Shapur II
Shapur II the Great was the ninth King of the Persian Sassanid Empire
Sassanid Empire
The Sassanid Empire , known to its inhabitants as Ērānshahr and Ērān in Middle Persian and resulting in the New Persian terms Iranshahr and Iran , was the last pre-Islamic Persian Empire, ruled by the Sasanian Dynasty from 224 to 651...

 from 309 to 379 and son of Hormizd II. During his long reign, the Sassanid Empire saw its first golden era since the reign of Shapur I
Shapur I
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 prior to his father's death in 242 .-Early years:Shapur was the son of Ardashir I...

 (241–272). His name is sometimes given in English as "Shahpour" or "Sapor".

Early childhood

When King Hormizd II
Hormizd II
Hormizd II, was the eighth Persian king of the Sassanid Empire, and reigned for seven years and five months, from 302 to 309. He was the son of Narseh .Almost nothing is known of his reign...

 (302–309) died, Persian nobles killed his eldest son, blinded the second, and imprisoned the third (Hormizd
Hormizd (Constantinople)
Hormizd was a Sassanid Persian prince, the third son of King Hormizd II and brother-in-law of King Shapur II. Imprisoned by him, he was freed by his wife in 323 and escaped to Constantinople, where Emperor Constantine I helped him and gave him a palace near the shore of the Marmara Sea This...

, who afterwards escaped to the Roman Empire
Roman Empire
The Roman Empire was the post-Republican period of the ancient Roman civilization, characterised by an autocratic form of government and large territorial holdings in Europe and around the Mediterranean....

). 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.


During the early years of the reign of Shapur, Arab
Arab people, also known as Arabs , are a panethnicity primarily living in the Arab world, which is located in Western Asia and North Africa. They are identified as such on one or more of genealogical, linguistic, or cultural grounds, with tribal affiliations, and intra-tribal relationships playing...

s crossed the Persian Gulf
Persian Gulf
The Persian Gulf, in Southwest Asia, is an extension of the Indian Ocean located between Iran and the Arabian Peninsula.The Persian Gulf was the focus of the 1980–1988 Iran-Iraq War, in which each side attacked the other's oil tankers...

 from Bahrain
' , officially the Kingdom of Bahrain , is a small island state near the western shores of the Persian Gulf. It is ruled by the Al Khalifa royal family. The population in 2010 stood at 1,214,705, including 235,108 non-nationals. Formerly an emirate, Bahrain was declared a kingdom in 2002.Bahrain is...

 to "Ardashir-Khora" of Pars and raided the interior. In retaliation, Shapur led an expedition through Bahrain
' , officially the Kingdom of Bahrain , is a small island state near the western shores of the Persian Gulf. It is ruled by the Al Khalifa royal family. The population in 2010 stood at 1,214,705, including 235,108 non-nationals. Formerly an emirate, Bahrain was declared a kingdom in 2002.Bahrain is...

, defeated the combined forces of the Arab tribes of "Taghlib
Banu Taghlib or Taghlib ibn Wa'il were a large and powerful Arabian tribe of Mesopotamia and northern Arabia. The tribe traces its lineage to the large branch of North Arabian tribes known as Rabi'ah, which also included Bakr, 'Anizzah, Banu Hanifa and Anz bin Wa'il .The tribe's ancestral...

", "Bakr bin Wael", and "Abd Al-Qays" and advanced temporarily into Yamama in central Najd
Najd or Nejd , literally Highland, is the central region of the Arabian Peninsula.-Boundaries :The Arabic word nejd literally means "upland" and was once applied to a variety of regions within the Arabian Peninsula...

. He resettled these tribes in Kerman
- Geological characteristics :For the Iranian paleontologists, Kerman has always been considered a fossil paradise. Finding new dinosaur footprints in 2005 has now revealed new hopes for paleontologists to better understand the history of this area.- Economy :...

 and Hormizd-Ardashir
-History:For a more comprehensive historical treatment of the area, see the history section of Khūzestān Province.-Ancient history:Ahvaz is the anagram of "Avaz" and "Avaja" which appear in Darius's epigraph...

. Arabs named him, as "Shabur Dhul-aktāf" or "Zol 'Aktāf" that means "The owner of the shoulders" after this battle.
In 337, just before the death of Constantine I
Constantine I
Constantine the Great , also known as Constantine I or Saint Constantine, was Roman Emperor from 306 to 337. Well known for being the first Roman emperor to convert to Christianity, Constantine and co-Emperor Licinius issued the Edict of Milan in 313, which proclaimed religious tolerance of all...

 (324–337), Shapur II, probably provoked by religious differences, broke the peace concluded in 297 between Narseh
Narseh was the seventh Sassanid King of Persia , and son of Shapur I ....

 (293–302) and Emperor Diocletian
Diocletian |latinized]] upon his accession to Diocletian . c. 22 December 244  – 3 December 311), was a Roman Emperor from 284 to 305....

