Iranian History/Qobad I and the Two Khusros 488 - 628 AD

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Qobad I (First reign) 488 - 498[edit]

When Balash died in 488, civil war broke out. Qobad, a son of Firuz, entered the Persian capital with an army of Huns and captured the throne.

Qobad's actual Persian name seems to have been Kavadh which has been Arabized to Qobad. Immediately on ascending thehrone, he fought back the Khazars who had invaded the country. He resisted them with an army of over one hundred thousand men and drove them back across the fromntier. He also built fortified posts a;ong the northern frontier to protect the kingdom.

Around this time, Qobad came under the influence of one Mazdak which proved to be detrimental to his future. He tried to impose Mazdakism upon the country and had to face vehement protest from the Zoroastrian mobeds. The imposition of Mazdakism as the state religion was the last straw. Christian Armenia rebelled and broke off its allegiance to Persia when compelled to adopt MaZdakism. Vatian was appointed king of Armenia.

Eventually, a rebellion of the Persian populace placed power in the hands of the Magi who immediately deposed him and placed Jamasp upon the throne of Persia.

Jamasp 498 - 501[edit]

The crown was placed upon Jamasp's head immediately after Qobad had fled the kingdom. Jamasp was a man of peaceful disposition and did not fight any wars.

In 501, three years after Jamasp had been crowned king, Qobad returned at the head of 30,000 Hephthalite horsemen and demanded that the kingdom be reinstated unto him. Jamasp obliged and abdicated in favor of Qobad.

Qobad I (Second reign) 501 - 531[edit]

Immediately after commencing his second reign, Qobad I turned against the Mazdakites and organized a series of persecutions. This won him the sanction of the Magi who were responsible for deposing him earlier.

War Against Rome[edit]

As per the peace of 442, Rome was required to pay a certain amount of money for the upkeep of the fortresses along the border. However, Rome refused. Provoked, Qobad invaded Roman Armenia and captured Theodosiopolis. He then proceeded to ravage Roman Armenia and Roman Mesapotamia taking the impregnable fortress of Amida and plundering Arzanne. A party of Romans encountered a body of 800 Huns who fought in support of Persia and slaughtered it to the last man. However, they were surprised by a contingent of Persian troops nearby and had to pay the price. At this instant, as war was raging in all its fury, a Hephthalite invasion compelled Qobad to call off the invasion. The Romans recovered all the lost provinces. Peace was concluded between the warring forces and Rome agreed to pay the required amount of money for the upkeep of the frontier garrisons.

War Against the Huns[edit]

The campaign against the Huns occupied Qobad uninterruptedly for the next ten years. Rome triend to make most of the situation by strengthening its frontier garrisons. The war against the Huns came to an end only in 517.

In 517, when the battle against the Huns came to an end Qobad made a formal complaint against Constantinople. The Romans did not apologize but made professions of friendship. The Roman Emperor Justin concluded a treaty with the Huns and with Lazica to forge an alliance against Persia. The uneasy condition prevailed till the end of Qobad's reign but did not aggravate into full-fledged war.

Persecution of the Mazdakites[edit]

In 523, there came to light, a conspiracy to remove Qobad's son Khusro and replace him with another son of Qobad, a Mazdakite sympathizer named Phthasarus to the throne. Qobad was overcome by rage and instructed Khusro to destroy Mazdak and his cult in the Empire. The prince accordingly unleashed a reign of terror which put an end to Mazdakism. Mazdakism, however, did survive in a much reduced form till the Islamic conquests and even after. It is considered to be one of the major factors which inspired the nationalist Khoramdin movement against Arab rule.

Second War with Rome[edit]

In 523, Gurgenes the king of Iberia whom Qobad had pressurized to accept Zoroastrianism broke into open revolt. Qobad responded by dispatching a large army which quelled the rebellion and carried the war far into Roman territory. Rome retaliated by invading Persarmenia and Mesapotamia in 526. Two Roman contingents were sent against Persia both of which were defeated. In early 528, Belisarius the Roman commander was ordered to build a fort on the Persian border at Mindon but Qobad sent an army of 30,000 men against him whic spoiled his efforts.

