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Shapur I

Shapur I

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Shapur I or also known as Shapur I the Great was the second Sassanid King of the Second Persian Empire
Sassanid Empire
The Sassanid Empire , known to its inhabitants as Ērānshahr and Ērān in Middle Persian and resulting in the New Persian terms Iranshahr and Iran , was the last pre-Islamic Persian Empire, ruled by the Sasanian Dynasty from 224 to 651...

. The dates of his reign are commonly given as 240/42 - 270/72, but it is likely that he also reigned as co-regent (together with his father) prior to his father's death in 242 (more probably than 240).

Early years


Shapur was the son 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...

 (r. 226–240 [died 242]), the founder of the Sassanid dynasty and whom Shapur succeeded. His mother was Lady Myrōd, who—according to legend—was an Arsacid princess. The Talmud cites a nickname for her, "Ifra Hurmiz", after her bewitching beauty.


Shapur accompanied his father's campaigns against the Parthians, who - at the time - still controlled much of the Iranian plateau
Iranian plateau
The Iranian plateau, or Iranic plateau, is a geological formation in Southwest Asia. It is the part of the Eurasian Plate wedged between the Arabian and Indian plates, situated between the Zagros mountains to the west, the Caspian Sea and the Kopet Dag to the north, the Hormuz Strait and Persian...

 through a system of vassal states that the Persian kingdom had itself previously been a part of.
Before an assembly of magnates, Ardashir "judged him the gentlest, wisest, bravest and ablest of all his children" and nominated him as his successor. Shapur also appears as heir apparent in Ardashir's investiture inscriptions at Naqsh-e Rajab
Naqsh-e Rajab
Naqsh-e Rajab is an archaeological site just east of Istakhr and about 12 km north of Persepolis.Together with Naqsh-e Rustam, which lies less than a kilometer away, the site is part of the Marvdasht cultural complex...

 and Firuzabad. The Cologne Mani-Codex
Cologne Mani-Codex
The Cologne Mani-Codex is a minute papyrus codex, dated on paleographical evidence to the fifth century CE, found near Asyut , Egypt; it contains a Greek text describing the life of Mani, the founder of the religious Manichaeism...

 indicates that, by 240, Ardashir and Shapur were already reigning together. In a letter from 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...

 to his senate, dated to 242, the "Persian Kings" are referred to in the plural. Synarchy is also evident in the coins of this period that portray Ardashir facing his youthful son, and which are accompanied by a legend that indicates that Shapur was already referred to as king.

The date of Shapur's coronation remains debated. 240 is frequently noted, but Ardashir lived very probably until 242. 240 also marks the year of the seizure and subsequent destruction of 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...

, about 100 km southwest of Nineveh
Nineveh
Nineveh was an ancient Assyrian city on the eastern bank of the Tigris River, and capital of the Neo Assyrian Empire. Its ruins are across the river from the modern-day major city of Mosul, in the Ninawa Governorate of Iraq....

 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...

 in present-day 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....

. According to legend, al-Nadirah, the daughter of the king of Hatra, betrayed her city to the Sassanids, who then killed the king and had the city razed. (Legends also have Shapur either marrying al-Nadirah, or having her killed, or both.)

War against the Roman Empire




Ardashir I had, towards the end of his reign, renewed the war against 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....

. Shapur I conquered the Mesopotamia
Mesopotamia
Mesopotamia is a toponym for the area of the Tigris–Euphrates river system, largely corresponding to modern-day Iraq, northeastern Syria, southeastern Turkey and southwestern Iran.Widely considered to be the cradle of civilization, Bronze Age Mesopotamia included Sumer and the...

n fortresses 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 Carrhae and advanced into Syria
Syria (Roman province)
Syria was a Roman province, annexed in 64 BC by Pompey, as a consequence of his military presence after pursuing victory in the Third Mithridatic War. It remained under Roman, and subsequently Byzantine, rule for seven centuries, until 637 when it fell to the Islamic conquests.- Principate :The...

. 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:...

, father-in-law of the young 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...

, drove him back and defeated him at the Battle of Resaena
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....

 in 243, regaining Nisibis and Carrhae. Timesitheus died shortly afterward, and 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...

 (244–249) murdered Gordian III after his defeat at the Battle of Misiche
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:...

. Philip then concluded a peace with the Persians in 244. With the Roman Empire debilitated by Germanic
Germanic peoples
The Germanic peoples are an Indo-European ethno-linguistic group of Northern European origin, identified by their use of the Indo-European Germanic languages which diversified out of Proto-Germanic during the Pre-Roman Iron Age.Originating about 1800 BCE from the Corded Ware Culture on the North...

 invasions and the continuous elevation of new emperors after the death of Trajan Decius (251), Shapur I resumed his attacks.
Shapur conquered Armenia
Armenia
Armenia , officially the Republic of Armenia , is a landlocked mountainous country in the Caucasus region of Eurasia...

, invaded Syria, 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...

. Eventually, 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...

