Kings of Persis
|after 132 BC–224 CE|
Approximate extent of the kingdom
|Status||Vassal of the Parthian Empire|
|Common languages||Middle Persian|
• after 132 BC – ?
|Darayan I (first)|
|Ardakhshir V (last)|
|Historical era||Late antiquity|
|after 132 BC|
• Incorporated into the Sasanian Empire
|Today part of|
Part of a series on the
|History of Iran|
| Timeline |
The Kings of Persis, also known as the Darayanids, were a series of Persian kings, who ruled the region of Persis in southwestern Iran, from the 2nd century BCE to 224 CE. They ruled as sub-kings of the Parthian Empire, until they toppled them and established the Sasanian Empire.They effectively formed some Persian dynastic continuity between the Achaemenid Empire (6th century BCE-4th century BCE) and the Sasanian Empire (3rd century CE-7th century CE).
Persis (also known as Pars), a region in the southwestern Iranian plateau, was the homeland of a southwestern branch of the Iranian peoples, the Persians. r. 336–323 BC). Since the end of the 3rd or the beginning of the 2nd century BCE, Persis was ruled by local dynasts subject to the Hellenistic Seleucid Empire. These dynasts held the ancient Persian title of frataraka ("leader, governor, forerunner"), which is also attested in the Achaemenid-era. Later under the frataraka Wadfradad II (fl. 138 BC) was made a vassal of the Iranian Parthian (Arsacid) Empire. The frataraka were shortly afterwards replaced by the Kings of Persis, most likely at the accession of the Arsacid monarch Phraates II (r. 132–127 BC). Unlike the fratarakas, the Kings of Persis used the title of shah ("king"), and laid foundations to a new dynasty, which may be labelled the Darayanids.It also was also the birthplace of the first Iranian Empire, the Achaemenids. The region served as the center of the empire until its conquest by the Macedonian king Alexander the Great (
According to Strabo, the early kings of Persis were tributaries to the Seleucid rulers, until c.140 BC, when the Parthians conquered the region:
The Persians have kings who are subject to other kings, formerly of the kings of Macedonia, but now to the kings of the Parthians.
The Parthian Empire then took control of Persis under Arsacid king Mithridates I (ca. 171-138 BC), but visibly allowed local rulers to remain, and permitted the emission of coinage bearing the title of Mlk ("King").From then on, the coinage of the Kings of Persis would become quite Parthian in character and style.
Under the Parthians, these dynasts were called kings and their title appeared on their coins: for example “dʾryw MLKʾ BRH wtprdt MLKʾ” (Dārāyān the King, son of Wādfradād the King).The Arsacid incluence is very clear in the coinage, and Strabo also reports (15. 3.3) that during the time of Augustus (27 BCE–14 CE), the kings of the Persians were as subservient to the Parthians as they had been earlier to the Macedonians:
"But afterwards different princes occupied different palaces; some, as was natural, less sumptuous, after the power of Persis had been reduced first by the Macedonians, and secondly still more by the Parthians. For although the Persians have still a kingly government, and a king of their own, yet their power is very much diminished, and they are subject to the king of Parthia."— Strabo, XV.3.3
Under Vologases V (r. 191–208), the Parthian Empire was in decline, due to wars with the Romans, civil wars and regional revolts. The Roman emperor Septimius Severus (r. 193–211) had invaded the Parthian domains in 196, and two years later did the same, this time sacking the Parthian capital of Ctesiphon. At the same time, revolts occurred in Media and Persis.
The Iranologist Touraj Daryaee argues that the reign of Vologases V was "the turning point in Parthian history, in that the dynasty lost much of its prestige."The kings of Persis were now unable to depend on their weakened Parthian overlords. Indeed, in 205/6, a local Persian ruler named Pabag rebelled and overthrew the Bazrangid ruler of Persis, Gochihr, taking Istakhr for himself. According to the medieval Iranian historian al-Tabari (d. 923), it was at the urging of his son Ardashir that Pabag rebelled. However, Daryaee considers this statement unlikely, and states that it was in reality Shapur that helped Pabag to capture Istakhr, as demonstrated by the latter's coinage which has portraits of both them.
