this type were found in the Temple of the Oxus; they include an umbo of elongated rhomboid shape with a relief rib along its long axis. In its central part, the rib has the shape of a raised relief oval with rays-arrows spreading along the long axis. The length of the umbo is 28 cm. A depiction of such shield held by an unmounted warrior is presented in the scene of the battle of Alexander with the Achaemenid troops, which is engraved on an ivory plate found in the Temple of the Oxus. Shields of this type were apparently in the Ay-Khanum (Āy Ḵānom) as well; their depiction on the terracotta from Begram is known, and a special type is depicted on the terracotta from Kampyr-tepe near Termez. This type of the shield was brought to the Mediterranean by the Galls. In the beginning of the 3rd century BCE they appeared in Greece and then, starting from the Seleucid times, in Persia (Litvinskiǐ, 2001, pp. 360-77).

This was an oval shield with an oval vertical rib at whose center they used to place a spindle-like umbo, often of elongated-rhomboid or elongated-lens shape. Judging by the depictions, the shield proper had the shape of an elongated oval with the length to width ratio equal to 2:1. Such shields were evidently provided with a wooden base covered on top by a metal plate. They were mainly used by the infantry and covered the warrior from the shoulders to the lower part of the legs.

Depictions of such shields originating from various Seleucid cities of the Near East are known. The Parthian warrior, embodied in the terracotta statuette from Nineveh, holds the shield of the tureos type by his left hand (Sekunda, tabl. 27 and 46; Eiland, p. 59, fig. 1). Therefore, shields of the tureos type were spread in the Mesopotamia and, as it becomes clear now, more to the east in Bactria as well (Litvinskiǐ, 2001, pp. 378-81; Nikonorov, 2003, pp. 109-12).

Oval shields were found during excavations at some Hellenistic sites of the Central Asia. Scarcity of data on these shields does not allow defining their typological identity with any level of accuracy. Two shields were found at the Ay-Khanum arsenal. Strictly speaking, archaeologists found some imprints of the color coating of these shields on the soil in the form of the finest color film. One of the shields was oval, with reconstructable length of 1.3 m and width of 0.64 m. Judging by the hollow in the center, the shield had an umbo, and a border of palmettes went along the edge. There are traces of a standing figure. The decoration of the shield was made by yellow, red, black, and azure colors. The second shield was round (diameter 1.15 m) and decorated by concentric circular bands of black, yellow, and red colors (Grenet, Liger, and de Valence, pp. 59-60, tabl. XXIII and XXXVIc).

Along with the types described above, other types of shields were spread in Greco-Bactria, as proved by depictions of shields on the Greco-Bactrian coins. Thus, the reverse of a series of coins of Menandr ;I Soter (r. ca. 155-130 BCE) has the depiction of Athena Alkidemos holding a shield (Mitchiner, pp. 122-25, type 214-19; Bopearachchi, tabl. 27-29, series 7-16; Bopearachchi and Aman ur Rahman, p. 116, nos. 310-19). Big-size shields were often convex, with a flat border by the edge. The convex part was sometimes covered by protruding lumps. There is a large depiction of the shield (front view) on the reverse of the coins of the series 17 (Bopearachchi). The shield is round, with a narrow border; its main part is convex. The field of the shield is decorated by the head of Gorgona (Bopearachchi, pp. 237-38, tabl. 31, ser. 17-19; Bopearachchi and Aman ur Rahman, p. 122, no. 390; see also Mitchiner, p. 137, type 246). Athena Alkimedos is shown holding the shield of this type on the coins of Straton ;I (ca. 125-110 BCE; see Bopearachchi, tabl. 35-37).

Shields with metal carcass were found at Nisa (Masson, 1955, p. 46). Of the same origin is the “ceremonial oval shield decorated in the middle by large iron straps in the shape of the trident and, along the perimeter of the circle, by two dozens of alternating peculiar palmettes and by standing eagles with slightly open wings” (Masson and Pugachenkova, p. 21). The ceremonial shield from Nisa has attracted attention of researchers, and its ornamentation has been studied in detail (Koshelenko, p. 121-22; Invernizzi, pp. 117-28, fig. 55, tabl. G/b–d). An imprint of a colored layer of an object with traces of gilding and with a ring of 11.5 cm in diameter painted by crimson paint was also fount at Nisa (Masson and Pugachenkova, p. 26). Taking into account the findings at Ay-Khanum discussed above, one can presume that the imprint at Nisa is also that of a painted shield. Depictions of shields on coins are related to time close to the discussed period. These shields are round and have a wide umbo, or sometimes they are oval and have a raised human mask at the place of the umbo (Nikonorov, 1997, II, p. 9, fig. 23/f–j).

The shape of the Kushanian shield is well visible on the depictions from burial 3 at Tillya-tepe (Sarianidi, p. 31, tabl. 72b, 81-84).

Shields of later times, the 7th to the 9th centuries, are known through their depictions in wall paintings and by a unique finding of the shield of the late 7th-early 8th century at the castle on the Mug Mountain. The middle part of a wooden shield of rounded shape was found there, with diameter of 61 cm and thickness of 1.1 cm in the center and 0.6 cm at the edges. The shield consists of planks, 6 cm wide, which were glued onto each other and additionally fixed by metal rivets. Metal binding passed by the edge of the shield, and parchment was glued onto it from both sides. A metal handle was fixed to the rear side by tacks. The front side of the shield contains a painting of an armed horse-rider. The shield apparently belonged to a warlord and was several times used in battles. It has traces of arrows, but none of the latter pierced the shield through.

Some battle scenes of the wall paintings contain depictions of shields. The latter are evidently wooden shields, tightly covered with painted leather, with iron binding by the edge. The central metal umbo and four metal badges at the edge are present. The metal parts, judging by the painting, were gilded (Raspopova, pp. 85-86).

In the Islamic times, shields were among the widespread types of weapons. In the 10th-12th centuries, shields were made of wood (tightly covered with leather) and metal (Bosworth, 1973, p. 119). Shields are frequently mentioned in written sources of the 15th-17th centuries. This concerns both metal shields and wooden shields tightly covered with leather of black or multi-color painting. The typology and chronology of these shields have not been worked out yet.


ARMOR. In this article the following terms are used with specific definition: Lamellar armor—armor built up of small rectangular plates laced together both horizontally and vertically; Laminated armor—armor built up of metal strips. Mail—armor built up of interlocking metal rings. Scalearmor—armor built up of small metal scales laced to a backing material and horizontally to one another.