 (253–260) marched against him and by 257, Valerian had recovered Antioch and returned the province of Syria to Roman control. In 259, Valerian moved to Edessa
Edessa, Mesopotamia
Edessa is the Greek name of an Aramaic town in northern Mesopotamia, as refounded by Seleucus I Nicator. For the modern history of the city, see Şanlıurfa.-Names:...

, but an outbreak of plague killed many and weakened the Roman troops defending the city which was then besieged by the Persians. In 260, Valerian arranged a meeting with Shapur to negotiate a peace settlement but was betrayed by Shapur who seized him and held him prisoner for the remainder of his life. Shapur advanced into Asia Minor
Asia Minor
Asia Minor is a geographical location at the westernmost protrusion of Asia, also called Anatolia, and corresponds to the western two thirds of the Asian part of Turkey...

, but was driven back by defeats at the hands of Balista
Balista
Balista or Ballista , also known in the sources with the probably wrong name of "Callistus", was one of the Thirty Tyrants of the Historia Augusta, and supported the rebellion of the Macriani against Emperor Gallienus....

, who captured the royal harem. Septimius Odenathus, prince of Palmyra
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...

, rose in his rear, defeated the Persian army and regained all the territories Shapur had occupied. Shapur was unable to resume the offensive and lost Armenia again.


One of the great achievements of Shapur's reign was the defeat of the Roman Emperor Valerian. This is presented in a mural at 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....

, where Shapur is represented on horseback wearing royal armour and crown. Before him kneels 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...

, in Roman dress, asking for grace. In his right hand the king grasps the uplifted arms of what may be Valerian; one of his hands is hidden in his sleeve as the sign of submission. The same scene is repeated in other rock-face inscriptions.
Shapur is said to have publicly shamed Valerian by using the Roman Emperor as a footstool when mounting his horse. Other sources contradict and note that in other stone carvings, Valerian is respected and never on his knees. This is supported by reports that Valerian and some of his army lived in relatively good conditions in the city of 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 that Shapur enrolled the assistance of Roman engineers in his engineering and development plans.

The colossal statue of Shapur I
Colossal Statue of Shapur I
The colossal statue of Shapur I is standing in the Shapur cave which is located in the south of Iran and about 6 km off the ancient city of Bishapur. With a height of about 6.70 m and a shoulder width of more than 2 m, it’s one of the most impressive sculpture from the Sassanian period.The...

 standing in the Shapur cave, is one of the most impressive sculptures of the Sassanid dynasty.

Builder of cities


Shapur I left other reliefs and rock inscriptions. A relief at Naqsh-e Rajab
Naqsh-e Rajab
Naqsh-e Rajab is an archaeological site just east of Istakhr and about 12 km north of Persepolis.Together with Naqsh-e Rustam, which lies less than a kilometer away, the site is part of the Marvdasht cultural complex...

 near Istakhr
Istakhr
Estakhr was an ancient city located in southern Iran, in Fars province, five kilometers north of Persepolis. It was a prosperous city during the time of Achaemenid Persia.-History:...

, is accompanied by a Greek translation. Here Shapur I calls himself "the Mazdayasnian (worshipper of Ahuramazda), the divine Sapores, King of Kings of the 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...

s, Iranians
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...

, and non-Aryans, of divine descent, son of the Mazdayasnian, the divine Artaxerxes
Artaxerxes
Artaxerxes may refer to:The throne name of several Achaemenid rulers of the 1st Persian Empire:* Artaxerxes I of Persia, Artaxerxes I Longimanus, r. 465–424 BC, son and successor of Xerxes I...

, King of Kings of the Aryans, grandson of the divine king Papak." Another long inscription at Istakhr mentions the King's exploits in archery in the presence of his nobles.
From his titles we learn that Shapur I claimed the sovereignty over the whole earth, although in reality his domain extended little farther than that of Ardashir I.
Shapur I built the great town 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...

 near the old Achaemenid capital 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 increased the fertility of the district by a dam and irrigation system - built by the Roman prisoners - that redirected part of the Karun River. The barrier is still called Band-e Kaisar, "the mole of the Caesar." He is also responsible for building the city of 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...

, also built by Roman soldiers captured after the defeat of Valerian in 260.After being captured Valerian was continually tortured. According to Mitchiner, Shapur also used Valerian as a stepping stool to get onto his horse.

Interactions with minorities


Shapur is mentioned many times in the 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....

, as King Shabur. He had good relations with the Jewish community and was a friend of Shmuel
Shmuel
Shmuel , the Hebrew equivalent of the name Samuel, may refer to:* Samuel , the Hebrew Bible prophet* Books of Samuel, the book of the Tanach* Shmuel Hakatan, the Tanna * Samuel of Nehardea, the Amora...

, one of the most famous of the Babylonia
Babylonia
Babylonia was an ancient cultural region in central-southern Mesopotamia , with Babylon as its capital. Babylonia emerged as a major power when Hammurabi Babylonia was an ancient cultural region in central-southern Mesopotamia (present-day Iraq), with Babylon as its capital. Babylonia emerged as...

n Amoraim.

Under Shapur's reign, 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...

, the founder of 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...

, began his preaching in Western Iran, and the King himself seems to have favoured his ideas. The Shapurgan
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...

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

 language, is dedicated to Shapur.