Shortly afterwards, Belisarius was made 'Commander of the East'. He fought 50,000 Persian soldiers commanded by Mihran and utterly routed them. The Romans were also victorious in Armenia where Mermeroes the Persian general had to face defeat.

In 531, Al Mondar or Alamandarus the sheikh of the Arabs concluded an alliance with Persia. A joint Perso-Arab army was sent under Azarethes against the Romans. Belisarius quitted Daras but was defeated on the banks of the Euphrates and forced to flee.

Qobad did not survive for long after the completion of the Perso-Roman war. He died on September 12, 531 at the age of eighty-two and was succeeded by his son, Khusro Anushirvan or Khusro I.

Khusro I (Anushirvan) 531 - 578[edit]

Khusro Anushirvan ascended the throne in 531 after disposing off the rival contenders to the throne. On ascending the throne, he even went one steop further by eliminating the entire male line of Qobad I.

As soon as he ascended the throne, he concluded what has been termed hy historians as the "endless peace with Rome". While the peace was in vogue, the Roman Emperor Justinian was busy tackling the barbarian hordes which invaded his empire. Belisarius, especially, distinguished himself in these campaigns, emerging as the greatest general of the day. In 539, the defeated Ostrogoth king of Italy appealed to Khusro for help and Khusro responded by besieging Antioch thereby triggering the First Roman War of his reign.

First Roman War[edit]

Khusro Anushirvan invaded Antioch and reduced the citizens to utter desperation. However, he spared the city when the inhabitants agreed to pay a huge ransom. Khusro then passed north of Antioch and plundered Seleucia, Apameia and CHalcis before crossing the Euphrates into Mesapotamia and attacking Edessa, Constantina and Daras in quick succession. Around this time, the Romans attacked Lazica forcing Khusro to divert his attention. Khusro immediately attacked Petra and conquered it after killing its commander Johannes.

Meanwhile, a contingent of Romans under Belisarius reached Mesapotamia and ravaged the province. However, the Roman siege of Nisibis failed. Belisarius sent Arethas, an Arab sheikh to invade Persian Mespotamia. But contrary to the general's orders, Arethas ravaged Persian Mesapotamia and took the spoils for himself.

Khusro responded by crossing the Euphrates into Syria in the year 542 and invading Hierapolis. Butn when it appeared as if Hierapolis would fall, Belisarius arrived with his larege army and spread his troops along the Euphrates. Khusro fell upon the city of Callinicus and finding it undefended razed it to the ground. However an outburst of plague forced Khusro to retreat across the Euphrates. Khusro, then, invaded Armenia but the prevalence of a plague epidemic forced him to withdraw. The Romans responded by invading the village of Anglon in Persarmenia but the Persians offered a stout resistance forcing the former to withdraw.

In 544, Khusro once again crossed into Mesapotamia and besieged Edessa but was repulsed. Soon peace was concluded for a five-year long period.

Khusro's Second War with Rome[edit]

In 549, Rome incited Lazica to revolt against the Persians and sent an army of eight thousand men to aid them. This triggered the Second Roman War of Khusro Anushirvan. The Lazi king welcomed the Romans with open arms to deliver them from Persian rule. Khusro hatched a plot to assassinate the Lazi king but the plot failed.

The hostilies commenced when the Romans besieged Petra. The siege lasted many days but in the end, was successful.

In 550, the Persians took the field under a new general Chorianes and beat back the Lazi. But the retreating Lazi were reinforced by the Romans. They counter-attacked the Persians and killed their commander Chorianes. Soon afterwards, Dagisthseus was replaced by Bessas as the commander of the Roman army. The Romans besieged Petra and after overcoming some stiff resistance offered by the Persians succeeded in conquering the city.

With the arrival of spring, Mermeroes took command of the Persian army and led a large contingent of horsemen and eight elephants into Lazica. The Persians succeeding in conqering most of Lazica. Mermeroes even extended Persian rule over a few neighbouring provinces.

