Sassanid Empire

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The Sas (s) anid Empire was the second great Persian empire of antiquity . The name of the empire, whose own name was Ērānšahr , derives from the last pre-Islamic Persian dynasty of the Sassanids ( Persian ساسانیان, DMG Sāsānīyān ). In medieval Shāhnāme , the dynasty is named after Papak or Bābak, the son (in other versions: the father) of the ancestor Sasan . With very few exceptions ( Bahram Tschobin 590 and Schahrbaraz 630), all the great kings belonged to the Sassanid family until the end . In recent research, the etymologically more correct spelling Sāsāniden has largely prevailed compared to the long-term spelling Sassanids .

The Sassanid Empire at the time of its greatest expansion around 620 AD. The core areas are marked in dark green.

In modern historical science , the term Sassanids is applied to the population of their empire as well as to the ruling family. The Sassanid Empire extended roughly over the areas of today's Iran , Iraq , Azerbaijan , Turkmenistan , Pakistan and Afghanistan as well as some peripheral areas. It was due to an economically and politically important intersection between East and West. The empire existed between the end of the Parthian Empire and the Arab conquest of Persia, i.e. from 224 and 226 to the battle of Nehawend in 642 and until the death of the last great king Yazdegerd III. in the year 651.

The Sassanid Empire, which in some research is also referred to as the New Persian Empire (as opposed to the Old Persian Empire of the Achaemenids and Teispides ), was an important great power and a rival of the Roman and Eastern Roman Empire for centuries . In addition to armed conflicts (see Roman-Persian Wars ), there were also numerous peaceful contacts between the Romans and Sassanids, which influenced each other in many ways. Sassanid traditions also had a great influence on the Umayyads , Samanids and especially the Abbasids .

Current research pays increasing attention to the history and culture of the Sassanid Empire in the context of late antiquity and points out the importance of this second great power from late antiquity alongside Rome.


The foundation of the New Persian Empire - Ardashir I and Shapur I.

Ardaschir I coin with fire altar

The Sassanids traced their origins back to a historically barely comprehensible ancestor, a certain Sasan , who, according to sources later, was high priest in the temple of Anahita in Istachr around 200 AD . The founder of the Sassanid Empire was Ardaschir I (reign 224-240), an insurgent prince from the south of the Parthian Empire , the Persis , where the Sassanids functioned as sub-kings. After Ardaschir had killed the last Parthian king, the Arsacid Artabanos IV , in AD 224, he took his place. He also switched Vologaeses VI. from, the brother and old rival of Artabanos, and probably conquered the Parthian capital Ctesiphon in 226 , which in the following years was magnificently expanded and became the main residence of the Sassanid kings.

The Sassanid Empire was founded as a militarily forced change of dynasty. The influence of the powerful aristocratic families, local small kings and dynasts from the Arsakid period apparently persisted, even if they formally submitted to the new king: Many Parthian aristocrats came to terms with the new dynasty and continued to play an important role in the empire, its structure essentially remained unchanged. Ardashir kept most of the Arsakid traditions and structures, but also introduced innovations. He cleverly presented himself as the patron of Zoroastrianism (he had fire altars depicted on his coins) and called himself King of the Kings of Eran , whereby this should not be understood to mean the current state of Iran, but rather the areas inhabited or claimed by Iranians . In doing so, he created an ideological bracket that blurred the differences between the Persian and Parthian sexes. Whether the early Sassanids consciously placed themselves in the tradition of the Achaemenids , as Roman authors like Herodian claim, is disputed in research, especially since in the early Sassanid period there was hardly any concrete knowledge about the ancient Persian dynasty.

Ardaschir obviously tried to legitimize his position and the overthrow of the previous dynasty through military successes. He turned not only to the east, where he fought against the Kushana , but soon also to the west. However, the Persian approach was defensive in that it was only intended to regain the Euphrates line and prevent Armenia from serving as an open flank. A first exchange of blows with the Romans under Emperor Severus Alexander seems to have been largely fruitless in 231/32, despite high losses on both sides (see also Roman-Persian Wars ). After the death of the emperor in 235, Ardashir attacked again in 238 and captured several cities. 240/41 the strategically important kingdom of Hatra could be conquered after several years of siege of the capital and with enormous effort (if the conquest perhaps only took place under Ardaschir's son Shapur, see below). Hatra had evidently allied itself with the Romans and had also been an Arsakid resistance short. Thus the Persian western border was secured for the time being.

Relief of Shapur I ( Naqsch-e Rostam ): The Roman emperor Philip Arabs kneels in front of the mounted Persian king ; Emperor Valerian stands next to Shapur, who has grabbed his arm as a sign of imprisonment.

Ardaschir's son, great king (more precisely would be DMG šāhān šāh , " King of Kings ") Shapur I (240–270 / 272), who was already involved in the government before the death of Ardaschir, called himself King of the Kings of Eran and Aneran ( Non-Iran) . He is considered one of the most important Sassanid rulers and was not only able to achieve military successes but also domestic political successes. In his famous fact sheet (the so-called res gestae divi Saporis ), which is an important and largely reliable source, a total of three campaigns by the Persian king against the Roman Empire and numerous conquered cities are mentioned.

The first campaign served the defense of the Romans, which in 243/44 under Gordian III. invaded Persia. After initial setbacks, Shapur defeated the Roman emperor who was killed in the battle of Mesiche (or shortly afterwards). Shortly thereafter, Shapur made a shameful peace for Rome with Gordian's successor Philip Arab . Subsequently, in the 250s - using the weakness of the empire at the time (see Imperial Crisis of the 3rd Century ) - he advanced several times deep into Roman territory. This second campaign probably took place between 252/53 and 256/57, but the exact date is disputed. In this context, the king advanced into Syria and captured Antioch (whether the city was captured in 253 or 256 is unclear). In 256/257 a smaller train led the Persians to Dura Europos , which was conquered after a long siege.

The third and last campaign took place in the year 260. When Emperor Valerian marched against him with a large army in the summer of 260, Shapur was able to take the emperor prisoner after the battle of Edessa . This was a hitherto unknown disgrace for the Romans; Valerian was never released. Shapur then crossed the Euphrates with his troops, took Antioch again and sacked Cilicia and Cappadocia . He had his victory immortalized by creating impressive rock reliefs, for example at Bischapur , and in a monumental inscription in Persian, Parthian and Greek at Naqsch-e Rostam near ancient Persepolis , the aforementioned res gestae divi Saporis :

“In the third campaign, when we advanced against Karrhai and Edessa and besieged Karrhai and Edessa, Emperor Valerian marched against us, and with him there was an army of 70,000 men. And on the other side of Karrhai and Edessa, a great battle for Us took place with Emperor Valerian, and We captured Emperor Valerian with our own hands and the rest of them, the Praetorian prefects and senators and officers, all whoever were leaders of that army, all of them We took these with our hands and deported them to Persis. "

On the retreat from Syria, Shapur suffered a severe defeat by the Rome-allied Prince of Palmyra , Septimius Odaenathus , who was even able to penetrate as far as the capital Ctesiphon in 262/63. Odaenathus restored the Roman borders in Mesopotamia, since Shapur was bound in the east by heavy fighting against the Kushan . According to some researchers, the Sassanid Empire was even on the brink of an abyss during this time of the two-front war, but the sources do not allow a conclusive assessment of the situation. When he died, Shapur could look back on a successful reign. The Manichaeism that arose during Shapur's reign was favored by the king by protecting Manis , the founder of the religion ; at the same time he relied heavily on Zoroastrianism . Shapur was evidently quite tolerant in matters of religion. Otherwise, in terms of domestic politics, what particularly stands out from Schapur's reign is his rather intensive urbanization policy. In the cities founded by Shapur, deportees from the west, including some Christians who were able to continue practicing their faith, were settled.

The late 3rd century - Roman riots and defenses

After Schapur's death (270 or 272), as later developments show, problems arose in arranging the succession. Schapur's youngest son ascended the throne as Hormizd I. , whereby the rights of his older brothers were initially disregarded. Hormizd pursued a similarly tolerant religious policy as his father, but he also promoted the Zoroastrian high priest Kartir . Otherwise, little is known about his brief reign.

Hormizds successor was then his brother Bahram I (273-276). In the reign of Bahram I and in the subsequent period of his son and successor Bahram II (276-293), the Manichaeans, who received quite a large number, were then repeatedly persecuted. Their religious founder Mani was finally captured and executed in 276/77.

This temporary departure from the previously tolerant religious policy is related to Bahram I, and especially Bahram II, following the aforementioned Kartir, who developed great influence especially during the reign of Bahram II. It may have played a role here that competing claims by other sons of Shapur had to be fended off and therefore the support of the Zoroastrian clergy was needed.

Coin with the portrait of Bahram II.

Bahram II had to fend off several threats, such as a very massive attack by the Romans under Emperor Carus in 283, who apparently even managed to plunder Ctesiphon, but died shortly afterwards. The at least short-term Roman successes were probably favored by internal unrest in Persia, where Bahram II had to fight a year-long rebellion in the east of the empire, where his relative Hormizd (probably a brother of Bahram) had risen. Details are not known, but the failed usurpation attempt proves the tense situation in the Sassanid Empire with regard to the succession to the king after Shapur's death. The claim to power of Bahram I and his son Bahram II was obviously not unchallenged. The son and successor of Bahram II, Bahram III. , was even overthrown in 293 after a reign of only a few months and replaced by his great-uncle Narseh.

Narseh (293-302) was a son of Shapur I, who had been passed over 20 years earlier and had been supported in his rebellion by powerful nobles. He could look back on a long tenure as governor, had gained a lot of government experience and pursued a more tolerant religious policy than his direct predecessors. During the reign of the Roman emperor Diocletian , Narseh also resumed the war with Rome. Persian troops advanced into Roman territory in Armenia in 296 and were initially successful. After a heavy defeat against the Caesar (lower emperor) Galerius in 298, however, Narseh had to cede some areas in northern Mesopotamia and five satrapies east of the Tigris in the Peace of Nisibis . In addition, the strategically important Armenia had slipped out of Sassanid influence; the Romans installed an arsacid prince whom they liked there. Conflicts within the Armenian aristocracy also played an important role here, as the warring parties leaned on the Romans and Sassanids. A total of up to 428 Arsakid kings should rule the country.

The Sassanid Empire had successfully established itself as a counterweight to the Roman Empire in the east in the 3rd century. In some cases, very considerable military successes were not enough to permanently shift the borders, but even Roman successes could not bring the Sassanid Empire into existential distress. In this context, some Persian attacks may also have served as preventive defense, because Mesopotamia, located on the immediate border to the empire, was the economic and political heart of the Sassanid Empire, this was especially true of the old cultural landscape of lower Mesopotamia. Furthermore, according to the prevailing view today, the kings do not seem to have aimed for conquests west of the Euphrates. On the inside, however, the sometimes closer dependence on the Zoroastrian clergy did not mean that the royal power had to give up; rather, both royalty and Zoroastrian priests were dependent on each other.

The defensive struggle of the Sassanids in the east

Persia (Iran) and adjacent areas in antiquity

The Sassanids, much like the Romans, did not have to fight on just one front. Like the Parthians, the New Persian Empire also had to defend itself against nomadic invaders from the steppes of Central Asia in late antiquity : the passes of the Caucasus had to be defended as well (see, for example, the strategically important Derbent ) as well as the always endangered northeast border, where the Sassanids first had to fight against the Kuschana and Saken . The border with the peoples of Inner Asia was roughly marked by the Oxus . Not infrequently these peoples turned out to be a serious threat. This fundamental “strategic dilemma” ( James Howard-Johnston ), i.e. the fear of a two-front war and, in the worst case, an alliance between the Romans in the west and the respective enemies on the northeast border, shaped Persian foreign policy for centuries.

The Sassanid Empire was at the interface between East and West. The world was seen as divided into three great empires, with Iran ( Ērān ) against Rome ( Hrōm / Rūm ) and Transoxania ( Tūrān ). The Sassanids claimed to have united the most important parts of the civilized world under their rule in their empire Ērānšāhr . This did not mean that all of Anērān , i.e. the areas not inhabited by Iranians, actually had to be subjugated, but it should recognize the suzerainty of Ērān if possible . This ideology served not least to underpin the claim to rule of the Sassanid kings, the "rulers of the seven regions of the world".

The Sassanids always tried to keep peace on at least one front in order to gain freedom of action on the other. Again and again they tried to weaken their opponents in East and West through preventive wars and alliances with common enemies. The efforts of the Persian kings to maintain good relations with China also belong in this context; From the 5th century at the latest, numerous Sassanid embassies are attested, first to the Northern Wei Dynasty and then to the Sui Dynasty . The Chinese sources refer to Persia as Bosi or Po-ssu . The son of the last great king was eventually to flee to the court of the Tang Dynasty .

