Chosrau II.

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Chosrau II on a gold coin

Chosrau II ( Persian خسرو Chosrou [ xosˈroʊ̯ ]; Greek Chosroes , Arabic Kisra ), also Chosrau Parviz (خسرو پرویز) Or Khosrow Parwez (called by Middle Persian Aparwēz , "winner" or "Victorious"), was the son of Hormizd IV. , And grandson of Khosrow I . Chosrau II ruled from 590 to 628 and was the last important great king of the Sassanids . He died at the end of February 628 (probably on the 28th of the month).


Chosrau II was born around 570, when he came to the throne as a young man. His father was Hormizd IV. , The son of the important Sassanid king Chosrau I , his mother came from the important noble family Aspābaḏ. Chosrau himself was appointed governor in the Persian Caucasus region at a very young age, apparently in order to gain experience in government. In 590 the successful general Bahram Tschobin rose against the rather unpopular Hormizd, whom his followers soon abandoned. Chosraus uncle Bindoe and Bistam acted against their brother-in-law Hormizd and overthrew him in a coup, in the course of which Hormizd was finally murdered. Chosrau (who may have been involved in the coup, but this is uncertain) has now been made king. He was probably crowned in June / July 590 in Ctesiphon . After a short time, however, he was driven out by rebels under Bahram Chobin. After a first battle, Bahram managed to invade Ctesiphon, where he was crowned king. Meanwhile, Chosrau fled to the Eastern Roman Empire , of all places , even though it had been at war with Persia since 572.

Emperor Maurikios finally granted him his assistance in regaining the throne. Sassanid and Roman troops under the command of the imperial army master Narses went into battle together (for the first and only time) and defeated Bahram Tschobin, so that Chosrau came back to the throne in 591. In return, he renounced some disputed areas in Mesopotamia , Armenia (up to the then capital Dvin ) and Georgia up to Tbilisi in the peace treaty with Ostrom . The assignments of territory were altogether quite moderate, if one considers, for example, the division of Armenia in 387, in which Persia received 4/5 (see Persarmenia ). Nevertheless, researchers emphasize that the profits represented a not inconsiderable gain in prestige and were strategically advantageous for the Romans. Relations between Maurikios and Chosrau, who was supposedly adopted by the emperor, were, at least on the surface, extremely good in the following years, for which Chosrau apparently tried very hard. Chosrau II tried to consolidate his position in Persia and to remove his uncles Bindoe and Bistam. This also succeeded in the case of Bindoe, but Bistam was able to settle in the province of Deylam, where he stayed for several years and even had coins minted before he was finally murdered.

Chosrau II married the Christian Shirin , whose son Merdanschah he wanted to appoint as his successor, although he had other children from other women (for example from the Christian Maria or Maryam). Several legends later grew up around Chosrau and Shirin, the marriage seems to have gone well and (unlike most Sassanid royal marriages) did not only serve to secure offspring. Shirin apparently had considerable influence at court, especially since Chosrau gave her a lot of freedom and gave numerous tokens of favor. This, however, met with rejection in Zoroastrian court circles (who were also bothered by Shirin's Christian origins) and seems to have played a certain role in the later murder of Chosrau.

Chosraus Hof is said to have unfolded a fabulous splendor, especially since the great king, due to the rigid but effective tax system, was able to dispose of enormous incomes. Yazdin , who acted as a kind of "finance minister" and restructured the finances, played a not insignificant role . Chosrau's relationship to Christianity was complicated: his wives, Maria and Shirin, were Christian, just as Yazdin was a Christian, but he seems to have played off Miaphysites and Nestorians against each other. So Chosrau favored the Miaphysites for some time, perhaps also under the influence of Shirin and the royal (also Christian) personal physician Gabriel von Schiggar , who both adhered to this denomination. Due to his Christian-friendly policy, which was probably motivated by realpolitik, he made himself unpopular with the Zoroastrian priests, who had already criticized the tolerant politics under Hormizd.

