The Sasanians (pages 54 -55)

Background

The Sasanians are so-called by historians after their semi-legendary founder Sasan - a Zoroastrian priest who may have been father or grandfather of Ardashir I. Ardashir is a form of Artaxerxes. They're sometimes called Sassanids, to make a parallel with Achaemenids (and Parthians become Arsacids). Or he may be connected with India. see here: http://www.the-persians.co.uk/sasanians1.htm and following pages. The Sasanians' own dramatic version of their story is here: http://www.the-persians.co.uk/ashkanians.htm

Persis. the original home base of the Achaemenids had become peripheral to the Seleucids and Parthians - they'd allowed a local dynasty (founded by Bagadates I) to rule more or less independently for over 500 years. It must have been quite a shock for Artabanus V to find himself defeated in battle by Ardashir - the last sub-king of Persis, and for power to be transferred to a new centre. The first Sasanians were dimly aware of the greatness of their past - they knew the ruins of Persepolis, of course, but had no actual knowledge of the Achaemenids. The Parthians had brought with them completely different stories about the Iranian past - for them Persepolis was the "Throne of Jamshid". The Sasanians - drawing on Jewish stories called Cyrus' tomb "The Tomb of Solomon's Mother".

See http://www.the-persians.co.uk/persis.htm and http://www.the-persians.co.uk/gayomard.htm (for Jamshid)

Approach

The Sasanian empire, which lasted for 400 years is passed over rather rapidly! Note the continuity with previous regimes - concentration of defending eastern and western frontiers - just like the Achaemenids and the Parthians. Important to talk about religious developments - decline of Zoroastrianism (why?) rise of Christianity - but a different kind of Christianity from today's Catholic, Orthodox, Anglican and other churches. Council of Chalcedon (not mentioned in text) is very significant, when the Church of the East became isolated from the rest. Also note cycles of tolerance and intolerance

Notes

 

 

Augustus: Why did Augustus make peace? Famous statue of Augustus (Prima Porta) has the peace deal pictured on his breastplate the two nation representatives are shown as equals - the Parthian does not kneel as to a superior.

Eagles: the standards of the Roman legions destroyed at Carrhae in 53 BC., and more lost by tow other generals. An eagle was a sacred symbol of the legion, and its loss was a terrible disgrace. Augustus was to lose eagles in Germany in AD 9 ("Quinctilius Varus, give back my legions!"). Augustus spun the recovery of eagle as a tremendous victory. Was it?

http://www.the-persians.co.uk/parthia5.htm

Plague

PROBABLY smallpox, rather than "the plague". In the Sasanian period the Persians were again saved by a disease outbreak . This was far more serious - and certainly saved the Sasanian empire from a major defeat. Known as the "Plague of Justinian" - a pandemic that killed 25 - 50 million people over the 2 centuries after its outbreak in AD 541. Lots of detail on Wikipedia.

Severus

see http://www.the-persians.co.uk/parthia8.htm

Ardashir

No evidence that he actually knew who the Achaemenids were - but certainly knew of a powerful dynasty who ruled Persia in the distant past. He even added his own reliefs to the rock at Bisitun where the Achaemenids had their tombs.

Shapur I

He'd first defeated the powerful Buddhist Kushan empire, whose territory stretched from Afghanistan into Pakistan and northern India.

http://www.the-persians.co.uk/shapurI.2.htm His success against the Romans was remarkable.

Jerusalem

The Jews who'd allied with Khusrau hoped for great things - they were soon expelled again when Jerusalem was recaptured by the Byzantines. Only after the Muslim conquest were Jews allowed to return, 500 years after they were expelled by the Roman emperor Hadrian.

Greek Fire

See Wikipedia

Discussion topics

Peace deals - USA and Ira today? North Korea? Avoiding humiliation (Roma and Parthia) - Treaty of Versailles?

Persian revival. Nostalgia even for things you don't really understand. Make Persia Great Again?

With God on our side.

East v West

Follow-up/Research

as on page.