When the empire of Alexander the Great broke apart in the fourth century BCE, Persia fell under the control of the Seleucids who held power for several centuries. But then the Parthians came down from the North during the last century BCE, and set up the Arsacid Dynasty. They then spent the next few hundred years wrestling with Rome for control of the area covered by Armenia and Syria.
Then in 226 CE, the Persians revolted and put in their own dynasty. The result was the Sassinid Dynasty beginning with Ardashir I. As Constantine would do a hundred years later, Ardashir sought to unite the developing Sassinid Empire with a common official religion. However he chose Zoroasterianism with himself as the Godhead.
Early History Edit
Having put Persia back under Persian control, Ardashir then proceeded to expand the bounds of the Sassanid Empire beyond Persia with the acquisitions of Sistan, Gorgan, Khorasan, Margiana, Balkh and Chorasmia.
In 241 Ardashir's son Shapur I acceded to the crown. During his reign, the empire was expanded, with many cities were established. While Zoroasterianism remained the State Religion, religious toleration became the rule of the land. In particular, Shapur was friends with both Manichaens and Jews.
Unfortunately religious freedom experienced a setback when in 273, Bahram I came to the throne. During his reign, Manichaeism came under attack and Mani was take prisoner to be executed. Bahram II(276-293) continued the policies of his father while losing territory to the Roman Empire, including Armenia. It was Narseh(293-302) who lost all territories west of the Tigris to the Romans.
First Golden Era Edit
The era begins and ends with Shapur II. According to the story, his father Hormizd II died prior to his birth, and that he himself was crowned while still in utero. During his period of minority, the empire was under the control of his mother and the nobility.
From the time he assumed full power, the era become a time of territorial expansion. Not only was the empire expanded eastward, but a number of Roman provinces, including Armenia, were ceded to the Sassanids.
It was also during this time that the sacred texts of Zoroasterianism were completed. As such heresy and apostacy were more effectively punished. In response to Constantine, Christians were even more harshly persecuted. And yet, like Shapur I, Shapur II was a friend of Jews, who consequently had greater freedom.
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The Outline of History, H.G. Wells