Peroz I

Peroz I (Middle Persian: 𐭯𐭩𐭫𐭥𐭰 Pērōz; New Persian: پیروز Pirouz, lit. "the Victor") was the eighteenth king (shah) of the Sasanian Empire from 459 to 484. He was the son of Yazdegerd II (r. 438–457) and brother of Hormizd III (r. 457–459). Peroz seized the throne from his older brother Hormizd III, whose reign lasted just two years. During his reign, he successfully quelled a rebellion in Caucasian Albania in the west, and put an end to the Kidarites in the east. He was, however, less successful in handling the Hephthalites, who had taken the Kidarites' place. This eventually resulted in a disastrous defeat near Balkh, where Peroz was killed. The magnates—most notably Sukhra and Shapur Mihran—elected Peroz's brother, Balash, as the new shah.

Peroz I
King of Kings of Iran and Aniran
Iran, ladjvard, mazandaran, busto di un re sasanide, bronzo, V-VII sec. ca..JPG
Bust of a Sasanian king, possibly Peroz I[a]
Shahanshah of the Sasanian Empire
Reign459 – 484
PredecessorHormizd III
Near Balkh
IssueKavad I
HouseHouse of Sasan
FatherYazdegerd II


"Peroz" is a Middle Persian name, meaning "victorious".[2] The name had already been in use by members of the Sasanian family a few centuries before, namely by the Kushano-Sasanian ruler Peroz I Kushanshah.[2]

Rise to powerEdit

When Peroz's father Yazdegerd II died in 457, the elder brother and heir Hormizd ascended the throne at Ray. Peroz, with the support of the powerful Mihranid magnate Raham Mihran, fled to the northeastern part of the empire and began raising an army in order to claim the throne for himself.[3][4] The empire thus fell into a dynastic struggle and became divided; the mother of the two brothers, Denag temporarily ruled as regent of the empire from its capital, Ctesiphon.[3] According to eastern sources, Peroz was more worthy for the throne than Hormizd, who is called unfair. Only the anonymous source known as the Codex Sprenger 30 describes Hormizd as the "braver and better", whilst describing Peroz as "more learned in religion".[5]

Peroz later went to the domains of the Hephthalite monarch Khushnavaz, who agreed to him support with soldiers in his struggle for the throne.[5] In 459, Peroz, with Hephthalite and Mihranid assistance, led an army against Hormizd and defeated him. According to some sources, Hormizd was pardoned and spared by his brother. However, this is most likely a legend, which is disproved by other sources, that states Peroz had Hormizd and three members of his family killed.[5] He then ceded Taliqan to Khushnavaz.[6]


Aftermath of the civil warEdit

Plate of Peroz I hunting argali

The civil war in Iran had affected the nation so much as to cost a province. Vache II, the king of Caucasian Albania, rebelled against Sasanian rule and declared himself independent while the brothers were busy fighting amongst each other. So once Peroz I ascended the throne in the year 459, he led an army into Albania and completely subjugated the nation. He then allowed the Armenians of Persian Armenia to practice their religion, Christianity, freely. He also made an agreement with the Byzantine Empire that they would together defend the Caucasus from incursions.[7] Furthermore, Peroz ordered his foster brother Izad Gushnasp to take the Armenians who had been held captive during the reign of his father to Herat.[4]

Seven-year famine (464-471)Edit

Historians of the period record the occurrence of a seven-year famine which devastated the crops and ruined the country. Sources say that the wells became dry and that there was not a trickle of water either in the Tigris or the Euphrates. Eventually the crops failed and thousands perished.

Historians record that Peroz I showed an extreme rigidness of character in the face of such an adversity and great wisdom in dealing with the catastrophe. As a result of his wisdom and benevolence, Persia gradually recovered from the famine.

War with the KidaritesEdit

Coin of Peroz I, minted in what it seems to be Balkh, in 467/8, shortly after he put an end to Kidarite rule in Tukharistan. The standing ruler wears the characteristic second crown of Peroz.

The Kidarites, who had established themselves in parts of Transoxiana during the reign of the Sasanian king Shapur II, and had a long history of conflicts with the Sasanians, stopped paying tributes to them in the early 460s, thus starting a new war between these two states. During the start of the war, however, Peroz did not have enough manpower to fight them, and therefore asked for financial aid by the Byzantine Empire, who declined his request.[6] Peroz then offered peace to the leader of the Kidarites, Kunkhas, and offered him his sister in marriage. However, Peroz tried to trick Kunkhas, and sent a woman of low status instead.

After some time Kunkhas found about Peroz's false promise, and then in turn tried to trick him, by requesting him to send military experts to strengthen his army. However, when a group of 300 military experts arrived to the court of Kunkhas at Balaam (either the same city as Balkh or a city in Sogdia), they were either killed or disfigured and sent back to Iran, with the information that Kunkhas did this due to Peroz's false promise.[6]

What happened after remains obscure, but Peroz obtained help from the Hephthalites to vanquish the Kidarites. The Alchon Huns ruler Mehama (r.461-493), who had been elevated to the position of Governor by Peroz circa 461 CE, allied with Peroz I in his victory over the Kidarites in 466.[8] By 467, Peroz, with Hephthalite aid, managed to capture Balaam and put an end to Kidarite rule in Transoxiana once and for all.[6] Although the Kidarites still controlled some places in the area of Gandhara, they would never bother the Sasanians again.