The western part of the Kushan empire was perhaps already occupied by Ardashir I. In any case, several crown princes of the Sassanids are documented up to around 360, who bore the title of Kushanshah ("King of the Kushans") and acted as governors in the east ( Kuschano-Sassanids ); several Sassanid princes had previously also served as Sakanshah , "King of the Saks", in Sīstān before the title lost its meaning in the 5th century. Many a Kushanshah , like a brother of Bahram II named Hormizd , took advantage of this position as quasi-viceroy to attempt usurpation. The last recorded Kushanshah was probably a brother of Shapur II , who was present at the siege of Amida in 359. The defense of the northeast border had been the responsibility of a military commander, whose title was kanārang and who had his seat in Nishapur , since the 5th century .

Around 350 the Chionites also invaded the eastern Persian Empire, but Shapur II was able to repel or contract them and who then provided troops under their King Grumbates during the campaign against Rome in 359. Nevertheless, the situation on the north-eastern border of the empire remained almost constantly precarious. At the beginning of the 5th century, the Kidarites (who are probably connected to the Chionites) followed, against whom the Sassanid kings had to undertake multiple campaigns. The Kidarites were in turn displaced by the Hephthalites (the " white Huns ") in the late 5th century . These were an even more dangerous opponent, since they had an efficient state system, and were able to interfere repeatedly in the internal affairs of Persia in the years around 500 (see below). There were also other so-called Iranian Huns , namely the Alchon and Nezak groups , about whom little is known.

Even after the smashing of the Hephthalite Empire around 560 (although the remnants of their rule remained in what is now Afghanistan ), the danger was not averted, as the Gök Turks took the place of the Hephthalites, who even entered into an alliance with the Eastern Roman Emperor Justin II (see Sizabulos and Turxanthos ). Later there was renewed contact between Ostrom and the Turks (see Tardu ) and the Gök Turks finally helped Emperor Herakleios in the fight against Chosrau II by forcing a two-front war on the Persians. After the end of the Sassanid Empire, the peoples resident in Transoxania offered bitter resistance to the invading Arabs for some time.

The period from Shapur II to Yazdegerd I (309 to 420)

In relation to Rome, there was a remarkable change in the course of time: the Romans inevitably accepted the Sassanids as almost equal. For them, these Persians were no longer barbarians in the narrower sense (like the Germanic peoples ), but a civilized and equally strong power. The Parthians - not to mention the Teutons and other tribes on the borders of Rome - had never been viewed in this way by the Romans, even if the Arsacids had been the second sovereign great power since Augustus . Conversely, the Sassanids saw the Romans in a similar light, which is made clear by the "brother" salutations in traditional letters:

"I, King of Kings, Sapor, companion of the stars, brother of the sun and moon, offer all the best to Caesar Constantius , my brother."

Answer from the Roman emperor:

"I, victor at sea and on land, Constantius, always Augustus, offer my brother, King Sapor, all the best."

By the 6th century a sophisticated diplomatic protocol had been developed that had to be observed in Eastern Roman-Persian contacts. So it became customary to officially announce changes to the throne in one's own realm without, of course, breaking off the fighting. In this sense, late antique Persia was not a barbaric neighbor of Rome, but in principle an empire that was on a par. In diplomatic dealings, the metaphor was used by the “two brothers” in relation to the emperor and the Persian šāhān šāh or by the two “eyes of the world” to emphasize this.

Amida's west gate with fortifications from late antiquity.

When King Hormizd II (302–309), about whose reign hardly anything is known, died, the empire experienced a period of weakness. Hormizd had several sons and now there were power struggles between the various court parties, whereby the claims of the older sons were ignored. Hormizd's later son, Shapur II (309–379), was appointed king, but he was only able to take over the government himself in 325. Under him, the empire should regain strength and the power of the court parties should at least be curbed. Shapur first undertook a successful punitive expedition against Arab tribes who had previously undertaken raids; in this context the Gulf coast was occupied by the Persians.

Under Shapur II, the Christians were persecuted as partisans of Rome for the first time since Constantine the Great because of the Christianization of the Roman Empire . The great king, whose troops had already invaded Christian Armenia in 336, waged a long war since 338 against the Romans under Constantius II , who ruled the eastern part of the empire after 337. From the year 353 we have a detailed description of these events by the historian and eyewitness Ammianus Marcellinus , who, however, cites an unbelievable reason for war, the so-called " Lies of Metrodoros ". It was Schapur's goal to revise the Treaty of 298, which was difficult to tolerate from the Persian point of view. After initial setbacks, he also achieved success, but failed in his attempt to conquer the city of Nisibis , which he besieged three times (338, 346 and 350). In the end, Constantius managed to keep the Roman eastern border largely through a cautious defensive strategy (with a victory at Singara in 344), so that Shapur soon broke off the fighting.

At the same time, around 350 on the northeast border of the Sassanid Empire, fighting with the peoples there had started again, especially with the Chionites who had now appeared there . Shapur was forced to embark on a campaign in the east and was finally able to persuade the Chionites and the Gelan tribe to sign a treaty in 358, so that the Persians also deployed Chionite troops in the next campaign against the Romans, although the conflict between Persians and Chionites soon followed came. In any case, the Persian influence in the east was not insignificantly curtailed, the Sassanid branch of the Kuschano-Sassanids perished at the end of the 4th century.

In 359 Shapur undertook a large-scale invasion of Syria, which Ammianus describes in detail, as he was himself present in the important fortress Amida at the time. His report in this regard is counted among the high points of Roman historiography in research. The Chionite king Grumbates accompanied Shapur and lost his only son in the fighting, whereupon he forced Shapur to storm the fortress. The fortress finally fell after a siege of 73 days, with Ammianus only able to escape with difficulty. Shapur had won a great victory, but he could not take advantage of it and soon had to break off the campaign.

Julian's Persian campaign

Emperor Julian , the successor of Constantius, resumed the Persian war of his predecessor and in March 363 advanced into Mesopotamia with a strong army of around 65,000 men . Soon the emperor, whom Schapur had cleverly evaded again and again, stood before Ctesiphon . But there he decided to turn back. In the meantime the great king had gathered his troops and went to meet the Romans. Cut off from his supply lines, Julian fell in battle on June 26, 363, leaving the Roman army in a desperate situation. So finally Julian's successor Jovian had to agree to a peace that was unfavorable for the Romans in order to prevent the destruction of the army. The Romans ceded the regiones Transtigritanes and those areas in Mesopotamia that they had conquered a few decades earlier under Galerius , so that Shapur could push the borders back to the west. In addition, Nisibis now fell to the Sassanids. Armenia remained a point of contention, where neither the Persians nor the Romans could bring about a final decision. This was also the case in the reign of Ardashir II (379–383).

Shapur III. (383–388) agreed with the Roman emperor in the east, Theodosius I , probably in 387 the division of the always controversial Armenia, whereby the strengthened position of Persia was also evident from the fact that the Sassanids received around four fifths of the land ( Persarmenia ) . The Romans also seem to have been satisfied with the solutions in northern Mesopotamia and Armenia, so that in the fifth century there was a largely peaceful coexistence of the two great powers, which was only interrupted by two short wars under Theodosius II . In the reign of Bahram IV (388–399) there was an invasion of 395 by the Huns , who passed the Caucasus passes and penetrated deep into Mesopotamia, while another group advanced into Roman territory; both groups could eventually be destroyed. The feeling of a common threat from the Hunnic peoples may have contributed to the fact that around 400 Persian-Roman relations became almost cordial.

It is noticeable that after Shapur II the three kings had to struggle with considerable internal resistance. Against Ardaschir II. Shapur III. who, like Bahram IV, fell victim to a conspiracy. Apparently, the influence of the court nobility continued to be great and could easily become doom for the respective king if he saw his interests threatened, as the subsequent development shows. In this sense, the respective king did not necessarily have to take into account the nobility as a whole (especially since this did not represent a uniform block and various nobility groups were also in competition with one another), but rather the part that had sufficient influence at the court and some of its members held high positions in administration and the military. It was obviously not always possible to integrate this into the respective royal politics.

The Roman-Persian border area in the late 4th century.

During the reign of Yazdegerd I (399-420), a phase of détente began for the minorities in Persia. Yazdegerd turned out to be a religiously open-minded ruler who thoroughly respected Christians and Jews. Christianity gained ground during this period ( Council of Seleucia in 410), although occasional persecution continued - at least in part in response to Christian provocations. There was (limited) persecution around 420 after a bishop destroyed a fire temple and refused to make reparation. Due to his otherwise tolerant attitude, which the Zoroastrian clergy disliked, Yazdegerd I was later given the nickname "the sinner" in Persian tradition. This is apparently religiously based propaganda by the Zoroastrian clergy, who feared for their influence; Yazdegerd had also tried to contain the power of the high nobility. The king apparently used political leeway and consciously stylized himself as a good ruler; this is evidenced by coinage where the term ramsahr was used (for example, "who keeps the peace in his kingdom"), and was linked to older ideas in the Avesta .

From Bahram V to Kavadh I - Border Wars and Civil Unrest (420 to 531)

After the death of Yazdegerd I, his sons were initially refused royal dignity due to the unpopularity of their father (at least among the Zoroastrian priesthood and parts of the nobility). A son named Shapur was murdered and another son, Bahram, was passed over. Instead, Chosrau, a prince from a Sassanid branch line, ascended the throne. However, Bahram fought back the throne with the help of the Arab Lachmids , who played an important role in the Persian border defense against Rome, although he also had to make some compromises with the powerful nobility.

Nevertheless, Bahram V. Gor (420-438) developed into an important king, although his political balance sheet is sometimes viewed as mixed. In Persian stories he was considered a womanizer and a great hunter who had irrepressible strength. In the oriental tradition he is evaluated positively and praised like hardly any other Sassanid ruler. During his reign, Bahram had to take care of the protection of the north-eastern border, where nomadic peoples threatened the security of the empire, after a brief but rather violent war with the East was at the beginning (until 422). During this time the Hephthalites appeared for the first time , which Bahram was able to defeat in 427; It is more likely, however, that it was the Kidarites (another group of the Iranian Huns ) against whom Bahram undertook a major campaign.

The reign of Bahram's son Yazdegerd II. (439-457) was also marked by the defensive struggle on the eastern border, which he had to secure against the Kidarites. A military confrontation with the Roman Emperor Theodosius II , which was probably sparked by refused Roman tributes , lasted only a few weeks in 441. Around 450 the Sassanids had to put down a dangerous uprising in Persarmenia, which had been sparked by religious questions. The stricter stance on religious questions is probably at least partly due to the politics of Mihr-Narseh , the highest court minister ( wuzurg-framadar ), who had great influence at court for decades. Yazdegerd II was the first Sassanid king to have the titulature of Kay minted on coins, thus establishing a connection to the mythical Kayanid dynasty of early Iranian times.

Peroz 'I coin

After the brief reign of Hormizds III. (457–459) came his brother Peroz I (459–484) to the throne in the course of a civil war. Under Peroz, the "Nestorian" Assyrian Church of the East, now separated from the Orthodox Church of the Roman Empire, became the defining Christian Church in Persia (Synod of Gundischapur 484). This essentially ended the persecution of Christians, especially since the Assyrian Church was hostile to the Eastern Roman Church in Constantinople . Since then the great kings seem to have no longer feared any collaboration between the Christians and Rome; From then on, systematic, politically motivated persecutions only occurred in Persarmia . The apostasy from Zoroastrianism remained in principle a capital crime. In the east, Peroz succeeded in decisively defeating the Kidarites in 467, but the situation on the Oxus remained tense due to other nomad groups. Soon after, Peroz was involved in heavy fighting with the Hephthalites.

Portrait of Kavadh I on a dinar

In the 5th century, as mentioned, relations with the Romans were mostly of a peaceful nature, since not only the emperors but also the Persians had problems on other fronts. In 484 King Peroz fell in the battle against the Hephthalites, who at times had even received tributes from the Sassanids - a low point in Sassanid history. However, the Hephthalites also played a role in the accession to the throne of Kavadh I (488–496 and again from 499–531) when he was able to overthrow his rival Balasch (484–488) with their help . Internal turmoil also arose during Kavadh's reign. These were triggered by the partly religious, partly “social revolutionary” movement of the Mazdakites , supported by parts of the lower classes of the population . Ultimately, however, the kingship was able to assert itself. Kavadh, who had meanwhile been overthrown by part of the nobility and replaced by Zamasp (496-499), but came back to power with the help of the Hephthalites, succeeded in strengthening the position of the central government against the powerful aristocratic families.

The Roman-Persian border area around 500.

