King of Kings of Iran and Aniran
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King of Kings of Iran and Aniran
"King of Kings of Iranians and non-Iranians" of the Sasanian Empire
h?n h ? ?r?n ud An?r?n (Middle Persian)
Derafsh Kaviani flag of the late Sassanid Empire.svg
First monarchArdashir I (224-242)
Last monarchYazdegerd III (632-651)

The Shahanshahs of the Sasanian Empire (Middle Persian: h?n h ? ?r?n ud An?r?n, "King of Kings of Iranians and non-Iranians") ruled over a vast territory. At its height, the empire spanned from Turkey and Rhodes in the west to Pakistan in the east, and also included territory in contemporary Caucasus, Yemen, UAE, Oman, Egypt, Israel, Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and Central Asia.

The Sasanian Empire was recognized as one of the main powers in the world alongside its neighboring arch rival, the Roman-Byzantine Empire, for a period of more than 400 years.[1][2][3][4] The Sasanian dynasty began with Ardashir I in 224, who was a Persian from Istakhr, and ended with Yazdegerd III in 651.[5]

The period from 631 (when Boran died) to 632 (when Yazdgerd III takes the throne) is confusing in determining proper succession because a number of rulers who took the throne were later removed or challenged by other members of the House of Sasan. The period was one of factionalism and division within the Sasanian Empire.[6]


Ardashir I (r. 224-242), the founder of the Sassanian Empire, introduced the title "Shahanshah of the Iranians" (Middle Persian: h?n h ? ?r?n; Parthian: h?n h ? ary?n). Ardashir's immediate successor, Shapur I (r. 240/42-270/72) chooses the titles in a precise manner in the inscription at Ka'ba-ye Zartosht. In that Shapur names four of his Sasanian predecessors with different titles and in "an ascending order of importance" by giving the title (Xwaday) "the lord" to Sasan, "the king" to Papag, "King of Kings of Iranians" to Ardashir, and "king of kings of Iranians and non-Iranians" (Middle Persian: MLKAn MLKA 'yr'n W 'nyr'nh?n h ? ?r?n ud an?r?n;; Ancient Greek: ? basileús basilé?n Arian?n) to himself.[7] The title "King of Kings of Iranians and non-Iranians" has also seen on a single silver coin of Shapur I, which indicates that the title was introduced after his victory over Romans and incorporation of non-Iranian lands into the Sassanian realms. The title was later used in coins of all later Sassanian kings.[8]

The Shahanshah

The head of the Sasanian Empire was the [shahanshah] (king of kings), also simply known as the shah (king). His health and welfare were always important and the phrase "May you be immortal" was used to reply to him with. By looking on the Sasanian coins which appeared from the 6th-century and afterward, a moon and sun are noticeable. The meaning of the moon and sun, in the words of the Iranian historian [Touraj Daryaee], "suggest that the king was at the center of the world and the sun and moon revolved around him. In effect, he was the "king of the four corners of the world," which was an old Mesopotamian idea."[9] The king saw all other rulers, such as the Romans, Turks, and Chinese, as being beneath him. The king wore colorful clothes, makeup, a heavy crown, while his beard was decorated with gold. The early Sasanian kings considered themselves of divine descent; they called themselves for "bay" (divine).[10]

When the king went to the publicity, he was hidden behind a curtain,[9] and had some of his men in front of him, whose duty was to keep the masses away from the king and to make his way clear.[11] When one came to the king, he/she had to prostrate before him, also known as proskynesis. The king was guarded by a group of royal guards, known as the pushtigban. On other occasions, the king was protected by a group of palace guards, known as the darigan. Both of these groups were enlisted from royal families of the Sasanian Empire,[11] and were under the command of the hazarbed, who was in charge of the king's safety, controlled the entrance of the kings palace, presented visitors to the king, and was allowed to be given military command or used in negotiations. The hazarbed was also allowed in some cases to serve as the royal executioner.[11] During Nowruz (Iranian new year) and Mihragan (Mihr's day), the king would hold a speech.[10]

Sasanian state organization

Throughout its existence, the Sassanid Empire was an absolute monarchy. The Shahenshah was the height of authority, with satraps ruling over their satrapies underneath them. The shahanshah was the highest form of authority throughout the empire, but often faced rebellions from their satraps. In fact, the Sasanian Empire had been founded when a satrap rebelled against the Parthian Empire.[12]

The Sasanian Empire reached its greatest extent under Khosrow II, who reigned for 38 years; the longest reigning king was Shapur II, who reigned for 70 years.

The Sasanian kings regarded themselves as successors of the Achaemenid Empire, and many Sasanian kings' goal was to conquer all territory previously held by the Achaemenids.

