II. Ancient and Classical Periods, 3500 B.C.E.–500 C.E. > F. The Neo-Persian Empire of the Sassanians, 223–651 C.E. > b. Ardashir I to Shapur II
  The Encyclopedia of World History.  2001.
b. Ardashir I to Shapur II
223, 226?–243
Ardashir I (Artaxerxes, Artashatr), founder of the Sassanian dynasty. The son of Papak, a vassal king of the Parthians ruling in Persis (Fars), Ardashir revolted against Artabanus, the last king of the Arsacid dynasty of Parthia, defeating and killing him at Hormuz (Hormizdagan, c. 224). Ardashir ruled over the territories of the Parthian empire, received the submissions of the kings of the Kushans and of Turan (Pakistan and Baluchistan, respectively) in the east, and gained control of Merv in the northeast.  1
War with Rome. Ardashir besieged Nisibis in Roman Mesopotamia and raided Syria (230). In 232 his forces were repulsed by Alexander Serverus, after whose murder in 235 Ardashir took Nisibis, Carrhae, and the strategic city of Hatra.  2
243–270, 273?
Shapur I (Sapor) had been co-ruler with his father, Ardashir, since 240. After conquering the peoples along the coast of the Caspian Sea, he had to defend his kingdom against Rome.  3
SHAPUR I'S FIRST WAR WITH ROME. The Roman emperor Gordian recaptured Carrhae and Nisibis and then defeated the Persians near Resaina. But Gordian was murdered, and his successor, Philip, losing a battle near Ctesiphon, was forced to sue for peace and pay a ransom. Having deprived Armenia of Roman support, Shapur engineered the assassination of its Arsacid king, Chosroes (c. 252). When the Armenian prince Tiridates was received by the Romans, Shapur attacked and began the second Roman war.  4
253, 256?–260
SECOND ROMAN WAR. A Roman army was defeated at Barbalissa, Syria was invaded, and Antioch was taken (256). When the Romans counterattacked, Shapur defeated and captured the emperor Valerian near Edessa (258, 259?); Valerian remained a captive until his death (265–66). Syria and Asia Minor were invaded by Persian forces, but no attempt was made to retain the conquered territories.  5
Palmyra. Roman territory was defended by Odenathus, the ruler of Palmyra, who chased the Persians back across the Euphrates and defeated Shapur (260). Soon after (262–267), he reconquered Mesopotamia, failed to take Ctesiphon, and was given the title of imperator by Gallienus. In 267 he was murdered and was succeeded by his widow, Zenobia.  6
Shapur devoted his remaining years to consolidating his power. He installed his sons as kings in Armenia, Mesene (southern Mesopotamia), Gilan (on the Caspian coast), and Sakas (in eastern Iran). In the north his kingdom extended to Iberia (Georgia); in the east to the borders of Sogdiana and central Asia. He built dams and a new city, Bishapur, in Persis. He also took an interest in the teachings of Mani, the founder of Manichaeism. Shapur was succeeded by his son, Hormizd I.  7
270, 273?–293
Hormizd I (Hormisdas, 270–271), son of Shapur, was killed in battle against the Sogdians and was followed by his brother, Bahram I (Varahan, 271–274). During his reign Aurelian defeated Zenobia of Palmyra and reestablished Roman rule in the east. Conservative Zoroastrian priests brought about the execution of Mani. Bahram was succeeded by his son, Bahram II (274–293). An eastern campaign against the Sakae was brought to an end by the Roman invasion of Persia under the emperor Carus, who conquered Mesopotamia and took Ctesiphon. The mysterious death of Carus ended the war (283). The new Roman emperor Diocletian installed Tiridates III in Armenia (c. 288). Bahram III, son of Bahram II, reigned for a few months and was deposed by his uncle, Narseh.  8
Narseh (Narses) worsted his brother and rival, Hormizd, and drove Tiridates from Armenia (296).  9
WAR WITH ROME. A Roman army under Galerius (See 297) was defeated near Carrhae and Narseh recaptured Mesopotamia (297). The following year, Galerius returned and crushed the Persians. Narseh surrendered to Rome Mesopotamia and other territories east of the Tigris, the western part of Media was ceded to Armenia, and Iberia became a Roman protectorate. The Romans and Persians then remained at peace for forty years. During the reign of Narseh, the king of Armenia was converted to Christianity.  10
Hormizd II, son of Narseh, was remembered as a just ruler. On the death of Hormizd his natural heir, Hormizd III, was set aside by the nobility, who elected his posthumous son, the child Shapur II.  11
The Encyclopedia of World History, Sixth edition. Peter N. Stearns, general editor. Copyright © 2001 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Maps by Mary Reilly, copyright 2001 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.