Khosrau I

Khosrau I

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Khosrau I also known as Anushiravan the Just or Anushirawan the Just (انوشیروان عادل , Anushiravān-e-ādel or انوشيروان دادگر, Anushiravān-e-dādgar) (r. 531–579), was the favourite son and successor of Kavadh I
Kavadh I
Kavad or Kavadh I was the son of Peroz I and the nineteenth Sassanid king of Persia, reigning from 488 to 531...

 (488–531), twentieth Sassanid
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...

 Emperor (Persian: Shahanshah, Great King) of Persia, and the most famous and celebrated of the Sassanid Emperors.

He laid the foundations of many cities and opulent palaces, and oversaw the repair of trade roads as well as the building of numerous bridges and dams. During Khosrau I's ambitious reign, art and science flourished in Persia and the Sassanid Empire reached its peak of glory and prosperity. His rule was preceded by his father's and succeeded by Hormizd IV
Hormizd IV
Hormizd IV, son of Khosrau I, reigned as the twenty-first King of Persia from 579 to 590.He seems to have been imperious and violent, but not without some kindness of heart. Some very characteristic stories are told of him by Tabari. His father's sympathies had been with the nobles and the priests...

. "Khosrau of the immortal soul" is one of the most popular emperors in Iranian culture and literature
Persian literature
Persian literature spans two-and-a-half millennia, though much of the pre-Islamic material has been lost. Its sources have been within historical Persia including present-day Iran as well as regions of Central Asia where the Persian language has historically been the national language...

 and, outside of Iran, his name became, like that of Caesar in the history of Rome
History of Rome
The history of Rome spans 2,800 years of the existence of a city that grew from a small Italian village in the 9th century BC into the centre of a vast civilisation that dominated the Mediterranean region for centuries. Its political power was eventually replaced by that of peoples of mostly...

, a designation of the Sasanian kings.

Early life

Khosrau I's father, Kavadh I, was involved with a group of Zoroastrians
Zoroastrianism is a religion and philosophy based on the teachings of prophet Zoroaster and was formerly among the world's largest religions. It was probably founded some time before the 6th century BCE in Greater Iran.In Zoroastrianism, the Creator Ahura Mazda is all good, and no evil...

 called the Mazdak
Mazdak was a proto-socialist Persian reformer and religious activist who gained influence under the reign of the Sassanian Shahanshah Kavadh I...

ites. The Mazdakites believed in an egalitarian
Egalitarianism is a trend of thought that favors equality of some sort among moral agents, whether persons or animals. Emphasis is placed upon the fact that equality contains the idea of equity of quality...

 society and many lower class peasants supported the Mazdakite revolution. Kavadh, wanting to centralize
Centralized government
A centralized or centralised government is one in which power or legal authority is exerted or coordinated by a de facto political executive to which federal states, local authorities, and smaller units are considered subject...

 power by taking power away from the great noble families, supported this movement. Upon Kavadh's death in 531, the Mazdakites gave their loyalty to Kavadh's eldest son, Kawus
Kawus was the eldest son of Kavadh I, the Sasanian emperor of Iran.Kawus might have initially been the heir presumptive to the Sasanian throne. However, following the outbreak of the Mazdakite revolt, Kawus was accused of supporting Mazdak and adhering to his heresy...

, while the noble families and the Zoroastrian Magi
Magi is a term, used since at least the 4th century BC, to denote a follower of Zoroaster, or rather, a follower of what the Hellenistic world associated Zoroaster with, which...

 gave their support to Khosrau I. Khosrau presented himself as an anti-Mazdakite supporter. He, much like his father, believed in a strong centralized government. Khosrau met his brother Kawus in war and defeated him as well as his Mazdakite followers. Subsequently Mazdak, as well as a majority of his followers, were executed for his heretic
A heretic is a person who commits heresy.In literature:* Heretic, an autobiography of Peter Cameron* Heretic , the third volume in The Grail Quest series by Bernard CornwellIn music:...

al beliefs and Khosrau took the Sassanian throne. At Khosrau's succession, Byzantine and Sassanian Persia were in open conflict with each other. Neither empire was able to get an advantage of the other, causing Emperor Justinian and King Khosrau to agree on a peace treaty in 531.

