The five main dynasties which ruled over Iran:
- PESHDADIAN (Pre-historic – c.10,000-7,500 BC)
- KAYANIAN (Pre-historic – c. 7,500-6,500 BC).
(History of the period between Kayanian and Achaemenian dynasties is not clear. The Shahnameh mixes up in the last kings of Kayanian and Achaemenian dynasties. The later part of this period was dominated by small kingdoms like Elamites (c.4000-742 B.C.), Median (c.2458-550 B.C.), Hittites and Kushites (c.1700 B.C.).
- ACHAEMENIAN/HAKHAMANISH (Historic: 556 to 330 B. C.)
- PARTHIAN/ARSHKANIAN (Historic: 247 B. C. to 224 A.C.)
- SASANIAN (Historic: 224 A.C. to 651 A.C.)
The first Iranian dynasty is Peshdad, which means “first law givers.” It was the epithet of Hoshang, the second King of this dynasty. The highlights of this dynasty is the birth of Mazdayasni belief system and the reigns of two great kings Jamshed and Faridun and the evil rule of Zohak.
Kings of PESHDADIAN DYNASTY:
KING GAYOMARD: He was the founder of the dynasty, and the first person to wear a crown and sit on the throne. He was the first human to hear the message from God on the basis of which he started the Mazdayasni belief system. He waged a war against the evil Daevayasnis, in which he defeated Siyāh Dev, but lost his son Siyamak.
KING HOSHANG: He was the grandson of king Gayomard. In his reign agriculture was started, including practices like irrigation and canal system. He also taught people to wear clothes to protect themselves from the weather. He started the practice of revering fire as the representation of Ahura Mazda, celebrating it with the performance of Jashane Sadeh.
KING TEHMURASP: He was the son of king Hoshang. On account of his complete control over the evil ones, he was called ‘Divband.’ He learnt several skills and trades from them.
He helped his people survive a terrible draught by asking them to eat one meal per day. He also taught people to domesticate animals and birds for their own use.
KING JAMSHED: He was the son of Vivanghan, and grandson of king Tehmurasp. He was divinely ordained to save people and certain species of plants and animals from the Great Deluge in a Vara, an enclosure on the Mountain. He re-established his kingdom here and got coronated anew. This day a Jashan was performed, and even today it is celebrated as the Jamshedi Navroz. His reign is regarded as a Golden Age in the history of ancient Iran.
King Jamshed had many accomplishments. He started the practice of wearing Kasti and Sadra. He divided the society into four professional groups. He introduced the use of metals, silk, perfume and wine. Had an observatory built in the shape of a huge upturned goblet, which came to be known as Jām-e-Jamshed.
In the later days of his reign, he became proud on account of his achievements and considered himself more worthy of worship than God. This led to his fall. His subjects went against him and invited an alien king Zohak. Jamshed had to flee. He was killed in exile by his step brother Spityur.
ZOHAK: He was the evil king from Babylon who overthrew king Jamshed. His life was ruined by the bad influence of the evil Ablis, under whose instigation he even killed his father Khrutasp.
He is best known in history as the evil king on whose shoulders 2 snakes grew on account of the kisses of Ablis. Zohak killed able bodied men to feed the snakes. Finally a blacksmith by the name Kaveh revolted against him for killing 17 of his 18 sons.
Zohak had repeated dreams of a young warrior killing him. On the advise of dream interpreters he ordered the killing of all children born on a certain day. The child’s mother Faranak saved it and it grew up on the milk of a cow by the name Purmae, which was later killed by Zohak’s soldiers. After Faridun grew up, he had a mace (Gurz) made in the image of the cow. He defeated Zohak and bound him under Mount Demāvand.
KING FARIDUN: He was one of the greatest kings of this dynasty. He sat on the throne on Meher roz of Meher mah (Meherangan) after defeating Zohak. The Drafshe-Kāvyāni made in his times became the Royal flag of Iran.
He had three sons and he divided his kingdom in three parts – to the youngest Irach he gave Iran proper, to Tur he gave Eastern Iran (Turkmenestan) and to the eldest Selam he gave Western Iran (Rome). Later Irach was killed by his brothers, and so Faridun groomed Minocheher, Irach’s grandson, to avenge the death of Irach.
