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Under his reign, the collection of the Avesta , the sacred texts of Zoroastrianism, was completed, heresy and apostasy were punished, and Christians were persecuted.

Shapur II, like Shapur I, was amicable towards Jews , who lived in relative freedom and gained many advantages during his reign see also Raba. At the time of his death, the Persian Empire was stronger than ever, with its enemies to the east pacified and Armenia under Persian control.

From Shapur II's death until Kavad I 's first coronation, there was a largely peaceful period with the Romans by this time the Eastern Roman or Byzantine Empire engaged in just two brief wars with the Sassanian Empire, the first in — and the second in Despite a series of weak leaders, the administrative system established during Shapur II's reign remained strong, and the empire continued to function effectively.

Ardashir, who was raised as the "half-brother" of the emperor, failed to fill his brother's shoes, and Shapur was too much of a melancholy character to achieve anything.

Bahram IV — , although not as inactive as his father, still failed to achieve anything important for the empire.

During this time Armenia was divided by a 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.

Both were physically and diplomatically powerful, opportunistic, practiced religious tolerance and provided freedom for the rise of religious minorities.

Yazdegerd stopped the persecution against the Christians and punished nobles and priests who persecuted them. His reign marked a relatively peaceful era with the Romans, and he even took the young Theodosius II — under his guardianship.

Yazdegerd also married a Jewish princess, who bore him a son called Narsi. Yazdegerd I's successor was his son Bahram V — , 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 gained the crown after Yazdegerd's sudden death or assassination , which occurred when the grandees opposed the king with the help of al-Mundhir , the Arabic dynast of al-Hirah.

Bahram's mother was Shushandukht , the daughter of the Jewish Exilarch. In , 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 in modern Uzbekistan.

Bahram deposed the vassal king of the Persian-held area of Armenia and made it a province of the empire. There are many stories that tell of Bahram V's valour, his beauty, and his victories over the Romans, Turkic peoples , Indians and Africans , as well as his exploits in hunting and his pursuits of love.

He was better known as Bahram-e Gur, Gur meaning onager , on account of his love for hunting and, in particular, hunting onagers.

He symbolised a king at the height of a golden age, embodying royal prosperity. He had won his crown by competing with his brother and spent much time fighting foreign enemies, but mostly he kept himself amused by hunting, holding court parties and entertaining a famous band of ladies and courtiers.

During his time, the best pieces of Sassanid literature were written, notable pieces of Sassanid music were composed, and sports such as polo became royal pastimes.

Bahram V's son Yazdegerd II — was in some ways a moderate ruler, but, in contrast to Yazdegerd I, he practised a harsh policy towards minority religions, particularly Christianity.

At the beginning of his reign in , Yazdegerd II assembled an army of soldiers from various nations, including his Indian allies, and attacked the Byzantine Empire , but peace was soon restored after some small-scale fighting.

He then gathered his forces in Nishapur in and launched a prolonged campaign against the Kidarites. After a number of battles he crushed them and drove them out beyond the Oxus river in 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 in his land, and, to a much lesser extent, the Jews. The Armenians, however, remained primarily Christian.

In his later years, he was engaged yet again with the Kidarites right up until his death in During his short rule, he continually fought with his elder brother Peroz I , who had the support of the nobility, [64] and with the Hephthalites in Bactria.

He was killed by his brother Peroz in At the beginning of the 5th century, the Hephthalites White Huns , along with other nomadic groups, attacked Persia.

At first Bahram V and Yazdegerd II inflicted decisive defeats against them and drove them back eastward. The Huns returned at the end of the 5th century and defeated Peroz I — in Following this victory, the Huns invaded and plundered parts of eastern Persia continually for two years.

They exacted heavy tribute for some years thereafter. These attacks brought instability and chaos to the kingdom. Peroz tried again to drive out the Hephthalites, but on the way to Herat his army was trapped by the Huns in the desert.

Peroz was killed and his army was wiped out. After this victory, the Hephthalites advanced forward to the city of Herat, throwing the empire into chaos.

