“Aryan Worshiping Ohrmazd”: Towards the Political Biography of Shahanshah Narseh

Publication type Article
Status Published
Affiliation: Pskov State University
Address: Russian Federation, Pskov
Journal nameVestnik drevnei istorii
EditionVolume 80 Issue 2

The figure of the Sasanian shahanshah Narseh (293–302) is one of the most colourful and at the same time the most dramatic in the history of the Sasanid dynasty. Despite the fact that Narseh was the most likely candidate for the crown after the death of his brother Hormizd-Ardashir (Hormizd I; 272–273), it was his brother Warahran I who took the throne (273–276). In 276, Narseh failed to become king again, and the throne passed to the Warahran I’s son Warahran II (276–293). Throughout these years Narseh was the viceroy (šāh) of important border provinces: up to 273 – Sakastan, from 273 to 293 – Armenia. Narseh managed to become shahanshah through a coup d’état with the support of the highest Iranian nobility only after the death of Warahran II. The reign of Narseh was marred by the defeat in the Roman-Persian war of 296–298 and the annexation of several important Persian regions in Northern Mesopotamia by the Romans. Taking advantage of the weakening of Sasanian Iran, in 301 the Armenian Kingdom adopted Christianity and thereby finally became an enemy of Persia. The internal political situation during the reign of Narseh was marked by a relaxation of religious persecutions directed against the non-Zoroastrians, the revival of the cult of the goddess Anahid (who was considered as the patroness of the first Sasanian kings), and further strengthening of the nobility, who became virtually independent from central government. Narseh probably abdicated the throne in 302 under the pressure of an aristocratic faction dissatisfied with his rule. However, it would not be right to think that Narseh was the main culprit of the misfortunes that fell upon the Sasanid state during his reign. Everything that happened at that time was an objective result of the twenty-year destructive government of Narseh’s predecessors, and it was impossible for one king to turn the tide within such a short period.

KeywordsSasanian Iran, Sasanids, Narseh, Warahran I, Warahran II, Warahran III, dynastic history, power struggle, succession to the throne
Publication date19.06.2020
Number of characters71452
100 rub.
When subscribing to an article or issue, the user can download PDF, evaluate the publication or contact the author. Need to register.

Number of purchasers: 0, views: 2855

Readers community rating: votes 0

1. Alram, M. 2012: Narseh (293–302/3). In: M. Alram, R. Gyselen (eds.), Sylloge Nummorum Sasanidarum Paris–Berlin–Wien. Vol. II. Ohrmazd I. – Ohrmazd II. Vienna, 277–352, 488–523.

2. Azarnoush, M. 2009: New evidence on the chronology of the “Anahita temple”. Iranica Antiqua 44, 393–402.

3. Bivar, A.D.H. 1983: The history of Eastern Iran. In: E. Yarshater (ed.), The Cambridge History of Iran. Vol. 3. Pt. 1. The Seleucid, Parthian and Sasanian Periods. Cambridge, 181–231.

4. Blockley, R.C. 1984: The Romano-Persian peace treaties of A.D. 299 and 363. Florilegium 6, 28–49.

5. Bonner, M.R.J. 2014: An Historiographical Study of Abū Ḥanīfa Aḥmad Ibn Dāwūd Ibn Wanand Al-Dīnawarī’s Kitāb Al-Aḫbār Al-Ṭiwāl’. PhD. diss. Oxford.

6. Carter, M.L. 1985: A numismatic reconstruction of Kushano-Sasanian history. Museum Notes (American Numismatic Society) 30, 215–281.

7. Carter, M.L. 1990: Early Sasanian and Kushano-Sasanian coinage from Merv. Bulletin of the Asia Institute 4, 11–16.

8. Cereti, C.G., Terribili, G. 2014: The Middle Persian and Parthian inscriptions on the Paikuli tower. New blocks and preliminary studies. Iranica Antiqua 49, 347–412.

9. Chaumont, M.-L. 1958: Le culte d’Anāhitā à Staxr et les premiers Sassanides. Revue de l’histoire des religions 153/2, 154–175.

10. Choksy, J.K. 1988: Sacral kingship in Sasanian Iran. Bulletin of the Asia Institute 2, 35–52.

11. Daryaee, T. 2009: Sasanian Persia. The Rise and Fall of an Empire. London–New York.

12. Daryaee, T. 2017: A note on the ‘Great King of Armenia’. In: P.S. Avetisyan, Y.H. Grekyan (eds.), Bridging Times and Spaces. Papers in Ancient Near Eastern, Mediterranean and Armenian Studies. Honouring Gregory E. Areshian on the Occasion of His Sixty-Fifth Birthday. Oxford, 85–87.

