Sassanid Empire

Sassanid Empire

Overview
The Sassanid Empire known to its inhabitants as Ērānshahr and Ērān in 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...

 and resulting in the New Persian terms
Terminology
Terminology is the study of terms and their use. Terms are words and compound words that in specific contexts are given specific meanings, meanings that may deviate from the meaning the same words have in other contexts and in everyday language. The discipline Terminology studies among other...

 Iranshahr and Iran , was the last pre-Islam
Islam
Islam . The most common are and .   : Arabic pronunciation varies regionally. The first vowel ranges from ~~. The second vowel ranges from ~~~...

ic Persian Empire, ruled by the Sasanian Dynasty from 224 to 651. The Sassanid Empire, which succeeded the Parthian Empire
Parthian Empire
The Parthian Empire , also known as the Arsacid Empire , was a major Iranian political and cultural power in ancient Persia...

, was recognized as one of the two main powers in Western Asia and Europe, alongside the Roman Empire
Roman Empire
The Roman Empire was the post-Republican period of the ancient Roman civilization, characterised by an autocratic form of government and large territorial holdings in Europe and around the Mediterranean....

 and its successor, the 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...

, for a period of more than 400 years.

The Sassanid Empire was founded by Ardashir I
Ardashir I
Ardashir I was the founder of the Sassanid Empire, was ruler of Istakhr , subsequently Fars Province , and finally "King of Kings of Sassanid Empire " with the overthrow of the Parthian Empire...

, after the fall of the Arsacid Empire and the defeat of the last Arsacid king, Artabanus IV.
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The Sassanid Empire known to its inhabitants as Ērānshahr and Ērān in 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...

 and resulting in the New Persian terms
Terminology
Terminology is the study of terms and their use. Terms are words and compound words that in specific contexts are given specific meanings, meanings that may deviate from the meaning the same words have in other contexts and in everyday language. The discipline Terminology studies among other...

 Iranshahr and Iran , was the last pre-Islam
Islam
Islam . The most common are and .   : Arabic pronunciation varies regionally. The first vowel ranges from ~~. The second vowel ranges from ~~~...

ic Persian Empire, ruled by the Sasanian Dynasty from 224 to 651. The Sassanid Empire, which succeeded the Parthian Empire
Parthian Empire
The Parthian Empire , also known as the Arsacid Empire , was a major Iranian political and cultural power in ancient Persia...

, was recognized as one of the two main powers in Western Asia and Europe, alongside the Roman Empire
Roman Empire
The Roman Empire was the post-Republican period of the ancient Roman civilization, characterised by an autocratic form of government and large territorial holdings in Europe and around the Mediterranean....

 and its successor, the 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...

, for a period of more than 400 years.

The Sassanid Empire was founded by Ardashir I
Ardashir I
Ardashir I was the founder of the Sassanid Empire, was ruler of Istakhr , subsequently Fars Province , and finally "King of Kings of Sassanid Empire " with the overthrow of the Parthian Empire...

, after the fall of the Arsacid Empire and the defeat of the last Arsacid king, Artabanus IV. It lasted until Yazdegerd III lost control of his empire in a series of invasions from the Arab Caliphate. During its existence, the Sassanid Empire encompassed all of today's Iran
Iran
Iran , officially the Islamic Republic of Iran , is a country in Southern and Western Asia. The name "Iran" has been in use natively since the Sassanian era and came into use internationally in 1935, before which the country was known to the Western world as Persia...

, Afghanistan
Afghanistan
Afghanistan , officially the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, is a landlocked country located in the centre of Asia, forming South Asia, Central Asia and the Middle East. With a population of about 29 million, it has an area of , making it the 42nd most populous and 41st largest nation in the world...

, Iraq
Iraq
Iraq ; officially the Republic of Iraq is a country in Western Asia spanning most of the northwestern end of the Zagros mountain range, the eastern part of the Syrian Desert and the northern part of the Arabian Desert....

, Syria
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....

, the Caucasus
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...

 (Armenia, Georgia, Azerbaijan, and Dagestan), southwestern Central Asia, part of Turkey
Turkey
Turkey , known officially as the Republic of Turkey , is a Eurasian country located in Western Asia and in East Thrace in Southeastern Europe...

, certain coastal parts of the Arabian Peninsula
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...

, the Persian Gulf
Persian Gulf
The Persian Gulf, in Southwest Asia, is an extension of the Indian Ocean located between Iran and the Arabian Peninsula.The Persian Gulf was the focus of the 1980–1988 Iran-Iraq War, in which each side attacked the other's oil tankers...

 area, and areas of southwestern Pakistan
Pakistan
Pakistan , officially the Islamic Republic of Pakistan is a sovereign state in South Asia. It has a coastline along the Arabian Sea and the Gulf of Oman in the south and is bordered by Afghanistan and Iran in the west, India in the east and China in the far northeast. In the north, Tajikistan...

, even stretching into India
India
India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

. The native name for the Sassanid Empire in 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...

 is Eran Shahr which means Aryan
Aryan
Aryan is an English language loanword derived from Sanskrit ārya and denoting variously*In scholarly usage:**Indo-Iranian languages *in dated usage:**the Indo-European languages more generally and their speakers...

 Empire
. According to legend, the
vexilloid
Vexilloid
"Vexilloid" is a term used tenuously to describe vexillary objects used by countries, organizations, or individuals as a form of representation other than flags. Coined by Whitney Smith in 1958, he defined a vexilliod as:...

 of the Sassanid Empire was the Derafsh Kaviani
Derafsh Kaviani
The Derafsh Kaviani , was the legendary royal standard of the Sassanid kings. The banner was also sometimes called the "standard of Jamshid" , the "standard of Fereydun" , and the "royal standard" .-Name:The name Drafš e Kāvīān The Derafsh Kaviani (Middle Persian: Drafš e Kāvīān), was the...

. It was also hypothesized that the transition toward the Sassanid Empire represents the end of struggle of ethnic proto-Persians with their close migrant ethnic relatives, the Parthians, whose original homeland was in modern-day 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 Sassanid era, during Late Antiquity
Late Antiquity
Late Antiquity is a periodization used by historians to describe the time of transition from Classical Antiquity to the Middle Ages, in both mainland Europe and the Mediterranean world. Precise boundaries for the period are a matter of debate, but noted historian of the period Peter Brown proposed...

, is considered to have been one of Persia's/Iran's most important and influential historical periods, and constituted the last great Iranian empire before the Muslim conquest
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...

 and the adoption of Islam. In many ways, the Sassanid period witnessed the peak of ancient Persian civilization. Persia influenced Roman civilization considerably during the Sassanid period. The Sassanids' cultural influence extended far beyond the empire's territorial borders, reaching as far as Western Europe, Africa, China and India. It played a prominent role in the formation of both European and Asian medieval art.

Origins and early history (205–310)




Conflicting accounts shroud the details of the fall of the Parthian Empire
Parthian Empire
The Parthian Empire , also known as the Arsacid Empire , was a major Iranian political and cultural power in ancient Persia...

 and subsequent rise of the Sassanid Empire in mystery. The Sassanid Empire was established in Istakhr by Ardashir I
Ardashir I
Ardashir I was the founder of the Sassanid Empire, was ruler of Istakhr , subsequently Fars Province , and finally "King of Kings of Sassanid Empire " with the overthrow of the Parthian Empire...

, a descendant of a line of the priests of the goddess Anahita
Anahita
Anahita is the Old Persian form of the name of an Iranian goddess and appears in complete and earlier form as ' ; the Avestan language name of an Indo-Iranian cosmological figure venerated as the divinity of 'the Waters' and hence associated with fertility, healing and wisdom...

. In the beginning of the third century, Ardashir became governor of Persis (modern Persian Fars). Little is known about his relationship with Sassan. Sources are not consistent concerning the relationships between the early Sassanids (Sassan, Babak, Ardashir and Shapur).

Babak was originally the ruler of a region called Kheir. However, by the year 200, he managed to overthrow Gocihr, and appoint himself as the new ruler of the Bazrangids
Bazrangids
The Bazrangids were the local rulers of Persis and Carmania as clients of the Arsacids . They were expelled from their original home in the Middle East by the Parthians. Gocihr, the last king of the Bazrangids, was deposed by King Papag in 205 AD.-External links:*...

. His mother, Rodhagh, was the daughter of the provincial governor of Persis. Babak and his eldest son Shapur managed to expand their power over all of Persis. The subsequent events are unclear, due to the sketchy nature of the sources. It is certain, however, that following the death of Babak, Ardashir who at the time was the governor of Darabgird, got involved in a power struggle of his own with his elder brother Shapur. Sources reveal that Shapur, leaving for a meeting with his brother, was killed when the roof of a building collapsed on him. By the year 208, over the protests of his other brothers who were put to death, Ardashir declared himself ruler of Persis.

Once Ardashir was appointed Shahenshah, he moved his capital further to the south of Persis and founded Ardashir-Khwarrah (formerly Gur, modern day Firouzabad
Firouzabad
Firuzabad is a city in and the capital of Firuzabad County, Fars Province, Iran. At the 2006 census, its population was 58,210, in 12,888 families.Firuzabad is located south of Shiraz. The town is surrounded by a mud wall and ditch....

). The city, well supported by high mountains and easily defendable through narrow passes, became the center of Ardashir's efforts to gain more power. The city was surrounded by a high, circular wall, probably copied from that of Darabgird, and on the north-side included a large palace, remains which still survive today. After establishing his rule over Persis, Ardashir I rapidly extended his territory, demanding fealty from the local princes of Fars, and gaining control over the neighboring provinces of Kerman, Isfahan, Susiana
Susa
Susa was an ancient city of the Elamite, Persian and Parthian empires of Iran. It is located in the lower Zagros Mountains about east of the Tigris River, between the Karkheh and Dez Rivers....

 and Mesene. This expansion quickly came to the attention of Artabanus IV, the Parthian king, who initially ordered the governor of Khuzestan to wage war against Ardashir in 224, but the battles were victories for Ardashir. In a second attempt to destroy Ardashir, Artabanus himself met Ardashir in battle at Hormozgan, where Artabanus met his death. Following the death of the Parthian ruler, Ardashir I went on to invade the western provinces of the now defunct Parthian Empire.

Factors that aided the rise to supremacy of the Sassanids were the Artabanus-Vologases
Vologases VI of Parthia
]Vologases VI of Parthia succeeded his father Vologases V of Parthia to the throne of the Parthian Empire in 208. Soon after his accession his brother Artabanus IV rebelled against him, and became master of the greater part of the empire...

 dynastic struggle for the Parthian throne, which probably allowed Ardashir to consolidate his authority in the south with little or no interference from the Parthians; and the geography of the Fars province, which separated it from the rest of Iran. Crowned in 224 at Ctesiphon
Ctesiphon
Ctesiphon, the imperial capital of the Parthian Arsacids and of the Persian Sassanids, was one of the great cities of ancient Mesopotamia.The ruins of the city are located on the east bank of the Tigris, across the river from the Hellenistic city of Seleucia...

 as the sole ruler of Persia, Ardashir took the title Shahanshah, or "King of Kings" (the inscriptions mention Adhur-Anahid as his "Queen of Queens", but her relationship with Ardashir is not established), bringing the 400-year-old Parthian Empire to an end, and beginning four centuries of Sassanid rule.


In the next few years, local rebellions would form around the empire. Nonetheless, Ardashir I further expanded his new empire to the east and northwest, conquering the provinces of Sistan
Sistan
Sīstān is a border region in eastern Iran , southwestern Afghanistan and northern tip of Southwestern Pakistan .-Etymology:...

, Gorgan
Gorgan
Gorgan Some east of Gorgan is the Golestan National Park. The city has a regional airport and several universities. Gorgan Airport was opened in September 2005.-Etymology:...

, Khorasan, Margiana
Merv
Merv , formerly Achaemenid Satrapy of Margiana, and later Alexandria and Antiochia in Margiana , was a major oasis-city in Central Asia, on the historical Silk Road, located near today's Mary in Turkmenistan. Several cities have existed on this site, which is significant for the interchange of...

 (in modern Turkmenistan
Turkmenistan
Turkmenistan , formerly also known as Turkmenia is one of the Turkic states in Central Asia. Until 1991, it was a constituent republic of the Soviet Union, the Turkmen Soviet Socialist Republic . Turkmenistan is one of the six independent Turkic states...

), Balkh
Balkh
Balkh , was an ancient city and centre of Zoroastrianism in what is now northern Afghanistan. Today it is a small town in the province of Balkh, about 20 kilometers northwest of the provincial capital, Mazar-e Sharif, and some south of the Amu Darya. It was one of the major cities of Khorasan...

 and Chorasmia. He also added Bahrain
Bahrain
' , officially the Kingdom of Bahrain , is a small island state near the western shores of the Persian Gulf. It is ruled by the Al Khalifa royal family. The population in 2010 stood at 1,214,705, including 235,108 non-nationals. Formerly an emirate, Bahrain was declared a kingdom in 2002.Bahrain is...

 and Mosul
Mosul
Mosul , is a city in northern Iraq and the capital of the Ninawa Governorate, some northwest of Baghdad. The original city stands on the west bank of the Tigris River, opposite the ancient Assyrian city of Nineveh on the east bank, but the metropolitan area has now grown to encompass substantial...

 to Sassanid's possessions. Later Sassanid inscriptions also claim the submission of the Kings of Kushan, Turan
Turan
Tūrān is the Persian name for Central Asia, literally meaning "the land of the Tur". As described below, the original Turanians are an Iranian tribe of the Avestan age. As a people the "Turanian" are one of the two Iranian peoples both descending from the Persian Fereydun but with different...

 and Mekran to Ardashir, although based on numismatic evidence, it is more likely that these actually submitted to Ardashir's son, the future 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...

. In the west, assaults against Hatra
Hatra
Hatra is an ancient city in the Ninawa Governorate and al-Jazira region of Iraq. It is currently known as al-Hadr, a name which appears once in ancient inscriptions, and it was in the ancient Iranian province of Khvarvaran. The city lies northwest of Baghdad and southwest of Mosul.-History:Hatra...

, Armenia and Adiabene
Adiabene
Adiabene was an ancient Assyrian independent kingdom in Mesopotamia, with its capital at Arbela...

 met with less success. In 230, he raided deep into Roman territory, and a Roman counter-offensive two years later ended inconclusively, although the Roman emperor
Roman Emperor
The Roman emperor was the ruler of the Roman State during the imperial period . The Romans had no single term for the office although at any given time, a given title was associated with the emperor...

, Alexander Severus
Alexander Severus
Severus Alexander was Roman Emperor from 222 to 235. Alexander was the last emperor of the Severan dynasty. He succeeded his cousin Elagabalus upon the latter's assassination in 222, and was ultimately assassinated himself, marking the epoch event for the Crisis of the Third Century — nearly fifty...

, celebrated a triumph in Rome.


Ardashir I's son 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...

 continued the expansion of the empire, conquering Bactria
Bactria
Bactria and also appears in the Zend Avesta as Bukhdi. It is the ancient name of a historical region located between south of the Amu Darya and west of the Indus River...

 and the western portion of the Kushan Empire, while leading several campaigns against Rome
Roman Empire
The Roman Empire was the post-Republican period of the ancient Roman civilization, characterised by an autocratic form of government and large territorial holdings in Europe and around the Mediterranean....

. Invading Roman Mesopotamia, Shapur I captured Carrhae
Harran
Harran was a major ancient city in Upper Mesopotamia whose site is near the modern village of Altınbaşak, Turkey, 24 miles southeast of Şanlıurfa...

 and Nisibis
Nisibis
Nusaybin Nisêbîn) is a city in Mardin Province, Turkey, populated mainly by Kurds. Earlier Arameans, Arabs, and Armenians lived in the city. The population of the city is 83,832 as of 2009.-Ancient Period:...

, but in 243 the Roman general Timesitheus
Gaius Furius Sabinius Aquila Timesitheus
Gaius Furius Sabinius Aquila Timesitheus was a Roman knight who lived in the 3rd century and was the most important advisor to Roman Emperor Gordian III. Very little is known on his origins. Timesitheus was a Roman of equestrian rank.-Life:...

 defeated the Persians at Rhesaina
Battle of Resaena
The Battle of Resaena or Resaina, near Ceylanpinar, Turkey, was fought in 243 between the forces of the Roman Empire, led by Praetorian Prefect Timesitheus, and a Sassanid Empire army, led by King Shapur I. The Romans were victorious....

 and regained the lost territories. The emperor Gordian III
Gordian III
Gordian III , was Roman Emperor from 238 to 244. Gordian was the son of Antonia Gordiana and an unnamed Roman Senator who died before 238. Antonia Gordiana was the daughter of Emperor Gordian I and younger sister of Emperor Gordian II. Very little is known on his early life before his acclamation...

's (238–244) subsequent advance down the Euphrates was defeated at Meshike
Battle of Misiche
The Battle of Misiche, Mesiche, or Massice was fought between the Sassanid Persians and the Romans somewhere in ancient Mesopotamia. The result was a Roman defeat.-Background and the Battle:...

 (244), leading to Gordian's murder by his own troops and enabling Shapur to conclude a highly advantageous peace treaty with the new emperor Philip the Arab
Philip the Arab
Philip the Arab , also known as Philip or Philippus Arabs, was Roman Emperor from 244 to 249. He came from Syria, and rose to become a major figure in the Roman Empire. He achieved power after the death of Gordian III, quickly negotiating peace with the Sassanid Empire...

, by which he secured the immediate payment of 500,000 denarii and further annual payments.

Shapur soon resumed the war, defeated the Romans at Barbalissos
Battle of Barbalissos
The Battle of Barbalissos was fought between the Sassanid Persians and Romans at Barbalissos. Shapur I used Roman incursions into Armenia as pretext and resumed hostilities with the Romans. The Romans and Sassanids clashed at Barbalissos...

 (252), and then probably took and plundered Antioch
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...

. Roman counter-attacks under the emperor Valerian
Valerian (emperor)
Valerian , also known as Valerian the Elder, was Roman Emperor from 253 to 260. He was taken captive by Persian king Shapur I after the Battle of Edessa, becoming the only Roman Emperor who was captured as a prisoner of war, resulting in wide-ranging instability across the Empire.-Origins and rise...

 ended in disaster when the Roman army was defeated and besieged at Edessa
Battle of Edessa
The Battle of Edessa took place between the armies of the Roman Empire under the command of Emperor Valerian and Sassanid forces under Shahanshah Shapur I in 259...

 and Valerian was captured by Shapur, remaining his prisoner for the rest of his life. Shapur celebrated his victory by carving the impressive rock reliefs in Naqsh-e Rostam and Bishapur
Bishapur
thumb|Irano-Roman floor mosaic detail from the palace of [[Shapur I]] at BishapurBishapur is an ancient city situated south of modern Faliyan, Iran on the ancient road between Persis and Elam. The road linked the Sassanid capitals Istakhr and Ctesiphon...

, as well as a monumental inscription in Persian and Greek in the vicinity of Persepolis
Persepolis
Perspolis was the ceremonial capital of the Achaemenid Empire . Persepolis is situated northeast of the modern city of Shiraz in the Fars Province of modern Iran. In contemporary Persian, the site is known as Takht-e Jamshid...

. He exploited his success by advancing into Anatolia (260), but withdrew in disarray after defeats at the hands of the Romans and their Palmyrene
Palmyra
Palmyra was an ancient city in Syria. In the age of antiquity, it was an important city of central Syria, located in an oasis 215 km northeast of Damascus and 180 km southwest of the Euphrates at Deir ez-Zor. It had long been a vital caravan city for travellers crossing the Syrian desert...

 ally Odaenathus
Odaenathus
Lucius Septimius Odaenathus, Odenathus or Odenatus , the Latinized form of the Syriac Odainath, was a ruler of Palmyra, Syria and later of the short lived Palmyrene Empire, in the second half of the 3rd century, who succeeded in recovering the Roman East from the Persians and restoring it to the...

, suffering the capture of his harem and the loss of all the Roman territories he had occupied.

Shapur had intensive development plans. He ordered the construction of the first dam bridge in Iran and founded many cities, some settled in part by emigrants from the Roman territories, including Christians
Christianity
Christianity is a monotheistic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus as presented in canonical gospels and other New Testament writings...

 who could exercise their faith freely under Sassanid rule. Two cities, Bishapur
Bishapur
thumb|Irano-Roman floor mosaic detail from the palace of [[Shapur I]] at BishapurBishapur is an ancient city situated south of modern Faliyan, Iran on the ancient road between Persis and Elam. The road linked the Sassanid capitals Istakhr and Ctesiphon...

 and Nishapur
Nishapur
Nishapur or Nishabur , is a city in the Razavi Khorasan province in northeastern Iran, situated in a fertile plain at the foot of the Binalud Mountains, near the regional capital of Mashhad...

, are named after him. He particularly favored Manichaeism
Manichaeism
Manichaeism in Modern Persian Āyin e Māni; ) was one of the major Iranian Gnostic religions, originating in Sassanid Persia.Although most of the original writings of the founding prophet Mani have been lost, numerous translations and fragmentary texts have survived...

, protected Mani
Mani (prophet)
Mani , of Iranian origin was the prophet and the founder of Manichaeism, a gnostic religion of Late Antiquity which was once widespread but is now extinct...

 (who dedicated one of his books, the Shabuhragan
Shabuhragan
The Shabuhragan , which means the book of Shapur, was a sacred book of the Manichaean religion, written by the founder Mani himself, originally in Middle Persian, and dedicated to Shapur I , the contemporary king of the Sassanid Persian Empire...

, to him) and sent many Manichaean missionaries abroad. He also befriended a Babylonian rabbi called Shmuel
Samuel of Nehardea
Samuel of Nehardea or Samuel bar Abba was a Jewish Talmudist who lived in Babylonia, known as an Amora of the first generation; son of Abba bar Abba and head of the Yeshiva at Nehardea. He was a teacher of halakha, judge, physician, and astronomer. He was born about 165 at Nehardea, in Babylonia...

.

This friendship was advantageous for the Jewish community and gave them a respite from the oppressive laws enacted against them. Later kings reversed Shapur's policy of religious tolerance. Under pressure from Zoroastrian Magi
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...

 and influenced by the high-priest Kartir
Kartir
Kartir Hangirpe was a highly influential Zoroastrian high-priest of the late 3rd century CE and served as advisor to at least three Sassanid emperors....

, Bahram I
Bahram I
Bahram I was the fourth Sassanid emperor of the second Persian Empire. He was the eldest son of Shapur I and succeeded his brother Hormizd I , who had reigned for only a year....

 killed Mani and persecuted his followers. Bahram II
Bahram II
Bahram II was the fifth Sassanid King of Persia in 276–293. He was the son of Bahram I .Bahram II is said to have ruled at first tyrannically, and to have greatly disgusted all his principal nobles, who went so far as to form a conspiracy against him, and intended to put him to death...

 was, like his father, amenable to the wishes of the Zoroastrian priesthood. During his reign, the Sassanid capital Ctesiphon was sacked by the Romans under Emperor Carus
Carus
Carus , was Roman Emperor from 282 to 283. During his short reign, Carus fought the Germanic tribes and Sarmatians along the Danube frontier with success. During his campaign against the Sassanid Empire he sacked their capital Ctesiphon, but died shortly thereafter...

, and most of Armenia, after half a century of Persian rule, was ceded to Diocletian
Diocletian
Diocletian |latinized]] upon his accession to Diocletian . c. 22 December 244  – 3 December 311), was a Roman Emperor from 284 to 305....

.

Succeeding Bahram III
Bahram III
Bahram III was the sixth Sassanid King of Persia and son of Bahram II. He was appointed viceroy to the region of Sakasthan after Bahram II's conquest of it sometime in the 280's CE....

 (who ruled briefly in 293), Narseh
Narseh
Narseh was the seventh Sassanid King of Persia , and son of Shapur I ....

 embarked on another war with the Romans. After an early success against the Emperor Galerius
Galerius
Galerius , was Roman Emperor from 305 to 311. During his reign he campaigned, aided by Diocletian, against the Sassanid Empire, sacking their capital Ctesiphon in 299. He also campaigned across the Danube against the Carpi, defeating them in 297 and 300...

 near Callinicum on the Euphrates
Euphrates
The Euphrates is the longest and one of the most historically important rivers of Western Asia. Together with the Tigris, it is one of the two defining rivers of Mesopotamia...

 in 296, Narseh was decisively defeated. Indeed Galerius had been reinforced, probably in the spring of 298, by a new contingent collected from the empire's Danubian holdings. Narseh did not advance from Armenia and Mesopotamia, leaving Galerius to lead the offensive in 298 with an attack on northern Mesopotamia via Armenia. Narseh retreated to Armenia to fight Galerius' force, to Narseh's disadvantage: the rugged Armenian terrain was favorable to Roman infantry, but unfavorable to Sassanid cavalry. Local aid gave Galerius the advantage of surprise over the Persian forces, and, in two successive battles, Galerius secured victories over Narseh.
During the second encounter, Roman forces seized Narseh's camp, his treasury, his harem, and his wife along with it. Galerius advanced into Media
Medes
The MedesThe Medes...

 and Adiabene
Adiabene
Adiabene was an ancient Assyrian independent kingdom in Mesopotamia, with its capital at Arbela...

, winning continuous victories, most prominently near Erzurum, and securing Nisibis (Nusaybin, Turkey) before October 1, 298. He moved down the Tigris, taking Ctesiphon.

Narseh had previously sent an ambassador to Galerius to plead for the return of his wives and children.Peace negotiations began in the spring of 299, with both Diocletian and Galerius presiding.

The conditions of the peace were heavy: Persia would give up territory to Rome, making the Tigris the boundary between the two empires. Further terms specified that Armenia was returned to Roman domination, with the fort of Ziatha as its border; 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...

 would pay allegiance to Rome under a Roman appointee; Nisibis, now under Roman rule, would become the sole conduit for trade between Persia and Rome; and Rome would exercise control over the five satrapies between the Tigris and Armenia: Ingilene, Sophanene (Sophene
Sophene
Sophene , or ) was a province of the Armenian Kingdom and of the Roman Empire, located in the south-west of the kingdom. It currently lies in modern-day southeastern Turkey....

), Arzanene (Aghdznik
Aghdznik
Aghdznik , also known as Altzniq or Arzanene, was a province of Greater Armenia. It covered an area of , divided into 11 districts:*Angegh-home*Tigranakert*Arzn*Qagh*Ketik*Tatik*Aznvadzor*Erkhetq*Gzeghq*Salnodzor*Sasun....

), Corduene
Corduene
Corduene was an ancient region located in northern Mesopotamia and modern day Kurdish inhabited south east Turkey. It was a province of the Greater Armenia. It was referred to by the Greeks as Karduchia and by both the Greeks and Romans as Corduene...

, and Zabdicene (near modern Hakkâri
Hakkari
Hakkâri , is a city and the capital of the Hakkâri Province of Turkey. The name Hakkâri is derived from the Syriac word, Akkare, meaning farmers...

, Turkey).

In the treaty that concluded this war, the Sassanids ceded five provinces east of the Tigris, and agreed not to interfere in the affairs of Armenia and Georgia. In the aftermath of this defeat, Narseh gave up the throne and died a year later, leaving the Sassanid throne to his son, Hormizd II
Hormizd II
Hormizd II, was the eighth Persian king of the Sassanid Empire, and reigned for seven years and five months, from 302 to 309. He was the son of Narseh .Almost nothing is known of his reign...

. Unrest spread throughout the land, and while Hormizd II suppressed revolts in Sistan and Kushan, he was unable to control the nobles and was subsequently killed by Bedouins in a hunting trip in 309.

First Golden Era (309–379)


Following Hormizd II's death, Arabs from the south started to ravage and plunder the southern cities of the empire, even attacking the province of Fars, the birthplace of the Sassanid kings. Meanwhile, Persian nobles killed Hormizd II's eldest son, blinded the second, and imprisoned the third (who later escaped to Roman territory). The throne was reserved for Shapur II
Shapur II
Shapur II the Great was the ninth King of the Persian Sassanid Empire from 309 to 379 and son of Hormizd II. During his long reign, the Sassanid Empire saw its first golden era since the reign of Shapur I...

, the unborn child of one of Hormizd II's wives who was crowned in utero: the crown was placed upon his mother's stomach. During his youth the empire was controlled by his mother and the nobles. Upon Shapur II's coming of age, he assumed power and quickly proved to be an active and effective ruler.

Shapur II first led his small but disciplined army south against the Arabs, whom he defeated, securing the southern areas of the empire. He then started his first campaign against the Romans in the west, where Persian forces won a series of battles but were unable to make territorial gains due to the failure of repeated sieges of the key frontier city of Nisibis
Nisibis
Nusaybin Nisêbîn) is a city in Mardin Province, Turkey, populated mainly by Kurds. Earlier Arameans, Arabs, and Armenians lived in the city. The population of the city is 83,832 as of 2009.-Ancient Period:...

, and Roman success in retaking the cities of Singara
Singara
Singara was a strongly fortified post at the northern extremity of Mesopotamia, which for a while, as appears from many coins still extant, was occupied by the Romans as an advanced colony against the Persians...

 and Amida
Diyarbakir
Diyarbakır is one of the largest cities in southeastern Turkey...

, after they had fallen to the Persians.

These campaigns were halted by nomadic raids along the eastern borders of the empire, which threatened Transoxiana
Transoxiana
Transoxiana is the ancient name used for the portion of Central Asia corresponding approximately with modern-day Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, southern Kyrgystan and southwest Kazakhstan. Geographically, it is the region between the Amu Darya and Syr Darya rivers...

, a strategically critical area for control of 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...

. Shapur therefore marched east toward Transoxiana to meet the eastern nomads, leaving his local commanders to mount nuisance raids on the Romans. He crushed the Central Asian tribes, and annexed the area as a new province. He completed the conquest of the area now known as Afghanistan
Afghanistan
Afghanistan , officially the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, is a landlocked country located in the centre of Asia, forming South Asia, Central Asia and the Middle East. With a population of about 29 million, it has an area of , making it the 42nd most populous and 41st largest nation in the world...

.

Cultural expansion followed this victory, and Sassanid art penetrated Turkestan
Turkestan
Turkestan, spelled also as Turkistan, literally means "Land of the Turks".The term Turkestan is of Persian origin and has never been in use to denote a single nation. It was first used by Persian geographers to describe the place of Turkish peoples...

, reaching as far as China. Shapur, along with the nomad King Grumbates
Grumbates
Grumbates was a king of the Chionitae, an ancient nomadic tribe of Transoxiana.It has been suggested that Grumbates is an Iranian name.-Sources:*...

, started his second campaign against the Romans in 359, and soon succeeded in taking Singara and Amida again. In response to this, the Roman emperor Julian
Julian the Apostate
Julian "the Apostate" , commonly known as Julian, or also Julian the Philosopher, was Roman Emperor from 361 to 363 and a noted philosopher and Greek writer....

 struck deep into Persian territory and defeated Shapur's forces at Ctesiphon
Battle of Ctesiphon (363)
The Battle of Ctesiphon took place on May 29, 363 between the armies of Roman Emperor Julian and the Sassanid King Shapur II outside the walls of the Persian capital Ctesiphon...

, but having failed to take the capital, he was killed while trying to retreat back to Roman territory. His successor Jovian, trapped on the east bank of the Tigris, had to agree to hand over all the provinces which the Persians had ceded to Rome in 298 as well as Nisibis and Singara, in order to secure safe passage for his army out of Persia.

Shapur II pursued a harsh religious policy. Under his reign, the collection of the Avesta
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,...

, the sacred texts of Zoroastrianism, was completed, heresy and apostasy were punished, and Christians were persecuted. The latter was a reaction against the Christianization of the Roman Empire by Constantine the Great. Shapur II, like Shapur I, was amicable towards Jews, who lived in relative freedom and gained many advantages in his period (see also Raba (Talmud)). At the time of Shapur's death, the Persian Empire was stronger than ever, with its enemies to the east pacified and Armenia under Persian control.

Intermediate Era (379–498)


From Shapur II's death until 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...

's first coronation, there was a largely peaceful period with the Romans (by this time the Eastern Roman or 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...

), interrupted only by two brief wars, the first in 421–422 and the second in 440. Throughout this era, Sassanid religious policy differed dramatically from king to king. Despite a series of weak leaders, the administrative system established during Shapur II's reign remained strong, and the empire continued to function effectively.

After Shapur II died in 379, he left a powerful empire to his half-brother Ardashir II
Ardashir II
Ardashir II was the tenth Sassanid King of Persia from 379 to 383.He is believed by some to be the son and by others to be the brother of his predecessor, Shapur II...

 (379–383; son of Vahram of Kushan) and his son Shapur III
Shapur III
Shapur III was the eleventh Sassanid King of Persia from 383 to 388. Shapur III succeeded his father Ardashir II in the year 383.- Treaty with Rome :...

 (383–388), neither of whom demonstrated his predecessor's talent. Ardashir II, who was raised as the "half-brother" of the emperor, failed to fill his brother's shoes, and Shapur III was too much of a melancholy character to achieve anything. Bahram IV (388–399), although not as inactive as his father, still failed to achieve anything important for the empire. During this time Armenia was divided by treaty between the Roman and Sassanid empires. The Sassanids reestablished their rule over Greater Armenia, while the Byzantine Empire held a small portion of western Armenia.
Bahram IV's son Yazdegerd I
Yazdegerd I
Yazdegerd I, or Izdekerti , was the thirteenth Sassanid king of Persia and ruled from 399 to 421. He is believed by some to be the son of Shapur III and by others to be son of Bahram IV...

 (399–421) is often compared to Constantine I. Like him, he was powerful both physically and diplomatically. Much like his Roman counterpart, Yazdegerd I was opportunistic. Like Constantine the Great, Yazdegerd I practiced religious tolerance and provided freedom for the rise of religious minorities. He stopped the persecution against the Christians and even punished nobles and priests who persecuted them. His reign marked a relatively peaceful era. He made lasting peace with the Romans and even took the young Theodosius II
Theodosius II
Theodosius II , commonly surnamed Theodosius the Younger, or Theodosius the Calligrapher, was Byzantine Emperor from 408 to 450. He is mostly known for promulgating the Theodosian law code, and for the construction of the Theodosian Walls of Constantinople...

 (408–450) under his guardianship. He also married a Jewish princess who bore him a son called Narsi.

Yazdegerd I's successor was his son Bahram V
Bahram V
Bahram V was the fourteenth Sassanid King of Persia . Also called Bahram Gur or Bahramgur , he was a son of Yazdegerd I , after whose sudden death he gained the crown against the opposition of the grandees by the help of Mundhir, the Arab dynast of al-Hirah.- Reign and war with Rome :Bahram V...

 (421–438), one of the most well-known Sassanid kings and the hero of many myths. These myths persisted even after the destruction of the Sassanid empire by the Arabs. Bahram V, better known as Bahram-e Gur, gained the crown after Yazdegerd I's sudden death (or assassination) against the opposition of the grandees with the help of al-Mundhir
Al-Mundhir
Al-Mundhir was Emir of Córdoba from 886 to 888. He was a member of the Umayyad dynasty of Al-Andalus , the son of Muhamad bin Abd al-Rahman.-Biography:...

, the Arabic dynast of al-Hirah
Al-Hirah
Al Hīra was an ancient city located south of al-Kufah in south-central Iraq.- Middle Ages:Al Hīra was a significant city in pre-Islamic Arab history. Originally a military encampment, in the 5th and 6th centuries CE it became the capital of the Lakhmids.The Arabs were migrating into the Near East...

. Bahram V's mother was Soshandukht, the daughter of the Jewish Exilarch
Exilarch
Exilarch refers to the leaders of the Diaspora Jewish community in Babylon following the deportation of King Jeconiah and his court into Babylonian exile after the first fall of Jerusalem in 597 BCE and augmented after the further deportations following the destruction...

. In 427, he crushed an invasion in the east by the nomadic Hephthalites, extending his influence into Central Asia, where his portrait survived for centuries on the coinage of Bukhara
Bukhara
Bukhara , from the Soghdian βuxārak , is the capital of the Bukhara Province of Uzbekistan. The nation's fifth-largest city, it has a population of 263,400 . The region around Bukhara has been inhabited for at least five millennia, and the city has existed for half that time...

 (in modern Uzbekistan
Uzbekistan
Uzbekistan , officially the Republic of Uzbekistan is a doubly landlocked country in Central Asia and one of the six independent Turkic states. It shares borders with Kazakhstan to the west and to the north, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan to the east, and Afghanistan and Turkmenistan to the south....

). Bahram V deposed the vassal King of the Persian part of Armenia
Armenia
Armenia , officially the Republic of Armenia , is a landlocked mountainous country in the Caucasus region of Eurasia...

 and made it a province.