Eventually a noble Iranian named Sukhra from the House of Karen restored some degree of order. He put Balash , one of Peroz I's brothers, on the throne.

The Hunnic threat persisted until the reign of Khosrau I. Balash — 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.

After a reign of four years, he was blinded and deposed attributed to magnates , and his nephew Kavad I acceded to the throne.

Kavad I — was an energetic and reformist ruler. He gave his support to the sect founded by Mazdak , son of Bamdad, who demanded that the rich should divide their wives and their wealth with the poor.

By adopting the doctrine of the Mazdakites, his intention evidently was 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 Khuzestan , and his younger brother Jamasp Zamaspes became king in Kavad, however, quickly escaped and was given refuge by the Hephthalite king.

Jamasp — was installed on the Sassanid throne upon the deposition of Kavad I by members of the nobility. He was a good and kind king; he reduced taxes in order to improve the condition of the peasants and the poor.

He was also an adherent of the mainstream Zoroastrian religion, diversions from which had cost Kavad I his throne and freedom.

Jamasp's reign soon ended, however, when Kavad I, at the head of a large army granted to him by the Hephthalite king, returned to the empire's capital.

Jamasp stepped down from his position and returned the throne to his brother. The second golden era began after the second reign of Kavadh I.

With the support of the Hephtalites , Kavadh launched a campaign against the Romans. In , he took Theodosiopolis in Armenia, but lost it soon afterwards.

In he took Amida on the Tigris. In , 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 In , a Roman offensive against Nisibis was repulsed and Roman efforts to fortify positions near the frontier were thwarted.

In , Kavadh sent an army under Perozes to attack the important Roman frontier city of Dara. The army was met by the Roman general Belisarius , 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 a Persian army accompanied by a Lakhmid contingent under Al-Mundhir III defeated Belisarius at the Battle of Callinicum , and in an "eternal" peace was concluded.

After the reign of Kavadh I, his son Khosrau I , also known as Anushirvan "with the immortal soul"; ruled — , 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.

He introduced a rational system of taxation based upon a survey of landed possessions , which his father had begun, and he 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 dehqans , or "knights", paid and equipped by the central government [70] and the bureaucracy, tying the army and bureaucracy more closely to the central government than to local lords.

Emperor Justinian I — paid Khosrau I , pieces of gold as a part of the "eternal peace" treaty of In , Khosrau broke the treaty and invaded Syria, sacking Antioch and extorting large sums of money from a number of other cities.

Further successes followed: in Lazica defected to the Persian side, and in a major Byzantine offensive in Armenia was defeated at Anglon.

Also in , Khosrau I entered Lazica at the invitation of its king, captured the main Byzantine stronghold at Petra , and established another protectorate over the country, [72] commencing the Lazic War.

A five-year truce agreed to in was interrupted in 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 In , Justinian I died and was succeeded by Justin II — , 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, Chihor-Vishnasp of the Suren family, built a fire temple at Dvin near modern Yerevan , and he put to death an influential member of the Mamikonian family, touching off a revolt which led to the massacre of the Persian governor and his guard in , while rebellion also broke out in Iberia.

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 in 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 , which was taken by the Persians.

Capitalizing on this success, the Persians 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 Khosrau I led his last campaign, an offensive into Anatolia which sacked Sebasteia and Melitene , but ended in disaster: defeated outside Melitene, the Persians suffered heavy losses as they fled across the Euphrates under Byzantine attack.

Taking advantage of Persian disarray, the Byzantines raided deep into Khosrau's territory, even mounting amphibious attacks across the Caspian Sea. Khosrau sued for peace, but he decided to continue the war after a victory by his general Tamkhosrau in Armenia in , and fighting resumed in Mesopotamia.

The Armenian revolt came to an end with a general amnesty, which brought Armenia back into the Sassanid Empire.

Khosrau I sent a fleet and a small army under a commander called Vahriz to the area near present Aden , 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 and Thus, the Sassanids were able to establish a base in South Arabia to control the sea trade with the east.

Later, the south Arabian kingdom renounced Sassanid overlordship, and another Persian expedition was sent in 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.

