II. Ancient and Classical Periods, 3500 B.C.E.–500 C.E. > F. The Neo-Persian Empire of the Sassanians, 223–651 C.E. > c. Shapur II to the Reforms of Khusrau I
  The Encyclopedia of World History.  2001.
c. Shapur II to the Reforms of Khusrau I
SHAPUR II, the Great.  1
FIRST WAR WITH ROME (See 337–363). Shapur invaded Mesopotamia, won some victories, but failed in three attempts to take Nisibis. In 350 he had to break off the war and go east to counter an invasian of the Chionites (Huns), whom he defeated and forced into an alliance (357). Beginning in 339 Christians began to be persecuted. Jews and Manichaeans also suffered.  2
SECOND WAR WITH ROME. Syria was invaded, and Amida was taken after a heroic defense (359). Singara and Bezabde were captured (360). Constantius attempted in vain to recapture Bezabde and died in the following year. His successor, Julian, invaded Persia, forced the passage of the Tigris, defeated the Persians north of Ctesiphon but retreated before investing that city, and was mortally wounded in a battle near Samarra (363). His successor, Jovian, made a treaty with Shapur in which Rome restored all the Mesopotamian territories ceded by Narseh, as well as Nisibis and Singara. Shapur was also given a free hand in Armenia, which he invaded and devastated in 365. He later made it and Iberia vassal states (378).  3
THIRD WAR WITH ROME. There were no decisive results, and an obscure peace followed. Persian power was at its zenith at the death of Shapur II. His immediate successors, Ardashir II (379–383) and Shapur III (383–388), were weak, however. Shapur concluded a peace with Rome (384) whereby Armenia was partitioned between Rome and Persia. Bahram IV (388–399), probably the son of Shapur III, succeeded. He placed his brother on the throne of Armenia. Bahram was killed in a mutiny and was succeeded by his son, Yazdgird I.  4
Yazdgird I, the Wicked, was so called because of his conflict with the Zoroastrian priesthood. The persecution of Christians and Jews ended for a time. Under the patronage of Yazdgird, Sassanian Christians held the Council of Seleucia and adopted the anti-Arian creed of the Council of Nicaea. Near the end of Yazdgird's reign, toleration ceased when Christians began burning down Zoroastrian fire temples. In 409 Yazdgird struck a treaty with Rome and his rule was peaceful. He was succeeded by his son Bahram V.  5
Bahram V, known as the “wild ass,” was supported by the Arabs against his cousin, Khusrau, the choice of the nobles. He continued persecution of the Christians and declared war on Rome (421) when the Christians crossed the border seeking Roman protection. Bahram was defeated (422) and agreed to permit Persian Christians to seek refuge in the Roman empire and to halt persecution. The eastern Christian church declared itself independent at the Council of Dadiso (424). Persian Armenia was reduced to a satrapy (428). Bahram campaigned against the Hephthalites (of Turkish stock?), driving them out of Persia across the Oxus. Bahram was succeeded by his son Yazdgird II.  6
Yazdgird II declared war on Rome and concluded peace in the same year (440). He then campaigned successfully against the Hephthalites (443–451). Urged on by his minister, Mihr-Narseh, and the clergy, Yazdgird sought to impose Zoroastrianism on Armenia and Iberia (449). Strong Armenian opposition was crushed at the Battle of Avarair (451). Yazdgrid's last years were spent fighting on the northern borders against the Hephthalites. He died in 457 without a decisive victory. His younger son, Hormizd, seized the throne.  7
Peroz, the elder son of Yazdgird, defeated the usurper Hormizd with the help of the Hephthalites. His reign was marked by a severe famine and the renewed enmity of the Hephthalites who in 469? captured Peroz and forced him to give his son as hostage and to pay tribute. National resistance in Iberia and Armenia led to a revolt led by Vahan (481–483). Persian forces were withdrawn from Armenia to aid Peroz's campaign against the Hephthalites in which he was killed in 484. He was succeeded by his brother Balash.  8
Balash, Peroz's brother, was selected by the nobles. The Persians agreed to pay tribute to the Hephthalites. After Vahan had aided Balash in civil war, the king permitted Armenians to practice Christianity and ended Zoroastrian practice in the province. With royal approval, Bar-Sauma established Nestorianism (two natures of Christ) as the sole doctrine of the Persian Christian Church (484–489). Balash was assassinated and succeeded by the son of Peroz, Kavad.  9
Kavad (Kabades, first reign), son of Peroz, lived with the Hephthalites as a hostage and was supported by them. Kavad supported the religiosocialist movement of Mazdak, son of Bamdad. Mazdak seems to have been a Zoroastrian priest whose gnostic and egalitarian doctrine gained support among the common people but hostility from the nobles and the traditional priesthood. A conspiracy was formed against Kavad; he was arrested and replaced by his brother, Zamasp, who ruled from 496–498. Kavad escaped to the Hephthalmites, who accompanied him back to Persia where Zamasp resigned.  10
Kavad (second reign) returned to power and withdrew official support for increasingly radical reforms demanded by Mazdak.  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.