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Shapur I
Shapur I
(Middle Persian: 𐭱𐭧𐭯𐭥𐭧𐭥𐭩‎; New Persian: شاپور‎), also known as Shapur I
Shapur I
the Great, was the second shahanshah (king of kings) of the Sasanian Empire. The dates of his reign are commonly given as 240/42 – 270/72, but it is likely that he also reigned as co-regent (together with his father) prior to his father's death in 242 (more probably than 240).[3] Shapur I's rule was marked by successful military and political struggles in the northeastern regions and the Caucasus, and two wars with the Roman Empire
Roman Empire
during the second of which he captured the Roman Emperor Valerian
Emperor Valerian
and his entire army at the Battle of Edessa. His support for Zoroastrianism
caused a rise in the position of the clergy, and his religious tolerance accelerated the spread of Manichaeanism
and Christianity in Persia. He is also noted in the Jewish tradition.


1 Etymology 2 Early years 3 Military career

3.1 First Roman war 3.2 Second Roman war

4 Interactions with minorities 5 Roman prisoners of war 6 Death 7 Government

7.1 Governors during his reign 7.2 Officials during his reign 7.3 Constructions 7.4 Religious policy

8 In popular culture 9 See also 10 References 11 Sources

Etymology[edit] The name Shapur combines the words šāh (shah or king) and pūr (son), thus literally meaning the “king's son”. The name derives from Old Iranian
Old Iranian
*xšāyaθiyahyā-puθra-, and appears in Manichaean sources as Shabuhr, while it is attested in Latin
sources as Sapores and Sapor, which Shapur is also known by in modern sources. Early years[edit]

Coin of Ardashir I
Ardashir I
and Shapur I

Shapur was the son of Ardashir I
Ardashir I
(r. 224–242 [died 242]), the founder of the Sasanian dynasty
Sasanian dynasty
and whom Shapur succeeded. His mother was Lady Myrōd,[2] who, according to legend[4], was an Arsacid princess. The Talmud
cites a nickname for her, "Ifra Hurmiz", after her bewitching beauty.[5] Shapur also had a brother named Ardashir, who would later serve as governor of Kirman. Shapur may have also had another brother with the same name, who served as governor of Adiabene. Shapur accompanied his father's campaigns against the Parthians, who still controlled much of the Iranian plateau
Iranian plateau
through a system of vassal states, in which the Persian kingdom had itself previously been a part. Before an assembly of magnates, Ardashir "judged him the gentlest, wisest, bravest and ablest of all his children"[2] and nominated him as his successor. Shapur also appears as heir apparent in Ardashir's investiture inscriptions at Naqsh-e Rajab
Naqsh-e Rajab
and his capital, Gor. The Iranian historian Muhammad ibn Jarir al-Tabari
Muhammad ibn Jarir al-Tabari
observed of Shapur before his ascension to the Sasanian throne:, "The Iranians had well-tried Shapur already before his accession and while his father still lived on account of his intelligence, understanding and learning as well as his outstanding boldness, oratory, logic, affection for the subject of people and kindheartedness." The Cologne Mani-Codex
Cologne Mani-Codex
indicates that, by 240, Ardashir and Shapur were already reigning together.[2] In a letter from the Roman Emperor Gordian III
Gordian III
to his senate, dated to 242, the "Persian Kings" are referred to in the plural. Synarchy is also evident in the coins of this period that portray Ardashir facing his youthful son and bear a legend that indicates Shapur as king. The date of Shapur's coronation remains debated: 240 is frequently noted,[2] but Ardashir lived probably until 242.[6] The year 240 also marks the seizure and subsequent destruction of Hatra, about 100 km southwest of Nineveh
and Mosul
in present-day Iraq. According to legend, al-Nadirah, the daughter of the king of Hatra, betrayed her city to the Sasanians, who then killed the king and had the city razed. (Legends also have Shapur either marrying al-Nadirah, or having her killed, or both.)[7] Military career[edit] See also: Roman–Persian Wars

Cameo of Shapur I

First Roman war[edit]