The internal crisis hardly seems to have affected the military strength of the Persians: In 502 a war broke out against the Romans under Emperor Anastasios I ; again it was about refused imperial annual payments. In 503 the Persians succeeded in taking the important city of Amida on the Tigris; the Eastern Roman counter-attack (the army should have consisted of 50,000 men) failed because of the disagreement between the generals. But the Romans were finally able to stabilize the situation, and Kavadh also had to turn back to his northern border, where Hunnic peoples had attacked again. The war with Ostrom flared up again after an armistice (506) and an intermittent relaxation of relations in 526 and dragged on for several years, with the main acts of combat initially taking place in Mesopotamia; later there was also fighting in the Caucasus. When Kavadh I died in 531, the changeful battles continued. His successor was his favorite son, who would eventually develop into the greatest and most famous Sassanid king and one of the most important rulers of all of late antiquity : Chosrau I.

Khosrau I. Anuzhirvan - at the height of power

Depiction of a hunting scene with Chosrau I (Sassanid depiction of the 7th century), Cabinet des Medailles, Paris

Great King Chosrau I. Anuschirvan ("with the immortal soul"; 531-579) was the great opponent of the no less important Eastern Roman emperor Justinian . During Chosrau's rule the empire reached its greatest bloom, he himself lives on in the mythical world of the Orient, while his name as Kisra is a synonym for “king” among the Arabs to this day (similar to Caesar as “ emperor ” in German).

First, in 532, Chosrau concluded the so-called (and accompanied by large one-off payments to the Persians) perpetual peace with Emperor Justinian. But as early as 540, when the threat from the Hephthalites subsided, fighting broke out again between the Romans and Persians, for which the extensive history of Prokopius of Caesarea serves as our most important source. The Eastern Romans viewed him as a dangerous enemy, and Prokopios describes Chosraus' character and actions negatively. In the oriental tradition ( Tabari et al.), On the other hand, he is described in an extremely positive way, whereby his wisdom, tolerance and military skills are emphasized. Magnificent buildings emerged and the reputation of the educated great king as patron of the arts and sciences penetrated as far as Athens: after the Academy of Athens was closed in 529, the last pagan neo-Platonists sought refuge in the Persian Empire for a short time in 531.

The peace made with Justinian in 532 lasted only eight years. 540 Chosrau seized the opportunity and broke the contract. He marched into Syria with strong troops, while Justinian's troops in Italy were tied up in the Gothic War . The Romans could not stop the advance, so that even the cosmopolitan city of Antioch on the Orontes was conquered and plundered by the Persians; on the same campaign, Chosrau made rich booty in other eastern Roman cities and deported tens of thousands to Persia. Justinian was now forced to resume the war against the Persians and sent his magister militum Belisarius to the east. The theater of war extended from Lazika on the Black Sea to Mesopotamia. Neither side was able to achieve a decisive advantage in the battles with heavy losses, which were briefly interrupted by the (regionally limited) armistice. The Romans and Sassanids finally made peace again in 562, this time Justinian had to agree to tribute payments, but retained control over Lazika.

In the northeast, Chosrau destroyed the kingdom of the Hephthalites with the help of the Kök Turks under Sizabulos / Istämi around 560, whereupon the Turks took their place as enemies of the Persians a little later. In 572, under Justinian's successor Justin II , fighting broke out again after the emperor had suspended agreed payments. The Romans temporarily allied themselves with the Turks under Sizabulos and thus involved Chosrau in a dangerous two-front war; however, the Sassanids managed to confidently win the first phase of the war up to 573 and inflict heavy losses on both enemies. Due to the loss of important fortress Dara 573 suffered Justin II. Even a nervous breakdown, so that the affairs of the future emperor Tiberius I. were conducted. However, after the great initial successes in 575 (or 576) at Melitene , the Persians suffered their worst defeat against the Romans for a long time; Chosrau found it difficult to escape. But the Roman victory did not bring a decision, the war dragged on for both sides and was marked by advances and counter-attacks on the front.

The Sassanid Empire and the late ancient Mediterranean world around the time of Chosraus I; however, the borders of the peripheral areas of the Sassanid Empire were fluid.

Towards the end of his long reign, the king managed to gain a foothold on the southern coast of the Persian Gulf and in southern Arabia, after the Christian kingdom of Aksum had previously intervened in Himyar with Eastern Roman support . Oman and Yemen became Persian around 570, which was also of importance in view of the trade routes of the Indian trade running there . Inside, Chosrau was apparently able to strengthen the position of royalty vis-à-vis the nobility, at least for a time, and undertake several reforms. Thus, a new tax system was introduced, perhaps based on the complicated tax system of the late Roman Empire, and four large army districts were created. However, the reforms seem to have failed as early as the 570s, and the last-mentioned measure in particular did not prove to be very fortunate, as the army commanders received great power and, after one of the main armies on the border was broken up, the route to the interior of the Empire was free (see Islamic expansion , in which exactly this happened). When Chosrau died, he left behind a very powerful empire that was also exhausted by the long wars.

Chosrau II Parwez and the Persian War of Herakleios

Depiction of King Chosraus II on a 1.5 dinar gold coin.

Chosraus son Hormizd IV. (579-590) continued the war against Eastern Stream, which had been ongoing since 572, with varying success and had to continue to fight off the Turks on the northeast border. Inside he tried to make himself popular with the population. In doing so, however, he made the mistake of taking action against the nobility and the Zoroastrian priests, and he also seems to have distrusted his generals. He was overthrown in 590 as a result of a nobility revolt and replaced by his son Chosrau. However, he very soon had to flee from a usurper , the capable General Bahram Tschobin , of all places , to the Romans and only regained his throne in 591 with the help of Emperor Maurikios , for which the Romans (back) received considerable areas.

Chosrau II. Parwez ("Victor"; 590–628) is considered the last important Sassanid ruler. In the first 10 years of his rule, relations with the West were more peaceful than ever. The great king was probably even adopted by Emperor Maurikios. Inside, Chosrau was religiously tolerant, and numerous Christians are recorded at his court. In addition to his favorite wife Schirin , these included his chief tax officer Yazdin , who restructured the state budget and brought Chosrau a bubbling income, and the royal personal physician Gabriel von Schiggar .

The Roman-Persian border area at the time of Chosraus II.

After the fall of Emperor Maurikios in 602, the moment seemed to have come for Chosrau to stylize himself as a warrior king and to take advantage of the unrest in the empire. From 603 to 629 “the last great war of antiquity” ( James Howard-Johnston ) raged between the Eastern Romans and the Sassanids . Chosrau II presented an alleged son of his murdered patron and his troops invaded Eastern Roman territory in early 603. The opportunity seemed favorable, especially since the situation on the Persian northeast border was calm, as the Turkish Khagan Tardu was bound by internal unrest in the steppe. The Romans were meanwhile preoccupied with themselves: While the (according to the sources) tyrannical emperor Phocas , the murderer of Maurikios, was overthrown and killed by Herakleios in 610, Persian troops invaded Syria and advanced as far as Asia Minor . In 614 the Persians conquered Jerusalem - apparently with the help of local Jews - and carried away the alleged cross of Christ , in 615/16 Persian troops temporarily reached Chalcedon . Since 619 Sassanid troops were in Egypt , the granary of Eastern Europe, and penetrated in the west as far as the Barka (possibly as far as Tripoli), in the south (in search of gold) as far as Sudan.

Solidus of Herakleios with his sons Constantine III. and Heraklonas .

While the Sassanids had never seriously tried in the previous three centuries to expand their sphere of influence in the west beyond Armenia and Mesopotamia, Chosrau broke with this policy in view of the military successes: Syria and Egypt were administratively integrated into the Persian Empire around 620 as a permanent conquest, just as it had happened decades earlier with Yemen and Oman. For Egypt, this is certain on the basis of papyrus finds. And despite the very poor tradition, this can also be assumed for Syria, where Caesarea has now become the seat of a marzban .

It almost seemed as if the Achaemenid Empire had risen again. In several campaigns the Sassanids had brought the eastern Romans to the brink of ruin and controlled a large part of the empire until Emperor Herakleios went on the offensive again in 622. In three campaigns that led Herakleios as far as the Caucasus, he succeeded, if only by using all available forces, to turn the tide and defeat several Persian units. It now became apparent that Chosrau II was apparently unable to fight the war with all his might: So there were strong troop units (possibly even the better ones) in Egypt, which did not take part in the fight against Herakleios, especially as Chosrau his noble commanders like the capable one General Shahrbaraz , probably not seriously trusted. A major Persian offensive, which was connected with the siege of Constantinople in 626 by the Avars , allied with the Persians , failed, especially since the Persians were unable to cross over to the European shore.

Herakleios was able to record successes with his flexible warfare: several times he maneuvered Persian units out or defeated enemy units. He repeatedly demonstrated his military skills in adverse circumstances. Ultimately, however, the decisive factor for the Persian defeat was the intervention of the Turks in the war on the side of Herakleios, who had established diplomatic contacts with them and coordinated his actions with them in 627. The large Turkish attack, which threatened the heartland of the empire, now led to the fact that the Persians had to wage a two-front war for which they were traditionally poorly equipped.

In early December 627 Herakleios inflicted a defeat on a smaller Persian army in the battle of Nineveh . Chosrau II, who was nearby and had been surprised by the Roman advance, had to flee and thus lost his reputation and support among the greats of the empire, who had been waging the war in the west, which mainly benefited the crown, anyway looked skeptical for a long time. The king was dethroned soon after (February 628) and eventually murdered. His son and successor Kavadh II immediately asked for peace and offered the evacuation of all occupied territories. The Sassanids also returned the cross of Christ (629/630). The Persian troops withdrew into the empire and their leaders immediately intervened in the battle for the crown.

In the historiographical tradition, the beginning of the reign of Chosraus II and he personally are described positively. The king was considered courageous and astute, the magnificence 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. 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.

The end of the Sassanids

After the assassination of Chosrau II and the death of Kavadh II, who ruled for only a few months, a period of turmoil and rapidly changing rulers followed (late 628 to 632). Even two women - actually only men came into question as heir to the throne - and the (possibly Christian) General Shahrbaraz , who was not a Sassanid, came to the throne for a short time. Only months after Schahrbaraz met the very young Ardaschir III. had fallen, he was himself disempowered. It was followed by the daughters of Chosraus II, Boran and Azarmeducht , who also could not last long. Hormizd V and Chosrau IV ruled partly in parallel in different parts of the empire , while Chosrau III. and then Peroz II. could only prevail regionally before. The sources are very unreliable for this period; even the chronology of the rulers is not entirely certain. This time of turmoil apparently resulted in a strong loss of authority for the kingship, so that the royal central power suffered irreparable damage, while the influence of regionally powerful noble families was strengthened.

Coin with the portrait of Yazdegerd III.

The end of the Sassanid empire, weakened by this turmoil, was in the reign of Yazdegerd III. (632–651) when the armies of the Muslim Arabs invaded both the Eastern Roman provinces and the Sassanid Empire. The elimination of the buffer state of the Lachmids by Chosrau II around 602 also turned out to be a strategic error. However, the Persians resisted resolutely, and at first they were up to the challenge: at the end of 634, the attackers were repulsed in the so-called Battle of the Bridge near Kufa and driven out of Mesopotamia; but one could not take advantage of this victory, since it came again to internal turmoil. The Arabs took advantage of this to regroup. In 636 they defeated the Eastern Romans in the Battle of Jarmuk before they turned with all their might against the Sassanids and defeated them in two bloody decisive battles : first in 638 ( Sebeos states January 6, 638) in the Battle of Kadesia , which resulted in the Loss of Ctesiphons and Mesopotamia , and then in 642 at Nihawand in the Iranian heartland (see Islamic expansion ). As early as 639, after a hard struggle, the Arabs had succeeded in conquering the important province of Khuzestan . Yazdegerd had to flee and the Sassanid kingship rapidly lost prestige, while some Persian nobles soon came to an understanding with the invaders; others who resisted in isolation were defeated militarily. Some units of the Sassanid cavalry later even defected to the Arabs; as Asāwira , they played a not unimportant role in the caliphate and were not obliged to convert to Islam.

In general, the loss of reputation of the Sassanid dynasty since Chosrau II may have played a decisive role in the collapse of their empire. Yazdegerd III. was (as evidenced by coinage) not recognized unchallenged in the entire empire and could only ever gain regional authority. It is possible that 636 parts of the army (more precisely: the Northwest Army stationed in Azerbaijan) had already worked with the Muslims, at the same time as the last Lachmids, the former Arab vassals of the Persians converted to Islam. Yazdegerd III. was killed in 651 near Merw , in the far northeast of his collapsing empire, by one of his subordinates.

The Sassanid Empire ceased to exist, even if some regions (such as Deylam) offered resistance for a long time; the conquest of Iran cost the Arabs a heavy toll in blood. The Islamization of the country and the formation of a new identity also made slow progress. Only from around 900 did the Muslims make up the majority, and there are still significant Zoroastrian minorities attested in the 11th century; Zoroastrian fires burned in southeastern Iran even in the 13th century.

