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Bahram I (Middle Persian: 𐭥𐭫𐭧𐭫𐭠𐭭‎, Wahrām; New Persian: بهرام یکم, Bahrām) was the fourth king (shah) of the Sasanian Empire from 271 to 274. He was the eldest son of Shapur I (r. 240–270) and succeeded his brother Hormizd I (r. 270–271), who had reigned for a year.

Bahram I
𐭥𐭫𐭧𐭫𐭠𐭭
King of kings of Iran and Aniran
Coin of Bahram I (cropped).jpg
Coin of Bahram I
Shahanshah of the Sasanian Empire
ReignJune 271 – September 274
PredecessorHormizd I
SuccessorBahram II
DiedSeptember 274
IssueBahram II
Hormizd I Kushanshah
HouseHouse of Sasan
FatherShapur I
ReligionZoroastrianism

A staunch Zoroastrian, Bahram I's reign marked the end of the Sasanian tolerance towards Manichaeism, and in 274, with the support of the influental Zoroastrian priest Kartir, he had Mani imprisoned and executed. Bahram I's reign was largely uneventful. He was succeeded by his son Bahram II.

Contents

NameEdit

The theophoric name Bahram is the New Persian form of the Middle Persian Warahrān (also spelled Wahrām), which is derived from the Old Iranian Vṛθragna. The Avestan equivalent was Vərəθraγna, the name of the god of victory, whilst the Parthian version was *Warθagn. The name is transliterated in Greek as Baranes.[1]

Life prior to his accessionEdit

 
Coin of Shapur I

Bahram I was the oldest son of Shapur I. He had three younger brothers, who were named Hormizd I, Narseh, and Shapur Meshanshah. However, although the oldest of Shapur's sons, Bahram I was ranked below his other brothers, probably due to his mother's lowly origin, who was either a minor queen or perhaps even a concubine.[2][3] During Shapur's reign, Bahram I served as the governor of the newly conquered region of Gilan, which was situated on the southwestern part of the Caspian Sea.[4][5] He held the title of Gelan Shah ("king of Gilan"). He is mentioned in an inscription on the wall of the Ka'ba-ye Zartosht at Naqsh-e Rostam near Persepolis in southern Iran, which Shapur I had created in order to praise his sons by citing their names and titles.[5]

Shapur I died in 270, and was succeeded by Hormizd I, who ruled from May 270 until his death in June 271. Bahram I, who was never considered a candidate for succession of the throne by his father, ascended with the aid of the powerful Zoroastrian priest Kartir.[6] He then made a settlement with Narseh, who agreed to give up his entitlement to the throne in return for the governorship of the important frontier province of Armenia, which was constantly the source of war between the Roman and Sasanian Empires.[2] It is nevertheless likely that despite this settlement, Narseh still viewed Bahram as a usurper.[6]

ReignEdit

 
An 8th-century illustration of the execution of Mani

The previous Sasanian shahs, including Shapur I, had pursued a policy of religious tolerance towards the non-Zoroastrian minorities in the empire. Although admiring the teachings of his own religion and encouraging the Zoroastrian clergy, Shapur I allowed the Jews, Christians, Buddhists, and Hindus to freely practice their own religions.[7] He was also friendly towards Mani, the founder of Manichaeism, who was allowed to preach freely and even act as an escort in Shapur's military expeditions.[7] Following Bahram I's accession to the throne, the rise of the authority of the Zoroastrian priesthood, and the increasing influence of Kartir, this changed. When Mani arrived at the city of Gundishapur there was uproar, in the same fashion as Jesus' entry into Jerusalem.[8] After protests from Kartir and the other Zoroastrian priests, Bahram I was forced to imprison Mani, who was sentenced to death in 274.[9][6]

Mani's death was followed by the persecution of his followers by Kartir and the Zoroastrian clergy, who moved against the kingdom's religious minorities as a way to increase and spread their vast influence.[7] To the Zoroastrian clergy, Mani had been seen as a heterogeneous philosopher and a threatening pagan, who presented an obscure perception of Zoroastrianism that was tainted by Jewish, Buddhist, and Christian ideas.[7] With the backing of Bahram I, Kartir laid the foundations for a Zoroastrian state church,[6][7] which led to Bahram becoming applauded within Sasanian-based sources as a "benevolent and worthy king".[6] Bahram I was nevertheless, like his predecessors, a "lukewarm Zoroastrian".[10]