Meanwhile, even while the war was being fought in Lazica, peace was concluded between Rome and Persia by the Roman Emperor Justinian and the Sassanid Khusro Anushirvan. In 553, Mermeroes drove back the Romans and completelky surrounded them within a small tract by the Caspian known as 'The Island' before commencing his return march. But during his return, Mermeroes was affaected by fatigue and passed away at Kutais.

At this juncture, Gubarzes, the king of Lazica quarreled with the Romans and shifted allegiance to Persia. He was eventally killed by the Romans and replaced with a monarch with pro-Rome sympathies. The Rome-Lazi alliance was renewed in 555 and hostilites commenced once more. Nachoragan who replaced Mermeroes besieged the Roman soldiers left behind in "The Island" but was unsuccessful. Nachoragan was eventually recalled to Persia. The war came to an end in 557 by the signing of a peace treaty.

Invasion of Yemen[edit]

Abraha, the Abyssinian King of Yemen had died and there was a civil war raging between the heir-apparent Yaksoum who had ascended the throne and his half-brother Saif who was hurt by Yaksoum who had insulted him gravely. Saif sought Khusro's help which was at once accepted. A large Persian fleet under Saif landed at Aden and fought Yaksoum forcing him to flee. Saif ascended the throne and ruled for a couple of years before he was murdered. On his death, Khusro took over the administration of Yemen and made it a Persian province.

War with the Turks[edit]

Desirous of an alliance with Persia, Dizabul the Khan of the Turks sent ambassadors with costly presents to the court of Khusro Anushirvan. But Khusro poisoned the envoys and ordered the presents to be thrown into the sea. Humilated, Dizabul invaded Persia from the north in alliance with the Romans. The Turks took Shash, Ferghana, Samarkand, Bokhara and the northern provinces of Iran but fled when Khusro's son Ormazd arrived at the head of a large army. In 571, the Turksa sent envoys to nthe ROman Emperor and the very next year, a large Roman army invaded Persia.

The Last Roman War of Khusro Anushirvan[edit]

A large Roman army under Marcian had besieged Nisibis. Khusro at once proceeded to the relief of Nisibis and defeated the invaders. The Romans retreated to the fortress of Daras which was besieged by the Persians. At the same time, the Persian general Adarman crossed the Euphrates with an army of 6000 and ravaged Syria traking all the cities and important fortresses with the exception of Antioch.

Khusro besieged Daras with an army of 40,000 horse and 100,000 foot but the Roman garrison at Daras gave a brave resistance.

Meanwhile, the aged Emperor Justinian abdicated in favor a younger monarch , the Count TIberius who sent envoys to the court of Khusro. Both sides agreed for peace for a period of two years.

But despite the peace, hostilities continued in Armenia. Khusro invaded Armenia with a large army and conquered most of the province. The war was even carried into neighbouring Cappadocia. The Roman general Justinian retaliated by invading Persarmenia anmd pillaging it as far as the Caspian Sea. In 576, the Romans gained the upper hand in Northern Armenia and Iberia while Khusro made an unsuccessful siege of Theodosiopolis. Later that year, the Persian general Tamchosro inflicted a crshing defeat on the Romans under Justinian.

In 578, the Persians invaded Roman Armenia with an army of 20,000 horse. Simultaneously, Tamchosro invaded Amida. The Roman general Maurice responded by invading Persian Armenia and ravaging the country. He plundered the district of Arzanne and crossed into Eastern MEsapotamia and taking Singara, spread daeth and devastation all over the district. Around this time, Khusro passed away and was succeeded by his son Ormazd.

Reforms of Khusro Anushirvan[edit]

F. Altheim has studied the tax reforms of Chosroes in detail. From his conclusions we learn that all land were surveyed and taxed in the same way everywhere, while revenues which formerly frequently went to the nobles were to come into the central government treasury.

