Iranian History/Anarchy and Downfall of the Sassanian Empire

When Khusro II died in 628, he was scceeded by Siroe who ascended the throne as Qobad II. But he did not rule the Empire for long and the state fell into a decline ravaged by civil war and anarchy. This condition lasted for a quarter of a century and culminated in the defeat of the Sassanians at the hands of the Arabs and dissolution of the Sassanid Empire.

Military Campaigns of Khusro II


During the reign of Khusro the Sassanid Empire reached the summit of greatness before tumbling down the abyss. When his reign came to an end in 628, Persia was a tired nation. Continuous wars with the Roman Empire had replenished its resources and destroyed its economy. The campaigns of Heraclius had snatched away from their hands all the lands that they had conquered between 603 and 622. Moreover, Khusro's conquest of the Lakhimid kingdom had removed a state which would have survivied as a buffer between the Sassanid Empire and the Islamic Caliphate in the case of an invasion. With Khusro's death in 628, court intrigues came to the fore , Khusro himkself being the victim of intrigue. Soon after his death, his parricidal son Siroe ascended the throne as Qobad II.

Qobad II (Siroe) 628


Siroe arrested his fathyer Khusro Perviz and ascended the throne as Qobad II on the 25th of February 628. Immediately after his accession, peace was concluded with Rome and Roman troops were wiothdrawn. By the terms iof this peace, Persia had to relinquish all the territories it had obtained between 603 and 622.

Qobad was of extremely weak disposition and mind and was unfit to govern the Empire. Fearing that his claim to the throne would be disputed by relatives and rival claimants he ordered the massacre of all individuals intimately connected with the Sassanid royal family. This sealed the fate of the Empire once and for all and it became a matter of time before the nation would be extinguished.

Soon after the massacre, a great plague broke out in the Empire. It consumed nearly one-third of the Persian population. Qobad, himself, became a victim of the plague and passed away in July 629.

Ardeshir III 628 - 630


As Qobad had extinguished the entire male line of the Sassanid royal family, he was succeeded on his death by his minor son Ardeshir who, according to some accounts, was seven years old and acceding to others, one year old on his accession to the throne in July 629. During his reign which lasted a few months, the minister Mihr-Hasis was the real power behind the throne.

Meanwhile, the Persian general had established cordial relations with the Roman Empire by marrying a daughter of the Roman Emperor Heraclius. In 630, he arrived in Ctesiphon at the head of an army of around sixty thousand Roman soldiers and dethroned the young king who was later murdered.

Shahr Barz


In 630, Shahr Barz arrived in Ctesiphon at the head of a alarge army and captured the throne after murdering the young king Ardeshir. He then ascended the throne himself and ruled for two months. He evacuated all the Roman provinces captured during the reign of Khusro Perviz as per the provisions of nthe treaty concluded earlier. He led an expedition against the Khazars and married Purandokht, a daughter of Khusro Perviz to legitimize his claim to the throne. But this proved to be of no avail as his own soldiers murdered him in the open court.



In 630, Shahr Barz was put to death by the nobles of the Sassanid court who handed the crown over to Puramdokht, a daughter of Khusro Perviz and the wife of Shahr Barz who had been spared by QObad II. She was also known as Boran' or Puran. She tried her best to bring stability to the Empire. She reduced the taxes and rebuilt the infrastructure which had considerbly weakened. She was largely unsuccessful in her attempts to restore the power of the central authority which was weakened considerably by civil wars. She died in 631 due to natural causes and was succeeded by her sister Azarmidokht.



Purandokht was succeeded by her sister Azarmidokht who ruled for a brief oeriod in 631. She was murdered and succeeded by Ormuzd.

Ormazd VI


On the death of Azarmidokht in 631, a Persian noble ascended the throne and crowned himself Ormazd VI. This nobleman ruled from Nisibis for around two years. He was later murdered and succeeded by Yazdegerd, a grandson of Khusro Perviz.

Yazdegerd III 633 - 651


Yazdegerd was the son of Shahryar and a grandson of Khusro Perviz. He ascended the throne in 632 or 633 at the age of 19. To gain some modest supports from the Persian Empire's old rival, the Roman Empire of the East, he sought an alliance with the Emperor Heraclius who then married off his young granddaughter, Manyanh, the daughter of Heraclius Constantine III and Princess Gregoria of Persia.

With the reign of Yazdegerd, the Sassanian Empire came to an end. Yazdegerd was defeated by the Arabs in a series of battles and forced to flee. He lost his kingdom and spent his last days as a fugitive in Khorasan. He sought refuge at the abode of a miller near Merv who strangled him as he slept and threw the body into a passing stream. The murder of Yazdegerd did trigger a period of national mourning. Yazdegerd's body was found and embalmed and the miller put to death but the Sassanian Empire had passed into history and could not be revived.

Causes of the Downfall of the Sassanian Empire


There were various causes which led to the eventual downfall of the Sassanian Empire.

  • The first and foremost reason was the condition of political instability which prevailed in the Sassanian Empire from 628 when Khusro Perviz died till 633 when Yazdegerd ascended the throne. True, Yazdegerd reigned for a pretty long time but the period of strife and internal discord that had existed between 628 and 633 continued to exist during the time of Yazdegerd and there were many important and powerful nobles who aspired to capture the throne for themselves.
  • The continuous wars with the Byzantine Roman Empire had considerably weakened the kingdom. The army was weary and desired peace.
  • The purges of Qobad II had extinguished the entire male line of Khusro Perviz leaving Yazdegerd the only direct successor to the throne.
  • A terrible plague ravaged the Empire during the time of Qobad II destroying about one-fourth of the total population of the Empire and leaving large stretches of land uncultivable.
  • The conquest of the Lakhimid kingdom by Khusro Perviz had resulted in the destruction of a state which might have served as a buffer between Persia and the Islamic Caliphate.

Immediate Causes

  • The tactical blunders committed by Rostam Farrokhzad at Qadesiyyah and Hormuzgan at Nehavend were the most decisive factors leading to the Sassanian defeat.
  • The Persian Army, which included an elephant corps lacked mobility compared to the lightweight cavalry of the Arabs.
  • The sandstorm on the final day of the Battle of Qadesiyyah decided the fate of the Sassanians. True, the Sassanians did fight back at Nehavend but their weak points had been exposed and morale reduced by their defeat at Qadesiyyah.



See Bibliography Section