1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Shapur

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SHAPUR (Pahlavi, Shāhpuhre, “son of the king”; Greek Sapores, commonly Sapor), the name of three Sassanian kings.

1. Shapur I. (A.D. 241–272), son of Ardashir I. The Persian legend which makes him the son of an Arsacid princess is not historical. Ardashir I. had towards the end of his reign renewed the war against Rome; Shapur conquered the Mesopotamian fortresses Nisibis and Carrhae and advanced into Syria; but he was driven back by C. Furius Timesitheus,[1] father-in-law of the young emperor, Gordianus III., and beaten at Resaena (243). Shortly afterwards Timesitheus died, and Gordianus (q.v.) was murdered by Philip the Arabian, who concluded an ignominious peace with the Persians (244). When the invasion of the Goths and the continuous elevation of new emperors after the death of Decius (251) brought the Roman empire to utter dissolution, Shapur resumed his attacks. He conquered Armenia, invaded Syria, and plundered Antioch. At last the emperor Valerianus marched against him, but suffered near Edessa the fate of Crassus (260). Shapur advanced into Asia Minor, but was beaten by Ballista; and now Odaenathus (Odainath), prince of Palmyra, rose in his rear, defeated the Persian army, reconquered Carrhae and Nisibis, captured the royal harem, and twice invested Ctesiphon (263–265). Shapur was unable to resume the offensive; he even lost Armenia again. But according to Persian and Arabic traditions, which appear to be trustworthy, he conquered the great fortress of Hatra in the Mesopotamian desert; and the great glory of his reign was that a Roman emperor was by him kept prisoner to the day of his death. In the valley of Istakhr (near Persepolis), under the tombs of the Achaemenids at Nakshi Rustam, Shapur is represented on horseback, in the royal armour, with the crown on his head; before him kneels Valerian, in Roman dress, asking for grace. The same scene is represented on the rocks near the ruins of the towns Darabjird and Shapur in Persis. Shapur left other reliefs and rock inscriptions; one, at Nakshi-Rajab near Persepolis, is accompanied by a Greek translation; here he calls himself “the Mazdayasnian (worshipper of Ahuramazda), the god Sapores, king of kings of the Aryans (Iranians) and non-Aryans, of divine descent, son of the Mazdayasnian, the god Artaxares, king of kings of the Aryans, grandson of the god-king Papak.” Another long inscription at Hajjiabad (Istakhr) mentions the king's exploits in archery in the presence of his nobles.

From his titles we learn that Shapur I claimed the sovereignty over the whole earth, although in reality his domain extended little farther than that of Ardashir I. Shapur built the great town Gundev-Shapur near the old Achaemenian capital Susa, and increased the fertility of this rich district by a barrage through the Karun river near Shushter, which was built by the Roman prisoners and is still called Band-i-Kaisar, “the mole of the Caesar.” Under his reign the prophet Mani, the founder of Manichaeism (q.v.) began his preaching in Persia, and the king himself seems to have favoured his ideas.

For the monuments and inscriptions cf. Sir R. Ker Porter, Travels; Flandin and Coste, Voyage en Perse; Stolze, Persépolis; Thomas, Journal R. Asiat. Soc., new series, iii., 1868; West in Grundriss der iranischen Philologie, ii. 76 f.; Dittenberger, Orientis Graeci inscr. i., No. 434. A gem with the portrait of the king is in the museum of Gotha, cf. Pertsch, Zeitsch. d. deutschen morgenl. Ges. xxii. 280.

2. Shapur II. (310–379). When King Hormizd II. (302–310) died, the Persian magnates killed his eldest son, blinded the second, and imprisoned the third (Hormizd, who afterwards escaped to the Romans); the throne was reserved for the unborn child of one of the wives of Hormizd. This child, named Shapur, was therefore born king; the government was conducted by his mother and the magnates. But when Shapur came of age, he turned out to be one of the greatest monarchs of the dynasty. Under his reign the collection of the Avesta was completed, heresy and apostasy punished, and the Christians persecuted. This was the natural oriental reaction against the transformation of the Roman empire into a Christian empire by Constantine. In 337, just before the death of Constantine, Shapur broke the peace concluded in 297 between Narses and Diocletian, which had been observed for forty years, and a war of twenty-six years (337–363) began(Shapur attempted with varying success to conquer the great fortresses of Roman Mesopotamia, Singara, Nisibis (which he invested three times in vain), Amida (Diarbekr). The emperor Constantius II. was always beaten in the field. Nevertheless Shapur made scarcely any progress; the military power of his kingdom was not sufficient for a lasting occupation of the conquered districts. At the same time he was attacked in the E. by nomad tribes, among whom the Chionites are named. After a prolonged struggle they were forced to conclude a peace, and their king, Grumbates, accompanied Shapur in the war against the Romans. Shapur now conquered Amida after a siege of seventy-three days (359), and took Singara and some other fortresses in the next year. In 363 the emperor Julian, at the head of a strong army, advanced to Ctesiphon, but was killed. His successor Jovian was defeated and made an ignominious peace, by which the districts on the Tigris and Nisibis were ceded to the Persians, and the Romans promised to interfere no more in Armenia. In the rock-sculptures near the town Shapur in Persis (Stolze, Persépolis, pl. 141) the great success is represented; under the hoofs of the king's horse lies the body of an enemy, probably Julian, and a suppliant Roman, the emperor Jovian, asks for peace.

Shapur now invaded Armenia, took king Arsaces III. (of the Arsacid race), the faithful ally of the Romans, prisoner by treachery and forced him to commit suicide. He then attempted to introduce Zoroastrian orthodoxy into Armenia. But, the Armenian nobles resisted him successfully, secretly supported by the Romans, who sent King Pap, the son of Arsaces III, into Armenia. The war with Rome threatened to break out again; but Valens sacrificed Pap and caused his assassination in Tarsus, where he had taken refuge (374). Shapur had conducted great hosts of captives from the Roman territory into his dominions, most of whom were settled in Susiana. Here he rebuilt Susa, after having killed her rebellious inhabitants, and founded some other towns. He was successful in the east, and the great town Nishapur in Khorasan (E. Parthia) was founded by him.

3. Shapur III. (383–388), son of Shapur II., elevated to the throne by the magnates against his uncle, Ardashir II., and killed by them after a reign of five years. He concluded a treaty with Theodosius the Great.  (Ed. M.) 

  1. Timesitheus is the generally accepted variant for the Misitheus (“God-Hater”) of Capitolinus; Zosimus, i. 16. 17, preferred Timesicles. In a paper read before a meeting of the British School of Archaeology at Rome on the 30th of January, 1908, Mr A. S. Yeames endeavoured to show that Timesitheus is the general commemorated by a bust in the Sala delle Colombe of the Capitoline Museum, and by the great sarcophagus in the Museo delle Terme, representing a battle between Romans and barbarians. On the forehead in each case is a non-Christian incised cross of unknown significance.