Where does it come from ?
• Last native dynasty to
reign in Persia before the
• The name Sasanian comes from
a Persian priest named “Sasan”,
who was the ancestor of the
The reign lasted from 224
A.D. to 651 A.D. The Sasanian period marks the
end of the ancient and the
beginning of the medieval era
• 226-651 CE
• Last Iranian empire before the Muslim
• Had a unique, aristocratic culture
• Only civilization that Rome considered to be
• Major influence on Rome, Islamic Empire,
• 226: Founded by Ardashir I, following the collapse
of the Arsacids
– Claimed to be an ancestor of Papag (father) and Sasan
(grandfather) , where the name is derived
– Sasan was a priest of Temple of Anahita
• 229-232: War with Rome
• 241-271: Reign of Shapur “The Great”
– 241-271: Renewed war with Rome
– 261: captured emperor Valerian
• 296-298: War with Rome and loss of provinces
west of Tigris
• 309-379: Reign of Shapur II
– 359-363: Western Tigris provinces returned to
• 399-420: Reign of Yazdegerd I “The Sinner”
– Allows Christians to build churches and worship freely
– Later revokes his decree and persecutes the Christians
• 420-438: Reign of Bahram V
– 424: Eastern Church declared independent of
• 438-457: Reign of Yazdegerd II
– 449-451: Armenian Revolt
• 483: Toleration granted to Christians
• 484: Peroz I defeated by Hephthalites
• 491: Armenian revolt leads to Nestorian
Christianity being the dominant sect in the
• 502-532: Wars with Constantinople
• 539-571: Reign of Khosrau I “The Immortal
• 540-591: Continued war with Constantinople
ends with the loss of territory
• 590-628: Reign of Khosrau II
– 603-628: War with Byzantinium
• Sassanid Empire gains various territory before
withdrawing from Byzantine counter-offensive.
• 610: Sassanid Army defeated by Arabs at Dhu-
• 627: Byzantine invasion of Mesopotamia and
Assyria leads to defeat of Persian army at
• 632-642: Reign of Yazdegerd III (the last
• 636-642: Sassanid Empire defeated during
Islamic conquest of Iran
Sassanid Governmental Structure
• “Queen Of Queens” • “King of Kings”
– Banebshenan – Shahanshah
Under The King
• Territory ruled by petty • Vuzorg (Vice Chancellor)
rulers from royal family • Zoroastrian (Priest)
called Shahrdar • Mobadon (magi)
• Usually acted under • Iran Spahbod
advice of ministers, yet, (Commander in Chief)
the king a carried out
• Vastrioshansalar (n
much of the affairs of
Minister of Agriculture)
• Sassanid rule was very centralized, big on urban
planning, agricultural development, and
• In normal times the monarchical office was
hereditary, but might be transmitted by the king
to a younger son; in two instances the supreme
power was held by queens. When no direct heir
was available, the nobles and prelates chose a
ruler, but their choice was restricted to members
of the royal family
• Founder of the Sassanid dynasty.
• Made Zoroastrianism the state religion.
• After achieving his crown he rapidly expanded his empire
gaining the ire of Artabanus IV, the ruler of the Parthian
• Their armies fought at Hormizdeghan and Artabanus was
killed. Ardashir went on to conquer the Arsacids.
• Ardashir I was the ruler of Istakhr (206-241), subsequently
Persia (208-241) and finally all of Iran (226-241).
• Crowned “King of Kings of Iran” in 226, Ardashir I marked the
end of the Parthian Empire and the beginning of the
• Shapur I was the second ruler of the Sasanian Empire
and ruled from 241-272, though some believe he may
have ruled with his father before his fathers death.
• Shapur I was named his fathers successor before a
court of magnates, where his father proclaimed he was
the “bravest, wisest, and most able of all his children”
• Conquered Armenia and plundered Antioch, while
defeating the Roman Emperor Valerian; whom he kept
as a slave the rest of Valerians life.
