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List of shahanshahs of the Sasanian Empire

The Shahanshahs of the Sasanian Empire (Middle Persian: Šāhān šāh ī Ērān ud Anērān, "King of Kings of Iranians and non-Iranians") ruled over a vast territory. At its height, the empire spanned from Turkey and Rhodes in the west to Pakistan in the east, and also included territory in contemporary Caucasus, Yemen, UAE, Oman, Egypt, Israel, Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and Central Asia.

"King of Kings of Iranians and non-Iranians" of the Sasanian Empire
Šāhān šāh ī Ērān ud Anērān (Middle Persian)
Derafsh Kaviani flag of the late Sassanid Empire.svg
First monarchArdashir I (224–242)
Last monarchYazdegerd III (632–651)

The Sasanian Empire was recognized as one of the main powers in the world alongside its neighboring arch rival, the Roman-Byzantine Empire, for a period of more than 400 years.[1][2][3][4] The Sasanian dynasty began with Ardashir I in 224, who was a Persian from Istakhr, and ended with Yazdegerd III in 651.[5]

The period from 631 (when Boran died) to 632 (when Yazdgerd III takes the throne) is confusing in determining proper succession because a number of rulers who took the throne were later removed or challenged by other members of the House of Sasan. The period was one of factionalism and division within the Sasanian Empire.[6]


Ardashir I (r. 224–242), the founder of the Sassanian Empire, introduced the title "Shahanshah of the Iranians" (Middle Persian: šāhān šāh ī ērān; Parthian: šāhān šāh ī aryān). Ardashir's immediate successor, Shapur I (r. 240/42–270/72) chooses the titles in a precise manner in the inscription at Ka'ba-ye Zartosht. In that Shapur names four of his Sasanian predecessors with different titles and in "an ascending order of importance" by giving the title (Xwaday) "the lord" to Sasan, "the king" to Papag, "King of Kings of Iranians" to Ardashir, and "king of kings of Iranians and non-Iranians" (Middle Persian: MLKAn MLKA 'yr'n W 'nyr'nšāhān šāh ī ērān ud anērān;; Ancient Greek: βασιλεύς βασιλέων Αριανών basileús basiléōn Arianṓn) to himself.[7] The title "King of Kings of Iranians and non-Iranians" has also seen on a single silver coin of Shapur I, which indicates that the title was introduced after his victory over Romans and incorporation of non-Iranian lands into the Sassanian realms. The title was later used in coins of all later Sassanian kings.[8]

The ShahanshahEdit

The head of the Sasanian Empire was the [shahanshah] (king of kings), also simply known as the shah (king). His health and welfare were always important and the phrase “May you be immortal" was used to reply to him with. By looking on the Sasanian coins which appeared from the 6th-century and afterward, a moon and sun are noticeable. The meaning of the moon and sun, in the words of the Iranian historian [Touraj Daryaee], “suggest that the king was at the center of the world and the sun and moon revolved around him. In effect, he was the “king of the four corners of the world," which was an old Mesopotamian idea."[9] The king saw all other rulers, such as the Romans, Turks, and Chinese, as being beneath him. The king wore colorful clothes, makeup, a heavy crown, while his beard was decorated with gold. The early Sasanian kings considered themselves of divine descent; they called themselves for “bay" (divine).[10]

When the king went to the publicity, he was hidden behind a curtain,[9] and had some of his men in front of him, whose duty was to keep the masses away from the king and to make his way clear.[11] When one came to the king, he/she had to prostrate before him, also known as proskynesis. The king was guarded by a group of royal guards, known as the pushtigban. On other occasions, the king was protected by a group of palace guards, known as the darigan. Both of these groups were enlisted from royal families of the Sasanian Empire,[11] and were under the command of the hazarbed, who was in charge of the king's safety, controlled the entrance of the kings palace, presented visitors to the king, and was allowed to be given military command or used in negotiations. The hazarbed was also allowed in some cases to serve as the royal executioner.[11] During Nowruz (Iranian new year) and Mihragan (Mihr's day), the king would hold a speech.[10]

Sasanian state organizationEdit

Sasanian Empire timeline including important events and territorial evolution.