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

The war with the Byzantines continued to rage intensely but inconclusively until the general Bahram Chobin , dismissed and humiliated by Hormizd, rose in revolt in The following year, Hormizd was overthrown by a palace coup and his son Khosrau II — 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 asked the Byzantine Emperor Maurice — 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 and John Mystacon , the new combined Byzantine-Persian army raised a rebellion against Bahram, defeating him at the Battle of Blarathon in When Khosrau was subsequently restored to power he kept his promise, handing over control of western Armenia and Caucasian Iberia.

The new peace arrangement allowed the two empires to focus on military matters elsewhere: Khosrau focused on the Sassanid Empire's eastern frontier while Maurice restored Byzantine control of the Balkans.

The Hephthalites issued numerous coins imitating the coinage of Khosrow II. Smbat, with the aid of a Persian prince named Datoyean, repelled the Hephthalites from Persia, and plundered their domains in eastern Khorasan , where Smbat is said to have killed their king in single combat.

After Maurice was overthrown and killed by Phocas — in , however, 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 and captured Antioch in In , outside Antioch, the Persian generals Shahrbaraz and Shahin decisively defeated a major counter-attack led in person by the Byzantine emperor Heraclius.

Thereafter, the Persian advance continued unchecked. Jerusalem fell in , Alexandria in , and the rest of Egypt by The Sassanid dream of restoring the Achaemenid boundaries was almost complete, while the Byzantine Empire was on the verge of collapse.

This remarkable peak of expansion was paralleled by a blossoming of Persian art , music , and architecture. While successful at its first stage from to , the campaign of Khosrau II had actually exhausted the Persian army and treasuries.

In an effort to rebuild the national treasuries, Khosrau overtaxed the population. Thus, while his empire was on the verge of total defeat, Heraclius — drew on all his diminished and devastated empire's remaining resources, reorganised his armies, and mounted a remarkable, risky counter-offensive.

Between and , he campaigned against the Persians in Anatolia and the Caucasus, winning a string of victories against Persian forces under Shahrbaraz , Shahin , and Shahraplakan whose competition to claim the glory of personally defeating the Byzantine emperor contributed to their failure , sacking the great Zoroastrian temple at Ganzak , and securing assistance from the Khazars and Western Turkic Khaganate.

In response, Khosrau, in coordination with Avar and Slavic forces, launched a siege on the Byzantine capital of Constantinople in The Sassanids, led by Shahrbaraz, attacked the city on the eastern side of the Bosphorus , while his Avar and Slavic allies invaded from the western side.

Attempts to ferry the Persian forces across the Bosphorus to aid their allies the Slavic forces being by far the most capable in siege warfare were blocked by the Byzantine fleet , and the siege ended in failure.

In —, Heraclius mounted a winter invasion of Mesopotamia, and, despite the departure of his Khazar allies, defeated a Persian army commanded by Rhahzadh in the Battle of Nineveh.

He then marched down the Tigris, devastating the country and sacking Khosrau's palace at Dastagerd. He was prevented from attacking Ctesiphon by the destruction of the bridges on the Nahrawan Canal and conducted further raids before withdrawing up the Diyala 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 , he was overthrown and murdered by his son Kavadh II , who immediately brought an end to the war, agreeing to withdraw from all occupied territories.

In , Heraclius restored the True Cross to Jerusalem in a majestic ceremony. Over a period of four years and five successive kings, 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.

The same year, the first raiders from the Arab tribes, newly united by Islam , arrived in Persian territory. According to Howard-Johnston, 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, facilitating the Islamic conquest of 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, were no longer a threat.

Caliph Abu Bakr 's commander Khalid ibn Walid , once one of Muhammad 's chosen companions-in-arms and leader of the Arab army, moved to capture Iraq in a series of lightning battles.

Redeployed to the Syrian front against the Byzantines in June , Khalid's successor in Iraq failed him, and the Muslims were defeated in the Battle of the Bridge in However, the Arab threat did not stop there and reemerged shortly via the disciplined armies of Khalid ibn Walid.

