Posted by: ken98 | September 8, 2011

Persia, Persia, Persia, and Why Peter the Great Is Like Seleucus

Day 725 – Ken here (Th)(9-8-2011)
(DEF II, v.4, Ch.46, pp.880-890)(pages read: 1940)

Nushirvan receives Mihras, Byzantine Envoy

A fanciful illustration of an event that happened 800 years before it was painted - Nushirvan receives Mihras, Byzantine Envoy - from the First Small Shahnama - Book of Kings - (1300-1325) - hmmmm... Mihras sounds suspiciously like a Farsi version of the name of the current Roman Emperor - Maurice - who probably did NOT go on an embassy to meet Nishurvana

Feeling sick and less-than-scintillating today (although I hardly throw off sparks normally in this blog), so forgive the brevity and possibly obvious comments.

We start a new chapter today, the 46th! Today is Persia, Persia, Persia or a tale of 5 Persians, kings and wise men (Persian Rulers list here)(King Khusrau I or Anushiravan the Just(Gibbon=Nushirvan), Buzurg, King Hormizd IV(Gibbon=Hormouz), King Bahram VI, and Khosrau II (Gibbon=Chosroes).

The Story
Nushirvan (Khusrau I) Conquest in Yemen (570), and Final War with Rome
  • Churches of Armenia under Persia oppressed by Magi (the monotheistic Zoroasterian leadership (intimately bound up with the Persian political govt) was just as fanatical about the Christ-Idolaters/false religion of Christ as the Christians were to the “fire-worshippers” Zoroasterians
  • Turks are moving in from the steppes and offer Justin an alliance
  • so… Rome goes to war against Persia, breaking the peace signed 4 years before Justinian’s death (back in 561)
  • Khusrau I takes Dara, sacks suburbs of Antioch, so Justin asks for 3 year truce (to gather strength)
  • Battle of Melitene (572) Near Casp Sea, Persians betrayed and lose battle, General Justinian-not the emp-Rome sends 70,000 Hyrcanians to Cyprus in a typical example of Byzantine population swapping (which was to become de rigeur later in the empire after each victory – ie if the victory is in Asia Minor – you ship the losing population to the Balkans – and vice versa)
  • Khusrau I already an old man – dies (579) – his son Hormizd IV takes over – the Roman-Persian conflict simmers but does not heat up

    Hormizd IV (Gibbon=Hormouz), Youth, Tyranny, Overthrow
  • A young man, governed by his counselor – the MYTHICAL? I cannot find any reference to him – wise man/philosopher Buzurg – Hormizd rules wisely until he overthrows his counselor, then goes rampant – this smacks too much of the typical roman emp story – (eg. Nero and Seneca) – where a young man supp. is just as an emperor while listening to his counselors, then wild, bloody, and dissipated when acting on his own
  • Hormizd supp becomes bloody and arbitrary, and so a revolt (by Bahram VI) begins
  • At this point the Turks invade Eastern Persia, Hormizd allows them into Eastern cities and they take them one by one – apparently on the way to rendezvous with the Romans, join forces (around the Caspian) and attack Persia

    Bahram VI In Charge (590)
  • Bahram a noble from around the Caspian
  • Takes charge of army to intercept the Turks – at the Hyrcanian Rock
  • Defeats the Turks, Hormizd sends him to confront the approaching Roman army
  • Maurice and the Romans def. the Persians are routed
  • Hormizd sends insults to Bahram, Bahram revolts
  • Hormizd is imprisoned, Bahram

    Bahram Governs, But Khusrau II (Hormizd’s son) Gains Popularity
  • Bahram Gives the nobles of Persia a choice, blinds Hormizd, puts his mother and one of his bros to death
  • Nobles elevate Khusrau II in return
  • Hormizd dies (590)

    With Roman Help, Khusrau II Put On Throne
  • Khusrau II flees to Roman territory – Hierapolis – and Maurice helps him with an army to reclaim Persian throne
  • Narses (another Narses – not the one in Italy – Narses is a common Armenian name) sent
  • Bahram in trouble – the Magi won’t crown him
  • Bahram defeated, flees to the Turks for help
  • Khusrau II put on the throne



    Persian history of a different kind - we'll be talking about the great empire and the country and not the cats today


