Yazdegerd III

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Yazdegerd III
Shahanshah of Ērānshahr
Coin of Yazdegerd III during his last year
Reign 16 June 632 – 651
Coronation Estakhr
Predecessor Borandukht
Successor Office abolished
Issue Peroz III
Izdundad (Yazaddad)
Dynasty Sasanid dynasty
Father Shahriyar
Mother Unknown
Born 624
Died 651 (aged 27)
Religion Zoroastrianism

Yazdegerd III or Yazdgerd III (Middle Persian: 𐭩𐭦𐭣𐭪𐭥𐭲𐭩 Yazdākird, meaning "made by God"; New Persian: یزدگرد), was the thirty-eighth and last king of the Sasanian Empire of Iran from 632 to 651.[1] His father was Shahriyar and his grandfather was Khosrau II (590–628).[2] Yazdegerd III ascended the throne on 16 June 632 when he was 8 years old[3] after a series of internal conflicts.

Early life[edit]

Yazdegerd III was son of the Shahriyar Bahar of Sasan and an unnamed woman from Baduraya.[4] Shahriyar was the son of Khosrau II, and was killed in 628 by his brother Kavadh II who sought to secure the throne from any rebellion. After the death of Kavadh, a civil war began in Persia, which was fought between two factions, the Pahlav (Parthian) faction headed by the nephew of Vistahm, Farrukh Hormizd, and the Parsig (Persian) faction headed by the former Sasanian minister Piruz Khosrow.

During the civil war, Yazdegerd III was hiding in Estakhr. However, on 16 June 632, Farrukh Hormizd's son and successor Rostam Farrokhzad and Piruz Khosrow agreed to collaborate with each other and chose Yazdegerd as the new Sasanian king. They had him crowned as king in the Zoroastrian temple of Anahita in Estakhr when he was merely eight years old.[5] Yazdegerd III was almost the last living member of the House of Sasan. One year after his ascension, the Muslim Arabs invaded Iran.


Early clash with the Muslim Arabs[edit]

Yazdegerd later negotiated with fourteen Arab negotiators, and asked them about the reasons for their aggressive behavior towards his Empire. One of the fourteen Arabs shortly replied, "Allah commanded us, by the mouth of His Prophet, to extend the dominion of Islam over all nations." [6] On May, the Muslims defeated a Sasanian force under the Azadbeh near the important strategic Sasanian city of Hira, which was shortly afterwards occupied. After the fall of Hira, Yazdegerd began to pay greater attention to the Muslims; Rostam Farrokhzad sent an army under the Persian military officer Bahman Jadhuyih and the Armenian military officer Jalinus against the Muslims. Rostam is known to have secretly to have told Bahman that: "if Jalinus returns to the like of his defeat, then cut off his head."[7] The Sasanian army managed to defeat the Muslims at the Battle of the Bridge.

In 636, Yazdegerd III ordered Rostam Farrokhzad to subdue the invading Arabs and then told him: "Today you are the [most prominent] man among the Iranians. You see that the people of Iran have not faced a situation like this since the family of Ardashir I assumed power."[7] Envoys then came to Yazdegerd III asking him to consider the dismissal of Rostam in order to replace him with someone around whom the people would rally.[8]

Yazdegerd III asked Rostam for an assessment of the Arab forces since they had camped at Qadisiyyah.[9] Rostam Farrokhzad stated that the Arabs were "a pack of wolves, falling upon unsuspecting shepherds and annihilating them."[9] Yazdegerd III responds to Rostam by saying,

Last stand[edit]

However, the Sasanian army suffered a heavy defeat at the battle of al-Qādisiyyah, and Rostam Farrokhzad, Bahman, Jalinus, Shahriyar bin Kanara (who was the son of the kanarang Kanadbak), and two Armenian princes named Grigor II Novirak and Musel III Mamikonian, were killed during the battle. The Arabs then marched towards the Sasanian capital of Ctesiphon without any resistance. Yazdegerd, however, took his treasury, and along with 1,000 of his servants fled to Hulwan in Media, and left Rostam Farrokhzad's brother Farrukhzad in charge of the city, who, however, did not put any resistance and also went to Hulwan. The Arabs subsequently reached Ctesiphon, besieged the western parts of the city, and soon occupied all of it.[11][2] In April 637, the Arabs defeated another Sasanian army at the Battle of Jalula. After this defeat, Yazdegerd fled deeper into Media.[12]

He subsequently raised a new army and sent it to Nahavand to retake Ctesiphon and prevent any further Muslim advances.[13] The army that Yazdegerd sent seemed a threat so big that it led Umar to combine the Arab forces of Kufa and Basra under Al-Nu'man ibn Muqrin and send them against the Sasanians with reinforcements from Syria and Oman. The battle is said to have lasted several days, it resulted in major losses on both sides, including the death of Al-Nu'man ibn Muqrin and the Persian general Mardanshah and Piruz Khosrow. The battle of Nahāvand in 642 was the second military disaster for the Sasanians after the battle of al-Qādisiyyah.[13]


After the Sasanian disaster, Yazdegerd fled to Isfahan, and raised a small army under a certain military officer named Siyah, who had lost his property to the Arabs. However, Siyah and the rest of the army mutinied against Yazdegerd, and agreed to help the Arabs in return for places to live.[14] Meanwhile, Yazdegerd had arrived in Estakhr, where he tried organizing a base for resistance in the province of Pars. However, in 650, Abdullah ibn Aamir, the governor of Basra, invaded Pars and put an end to the Persian resistance. Estakhr was made into ruins after the battle and a force of 40,000 defenders including many Persian nobles were killed. After the Arab conquest of Pars, Yazdegerd fled to Kerman while being pursued by an Arab force.[13] Yazdegerd managed to flee from the Arab force in a snowstorm at Bimand.