Yazdegerd fled eastward from Ctesiphon, leaving behind him most of the empire's vast treasury. The Arabs captured Ctesiphon shortly afterward.

Thus the Muslims were able to seize a powerful financial resource, leaving the Sassanid government strapped for funds.

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 Arab invaders.

Yazdegerd was assassinated by a miller in Merv in late , while some of the nobles settled in Central Asia , where they contributed greatly to spreading the Persian culture and language in those regions and to the establishment of the first native Iranian Islamic dynasty, the Samanid dynasty , which sought to revive Sassanid traditions.

The abrupt fall of the Sassanid Empire was completed in a period of just five years, and most of its territory was absorbed into the Islamic caliphate ; however, many Iranian cities resisted and fought against the invaders several times.

Islamic caliphates repeatedly suppressed revolts in cities such as Rey , Isfahan , and Hamadan. Caliph Umar is said to have occasionally set up a commission to survey the taxes, to judge if they were more than the land could bear.

It is believed that the following dynasties and noble families have ancestors among the Sassanian rulers:.

The Sassanids established an empire roughly within the frontiers achieved by the Parthian Arsacids, with the capital at Ctesiphon in the Asoristan province.

In administering this empire, Sassanid rulers took the title of shahanshah King of Kings , becoming the central overlords and also assumed guardianship of the sacred 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.

On a smaller scale, the territory might also be ruled by a number of petty rulers from a noble family, known as shahrdar , overseen directly by the shahanshah.

The districts of the provinces were ruled by a shahrab and a mowbed chief priest. The mowbed's job was to deal with estates and other things relating to legal matters.

Within this bureaucracy the Zoroastrian priesthood was immensely powerful. The head of the Magi priestly class, the mowbedan mowbed , along with the commander-in-chief, the spahbed , the head of traders and merchants syndicate Ho Tokhshan Bod and minister of agriculture wastaryoshan-salar , who was also head of farmers, were, below the emperor, the most powerful men of the Sassanid state.

The Sassanian rulers always considered the advice of their ministers. A Muslim historian, Masudi , praised the "excellent administration of the Sasanian kings, their well-ordered policy, their care for their subjects, and the prosperity of their domains".

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 Sasanian 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 remained of high importance.

At the court of Ardashir I, the old Arsacid families of the House of Karen and the House of Suren , along with several other families, the Varazes and Andigans, held positions of great honor.

Alongside these Iranian and non-Iranian noble families, the kings of Merv , Abarshahr , Kirman , Sakastan, Iberia , and Adiabene , 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, Wuzurgan from Iranian families held the most powerful positions in the imperial administration, including governorships of border provinces marzban.

Most of these positions were patrimonial, and many were passed down through a single family for generations. The 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.

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 has been debated. The active army of the Sassanid Empire originated from Ardashir I , the first shahanshah of the empire.

Ardashir restored the Achaemenid military organizations, retained the Parthian cavalry model, and employed new types of armour and siege warfare techniques.

Without this relationship, the Sassanid Empire would not have survived in its beginning stages. Because of this relationship between the warriors and the priests, religion and state were considered inseparable in the Zoroastrian religion.

However, it is this same relationship that caused the weakening of the Empire, when each group tried to impose their power onto the other. Disagreements between the priests and the warriors led to fragmentation within the empire, which led to its downfall.

The Paygan formed the bulk of the Sassanid infantry, and were often recruited from the peasant population. Each unit was headed by an officer called a " Paygan-salar ", which meant "commander of the infantry" and their main task was to guard the baggage train, serve as pages to the Asvaran a higher rank , storm fortification walls, undertake entrenchment projects, and excavate mines.

Those serving in the infantry were fitted with shields and lances. To make the size of their army larger, the Sassanids added soldiers provided by the Medes and the Dailamites to their own.

The Medes provided the Sassanid army with high-quality javelin throwers, slingers and heavy infantry. Iranian infantry are described by Ammianus Marcellinus as "armed like gladiators" and "obey orders like so many horse-boys".

