Sasanian Iran (224-651 CE): Portrait of a Late Antique Empire

Friday, June 24, 2011

Author: Touraj Daryaee

Paperback: 140 pages
Publisher: Mazda Pub (July 30, 2008)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 9781568591698
ISBN-13: 978-1568591698
ASIN: 1568591691


The Sasanian era (224-651 CE) is an important period in the history of the Near East, the Caucuses and Central Asian history. Some of the basic institutions and ideas that developed in the ancient Near East passed to the Sasanian Iran and through the Sasanians it became the foundation of later Islamic civilization. Interestingly, the importance and contribution of Sasanian civilization to Near Eastern and Islamic history is underestimated and little attention is paid to it.

The purpose of Sasanika Series is to publish scholarly works related to Sasanian civilization in the fields of history, philology, literature, art and archaeology. This volume provides detailed survey of Sasanian political history in the context of Near Eastern history, taking into consideration its relation with Rome and surrounding world.


Khodadad Rezakhani "Vis Historica" (Berkeley, CA, USA)

Touraj Daryaee is the only holder of a chair in ancient Iranian history in the US, and he is also the only one exclusively dedicated to the Sasanian History. Sasanians ruled over Iran, Central Asia, Caucasus, and much of the Near East for 450 years, at the same time that powerful empires were ruling China, India, and the Mediterranean world. They were the major opponents of the Romanans and managed to defeat one Roman emperor, kill another one, and take a third into captivity. They stopped the onslaught of the Hunnish tribes to Central and South Asia. They controlled the major land and see trade routes between east and west Asia. They were the most powerful, well-organised, centralised, and wealthy power in West Asia for the entire period of Late Antiquity.

Still, no book has ever been written in English about their history. Works in French and German have so far been the major references for their history.

In this book, Daryaee presents a full picture of Sasanian history, mostly from a political point of view, but also with due regard to changing ideologies and economic pressures. In addition to relying on the testimony of ancient historians, he also makes extensive use of material culture, art, and inscriptions from the period. In short, he provides a readable and concise account of Sasanian history, as well as providing a gateway for future study of this fascinating empire.

The book suffers from a lack of proper maps which could have made it easier for the unfamiliar readers to understand the context. Also, an appendix of some sort including a timeline could have been very helpful. Still, the publication of this book is a major contribution to the study of Sasanian history and bringing it into the "mainstream" of academia...

Cherith Cutestory

Touraj Daryaee has done a fantastic job narrating the political history of the awe-inspiring Sasanian Empire. Anyone who has even the mildest interest in Sasanian Iran, Ancient Persia or even Middle Eastern history in general has to pick up a copy of this book.

The Sasanian Empire was a formidable and influential world power that is not widely remembered as other important parts of history are. It is one of the largest and most significant entities to ever challenge (and even defeat, numerous times) the feared and imposing Roman/Byzantine empire, creating a power balance in a volatile, important region of the world.

What I liked the most about this book is the elements I mentioned in the title. The book's terminology is far from complicated, making it very accessible and readable by regular people (like myself). It is also very focused, concentrating on the main subject and steering clear from any detailed and irrelevant deviation. And lastly, the book is deliciously dense with information on Sasanian Persia. The author keeps an objective, straight-to-the-point tone from beginning to end.

There's only one slight issue, which is that the author sometimes suddenly talks about people who were not introduced, so you have to already know about them to know what he's talking about. But this isn't very common throughout.

Table of Contents

Prolegomena:Ancient Iran in the context of World History

I. Iran before the Sasanians

II. Ardaxšir I and the Establishment of the Sasanian Empire

III. Šabuhr I: The Strongest World Empire in the Third Century CE

IV. Jousting for Kingship: Wahrams and Narse

V. Šabuhr II and the Sasanian Rulers in the Fourth Century CE

VI. Yazdgerd the Prince of Peace and the Fabled Kings in the fifth century

VII. Kawad I and Xusro I: Revolution and Renovation in the Sixth Century CE

VIII. From Xusro II to Yazdgerd III: The Pinnacle and Fall of the Sasanian Empire

IX. Genealogy



About the Author

Touraj Daryaee was born in Tehran, Iran in 1967. His elementary and secondary schooling was in Tehran, Iran and Athens, Greece. Daryaee took his Ph.D. in History at the University of California, Los Angeles in 1999. He specializes in the history and culture of Ancient Persia. His most recent articles include: “History, Epic, and Numismatics: On the Title of Yazdgerd I (Ramšahr),” Journal of the American Numismatic Society, vol. 14, 2002(2003), pp. 89-95; “Gayomard: King of Clay or Mountain? The epithet of the First Man in the Zoroastrian Tradition,” Paitimana, Essays in Iranian, Indo-European, and Indian Studies in Honor of Hanns-Peter Schmidt, Mazda Press, 2003, pp. 339-349; “Sight, Semen, and the Brain: Ancient Persian Notions of Physiology in Old and Middle Iranian Texts,” The Journal of Indo-European Studies, vol. 30, nos. 1&2, 2002, pp. 1-26; “The Changing ‘image of the World’: Geography and Imperial Propaganda in Ancient Persia,” Electrum, Studies in Ancient History, vol. 6, 2002, pp. 99-109. His books include Šahrestaniha i Eranšahr, A Middle Persian Text on Late Antique Geography, Epic, and History, Mazda Publishers, Costa Mesa, 2002; History & Culture of the Sasanians, Qoqnoos Press, Tehran, 2003; and Menog i Xrad: The Spirit of Wisdom, Essays in Memory of Ahmad Tafazzoli, Mazda Publishers, Costa Mesa, 2003. He is also the editor of the Name-ye Iran-e Bastan, The International Journal of Ancient Iranian Studies.

*Link for Further Reading: Sassanian Administration:

طراحی و توسعه آگاه‌سیستم