Throughout its existence, the Sassanid Empire was an absolute monarchy. The Shahenshah was the height of authority, with satraps ruling over their satrapies underneath them. The shahanshah was the highest form of authority throughout the empire, but often faced rebellions from their satraps. In fact, the Sasanian Empire had been founded when a satrap rebelled against the Parthian Empire.[12]

The Sasanian Empire reached its greatest extent under Khosrow II, who reigned for 38 years; the longest reigning king was Shapur II, who reigned for 70 years.

The Sasanian kings regarded themselves as successors of the Achaemenid Empire, and many Sasanian kings' goal was to conquer all territory previously held by the Achaemenids.

List of shahanshahsEdit

The table below lists Sasanian shahanshahs and titles used by them.

Titles used by the Sasanian shahanshahs was:

Padishah, i.e. Emperor,
Šāhān Šāh known as Shanhanshah in English, i.e. Kings of Kings,
Sāhān šāh ērān ud anērān, i.e. King of kings of Iran and Aniran,
Šāhan šāh sākān, i.e King of the Sakas.
Šāh hindestān, i.e King of Hindustan
# Shahanshah Coin or statue Reigned from Reigned until Relationship to Predecessor Notes
House of Sasan
1 Ardashir I   224 February 242
  • Declared himself as Shahanshah after defeating Artabanus IV of Parthia at the Battle of Hormizdegan
  • Died of natural causes in 242
  • Also known as Artaxares and Artaxerxes
2 Shapur I   12 April 240 May 270 Son
  • Co-ruled with his father since 12 April 240
  • Died of natural causes in May 270
  • Also known as Sapores or Sapor
3 Hormizd I   May 270 June 271 Son
  • Reigned only for 1 year
  • Also known as Oromastes
4 Bahram I   June 271 September 274 Brother
  • Committed the persecution of Manichaeism, including the death of Mani
  • Died of disease/natural causes in September 274
5 Bahram II   274 293 Son
  • Died of natural causes in 293
6 Bahram III   293 293 Son
  • Possibly executed during the uprising which had been led by his own grand uncle Narseh
7 Narseh   293 302 Grand-uncle
  • Enthroned after seizing power from Bahram III in a rebellion led against him
  • Also known as Narses or Narseus
8 Hormizd II   302 309 Son
  • Enthroned after abdicating the throne from his father
9 Adur Narseh   309 309 Son
  • Deposed by Sasanian nobles because of his cruelty
10 Shapur II   309 379 Brother
  • After the death of his brother, Adarnases, Shapur II was still in his mother's womb when he was crowned.
  • Also known as Sapor II
11 Ardashir II   379 383 Brother
  • Died of natural causes in 384
12 Shapur III   383 388 Nephew
13 Bahram IV   388 399 Son
14 Yazdegerd I   399 420 Brother
15 Shapur IV   420 420 Son
16 Khosrow   420 420 Cousin
17 Bahram V   420 438 Cousin
18 Yazdegerd II   438 457 Son
19 Hormizd III   457 459 Son
20 Peroz I   457 484 Brother
21 Balash   484 488 Brother
  • Two rebellions rose from two of Peroz's sons (his nephews)
  • The first rebellion was from Zarir, but he was unsuccessful and executed
  • The second rebellion was from Kavad, who at first unsuccessful requested help from Hephthalites
22 Kavad I   488 496 Nephew
  • Enthroned after leading a rebellion against his uncle Balash with assistance from Hephthalites
23 Jamasp   496 498 Brother
24 Kavad I   498 531 Brother
25 Khosrow I   531 579 Son
26 Hormizd IV   579 590 Son
27 Khosrow II   590 590 Son
  • Rebelled against his father and proclaimed himself as king of Persia, however he was then overthrown by Bahram Chobin
House of Mihran
28 Bahram VI Chobin   590 591 Rebel
  • Rebelled against Hormizd IV and Khosrow II and proclaimed himself to be king
House of Sasan
29 Khosrow II   591 628 Son of Hormizd IV
House of Ispahbudhan
30 Vistahm   591 595 Uncle
  • Uncle of Khosrow II
  • Founded the city of Bastam
House of Sasan
31 Kavad II   628 628 Greatnephew
  • Enthroned after killing his father and eighteen brothers
  • Died after a few months of reign
32 Ardashir III   628 629 Son
House of Mihran
33 Shahrbaraz   27 April 629 17 June 629 General
House of Sasan
34 Khosrow III   629 629 Nephew of Khosrow II Briefly ruled in Khorasan as rival king
35 Boran   17 June 629 16 June 630 Daughter of Khosrow II
  • Daughter of Khosrow II
  • One of two only women who attained the Sasanian throne
36 Shapur-i Shahrvaraz   630 630 Son of Shahrbaraz and a sister of Khosrow II
37 Peroz II   630 630 Descended from Khosrow I
38 Azarmidokht   630 631 Daughter of Khosrow II
  • Daughter of Khosrow II and sister of Boran
  • Second woman to attain the Sassanid throne
House of Ispahbudhan
39 Farrukh Hormizd   630 631 General
House of Sasan
40 Hormizd VI   630 631 Usurper
41 Khosrow IV   631 631 Brother of Peroz II
42 Farrukhzad Khosrow V   March 631 April 631 Son of Khosrow II
43 Boran   631 632 Daughter of Khosrow II
  • Was restored to the Sasanian throne
44 Yazdegerd III   632 651 Grandson of Khosrau II
Destruction of the Sassanid Empire
- Peroz III   651 (In exile) 679 (In exile) Son
  • Retreated to Chinese territory where he served as a Tang General
  • Served as the head of the Governorate of Persia, an exiled extension of the Sassanid court
- Narsieh (Narseh II)   679 (In exile) Unknown Son
  • Served as a Tang general, like his father
- Bahram VII   Unknown 710 (in exile) Son of Yazdegerd III
- Khosrau VI   Unknown Unknown Unknown
  • Known to have fought against Islamic forces in Transoxiana alongside the Sogdians and Turks c. 728-729
  • Last known direct descendant of Yazdegerd III, it is unclear whether he was Peroz III or Bahram VII's son