They are reported as having fought with weapons such as daggers, swords and javelins and reputed to have been recognized by Romans for their skills and hardiness in close-quarter combat.

One account of Dailamites recounted their participation in an invasion of Yemen where of them were led by the Dailamite officer Vahriz. The Sasanian navy was an important constituent of the Sasanian military from the time that Ardashir I conquered the Arab side of the Persian Gulf.

Because controlling the Persian Gulf was an economic necessity, the Sasanian navy worked to keep it safe from piracy, prevent Roman encroachment, and keep the Arab tribes from getting hostile.

However, it is believed by many historians that the naval force could not have been a strong one, as the men serving in the navy were those who were confined in prisons.

The cavalry used during the Sassanid Empire were two types of heavy cavalry units: Clibanarii and Cataphracts.

The first cavalry force, composed of elite noblemen trained since youth for military service, was supported by light cavalry, infantry and archers.

The second cavalry involved the use of the war elephants. In fact, it was their specialty to deploy elephants as cavalry support. 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 much like the preceding Parthian army, although some of the Sassanid's heavy cavalry were equipped with lances, while Parthian armies were heavily equipped with bows.

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.

Horsemen in the Sassanid cavalry lacked a stirrup. Instead, they used a war saddle which had a cantle at the back and two guard clamps which curved across the top of the rider's thighs.

This allowed the horsemen to stay in the saddle at all times during the battle, especially during violent encounters.

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 required 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.

The Sassanids, like the Parthians, were in constant hostilities with the Roman Empire. The Sassanids, who succeeded the Parthians, were recognized as one of the leading world powers alongside its neighboring rival the Byzantine Empire, or Eastern Roman Empire, for a period of more than years.

Hostilities between the two empires became more frequent. 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.

The last of the many and frequent wars with the Byzantines, the climactic Byzantine—Sasanian War of — , which included the siege of the Byzantine capital Constantinople , ended with both rivalling sides having drastically exhausted their human and material resources.

Furthermore, social conflict within the Empire had considerably weakened it further. Over the following centuries, half the Byzantine Empire and the entire Sasanian Empire came under Muslim rule.

In general, over the span of the centuries, 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 and nomadic tribes such as the White Huns.

The construction of fortifications such as Tus citadel or the city of Nishapur , which later became a center of learning and trade, also assisted in defending the eastern provinces from attack.

In south and central Arabia, Bedouin Arab tribes occasionally raided the Sassanid empire. The Kingdom of Al-Hirah , a Sassanid vassal kingdom, was established to form a buffer zone between the empire's heartland and the Bedouin tribes.

These defeats resulted in a sudden takeover of the Sassanid empire by Bedouin tribes under the Islamic banner. In the north, Khazars and the Western Turkic Khaganate frequently assaulted the northern provinces of the empire.

They plundered Media in Shortly thereafter, the Persian army defeated them and drove them out. The Sassanids built numerous fortifications in the Caucasus region to halt these attacks, of which perhaps the most notably are the imposing fortifications built in Derbent Dagestan , North Caucasus , now a part of Russia that to a large extent, have remained intact up to this day.

In , before Khosrau's reign, a group of monophysite Axumites led an attack on the dominant Himyarites of southern Arabia. The local Arab leader was able to resist the attack but appealed to the Sassanians for aid, while the Axumites subsequently turned towards the Byzantines for help.

The Axumites sent another force across the Red Sea and this time successfully killed the Arab leader and replaced him with an Axumite man to be king of the region.

In , Justinian suggested that the Axumites of Yemen should cut out the Persians from Indian trade by maritime trade with the Indians.

The Ethiopians never met this request because an Axumite general named Abraha took control of the Yemenite throne and created an independent nation.

After being denied by Justinian, Ma'd-Karib sought help from Khosrau, who sent a small fleet and army under commander Vahriz to depose the new 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.

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 thirteen 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 during the Jin and Northern Wei dynasties, and to Chang'an during the Sui and Tang dynasties.