The earliest armor fragments yet found in Iran come from the western part of the country and date from the late 2nd and early 1st millennium B.C. From Čoḡā (Tchoga) Zanbīl come bronze scales from a suit of scale armor (R. Ghirshman, Tchoga Zanbil, Paris, 1966, pl. LV. 4), from Mārlīk and elsewhere come helmets of conical shape or of hemispherical form with a narrow brim, from Luristan an abdomen plaque of sheet bronze, from the west and northwest of the country sheet bronze discs probably used as body armor (R. Moorey, Catalogue of the Ancient Persian Bronzes in the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, 1971, pp. 249-57), and from Ḥasanlū triangular pieces of bronze shoulder armor (R. H. Dyson, “The Death of a City,” Expedition 2/3, 1960, p. 10). These various finds suggest that in the Zagros area armor probably consisted of heavy cloth with sheet metal pieces sewn on to protect the more vital parts of the body, and it is possible that some of the objects described by authorities as shield bosses were in fact breast plates designed to be attached in the same way, or perhaps to be worn on straps like Assyrian ones.

The main evidence for the form of armor used under the Achaemenids comes from Xenophon and Herodotus. Xenophon in his Cyropaedia (6.4.1; 7.1.2) describes the guard of Cyrus the Great as having bronze breastplates and helmets, while their horses wore bronze chamfrons and poitrels together with shoulder pieces (parameridia) which also protected the rider’s thighs. Xenophon gives a similar description of the cavalry guard of Cyrus the Younger in 401 B.C. (Anabasis 1.8.6) but Herodotus (7.61-88) in his description of the army of Xerxes which invaded Greece in 480 B.C. suggests that the Medes and Persians were more lightly armored, with iron scale armor for infantry and horsemen, iron helmets for the horsemen only and no horse armor. The parameridia mentioned by Xenophon has been identified by Bernard with the armor covering for a horseman’s leg shown on a Lycian sarcophogus, and the use of scale armor has been confirmed by finds at Persepolis which included numerous iron scales, some large enough to have been used for horse armor, and a few bronze and gold-plated iron ones (E. Schmidt, Persepolis, Chicago, 1957, p. 100, pl. 77).

The most instructive evidence for the development of armor under the Parthians comes from Dura-Europos. There the excavators found depictions or remains of the following types of armor: laminated armor (vambraces and greaves of graffito horseman); splint armor (body armor of graffito horseman); scale armor (numerous iron scales found on site, three housings found in Tower 19, chest armor of graffito horseman and his horse’s trapper); mail (corselet found on site). The depiction of the overthrow of Ardavān V by Ardašīr I near Fīrūzābād (ca. 225 A.D.) confirms that a wide variety of armor was in use at the time (Bivar, “Cavalry Equipment,” figs. 6, 7, 10; Russell Robinson, Oriental Armour, fig. 9), see Figure 16. The Parthians wear laminated and scale armor, while the Sasanians wear mail body armor and vambraces, laminated greaves, and in one case a breastplate. The horses do not appear to have any metal protection but a description of an early 3rd-century cataphract given by Heliodorus (Aethiopica 9.15) confirms that the horses were often covered with an armored housing together with chamfron and estivals.

It is evident therefore that mail must have been introduced (from Rome) prior to 225 A.D., and it became more and more popular thereafter amongst the Sasanian cavalry. A cameo of Šāpūr I capturing Valerian shows that varieties of armor were still common in the later 3rd century, since Šāpūr here wears only a small breastplate, a short scale skirt, and laminated thigh armor, but Ammianus Marcellinus’ description of the Persian cavalry encountered by Julian’s army in A.D. 363 (Persian Expedition 25.1) suggests that mail was by then becoming more general. It is certainly this form of armor which is depicted in such detail on the relief of Ḵosrow II at Ṭāq-e Bostān (Figure 17) Ḵosrow wears a coat of mail and a large veil-like mail aventail, which hangs from the round helmet to the upper part of the coat of mail leaving only the eyes visible. The horse on the other hand has its head, neck, and chest protected by lamellar armor, and its rear quarters quite unprotected. The great increase in the weight of armor carried by the Parthian and Sasanian heavy cavalry led to the introduction of a special breed of horse, but at the same time there were modifications to give greater mobility through reducing the armor where possible: hence the substitution of poitrel, crinet, and chamfron at Ṭāq-e Bostān for the complete horse barding. Alternatively the metal bardings were replaced by housings of leather or felt as depicted on the Bahrām II relief at Naqš-e Rostam. The continuing use in later Sasanian times of different varieties of armor is illustrated by the discovery of a number of 5th-8th-century gilt bronze cuirass lamellae at Qaṣr-e Abū Naṣr in Fārs (Grancsay, “A Sasanian Chieftain,” figs. 13-14). The five Sasanian helmets published by Grancsay suggest that the most common form was a rounded cone shape with iron segments and browband, and other bands and rivets of bronze. They probably share a common Near Eastern ancestor with the spangenhelms of the barbarian invaders of Europe.

The nature of the armor used in Iran in early Islamic times is by no means clear. According to Schwarzlose the Arabs at the time of the conquests wore a rather simple form of armor, either of leather or mail, and a full-length coat of mail evidently gave way to a shorter style early in the Islamic period. Two coats of mail were occasionally used for extra protection. Helmets were either of metal plates or mail. Mail was riveted. Early Arab authors mention both Persian armor, presumably that current in the late Sasanian period, and also armor from Sogd. The latter can be reconstructed from the Panjikent wall paintings and a silver dish in the Hermitage. According to the wall paintings the Sogdian soldier dressed in a long armor coat, sometimes totally of mail, but more usually lamellar, with mail armor on the upper arm and mail avental. He also wore mail leggings, and plate vambraces, and the close-fitting helmet was topped by a long spike (A. M. Belenitskiĭ and B. B. Petrovskiĭ, Skul’ptura i zhivopis’ drevnego Pyandzhikenta, Moscow, 1959, pls. VII, VIII, XVI; A. Yu. Yakubovskiĭ et al., Zhivopis’ drevnego Pyandzhikenta, Moscow, 1954, pl. XXV). The two soldiers on the Hermitage dish, on the other hand (Figure 18) (I. Orbeli and C. Trever, Orfèverie sasanide, Moscow and Leningrad, 1935, pl. XXI), have mail vambraces, shorter lamellar coats, laminated leg and foot armor, and plate hand guards. They also have round shields. A roughly contemporary shield fragment from Mug shows a horseman in a long coat of what must be lamellar armor with tubular plate vambraces (Yakubovskiĭ et al., op. cit., pl. V). Sogdian horses do not appear to have worn armored bardings, nor did the Arabs during the conquests, when mobility was at a premium.

