Saturday, August 09, 2003

A Roman Emperor Captured By a Persian King

One of the more proud moments in the Persian history was when ShapurI the king of Persia fought with Valerian the Roman emperor and defeated him. Pahlavi Shapur (c.215 - 272) was the son of Ardashir, the founder of the Sassanian dynasty in Persia. Shapur fought against Rome in Asia Minor and imprisoned the emperor Valerian for the rest of his life. The story goes that Shapur conquered Armenia, invaded Syria, and plundered Antioch. At last the emperor Valerianus marched against him, but was captured.Shapur advanced as far as Asia Minor, but was beaten by Ballista. Shapur was unable to resume the offensive; he even lost Armenia. But according to Persian and Arabic traditions, which appear to be trustworthy, he conquered the great fortress of Hatra (a historic fortified city in Iraq), in the Mesopotamian desert; and the great glory of his reign was that a Roman emperor was by him kept prisoner to the day of his death.
In the valley of Istakhr (near Persepolis), under the tombs of the Achaemenids at Naqsh-e-Rustam, Shapur is represented on horseback, in the royal armour, with the crown on his head; before him kneels Valerian, in Roman dress, asking for grace. The same scene is represented on the rocks near the ruins of the towns Darabjird and Shapur in Persia. Shapur left other reliefs and rock inscriptions; one, at Naksh-e-Rajab near Persepolis, is accompanied by a Greek translation; here he calls himself "the Mazdayasnian (worshipper of Ahuramazda), the god Sapores, king of kings of the Aryans (Iranians) and non-Aryans, of divine descent, son of the Mazdayasnian, the god Artaxares, king of kings of the Aryans, grandson of the god-king Papak." ( visit my pictures of Naghshe Rostam).
Shapur ruled over Persian and non-Persian territories, and he tried to find a religion suitable for all his subjects. He tought of his empire as a multinational state in which Manichaesim, enriched by Christian, Buddhist, and Zoroastrian sources, would serve as a unifying bond.