The Kings of Persis, also known as the Darayanids, were a series of Persian kings, who ruled the region of Persis in southwestern Iran, from the 2nd century BCE to 224 CE. They ruled as vassal kings of the Parthian Empire, until they toppled them and established the Sasanian Empire.[1] They effectively formed some Persian dynastic continuity between the Achaemenid Empire (6th century BCE – 4th century BCE) and the Sasanian Empire (3rd century CE – 7th century CE).[1]

Kings of Persis
after 132 BC–AD 224
Approximate extent of the kingdom
Approximate extent of the kingdom
StatusVassal of the Parthian Empire
Common languagesMiddle Persian
• after 132 BCE – ?
Darayan I (first)
• 211/2–224
Ardakhshir V (last)
Historical eraLate antiquity
• Established
after 132 BC
• Incorporated into the Sasanian Empire
AD 224
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Pars (Sasanian province)
Today part ofIran
Location of Persis.

History edit

Persis (also known as Pars), a region in the southwestern Iranian plateau, was the homeland of a southwestern branch of the Iranian peoples, the Persians.[2] It was also the birthplace of the first Iranian Empire, the Achaemenids.[2] The region served as the center of the empire until its conquest by the Macedonian king Alexander the Great (r. 336–323 BC).[2] Since the end of the 3rd or the beginning of the 2nd century BCE, Persis was ruled by local dynasts subject to the Hellenistic Seleucid Empire.[1] These dynasts held the ancient Persian title of frataraka ("leader, governor, forerunner"), which is also attested in the Achaemenid-era.[3] Later the frataraka Wadfradad II (fl. 138 BCE) was made a vassal of the Iranian Parthian (Arsacid) Empire.[1] The frataraka were shortly afterwards replaced by the Kings of Persis, most likely at the accession of the Arsacid monarch Phraates II (r. 132–127 BC).[4] Unlike the fratarakas, the Kings of Persis used the title of shah ("king"), and laid foundations to a new dynasty, which may be labelled the Darayanids.[4]

Sub-kings of the Parthian Empire edit

According to Strabo, the early kings of Persis were tributaries to the Seleucid rulers, until c.140 BC, when the Parthians conquered the region:[5]

The Persians have kings who are subject to other kings, formerly of the kings of Macedonia, but now to the kings of the Parthians.

— Strabo XV 3.24[5][6]

The Parthian Empire then took control of Persis under Arsacid king Mithridates I (ca. 171–138 BC), but visibly allowed local rulers to remain, and permitted the emission of coinage bearing the title of Mlk ("King").[1] From then on, the coinage of the Kings of Persis would become quite Parthian in character and style.[1]

Under the Parthians, these dynasts were called kings and their title appeared on their coins: for example "dʾryw MLKʾ BRH wtprdt MLKʾ" (Dārāyān the King, son of Wādfradād the King).[1] The Arsacid influence is very clear in the coinage, and Strabo also reports (15. 3.3) that during the time of Augustus (27 BCE–14 CE), the kings of the Persians were as subservient to the Parthians as they had been earlier to the Macedonians:[1]

But afterwards different princes occupied different palaces; some, as was natural, less sumptuous, after the power of Persis had been reduced first by the Macedonians, and secondly still more by the Parthians. For although the Persians have still a kingly government, and a king of their own, yet their power is very much diminished, and they are subject to the king of Parthia.

— Strabo, XV.3.3[7]

Establishment of the Sasanian Empire edit

Under Vologases V (r. 191–208), the Parthian Empire was in decline, due to wars with the Romans, civil wars and regional revolts.[8] The Roman emperor Septimius Severus (r. 193–211) invaded Parthian domains in 196, and two years later did it again, this time sacking the Parthian capital of Ctesiphon.[8] At the same time, revolts occurred in Media and Persis.[8]

Coin minted under Pabag's son Shapur. The obverse shows a portrait of the latter, whilst the reverse shows a portrait of Pabag.