Bahram I died in September 274 and was succeeded by his son Bahram II. Another son of Bahram I, Hormizd I Kushanshah, ruled over the Kushano-Sasanian kingdom in the east, and would later lead a rebellion against Bahram II, which failed.[11] The line of Bahram I continued to rule the Sasanian Empire until 293, when Narseh overthrew the latter's grandson Bahram III and proclaimed himself as the new shah.[2] The line was thus shifted to Narseh and his descendants, who continued to rule the empire until its fall in 651.[12]

Coinage, appearance and habitsEdit

The coins minted under Bahram I imitates him wearing the distinctive crown of the angelic divinity Mithra; a headgear decorated with ray-shaped spikes.[6] The reverse shows the traditional fire altar flanked by two attendants. The lost Book of the Portraits of Sasanian Kings imitated Bahram I as "standing, holding a lance in the right hand and leaning upon a sword held in the left, and wearing red gown and trousers and a gold crown topped with a sky-blue globe".[6] Bahram I was keen on combat, hunting, and feasting, which he regarded as righteousness.[6]

Rock reliefEdit

 
The rock relief of Bahram I receiving the royal diadem from the Zoroastrian supreme god Ahura Mazda, at the ancient city of Bishapur.

Following the same fashion as Ardashir I and Shapur I, Bahram I had an image of his accession carved in a rock relief. It displayed him on horseback, accepting the diadem of kingship from the Zoroastrian supreme god Ahura Mazda, who is also depicted sitting on a horse.[6] A Middle Persian inscription is written on the relief.[6] According to Erich Schmidt, the relief is "artistically the most appealing example of Sasanian rock sculpture".[6] When Narseh ascended the throne in 293, he had the rock relief altered, replacing Bahram's name with his own.[6]

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ Wiesehöfer 2018, pp. 193-194.
  2. ^ a b c Weber 2016.
  3. ^ Frye 1986, p. 127.
  4. ^ Frye 1986, pp. 121-122.
  5. ^ a b Kia 2016, p. 233.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Shahbazi 2016a.
  7. ^ a b c d e Kia 2016, p. 234.
  8. ^ Daryaee 2009, p. 74.
  9. ^ Daniel 2012, p. 61.
  10. ^ Skjærvø 2012.
  11. ^ Shahbazi 2016b.
  12. ^ Shahbazi 2005.

SourcesEdit

  • Daniel, Elton L. (2012). The History of Iran. The Greenwood Histories of the Modern Nations (2nd ed.). Santa Barbara, California: Greenwood. ISBN 9780313375095.
  • Daryaee, Touraj (2009). Sasanian Persia: The Rise and Fall of an Empire. I.B.Tauris & Co. Ltd. ISBN 978 1 85043 898 4.
  • Frye, Richard Nelson (1986). "Chapter 4: The political history of Iran under the Sasanians". In Yarshater, Ehsan (ed.). The Cambridge History of Iran: The Seleucid, Parthian and Sasanian periods (Volume 3(1)). Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-20092-9.
  • Kia, Mehrdad (2016). The Persian Empire: A Historical Encyclopedia. ABC-CLIO. ISBN 978-1610693912. (2 volumes)
  • Shahbazi, A. Shapur (2005). "Sasanian Dynasty". Encyclopædia Iranica.
  • Shahbazi, A. Shapur (2016a). "Bahrām I". Encyclopædia Iranica.
  • Shahbazi, A. Shapur (2016b). "Hormozd Kušānšāh". Encyclopædia Iranica.
  • Skjærvø, Prods Oktor (2012). "Kartīr". Encyclopædia Iranica.
  • Weber, Ursula (2016). "Narseh". Encyclopædia Iranica.
  • Wiesehöfer, Josef (2018). "Bahram I". In Nicholson, Oliver (ed.). The Oxford Dictionary of Late Antiquity. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-866277-8. (subscription required)

Further readingEdit

Bahram I
Preceded by
Hormizd I
King of kings of Iran and Aniran
271–274
Succeeded by
Bahram II