Shapur II

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Shapur II the Great was the ninth King of the Persian Sassanid Empire from 309 to 379. During his long reign, the Sassanid Empire saw its first golden era since the reign of Shapur I (241–272).


Early childhood

When King Hormizd II (302–309) died, Persian nobles killed his eldest son, blinded the second, and imprisoned the third (Hormizd, who afterwards escaped to the Roman Empire).[3] The throne was reserved for the unborn child of one of the wives of Hormizd II. It is said that Shapur II may have been the only king in history to be crowned in utero: the crown was placed upon his mother's belly. This child, named Shapur, was therefore born king; the government was conducted by his mother and the magnates. But when Shapur II came of age, he turned out to be one of the greatest monarchs of the dynasty.[citation needed]


During the early years of the reign of Shapur, Arabs crossed the Persian Gulf from Bahrain to "Ardashir-Khora" of Pars and raided the interior. In retaliation, Shapur led an expedition through Bahrain, defeated the combined forces of the Arab tribes of "Taghlib", "Bakr bin Wael", and "Abd Al-Qays" and advanced temporarily into Yamama in central Najd. He resettled these tribes in Kerman and Hormizd-Ardashir. Arabs named him, as "Shabur Dhul-aktāf" or "Zol 'Aktāf" that means "The owner of the shoulders" after this battle.[4]

In 337, just before the death of Constantine I (324–337), Shapur II, probably provoked by religious differences, broke the peace concluded in 297 between Narseh (293–302) and Emperor Diocletian (284–305), which had been observed for forty years. This was the beginning of two long drawn-out wars (337–350 and 358-363) which were inadequately recorded. After crushing a rebellion in the south, Shapur II invaded Roman Mesopotamia and recaptured Armenia. Apparently 9 major battles were fought. The most renowned was the inconclusive Battle of Singara (Sinjar, in Iraq) in which the Roman emperor Constantius II was at first successful, capturing the Persian camp, only to be driven out by a surprise night attack after Shapur had rallied his troops (344-or 348?). Gibbon asserts that Shapur II invariably defeated Constantius, but there is reason to believe that the honours were fairly evenly shared between the two capable commanders. (Since Singara was on the Persian side of the Mesopotamian frontier, this alone may suggest that the Romans had not seriously lost ground in the war up to that time.) The most notable feature of this war was the consistently successful defence of the Roman fortress of Nisibis in Mesopotamia. Shapur besieged the fortress three times (337, 344? and 349) and was repulsed each time by Roman general Lucilianus.

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