Khosrau I was married to the daughter of a Turkish khaqan named in Armenian sources as Kayen and in the Persian sources as Qaqim-khaqan


Khosrau I represents the epitome of the philosopher king
Philosopher king
Philosopher kings are the rulers, or Guardians, of Plato's Utopian Kallipolis. If his ideal city-state is to ever come into being, "philosophers [must] become kings…or those now called kings [must]…genuinely and adequately philosophize" .-In Book VI of The Republic:Plato defined a philosopher...

 in the Sassanian Empire. Upon his ascension to the throne, Khosrau did not restore power to the feudal nobility or the magi, but centralized his government. Khosrau's reign is considered to be one of the most successful within the Sassanian Empire. The peace agreement between Rome and Persia in 531 gave Khosrau the chance to consolidate power and focus his attention on interior improvement. His reforms and military campaigns marked a renaissance of the Sassanian Empire, which spread philosophic beliefs as well as trade goods from the far east
Far East
The Far East is an English term mostly describing East Asia and Southeast Asia, with South Asia sometimes also included for economic and cultural reasons.The term came into use in European geopolitical discourse in the 19th century,...

 to the far west.


The internal reforms under Khosrau were much more important than those on the exterior frontier
A frontier is a political and geographical term referring to areas near or beyond a boundary. 'Frontier' was absorbed into English from French in the 15th century, with the meaning "borderland"--the region of a country that fronts on another country .The use of "frontier" to mean "a region at the...

. The subsequent reforms resulted in the rise of a bureaucratic state at the expense of the great noble families, strengthening the central government
Centralized government
A centralized or centralised government is one in which power or legal authority is exerted or coordinated by a de facto political executive to which federal states, local authorities, and smaller units are considered subject...

 and the power of the Shahanshah. The army too was reorganized and tied to the central government rather than local nobility allowing greater organization, faster mobilization and a far greater cavalry corps. Reforms in taxation provided the empire with stability and a much stronger economy, allowing prolonged military campaigns as well as greater revenues for the bureaucracy.

Tax Reforms

Khosrau's tax reforms have been praised by several scholars, the most notable of which is F. Altheim. The tax reforms, which were started under Kavadh I and completely implemented by Khosrau, strengthened the royal court by a great deal. Prior to Khosrau and Kavadh's reigns, a majority of the land was owned by seven great noble families
Satrap was the name given to the governors of the provinces of the ancient Median and Achaemenid Empires and in several of their successors, such as the Sassanid Empire and the Hellenistic empires....

: Suren, Waraz, Karen, Aspahbadh, Spandiyadh, Mihran, and Zik. These great landowners enjoyed tax exemptions from the Sassanian empire, and were tax collectors within their local provincial areas.
With the outbreak of the Mazdakite revolution, there was a great uprising of peasants and lower class citizens who grabbed large portions of land under egalitarian values. As a result of this there was great confusion on land possession and ownership. Khosrau surveyed all the land within the empire indiscriminately and began to tax all land under a single program. Tax revenues that previously went to the local noble family now went to the central government treasury. The fixed tax that Khosrau implemented created a more stable form of income for the treasury.

Because the tax did not vary, the treasury could estimate fairly well how much they were going to make in revenue for the year. Prior to Khosrau's tax reforms, taxes were collected based on the yield that the land had produced. This system was changed to one which calculated and averaged taxation based on the water rights for each piece of property. Lands which grew date palms and olive trees
The olive , Olea europaea), is a species of a small tree in the family Oleaceae, native to the coastal areas of the eastern Mediterranean Basin as well as northern Iran at the south end of the Caspian Sea.Its fruit, also called the olive, is of major agricultural importance in the...

 used a slightly different method of taxation based on the amount of producing trees that the land contained. These tax reforms of Khosrau were the stepping stone which enabled subsequent reforms in the bureaucracy and the military to take place.

Bureaucracy Reforms

The hallmark of Khosrau's bureaucratic reform was the creation of a new social class. Before, the Sassanian Empire consisted of only three social classes, magi, nobles, and peasants/commoners. Khosrau added a fourth class to this hierarchy between the nobles and the peasants, called the deghans. The deghans were small land owning citizens of the Sassanian Empire and were considered lower nobility.

Khosrau promoted honest government officials based on trust and honesty, rather than corrupt nobles and magi. The small landowning deghans were favored over the high nobles because they tended to be more trustworthy and owned their loyalty to the Shah for their position in the bureaucracy. The rise of deghans became the backbone of the empire because they were now held the majority of land and positions in local and provincial administration.