Map showing the Roman-Sasanian borders after the peace treaty in 244

Ardashir I
Ardashir I
had, towards the end of his reign, renewed the war against the Roman Empire. Shapur I
Shapur I
conquered the Mesopotamian fortresses Nisibis
and Carrhae
and advanced into Syria. In 242, the Roman emperor Gordian III
Gordian III
set out against the Sasanians with “a huge army and great quantity of gold,” (according to a Sasanian rock relief) and wintered in Antioch, while Shapur was busy in subduing Khwarezm
and Gilan.[8] There Gordian fought against the Sasanians and won repeated battles, and recaptured Carrhae
and Nisibis, and at last routed a Sasanian army at Resaena, forcing Shapur to restore all occupied cities unharmed to their citizens. “We have penetrated as far as Nisibis, and shall even get to Ctesiphon,” he wrote to the Senate. Gordian III
Gordian III
later invaded eastern Mesopotamia
but faced tough resistance from the Sasanians; following this blockade Gordian died in battle and the Romans chose Philip the Arab
Philip the Arab
as Emperor. Philip was not willing to repeat the mistakes of previous claimants, and was aware that he had to return to Rome
in order to secure his position with the Senate. Philip concluded a peace with the Sasanians in 244; he had agreed that Armenia
lay within Persia’s sphere of influence. He also had to pay an enormous indemnity to the Persians of 500,000 gold denarii.[9] Philip immediately issued coins proclaiming that he had made peace with the Persians (pax fundata cum Persis).[10] However, Philip later broke the treaty and seized lost territory.[9] Shapur I
Shapur I
commemorated this victory on several rock reliefs in Pars. Second Roman war[edit] Shapur I
Shapur I
invaded Mesopotamia
in 250 but serious trouble arose in Khorasan and Shapur I
Shapur I
had to march over there and settle its affair. Having settled the affair in Khorasan he resumed the invasion of Roman territories, and later annihilated a Roman force of 60,000 at the Battle of Barbalissos. He then burned and ravaged the Roman province of Syria
and all its dependencies.

Rock-face relief at Naqsh-e Rustam
Naqsh-e Rustam
of Shapur (on horseback) with Philip the Arab
Philip the Arab
and Emperor Valerian.

The Humiliation of Emperor Valerian
Emperor Valerian
by Shapur I, pen and ink, Hans Holbein the Younger, ca. 1521. At the time it was made, the above rock-face relief was unknown in the west.

Shapur I
Shapur I
then reconquered Armenia, and incited Anak the Parthian to murder the king of Armenia, Khosrov II. Anak did as Shapur asked, and had Khosrov murdered in 252; yet Anak himself was shortly thereafter murdered by Armenian nobles.[11] Shapur then appointed his son Hormizd I as the “Great King of Armenia”. With Armenia
subjugated, Georgia submitted to the Sasanian Empire
Sasanian Empire
and fell under the supervision of a Sasanian official.[9] With Georgia and Armenia
under control, the Sasanians' borders on the north were thus secured. During Shapur's invasion of Syria
he captured important Roman cities like Antioch. The Emperor Valerian
Emperor Valerian
(253–260) marched against him and by 257 Valerian had recovered Antioch
and returned the province of Syria
to Roman control. The speedy retreat of Shapur's troops caused Valerian to pursue the Persians to Edessa, but they were defeated by the Persians, and Valerian, along with the Roman army that was left, was captured by Shapur[10] and sent away into Pars. Shapur then advanced into Asia Minor
Asia Minor
and managed to capture Caesarea, deporting 400,000 of its citizens to the southern Sasanian provinces.[citation needed] The victory over Valerian is presented in a mural at Naqsh-e Rustam, where Shapur is represented on horseback wearing royal armour and a crown. Before him kneels a man in Roman dress, asking for grace. The same scene is repeated in other rock-face inscriptions.[12] Shapur is said to have publicly shamed Valerian by using the Roman Emperor as a footstool when mounting his horse.[13] Other sources contradict this and note that in other stone carvings Valerian is respected and never on his knees. This is supported by reports that Valerian and some of his army lived in relatively good conditions in the city of Bishapur and that Shapur utilized the assistance of Roman engineers in his engineering and development plans. However, the Persian forces were later defeated by Balista
and Septimius Odenathus, who captured the royal harem. Shapur plundered the eastern borders of Syria
and returned to Ctesiphon, probably in late 260.[9] In 264 Septimius Odenathus
Septimius Odenathus
reached Ctesiphon, but was defeated by Shapur I.[14][15][16] The colossal statue of Shapur I, which stands in the Shapur Cave, is one of the most impressive sculptures of the Sasanian Empire. Interactions with minorities[edit]