Several great noble families also seem to have survived the fall of the Sassanids and to have come to terms with the new masters, so that they ruled in their respective heartlands until the High Middle Ages and were thus able to ensure continuity. In contrast to many other peoples subject to the Arabs, the Persians also retained their language, especially since the late ancient culture in Persia and the former Roman provinces was far superior to the Arab in many areas at the beginning.

Yazdegerd's son Peroz escaped to the Chinese Tang imperial court and settled in Chang'an . With Chinese help he tried during the civil war of Ali against Mu Ostenāwiya (since 656) to regain power at least in eastern Persia, but this failed. His eldest son Narseh (II) was sent west by the Chinese in 679 and half-heartedly supported as king of Bo-Si (Persia). Narseh tried to establish his own power base in Tocharistan , but played only a subordinate role and wore himself out in battles with the Arabs. In 709 he finally returned to the Tang court as a failed man and died shortly afterwards. He seems to have been the last Sassanid who actually tried to assert a claim to the Persian throne. The last mention of a Sassanid at the Chinese court dates back to 731; However, there are indications that a small empire existed in the Hindu Kush in the 8th century, whose rulers traced back to the Sassanids and referred to them as kings of Persia. How and when this empire came to an end and whether its kings were actually Sassanids is still unclear.

Internal structure of the empire

Royalty, nobility and state building

In recent years, the idea that the Sassanids had founded a new, more centralized and more powerful empire, which was widespread in older research, has moved away. Rather, specialists today emphasize the continuities between the Arsacids and Sassanids; The more one knows about the structure of the New Persian Empire, the clearer it becomes that the core of the internal structures remained unchanged after the change of dynasty.

The first Sassanids, however, were under pressure to legitimize, they had to prove themselves to be worthy kings - especially in the war with Rome - and justify that they had ousted the Arsacids from power after centuries. The old Persian empire of the Achaemenids perhaps served them as a model in a certain way, which was also expressed in the self-designation of the Sassanid rulers of being kings of kings (although the Arsacids had already carried this title). However, even the first Sassanids apparently did not know much more about their Achaemenid "ancestors" or "ancestors" than that they had once ruled a large empire (see above).

The political concept of Ērān , the land of the Aryans , did not emerge until the Sassanid period; now the empire name Ērānšāhr ("empire of the Iranians") appears. Contrary to this was Aneran , the country's enemies, which include not only rum (the Roman Empire) also Turan (the enemies in the Northeast, as Iranian Huns and later the Göktürks counted). Shapur I was then, as mentioned, the first great king who could be called šāhān šāh eran ud aneran ( King of the Kings of Iran and non-Iran ). In later reports it is also described how in the throne room of Chosrau I, next to the king's throne, there were also three ceremonial throne chairs, one each for the Emperor of Rome, the Emperor of China and the Chagan of the Turks, if they were to be vassals King of Kings should come. In addition to the claim to supremacy formulated in this way (even if it was only of a formal nature), this also indicated the political, cultural and economic horizon of the Sassanid Empire.

The ruler was king by the grace of God and of the seed of the gods , but not a god-king. Later even the mythical primordial kings of Iran were included as ancestors; this mystification lived among other things in the 6./7. Gentlemen's book from the 19th century (see below). Otherwise, the Sassanid kings drew their legitimacy mainly from their "happiness" (the royal xvarrah ) and from the demonstration of their personal skills in war and on the hunt. The late ancient Persian kings therefore often went into dangerous combat themselves.

The royal idea was at least connected with certain religious Zoroastrian ideas: since Ardaschir I, religious motifs have been documented on coins and the king himself referred to himself as mazdēsn (Mazda admirer). However, preserved Zoroastrian works seem to suggest a close interlinking, which is at least doubtful in its form: It is true that the Middle Persian work Dēnkard emphasizes that royalty and religion are linked so that one cannot exist without the other; However, other sources show that in addition to Mazdaism, other varieties of Zoroastrianism were at times influential at court (such as Zurvanism ) and that in the late period the great king's close confidante could even be Christians. In this sense, one cannot speak of a strict Zoroastrian orthodoxy, in which the kingship unconditionally classified itself; rather, various religious-philosophical ideas circulated in the Sassanid Empire. In the context of Zoroastrian concepts of cosmogony , incest marriage ( xwēdōdah ) was probably not unusual within the royal family and aristocratic families, but the extent to which it is related is controversial.

The Taq-e Kisra palace, which was probably built in the 6th century in Ctesiphon, is a famous monument of Sassanid Persia.

Although the Sassanid kings had great power in principle, they were not absolute rulers. The great kings faced a powerful nobility in which the seven great families played a special role. The nobility itself was divided into four classes apart from the great king at court. At the top were the regional princes and provincial rulers ( šahrdaran ), followed by the princes of royal blood ( waspuhragan ), then the most influential greats ( wuzurgān ) and finally the lesser nobles ( azadan ). Although the high nobility, referred to as wuzurgān ("the great"), was formally subordinate to the royal family, its members nevertheless enjoyed great power and prestige.

In some cases, the situation seems to have resembled that of the Holy Roman Empire in the High Middle Ages : Strong rulers were able to impose their will on the “feudal” nobility, but there were also frequent confusions of the throne and confrontations with sections of the aristocracy (and especially against the powerful Noble families of the Mihran , Suras and Karen , who had already played an important role in Parthian times and had large estates, especially in the east of the empire) and the Zoroastrian clergy . However, until the final phase of the empire it was almost without exception that only one (physically intact) member of the house of the Sassanids was allowed to ascend the throne. How conflicted the relationship between kings and nobles ultimately was is very controversial in research. As a rule, the kings should have succeeded in playing off the aristocrats against one another, so that there was almost never a closed noble opposition to the ruler. Nevertheless, not a few kings were often confronted with considerable problems if they did not succeed in integrating the most important parts of the court nobility into their politics or playing them off against one another; For example, kings from Ardaschir II to Bahram IV were either overthrown or murdered, while Yazdegerd I had to contend with strong opposition.

The court of the Sassanids knew, at least in its early days, a noble council, whose functions and influence are difficult to determine. Prokopius of Caesarea mentions aristocratic assemblies in the middle of the 6th century, but the function and composition of these organs is unclear. Apparently the nobility and the priesthood, whose hierarchy only developed over time, played a certain role in determining the heir to the throne. There was also a court ceremony that became more and more pronounced later on, as well as a differentiated gradation of rank titles. The court was the center of manorial activity, whereby the king could rely on a fairly well-organized administration. At the head of the administration stood the Wuzurg-Framadar ("Grand Vizier"), the highest royal minister. A prominent role was played by the Hazarbed , who in the early days was probably the commander of the king's bodyguard, but later held a position that seems to have been similar to the wuzurg-framadar .

According to the sources, at least some of the most important offices within certain noble families were hereditary; Due to the wide ramification of these sexes, this procedure was practicable, since several suitable candidates were usually available. Moreover, some ancient historians are of the opinion that the Persian ceremonial then served as a model for the late ancient Roman; In view of the numerous parallels in the representation of rulers, it is most likely that the two great powers will influence each other.

At least in the early days, the king's sons were often entrusted with provincial governorships, but there were also regionally ruling princes and even partial kings (as in Armenia ), who were entrusted with the administration of larger provinces. However, it is relatively undisputed that the empire was more centralized under the Sassanids than under the Parthians and therefore had a larger number of officials. All the more so because in the weak phase of the nobility in the late 5th century (see Mazdakites ), some aristocratic land could be converted into king land. The reforms of Chosraus I also strengthened the position of the kingship, for example through the creation of a service nobility or “knighthood” (the Dehqan ), although the nobility also regained power after his death. To the Sassanid court administration and court culture and to the Sassanid control system that existed for Khosrow I of a combined head and property tax, should later the Abbasids tie.


According to the later Zoroastrian sources, society was - if one believes the later Zoroastrian sources - divided into four classes, similar to the court nobility, from the 5th century onwards, which one can perhaps call a cast: 1) priests and judges, 2) warriors, 3) scribes (officials ) and 4) farmers and artisans, although research does not always agree on the order. The social mobility is likely to have been greater than the later sources suggest. Although traders and artisans played a major role in the cities, the majority of the population worked as farmers in the countryside. They also benefited from the reforms of Chosraus I, as they were now allowed to work their land independently and were less dependent on the nobility (see above) than before. The importance of the landed gentry and the local landowners ( dehqan ) also increased considerably during this period.

The Zoroastrian priests ( Mo (w) bads ) played an important role in the Sassanid Empire. They were concerned with religious issues as well as performing state administrative functions, working as judges and legal scholars.

What was decisive, however, was the relationship between the respective great king and the high nobility; unlike what was often assumed in the past, the ruler never faced the ruler en bloc , but was usually divided into different groups.

In the Sassanid Empire, the slaves were viewed as "things", but at the same time as human beings and were thus protected from excessively cruel treatment, even though their owners were allowed to sell or give them away. The prisoners of war and deportees from the Roman areas who were resettled in the Sassanid Empire must also be taken into account. Roman prisoners built buildings and bridges that are still preserved today. Whether the deportation of Romans to the Persian Empire actually led to a massive increase in the proportion of Christians in the population, as is often assumed, is a matter of dispute today.


Course of the Silk Road in the Middle Ages

How strong the economy of the Sassanid Empire was is controversial in research. While scholars like Zeev Rubin assume a weak, primitive and largely barter-based economy, historians like James Howard-Johnston warn against underestimating the economic efficiency of the late ancient Persian Empire.

The historical irrigation system of Shushar

Regardless of the founding of some cities (the Sassanids attached greater importance to the establishment of cities than their predecessors, the Arsacids) and the splendid expansion of the main royal residence Ctesiphon , agriculture was the most important branch of the economy, as everywhere in the Old World. It generated most of the taxes, even though taxation was not carried out efficiently for a long time, which was changed over time and in part by the reforms of Chosraus I in the 6th century, with the local landowners ( dehqan ) playing an important role. Particularly important in this context was (non-Iranian) Mesopotamia , where around two thirds of all tax revenues were collected, important urban centers were located and agricultural production was abundant. By promoting urban development, other branches of the economy also prospered, especially handicrafts and the textile industry. One of the successful infrastructure measures of the time was the construction of the Band-e Kaisar by Roman workers.

In addition, the Sassanid economy benefited from the fact that several important trade routes ran through the area they controlled, most notably the so-called Silk Road . The Sassanid Empire, located at the interface between the Mediterranean world on the one hand and the steppes of Central Asia and the other connecting routes to China and India on the other, benefited considerably from this. Persia also made a profit from the middlemen in Eastern Europe; The Romans tried several times to eliminate the Sassanid middlemen, which did not succeed. It was not until Justinian I that the Eastern Romans came into possession of silkworms, but decades would pass before a significant Roman silk industry had developed. The Persians also fended off the expansion efforts of the Sogdian traders who largely controlled the silk trade in Central Asia (see Maniakh ).

In controlling the most important east-west trade routes, the Sassanids were helped by the fact that they largely controlled the sea trade in the western Indian Ocean for a long time; So trade with India and Ceylon in the 6th century was mainly carried out by Sassanid merchants ( India trade ). There was also brisk trade with southern Russia, especially in the Caspian Sea. As mentioned, the Sassanids maintained very close contacts with China, which were also economically motivated: between 455 and 522 at least ten embassies came to the court of the Northern Wei alone . After the reunification of China in 589 under the Sui dynasty , new contacts were made that would last until the end of the Sassanid Empire; the last Sassanid crown prince, Peroz , fled to the court of the Tang Dynasty .

Military affairs

Sassanid silver plate
Sassanid swords and helmets of the 6th and 7th centuries

From a military point of view, the Sassanid Empire has largely grown to its opponents over the centuries. It was able to withstand the onslaught of the Iranian Huns from the 4th century onwards, and in 572 it was even possible to confidently win a two-front war against the Romans and Turks. The top generals of the empire carried the title spāhbed ( Spahbad , Spahbed, etc.) and were usually recruited from the large magnate families (many important offices were tied to specific families). The strength of the Sassanid armies lay in their heavily armored horsemen, the kataphraktoi and clibanarii , which the Romans had nothing to match at first. Up until the end, the heavy lancers and mounted archers were the most important units of the Persian army. From around the 5th century onwards, they hardly differed from their Eastern Roman opponents in terms of equipment and fighting style.

The riders were usually armored and, according to Tabari, had a lance, sword, battle ax and two bows and 30 arrows. There was an elite armed forces which, like the bodyguards of the Achaemenid period, were called the immortals . The heavily armored riders, who perhaps indirectly were the godfathers of the later European knights , enjoyed a high reputation. They were absolutely equal to the Roman troops of late antiquity, but like them were ultimately subject to the more agile light cavalry of the Arabs.

While the field army, which at least until the sixth century, like under the Arsacids, was based largely on the aristocratic contingent, long resembled the Parthian under the Sassanids, the kings of the new dynasty very soon seem to have placed much greater emphasis on the siege technique ( poliororketics ) . One reason for this may have been the need to take the heavily fortified places of northern Mesopotamia and Armenia if one wanted to make up the ground lost under the late Arsacids in these areas. So Hatra was besieged around 240 with enormous effort and finally captured.