Both empires benefited from trade along the Silk Road 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, there is evidence of several Sassanid and Chinese efforts in forging alliances against the common enemy, the Hephthalites.

Upon the rise of the nomadic Göktürks in Inner Asia, there is also what looks like a collaboration between China and the Sassanids to defuse Turkic advances.

Documents from Mt. Mogh talk about the presence of a Chinese general in the service of the king of Sogdiana at the time of the Arab invasions.

Both Peroz and his son Narsieh Chinese neh-shie were given high titles at the Chinese court. On at least two occasions, the last possibly in , 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 Sakastan, from which we have some remaining numismatic evidence.

Narsieh later attained the position of a commander of the Chinese imperial guards, and his descendants lived in China as respected princes, Sassanian refugees fleeing from the Arab conquest to settle in China.

Following the conquest of Iran and neighboring regions, Shapur I extended his authority northwest of the Indian subcontinent. 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 in the 4th century, it is clear that the Sassanids remained relevant in India's northwest throughout this period.

Persia and northwestern India, the latter that made up formerly part of the Kushans, engaged in cultural as well as political intercourse during this period, as certain Sassanid practices spread into the Kushan territories.

In particular, the Kushans 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. Lower-level cultural interchanges also took place between India and Persia during this period.

For example, Persians imported the early form of chess , the chaturanga Middle Persian: chatrang from India.

Some of these later found their way into the literature of the Islamic world and Arabic literature. A notable example of this was the translation of the Indian Panchatantra by one of Khosrau's ministers, Borzuya.

In Indian books, Borzuya read that on a mountain in that land there grows a plant which when sprinkled over the dead revives them. Borzuya asked Khosrau I for permission to travel to India to obtain the plant.

After a fruitless search, he was led to an ascetic who revealed the secret of the plant to him: The "plant" was word, the "mountain" learning, and the "dead" the ignorant.

He told Borzuya of a book, the remedy of ignorance, called the Kalila , which was kept in a treasure chamber.

The king of India gave Borzuya permission to read the Kalila, provided that he did not make a copy of it.

Borzuya accepted the condition but each day memorized a chapter of the book. When he returned to his room he would record what he had memorized that day, thus creating a copy of the book, which he sent to Iran.

In Iran, Bozorgmehr translated the book into Pahlavi and, at Borzuya's request, named the first chapter after him. In contrast to Parthian society, the Sassanids renewed emphasis on a charismatic and centralized government.

In Sassanid theory, the ideal society could maintain stability and justice, and the necessary instrument for this was a strong monarch.

During the late Sasanian period, Mesopotamia had the largest population density in the medieval world. During the Sasanian period, many cities with the name "Iran-khwarrah" were established.

This was because Sasanians wanted to revive Avesta ideology. Many of these cities, both new and old, were populated not only by native ethnic groups, such as the Iranians or Syriacs, but also by the deported Roman prisoners of war, such as Goths , Slavs , Latins , and others.

This allowed the Sasanians to become familiar with Roman technology. The impact these foreigners made on the economy was significant, as many of them were Christians, and the spread of the religion accelerated throughout the empire.

It is known that they were called "Kurds" by the Sasanians, and that they regularly served the Sasanian military, particularly the Dailamite and Gilani nomads.

This way of handling the nomads continued into the Islamic period, where the service of the Dailamites and Gilanis continued unabated.

The head of the Sasanian Empire was the shahanshah king of kings , also simply known as the shah king. His health and welfare was of high importance—accordingly, the phrase "May you be immortal" was used to reply to him.

The Sasanian coins which appeared from the 6th-century and afterwards depict a moon and sun, which, in the words of the Iranian historian Touraj Daryaee , "suggest that the king was at the center of the world and the sun and moon revolved around him.

In effect he was the "king of the four corners of the world", which was an old Mesopotamian idea. The king wore colorful clothes, makeup, a heavy crown, while his beard was decorated with gold.

The early Sasanian kings considered themselves of divine descent; they called themselves "bay" divine. When the king went out in public, he was hidden behind a curtain, [] and had some of his men in front of him, whose duty was to keep the masses away from him and to clear the way.