The reduction of power of the great families helped to improve the empire. This was because previously, each great family ruled a large chunk of land and each had their own king. The name Shahanshah, meaning King of Kings, derived from the fact that there were many feudal
Feudalism was a set of legal and military customs in medieval Europe that flourished between the 9th and 15th centuries, which, broadly defined, was a system for ordering society around relationships derived from the holding of land in exchange for service or labour.Although derived from the...

 kings in Sassanian Persia with the Shahanshah as the ruler of them all. Their fall from power meant their control was redirected to the central government and all taxes now came to the central government rather than to the local nobility.

Military Reforms

Major reforms to the military made the Persian army capable of fighting sustained wars and on multiple fronts as well deploy armies faster. Prior to Khosrau's reign, much like other aspects of the empire, the military was dependent on the feudal lords of the great families to provide soldiers and cavalry. Each family would provide their own army and equipment when called by the Shahanshah. This system was replaced with the emergence of the lower deghan nobility class, who was paid and provided by the central government.

The main force of the Sassanian army was the Savaran cavalry
Savaran cavalry
The Savārān cavalry were Persian military units and were a division of cavalry during the time of the Sassanid Persian dynasty; they ranged from light cavalry such as horse archers to heavy cavalry such as Cataphracts. Each Savārān unit would have had its own Drafsh...

. Previously only nobles could enlist into the Savaran cavalry which was very limited and created shortages in well trained soldiers. Now that the deghan class was considered nobility, they were able to join the cavalry force and boosted the number of cavalry force significantly.

The military reform focused more on organization and training of troops. The cavalry was still the most important aspect of the Persian military, with foot archers being less important, and mass peasant forces being on the bottom of the spectrum.

Khosrau discarded the old satrap
Satrap was the name given to the governors of the provinces of the ancient Median and Achaemenid Empires and in several of their successors, such as the Sassanid Empire and the Hellenistic empires....

 system and replaced it with four military districts with a spahbad, or general, in charge of each district. Before the reforms of Khusrau, the General of the Iranians (Eran-spahbed) controlled the military of the entire empire. The four zones consisted of Mesopotamia in the west, the Caucasus
The Caucasus, also Caucas or Caucasia , is a geopolitical region at the border of Europe and Asia, and situated between the Black and the Caspian sea...

 region in the north, the Persian gulf in the central and southwest region, and Central Asia in the east. This new “quatro” system not only created a more efficient military system but also “[administration] of a vast, multiregional, multicultural, and multiracial empire.”


During Khosrau's reign, a "list" for equipment for the cavalry was written. The list comprised of: a helmet, a gorget, a chain mail shirt, a lamellar coat or cuirass, leg armour, gauntlets, sword, shield, two bows with spare strings, 30 arrows, axe or mace, and horse armour. .

Sassanian bullae showing the four spahbods show that horses were still fully armoured during this period and heavy cavalry tactics were still used by the Sassanian cavalry. It is highly likely that the stirrup had been introduced to the Sassanian cavalry two centuries before Khusrau's reforms (and are mentionned in Bivar (1972) ), and a "stirrupped" foot position can be seen on the Sassanian bullae and at Taq-e-Bostan.

The image of Khosrau I at Taq-e-Bostan shows a different style of armour and equipment. Khosrau is shown wearing a helmet with a chain mail veil, and a chain mail shirt. His horse is shown only wearing armour from the front. This style of armour shows some parallels with Soghdian armour of the 6th - 8th Centuries, as depicted at Afrasiab and Panjikent, and may be related to a Soghdian or Turkic style of armour.

War With Justinian

In 532, Khosrau and Justinian, emperor of the Eastern Roman/Byzantine Empire
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...

 concluded Pax Perpetuum, or the Eternal Peace
Eternal Peace (532)
The Eternal Peace , signed in 532 between the East Roman Empire and Sassanid Persia, was a peace treaty of indefinite duration, which concluded the Iberian War between the two powers...

 in hopes of settling all land disputes between the Romans and Sassanians. In 540, Khosrau broke the Pax Perpetuum and struck Mesopotamia
Mesopotamia is a toponym for the area of the Tigris–Euphrates river system, largely corresponding to modern-day Iraq, northeastern Syria, southeastern Turkey and southwestern Iran.Widely considered to be the cradle of civilization, Bronze Age Mesopotamia included Sumer and the...

 and Syria
Syria , officially the Syrian Arab Republic , is a country in Western Asia, bordering Lebanon and the Mediterranean Sea to the West, Turkey to the north, Iraq to the east, Jordan to the south, and Israel to the southwest....

