House of Karen

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The House of Karen (also Karen-Pahlevi, -Karan, -Kiran, -Qaran, Qarinwand and -Qaren) were an aristocratic feudal family of Hyrcania (Gorgan). The seat of the house lay at Nahavand, about 65 km south of Ecbatana (present-day Hamedan, Iran).

The Karenas, Karan-Vands, or Karen-Pahlevi as they are also called, claimed descent from Karen, a figure of folklore and son of the equally mythical Kaveh the blacksmith. The Karenas are first attested in the Arsacid era, specifically as one of the feudal houses affiliated with the Parthian court. In this they were similar to the House of Suren, the only other attested feudal house of the Parthian period. Following the conquest of the Parthians, the Karenas allied themselves with the Sassanids, at whose court they were identified as one of the so-called "Parthian clans".

Following the defeat of the Sasanians by the army of Rashidun at the Battle of Nahavand, the Karenas pledged allegiance to the Caliphate. In 783 however, under Vandad Hormozd and allied with the Bavands, the Karenas proclaimed independence and refused to continue to pay tribute. Notwithstanding repeated (and some temporarily successful) attempts to conquer the Karenas, during which the family had withdrawn further eastwards to the Savadkuh region, some of the lands of the Karenas appear to have remained independent until the 11th century, after which the House of Karen is no longer attested. Other notable members of the family include Maziar, the grandson of Vandad Hormozd, and whose devotion to Zoroastrianism and defiance of the Arabs brought him great fame.

In 1910 or 1911, a treasure vault (popularly called the "Zafar Sultan Treasure", after its finder) was discovered near Nahavand. The hoard - which has since gained mythological status - is today presumed to have once been the property of the Karenas.

Karen Spahbeds[edit]

  • Sukhra (r. 525-550)
  • Karin (r. 550-600)
  • Alanda (r. 600-635)
  • Valash (r. 650-673)
  • Several Karen princes (r. 673-765)
  • Vandad Hormozd (r. 765-815)
  • Vandad Safan (r. 765-800)
  • Karin ibn Vandad Hormozd (r. 815-816)
  • Mazyar (r. 817)
  • Vinda-Umid (r. 800-820)
  • Bavand rule (r. 817)
  • Quhyar (r. 817-823)
  • Mazyar (r. 823-839/840)
  • Quhyar (r. 839)

See also[edit]