Shapur I

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Shapur I or also known as Shapur I the Great was the second Sassanid King of the Second 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).[2]


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,[3] who—according to legend[4]—was an Arsacid princess. The Talmud cites a nickname for her, "Ifra Hurmiz", after her bewitching beauty.[5]

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"[3] 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.[3] 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,[3] but Ardashir lived very probably until 242.[6] 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).[7]

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 died shortly afterward, and Philip the Arab (244–249) murdered Gordian III after his defeat at the Battle of Misiche. Philip then concluded a peace with the Persians in 244. 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.

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