KING MINOCHEHER: King Faridun groomed him to be the king after him. He killed his evil uncles Tur and Selam. He fought wars against Afrasiyab, King of Turan, over boundary disputes, which was amicably settled by the shooting of an arrow by the archer Erekhsha. This even is celebrated on Tir roj of Tir mah as Jashane Tirangan.
The paladin Sam from Zabulistan requested him to allow his son Zal to marry a Turanian princess Rodabe. He agreed after testing Zal’s loyalty. To Zal and Rudabe was born Rustam, the great warrior is born.
KING NOTAR/NOZAR: He was given to merry-making, so his subjects rebelled. Turan took advantage and attacked. The king’s two sons Toos and Gastaham fled. The king was killed by Afrasiyab.
KING ZAV: The 81 year old Zav was instituted as the new king, whose reign was short but peaceful.
KING KERSASP: He was Zav’s son. He died after a short reign
This dynasty belongs to the prehistoric period. The word Kayan means “royal.” The names of all kings of this dynasty are prefixed by the title ‘Kae.’ The highlight of this dynasty is birth of prophet Zarathushtra, who established the Zoroastrian religion based on the older Mazdayasni belief system.
Kings & Queen of the KAYANIAN DYNASTY:
KING KAE KOBAD: He was a descendant of Minocheher but stayed a secluded life on the mountains. he was brought down by Zal and from him started the Kayanian dynasty. He was a peace loving king, but yet had to engage in a war with king Afrasiyab of Turan,
KING KAE KAUS: He was the son of Kae Kobad. He was an impulsive king who loved adventures. He attempted to fly attaching his throne to birds, made an unsuccessful attempt to capture Mazandaran which was ruled by magicians, and then rescued by Rustom. He went to Hamavaran to win the hand of princess Sodabeh, where he was imprisoned and later rescued by Rustom.
He waged 5 wars with Afrasiyab and won them with the help of Rustom. The duel of Rustom & Sohrab took place in his reign.
His son, prince Siyavakhsh was accused by queen Sodabeh of misbehaviour. Siyavakhsh proved his innocence by passing the Fire ordeal. He then took refuge in Turan and later married the Turanian princess Ferangez. Siyavakhsh was later killed by Afrasiyab.
KING KAE KHUSHRU: He was the son of prince Siyavaksh born in Turan to Firangiz. He was brought to Iran by Giv. He won the throne in a contest with Fariburz, his paternal uncle, in which he was helped by the fire Adar Gushasp.
The romantic episode of Bizan-Manizeh enfolded in his reign. He killed the Turanian king Afrasiyab, who happened to his own maternal grandfather, near lake Chaechist. It is believed that he is still living as he had voluntarily left the palace and went into wilderness to devote his time in seclusion and prayers. He was never traced.
KING KAE LOHRASP: Before going into seclusion, Kae Khushru selected him as his successor, surpassing his own sons. He is known for his piety. His son Gustasp rebelled against him and went to India and Rome, from where his brother Zarir brought him back. King Kae Lohrasp made his son Gushtasp the king and retired to lead a life of prayers in Navbahar Atash Behram with prophet Zarathushtra.
KING KAE GUSHTASP / VISHTASP:
He was the king during whose reign Prophet Zarathushtra emerged and was accepted as a prophet by him. His brother Zarir, princes Asfandyar and Peshotan and Queen Katayun too accepted Zarathushtra as prophet. His wise minister Jamasp was also one of the first followers of Zarathushtra.
The Turanian king Arjasp attacked king Kae Gushtasp as he refused to pay taxes on advise of prophet Zarathushtra. In the war Kae Lohrasp and prince Zarir were killed. Arjasp abducted two princesses and Asfandyar was asked to free them n return of the throne. Later one more task was set for the prince, to imprison and bring Rustom. In his attempt to do so prince Asfandyar lost his life.
KING BAHMAN: He was the son of prince Asfandyar. He avenged his father’s death at the hands of Rustom by devastating Zabulistan. As he had no issue, he named his wife Homai as the Queen.