Coin of a young Yazdegerd III

After arriving at Kerman, Yazdegerd became unfriendly with the Marzban of Kerman, and then left Kerman for Sistan. Another Basran army later arrived which defeated and killed the Marzban of Kerman in a bloody fight. When Yazdegerd arrived at Sistan he lost the support of the governor of Sistan by demanding tax from him.[13] Yazdegerd then headed for Merv to join the leader of the Turks. However, when he arrived in Khorasan the people of Khorasan did not agree with Yazdegerd's decision and told him that it was better if he made peace with the Arabs; Yazdegerd, however, refused. Sistan was also later taken by the Arab forces after a bloody fight around 650-652.[13] Yazdegerd was also supported by the Principality of Chaghaniyan, which sent him troops to aid him against the Arabs.

When Yazdegerd arrived in Merv he demanded tax from the Marzban of Merv, losing also his support and making him ally with Nezak Tarkan, the Hephthalite ruler of Badghis, who helped him defeat Yazdegerd and his followers. After his defeat, Yazdegerd was killed by a local miller for his purse while he was trying flee from Merv in 651.[1]

The legend is that he was killed by a miller who robbed him of his clothes and jewellery, but there is a strong suspicion that the governor of Merv was the real culprit.[15]

Ferdowsi, a contemporary of Mahmud of Ghazni, recounts the killing of Yazdegerd III by the miller at the behest of Mahuy Suri.

Zoroastrian calendar[edit]

The Zoroastrian religious calendar, which is still in use today, uses the regnal year of Yazdegerd III as its base year,[17] and its calendar era (year numbering system) is accompanied by a Y.Z. suffix. Magians took Yazdegerd III's death as end of the millennium of Zoroaster and the beginning of the millennium of Oshedar.[13]


Yazdegerd's son Peroz III and Bahram VII fled to China. According to a Shiite tradition, his daughter Shahrbanu[18] married Hussein ibn Ali.[3] Shahrbanu's son was Ali ibn Husayn Zayn al-Abidin, the fourth Shi'ite imam.[18] Some Bahá'í writers have claimed that Bahá'u'lláh's ancestry can be traced back to Yazdegerd III, which was promoted to encourage Zoroastrians to convert to the Bahá'í religion.[19][20] The Muslim scholar Al-Masudi provides different information, claiming Yazdegerd III had two sons, Bahram and Peroz, and three daughters, Shahrbanu, Adrag and Mardawand.[21]


  1. ^ a b Department of Ancient Near Eastern Art (October 2003). "The Sasanian Empire (224-651 A.D.)". Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. New York. 
  2. ^ a b Bearman, P.; Th. Bianquis, C.E. Bosworth, E. van. Donzel, W.P. Heinrichs (2013). "Yazdajird III". Encyclopaedia of Islam, Second Edition. 
  3. ^ a b Shapur Shahbazi 2005.
  4. ^ al-Tabari 1993, p. 222.
  5. ^ Zarrinkub 1975, p. 4.
  6. ^ Karaka 1884, p. 15
  7. ^ a b Pourshariati 2008, p. 217.
  8. ^ al-Tabari 1992, p. 44.
  9. ^ a b Pourshariati 2008, p. 224.
  10. ^ al-Tabari 1992, p. 43.
  11. ^ Zarrinkub 1975, p. 12.
  12. ^ Pourshariati 2008, p. 235.
  13. ^ a b c d e f Morony 1986, pp. 203-210.
  14. ^ Pourshariati 2008, p. 239.
  15. ^ Katouzian, Homa, Iranian history and politics: The dialectic of state and society, p. 33.
  16. ^ The Shah-Namah of Fardusi, trans. Alexander Rogers (LPP Publication), p. 547.
  17. ^ "The Lalis". Zoroastrian Calendar. Retrieved 10 October 2013. 
  18. ^ a b Boyce, Mary (December 1989). "Bibi Sahrbanu". Encyclopaedia Iranica. Retrieved 10 October 2013. 
  19. ^ Smith, Peter (2000). "Zoroastrianism". A concise encyclopedia of the Bahá'í Faith. Oxford: Oneworld Publications. p. 369. ISBN 1-85168-184-1. 
  20. ^ Balyuzi, H.M. (1985). Eminent Bahá'ís in the time of Bahá'u'lláh. Oxford, UK: George Ronald. pp. 309–312. ISBN 0-85398-152-3. 
  21. ^ Comparetti, Mateo (July 2009). "Chinese-Iranian Relations xv. The Last Sasanians in China". Encyclopaedia Iranica. 


External links[edit]

Yazdegerd III
Preceded by
Khosrau IV
Shahanshah of Ērānshahr
Succeeded by
Sasanian Empire abolished