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One great cause of the ruin of the Persian empire, was the carelessness displayed in military discipline, and the substitution of a confused multitude of men, who were impressed for the service from their respective countries. It was only in their mercenaries, the Greeks, that they had any real strength, and their valour was frequently counteracted by the unwieldiness of the Persian hosts, and their lack of a knowledge of military tactics. The younger Cyrus knew the value of the arms of Greece; hence, as soon as the design against his brother's throne was decided, he with great care extended his connexions among them. The only soldiers, also, in the army of Darius, who performed their duty, and continued faithful to him to the last, were the Greeks.
The monstrous corruptions of the court, or rather of the harem, says Heeren, was another no less powerful cause of the decay of the Persian empire. Every thing was here subject to the influence of the eunuchs, or of the reigning queen, or, still worse, of the queen-mother. It is necessary to have studied, in the court history of Ctesias, the character and violent accusations of an Amytis or Amistris, or still more a Parysatis, to form an adequate idea of the nature of such a harem government. The gratification of the passions, the thirst for revenge, and the impulse of hatred, no less than voluptuousness and pride, were the springs which moved every thing in this corrupted circle: passions which acquire a force in proportion to the narrowness of the circle in which they are exercised. The monarch, enervated with pleasure, instead of governing, is governed by his courtiers. Despotic acts alone, for the most part, denoted, in the last
stages of the Persian empire, that he possessed any power in the state. In a word, all was corrupt, and where corruption prevails, ruin follows in the train; for
"Not only vice disposes and prepares
The mind that slumbers sweetly in her snares,
To the lascivious pipe and wanton song,
Long time were the Persians enslaved. They groaned under the Macedo-Grecian dynasty for 102 years, and when that was overturned by the Parthians, they wore the Parthian yoke for 454
At the end of that time, A.D. 225, the Parthians being greatly weakened by their ruinous wars with the Romans, Artaxeres, a gallant Persian, encouraged his countrymen to seize the opportunity of shaking off the yoke, which they did in a battle of three days' continuance, when the enemy were defeated, and Artabanus, king of the Parthians at that time, taken and slain. The Persians, therefore, again appeared on the theatre of human action, and they played their part during 411 years, their monarchs being known as the "Sassanian kings."
THE KINGDOM OF PERSIA.
ARTAXERES, OR ARDSHIR BEN BABEK, OR BABEGAN.
family of Artaxeres. The Byzantine authoriHISTORIANS differ widely in their account of the ties represent him as rising to the throne from writers say, that he was the grandson of Sassan, a mean and spurious origin, while the oriental brother of a Persian queen, during the Parthian dominion; and by his mother's side, the grandson of Babek, who was governor of Persia Proper. This latter account is considered by Dr. Hales as the most credible; and hence, he says, Artaxeres assumed the title of Babegan, and the dynasty that of Sassanian.
On the death of his grandfather, Babek, Artaxeres applied to be appointed his successor in the government, but was refused by Ardevan, who was jealous of his merit, and disturbed by a dream, portending the loss of his life and crown. Upon this disappointment, Artaxeres fled to Persepolis, and formed a strong party among the Persian nobility, in conjunction with whom he effected the overthrow of the Parthian empire. On ascending the throne, A.D. 225, he assumed the pompous title of Shah in Shah, King of kings."
The particulars, during this period, will be found narrated in the histories of the Macedonians, Seleucidæ, and Parthians.
Artaxeres was no sooner seated on the throne, than he conceived a design of restoring the Persian empire to its pristine greatness. Accordingly, he gave notice to the Roman governors of the provinces bordering on his dominions, that he had an unquestionable title, as the successor of Cyrus, to all the Lesser Asia, which he commanded them to relinquish, as well as the provinces on the frontiers of the ancient Parthian kingdom, which were already under his sway. The emperor Alexander Severus, who at that time ruled over the Roman empire, sent letters to Artaxeres, importing that he would show his wisdom if he kept within bounds, and not out of hopes of conquest rekindle war, which might be unsuccessful; that he ought to consider he was to cope with a nation used to war, a nation whose emperors, Augustus, Trajan, and Severus, had often vanquished the Parthians.
Artaxeres, regardless of these letters, raised a great army, and attacked the fortified posts of the Romans on the river Euphrates. His conquests over them were so rapid, that Alexander was compelled to raise an army, and to march towards Mesopotamia in order to check his
When Artaxeres heard of the approach of the Roman emperor, he was employed in the siege of Nisibis, or Antiochia, which he immediately raised, that he might prepare for the contest. At the same time he sent 400 deputies, gorgeously arrayed, and commissioned, when they should be introduced to the emperor's presence, to speak thus: "The great king Artaxeres commands the Romans, and their prince, to depart out of all Syria and Asia Minor, and to restore to the Persians all the countries on this side the Ægean and Pontic seas, as of right descending to them from their ancestors." These deputies performed their commission; but Alexander, to show his contempt of it, stripped them of their equipage, and sent them into Phrygia, where he assigned them farms to cultivate for their subsistence.