 (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
Armenia , officially the Republic of Armenia , is a landlocked mountainous country in the Caucasus region of Eurasia...

. Apparently 9 major battles were fought. The most renowned was the inconclusive Battle of Singara (Sinjar
Sinjar is the name of a town and district in northwestern Iraq's Ninawa Governorate near the Syrian border. Its population at the time of the 2006 census was 39,875....

, in Iraq) in which the Roman emperor Constantius II
Constantius II
Constantius II , was Roman Emperor from 337 to 361. The second son of Constantine I and Fausta, he ascended to the throne with his brothers Constantine II and Constans upon their father's death....

 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
Gibbons are apes in the family Hylobatidae . The family is divided into four genera based on their diploid chromosome number: Hylobates , Hoolock , Nomascus , and Symphalangus . The extinct Bunopithecus sericus is a gibbon or gibbon-like ape which, until recently, was thought to be closely related...

 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
Nusaybin Nisêbîn) is a city in Mardin Province, Turkey, populated mainly by Kurds. Earlier Arameans, Arabs, and Armenians lived in the city. The population of the city is 83,832 as of 2009.-Ancient Period:...

 in Mesopotamia. Shapur besieged the fortress three times (337, 344? and 349) and was repulsed each time by Roman general Lucilianus.
Although often victorious in battles, Shapur II had made scarcely any progress. At the same time he was attacked in the east by Scythian Massagetae
The Massageteans or Massagetaeans were an Iranian nomadic confederation in antiquity known primarily from the writings of Herodotus. Their name was probably akin to Thyssagetae.-Name:...

 and other Central Asian tribes. He had to break off the war with the Romans and arrange a hasty truce in order to pay attention to the east (350). Most able and persistent of Shapur's opponents in the north east was Grumbates
Grumbates was a king of the Chionitae, an ancient nomadic tribe of Transoxiana.It has been suggested that Grumbates is an Iranian name.-Sources:*...

, ruler of the Xionites
Xionites, Chionites, Chionitae, , Hunni Xionites, Chionites, Chionitae, (Middle Persian: Xiyon, Avestan: Xiiaona, Sogdian:xwn), Hunni Xionites, Chionites, Chionitae, (Middle Persian: Xiyon, Avestan: Xiiaona, Sogdian:xwn), Hunni (Pahlavi:Huna, Yun or Xūn (獯), were a nomadic tribe prominent in...

. After a prolonged struggle (353–358) they were forced to conclude a peace, and Grumbates agreed to enlist his light cavalrymen into the Persian army and accompany Shapur II in renewed war against the Romans.

In 358 Shapur II was ready for his second series of wars against Rome, which met with much more success. In 359, Shapur II invaded southern Armenia, but was held up by the valiant Roman defence of the fortress of Amida
Amida (Roman city)
Amida was an ancient city located where modern Diyarbakır, Turkey. The Roman writers Ammianus Marcellinus and Procopius consider it a city of Mesopotamia, but it may be more properly viewed as belonging to Armenia Major....

 (Diyarbekir, in Turkey) which finally surrendered in 359 after a seventy-three day siege in which the Persian army suffered great losses. The delay forced Shapur to halt operations for the winter. Early the following spring he continued his operations against the Roman fortresses, capturing Singara and Bezabde (Cirze?). Constantius arrived from the west at this time, and unsuccessfully tried to recapture Bezabde. In 363 the Emperor Julian
Julian the Apostate
Julian "the Apostate" , commonly known as Julian, or also Julian the Philosopher, was Roman Emperor from 361 to 363 and a noted philosopher and Greek writer....

 (361–363), at the head of a strong army, advanced to Shapur's capital at Ctesiphon
Ctesiphon, the imperial capital of the Parthian Arsacids and of the Persian Sassanids, was one of the great cities of ancient Mesopotamia.The ruins of the city are located on the east bank of the Tigris, across the river from the Hellenistic city of Seleucia...

 and defeated a superior Sassanid army at the Battle of Ctesiphon
Battle of Ctesiphon (363)
The Battle of Ctesiphon took place on May 29, 363 between the armies of Roman Emperor Julian and the Sassanid King Shapur II outside the walls of the Persian capital Ctesiphon...

; however, he was killed during his retreat back to Roman territory. His successor Jovian (363–364) made an ignominious peace, by which the districts beyond the Tigris
The Tigris River is the eastern member of the two great rivers that define Mesopotamia, the other being the Euphrates. The river flows south from the mountains of southeastern Turkey through Iraq.-Geography:...

 which had been acquired in 298 were given to the Persians along with Nisibis and Singara, and the Romans promised to interfere no more in Armenia. The great success is represented in the rock-sculptures near the town Bishapur in Persis (Stolze, Persepolis, p. 141); under the hooves of the king's horse lies the body of an enemy, probably Julian, and a supplicant Roman, the Emperor Jovian, asks for peace.