Against this background the meager information on armor provided by texts and objets d’art of the early Islamic period becomes considerably more meaningful. For instance it becomes quite plausible to interpret the costumes worn by horsemen on Iraqi 9th-10th-century lustre pottery (Survey of Persian Art, pls. DLXXVII, DLXXIX) as coats of mail or lamellar armor and pointed helmets. In Iran there is one reasonably good surviving depiction of armor, on the late 12-century mīnāʾī dish in the Freer Gallery of Art (E. Atil, Ceramics from the World or Islam, Washington, 1973, no. 50) where the picture of the battle scene includes four sets of armor lying on the ground, evidently stripped from fallen warriors as loot (Figure 19). All are in one piece, with a short skirt-like lower half, and long sleeves, and the drawing of them suggests that two are of mail, the third is lamellar, and the fourth is probably quilted. The helmets (Persian ḵūd; Arabic meḡfar) depicted on this dish are fairly flat with a slight central point, similar to those on a mīnāʾī and lustre tile of the same period (Survey, pl. DCCVI).

A longer form of armor coat is mentioned by implication in a passage in Jūzǰānī, who relates that during a battle between the Ghurids and the Ghaznavids in 544/1149-50 two champions dismounted from their elephants and fastened up the skirts of their armor coats before starting to fight (dāmanhā-ye zereh bāz zadand) (Jūzǰānī, Ṭabaqāt, ed. Lees, Calcutta, 1864, p. 55). From this it seems clear that in eastern Iran in the 12th century the mounted soldiers’ normal armor coat had a fairly long skirt which hampered the warrior when he had dismounted.

Although horse-armor (bargostovān) was not popular, elephant armor (bargostovān-e pīl) was widely used in eastern Iran under the Ghaznavids and Ghurids (Bosworth, Ghaznavids, pp. 116-19; Jūzǰānī, op. cit., p. 55). The animals were covered with armor except under their bellies and wore metal head pieces known as the āyīna-ye pīl which not only served as protection in battle but could also be hit or clanged to alarm the enemy.

The existence of certain other pieces of armor may be surmised. Thus, the word ǰowšan occurs regularly in the literature, often alongside zereh and deṛʿ, showing that breastplates continued to be manufactured and used. The same is probably true of greaves, called by Ṭabarī sāqayn and by Baḷʿamī sāʿedayn (Bivar, “Cavalry Equipment,” p. 291), though the latter strictly speaking means vambraces, and vambraces proper, sāʿedayn (Jāḥeẓ, al-Bayānwa’l-tabyīn, ed. Sondūbī, Cairo, 1947, III, p. 15).

The general dearth of illustrations of armor prior to the Mongol invasions is due firstly to the lack of illustrated manuscripts, and secondly to the fashion of covering armor with a colored surcoat. This fashion may date from 544/1149-50 in which year Jūzǰānī records that ʿAlāʾ-al-dīn Ḥosayn, the Ghurid ruler, put a crimson surcoat over his armor and thereby caused much amazement among his courtiers—though it may have been the color that caused the surprise (Jūzǰānī, op. cit., pp. 55-56).

Following the Mongol invasions and the influx of large numbers of Mongol warriors the fashion in armor changed. Mongol armor, according to the mid-13th-century Papal ambassador to the court of Güyüg Khan, Carpini, consisted of a steel helmet, leather neck and throat guards, and leather or more rarely iron armor. The latter consisted of large numbers of strips about six inches by three inches held by leather thongs and arranged one above the other (The Texts and Versions of John de Plano Carpini and Wm. de Rubruquis, ed. C. R. Beazley, London, 1903, p. 124). Such lamellar armor is common in miniatures of the 14th century, notably in the surviving illustrations to Rašīd-al-dīn’s Jāmeʿ al-tawārīḵ (D. Talbot-Rice, The Illustrations to the “World History” of Rashīd-al-dīn, Edinburgh, 1976), and was evidently the standard form in Iran under the Il-khans (Figure 20). Lamellar coats were sometimes fastened all the way up the front, sometimes only up to the waist; and the skirt had two slits at the back to make a back flap for comfortable riding. Rašīd-al-dīn gives some interesting information about the organization of the armor industry under Ḡāzān Khan (r. 694-703/1295-1340) though there is unfortunately no earlier or later description of the industry with which it can be constructively compared (A. C. M. D’Ohsson, Histoire des Mongols, The Hague and Amsterdam, 1834-35, IV, pp. 431-32).

During the rest of the 14th century the Mongol fashion was gradually modified and other forms of armor became more popular. The now dispersed Demotte Šāh-nāma, for instance, contains miniatures depicting various soldiers or heroes wearing combinations of the following: plate helmets, lamellar, plate or mail aventails, plate greaves and shoes, long lamellar coats, and lamellar cuirasses. Plate vambraces also appear in manuscript illustrations in the second half of the 14th century. Fashion in the provinces may have varied somewhat from the metropolitan model—for instance Shiraz manuscripts of the Īnǰū (8th/14th) period indicate the use of short mail and lamellar coats.

No horse armor appears in any of the published miniatures of the Il-khanid period, although both Carpini and the Armenian historian Haithon claim that Mongol horses wore armor. If it was not common during the early 14th century it certainly returned to popularity in the later 14th century, being depicted in Shiraz manuscripts from the 1390s and in Tabrīz Šāh-nāma fragments of the 1370s. Lamellar barding with a plate chamfron was apparently the norm. In early 15th-century Shiraz manuscripts laminated, studded, and mail bardings are also shown, and the former appear in the Solṭān Jūkī Šāh-nāma, illustrated in Herat in about 1440, now in the Royal Asiatic Society (Figure 21). The elephants shown in the latter are not armored.

For the next century or so our knowledge of Persian armor fashion is dependent on further miniature paintings. This raises problems since the illustrations may have followed earlier styles rather than contemporary fashions. However, the following features seem reasonably certain. By the end of the 14th century handguards had become part of the arm defense, attached to the vambrace, and by the early 15th century armor for the knee joint had become more complex, with plate discs for the knees set in mail surrounds (e.g. illustrations in the Šāh-nāma of Ebrāhīm Solṭān in the Bodleian Library) (Figure 22). Mail aventails with plate ear-pieces attached to the plate helmets were also standard pieces of equipment by now, and surcoats commonly hid the body armor. Long mail coats are occasionally depicted. From manuscripts from Herat of the early 15th century one might summarize standard as follows: plate helmet, mail Timurid armor aventail, plate ear-pieces, plate vambraces with handguards, short lamellar coat, plate knee plates and greaves with mail joints, and plate shoes.