The king's guards were known as the pushtigban. On other occasions, the king was protected by a discrete group of palace guards, known as the darigan.

Both of these groups were enlisted from royal families of the Sasanian Empire, [] and were under the command of the hazarbed , who was in charge of the king's safety, controlled the entrance of the kings palace, presented visitors to the king, and was allowed military commands or used as a negotiator.

The hazarbed was also allowed in some cases to serve as the royal executioner. Sassanid society was immensely complex, with separate systems of social organization governing numerous different groups within the empire.

At the center of the Sasanian caste system the shahanshah ruled over all the nobles. This social system appears to have been fairly rigid.

The Sasanian caste system outlived the empire, continuing in the early Islamic period. In general, mass slavery was never practiced by the Iranians, and in many cases the situation and lives of semi-slaves prisoners of war were, in fact, better than those of the commoner.

The most common slaves in the Sasanian Empire were the household servants, who worked in private estates and at the fire-temples.

Usage of a woman slave in a home was common, and her master had outright control over her and could even produce children with her if he wanted to.

Slaves also received wages and were able to have their own families whether they were female or male. The master of a slave was allowed to free the person when he wanted to, which, no matter what faith the slave believed in, was considered a good deed.

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 years, enrollment at the Grand School was over 30, students. On a lower level, Sasanian society was divided into Azatan freemen , who jealously guarded their status as descendants of ancient Aryan 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 the Sasanian army. The Sasanian kings were patrons of letters and philosophy. Khosrau I had the works of Plato and Aristotle , translated into Pahlavi, taught at Gundishapur, and read them himself.

During his reign, many historical annals were compiled, of which the sole survivor is the Karnamak-i Artaxshir-i Papakan Deeds of Ardashir , a mixture of history and romance that served as the basis of the Iranian national epic, the Shahnameh.

When Justinian I closed the schools of Athens , seven of their professors went to Persia and found refuge at Khosrau's court.

In his treaty of with Justinian, the Sasanian king stipulated that the Greek sages should be allowed to return and be free from persecution.

Under Khosrau I, the Academy of Gundishapur , 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. The medical lore of India, Persia, Syria and Greece mingled there to produce a flourishing school of therapy.

Artistically, the Sasanian period witnessed some of the highest achievements of Iranian civilization. Much of what later became known as Muslim culture, including architecture and writing, was originally drawn from Persian culture.

At its peak, the Sasanian Empire stretched from western Anatolia to northwest India today Pakistan , but its influence was felt far beyond these political boundaries.

Islamic art however, was the true heir to Sasanian art, whose concepts it was to assimilate while at the same time instilling fresh life and renewed vigor into it.

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.

Sasanian carvings at Taq-e Bostan and Naqsh-e Rustam 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 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.

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 , pottery , and other forms of decoration shared their designs with Sasanian textile art.

Silks, embroideries, brocades , damasks , 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 Assyrian 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 , they were favored for clothing the relics of Christian saints.

When Heraclius captured the palace of Khosrau II Parvez at Dastagerd , delicate embroideries and an immense rug were among his most precious spoils.

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

Studies on Sasanian remains show over types of crowns being worn by Sasanian kings. The various Sasanian 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.

The Sasanian Dynasty, like the Achaemenid, originated in the province of Pars. The Sasanians 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 Sasanians were no mere imitators. The art of this period reveals an astonishing virility, in certain respects anticipating key features of Islamic art.

Sasanian art combined elements of traditional Persian art with Hellenistic elements and influences. Though the East accepted the outward form of this art, it never really assimilated its spirit.

Already in the Parthian period, Hellenistic art was being interpreted freely by the peoples of the Near East. Throughout the Sasanian period, there was reaction against it.

Sasanian art revived forms and traditions native to Persia, and in the Islamic period, these reached the shores of the Mediterranean.

With the accession of the [Sasanians], 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 Sasanian monarchs lived. Examples include palaces at Firuzabad and Bishapur in Fars , and the capital city of Ctesiphon in the Asoristan province present-day Iraq.

