Posted by: ken98 | December 21, 2009

Imperial Massacres, Omar Khayyam’s Rubaiyat and Shapur II

Day 101 – Ken here (M)
(DEF v.2, ch.17, pp.660-670)

Well, its the start of holiday week here at Decline’n’Fall Central, so there’ll be a short break for station (family) identification, then back to chapter 18 and Constantine’s legacy to his sons (murder, intrigue, and death – to let the cat out of the bag).

We continue today to view Constantine’s funeral, the subsequent bloodbath it created among the Flavians (his extended family), and a long introduction, and explanation of the heating-up of the Roman’s cold war with the Persians (337-360).

The Story
 
Constantine’s Death & the Bloodbath
 

  • Death and Funeral of Constantine (7-25-335) – after an unheard of 14 years of peace, and a 30 year reign, Constantine dies after a short illness near Nicomedia – the whole world mourns, such is the respect and habit of having him on the throne that (like Franklin Roosevelt) it’s hard to imagine a world without him – his body is “worshiped” (treated as if still alive, given imperial honors/forms) for some time after his death
  • Bloodbath: Court factions immediately form to exclude the nephews (2) from the sons (3) of Constantine at the center of power – the nephews (Hannibalianus, Dalmatius) are arrested, they are accused (through a letter “discovered” by the sons) of conspiring to poison Constantine, and the troops are allowed to be properly lathered up – the result: legionary trial-by-acclamation, instant execution, no more nephews, only sons to inherit the empire
  • Numerous other family members of Constantine’s family share the nephews downfall and fate – and numerous adherents of the nephews – in fact, anyone related to Constantine (excepting of course the remaining 3 sons), or loyal to his nephews, or hated by the populace, fell. Two very young men, obscure cousins of an obscure brother (Gallus and Julian) survived – both to become royal in the future
  • As we will see – Constantine’s very, very numerous and politically safe family (during Constantine’s lifetime) will dissolve down to 2 men in 30 years – Constantius and Julian – then one man – Julian (called the apostate) will be the last remaining relative of Constantine able to assume the purple
  • The three men left standing Constantine (II) (21 year old), Constantius (20 years old), Constans (17 years old) – divide the empire between themselves, and prepare for war
  •  
    Cold War with Persia heats up (337-360’s)
     

  • Sapor – now King of Persia (310), grandson of Narses whom the emperor Galerius had conquered in the late 200’s.
  • Per Agathias (see below) Sapor is crowned before he is born – considered one of the great builders of the new Persian Empire
  • Gibbon briefly describes the political situation at the beginning of Sapor’s reign – the weak position of the Persian Empire due to having an infant king – the losses to Arabs, etc.
  • Sapor pursues goal of gaining back Tigris provinces from Rome,
  • Persian Wars: Armenia – Tiridates (Constantine’s friend, put on the throne by Const.) – (Armenia = casus belli – excuse for war) embraces Christianity with Const. Armenia does not follow suit – governors revolt (with Albanians), ask Sapor to help in civil war, Bishops (St Gregory the Illuminator) asks Constantius to intervene – Chosroes (weak son of Tiridates) imposed on Armenia as client king, Sapor begins to detach Armenian provinces from Armenia (Armenia has ping-ponged back and forth between Rome and Persia as a client/satrap for centuries)
  • Persian Wars: (337-360) – battle of Singara (348) – Constantius’ army pillages apparent undefended Persian camp at Singara, Persians ambush, total Roman rout and massacre – Romans in retaliation kill Sapor’s hostage son
  • Persian Wars: – siege of Nisibis (338, 346, 350) – beseiged by Persians (Sapor) 3 times, never fell. 3rd siege (350) – Persians dam stream, create lake, attempt infiltration of failing city walls – almost succeed but for invasion of Persia by barbarian tribes (Massagetae) on far North-Eastern frontier (Oxus) forcing Sapor to end the siege and march to battle
  • CAIS - Circle of Ancient Iranian Studies - information central for Ancient Iran

    CAIS - Circle of Ancient Iranian Studies - information central for Ancient Iran

    Interesting Website on Pre-Islamic Iranian History
    CAIS (Circle of Ancient Iranian Studies – part of the University of London) is a fantastic information storehouse on all things Ancient Persian/Iranian.

    The Curious Case of a Pre-Birth Coronation
    Gibbon, quoting Agathias (writing 200 years after the fact), describing the miraculous, prophetic birth of the famous King of Persia – Sapor (early 300’s).

    This from Gibbon:

    “At the decease of Constantine, the throne of the East was filled by Sapor, son of Hormouz, or Hormisdas, and grandson of Narses, who, after the victory of Galerius, had humbly confessed the superiority of the Roman power. Although Sapor was in the thirtieth year of his long reign, he was still in the vigour of youth, as the date of his accession, by a very strange fatality, had preceded that of his birth. The wife of Hormouz remained pregnant at the time of her husband’s death, and the uncertainty of the sex, as well as of the event, excited the ambitious hopes of the princes of the house of Sassan. The apprehensions of civil war were at length removed by the positive assurance of the Magi that the widow of Hormouz had conceived, and would safely produce a son. Obedient to the voice of superstition, the Persians prepared, without delay, the ceremony of his coronation. A royal bed, on which the queen lay in state, was exhibited in the midst of the palace; the diadem was placed on the spot which might be supposed to conceal the future heir of Artaxerxes, and the prostrate satraps adored the majesty of their invisible and insensible sovereign.” (DEF v.2, ch.18, p.664, fn.54)

    Coin of Shapur (Sapor) - King of Kings of Iran and Aniran - during his long (over 70 year) reign, Sapor rebuilt the Persian empire - often at the expense of Rome - Julian (30 years from our present time) was to die in battle with Sapor, and his successor Jovian would cede most of Roman Mesopotamia and Armenia to Sapor after Julian's mysterious death to ensure (unsuccessfully) a smooth succession