There he appointed his eldest son Shapur as his heir.This was much to the dislike of Ardashir, who had become the commander of Darabgerd after the death of Tiri. Ardashir in an act of defiance, left for Ardashir-Khwarrah, where he fortified himself, preparing to attack his brother Shapur after Pabag's death. Pabag died a natural death sometime between 207–10 and was succeeded by Shapur, who became king of Persis. After his death, both Ardashir and Shapur started minted coins with the title of "king" and the portrait of Pabag. The observe of Shapur's coins had the inscription "(His) Majesty, king Shapur" and the reverse had "son of (His) Majesty, king Pabag". Shapur's reign, however, proved short; he died under obscure conditions in 211/2. Ardashir thus succeeded Shapur as Ardashir V, and went on to conquer the rest of Iran, establishing the Sasanian Empire in 224 as Ardashir I.
The coinage of the Kings of Persis consists in individualized portraits of the rulers on the obverse, and often the rulers shown in a devotional role on the reverse.The style of the coins is often influenced by Parthian coinage, particularly in respect to the dress and the headgear of the rulers. A reverse legend in Aramaic, using the Aramaic script, gives the name of the ruler and his title (𐡌𐡋𐡊 mlk' : King), and often his relationship to a preceding ruler. The coin legends are written from right to left, wrapping the central scene in a counterclock-wise manner:
The Kings of Persis were preceded by the Fratarakas. The list of the King of Persis is mainly known though the coin sequence, and only a few kings are mentioned in ancient literary sources.
|1||Darayan I||2nd century BCE (end)||?||Darayan I and his successors were sub-kings of the Parthian Empire. Crescent emblem on top of stylized kyrbasia. Aramaic coin legend d’ryw mlk (𐡃𐡀𐡓𐡉𐡅 𐡌𐡋𐡊, "King Darius").|
|2||Wadfradad III||1st century BCE (1st half)||?||Sub-king of the Parthian Empire. Coin legend wtprdt mlk (𐡅𐡕𐡐𐡓𐡃𐡕 𐡌𐡋𐡊, "King Wadfradad") in Aramaic script.|
|3||Darayan II||1st century BCE||son of Wadfradad III||Sub-king of the Parthian Empire. Aramaic coin legend d’ryw mlk brh wtprdt mlk’ (𐡃𐡀𐡓𐡉𐡅 𐡌𐡋𐡊 𐡁𐡓𐡄 𐡅𐡕𐡐𐡓𐡃𐡕 𐡌𐡋𐡊, "King Darius, son of King Wadfradad").|
|4||Ardakhshir II||1st century BCE (2nd half)||son of Darayan II||Sub-king of the Parthian Empire. Killed by his brother Vahshir I|
|5||Wahsir||1st century BCE (2nd half)||son of Darayan II||Sub-king of the Parthian Empire|
|6||Pakor I||1st century CE (1st half)||son of Vahshir I||Sub-king of the Parthian Empire|
|7||Pakor II||1st century CE (1st half)||?||Sub-king of the Parthian Empire|
|8||Nambed||1st century CE (mid)||son of Ardakhshir II||Sub-king of the Parthian Empire|
|9||Napad||1st century CE (2nd half)||son of Nambed||Sub-king of the Parthian Empire|
|10||‘Unknown king II’||1st century CE (end)||?||Sub-king of the Parthian Empire|
|11||Wadfradad IV||2nd century CE (1st half)||?||Sub-king of the Parthian Empire|
|12||Manchihr I||2nd century CE (1st half)||?||Sub-king of the Parthian Empire|
|13||Ardakhshir III||2nd century CE (1st half)||son of Manchihr I||Sub-king of the Parthian Empire|
|14||Manchihr II||2nd century CE (mid)||son of Ardakhshir III||Sub-king of the Parthian Empire|
|15||Uncertain King III/|
tentatively Pakor III
|2nd century CE (2nd half)||?||Sub-king of the Parthian Empire|
|16||Manchihr III||2nd century CE (2nd half)||son of Manchihr II||Sub-king of the Parthian Empire|
|17||Ardakhshir IV||2nd century CE (end)||son of Manchihr III||Sub-king of the Parthian Empire|