The Iranologist Touraj Daryaee argues that the reign of Vologases V was "the turning point in Parthian history, in that the dynasty lost much of its prestige."[8] The kings of Persis were now unable to depend on their weakened Parthian overlords.[8] Indeed, in 205/6, a local Persian ruler named Pabag rebelled and overthrew the Bazrangid ruler of Persis, Gochihr, taking Istakhr for himself.[9][8] According to the medieval Iranian historian al-Tabari (d. 923), it was at the urging of his son Ardashir that Pabag rebelled. However, Daryaee considers this statement unlikely, and states that it was in reality Shapur that helped Pabag to capture Istakhr, as demonstrated by the latter's coinage which has portraits of both them.[10]

There he appointed his eldest son Shapur as his heir.[8] This was much to the dislike of Ardashir, who had become the commander of Darabgerd after the death of Tiri.[8][11] Ardashir in an act of defiance, left for Ardashir-Khwarrah, where he fortified himself, preparing to attack his brother Shapur after Pabag's death.[8][a] Pabag died a natural death sometime between 207 and 210 and was succeeded by Shapur, who became king of Persis.[13] After his death, both Ardashir and Shapur started minted coins with the title of "king" and the portrait of Pabag.[14] The obverse of Shapur's coins had the inscription "(His) Majesty, king Shapur" and the reverse had "son of (His) Majesty, king Pabag".[15] Shapur's reign, however, proved short; he died under obscure conditions in 211/2.[15][8] Ardashir thus succeeded Shapur as Ardashir V, and went on to conquer the rest of Iran, establishing the Sasanian Empire in 224 as Ardashir I.[16]

Coinage edit

The coinage of the Kings of Persis consists in individualized portraits of the rulers on the obverse, and often the rulers shown in a devotional role on the reverse.[17] The style of the coins is often influenced by Parthian coinage, particularly in respect to the dress and the headgear of the rulers.[1] A reverse legend in Aramaic, using the Aramaic script, gives the name of the ruler and his title (𐡌‬𐡋𐡊 mlk': King), and often his relationship to a preceding ruler. The coin legends are written from right to left, wrapping the central scene in a counterclock-wise manner:[17]

Coin legend of Darayan II


Legend, written from right to left, counterclock-wise:
𐡃‬𐡀𐡓𐡉‬𐡅‬ 𐡌𐡋‬𐡊‬ 𐡁𐡓𐡄 𐡅‬𐡕‬𐡐‬𐡓‬𐡃‬𐡕 𐡌‬𐡋𐡊‬
d’ryw mlk' brh wtprdt mlk’
"Darius the King, son of Vadfradad the King"[17]

List of the Kings of Persis, as Sub-Kings of the Parthian Empire edit

The Kings of Persis were preceded by the Fratarakas. The list of the King of Persis is mainly known though the coin sequence, and only a few kings are mentioned in ancient literary sources.[1]

