Khosrau II

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Khosrau II
𐭧𐭥𐭮𐭫𐭥𐭣𐭩
Great King (Shah) of Persia
Parvēz (The Victorious)
KhosrauIIDinarHistoryofIran.jpg
Gold coin of Khosrau II.
Reign 590 (first reign)
591 – February 25, 628 (second reign)
Born Circa 570
Birthplace Ctesiphon, Persia
Died February 28, 628
Place of death Ctesiphon, Persia
Predecessor Hormizd IV (predecessor)
Bahram Chobin (usurper)
Vistahm (rival king)
Successor Kavadh II
Consort Shirin, Maria
Father Hormizd IV
Mother Vistahm's sister
Religious beliefs Zoroastrianism

Khosrau II (Chosroes II in classical sources, entitled "Aparvez"; later garbled into Parviz), "The Victorious" – (Middle Persian: 𐭧𐭥𐭮𐭫𐭥𐭣𐭩 Husrō(y); also Khusraw Parvēz, New Persian: خسرو پرویز Khosrow Parviz), was the last great king of the Sasanian Empire, reigning from 590 to 628.[1] He was the son of Hormizd IV (reigned 579–590) and the grandson of Khosrau I (reigned 531–579). He was the last king of Persia to have a lengthy reign before the Muslim conquest of Iran, which began five years after his death by assassination. He lost his throne, then recovered it with Roman help, and, a decade later, went on to emulate the feats of the Achaemenids, conquering the rich Roman provinces of the Middle East; much of his reign was spent in wars with the Byzantine Empire and struggling against usurpers such as Bahram Chobin and Vistahm.

In works of Persian literature such as the Shahnameh and Khosrow and Shirin (Persian: خسرو و شیرین‎), a famous tragic romance by Nizami Ganjavi (1141−1209), a highly elaborated fictional version of Khosrau's life made him one of the greatest heroes of the culture, as much as a lover as a king. Khosrow and Shirin tells the story of his love for the Aramean princess Shirin, who becomes his queen after a lengthy courtship strewn with mishaps and difficulties.

Biography[edit]

Early life[edit]

Khosrau II was born around 570; his father was Hormizd IV and his mother descended from the Ispahbudhan from Parthia; her two brothers named Vinduyih and Vistahm were to have a profound influence in Khosrau II's early life.[1]

Personality and skills[edit]

Historian Muhammad ibn Jarir al-Tabari describes him as:

Excelling most of the other Persian kings in bravery, wisdom and forethought, and none matching him in military might and triumph, hoarding of treasures and good fortunes, hence the epithet Parviz, meaning victorious.[2]

According to a legend, Khosrau had a shabestan in which over 3,000 concubines resided.[2]

Map of the Roman-Persian frontier during Late Antiquity, including the 591 border between the two empires.

Accession to the throne[edit]

Khosrau was raised to the throne by his two uncles Vistahm and Vinduyih, who were the leaders of a palace coup that deposed, blinded and killed Hormizd IV.[3][4] However, at the same time, the Mihranid spahbed Bahram Chobin, was marching towards Ctesiphon. Unable to oppose Bahram's march on Ctesiphon, however, Khosrau and the two brothers fled from Ctesiphon.

The war with the Byzantine Empire, which had begun in 571, had not yet come to an end. So, Khosrau II fled to Syria, and, subsequently, to Constantinople, where the Emperor Maurice (582–602) agreed to assist Khosrau in regaining his throne. In return, the Byzantines would re-gain sovereignty over the cities of Amida, Carrhae, Dara and Miyafariqin. Furthermore, Persia was required to cease intervening in the affairs of Iberia and Armenia, effectively ceding control of Lazistan to the Byzantines.[5][6]

A large percentage of the leading bureaucrats, administrators, governors, and military commanders, along with the majority part of the Persian military, acknowledged Khosrau II as the King of Persia. Therefore, in 591, Khosrau returned to Ctesiphon with Byzantine aid and subsequently defeated Bahram VI at the Battle of Blarathon. Bahram fled to the eastern parts of Persia and settled in Balkh,[1] or Ferghana.[7] However, a few years later, he was killed by a hired assassin sent by Khosrau II.[8] Then, peace with Byzantium was concluded. For his aid, Maurice received much of Persian Armenia and western Georgia, and received the abolition of the subsidies which had formerly been paid to the Persians.[1]

Reign[edit]

Rebellion of Vistahm[edit]

After his victory, Khosrau rewarded his uncles with high positions: Vinduyih became treasurer and first minister and Vistahm received the post of spahbed of the East, encompassing Tabaristan and Khorasan, which was the traditional homeland of the Ispahbudhan.[3][9] Soon, however, Khosrau changed his intentions: trying to disassociate himself from his father's murder, he decided to execute his uncles. The Sasanian monarchs' traditional mistrust of over-powerful magnates and Khosrau's personal resentment of Vinduyih's patronising manner certainly contributed to this decision. Vinduyih was soon put to death, according to a Syriac source captured while trying to flee to his brother in the East.[3][10]

Map of northern Iran.

At the news of his brother's murder, Vistahm rose in open revolt. According to Dinawari, Vistahm sent a letter to Khosrau announcing his claim to the throne through his Parthian (Arsacid) heritage: "You are not worthier to rule than I am. Indeed, I am more deserving on account of my descent from Darius, son of Darius, who fought Alexander. You Sasanians deceitfully gained superiority over us [the Arsacids] and usurped our right, and treated us with injustice. Your ancestor Sasan was no more than a shepherd." Vistahm's revolt, like Bahrams's shortly before, found support and spread quickly. Local magnates as well as the remnants of Bahram Chobin's armies flocked to him, especially after he married Bahram's sister Gordiya. Vistahm repelled several loyalist efforts to subdue him, and he soon held sway in the entire eastern and northern quadrants of the Persian realm, a domain stretching from the Oxus river to the region of Ardabil in the west. He even campaigned in the east, where he subdued two Hephthalite princes of Transoxiana, Shaug and Pariowk.[3][11] The date of Vistahm's uprising is uncertain. From his coinage, it is known that his rebellion lasted for seven years. The commonly accepted dates are ca. 590–596, but some scholars like J.D. Howard–Johnston and P. Pourshariati push its outbreak later, in 594/5, to coincide with the Armenian Vahewuni rebellion.[12]

As Vistahm began to threaten Media, Khosrau sent several armies against his uncle, but failed to achieve a decisive result: Vistahm and his followers retreated to the mountainous region of Gilan, while several Armenian contingents of the royal army rebelled and defected to Vistahm. Finally, Khosrau called upon the services of the Armenian Smbat Bagratuni, who engaged Vistahm near Qumis. During the battle, Vistahm was murdered by Pariowk at Khosrau's urging (or, according to an alternative account, by his wife Gordiya). Nevertheless, Vistahm's troops managed to repel the royal army at Qumis, and it required another expedition by Smbat in the next year to finally end the rebellion.[3][13]

Music during the reign of Khosrau II[edit]

Khosrau II's reign was considered a golden age in music. Before Khosrau II there were many other Sasanian kings that showed particular interest in music, like Khosrau I, Bahram Gur, and even Ardashir I. Notable musicians during the reign of Khosrau II were Barbad, Bamshad, Sarkash, and Nagisa.

Religious policy[edit]

Khosrau II married a Christian named Shirin, whose son Mardanshah he wanted to succeed to the throne. Khosrau's relationship to Christianity was complicated: his wife Shirin was Christian, and so was Yazdin, his minister of finance.[14] During his reign there was constant conflict between Monophysite and Nestorian Christians. Khosrau favored the Monophysites, and ordered all his subjects to adhere to Monophysitism, perhaps under the influence of Shirin and the royal physician Gabriel of Sinjar, who both supported this faith. Khosrau also dispensed money or gifts to Christian shrines.[15] Khosrau's great tolerance to Christianity and friendship with the Christian Byzantines even made some Armenian writers think that Khosrau was a Christian.[15] His positive policy toward Christians (which, however, was probably politically motivated) made him unpopular with the Zoroastrian priests, and also made Christianity to greatly spread around the Sasanian Empire.[16]

However, Khosrau also paid attention to the Zoroastrians, and built various fire temples. But this did not help the Zoroastrian church, which was in a heavy decline during the reign of Khosrau, which, in the words of Richard N. Frye, "was noted for its devotion to luxury more than its devotion to thought."[17]

Deposition of the Lakhmid king[edit]

In 600, Khosrau II executed Al-Nu'man III, King of the Lakhmids of Al-Hira, presumably because of the Arab king's refusal to give him his daughter in marriage and insulting Persian women.[18] Afterwards the central government took over the defense of the western frontiers to the desert, and the buffer state of the Lakhmids vanished. This ultimately facilitated the Muslim Caliphs' invasion and conquest of Lower Iraq, less than a decade after Khosrau's death.[19]

Invasion of the Byzantine Empire[edit]

Toward the beginning of his reign, Khosrau II had good relations with the Byzantines. However, when in 602 Maurice was murdered by his General Phocas (602–610), who usurped the Roman (Byzantine) throne, Khosrau launched an offensive against Constantinople: ostensibly to avenge Maurice's death, but his aim clearly included the annexation of as much Byzantine territory as was feasible.[1] Khosrau II, along with Shahrbaraz and his other best generals, quickly captured Dara and Edessa in 604, and recaptured lost territory in the north, which made the Sasanian-Byzantine borders go back to the pre-591 frontier before Khosrau gave Maurice territory in return for military aid against Bahram Chobin. After having reclaimed lost territory, Khosrau withdrew from the battlefield and handed military operations to Shahrbaraz and Shahin Vahmanzadegan. The Sasanian armies then invaded and plundered Syria and Asia Minor, and in 608 advanced into Chalcedon.

In 610, Heraclius, an Armenian[20] revolted against Phocas and killed him, crowning himself as Emperor of the Byzantine Empire. He then tried to negotiate peace with Khosrau II by sending diplomats to his court. Khosrau, however, rejected their offer and said: "That kingdom belongs to me, and I shall enthrone Maurice's son, Theodosius, as emperor. [As for Heraclius], he went and took the rule without our order and now offers us our own treasure as gifts. But I shall not stop until I have him in my hands." Khosrau then had the diplomats executed.[21]

In 613 and 614, General Shahrbaraz besieged and captured Damascus and Jerusalem, and the True Cross was carried away in triumph. Soon afterwards, Shahin marched through Anatolia, defeating the Byzantines numerous times; he conquered Egypt in 618. The Byzantines could offer but little resistance, as they were torn apart by internal dissensions, and pressed by the Avars and Slavs, who were invading the Empire from across the Danube River.

Turko-Hephthalite invasion[edit]

In ca. 606/607, Khosrau recalled Smbat IV Bagratuni from Persian Armenia and sent him to Iran to repel the Turko-Hephthalites, who had raided as far as Spahan in central Iran. Smbat, with the aid of a Persian prince named Datoyean, repelled the Turko-Hephthalites from Persia, and plundered their domains in eastern Khorasan, where Smbat is said to have killed their king in single combat.[22] Khosrau then gave Smbat the honorific title Khosrow Shun ("the Joy or Satisfaction of Khosrow"),[22] while his son Varaztirots II Bagratuni received the honorific name Javitean Khosrow ("Eternal Khosrau").[22][23]

Sebeos describes the event as:

He [Khosrow] ordered that a huge elephant be adorned and brought to the chamber. He commanded that [Smbat’s son] Varaztirots’ (who was called Javitean Khosrow by the

king), be seated atop [the elephant]. And he ordered treasures scattered on the crowd. He wrote [to Smbat] a hrovartak [expressing] great satisfaction and summoned him to court with great honor and pomp. [Smbat] died in the 28th year of [Khosrow’s] reign [618-19].[24]

Invasion and defeat by the Byzantine Empire[edit]

In 622, the Byzantine Emperor Heraclius, was able to take the field with a powerful force. In 624, he advanced into northern Atropatene, where he was welcomed by Farrukh Hormizd, and his Rostam Farrokhzad who had rebelled against Khosrau.[25] Heraclius then began sacking several cities and temples, including the Adur Gushnasp temple.

Several years later, in 626, he captured Lazistan (Colchis). Later that same year, Shahrbaraz advanced on Chalcedon on the Bosphoros and attempted to capture Constantinople with the help of Persia's Avar allies. This maneuver failed, his forces were defeated, and he withdrew his army from Anatolia later in 628.