    Persian History – What Really Happened

    I can remember, taking my first Late Antiquity classes, reading Lactantius (On the Deaths of the Persecutors), and Ammianus Marcellinus’s histories (Julian’s reign) and hearing about the Persian empire. Here was a political entity, as big or bigger than the Roman Empire, as complex, as populous, run by a monumental, monomaniacal, power-hungry, monotheist religion with a very numerous caste of priests (like the Romans), controlling a very wealthy economy (as the middle man between India/China and the Eurasian peninsula of Europe), speaking a dialect of Indo-European (Persian – often it – real Persian, rather than the romanized transliteration we often get in history – sounds like a mixture of Sanskrit and Latin to me), with a very literate culture and highly educated elites, in one of the longest civilized places in the world (the Fertile Crescent, esp. the uplands of the Euphrates and the Tigris) – all of this – AND THERE WAS NO HISTORY.

    It wasn’t that the history wasn’t there, my (British) instructor opined, its that HISTORICAL FACT MORPHED INTO MYTH AND LEGEND ALMOST AS SOON AS IT HAPPENED in Persia – i.e. people remembered things the way “they should have happened” rather than trying to puzzle out what actually happened. Now, before you go off down that well-paved road called “the lies of history” – beginning with Herodotus and continuing to our present period – yes, Western History is not (as if any history could be) an impartial, third-party, neutral view of events happening in Europe. We all agree on that. But the standard was there – from Thucydides on down, and no matter how far short you fell in a Chronicle or a World History there was a REASON to tell about past events other than thrilling battles or majestic political propaganda.


    The problem is that our sources for Persian history are either Roman (and you can only imagine how a Christian Roman tries to describe the internal politics of the Persian Zoroasterian court – in this case its mostly Theophylactus Simocatta), or Arab written sources of formerly oral histories (like the Book of Kings) reduced to book-form hundreds of years after the fact. It’s very frustrating.

    Like Rome, Persia sometimes had bloody transfers of power, revolts, entire families being executed, generals becoming King, etc – but most of this is hidden and only dimly seen in the West.


    Last Word…


    Tethys Ocean

    Caspian Sea, sad remnant of the once proud Tethys - image of the Tethys Ocean closing up in the Late Cretaceous (65 million years ago, just before the great Dinosaur die-out) - the Tethys is the bit above and to the right of Africa and below Asia

    Tsar Peter the Great

    One of the two men (per Gibbon) who ordered navies to sail upon the Caspian Sea - Tsar Peter the Great - from a painting from 1838


    A Navy-less Sea
    Why Peter the Great Is Like Seleucus


    Gibbon makes an interesting point, that the Caspian is a sea that has not seen a lot of naval action – if any. The Caspian (along with the Aral and Black Seas) are Central Asian water-filled depressions which are remnants of the ancient Tethys Ocean (which closed up as India rammed into the soft underside of Asia). Surrounded by steppes, nomads, then Russians and Iranians, and now, well, half a dozen nations, the Caspian has stayed oddly un-militarized – even though it is landlocked.

    Here is Gibbon, explaining the General Justinian’s conquests up near the Caspian:

    Peter the Great and Seleucus – what an odd historical pair.

    Seleucus Nicator

    A man who sailed the Caspian (well, ordered it to be sailed) - head of Seleucus Nicator - General of Alexander and King of one of the successor kingdoms to Alexander the Great's Conquests in teh 300's BCE


    The great Pompey had formerly halted within three days’ march of the Caspian: that inland sea was explored, for the first time, by a hostile fleet, (6) and seventy thousand captives were transplanted from Hyrcania to the Isle of Cyprus.


    Note 006
    In the history of the world I can only perceive two navies on the Caspian: 1. Of the Macedonians, when Patrocles, the admiral of the kings of Syria, Seleucus and Antiochus, descended most probably the River Oxus, from the confines of India, (Plin. Hist. Natur. vi. 21.) 2. Of the Russians, when Peter the First conducted a fleet and army from the neighborhood of Moscow to the coast of Persia, (Bell’s Travels, vol. ii. p. 325 – 352.) He justly observes, that such martial pomp had never been displayed on the Volga.]

    (DEF II, Vol.4, Ch.45, pp.883, fn. 6)

    Current Political Map of the Caspian Sea region

    Current Political Map of the Caspian Sea region - deep in the Asian Steppes, and also deep in the remnant-trough of the Dinosaur Sea called the Tethys - now vanished


    Leave a Reply

    Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

    You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

    Google photo

    You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

    Twitter picture

    You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

    Facebook photo

    You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

    Connecting to %s


    %d bloggers like this: