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Third were the grandees ( The particularistic tendencies of the higher aristocracy had bedeviled the Arsacid empire, but Ardašir and Šāpur curbed them.These kings also refrained from creating a state church.All were deported, together with many of the inhabitants of the captured cities, and settled in royal domains () throughout Iran (see DEPORTATION ii.).A number of the deportees were Christian; no longer persecuted by pagan Roman authorities, they flourished (Labourt, 1904, pp. For a long time they continued to speak and write in their native Greek or Syriac languages (Brock, 1982). The overthrow of the Arsacid royal house in 224 CE and the establishment of the Sasanian dynasty was the outcome of the simultaneous decline of the Parthian state brought about by chronic civil strife, a devastating epidemic of smallpox, repeated wars with Roman forces (who sacked Ctesiphon in 165 and 198), and the gradual ascendancy of a Persian family with religious and political bases of support.The Arsacid empire was divided between two rival brothers: Vologeses VI (207-27), who ruled from Ctesiphon, and Ardavān (212-24), who held Media and Khuzistan (see ARTABANUS IV). With the death of Pāpak Šāpur succeeded him in Eṣṭaḵr but was accidentally killed at Persepolis. Well acquainted with historical reality, he adopted the newer, more flexible chain armor of the Roman type, while the Parthians still used the older lamellar and scale armor (Bivar, 1972, pp. On 30 Mehr (= 28 May) 224 Ardašir vanquished Ardavān at the battle of Hormzdagān (q.v.) and assumed the title “King of Kings of Iran.” He commemorated the event in his victory relief carved at the approach to his early capital, Ardašir Ḵorra (see FIRUZĀBĀÚD), as well as in three investiture reliefs showing him receiving the symbol of sovereignty from Ohrmazd (see ARDAŠIR I ii.).The Roman emperor Caracalla encouraged discord between the two, and himself trapped and massacred Ardavān’s supporters and sacked Arbela and many Armenian forts in 217. The mention of Shapur as a legitimate king for whom Shapur, son of Ardašir, endowed pious foundations (Huyse, 1999, I, p. 816) that Shapur was about to wage war on Ardasir for his refusal to recognize his authority. Afterwards, Ardašir captured Ctesiphon, annexed parts of Armenia and northwest Arabia, and reduced by force or political stratagem eastern Iran and the western provinces of the Kushan empire, an area which henceforth was ruled by Sasanian princes known as the “Kushano-Sasanian” kings (see HORMOZD KUŠĀNŠĀH and INDIA iv.).Although Ardavān regrouped and even defeated the Romans in the same year, his authority was seriously weakened (Bivar, 1983, pp. ), “a great warrior and hunter,” the custodian of the “Fire Temple of Anāhid” at Eṣṭaḵr, who married a princess of the Bāzarangid family, the vassal dynasty of Fārs (Ṭabari, I, pp. Their son Pāpak (see BĀBAK) consolidated his power with the help of his own sons, Šāpur and Ardašir. The coins of Šāpur bear his image and that of his father, and its combined legend reads: ) of Dārābgerd and enticing his father to kill the Bāzrangid king of Eṣṭaḵr, he rose in open rebellion in the Seleucid year 523, i.e., 212 CE. Then he returned to the western front and took some Roman border towns and besieged Hatra. Ardašir, pretending to be the heir of the Achaemenids (Dio Cassius 80.4.1; Herodian 6.2.1-2; see Shahbazi, 2002, with previous literature), laid claim to the eastern provinces of the Roman empire, fought with a good measure of success against Alexander Severus, and again invested Hatra, which fell in 240 (see ARDAŠIR I).
They had feudal rights and large estates scattered throughout the empire; they formed the backbone of the imperial organizations and provided the King of kings with advice and military and financial means.
He tells us that upon his accession, the emperor Gordianus (III) “marched on Assyria, against Ērānšahr and against us” but perished in battle, and his successor Philip “came to us for terms, and he became our tributary.” Afterwards Šāpur annexed most of Roman Armenia, appointed his own son, Hormozd-Ardašir “Great King of Armenia” (see Chaumont, 1968), and took and plundered many cities of Syria, Cilicia, and Cappadocia.
Finally, in 260 he trapped and captured the emperor Valerian and his entire army of 70,000 (which included many senators, dignitaries, and officers) near Carrhae.
Then Ardašir retired, and Shapur succeeded him as the sole ruler (12 April 240) and reigned until May 270.
He left several inscriptions, most notably one on the walls of the Kaʿba-ye Zardošt which is in Parthian, Middle Persian, and Greek (hereafter ŠKZ; Huyse, 1999).
They were ideally symbolized by the three great fires of the empire, respectively: Ādur Gošnasp at Šiz in Azerbaijan, Ādur Buzēn Mehr at Rēvand, near Nišāpur, and Ādur Farnbāg at Kāriān in Fārs.