Following the Khazar invasion of Transcaucasia in 627, Heraclius defeated the Persian army at the Battle of Nineveh and advanced towards Ctesiphon. Khosrau II fled from his favourite residence, Dastgerd (near Baghdad), without offering resistance. Heraclius then captured Dastgerd and plundered it.

Overthrow and death[edit]

After the capture of Dastgerd, the son of Khosrau, Kavadh, was released by the feudal families of the Sasanian Empire, which included: The Ispahbudhan spahbed Farrukh Hormizd and his two sons Rostam Farrokhzad and Farrukhzad. Shahrbaraz of Mihran family, the Armenian faction represented by Varaztirots II Bagratuni, and finally Kanadbak of the Kanārangīyān family.[26] On 25 February, Kavadh, along with Aspad Gushnasp, captured Ctesiphon and imprisoned Khosrau II. Kavadh II then proclaimed himself as king of the Sasanian Empire, and ordered Piruz Khosrow to execute all his brother and half-brothers, which included Mardanshah, the favorite son of Khosrau II. Three days later, Kavadh ordered Mihr Hormozd to execute his father (some sources state that he was shot to death slowly with arrows[27]). With the support of the Persian nobles, Kavadh then made peace with the Byzantine emperor Heraclius, which made the Byzantines regain all their lost territories, their captured soldiers, a war indemnity, along with the True Cross and other relics that were lost in Jerusalem in 614.[28][29] Heraclius then returned in triumph to Constantinople, while the Sasanian Empire sank into anarchy from the greatness it had reached ten years earlier.

Muhammad's letter to Khosrau II[edit]

Khosrau II (Arabic: كسرى) is also remembered in Islamic tradition to be the Persian king to whom Muhammad had sent a messenger, Abdullah ibn Hudhafah as-Sahmi, along with a letter in which Khosrau was asked to preach the religion of Islam.[30][31] The account as transmitted by Muslim historians reads:

"In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful.

From Muhammad, the Messenger of Allah, to the great Kisra of Iran. Peace be upon him, who seeks truth and expresses belief in Allah and in His Prophet and testifies that there is no god but Allah and that He has no partner, and who believes that Muhammad is His servant and Prophet. Under the Command of Allah, I invite you to Him. He has sent me for the guidance of all people so that I may warn them all of His wrath and may present the unbelievers with an ultimatum. Embrace Islam so that you may remain safe. And if you refuse to accept Islam, you will be responsible for the sins of the Magi."[31][32]

Khosrau II tore up Muhammed's letter[33] and commanded Badhan, his vassal ruler of Yemen, to dispatch two valiant men to identify, seize and bring this man from Hijaz (Muhammad) to him. Meanwhile, back in Madinah, Abdullah told Muhammad how Khosrau had torn his letter to pieces and Muhammad then promised the destruction of Khosrau II.[33]

In art[edit]

The battles between Heraclius and Khosrau are depicted in a famous early Renaissance fresco by Piero della Francesca, part of the History of the True Cross cycle in the church of San Francesco, Arezzo.

Family[edit]

Khosrau was the son of Hormizd IV, and an unnamed Ispahbudhan noblewoman who was the sister of Vistahm and Vinduyih. Khosrau also had two cousins from the Ispahbudhan family whom were named Mah-Adhur Gushnasp and Narsi.[34] He had a brother-in-law named Hormuzan,[35] an Sasanian nobleman from one of the seven Parthian clans, who later fought against the Arabs during the Muslim invasion of Persia.

Khosrau married three times: first to Maria, a daughter of the Byzantine emperor Maurice, who bore him Kavadh II. Then to Gordiya, the sister of Bahram Chobin, who bore him Javanshir. Then to Shirin, who bore him Mardanshah.[1] Khosrau also had other children whom were named: Borandukht, Azarmidokht, Shahryar and Farrukhzad Khosrau V. All these persons except Shahryar would later become the monarch of Persia during the Sasanian civil war of 628-632. Khosrau had a brother named Kavadh and a sister named Mirhran, who was married to the Sasanian spahbed Shahrbaraz, and later bore him Shapur-i Shahrvaraz,[36] while Kavadh married an unnamed woman who bore him Khosrau III.

