Khosrow II (Chosroes II in classical sources; Middle Persian:
Husrō(y)), entitled "Aparvēz" ("The Victorious"), also Khusraw
Parvēz (New Persian: خسرو پرویز), was the last great king of
the Sasanian Empire, reigning from 590 to 628.
He was the son of
Hormizd IV (reigned 579–590) and the grandson of
Khosrow I (reigned 531–579). He was the last king of
Persia to have
a lengthy reign before the Muslim conquest of Iran, which began five
years after his death by execution. He lost his throne, then recovered
it with Roman help, and, a decade later, went on to emulate the feats
of the Achaemenids, conquering the rich Roman provinces of the Middle
East; much of his reign was spent in wars with the
and struggling against usurpers such as
Bahram Chobin and Vistahm.
During the climactic Byzantine–Sasanian War of 602–628, Khosrow
expanded deep into western Asia Minor, eventually besieging the
Byzantine capital of
Constantinople in 626 alongside Avar and Slavic
allies. Following the failure of the siege,
Heraclius started a
counterattack, undoing all territorial gains by Khosrow in the Levant,
most of Anatolia, the western Caucasus, and Egypt, eventually marching
into the Sassanian capital of Ctesiphon. The Byzantines also regained
the True Cross, which Khosrow had captured following his conquest of
Levant during the same 602–628 war.
In works of
Persian literature such as the
Shahnameh and Khosrow and
Shirin, a famous tragic romance by
Nizami Ganjavi (1141–1209), a
highly elaborated fictional version of Khosrow's life made him one of
the greatest heroes of the culture, as much as a lover as a king.
Shirin tells the story of his love for the Aramean or
Roman princess Shirin, who becomes his queen after a lengthy courtship
strewn with mishaps and difficulties.
1.1 Early life
1.2 Personality and skills
1.3 Accession to the throne
2.1 Rebellion of Vistahm
2.2 Music during the reign of Khosrow II
2.3 Religious policy
2.4 Deposition of the
2.5 Invasion of the
2.7 Invasion and defeat by the
2.8 Overthrow and death
Khosrow II in
4 In art
5.1 Family tree
6 See also
Khosrow II was born around 570; his father was
Hormizd IV and his
mother was from the
House of Ispahbudhan
House of Ispahbudhan from Gurgan; his mother's two
Vistahm were to have a profound influence
in Khosrow II's early life. Khosrow is first mentioned in the 580s,
when was at Partaw, the capital of Caucasian Albania. During his stay
there, he served as the governor of the kingdom, and managed to put an
end to the
Kingdom of Iberia
Kingdom of Iberia and make it into a Sasanian province.
Khosrow II also served as the governor of Arbela around
Personality and skills
Muhammad ibn Jarir al-Tabari
Muhammad ibn Jarir al-Tabari describes him as:
Excelling most of the other Persian kings in bravery, wisdom and
forethought, and none matching him in military might and triumph,
hoarding of treasures and good fortunes, hence the epithet Parviz,
According to a legend, Khosrow had a shabestan in which over 3,000
Accession to the throne
Map of the Roman–Persian frontier during Late Antiquity, including
the 591 border between the two empires.
Khosrow was raised to the throne by his two uncles
Vinduyih, who were the leaders of a palace coup that deposed, blinded
and killed Hormizd IV. However, at the same time, the Mihranid
spahbed Bahram Chobin, was marching towards the Sasanian capital of
Ctesiphon, and battle shortly ensued near the city on 28 February,
which ended in Khosrow's defeat and his flight to
along with his two uncles.
In order to get the attention of the
Byzantine emperor Maurice (r.
Khosrow II went to Syria, and sent a message to the
Sasanian occupied city of Martyropolis to stop their resistance
against the Byzantines, but with no avail. He then sent a message
to Maurice, and requested his help to regain the Sasanian throne,
Byzantine emperor agreed with; in return, the Byzantines
would re-gain sovereignty over the cities of Amida, Carrhae, Dara and
Persia was required to cease intervening in
the affairs of Iberia and Armenia, effectively ceding control of
Lazistan to the Byzantines.
In 591, Khosrow moved to Constantia, and prepared to invade the
Sasanian controlled part of Mesopotamia, while
Vistahm and Vinduyih
were raising an army in
Adurbadagan under the observation of the
Byzantine commander John Mystacon, who was also raising an army in
Armenia. After some time, Khosrow along with the
of the south, Comentiolus, invaded Mesopotamia. During this invasion,
Nisibis and Martyropolis quickly defected to them, and Bahram's
commander Zatsparham was defeated and killed. During the same
period, Khosrow, feeling disrespected by Comentiolus, convinced
Maurice to replace the latter with Narses as the commander of the
south. Khosrow and Narses then penetrated deeper into Bahram's
territory, seizing Dara and then
Mardin on February, where Khosrow was
re-proclaimed king. Shortly after this, Khosrow sent one of his
Iranian supporters, Mahbodh, to capture Ctesiphon, which he managed to
Meanwhile, Khosrow's two uncles and John Mystacon, conquered northern
Adurbadagan, and went further south in the region, where they defeated
Bahram at Blarathon, who fled the Turks of Ferghana. However,
Khosrow managed to deal with him by either having him assassinated
or convince the Turks to execute him. 