13. DeShazo, A.S. 1993: The order of Narsehs’s coin portraits. Pahlavi Palaver 2, 2–3.

14. Dignas, B., Winter, E. 2007: Rome and Persia in Late Antiquity. Neighbours and Rivals. New York.

15. Dmitriev, V.A. Voennaya razvedka v sasanidskom Irane: organizatsiya deyatel'nosti i istochniki informatsii. Vestnik Nizhegorodskogo universiteta im. N.I. Lobachevskogo. Seriya «Sotsial'nye nauki» 1, 2016. S. 9–22.

16. Dmitriev, V.A. Vostochnye kampanii Shapura II. Vostok. Afroaziatskie obschestva: istoriya i sovremennost' 2, 2019. S. 49–63.

17. Dodgeon, M.H., Lieu, S.N.C. (eds.) 1994: The Roman Eastern Frontier and the Persian Wars (AD 226–363). A Documentary History. London–New York.

18. Duchesne-Guillemin, J. 1983: Zoroastrian religion. In: E. Yarshater (ed.), Cambridge History of Iran. Vol. 3. Pt. 2. The Seleucid, Parthian and Sasanian Periods. Cambridge, 866–908.

19. Enßlin, W. 1942: Zur Ostpolitik des Kaisers Diokletian. München.

20. Erdmann, K. 1943: Die Kunst Irans zur Zeit der Sasaniden. Berlin.

21. Frye, R.N. 1983: The political history of Iran under the Sasanians. In: T. Yarshater (ed.), The Cambridge History of Iran. Vol. 3. Pt. 1. The Seleucid, Parthian and Sasanian Periods. Cambridge, 116–180.

22. Garsoyan, N.G. Armeniya v IV v. (k voprosu utochneniya terminov «Armeniya» i «vernost'»). Vestnik obschestvennykh nauk AN Armyanskoj SSR 3, 1971. S. 55–62.

23. Garsoïan, N. 1997: The Aršakuni dynasty (A.D. 12–[180?]–428). In: R.G. Hovannisian (ed.), The Armenian People from Ancient to Modern Times. Vol. 1. The Dynastic Periods: from Antiquity to the Fourteenth Century. New York, 63–94.

24. Ghirshman, R. 1974: Les scènes d’investiture royale dans l’art rupestre des Sassanides. Comptes-rendus des séances de l’Académie des Inscriptions et Belles-Lettres. 118e année 1, 35–42.

25. Gignoux, Ph. 1984: Church-state relations in the Sasanian period. In: T. Misaka (ed.), Monarchies and Socio-Religious Traditions in the Ancient Near East. Papers Read at the 31st International Congress of Human Sciences in Asia and North Africa. (Bulletin of the Middle Eastern Cul-ture Center in Japan, I). Wiesbaden, 72–80.

26. Gnoli, G. 1989: The Idea of Iran. An Essay on Its Origin. Roma.

27. Gnoli, G. 1998: Ēr, ēr mazdēsn. In: E. Yarshater (ed.), Encyclopædia Iranica. Vol. VIII. Fasc. 5. London, 533. (URL: http://www.iranicaonline.org/articles/er-er-mazdesn; data obrascheniya: 21.02.2020).

28. Goldman, B. 1965: Persian fire temples or tombs? Journal of Near Eastern Studies 24/4, 305–308.

29. Göbl, R. 1959: Narsē und nicht Bahrām III: Das Problem des Herrschers mit Lamellenkrone, zugleich ein Beitrag zur frühsasanidischen Münzepigraphik. Numismatische Zeitschrift 78, 5–13.

30. Gyselen, R. 2008: The great families in the Sasanian empire: some sigillographic evidence. In: D. Kennet, P. Luft (eds.), Current Research in Sasanian Archaeology, Art and History. Proceedings of a Conference Held at Durham University, November 3rd and 4th, 2001. (BAR International Series, 1810). Oxford, 107–113.

31. Henning, W.B. 1939: The Great inscription of Šāpūr I. Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies 9/4, 823–849.