. He then moved out to Antioch
Antioch on the Orontes was an ancient city on the eastern side of the Orontes River. It is near the modern city of Antakya, Turkey.Founded near the end of the 4th century BC by Seleucus I Nicator, one of Alexander the Great's generals, Antioch eventually rivaled Alexandria as the chief city of the...

, taking a path that was south of the usual military route in order to extract tributes from towns along the way to Antioch. The walls of Antioch had been greatly damaged during an earthquake in 525-526, and the Romans had not since repaired them because of western military campaigns, which made it much easier to conquer. Khosrau sacked and burned the city at which point Justinian sued for peace, giving Khosrau a large amount of money. While traveling back to Persia, Khosrau took ransoms from multiple Byzantine towns at which point Justinian called off his truce and prepared to send his great commander Belisarius
Flavius Belisarius was a general of the Byzantine Empire. He was instrumental to Emperor Justinian's ambitious project of reconquering much of the Mediterranean territory of the former Western Roman Empire, which had been lost less than a century previously....

 to move against the Sassanians.
There were many motives behind Khosrau's strike against the Byzantines during their Eternal Peace. Emissaries from the Ostrogoth kingdom in the west appealed to Khosrau to put pressure on the eastern front of East Rome. Gothic envoys spoke to Khosrau's court and spoke of Justinian's goal to unite the world under Roman rule. The Gothic envoys persuasively informed Khosrau that if Persia did not act soon, they would soon become victims of Byzantine aggression. It was the Persian military's fear that once the Roman army had conquered the west, they would turn east and strike down Persia. In order to prevent this, Khosrau preemptively struck Antioch. There were also pressure and unrest in both Arabia
Arabian Peninsula
The Arabian Peninsula is a land mass situated north-east of Africa. Also known as Arabia or the Arabian subcontinent, it is the world's largest peninsula and covers 3,237,500 km2...

 and Armenia
Armenia , officially the Republic of Armenia , is a landlocked mountainous country in the Caucasus region of Eurasia...

n who were both eager for war.

A year after his sack of Antioch, Khosrau brought his army north to Lazica
Lazica or Egrisi in Georgian |Georgia]], named after the Laz tribe, which at some time dominated the local ruling élite.The kingdom flourished between the 6th century BC and the 7th century AD. It covered part of the territory of the former kingdom Colchis and subjugated the territory of modern...

 on request of the Lazic King to fend off Byzantine raids into his territory. At the same time, Belisarius
Flavius Belisarius was a general of the Byzantine Empire. He was instrumental to Emperor Justinian's ambitious project of reconquering much of the Mediterranean territory of the former Western Roman Empire, which had been lost less than a century previously....

 arrived in Mesopotamia and began attacking the city of Nisbis. Although Belisarius had greatly outnumbered the city garrison, the city was too well fortified and he was forced to ravage the country around the Nisbis subsequently getting recalled back west.

After successful campaigns in Armenia, Khosrau was encouraged once again to attack Syria. Khosrau turned south towards Edessa and besieged the city. Edessa
Edessa, Mesopotamia
Edessa is the Greek name of an Aramaic town in northern Mesopotamia, as refounded by Seleucus I Nicator. For the modern history of the city, see Şanlıurfa.-Names:...

 was now a much more important city than Antioch was, but the garrison which occupied the city was able to resist the siege. The Persians were forced to retreat from Edessa, but were able to forge a five year truce with the Byzantine Empire. Four years into the five year truce, rebellion against Sassanian control broke out in Lazica. In response, a Byzantine army was sent to support the people of Lazica, effectively ending the established truce and thus continuing the Lazic Wars.

Lazic Wars

The Lazic wars are intertwined with Khosrau's war with Justinian insomuch as there were many battles which overlapped each other, yet they are generally considered different wars. Whereas Khosrau's wars with Justinian were fought at the sake of fighting Romans, the Lazic wars were often fought on behalf of Lazic and Armenian citizens, or in defense of Sassanian outposts in Lazica.

