Papak (Middle Persian: 𐭯𐭠𐭯𐭪𐭩, Pāpak/Pābag; New Persian: بابک Bābak), was a Persian prince, who ruled Pars at the beginning of the third century. He was the father of Ardashir I, the founder of the Sasanian Empire.
There are various different sources of the relationship between Papak, Sasan, and Ardashir I. According to Al-Tabari, Papak was the son of Sasan and a Bazrangi noblewoman named Rambihisht. However, the Ka'ba-ye Zartosht does not name Sasan as Papak's father but instead names him as the lord. According to Book of Deeds of Ardashir Son of Papak, which is later confirmed by Ferdowsi's Shahnameh says that Sasan married the daughter of Papak after the latter discovered that Sasan was of royal Achaemenid descent. Hence the future Sasanian king Ardashir I was born.
However, the Iranian historian Touraj Daryaee, who uses the Bundahishn as a source, which unlike the other Sasanian sources, was not created by the court, in the words of Daryaee, "to fit the world-view of the late Sasanian world." According to the Bundahishn, Sasan had a daughter, who married Papak, and bore him Ardashir. Furthermore, the Bundahishn states that Sasan was the son of a certain Weh-afrid. Daryaee also states that Sasan was not a native of Pars as thought, but an Iranian foreigner from either the west or east.
Papak is first mentioned as a local ruler of a district named Khir in southern Estakhr. He was a vassal of Gochihr, the overlord of Pars, who was himself the vassal of the Parthian king Artabanus V. When Ardashir became 15 years old, Papak was ordered by Artabanus V to send Ardashir to his court. Papak, not daring to disobey his orders, sent Ardashir to the court of Artabanus V. Ardashir, during his stay in the Parthian court, offended Artabanus. When the news reached Papak, he criticized Ardashir for his actions.
After the death of Tiri, the argbadh of Darabgerd, Papak managed to make Gochihr appoint Ardashir as the argbadh of Darabgerd. After becoming ruler of Darabgerd, Ardashir began to extend his rule to other cities, killing several local princes of Pars with the help of Papak. Ardashir then urged Papak to revolt against Gochihr, which the latter did, and managed to successfully defeat and kill Gochihr.
Papak then asked Artabanus V to recognize his eldest son Shapur as his successor. Artabanus, however, refused. Nevertheless, after Papak's death in ca. 222, Shapur succeeded him.
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