Khusro introduced a new class of knights called "dehkans" who were required to maintain armies of their own. These knights were more powerful than feudal lords and villages were entrusted to them for the maintenance of these armies. The whole empire was divided into four military districts each under the protection of a spahbod or Commander-in-chief.

Khusro Anushirvan's time is also renowned for the progress in art and architecture. Qala-e-Dukhtar is a fine example of architecture of Anushirvan. Large quantity of silverware from the time of Khusro Anushirvan have sruvived to the modern day. There is also a marked improvement in the quality of coins minted by the state indicating progress and prosperity. Excavations in Iran and toher parts of the Sassanid Empire have revealed a number of seals from the Anushirvan era.

Throughout the Sassanid era, the Mobeds reigned supreme and even officiated as judges, witnesses and custodians of territorial records.

Legacy[edit]

Khusro Anushirvan was arguably the greatest of the Sassanian monarchs. The evolution of classical Iranian civilization reached its culmination during this period. During his reign, pre-conquest Iranian culture reached the pinnacle of greatness and glory inspiring fables and legends. One sch fable is the story of the Arabian Nights which is supposedly a series of tales written during the time of Khusro Anushirvan. During the Arab conquest, the tales made their way to Iraq where they were borrowed by the Arabs and adpted by them to suit local conditions during the time of the Abbasids. During this period, the Persians also translated many notable foriegn works into Persian. Burzoe a prominent physician in the Sassanian court and vazir to Khusro Anushirvan translated the Panchatantra into Pahlavi. The Pahlavi translation Khalileh o Demneh was later translated into Arabic and became one of the most popular works of Arabic literature. The Academy of Gundeshapur became renowned all over the world as a centre of learning. The "Pandnamak-i Vozurg-Mihr-i Bukhtakan" (Modern Persian: Pandnameh e Bozorgmehr e Bakhtegan), a book of advice, which is another book attributed to Bozorgmehr, was preserved in the royal treasury (ganj-e shahigan) of Iran in the Sassanid Empire and has been translated into modern languages.

The game of chess reached Europe from India through Persia. It was known to the Indians as chathuranga and to the Persians as shatranj. Brzoe himself is reputed to be a fine chess player.

The renowned Iranoloist Frye regards Khusro Anushirvan as the greatest of the Sassanian monarchs. Muhammad, the Prophet of Islam, is said to have remarked once that he was fortunate to have been born during the reign of an illuminated monarch as Khusro Anushirvan.

Ormazd IV[edit]

The Roman Emperor Tiberius sent an offer of peace to Ormazd IV. But the latter rejected the offer. So in 579, the Roman general Maurice set off at the head of a large army and ravaged Kurdistan. He, inititally, planned to penetrate into and occupy Mespotamia. but the treacherous Arab sheikh Alamandarus betrayed him. The Persian general Adarman was sent the head of a large army to fight Maurice but was defeated. Maurice was able to make a safe retreat` to the Roman frontier.

In 581, the Persians crossed the frontier under Tamchosro and invaded Constantia but was defeated and repulsed b y Maurice and Tamchosro himself, slain. At this juncture, Maurice was recalled by the ailing king Tiberius who handed the crown unto him. Maurice sent Johannes to lead the troops in the East. Johannes attacked the Persians but suffered a series of defeates. He was recalled and replacedm with Philippicus. Philippicus spent the years 584 and 585 making deep inroads into Persian territory. The Persians retaliated by attacking Monocartium and Martyropolis. Philippicus responded by invading Eastern Mesapotamia and chased the retreating army all the way to the fortress of Daras. He besieged the fortress of Chlomoron but was forced to withdraw. Philippicus retreated to Amida and handed over the mantle to one Heraclius.