The Caucasus
The Caucasus, also Caucas or Caucasia , is a geopolitical region at the border of Europe and Asia, and situated between the Black and the Caspian sea...

 region, especially northern Armenia, has always been a major area of Romano-Sassanian rivalry. The Lazic wars began when the Sassanians intervened on Byzantine encroachments on behalf of the King of Lazica. Khosrau was able to penetrate deep into Lazica and secure the fortress city of Petra, located on the coast of the Black Sea
Black Sea
The Black Sea is bounded by Europe, Anatolia and the Caucasus and is ultimately connected to the Atlantic Ocean via the Mediterranean and the Aegean seas and various straits. The Bosphorus strait connects it to the Sea of Marmara, and the strait of the Dardanelles connects that sea to the Aegean...

, which provided Persia with a strategic port.

Khosrau was forced to pull out of Lazica, leaving only a 1,500 man garrison in Petra to defend the territory while he went to deal with Belisarius in Mesopotamia. In 542, Justinian attempted to make a truce with Khosrau, but rather than sending peace delegates, Justinian sent a massive 30,000 man army into Armenia. Sassanian general Nabed's army of 4,000 was severely outnumbered and was forced to retreat to the town of Anglon in Armenia. The Byzantine army pursued the Sassanians into the town but to Byzantines' dismay, they walked into an ambush and were completely routed. This massive defeat in 543 gave Sassanians the offensive in the Lazic war as well as in the war against Justinian.

Justinian and Khosrau declared a five year truce in 545 but war continued to ravage the Caucasus region. An uprising of anti-Sassanian control struck the Lazica region in 547. In response, Justinian sent 8,000 troops in support of Lazic King Gubazes
Gubazes II of Lazica
Gubazes II was king of Lazica from ca. 541 until his assassination in 555. He was one of the central personalities of the Lazic War, first as a Sassanid Persian vassal and after 548 as an ally of the Eastern Roman Empire....

. A Byzantine-Lazic army besieged the city of Petra, holding a garrison of 1,500 Sassanian troops. As a result, 1,200 of the Sassanian soldiers were killed, but the Byzantine-Lazic coalition was soon forced to retreat when a relief army of 30,000 pro-Sassanian troop arrived.

In 549 the previous truce between Justinian and Khosrau was disregarded and full war broke out once again between Persians and Romans. The last major decisive battle of the Lazic wars came in 556 when Byzantine general Martin defeated a massive Sassanian force led by a Persian nakhvaegan (field marshal). Negotiations between Khosrau and Justinian opened in 556, leading to the establishment of a 51 year peace agreement in 561 in which Persians would leave Lazica in return for an annual payment of gold.

According to ancient historian Meander Protector, a minor official in Justinian's court, there were 12 points to the treaty, stated in the following passage:

War in the East

With a stable peace agreement with the Byzantines in the west, Khosrau was now able to focus his attention on the eastern Hephthalites. Even with the growth of Persian military power under Khosrau's reforms, the Sassanians were still uneasy at the prospect of attacking the Hephthalite
The Hephthalites or Hephthalite is a pre-Islamic Greek term for local Abdali Afghans, who's famous ruler was Nazak Abdali . Hephthalites were a Central Asian nomadic confederation of the AD 5th-6th centuries whose precise origins and composition remain obscure...

 on their own and began to seek allies. Their answer came in the form of Turkic
Turkic peoples
The Turkic peoples are peoples residing in northern, central and western Asia, southern Siberia and northwestern China and parts of eastern Europe. They speak languages belonging to the Turkic language family. They share, to varying degrees, certain cultural traits and historical backgrounds...

 incursions into Central Asia
Central Asia
Central Asia is a core region of the Asian continent from the Caspian Sea in the west, China in the east, Afghanistan in the south, and Russia in the north...

. The movement of Turkic people into Central Asia very quickly made them natural enemies and competitors to the Hephthalites.

The Hephthalites were a strong military power but they lacked the organization to fight on multiple fronts. The Persians and the Turkic tribes made an alliance and launched a two pronged attack on the Hephthalites, taking advantage of their disorganization and disunity. As a result, the Turkic tribes took the territory north of the Oxus river
Amu Darya
The Amu Darya , also called Oxus and Amu River, is a major river in Central Asia. It is formed by the junction of the Vakhsh and Panj rivers...

, while the Persians annexed land to the south.

Friendly relations between Turks and Persians quickly deteriorated after the conquest of Hephthalite peoples. Both Turks and Persians wanted to dominate the Silk Road
Silk Road
The Silk Road or Silk Route refers to a historical network of interlinking trade routes across the Afro-Eurasian landmass that connected East, South, and Western Asia with the Mediterranean and European world, as well as parts of North and East Africa...

 and the trade industry between the west and the far east. In 568 a Turkish embassy was sent to Byzantine to propose an alliance and two pronged attack on the Sassanian Empire. Fortunately for the Persians, nothing ever came from this proposal.