Probably the maximum strength of the army (assuming the sources are reliable) was between 50,000 and perhaps 100,000 men; more precise information is difficult to provide. Of course, the army not only included horsemen, although they were the most important component due to the vastness of the space, but also war elephants, infantry, some of which were conscripted and had a less good reputation than cavalry, as well as troops with siege equipment if necessary. The Sassanids knew how to use them, as the reports from Ammianus Marcellinus and Prokop and the excavations in Dura Europos reveal. In any case, Ammianus gives us many valuable insights into Sassanid warfare (cf. e.g. Ammian 19.5) as well as into the Sassanid empire itself (especially Ammian 23.6). Ammianus is also an invaluable and generally very reliable source regarding the military actions on the Roman eastern border during the time of Shapur II; Prokop's account of the wars under Chosrau I and Justinian I in the sixth century is of similar value .

Chosrau I divided the empire into four military districts and placed each of them under a spāhbed , while the border districts were under the control of a marzbans (a kind of margrave ). Chosrau also made sure that the military was tied more closely to the king than to the great noble houses. However, this could have changed again under his son Hormizd IV .

The Sassanids also had a naval force, but this was not particularly strong and was primarily intended to secure the trade routes on the Persian Gulf and along the Arab coasts as part of the Indian trade . Under Chosrau I it gained importance and was involved in the conquest of Yemen; under Chosrau II, Persian ships operated (albeit with little success) in the eastern Mediterranean.

Sassanid culture

Cultural life

Scene from the Shahnameh: Rostam shoots Esfandyar with an arrow enchanted by Simurgh.

The Persian Empire of the Sassanids was particularly characterized by the fact that the culture in the Hellenistic style, which was still cultivated by the early Arsacids , was pushed back and instead the Iranian elements were emphasized more, although the more recent research relativizes this in parts: So Shapur I certainly promoted Greek culture, just as Chosrau I later became interested in the philosophy of antiquity . Ultimately, the Sassanids emphasized the differences to the Parthians, but in fact initially largely stuck to the existing in almost all areas.

The Sassanid Empire benefited from its cultural hinge function between East and West. Under Chosrau I, probably the most important Sassanid king, texts by Greek philosophers and Indian fairy tales (such as the Panchatantra ) were translated into Middle Persian. This had lasting effects, as these texts later became available to the Arabs and they, especially among the Abbasids , were supposed to tie in with them. Court life developed particularly splendidly during his reign: hunting was cultivated, chess and polo were played at the court of the great king; the magnificent palace of Taq-e Kisra was also built. Just like his memory, which remained particularly vivid, it was recorded and cherished by several Sassanid kings in later stories, also and especially in Islamic times. The memory of Bahram V , who was nicknamed “the wild ass” (Gor) because of his hunting skills, should live on in oriental legends , just like that of Chosrau II . Especially the fairy-tale court of Chosraus II and his relationship with the Christian Schirin fired the imagination of posterity, which is reflected in several Muslim poems ( Shāhnāme , Nezāmis Chosrau and Schirin etc.).

Items of clothing such as trousers and turbans were popularized by the Sassanids, as was the armor and chain mail. The ritualized equestrian duel ( mard-o-mard ) is astonishingly reminiscent of the joust of the European Middle Ages. The knightly courtly culture of Islam and then also of the West was decisively (even if only indirectly) shaped by the Sassanids. It is perhaps no coincidence that chess (originally from India) , for a long time the courtly board game par excellence , was brought to the West by the Sassanids. The Middle Persian text Mādīgān ī Čatrang brings this in connection with Vuzurgmihr, a famous adviser to Chosraus I. The name chess is derived from Shah (German: "King").

Literature and science

The extensive Sassanid Middle Persian literature has gradually been largely lost after the end of the empire, although Middle Persian works were still created after 651. Reasons for the following loss were probably, among other things, the fighting during the conquest by the Muslims, later wars, religious selection processes and a lack of interest in later times (although later the script conversion to Arabic played a role). We have almost no works (apart from fragments) that can be dated back to the Sassanid period with certainty; not even the Avesta , the oldest known manuscript of which was only created in the post-Assanid period. But this should not hide the fact that the Middle Persian literature was very rich. Only a fraction was translated into Arabic or New Persian.

In one of the lost works is probably resulting in spätsassanidischer time Mr. Buch ( Xwaday-NAMAG ), an official Empire History of the Persian kings from the time of the mythical ruler to the present day. Several later authors seem to have relied on this work, including Firdausi , who on this basis - Arabic and later neo-Persian translations had preserved important content - with the (neo-Persian) book of kings ( Shāhnāme ) created an unforgettable masterpiece of poetry.

Medieval Perso-Arab authors played an important mediating role in Islamic times, including Firdausi and Tabari , who was also able to access and rework sources from late ancient times that are now lost. These works allow at least a rough idea of ​​the richness of secular Middle Persian literature, which included historical works as well as poetry, legal books, novels of all stripes, geographical reports, medical and astronomical treatises, and epic epics. In addition, of course, there was also the religious literature, which was presumably more extensive overall than the secular literature of Middle Persian, since the authors were mainly Zoroastrian priests.

One of the technical achievements of the Sassanids is the production of refined sugar. The first windmills were built in the late Assanid period. The Sassanid Empire played an important and not to be underestimated role in imparting knowledge between East and West: At the universities of the country (especially in Nisibis and Nischapur or at the Academy of Gundischapur ), medicine, law and philosophy and received the Greco-Roman knowledge, conversely, oriental, Indian and Far Eastern knowledge reached the West via Iran and Persia. In Iran, Manichaeans and Nestorians began their missionary work, which took them to the borders of China.

Art and architecture

Main article: Sassanid art

The walls of Derbent , Russia

In the art of Sassanid times, a number of important works emerged, such as the artistically designed silver work (gold work is rarer), although the style of silver work hardly changed over time. The works reflect the wealth and splendor of the Sassanid court, also described by late ancient Roman authors. The representation of the great king together with hunting scenes on silver bowls was typical. Other silver works depict ritual acts, for example. Mythological representations are rarer and are apparently based on Greco-Roman works; but there are also known works with Christian motifs. Conversely, as the currently known remains of the built in the sixth century Church of St. Polyeuctus in Konstantin Opel numerous Sassanid elements.

Depiction of King Chosrau II as an armored rider ( Taq-e Bostan )

The most impressive are certainly the rock reliefs of the dynasty (for example at Naqs-i Rustam); after depictions with Schapur III. However, only reliefs from the time of Chosraus II can be found again, such as the one at Taq-e Bostan , where he is shown hunting, among other things. There is also an impressive representation of this great king as an armored rider ( clibanarius ). The reliefs near Bischapur were also verifiably made by foreign artists, probably Shapur II prisoners of war. The reliefs were often made to commemorate military victories and thus also served propaganda purposes, others show the king enthroned together with his entourage.

In architecture, stucco work from the Sassanid period is also known, which was made of plaster, in later times probably also as a "mass product": A specimen was modeled that served as a pattern for others. In the field of architecture, reference should only be made to the Sassanid cities of Firuzabad and Bishapur, both of which are among the best researched, as well as to Gundischapur, built by Roman prisoners in the time of Shapur I (according to RN Frye: the more beautiful Antioch of Shapur ; but other translations are also possible), which should develop into an important cultural center. The palace buildings also demonstrate the Sassanid technique in the construction of domed rooms in a very impressive way. In the case of the free-floating domes, a strong mutual influence between Persian and Eastern Roman architecture can be observed, especially in the 6th century. Sassanid sculptures are also known, such as the colossal statue of Shapur I.

The Sassanid coins are also an important source: on the obverse the king is depicted with his individual crown, on the reverse either the fire altar alone, the altar with two figures on the edge or a bust in the flames is depicted. The Sassanids (unlike the Parthians) also minted gold, but the silver drachm dominated by far.


The Sassanid fire temple Adhur Guschnasp in the building complex of Tacht-e Suleiman

The Zoroastrianism or Zoroastrianism was among the Sassanian Although very influential and was mostly promoted by the kings, but he can still not only accepted as the funded and religion are called. In addition, it is unclear which variant of this belief was the predominant one in Sassanid times; there seems to have been no real Zoroastrian orthodoxy in late antiquity. Some historians (very cautiously Klaus Schippmann , who, however, considers a continuous state church unlikely; Richard Frye) nevertheless spoke, at least temporarily , of a Sassanid "state church", which, however, unlike the late Roman Christian state religion, does not refer to a general ban on the other religions. Ultimately, the decisive factor is how one wants to define “state church”. For more precise statements, however, the sources are too poor or too imprecise, even if there are some references in the inscriptions of Kartir , such as on the Kaaba of Zoroaster , but these should be used with great care. Accordingly, Kartir was in any case eager to strengthen the Zoroastrian faith and to convert "pagans".

Overall, the Sassanids were relatively tolerant of other religions, especially since several religions initially fought over influence. This can be seen in the role of Manichaeism under Shapur I. played. However, after the death of Mani, the Manicheans were sometimes subjected to harsh persecutions after the Zoroastrian priests ( Mobads ) again exerted greater influence on King Bahram I and especially Bahram II . The above-mentioned Kartir in particular apparently had a great influence on the young King Bahram II. An inscription says: "Karder (Kartir), the Redeemer of the soul of Varehran (Bahram)". Kartir was later appointed chief judge, which was the culmination of the link between the state and the Zoroastrian "church". Under Narseh , this close relationship seems to have soon been abandoned.

The Jews , who were particularly well represented in Mesopotamia , where the so-called Babylonian Talmud was written at the end of the 6th / beginning of the 7th century , were mostly viewed as loyal subjects of the king; therefore, with a few exceptions, they were spared persecution.

The Christian , however, should under Shapur II. , Among which also the Avesta said to have been collected are tracked for the first time, but for political, not religious reasons. The Catholicos Simon bar Sabbae refused to enforce taxes to finance the war against Rome; the Christians were probably also distrusted after the Roman Empire slowly transformed into an Imperium Romanum Christianum . In recent research, however, it is often assumed that the extent of the persecution was greatly exaggerated in the Christian sources. In the 5th century, a kind of “inner-Persian church” was formed (see Assyrian Church of the East , often incorrectly referred to as the “Nestorian Church”); In 410, at the Synod of Seleukia-Ctesiphon, a separate church organization was created, which was therefore no longer the target of persecution, but was under the control of the king. Even though there were reprisals against Christians in Persarmia under Chosrau I , this ruler in 562 guaranteed Christians the freedom to practice their religion throughout the empire.

In the late Assanid period, Christianity enjoyed considerable influence, with several high-ranking people now also being Christians who, however, continued to behave loyally to the kingdom. Christianity was temporarily promoted under Chosrau II : Chosrau's favorite wife, Shirin, was herself a Christian, as was Chosrau's court doctor Gabriel von Schiggar , although Christianity gained ground especially in Mesopotamia and, according to researchers such as Sebastian Brock, was probably the majority religion there . However, tensions sometimes arose between the various denominations, such as between the Monophysites and "Nestorians" (which also included the most important tax officer, Chosraus II, Yazdin ), with the latter performing quite successful missionary work in the East. The chronicle of Seert provides important information about the situation of Christians in the Sassanid Empire . With the fall of the Sassanid Empire, several Persians fled eastwards to China, with the Christians among them now playing a role as mediators of Christianity in China (see Nestorian stele ).

Overall, it can be said that domestic and foreign policy factors played at least a not insignificant role in the religious policy of the various rulers, while the Sassanids as a whole showed a significantly greater tolerance towards those of different faiths than many of the contemporary Christian emperors in the late Roman Empire did.

It is sometimes assumed that Zoroastrianism went through a crisis in the late Assanid period and lost numerous followers; What speaks against this assumption, however, is the fact that it apparently took until the early 10th century for the Zoroastrians in the Iranian highlands to become a minority compared to the Muslims (in Mesopotamia the situation may have been different).

Aftermath of the Sassanids

With the smashing of the Sassanid Empire and the conquest of the Eastern Roman provinces of the Orient, the Arabs finally ended late antiquity. But in the following years Sassanid traditions also influenced the Islamic Arabs to a considerable extent. Thus the court of the Sassanids became the model for the court of the Abbasids in Baghdad , and rulers like Chosrau I were very well received. The turn to the philosophy of antiquity , which was mainly cultivated at the court of Chosraus I, is a parallel, as is the achievements of later Islamic-Persian literature. The Persia of the Sassanids did not end without a sound, but found a powerful echo - Chosrau I, for example, also appears in the stories from the Arabian Nights .