Bahram V is a great favorite in Persian tradition, which relates many stories of his valor and beauty, of his victories over the Romans, Turkic peoples
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...

, Indians and Africans, and of his adventures in hunting and in love; he is called Bahram-e Gur, Gur meaning onager
Onager
The Onager is a large member of the genus Equus of the family Equidae native to the deserts of Syria, Iran, Pakistan, India, Israel and Tibet...

, on account of his love for hunting and, in particular, hunting onagers. He symbolized a king at the height of a golden age. He had won his crown by competing with his brother and spent time fighting foreign enemies, but mostly kept himself amused by hunting and court parties with his famous band of ladies and courtiers. He embodied royal prosperity. During his time, the best pieces of Sassanid literature
Pahlavi literature
Middle Persian literature also called Pahlavi literature is Persian literature of the 1st millennium AD, especially of the Sassanid period.- Literature of Pahlavi :Pahlavi Literature can be divided in three parts:...

 were written, notable pieces of Sassanid music
Sassanid music
Sassanid music refers to the golden age of Persian music that occurred under the reign of the Sassanid dynasty.Persian classical music dates to the sixth century BC; during the time of the Achaemenid Empire , music played an important role in prayer and in royal and national events...

 were composed, and sports such as polo
Polo
Polo is a team sport played on horseback in which the objective is to score goals against an opposing team. Sometimes called, "The Sport of Kings", it was highly popularized by the British. Players score by driving a small white plastic or wooden ball into the opposing team's goal using a...

 became royal pastimes, a tradition that continues to this day in many kingdoms.

Bahram V's son 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....

 (438–457) was a just, moderate ruler, but in contrast to Yazdegerd I
Yazdegerd I
Yazdegerd I, or Izdekerti , was the thirteenth Sassanid king of Persia and ruled from 399 to 421. He is believed by some to be the son of Shapur III and by others to be son of Bahram IV...

, practiced a harsh policy towards minority religions, particularly Christianity.

At the beginning of his reign, Yazdegerd II gathered a mixed army of various nations, including his Indian allies, and attacked the Eastern Roman Empire in 441, but peace was soon restored after small-scale fighting. He then gathered his forces in Nishapur
Nishapur
Nishapur or Nishabur , is a city in the Razavi Khorasan province in northeastern Iran, situated in a fertile plain at the foot of the Binalud Mountains, near the regional capital of Mashhad...

 in 443 and launched a prolonged campaign against the Kidarites. Finally, after a number of battles, he crushed the Kidarites and drove them out beyond the Oxus river in 450.

During his eastern campaign, Yazdegerd II grew suspicious of the Christians in the army and expelled them all from the governing body and army. He then persecuted the Christians
Christianity
Christianity is a monotheistic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus as presented in canonical gospels and other New Testament writings...

 and, to a much lesser extent, the Jews. In order to reestablish Zoroastrianism in Armenia, he crushed an uprising of Armenian Christians at the Battle of Vartanantz
Battle of Vartanantz
The Battle of Avarayr also known as Battle of Vartanantz, was fought on May 26, 451 on the Avarayr Plain in Vaspurakan, between the Armenian Army under Saint Vartan and their Sassanid rulers...

 in 451. The Armenians, however, remained primarily Christian. In his later years, he was engaged yet again with Kidarites until his death in 457. Hormizd III
Hormizd III
Hormizd III, sixteenth Sassanid King of Persia, son of Yazdegerd II , succeeded his father in 457.Hormizd, the older son of Yazdegerd II, was kept near Ctesiphon, while his younger brother, Peroz, was stationed in Sistan. Following his father's death, Hormizd became ruler of the Sassanian Empire...

 (457–459), younger son of Yazdegerd II, ascended to the throne. During his short rule, he continually fought with his elder brother Peroz
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...

, who had the support of nobility, and with the Hephthalites in Bactria
Bactria
Bactria and also appears in the Zend Avesta as Bukhdi. It is the ancient name of a historical region located between south of the Amu Darya and west of the Indus River...

. He was killed by his brother Peroz in 459.

In the beginning of the 5th century, the Hephthalites (White Huns), along with other nomadic groups, attacked Persia. At first Bahram V
Bahram V
Bahram V was the fourteenth Sassanid King of Persia . Also called Bahram Gur or Bahramgur , he was a son of Yazdegerd I , after whose sudden death he gained the crown against the opposition of the grandees by the help of Mundhir, the Arab dynast of al-Hirah.- Reign and war with Rome :Bahram V...

 and 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....

 inflicted decisive defeats against them and drove them back eastward. The Huns returned at the end of 5th century and defeated Peroz I (457–484) in 483. Following this victory, the Huns invaded and plundered parts of eastern Persia for two years. They exacted heavy tribute for some years thereafter.

These attacks brought instability and chaos to the kingdom. 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...

 tried again to drive out the Hephthalites, but on the way to Herat, he and his army were trapped by the Huns in the desert; Peroz I was killed, and his army was wiped out. After this victory, the Hephthalites advanced forward to the city of Herat
Herat
Herāt is the capital of Herat province in Afghanistan. It is the third largest city of Afghanistan, with a population of about 397,456 as of 2006. It is situated in the valley of the Hari River, which flows from the mountains of central Afghanistan to the Karakum Desert in Turkmenistan...

, throwing the empire into chaos. Eventually, a noble Persian from the old family of Karen, Zarmihr (or Sokhra), restored some degree of order. He raised Balash
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...

, one of Peroz I's brothers, to the throne, although the Hunnic threat persisted until the reign of Khosrau I. Balash
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...

 (484–488) was a mild and generous monarch, who made concessions to the Christians; however, he took no action against the empire's enemies, particularly, the White Huns. Balash, after a reign of four years, was blinded and deposed (attributed to magnates), and his nephew Kavadh I was raised to the throne.

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) was an energetic and reformist ruler. Kavadh I gave his support to the communistic sect founded by Mazdak
Mazdak
Mazdak was a proto-socialist Persian reformer and religious activist who gained influence under the reign of the Sassanian Shahanshah Kavadh I...

, son of Bamdad, who demanded that the rich should divide their wives and their wealth with the poor. His intention evidently was, by adopting the doctrine of the Mazdakites, to break the influence of the magnates and the growing aristocracy. These reforms led to his being deposed and imprisoned in the "Castle of Oblivion" in Susa
Susa
Susa was an ancient city of the Elamite, Persian and Parthian empires of Iran. It is located in the lower Zagros Mountains about east of the Tigris River, between the Karkheh and Dez Rivers....

, and his younger brother Jamasp (Zamaspes), was raised to the throne in 496. Kavadh I, however, escaped in 498 and was given refuge by the White Hun king.

Djamasp (496–498) was installed on the Sassanid throne upon the deposition of Kavadh I by members of the nobility. Djamasp was a good and kind king, and he reduced taxes in order to relieve the peasant
Peasant
A peasant is an agricultural worker who generally tend to be poor and homeless-Etymology:The word is derived from 15th century French païsant meaning one from the pays, or countryside, ultimately from the Latin pagus, or outlying administrative district.- Position in society :Peasants typically...

s and the poor. He was also an adherent of the mainstream Zoroastrian religion, diversions from which had cost Kavadh I his throne and freedom. His reign soon ended when Kavadh I, at the head of a large army granted to him by the Hephthalite king, returned to the empire's capital. Djamasp stepped down from his position and restored the throne to his brother. No further mention of Djamasp is made after the restoration of Kavadh I, but it is widely believed that he was treated favorably at the court of his brother.

Second Golden Era (498–622)



The second golden era began after the second reign 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...

. With the support of the Hephtalites, Kavadh I launched a campaign against the Romans. In 502, he took Theodosiopolis in Armenia, but lost it soon afterwards. In 503 he took Amida
Amida (Roman city)
Amida was an ancient city located where modern Diyarbakır, Turkey. The Roman writers Ammianus Marcellinus and Procopius consider it a city of Mesopotamia, but it may be more properly viewed as belonging to Armenia Major....

 on the Tigris. In 504, an invasion of Armenia by the western Huns from the Caucasus led to an armistice, the return of Amida to Roman control and a peace treaty in 506. In 521/522 Kavadh lost control of Lazica, whose rulers switched their allegiance to the Romans; an attempt by the Iberians
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...

 in 524/525 to do likewise triggered a war between Rome and Persia.

In 527, a Roman offensive against Nisibis
Nisibis
Nusaybin Nisêbîn) is a city in Mardin Province, Turkey, populated mainly by Kurds. Earlier Arameans, Arabs, and Armenians lived in the city. The population of the city is 83,832 as of 2009.-Ancient Period:...

 was repulsed and Roman efforts to fortify positions near the frontier were thwarted. In 530, Kavadh sent an army under Firouz the Mirranes to attack the important Roman frontier city of Dara
Dara (Mesopotamia)
Dara or Daras was an important East Roman fortress city in northern Mesopotamia on the border with the Sassanid Empire. Because of its great strategic importance, it featured prominently in the Roman-Persian conflicts of the 6th century, with the famous Battle of Dara taking place before its walls...

. The army was met by the Roman general Belisarius
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....

, and though superior in numbers, was defeated at the Battle of Dara. In the same year, a second Persian army under Mihr-Mihroe was defeated at Satala by Roman forces under Sittas and Dorotheus, but in 531 a Persian army accompanied by a Lakhmid
Lakhmids
The Lakhmids , Banu Lakhm , Muntherids , were a group of Arab Christians who lived in Southern Iraq, and made al-Hirah their capital in 266. Poets described it as a Paradise on earth, an Arab Poet described the city's pleasant climate and beauty "One day in al-Hirah is better than a year of...

 contingent under al-Mundhir IV defeated Belisarius at the Battle of Callinicum
Battle of Callinicum
The Battle of Callinicum took place Easter day, 19 April 531, between the armies of the Eastern Roman Empire under Belisarius and the Sassanid Persians under Azarethes. After a defeat at the Battle of Dara, the Sassanids moved to invade Syria in an attempt to turn the tide of the war...

, and in 532 an "eternal" peace was concluded. Although he could not free himself from the yoke of the Ephthalites, Kavadh succeeded in restoring order in the interior and fought with general success against the Eastern Romans, founded several cities, some of which were named after him, and began to regulate the taxation and internal administration.

After 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...

, his son Khosrau I
Khosrau I
Khosrau I , also known as Anushiravan the Just or Anushirawan the Just Khosrau I (also called Chosroes I in classical sources, most commonly known in Persian as Anushirvan or Anushirwan, Persian: انوشيروان meaning the immortal soul), also known as Anushiravan the Just or Anushirawan the Just...

, also known as Anushirvan ("with the immortal soul"; ruled 531–579), ascended to the throne. He is the most celebrated of the Sassanid rulers. Khosrau I is most famous for his reforms in the aging governing body of Sassanids. In his reforms he introduced a rational system of taxation, based upon a survey of landed possessions, which his father had begun and tried in every way to increase the welfare and the revenues of his empire. Previous great feudal lords fielded their own military equipment, followers and retainers. Khosrau I developed a new force of dehkans or "knights", paid and equipped by the central government and the bureaucracy, tying the army and bureaucracy more closely to the central government than to local lords. (For more about Khosrau I's reforms, visit http://www.iranchamber.com/history/articles/reforms_of_anushirvan.php).

Although the Emperor Justinian I
Justinian I
Justinian I ; , ; 483– 13 or 14 November 565), commonly known as Justinian the Great, was Byzantine Emperor from 527 to 565. During his reign, Justinian sought to revive the Empire's greatness and reconquer the lost western half of the classical Roman Empire.One of the most important figures of...

 (527–565) had paid him a bribe of 440,000 pieces of gold to keep the peace, in 540 Khosrau I broke the "eternal peace" of 532 and invaded Syria, where he sacked the city of Antioch and extorted large sums of money from a number of other cities. Further successes followed: in 541 Lazica defected to the Persian side, and in 542 a major Byzantine offensive in Armenia
Armenia
Armenia , officially the Republic of Armenia , is a landlocked mountainous country in the Caucasus region of Eurasia...

 was defeated at Anglon. A five-year truce agreed in 545 was interrupted in 547 when Lazica again switched sides and eventually expelled its Persian garrison with Byzantine help; the war resumed, but remained confined to Lazica, which was retained by the Byzantines when peace was concluded in 562.

In 565, Justinian I died and was succeeded by 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...

 (565–578), who resolved to stop subsidies to Arab chieftains to restrain them from raiding Byzantine territory in Syria. A year earlier, the Sassanid governor of Armenia, of the Suren family, built a fire temple at Dvin
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...

 near modern Yerevan
Yerevan
Yerevan is the capital and largest city of Armenia and one of the world's oldest continuously-inhabited cities. Situated along the Hrazdan River, Yerevan is the administrative, cultural, and industrial center of the country...

, and he put to death an influential member of the Mamikonian
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...

 family, touching off a revolt which led to the massacre of the Persian governor and his guard in 571, while rebellion also broke out in 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...

. Justin II took advantage of the Armenian revolt to stop his yearly payments to Khosrau I for the defense of the Caucasus passes.

The Armenians were welcomed as allies, and an army was sent into Sassanid territory which besieged Nisibis
Nisibis
Nusaybin Nisêbîn) is a city in Mardin Province, Turkey, populated mainly by Kurds. Earlier Arameans, Arabs, and Armenians lived in the city. The population of the city is 83,832 as of 2009.-Ancient Period:...

 in 573. However, dissension among the Byzantine generals not only led to an abandonment of the siege, but they in turn were besieged in the city of Dara
Dara (Mesopotamia)
Dara or Daras was an important East Roman fortress city in northern Mesopotamia on the border with the Sassanid Empire. Because of its great strategic importance, it featured prominently in the Roman-Persian conflicts of the 6th century, with the famous Battle of Dara taking place before its walls...

, which was taken by the Persians who then ravaged Syria, causing Justin II to agree to make annual payments in exchange for a five-year truce on the Mesopotamian front, although the war continued elsewhere. In 576 Khosrau I led his last campaign, an offensive into Anatolia
Anatolia
Anatolia is a geographic and historical term denoting the westernmost protrusion of Asia, comprising the majority of the Republic of Turkey...

 which sacked Sebasteia and Melitene
Malatya
Malatya ) is a city in southeastern Turkey and the capital of its eponymous province.-Overview:The city site has been occupied for thousands of years. The Assyrians called the city Meliddu. Following Roman expansion into the east, the city was renamed in Latin as Melitene...

, but ended in disaster: defeated outside Melitene, the Persians suffered heavy losses as they fled across the Euphrates
Euphrates
The Euphrates is the longest and one of the most historically important rivers of Western Asia. Together with the Tigris, it is one of the two defining rivers of Mesopotamia...

 under Byzantine attack. Taking advantage of Persian disarray, the Byzantines raided deep into Khosrau's territory, even mounting amphibious attacks across the Caspian Sea
Caspian Sea
The Caspian Sea is the largest enclosed body of water on Earth by area, variously classed as the world's largest lake or a full-fledged sea. The sea has a surface area of and a volume of...

. Khosrau sued for peace, but he decided to continue the war after a victory by his general Tamkhosrau
Tamkhosrau
Tamkhosrau or Tamkhusro , was a Sassanid Persian general active in the Roman–Persian Wars of the late 6th century. As his honorific name indicates, he was a highly-regarded man among the Persians, and one of the chief generals of the shah Khosrau I Tamkhosrau or Tamkhusro ("strong Khosrau", in...

 in Armenia in 577, and fighting resumed in Mesopotamia. The Armenian revolt came to an end with a general amnesty, which brought Armenia back into the Sassanid Empire.
Around 570, "Ma 'd-Karib", half-brother of the King of Yemen, requested Khosrau I's intervention. Khosrau I sent a fleet and a small army under a commander called Vahriz
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 the area near present Aden
Aden
Aden is a seaport city in Yemen, located by the eastern approach to the Red Sea , some 170 kilometres east of Bab-el-Mandeb. Its population is approximately 800,000. Aden's ancient, natural harbour lies in the crater of an extinct volcano which now forms a peninsula, joined to the mainland by a...

, and they marched against the capital San'a'l, which was occupied. Saif, son of Mard-Karib, who had accompanied the expedition, became King sometime between 575 and 577. Thus, the Sassanids were able to establish a base in south Arabia
South Arabia
South Arabia as a general term refers to several regions as currently recognized, in chief the Republic of Yemen; yet it has historically also included Najran, Jizan, and 'Asir which are presently in Saudi Arabia, and Dhofar presently in Oman...

 to control the sea trade with the east. Later, the south Arabian kingdom renounced Sassanid overlordship, and another Persian expedition was sent in 598 that successfully annexed southern Arabia as a Sassanid province, which lasted until the time of troubles after Khosrau II.

Khosrau I's reign witnessed the rise of the dihqans (literally, village lords), the petty landholding nobility who were the backbone of later Sassanid provincial administration and the tax collection system. Khosrau I was a great builder, embellishing his capital, founding new towns, and constructing new buildings. He rebuilt the canals and restocked the farms destroyed in the wars. He built strong fortifications at the passes and placed subject tribes in carefully chosen towns on the frontiers to act as guardians against invaders. He was tolerant of all religions, though he decreed that Zoroastrianism
Zoroastrianism
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...

 should be the official state religion, and was not unduly disturbed when one of his sons became a Christian.
After Khosrau I, 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...

 (579–590) took the throne. The war with the Byzantines continued to rage intensely but inconclusively until the general Bahram Chobin
Bahram Chobin
General Bahrām Chobin was a famous Eran spahbod during the late 6th century in Persia, usurping the Sassanid throne for a year as Bahram VI .- Life :...

, dismissed and humiliated by Hormizd, rose in revolt in 589. The following year, Hormizd was overthrown by a palace coup and his son Khosrau II
Khosrau II
250px|thumb|Khosrau II 250px|thumb|Khosrau II 250px|thumb|Khosrau II (Khosrow II, Chosroes II, or Xosrov II in classical sources, sometimes called Parvez, "the Ever Victorious" – (in Persian: خسرو پرویز), was the twenty-second Sassanid King of Persia, reigning from 590 to 628...

 (590–628) placed on the throne. However, this change of ruler failed to placate Bahram, who defeated Khosrau, forcing him to flee to Byzantine territory, and seized the throne for himself as Bahram VI. Khosrau begged Byzantine Emperor Maurice
Maurice (emperor)
Maurice was Byzantine Emperor from 582 to 602.A prominent general in his youth, Maurice fought with success against the Sassanid Persians...