Campaign in Yemen Against Ethiopia

In 522, before Khosrau's reign, a group of monophysite Ethiopia
Ethiopia , officially known as the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, is a country located in the Horn of Africa. It is the second-most populous nation in Africa, with over 82 million inhabitants, and the tenth-largest by area, occupying 1,100,000 km2...

ns led an attack on the dominant Himyarites of southern Arabia. The local Arab leader was able to resist the attack, and appealed to the Sassanians for aid, while the Ethiopians subsequently turned towards the Byzantines for help. The Ethiopians sent another force across the Red Sea
Red Sea
The Red Sea is a seawater inlet of the Indian Ocean, lying between Africa and Asia. The connection to the ocean is in the south through the Bab el Mandeb strait and the Gulf of Aden. In the north, there is the Sinai Peninsula, the Gulf of Aqaba, and the Gulf of Suez...

 and this time successfully killed the Arab leader and replaced him with an Ethiopian man to be king of the region.

In 531, Justinian suggested that the Ethiopians of Yemen
The Republic of Yemen , commonly known as Yemen , is a country located in the Middle East, occupying the southwestern to southern end of the Arabian Peninsula. It is bordered by Saudi Arabia to the north, the Red Sea to the west, and Oman to the east....

 should cut out the Persians from Indian trade by maritime trade with the Indians. The Ethiopians never met this request because an Ethiopian general named Abraha took control of the Yemenite throne and created an independent nation. After Abraha's death one of his sons, Ma'd-Karib, went into exile while his half-brother took the throne. After being denied by Justinian, Ma'd-Karib sought help from Khosrau, who sent a small fleet and army under commander Vahriz
Vahriz was a Deylamite spahbod in the service of the Sassanid Empire. He was the head of a small expeditionary force of low ranking Azatan nobility, numbering around 700, sent by Khosrau I to Yemen....

 to depose the current king of Yemen. After capturing the capital city San'a'l, Ma'd-Karib's son, Saif, was put on the throne.

Justinian was ultimately responsible for Sassanian maritime presence in Yemen. By not providing the Yemenite Arabs support, Khosrau was able to help Ma'd-Karib and subsequently established Yemen as a principality of the Sassanian Empire.

War With Justin II

Justinian died in 565 and left Justin II
Justin II
Justin II was Byzantine Emperor from 565 to 578. He was the husband of Sophia, nephew of Justinian I and the late Empress Theodora, and was therefore a member of the Justinian Dynasty. His reign is marked by war with Persia and the loss of the greater part of Italy...

 to succeed the throne. In 555, The Sassanian governor of Armenia built a fire temple at Dvin
Dvin was a large commercial city and the capital of early medieval Armenia. It was situated north of the previous ancient capital of Armenia, the city of Artaxata, along the banks of the Metsamor River, 35 km to the south of modern Yerevan...

 and put to death a popular and influential member of the Mamikonian
Mamikonian, Mamikoneans, or Mamigonian was a noble family which dominated Armenian politics between the 4th and 8th century. They ruled the Armenian regions of Taron, Sasun, Bagrevand and others...

 noble family. This execution created tremendous civil unrest and led to a revolt and massacre of the Governor and his personal guard in 571. Justin II took advantage of this revolt and used it as an excuse to stop paying annual payments to Khosrau, effectively putting an end to the 51 year peace treaty that was established ten years earlier. The Armenians were considered allies to the Byzantine Empire and a Byzantine army was sent into Sassanian territory and besieged Nisbis in 572.

Justin was succeeded by Tiberius
Tiberius II Constantine
Tiberius II Constantine was Byzantine Emperor from 574 to 582.During his reign, Tiberius II Constantine gave away 7,200 pounds of gold each year for four years....

, a high ranking military officer in 578. Khosrau invaded Armenia once again feeling that he had the upper hand, and was initially successful. Soon after, the tables turned and the Byzantines gained a lot of local support. Another truce was attempted to be made in 578, but was abandoned when the Sassanian's gained a great victory. The war turned again when Byzantine commander Maurice entered the field and captured many Sassanian settlements. The revolt came to an end when Khosrau gave amnesty to Armenia and brought them back into the Sassanian empire. Peace negotiations were once again brought back up, but abruptly ended with the death of Khosrau in 579.