List of shahanshahs

The table below lists Sasanian shahanshahs and titles used by them.

Titles used by the Sasanian shahanshahs was:

Padishah, i.e. Emperor,
h?n h known as Shanhanshah in English, i.e. Kings of Kings,
S?h?n h ?r?n ud an?r?n, i.e. King of kings of Iran and Aniran,
han h s?k?n, i.e King of the Sakas.
h hindest?n, i.e King of Hindustan
# Shahanshah Coin or statue Reigned from Reigned until Relationship to Predecessor Notes
House of Sasan
1 Ardashir I ArdashirIGoldCoinHistoryofIran.jpg 224 February 242 --
  • Declared himself as Shahanshah after defeating Artabanus IV of Parthia at the Battle of Hormizdegan
  • Died of natural causes in 242
  • Also known as Artaxares and Artaxerxes
2 Shapur I ShapurICoinHistoryofIran.jpg 12 April 240 May 270 Son
  • Co-ruled with his father since 12 April 240
  • Died of natural causes in May 270
  • Also known as Sapores or Sapor
3 Hormizd I HormizdICoinHistoryofIran.jpg May 270 June 271 Son
  • Reigned only for 1 year
  • Also known as Oromastes
4 Bahram I Coin of Bahram I (cropped).jpg June 271 September 274 Brother
  • Committed the persecution of Manichaeism, including the death of Mani
  • Died of disease/natural causes in September 274
5 Bahram II Silver coin of Bahram II (cropped).jpg 274 293 Son
  • Died of natural causes in 293
6 Bahram III Bahram III.jpg 293 293 Son
  • Possibly executed during the uprising which had been led by his own grand uncle Narseh
7 Narseh Narseh relief.jpg 293 302 Grand-uncle
  • Enthroned after seizing power from Bahram III in a rebellion led against him
  • Also known as Narses or Narseus
8 Hormizd II Coin of the Sasanian king Hormizd II (1, cropped).jpg 302 309 Son
  • Enthroned after abdicating the throne from his father
9 Adur Narseh Sin foto.svg 309 309 Son
  • Deposed by Sasanian nobles because of his cruelty
10 Shapur II Head of king Met 65.126.jpg 309 379 Brother
  • After the death of his brother, Adarnases, Shapur II was still in his mother's womb when he was crowned.
  • Also known as Sapor II
11 Ardashir II Taq-e Bostan - Ardashir II.jpg 379 383 Brother
  • Died of natural causes in 384
12 Shapur III Coin of Shapur III, Merv mint.jpg 383 388 Nephew
13 Bahram IV Coin of Bahram IV (cropped), Herat mint.jpg 388 399 Son
14 Yazdegerd I Plate, the king Yazdgard I, slaying a stag.jpg 399 420 Brother
15 Shapur IV Sin foto.svg 420 420 Son
16 Khosrow Sin foto.svg 420 420 Cousin
17 Bahram V Plate with a hunting scene from the tale of Bahram Gur and Azadeh MET DT1634.jpg 420 438 Cousin
18 Yazdegerd II YazdegerdIICroppedCoinHistoryofIran.jpg 438 457 Son
19 Hormizd III King Hormizd II or Hormizd III Hunting Lions, 400-600.jpg 457 459 Son
20 Peroz I Iran, ladjvard, mazandaran, busto di un re sasanide, bronzo, V-VII sec. ca..JPG 457 484 Brother
21 Balash Coin of the Sasanian king Balash from Susa.jpg 484 488 Brother
  • Two rebellions rose from two of Peroz's sons (his nephews)
  • The first rebellion was from Zarir, but he was unsuccessful and executed
  • The second rebellion was from Kavad, who at first unsuccessful requested help from Hephthalites
22 Kavad I Plate with king hunting rams (white background).jpg 488 496 Nephew
  • Enthroned after leading a rebellion against his uncle Balash with assistance from Hephthalites
23 Jamasp Coin of the Sasanian king Jamasp from Susa.jpg 496 498 Brother
24 Kavad I Plate with king hunting rams (white background).jpg 498 531 Brother
25 Khosrow I KhosrauICoinHistoryofIran.jpg 531 579 Son
26 Hormizd IV Drachma of Hormidz IV - cropped.jpg 579 590 Son
27 Khosrow II KhosrauIIGoldCoinCroppedHistoryofIran.jpg 590 590 Son
  • Rebelled against his father and proclaimed himself as king of Persia, however he was then overthrown by Bahram Chobin
House of Mihran
28 Bahram VI Chobin BahramChobinCoinHistoryofIran.jpg 590 591 Rebel
  • Rebelled against Hormizd IV and Khosrow II and proclaimed himself to be king
House of Sasan
29 Khosrow II KhosrauIIGoldCoinCroppedHistoryofIran.jpg 591 628 Son of Hormizd IV
House of Ispahbudhan
30 Vistahm BistamCoinHistoryofIran.jpg 591 595 Uncle
  • Uncle of Khosrow II
  • Founded the city of Bastam
House of Sasan
31 Kavad II Coin of the Sasanian king Kavadh II (cropped), minted at Ray in 628.jpg 628 628 Greatnephew
  • Enthroned after killing his father and eighteen brothers
  • Died after a few months of reign
32 Ardashir III ArdashirIIICoinHistoryofIran.jpg 628 630 Son
House of Mihran
33 Shahrbaraz ShahrbarazCoinHistoryofIran.jpg 27 April 630 17 June 630 General
House of Sasan
34 Khosrow III XusravIIICoinHistoryofIran.jpg 630 630 Nephew of Khosrow II Briefly ruled in Khorasan as rival king
35 Boran BorandukhtCoinHistoryofIran.jpg 630 630 Daughter of Khosrow II
  • Daughter of Khosrow II
  • One of two only women who attained the Sasanian throne
36 Shapur-i Shahrvaraz Sin foto.svg 630 630 Son of Shahrbaraz and a sister of Khosrow II
37 Peroz II Sin foto.svg 630 630 Descended from Khosrow I
38 Azarmidokht AzarmidokhtCoinHistoryofIran.jpg 630 631 Daughter of Khosrow II
  • Daughter of Khosrow II and sister of Boran
  • Second woman to attain the Sassanid throne
House of Ispahbudhan
39 Farrukh Hormizd FarrokhHormizdVCoin.jpg 630 631 General
House of Sasan
40 Hormizd VI HormizdVICoinHistoryofIran.jpg 630 632 Usurper
41 Khosrow IV KhosrauIVCoinHistoryofIran.jpg 630 636 Brother of Peroz II
42 Farrukhzad Khosrow V FarrukhzadKhosrauVCoin.jpg March 631 April 631 Son of Khosrow II
43 Boran BorandukhtCoinHistoryofIran.jpg June 631 June 632 Daughter of Khosrow II
  • Was restored to the Sasanian throne
44 Yazdegerd III YazdegerdIIICoinCroppedHistoryofIran.jpg June 632 651 Grandson of Khosrau II
Destruction of the Sassanid Empire
- Peroz III Sin foto.svg 651 (In exile) 679 (In exile) Son
  • Retreated to Chinese territory where he served as a Tang General
  • Served as the head of the Governorate of Persia, an exiled extension of the Sassanid court
- Narsieh (Narseh II) Sin foto.svg 679 (In exile) Unknown Son
  • Served as a Tang general, like his father
- Bahram VII Sin foto.svg Unknown 710 (in exile) Son of Yazdegerd III
- Khosrau VI Sin foto.svg Unknown Unknown Unknown
  • Known to have fought against Islamic forces in Transoxiana alongside the Sogdians and Turks c. 728-729
  • Last known direct descendant of Yazdegerd III, it is unclear whether he was Peroz III or Bahram VII's son