In addition to local traditions, Parthian architecture influenced Sasanian architectural characteristics. All are characterized by the barrel-vaulted iwans introduced in the Parthian period.

During the Sasanian period, these reached massive proportions, particularly at Ctesiphon. 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 squinches , 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 Firuzabad 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 Sasanian architecture was its distinctive use of space. The Sasanian 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 late Sasanian or early Islamic in date , and from Ctesiphon and Kish 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 mosaics 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 in Sistan. Due to the majority of the inhabitants being of peasant stock, the Sasanian economy relied on farming and agriculture, Khuzestan and Iraq being the most important provinces for it.

The Nahravan Canal is one of the greatest examples of Sasanian irrigation systems, and many of these things can still be found in Iran.

The mountains of the Sasanian state were used for lumbering by the nomads of the region, and the centralized nature of the Sasanian state allowed it to impose taxes on the nomads and inhabitants of the mountains.

During the reign of Khosrau I, further land was brought under centralized administration. Two trade routes were used during the Sasanian period: one in the north, the famous Silk Route , and one less prominent route on the southern Sasanian coast.

The factories of Susa , Gundeshapur , and Shushtar were famously known for their production of silk, and rivaled the Chinese factories.

The Sasanians showed great toleration to the inhabitants of the countryside, which allowed the latter to stockpile in case of famine.

Persian industry under the Sasanians developed from domestic to urban forms. Guilds were numerous. 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.

Khosrau I further extended the already vast trade network. The Sasanian 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 , Central Asia and South Russia, in the time of Khosrau, although competition with the Byzantines was at times intense.

Sassanian settlements in Oman and Yemen testify to the importance of trade with India, but the silk trade with China was mainly in the hands of Sasanian vassals and the Iranian people, the Sogdians.

The main exports of the Sasanians were silk; woolen and golden textiles; carpets and rugs; hides; and leather and pearls from the Persian Gulf.

There were also goods in transit from China paper, silk and India spices , which Sasanian 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 Sasanian mining centers were at the fringes of the Empire — in Armenia, the Caucasus and above all, Transoxania.

The extraordinary mineral wealth of the Pamir Mountains on the eastern horizon of the Sasanian 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 the Pamirs, dropping his jar of minerals, which spread across the region.

Under Parthian rule , Zoroastrianism had fragmented into regional variations which also saw the rise of local cult-deities, some from Iranian religious tradition but others drawn from Greek tradition too.

Greek paganism and religious ideas had spread and mixed with Zoroastrianism when Alexander the Great had conquered the Persian Empire from Darius III —a process of Greco-Persian religious and cultural synthesisation which had continued into the Parthian era.

However, under the Sassanids, an orthodox Zoroastrianism was revived and the religion would undergo numerous and important developments.

Sassanid Zoroastrianism would develop to have clear distinctions from the practices laid out in the Avesta , the holy books of Zoroastrianism.

It is often argued [ who? The relationship between the Sassanid kings and the religions practiced in their empire became complex and varied.

For instance, while Shapur I tolerated and encouraged a variety of religions and seems to have been a Zurvanite himself, religious minorities at times were suppressed under later kings, such as Bahram II.

Shapur II, on the other hand, tolerated religious groups except Christians, whom he only persecuted in the wake of Constantine's conversion.

From the very beginning of Sassanid rule in an orthodox Pars -oriented Zoroastrian tradition would play an important part in influencing and lending legitimization to the state until its collapse in the mid-7th century.

After Ardashir I had deposed the last Parthian King, Artabanus V , he sought the aid of Tansar , a herbad high priest of the Iranian Zoroastrians to aid him in acquiring legitimization for the new dynasty.

This Tansar did by writing to the nominal and vassal kings in different regions of Iran to accept Ardashir I as their new King, most notably in the Letter of Tansar , which was addressed to Gushnasp , the vassal king of Tabarestan.

Gushnasp had accused Ardashir I of having forsaken tradition by usurping the throne, and that while his actions "may have been good for the World" they were "bad for the faith".

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