Name Date Coinage Family Relations Note
1 Darayan I 2nd century BCE (end)   ? Darayan I and his successors were sub-kings of the Parthian Empire. Crescent emblem on top of stylized kyrbasia. Aramaic coin legend d’ryw mlk (𐡃‬𐡀𐡓𐡉‬𐡅‬ 𐡌𐡋‬𐡊‬, "King Darius").
2 Wadfradad III 1st century BCE (1st half)   ? Sub-king of the Parthian Empire. Coin legend wtprdt mlk (𐡅‬𐡕‬𐡐‬𐡓‬𐡃‬𐡕 𐡌‬𐡋𐡊‬, "King Wadfradad") in Aramaic script.
3 Darayan II 1st century BCE   son of Wadfradad III Sub-king of the Parthian Empire. Aramaic coin legend d’ryw mlk brh wtprdt mlk’ (𐡃‬𐡀𐡓𐡉‬𐡅‬ 𐡌𐡋‬𐡊‬ 𐡁𐡓𐡄 𐡅‬𐡕‬𐡐‬𐡓‬𐡃‬𐡕 𐡌‬𐡋𐡊, "King Darius, son of King Wadfradad").
4 Ardakhshir II 1st century BCE (2nd half)   son of Darayan II Sub-king of the Parthian Empire. Killed by his brother Vahshir I
5 Wahsir 1st century BCE (2nd half)   son of Darayan II Sub-king of the Parthian Empire
6 Pakor I 1st century CE (1st half)   son of Vahshir I Sub-king of the Parthian Empire
7 Pakor II 1st century CE (1st half)   ? Sub-king of the Parthian Empire
8 Nambed 1st century CE (mid)   son of Ardakhshir II Sub-king of the Parthian Empire
9 Napad 1st century CE (2nd half)   son of Nambed Sub-king of the Parthian Empire
10 ‘Unknown king II’ 1st century CE (end)   ? Sub-king of the Parthian Empire
11 Wadfradad IV 2nd century CE (1st half)   ? Sub-king of the Parthian Empire
12 Manchihr I 2nd century CE (1st half)   ? Sub-king of the Parthian Empire
13 Ardakhshir III 2nd century CE (1st half)   son of Manchihr I Sub-king of the Parthian Empire
14 Manchihr II 2nd century CE (mid)   son of Ardakhshir III Sub-king of the Parthian Empire
15 Uncertain King III/
tentatively Pakor III[18]
2nd century CE (2nd half)   ? Sub-king of the Parthian Empire
16 Manchihr III 2nd century CE (2nd half)   son of Manchihr II Sub-king of the Parthian Empire
17 Ardakhshir IV 2nd century CE (end)   son of Manchihr III Sub-king of the Parthian Empire
18 Vahshir II (Oxathres) c. 206-210 CE   ? Sub-king of the Parthian Empire. The last of Bazarangids.
19 Shapur 3rd century CE (beg.)   Brother of the first Sasanian, Ardashir I Independent
20 Ardashir V
(Sasanian Dynasty Ardashir I)
3rd century CE (beg.)   First Sasanian ruler, under the name of Ardashir I Independent

See also edit

Notes edit

  1. ^ Physical evidence demonstrates that it was not from Darabgerd, as stated by al-Tabari, that Ardashir started expanding his domains, but from Ardashir-Khwarrah.[12]

References edit

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Wiesehöfer 2009.
  2. ^ a b c Wiesehöfer 2000a, p. 195.
  3. ^ Wiesehöfer 2000b, p. 195.
  4. ^ a b Shayegan 2011, p. 178.
  5. ^ a b A History of Zoroastrianism vol II & III. p. 116.
  6. ^ LacusCurtius • Strabo's Geography — Book XV Chapter 3. p. XV 3.24.
  7. ^ Strabo, Geography, BOOK XV., CHAPTER III.
  8. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Daryaee 2010, p. 249.
  9. ^ Daryaee 2012, p. 187.
  10. ^ Daryaee 2010, p. 245.
  11. ^ Wiesehöfer 1986, pp. 371–376.
  12. ^ Daryaee 2010, p. 247.
  13. ^ Wiesehöfer 2009; Frye 1988, pp. 298–299; Daryaee 2010, p. 252; Curtis & Stewart 2008, p. 34
  14. ^ Daryaee 2010, p. 250.
  15. ^ a b Daryaee 2014, p. 4.
  16. ^ Potts 2017, p. 777; Daryaee 2014, p. 4; Wiesehöfer 1986, pp. 371–376
  17. ^ a b c Sellwood 1983, pp. 299–322.
  18. ^ Rezakhani, Khodadad (2010). The "Unbekannter König III" and the Coinage of Hellenistic and Arsacid Persis.

Sources edit

Further reading edit

  • Rezakhani, Khodadad (2021). "Onomastica Persida: Names of the Rulers of Persis in the Seleucid and Arsacid Periods". In Faghfoury, Mostafa (ed.). Ancient Iranian Numismatics: In Memory of David Sellwood. Brill. pp. 129–134. ISBN 978-1-949743-16-6.