 (582–602) for assistance against Bahram, offering to cede the western Caucasus to the Byzantines. To cement the alliance, Khosrau also married Maurice's daughter Miriam. Under the command of Khosrau and the Byzantine generals Narses
Narses (general under Maurice)
Narses was a Byzantine general of Armenian ancestry active during the reigns of the emperors Maurice and Phocas in the late sixth and early seventh centuries. He commanded the army in Mesopotamia under Maurice; when Phocas overthrew Maurice and seized the throne, Narses refused to recognize the...

 and John Mystacon
John Mystacon
John, surnamed Mystacon, "the mustachioed", , was a prominent East Roman general in the wars with Sassanid Persia during the reigns of Byzantine emperors Tiberius II and Maurice ....

, the new combined Byzantine-Persian army raised a rebellion against Bahram, defeating him at the Battle of Blarathon
Battle of Blarathon
The Battle of Blarathon was fought in 592 near Ganzak between a combined Eastern Roman -Persian force and a Persian army led by the usurper Bahram Chobin. The combined army was led by John Mystacon, Narses, and the Persian prince Khosrau II. The Roman-Persian force was victorious, ousting Bahram...

 in 591. When Khosrau was subsequently restored to power he kept his promise, handing over control of western Armenia
Armenia
Armenia , officially the Republic of Armenia , is a landlocked mountainous country in the Caucasus region of Eurasia...

 and 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...

. The new peace arrangement allowed the two empires to focus on military matters elsewhere: Khosrau expanded the Sassanid Empire's eastern frontier while Maurice restored Byzantine control of the Balkans
Balkans
The Balkans is a geopolitical and cultural region of southeastern Europe...

.

However, Maurice was overthrown and killed by Phocas
Phocas
Phocas was Byzantine Emperor from 602 to 610. He usurped the throne from the Emperor Maurice, and was himself overthrown by Heraclius after losing a civil war.-Origins:...

 (602–610) in 602, Khosrau II used the murder of his benefactor as a pretext to begin a new invasion, which benefited from continuing civil war in the Byzantine Empire, and met little effective resistance. Khosrau's generals systematically subdued the heavily fortified frontier cities of Byzantine Mesopotamia and Armenia, laying the foundations for unprecedented expansion. The Persians overran Syria
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....

 and captured Antioch
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...

 in 611.

In 613, outside Antioch, the Persian generals Shahrbaraz
Shahrbaraz
Shahrbaraz or Shahrwaraz was a general, with the rank of Eran Spahbod under Khosrau II . His name was Farrokhan, and Shahrbaraz was his title...

 and Shahin, decisively defeated a major counter-attack led in person by the Byzantine emperor Heraclius
Heraclius
Heraclius was Byzantine Emperor from 610 to 641.He was responsible for introducing Greek as the empire's official language. His rise to power began in 608, when he and his father, Heraclius the Elder, the exarch of Africa, successfully led a revolt against the unpopular usurper Phocas.Heraclius'...

. Thereafter, the Persian advance continued unchecked. Jerusalem fell in 614, Alexandria
Alexandria
Alexandria is the second-largest city of Egypt, with a population of 4.1 million, extending about along the coast of the Mediterranean Sea in the north central part of the country; it is also the largest city lying directly on the Mediterranean coast. It is Egypt's largest seaport, serving...

 in 619 and the rest of Egypt
Egypt
Egypt , officially the Arab Republic of Egypt, Arabic: , is a country mainly in North Africa, with the Sinai Peninsula forming a land bridge in Southwest Asia. Egypt is thus a transcontinental country, and a major power in Africa, the Mediterranean Basin, the Middle East and the Muslim world...

 by 621. The Sassanid dream of restoring the Achaemenid boundaries was close to completion. This remarkable peak of expansion was paralleled by a blossoming of Persian art, music and architecture. The Byzantine Empire was on the verge of collapse and the borders of the Achaemenid Empire came close to being restored on all fronts.

Decline and fall (622–651)



While originally seeming successful at a first glance, the campaign of Khosrau II
Khosrau II
250px|thumb|Khosrau II 250px|thumb|Khosrau II 250px|thumb|Khosrau II (Khosrow II, Chosroes II, or Xosrov II in classical sources, sometimes called Parvez, "the Ever Victorious" – (in Persian: خسرو پرویز), was the twenty-second Sassanid King of Persia, reigning from 590 to 628...

 had actually exhausted the Persian army and Persian treasuries. In an effort to rebuild the national treasuries, Khosrau overtaxed the population. Thus, seeing the opportunity, Heraclius
Heraclius
Heraclius was Byzantine Emperor from 610 to 641.He was responsible for introducing Greek as the empire's official language. His rise to power began in 608, when he and his father, Heraclius the Elder, the exarch of Africa, successfully led a revolt against the unpopular usurper Phocas.Heraclius'...

 (610–641) drew on all his diminished and devastated empire's remaining resources, reorganized his armies and mounted a remarkable counter-offensive. Between 622 and 627 he campaigned against the Persians in Anatolia
Anatolia
Anatolia is a geographic and historical term denoting the westernmost protrusion of Asia, comprising the majority of the Republic of Turkey...

 and the Caucasus
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...

, winning a string of victories against Persian forces under Khosrau, Shahrbaraz
Shahrbaraz
Shahrbaraz or Shahrwaraz was a general, with the rank of Eran Spahbod under Khosrau II . His name was Farrokhan, and Shahrbaraz was his title...

, Shahin and Shahraplakan
Shahraplakan
Shahraplakan, rendered Sarablangas in Greek sources, was a Sassanid Persian general who participated in the Byzantine-Sassanid War of 602–628.Shahraplakan first appears in 624, when the Persian shah Khosrau II Shahraplakan, rendered Sarablangas in Greek sources, was a Sassanid Persian general who...

, sacking the great Zoroastrian temple at Ganzak
Takht-i-Suleiman
For the similarly named locations see Takht-e Suleyman Massif in Iran, Taxte Soleymān in Pakistan, and Sulayman Mountain near Osh, Kyrgyzstan.Taxte Soleymān, is an archaeological site in West Azarbaijan, Iran...

 and securing assistance
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...

 from the Khazars
Khazars
The Khazars were semi-nomadic Turkic people who established one of the largest polities of medieval Eurasia, with the capital of Atil and territory comprising much of modern-day European Russia, western Kazakhstan, eastern Ukraine, Azerbaijan, large portions of the northern Caucasus , parts of...

 and Western Turkic Khaganate
Western Turkic Khaganate
The Western Turkic Khaganate was formed as a result of the internecine wars in the beginning of the 7th century after the Göktürk Khaganate had splintered into two politiesEastern and Western.The Western Turks initially sought friendly relations with the Byzantine Empire in order to expand their...

.

In 626, Constantinople
Constantinople
Constantinople was the capital of the Roman, Eastern Roman, Byzantine, Latin, and Ottoman Empires. Throughout most of the Middle Ages, Constantinople was Europe's largest and wealthiest city.-Names:...

 was besieged by Slavic
Slavic peoples
The Slavic people are an Indo-European panethnicity living in Eastern Europe, Southeast Europe, North Asia and Central Asia. The term Slavic represents a broad ethno-linguistic group of people, who speak languages belonging to the Slavic language family and share, to varying degrees, certain...

 and Avar
Eurasian Avars
The Eurasian Avars or Ancient Avars were a highly organized nomadic confederacy of mixed origins. They were ruled by a khagan, who was surrounded by a tight-knit entourage of nomad warriors, an organization characteristic of Turko-Mongol groups...

 forces which were supported by a Persian army under Shahrbaraz on the far side of the Bosphorus, but attempts to ferry the Persians across were blocked by the Byzantine fleet and the siege ended in failure. In 627-628, Heraclius mounted a winter invasion of Mesopotamia and, despite the departure of his Khazar allies, defeated a Persian army commanded by Rhahzadh
Rhahzadh
Razadh, originally Roch Vehan, known in Byzantine sources as Rhazates was a Persian general of Armenian origin under Sassanid king Khosrau II ....

 in the Battle of Nineveh
Battle of Nineveh (627)
The Battle of Nineveh was the climactic battle of the Byzantine-Sassanid War of 602–628. The Byzantine victory broke the power of the Sassanid dynasty and for a period of time restored the empire to its ancient boundaries in the Middle East...

. He then marched down the Tigris
Tigris
The Tigris River is the eastern member of the two great rivers that define Mesopotamia, the other being the Euphrates. The river flows south from the mountains of southeastern Turkey through Iraq.-Geography:...

, devastating the country and sacking Khosrau's palace at Dastagerd. He was prevented from attacking Ctesiphon
Ctesiphon
Ctesiphon, the imperial capital of the Parthian Arsacids and of the Persian Sassanids, was one of the great cities of ancient Mesopotamia.The ruins of the city are located on the east bank of the Tigris, across the river from the Hellenistic city of Seleucia...

 by the destruction of the bridges on the Nahrawan Canal and conducted further raids before withdrawing up the Diyala
Diyala River
The Diyala River after Darban-e Khan Dam:Kurdish: Sirwan, سيروان, , Persian: سیروان دیاله, is a river and tributary of the Tigris that runs mainly through Eastern Iraq but also Western Iran. It covers a total distance of ....

 into north-western Iran.

The impact of Heraclius's victories, the devastation of the richest territories of the Sassanid Empire, and the humiliating destruction of high-profile targets such as Ganzak and Dastagerd, fatally undermined Khosrau's prestige and his support among the Persian aristocracy. In early 628, he was overthrown and murdered by his son Kavadh II
Kavadh II
Kavadh II , twenty-third Sassanid King of Persia, son of Khosrau II , was raised to the throne in opposition to his father in February 628, after the great victories of the Emperor Heraclius...

 (628), who immediately brought an end to the war, agreeing to withdraw from all occupied territories. In 629, Heraclius restored the True Cross
True Cross
The True Cross is the name for physical remnants which, by a Christian tradition, are believed to be from the cross upon which Jesus was crucified.According to post-Nicene historians, Socrates Scholasticus and others, the Empress Helena The True Cross is the name for physical remnants which, by a...

 to Jerusalem in a majestic ceremony. Kavadh died within months, and chaos and civil war followed. Over a period of four years and five successive kings, including two daughters of Khosrau II and spahbod
Spahbod
Spahbod or Spahbed , is derived from the words Spah and bod ; or "Aspah'Paeity" , and means commander of cavaliers/ knights; alternatively Spah Salar was a rank used in the Parthian empire and more widely in the Sassanid Empire of Persia...

 Shahrbaraz, the Sassanid Empire weakened considerably. The power of the central authority passed into the hands of the generals. It would take several years for a strong king to emerge from a series of coups, and the Sassanids never had time to recover fully.

In the spring of 632, a grandson of Khosrau I who had lived in hiding, Yazdegerd III, ascended the throne. The same year, the first raiders from the Arab
Arab
Arab people, also known as Arabs , are a panethnicity primarily living in the Arab world, which is located in Western Asia and North Africa. They are identified as such on one or more of genealogical, linguistic, or cultural grounds, with tribal affiliations, and intra-tribal relationships playing...

 tribes, newly united by Islam
Islam
Islam . The most common are and .   : Arabic pronunciation varies regionally. The first vowel ranges from ~~. The second vowel ranges from ~~~...

, arrived in Persian territory. Years of warfare had exhausted both the Byzantines and the Persians. The Sassanids were further weakened by economic decline, heavy taxation, religious unrest, rigid social stratification, the increasing power of the provincial landholders, and a rapid turnover of rulers. These factors facilitated 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...

.

The Sassanids never mounted a truly effective resistance to the pressure applied by the initial Arab armies. Yazdegerd was a boy at the mercy of his advisers and incapable of uniting a vast country crumbling into small feudal kingdoms, despite the fact that the Byzantines, under similar pressure from the newly expansive Arabs, no longer threatened. Caliph Abu Bakr
Abu Bakr
Abu Bakr was a senior companion and the father-in-law of the Islamic prophet Muhammad. He ruled over the Rashidun Caliphate from 632-634 CE when he became the first Muslim Caliph following Muhammad's death...

's brilliant commander Khalid ibn Walid moved to capture Iraq
Iraq
Iraq ; officially the Republic of Iraq is a country in Western Asia spanning most of the northwestern end of the Zagros mountain range, the eastern part of the Syrian Desert and the northern part of the Arabian Desert....

 in series of lightning battles. Redeployed to the Syrian front against the Byzantines in June 634
634
Year 634 was a common year starting on Saturday of the Julian calendar. The denomination 634 for this year has been used since the early medieval period, when the Anno Domini calendar era became the prevalent method in Europe for naming years.- British Isles :* Oswald of Northumbria defeats...

, Khalid's successor in Iraq failed him, and Muslims were defeated in the Battle of the Bridge
Battle of the Bridge
The Battle of the Bridge was fought between Arab Muslims led by Abu Ubaid, and the Persian Sasanian Empire forces led by Bahman. It is traditionally dated to the year 634, and was the only major Persian victory over the invading Muslim armies....

 in 634, which resulted in a Sassanid victory. However, the Arab threat did not stop there and reappeared shortly from the disciplined armies of Khalid ibn Walid, once one of Muhammad
Muhammad
Muhammad |ligature]] at U+FDF4 ;Arabic pronunciation varies regionally; the first vowel ranges from ~~; the second and the last vowel: ~~~. There are dialects which have no stress. In Egypt, it is pronounced not in religious contexts...

's chosen companions-in-arms and leader of the Arab army.

Under the Caliph `Umar ibn al-Khattāb
Umar
`Umar ibn al-Khattāb c. 2 November , was a leading companion and adviser to the Islamic prophet Muhammad who later became the second Muslim Caliph after Muhammad's death....

, a Muslim army defeated a larger Persian force led by general Rostam Farrokhzad
Rostam Farrokhzad
Rostam Farrokhzād was the Ērān Spāhbod of the Sāsānian Empire under the reign of Yazdgird, r. 632 - 651...

 at the plains of al-Qādisiyyah
Battle of al-Qadisiyyah
The Battle of al-Qādisiyyah was fought in 636; it was the decisive engagement between the Arab muslim army and the Sassanid Persian army during the first period of Muslim expansion. It resulted in the Islamic conquest of Persia, and was key to the conquest of Iraq...

 in 637, and besieged Ctesiphon
Ctesiphon
Ctesiphon, the imperial capital of the Parthian Arsacids and of the Persian Sassanids, was one of the great cities of ancient Mesopotamia.The ruins of the city are located on the east bank of the Tigris, across the river from the Hellenistic city of Seleucia...

. Ctesiphon fell after a prolonged siege. Yazdegerd fled eastward from Ctesiphon, leaving behind him most of the Empire's vast treasury. The Arabs captured Ctesiphon shortly afterward, leaving the Sassanid government strapped for funds and acquiring a powerful financial resource for their own use. A number of Sassanid governors attempted to combine their forces to throw back the invaders, but the effort was crippled by the lack of a strong central authority, and the governors were defeated at the Battle of Nihawānd
Battle of Nihawand
The Battle of Nahāvand Battle of Nahāwand was fought in 642 between Arab Muslims and Sassanid armies. The battle is known to Muslims as the "Victory of Victories." The History of Tabari mentions that Firuzan, the officer serving the Persian King Yazdgerd III had about 50,000 men, versus a Muslim...

. The empire, with its military command structure non-existent, its non-noble troop levies decimated, its financial resources effectively destroyed, and the Asawaran (Azatan) knightly caste destroyed piecemeal, was now utterly helpless in the face of the invaders.

Upon hearing the defeat in Nihawānd, Yazdegerd along with most of Persian nobilities fled further inland to the eastern province of Khorasan. He was assassinated by a miller in Merv
Merv
Merv , formerly Achaemenid Satrapy of Margiana, and later Alexandria and Antiochia in Margiana , was a major oasis-city in Central Asia, on the historical Silk Road, located near today's Mary in Turkmenistan. Several cities have existed on this site, which is significant for the interchange of...

 in late 651, while the rest of the nobles settled in central Asia where they contributed greatly in spreading Persian culture and language in those regions and the establishment of the first native Iranian Islamic dynasty, the Samanid dynasty, which sought to revive Sassanid traditions and promoting Islam.

The abrupt fall of the Sassanid Empire was completed in a period of five years, and most of its territory was absorbed into the Islamic caliphate
Caliphate
The term caliphate, "dominion of a caliph " , refers to the first system of government established in Islam and represented the political unity of the Muslim Ummah...

; however, many Iranian cities resisted and fought against the invaders several times. Cities such as Rey
Rey, Iran
Rey or Ray , also known as Rhages and formerly as Arsacia, is the capital of Rey County, Tehran Province, Iran, and is the oldest existing city in the province....

, Isfahan
Isfahan (city)
Isfahan , historically also rendered in English as Ispahan, Sepahan or Hispahan, is the capital of Isfahan Province in Iran, located about 340 km south of Tehran. It has a population of 1,583,609, Iran's third largest city after Tehran and Mashhad...

 and Hamadan
Hamadan
-Culture:Hamadan is home to many poets and cultural celebrities. The city is also said to be among the world's oldest continuously inhabited cities.Handicrafts: Hamadan has always been well known for handicrafts like leather, ceramic, and beautiful carpets....

 were exterminated thrice by Islamic caliphates in order to suppress revolts. The local population, initially under little pressure to convert to Islam, remained as dhimmi
Dhimmi
A , is a non-Muslim subject of a state governed in accordance with sharia law. Linguistically, the word means "one whose responsibility has been taken". This has to be understood in the context of the definition of state in Islam...

 subjects of the Muslim state and paid a jizya
Jizya
Under Islamic law, jizya or jizyah is a per capita tax levied on a section of an Islamic state's non-Muslim citizens, who meet certain criteria...

. Practically, Jizya replaced poll taxes imposed by the Sassanids, which tended to be much higher than the Jizya. In addition to jizya, the old Sassanid "land tax" (known in Arabic as Kharaj), was also adopted. Caliph Umar is said to have occasionally setup a commission to survey the taxes, to judge if they were more than the land could bear. Conversion of the Persian population to Islam would take place gradually, particularly as Persian-speaking elites attempted to gain positions of prestige under the Abbasid Caliphate.

Descendants


It is believed that the following dynasties and religious leaders have ancestors among the Sassanian rulers:
  • The Bavandi dynasty (665-1006) of Mazenderan, descendant 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...

    .
  • The Sassanids of Georgia, also known as Khosroides (265-570), who sprang from 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...

