The tragic life-story of King Khusrau Parvez – part 1

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Roj Bahman Mah Adar, 1381 Yz.

Readers of Frashogard may be familiar with the name of the Sassanian dynasty, which ruled over Iran and much of the civilized world during its days of glory.


The dynasty was founded by Ardeshir Papakan (r. 224 – 241 AD) and had 35 rulers, the last being Yezdezerd Shaharyar, who ruled from 632 to 651 AD and from whose name our calendar (Yazdezardi, or Yz.) is derived. Thus Yz. 1 marked the first year of the coronation of Yezdezerd and today we are in the 1381st year of his reign.

The Sassanian dynasty had two distinct periods of glory, when its influence was complete over most of the civilized world of those days. The first period was during the rule of Shapur II bin Hormazd (310 – 379 AD).


This was the time when the Zoroastrian religion was brought back to its earlier glory under the Dasturi of Rainidar Adurbad Mahrespand. The second period of preeminence was during the rule of Khosrau I, also called Anoshirwan (of the immortal soul) and made more famous as Noshirwan-e-Adil (the just) during the years 531-579 AD.

Khusrau I Anoushirvan Coin

The first seeds of destruction of the Sassanian empire were of course sowed by the heretic and despised Mazdak (died 528). This accursed person was a Zoroastrian priest, but became a heretic and assumed the name Mazdak (meaning ‘small god’, derived from Mazda – the lord of Wisdom). He preached a revolutionary form of society, where there was no hierarchy and everything was owned communally (much like communism, 1500 years later). This was a direct affront to the truths of Nature, where there is always a hierarchy, and also to the teachings of Zoroastrianism (and other religions). His main teaching to his followers was to enjoy the pleasures of life and satisfy their appetite in the highest degree with regard to eating and drinking in the spirit of equality, and sharing all goods, and women as common objects. His message found acceptance amongst the lower levels of society and even amongst some of the nobility. Soon some members of the royal family also converted to Mazdak’s philosophy.

The Magi advisors to King Kobad (the father of King Khosrau I, Anoshirwan) warned the emperor to stop this growing trend before it reached menacing proportions. The Magi, and their leader, the Dasturan Dastur were always given the preeminent spot in the court of the Sassanian Kings, and their advice and directions were followed without question. But, in a sign of the times to come, the advice of the Abed Sahebs was not followed through with the strictness and thoroughness expected. The Abed Sahebs themselves realized that their time in the open world was now drawing to a close. Therefore, in a slow but steady move, the cream of the Magian society left the public Iran and retreated to the secret enclave of Demavand, in the reign of Kobad I (488 – 531 AD). Their movement to the secret enclave was completed in the reign of Khosrau Anoshirwan. It was only after they left that their absence was really felt, but by that time it was too late.

When the Mazdak movement gained such ground that it became a threat to the monarchy, Khosrau Anoshirwan awoke from his slumber and challenged Mazdak to an open debate, in which the heretic was defeated. He was publicly hanged, along with thousands of his followers. But the damage had been done. The Mazdak movement went underground and continued to grow silently, patiently waiting for the right time to strike at the Zoroastrian empire. The reign of Khosrau Anoshirwan is generally accepted as the golden period of Sassanian Iran. The King brought in great reforms in the way the country was governed and taxes were collected. He eased the burden on the common man and gave public infrastructure a great boost by building canals and other irrigation projects. The King had, as his Vazir the great Zoroastrian priest Buzurgmeher, whose brilliance and piety is the subject of another article all by itself.

Time is supreme, man is nothing. Following this dictum, the days of Khosrau Anoshirwan also came to an end. He was followed on the throne by his son, Hormazd IV (ruled 579 – 590).

hormuzd IV

Trouble began the moment Hormazd IV ascended the throne. Highly suspicious of the great nobles who attended the court of his father, and who were the cream of Iranian society and the pillars of strength of the monarchy, Hormazd began systematically sidelining them, trying to wrest all control of the country into his own hands. Those who refused to give up their power and position were imprisoned, exiled or murdered. His strictness with the army and with the common man caused cries of anguish throughout the empire. Whereas his father was just, but kind, Hormazd was just, but cruel, and uncompromising.

The enemies of Persia were waiting just for this moment. As the country was awash with rebellion and anger, the White Huns (also called Hepthalites) attacked the empire with a massive army of 400,000 warriors and 1200 war trained elephants, under the leadership of Khaqan Shah Saveh (also known today as Bagha Qaghan). Facing this massive army was the Iranian army, numbering only 12,000 soldiers, under the leadership of a talented and valiant general called Behram Chobin (the modern name Zubin is derived from him). Using brilliant strategy and cunning, the Iranian army routed the Huns, with Behram Chobin himself killing Khaqan Shah Saveh with a single arrow (this clash is also called the First Perso-Turkic war.) This battle raised the public profile of General Behram Chobin to new heights. Unfortunately, this aroused the demon of jealousy in the suspicious King Hormazd.

As different countries began to attack demoralized Iran, General Chobin was sent to the Roman boundary to counter a fresh attack. Here the General suffered a minor defeat in a small skirmish with the Roman (Byzantine) army. Quick to use this defeat to his advantage, King Hormazd IV humiliated Behram Chobin by sending him a set of girl’s clothing, complete with earrings, and a nasty letter. This enraged the General, who rebelled against the King. Behram Chobin, taking the law into his own hands, marched with his army from the Roman boundary to the Sassanian capital, Ctesiphon (located today about 35 kms south of Baghdad), intent on overthrowing King Hormazd IV and taking the Sassanian throne himself.