Building Projects

Khosrau's reign marked an expansion in building. Khosrau constructed a number of walls on his frontiers to protect from nomadic incursions as well as other enemies. On the southeast frontier he built a wall called the Wall of the Arabs in order to prevent Arab nomads from raiding his empire. In the northeast he built a wall to protect the interior of his empire from the Hephthalite and Turkish threat that was growing on his boarder. His wall building campaign was also extended into the Caucasus region where he built massive walls at Derbent
Derbent |Lak]]: Чурул, Churul; Persian: دربند; Judæo-Tat: דארבּאנד/Дэрбэнд/Dərbənd) is a city in the Republic of Dagestan, Russia, close to the Azerbaijani border. It is the southernmost city in Russia, and it is the second most important city of Dagestan...


After the conquest of Antioch in 541, Khosrau built a new city near Ctesiphon for the inhabitants he captured. He called this new city Weh Antiok Khusrau or literally, “better than Antioch Khosrau built this.” Local inhabitants of the area called the new city Rumagan, meaning “town of the Greeks” and Arabs called the city al-Rumiyya. Along with Weh Antiok, Khosrau built a number of fortified cities.

Khosrau I greatly improved the road system within the Sassanian empire. These roads greatly improved the quickness that the armies were able to move, increasing the efficiency of the military. This led to greater defense of the empire as well as much quicker transportation of military intelligence. Chains of stations were also built along the roads. This allowed couriers to travel much more quickly and have safe resting stops as well as provide travelers with shelter.

Philosopher King

Khosrau I was known to be a great patron of philosophy and knowledge. An entry in the Chronicle of Séert
Chronicle of Seert
The Chronicle of Seert is an anonymous historiographic text written in Arabic by the Nestorian Church in Persia and the Middle East, possibly as early as the 9th century AD....

Khosrau I accepted refugees coming from the Eastern Roman Empire when Justinian closed the neo-Platonist schools in Athens in 529. He was greatly interested in Indian philosophy, science, math, and medicine. He sent multiple embassies and gifts to the Indian court and requested them to send back philosophers to teach in his court in return. Khosrau made many translations of texts from Greek
Greek language
Greek is an independent branch of the Indo-European family of languages. Native to the southern Balkans, it has the longest documented history of any Indo-European language, spanning 34 centuries of written records. Its writing system has been the Greek alphabet for the majority of its history;...

, Sanskrit
Sanskrit , is a historical Indo-Aryan language and the primary liturgical language of Hinduism, Jainism and Buddhism.Buddhism: besides Pali, see Buddhist Hybrid Sanskrit Today, it is listed as one of the 22 scheduled languages of India and is an official language of the state of Uttarakhand...

, and Syriac into Middle Persian
Middle Persian
Middle Persian , indigenously known as "Pârsig" sometimes referred to as Pahlavi or Pehlevi, is the Middle Iranian language/ethnolect of Southwestern Iran that during Sassanid times became a prestige dialect and so came to be spoken in other regions as well. Middle Persian is classified as a...

. He received the title of “Plato's Philosopher King” by the Greek refugees that he allowed into his empire because of his great interest in Platonic philosophy
Platonism is the philosophy of Plato or the name of other philosophical systems considered closely derived from it. In a narrower sense the term might indicate the doctrine of Platonic realism...

A synthesis of Greek, Persian, Indian, and Armenian learning traditions took place within the Sassanian Empire. One outcome of this synthesis created what is known as bimaristan
Bimaristan is a Persian word meaning hospital, with Bimar- from Middle Persian of vīmār or vemār, meaning "sick" plus -stan as location and place suffix...

, the first hospital that introduced a concept of segregating wards according to pathology. Greek pharmacology fused with Iranian and Indian traditions resulted in significant advances in medicine. According to historian Richard Frye, this great influx of knowledge created a renaissance during, and proceeding Khosrau's reign.