Shapur II then invaded Armenia, where he took King Arshak II
Arshak II
Arshak II or Arsaces II, was the son of King Tiran and was himself king of Armenia from 350 to 367.- Reign :In the early years of Arshak's reign, he found himself courted by the empires of Rome and Persia, both of which hope to win Armenia to their side in the ongoing conflicts between them...

, the faithful ally of the Romans, prisoner by treachery and forced him to commit suicide. He then attempted to introduce Zoroastrian
Zoroastrianism is a religion and philosophy based on the teachings of prophet Zoroaster and was formerly among the world's largest religions. It was probably founded some time before the 6th century BCE in Greater Iran.In Zoroastrianism, the Creator Ahura Mazda is all good, and no evil...

 orthodoxy into Armenia. However, the Armenian nobles resisted him successfully, secretly supported by the Romans, who sent King Pap
Pap of Armenia
Pap was king of Armenia of the Arshakuni dynasty from 370 to 374. He was the son of King Arshak II and is notorious for poisoning the Catholicos of Armenia Nerses the Great.-Ascendancy:...

, the son of Arshak II, into Armenia. The war with Rome threatened to break out again, but Valens sacrificed Pap, arranging for his assassination in Tarsus, where he had taken refuge (374). Shapur II subdued the Kushans and took control of the entire area now known as Afghanistan
Afghanistan , officially the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, is a landlocked country located in the centre of Asia, forming South Asia, Central Asia and the Middle East. With a population of about 29 million, it has an area of , making it the 42nd most populous and 41st largest nation in the world...

 and Pakistan
Pakistan , officially the Islamic Republic of Pakistan is a sovereign state in South Asia. It has a coastline along the Arabian Sea and the Gulf of Oman in the south and is bordered by Afghanistan and Iran in the west, India in the east and China in the far northeast. In the north, Tajikistan...

. Shapur II had conducted great hosts of captives from the Roman territory into his dominions, most of whom were settled in Susiana. Here he rebuilt Susa
Susa was an ancient city of the Elamite, Persian and Parthian empires of Iran. It is located in the lower Zagros Mountains about east of the Tigris River, between the Karkheh and Dez Rivers....

, after having killed the city's rebellious inhabitants.

By his death in 379 the Persian Empire was stronger than ever before, considerably larger than when he came to the throne, the eastern and western enemies were pacified and Persia had gained control over Armenia.


Under Shapur II's reign the collection of the Avesta
The Avesta is the primary collection of sacred texts of Zoroastrianism, composed in the Avestan language.-Early transmission:The texts of the Avesta — which are all in the Avestan language — were composed over the course of several hundred years. The most important portion, the Gathas,...

 was completed, heresy
Heresy is a controversial or novel change to a system of beliefs, especially a religion, that conflicts with established dogma. It is distinct from apostasy, which is the formal denunciation of one's religion, principles or cause, and blasphemy, which is irreverence toward religion...

 and apostasy
Apostasy , 'a defection or revolt', from ἀπό, apo, 'away, apart', στάσις, stasis, 'stand, 'standing') is the formal disaffiliation from or abandonment or renunciation of a religion by a person. One who commits apostasy is known as an apostate. These terms have a pejorative implication in everyday...

 punished, and the Christians
Christianity is a monotheistic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus as presented in canonical gospels and other New Testament writings...

 persecuted (see Abdecalas
Saint Abdecalas was a Persian priest of advanced age who, together with another priest, Saint Ananias, and about a hundred other Christians, was killed under the Persian ruler Shapur II on Good Friday, 345. One of these others was also named Abdecalas...

, Acepsimas of Hnaita
Acepsimas of Hnaita
Acepsimas of Hnaita was a bishop, martyr and saint.He was the bishop of Hnaita, residing at Paka in western Persia. He and several companions, including the priest Joseph of Bet-Katoba, who was then 70 years old, and the deacon Aitillaha of Bet-Nuhadra, who was then 60 six years, when they were...

). This was a reaction against the Christianization of the Roman Empire by Constantine I. He was successful in the east, and the great town Nishapur
Nishapur or Nishabur , is a city in the Razavi Khorasan province in northeastern Iran, situated in a fertile plain at the foot of the Binalud Mountains, near the regional capital of Mashhad...

 in Khorasan
Greater Khorasan
Greater Khorasan or Ancient Khorasan is a historical region of Greater Iran mentioned in sources from Sassanid and Islamic eras which "frequently" had a denotation wider than current three provinces of Khorasan in Iran...

 (eastern Parthia
Parthia is a region of north-eastern Iran, best known for having been the political and cultural base of the Arsacid dynasty, rulers of the Parthian Empire....

) was founded by him. He founded some other towns as well.
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