According to a Shiite tradition, a daughter of Yazdegerd III married. the al-Husayn ibn 'Alī and became the mother of the fourth Imam Ali Zain al-Abidin , which the Shiite Imams in addition to the Islamic also a dynastic legitimacy - should give - on both sides but only through the female line. Such legends were common in the Orient (the Sassanids also had an alleged relationship with their predecessors, the Arsacids , constructed in this same way ) and should be regarded as highly untrustworthy. The Tajik Samanids also invoked a descent from the Sassanids since the 9th century. Numerous Sassanid elements can still be identified in the ruling ideology in the Mughal Empire . In addition, the late Assanid Zoroastrianism may have exerted an influence on early Islam, although the extent of this influence is controversial in research.

In recent decades, modern research has dealt increasingly intensively with the Sassanids, with attention usually being drawn to the original achievements of the Sassanids (see above) and the importance of the Sassanid Empire as a link between East and West. With regard to the transition from the Parthians to the Sassanids, Ehsan Yarshater , among others , denied major breaks: the Sassanids rather linked politically and culturally to the Parthian Empire, even if the late Sassanid tradition tries to convey a different picture. Regarding the aftermath of the Sassanids, Richard Nelson Frye , among others, has repeatedly pointed out that the Sassanid Empire had a great influence on the development of Islamic Iran, just as the influence of the Sassanids on Rome or Byzantium and perhaps even on China should not be underestimated . Many historians who deal with late antiquity (at least in the East) therefore also include the Sassanid Empire in their research. With the end of the Sassanid Empire, which was culturally the high point of ancient Persia in many ways, ancient oriental history finally ended and a new epoch began.

See also


The tradition about the Sassanids is far more extensive than that of the Parthians; but all sources - for the early period of the empire Cassius Dio and Herodian , for late antiquity Roman authors such as Ammianus Marcellinus , Priskos , Prokopios von Caesarea , Agathias , Menander Protektor or Theophylactus Simokates , as well as Armenian (Pseudo- Sebeos ), Syrian (for example the Chronicle von Arbela or the Anonymus Guidi ), Middle (Pahlawi) and New Persian as well as Arabic texts (especially Tabari's Universal History) - each have their own problems which make their evaluation difficult. Regarding the western sources (which are of particular importance for the fighting between (Eastern) Rome and Persia) it should be noted that they usually perceived the Sassanids as enemies and accordingly their judgment of them was negatively influenced. Most oriental texts, on the other hand, report from a distance of several centuries, which severely limits their reliability; such as Tabari or Eutychios of Alexandria . Overall, it can be said that the majority of our sources report either from a spatial or temporal distance, which is not least due to the extensive loss of the once rich profane Middle Persian literature. Because of this, many aspects of Sassanid history and society are unclear.

The large rock inscriptions and reliefs (as in Naqs-i Rustam) from the early days of the empire are also famous . They are important primary sources, but almost exclusively come from the first decades of the dynasty. In addition, some important works of art (especially in the area of Toreutics ), seal stones, coins (on which the great kings often wore an individual crown) and buildings from the Sassanid period have been preserved.

A solid selection of translated source extracts offer:

  • Engelbert Winter and Beate Dignas: Rome and the Persian Empire. Two world powers between confrontation and coexistence . Study books History and Culture of the Old World, Berlin 2001. In addition to some translated excerpts from sources, the volume offers a brief outline of Sassanid history. Review (Plekos 3, 2001) .
    • Revised edition: Rome and Persia in late antiquity: neighbors and rivals . Cambridge 2007.
  • Michael H. Dodgeon and Samuel NC Lieu: The Roman Eastern Frontier and the Persian Wars (AD 226-363) . London and New York 1991.
  • Geoffrey B. Greatrex and Samuel NC Lieu: The Roman Eastern Frontier and the Persian Wars. Part II AD 363-630. A narrative sourcebook . London and New York 2002. The two English-language source volumes offer a relatively comprehensive history of Roman-Persian relations; the second volume is particularly recommended. Meeting (Plekos 4, 2002)

Furthermore, it should be pointed out above all to Tabari , which relied on sources that are now lost and provides important information about the internal conditions in the Sassanid Empire:

  • 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 ( digitized version of the University and State Library of Saxony-Anhalt, Halle ).
  • Ṭabarī. The Sāsānids, the Byzantines, the Lakhmids, and Yemen . Translated and commented by Clifford Edmund Bosworth. Albany / NY 1999.

For the other source editions, please refer to the bibliography of the respective articles. In addition, the overview in the Cambridge History of Iran , vol. 3.2, p. 1269ff. made aware.


Only a limited selection from the now quite extensive secondary literature is mentioned below. Relatively detailed bibliographies can be found in the Cambridge History of Iran , Vol. 3.2, Cambridge u. a. 1983, p. 1293ff. as well as Wiesehöfer, Das antike Persien , Düsseldorf 2005, p. 365ff. (commented). Special attention should be given to the relevant articles in the basic Encyclopædia Iranica , which provides quite detailed entries. In the current Oxford Dictionary of Late Antiquity , the Sassanid Empire is also heavily considered. The Bibliographia Iranica offers current bibliographical references .

Overview works and introductory articles
  • Michael Alram and Rika Gyselen (eds. [Vol. 1]): Sylloge Nummorum Sasanidarum . Vol. 1ff. Vienna 2003ff.
    (important coin catalog)
  • Michael RJ Bonner: The Last Empire of Iran . Gorgias Press, Piscataway 2020.
  • Henning Börm : Prokop and the Persians. Investigations into the Roman-Sasanid contacts in late antiquity . Franz Steiner, Stuttgart 2007, ISBN 3-515-09052-5 .
    (Useful not least because of the extensive bibliography.)
  • Henning Börm: A Threat or a Blessing? The Sasanians and the Roman Empire. In: Carsten Binder, Henning Börm, Andreas Luther (eds.): Diwan. Studies in the History and Culture of the Ancient Near East and the Eastern Mediterranean . Wellem, Duisburg 2016, pp. 615–646.
  • Matthew P. Canepa: The Two Eyes of the Earth. Art and Ritual of Kingship between Rome and Sasanian Iran . University of California Press, Berkeley 2009.
    ( Expert discussion at H-Soz-u-Kult )
  • Arthur Christensen: L'Iran sous les Sassanides . 2nd edition, Munksgaard, Copenhagen 1944 (reprint Zeller, Osnabrück 1971, ISBN 3-535-01195-7 ).
    (Still useful, but in many ways out of date.)
  • Touraj Daryaee: Sasanian Persia. The Rise and Fall of an Empire . IB Tauris, London 2009.
    (current introduction)
  • Touraj Daryaee: Sasanian Iran 224-651 CE. Portrait of a Late Antique Empire. Mazda Pub., Costa Mesa (Calif.) 2008.
  • Richard Nelson Frye : The History of Ancient Iran . Handbook of Classical Studies , 3rd Dept., T. 7. Verlag CH Beck, Munich 1984, p. 287ff. ISBN 3-406-09397-3
    (Concise summary, but outdated in some points.)
  • Parvaneh Pourshariati: Decline and Fall of the Sasanian Empire . Tauris, London 2008.
    (Controversial account which strongly emphasizes the importance of the Parthian nobility in the Sassanid Empire and seeks to blame internal crises for the fall of the empire.)
  • Zeev Rubin: The Sasanid Monarchy . In: Averil Cameron et al. a. (Ed.): The Cambridge Ancient History 14 . Cambridge 2000, p. 638ff.
    (A good, brief introduction; however, Rubin's assessment of the Sassanid Empire as an underdeveloped state with internal tensions and a primitive economy is not without controversy.)
  • Klaus Schippmann : Basic features of the history of the Sassanid Empire . Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, Darmstadt 1990, ISBN 3-534-07826-8
    (A very solid, if no longer entirely up-to-date introduction, which deals with the basics of the history of the Sassanids as well as administration, religion and art.)
  • A. Shapur Shahbazi: Sasanian Dynasty . In: Ehsan Yarshater (ed.): Encyclopædia Iranica
  • Josef Wiesehöfer : Ancient Persia . New edition, Albatros, Düsseldorf 2005, ISBN 3-491-96151-3 .
    (Probably the best German-language manual on the ancient Persian empires, although the history of the events is treated more marginally.)
  • Josef Wiesehöfer: The Late Sasanian Near East. In: Chase Robinson (Ed.), The New Cambridge History of Islam . Vol. 1. Cambridge 2010, pp. 98-152.
  • Ehsan Yarshater (Ed.): The Cambridge History of Iran . Vol. 3 (2 volumes), Cambridge and elsewhere 1983.
    (important overall presentation)
Literature on individual aspects
  • Henning Börm, Josef Wiesehöfer (eds.): Commutatio et contentio. Studies in the Late Roman, Sasanian, and Early Islamic Near East . Wellem, Düsseldorf 2010.
  • Henning Börm: The Kingship of the Sasanids - Structures and Problems. In: Klio 90, 2008, pp. 423-443.
  • Henning Börm: Dynasty and Charisma in the Sasanid Empire . In: Dietrich Boschung , Jürgen Hammerstaedt (Hrsg.): The charisma of the ruler . Fink, Paderborn 2015, pp. 253–280.
  • Henning Börm: Continuity in Change. Patterns of justification and scope for action of the Iranian monarchy in the Arsakid and Sasanid times. In: Stefan Rebenich (ed.): Monarchical rule in ancient times . Oldenbourg, Munich 2017, pp. 545-564.
  • Henning Börm: The limits of the great king? Reflections on the Arsakid-Sasanid policy towards Rome . In: Frank Schleicher, Timo Stickler , Udo Hartmann (eds.): Iberia between Rome and Iran . Stuttgart 2019, pp. 99–122.
  • Carlo Cereti: La Letteratura Pahlavi. Introduzione au testi con riferimenti alla storia degli studi e alla tradizione manoscritta . Mimesis, Milan 2001, ISBN 88-87231-39-7
    (Currently the best introduction to Middle Persian literature.)
  • Touraj Daryaee (Ed.): Sasanian Iran in the context of Late Anitquity. The Bahari lecture series at the Oxford University. Irvine 2018.
  • Nicola Di Cosmo, Michael Maas (Eds.): Empires and Exchanges in Eurasian Late Antiquity. Rome, China, Iran, and the Steppe, ca. 250–750. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge 2018.
    (Contains important contributions to embedding Sassanid history in "long late antiquity".)
  • James Howard-Johnston : Witnesses to a World Crisis. Historians and Histories of the Middle East in the Seventh Century. Oxford University Press, Oxford 2010.
    (important study of sources and events in the 7th century)
  • James Howard-Johnston: East Rome, Sasanian Persia and the End of Antiquity: Historiographical and Historical Studies (Collected Studies). Aldershot 2006, ISBN 0-86078-992-6 .
    (A recommended collection of essays by Howard-Johnston [with a new original article], who has dealt in depth with Sassanid-Roman relations.)
  • James Howard-Johnston: The Sasanian's Strategic Dilemma . In: Henning Börm, Josef Wiesehöfer (eds.): Commutatio et contentio. Studies in the Late Roman, Sasanian, and Early Islamic Near East . Wellem, Düsseldorf 2010, pp. 37-70.
  • Geoffrey B. Greatrex : Rome and Persia at War, 502-532. Cairns, Leeds 1998, ISBN 0-905205-93-6
  • Geoffrey B. Greatrex: Byzantium and the East in the Sixth Century. In: Michael Maas (Ed.): The Cambridge Companion to the Age of Justinian . Cambridge Univ. Press, Cambridge 2005, p. 477ff., ISBN 0-521-81746-3
    (Very good, concise description of Roman-Sassanid relations in the 6th century.)
  • Arafa Mustafa, Jürgen Tubach, G. Sophia Vashalomidze (ed.): Inculturation of Christianity in the Sasanid Empire . Reichert Verlag, Wiesbaden 2007, ISBN 978-3-89500-560-2 .
  • Stephen H. Rapp: The Sasanian World through Georgian Eyes . Ashgate, Farnham 2014.
  • Khodadad Rezakhani: ReOrienting the Sasanians. East Iran in Late Antiquity. Edinburgh University Press, Edinburgh 2017.
    (Important for the role of Eastern Iran in Sassanid history and the conflicts on the steppe border.)
  • Eberhard Sauer (Ed.): Sasanian Persia. Between Rome and the Steppes of Eurasia. Edinburgh University Press, Edinburgh 2017.
  • M. Rahim Shayegan: Arsacids and Sasanians: Political Ideology in Post-Hellenistic and Late Antique Persia . Cambridge 2011.
  • Geo Widengren : Iran, the great opponent of Rome: royal power, feudalism, military affairs . In: Rise and Fall of the Roman World . Vol. II.9.1 (1979), pp. 219-306.
  • Josef Wiesehöfer: Rūm as Enemy of Iran . In: Erich Gruen (Ed.), Cultural Borrowings and Ethnic Appropriations in Antiquity . Stuttgart 2005, pp. 105-120.
  • Josef Wiesehöfer, Philip Huyse (Ed.): Eran ud Aneran. Studies on the relations between the Sasanian Empire and the Mediterranean world . Stuttgart 2006, ISBN 3-515-08829-6 ( Oriens et Occidens 13).
    (Collection of articles with current contributions by leading experts on late ancient Persia.)