QUEEN HOMAI: After becoming the queen she delivered Bahman’s child but abandoned it in a river in the fear that she may have to abdicate the throne. The child was found and brought up by a washer-man. It was called Darab. Decades later when Darab became an army commander he was reunited with his mother, who in repentance abdicated the thrown in his favour.
Immediately after resuming the throne he was embroiled in a war with the Romans. He married the Roman princess Nahid as part of the truce. A pregnant Nahid was insulted sent back to Rome due to an illness. She gave birth to Eskandar (Alexander)
He had to bear the brunt of the Roman’s ire over king Darab. Eskandar attacked Iran and defeated king Dara who was killed in the battle.
The Achaemenian is the first post historical Zoroastrian dynasty. On account of the huge area of the empire and having people of various nationalities and cultures as the subjects, Zoroastrian religion was not the state religion, as it would impede the politically neutral nature of the state.
Kings of the ACHAEMENIAN DYNASTY:
CYRUS THE GREAT (558-529 B.C.) : He was the son of Cambyses II, the king of Pars and Mandane, the daughter of the last Median king Astygis. As a newborn infant he was condemned to death by Astyges, but was saved by Mithradates and Herpagus. After Cyrus grew up he defeated the mighty Median empire, and founded a new dynasty, which he named Achaemenian from the name of his ancestor Achaemenish (Hakhamanish).
He is hailed in history as a tolerant and humane King. He freed the Jews from their 70 years Babylonian captivity, returned them their wealth and treasures and helped them rebuild their Temple of Solomon. He is hailed as a Messiah “the anointed one” in the Old Testament of the Bible. His last resting place, as well as the ruins of his palace are at Pasargadae in the province of Fars, south of Iran.
CAMBYSES (529-522 B.C.): He was the son of Cyrus. He conquered Egypt and became its 27th Pharoah. While he was in Egypt, an imposter by the name Gaumata, posing as the king’s brother, usurped the throne. Cambyses died by accident while trying to hastily return to his capital.
DARAIUS THE GREAT (522-486 B.C.): He was a royal noblemen in the court of Cambyses. He regained the throne from imposter Gaumata with the help of 7 other noblemen. He built a vast empire and divided it into 30 provinces (Satrapis) for efficient administration. All the Greek states except Athens and Sparta paid him tributes.
He started the system of post by making roads inter-connecting his empire. The famous Royal Road, a highway connecting Susa with Sardis, was about 2550 kilometres (1,500 miles) long. He also introduced coinage.
He had several capitals at Persepolis (administrative center), Susa, Ecbatana (summer residence), and Babylon (winter residence) where he built royal palaces. He had a canal constructed to connect the Red Sea with the Nile.
He lost the Battle of MARATHON against the Greeks. Passed away at the age of 65 years in 486 B.C.
The ruins of one of his most magnificent palaces, popularly known as Takht-i-Jamshid, is situated in Persepolis, south of Iran. It was destroyed by Alexander the Macedonian. King Darius has left a number of inscriptions, the main one being at Bisutun in Hamadan, in which he proudly proclaims his Parsi ancestry in the following words: adam darayavaush khshayathiya vazraka, khshayathiya khshayathiyanam……..parsa parsahya puthra, arya arya-chithra. “I, Darius, the great king, the king of kings…….a Parsi, the son of a Parsi, an Aryan, of Aryan family.”
XERXES I (486-465 B.C.): He was the son of Darius who continued from where his father left off. He quelled the revolt in Egypt, conquered and burnt Athens and its famous temple. He was finally defeated in the battle of Salamis by the Greeks in 480 and Hellespont in 479 B.C.
After Xerxes I, intrigue and deceit prevailed in the royal family during which time the following kings ruled, of which the first three were murdered: ARTAXERXES I (465-424 B. C.); XERXES II (424B.C.); SOGDIANUS (424 B. C.) & DARIUS II (424-404 B. C.).
ARTAXERXES II (404-359 B. C.): He was a much feared and respected king. He issued an edict known as the “King’s Peace” which decreed that the Greek city states in Asia Minor and Cyprus belonged to the Parsi Empire. Representatives of Athens, Sparta and other Greek States accepted the edict. Thus, the will of the Persian King was law in Greece. It was engraved in stone, and kept as permanent record in the Greek states. He ruled for forty-six years, and passed away peacefully in 358 B. C. at the ripe old age of ninety-four years.