32. Henning, W.B. 1954: Notes on the Great inscription of Šāpūr I. In: Professor Jackson Memorial Volume. Papers on Iranian Subjects. Bombay, 40–54.

33. Herzfeld, E. 1924: Paikuli. Monument and Inscription of the Early History of the Sasanian Empire. Vol. 1. Berlin.

34. Humbach, H., Skjærvø, P.O. 1983: The Sassanian Inscription of Paikuli. Vol. III. Pt. 1. Restored Text and Translation. Wiesbaden.

35. Justi, F. 1895: Iranisches Namenbuch. Marburg.

36. Kaim, B. 2009: Investiture or Mithra. Towards a new interpretation of so-called investiture scenes in Parthian and Sasanian art. Iranica Antiqua 44, 403–415.

37. Khurshudyan, Eh.Sh. Gosudarstvennye instituty parfyanskogo i sasanidskogo Irana. III v. do n.eh. – VII v. n.eh. Almaty, 2015.

38. Kleiss, W. et al. 1973: Survey of excavations in Iran 1971–72. Iran 11, 185–214.

39. La Vaissière, E., de. 2016: Kushanshahs. I. History. In: E. Yarshater (ed.), Encyclopædia Iranica. Online Edition. New York. (URL: http://www.iranicaonline.org/articles/kushanshahs-01; data obrascheniya: 21.02.2020).

40. Laubscher, H.P. 1975: Der Reliefschmuck des Galeriusbogens in Thessaloniki. Berlin.

41. Lukonin, V.G. Varakhran II i Narse (Iran, 70–90-e gody III v.). VDI 1, 1964. S. 48–63.

42. Lukonin, V.G. Kartir i Mani. VDI 3, 1966. S. 65–81.

43. Lukonin, V.G. Kul'tura sasanidskogo Irana. Iran v III–V vv. Ocherki po istorii kul'tury. M., 1969.

44. Lukonin, V.G. Iran v III veke. Novye materialy i opyt istoricheskoj rekonstruktsii. M., 1979.

45. Lukonin, V.G. Drevnij i rannesrednevekovyj Iran. Ocherki istorii kul'tury. M., 1987.

46. Maksymiuk, K. 2015: Geography of Roman-Iranian Wars. Military Operations of Rome and Sasanian Iran. Siedlce.

47. Marquart, J. 1901: Ērānšahr: nach der Geographie des Ps. Moses Xorenac‘i. Berlin.

48. Mosig-Walburg, K. 2011: Das „sasanidische Kronengesetz“: Entstehung und Entwicklung eines modernen Konstrukts. Zugleich ein Beitrag zur Deutung des Reliefs Narses in Naqsh-i Rustam. Klio 93/2, 446–473.

49. Nikitin, A. 1999: Notes on the chronology of the Kushano-Sasanian kingdom. In: M. Alram, D.E. Klimburg-Salter (eds.), Coins, Art and Chronology: Essays on the Pre-Islamic History of the Indo-Iranian Borderlands. Wien, 259–263.

50. Olbrycht, M.J. 2016: Dynastic connections in the Arsacid empire and the origins of the House of Sāsān. In: V.S. Curtis, E.J. Pendleton, M. Alram, T. Daryaee (eds.), The Parthian and Early Sasanian Empires: Adaptation and Expansion. Proceedings of a Conference Held in Vienna, 14–16 June 2012. Oxford–Philadelphia (PA), 23–35.

51. Overlaet, B. 2013. And man created god? Kings, priests and gods on Sasanian investiture reliefs. Iranica Antiqua 48, 313–354.

52. Patterson, L.E. 2017: Minority religions in the Sasanian empire: suppression, integration and relations with Rome. In: E.W. Sauer (ed.), Sasanian Persia: Between Rome and the Steppes of Eurasia. Edinburgh, 181–198.

53. Potter, D.S. 2004: The Roman Empire at Bay. AD 180–395. London–New York.

54. Schindel, N. 2012: The beginning of Kushano-Sasanian coinage. In: M. Alram, R. Gyselen (eds.), Sylloge Nummorum Sasanidarum Paris–Berlin–Wien. Bd. II. Ohrmazd I. – Ohrmazd II. Wien, 65–73.

55. Shahbazi, A.Sh. 1983: Studies in Sasanian prosopography I: Narse’s relief at Naqsh-i Rustam. Archäologische Mitteilungen aus Iran 16, 255–268.