Artaxeres now repaired to Mesopotamia, with a large army, to meet the Roman emperor. An engagement ensued, in which the Romans were victorious. But though Artaxeres was defeated, he was not subdued. He recruited his army, and the Roman emperor having divided his forces into three bodies, he attacked them separately, and though repulsed by one body in Media, he destroyed another, which had invaded his territories, after which the Roman emperor returned to Rome. He entered the city in triumph, and assumed the title of Parthicus and Persicus.
Artaxeres now employed himself in recovering what he had lost, and in restoring the honour of the Persian name. He ruled with much reputation till his death, which occurred A.D. 240.
Dr. Hales observes that this re-founder of the Persian monarchy was one of the best and greatest of their kings; and that it was his wish to retrieve the ancient glory of the kingdom by a steady adherence to the maxims of the Pischdadians and Kaianians in politics and religion. He composed a book for the use of the entire body of his subjects, entitled, "Rules for living well," from which, etc., the following wise political maxims are derived, as paraphrased from Herbelot.
1. When a king applies himself to render justice, the people are eager to render him obedi
2. Of all princes, the worst is he whom the good fear, and from whom the bad hope. 3. All the branches of a community are inseparably connected with each other, and with the trunk; hence kings and subjects have reciprocal cares and duties; which, if neglected on either side, produce ruin and confusion to both. 4. He felt so much the danger of his high station, from self-deception, that he appointed one of his courtiers to examine him every morning, as his confessor, and to require an account of all that he had said or done the preceding day.
5. The royal authority cannot be supported without troops, nor troops without taxes, nor taxes without culture of the lands, nor this culture without justice well administered, and a police well regulated.
6. By the assistance of a council of seven sages, he abolished the superstition and idolatry that had been introduced under the MacedoGrecian and Parthian dynasties, and revived the reformed religion of Darius Hystaspes: hence he proclaimed throughout the empire, that "he had taken away the sword of Aristotle, the philosopher, which had devoured the nation for 500 years;" meaning the civil and religious innovations of Alexander, the pupil of Aristotle, which had prevailed during that period.
Artaxeres was succeeded in his kingdom by
SHABOUR, OR SAPOR,
his son, a prince whose nature was fierce and untractable; and who was covetous of glory, haughty, insolent, and cruel.
Shabour was no sooner seated on the throne, than he meditated a war with the Romans. He was abetted in his designs by the traitor Cyriades, the son of a commander of the same name in the Roman army. In conjunction with Odomastes, a Persian general, Cyriades wasted the adjacent provinces, and having at length prevailed upon the king himself to take the field, he, with a number of deserters, who, for the sake of plunder, followed him, attacked the cities of Antioch and Cesarea Philippi, of which cities they possessed themselves. Upon the conquest of these cities, Cyriades took the title of Cesar, and afterwards of emperor.
Provoked by these proceedings, Gordian, then emperor of Rome, resolved to carry his arms into the east, for the double purpose of chastising Cyriades, and checking the Persian power. With this view, he marched into Syria at the head of a numerous army, and he chased Shabour into his own dominions, whither the emperor followed him, taking Charra, or Haran, in Mesopotamia. He was preparing to push his conquest still further, when he was murdered by the treachery of Philip, whom he had made captain of his guards, on the death of his fatherin-law.
Philip, having possessed himself of the sovereign authority, made peace with Sapor, and abandoned Mesopotamia and Armenia to him again. The senate, however, disapproving of his conduct, regardless of the treaty, he recovered
part of these provinces, and then, leaving troops to secure the frontiers, he marched back into Italy.
As soon as the Roman forces were withdrawn, Sapor and Cyriades renewed their incursions; and the latter growing stronger and stronger, began to be treated as an emperor. The affairs of Rome were in such a sinking condition, that many of its provinces took shelter, out of necessity, under his protection. At length, however, Valerian, though advanced to the empire at a great age, took measures to reduce the numerous provinces to obedience. He carried his arms victoriously westward and northward, and there was every prospect of uniting them all again under the Roman sway. But while he was thus engaged, Sapor, with a formidable army, invaded the Roman territories, burned and pillaged the country, and at length advanced as far as Edessa, to which he laid siege. Valerian hastened to its relief, and necessary steps were taken for compelling the Persians to retreat. A mutiny of the soldiers of Cyriades, who put him to death, added to the power of Valerian, for whom they declared. Sapor, however, resolved to venture a battle, and an action took place before Edessa, in which Valerian was made prisoner, A.D. 268. According to the Byzantine historians, Sapor used his fortune with an insolence the people could not endure. Instigated by despair, they first, under the command of Callistus, and afterwards under that of Odenatus, prince of Palmyrene, protected themselves for some time from his insults, and finally compelled him to retire into his own dominions.
