14

The Era of Shapur II

The Roman-Persian peace held for about forty years, as Persia became increasingly enmeshed in problems within its own imperial frontiers. The short reign of Narsah’s successor Hormizd II (301–309) was generally uneventful. However, with the accession of the latter’s infant son Shapur II (309–379) to the throne, the Sassanids were faced with significant erosion of their authority over the southern reaches of the empire. Taking advantage of the intrinsic weakness of the regency that ruled the empire, the Arab tribes of the south began a pattern of depredations that lasted for some sixteen years and threatened to tear the kingdom apart, although they made no attempt to consolidate control over the territories they raided. The tribes of Beni-Ayar and Abdul Kais of Bahrain, which at the time encompassed the Arabian districts of Hasa and Qatif on the western shores of the Persian Gulf, subjected Babylonia and Khuzistan to a long series of devastating raids. Farther north, a Mesopotamian sheikh, Tayir, attacked and captured Ctesiphon.

About 325, having attained the age of sixteen, Shapur took direct control of Persia’s affairs, and matters took an almost immediate turn for the better. During the next dozen years, he reversed the security situation by taking the offensive and bringing the struggle to the lands of the marauding Arab tribes with great brutality. At the same time, Shapur reacted very strongly to the inroads that Christianity was making in the region.

The adoption of Christianity as the state religion of Armenia in 301 under Tiridates III, and its spread throughout the eastern Roman Empire, particularly under Constantine the Great (324–337), had a profound effect on the general political climate in the region. With Christianity accorded the status of an official religion of the Roman Empire, Constantine saw himself

-183-

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The Pre-Islamic Middle East
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Introduction 1
  • 1 - The Middle East in Early Antiquity 9
  • 2 - Egypt and Asia 25
  • 3 - The Rise and Decline of Assyria 43
  • 4 - The Rise and Fall of Media 63
  • 5 - The Empire of the Achaemenids 75
  • 6 - The Persian-Greek Wars 83
  • 7 - The Macedonian Conquest 97
  • 8 - The Dissolution of Alexander’s Empire 109
  • 9 - Reconfiguration of the Middle East 123
  • 10 - Rome Enters the Middle East 137
  • 11 - The Roman-Parthian Conflict 149
  • 12 - The Struggle over the Euphrates Frontier 161
  • 13 - The Roman-Persian Stalemate 173
  • 14 - The Era of Shapur II 183
  • Notes 192
  • 15 - The Struggle for Persia’s Frontiers 193
  • 16 - End of the Sassanid Empire 201
  • Afterword 211
  • Bibliography 213
  • Index 221
  • About the Author 233
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