    .
  • The Gavparehids of Tabaristan (647-1597), children of Djamasp
    Djamasp
    Djamasp was a Sassanid king who ruled from 496 to 498. He was a younger brother of king Kavadh I and was installed on the Sassanid throne upon the deposition of the latter by members of the nobility....

    .
  • The Ghaznavids (977-1187), with a Persian ancestor: Yazdegerd III.
  • The Ali ibn Husayn The fourth Shī‘ah Imām . His mother was Shahrbānū daughter of Yazdegerd III, the last Emperor of the Sassanid dynasty.
  • The Shahs of Shirwan (1100–1382) from 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...

    's line.
  • Bahá'u'lláh
    Bahá'u'lláh
    Bahá'u'lláh , born ' , was the founder of the Bahá'í Faith. He claimed to be the prophetic fulfilment of Bábism, a 19th-century outgrowth of Shí‘ism, but in a broader sense claimed to be a messenger from God referring to the fulfilment of the eschatological expectations of Islam, Christianity, and...

     (1817–1892) founder of the Bahá'í Faith
    Bahá'í Faith
    The Bahá'í Faith is a monotheistic religion founded by Bahá'u'lláh in 19th-century Persia, emphasizing the spiritual unity of all humankind. There are an estimated five to six million Bahá'ís around the world in more than 200 countries and territories....

    , descendant of Yazdegerd III according to a Bahai Author.

Government


The Sassanids established an empire roughly within the frontiers achieved by the Parthian Arsacids
Parthian Empire
The Parthian Empire , also known as the Arsacid Empire , was a major Iranian political and cultural power in ancient Persia...

, with the capital at Ctesiphon
Ctesiphon
Ctesiphon, the imperial capital of the Parthian Arsacids and of the Persian Sassanids, was one of the great cities of ancient Mesopotamia.The ruins of the city are located on the east bank of the Tigris, across the river from the Hellenistic city of Seleucia...

 in the Khvarvaran
Khvarvaran
Khvārvarān, also known as Iraq or Mesopotamia, was a province of the Iranian Persian Empire, which ruled the region since the time of Cyrus the Great...

 province. In administering this empire, Sassanid rulers took the title of Shāhanshāh (King of Kings), became the central overlords and also assumed guardianship of the sacred fire
Atar
Atar is the Zoroastrian concept of holy fire, sometimes described in abstract terms as "burning and unburning fire" or "visible and invisible fire" ....

, the symbol of the national religion. This symbol is explicit on Sassanid coins where the reigning monarch, with his crown and regalia of office, appears on the obverse, backed by the sacred fire, the symbol of the national religion, on the coin's reverse. Sassanid queens had the title of Banebshenan banebshen
Banebshenan banebshen
Banebshenan banebshen was the Pahlavi title of Sassanid Queens of Persia. The most famous Banebshenan banebshens are Mohri mother of king Hormizd III and Purandokht daughter of King Khosrau II who ruled the Sassanid Empire for a year and half....

(the Queen of Queens).

On a smaller scale, the territory might also be ruled by a number of petty rulers from the Sassanid royal family, known as Shahrdar, overseen directly by Shahanshah. Sassanid rule was characterized by considerable centralization, ambitious urban planning, agricultural development, and technological improvements. Below the king, a powerful bureaucracy carried out much of the affairs of government; the head of the bureaucracy and Vice-Chancellor, was the "Vuzorg (Bozorg) Farmadar". Within this bureaucracy the Zoroastrian priesthood was immensely powerful. The head of the Magi priestly class, the Mobadan
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...

, along with the commander in chief, the Iran (Eran) Spahbod
Spahbod
Spahbod or Spahbed , is derived from the words Spah and bod ; or "Aspah'Paeity" , and means commander of cavaliers/ knights; alternatively Spah Salar was a rank used in the Parthian empire and more widely in the Sassanid Empire of Persia...

, the head of traders and merchants syndicate "Ho Tokhshan Bod" and minister of agriculture "Vastrioshansalar" who was also head of farmers, were below the emperor, the most powerful man of the Sassanid state.

The Sassanian rulers always considered the advice of their ministers. A Muslim historian, Masudi, praised the Sassanian administration by saying
In normal times, the monarchical office was hereditary, but might be transferred by the king to a younger son; in two instances the supreme power was held by queens. When no direct heir was available, the nobles and prelates chose a ruler, but their choice was restricted to members of the royal family.

The Sassanid nobility was a mixture of old Parthian clans, Persian aristocratic families, and noble families from subjected territories. Many new noble families had risen after the dissolution of the Parthian dynasty, while several of the once-dominant Seven Parthian clans
Seven Parthian clans
The Seven Parthian clans or Seven Houses were seven purportedly "Parthian" feudal aristocracies allied with the Sassanid court.Only two of the seven - the House of Suren and the House of Karen - are actually attested in sources dateable to the Arsacid period...

 remained of high importance. At the court of Ardashir I, the old Arsacid families of the House of Karen
House of Karen
The House of Karen were an aristocratic feudal family of Hyrcania...

 and the House of Suren, along with several Persian families, the Varazes and Andigans, held positions of great honor. Alongside these Iranian and non-Iranian noble families, the kings of Merv
Merv
Merv , formerly Achaemenid Satrapy of Margiana, and later Alexandria and Antiochia in Margiana , was a major oasis-city in Central Asia, on the historical Silk Road, located near today's Mary in Turkmenistan. Several cities have existed on this site, which is significant for the interchange of...

, Abarshahr
Abarshahr
Abarshahr was a satrapy of the Sassanid Empire. The population was supported by the Hari river, which was used for irrigation. Strabo cited the regions abundant wine-production. Cities in the region were Candac, Artacauan, and Apameia, and Pushang , among others...

, Carmania
Carmania
Carmania may refer to* Carmania, ancient satrapy of the Achaemenid Persian empire.* Carmania - a diecast model producer.* Kermān Province in the south-east of Iran.* RMS Carmania , a Cunard liner built 1905...

, Sakastan
Sistan
Sīstān is a border region in eastern Iran , southwestern Afghanistan and northern tip of Southwestern Pakistan .-Etymology:...

, Iberia
Arran (Azerbaijan)
Arran , also known as Aran, Ardhan , Al-Ran , Aghvank and Alvank , or Caucasian Albania , was a geographical name used in ancient and medieval times to signify the territory which lies within the triangle of land, lowland in the east and mountainous in the west, formed by the junction of Kura and...

, and Adiabene
Adiabene
Adiabene was an ancient Assyrian independent kingdom in Mesopotamia, with its capital at Arbela...

, who are mentioned as holding positions of honor amongst the nobles, appeared at the court of the Shahanshah. Indeed, the extensive domains of the Surens, Karens and Varazes, had become part of the original Sassanid state as semi-independent states. Thus, the noble families that attended at the court of the Sassanid empire continued to be ruling lines in their own right, although subordinate to the Shahanshah.

In general, Bozorgan from Persian families held the most powerful positions in the imperial administration, including governorships of border provinces (Marzban
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....

 مرزبان). Most of these positions were patrimonial, and many were passed down through a single family for generations. Those Marzbans of greatest seniority were permitted a silver throne, while Marzbans of the most strategic border provinces, such as the Caucasus province, were allowed a golden throne. In military campaigns, the regional Marzbans could be regarded as field marshals, while lesser spahbod
Spahbod
Spahbod or Spahbed , is derived from the words Spah and bod ; or "Aspah'Paeity" , and means commander of cavaliers/ knights; alternatively Spah Salar was a rank used in the Parthian empire and more widely in the Sassanid Empire of Persia...

s could command a field army.

Culturally, the Sassanids implemented a system of social stratification. This system was supported by Zoroastrianism, which was established as the state religion. Other religions appear to have been largely tolerated (although this claim is the subject of heated discussion; see, for example, Wiesehöfer, Ancient Persia, or the Cambridge History of Iran, vol. 3). Sassanid emperors consciously sought to resuscitate Persian traditions and to obliterate Greek cultural influence.

Sassanid army





The active army of the Sassanid Empire originated from Ardeshir I, the first Shahenshah of the empire. Ardeshir had focused on the revival of military tactics and organisations that had previously been used in the Achaemenid Empire
Achaemenid Empire
The Achaemenid Empire , sometimes known as First Persian Empire and/or Persian Empire, was founded in the 6th century BCE by Cyrus the Great who overthrew the Median confederation...

, as well as the Parthian knight
Cataphract
A cataphract was a form of armored heavy cavalry utilised in ancient warfare by a number of peoples in Western Eurasia and the Eurasian Steppe....

. He even focused on the development of new siege weapons.

Infantry


Although the Paighan
Paighan
The Paighan were a militia light infantry unit within the Sassanid army and formed the bulk of its infantry force. The Paighan were sometimes referred to as being used as "meat shields".-Recruitment:...

 formed the bulk of the Sassanid infantry, there were separate divisions within the infantry composed of soldiers of better quality. The Medes provided the Sassanid army with high-quality javelin throwers, slingers and heavy infantry. Iranian infantry are described by Ammianus Marcellinus
Ammianus Marcellinus
Ammianus Marcellinus was a fourth-century Roman historian. He wrote the penultimate major historical account surviving from Antiquity...

 as "armed like gladiators" and "obey orders like so many horse-boys". The Dailamite people also served as infantry and were Iranian people who lived mainly within Gilan, Iranian Azerbaijan and Mazandaran. They are reported as having fought with weapons such as daggers, swords and javelins.

Cavalry


The cavalry used during the Sassanid Empire were two types of heavy cavalry units: Clibanarii
Clibanarii
The Clibanarii or Klibanophoroi were a Sassanid Persian, late Roman and Byzantine military unit of heavy armored horsemen. Similar to the cataphracti, the horsemen themselves and their horses were fully armoured...

 and Cataphract
Cataphract
A cataphract was a form of armored heavy cavalry utilised in ancient warfare by a number of peoples in Western Eurasia and the Eurasian Steppe....

s. This cavalry force, composed of elite noblemen trained since youth for military service, was supported by light cavalry, infantry and archers. Sassanid tactics centered on disrupting the enemy with archers, war elephants and other troops, thus opening up gaps the cavalry forces could exploit.

Unlike the Parthians, the Sassanids developed advanced siege engines. The development of siege weapons was a useful weapon during conflicts with Rome, in which success hinged upon the ability to seize cities and other fortified points; conversely, the Sassanids also developed a number of techniques for defending their own cities from attack. The Sassanid army was famous for its heavy cavalry, which was much like the preceding Parthian army, albeit only some of the Sassanid's heavy cavalry were equipped with lances. The Roman historian Ammianus Marcellinus
Ammianus Marcellinus
Ammianus Marcellinus was a fourth-century Roman historian. He wrote the penultimate major historical account surviving from Antiquity...

's description of Shapur II's clibanarii cavalry manifestly shows how heavily equipped it was, and how only a portion were spear equipped:

All the companies were clad in iron, and all parts of their bodies were covered with thick plates, so fitted that the stiff-joints conformed with those of their limbs; and the forms of human faces were so skillfully fitted to their heads, that since their entire body was covered with metal, arrows that fell upon them could lodge only where they could see a little through tiny openings opposite the pupil of the eye, or where through the tip of their nose they were able to get a little breath. Of these, some who were armed with pikes, stood so motionless that you would have thought them held fast by clamps of bronze.


The Byzantine emperor Maurikios also emphasizes in his Strategikon that many of the Sassanid heavy cavalry did not carry spears, relying on their bows as their primary weapons. However the Taq-i Bustan reliefs and Al-Tabari's famed list of equipment requirement for dihqan knights which included the lance, provide a contrast. What is certain is that the horseman's paraphernalia was extensive.

The amount of money involved in maintaining a warrior of the Asawaran (Azatan) knightly caste required a small estate, and the Asawaran (Azatan) knightly caste received that from the throne, and in return, were the throne's most notable defenders in time of war.

Wars



The Sassanids, like the Parthians, were in constant hostilities with the Roman Empire
Roman Empire
The Roman Empire was the post-Republican period of the ancient Roman civilization, characterised by an autocratic form of government and large territorial holdings in Europe and around the Mediterranean....

. Following the division of the Roman Empire in 395, the Eastern Roman Empire, with its capital at Constantinople
Constantinople
Constantinople was the capital of the Roman, Eastern Roman, Byzantine, Latin, and Ottoman Empires. Throughout most of the Middle Ages, Constantinople was Europe's largest and wealthiest city.-Names:...

, replaced the Roman Empire as Persia's principal western enemy. Hostilities between the two empires became more frequent.
The Sassanids, similar to the Roman Empire, were in a constant state of conflict with neighboring kingdoms and nomadic hordes. Although the threat of nomadic incursions could never be fully resolved, the Sassanids generally dealt much more successfully with these matters than did the Romans, due to their policy of making coordinated campaigns against threatening nomads.

In the west, Sassanid territory abutted that of the large and stable Roman state, but to the east, its nearest neighbors were the Kushan Empire
Kushan Empire
The Kushan Empire originally formed in the early 1st century AD under Kujula Kadphises in the territories of ancient Bactria on either side of the middle course of the Oxus in what is now northern Afghanistan, Pakistan, and southern Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.During the 1st and early 2nd centuries...

 and nomadic tribes such as the White Huns
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...

. The construction of fortifications such as Tus citadel
Tus citadel
The Citadel of Tus is a citadel from the Sassanid era, located in Tus, in Razavi Khorasan province of Iran. Not much remains of the structure, however its size is comparable to other large citadels of the Sassanid era of Iran....

 or the city of Nishapur
Nishapur
Nishapur or Nishabur , is a city in the Razavi Khorasan province in northeastern Iran, situated in a fertile plain at the foot of the Binalud Mountains, near the regional capital of Mashhad...

, which later became a center of learning and trade, also assisted in defending the eastern provinces from attack.

In the south and central Arabia, Bedouin Arab
Bedouin
The Bedouin are a part of a predominantly desert-dwelling Arab ethnic group traditionally divided into tribes or clans, known in Arabic as ..-Etymology:...

 tribes occasionally raided the Sassanid empire. The Kingdom of Al-Hirah
Lakhmids
The Lakhmids , Banu Lakhm , Muntherids , were a group of Arab Christians who lived in Southern Iraq, and made al-Hirah their capital in 266. Poets described it as a Paradise on earth, an Arab Poet described the city's pleasant climate and beauty "One day in al-Hirah is better than a year of...

, a Sassanid vassal kingdom, was established to form a buffer zone between the empire's heartland and the Bedouin tribes. The dissolution of the Kingdom of Al-Hirah by Pervaiz (King) Khosrau II in 602, contributed greatly to decisive Sassanid defeats suffered against Bedouin Arabs later in the century. These defeats resulted in a sudden takeover of the Sassanid empire by Bedouin tribes under the Islamic banner.

In the north, Khazars and other Turkic nomads frequently assaulted the northern provinces of the empire. They plundered the territory of the Medes
Medes
The MedesThe Medes...

 in 634. Shortly thereafter, the Persian army defeated them and drove them out. The Sassanids built numerous fortifications in the Caucasus region to halt these attacks.

Relations with China


See Iran-China relations
People's Republic of China – Iran relations
People's Republic of China – Islamic Republic of Iran relations refers to the economic, political, and social relations between the modern nations of the People's Republic of China and Iran, from the 1950s to the present day...

 for main discussion


Like their predecessors the Parthians, the Sassanid Empire carried out active foreign relations with China, and ambassadors from Persia frequently traveled to China. Chinese documents report on 13 Sassanid embassies to China. Commercially, land and sea trade with China was important to both the Sassanid and Chinese Empires. Large numbers of Sassanid coins have been found in southern China, confirming maritime trade.

On different occasions, Sassanid kings sent their most talented Persian musicians and dancers to the Chinese imperial court at Luoyang
Luoyang
Luoyang is a prefecture-level city in western Henan province of Central China. It borders the provincial capital of Zhengzhou to the east, Pingdingshan to the southeast, Nanyang to the south, Sanmenxia to the west, Jiyuan to the north, and Jiaozuo to the northeast.Situated on the central plain of...

 during the Jin
Jìn Dynasty (265-420)
The Jìn Dynasty , was a dynasty in Chinese history, lasting between the years 265 and 420 AD. There are two main divisions in the history of the Dynasty, the first being Western Jin and the second Eastern Jin...

 and Northern Wei
Northern Wei
The Northern Wei Dynasty , also known as the Tuoba Wei , Later Wei , or Yuan Wei , was a dynasty which ruled northern China from 386 to 534 . It has been described as "part of an era of political turbulence and intense social and cultural change"...

 dynasties, and to Chang'an
Chang'an
Chang'an is an ancient capital of more than ten dynasties in Chinese history, today known as Xi'an. Chang'an literally means "Perpetual Peace" in Classical Chinese. During the short-lived Xin Dynasty, the city was renamed "Constant Peace" ; yet after its fall in AD 23, the old name was restored...

 during the Sui
Sui Dynasty
The Sui Dynasty was a powerful, but short-lived Imperial Chinese dynasty. Preceded by the Southern and Northern Dynasties, it ended nearly four centuries of division between rival regimes. It was followed by the Tang Dynasty....

 and Tang
Tang Dynasty
The Tang Dynasty was an imperial dynasty of China preceded by the Sui Dynasty and followed by the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms Period. It was founded by the Li family, who seized power during the decline and collapse of the Sui Empire...

 dynasties. Both empires benefited from trade along 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 shared a common interest in preserving and protecting that trade. They cooperated in guarding the trade routes through central Asia, and both built outposts in border areas to keep caravans safe from nomadic tribes and bandits.

Politically, we hear of several Sassanid and Chinese efforts in forging alliances against the common enemy who were the Hephthalites. Upon the rise of the nomadic Gokturk Empire in Inner Asia, we also see what looks like a collaboration between China and Sassanid to defuse Turkic advances. Documents from Mt. Mogh talk about the presence of a Chinese general in the service of the king of Sogdiana
Sogdiana
Sogdiana or Sogdia was the ancient civilization of an Iranian people and a province of the Achaemenid Empire, eighteenth in the list on the Behistun Inscription of Darius the Great . Sogdiana is "listed" as the second of the "good lands and countries" that Ahura Mazda created...

, at the time of the Arab invasions.

Following the invasion of Iran by Muslim Arabs, Peroz II, son of Yazdegerd III, escaped along with a few Persian nobles and took refuge in the Chinese imperial court. Both Peroz and his son Narsieh
Narsieh
Narsieh was a Persian-Chinese general stationed in the Tang military garrison. He was son of prince Peroz III and grandson of Yazdgerd III, the last Sassanid king of Persia....

