Albania (satrapy)

Albania (satrapy)

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Albania, or Ardhan in Parthian
Parthian language
The Parthian language, also known as Arsacid Pahlavi and Pahlavanik, is a now-extinct ancient Northwestern Iranian language spoken in Parthia, a region of northeastern ancient Persia during the rule of the Parthian empire....

 or Arran in Middle Persian as it was known in Persian
Persian language
Persian is an Iranian language within the Indo-Iranian branch of the Indo-European languages. It is primarily spoken in Iran, Afghanistan, Tajikistan and countries which historically came under Persian influence...

, was a Caucasian satrapy (province) of the Sassanid Empire
Sassanid Empire
The Sassanid Empire , known to its inhabitants as Ērānshahr and Ērān in Middle Persian and resulting in the New Persian terms Iranshahr and Iran , was the last pre-Islamic Persian Empire, ruled by the Sasanian Dynasty from 224 to 651...



In 252-253 AD Caucasian Albania, along with Caucasian Iberia
Caucasian Iberia
Iberia , also known as Iveria , was a name given by the ancient Greeks and Romans to the ancient Georgian kingdom of Kartli , corresponding roughly to the eastern and southern parts of the present day Georgia...

 and Greater Armenia, was conquered and annexed by the Sassanid Empire
Sassanid Empire
The Sassanid Empire , known to its inhabitants as Ērānshahr and Ērān in Middle Persian and resulting in the New Persian terms Iranshahr and Iran , was the last pre-Islamic Persian Empire, ruled by the Sasanian Dynasty from 224 to 651...

. Albania retained its monarchy, although the king had no real power and most civil, religious, and military authority lay with the Sassanid marzban
Marzban were a class of margraves or military commanders in charge of border provinces of the Sassanid Empire of Persia between the 3rd and 7th centuries CE....

 (military governor) of the territory. In 297 the treaty of Nisibis stipulated the reestablishment of the Roman protectorate over Iberia, but Albania remained an integral part of the Sasanian Empire.

In the middle of the 4th century the king of Albania, Urnayr, arrived in Armenia and was baptized by Gregory the Illuminator
Gregory the Illuminator
Saint Gregory the Illuminator or Saint Gregory the Enlightener is the patron saint and first official head of the Armenian Apostolic Church...

, but Christianity spread in Albania slowly, and the Albanian king remained loyal to the Sassanids. After the partition of Armenia between Byzantium and Persia (in 387 AD), Albania with Sassanid help was able to seize from Armenia the entire right bank of the river Kura up to the river Araxes, including Artsakh and Utik.

The Sassanid king Yazdegerd II
Yazdegerd II
Yazdegerd II was the fifteenth Sassanid King of Persia. He was the son of Bahram V and reigned from 438 to 457....

 passed an edict requiring all the Christians in his empire to convert to Mazdaism, fearing that Christians might ally with Roman Empire, which had recently adopted Christianity. This led to rebellion of Albanians, along with Armenians and Iberians. However, the Albanian king Vache, a relative of Yazdegerd II, converted to the official religion of the Sassanian empire, but quickly reverted back to Christianity.

In the middle of the 5th century by the order of the Persian king Peroz I
Peroz I
Peroz I Peroz I Peroz I (also Pirooz; Peirozes (Priscus, fr. 33); Perozes (Procopius, De Bello Pers. I. 3 and Agathias iv. 27; the modern form of the name is Perooz, Piruz, or the Arabized Ferooz, Firuz; Persian: پیروز "the Victor"), was the seventeenth Sassanid King of Persia, who ruled from 457...

 Vache built in Utik the city initially called Perozabad, and later Partaw and Barda
Barda, Azerbaijan
Barda is the capital city of the Barda Rayon in Azerbaijan, located south of Yevlax and on the left bank of the Terter river. Once an Armenian town, and later the capital of Caucasian Albania perhaps since the end of the fourth century, Barda became the chief city of the Islamic province of Arran,...

, and made it the capital of Albania. The seat of the Albanian Catholicos was also transferred to Partaw, as well as the marzban.