Web links

Wiktionary: Sassanid Empire  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Commons : Sassanid Empire  - collection of images, videos and audio files


  1. See also Touraj Daryaee: The Sasanians and the Late Antique World . In: MIZAN 3 (2018).
  2. ↑ For general information on the history of the event, see Michael RJ Bonner: The Last Empire of Iran for a current overview . Piscataway 2020 (quite detailed presentation based on current research) and Touraj Daryaee: Sasanian Iran 224–651 CE. Portrait of a Late Antique Empire. Costa Mesa (Calif.) 2008. See also Richard Frye: The political history of Iran under the Sasanians. In: E. Yarshater (Ed.): Cambridge History of Iran. Vol. 3, pp. 116-177; Klaus Schippmann: Basic features of the history of the Sassanid Empire. Darmstadt 1990, pp. 10-79.
  3. On the history of the 3rd century and the first half of the 4th century cf. Karin Mosig-Walburg: Romans and Persians from the 3rd century to the year 363 AD. Gutenberg 2009 and Josef Wiesehöfer: Das Reich der Sāsāniden . In: Klaus-Peter Johne (Ed.): The time of the soldiers' emperors . Volume 1. Berlin 2008, p. 531 ff.
  4. See also Touraj Daryaee: Sasanian Iran 224–651 CE. Portrait of a Late Antique Empire. Costa Mesa (Calif.) 2008, p. 15 f.
  5. Cf. for example Ehsan Yarshater: Were the Sasanians Heirs to the Achaemenids? In: La Persia nel medioevo. Rome 1971, pp. 517-530 and Josef Wiesehöfer: Iranian claims to Rome on formerly Achaemenid territories. In: Archäologische Mitteilungen aus Iran 19, 1986, pp. 177–185. Erich Kettenhofen offers a good summary of the discussion : The claim of the Achaemenid territories by the Sāsānids - a balance sheet . In: S. Kurz (Ed.): Yādnāme-ye Iradj Khalifeh-Soltani. Festschrift Iradj Khalifeh-Soltani for the 65th birthday. Aachen 2002, pp. 49-75.
  6. Karin Mosig-Walburg: Romans and Persians from the 3rd century to the year 363 AD Gutenberg 2009, p. 26 ff.
  7. Touraj Daryaee: Sasanian Iran 224-651 CE. Portrait of a Late Antique Empire. Costa Mesa (Calif.) 2008, p. 22 ff .; Josef Wiesehöfer: The realm of the Sāsānids . In: Klaus-Peter Johne (Ed.): The time of the soldiers' emperors . Volume 1. Berlin 2008, p. 539 ff.
  8. ^ Philip Huyse: The trilingual inscription of Šabuhrs I. on the Ka'ba-i Zardušt (ŠKZ). 2 volumes. London 1999.
  9. Erich Kettenhofen: The Roman-Persian Wars of the 3rd century AD according to the inscription Sãhpuhrs I. on the Kabe-ye Zartost (SKZ). Wiesbaden 1982, p. 19 ff .; Karin Mosig-Walburg: Romans and Persians from the 3rd century to the year 363 AD Gutenberg 2009, p. 31 ff.
  10. Erich Kettenhofen: The Roman-Persian Wars of the 3rd century AD according to the inscription Sãhpuhrs I. on the Kabe-ye Zartost (SKZ). Wiesbaden 1982, p. 38 ff .; Karin Mosig-Walburg: Romans and Persians from the 3rd century to the year 363 AD Gutenberg 2009, p. 43 f.
  11. Erich Kettenhofen: The Roman-Persian Wars of the 3rd century AD according to the inscription Sãhpuhrs I. on the Kabe-ye Zartost (SKZ). Wiesbaden 1982, p. 97 ff .; Karin Mosig-Walburg: Romans and Persians from the 3rd century to the year 363 AD Gutenberg 2009, p. 44 ff.
  12. SKZ, § 18–22, Greek version; Translation taken from: Engelbert Winter, Beate Dignas, Rom und das Perserreich , Berlin 2001, p. 98, see also the references . In order to ensure better legibility, the supplementary and ellipsis symbols have been omitted.
  13. Michael Sommer: The Lion of Tadmor. Palmyra and the improbable rise of Septimius Odaenathus. In: Historical magazine . Vol. 287, No. 2, 2008, pp. 281-318.
  14. Touraj Daryaee: Sasanian Iran 224-651 CE. Portrait of a Late Antique Empire. Costa Mesa (Calif.) 2008, p. 28.
  15. Touraj Daryaee: Sasanian Iran 224-651 CE. Portrait of a Late Antique Empire. Costa Mesa (Calif.) 2008, p. 31 f.
  16. Ursula Weber: Hormezd I, King of the Kings of Ērān and Anērān. In: Iranica Antiqua 42, 2007, pp. 387-418.
  17. Ursula Weber: Wahrām I, King of the Kings of Ērān and Anērān (273-276 AD). In: O. Tabibzadeh, Touraj Daryaee (Hrsg.): Festschrift for Erich Kettenhofen. Iranian Studies: German Language Journal for Iranian Studies 5 / 1-2, 2006-07 [2008], pp. 171–221.
  18. Ursula Weber: Wahrām II, King of the Kings of Ērān and Anērān. In: Iranica Antiqua 44, 2009, pp. 559-643.
  19. Touraj Daryaee: Sasanian Iran 224-651 CE. Portrait of a Late Antique Empire. Costa Mesa (Calif.) 2008, p. 33.
  20. Karin Mosig-Walburg: Romans and Persians from the 3rd century to the year 363 AD Gutenberg 2009, p. 53 ff.
  21. Ursula Weber: Wahrām II, King of the Kings of Ērān and Anērān. In: Iranica Antiqua 44, 2009, pp. 559–643, here pp. 578–580.
  22. On his reign see Ursula Weber: Narseh, King of the kings of Ērān and Anērān. In: Iranica Antiqua 47, 2012, pp. 153-302.
  23. Ursula Weber: Narseh, King of the Kings of Ērān and Anērān. In: Iranica Antiqua 47, 2012, pp. 153–302, here p. 231 ff .; Karin Mosig-Walburg: Romans and Persians from the 3rd century to the year 363 AD Gutenberg 2009, p. 63 ff.
  24. On the importance of Armenia see for example Karin Mosig-Walburg: Römer und Perser from the 3rd century to the year 363 AD Gutenberg 2009, p. 53 ff.
  25. Michael RJ Bonner: The Last Empire of Iran. Piscataway 2020, p. 93.
  26. Touraj Daryaee: Sasanian Iran 224-651 CE. Portrait of a Late Antique Empire. Costa Mesa (Calif.) 2008, p. 40 f.
  27. ↑ On this and the following see Khodadad Rezakhani: ReOrienting the Sasanians. East Iran in Late Antiquity. Edinburgh 2017. An overview of developments in this area from late antiquity to the Abbasids is now available from Douglas Haug: The Eastern Frontier. Limits of Empire in Late Antique and Early Medieval Central Asia. London / New York 2019.
  28. See James Howard-Johnston: The Sasanian's Strategic Dilemma. In: Henning Börm, Josef Wiesehöfer (eds.): Commutatio et contentio. Studies in the Late Roman, Sasanian, and Early Islamic Near East. Düsseldorf 2010, pp. 37–70.
  29. See also the articles in Nicola Di Cosmo, Michael Maas (ed.): Empires and Exchanges in Eurasian Late Antiquity. Rome, China, Iran, and the Steppe, ca. 250–750. Cambridge 2018.
  30. ^ Richard Payne: The Making of Turan. The Fall and Transformation of the Iranian East in Late Antiquity. In: Journal of Late Antiquity 9, 2016, pp. 4–41.
  31. Cf. also in general Matthew P. Canepa: The Two Eyes of the Earth. Art and Ritual of Kingship between Rome and Sasanian Iran. Berkeley 2009.
  32. Cf. Edwin G. Pulleyblank: Chinese-Iranian Relations I. In Pre-Islamic Times . In: Encyclopædia Iranica V, 1991, 424-431.
  33. Étienne de La Vaissière: Kushanshas, ​​History , in: Encyclopædia Iranica
  34. This is how one can at least interpret Ammianus Marcellinus 19.1, since the crown described there does not fit on the crown of Shapur II, which is depicted on coins. See ADH Bivar, The History of Eastern Iran , in: E. Yarshater, The Cambridge History of Iran , Vol. 3, pp. 181ff., Here especially pp. 209ff.
  35. See especially Nikolaus Schindel: The Sasanian Eastern Wars in the 5th Century. The Numismatic Evidence. In: A. Panaino, A. Piras (Ed.): Proceedings of the 5th Conference of the Societas Iranologica Europaea. Volume I. Milan 2006, pp. 675-689.
  36. For these groups, beginning with the Chionites, see Daniel T. Potts: Nomadism in Iran. From Antiquity to the Modern Era. Oxford et al. a. 2014, p. 127ff .; Khodadad Rezakhani: ReOrienting the Sasanians. East Iran in Late Antiquity. Edinburgh 2017, pp. 87ff.
  37. Ammianus Marcellinus 17.5. Translation based on (with slight modification): Ammianus Marcellinus, Das Römische Weltreich vor dem Untergang . Library of the Old World, translated by Otto Veh , introduced and explained by Gerhard Wirth , Zurich / Munich 1974. The title of Schapur roughly corresponds to that of an inscription from Hajjiabad, cf. Arthur Christensen: L'Iran sous les Sassanides. 2nd edition Copenhagen 1944, p. 237 f. Ammianus may therefore have had access to the original correspondence and in any case knew the basic elements of the Persian title.
  38. Scott McDonough: Were the Sasanians Barbarians? Roman Writers on the "Empire of the Persians". In: Ralph W. Mathisen, Danuta Shanzer (Ed.): Romans, Barbarians, and the Transformation of the Roman World. Aldershot 2011, pp. 55-66.
  39. See the mentioned passage in Ammianus Marcellinus 17, 5.
  40. Petros Patrikios , fragment 13; Theophylactus Simokates 4:11, 2f. See also Matthew P. Canepa: The Two Eyes of the Earth. Art and Ritual of Kingship between Rome and Sasanian Iran. Berkeley 2009.
  41. Touraj Daryaee: Sapur II . In: Encyclopædia Iranica .
  42. Touraj Daryaee: Sasanian Iran 224-651 CE. Portrait of a Late Antique Empire. Costa Mesa (Calif.) 2008, p. 45 f.
  43. Khodadad Rezakhani: ReOrienting the Sasanians. East Iran in Late Antiquity. Edinburgh 2017, p. 87 ff.
  44. See also Roger C. Blockley: Ammianus Marcellinus on the Persian Invasion of AD 359. In: Phoenix 42, 1988, pp. 244-260.
  45. Ammianus 19: 1-9; see. John F. Matthews: The Roman Empire of Ammianus. Baltimore / London 1989, p. 58.
  46. Cf. Karin Mosig-Walburg: Kings and nobility in the reign of Ardashir II, Shapur III. and Wahrams IV. In: Henning Börm, Josef Wiesehöfer (Ed.): Commutatio et contentio. Studies in the Late Roman, Sasanian, and Early Islamic Near East. Düsseldorf 2010, p. 133 ff.
  47. Touraj Daryaee: Sasanian Iran 224-651 CE. Portrait of a Late Antique Empire. Costa Mesa (Calif.) 2008, p. 58 ff.
  48. Touraj Daryaee: Sasanian Iran 224-651 CE. Portrait of a Late Antique Empire. Costa Mesa (Calif.) 2008, p. 58 f.
  49. Nikolaus Schindel: Wahram V. In: Nikolaus Schindel (Ed.): Sylloge Nummorum Sasanidarum . Vol. 3/1 (text volume). Vienna 2004, p. 346 ff.
  50. Touraj Daryaee: Sasanian Iran 224-651 CE. Portrait of a Late Antique Empire. Costa Mesa (Calif.) 2008, p. 63.
  51. Touraj Daryaee: Sasanian Iran 224-651 CE. Portrait of a Late Antique Empire. Costa Mesa (Calif.) 2008, p. 64 ff.
  52. Geoffrey B. Greatrex : Rome and Persia at War, 502-532 . Leeds 1998.
  53. ↑ For an introduction see Josef Wiesehöfer: Chusro I. und das Sasanidenreich. The king of kings "with the immortal soul" . In: Mischa Meier (Ed.): They created Europe. Munich 2007, pp. 195–215.
  54. See Henning Börm: Prokop and the Persians. Stuttgart 2007, pp. 251f.
  55. Henning Börm: The Persian King in the Imperium Romanum. Chosroes I and the Sasanid invasion of the Eastern Roman Empire in 540 AD. In: Chiron 36, 2006, pp. 299–328.
  56. On these fighting cf. Geoffrey B. Greatrex, Samuel NC Lieu: The Roman Eastern Frontier and the Persian Wars. Part II AD 363-630. A narrative sourcebook. London / New York 2002, p. 102ff .; Peter Heather: Rome Resurgent. War and Empire in the Age of Justinian. Oxford 2018, pp. 211ff.
  57. See Michael Whitby : The Emperor Maurice and his Historian. Oxford 1988, p. 250 ff.