• Shapur I lost most of the lands he conquered when
Septimius Odenathus, rose to power and attacked
Shapurs forces from behind.
• Took over rule as ninth king of the Sasanian empire after his
father, Narseh suffered a humiliating defeat and was forced
to make a treaty with the Romans.
• Brought the Sasanian empire its first golden age since
Shapur I had ruled.
• Was crowned while still unborn and is the only king known
to be crowned in utero.
• Many considered him to be the or at least one of the
greatest rulers of the Sasanian empire.
• Redacted the Avesta.
• Broke the steady but uneasy peace between the Sasanian
empire and the Roman Empire just before the death of
• Last ruler of the Sasanian Empire from 632 to 651.
• Caliph Umar begged him to convert from
Zoroastrianism to Islam but he refused.
• When the Arabs took over Ctesiphon, Yazgerd fled to
the east, where he was robbed and murdered.
• Many of his sons and other noble lords of the Sasanian
empire fled east and spread the ideals of the Sasanian
people, but usually spreading the Islamic faith with it
not the Zoroastrian faith.
• Also known as Zoroaster as the
Greeks named him.
• Was the founder of the Zoroastrian
religion, which was made the state
religion for the Sasanian empire.
• Wrote the Gathas, which are the
core of Zoroastrianism.
• Many different views are taken on
when he lived, some as late as 100
BCE others as early as 6500 BCE.
• Zarathushtra was the founder of the
first religion on record
• Preached that leaders must be
chosen, hence succession did not
automatically past to the oldest son.
This can even be seen as a precursor
• Zarathushtra was an ancient Iranian who was
born most likely in 628 BC and brought up in a
proto-Iranian polytheistic faith. When he was 30
he had a religious vision and spent the rest of his
life spreading the word about what had been
revealed to him. Eventually he came to the land
of King Vishtaspa where he converted the king
and all the people. Zarathushtra most likely died
in 551 BC thinking he had no fulfilled his goal. He
never knew his religion would not only spread
but form 3 more religions of Judaism, Christianity
• Empire stretched from part of modern Egypt all
the way to modern Afghanistan including the
• Rugged mountain rim
• Central basin with deserts
• Small plains along coasts
• Major bodies of water
– Persian Gulf
– Caspian Sea
• Mostly Arid
– Much of the empire un able to support crops
– Large basins were almost entirely desert
• Subtropical along the Caspian coast
– Large numbers of forests along coast line
– Settled near Caspian sea
and Euphrates River
Religion in the Sassasnian Empire
• Was the official state religion of the Sasanian
• The religion was founded roughly 3500 years
ago by Zarathushtra, who has come to be
known here in the west as Zoroaster
• Ahura Mazda is the one true God, the creator of all life. He
represents all that is good and just, truth and order. He as 6 angels
that do his biding.
• Angra Mainyu/Ahriman is not a God but an evil Spirit he is the
equivalent to the modern Devil. His presence creates a dualism in
the faith. He has 6 demons that do his bidding.
• Man has an active role in the constant struggle between the two
beings. Man is granted free will by God and they are to choose to
fight for good with good thoughts, good words, and good deeds.
• Zoroastrianist believed in 7 attributes of God that showed how he
effected the world, these were called the Amesha Spentas or
• After Zoroaster the founder of the religion there were to be 3 more
prophets and the last was to be a Savior of the people and he was
to lead the final battle between good and evil on Earth
Basic Beliefs cont.
• Before you are born you are assigned a protective
spirit that guides you through life and you are
reunited with them after death.
• Water and fire also represented a duality but a
purely good duality, both were means of
purification. Water was the 2nd element created
and fire the fourth. Both were worshiped in the
fire temples. Water was seen as a source of
wisdom and fire was the means to access this
• They did not dwell on sin or guilt.
