|"King of kings of Iran and Aniran"
(Middle Persian: šāhān šāh ērān ud anērān)
|Reign||240/42 – 270/72 CE|
|Born||c. 215 CE|
|Died||270 or 272|
|Place of death||Bishapur|
Shapur I (Middle Persian: 𐭱𐭧𐭯𐭥𐭧𐭥𐭩 Šahpūhrī), also known as Shapur I the Great, was the second Sassanid King of the Persian Empire. The dates of his reign are commonly given as 240/42 – 270/72, but it is likely that he also reigned as co-regent (together with his father) prior to his father's death in 242 (more probably than 240).
Early years 
Shapur was the son of Ardashir I (r. 226–240 [died 242]), the founder of the Sassanid dynasty and whom Shapur succeeded. His mother was Lady Myrōd, who—according to legend—was an Arsacid princess. The Talmud cites a nickname for her, "Ifra Hurmiz", after her bewitching beauty.
Shapur accompanied his father's campaigns against the Parthians, who — at the time — still controlled much of the Iranian plateau through a system of vassal states that the Persian kingdom had itself previously been a part of. Before an assembly of magnates, Ardashir "judged him the gentlest, wisest, bravest and ablest of all his children" and nominated him as his successor. Shapur also appears as heir apparent in Ardashir's investiture inscriptions at Naqsh-e Rajab and Firuzabad. The Cologne Mani-Codex indicates that, by 240, Ardashir and Shapur were already reigning together. In a letter from Gordian III to his senate, dated to 242, the "Persian Kings" are referred to in the plural. Synarchy is also evident in the coins of this period that portray Ardashir facing his youthful son, and which are accompanied by a legend that indicates that Shapur was already referred to as king.
The date of Shapur's coronation remains debated. 240 is frequently noted, but Ardashir lived very probably until 242. 240 also marks the year of the seizure and subsequent destruction of Hatra, about 100 km southwest of Nineveh and Mosul in present-day Iraq. According to legend, al-Nadirah, the daughter of the king of Hatra, betrayed her city to the Sassanids, who then killed the king and had the city razed. (Legends also have Shapur either marrying al-Nadirah, or having her killed, or both.)
War against the Roman Empire 
Ardashir I had, towards the end of his reign, renewed the war against the Roman Empire. Shapur I conquered the Mesopotamian fortresses Nisibis and Carrhae and advanced into Syria. Timesitheus, father-in-law of the young emperor, Gordian III, drove him back and defeated him at the Battle of Resaena in 243, regaining Nisibis and Carrhae. Timesitheus decided to carry out the battle in Persian territory, thus passed Tigris, entered Mesopotamian and surrounded the Ctesiphon but faced tough resist from Persians, following this blockade Gordian died in battle and Romans chose Philip the Arab as Emperor. Philip was not willing to repeat the mistakes of previous claimants, and was aware that he had to return to Rome in order to secure his position with the senate then concluded a peace with the Persians in 244, he had agree that Armenia lay within Persia’s sphere of influence. He also had to pay an enormous indemnity to the Persians of 500,000 gold denarii. Philip immediately issued coins proclaiming that he had made peace with the Persians (pax fundata cum Persis). With the Roman Empire debilitated by Germanic invasions and the continuous elevation of new emperors after the death of Trajan Decius (251), Shapur I resumed his attacks.
Shapur I conquered Armenia invaded Syria and captured Antioch. The Emperor Valerian (253–260) marched against him and by 257, Valerian had recovered Antioch and returned the province of Syria to Roman control. The speedy retreat of Shapur's troops caused Valerian to pursue the Persians to Edessa, but they were besieged by the Persians and Valerian was captured by Shapur. Shapur advanced into Asia Minor, but was defeated by Balista and Septimius Odenathus, who captured the royal harem. Shapur plundered the eastern borders of Syria and returned to Asia.
One of the great achievements of Shapur's reign was the defeat of the Roman Emperor Valerian. This is presented in a mural at Naqsh-e Rustam, where Shapur is represented on horseback wearing royal armour and crown. Before him kneels Valerian, in Roman dress, asking for grace. The same scene is repeated in other rock-face inscriptions. Shapur is said to have publicly shamed Valerian by using the Roman Emperor as a footstool when mounting his horse. Other sources contradict and note that in other stone carvings, Valerian is respected and never on his knees. This is supported by reports that Valerian and some of his army lived in relatively good conditions in the city of Bishapur and that Shapur enrolled the assistance of Roman engineers in his engineering and development plans.
Builder of cities 
Shapur I left other reliefs and rock inscriptions. A relief at Naqsh-e Rajab near Istakhr, is accompanied by a Greek translation. Here Shapur I calls himself "the Mazdayasnian (worshipper of Ahuramazda), the divine Sapores, King of Kings of the Aryans, Iranians, and non-Aryans, of divine descent, son of the Mazdayasnian, the divine Artaxerxes, King of Kings of the Aryans, grandson of the divine king Papak." Another long inscription at Istakhr mentions the King's exploits in archery in the presence of his nobles. From his titles we learn that Shapur I claimed the sovereignty over the whole earth, although in reality his domain extended little farther than that of Ardashir I. Shapur I built the great town Gundishapur near the old Achaemenid capital Susa, and increased the fertility of the district by a dam and irrigation system - built by the Roman prisoners — that redirected part of the Karun River. The barrier is still called Band-e Kaisar, "the mole of the Caesar." He is also responsible for building the city of Bishapur, with the labours of Roman soldiers captured after the defeat of Valerian in 260.
Interactions with minorities 
Under Shapur's reign, the prophet Mani, the founder of Manichaeism, began his preaching in Western Iran, and the King himself seems to have favoured his ideas. The Shapurgan, Mani's only treatise in the Middle Persian language, is dedicated to Shapur.
|"King of kings of Iran and Aniran"
240/42 – 272
- MacKenzie, David Niel (1998). "Ērān, Ērānšahr". Encyclopedia Iranica 8. Costa Mesa: Mazda
- For the date of Ardashir's death (242) see J. Wiesehöfer, Ardasir, in: Encyclopedia Iranica.
- Shahbazi, Shapur (2003). "Shapur I". Encyclopedia Iranica. Costa Mesa: Mazda.
- Herzfeld, E. E. (1988). Iran in the Ancient East. New York: Hacker Art Books. ISBN 0-87817-308-0. p. 287.
- Talmud Bavli, Tractate Baba Basra 8a. See there note 56 in Artscroll edition(2004)
- J. Wiesehöfer, Ardasir, in: Encyclopedia Iranica.
- "Hatra". Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica Inc. 2008. Retrieved 8 December 2007
- Cambridge History of Iran, Volume III,edited by Ehsan Yarshater (professor of Iranian studies, Columbia University, New York)
- Prof. Remi Boucharlat, National Center of Scientific Research, France,^ pearl of Persia, pg. 134 and 135
- Grishman,R.(1995):Iran From the Beginning Until Islam
- Prof. A. Tafazzoll, (1990): History of Ancient Iran, pg. 183
- This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.