  58. Glen W. Bowersock : The Throne of Adulis. Red Sea Wars on the Eve of Islam. Oxford 2013.
  59. On the battles for the throne see Michael Whitby: The Emperor Maurice and his Historian. Oxford 1988, p. 292 ff.
  60. James Howard-Johnston: Kosrow II . In: Encyclopædia Iranica .
  61. See Touraj Daryaee: Sasanian Iran 224-651 CE. Portrait of a Late Antique Empire. Costa Mesa (Calif.) 2008, p. 90.
  62. James Howard-Johnston: Witnesses to a World Crisis. Historians and Histories of the Middle East in the Seventh Century. Oxford 2010, p. 436ff.
  63. Cf. Ruth Altheim-Stiehl : The Sasanians in Egypt. In: Bulletin de la Société d'Archéologie Copte 31, 1992, pp. 87-96. In the official documents from this time, Egypt was mostly understood as the direct rule of the great king, but sometimes also as indirectly controlled territory, which the emperor administered as vassal and slave of Chosraus in his name; see. Bernhard Palme , The Imperial Presence, in: Roger Bagnall (Ed.): Egypt in the Byzantine World, 300–700 , Cambridge 2007, p. 265.
  64. See John Haldon: Greater Syria in the Seventh Century. Context and Background. In: John Haldon (Ed.): Money, Power and Politics in Early Islamic Syria. Farnham 2010, here p. 3.
  65. 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; Walter E. Kaegi: Heraclius - Emperor of Byzantium. Cambridge 2003, especially p. 100 ff.
  66. 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.
  67. James Howard-Johnston: Witnesses to a World Crisis. Historians and Histories of the Middle East in the Seventh Century. Oxford 2010, p. 345.
  68. See James Howard-Johnston: Witnesses to a World Crisis. Historians and Histories of the Middle East in the Seventh Century. Oxford 2010, p. 488ff.
  69. Michael RJ Bonner: The Last Empire of Iran. Piscataway 2020, p. 313 ff.
  70. See Touraj Daryaee: When the End is Near: Barbarized Armies and Barracks Kings of Late Antique Iran. In: Maria Macuch u. a. (Ed.): Ancient and Middle Iranian Studies. Harrassowitz Verlag, Wiesbaden 2010, pp. 43–52.
  71. On his reign, see for example Touraj Daryaee: Yazdgerd III's last year. Coinage and History of Sistan at the End of Late Antiquity. In: Iranistik 5, 2009, pp. 21–30.
  72. On the conquest of the Sassanid Empire, see Michael Morony: The Islamic Conquest of Sasanian Iran. In: Daniel Potts (Ed.): The Oxford Handbook of Ancient Iran. Oxford 2013, pp. 975-986.
  73. See article Asawera in: Encyclopædia Iranica ; but they soon lost their privileged status.
  74. See Sarah Bowen Savant: The New Muslims of Post-Conquest Iran. Cambridge 2013.
  75. Briefly summarizing Monika Gronke : History of Irans . Munich 2003, p. 17f.
  76. ^ See Matteo Compareti: The last Sasanians in China . In: Eurasian Studies 2, 2003, pp. 197–213.
  77. See Domenico Agostini, Sören Stark: Zāwulistān, Kāwulistān and the land Bosi. On the question of a Sasanian court-in-exile in the southern Hindukush. In: Studia Iranica 45, 2016, pp. 17–38.
  78. ^ Richard Payne: The Making of Turan. The Fall and Transformation of the Iranian East in Late Antiquity. In: Journal of Late Antiquity 9, 2016, pp. 4–41.
  79. ^ Translation of the source text by Matthew P. Canepa: The Two Eyes of the Earth. Art and Ritual of Kingship between Rome and Sasanian Iran. Berkeley 2009, p. 143.
  80. On this network of relationships, see the articles in Nicola Di Cosmo, Michael Maas (ed.): Empires and Exchanges in Eurasian Late Antiquity. Rome, China, Iran, and the Steppe, ca. 250–750. Cambridge 2018.
  81. See Gherardo Gnoli: Farr (ah) , in: Encyclopædia Iranica
  82. See Michael Whitby: The Persian King at War. In: Edward Dabrowa (Ed.): The Roman and Byzantine Army in the East. Krakau 1994, pp. 227-263.
  83. See Touraj Daryaee: Sasanian Persia. The Rise and Fall of an Empire. London 2009, p. 81 ff.
  84. Prods Oktor Skjærvø: Marriage II Next of Kin Marriage in Zoroastrianism. , In: Encyclopædia Iranica Online .
  85. To summarize the Sassanid kingship and the structure of the state: Josef Wiesehöfer: Das antike Persien. Düsseldorf 2005, pp. 220–228 and p. 243ff .; Klaus Schippmann: Basic features of the history of the Sassanid Empire. Darmstadt 1990, pp. 80–86, and Henning Börm: The Kingship of the Sasanids - Structures and Problems. In: Klio 90, 2008, pp. 423-443.
  86. ^ Court, Persian royal. In: The Oxford Dictionary of Late Antiquity . Volume 1 (2018), p. 427 f.
  87. See Henning Börm: Rulers and elites in late antiquity . In: Josef Wiesehöfer et al. (Ed.): Commutatio et contentio. Studies in the Late Roman, Sasanian, and early Islamic Near East. Düsseldorf 2010, pp. 159–198.
  88. Cf. Karin Mosig-Walburg: Kings and nobility in the reign of Ardashir II, Shapur III. and Wahrams IV. In: Henning Börm, Josef Wiesehöfer (Ed.): Commutatio et contentio. Studies in the Late Roman, Sasanian, and Early Islamic Near East. Düsseldorf 2010, p. 133 ff.
  89. Henning Börm: Prokop and the Persians. Stuttgart 2007, pp. 135ff.
  90. See also Philippe Gignoux: Courts and Courtiers, II. In the Parthian and Sasanian periods , in: Encyclopædia Iranica
  91. M. Rahim Shayegan: Hazarbed in: Encyclopædia Iranica
  92. See in detail Matthew P. Canepa: The Two Eyes of the Earth. Art and Ritual of Kingship between Rome and Sasanian Iran . Berkeley 2009.
  93. See Rubin, The Sasanid Monarchy , pp. 652ff., Who tries to relativize the image of a more centralized state.
  94. See Richard Nelson Frye: Persia . Zurich 1962, p. 480f.
  95. See also Aḥmad Tafażżolī: Sasanian Society. New York 2000 (excluding the priestly class, as the author died before the entire manuscript was completed).
  96. Touraj Daryaee: Sasanian Persia. The Rise and Fall of an Empire. London 2009, pp. 127-129.
  97. On the relationship between king and nobility: Henning Börm, rulers and elites in late antiquity. In: Henning Börm, Josef Wiesehöfer (eds.): Commutatio et contentio. Studies in the Late Roman, Sasanian, and early Islamic Near East. Düsseldorf 2010, pp. 159–198.
  98. Reg. the economy briefly giving a lecture: Klaus Schippmann: Fundamentals of the history of the Sasanid Empire Darmstadt 1990, pp. 87-91.
  99. ^ Richard Payne: The Silk Road and the Iranian political economy in late antiquity. Iran, the Silk Road, and the problem of aristocratic empire. In: Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies 81, 2018, pp. 227–250.
  100. ↑ For a summary of the Persian-Chinese contacts, cf. for example Hans Bielenstein: Diplomacy and Trade in the Chinese World, 589–1276, Leiden / Boston 2005, pp. 353ff.
  101. Cf. on the Sassanid army Klaus Schippmann: Basic features of the history of the Sasanid empire. Darmstadt 1990, p. 103ff .; see also the article A. Sh. Shahbazi: ARMY i. Pre-Islamic Iran (5th The Sasanian period) . In: Ehsan Yarshater (ed.): Encyclopædia Iranica . Volume 2, pp. 496–499, as of December 15, 1986, accessed on June 17, 2011 (English, including references).
  102. Rika Gyselen: Spahbed in: Encyclopædia Iranica
  103. Vladimir A. Dmitriev: The Sasanian Navy revisited: An unwritten chapter in Iran's military history. In: International Journal of Maritime History 29, 2017, pp. 727–737.
  104. General on culture: Wiesehöfer, Das antike Persien , pp. 289–295, with the relevant information; see. also Richard Nelson Frye: Persia . Zurich 1962, p. 411ff.
  105. Cf. just Wiesehöfer, Das antike Persien , p. 213.
  106. See introductory Touraj Daryaee: Middle Persian (Pahlavi). In: Scott McGill, Edward Watts (Eds.): A Companion to Late Antique Literature. Hoboken, NJ 2018, p. 103 ff.
  107. See Jaakko Hämeen-Anttila: Khwadāynāmag. The Middle Persian Book of Kings. Leiden / Boston 2018.
  108. Touraj Daryaee: Middle Persian (Pahlavi). In: Scott McGill, Edward Watts (Eds.): A Companion to Late Antique Literature. Hoboken, NJ 2018, p. 106.
  109. G. Reza Garosi: The colossal statue Šāpūrs I in the context of the Sasanian plastic . Verlag Philipp von Zabern , Mainz 2009, ISBN 978-3-8053-4112-7 .
  110. On Sassanid art cf. u. a. Klaus Schippmann: Basic features of the history of the Sassanid Empire. Darmstadt 1990, p. 107ff. and the article
    PO Harper: Art in Iran, History of, v. Sasanian . In: Ehsan Yarshater (ed.): Encyclopædia Iranica . Volume 2, pp. 589 – ff., As of December 15, 1986, accessed on December 17, 2011 (English, including references)
    See also Roman Ghirshman: Iran. Parthians and Sasanids. Munich 1962 (with numerous illustrations).
  111. Introductory cf. about Mahnaz Moazami (Ed.): Zoroastrianism. A Collection of Articles from the Encyclopædia Iranica. 2 vols. New York 2016; Jenny Rose: Zoroastrianism. An Introduction. London / New York 2010.
  112. Alexander Böhlig: Manichaeism. In: Theologische Realenzyklopädie 22. Berlin / New York 1992, pp. 25–45.
  113. ^ According to Klaus Schippmann: Fundamentals of the history of the Sasanid empire. Darmstadt 1990, p. 29.
  114. See now Richard L. Kalmin: Jewish Babylonia between Persia and Roman Palestine. Oxford 2006.
  115. See Richard Kalmin: Sasanian Persecution of the Jews: A Reconsideration of the Talmudic Evidence. In: Shaul Shaked, Amnon Netzer (ed.): Irano-Judaica VI. Studies Relating to Jewish Contacts with Persian Culture throughout the Ages. Jerusalem 2008, pp. 87-124.
  116. ^ Oskar Braun (Ed.): Selected files of Persian martyrs. With an appendix: East Syrian monastic life . (Library of the Church Fathers, 1st row, vol. 22). Munich 1915 ( online here ).
  117. See Philip Wood: The Christian Reception of the Xwadāy-Nāmag: Hormizd IV, Khusrau II and their successors. In: Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society 26, 2016, p. 407 ff.
  118. On the situation of Christians and Zoroastrians in the Sassanid Empire, see Richard Payne: A State of Mixture. Christians, Zoroastrians, and Iranian Political Culture in Late Antiquity. Berkeley 2015.
  119. ^ R. Todd Godwin: Persian Christians at the Chinese Court: The Xi'an Stele and the Early Medieval Church of the East. London / New York 2018.
  120. cf. in summary Josef Wiesehöfer: Das antike Persien. Düsseldorf 2005, p. 266ff .; Klaus Schippmann: Basic features of the history of the Sassanid Empire. Darmstadt 1990, pp. 92-102.
  121. See also Michael G. Morony: Should Sasanian Iran be Included in Late Antiquity? (PDF; 271 kB) . In: E-Sasanika 1 (2008) and Touraj Daryaee: The Sasanians and the Late Antique World . In: MIZAN 3 (2018).
  122. The assumption, which for a long time was hardly disputed, that every king necessarily had to wear his own, distinctive crown and even had to change it if he had lost his rule or his royal salvation in the meantime, has recently been massively questioned: Karin Mosig-Walburg: The "Sasanid Crown Law" . Creation and development of a modern construct . In: Klio 93, 2011, pp. 446-473.
This article was added to the list of excellent articles on August 22, 2005 in this version .