Heraclius led an infantry division into Persian territory and ravaged the plains of the Tigris. However, a mutiny in the Roman army in 588, facilitated the Persian troops who invaded Constantia though unsuccessfully. In 589, the Persians crossed the frontier, and due to the treachery of Sittas a ROman officer, were able to occpy Martyroplois. Philippicus was replaced by Comentiolus under whom the Romans sccessfully conquered Nisibis. Later that year, Comentiolus successfully penetrated into Persian territory and began to threaten the whole of Mesapotamia. At the very instant when Romans were threatening Martyropolis, the Turks were plundering the northern provinces of the Empire. Ormazd dispatched Bahram with a large army to fight the Turks. The latter defeated the Turks and killed their Khan or leader. When the campaign came to an end, he was sent to lead the Persian troops against the Romans in the West. Bahram ravaged Colchis and other Roman cities but nsuffered a defeat at Araxes. Ormuzd was jealous of the successes of the Bahram and desired to insult him with the intention of harming his morale. So, he responded to the defat at Araxes by dispatching a set of women's garments. Enraged, Bahram sent Ormazd a letter of rebuke in which he addressed the former not as the son but the daughter of Khusro Anushirvan. Ormazd dispatched soldiers to arrest Bahram and bring him in chains. But the soldiers sent for the purpose went over to Bahram. Bahram incited his army against Ormazd resulting in widespread rebellion.

At about the same time, Ormazd suspected his son Khusro and his brothers-in-law Bindoes and Bostan of conspiring against him and banished them from the kingdom. Bindoes and Bostan returned from exile in a few months and overthrew Ormazd making Khusro the Emperor of Persia.

Khusro ascended the throne as Khusro II and had to immediately contend with the rebellion of Bahram. Bahram invaded Persia at the head of a large army. Khusro faced him on the banks of the Holwan river but was defeated and fled the kingdom. Bahram captured Ctesiphon and ascended the throne as Bahram VI.

Bahram VI[edit]

Soon after Bahram's accession, a rebellion broke out in Armenia. However, Bahram ensured the neutrality of Mesapotamia by strengthening the defences of Anatho and Nisibis.

Meanwhile, Khusro was well received by the Roman Governor of Circesium who not only offered him asylum but also military aid against Bahram.

In early spring of 590, Khusro proceeded at the head of 70,000 Roman troops upto the banks of the Tigris, from where he sent a detahcment eastward whie he, himself marched alongside the river Zab and in four days, reached the vicinity of Ctesiphon. In a series of two battles, Bahram was defeated and overthrown. He fled to the protection of the Turks of the north leaving Khusro in effective control of all Persia.

Khusro II (Perviz) 591-628[edit]

Khusro ascended the throne in 591 when Bahram fled the kingdom. He ruled for 37 years. His period was one of exhilarating highs and humiliating lows. During his reign, the Sassanid Empire reached its greatest extent ever before plunging to depths of ignominy and subordination. He launched a relentless campaign against the Romans in Mesapotamia, West Asia, Turkey, Armenia and Egypt which imposed a great strain on the resources of the country that a decade from the end of Khusro's rule, the Sassanid Empire had passed into history.

As soon as he ascended the throne, Khusro reportedly had his uncles who were responsible for the murder ot Ormazd executed. This helped appease the people who had accused him of the guilt of parricide.

During the first eleven years of his reign, the relations with Rome were cordial and there was no animosity of discord which existed between them. In 602, however, the ROman Emperor Maurice who was on friebdly terms with Persia, was murdered by Phocus who usurped the throne.

Conquests[edit]

In 603, Khusro declared war against the Romans and sent Narses across the frontier while he positioned himself in Mesapotamia. In 605, Khusro besieged Daras at the head of a large army and captured it successfully. Khusro ravaged Mesapotamia and easily conquered the fortress of Amida. In 607, the Persians took Harra, Resaina and Edessa. That very same year, Persian legions crossed the Euphrates and annexed the whole of Syria to the Sassanid Empire. A second Persian army entered Armenia and after successfully taking the strongholds of Satala and Theodosiopolis, invaded Cappadocia and successfully conquered Caesarea Mazaca. Phrygia and Galatia were invested as Persian troops proceeded as far as Chalcedon, opposite to Constantinople.