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "The Cambridge Illustrated History of the Islamic World" (PDF). Retrieved 6 June 2014.
  2. ^ Shapur Shahbazi, A. (2005), "Sasanian Dynasty", Encyclopedia Iranica, Columbia University Press, 1
  3. ^ Norman A. Stillman The Jews of Arab Lands pp 22 Jewish Publication Society, 1979 ISBN 0827611552
  4. ^ International Congress of Byzantine Studies Proceedings of the 21st International Congress of Byzantine Studies, London, 21–26 August 2006, Volumes 1-3 pp 29. Ashgate Pub Co, 30 sep. 2006 ISBN 075465740X
  5. ^ Daryaee 2012, p. 392.
  6. ^ Daryaee 2012, p. 201.
  7. ^ Frye, R. N. (1983). "Chapter 4: The political history of Iran under the Sasanians". The Cambridge History of Iran. 3. Cambridge University Press. p. 116. ISBN 978-0-521-20092-9.
  8. ^ "A Unique Drachm Coin of Shapur I". Iranian Studies. 50: 331–344. doi:10.1080/00210862.2017.1303329.
  9. ^ a b Daryaee 2008, p. 41.
  10. ^ a b Daryaee 2008, p. 42.
  11. ^ a b c Morony 2005, p. 92.
  12. ^ Freedman 2000, p. 458.