Colossal Statue of Shapur I, Restored by George Rawlinson, 1876

Shapur is mentioned many times in the Talmud, in which he is referred to in Jewish Aramaic
Jewish Aramaic
as Shabur Malka (שבור מלכא), meaning "King Shabur". He had good relations with the Jewish community and was a friend of Shmuel, one of the most famous of the Babylonian Amoraim, the Talmudic sages from among the important Jewish communities of Mesopotamia. Roman prisoners of war[edit] Shapur's campaigns deprived the Roman Empire
Roman Empire
of resources while restoring and substantially enriching his own treasury, by deporting many Romans from conquered cities to Sasanian provinces like Khuzestan, Asuristan, and Pars. This influx of deported artisans and skilled workers revitalized Persia’s domestic commerce.[9] Death[edit] In Bishapur, Shapur died of an illness. His death came in May 270 and he was succeeded by his son, Hormizd I. Two of his other sons, Bahram I and Narseh, would also become kings of the Sasanian Empire; while another son, Shapur Mishanshah, who died before Shapur, sired children who would hold exalted positions within the empire.[9] Government[edit] Governors during his reign[edit]

Relief showing Shapur I
Shapur I
on horseback, followed by his sons and nobles

Under Shapur, the Sasanian court, including its territories, were much larger than that of his father. Several governors and vassal-kings are mentioned in his inscriptions; Ardashir, governor of Qom; Varzin, governor of Spahan; Tiyanik, governor of Hamadan; Ardashir, governor of Neriz; Narseh, governor of Rind; Friyek, governor of Gundishapur; Rastak, governor of Veh-Ardashir; Amazasp III, king of Iberia. Under Shapur several of his relatives and sons served as governor of Sasanian provinces; Bahram I, governor of Gilan; Narseh, governor of Sindh, Sakastan
and Turan; Ardashir, governor of Kirman; Hormizd I, governor of Armenia; Shapur Mishanshah, governor of Maishan; Ardashir, governor of Adiabene.[17] Officials during his reign[edit] Several names of Shapur's officials are carved on his inscription at Naqsh-e Rustam. Many of these were the offspring's of the officials who served Shapur's father. During the reign of Shapur, a certain Papak
served as the commander of the royal guard (hazarbed), while Peroz served as the chief of the cavalry (aspbed); Vahunam and Shapur served as the director of the clergy; Kirdisro served as viceroy of the Empire (bidakhsh); Vardbad served as the “chief of services”; Hormizd served as the chief scribe; Naduk served as “the chief of the prison”; Papak
served as the “gate keeper”; Mihrkhwast served as the treasurer; Shapur served as the commander of the army; Arshtat Mihran served as the secretary; Zik served as the “master of ceremonies”.[18] Constructions[edit]

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Picture of the ruined palace of Shapur I
Shapur I
at Bishapur

Shapur I
Shapur I
left other reliefs and rock inscriptions. A relief at Naqsh-e Rajab near Estakhr
is accompanied by a Greek translation. Here Shapur I calls himself "the Mazdayasnian (worshipper of Ahuramazda), the divine Shapur, King of Kings of the Iranians, and non-Iranians, of divine descent, son of the Mazdayasnian, the divine Ardashir, King of Kings of the Aryans, grandson of the divine king Papak." Another long inscription at Estakhr
mentions the King's exploits in archery in the presence of his nobles. From his titles we learn that Shapur I
Shapur I
claimed sovereignty over the whole earth, although in reality his domain extended little farther than that of Ardashir I. Shapur I
Shapur I
built the great town Gundishapur near the old Achaemenid capital Susa, and increased the fertility of the district with a dam and irrigation system — built by Roman prisoners  — that redirected part of the Karun River. The barrier is still called Band-e Kaisar, "the mole of the Caesar." He is also responsible for building the city of Bishapur, with the labours of Roman soldiers captured after the defeat of Valerian in 260. Shapur also built a town named Pushang in Khorasan. Religious policy[edit]