Intellectual games such as chess
Chess is a two-player board game played on a chessboard, a square-checkered board with 64 squares arranged in an eight-by-eight grid. It is one of the world's most popular games, played by millions of people worldwide at home, in clubs, online, by correspondence, and in tournaments.Each player...

 and backgammon
Backgammon is one of the oldest board games for two players. The playing pieces are moved according to the roll of dice, and players win by removing all of their pieces from the board. There are many variants of backgammon, most of which share common traits...

 demonstrated and celebrated the diplomatic relationship between Khosrau and a “great king of India.” The vizier
A vizier or in Arabic script ; ; sometimes spelled vazir, vizir, vasir, wazir, vesir, or vezir) is a high-ranking political advisor or minister in a Muslim government....

 of the Indian king invented chess as a cheerful, playful challenge to King Khosrau. When the game was sent to Iran it came with a letter which read: “As your name is the King of Kings, all your emperorship over us connotes that your wise men should be wiser than ours. Either you send us an explanation of this game of chess or send revenue and tribute us.” Khosrau's grand vizier successfully solved the riddle and figured out how to play chess. In response the wise vizier created the game backgammon and sent it to the Indian court with the same message. The King was not able to solve the riddle and was forced to pay tribute.

Academy of Gondishapur

Khosrau I is known to have either founded or greatly expanded the Academy of Gondishapur, located in the city of Gundeshapur
Gundeshapur Gundeshapur Gundeshapur (Persian گندی‌شاپور, Gund-ī Shāh Pūr, Gondeshapur, Jondishapoor, Jondishapur, and Jondishapour, Gundishapur, Gondêšâpur, Jund-e Shapur, Jundê-Shâpûr, etc...

. As to the development of non-religious knowledge and research in Persia and apart from historical evidence given on such traditions in the preceding Persian Empires, there are reports on systematic activities initiated by the Sasanian court as early as in the first decades of Sasanian rule. The Middle Persian
Middle Persian
Middle Persian , indigenously known as "Pârsig" sometimes referred to as Pahlavi or Pehlevi, is the Middle Iranian language/ethnolect of Southwestern Iran that during Sassanid times became a prestige dialect and so came to be spoken in other regions as well. Middle Persian is classified as a...

 encyclopaedia Denkard
The Dēnkard or Dēnkart is a 10th century compendium of the Mazdaen Zoroastrian beliefs and customs. The Denkard is to a great extent an "Encyclopedia of Mazdaism" and is a most valuable source of information on the religion...

 states that during the reign of Shapur I
Shapur I
Shapur I or also known as Shapur I the Great was the second Sassanid King of the Second Persian Empire. The dates of his reign are commonly given as 240/42 - 270/72, but it is likely that he also reigned as co-regent prior to his father's death in 242 .-Early years:Shapur was the son of Ardashir I...

 writings of this kind were collected and added to the Avesta
The Avesta is the primary collection of sacred texts of Zoroastrianism, composed in the Avestan language.-Early transmission:The texts of the Avesta — which are all in the Avestan language — were composed over the course of several hundred years. The most important portion, the Gathas,...

. And an atmosphere of vivid reflection and discussion at the early Sasanian court in the third century AD is reflected in such accounts.
The foundation of the Academy of Gondishapur introduced the studies of philosophy, medicine, physics, poetry, rhetoric, and astronomy into the Sasanian court. According to some historical accounts, this famous learning center was built in order to provide a place for incoming Greek refugees to study and share their knowledge. Gundeshapur became the focal point of the combination of Greek and Indian sciences along with Persian and Aramaic traditions. The cosmopolitan which was introduced by the institution of Gondishapur became a catalyst for modern studies.


Although Khosrau's achievements were highly successful and helped centralize the empire, they did not last long after his death. The local officials and great noble families resented the fact that their power had been stripped away from them and began to regain power quickly after his death. Khosrau's reign had a major impact on Islam
Islam . The most common are and .   : Arabic pronunciation varies regionally. The first vowel ranges from ~~. The second vowel ranges from ~~~...

ic culture and political life. Many of his policies and reforms where brought into the Islamic nation in their transformation from a decentralized oligarchical into an imperial empire.

There are a considerable amount of Islamic work that was inspired by the reign of Khosrau I, for example the Kitab al-Taj of Jahiz
Al-Jāḥiẓ was an Arabic prose writer and author of works of literature, Mu'tazili theology, and politico-religious polemics.In biology, Al-Jahiz introduced the concept of food chains and also proposed a scheme of animal evolution that entailed...

. There are a considerable amount of Islamic texts that refer to Khosrau's reign that it is sometimes hard to tell what is fact and what is fallacy.

His reign signifies the promotion and possibly even the creation of the Silk Road between ancient China, India, and the western world. Richard Frye makes the argument that Khosrau's rationale behind his numerous wars with the Byzantine empire as well as the eastern Hephthalites was to establish the Sassanian dominance on this trade route.

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