Kavadh I (Middle Persian: kwʾt' Kawād, Persian: قباد
Qobād) (c. 449 473 – September 13, 531) was the Sasanian king
of Persia from 488 to 531. A son of
Peroz I (457–484), he was
crowned by the nobles in place of his deposed and blinded uncle Balash
His reign saw the uprising of Vakhtang I of Iberia, as well as the
Anastasian War and the
Iberian War against the Sasanians' archrival,
the neighboring Byzantines. During Kavadh's reign, massive
fortification activities were conducted in the Caucasus, including
1 Early life and accession
1.1 Uprising of Vakhtang I
2 Later life
3 War against the Byzantines
3.1 Anastasian war
3.2 Iberian war
4 Succession dispute
Early life and accession
Kavadh was born in 473. After the Sasanian disaster at the battle
of Herat, only few members of the royal line remained; according to
Procopius, of the ca. 30 sons of Peroz I. He was, however, in
captivity under the Hephthalites, and was later rescued by the Karenid
Sukhra, who managed to defeat their leader Khushnavaz. After this
victory, Kavadh and
Sukhra returned to Ctesiphon, where
crowned as king of the Empire. However, in reality it was
had control over the Sasanian Empire. Gushnaspdad, the kanarang of
Abarshahr, urged the Sasanian nobles to have Kavadh executed.
However, the Sasanian nobles declined the suggestion and instead had
Kavadh imprisoned. He later managed to escape and took refugee in
Central Asia. In 488, Kavadh returned to Persia with the aid of the
Hephthalites, and was joined by other Sasanian nobles, who included
Adergoudounbades, a relative of Gushnaspdad. During the revolt of
Balash that he was unsuitable to rule as the king
Sasanian Empire and had him deposed in favor of Kavadh. The new
Sasanian king then had
Gushnaspdad executed, and he was replaced by
Adergoudounbades as kanarang.
Even after the ascension of a new Sasanian king,
possessed a massive amount of power; according to Ferdowsi, Sukhra
controlled all except the kingly crown.
Al-Tabari says the
following thing about Sukhra's power: "
Sukhra was in charge of
government of the kingdom and the management of affairs. The people
Sukhra and undertook all their dealings with him, treating
Kavadh as a person of no importance and regarding his commands with
In 493 Kavadh tried to reduce the power of
Sukhra by sending him to
his native city in Pars, and later, with the aid of Shapur of Ray,
defeated Sukhra's loyalists, and captured the latter.
Sukhra was then
Ctesiphon where he was executed.
Uprising of Vakhtang I
Ruins of Ujarma, once an Iberian stronghold under Vakhtang.
Vakhtang I, the Chosroid king of Iberia, was on friendly terms with
the Sasanian kings prior to Kavadh I, and joined them on various
expeditions and in numerous wars. However, decades later, by espousing
pro-Roman policy, the latter who were the archrivals of the Sasanians,
Vakhtang further alienated his nobles, who sought Iranian support
against the king’s encroachments on their autonomy, as he was
strengthening his royal authority. In 482, Vakhtang put to death his
most influential vassal, Varsken, vitaxa of Gogarene, a convert to
Zoroastrianism and a champion of Iran’s influence in the Caucasus,
who had executed his Christian wife, Shushanik, daughter of the
Mamikonid prince Vardan II and a hero of the earliest
surviving piece of Georgian literature. By this act, Vakhtang placed
himself in open confrontation with his Iranian suzerain. Vakhtang
called on the Armenian princes and the
Huns for co-operation. After
some hesitation, the Armenians under Vardan’s nephew Vahan
Mamikonian, joined forces with Vakhtang. The allies were routed and
Iberia was ravaged by Iranian punitive expeditions in 483 and 484,
forcing Vakhtang into flight to Roman-controlled
western Georgia). After Peroz’s death in the war with the
Hephthalites in 484, his successor
Balash reestablished peace in the
Caucasus. Vakhtang was able to resume his reign in Iberia, but did not
betray his pro-Roman line.
Once the Hundred Years Peace between Iran and the Eastern Roman Empire
Kavadh I summoned Vakhtang as a vassal to join in a new
campaign against the Romans. Vakhtang refused, provoking an Iranian
invasion of his kingdom. Then about 60, he had to spend the last years
of his life in war and exile, fruitlessly appealing for the Roman aid.
The chronology of this period is confused, but by 518 an Iranian
viceroy had been installed at the Iberian town of Tiflis, founded -
according to Georgian tradition - by Vakhtang and designated as the
country’s future capital. According to the LVG, Vakhtang died
fighting an Iranian invading army at the hands of his renegade slave
who shot him through an armpit defect of his armor. The wounded king
was transported to his castle at Ujarma where he died and was interred
at the cathedral in Mtskheta. Javakhishvili puts Vakhtang’s death at
c. 502. If Toumanoff’s identification of Procopius’ Gurgenes with
Vakhtang is true, the king might have ended his reign in 522 by taking
refuge in Lazica, where he possibly died around the same time.
Gurgenes’ family members—Peranius, Pacurius, and Phazas—had
careers in the Roman military.
Kavadh I gave his support to the communistic sect founded by Mazdak,
who demanded that the rich should divide their wives and their wealth
with the poor. His intention evidently was, by adopting the doctrine
of the Mazdakites, to break the influence of powerful magnates from
high classes such as the Wuzurgan. The
Wuzurgan then sided with
the Zoroastrian clergy, and in 496 had him deposed and incarcerated in
the "Castle of Oblivion (Lethe)" in Susiana, and his brother Djamasp
(496–498) was raised to the throne.
