Persia

The Sassanid Dynasty

The Parthians were replaced (c.A.D. 226) by the more vigorous Sassanid dynasty, when Ardashir I (whose name is another form of Artaxerxes) ousted and killed the last Parthian ruler and built a new empire out of the ruins of Parthian and Seleucid power. The Sassanids were the true heirs of the Achaemenids. Ardashir I, Shapur I, and Shapur II all were strong kings, able and successful opponents of the Romans. Ctesiphon became the center of a magnificent state that persisted while the Roman Empire was whittled away. The Byzantines were unable to match them. Khosrow I in the 6th cent. invaded Syria, and under Khosrow II (whose affairs were linked with those of the Byzantines) the Sassanid court was legendary in its splendor. Ctesiphon and Firuzabad were magnificent cities, the administration of the empire was efficient, the productivity of the cities was remarkable, and the art in metalwork, in architecture, in sculpture, and in textiles was superb.

Persia developed as a strong centralized state, based on a revived Zoroastrian religion and a class society. Shortly after the death of Khosrow II, however, the old Sassanid power toppled. Invading Arabs succeeded in taking Ctesiphon in 637. Islam replaced Zoroastrianism, and the caliphate made Persia a part of a larger pattern, from which later was to emerge modern Iran.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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