 (Chinese neh-shie) were given high titles at the Chinese court. At least in two occasions, the last possibly in 670, Chinese troops were sent with Peroz in order to restore him to the Sassanid throne with mixed results, one possibly ending in a short rule of Peroz in Sistan
Sistan
Sīstān is a border region in eastern Iran , southwestern Afghanistan and northern tip of Southwestern Pakistan .-Etymology:...

 (Sakestan), from which we have a few remaining numismatic evidences. Narsieh later attained the position of commander of the Chinese imperial guards, and his descendants lived in China as respected princes. The sister of the Sassanian Prince Peroz II was married into the imperial court, which allowed Sassanian refugees fleeing from the Arab conquest to settle in China. The Emperor of China at this time was Emperor Gaozong of Tang
Emperor Gaozong of Tang
Emperor Gaozong of Tang , personal name Li Zhi , was the third emperor of the Tang Dynasty in China, ruling from 649 to 683...

.

Expansion to India



Following the conquest of Iran and neighboring regions, 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...

 extended his authority eastwards into the northwestern Indian subcontinent
Indian subcontinent
The Indian subcontinent, also Indian Subcontinent, Indo-Pak Subcontinent or South Asian Subcontinent is a region of the Asian continent on the Indian tectonic plate from the Hindu Kush or Hindu Koh, Himalayas and including the Kuen Lun and Karakoram ranges, forming a land mass which extends...

. The previously autonomous Kushans were obliged to accept his suzerainty. Although the Kushan empire declined at the end of the 3rd century, to be replaced by the Indian Gupta Empire
Gupta Empire
The Gupta Empire was an ancient Indian empire which existed approximately from 320 to 550 CE and covered much of the Indian Subcontinent. Founded by Maharaja Sri-Gupta, the dynasty was the model of a classical civilization. The peace and prosperity created under leadership of Guptas enabled the...

 in the 4th century, it is clear that Sassanid remained relevant in India's northwest throughout this period.

Persia and northwestern India engaged in cultural as well as political intercourse during this period, as certain Sassanid practices spread into the Kushan territories. In particular, the Kushan's were influenced by the Sassanid conception of kingship, which spread through the trade of Sassanid silverware and textiles depicting emperors hunting or dispensing justice.

This cultural interchange did not, however, spread Sassanid religious practices or attitudes to the Kushans. While the Sassanids always adhered to a stated policy of religious proselytization, and sporadically engaged in persecution or forced conversion of minority religions, the Kushans preferred to adopt a policy of religious tolerance.

Lower-level cultural interchanges also took place between India and Persia during this period. For example, Persians imported chess
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...

 from India and changed the game's name from chaturanga
Chaturanga
Chaturanga is an ancient Indian game that is presumed to be the common ancestor of the games of chess, shogi, and makruk, and related to xiangqi and janggi.Chaturanga developed in Gupta India around the 6th century...

to chatrang. In exchange, Persians introduced Backgammon
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...

 to India.

During Khosrau I's reign, many books were brought from India and translated into Pahlavi, the language of the Sassanid Empire. Some of these later found their way into the literature of the Islamic world. A notable example of this was the translation of the Indian Panchatantra
Panchatantra
The Panchatantra is an ancient Indian inter-related collection of animal fables in verse and prose, in a frame story format. The original Sanskrit work, which some scholars believe was composed in the 3rd century BCE, is attributed to Vishnu Sharma...

by one of Khosrau's ministers, Burzoe
Burzoe
Borzūya was a Persian physician in the late Sassanid era, at the time of Khosrow I.He translated the Indian Panchatantra from Sanskrit into the Middle Persian language of Pahlavi. But both his translation and the original Sanskrit version he worked from are lost...

. This translation, known as the Kelileh va Demneh, later made its way into Arabia and Europe. The details of Burzoe's legendary journey to India and his daring acquisition of the Panchatantra are written in full details in Ferdowsi
Ferdowsi
Ferdowsi was a highly revered Persian poet. He was the author of the Shahnameh, the national epic of Iran and related societies.The Shahnameh was originally composed by Ferdowsi for the princes of the Samanid dynasty, who were responsible for a revival of Persian cultural traditions after the...

's Shahnameh
Shahnameh
The Shahnameh or Shah-nama is a long epic poem written by the Persian poet Ferdowsi between c.977 and 1010 AD and is the national epic of Iran and related societies...

.

War With Ethiopia


In 522, before Khosrau's reign, a group of monophysite Ethiopia
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
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
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.

Society


Sassanid society and civilization were among the most flourishing of their time, rivaled in their region only by the Byzantine civilization
Byzantine art
Byzantine art is the term commonly used to describe the artistic products of the Byzantine Empire from about the 5th century until the Fall of Constantinople in 1453....

. The amount of scientific and intellectual exchange between the two empires is witness to the competition and cooperation of these cradles of civilization.

The most striking difference between Parthian and Sassanid society was renewed emphasis on charismatic and centralized government. In Sassanid theory, the ideal society was one which could maintain stability and justice and the necessary instrument for this was a strong monarch. Sassanid society was immensely complex, with separate systems of social organization governing numerous different groups within the empire. Historians believe that society was divided into four classes: Priests , Warriors , Secretaries , and Commoners . At the center of the Sassanid caste
Caste
Caste is an elaborate and complex social system that combines elements of endogamy, occupation, culture, social class, tribal affiliation and political power. It should not be confused with race or social class, e.g. members of different castes in one society may belong to the same race, as in India...

 system was the Shahanshah, ruling over all the nobles. The royal princes, petty rulers, great landlords and priests, together constituted a privileged stratum, and were identified as Bozorgan, or nobles. This social system appears to have been fairly rigid. The Sassanid caste system outlived the empire, continuing in the early Islamic period.

Education


There was a major school, called the Grand School, in the capital. In the beginning, only 50 students were allowed to study at the Grand School. In less than 100 years, enrollment at the Grand School was over 30,000 students.

Membership in a class was based on birth, although it was possible for an exceptional individual to move to another class on the basis of merit. The function of the king was to ensure that each class remained within its proper boundaries, so that the strong did not oppress the weak, nor the weak the strong. To maintain this social equilibrium was the essence of royal justice, and its effective functioning depended on the glorification of the monarchy above all other classes.

On a lower level, Sassanid society was divided into Azatan (Azadan)(freemen), who jealously guarded their status as descendants of ancient Aryan
Aryan
Aryan is an English language loanword derived from Sanskrit ārya and denoting variously*In scholarly usage:**Indo-Iranian languages *in dated usage:**the Indo-European languages more generally and their speakers...

 conquerors, and the mass of originally non-Aryan peasantry. The Azatan formed a large low-aristocracy of low-level administrators, mostly living on small estates. The Azatan provided the cavalry backbone of Sassanid army
Sassanid army
The birth of the Sassanid army dates back to the rise of Ardashir I , the founder of the Sassanid dynasty, to the throne. Ardashir aimed at the revival of the Persian Empire, and to further this aim, he reformed the military by forming a standing army which was under his personal command and whose...

.

Art, science and literature

See also: Sassanid music
Sassanid music
Sassanid music refers to the golden age of Persian music that occurred under the reign of the Sassanid dynasty.Persian classical music dates to the sixth century BC; during the time of the Achaemenid Empire , music played an important role in prayer and in royal and national events...

, Science and medical academy of Gundishapur
Academy of Gundishapur
The Academy of Gondishapur , also Jondishapur , was a renowned academy of learning in the city of Gundeshapur during late antiquity, the intellectual center of the Sassanid empire. It offered training in medicine, philosophy, theology and science. The faculty were versed in the Zoroastrian and...

, Pahlavi literature
Pahlavi literature
Middle Persian literature also called Pahlavi literature is Persian literature of the 1st millennium AD, especially of the Sassanid period.- Literature of Pahlavi :Pahlavi Literature can be divided in three parts:...

, Sassanid architecture
Sassanid architecture
Sassanid architecture refers to the Persian architectural style that reached a peak in its development during the Sassanid era. In many ways the Sassanid dynastic period witnessed the highest achievement of Persian civilization, and constituted the last great Persian Empire before the Muslim...

, Sassanid castles





The Sassanid kings were enlightened patrons of letters and philosophy. Khosrau I had the works of Plato
Plato
Plato , was a Classical Greek philosopher, mathematician, student of Socrates, writer of philosophical dialogues, and founder of the Academy in Athens, the first institution of higher learning in the Western world. Along with his mentor, Socrates, and his student, Aristotle, Plato helped to lay the...

 and Aristotle
Aristotle
Aristotle was a Greek philosopher and polymath, a student of Plato and teacher of Alexander the Great. His writings cover many subjects, including physics, metaphysics, poetry, theater, music, logic, rhetoric, linguistics, politics, government, ethics, biology, and zoology...

 translated into Pahlavi taught at Gundishapur, and even read them himself. During his reign, many historical annals were compiled, of which the sole survivor is the Karnamak-i Artaxshir-i Papakan
Karnamak-i Artaxshir-i Papakan
The Kārnāmag-ī Ardaxšīr-ī Pābagān or Book of the Deeds of Ardashir, Son of Papag, is a mythological Middle Persian tale written in the Sassanid period ....

 (Deeds of Ardashir), a mixture of history and romance that served as the basis of the Iranian national epic, the Shahnama. When Justinian I closed the schools of Athens, seven of their professors fled to Persia and found refuge at Khosrau's court. In time they grew homesick, and in his treaty of 533 with Justinian, the Sassanid king stipulated that the Greek sages should be allowed to return and be free from persecution.

Under Khosrau I, the Academy of Gundishapur
Academy of Gundishapur
The Academy of Gondishapur , also Jondishapur , was a renowned academy of learning in the city of Gundeshapur during late antiquity, the intellectual center of the Sassanid empire. It offered training in medicine, philosophy, theology and science. The faculty were versed in the Zoroastrian and...

, which had been founded in the 5th century, became "the greatest intellectual center of the time", drawing students and teachers from every quarter of the known world. Nestorian Christians were received there, and brought Syriac translations of Greek works in medicine and philosophy. Neoplatonists too, came to Gundishapur, where they planted the seeds of Sufi mysticism
Mysticism
Mysticism is the knowledge of, and especially the personal experience of, states of consciousness, i.e. levels of being, beyond normal human perception, including experience and even communion with a supreme being.-Classical origins:...

; the medical lore of India, Persia, Syria and Greece mingled there to produce a flourishing school of therapy.

Artistically, the Sassanid period witnessed some of the highest achievements of Persian civilization. Much of what later became known as Muslim culture, including architecture and writing, was originally drawn from Persian culture. At its peak, the Sassanid Empire stretched from Syria to northwest India, but its influence was felt far beyond these political boundaries. Sassanid motifs found their way into the art of 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...

 and China, the 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...

, and even Merovingian France. Islamic art
Islamic art
Islamic art encompasses the visual arts produced from the 7th century onwards by people who lived within the territory that was inhabited by or ruled by culturally Islamic populations...

 however, was the true heir to Sassanid art, whose concepts it was to assimilate while, at the same time instilling fresh life and renewed vigor into it. According to Will Durant
Will Durant
William James Durant was a prolific American writer, historian, and philosopher. He is best known for The Story of Civilization, 11 volumes written in collaboration with his wife Ariel Durant and published between 1935 and 1975...

:

"Sasanian art exported its forms and motifs eastward into India, Turkestan and China, westward into Syria, Asia Minor, Constantinople, the Balkans, Egypt and Spain. Probably its influence helped to change the emphasis in Greek art from classic representation to Byzantine ornament, and in Latin Christian art from wooden ceilings to brick or stone vaults and domes and buttressed walls."

Sassanid carvings at Taq-e Bostan
Taq-e Bostan
Taqwasân or Taq-e Bostan or Taq-i-Bustan is a series of large rock relief from the era of Sassanid Empire of Persia, the Iranian dynasty which ruled western Asia from 226 to 650 AD. This example of Sassanid art is located 5 km from the city center of Kermanshah in western Iran...

 and Naqsh-e Rustam
Naqsh-e Rustam
Naqsh-e Rustam also referred to as Necropolis is an archaeological site located about 12 km northwest of Persepolis, in Fars province, Iran. Naqsh-e Rustam lies a few hundred meters from Naqsh-e Rajab....

 were colored; so were many features of the palaces; but only traces of such painting remain. The literature, however, makes it clear that the art of painting flourished in Sasanian times; the prophet Mani
Mani (prophet)
Mani , of Iranian origin was the prophet and the founder of Manichaeism, a gnostic religion of Late Antiquity which was once widespread but is now extinct...

 is reported to have founded a school of painting; Firdowsi speaks of Persian magnates adorning their mansions with pictures of Iranian heroes; and the poet al-Buhturi describes the murals in the palace at Ctesiphon
Ctesiphon
Ctesiphon, the imperial capital of the Parthian Arsacids and of the Persian Sassanids, was one of the great cities of ancient Mesopotamia.The ruins of the city are located on the east bank of the Tigris, across the river from the Hellenistic city of Seleucia...

. When a Sasanian king died, the best painter of the time was called upon to make a portrait of him for a collection kept in the royal treasury.

Painting, sculpture
Sculpture
Sculpture is three-dimensional artwork created by shaping or combining hard materials—typically stone such as marble—or metal, glass, or wood. Softer materials can also be used, such as clay, textiles, plastics, polymers and softer metals...

, pottery
Pottery
Pottery is the material from which the potteryware is made, of which major types include earthenware, stoneware and porcelain. The place where such wares are made is also called a pottery . Pottery also refers to the art or craft of the potter or the manufacture of pottery...

, and other forms of decoration shared their designs with Sasanian textile art. Silks, embroideries, brocade
Brocade
Brocade is a class of richly decorative shuttle-woven fabrics, often made in colored silks and with or without gold and silver threads. The name, related to the same root as the word "broccoli," comes from Italian broccato meaning "embossed cloth," originally past participle of the verb broccare...

s, damask
Damask
Damask is a reversible figured fabric of silk, wool, linen, cotton, or synthetic fibers, with a pattern formed by weaving. Damasks are woven with one warp yarn and one weft yarn, usually with the pattern in warp-faced satin weave and the ground in weft-faced or sateen weave...

s, tapestries, chair covers, canopies, tents and rugs were woven with patience and masterly skill, and were dyed in warm tints of yellow, blue and green. Every Persian but the peasant and the priest aspired to dress above his class; presents often took the form of sumptuous garments; and great colorful carpets had been an appendage of wealth in the East since Assyria
Assyria
Assyria was a Semitic Akkadian kingdom, extant as a nation state from the mid–23rd century BC to 608 BC centred on the Upper Tigris river, in northern Mesopotamia , that came to rule regional empires a number of times through history. It was named for its original capital, the ancient city of Assur...

n days. The two dozen Sasanian textiles that have survived are among the most highly valued fabrics in existence. Even in their own day, Sasanian textiles were admired and imitated from Egypt to the Far East; and during the Middle Ages
Middle Ages
The Middle Ages is a periodization of European history from the 5th century to the 15th century. The Middle Ages follows the fall of the Western Roman Empire in 476 and precedes the Early Modern Era. It is the middle period of a three-period division of Western history: Classic, Medieval and Modern...

, they were favored for clothing the relics of Christian saints. When Heraclius
Heraclius
Heraclius was Byzantine Emperor from 610 to 641.He was responsible for introducing Greek as the empire's official language. His rise to power began in 608, when he and his father, Heraclius the Elder, the exarch of Africa, successfully led a revolt against the unpopular usurper Phocas.Heraclius'...

 captured the palace of Khosru Parvez
Khosrau II
250px|thumb|Khosrau II 250px|thumb|Khosrau II 250px|thumb|Khosrau II (Khosrow II, Chosroes II, or Xosrov II in classical sources, sometimes called Parvez, "the Ever Victorious" – (in Persian: خسرو پرویز), was the twenty-second Sassanid King of Persia, reigning from 590 to 628...

 at Dastagerd, delicate embroideries and an immense rug were among his most precious spoils. Famous was the "Winter Carpet", also known as "Khosro's Spring" (Spring Season Carpet قالى بهارستان) of Khosru Anushirvan
Khosrau I
Khosrau I , also known as Anushiravan the Just or Anushirawan the Just Khosrau I (also called Chosroes I in classical sources, most commonly known in Persian as Anushirvan or Anushirwan, Persian: انوشيروان meaning the immortal soul), also known as Anushiravan the Just or Anushirawan the Just...

, designed to make him forget winter in its spring and summer scenes: flowers and fruits made of inwoven rubies and diamonds grew, in this carpet, beside walks of silver and brooks of pearls traced on a ground of gold. Harun al-Rashid
Harun al-Rashid
Hārūn al-Rashīd was the fifth Arab Abbasid Caliph in Iraq. He was born in Rey, Iran, close to modern Tehran. His birth date remains a point of discussion, though, as various sources give the dates from 763 to 766)....

 prided himself on a spacious Sasanian rug thickly studded with jewelry. Persians wrote love poems about their rugs.

Studies on Sassanid remains show over 100 types of crowns being worn by Sassanid kings. The various Sassanid crowns demonstrate the cultural, economic, social and historical situation in each period. The crowns also show the character traits of each king in this era. Different symbols and signs on the crowns–the moon, stars, eagle and palm, each illustrate the wearer's religious faith and beliefs. (For more on Sassanid crowns please visit http://www.livius.org/sao-sd/sassanids/sassanid-crowns.html)

The Sassanid Dynasty, like the Achaemenid, originated in the province of Persis (Fars). The Sassanids saw themselves as successors of the Achaemenids, after the Hellenistic and Parthian interlude, and believed that it was their destiny to restore the greatness of Persia.

In reviving the glories of the Achaemenid past, the Sassanids were no mere imitators. The art of this period reveals an astonishing virility, in certain respects anticipating key features of Islamic art. Sassanid art combined elements of traditional Persian art with Hellenistic elements and influences. The conquest of Persia by Alexander the Great had inaugurated the spread of Hellenistic art into Western Asia. Though the East accepted the outward form of this art, it never really assimilated its spirit. Already in the Parthia
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 period, Hellenistic art was being interpreted freely by the peoples of the Near East. Throughout the Sassanid period, there was reaction against it. Sassanid art revived forms and traditions native to Persia, and in the Islamic period, these reached the shores of the Mediterranean. According to Fergusson:

With the accession of the [Sassanids], Persia regained much of that power and stability to which she had been so long a stranger… The improvement in the fine arts at home indicates returning prosperity, and a degree of security unknown since the fall of the Achaemenidae.