In his march, Sapor is said to have made use of the bodies of his prisoners to fill up the hollow roads, and to facilitate the passages of his carriages over rivers. On his return, he was solicited by the kings of the Cadusians, Armenians, Bactrians, and other nations, to set the aged Valerian free; but this only increased his cruelty towards him. He used him with the most shameful indignity, mounting on horseback from his neck as a footstool; and, to crown all, after several years' imprisonment, he caused him to be flayed alive.
attentive to the welfare of his subjects, and the improvement of his kingdom in the construction of public works, such as cities, aqueducts, etc. Mirkhond says that his administration of justice was so rigid, that some of his rapacious courtiers were alarmed, and set fire to his tent during a stormy night, that it might be thought to have been occasioned by lightning.
In the reign of Sapor, the famous Mani* or Manes, the founder of the Manichæan heresy, flourished, and he is said to have favoured him, and to have built for him, on the borders of the province of Susiana, a place of retreat called Dascarah. This was only, however, while he acted the part of a philosopher: when Mani attempted to reconcile his philosophy with Christianity, or to mix the gospel with some of his national superstitions, and thereby to frame a new system of religion, which he hoped to propagate among both infidels and Christians, Sapor, who was averse to any innovations in the national religion, persecuted him, and obliged him to flee for his life.
The errors of the Manichæans were some of the most pernicious that have ever been promulgated. Mani pretended to be an apostle of Jesus Christ, and a prophet illuminated by the Holy Spirit, to reform all religions, and to reveal truths which the Saviour had not thought proper to reveal to his disciples. To carry out this imposture, he chose twelve apostles, whom he sent forth to preach his doctrines. His doctrines, says Neumann, his symbolical language, and in particular, the division of his followers into laymen, auditores, and priests, electi, and the different duties prescribed to each of them, seem to be verbally copied from Buddhism. His boast was, that he had obtained a perfect knowledge of all things, and that he had banished mysteries from religion. He professed to teach every thing by demonstration, and the knowledge of God, by the light of reason. But never yet has the world by wisdom known God, 1 Cor. i. 21. When reason, says an excellent writer, has tired and bewildered herself in searching after God, the result must be non est inventus, that is, He is not to be found by me. Faith may look upon him, and that with comfort, but for unassisted reason to gaze too much upon him is the way to lose her sight.
HORMOUZ, OR HORMISDAS.
After his return, the affairs of Sapor were straitened. Flushed with victory, Odenatus, clothed with the character of president over the Roman provinces in the east, not only checked the progress of the Persian arms, but caused that people terror in their own country. Twice did This prince was the son of Sapor, whom he this general advance as far as the city of Ctesi- succeeded on the throne. During his reign, phon; and when he died, the celebrated Zenobia, which continued only for about the brief space of his wife, continued successfully to oppose the one year, nothing of political interest occurred. Persians, till she was conquered and made pri- By Persian historians he was called Al Horri, soner by the emperor Aurelian, who appeared "the liberal;" and they say that he was beloved to vindicate the honour of the Romans on this by his subjects. An instance of his liberality is side of the empire. Aurelian also took ample on record. The governor of Ormus, on the Pervengeance on Sapor, for his ill-treatment of Va-sian Gulf, having purchased for him some dialerian. He carried away many prisoners and much spoil from the Persians, with which he graced his triumphs at Rome. Notwithstanding, Sapor continued to enlarge his dominions at the expense of his barbarous neighbours till his death, which occurred A.D. 271.
Although Sapor was cruel and vindictive towards his enemies, according to Persian historians he was liberal and munificent to his friends, and
monds for 100,000 pieces of gold, informed him,
Archbishop Usher has shown that Mani in Persian, Manes in Greek, and Menachem in Hebrew, mean pre
cisely the same, namely, "a comforter." His followers
adduce this as a proof that he was the Paraclete, or Comforter promised by the Saviour, a pretension to which he laid claim. This explains the reason why the Manichees rejected the Acts of the Apostles: the account of the descent of the Holy Ghost on the day of Pentecost, completely destroyed such pretensions.
that if he did not choose to keep them, he might
"Man is dear to man; the poorest poor
Hormisdas was succeeded in his kingdom by
VARANES I., OR BAHARAM I.,
induced him to seek peace. This was granted, and internal discords prevented the Romans from carrying into effect their after intentions of reinvading Persia; so that Varanes may be said to have reigned in peace. The duration of his reign, according to both Greek and Persian writers, was seventeen years. He died, A.D. 292; and
VARANES III., OR BAHARAM III.
his son, ascended the throne. This prince reigned only four months; and, according to both oriental and Greek historians, did nothing worthy of notice. To him succeeded
NARSES, OR NARSI.