    Coin of Shapur (Sapor) - King of Kings of Iran and Aniran - during his long (over 70 year) reign, Sapor rebuilt the Persian empire - often at the expense of Rome - Julian (30 years from our present time) was to die in battle with Sapor, and his successor Jovian would cede most of Roman Mesopotamia and Armenia to Sapor after Julian's mysterious death to ensure (unsuccessfully) a smooth succession

    Nishapur - Modern tomb of Omar Khayyam (died early 1100's) - the town was founded as a new town by Shapur II during his long reign and rebuilding of the Persian Empire

    Nishapur - Modern tomb of Omar Khayyam (died early 1100's) - the town was founded as a new town by Shapur II during his long reign and rebuilding of the Persian Empire

    Shapur and the 1st Golden Age of the New Persian Empire

    Shapur II, like Constantine, rebuilt Persia and the Sassanid Empire, strengthening the absolute monotheism (Zoroastrianism) of the state, founding new cities (named, coincidentally, after himself). The founding of the city of Nishapur in eastern Parthia has been ascribed to him, (as well as to his eponymous ancestor Shapur I). In this distant spot, a hotbed of activity on the Silk Road between Europe and China, the world was given the mathematics (algebra) and poetry (Rubaiyat) of Omar Khayyam during the golden age of Arabic science and literature.
    This from Wiki on Nishapur:

    “Nishapur occupies an important strategic position astride the old Silk Road that linked Anatolia and the Mediterranean with China. On the Silk Road, Nishapur has often defined the flexible frontier between the Iranian plateau and Central Asia. The town derived its name from its reputed founder, the Sassanian king Shapur I, who is said to have established it in the 3rd century CE. Nearby are the turquoise mines that supplied the world with turquoise for at least two millennia. It became an important town in the Khorasan region but subsequently declined in significance until a revival in its fortunes in 9th century under the Tahirid dynasty, when the glazed ceramics of Nishapur formed an important item of trade to the west. For a time Nishapur rivaled Baghdad or Cairo: Toghrül, the first ruler of the Seljuk dynasty, made Nishapur his residence in 1037 and proclaimed himself sultan there, but it declined thereafter, as Seljuk fortunes were concentrated in the west. In the year 1000CE, it was among the 10 largest cities on earth [2]. After the husband of Genghis Khan’s daughter was killed at Nishapur in 1221, she ordered the death of all in the city (~1.7 million), and the skulls of men, women, and children were piled in pyramids by the Mongols. This invasion and earthquakes destroyed the pottery kilns. In 1979, the 15th World Scout Jamboree was scheduled to be held in Nishapur, but it was cancelled because of the uprising against the Shah of Iran led by Khomeini Ayatollah.

    Nishapur is also home to many poets and cultural celebrities. The poet Omar Khayyám was born in Nishapur in 1048 and is buried a few miles outside the town, near the Imamzadeh Mahroq Mosque.”

    A brief summary of Shapur II influence here on Wiki – and this from Wiki:

    “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.
    In 337, just before the death of Constantine I (324–337), Shapur II broke the peace concluded in 297 between Narseh (293–302) and Emperor Diocletian (284–305), which had been observed for forty years. A twenty-six year conflict (337–363) began in two series of wars, the first from 337 to 350. After crushing a rebellion in the south, he headed toward Mesopotamia and recaptured Armenia. From there he started his first campaign against Constantius II, a campaign which was mostly unsuccessful for Shapur II. He was unable to take the fortress of Singara in the Siege of Singara (344). Shapur II also attempted with limited success to conquer the great fortresses of Roman Mesopotamia, Nisibis (which he besieged three times in vain) and Amida.
    Although often victorious in battles, Shapur II made scarcely any progress. At the same time he was attacked in the east by nomad tribes, among whom the Xionites are named. He had to interrupt the war with the Romans and pay attention to the east. After a prolonged struggle (353–358) they were forced to conclude a peace, and their king, Grumbates, agreed to accompany Shapur II in the 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 conquered Amida after a siege of seventy-three days, and he took Singara and some other fortresses in the next year (360). In 363 the Emperor Julian (361–363), at the head of a strong army, advanced to Shapur’s capital at Ctesiphon but was defeated by superior Sassanid army at the Battle of Ctesiphon, and was killed during his retreat. His successor Jovian (363–364) made an ignominious peace, by which the districts beyond the Tigris 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 hoofs 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, the faithful ally of the Romans, prisoner by treachery and forced him to commit suicide. He then attempted to introduce Zoroastrian orthodoxy into Armenia. However, the Armenian nobles resisted him successfully, secretly supported by the Romans, who sent King Pap, 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 and Pakistan. 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, 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.
    [edit]Contributions

    Under Shapur II’s reign the collection of the Avesta was completed, heresy and apostasy punished, and the Christians persecuted (see Abdecalas, Acepsimas of Hnaita). 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 in Khorasan (eastern Parthia) was founded by him.”

    Illustration for Victorian publication of Omar Khayyams Rubaiyat  - Earth Could Not Answer Nor the Seas that Mourn.  Ruba'iyat, a collection of Ruba'i (a form of Persian poetry) - Omar Khayyam\'s was written 700 years after our time in a city founded by Shapur II on the (extremely) volatile northern Oxus frontier of the Persian Empire

    Illustration for Victorian publication of Omar Khayyam's Rubaiyat - Earth Could Not Answer Nor the Seas that Mourn. Ruba'iyat is a collection of Ruba'i (a form of Persian poetry) - Omar Khayyam's was written 700 years after our time in a city founded by Shapur II on the (extremely) volatile northern Oxus frontier of the Persian Empire

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