First and second war with the HephthalitesEdit

However, after some time, the Hephthalites betrayed Peroz and seized Balkh from him, starting the first war between the Sasanians and the Hephthalites. During this war, Peroz suffered a heavy defeat in the third battle between the two forces in 469, and was captured by Hephthalites. He was released after paying ransom;[9] the Byzantines aided him in by lending him some money.[7][9] Before Persia had completely recovered from the famine, a new war broke out with the Hephthalites of the north. Provoked by an insult heaped upon him by Khushnavaz, Peroz, along with his vassal Vakhtang I,[10][11][12] led an invasion of the Hephthalite country forcing them to retreat. But when Peroz pursued the Hephthalites to the hills, he suffered a crushing defeat. The king was captured and forced to surrender his daughter, and the chief priest (mowbed) of the empire to Khushnavaz as hostages, until the ransom was paid.[13]

Trouble in ArmeniaEdit

Map of the Caucasus

In 481, Iberia broke into revolt and declared its independence. Peroz sent the Sasanian Governor of Armenia to Iberia to quell the rebellion. But no sooner had he left the province, that Armenia rose in rebellion and chose an Armenian Christian called Bargatide as its Emperor.

The Persian Governor, Adhur Gushnasp after restoring Persian rule in Iberia rushed to Armenia to quell the rebellion but was squarely defeated. Peroz responded by sending two large armies to the region, one under Adar-Narseh into Armenia and the other against Iberia.

Sahag, the Armenian king, was killed and Shapur Mihran was wreaking havoc in Armenia, but just when success was within grasp, Peroz blundered by recalling Shapur Mihran and entrusting the command to one Zarmihr Hazarwuxt. Zarmihr Hazarwuxt too did not remain long in Armenia and was recalled in a few months. This policy of rotating military commanders frequently ensured that Armenia was lost to the Persians for the time being.

The defeat and death of Peroz in the Shahnameh.

Third war with the Hephthalites and deathEdit

Towards the end of his reign, Peroz gathered an army of 50,000-100,000 men; after placing his brother Balash at the head of the government in Ctesiphon, he invaded the Hephthalites in order to avenge the insult heaped upon him during the first campaign. He set up his position at Balkh and rejected the terms of peace offered by Khushnavaz. However, when a showdown with the Persians seemed imminent, Khushnavaz sent a small body of troops in advance in order to trick Peroz into an ambuscade at the Battle of Herat of 484. The plan was successful, and the Persians were defeated with great slaughter, Peroz being one of the victims. Khushnavaz, however, treated the body of his erstwhile friend with dignity and dispatched it to Persia to be buried with full honors.

Soon afterwards, the Hephthalites invaded and plundered Persia. The empire, however, was saved when a Sasanian noble from the Karen family, Sukhra, defeated the Hepthalites and elected Balash (484–488), one of Peroz I's brothers, to the throne.


On Peroz's coinage, the traditional titulature of shahanshah ("King of Kings") is omitted, and only the two aspects of kay Pērōz ("King Peroz") are displayed.[14] However, a seal demonstrates that the traditional titulature was still used, which indicates that coins do not with certainty display the full formal titulature of the Sasanian monarchs.[14] Peroz, along with Shapur II (r. 309–379) were only the two Sasanian monarchs to regularly mint gold coins.[15]

In Persian literatureEdit

Peroz is included in a legendary romantic story narrated by 13th-century Iranian historian Ibn Isfandiyar. The story begins with Peroz dreaming about a beautiful woman who he falls in love with. Peroz then sends one of his relatives and a close friend, a certain Mihrfiruz from the Mihran family to find her.[16] He manages to find the woman, who in the end is turned out to be the sister of Izad Gushnasp himself (whose father was named Ashtat). After having found her, Peroz marries her and at her request, lay foundation to the city of Amol in Tabaristan.[17]


  1. ^ Each Sasanian ruler wore a unique crown, or even several. The crown of the bust is identical to the one used by Peroz.[1]


  1. ^ Frye 1983, p. 135.
  2. ^ a b Rezakhani 2017, p. 78.
  3. ^ a b Kia 2016, p. 248.
  4. ^ a b Pourshariati 2008, p. 71.
  5. ^ a b c Shahbazi 2004, pp. 465–466.
  6. ^ a b c d Zeimal 1996, p. 130.
  7. ^ a b Daryaee 2008, p. 25.
  8. ^ Rezakhani 2017, pp. 118, 120–122.
  9. ^ a b Litvinsky 1996, p. 142.
  10. ^ Toumanoff, Cyril (1963). Studies in Christian Caucasian History, pp. 368–9. Georgetown University Press.
  11. ^ Thomson, Robert W. (1996), Rewriting Caucasian History, pp. 153–251. Oxford University Press, ISBN 0-19-826373-2
  12. ^ (in Russian) М. Лордкипанидзе, Д. Мусхелишвили (Ред., 1988), Очерки истории Грузии. Т.2: Грузия в IV-X веках. АН ГССР, Ин-т ист., археол. и этнографии – Тб. : Мецниереба: Тип. АН ГССР.
  13. ^ Frye 1983, p. 148.
  14. ^ a b Schindel 2013, p. 837.
  15. ^ Schindel 2013, p. 827.
  16. ^ Pourshariati 2008, p. 72.
  17. ^ Pourshariati 2008, p. 73.


Further readingEdit

  • Schippmann, Klaus (1999). "FĪRŪZ". Encyclopaedia Iranica, Vol. IX, Fasc. 6. pp. 631–632.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • Zeini, Arash (2018). "Peroz". In Nicholson, Oliver (ed.). The Oxford Dictionary of Late Antiquity. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-866277-8.
Peroz I
Preceded by
Hormizd III
King of kings of Iran and Aniran
459 – 484
Succeeded by