Surviving palaces illustrate the splendor in which the Sassanid monarchs lived. Examples include palaces at Firouzabad
Firouzabad
Firuzabad is a city in and the capital of Firuzabad County, Fars Province, Iran. At the 2006 census, its population was 58,210, in 12,888 families.Firuzabad is located south of Shiraz. The town is surrounded by a mud wall and ditch....

 and Bishapur
Bishapur
thumb|Irano-Roman floor mosaic detail from the palace of [[Shapur I]] at BishapurBishapur is an ancient city situated south of modern Faliyan, Iran on the ancient road between Persis and Elam. The road linked the Sassanid capitals Istakhr and Ctesiphon...

 in Fars, and the capital city of Ctesiphon
Ctesiphon
Ctesiphon, the imperial capital of the Parthian Arsacids and of the Persian Sassanids, was one of the great cities of ancient Mesopotamia.The ruins of the city are located on the east bank of the Tigris, across the river from the Hellenistic city of Seleucia...

 in Khvarvaran
Khvarvaran
Khvārvarān, also known as Iraq or Mesopotamia, was a province of the Iranian Persian Empire, which ruled the region since the time of Cyrus the Great...

 province, Iraq
Iraq
Iraq ; officially the Republic of Iraq is a country in Western Asia spanning most of the northwestern end of the Zagros mountain range, the eastern part of the Syrian Desert and the northern part of the Arabian Desert....

. In addition to local traditions, Parthian architecture influenced Sassanid architectural characteristics. All are characterized by the barrel-vaulted iwan
Iwan
An iwan is a rectangular hall or space, usually vaulted, walled on three sides, with one end entirely open. The formal gateway to the iwan is called pishtaq, a Persian term for a portal projecting from the facade of a building, usually decorated with calligraphy bands, glazed tilework, and...

s introduced in the Parthian period. During the Sassanid period, these reached massive proportions, particularly at Ctesiphon. There, the arch of the great vaulted hall, attributed to the reign of Shapur I (241–272), has a span of more than 80 feet (24.4 m) and reaches a height of 118 feet (36 m). This magnificent structure fascinated architects in the centuries that followed and has been considered one of the most important examples of Persian architecture. Many of the palaces contain an inner audience hall consisting, as at Firuzabad, of a chamber surmounted by a dome. The Persians solved the problem of constructing a circular dome on a square building by employing squinch
Squinch
A squinch in architecture is a construction filling in the upper angles of a square room so as to form a base to receive an octagonal or spherical dome...

es, or arches built across each corner of the square, thereby converting it into an octagon on which it is simple to place the dome. The dome chamber in the palace of Firouzabad is the earliest surviving example of the use of the squinch, suggesting that this architectural technique was probably invented in Persia.

The unique characteristic of Sassanid architecture was its distinctive use of space. The Sassanid architect conceived his building in terms of masses and surfaces; hence the use of massive walls of brick decorated with molded or carved stucco. Stucco wall decorations appear at Bishapur, but better examples are preserved from Chal Tarkhan near Rey
Rey, Iran
Rey or Ray , also known as Rhages and formerly as Arsacia, is the capital of Rey County, Tehran Province, Iran, and is the oldest existing city in the province....

 (late Sassanid or early Islamic in date), and from Ctesiphon and Kish
Kish (Sumer)
Kish is modern Tell al-Uhaymir , and was an ancient city of Sumer. Kish is located some 12 km east of Babylon, and 80 km south of Baghdad ....

 in Mesopotamia. The panels show animal figures set in roundels, human busts, and geometric and floral motifs.

At Bishapur, some of the floors were decorated with mosaic
Mosaic
Mosaic is the art of creating images with an assemblage of small pieces of colored glass, stone, or other materials. It may be a technique of decorative art, an aspect of interior decoration, or of cultural and spiritual significance as in a cathedral...

s showing scenes of banqueting. The Roman influence here is clear, and the mosaics may have been laid by Roman prisoners. Buildings were decorated with wall paintings. Particularly fine examples have been found on Mount Khajeh
Mount Khajeh
Mount Khwaja or Mount Khwajeh is a flat-topped black basalt hill rising up as an island in the middle of Lake Hamun, in the Iranian province of Sistan and Baluchestan....

 in Sistan.

Industry and trade


Persian industry under the Sassanids developed from domestic to urban forms. Guilds were numerous. Silk weaving was introduced from China; Sassanid silks were sought after everywhere, and served as models for the textile art in Byzantium, China and Japan. Chinese merchants came to thriving Iranian ports such as Siraf
Siraf
Siraf is a city in the Central District of Kangan County, Bushehr Province, Iran. At the 2006 census, its population was 3,500, in 722 families....

 to sell raw silk and buy rugs, jewels and rouge; Armenians, Syrians, and Jews connected Persia, Byzantium and Rome in slow exchange. Good roads and bridges, well patrolled, enabled state post and merchant caravans to link Ctesiphon with all provinces; and harbors were built in the Persian Gulf to quicken trade with India. Sassanid merchants ranged far and wide and gradually ousted Romans from the lucrative Indian ocean trade routes. Recent archeological discovery has shown an interesting fact that Sassanids used special labels (commercial labels) on goods as a way of promoting their brands and distinguish them between different qualities.

Khosrau I further extended the already vast trade network. The Sassanid state now tended toward monopolistic control of trade, with luxury goods assuming a far greater role in the trade than heretofore, and the great activity in building of ports, caravanserais, bridges and the like, was linked to trade and urbanization. The Persians dominated international trade, both in the Indian Ocean
Indian Ocean
The Indian Ocean is the third largest of the world's oceanic divisions, covering approximately 20% of the water on the Earth's surface. It is bounded on the north by the Indian Subcontinent and Arabian Peninsula ; on the west by eastern Africa; on the east by Indochina, the Sunda Islands, and...

, Central Asia and South Russia, in the time of Khosrau, although competition with the Byzantines was at times intense. Sassanian settlements in Oman
Oman
Oman , officially called the Sultanate of Oman , is an Arab state in southwest Asia on the southeast coast of the Arabian Peninsula. It is bordered by the United Arab Emirates to the northwest, Saudi Arabia to the west, and Yemen to the southwest. The coast is formed by the Arabian Sea on the...

 and Yemen
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....

 testify to the importance of trade with India, but the silk trade with China was mainly in the hands of Sassanid vassals and the Iranian people, the Sogdians
Iranian peoples
The Iranian peoples are an Indo-European ethnic-linguistic group, consisting of the speakers of Iranian languages, a major branch of the Indo-European language family, as such forming a branch of Indo-European-speaking peoples...

.

The main exports of the Sassanids were silk; woolen and golden textiles; carpets and rugs; skin; and, leather and pearls from the Persian Gulf
Persian Gulf
The Persian Gulf, in Southwest Asia, is an extension of the Indian Ocean located between Iran and the Arabian Peninsula.The Persian Gulf was the focus of the 1980–1988 Iran-Iraq War, in which each side attacked the other's oil tankers...

. There were also goods in transit from China (paper, silk) and India (spices), which Sassanid customs imposed taxes upon, and which were re-exported from the Empire to Europe.

It was also a time of increased metallurgical production, so Iran earned a reputation as the "armory of Asia". Most of the Sassanid mining centers were at the fringes of the Empire–in Armenia, the Caucasus
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...

 and above all, Transoxania. The extraordinary mineral wealth of the Pamir Mountains
Pamir Mountains
The Pamir Mountains are a mountain range in Central Asia formed by the junction or knot of the Himalayas, Tian Shan, Karakoram, Kunlun, and Hindu Kush ranges. They are among the world’s highest mountains and since Victorian times they have been known as the "Roof of the World" a probable...

 on the eastern horizon of the Sassanid empire led to a legend among the Tajiks, an Iranian people living there, which is still told today. It said that when God was creating the world, he tripped over Pamirs, dropping his jar of minerals which spread across the region.

Zoroastrianism




Under Parthian rule, Zoroastrianism had undergone corruption and disillusions from the Greek religion
Greek religion
Greek religion can refer to several things, including*Ancient Greek religion**Greek hero cult**Eleusinian Mysteries**Hellenistic religion**Platonic idealism*Greek Orthodox Church*Religion in Greece*Hellenic Polytheistic Reconstructionism...

. The Greek religion had spread and mixed with Zoroastrianism when Alexander the Great had conquered the Persian Empire from Darius III. Under Sassanid rule, the pure, orthodox version of Zoroastrianism was re-instated. The loose system of priests was replaced with a hierarchical formed religious system.

Large portions of the Avesta
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,...

 created during the reign of Darius I were lost when Alexander burned the city of Persepolis
Persepolis
Perspolis was the ceremonial capital of the Achaemenid Empire . Persepolis is situated northeast of the modern city of Shiraz in the Fars Province of modern Iran. In contemporary Persian, the site is known as Takht-e Jamshid...

, either while intoxicated or as an act of revenge for the First
First Persian invasion of Greece
The first Persian invasion of Greece, during the Persian Wars, began in 492 BCE, and ended with the decisive Athenian victory at the Battle of Marathon in 490 BCE. The invasion, consisting of two distinct campaigns, was ordered by the Persian king Darius I primarily in order to punish the...

 and Second Persian invasion of Greece
Second Persian invasion of Greece
The second Persian invasion of Greece occurred during the Greco-Persian Wars, as King Xerxes I of Persia sought to conquer all of Greece. The invasion was a direct, if delayed, response to the defeat of the first Persian invasion of Greece at the Battle of Marathon which ended Darius I's attempts...

. However, under 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...

, attempts to re-build the Avesta were made.

The religion of the Sassanid state was Zoroastrianism, but Sassanid Zoroastrianism had clear distinctions from the practices laid out in the Avesta
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,...

, the holy books of Zoroastrianism. Sassanid Zoroastrian clergy modified the religion in a way to serve themselves, causing substantial religious uneasiness. Sassanid religious policies contributed to the flourishing of numerous religious reform movements, the most important of these being the Mani
Mani (prophet)
Mani , of Iranian origin was the prophet and the founder of Manichaeism, a gnostic religion of Late Antiquity which was once widespread but is now extinct...

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

 religions.

Indeed, the relationship between the Sasanian kings and the religions practiced in their empire were complex and varied. For instance, while Shapur I tolerated and encouraged a variety of religions and seems to have been a Zurvanite
Zurvanism
Zurvanism is a now-extinct branch of Zoroastrianism that had the divinity Zurvan as its First Principle . Zurvanism is also known as Zurvanite Zoroastrianism....

 himself, religious minorities were suppressed under Bahram II. Shapur II, on the other hand, was tolerant of most religious groups excepting Christians, whom he only persecuted Christians in the wake of Constantine's conversion.

Christianity



Christians in the Sassanid Empire belonged mainly to the Nestorian Church (Church of the East) and the Jacobite Church
Syriac Orthodox Church
The Syriac Orthodox Church; is an autocephalous Oriental Orthodox church based in the Eastern Mediterranean, with members spread throughout the world. The Syriac Orthodox Church claims to derive its origin from one of the first Christian communities, established in Antioch by the Apostle St....

 (Syriac Orthodox Church) branches of Christianity. Although these churches originally maintained ties with Christian churches in the Roman Empire, they were indeed quite different from them. One reason for this was that the Church language of the Nestorian and Jacobite Churches was their use of Syriac
Syriac language
Syriac is a dialect of Middle Aramaic that was once spoken across much of the Fertile Crescent. Having first appeared as a script in the 1st century AD after being spoken as an unwritten language for five centuries, Classical Syriac became a major literary language throughout the Middle East from...

 as their liturgical language rather than Greek, the language of Byzantine Christianity. Another reason for a separation between Eastern and Western Christianity, was strong pressure from the Sassanid authorities to sever connections with Rome, since the Sassanid Empire was often at war with the Roman Empire.

Christianity was recognized by king Yazdegerd I
Yazdegerd I
Yazdegerd I, or Izdekerti , was the thirteenth Sassanid king of Persia and ruled from 399 to 421. He is believed by some to be the son of Shapur III and by others to be son of Bahram IV...

 in 409 as an allowable faith within the Sassanid Empire. In 410, at the Council of Seleucia-Ctesiphon
Council of Seleucia-Ctesiphon
The Council of Seleucia-Ctesiphon, also called the Council of Mar Isaac, met in AD 410 in Seleucia-Ctesiphon, the capital of the Sassanid Empire of Persia. The council, extended official recognition to the Empire's Christian community, known as the Church of the East, and established the Bishop of...

, Mar Isaac was elected as Catholicos of the Church of the East.

The major break with mainstream Christianity came in 431, due to the pronouncements of the First Council of Ephesus. The Council condemned Nestorius
Nestorius
Nestorius was Archbishop of Constantinople from 10 April 428 to 22 June 431.Drawing on his studies at the School of Antioch, his teachings, which included a rejection of the long-used title of Theotokos for the Virgin Mary, brought him into conflict with other prominent churchmen of the time,...

, a theologian of Cilician/Kilikian origin and the patriarch of Constantinople
Patriarch of Constantinople
The Ecumenical Patriarch is the Archbishop of Constantinople – New Rome – ranking as primus inter pares in the Eastern Orthodox communion, which is seen by followers as the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church....

, for teaching a view of Christology
Christology
Christology is the field of study within Christian theology which is primarily concerned with the nature and person of Jesus Christ as recorded in the Canonical gospels and the letters of the New Testament. Primary considerations include the relationship of Jesus' nature and person with the nature...

 in accordance with which he refused to call Mary, the mother of Jesus Christ, "Theotokos
Theotokos
Theotokos is the Greek title of Mary, the mother of Jesus used especially in the Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, and Eastern Catholic Churches. Its literal English translations include God-bearer and the one who gives birth to God. Less literal translations include Mother of God...

" or Mother of God. While the teaching of the Council of Ephesus was accepted within the Roman Empire, the Sassanid church disagreed with the condemnation of Nestorius' teachings. When Nestorius was deposed as patriarch, a number of his followers fled to the Sassanid Persian Empire. Persian emperors used this opportunity to strengthen Nestorius' position within the Sassanid church (which made up the vast majority of the Christians in the predominantly Zoroastrian Persian Empire) by eliminating the most important pro-Roman clergymen in Persia and making sure that their places were taken by Nestorians. This was to assure that these Christians would be loyal to the Persian Empire, and not to the Roman.

Most of the Christians in the Sassanid empire lived on the western edge of the empire, predominantly in Mesopotamia, but there were also important communities on the island of Tylos
Tylos
Bahrain was referred to by the Greeks as Tylos, the centre of pearl trading, when Nearchus came to discover it serving under Alexander the Great. From the 6th to 3rd century BC Bahrain was included in Persian Empire by Achaemenians, an Iranian dynasty...

 (present day Bahrain
Bahrain
' , officially the Kingdom of Bahrain , is a small island state near the western shores of the Persian Gulf. It is ruled by the Al Khalifa royal family. The population in 2010 stood at 1,214,705, including 235,108 non-nationals. Formerly an emirate, Bahrain was declared a kingdom in 2002.Bahrain is...

), the southern coast of the Persian Gulf, the area of the Arabian kingdom of Lakhm
Lakhmids
The Lakhmids , Banu Lakhm , Muntherids , were a group of Arab Christians who lived in Southern Iraq, and made al-Hirah their capital in 266. Poets described it as a Paradise on earth, an Arab Poet described the city's pleasant climate and beauty "One day in al-Hirah is better than a year of...

, and the Persian part of Armenia. Some of these areas were the earliest to be Christianized; the kingdom of Armenia
Armenia
Armenia , officially the Republic of Armenia , is a landlocked mountainous country in the Caucasus region of Eurasia...

 became the first independent Christian state in the world in 301. While a number of Assyrian territories had almost become fully Christianized even earlier during the 3rd century, they never became independent nations.

Other religions


Alongside Zoroastrianism, other religions, primarily Judaism
Judaism
Judaism ) is the "religion, philosophy, and way of life" of the Jewish people...

, Christianity
Christianity
Christianity is a monotheistic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus as presented in canonical gospels and other New Testament writings...

 and Buddhism
Buddhism
Buddhism is a religion and philosophy encompassing a variety of traditions, beliefs and practices, largely based on teachings attributed to Siddhartha Gautama, commonly known as the Buddha . The Buddha lived and taught in the northeastern Indian subcontinent some time between the 6th and 4th...

, existed in Sassanid society, and were largely free to practice and preach their beliefs. A very large Jewish community flourished under Sassanid rule, with thriving centers at Isfahan
Isfahan (city)
Isfahan , historically also rendered in English as Ispahan, Sepahan or Hispahan, is the capital of Isfahan Province in Iran, located about 340 km south of Tehran. It has a population of 1,583,609, Iran's third largest city after Tehran and Mashhad...

, Babylon
Babylon
Babylon was an Akkadian city-state of ancient Mesopotamia, the remains of which are found in present-day Al Hillah, Babil Province, Iraq, about 85 kilometers south of Baghdad...

 and Khorasan, and with its own semiautonomous Exilarchate leadership based in Mesopotamia. This community would, in fact, continue to flourish until the advent of Zionism
Zionism
Zionism is a Jewish political movement that, in its broadest sense, has supported the self-determination of the Jewish people in a sovereign Jewish national homeland. Since the establishment of the State of Israel, the Zionist movement continues primarily to advocate on behalf of the Jewish state...

. Jewish communities suffered only occasional persecution. They enjoyed a relative freedom of religion, and were granted privileges denied to other religious minorities. Shapur I (Shabur Malka in Aramaic) was a particular friend to the Jews. His friendship with Shmuel
Samuel of Nehardea
Samuel of Nehardea or Samuel bar Abba was a Jewish Talmudist who lived in Babylonia, known as an Amora of the first generation; son of Abba bar Abba and head of the Yeshiva at Nehardea. He was a teacher of halakha, judge, physician, and astronomer. He was born about 165 at Nehardea, in Babylonia...

 produced many advantages for the Jewish community. He even offered the Jews in the Sassanid empire a fine white Nisaean horse, just in case the Messiah, who was thought to ride a donkey or a mule, would come. Shapur II, whose mother was Jewish, had a similar friendship with a Babylonian rabbi named Raba. Raba's friendship with Shapur II enabled him to secure a relaxation of the oppressive laws enacted against the Jews in the Persian Empire. Moreover, in the eastern portion of the empire, various Buddhist places of worship, notably in Bamiyan were active as Buddhism gradually became more popular in that region.

