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Name of kings of the Iranian Sasanid dynasty, of which the most famous was Sapor I (reigned ad 240–72), son of Artaxerxes I (Ardashir) and co-regent with him 240/1 (?). He continued, with spectacular success, his father's policy of aggression against Rome, taking full advantage of the internal crisis in the Roman empire. After Hatra and the Roman outposts in Mesopotamia fell to the Sasanians in the late 230s and early 240s, the emperor Gordian III started a counter-offensive, but was beaten and died in the battle of Misiche (244). The subsequent peace treaty between Sapor and the emperor Philip forced the Romans to pay a great amount of ransom. A further attack by Sapor led to the occupation of Armenia, the devastation of Syria, and the first conquest of Antioch (252/3). The third campaign of the Sasanid ‘King of Kings, King of Iran and Non-Iran’ saw the capture of Valerian (260) and Persian raids into Syria, Cilicia, and Cappadocia. It was left to Septimius Odaenathus, dynast of Palmyra, to play the major role in forcing Sapor to withdraw from Roman territory (262–6). In addition to his military achievements (listed in his great inscription at Naqš-i Rustam, the Res Gestae Divi Saporis, and depicted in his famous rock-reliefs), Sapor was famed for his grandiose building operations (he used the labour of Roman captives) and for his relations with the religious leader Mani, who began his preaching in the Persian empire at the time of Sapor's investiture.

Josef Wieshöfer

Subjects: Classical Studies.

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