The Mazda worshipping lord Shapur, king of kings of Iranians and non-Iranians, whose lineage is from the Gods, son of the Mazda worshipping divinity Ardashir. — Shapur I, on the Naqsh-e Rustam inscription

Shapur on his coins and inscriptions calls himself a "worshiper of Mazda" the god of Zoroastrianism. In one of his inscriptions, he mentioned that he felt he had a mission to achieve in the world:

“ For the reason, therefore, that the gods have so made us their instrument, and that by the help of the gods we have sought out for ourselves, and hold, all these nations for that reason we have also founded, province by province, many Varahrān fires, and we have dealt piously with many Magi, and we have made great worship of the gods. ”

Shapur also wanted to add other writings to the Avesta, the holy book of Zoroastrianism, which included non-religious writings from Europe and India, about medicine, astronomy, philosophy and more. The religious phenomenon shown by Shapur, shows that under his reign, the Zoroastrian clergy began to rise, as evidenced by the Mobed Kartir, who claims, in an inscription, that he took advantage of the conquests of Shapur to promote Zoroastrianism. Even though Kartir
was part of the court of Shapur, the power of the clergy was limited, and only began to expand during the reign of Bahram I. Shapur, who was never under the control of the clergy, appears as a particularly tolerant ruler, ensuring the best reception for representatives of all religions in his empire. Jewish sources have preserved him as a benevolent ruler that gave audiences to the leaders of their community. Later Greeks accounts writes about Shapur's invasion of Syria, where he destroyed everything except important religious sanctuaries of the cities. He also gave the Christians of his empire religious freedom, and allowed them to build churches without needing agreement from the Sasanian court. During the reign of Shapur, Manichaeism, a new religion was founded by the Iranian prophet Mani, flourished. Mani was treated well by Shapur, and in 242, the prophet joined the Sasanian court, where he tried to convert Shapur by dedicating his only work written in Middle Persian, known as the Shabuhragan. Shapur, however, did not convert to Manichaeanism
and remained a Zoroastrian.[19] In popular culture[edit]

Shapur I
Shapur I
in the Shahnameh of Shah

Shapur appears in Harry Sidebottom's historical fiction novel series as one of the enemies of the series protagonist Marcus Clodius Ballista, career soldier in a third-century Roman army. See also[edit]

Shapour I's inscription in Ka'ba-ye Zartosht Shapour I's inscription in Naqsh-e Rostam Siege of Dura Europos (256)


^ MacKenzie, David Niel (1998). "Ērān, Ērānšahr". Encyclopedia Iranica. 8. Costa Mesa: Mazda.  ^ a b c d e Shahbazi, Shapur (2003). "Shapur I". Encyclopedia Iranica. Costa Mesa: Mazda.  ^ ARDAŠĪR I, Joseph Wiesehöfer, Encyclopaedia Iranica, (August 11, 2011).[1] ^ Herzfeld, E. E. (1988). Iran in the Ancient East. New York: Hacker Art Books. ISBN 0-87817-308-0.  p. 287. ^ Talmud
Bavli, Tractate Baba Basra 8a. See there note 56 in Artscroll edition(2004) ^ J. Wiesehöfer, Ardasir, in: Encyclopedia Iranica. ^ "Hatra". Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica Inc. 2008. Retrieved 8 December 2007.  ^ Iranians in Asia Minor, Leo Raditsa, Cambridge History of Iran: The Seleucid, Parthian, and Sasanian periods, Vol. 3, ed. Ehsan Yarshater, (Cambridge University Press, 2003), 125. ^ a b c d e f Shapur I, Shapur Shahbazi, Encyclopaedia Iranica, (July 20, 2002).[2] ^ a b Cambridge History of Iran, Volume III, edited by Ehsan Yarshater (professor of Iranian studies, Columbia University, New York) ^ Hovannisian, The Armenian People From Ancient to Modern Times, Volume I: The Dynastic Periods: From Antiquity to the Fourteenth Century, p.72 ^ Grishman, R.(1995):Iran From the Beginning Until Islam ^ Prof. A. Tafazzoll, (1990): History of Ancient Iran, pg. 183 ^ Who's Who in the Roman World By John Hazel ^ Babylonia
Judaica in the Talmudic Period By A'haron Oppenheimer, Benjamin H. Isaac, Michael Lecker ^ The New Encyclopædia Britannica ^ Frye, Richard Nelson, (1983): History of Ancient Iran, p. 299 ^ Frye, Richard Nelson, (1983): History of Ancient Iran, p. 373 ^ Marco Frenschkowski (1993). "Mani (iran. Mānī<; gr. Mανιχαῑος < ostaram. Mānī ḥayyā »der lebendige Mani«)". In Bautz, Traugott. Biographisch-Bibliographisches Kirchenlexikon (BBKL) (in German). 5. Herzberg: Bautz. cols. 669–80. ISBN 3-88309-043-3. 