56. Shahbazi, A.Sh. 1988: Bahrām I. In: E. Yarshater (ed.), Encyclopædia Iranica. Vol. III. Fasc. 5. London, 514–522. (URL: http://www.iranicaonline.org/articles/bahram-01; data obrascheniya: 21.02.2020).

57. Shavarebi, E. 2018: The temples of Anāhīd at Estakhr (Southern Iran): historical documents and archaeological evidence. In: J. Belaj, M. Belaj, S. Krznar, T. Sekelj Ivančan, T. Tkalčec (eds.), Sacralization of Landscape and Sacred Places. Proceedings of the 3rd International Scientific Conference of Mediaeval Archaeology of the Institute of Archaeology. Zagreb, 2nd and 3rd June 2016. (Zbornik Instituta za arheologiju, 10). Zagreb, 179–194.

58. Shenkar', M.A. Boginya ili tsaritsa? K interpretatsii zhenskogo personazha na rel'efe Narse iz Naksh-e Rustama. V sb.: M.D. Bukharin (red.), Scripta antiqua. Voprosy drevnej istorii, filologii, iskusstva i material'noj kul'tury 3. M., 2013. S. 614–634.

59. Skjærvø, P.O. 2011: Kartīr. In: E. Yarshater (ed.), Encyclopædia Iranica. Vol. XV. Fasc. 6. London, 608–628. (URL: http://www.iranicaonline.org/articles/kartir; data obrascheniya: 21.02.2020).

60. Soudavar, A. 2009: The vocabulary and syntax of iconography in Sasanian Iran. Iranica Antiqua 44, 417–460.

61. Tanabe, K. 1986: A study of the investiture of Narseh at Naqsh-i Rustam: Anahitah or Queen of Queens? Orient 22, 105–127.

62. Tanabe, K. 2018: Not the queen Šābuhrduxtag but the goddess Anāhitā: identification of the female figure in the investiture scene of Narseh at Naqsh-i Rustam. Japan Society for Hellenistic-Islam Archaeological Studies 25, 9–26.

63. Toumanoff, C. 1969a: Chronology of the early kings of Iberia. Traditio 25, 1–33.

64. Toumanoff, C. 1969b: The third-century Armenian Arsacids: a chronological and genealogical commentary. Revue des Études Arméniennes 6, 233–281.

65. Tsirkin, Yu.B. «Voennaya anarkhiya» v Rimskoj imperii. SPb., 2015.

66. Weber, U. 2007: Hormezd I., König der Könige von Ērān und Anērān. Iranica Antiqua 42, 387–418.

67. Weber, U. 2009: Wahrām II., König der Könige von Ērān und Anērān. Iranica Antiqua 44, 559–643.

68. Weber, U. 2010a: Wahrām III., König der Könige von Ērān und Anērān. Iranica Antiqua 45, 353–394.

69. Weber, U. 2010b: Zu den Feldbildnissen des Königs Narseh. R. Gyselen, (ed.), Sources for the History of Sasanian and Post-Sasanian Iran. (Res Orientalis, XIX). Leuven, 305–319.

70. Weber, U. 2012: Narseh, König der Könige von Ērān und Anērān. Iranica Antiqua 47, 153–302.

71. Weber, U. 2016a: Hormezd II., König der Könige von Ērān und Anērān. Iranica Antiqua 51, 313–360.

72. Weber, U. 2016b: Narseh. In: E. Yarshater (ed.), Encyclopædia Iranica. Online Edition. New York. (URL: http://www.iranicaonline.org/articles/narseh-sasanian-king; data obrascheniya: 21.02.2020).

73. Weber, U., Wiesehöfer, J. 2010: König Narsehs Herrschaftsverständnis. In: H. Börm, J. Wiesehöfer (eds.), Commutatio et sontentio: Studies in the Late Roman, Sasanian and Early Islamic Near East in Memory of Zeev Rubin. Düsseldorf, 89–132.

74. Wiesehöfer, J. 2007: Narseh, Diokletian, Manichäer und Christen. In: A. Mustafa, J. Tubach, G. S. Vashalomidze (eds.), Inkulturation des Christentums im Sasanidenreich. Wiesbaden, 161–169.

75. Winter, E., Dignas, B. 2001: Rom und das Perserreich. Zwei Weltmächte zwischen Konfrontation und Koexistenz. Berlin.

76. Zograf, A.N. Antichnye monety. M., 1951.

Система Orphus