|18||Vahshir II (Oxathres)||c. 206-210 CE||?||Sub-king of the Parthian Empire. The last of Bazarangids.|
|19||Shapur||3rd century CE (beg.)||Brother of the first Sasanian, Ardashir I||Independent|
|20|| Ardashir V |
(Sasanian Dynasty Ardashir I)
|3rd century CE (beg.)||First Sasanian ruler, under the name of Ardashir I||Independent|
Hormizd-Ardashir, better known by his dynastic name of Hormizd I, was the third Sasanian King of Kings of Iran, who ruled from May 270 to June 271. He was the third-born son of Shapur I, under whom he was governor-king of Armenia, and also took part in his father's wars against the Roman Empire. Hormizd I's brief time as ruler of Iran was largely uneventful. He built the city of Ohrmazd-Ardashir, which still remains a major city today in Iran. He promoted the Zoroastrian priest Kartir to the rank of chief priest (mowbed) and gave the Manichaean prophet Mani permission to continue his preaching.
Yazdegerd I, also spelled Yazdgerd I and Yazdgird I, was a Sasanian King of Kings of Iran from 399 to 420. A son of Shapur III, he succeeded his brother Bahram IV after the latter's assassination.
Shapur I, also known as Shapur the Great, was the second Sasanian King of Kings of Iran. The dating of his reign is disputed, but it is generally agreed that he ruled from 240 to 270, with his father Ardashir I as co-regent till the death of the latter in 242. Shapur consolidated and expanded the empire of Ardashir I, waged war against the Roman Empire and seized its cities of Nisibis and Carrhae while he was advancing as far as Roman Syria. He was defeated at the Battle of Resaena in 243 but won the Battle of Misiche in 244 and forced Roman Emperor Philip the Arab to sign a favorable peace treaty the following year that was regarded by the Romans as "a most shameful treaty".
Ardashir II, was the eleventh king (shah) of the Sasanian Empire, ruling from 379 to 383. He was the brother of his predecessor, Shapur II, under whom he had served as governor-king of Nodardashiragan, where he fought alongside his brother against the Romans. Ardashir II was appointed as his brother's successor to rule interimly till the latter's son Shapur III reached adulthood. Ardashir II's short reign was largely uneventful, with the Sasanians trying to defuse instability in Armenia.
Mithridates I, also known as Mithridates I the Great, was king of the Parthian Empire from 171 BC to 132 BC. During his reign, Parthia was transformed from a small kingdom into a major political power in the Ancient East as a result of his conquests. He first conquered Aria, Margiana and western Bactria from the Greco-Bactrians sometime in 163–155 BC, and then waged war with the Seleucid Empire, conquering Media and Atropatene in 148/7 BC. In 141 BC, he conquered Babylonia and held an official investiture ceremony in Seleucia. The kingdoms of Elymais and Characene shortly afterwards became Parthian vassals. In c. 140 BC, while Mithridates was fighting the nomadic Saka in the east, the Seleucid king Demetrius II Nicator attempted to regain the lost territories; initially successful, he was defeated and captured in 138 BC, and shortly afterwards sent to one of Mithridates I's palaces in Hyrcania. Mithridates I then punished Elymais for aiding Demetrius, and made Persis a Parthian vassal.
Artabanus IV, also known as Ardavan IV, incorrectly known in older scholarship as Artabanus V, was the last ruler of Parthian Empire from c. 213 to 224. He was the younger son of Vologases V, who died in 208.