The arch of Ctesiphon, a complex built by Khusrau Anoshirvan

But in his great anger, Behram Chobin destroyed the very country and empire he was trying to save. As the army marched they caused great hardship to the common man, through looting and hooliganism. As a senior General, Behram Chobin knew the locations of the secret treasuries maintained by the King in different parts of the empire, to pay the local armies and for the day-to-day running of the empire. These treasuries were looted and years of tax collections were destroyed in a few days. In such a manner, the very General who had saved the empire, became responsible for routing it. Shortly, the army reached Ctesiphon and captured the King, who was first blinded and then kept in captivity for a few days.

The son of King Hormazd IV was Khosrau II, who was but a young boy at that time. His own life being in danger, Khosrau was whisked away from the palace by two of his uncles, Banduy and Gastahem. Both these uncles were hand-in-glove with the nobles who had turned against King Hormazd and were also secretly favouring the Mazdakites. They had a sinister plan of crowning young Khosrau II the emperor, making him a puppet and ruling through him. With this plan in mind, the uncles took away Khosrau with them, first to Syria and from there to the court of the Roman Caesar Maurice (582-602) in Constantinople (modern Istanbul). They appealed to the Caesar for help in raising an army to defeat the imposter King Behram Chobin and put Khosrau II on the throne. The Caesar was a shrewd person. He agreed, but with a cunningly calculated condition. The acceptance of this condition was to prove the beginning of the end of the Sassanian empire. Thus begins the tragic life-story of King Khosrau Parvez.

[to be continued…]

Ervad Marzban J. Hathiram



  1. rustom  April 17, 2012

    The reason for all the chaos mainly lies in the Byzantine thirst to convert Persia and Zoroastrians into christianity. Anti zoroastrian sects were instigated , supported and formed to segment the zoroastrians. Once Tridates of Armenia converted due to Greogry, Armenia fell away from zoroastrianism. Vartaan Magmonian openly proclaimed to burn down the fire temples and the priests within it. Infact Marespand Adrurbad and Khusro 2 are proclaimed as anti god by the christians as they countered missoneries in their thirst to convert zoroastrians.
    Vartan who became the arch saint of Armenia converted all burnt fire temples into churches. Hercules actually did little battle but with schemes and strategy spread chaos within the zoroastruanempire making one fight the other. That part of history which actually weakened the Zoroastrian empire is forgotten though it formed 700 years of our history and weakened us so much that the Arabs could give us the last push. The Byzantines also took help of the arabs in certain locations. Anything to segment the zoroastrians and thus the empire was sought. When Piroz had an agreement and even gave land to the christians so that they could practise theirs and now over flow again onto zoroastrian habitats, they broke the treaty and ocne again targetted zoroastrians thru forming dfferent sects and instigating them against the magi and rulers. At times christian kings that lost to sasanians offered their daughters hand in marriage to the sasanians..only to instgate the offspirngs against the zoroastrian empire. Thats how some kings turned against their own. Whener the zoroastrians became strict and carried out counter defences and christians lost, they went on a sympathetic wave showcasing how bad the zoroastrians were.

    Whatever festival they could nto stop they adapted as their own, like christmas which was yalda and x mas tree was the sarve those who did not change the new year from April 1st to January were teased and mocked in much later times…those who did not see christ as the saviour were mocked and later faced persecution. The art of painting the easter egg was from the Achmenid times but taken as christian tradition as they couldnt stop the practise.

    Sincewe have fo5goteent he history of Persian Byzantine wars, we now have forgotten how chaos was caused upon us….the irony that the arabs , small in numbers watched the empires fight and at the right time took over from both…

    With the vatican appointing dias’s and archbishops and ordering them to oversee spread of christinaity and recent spate of violence like in Kashmir due to converions and orisa and labeling the hindu majprity as being intolerant is like history repeating itself. Anoter simile to those times and now is that the practise of dokhmenishini was attacked and chanelised to be stopped from within.

    Armenia became christian and all traces of zoroastrianis were converted to christianity including festivities packaged as theirs and temples into churches.

    It is sad that the zoroastrians have forgotten that part of history which is threathening to repeat itself. All we are made to remember is the Islamic invaison…maybe cause Islams rise is a threat to the missoneries thirst to do the same..convert the world.

    Ironically christians were given shelter by Zoroastrians in Parthian dynasty when Rome didnt favour them.
    It is up to us to know our hhistory otherwise like some zoroastrians bowing in front of St Vartaan statue in Armenia and elsewhere on a tourist trip, we may actually belive that Marespand Adurbad and Kitir were non godly just because the chirtsian history says so.

    Nearly 2000 years since the Byzantines wanted to christianise us and then ISlamw anted to sialmise us, both theser are still at war in zoroastrian lands…

  2. Geve Narielwalla  April 24, 2012

    Whilst so much of the Muslim Arab invasion of Sassanid Persia and the subsequent Islamisation is well known, the fact that the Arabs could do all this with such ease was because of the several centuries of Christian Byzantine nefarious interferences in Persian politics and the lies and propaganda by Christian missionaries about our Zoroastrian religion. I would like to add to the narratives above.

    At the time Christian propaganda against Zoroastrianism reached high levels, new converts from Zoroastrians were required to demonstrate their rejection of their ancestral religion by trampling on fire, and even some members of the Persian royal household are known to have done this.

    Dastur Dinyar, known to Muslims as Salman i Farsi and close companion of prophet Mohammed , had first become a Christian after his expulsion from Persia. It was as a Christian that he attached himself to Mohammed’s entourage and probably influenced the Arabs to invade Iran, his revenge for having been expelled from there.