This prince, acting in the spirit of Artaxeres, sought the reduction of all the Persian provinces, held either by the barbarous nations, or conquered by the Romans. The state of the Roman empire seemed to favour his designs; for war was raging in every part. Narses, with a large army, invaded Mesopotamia, and in a short time recovered most of the places which had belonged to his ancestors. At this time Diocletian and Galerius reigned conjointly at Rome, under the denomination of the two Cesars. The latter took the field against Narses, and in two battles near Antioch defeated him. Galerius passed the river Tigris, and advanced into the very heart of the king's dominions; but abating his care and circumspection, Narses fell suddenly upon the Roman army, and they were totally defeated. Galerius himself escaped with difficulty, to tell the tidings at Rome. He was at first received coldly by Diocletian, but, by his importunities, he was entrusted with another army against the Persians. He took a terrible revenge. Adding prudence to fortitude, like Narses, he watched his opportunity, and stole upon the Persian army unawares, whereby he gained a complete victory. Narses himself was wounded, and forced to flee, with a small remnant of his army, into the mountains. His treasures and papers, as also This prince, at the commencement of his reign, his sister, queen, concubines, and children, with acted with such haughtiness and cruelty, that the many nobles, fell into the hands of Galerius. It people gave him the surname of Khalef, that is, was in vain that Narses endeavoured to retrieve unjust." Hence they contemplated his dehis misfortunes: no fresh army could be colthronement; but the magi undertook his reform-lected; and the victorious Romans being shortly ation; and they did this with such warmth, and such evident loyalty, that Baharam listened to their sage admonitions, and became an excellent prince.
of whom very little more is known, than that he reigned three years. Persian historians say that he reigned with great applause; and that his death, which was caused by treachery, as he was endeavouring to allay a tumult, was a great grief and loss to his subjects.
During the reign of Varanes, the Romans, under the command of Saturninus, kept the Persians within their limits. He was succeeded on the throne by his son,
VARANES II., OR BAHARAM II.
"The way of a fool is right in his own eyes:
But he that hearkeneth unto counsel is wise."
Prov. xii. 15.
The most remarkable act of the reign of Varanes, says Sir J. Malcolm, was the execution of the celebrated Mani, about A.D. 277, who returned during his reign into Persia. At first Varanes showed a disposition to embrace his faith, though most authors contend that this was a mere pretext to lull Mani and his followers into a fatal security. The result would seem to confirm this opinion; for Mani and almost all his disciples were slain by his order.
Varanes contemplated war with the Romans; but his resolution was shaken by the activity and prowess of the Roman emperor Probus, which
after joined by Diocletian, he consented to surrender the five provinces west of the Tigris; on which condition, peace was granted him, and his queen restored. The other prisoners were retained to grace a triumph at Rome. These accumulated misfortunes broke the heart of Narses, A.D. 300, after he had reigned seven years. He was succeeded by his son
MISDATES, OR HORMOUZ.
According to oriental historians, this prince was eminent for his justice. When he saw that the rich oppressed the poor, he established a court of justice for the redress of the latter; and he frequently presided himself, to keep the judges in awe. Misdates likewise devised many new laws and regulations for the encouragement of trade; whence he was careful of the maritime coasts and the ports of Persia. He is said to have extended his dominions considerably, but the particulars are not related. His reign was brief,
continuing only seven years. When he was dying, the infant, of whom the queen was pregnant, was elected his successor; the magi having prognosticated that it would be a son. He was called "Schabour Doulaktaf,"* that is, one upon "whose shoulder the government devolved before his birth;" an eastern form of expression, which recalls to memory a reference to the Messiah, (see Isa. ix. 6,) signifying his royal power, as King of kings.
SAPOR II., OR SCHABOUR DOULAKTAF.