However, one important variety of armor unrecorded since pre-Islamic times also makes its reappearance in the early 15th century: laminated armor. This is depicted in the Solṭān Jūkī Šāh-nāma where men are portrayed with plates encircling their bodies from armpits to waist, with mail above and below, the plates sometimes forming a coat, at other times a cuirass. Armor of this sort became widespread in the Islamic Near East and was particularly widely used in the Turkish and Mamluk states. In Iran it continued to be popular well into the 16th century (see f. 279 in the Tabrīz Ḵamsa of Neẓāmī of 1525 in The Metropolitan Museum, in B. Gray, Persian Painting, Skira, 1961, p. 128, and the Houghton Šāh-nāma, f. 671), and laminated horse bardings were also used (see miniature from 1529 Ẓafar-nāma in Stöcklein, pl. MCDIX D, E). The origin of this style is by no means certain, and a Persian source can not be proved.

The next important change in fashion probably occurred during the 16th century—the introduction of the čahār-āyīna, literally four mirrors, which was a cuirass of four large curved plates which was buckled or hinged round the wearer’s body. It derived from the age-old use of breast plates. These are very rarely shown in manuscript illustrations but were sometimes probably sewn into a soldier’s clothing. Russell Robinson has suggested that the circular plate shown in 16th century miniatures is a convention representing the central plate of a cuirass, just as the rectangular or hexagonal plate shown in 17th-century miniatures represents the full čahār-āyīna which was by then standard (Figure 23, Figure 24). The earliest dated example of a cuirass of four rectangular plates so far published is that in the Royal Scottish Museum dated 1114/1702. The continued popularity of the style is indicated by the čahār-āyīna in the Wallace Collection, which bears the name of Fatḥ-ʿAlī Shah Qāǰār and the date 1224/1809.

A wide variety of helmets are depicted in Il-khanid miniatures but from the late 14th century all are basically conical. Warriors’ faces are almost without exception shown unprotected but there is evidence to indicate that a mail veil, part of the complete aventail, was often used. Surviving 17th-century helmets with their characteristic quadrangular spikes and plume holders often retain their original aventails which include a mail band round the upper face. Such helmets are also equipped with nasals. The reduction in helmet size at this period may have led to the fashion of tying a scarf around the outside of the helmet to help defray the heat of the sun, replacing the greater quantity of internal padding possible on the larger, earlier models.

From the late 14th century onwards the usual shield was circular, with a slightly convex profile, and made of cane. This was ideal for horsemen, and was only replaced by a stronger material, namely steel, with the introduction of firearms, from the 16th century onwards. It was probably firearms which led to the abandonment of horse armor at about the same time, since the amount of steel needed would have made the movement of horsemen in battle quite impossible.

As regards production, early texts suggest that in the pre-Mongol period most Persian armor was produced in Khorasan (Ebn al-Faqīh, p. 316; Ḥamdānī, Ketāb al-ǰawharataynal-ʿatīqatayn, ed. and tr. C. Toll, Uppsala, 1968, fol. 25a; Jāḥeẓ, Ketāb al-tabaṣṣor be’l-teǰāra, ed. H. H. ʿAbd-al-Wahhāb, La Revue de l’Académie Arabe 12, 1932, p. 345; Ḥodūd al-ʿālam, p. 110), and Transoxiana (Moqaddasī, p. 325), and the important role of Ḡūr in armor production is emphasized by Jūzǰānī (pp. 40, 47, 59). Under the Il-khanids Rašīd-al-dīn’s description of the industry already cited seems to indicate widespread manufacturing on a small scale, while recentralization, in the northeast, was evidently the policy of Tīmūr. During the Safavid period, at least from the time of Shah ʿAbbās, Isfahan became the key city for the production of both armor and arms.

Battle Axe

BATTLE-AXES in Eastern Iran. Battle-axes made of bronze appeared in Eastern Iran during the Bronze Age. One such object comes from a burial at the Sapalli-tepa settlement in southern Uzbekistan. It has a shaft-hole, an elongated hammer butt, and its cutting edge largely widens towards the lower side. It is dated to the middle of the second millennium BCE (Askarov, p. 72, pl. XXVII/2). Battle-axes remained in use throughout antiquity and the Middle Ages (Litvinsky, 2001, pp. 418-24).

The Avesta contains information about battle-axes called čakuš; the description of Mithra’s chariots in Yašt 10.131 mentions “well made double-edged iron axes” (Gershevitch, p. 139; cf. Jackson, p. 116; Herzfeld, II, p. 783). Yašt 1.18 also mentions battle-axes among other weapons. In both cases, the term čakuš is used, and its exact New Persian correspondence is čākoš, (‘hammer’ or ‘mallet’; see Jackson, p. 116; Malandra, p. 273). In Tajik, čakuš means ‘hammer’ or ‘mallet’; the verb čukidan means ‘to hammer’ or ‘to thresh’, and čukanda stands for ‘hand threshing tool.’ ; In the Old Persian, the terms isuvā (of unknown etymology, see Brandenstein and Mayrhofer, p. 127; Kent, p. 174), and, probably, vaçā (Malandra, p. 281) were used to describe battle-axes.

Another reconstructable Old Persian term for the axes, namely *paraθu, goes back to the common Iranian *parasu (Abaev, p. 451; Bailey, pp. 13-14). For the battle-axe, Middle Persian used the term čakuš, as well as tabar and tabarzēn (Tafazzoli, pp. 188 and 192).

To describe the pole-axes used by the Central Asian people, Greek authors used the term sagaris (Litvinskiǐ and P’yankov, p. 39). Copper pole-axes of the Massagetae (Herodotus, 9.215; Strabo, 9.8.6) and those of the Sakas (Herodotus, 7.64) are known. Quintus Curtius mentions double-blade pole-axes used by the Barkanians (Girkanians; see Curtius, 3.2.5).

Archeological excavations at the sites of Central Asian nomads have produced metal battle-axes used by the Sakas and the Massagetae. A whole series of such battle-axes derives from the Sakas burials in the eastern Pamirs (Litvinskiǐ, 1972, pp. 121-25; Litvinskij, 1984, pp. 46-48, fig. 10). Their forms vary greatly (Plate 1), which makes it possible to distinguish several types. Two bi-metal pick-axes (with a bronze bush-ear and an iron blade) have been found in burial sites nearby the Aral Sea. The earliest objects of this type (dated to the 6th century BCE) include bi-metal axes and a double-edged axe which has a long, slightly curved faceted blade with a head on one side and a long narrow blade on the other. Other axes are dated to the 5th-3rd centuries BCE. These battle-axes have a wide range of similarities among the battle-axes from the Black Sea coast, the northern Caucasus, the Kama River region, Kazakhstan, southern Siberia, and northern China (Litvinskiǐ, 2001, pp. 420-24). Central Asian battle-axes closely resemble Achaemenid battle-axes known from iconographic materials and archeological finds.

In eastern Iran, settled peoples continued using the battle-axes in warfare. Thus, iron battle-axes and an elongated silver pickaxe of an intricate shape with gilding have been found at the Old Nisa (Invernizzi, pp. 129-38, pl. H). Peculiar pickaxes, one made of bronze and several of iron, of the Indian ankuśa type, have been found at Ay Khanum (Francfort, pp. 56-69, pls. 21, 25, XXI, and XXXVI). Pickaxes and battle hammers are presented in Central Asian and Inner Asian (northern India included) iconography, as well as on coins of the late Hellenistic and post-Hellenistic times (for detailed lists with bibliographical references see Invernizzi, pp. 137-38). A warrior depicted on a plate from Orlat holds in his hand a double-edged pickaxe (Ilyasov and Rusanov, pls. IV/1 and XIII), but this is already early 3rd century CE.

Iconography and archaeological finds testify that battle-axes were still in use in the 5th-8th centuries, both as a weapon in battle and as a symbol of power of a ruler or a military commander. A silver dish from the Kulagysh village contains the scene of on-foot combat which shows broken battle-axes with a rounded cutting edge and with the butt-end in the shape of a long blade (Orbeli and Trever, table 21). Similar objects can be found in the paintings of Pendjikent. An iron battle-axe with a rounded narrow blade and a small butt was found in the layer of the 6th-7th centuries at Aktepe of Yunusabad near Tashkent (Terenozhkin, pp. 123-24, fig. 25/7; Raspopova, pp. 77-78).

Ceremonial maces existed too, they frequently appear in wall paintings. A real object of the type with the upper part executed like a male head has been found at the Azhartepa (Berdimuradov and Samibaev, p. 40, figs. 93-94).

Battle-axes of various types continued to be manufactured and used in Eastern Iran up until the Late Middle Ages (Mukminvoa, p. 114).




Sassanid Long sword (Replica)

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Source : http://www.teheran.ir/spip.php?article1705

The […] are not relevant part, since they are more for translation of the words than the object itself. Nevertheless, if someone see’s something that might be interesting, I will translate it.

I. Introduction

This article presents an investigation on the various weapons and their typology in 48 Persian manuscripts from the Xth to XIXth centuries. Those manuscripts describe various used weapons used by the warriors on the battlefields. This article aims to give a basis to establish an analysis on general terms, describing the various weapons in the Persians Manuscripts.

II. Bow and arrows.

Archery has always played a key role in Iran’s military history. Bows were made of wood, of horn or a composite of both. It was used in different contexts, like war kamân-e jang كمان, hunting kamân-e tâyerân كمان طايران, ballista kamân-e tcharkh كمان چرخ; the catapult was also called kamân-e hekmat كمان حكمت (Wisdom Bow). There were two sizes of bows:

- kamân-e tang كمان تنگ (arc court)

- kamân-e boland كمان بلند or kamân-e bolandkhâneh كمان بلند خانه (longbow)

One of them had a guide for short arrows only and was called kamân-e tir-e nâvak كمان تير ناوك. Most of the arrows had three feathers, but some had four.

III. Spears

Spears have always played a really important role in Iran military history, as being the principal weapon on the battlefields. Here are all the types:

Neyzeh ﻧﻴﺰﻩ: An octogonal spear, the old name was nēzak

3.2 Mezrâq ﻤﺯﺭﺍﻕ ou mezrâb ﻣﻀﺮﺍﺏ: Fighting fork.

Shel ﺷﻞ : Special type of javelin with a trident head (like an arrow)

Khesht ﺧﺷﺖ : This was a particular type of spear with a rope, so that it could be easily launched and also recovered.

Zubin ﺯﻭﺑﻴﻦ ou zupin ﺰﻮﭙﻴﻦ : Throwable Javelin.

Durbâsh ﺩﻭﺭﺑﺎﺵ: It’s a spear with two branch decorated with jewels. It was used by Royal Guards to keep away the crowd.

Tchangâl ﭼﻧﮕﺎﻞ: Type of trident mentioned in the Divân-e Mas’ud SA’d Salmân (Sa’d Salmân, 1995/1374:308) and Shâhanshâhnâmeh (Fathali Khân Sabâ, 185).

Jarid ﺠﺮﻴﺪ this was a type of spear but also a javelin. According to Khold-e Barin (Qazvini Esfahâni, 2003/1382:453) and Rostam al-Tavârikh (Âsef, 2003/1382:269–270) this type of weapon was thrown.

Romh ﺭﻣﺢ: This was a type of spear but also a javelin. Refer to Divân-e Mas’ud Sa’d Salmân (Sa’d Salmân, 1995/1374:53), Rostam al Tavârikh (Âsef, 2003/1382:78) and Zafarnâmeh-ye Khosravi (1999/1377:156).

IV. Maces

It is written in treaties, epopees, and poems that Persian warriors were able to crush their enemy’s helmets and armors with maces. Maces were also symbol of power. […] There are three types of them

- Rounded top Maces.

- Winged Maces.

- Animal Head Maces: They were only used for power purpose, but it is said that some of them were used by warriors.

V. Axes

Similar to the maces, axes were powerful weapons that could break enemy’s armors that couldn’t be destroyed by swords. The Axe Word is tabar ﺘﺒﺮ. There is also another type of axe called tabarzin ﺗﺑﺮﺯﻴﻦ (saddle axe).

VI. Swords

The word sword can be “shamshir”, and “tiq” and sometimes (not in the books) hosâm. There is no difference between falchions, and swords. Before Arabic invasion in 631 all the swords were straight. […]

VII. Knives and Daggers

Kârd: This word means knife in Persian. This type of weapons has only one sharp side and is straight, though the sharp of the blade taper from the base to the tip. […] Usually the blade is in Damascus steel. […]

Khanjar: The khanjar ﺨﻨﺠﺮ has a curved blade with two sharp sides. Persian miniatures show warriors holding the khanjar upside down with the tip in the direction of the elbow. This weapon is described as a short distance weapon. […]

VIII. Conclusion

As it is shown in those various Persian manuscripts, the bow was the main weapon used by Persian warriors. Different kinds of bows were used, but the main bow was a composite one because of its strength and speed. They were made from different materials like wood, horn, and tendons. Different types of arrows were also used. Persian manuscripts reports archery principles of archery training and its techniques. Moreover they refer to different sorts of javelins and spears like eyzeh, senân, shel, khesht, zubin, durbâsh, tchangâl, jarid, mezrâb and romh. To break enemy formations they used bowmen, and then spears. Like it is shown in those books, Persians warriors used maces and axes against heavy armor enemies. Thanks to those strong weapons, they were able to break their enemies’ armors, or at least knock them unconscious. Those weapons were also used as symbols of power. The books also refer to sword fighting and shield defense. There were two types of knives and daggers used traditionally in melee combat: kârd ﻛﺎﺭﺩ (knife), khanjar ﺧﻧﺠﺮ (dagger).