Vologases V was King of Kings of the Parthian Empire from 191 to 208. As king of Armenia, he is known as Vologases II. Not much is known about his period of kingship of the Armenia, except that he put his son Rev I on the Iberian throne in 189. Vologases succeeded his father Vologases IV as king of the Parthian Empire in 191; it is uncertain whether the transition of power was peaceful or that Vologases wrested the throne in a civil war. With Vologases' accession to the Parthian throne, the Armenian throne was passed to his son Khosrov I.
Sāssān, considered the eponymous ancestor of the Sasanian Dynasty in Persia, was "a great warrior and hunter" and a Zoroastrian high priest in Pars. He lived sometime near the fall of the Arsacid (Parthian) Empire in the early 3rd century CE.
Papag, was an Iranian prince, who ruled the Istakhr, the capital of Pars, from 205/6 till his death sometime between 207–10. He was the father of Ardashir I, the founder of the Sasanian Empire. He was succeeded by his eldest son Shapur.
The Battle of Hormozdgan was the climactic battle between the Arsacid and the Sasanian dynasties that took place on April 28, 224. The Sasanian victory broke the power of the Arsacid dynasty, effectively ending almost five centuries of Parthian rule in Iran, and marking the official start of the Sasanian era.
Baydad, was a dynast (frataraka) of Persis from 164 to 146 BC.
Pars was a Sasanian province in Late Antiquity, which almost corresponded to the present-day province of Fars. The province bordered Khuzestan in the west, Kirman in the east, Spahan in the north, and Mazun in the south.
Peroz I Kushanshah was Kushanshah of the Kushano-Sasanian Kingdom from 245 to 275. He was the successor of Ardashir I Kushanshah. He was an energetic ruler, who minted coins in Balkh, Herat, and Gandhara. Under him, the Kushano-Sasanians further expanded their domains into the west, pushing the weakened Kushan Empire to Mathura in North India.
Ardashir I Kushanshah was the first Kushanshah of the Kushano-Sasanian Kingdom from 233 to 245. He was succeeded by Peroz I Kushanshah.
Frataraka is an ancient Persian title, interpreted variously as “leader, governor, forerunner”. It is an epithet or title of a series of rulers in Persis from 3rd to mid 2nd century BC, or alternatively between 295 and 220 BC, at the time of the Seleucid Empire, prior to the Parthian conquest of West Asia and Iran. Studies of frataraka coins are important to historians of this period.
Shapur was an Iranian prince, who was the penultimate King of Persis from 207–210 to 211/2. He was succeeded by his younger brother Ardashir I, who founded the Sasanian Empire.
Wahbarz, known in Greek sources as Oborzos, was a dynast (frataraka) of Persis in the 1st half of 2nd century BC, ruling from possibly c. 205 to 164 BC. His reign was marked by his efforts to establish Persis as a kingdom independent from Seleucid authority. He was able to reign independently for three decades, and even expanded to the west, seizing the Seleucid province of Characene. In 164 BC, the Seleucids repelled Wahbarz's forces from Characene, forcing him to re-submit as a Seleucid vassal. He was succeeded by Baydad.
Ardakhshir I was a dynast (frataraka) of Persis in the late 3rd-century BC, ruling sometime after 220 to c. 205 BC.
Wadfradad II was a dynast (frataraka) of Persis in the late 2nd-century BC, ruling sometime after 138 BC. He was appointed as frataraka by the Parthian king Mithridates I, who granted him more autonomy, most likely in an effort to maintain healthy relations with Persis as the Parthian Empire was under constant conflict with the Saka, Seleucids, and Characene. The coinage of Wadfradad I shows influence from the coins minted under Mithridates I. Wadfradad I was succeeded by Darayan I, the first of the Kings of Persis.
Pakor I was king of Persis in the first half of the 1st century CE, a vassal state of the Parthian Empire. He is known to have adopted on his coins the same hairstyle used on the coins of the Parthian king Phraates III.
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