Kavadh, however, escaped and found refuge with the Hephthalites. In
498, with 30,000 troops from the Hephthalite king, and with the aid of
Sukhra's son Zarmihr Karen, Kavadh became king again and punished
his opponents. He also appointed Bozorgmehr, another son of
Sukhra, as his minister. Kavadh then appointed his son, Kawus, as
the governor of
Padishkhwargar and gave him the title of
Shah (king of Padishkhwargar).
In 529, Mazdak's doctrine was formally refuted in a theological
discussion held before the throne of the king by the orthodox Magians,
and its adherents were slaughtered and persecuted everywhere; Mazdak
himself was hanged.
War against the Byzantines
Main article: Anastasian War
Kavadh needed money to pay his debts to the
Hephthalites who had
helped him regain his throne, and he applied for subsidies to the
Byzantine Empire, which had before supported the Sasanians. But now
the Emperor Anastasius I (491–518) refused subsidies, which made
Kavadh try to gain the money by force.
Map of the Roman-Persian frontier during the reign of Kavadh.
In 502, Kavadh captured Theodosiopolis, perhaps with local support;
the city was in any case undefended by troops and weakly
fortified. Kavadh, along with Adergoudounbades, then besieged the
fortress-city of Amida through the autumn and winter (502–503). The
siege of the city proved to be a far more difficult enterprise than
Kavadh expected; the defenders, although unsupported by troops,
repelled the Persian assaults for three months before they were
finally beaten. The Romans attempted to recapture the city, but
they were unsuccessful. Kavadh then tried to capture Edessa in
Osroene, but was unsuccessful.
In 505 an invasion of
Armenia by the
Huns from the
Caucasus led to an
armistice, during which the Romans paid subsidies to the Persians for
the maintenance of the fortifications on the Caucasus, and in
return for Amida, which was captured by Kavadh. The peace treaty was
signed by Bawi, the brother-in-law of Kavadh.
Main article: Iberian War
In 524–525 , Kavadh proposed that
Justin I adopt his youngest
and favorite son, Khosrau, but the negotiations soon broke down.
Kavadh then had Seoses, his negotiator, executed. Hostility
between the two powers erupted into conflict when Guaram I, the king
of Caucasian Iberia, defected to the Romans in 524–525, after Kavadh
tried to convert the Iberians to Zoroastrianism. Sasanian and
Roman fighting then broke out in the
Transcaucasus region and upper
Mesopotamia by 526–527. Kavadh's Arab vassal, al-Mundhir IV ibn
al-Mundhir, laid waste to
Mesopotamia and slaughtered the monks and
In 530, Kavadh sent
Baresmanas at the head of 50,000
men to capture Dara; the two generals, were, however, defeated and
killed by the forces of Belisarius. In 531, the Persian general
Azarethes managed to defeat
Belisarius at the Battle of
Callinicum. However, the Sasanian losses were so high that Kavadh
Azarethes from his post.
Kavadh then organized another invasion of Byzantine territory, in
which a large army, commanded by Mihr-Mihroe,
Mesopotamia and besieged the city of Martyropolis, which
at that time was being protected by
Buzes and Bessas. However,
with winter approaching and Byzantine reinforcements coming from Amida
and the sudden death of Kavadh, the Sasanians lifted the siege in
November or December.
Kavadh I was succeeded by his youngest son Khosrau I; however, at the
beginning of his reign in 531, Bawi, along with other members of the
Persian aristocracy, became involved in a conspiracy in which they
tried to overthrow Khosrau and make Kavadh, the son of Kavadh's second
eldest son Zamasp (Zames), the king of the Sasanian Empire. Upon
learning of the plot, Khosrau executed all his brothers and their
offspring, along with
Bawi and the other "Persian notables" who were
involved. Khosrau also ordered the execution of Kavadh, who was
still a child, and was away from the court, being raised by
Adergoudounbades. Khosrau sent orders to kill Kavadh, but
Adergoudounbades disobeyed and brought him up in secret, until he was
betrayed to the shah in 541 by his own son, Bahram (Varranes). Khosrau
had him executed, but Kavadh, or someone claiming to be him, managed
to flee to the Byzantine Empire.
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^ One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text
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Procopius reports that the Iberian king Gurgenes defected to the
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^ Richard Nelson Frye, The History of Ancient Iran, Vol.3, (Beck'sche
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This article incorporates text from a publication now in
the public domain:
Eduard Meyer (1911). "Kavadh". In Chisholm,
Hugh. Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University
Great King (Shah) of Persia
Great King (Shah) of Persia
Rulers of the
Sasanian Empire (224–651)
Ardashir I (224–242)
Shapur I (240–270)
Hormizd I (270–271)
Bahram I (271–274)
Bahram II (274–293)
Bahram III (293)
Hormizd II (302–309)
Shapur II (309–379)
Ardashir II (379–383)
Shapur III (383–388)
Bahram IV (388–399)
Yazdegerd I (399–420)
Shapur IV (420)
Khosrow the Usurper§ (420)
Bahram V (420–438)
Yazdegerd II (438–457)
Hormizd III (457–459)
Peroz I (459–484)
Kavadh I (488–496)
Kavadh I (498–531)
Khosrow I (531–579)
Hormizd IV (579–590)
Khosrow II (590)
Bahram VI Chobin§ (590–591)
Khosrow II (591–628)
Kavadh II (628)
Ardashir III (628–629)
Khosrow III§ (629)
Shapur-i Shahrvaraz§ (630)
Peroz II§ (630)
Farrukh Hormizd§ (630–631)
Hormizd VI§ (630–631)
Khosrow IV§ (631)
Farrukhzad Khosrow V§ (631)
Yazdegerd III (632–651)
Peroz III (pretender)
§ usurpers or rival claimants