Boran (Middle Persian: ; New Persian: پوراندخت, Pūrāndokht) was Sasanian queen (banbishn) of Iran from 629 to 632, with an interruption of one year. She was the daughter of king (shah) Khosrow II (r. 590–628), and the first of only two women to rule in Iranian history; the other was her sister Azarmidokht.
|Queen of Queens of Iran|
Coin of Boran, minted at Arrajan in 630/1.
|Reign||17 June 629 – 16 June 630|
|Died||632 (aged 41–42)|
|House||House of Sasan|
She was committed to revive the memory and prestige of her father, during whose reign the Sasanian Empire had grown to its largest territorial extent.
Her name appears as Bōrān (or Burān) on her coinage. The medieval Persian poet Ferdowsi refers to her as Pūrāndokht in his epic poem, the Shahnameh ("The Book of Kings"). The suffix of dokht (-dukht in Middle Persian), meaning "daughter", was a new development made in Middle Iranian languages to easier differentiate between a female's name from that of a male. The suffix should not be taken too literally.
Background and early lifeEdit
Boran was the daughter of the last prominent shah of Iran, Khosrow II (r. 590–628) and the Byzantine princess Maria. Khosrow II was overthrown and executed in 628 by his own son Kavad II, who proceeded to have all his brothers and half-brothers executed, including the heir Mardanshah. This dealt a heavy blow to the empire, which it would never recover from. Boran and her sister Azarmidokht reportedly criticized and scolded Kavad II for his barbaric actions, which made him filled with remorse. According to Guidi's chronicle, Boran was also Kavad II's wife, demonstrating the Zoroastrian practice of close-kin-marriages (xwedodah).[a]
The fall of Khosrow II culminated in a civil war lasting four years, with the most powerful members of the nobility gaining full autonomy and starting to create their own government. The hostilities between the Persian (Parsig) and Parthian (Pahlav) noble-families were also resumed, which split up the wealth of the nation. A few months later, a devastating plague swept through the western Sasanian provinces, killing half of its population including Kavad II. He was succeeded by his eight-year-old son Ardashir III, who was killed two years later by the distinguished Iranian general Shahrbaraz, who was in turn murdered forty days later in a coup by leader of the Pahlav, Farrukh Hormizd, who helped Boran ascend the throne.
Boran was the first queen to rule the Sasanian Empire. However, it was not unusual for royal women to occupy political offices in the management of the country. Many before Boran had risen to prominence. A 5th-century Sasanian queen, Denag, had temporarily ruled as regent of the empire from its capital, Ctesiphon during the dynastic struggle for the throne between her sons Hormizd III (r. 457–459) and Peroz I (r. 459–484) in 457–459. Wiesehöfer also highlights the role of noblewomen in Sasanian Iran, stating that "Iranian records of the third century (inscriptions, reliefs, coins) show that the female members of the royal family received an unusual amount of attention and respect." The story of the legendary Kayanian queen Humay and veneration towards the Iranian goddess Anahita probably also helped to the approval of Boran's rule.
When Boran ascended the throne, she appointed Farrukh Hormizd as the chief minister (wuzurg framadar) of the empire. She then attempted to bring stability to Iran by the implementation of justice, reconstruction of the infrastructure, lowering of taxes, and minting coins. Her rule was accepted by the nobility and clergy, which is apparent by her coin mints in the provinces of Pars, Khuzestan, Media, and Abarshahr. No opposition was voiced towards her gender. However, after some time she was deposed in 630, and Shapur-i Shahrvaraz, the son of Shahrbaraz and a sister of Khosrow II, was made shah of Iran. However, he was not recognized by the Parsig faction of the powerful general Piruz Khosrow. Shapur-i Shahrvaraz was thus deposed in favor of Azarmidokht, the sister of Boran.
Farrukh Hormizd, in order to strengthen his authority and create a modus vivendi between the Pahlav and Parsig, asked Azarmidokht (who was a Parsig nominee) to marry him. Not daring to refuse, she had him killed with the aid of the Mihranid dynast Siyavakhsh, who was the grandson of Bahram Chobin, the famous military commander (spahbed) and briefly shah of Iran. Farrukh Hormizd's son Rostam Farrokhzad, who was at that time stationed in Khorasan, succeeded him as the leader of the Pahlav. In order to avenge his father, he left for Ctesiphon, "defeating every army of Azarmidokht that he met". He then defeated Siyavakhsh's forces at Ctesiphon and captured the city. Azarmidokht was shortly afterwards blinded and killed by Rostam, who restored Boran to the throne. He became the most central figure in Boran's empire, who reportedly had invited him to administer the affairs of the country, which was suffering from frailty and decline, which Boran had complained to him about.
A settlement was reportedly made between the family of Boran and Rostam; the queen should "entrust him [i.e., Rostam] with the rule for ten years,” at which point sovereignty would return "to the family of Sasan if they found any of their male offspring, and if not, then to their women." Boran deemed the agreement appropriate, and had the factions of the country summoned (including the Parsig), where she declared Rostam as the leader of the country and its military. The Parsig faction agreed, with Piruz Khosrow being entrusted to administrer the country along with Rostam. The reason behind the Parsig agreeing to work with the Pahlav was not only due to the fragility and decline of Iran, but also because their Mihranid collaborators had been temporarily defeated by Rostam. However, the cooperation between the Parsig and Pahlav would prove short-lived, due to the unequal conditions between the two factions, with Rostam's faction having a much more significant portion of power under the approval of Boran. Boran desired a good relationship with the Byzantine Empire, therefore she dispatched an embassy to emperor Heraclius led by the catholicos Ishoyahb II and other dignitaries of the Iranian church.
In the following year a revolt broke out in Ctesiphon; while the Iranian army was occupied with other matters, the Parsig, dissatisfied with the regency of Rostam, called for the overthrow of Boran and the return of the prominent Parsig figure Bahman Jaduya, who had been dismissed by her. Boran was shortly killed, presumably from suffocation by Piruz Khosrow. Hostilities were thus resumed between the two factions. However, not long after both Rostam and Piruz Khosrow were threatened by their own men, who had become alarmed by the declining state of the country. Rostam and Piruz Khosrow thus agreed to work together once more, installing Boran's nephew Yazdegerd III on the throne, putting an end to the civil war.
Coin mints and imperial ideologyEdit
During her reign, Boran reverted her coinage design to the same of her father, due to her impression of the past and the respect she had for her father. She also minted coin coins that were formal in quality and were not designed for broad distribution. On her coins, she declared that she was the restorer of her heritage, i.e., the race of gods; the inscription on her coin translates: "Boran, restorer of the race of Gods" (Middle Persian: Bōrān ī yazdān tōhm winārdār). Her claim to being descended from the gods had not been used since the reign of the 3rd-century Sasanian shah Shapur II (r. 309–379).
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| Queen of Queens of Iran
17 June 629 – 16 June 630
| Queen of Queens of Iran