See also


  1. ^ "The Cambridge Illustrated History of the Islamic World" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 14 July 2014. Retrieved 2014.
  2. ^ Shapur Shahbazi, A. (2005), "Sasanian Dynasty", Encyclopedia Iranica, Columbia University Press, 1
  3. ^ Norman A. Stillman The Jews of Arab Lands pp 22 Jewish Publication Society, 1979 ISBN 0827611552
  4. ^ International Congress of Byzantine Studies Proceedings of the 21st International Congress of Byzantine Studies, London, 21-26 August 2006, Volumes 1-3 pp 29. Ashgate Pub Co, 30 sep. 2006 ISBN 075465740X
  5. ^ Daryaee 2012, p. 392.
  6. ^ Daryaee 2012, p. 201.
  7. ^ Frye, R. N. (1983). "Chapter 4: The political history of Iran under the Sasanians". The Cambridge History of Iran. 3. Cambridge University Press. p. 116. ISBN 978-0-521-20092-9.
  8. ^ "A Unique Drachm Coin of Shapur I". Iranian Studies. 50: 331-344. doi:10.1080/00210862.2017.1303329.
  9. ^ a b Daryaee 2008, p. 41.
  10. ^ a b Daryaee 2008, p. 42.
  11. ^ a b c Morony 2005, p. 92.
  12. ^ Freedman 2000, p. 458.


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