• Vohu Manah - Good Thought - connected with Animals
• Asha Vahishta - Justice and Truth - Fire and Energy
• Kshathra - Dominion - Metals and minerals
• Spenta Armaiti - Devotion and Serenity - The earth and
• Haurvatat - Wholeness – Waters
• Ameretat - Immortality – Plants
• Spenta Mainyu - Creative Energy - Human beings
• Those who lived a overall good moral life
achieved the “best afterlife” or what many
people today would call heaven, meanwhile
those who lived a predominantly bad moral
life received “the worst afterlife” or Hell as
their reward in the here after.
• The Avesta is the collection of all of the sacred texts of
• The Yasna, contains many of the tenants of faith and is
considered the primary liturgical source for Zoroastrianism.
– The Gathas, are hymns included in the Yasna and thought
to have been composed by Zoroaster himself and
considered the liturgical core of Zoroastrianism.
• The Visparad, is a collection of supplements and additions to
• The Yashts, contains many of the hymns used in prayer.
• The Vendidad, is like a religious self defense book and contains
information on evil spirits and how to fight them.
Impact on other Faiths
• Zoroastrianism had a huge impact on other faiths, such as
Judaism and Christianity. We can see that the Zoroastrian
beliefs of a eternal heaven and hell, as well as angels and a
single greater God all appear later in Jewish and Christian
• The practice of Zoroastrianism greatly declined when the
Muslims took over the Sasanian empire and many of the
Zoroastrian priests had to flee to the east.
• Zoroastrianism traveled along the silk road where it gained
some foothold in China until even the recent 11 hundreds. It
is thought that Zoroastrianism also effected Buddhism which
can be seen with Buddhism's use of light as a symbol in their
• The invention of the Avestan alphabet, named
after the holy book the Avesta which was the
book in which their laws were found.
• They created their own calendar system.
Art was cultivated and generously
sponsored. They were famous for their great
skill in metal work, and their work with gold
and silver. Sasanians also had elaborate styles
of dress. They were also famous for their coins
and their rock reliefs.
Sasanian coins were very important. The
coins show a sequence of the four centuries
throughout their rule. The coins also give a
lot of information. They provide us with the
sequence of the rulers in chronological order,
and they also reflect the changes in the
economy and their religious prefernces.
Artishir III, AD 628 to 630
Varhran I, AD 271 to 274
Front: Head of Artashir III right with a
Sassanid inscription naming him around.
Front: Head of Varhran right with a long
inscription around. Back: Fire altar flanked by two attendants
with the mint mark to the right and the date
Back: Fire altar flanked by two attendants, mark to the left in Sassanid script.
with inscriptions to the sides.
• Almost every Persian other than the peasant and
the priest wanted to dress above their class.
• Painting, sculpture, pottery, and other forms of
decoration shared their designs with Sasanian
textile art. Silks, embroideries, brocades,
damasks, tapestries, chair covers, canopies, tents,
and rugs were woven with servile patience and
masterly skill, and were dyed in warm tints of
yellow, blue, and green.
Studies on Sasanian remains show that over
100 types of crowns being worn by Sasanian
kings. The various Sasanian crowns
demonstrate the cultural, economic, social,
and historical situation in each period. The
crowns also show the character traits of each
king in this era. Different symbols and signs on
the crowns, the moon, stars, eagle, and palm,
each illustrate the wearer's religious faith and
• Elaborate form of Sasanian art.
• Wanted to show their monarchy was eternal
• Usually had carvings of kings, who could be
identified by their crowns
Armored Sasanian Cavalry
• The Sasanian empire also used
military technology such as
cavalry and armored horses and
warriors to help them defeat
their enemies in the Roman
Empire and other neighboring
• The backbone of the Sasanian
army was composed of two
types of heavy cavalry units:
Clibanarii and Cataphracts. Both
units had large cavalry, infantry,
and archers that supported
their force, composing of elite
noblemen trained since youth
for military purposes
One side would be highly polished so
it would reveal a reflection
• Used mortor
• Brick work was usually for vaults and domes
• Forts: The main elements include ditches,
walls with stepped niches, blind windows and
arrow slots with horizontal or triangular
covering, stepped battlements, corridors or
narrow rooms within the walls, and far-
protruding bastions, generally with