Chosrau II is defeated by Herakleios (French illustration from the 12th century )

After the death of his patron Maurikios at the end of 602, Chosrau presented himself as an avenger to his successor Phokas , who had also wiped out Maurikios' family. In Syrian chronicles, for example, it is reported that Chosrau wept in public for Maurikios and put on mourning clothes. After all, he wanted to take revenge on the Romans for the murder. He also presented a man who posed as Theodosios , the eldest son of the murdered Eastern Roman emperor, who allegedly survived the massacre. This served Chosrau, who apparently had never really been happy with the cession of territory by 591, as an occasion to take action against Eastern Stream from 603 onwards.

Under Phocas (602–610), Ostrom was able to defend itself somewhat, although Armenia and parts of Mesopotamia were lost, not least as a result of a revolt by the imperial general Narses. Chosrau II had the eastern Roman area in northern Mesopotamia systematically taken fortress after fortress, as he was obviously planning to annex it permanently. Since Herakleios ascended the throne in October 610, the Sassanid troops, which crossed the Euphrates in the spring of 611, hastened from victory to victory. This was also due to the fact that in the Eastern Roman Empire there were initially battles between troops loyal to Herakleios and Phocas and thus only limited organized resistance was possible; however, Herakleios also went partly on the offensive, as in 613 for example. This counterattack failed when the imperial army in Syria was defeated. Now the Persian troops, under the command of Generals Shahin and Shahrbaraz, conquered Syria and Egypt by 619 , which were to be permanently incorporated into the empire; even Asia Minor was plundered and the Holy Cross was carried away from Jerusalem in 614 and brought to Ctesiphon. It seemed as if the old Achaemenid Empire had awakened again and the end of Ostrom had come. In 626 the Persians and Avars even besieged Constantinople together , which was able to hold on to Constantinople despite the absence of the Emperor thanks to the strong Roman fleet (see Siege of Constantinople (626) ).

Chosrau II as an armored rider ( Taq-e-Bostan ).

But the climax of the Persian War had already passed, because Herakleios, who had declared the defense to be a “holy war”, penetrated deep into Persian dominion in a total of three campaigns from 622 onwards. In this context he succeeded in out-maneuvering outnumbered Persian units and defeating individual units. The military importance of these battles was limited, as the emperor never encountered the main Sassanid forces, but they strained the patience of the Persian nobility and undermined the king's authority. Overall, however, Herakleios undoubtedly turned out to be a skillful acting general, while Chosrau II was apparently not actively involved in military planning.

The end for Chosrau came with the defeat of the Persians in the battle of Nineveh in December 627, in which the Persian general Rhazates fell, especially since the better Persian troops did not intervene effectively in the fighting. At the same time, the Kök Turks , who had threatened the northeast border since the 560s, attacked the Sassanid Empire in consultation with Herakleios, which involved Persia in a two-front war. In fact, Chosrau had benefited from the fact that the steppe border had previously been quiet, as the Turkish Khagan Tardu had been bound by riots and 603 was killed. Now, however, the Persians threatened what they always wanted to avoid: a two-front war against the Romans and Turks (who were content with raids and single advances).

Chosrau fled his favorite residence, Dastagird, and fled to Ctesiphon , which he had avoided for a long time. There, however, Chosraus' eldest son Siroe conspired with several nobles and officers, including a son of Yazdin, who had been executed by Chosrau some time before as part of a persecution of Christians (martyrdom of " Anastasios the Persian "). Apparently the nobles feared for their lands threatened by the Turks and wanted to break off the endless war with the Romans; something that could not be done with Chosrau. The extent to which the Turkish intervention was perceived as having serious consequences is documented by Chinese sources that only speak of the Persians being defeated by the Turks and not mentioning Herakleios at all.