Pourshariati, Parvaneh (2008). Decline and Fall of the Sasanian Empire: The Sasanian-Parthian Confederacy and the Arab Conquest of Iran. London and New York: I.B. Tauris. ISBN 978-1-84511-645-3.  Shapur Shahbazi, A. (2005). "SASANIAN DYNASTY". Encyclopaedia Iranica, Online Edition. Retrieved 18 March 2014.  Frye, R. N. (1983), "The political history of Iran under the Sasanians", The Cambridge History of Iran, Cambridge University Press, 3 (1), ISBN 978-0-521-20092-9  chapter= ignored (help) B. A. Litvinsky, Ahmad Hasan Dani (1996). History of Civilizations of Central Asia: The crossroads of civilizations, A.D. 250 to 750. UNESCO. pp. 1–569. ISBN 9789231032110.  Frye, Richard Nelson (1984). The History of Ancient Iran. C.H.Beck. pp. 1–411. ISBN 9783406093975.   This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Shapur". Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. 

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Shapur I Sasanian dynasty

Preceded by Ardashir I "King of kings of Iran and Aniran" 240–270 Succeeded by Hormizd I

v t e

Rulers of the Sasanian Empire
Sasanian Empire

Ardashir I
Ardashir I
(224–242) Shapur I
Shapur I
(240–270) Hormizd I
Hormizd I
(270–271) Bahram I
Bahram I
(271–274) Bahram II
Bahram II
(274–293) Bahram III
Bahram III
(293) Narseh
(293–302) Hormizd II (302–309) Adur Narseh
(309) Shapur II
Shapur II
(309–379) Ardashir II
Ardashir II
(379–383) Shapur III
Shapur III
(383–388) Bahram IV
Bahram IV
(388–399) Yazdegerd I
Yazdegerd I
(399–420) Shapur IV (420) Khosrow the Usurper§ (420) Bahram V
Bahram V
(420–438) Yazdegerd II
Yazdegerd II
(438–457) Hormizd III (457–459) Peroz I
Peroz I
(459–484) Balash
(484–488) Kavadh I
Kavadh I
(488–496) Jamasp
(496–498) Kavadh I
Kavadh I
(498–531) Khosrow I
Khosrow I
(531–579) Hormizd IV
Hormizd IV
(579–590) Khosrow II
Khosrow II
(590) Bahram VI Chobin§ (590–591) Khosrow II
Khosrow II
(591–628) Vistahm§ (591–596) Kavadh II
Kavadh II
(628) Ardashir III
Ardashir III
(628–629) Shahrbaraz§ (629) Khosrow III§ (629) Boran
(629–630) Shapur-i Shahrvaraz§ (630) Peroz II§ (630) Azarmidokht
(630–631) Farrukh Hormizd§ (630–631) Hormizd VI§ (630–631) Khosrow IV§ (631) Farrukhzad Khosrow V§ (631) Boran
(631–632) Yazdegerd III
Yazdegerd III
(632–651) Peroz III (pretender) Narsieh (pretender)

§ usurpers or rival claimants

Authority control

WorldCat Identities VIAF: 98206854 LCCN: n83168463 ISNI: 0000 0001 1930 8556 GND: 10115054