Abarshahr was a Sasanian province in Late Antiquity, that lay within
the kust of Khorasan. The province bordered Media in the west,
Hyrcania in the north west,
Margiana in the north east, and Harev in
the south east. The governor of
Abarshahr is attested to have held the
unique title of kanarang, distinguished from the title of marzban
given to governors of frontier provinces.
Several etymologies have been put forward as to the origin of the name
of the province. During the Middle Ages, for example,
stated that the name meant "cloud city". It has also been
interpreted to mean "upper country". A more recent etymology that
Abarshahr derives from Aparn-xšahr, "land of the
Aparni" is considered the most accurate.
The province was formed during the reign of
Shapur I as part of his
efforts to establish greater centralisation in the empire, and was
made up of the vassal kingdom of Satarop, who had declared fealty to
Shapur's father, Ardashir I, after his victory over the last Parthian
king, Artabanus V, at the
Battle of Hormozdgān
Battle of Hormozdgān in 224 AD. The city
Nishapur (Middle Persian: Nēw-S̲h̲āhpūr "good city of Shapur)
was founded or rebuilt by
Shapur I as the administrative capital of
Abarshahr, close to the temple of Adur Burzen-Mihr, home to one of
three "Great Fires" held sacred by Zoroastrians.
considered a more secure location than the former capital of the
province, Tus, against raids from nomadic tribes.
Mar Ammo, a disciple of Mani, founder of Manichaeism, led a mission to
Abarshahr accompanied by the Parthian prince Ardavan and several
others during the 260s. It is suggested that Ardavan, as a Manichean
member of the Parthian elite, helped
Mar Ammo to preach amongst the
Parthian nobility and spread Manichaeism.
In 629, during the Sasanian civil war of 628-632,
briefly ruled by the Sasanian usurper Khosrau III. In 651, the last
Yazdegerd III was murdered by under the orders of his
own general, Mahoe Suri, which marked the end of the Sasanian dynasty.
Abarshahr continued to be under the rule of the kanarang, who
was no longer under the suzerainty of the Sasanians. However, this was
soon to end: in 652,
Abarshahr was invaded by the
general Abdullah ibn Aamir, who made a treaty with the kanarang,
Kanadbak. In the treaty
Kanadbak agreed to pay tribute to the Arabs
while still remaining in control of his territories in Tus. However,
at the same time, the Karenids of
Burzin Shah and Sawar
Karin, were threatening both
Kanadbak and Abdullah, and managed to
reclaim territory in Khorasan, which included cities such as Nishapur
which was once under their control. Abdullah then promised Kanadbak
to give him back his lost territory, in return for help against the
Karenid rebels. They then started pillaging the surroundings of
Nishapur, and fought heavily to capture the city.
Sawar then tried to make peace with Abdullah, and told him that he
would open the gates of
Nishapur if the latter pardoned him.
Abdullah agreed, however, when the gates were opened, he entered the
gate with his army, and started to plunder the city and killing
Kanadbak said to him: "O amir, once you have been
victorious and triumphant forgiveness is a higher [virtue] than
revenge and retribution." Abdullah then did as the latter said and
restored the city to Kanadbak, who continued to rule as a Rashidun
^ Encyclopædia Iranica: BORZŪYA
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^ Encyclopædia Iranica: ABARŠAHR
^ Daryaee, Touraj. "Abarshahr." Encyclopaedia of Islam, THREE. Edited
by: Kate Fleet, Gudrun Krämer, Denis Matringe, John Nawas, Everett
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^ Ehsan Yarshater. The Cambridge History of Iran, Volume 3: The
Seleucid, Parthian and Sasanid Periods. p. 729.
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Islam, Second Edition. Edited by: P. Bearman, Th. Bianquis, C.E.
Bosworth, E. van Donzel, W.P. Heinrichs. Brill Online, 2015
^ Zsuzsanna Gulácsi, Mani's Pictures: The Didactic Images of the
Manichaeans from Sasanian Mesopotamia to Uygur Central Asia and
Tang-Ming China, pp.74-75 
^ Pourshariati (2008), pp. 274
^ Pourshariati (2008), pp. 273
^ Pourshariati (2008), pp. 272, 275–276
Gaube, H. (1982). "ABARŠAHR". Encyclopaedia Iranica, Vol. I, Fasc. 1.
Pourshariati, Parvaneh (2008). Decline and Fall of the Sasanian
Empire: The Sasanian-Parthian Confederacy and the
Arab Conquest of
Iran. London and New York: I.B. Tauris.
Provinces of the Sasanian Empire
Garamig ud Nodardashiragan
* indicates short living provinces
Coordinates: 36°12′N 58°48′E / 36.20°N 58.8°