Vistahm

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Vistahm
Rival Great King (Shah) of Ērānshahr
BistamCoinHistoryofIran.jpg
Coin of Vistahm
Reign 590/1–596 or 594/5–600
Died 596 or 600
Predecessor Khosrau II
Successor Khosrau II
Consort Gordiya
Royal House Ispahbudhan
Father Shapur
Religious beliefs Zoroastrianism

Bistam or Vistahm (also transliterated Wistaxm, Persian: بیستام‎), was a Parthian dynast of the Ispahbudhan house, and maternal uncle of the Sasanian shah of Persia, Khosrau II (reigned 591–628). Vistahm helped Khosrau regain his throne after the rebellion of Bahram Chobin, but later led a revolt himself, which encompassed the entire Iranian East before being suppressed.

Early life[edit]

Vistahm and his brother Vinduyih were sons of Shapur and grandsons of Bawi. They belonged to the Ispahbudhan, one of the seven Parthian clans that formed the elite aristocracy of the Sasanian Empire. The Ispahbudhan in particular enjoyed such a high status that they were acknowledged as "kin and partners of the Sasanians". The family also held the important position of spahbed of the West, i.e. the Sasanian Empire's southwestern regions (the Sawad). A sister of Vistahm had even married the Sasanian shah Hormizd IV (r. 579–590), and was the mother of Hormizd's heir, Khosrau II.[1][2]

Nevertheless, the family suffered, along with the other aristocratic clans, during the persecutions launched by Hormizd IV in his later years: Shapur was murdered, and Vistahm succeeded his father as spahbed of the West. Finally, Hormizd's persecutions led to the revolt of the general Bahram Chobin in 590. Bahram, whose revolt quickly attracted widespread support, marched on the capital, Ctesiphon.[2][3] There Hormizd tried to sideline the two Ispahbudhan, but was dissuaded, according to Sebeos, by his son, Khosrau II. Vinduyih was imprisoned, but Vistahm apparently fled the court; soon after, however, the two brothers appear as the leaders of a palace coup that deposed, blinded and killed Hormizd, raising his son Khosrau to the throne.[2][4] Unable to oppose Bahram's march on Ctesiphon, however, Khosrau and the two brothers fled to Azerbaijan. Vistahm remained behind to rally troops, while Vinduyih escorted Khosrau to seek aid from the East Romans. On their way, they were overtaken by Bahram's troops, but Vinduyih, pretending to his nephew, allowed himself to be captured to ensure Khosrau's escape. In early 591 Khosrau returned with military aid from the East Romans, and was joined by 12,000 Armenian cavalry and 8,000 troops from Azerbaijan raised by Vistahm. In the Battle of Blarathon, Bahram's army suffered a crushing defeat, and Khosrau II reclaimed Ctesiphon and his throne.[2][5][6]

Later life and rebellion[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 according to Sebeos was also the traditional homeland of the Ispahbudhan.[2][7] Soon, however, Khosrau changed his intentions: trying to disassociate himself from his father's murder, the shah 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.[2][8]

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.[2][9] 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.[10]

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.[2][11]

Legacy[edit]

Despite Vistahm's rebellion and death, the power of the Ispahbudhan family was too great to be broken. Indeed, one of Vinduyih's sons was instrumental in the trial of Khosrau II after his deposition in 628, and two of the sons of Vistahm, Vinduyih and Tiruyih, along with their cousin Narsi, were commanders in the Persian army that confronted the Muslim Arabs at in 634.[2][12]

The town of Bastam in Iran may derive its name from Vistahm, as well as the monumental site of Taq-e Bostan.[2]

Family tree[edit]

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Bawi
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Shapur
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Vinduyih
 
 
 
 
 
Vistahm
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Farrukh Hormizd
 
 
Tiruyih
 
 
 
Vinduyih
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Rostam Farrokhzād
 
Farrukhzad
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Shahram
 
Surkhab I
 
Isfandyadh
 
Bahram
 
Farrukhan
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

References[edit]

  1. ^ Pourshariati (2008), pp. 106–108
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Shapur Shahbazi (1989), BESṬĀM O BENDŌY
  3. ^ Pourshariati (2008), pp. 122ff.
  4. ^ Pourshariati (2008), pp. 127–128, 131–132
  5. ^ Pourshariati (2008), pp. 127–128
  6. ^ Martindale, Jones, Morris (1992), p. 232
  7. ^ Pourshariati (2008), pp. 131–132
  8. ^ Pourshariati (2008), pp. 132, 134
  9. ^ Pourshariati (2008), pp. 132–133, 135
  10. ^ Pourshariati (2008), pp. 133–134
  11. ^ Pourshariati (2008), pp. 136–137
  12. ^ Pourshariati (2008), pp. 163, 189, 212

Sources[edit]

Vistahm
Ispahbudhan
Preceded by
Khosrau II
Great King (Shah) of Ērānshahr
590/1–596 or 594/5–600
Succeeded by
Khosrau II