During the minority of Sapor, the Persians were exposed to many disasters, and especially to the ravages of the Arabs, who, leaving their arid plains on the southern shores of the Gulf, entered Persia in vast numbers, spread desolation wherever they came, and carried off the sister of the late king Hormouz, and the aunt of Schabour, into captivity. When Sapor came of age, he resolved to revenge these injuries. He put their king to death, and treated the inhabitants of Yemen, or Arabia, with great cruelty. Oriental historians say, that he was chiefly induced to act thus by the advice of his astrologers, who asserted that some one of their nation would, in future, subvert the Persian empire. Malek ben Nasser, an ancestor of Mohammed, their ambassador, remonstrated with Sapor, and suggested that either the prediction might be false, or that, if true, his cruelties would only provoke the Arabs to retaliate. This caused him to reflect, and he afterwards treated the Arabs so kindly, that they called him Doulaknaf, "on the wings," or their protector; from the eagles carrying their young on the wings. This was a lovely character, and one which reminds us of the reference to Jehovah in the Hebrew Scriptures, Exod. xix. 4; Deut. xxxii. 11, 12, and to the Saviour in the Gospels, Matt. xxiii. 37.
pliment that prince, and to renew the peace which had recently subsisted between the two empires. This was the avowed object of the embassy; but they had secret orders to inquire into the strength of the Romans, and to purchase arms, of which he stood in need. Constantine was informed of the designs of Sapor; but he received his ministers graciously, granted their requests, and, at their return, charged them with a letter for Sapor.
The purport of this letter was, to intercede for the Christians. In it the emperor gave a brief account of his faith; then of his success and grandeur, which he attributed wholly to the Divine blessing. He afterwards expatiated on the odious folly of idolatry, but without alluding to the circumstance of Sapor's being an idolater. He next pathetically represented the miseries which had constantly attended unjust and cruel princes, instancing Valerian, whom he asserted to have been happy in all his undertakings, until he became a persecutor of the Christians. Finally, he recommended the Christians to the favour of Sapor, and besought him, for his sake, to look upon them as good and loyal subjects. This letter appears to have had a good effect, for Sapor afterwards treated the Christians with less severity.
But Sapor still adhered to the plan of raising himself and his successors to the empire of the east. After he had made sufficient preparations, he acquainted Constantine with his intentions, transmitting to him a letter, wherein he claimed all the dominions anciently belonging to the Persian emperors; and affirmed that the river Strymon was the legal boundary of his empire. His letter read thus: "I have re-assembled my numerous army. I am resolved to avenge my subjects, who have been plundered, made captives, and slain. It is for this that I have bared my arm, and girded my loins. If you consent to pay the price of the blood which has been shed, to deliver up the booty which has been plundered, and to restore the city of Nisibis, which is in Irak, (Arabi,) and belongs to our empire, though now in your possession, I will sheath the sword of war; but should you refuse these terms, the hoofs of my horse, which are hard as steel, shall efface the name of the Romans from the earth: and my glorious scimitar, that destroys like fire, shall exterminate the people of your empire."
Sapor was a zealous supporter of the honour of the Persian diadem, and pursued steadily that policy which Artaxeres had adopted, namely, that of uniting all the territories of the ancient | Persian kings under his sway. In pursuing this plan, however, his measures were different from those of his predecessors. Instead of waging war himself, he encouraged the barbarians dwelling on the frontiers of the Roman provinces to ravage and harass them. This he did openly, when the Romans were in confusion, and covertly, Constantine returned Sapor a letter replete when they were free from internal alarm. After with dignity and resolution; and though he was this, he extended his dominions eastward and now advanced in years, he prepared for war. But northward, increased his revenues by encourag-just as he was on the point of commencing his ing trade and commerce, disciplined his troops, and effected a profound veneration for the civil and religious institutions of his country.
At the instigation of the magi, Sapor persecuted both the Jews and Christians; the former as evil-minded subjects, and avowed enemies of their religion; and the latter, as being attached to Constantine the Great, after his profession of Christianity. The power of Constantine was too great for Sapor to attack him openly; he therefore sent an embassy to Constantinople, to com
Some authors interpret this word, "Lord of the shoulders," and say, that the name was derived from his manner of chastising the Arab tribes, which was to pierce the shoulders of his captives, and then to dislocate them by a string passed through them.
march for the eastern provinces, he was removed from this world of strife.
Upon the death of Constantine, Sapor, taking advantage of the dissensions that ensued in the Roman empire, entered their provinces, and reannexed to his dominions the parts which his ancestors had lost. Many years were occupied in this struggle, and with various successes and reverses of fortune. In pitched battles, as at Siugara, and in the defence of fortresses, as at Nisibiu, the Romans usually had the advantage, but in rapid marches, equestrian skirmishes and surprises, the Persians triumphed.
All this happened during the reign of Constans, who had succeeded Constantine in the empire of the Romans, and in the early part of the reign of