Family tree[edit]

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Khosrau I
(531-579)
 
 
 
 
 
 
Shapur
(† 580s)
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Hormizd IV
(579-590)
 
Unknown
 
 
 
 
 
Vistahm
(590/1–596 or 594/5–600)
 
 
Vinduyih
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Khosrau II
(590-628)
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Kavadh
 
Mirhran
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Kavadh II
(628)
 
 
 
 
Azarmidokht
(630-631)
 
 
 
 
Mardanshah
(† 628)
 
 
 
 
Javanshir
 
 
 
 
Khosrau III
(630)
 
Shapur-i Shahrvaraz
(630)
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Borandukht
(629-630, 631-632)
 
 
 
Farrukhzad Khosrau V
(631)
 
 
 
Shahryar
(† 628)
 
 
 
Unknown
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f Howard-Johnston 2010.
  2. ^ a b Muhammad ibn Jarir al-Tabari, History of the Prophets and Kings, vol. 2
  3. ^ a b c d e Shapur Shahbazi 1989, p. 180–182.
  4. ^ Pourshariati 2008, pp. 127–128, 131–132.
  5. ^ Dinavari, Akhbâr al-tiwâl, pp. 91-92;
  6. ^ Ferdowsi in Shahnameh affirms the same conditions put forth by Maurice.
  7. ^ Gumilev L.N. Bahram Chubin, pp. 229 - 230
  8. ^ Usanova M. Ismoil Somonii waqfnomasi, p. 29.
  9. ^ Pourshariati 2008, pp. 131–132.
  10. ^ Pourshariati 2008, pp. 132, 134.
  11. ^ Pourshariati 2008, pp. 132–133, 135.
  12. ^ Pourshariati 2008, pp. 133–134.
  13. ^ Pourshariati 2008, pp. 136-137.
  14. ^ Peter Brown: The Rise of Western Christendom. 2. erweiterte Auflage. Oxford 2003, S. 283.
  15. ^ a b Frye 1983, p. 166.
  16. ^ Frye 1983, p. 171.
  17. ^ Frye 1983, p. 172.
  18. ^ Landau-Tasseron, Ella. "ḎŪ QĀR". ENCYCLOPÆDIA IRANICA. Retrieved 8 January 2012. 
  19. ^ Richard Nelson Frye, The History of Ancient Iran, p 330.
  20. ^ Treadgold 1997, p. 287.
  21. ^ Sebeos, chapter 24
  22. ^ a b c Martindale, Jones & Morris (1992), pp. 1363–1364
  23. ^ Pourshariati 2008, pp. 153-154.
  24. ^ http://www.soudavar.com/Canepa%20review.pdf
  25. ^ Pourshariati 2008, pp. 152-153.
  26. ^ Pourshariati 2008, p. 173.
  27. ^ Norwich 1997, p. 94
  28. ^ Oman 1893, p. 212
  29. ^ Kaegi 2003, pp. 178, 189–190
  30. ^ al-Mubarakpuri (2002) p. 417
  31. ^ a b http://www.al-islam.org/message/43.htm
  32. ^ Tabaqat-i Kubra, vol. I, page 360; Tarikh-i Tabari, vol. II, pp. 295, 296; Tarikh-i Kamil, vol. II, page 81 and Biharul Anwar, vol. XX, page 389
  33. ^ a b Kisra, M. Morony, The Encyclopaedia of Islam, Vol. V, ed.C.E. Bosworth, E.van Donzel, B. Lewis and C. Pellat, (E.J.Brill, 1980), 185.[1]
  34. ^ Pourshariati 2008, p. 179.
  35. ^ HORMOZĀN, A. Shapur Shahbazi, Encyclopaedia Iranica
  36. ^ Pourshariati 2008, p. 205.

Sources[edit]

Khosrau II
Preceded by
Hormizd IV
Great King (Shah) of Ērānshahr
590
Succeeded by
Bahram Chobin
Preceded by
Bahram Chobin
Great King (Shah) of Ērānshahr
591–628
Succeeded by
Kavadh II