ARTAXERXES III (359-338 B. C.): He was one of the three sons of Artaxerxes II, who came to throne after several members of the royal family and courtiers were murdered for political reasons. He too was finally poisoned by his courtier Bagaos. His youngest son Ariaspes occupied the throne in 338 B.C., but even he and his children were put to death by Bagaos.
DARIUS III (336-330 B. C.): He ascended the throne when the royal house was in great turmoil and treachery. On the other hand the Greeks were rising under Alexander who was recognised as the supreme ruler of the Hellenic States. He was defeated by Alexander in the battles of Issus and Arbela and later killed by Beesus, one of his own Satraps. Alexander occupied Iran and burnt the palace and Royal library at Persepolis.
SELEUCID ERA (330- 247 B.C.)
After the Iranian invasion, Alexander left it to his trusted general Seleucus Nicator, who founded the Seleucid dynasty. The countries of the former Achaemenian Empire were ruled by the Seleucid generals for about 80 years till this rule was brought to an end by the Parthians in 247 BC.
After 80 years of Seleucid rule, a new Iranian kingdom was founded by Arsaces or Arshak, a resident of Parthia in North-Eastern Iran, who later established the Arshkanian empire, also known as the Parthian empire, from the name of the home-province of the founder. The Arshkanians ruled for about 476 years from about 250 B. C. to 226 A. C. They fought long drawn wars with the Romans with fluctuating fortunes.
This period is marked by the birth of Christianity and re-awakening of Zoroastrian religion in the latter part of this period. The history of this period is a fragmented and not in great detail. Only two Arshkanians kings Valkhash and Ardavan are referred to in the Pahlavi texts. Firdausi had assigned just two centuries to the Arshkanians.
Kings of the ARSHKANIAN/PARTHIAN DYNASTY:
TIRIDATES or ARSACES II (247- 214 B.C.): Seleucid king Seleucus II attacked to recapture Parthia, but was defeated by Tiridates.
ARTABANUS I or ARSACES III (214-196 B.C.): He had to contend with the formidable Seleucid enemy Antiochus who joined hands with the Romans and gave a very difficult time to the Parthians. Artabanus I however managed to occupy Media.
PRIAPATIUS or ARSACES IV (196-181 B.C): During his reign Romans came into Asia and their relations with Antiochus deteriorated.
PHRAATES I (181-174 B.C.): He was a brave king who extended his kingdom, especially towards the West. The Seleucid power was diminishing.
MITHRADATES I (174 – 136 B.C.): He was proud of his Achaemenian ancestry. He adopted the title King of kings. He is regarded as the ‘real’ founder of the empire, as he greatly extended the boundary of the empire from the Euphrates to the Indus. He defeated Seleucide king Demetrius II in Syria and took him prisoner. The he got control over Greek provinces. He introduced Parliamentary system of government, known as Magistan “the House of Wise Men.”
PHRAATES II (136-124 B.C.): He was the son of Mithradates I. He defeated Syria in a great battle in which Antiochus was defeated. He died in a battle with the Scythians
MITHRADATES II –THE GREAT (124-88 B.C.): He sent an ambassador to Rome, formed an alliance, and established friendly relations for the first time with Rome.
MNASKIRES (89-77 BC): He came to the throne after a power struggle. Due to internal troubles Armenia was widening its importance. On the other hand Mithradates VI (88 – 77 B.C.) of Pontus a great warrior, challenged the might of the Romans and was a great help to the Parthians.
SANATRUCES (77-68 B.C.): He was selected by the Magistan as the king for his experience and maturity at the ripe age of 80. He observed a neutral stance in the war between Potus and Romans.
PHRAATES III (68-60 B.C.): He was the son of Sanatruces. He had not to worry much about Romans as Rome was busy fighting Pontus and Armenia. The Romans signed a treaty with him. However later he felt cheated and the relations of Parthia and Rome were strained. He was murdered by his own sons.
MITHRADATES III (60-55 B.C.): He came to the throne after murdering his father. Later his brother Orodes rose in rebellion against him.
