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Sassanid Empire Map

The Sassanid Empire of Persia, also referred to as the Sassanian Empire, was founded in 226 AD in modern day Iran. The Sassanid Empire lasted about 400 years, till 651 AD. Having defeated the Arsacid king Artabanus IV, Ardashir I founded the Sassanid dynasty of Persia. Ardashir I took the name Sassanid from Sassan, his grandfather's name.

The Early Sassanid Kings
Ardashir I was the governor of Fars province in around 226 AD. He founded the city of Ardashir-Khwarrah and made it his capital. In a bid to expand his territory, Ardashir I annexed the neighboring Susiana, Kerman and Isfahan. By 224 AD he defeated the Parthian ruler Artabanus IV and assumed power. He went on to win the provinces of Goran, Balkh, Khorasan, Mosul, and Bahrain. Expanding territory brought him into conflict with the Romans.

Shapur I, son of Ardashir I, took over from his father. The dates of his accession are unclear, though it is likely that he ascended the throne in around 240 BC. He conquered Bactria and led a number of campaigns against the Romans in 251 BC he invaded Antioch and defeated Emperor Valerian in the following years. He was succeeded by Hormizd I and then by Barham I, Barham II, and Barham III. Narseh succeeded Bahram III. He faced extensive damages in teh battles against Emperor Galerius in 296 and 298. Narseh was defeated. In an attempt to gain peace Narseh gave up all the land east of the Tigris, Armenia, and Iberia. Hormizd II, his son faced a civil war and was murdered in 309 AD.

The throne was now reserved for Shapur II, the unborn child of Hormizd II. Shapur II took over the throne at a very young age. Shapur II was an able and disciplined albeit harsh ruler. He repelled the Arab invasions and secured the southern frontiers of his kingdom. He annexed Afghanistan and secured the Silk Route trade despite little success against the Romans.

The Later Sassanid Kings
Unlike Shapur II, his successor's Ardashir II, Shapur III, and Bahram IV were not talented leaders. Yazdegred I was a very charismatic king. Known for his religious tolerance and diplomacy, he brought peace to the Sassanid Empire. In 421 AD, Barham V took over. He captured most of Central Asia and consolidated the empire by patronizing the fine arts. His son Yazdegred II was troubled by the Hephthalite invasions of Persia. Peroz I was killed by the Huns. Peroz I was followed by Balash and Kavash I. Khosrau I came to the throne in 531. He brought about a number of administrative and military reforms empowering the Sassanid Empire. He invaded Antiochus and annexed Armenia. Armenia, however, rose up in revolt and Khosrau faced much trouble on the Armenian front. Khosrau II took over the throne in 590 AD. Bahram VI dethroned him but was reinstated with the assistance of the Byzantines. He gave up control of Armenia and Iberia. With the Byzantine Empire breaking out into civil war, Khosrau recaptured Syria, Antioch, Armenia, and Mesopotamia. By 621 AD, Egypt, Alexandria, and Jerusalem were also part of the Sassanid Empire.

State Religion - Zoroastrianism
While Shapur I had allowed his subjects freedom to practice any faith, the later kings were staunch supporters of Zoroastrianism. Barham I and Barham II were known to have persecuted the prophet Mani and his followers. Shapur II also followed a practice of religious fanaticism and persecuted Christians in his empire. He oversaw the collection of Zoroastrian texts called the Avesta. Khosrau I declared Zoroastrianism to be the state religion of the Sassanid Empire. He was a tolerant king and also allowed one of his sons to become a Christian.

Fall of the Sassanid Empire
The decline of the Sassanid Empire or the Sassanian Empire may be attributed to the Arab expansion. The Islamic expansion of the Middle East led to the Arab conquest of Parthia and Persia and the land soon became a Muslim state. While Zoroastrianism is still practiced in places Islam is the widely practiced religion in these parts. By 651 AD the mighty Sassanid Empire had fallen to the Arabs.