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. IRANIAN HISTORY: SASANIAN DYNASTY

PÎRÔZ (FÎRUZ)


 

By: Klaus Schipmann

 

 

 

 

Pêrôz or Firûz, Sasanian king of kings (r. 459-84), son of Yazdegerd II (r. 439-57). After Yazdegerd's death his other son, Hormozd, hitherto viceroy of Sîstân, was crowned as Hormozd III (q.v.). The relevant sources are not clear as to which of the two sons was the elder. Armenian sources refer to Hormozd as the elder (Patkanian, p. 169), whereas Persian sources have it the other way around (Rawlinson, p. 311). Fîrûz was forced to flee, probably to the Hephtalites (q.v.) who occupied Khorasan at this time. Fîrûz returned after nearly two years, backed by Hephtalite troops as well as Persians under the command of Rahâm, of the Mehrân family of nobles (Ensslin, col. 887; Bivar, p. 67;Frye in Camb. Hist. Iran III, p. 147), and defeated Hormozd at Ray. Arthur Christensen (Iran Sass., p. 289, n. 5) rejects the assumption of Hephtalite assistance; he speaks of troops "assembled in the eastern regions," because, in his opinion, at the time of Yazdegerd's death the Hephtalites had not yet reached the borders of Persia.

During this civil war the ruler of Albania (q.v.) had declared himself independent; thus Fîrûz's first campaign was directed against this renegade vassal. Fîrûz succeeded in re-establishing peace. In contrast to his father Yazdegerd II, who had sought to convert the Albanians and Armenians to Zoroastrianism, Fîrûz left them in peace (Frye, 1967, p. 321). Tabarî (Nöldeke, p. 118) reports, among other things, about Fîrûz, that he showed himself to be just and acted properly and religiously. This probably means that he was quite agreeable to the Zoroastrian priesthood (Christensen, p. 290). Thus we are not surprised to learn that there were persecutions of Christians and Jews within the Sasanian empire (Nöldeke, p. 118, n. 4; Labourt, pp. 129-30). On the other hand, Fîrûz favored the rise of Nestorianism as the official form of the Christian church in Persia. In 484, at the end of Fîrûz's reign, a council was held in Gondêšâpûr (q.v.) during which Nestorianism was declared to be the doctrine of the Persian Christian church (Labourt, p. 135 ff.; Christensen, p. 291 ff.). A few years into the reign of Fîrûz a seven-year drought occurred, causing a large-scale famine (Rawlinson, p. 313 ff.; Nöldeke, p. 118). Fîrûz endeavored to avert the worst by distributing foodstuffs among the poor, abolishing taxes, and assisting the needy with funds from the treasury. Reports on the extent of the catastrophe may be somewhat exaggerated, given the fact that during this seven-year crisis, some time after 464, Fîrûz prepared a military campaign, probably against the Hunnish tribe of the Kidarites under King Kunkhas (Kou‚©xas; Priscus in Müller, Fragmenta IV, 33.4, 106; Blockley, II, p. 348 ff.; Moravcsik, II, p. 165; Frye, p. 348). At any rate, in 464 Fîrûz sought the support of the Byzantine emperor Leo I (Priscus in Müller, Fragmenta IV, 31.4, 105; Blockley, p. 344 ff.), but the emperor refused his request. Later, while in Gorgân, Fîrûz received an embassy from the Byzantines, but in the end no agreement was reached (Ensslin, col. 888).

Christensen (p. 293) as well as Richard Frye (1967, p. 348)—the latter relying on Priscus—assume that the Sasanians won the war. But the report of Priscus (Blockley, II, pp. 348 ff.) does not convey such a meaning; he indicates instead that the Persians were weary of war and concluded peace with Kunkhas. Moreover, Blockley (p. 396, n. 163), on the basis of his own textual interpretation, which is contrary to that of Müller (Fragmenta) and Gordon (p. 10), is of the view that it was not the Kidarites who had agreed to pay tribute to the Persians, but the other way around. The Persians had then refused to pay, and thus the war had broken out. There are, however, no sources that mention the payment of such tribute to the Kidarites, nor that such tribute had been paid before.

