|"King of kings of Iran and Aniran"|
Gold coin of Bahram V with fire temple on its verso.
|Royal House||House of Sasan|
Bahram V (Middle Persian: 𐭥𐭦𐭤𐭦𐭭, Wahrām, Persian: بهرام یکم, Bahrām) was the fifteenth Sassanid King of Persia (420–438). Also called Bahram Gur or Bahramgur (Persian: بهرام گور), he was a son of Yazdegerd I (399–420), after his assassination Bahram V gained the crown against the opposition of the grandees by the help of Al-Mundhir I ibn al-Nu'man, the king of the Lakhmid dynasty.
Early life and family
According to Ferdowsi, during the seventh year of Yazdegerd I's, Bahram V was born and the astrologers predicted that the child would become a great king, the mobads, the king’s minister, and the elite gathered and, anxious that the crown prince would have the same nature as his father, proposed to the king that he should send the prince abroad for his upbringing. Yazdegerd I accepted and thus Bahram V was sent to Al-Mundhir I ibn al-Nu'man, the king of the Lakhmids.
Becoming Shah of Persia
Ever since the death of Shapur II, the nobles and priests had increased their power over the Sasanian Empire, having power to elect, depose and kill kings they didn't like. Now they intended to expel the sons of Yazdegerd I and elect another Sasanian prince named Khosrow as king. They managed to kill one of his sons named Shapur, who was the governor of Persian Armenia. Bahram V then asked the king of Al-Hirah for military assistance and received it. He then marched towards Ctesiphon and promised that he would not reign like his father did. According to the Shahnameh, Bahram V suggested that the royal crown and garb should be placed between two lions, and the person that retrieved them by killing the beasts should be acknowledged as the king of Persia, Bahram V managed to win and became king of Persia.
War with Rome
In the year 421, the Romans sent their general Ardaburius with an extensive contingent into Armenia. Ardaburius defeated a Sasanian commander and proceeded to plunder the province of Arzanene and lay siege to Nisibis. Ardaburius abandoned the siege in the face of an advancing army under Bahram V, who in turn besieged Theodosiopolis (probably Theodosiopolis in Osroene). Mehr Narseh, the grand vizier, took charge of Sasanian army against the Romans and was highly successful. He was given many high honors by Bahram V when he returned home. Mehr Narseh may have been involved in the peace treaty of 422 with the Byzantine Empire. This treaty ended the mistreatment of Christians in the Sasanian Empire and Zoroastrians in the Roman empire.
Relations with Armenia
The situation in Armenia occupied Bahram immediately after the conclusion of peace with Rome. Armenia had been without a king since Bahram's brother Shapur had vacated the country in 418. Bahram now desired that a descendant of the royal line of kings, a scion of the Arshakunis, should be on the throne of Armenia. With this intention in mind, he selected an Arshakuni named Artaxias IV (Artashir IV), a son of Vramshapuh, and made him King of Armenia.
But the newly appointed king did not have a good character. The frustrated nobles petitioned Bahramgur to remove Artaxias IV and admit Armenia into the Persian Empire so that the province would be under the direct control of the Sassanian Empire. However, the annexation of Armenia by Persia was strongly opposed by the Armenian patriarch Isaac of Armenia, who felt the rule of a Christian better than that of a non-Christian regardless of his character or ability. Despite his strong protests, however, Armenia was annexed by Bahram, who placed it under the charge of a Persian governor named Veh Mihr Shapur in 428.
Invasion of the Huns
During the later part of Bahram V's reign, Persia was invaded from the northeast by Hephthalite hordes who ravaged northern Iran under the command of their leader. They crossed the Alborz into Khorasan and proceeded as far as the ancient town of Rey. Unprepared, Bahram initially made an offer of peace and submission which was well received by the Khan of the Hephthalites. But crossing Tabaristan, Hyrcania and Nishapur by night, he took the Huns unawares and massacred them along with their Khan, taking the Khan's wife hostage. The retreating Huns were pursued and slaughtered up to the Oxus. One of Bahram's generals followed the Huns deep into Hun territory and destroyed their power. His portrait which survived for centuries on the coinage of Bukhara (in contemporary Uzbekistan) is considered to be an evidence of his victory over the Huns.
Later reign and death
According to a legend reported in Shahnameh and repeated by several modern authors, Bahram V learned towards the end of his reign that the poor could not afford to enjoy music, and he asked the king of India to send him ten thousand luris, men and women, lute playing experts . When the luris arrived, Bahrām gave each one an ox and an ass and an ass-load of wheat so that they could live on agriculture and play music gratuitously for the poor. But the luris ate the ox and the wheat and came back a year later with their cheeks hollowed with hunger. The king was angered with their having wasted what he had given them, ordered them to pack up their bags on their asses and go wandering around the world.