Translated from French by Stanislas Dolcini.

Edited by stanislas69
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DEHQĀN, arabicized form of Syriac dhgnʾ (Margoliouth, p. 84a), borrowed from Pahlavi dehgān (older form dahīgān). The original meaning was “pertaining to deh"(< OPers. dahyu), the latter term not in the later sense of “village,” but in the original sense of “land.”


The term dehqān was used in the late Sasanian period to designate a class of landed magnates (Mojmal, ed. Bahār, p. 420) considered inferior in rank to āzādān,bozorgān (Zand ī Wahman Yasn 4.7, 4.54), and kadag-xwadāyān “householders” (Ardā Wīrāz-nāmag 15.10, where dahīgān should be read for dādagān). According to some early Islamic sources, the rank of the dehqān in the Sasanian period was also inferior to that of the šahrīgān “chief of the small cantons” (Yaʿqūbī, Taʾrīḵ I, p. 203; Masʿūdī, ed. Pellat, I, sec. 662; Christensen, Iran Sass., p. 140).

The origin of the dehqān class is usually attributed in both Zoroastrian Pahlavi books of the 9th century and early Islamic sources to Wēkard/t, brother of Hōšang, the legendary Iranian king (Dēnkard, ed. Madan, pp. 438, 594, 688; Bīrūnī, Āṯār, pp. 220-21; Masʿūdī, ed. Pellat, I, sec. 662; Christensen, pp. 68, 134, 151, 156). In some sources the innovation is credited to Manūčehr (Ṯāʿālebī, p. 6; Ṭabarī, I, p. 434; Balʿamī, ed. Bahār, p. 345; Ebn al-Balḵī, p. 37). Nevertheless, as the termdehgān is not attested in early Sasanian documents but is sometimes mentioned in the Pahlavi books and frequently occurs in descriptions of late Sasanian administration in early Islamic sources, it is admissible to suppose that dehqāns emerged as a social class as a result of land reforms in the time of Ḵosrow I (531-79). He is reported to have admonished future kings that they should protect thedehqāns, just as they would protect kingship, because they were like brothers (Ṯaʿālebī, Ḡorar, p. 6). According to one source (Mojmal, ed. Bahār, p. 73), his own mother had been the daughter of a dehqān descended from Frēdon. In the late Sasanian period dehqāns and princes (wāspuhragān; Ar. ahl al-boyūtāt) used to have audience with the king on the second day of the Nowrūz and Ḵorram-rūz (also Ḵorrah-rūz, Navad-rūz) festivals; the latter, celebrated on the first day of the tenth month (Day), was their special feast day, on which the king ate and drank with thedehqāns and cultivators (Bīrūnī, Āṯār, pp. 218, 225; for this feast, see idem, I, 1954, p. 264; Gardīzī, ed. Ḥabībī, pp. 239, 254; Qazvīnī,p. 83).

Management of local affairs was the dehqāns’ hereditary responsibility, and peasants were obliged to obey them (cf. Ṭabarī, I, p. 434; Balʿamī, ed. Bahār, p. 345; Ebn al-Balḵī, p. 37), but their landed estates must have been smaller than those of noble landowners. They probably represented the government among the peasants, and their main duty was to collect taxes (Christensen, Iran Sass., pp. 112-13). They were divided into five subgroups according to social status, each distinguished by dress (Masʿūdī, ed. Pellat, I, par. 662).

The Arab conquest (q.v.) of the Sasanian empire began with sporadic attacks on the lands of the dehqāns of the Sawād, the cultivated areas of southern Iraq. After the defeat of the Persian army and the gradual disappearance of the nobles who administered the country, the local gentry, that is, the dehqāns, assumed a more important political and social role in their districts, towns, and villages. Some were able to protect their settlements from the conquering armies by surrendering and agreeing to pay the poll tax (jezya). For example, the dehqān of Zawābī in Iraq made a treaty with the Arab commander ʿOrwa b. Zayd, in which he agreed to pay a tax of 4 dirhams for each inhabitant of his district. Besṭām, dehqān of Bors, also in Iraq, agreed with Zahra to construct a bridge for his army. When the Arab forces arrived at Mahrūḏ near Baghdad the local dehqān agreed to pay a sum of money to Hāšem b. ʿOtba, in order to deter him from killing any of the district’s inhabitants. Šīrzād, the dehqān of Sābāṭ, a village near Madāʾen (see CTESIPHON), was able to save 100,000 peasants from the Arabs. There are similar reports for other parts of the Sasanian empire, for example, Sīstān, Herat, and Balḵ (Balāḏorī, Fotūhá, ed. Monajjed, pp. 307, 318, 324, 484, 516; Ṭabarī, I, pp. 2421, 2426, 2461; Gardīzī, ed. Ḥabībī, p. 102). Dehqāns who refused to collaborate with the Arabs either fled or lost their lives (e.g., Balāḏorī, ed. Monajjed, pp. 324, 420, 422, 464, 466, 514; Ṭabarī, I, pp. 2421-23). The fact that the last Sasanian king, Yazdegerd III (632-51), sought support from the dehqāns of Isfahan and Kermān is evidence of the rising power of this class at the end of the Sasanian empire (Ṭabarī, I, pp. 2875-77).

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The helmet was a standard item in Sasanian armor (Ṭabari, tr. Nöldeke, Geschichte der Perser, pp. 248-49). Finds of early Sasanian helmets include one from Dura-Europos consisting of two halves riveted to two bars and provided with a pointed apex; a mail piece was attached to its lower edge. Many figures represented on Sasanian rock reliefs of the 3rd-4th centuries C.E. wear hemispherical helmets with neckpieces and bindings along the base. On Naqš-e Rostam No. 5, the cap is ornamented and has a knob on the top, while a mail piece is attached to the lower edge (Herrmann, 1977, p. 7, Pls. 1-3). The greater ayvān of Ṭāq-e Bostān attributed to Ḵosrow II (591-628) shows a different kind of helmet, namely the “segmented” or “‘four-spanged helmet” [spangen helmet] (@#$%ai and Horiuchi, 1972, Pl. 36; @#$%ai et al., 1984, pp. 69-70); several helmets of this type are known. These are egg-shaped, made of four vertical iron segments fastened below with a horizontal bronze rim, from which come wide bronze bands crossing at the top. To these bands the iron segments are riveted; the latter are covered with thin, silver leaves for ornamentation. The horizontal rim has holes in its lower part through which a piece of chain mail extending from the shoulders was attached to the helmet (Granicsay, 1948-49, pp. 272-81; Harper, 1978, pp. 89-90, fig. 31; Overlaet, 1982, pp. 193-96, Pls. I-V). For a detailed discussion about the origin and typology of Sasanian helmets, see von Gall, 1990, pp. 69-72.

Monumental art of Central Asia indicates that in that region several other types of helmets were used in the 6th-7th centuries. The most common was a sphero-conical helmet, which was hemispheroid in its lower half but gradually turned into a cone towards the top and was surmounted with a finial ornament. The rim was decorated with festoons. Often it was provided with a narrow bar protecting the nose and with cheekpieces. A piece of chain mail attached to the helmet covered the neck, shoulders, and almost the whole face except the eyes. Such helmets were most often constructed of metal plates, although there were also some made of multiple scales mounted on leather background (Shishkin, 1963, p. 163, Pl. XVII; Belenitskiĭ, 1973, Pls. 8, 9, 12, 21; Raspopova, 1980, p. 84, figs. 57-59).

Helmet (Transition period)

The egg-shaped helmet had developed during the Parthian (ca. 247 BCE- 224 CE) and Sasanian (224-651 CE) periods. They were composed of two (Bandhelm) or four (Spangenhelm) iron plates. The joints were covered with metal bands that, together with the rim and the cap on top, formed the helmet’s frame. Extant helmets are decorated with iron details combined with brass or gilt. More sumptuous objects had a silver binding with embossed scaly ornaments. This type of decoration was extremely popular in the middle of the 1st millennium CE within a vast territory stretching from China to the British Isles, and is typical of the Migration Period (4th-9th centuries CE; see ARMOR). The egg shape narrowed to the top, sometimes flattened at the sides according to the Parthian tradition, or was strictly hemispherical. The lower edge was usually straight. Some helmets have a riveted rectangular plate to protect the forehead, sometimes extended to serve as a nose-guard, or eye cusps with reinforced rims. Eye cusps were an international feature of helmets dating to the mid-first millennium CE. The nape, neck, and throat were protected by mail (aventail). The face was visible, yet in some cases all but the eyes were covered.

The conical helmet, in contrast, emerged at the beginning of the Muslim expansion over the vast stretches of the Eurasian steppes inhabited by Turkic-speaking nomads. A conical bowl was made of four to six plates with a conical finial; a holder for plumes of feathers or horsehair was attached. The plates were joined by narrow vertical metal strips, and often in a symmetrical fashion close to the nearly triangular bulges that marked the places of paired rivets. These helmets had almost always eye cusps or a forehead plate with nasal, while the mail was similar in both helmet types. Surfaces were covered with copper and silver, while gilt ornaments on strips of silver or copper were fixed alongside the vertical joints, and iron details were combined with brass or copper. The 7th- and 8th-century Sogdian paintings in Central Asia and a helmet in the British Museum, which was found in Iraq in the Nineveh ruins and is dated to the 6th or 7th century, indicate the area in which conical helmets were in use. (This helmet caused errors in the history of helmets, because for a long time it was considered an Assyrian artifact.) Conical helmets appeared in Iran because Turks dominated Central Asia between the 6th and 8th centuries and enjoyed considerable military prestige. Both Sasanian and Muslim rulers maintained wide contacts with Turkish military contingents.

Edited by Mega Mania
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DEYLAMITES, people inhabiting a shifting region in northern Persia and adjacent territories, including the Deylamān uplands.


In antiquity the Deylamites (Gk. Dolomîtai and variants) were mountain tribes, usually identified by 10th-century Arab geographers with the inhabitants of Deylam, the highlands of Gīlān. A considerably broader distribution extending as far as southern Armenia and the Caucasus can be deduced, however (Minorsky, p. 193).

The earliest mention of the Deylamites occurs in Polybius’ universal history, of the late 2nd century B.C.E. (5.44.9), in which, in the description of Media, Greek *Delymaîoi is to be read in place of geographically impossible Elymaîoi (i.e., Susiana), as the tribes named immediate after them (Anariákai, Kadoúsioi, Matíanoi) were all in the north. It is also possible that the “Elymaioi” mentioned by Plutarch (Pompey 36.2; 1st century B.C.E.) with the Medes were actually Deylamites. In the later 2nd century C.E. Ptolemy (6.2) listed *Delymaís as a place in northern Choromithrene, which was located southeast of Ray and west of the Tapuroi (i.e., Ṭabarestān). There, too, the toponym was corrupted to Elymaís (Markwart, Ērānšahr, p. 126 n. 1).

In the Pahlavi Kār-nāmag (tr., p. 47) it is recorded that in the final years of the crumbling Parthian empire Artabanus V (or IV) mobilized all the troops from Ray,Damāvand, Deylamān, and Patešḵᵛārgar, evidence that the region south of theAlborz was inhabited by Deylamites. More precisely in the Nāma-ye Tansar (tr., p. 30) it is stated that Deylamān, Gīlān, and Rūyān (later part of Ṭabarestān) all belonged to the kingdom of Gošnasp of Ṭabarestān and Parešvār, the latter apparently the Alborz region. Gošnasp made his submission to Ardašīr I (224-70) only after thorough consideration and kept his realm by the guarantee of Ardašīr himself. The dynasty was still ruling there in the time of Pērōz I (459-84; cf. Masʿūdī, Tanbīh, p. 99-100). Kavād I (488-531) appointed his eldest son, Qābūs (Kāōs), king of Ṭabarestān (Nāma-ye Tansar, tr., p. 70; Ebn Esfandīār, tr. Browne, pp. 92-94). Toward the end of his reign (while the Roman emperor Justin I [d. 527] was still alive), Kavād dispatched Būya (Gk. Bóēs), “bearing the title wahriz” (Gk.ouarízēs), against King Gurgēn of Iberia (Procopius, De Bello Persico 1.12.10). That Būya had come from Deylam can be deduced from a tradition according to which the wahriz (i.e., Ḵorrazāḏ b. Narsē b. Jāmāsp) who conquered Yemen during the reign of Ḵosrow I (531-79), in about 570, had formerly been governor of Deylam (Masʿūdī, Tanbīh, p. 260; Ḥamza, p. 138). The troops of the wahriz also included Deylamites (Nöldeke, Geschichte der Perser, p. 167). Procopius (De Bello Gothico4.14.5-7, 4.14.9) reported, from a western point of view, on the Dolomîtai at the siege of Archeopolis in the disputed territory of Lazica during the reign of Ḵosrow I (about 552): They were independent allies of the Persians, living in inaccessible mountains in the heart of Persia (i.e., Media) and fighting as infantrymen, each armed with sword, shield, and three javelins and accustomed to warfare on mountainous terrain. Some time later, according to Agathias (3.17.6-9, 3.17.18-22), the Dilimnîtai, “the largest tribe of those dwelling on this side of the river Tigris in the region of Persis” (i.e., in central Persia, or Media), undertook a fruitless attack against the Hunnic Sabirs, who were in the service of the Romans, and vainly charged the fortress of Phasis in Colchis. Agathias characterized them as very warlike and independent allies of the Persians, skillful warriors in close combat or at a distance, using sword, pike, and sling. In a fragment from Theophanes (preserved in Photius, Bibliotheca 64) it is related that in the battles between Persians and Romans during the reign of Justin II (565-78), which broke out in 572, the Deylamites (Gk. tò Dilmainòn éthnos) joined forces with the Persians and the Sabirs. When power passed from Ohrmazd IV (579-90), to whom the Deylamites had submitted, to Ḵosrow II in 590 a certain Zoarab, leader of the Deylamites, rose up against the latter and joined the party of Bahrām VI Čōbīn (590-91; Theophylact Simocatta, 4.4.17, 4.3.1). When Bahrām Čōbīn’s rising failed the Deylamites joined the rebellion of Besṭām (see BESṬAMÚ O BENDOY), a maternal uncle of Ḵosrow II (probably 592-95; cf. Nöldeke, Geschichte der Perser, p. 486). After the fall of Besṭām the šahr-wahriz (i.e., governor of Deylam) fought against the remnants of his army, consisting of Deylamites and Armenians, in alliance with Smbat Bagratuni, marzbān (margrave) of Gorgān (Sebeos, tr., pp. 43-46). Incidentally it was reported (Balāḏorī, Fotūhá, p. 282) that Ḵosrow II had a personal guard of 4,000 Deylamites. When the Arabs conquered Persia the Deylamites remained virtually unsubdued, ruled by their own dynasty until the 9th century (cf. Minorsky, p. 190; Markwart, Ērānšahr, p. 127; see ii, below).

Christianity entered Deylam fairly early; in 554 there was a diocese of Āmol and Gīlān (Chabot, pp. 109, 366). The religion obviously survived for a long time in these iunaccessible regions: The Nestorian patriarch Timothy I (780-823) elevated both Gīlān and Deylam to the status of metropolis (Thomas of Marga, I, pp. 252-53; II, pp. 467-68), though evidence from a letter of the patriarch suggests this separate status was limited to the years 795-98 (cf. Braun). These arrangements were, in fact, not stable; in about 893 Elias, metropolitan of Damascus, mentioned only Media (=Ray) as a metropolis, and the lists compiled by Ebn aḷ-Ṭayyeb (d. 1043) and ʿAbdīšōʿ, metropolitan of Nisibis (d. 1318), are silent about them (Sachau, pp. 21 ff.). The metropolis of Deylam does, however, reappear in the lists given by the early 14th-century historians of the Nestorian patriarchs, ʿAmr b. Maṭṭā and slightly earlier Salibhā b. Yūḥannā (Maris Amri et Slibae, pp. 126, 132). It seems that remnants of Christianity must have survived up to that time.


In the early Islamic centuries the Deylamites lived in the Alborz mountains and along the shore of the Caspian north of Qazvīn, between Gīlān in the west and Ṭabarestān (Māzandarān) in the east. Whatever their actual origins, at that time they and their Gilite neighbors were commonly considered closely related and frequently mentioned together. It was claimed that the two peoples were descended from two brothers, Deylam and Gīl, of the Arab tribe Banū Ḍabba; this legend of the Arab origins of the Deylamites seems to have been known already at the time of the early expansion of Islam (see Ṭabarī, I, pp. 1992, 2352; III, p. 2367). Deylamites were certainly known among Arabs from the time of the Persian conquest of Yemen in about 570, and during the early days of Islam the Deylamites Fīrūz and Gošnasp (Jošnas) played a leading role among the Persian Abnāʾ, backing the new religion in Yemen. Fīrūz Deylamī’s family emigrated to Palestine and Syria, where several of his descendants became well-known Muslim traditionists. Dey-lamites may also have participated in raids in northern Arabia. Abū Dolaf b. Mohalhel (sec. 25; Yāqūt, Boldān, s.v. Deylamestān) mentioned a place called Deylamestān, located 7 farsangs from Šahrazūr, where in pre-Islamic times Deylamites used to camp while they carried out their raids into the lowlands of Mesopotamia.

Whatever the original language of the Deylamites may have been, in the Islamic period they spoke a northwestern Iranian dialect very similar to the language of the Gilites. Apart from other characteristics of northwestern Iranian, the guttural pronunciation of h as , noted as Gilite by Maqdesī (Moqaddasī, p. 368; e.g., both Ḵošam and Hawsam, Ḵašūya and Hašūya), and an ī sound added between consonants and ā (Lāhījān=Līāhījān, Došmanzār=Došmanzīār, Amīrkā=Amīrkīā, presumably pronounced Lyāhījān, Došmanzyār, and Amīrkyā respectively) were probably characteristic of Deylamite, as well as of Gilite. The question whether or not the report by Eṣṭaḵrī (p. 205) about a tribe in the Deylamite highlands that spoke a language different from Deylamite and Gilite and a similar report by Abū Esḥāq Ṣābī about a tribe in the region of Rašt (Madelung, 1987, pp. 14-15) attest the survival of a non-Iranian language among them must be left open.

In the first Islamic centuries. During the early centuries of Islam the Deylamites successfully resisted frequent Arab efforts to conquer their land. Some Deylamite mercenaries seem, however, to have joined the Arabs even before the battle of Qādesīya (16/637) and afterward accepted Islam (Ṭabarī, I, pp. 2340-41). Sayf b. ʿOmar reported a battle at Vājrūḏ in the year 18/639 in which the Arabs under Noʿaym b. Moqarren defeated the Deylamites and killed their leader Mūtā (Ṭabarī, I, pp. 2650-53). Qazvīn surrendered to Barāʾ b. ʿĀzeb, governor of Ray, in 24/645 and continued to function as a fortified border town against the Deylamites, as it had in the Sasanian period. Its garrison converted to Islam, and a group settled in Kūfa, where it was known as the Ḥamrāʾ of Deylam, presumably because its members were largely of Deylamite extraction. In Hadiths ascribed to the Prophet Moḥammad Qazvīn was praised as a border fortress, its martyrs equal in merit to the martyrs of the battle of Badr (Ebn al-Faqīh, p. 283). The Deylamites were commonly described, together with the Turks, as the most barbarous and odious enemies of the Muslims (Ṭabarī, II, pp. 285, 320, 722, 748, 1391), against whom religious war (jehād) was most meritorious.

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