Legacy and importance


The influence of the Sassanid Empire continued long after it ceased to exist. The empire, through the guidance of several able emperors prior to its fall, had achieved a Persian renaissance that would become a driving force behind the civilization of the newly established religion of Islam
Islam
Islam . The most common are and .   : Arabic pronunciation varies regionally. The first vowel ranges from ~~. The second vowel ranges from ~~~...

. In modern Iran
Iran
Iran , officially the Islamic Republic of Iran , is a country in Southern and Western Asia. The name "Iran" has been in use natively since the Sassanian era and came into use internationally in 1935, before which the country was known to the Western world as Persia...

 and the regions of the Iranosphere
Greater Iran
Greater Iran refers to the regions that have significant Iranian cultural influence. It roughly corresponds to the territory on the Iranian plateau and its bordering plains, stretching from Iraq, the Caucasus, and Turkey in the west to the Indus River in the east...

, the Sassanid period is regarded as one of the high points of Iranian civilization
History of Iran
The history of Iran has been intertwined with the history of a larger historical region, comprising the area from the Danube River in the west to the Indus River and Jaxartes in the east and from the Caucasus, Caspian Sea, and Aral Sea in the north to the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman and Egypt...

.

In Europe


Sassanid culture and military structure had a significant influence on Roman civilization. The structure and character of the Roman army was affected by the methods of Persian warfare. In a modified form, the Roman Imperial autocracy imitated the royal ceremonies of the court of the Sassanids at Ctesiphon
Ctesiphon
Ctesiphon, the imperial capital of the Parthian Arsacids and of the Persian Sassanids, was one of the great cities of ancient Mesopotamia.The ruins of the city are located on the east bank of the Tigris, across the river from the Hellenistic city of Seleucia...

, and those in turn had an influence on the ceremonial traditions of the courts of modern Europe. The origin of the formalities of European diplomacy is attributed to the diplomatic relations between the Persian governments and Roman Empire.

Through the late Roman Empire
Roman Empire
The Roman Empire was the post-Republican period of the ancient Roman civilization, characterised by an autocratic form of government and large territorial holdings in Europe and around the Mediterranean....

's adoption of Cataphract
Cataphract
A cataphract was a form of armored heavy cavalry utilised in ancient warfare by a number of peoples in Western Eurasia and the Eurasian Steppe....

 cavalry, the principles of the European knighthood (heavily armoured cavalry) of the Middle Ages can be traced to the Sassanid Asawaran (Azatan) knightly society with whom it also shares a number of similarities.

In Jewish history



In Jewish history
Jewish history
Jewish history is the history of the Jews, their religion and culture, as it developed and interacted with other peoples, religions and cultures. Since Jewish history is over 4000 years long and includes hundreds of different populations, any treatment can only be provided in broad strokes...

, the Sassanid Empire is a very important chapter in the expansion of the Jewish faith. The Sassanid period saw major developments such as the construction of the Babylonian Talmud
Talmud
The Talmud is a central text of mainstream Judaism. It takes the form of a record of rabbinic discussions pertaining to Jewish law, ethics, philosophy, customs and history....

 and the establishment of several Jewish orientated academic institutions such as Sura
Sura (city)
Sura was a city in the southern part of ancient Babylonia, located west of the Euphrates River. It was well-known for its agricultural produce, which included grapes, wheat, and barley...

 and Pumbedita
Pumbedita
Pumbedita was the name of a city in ancient Babylonia close to the modern-day city of Fallujah....

, which were for centuries the most influential in Jewish scholarship
Talmudic Academies in Babylonia
The Talmudic Academies in Babylonia, also known as the Geonic Academies, were the center for Jewish scholarship and the development of Jewish law in Mesopotamia from roughly 589 CE to 1038 CE...

. Several individuals of the Imperial family such as Ifra Hormizd the Queen mother of Shapur II
Shapur II
Shapur II the Great was the ninth King of the Persian Sassanid Empire from 309 to 379 and son of Hormizd II. During his long reign, the Sassanid Empire saw its first golden era since the reign of Shapur I...

 and Queen Shushandukht, the Jewish wife of Yazdegerd I
Yazdegerd I
Yazdegerd I, or Izdekerti , was the thirteenth Sassanid king of Persia and ruled from 399 to 421. He is believed by some to be the son of Shapur III and by others to be son of Bahram IV...

, significantly contributed to the close relations between the Jews of the empire and the government in Ctesiphon.

In India



The collapse of the Sassanid Empire caused the state religion to be switched from Zoroastrianism to Islam. Zoroastrianism slowly went from a major religion to a persecuted minor religion. For the survival of their faith and their lives, a large number of Zoroastrians chose to emigrate. According to the Qissa-i Sanjan
Qissa-i Sanjan
The Story of Sanjan is an account of the early years of Zoroastrian settlers on the Indian subcontinent...

, one group of those refugees landed in what is now Gujarat, India, where they were allowed greater freedom to observe their old customs and to preserve their faith. The descendants of those Zoroastrians, now known as the Parsis, would play a small but significant role in the development of India. Today there are around 70,000 Parsis in India.

The Parsis, as Zoroastrians, still use a variant of the religious calendar instituted under the Sassanids. That calendar still marks the number of years since the accession of Yazdegerd III, just as it did in 632. (See also: Zoroastrian calendar
Zoroastrian calendar
This article treats of the reckoning of days, months and years in the calendar used by adherents of the Zoroastrian faith. Zoroastrian religious festivals are discussed elsewhere, but have a fixed relationship to Nawruz, the New Year festival, whose timing is discussed below...

)

Sassanid Empire chronology



226–241: Reign of Ardashir I
Ardashir I
Ardashir I was the founder of the Sassanid Empire, was ruler of Istakhr , subsequently Fars Province , and finally "King of Kings of Sassanid Empire " with the overthrow of the Parthian Empire...

:
  • 224–226: Overthrow of Parthian Empire
    Parthian Empire
    The Parthian Empire , also known as the Arsacid Empire , was a major Iranian political and cultural power in ancient Persia...

  • 229–232: War with Rome
  • Zoroastrianism
    Zoroastrianism
    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...

     is revived as official religion
  • The collection of texts known as the Zend Avesta
    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,...

     is assembled


241–271: 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...

 "the Great":
  • 241–244: War with Rome
  • 252–261: War with Rome. Decisive victory of Persian at Edessa
    Battle of Edessa
    The Battle of Edessa took place between the armies of the Roman Empire under the command of Emperor Valerian and Sassanid forces under Shahanshah Shapur I in 259...

     and Capture of Roman emperor Valerian
    Valerian (emperor)
    Valerian , also known as Valerian the Elder, was Roman Emperor from 253 to 260. He was taken captive by Persian king Shapur I after the Battle of Edessa, becoming the only Roman Emperor who was captured as a prisoner of war, resulting in wide-ranging instability across the Empire.-Origins and rise...

  • 215–271: Mani
    Mani (prophet)
    Mani , of Iranian origin was the prophet and the founder of Manichaeism, a gnostic religion of Late Antiquity which was once widespread but is now extinct...

    , founder of Manicheanism


271–301: A period of dynastic struggles

283: War with Rome

296-8: War with Rome – Persia cedes five provinces east of the Tigris to Rome

309–379: Reign of Shapur II
Shapur II
Shapur II the Great was the ninth King of the Persian Sassanid Empire from 309 to 379 and son of Hormizd II. During his long reign, the Sassanid Empire saw its first golden era since the reign of Shapur I...

 "the Great":
  • 337–350: First war with Rome with relatively little success
  • 359–363: Second war with Rome. Rome returns trans-Tigris provinces and cedes Nisibis and Singara to Persia


387: Armenia partitioned into Roman and Persian zones

399–420: Reign of Yazdegerd I
Yazdegerd I
Yazdegerd I, or Izdekerti , was the thirteenth Sassanid king of Persia and ruled from 399 to 421. He is believed by some to be the son of Shapur III and by others to be son of Bahram IV...

 "the Sinner":
  • 409: Christian are permitted to publicly worship and to build churches
  • 416–420: Persecution of Christians as Yazdegerd revokes his earlier order


420–438: Reign of Bahram V
Bahram V
Bahram V was the fourteenth Sassanid King of Persia . Also called Bahram Gur or Bahramgur , he was a son of Yazdegerd I , after whose sudden death he gained the crown against the opposition of the grandees by the help of Mundhir, the Arab dynast of al-Hirah.- Reign and war with Rome :Bahram V...

:
  • 420–422: War with Rome
  • 424: Council of Dad-Ishu declares the Eastern Church independent of Constantinople
  • 428: Persian zone of Armenia annexed to Sassanid Empire


438–457: Reign of 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....

:
  • 441: War with Rome
  • 449-451: Armenian revolt


482-3: Armenian and Iberian revolt

483: Edict of Toleration granted to Christians

484: 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...

 defeated and killed by Hephthalites

491: Armenian revolt. Armenian Church repudiates the Council of Chalcedon
Council of Chalcedon
The Council of Chalcedon was a church council held from 8 October to 1 November, 451 AD, at Chalcedon , on the Asian side of the Bosporus. The council marked a significant turning point in the Christological debates that led to the separation of the church of the Eastern Roman Empire in the 5th...

:
  • Nestorian Christianity becomes dominant Christian sect in Sassanid Empire


502-506: War with Constantinople

526-532: War with Constantinople

531–579: Reign of Khosrau I
Khosrau I
Khosrau I , also known as Anushiravan the Just or Anushirawan the Just Khosrau I (also called Chosroes I in classical sources, most commonly known in Persian as Anushirvan or Anushirwan, Persian: انوشيروان meaning the immortal soul), also known as Anushiravan the Just or Anushirawan the Just...

, "with the immortal soul" (Anushirvan)

540–562: War with Constantinople

572-591: War with Constantinople – Persia cedes much of Armenia and Iberia to Constantinople

590–628: Reign of Khosrau II
Khosrau II
250px|thumb|Khosrau II 250px|thumb|Khosrau II 250px|thumb|Khosrau II (Khosrow II, Chosroes II, or Xosrov II in classical sources, sometimes called Parvez, "the Ever Victorious" – (in Persian: خسرو پرویز), was the twenty-second Sassanid King of Persia, reigning from 590 to 628...



603–628: War with Byzantium. Persia occupies Byzantine Mesopotamia, Syria, Palestine, Egypt and the Transcaucasus, before being driven to withdraw to pre-war frontiers by Byzantine counter-offensive

610: Arabs defeat a Sassanid army at Dhu-Qar
Battle of Thi Qar
The Battle of Dhi Qar was a pre-Islamic battle fought between Arabs in southern Iraq and a Sassanid Persian army, circa 609....



626: Unsuccessful siege of Constantinople
Constantinople
Constantinople was the capital of the Roman, Eastern Roman, Byzantine, Latin, and Ottoman Empires. Throughout most of the Middle Ages, Constantinople was Europe's largest and wealthiest city.-Names:...

 by Avars and Persians

627: Byzantine Emperor Heraclius
Heraclius
Heraclius was Byzantine Emperor from 610 to 641.He was responsible for introducing Greek as the empire's official language. His rise to power began in 608, when he and his father, Heraclius the Elder, the exarch of Africa, successfully led a revolt against the unpopular usurper Phocas.Heraclius'...

 invades Assyria and Mesopotamia. Decisive defeat of Persian forces at the battle of Nineveh
Battle of Nineveh (627)
The Battle of Nineveh was the climactic battle of the Byzantine-Sassanid War of 602–628. The Byzantine victory broke the power of the Sassanid dynasty and for a period of time restored the empire to its ancient boundaries in the Middle East...



628–632: Chaotic period of multiple rulers

632–644: Reality reign of Yazdegerd III

636(XI): Decisive Sassanid defeat at the Battle of al-Qādisiyyah
Battle of al-Qadisiyyah
The Battle of al-Qādisiyyah was fought in 636; it was the decisive engagement between the Arab muslim army and the Sassanid Persian army during the first period of Muslim expansion. It resulted in the Islamic conquest of Persia, and was key to the conquest of Iraq...

 during the Islamic conquest of Iran

641(XII): Final victory of Arabs when Persian army destroyed at the Battle of Nihawānd
Battle of Nihawand
The Battle of Nahāvand Battle of Nahāwand was fought in 642 between Arab Muslims and Sassanid armies. The battle is known to Muslims as the "Victory of Victories." The History of Tabari mentions that Firuzan, the officer serving the Persian King Yazdgerd III had about 50,000 men, versus a Muslim...



651: Last Sassanid ruler Yazdegerd III then fled eastward from one district to another, until at last he was killed by a local miller for his purse at Merv
Merv
Merv , formerly Achaemenid Satrapy of Margiana, and later Alexandria and Antiochia in Margiana , was a major oasis-city in Central Asia, on the historical Silk Road, located near today's Mary in Turkmenistan. Several cities have existed on this site, which is significant for the interchange of...

 (present-day Turkmenistan
Turkmenistan
Turkmenistan , formerly also known as Turkmenia is one of the Turkic states in Central Asia. Until 1991, it was a constituent republic of the Soviet Union, the Turkmen Soviet Socialist Republic . Turkmenistan is one of the six independent Turkic states...

), ending the dynasty.http://p2.www.britannica.com/oscar/print?articleId=106324&fullArticle=true&tocId=9106324 His son, Peroz II, and many others went into exile in China. http://www.chinapage.com/minority/iran.html

See also


  • List of notable Persian figures in the Sassanid era
  • Aniran
    Aniran
    Anīrān or Anērān is an ethno-linguistic term that signifies "non-Iranian" or "non-Iran." Thus, in a general sense, 'Aniran' signifies lands where Iranian languages are not spoken...

  • Sasanian Family Tree
    Sasanian Family Tree
    The Sasanian dynasty, which reigned over the Second Persian empire or Sassanid Empire in Iran, was founded by Ardashir I after he defeated the last Parthian king, Artabanus IV and ended when the last Sassanid monarch, Yazdegerd III , lost a 14-year struggle to drive out the early Arab Caliphate,...

     (Family Tree of Sasanian Kings)
  • List of kings of Persia
  • Sassanid music
    Sassanid music
    Sassanid music refers to the golden age of Persian music that occurred under the reign of the Sassanid dynasty.Persian classical music dates to the sixth century BC; during the time of the Achaemenid Empire , music played an important role in prayer and in royal and national events...

  • Persian-Sassanid art patterns
    Persian-Sassanid art patterns
    - Patterns :Characteristic patterns of the Persian-Sassanide art exhibits similarity to the art of the Bulgars, Khazars, Sak-Scythian, and have recurred at different locations in Central Asia...

  • Academy of Gundishapur
  • Pahlavi literature
    Pahlavi literature
    Middle Persian literature also called Pahlavi literature is Persian literature of the 1st millennium AD, especially of the Sassanid period.- Literature of Pahlavi :Pahlavi Literature can be divided in three parts:...

  • Pre-Islamic scripts in Afghanistan
    Pre-Islamic scripts in Afghanistan
    Afghanistan possesses a rich linguistic legacy of pre-Islamic scripts, which existed before being displaced by the Arabic alphabet, after the Islamic conquest of Afghanistan.Among these scripts are Sanskrit, Sharda, Gandhari, Kharosthi, Bactrian and Brāhmī ....

  • Sassanid army
    Sassanid army
    The birth of the Sassanid army dates back to the rise of Ardashir I , the founder of the Sassanid dynasty, to the throne. Ardashir aimed at the revival of the Persian Empire, and to further this aim, he reformed the military by forming a standing army which was under his personal command and whose...

  • Derafsh Kaviani
    Derafsh Kaviani
    The Derafsh Kaviani , was the legendary royal standard of the Sassanid kings. The banner was also sometimes called the "standard of Jamshid" , the "standard of Fereydun" , and the "royal standard" .-Name:The name Drafš e Kāvīān The Derafsh Kaviani (Middle Persian: Drafš e Kāvīān), was the...

  • Zoroastrian calendar
    Zoroastrian calendar
    This article treats of the reckoning of days, months and years in the calendar used by adherents of the Zoroastrian faith. Zoroastrian religious festivals are discussed elsewhere, but have a fixed relationship to Nawruz, the New Year festival, whose timing is discussed below...

  • Pahlavi Crown
    Pahlavi Crown
    The Pahlavi Crown is part of the coronation regalia used by the Pahlavi Shahanshahs of Iran and is part of the Iranian Crown Jewels.-Background:...

  • Firouzabad
    Firouzabad
    Firuzabad is a city in and the capital of Firuzabad County, Fars Province, Iran. At the 2006 census, its population was 58,210, in 12,888 families.Firuzabad is located south of Shiraz. The town is surrounded by a mud wall and ditch....

  • Takht-i-Suleiman
    Takht-i-Suleiman
    For the similarly named locations see Takht-e Suleyman Massif in Iran, Taxte Soleymān in Pakistan, and Sulayman Mountain near Osh, Kyrgyzstan.Taxte Soleymān, is an archaeological site in West Azarbaijan, Iran...

     (A good showcase of Sassanid architecture and city developing)
  • Palace of Ardashir
    Palace of Ardashir
    Castle of Ardeshir e Babakan , also known as the Atash-kadeh آتشکده, is a castle located on the slopes of the mountain on which Ghal'eh Dokhtar is situated on. Built in AD 224 by Ardashir I of the Sassanian Empire, it is located two kilometres north of the ancient city of Gor, i.e...

  • Shahryar (The fictional Sassanid king from 1001 Nights)
  • Shahnameh
    Shahnameh
    The Shahnameh or Shah-nama is a long epic poem written by the Persian poet Ferdowsi between c.977 and 1010 AD and is the national epic of Iran and related societies...

  • Sassanid church
  • Catholicoses/Maphryonos of the East
  • History of Silk
    History of silk
    According to Chinese tradition, the history of silk begins in the 27th century BCE. Its use was confined to China until the Silk Road opened at some point during the latter half of the first millennium BCE. China maintained its virtual monopoly over silk for another thousand years...

  • Samanids
  • http://www.hamsayeh.net/travel%20and%20tourism%20Saryazd.htm The Giant Fortress of SARYAZD

Further reading

  • Michael H. Dodgeon, Samuel N. C. Lieu. The Roman Eastern frontier and the Persian Wars (AD 226-363). Part 1. Routledge. London, 1994 ISBN 0-415-10317-7
  • Labourt, J. Le Christianisme dans l'empire Perse, sous la Dynastie Sassanide (224-632). Paris: Librairie Victor Lecoffre, 1904.(Original from the Bavarian State Library)(Original from the New York Public Library)

External links