ORODES I (55-37 B.C.): The Magistan chose him over his brother as the king. He crossed the Euphrates, and inflicted crushing defeat to the Roman army in the battle of Carrhae in 53 B. C. He seized the Roman standards, known as the Roman Eagles, as trophies.
PHRAATES IV (37 – 02 B.C.): He was on friendly terms with Roman General Octavianus (later Augustus) who was a rival of Mark Antony. In 37 B.C., he defeated Roman General Mark Antony. After this defeat there was no large scale active warfare between Parthia and Rome for about a century.
He handed over to the Roman emperor Octavianus the Roman Eagles. Relations between Rome and Parthia became. In 10 B.C. Phraates IV sent his four sons to Rome, however this Roman influence later had adverse effects. In between his reign TIRIDATES ruled from 33 to 30 B.C.
Phraates IV married an Italian lady Thea Musa who dominated state matters. She urged the king to appoint her son as his successor. When he did not relent, the mother and the son conspired and had him murdered. The son became king as Phraates V.
The following kings ruled for short periods:
ARTABANUS III (16-42 A.C.): During his reign there were wars between pathia and Rome on account of Armenia. During his reign he was twice de-throned, at first by Tiridates in 36 A.C. and then by Kinamus in 40 A.C. Both the times Artabanus III was brought back to the throne as he was perceived to be better than the incumbents.
VARDANES (42-46 A.C.), GOTARZES (46-51 A.C.)
VOLOGASES I (51 -78 A.C.): During his reign wars with the Romans started once again, in which the Romans were defeated. They withdrew beyond the Euphrates, and accepted Tiridates, the Parthian representative as the king of Armenia. Emperor Nero resumed the hostilities. The Romans marched against Parthia and Armenia. A treaty was concluded ending for the time being, the struggle between Parthia and Rome over Armenia.
VOLOGASES II (130-148 A.C.): He was a peace loving ruler. Despite provocations from Rome he maintained friendship.
VOLOGASES III (148 – 190 A.C.): He fought war with Romans and Armenia, which was under Rome. He captured Syria and Palestine and retained them it for some time.
VOLOGASES IV (190– 208 A.C.): He conquered Armenia and challenged the Roman power in Asia. His capital Ctesiphon was occupied by Roman emperor Severus in 198 A.C., but he had to retreat. A civil war broke out between his two sons Artabanus IV and Vologases V, both claiming the throne, which was a source of satisfaction to the Romans.
ARTABANUS IV (190-208 A.C.): Both the claimants to the throne were equally matched. Artabanus IV declared himself king in the West and Vologases V ruled in the East. After seven years of war for supremacy Artabanus IV gained control and was recognized as the Emperor. The Roman emperor Caracalla treacherously attacked him after coming to Ctesiphon as a guest. Artabanus IV managed to escape. Later he attacked Rome and was victorious in the battle of Nisibis in 218 A. C. Romans bagged for peace after paying a heavy price. This was the last of the long battles between Rome and Parthia.
However the Parthian empire was becoming weak. The Satraps had started becoming independent. One of the Satraps was Papak who ruled over Pars. When Artabanus IV tried to take away his kingdom, Papak’s son Ardeshir rose in rebellion, defeated Artabanus IV and established the Sasanian dynasty.
For about five centuries, after the downfall of the Achaemenid empire, the people of Pars lived in politically independent and semi-independent states. They preserved and practiced Zoroastrianism, their national, ancestral religion, without outside influence. Hellenism might have penetrated into Pars under the Seleucid rule, but it completely disappeared after their downfall. The true form of Zoroastrianism and the sacred books of the Avesta were preserved in Pars. Thus it was in Pars that the Zoroastrian renaissance commenced.
This renaissance spread throughout the Iranian empire after Ardeshir the king of Pars defeated the Median emperor and consolidated his power. Zoroastrianism was regarded state religion and was fiercely protected by the rulers from the newly established Christianity and heresies from within like Zurvanism, Manichaeism and Mazdakism. Re-gathering of the scattered Avestan texts was accomplished. The period was marked by religious activities like setting up of religious schools and sacred fires. The birth of prophet Mohammed and the spread of Islam marked the later part of this dynasty.