The time and place of his death is uncertain, however one version states he died on a hunt, while another states he died in the summer of 438.
Bahram V has left behind a rich and colorful legacy, with numerous legends and fantastical tales. His fame has survived the downplay of Zoroastrianism and the anti-Iranian measures of the Umayyads and the Mongols, and many of the stories have been incorporated in contemporary Islamic lore.
His legacy even survives outside Iran. He is the king who receives the Three Princes of Serendip in the tale that gave rise to the word Serendipity. He is believed to be the inspiration for the legend of Bahramgur prevalent in the Punjab.
He is a great favourite in Persian tradition, which relates many stories of his valour and beauty; of his victories over the Romans, Hephthalites, Indians, and Africans; and of his adventures in hunting and in love. He is called Bahram Gur, "Onager," on account of his love for hunting, and in particular, hunting onagers.
For example, the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, by Edward Fitzgerald, quatrain 17:
"They say the Lion and the Lizard keep
The Courts where Jamshyd gloried and drank deep:
And Bahram, that great Hunter - the Wild Ass
Stamps o'er his Head, and he lies fast asleep."
To which Fitzgerald adds the following footnote (1st edition, 1859): "Bahram Gur - Bahram of the Wild Ass from his fame in hunting it - a Sassanian sovereign, had also his seven palaces, each of a different colour; each with a Royal mistress within; each of whom recounts to Bahram a romance. The ruins of three of these towers are yet shown by the peasantry; as also the swamp in which Bahram sunk while pursuing his Gur.
Bahram V is said to have built many great fire-temples, with large gardens and villages.
The coins of Bahram V are chiefly remarkable for their crude and coarse workmanship and for the number of the mints from which they were issued. The mint-marks include Ctesiphon, Ecbatana, Ispahan, Arbela, Ledan, Nehavend, Assyria, Chuzistan, Media, and Kerman or Carmania. The headdress has the mural crown in front and behind, but interposes between these two detached fragments a crescent and a circle, emblems, no doubt, of the sun and moon gods. The reverse shows the usual fire-altar, with guards, or attendants, watching it. The king's head appears in the flame upon the altar.
Numerous legends have been associated with Bahram. One account says that he aided an Indian king in his war against China and that, in return for his help, the Indian king made over the provinces of Makran and Sindh to Persia. Other accounts suggest that he married an Indian princess named Sapinud. The story of Bahram Gur and Azada's hunting trip is depicted in different media for hundreds of years after his reign. The first written account of this legend is in the 1392 Shanama (Book of Kings).
References and sources
- Parvaneh Pourshariati, Decline and Fall of the Sasanian Empire, (I.B. Tauris, 2009), 68.
- The Oriental Biographical Dictionary, Ed. Thomas William Beale, (Asiatic Society, 1881), 66.
- Bahrām V Gōr, O. Klíma, Encylcopaedia Iranica, (August 24, 2011).
- YAZDEGERD I, A. Shapur Shahbazi, Encyclopaedia Iranica, (July 20, 2003).
- Parvaneh Pourshariati, Decline and Fall of the Sasanian Empire, 68-69.
- Bahrām V Gōr, O. Klíma, Encyclopaedia Iranica
- The Encyclopædia Britannica, Vol. 3, Ed. Hugh Chisholm, (Cambridge University Press, 1910), 211.
- Parvaneh Pourshariati, Decline and Fall of the Sasanian Empire, 62.
- MEHR-NARSEH, Touraj Daryaee, Encyclopaedia Iranica, (January 23, 2012).
- A Fifth Century Hoard of Sasanian Drachms (A.D. 399-460), Hodge Mehdi Malek, Iran, Vol. 33, (1995), British Institute of Persian Studies, 68.
- Introduction to Christian Caucasian History:II: States and Dynasties of the Formative Period, Cyril Toumanoff, Traditio, Vol. 17, 1961, Fordham University, 6.
- Simon Payaslian, The History of Armenia:From the Origins to the Present, (Palgrave Macmillan, 2007), 40.
- Digard, Jean-Pierre. "GYPSY i. Gypies of Persia". Encyclopædia Iranica. Retrieved 2013-07-22.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Bahram V.|
- Encyclopedia Iranica, "Bahrām V Gōr ", O. Klíma
- Encyclopedia Iranica, "Bahrām V Gōr in Persian Legend and Literature", W. L. Hanaway, Jr
- The Civilizations of the Ancient Near East by George Rawlinson
- Tales of the Punjab by Flora Annie Steel
- Persian Literature in Translation The ackard Humanities Institute: Haft Paikar: TRANSLATED FROM THE PERSIAN,WITH A COMMENTARY, BY C. E. WILSON, B.A. (LOND.)- Romanticized story about Bahram Gur
- This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press
|Great King (Shah) of Persia