After the death of Vache, Albania remained without a king for thirty years. The Sasanian Balash
Balash , the eighteenth Sassanid King of Persia in 484–488, was the brother and successor of Peroz I of Persia , who had died in a battle against the Hephthalites who invaded Persia from the east.- Reign of Balash :Balash was made King of Persia following the death of his...

 reestablished the Albanian monarchy by making Vachagan, son of Yazdegerd and brother of the previous king Vache, the king of Albania.

By the end of the 5th century, the ancient ruling dynasty of Albania was replaced by princes of the Persian or Parthia
Parthia is a region of north-eastern Iran, best known for having been the political and cultural base of the Arsacid dynasty, rulers of the Parthian Empire....

n Mihranid
The Mihranids were the ruling dynasty of Caucasian Albania in the early Middle Ages. They claimed to be of Sassanian Persian descent but were probably of Parthian origin....

 family, who claimed descent from the Sasanians. They assumed a Persian title of Arranshahs (i.e. shah
Shāh is the title of the ruler of certain Southwest Asian and Central Asian countries, especially Persia , and derives from the Persian word shah, meaning "king".-History:...

s of Arran, Persian name of Albania). The ruling dynasty was named after its Persian founder Mihran, who was a distant relative of the Sasanians. Mihranid dynasty survived under Muslim suzerainty until 821-2.

In the late 6th – early 7th centuries AD the territory of Albania became an arena of wars between Sassanian Persia, Byzantium
Byzantine Empire
The Byzantine Empire was the Eastern Roman Empire during the periods of Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages, centred on the capital of Constantinople. Known simply as the Roman Empire or Romania to its inhabitants and neighbours, the Empire was the direct continuation of the Ancient Roman State...

 and Khazar kaganate, the latter two very often acting as allies. During the Third Perso-Turkic War
Third Perso-Turkic War
The Third Perso-Turkic War was the third and final conflict between the Sassanian Empire and the Western Turkic Khaganate. Unlike the previous two wars, it was fought, not in Central Asia, but in Transcaucasia. Hostilities were initiated in 627 AD by Khagan Tong Yabghu of the Western Göktürks and...

, the Khazars invaded Albania, and their leader Ziebel declared himself lord of Albania, levying a tax on merchants and the fishermen of the Kura and Araxes rivers, which was "in accordance with the land survey of the kingdom of Persia". The Albanian kings retained their rule by paying tribute to the regional powers. Albania was later conquered by the Arabs during the Islamic conquest of Persia
Islamic conquest of Persia
The Muslim conquest of Persia led to the end of the Sassanid Empire in 644, the fall of Sassanid dynasty in 651 and the eventual decline of the Zoroastrian religion in Persia...


Politics and Organization

The king of Albania was a vassal of the Sassanid empire, although the monarchy did not exercise much control. The king was accountable to the marzban, who held the real authority in civil, religious, and military power. The capital of the province was P'artaw (no connection to Parthia), where they minted coins in the 5th and 6th centuries. The Albanian court was probably modeled on the Armenian court with borrowings from Parthian Iran. Albania also had the Sassanian equivalent of a wuzurg framandar (prime minister) however what his role was is not known, but, as in Sassanian Armenia, it is possible that he was subordinate to the marzban.

Cities and Fortifications

P'artaw was established as the capital in the 4th century. It was later named Perozabad when Peroz rebuilt the city. The city underwent another name change with Kavad fortified the city and called it Perozkavad (victorious Kavad). At this time P'artaw was highly prosperous and a powerful stronghold sometime in the 5th century. Kabala, the former capitol, still maintained some importance, and it later became a see of a bishop. Excavations have revealed a fortress and walls, probably from the 5th or 6th centuries. Xalxal, a city situated in Uti but close to Iberia, became the winter residence of the Albanian kings. Diwatakan, also in Uti, became the summer residence.

The Sassanian kings, such as Yazdegerd II
Yazdegerd II
Yazdegerd II was the fifteenth Sassanid King of Persia. He was the son of Bahram V and reigned from 438 to 457....

, Kavad I, and Khosrow II also built many fortifications in the Caucasus and Caspian coastline, the most famous being the one at Darband. Movses Kalantuaci speaks of "magnificent walls built at great expense by the kings of Persia."