Kings & Queens of the SASANIAN DYNASTY: 35 Kings and Queens ruled
ARDESHIR BABEKAN (226-241): Ardeshir was the son of Sasan, a royal refugee and the daughter of Babak, the ruler of Fars. Ardeshir spent his youth as a captive in the palace of the last Parthian king Ardavan. From there he escaped, and with the help of his grad-father’s army defeated Ardavan and established the Sasanian dynasty. Thereafter he captured Kurdistan, Kerman, Rome and Armenia. He made Zoroastrianism a state religion. He had many Atash Behrams built as a mark of thanksgiving. Great high priests like Dastur Tansar and Arda Viraf flourished under him.
He married a daughter of king Ardavan. Later he exiled his pregnant queen for treachery. She gave birth to a son Shapur in exile. She was later re-united with the king.
SHAPUR I (240-271): He assumed throne at 14. Throughout his reign he was engaged in wars with Romans. He defeated and captured Roman emperor Valerian in the battle of Edessa in 260 A.C.
Thereafter he ordered Roman engineers to build a bridge called Band-i-Kaisar over the river Karun at Shushtar. He has left inscriptions at Hajiabad and Naksh-ī-Rustom.
Several kings ruled for short periods:
Hormazd I (271-272), Bahram I (272- 275 A.C.), Bahram II (275–292 A.C.), Bahram III (292-293 A.C.), Narsi (293-300 A.C.), Hormazd II (300-309 A.C.) and Azar-Narsi (309 A.C.).
KING SHAPUR II – THE GREAT (309-379): He was coronated king before birth, as his father Hormazd II died when his mother was pregnant. He assumed power at 16. He was a courageous king who fought wars with Romans for 27 years. Nine battles were fought, all of which he won, defeating Roman Emperors Constantine, Constantius, Julian and Jovius. He also defeated the Arabs.
He was a great champion of son religion. The heretic Manichean movement started during the reign of Shapur I was put down by him. He checked the growth of Christian missionaries. The 21 Avesta Nasks were re-compiled by Dastur Adarbad Mahraspand during his reign.
Kings who ruled for short periods:
Ardashir II (379-383 A.C.): He was brother of Shapur II, and was deposed.
Shapur III (383-388 A.C.): He was the son of Shapur II, was killed.
Bahram IV (388-399 A.C.): He was the son of Shapur III, was murdered by assassins.
YAZDGARD I (399-420 A.C.): He was the son of Shapur III. He was lenient in his foreign and religious policies. He was greatly influenced by the Christians and hence did not take any action against the Romans, even though their power was at its ebb. Taking advantage of this, some fanatics burnt the great fire-temple at Ctesiphon. In retaliation, Zoroastrians destroyed some churches. He was very friendly with Roman Emperor Arcadius, who appointed him as the guardian of his son Theodosius. Yazdgard faithfully performed his duty as a guardian.
BAHRAM V (Bahramgur) (420 – 439 A.C.): He was a son of Yazdgard I, who was brought up trained by king Munzir of Yemen. When his father died he was considered unfit to rule and hence he marched towards Iran with the Arab army to claim the throne. Bloodshed and civil war was wisely avoided by a sporting offer in which he claimed the crown from the throne placed between two savage lions.
He was a learned man, and a patron of arts, languages, music and poetry. Excelled in archery and hunting. As he was fond of hunting gur “onager”, he was popularly known as Bahramgur. His prowess in riding, hunting and swordsmanship are legendary.
He moved about in disguise to ascertain the state of affairs in his kingdom. In one such visit to India, he was caught and later freed by King Vasudeva of Kanouj.
He defeated the Romans and the Tartars who attacked him and made them pay tribute. He campaigned against Roman Emperor Theodosius, as a result of which a treaty was concluded in 422 A.C. granting religious freedom to Zoroastrians in the Roman Empire and to Christians in the Iranian Empire.
Kings who ruled for short periods:
Yazdgard II (439-457 A.C.); Hormazd III (457-459 A.C.); Piroj I (459-483A.C.) and Palash (483-487A.C.).
KOBAD I (487-531 A.C.): Soon after he ascended the throne, he was deposed and imprisoned on account of his cruelty, and the throne was entrusted to his younger brother Jamasp. He managed to escape, marched into Iran with the help of the Ephtalites and claimed the throne. In order to avoid bloodshed and civil war Jamasp abdicated the throne.