Chosrau was deposed in February 628 and thrown in prison, where he was murdered four days later. Siroe now initiated a bloodbath among his siblings to consolidate his power and ascended the throne as Kavadh II. As demanded by his followers, he immediately initiated peace negotiations with Herakleios. After the early death of Kavadh II Siroes in September 628, however, Persia sank into chaos and civil war and was only able to settle under Yazdegerd III. stabilize again to some extent. In the peace treaty of 629/30 the Sassanids lost all temporarily conquered territories back to the Eastern Romans and were so weakened due to the ensuing internal turmoil that the Arabs had a very easy time conquering the empire soon after (see Islamic expansion ). In retrospect , the elimination of the buffer state of the Lachmids at the beginning of the 7th century, who had taken over the border security in this area for Persia, turned out to be a serious mistake by Chosraus II.

In several sources Chosrau II is described - perhaps wrongly - mostly as a despot of the purest water, although Tabari, for example, also describes him positively. His life found an echo in numerous Persian epics such as Chosrau and Schirin (best known by Nezāmi ), which describes his love for the Christian Schirin.

In the historiographical tradition, the beginning of Chosrau's reign and he personally are portrayed positively: the new king was considered courageous and astute, the splendor of his court is emphasized. That changes with the description of the second half of the government when he begins the war against Ostrom, which ended with the beginning of the decline of his empire, whereby the increasing tax pressure, the mistrust of the king and the long war had a negative effect. The years of fighting had been carried on to the point of mutual exhaustion. George of Pisidia made no secret of his joy at the defeat of the hated Persian king. In this sense, Chosrau was partly responsible for the destruction of the old world order, which had existed between Eastern Europe and Persia throughout late antiquity. As a result of the Arab conquests, this was replaced by a new order in which the caliphate took the place of the Sassanid Empire and had to fight against eastern Byzantium for its pure existence.

For the Persian War see also Herakleios and Roman-Persian Wars .


  • Keenan Baca-Winters: He Did Not Fear. Xusro Parviz, King of Kings of the Sasanian Empire. Gorgias Press, Piscataway, NJ 2019.
  • Henning Börm : Chosroes II, Parvēz, Sasanian king, 590–628 CE . In: The Oxford Classical Dictionary Online (5th edition).
  • Geoffrey B. Greatrex : Khusro II and the Christians of his empire. In: Journal of the Canadian Society for Syriac Studies 3, 2003, pp. 78-88.
  • Touraj Daryaee: Sasanian Iran 224-651 CE. Portrait of a Late Antique Empire. Mazda Pub., Costa Mesa (Calif.) 2008, pp. 83 ff.
  • James Howard-Johnston : Kosrow II . In: Encyclopædia Iranica . (Online version 2010).
  • James Howard-Johnston: Witnesses to a World Crisis. Historians and Histories of the Middle East in the Seventh Century. Oxford 2010. [Basic study of the source criticism and the reconstruction based on it of the events in the eastern Mediterranean world in the 7th century.]
  • James Howard-Johnston: Pride and Fall: Khusro II and his regime. In: Ders .: East Rome, Sasanian Persia and the End of Antiquity: Historiographical and Historical Studies (Collected Studies). Ashgate Variorum, Aldershot et al. a. 2006 (= Variorum collected studies series. Volume 848), ISBN 978-0-86078-992-5 , Chapter 9 and other articles in the anthology. [All contributions are from Howard-Johnston, only the original page number of the articles is given.]
  • John Martindale: The Prosopography of the Later Roman Empire . Volume 3a: 527-641 (Abandanes - Iyad ibn Ghanm). Cambridge University Press, Cambridge 1992, ISBN 978-0-521-07233-5 , pp. 306-308.
  • Peter Riedlberger: The restoration of Chosroes II. In: Electrum 2, 1998, pp. 161–175.
  • Klaus Schippmann : Basic features of the history of the Sassanid Empire. Scientific Book Society, Darmstadt 1990.
  • Susan Tyler-Smith: Calendars and coronations: the literary and numismatic evidence for the accession of Khusrau II. In: Byzantine and Modern Greek Studies 28, 2004, pp. 33-65.
  • Josef Wiesehöfer : The Late Sasanian Near East. In: Chase Robinson (Ed.): The New Cambridge History of Islam. Volume 1. Cambridge 2010, pp. 98-152.