In 610, the usurper Phocas was deposed and replaced with Heraclius as the Emperor of COnstantinople. The country was in turmoil. Taking advantage of this confusion, Khusro sent his general Shahr Barz to invade Syria. Shahr Barz successfully conquered Damascus and made it his base. From Damascus, he launched attacks on Palestine in 614 and conquered it by inciting civil unrest fuelled by a deep hatred for Christian Romans amongst the Jews. Jerusalem fell after a six-day long siege. The Cross of St.Helena, "the True Cross" was discovered and transported to the royal harem of Ctesiphon where it remained in the safe cstody of Shirin, the Christian wife of Khsro.

In 616, Shahr Barz entered Egypt after successful conquest of Sinai and the Pelusium. Alexandria fell in a short time and the rest of Egypt was conquered with little resistance. Persian troops advanced to the south and carried the Sassanid arms as far as the Ethiopian frontier. Meanwhile, Shahen commanded the troops in the north. Chalcedon on the opposite shores of the Bosporus to Constantinople was conquered after a short siege and the Persian army could been seen within a mile in sight of the Roman capital of Constantinople.

Heraclius' Invasion of Persia[edit]

On Easter 622, the Roman Emperor Heraclius personally took command of the army and attacked the Persians in Armenia in which Shahr Barz was defeated for the first time. The Romans launched a second invasion at the onset of winter taking Lazica in alliance with the Khazars. Then, mustering an army of 120,000 men, Heraclius lanched a second invasion of Armenia. Khusro established himself in Azerbaijan and sent two armies one under Shahr Barz and the other under Shahen to face Heraclius. Heraclis, however, withdrew from Armenia and attacked Azerbaijan forcing Khusro to withdraw.

In 624, Khusro took the offensive and dispatched an army to attack Heraclius in Albania. However, Shahr Barz soffered three consecutive defeats, in the last of which his army was cut to pieces.

Early the next spring, Heraclius crossed the Tigris into Arzanne and recovered Martyropolis and Amida. But by the end of March, Khusro had established himself along the banks of the Euphrates forcing Heraclius to withdraw to theb safety of Cilicia. The Persians pursued the retreating Romans resulting in a deadly confrontation in Cilicia in which the Persians were defeated. Heraclius wintered at Sebaste(Sivas) in Cappadocia. With support from the Avars, Khusro sent two armies, one under Shahr Barz to assiste the Avars in a preplanned siege of Constantinople and the other under Shahen to fight the Romans in Mesapotamia. But Heraclius had secured the assistance of the Khazars against the Persians. He divided his own army in to three and positioned the first in the vicinity of Constantinople while another under his personal command was to effect the conquest of Lazica and a third nder Theodore to face Shahen.

Theodore defeated Shahen amidst great slaughter. Heartbroken, Shahen died soon afterwards. The Persians were equally unsuccessful in Constantinople. A confederation of Avars, Slavs and Bulgars besieged Constantinople bt were repulsed by the superior artillery of the Romans.

In September 627, Heraclius set out at the head of a large army from Lazica and invaded Mesapotamia. A decisive battle was fought at Nineveh in which the Persians were defeated and forced to retreat. Heraclius invaded Dastaghad on the Euphrates but the turbulent tide of the river blocked his passage further and he returned to COnstantinople, completely nmolested and entirely satisfied.

Death[edit]

Khusro favored his younger son born to his Christian wife Shirin (Irene) to his eldest son Siroe. Siroe rebelled against his father and arrested him. Khusro was immediately confined to a dungeon and later killed.

Episode of the Letter from Prophet Muhammad[edit]

Early Islamic tradition informs us that Muhammad, the prophet of Islam had sent a messenger, Abdullah ibn Hudhafah as-Sahmi together with a letter to preach the religion of Islam. The translation of the contents of the letter are as follows:

In the name of Allah, Most Gracious, Ever Merciful

From Muhammad, Messenger of Allah, to Chosroes, Ruler of Persia. Peace be on him who follows the guidance, believes in Allah and His Messenger and bears witness that there is no one worthy of worship save Allah, the One, without associate, and that Muhammad is His Servant and Messenger. I invite you to the Call of Allah, as I am the Messenger of Allah to the whole of mankind, so that I may warn every living person and so that the truth may become clear and the judgment of God may overtake the infidels. I call upon you to accept Islam and thus make yourself secure. If you turn away, you will bear the sins of your Zoroastrian subjects.