In any case, peace was not to last very long. The Saragur tribe, living in the vicinity of the Caucasus (Moravcsik, p. 267), moved in the direction of the Caspian Gate around 466/467, and Fîrûz's request for help from Byzantium was once again in vain (Priscus in Müller, Fragmenta IV, 37.4, 107; Blockley, II, p. 353 ff.). All the same, the Sasanians managed to ward off the danger. Fîrûz now turned against the Hephtalites (Procopius, de bello Persico, 1.3, 8 ff.). In the course of this campaign, however, in a battle near Gorgân, he and his son Kavâd were taken captive (in 469 according to Rawlinson, p. 318, n. 2; Frye in Camb. Hist. Iran III, p. 147; in 465 according to Göbl, II, p. 148). In a treaty with the Hephtalite ruler, Fîrûz was obliged to commit himself to maintain permanent peace and to pay a cash ransom. Joshua the Stylite (section 10) speaks of the ransom comprising twenty mule loads. Only then could Fîrûz and his army depart. His son Kavâd, however, was kept hostage for two years by the Hephtalites.

In Tabarî (I, p. 874; Nöldeke, p. 123), this king of the HayâtÂela (Hephtalites) is called Akhšonvâr (q.v.); Khošnavâz in Ferdowsî (Wolff, Glossar, p. 324). According to Nöldeke (p. 123, n. 4), however, there can be no doubt that the name Kunkhas in Priscus is a distortion of Akhšonvâr/Khošnavâz. If Nöldeke is correct, the king of the Kidarites was none other than the king of the Hephtalites.

After the return of Fîrûz from this lost war, disturbances broke out in Armenia and Iberia. The battles dragged on for several years with varying success for Fîrûz. Although in the end he was able to suppress the revolts in Iberia, the Armenians took advantage of the fact that Fîrûz was planning a new campaign against the Hephtalites. He had never fully recovered from the disgraceful defeat of the first campaign and therefore gathered all his troops together. Although many of his closest advisers and confidants advised him against this undertaking, he began the war ca. 481 (Rawlinson, p. 323, n. 5). The campaign would end with a terrible defeat and the death of Fîrûz and some of his sons (Procopius, de bello Persico, 1.4, 1 ff.) At the end of 483 (Rawlinson, p. 326, n. 2) or more probably 484 (Göbl, II, p. 90; Frye in Camb. Hist. Iran III, p. 148), the decisive battle took place in what is now Afghanistan (near Balkh?). Subsequently, the Hephtalites pressed into eastern Persia and forced the Persians to pay them an annual tribute. The powerful Sasanian noble families used the death of Fîrûz to set on the throne a king of their choice, namely, Balaš, Fîrûz's brother, who ruled from 484 to 488.

 

 

Bibliography

(for cited works not given in detail, see "Short References"):

A. D. H. Bivar, "Die Sasaniden und Türken in Zentralasien" in Fischer Weltgeschichte XVI, Frankfurt am Main, 1966, p. 67. 

R. C. Blockley, ed., The Fragmentary Classicising Historians of the Later Roman Empire. Eunapius, Olympiodorus, Priscus and Malchus II: Text, Translation, and Historical Notes, in ARCA Classical and Medieval Texts, Papers and Monographs 10, Wiltshire, U. K., 1981, pp. 344 ff., 348 ff. 

W. Ensslin, "Peroz" in Pauly-Wissowa, XIX/1, cols. 887-90. 

R.N. Frye, "The Political History of Iran under the Sasanians," in Camb. Hist. Iran III/1, pp. 116-80. 

Idem, "The History of Iran" in Handbuch der Altertumswissenschaft III/7, Munich, 1984. 

R. Göbl, Dokumente zur Geschichte der iranischen Hunnen in Baktrien und Indien II, Wiesbaden, 1967. 

C. D. Gordon, The Age of Attila, Ann Arbor, 1960. 

Joshua the Stylite, The Chronicle of Joshua the Stylite, with a translation by W. Wright, Cambridge, 1882. 

J. Labourt, Le christianisme dan l'empire perse sous la dynastie Sassanide (221-632), Paris, 1904. 

G. Moravcsik, Byzantinoturcica II: Sprachreste der Türkvölker in den byzantinischen Quellen, Berliner Byzantinistische Arbeiten 2, 2nd ed., Berlin, 1958. 

Nöldeke, Geschichte der Perser. K. Patkanian, "Essai d'une histoire de la dynastie des Sassanides," JA ser. vi, 7 , 1866, pp. 101-238. 

Priscus in Müller, Fragmenta IV, frg. 33.4, 106; 37.4, 107 (also in Blockley). Procopius, de bello Persico, 1.3.8 ff., 1.4.1 ff. 

G. Rawlinson, The Seventh Great Oriental Monarchy or the Geography, History, and Antiquities of the Sassanian or New Persian Empire, London, 1876.

 

 

 

 

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Source/Extracted From: Encyclopaedia Iranica

 

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Page Keywords: Aryans, Sasanians, Sassanians, Sassanids, Sasanids, Persians,

 

 

 

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