During his reign, the heretic Mazdak emerged, who claimed to be a prophet. He preached communist doctrines like equality, austerity, abstinence and community ownership of property and women as the solution to ills of mankind. Kobad I was impressed and influenced by his teachings. The king’s son, prince Khusro was not in favour of Mazdak. A debate took place between Khusro and Mazdak in which Mazdak was defeated. He was made to pay with his life for the heresy.
KING COSROE I – NOSHIRWAN ADEL (531-579):
He was a very wise king. He divided kingdom into 4 zones for efficient administration. He expanded his empire and kept the enemies at bay. He concluded the “Endless Peace Treaty” was with Rome. He annexed Lazica and defeated the Abyssinians, Ephtalites and the Huns. To protect his people from nomadic tribes of Central Asia, he built a strong wall of stone in the North from Darband on the Caspian Sea up to the Black Sea.
He was a patron of art and learning. He established a medical school at Junde-Shapur and gave refuge to seven Greek philosophers, expelled by Roman Emperor Justinian. The game of chess was introduced in Iran and the Iranian game of Back-gammon was sent to India.
His court was adorned by wise men like Bozorg Meher, his wise priest and Minister and Burzo Hakim, the court Physician.
His son Anoshzad, born of his Christian wife, rose in rebellion against him. He was later killed. Prophet Mohammed was born in 570 A.C. during his reign
He was the son of Khusro I. He had to contend with trouble from the Romans, the Turks and the Arabs. His own army commander Bahram Chobin rose in rebellion against him. He imprisoned his
son Khusro as he suspected him of plotting against him, but the prince managed to escape. The royal family rose in revolt, and threw Hormazd into prison, where he was murdered in 590 A.C.
KING COSROE II – KHUSHRU PURVIZ (590-628):Though he came to the throne at a time of great internecine struggle he took the Iranian empire to great heights. He defeated the rebel Behram Chobin with the help of Roman emperor Maurice. He had to marry Maurice’s daughter as part of the Truce. He defeated Jerusalem and captured the True Cross on which Jesus Christ was crucified. Prophet Mohammad spread his religion during his reign. Instigated by his stepson Shiroy, the king was imprisoned and murdered, after which there was chaos in the royal family.
Kings and Queens who ruled for short periods:
Kobad II/Shiroy (628 A.C.): He was a son of Cosroe II;
Ardashir III (628-629 A.C.) – a boy of seven year who was killed by the usurper Shahrbaraz.
Shahrbaraz (629-680 A.C.): He was a usurper who assumed the name Cosroe III, but was assassinated in forty days by three of his own body guards.
Queen Purandokht (630-631 A.C.): A daughter of Cosroe II, she was a good queen but died after a reign of sixteen months.
Piroj: (631 A.C.): He was a distant cousin of Cosroe II whose real name was Zurvanshah Gushnaband.
Queen Azarmidokht (681 A.C.): She was another daughter of Cosroe II. She was slain after a brief reign of six months.
Farrokhzad/Cosroe IV (631 A.C.); Piroj II (631 A.C.); Khurzad Cosroe (631 A.C.); Hormazd V (632 A.C.).
KING YAZDEGARD III (632-651): Before he assumed the throne, ten monarchs ruled over Iran in a short period of four years (628-632 A.C.), most of them falling victims to internecine strife. The last Sasanian Emperor Yazdgard III, grandson of Cosroe II, ascended the throne in such deplorable conditions, at the young age of 21.
He had to contend with the Arabs who were fired with the seal of newly founded Islam. He was let down by his own commanders who turned traitors. In the Battle of Qadisya in 636 A.C., he was defeated due to a sandstorm. In the Battle of Nehavand in 641 A.C., Iranian soldiers were trapped by a false rumour and defeated. He roamed around for 10 years to seek support from allies but was not successful. He was murdered by one of his own treacherous subjects, Khushru the miller.
After the downfall of the Sasanian empire, Zoroastrians managed to stay independently in small pockets for about 2 to 300 years, after which, on account of attachment of property or forced conversion to Islam they managed to stay under oppression or migrated out of Iran, principally to India.