The legend also says that in refusal and outrage, Khosrau tore up Muhammed's letter and conveyed his determination to stick on to Zoroastrianism. In reply, the Prophet is said to have said: "May his kingdom tear apart".

Devout Muslims support the view that it was due to the curse of the Prophet that Khusro was murdered by his own son and the kingdom tore apart. However, the episode of the letter is rejected by a fair number of historians as a "fable" and "part of baseless propaganda".

Character of Khusro Perviz[edit]

Khusro II is always presented as a rash and daring monarch who never hesitated to take risks. However, nearly all accounts agree with the point that he lacked common sense. Khusro II is alwaysb regarded as a mixture of opposities. Despite his failures at the end of the reign, he was still one of the best monarchs of the Sassanian Empire and certainly the greatest monarch of his time and the most deserving person for the epithet of Eberwiz or Perviz, The Victorious.

Religion and Religious Movements[edit]

During the later part of the 5th century, a new faith arose in Iran which posed a serious threat to Zoroastrianism. This was Mazdakism which numbered atleast one Sassanian Emperor amongst its followers. However, the new tide ebbed away as quickly as it had arisen. The might of Zoroastrianism and its hold upon the people was visible when Qobad was deposed by the Magi. Since then, Mazdakism rapidly declined though it survived as a minor cult till the 10th century AD. Zoroastrianism made a splendid recovery and continued to hold sway despite the introduction of corrupt practices and un-Zoroastrian elements in the new faith.

Mazdak[edit]

Mazdak was born in Persepolis to one Bamdat. Early in his life, he was a Zoroastrian High Priest and later renounced the creed in its existing form and declared himself to be a 'Reformer of Zoroastrianism' and a Champion of the Poor. He preached a kind of Socialism and incorporated these principles into his new faith.


Precepts of Mazdak[edit]

According to Mazdak, property and marriage were mere human inventions, contrary to the will of God, which required an equal division of the good things of this world among all, and forbade the appropriation of particular women by individual men. In communities based upon property and marriage, men might lawfully vindicate their natural rights by taking their fair share of the good things wrongfully appropriated by their fellows Adultery, incest, theft, were not really crimes, but necessary steps towards re-establishing the laws of nature in such societies. To these communistic views, which seem to have been the original speculations of his own mind, the Magian reformer added tenets borrowed from the Brahmins or from some other Oriental ascetics, such as the sacredness of animal life, the necessity of abstaining from animal food, other than milk, cheese, or eggs, the propriety of simplicity in apparel, and the need of abstemiousness and devotion.

Rise and Fall of Mazdakism[edit]

Mazdakism immediately found favor with the masses. One of the early converts was the Sassanian Emperor Qobad I. Qobad hated the Persian nobility and wished to curb their powers. He, therefore, recognised Mazdakism as the tool with which to tackle them. So, he let loose and orgy of forceful conversions outlawing other faiths and destroying fire temples. These acts provoked the ire of the Magi and Qobad was deposed. He, however, returned in three years and ascended the Sassanian throne. However, he stopped to lend official sanction to the faith. The proselytization of Mazdakism and Mazdakite ideals were curbed. Mazdak himself was killed at a banquet in 528 by the Crwon Prince Khusro Anushirvan.

Legacy[edit]

Despite the assassination of Mazdak in 528, the new faith did not fizzle out. On the contrary, it long survived him and even the Islamic invasions. The Khorramdin Movement was inspired by Mazdakism and it has been long believed that its foremost leader Babak Khorramdin was himself a Mazdakite. However, by the 10th century AD and the rise of the Turks, the religion had almost died. Mazdak is universally recognized as the first socialist in history.

References[edit]

See Bibliography Section