Web links

Commons : Chosrau II.  - Collection of images, videos and audio files


  1. ^ Ferdinand Justi: Iranian name book. Marburg 1895, p. 19 and p. 135.
  2. See also Tabaris description, German translation in History of the Persians and Arabs at the time of the Sasanids. From the Arab Chronicle of Tabari. Translated and provided with detailed explanations and additions by Theodor Nöldeke. Leiden 1879, p. 275 or in English Al-Tabari. The Sasanids, the Byzantines, the Lakhmids, and Yemen. Edited by Clifford Edmund Bosworth, Albany 1999, p. 305.
  3. Howard-Johnston, Pride and Fall , p. 97, in: Howard-Johnston (2006).
  4. For details of Chosrau's life see James Howard-Johnston : Kosrow II . In: Encyclopædia Iranica .
  5. The older research was based on the coronation of Chosrau on February 15, 590, to correct this assumption cf. Tyler-Smith (2004).
  6. See Michael Whitby : The Emperor Maurice and his Historian. Theophylact Simocatta on Persian and Balkan Warfare. Oxford 1988, pp. 303f.
  7. Theophylactus Simokates 5,3,11; Theophanes AM 6081.
  8. That Maria was supposed to have been a daughter of the emperor Maurikios, as claimed in some oriental sources, is to be regarded as fiction; in the entire Byzantine tradition there is nothing to do with this. On her person, see John Martindale: The Prosopography of the Later Roman Empire. Vol. 3a. Cambridge 1992, pp. 827f.
  9. On the relationship with Schirin see Wilhelm Baum : Schirin. Christian, queen, love myth. Klagenfurt 2003.
  10. See Keenan Baca-Winters: He Did Not Fear. Xusro Parviz, King of Kings of the Sasanian Empire. Piscataway, NJ 2018, p. 191 ff.
  11. ^ Andrew Palmer, Sebastian P. Brock, Robert G. Hoyland : The Seventh Century in the West Syrian Chronicles . Liverpool 1993, p. 121ff.
  12. See Walter E. Kaegi: Heraclius . Cambridge 2003.
  13. James Howard-Johnston: Heraclius' Persian Campaigns and the Revival of the East Roman Empire 622-630. In: War in History 6 (1999), pp. 1-44; see. also Walter E. Kaegi: Heraclius. Cambridge 2003, p. 100 ff.
  14. See James Howard-Johnston: Heraclius' Persian Campaigns and the Revival of the East Roman Empire 622–630. In: War in History 6 (1999), pp. 1-44, here pp. 42 f.
  15. James Howard-Johnston: Witnesses to a World Crisis. Historians and Histories of the Middle East in the Seventh Century. Oxford 2010, pp. 436f.
  16. ^ Robert G. Hoyland: In God's Path. Oxford 2015, p. 94.
  17. See for example Howard-Johnston, Pride and Fall , pp. 93ff., In: Howard-Johnston (2006).
  18. History of the Persians and Arabs at the time of the Sasanids . From the Arab Chronicle of Tabari. Translated and provided with detailed explanations and additions by Theodor Nöldeke. Leiden 1879, p. 275ff. ( Digitized version of the University and State Library of Saxony-Anhalt, Halle ).
  19. James Howard-Johnston: Witnesses to a World Crisis. Historians and Histories of the Middle East in the Seventh Century. Oxford 2010, p. 345.
  20. Georg von Pisidien, Heraclias 1, 1–12 (in the edition by Agostino Pertusi).
  21. See James Howard-Johnston: Witnesses to a World Crisis. Historians and Histories of the Middle East in the Seventh Century. Oxford 2010, p. 488ff.
predecessor Office successor
Bahram VI. King of the New Persian Empire
Kavadh II