Peace with the Byzantines was then officially concluded. For his aid,
Maurice received much of Persian
Armenia and western Georgia
(Colchis-Abkhazia), and received the abolition of the subsidies which
had formerly been paid to the Sasanians.
Rebellion of Vistahm
After his victory, Khosrow rewarded his uncles with high positions:
Vinduyih became treasurer and first minister and
Vistahm received the
post of spahbed of the East, encompassing
Tabaristan and Khorasan,
which was the traditional homeland of the Ispahbudhan. Soon,
however, Khosrow changed his intentions: trying to disassociate
himself from his father's murder, he decided to execute his uncles.
The Sasanian monarchs' traditional mistrust of over-powerful magnates
and Khosrow's personal resentment of Vinduyih's patronising manner
certainly contributed to this decision.
Vinduyih was soon put to
death, according to a Syriac source captured while trying to flee to
his brother in the East.
Map of northern Iran.
At the news of his brother's murder,
Vistahm rose in open revolt.
According to Dinawari,
Vistahm sent a letter to Khosrow announcing his
claim to the throne through his Parthian (Arsacid) heritage: "You are
not worthier to rule than I am. Indeed, I am more deserving on account
of my descent from Darius, son of Darius, who fought Alexander. You
Sasanians deceitfully gained superiority over us [the Arsacids] and
usurped our right, and treated us with injustice. Your ancestor Sasan
was no more than a shepherd." Vistahm's revolt, like Bahrams's shortly
before, found support and spread quickly. Local magnates as well as
the remnants of Bahram Chobin's armies flocked to him, especially
after he married Bahram's sister Gordiya.
Vistahm repelled several
loyalist efforts to subdue him, and he soon held sway in the entire
eastern and northern quadrants of the Persian realm, a domain
stretching from the
Oxus river to the region of
Ardabil in the west.
He even campaigned in the east, where he subdued two Hephthalite
princes of Transoxiana, Shaug and Pariowk. The date of
Vistahm's uprising is uncertain. From his coinage, it is known that
his rebellion lasted for seven years. The commonly accepted dates are
ca. 590–596, but some scholars like J.D. Howard–Johnston and P.
Pourshariati push its outbreak later, in 594/5, to coincide with the
Armenian Vahewuni rebellion.
Vistahm began to threaten Media, Khosrow sent several armies
against his uncle, but failed to achieve a decisive result: Vistahm
and his followers retreated to the mountainous region of Gilan, while
several Armenian contingents of the royal army rebelled and defected
to Vistahm. Finally, Khosrow called upon the services of the Armenian
Smbat Bagratuni, who engaged
Vistahm near Qumis. During the battle,
Vistahm was murdered by Pariowk at Khosrow's urging (or, according to
an alternative account, by his wife Gordiya). Nevertheless, Vistahm's
troops managed to repel the royal army at Qumis, and it required
another expedition by Smbat in the next year to finally end the
Music during the reign of Khosrow II
Khosrow II's reign was considered a golden age in music. Before
Khosrow II there were many other Sasanian kings that showed particular
interest in music, like Khosrow I, Bahram Gur, and even Ardashir I.
Notable musicians during the reign of
Khosrow II were Barbad
(Khosrow's favorite court musician), Bamshad, Sarkash, and Nagisa.
Khosrow II married a Christian named Shirin, whose son Mardanshah he
wanted to succeed to the throne. Khosrow's relationship to
Christianity was complicated: his wife
Shirin was Christian, and so
was Yazdin, his minister of finance. During his reign there was
constant conflict between Monophysite and Nestorian Christians.
Khosrow favored the Monophysites, and ordered all his subjects to
adhere to Monophysitism, perhaps under the influence of
Shirin and the
royal physician Gabriel of Sinjar, who both supported this faith.
Khosrow also dispensed money or gifts to Christian shrines.
Khosrow's great tolerance to
Christianity and friendship with the
Christian Byzantines even made some Armenian writers think that
Khosrow was a Christian. His positive policy toward Christians
(which, however, was probably politically motivated) made him
unpopular with the Zoroastrian priests, and also made Christianity
greatly spread around the Sasanian Empire.
However, Khosrow also paid attention to the Zoroastrians, and built
various fire temples. But this did not help the Zoroastrian church,
which was in a heavy decline during the reign of Khosrow, which, in
the words of Richard N. Frye, "was noted for its devotion to luxury
more than its devotion to thought."
Deposition of the
Khosrow II executed Al-Nu'man III, King of the Lakhmids of
Al-Hira, presumably because of the Arab king's refusal to give him his
daughter al-Ḥurqah in marriage and insulting Persian women.
Afterwards the central government took over the defense of the western
frontiers to the desert, and the buffer state of the Lakhmids
vanished. This ultimately facilitated the Muslim Caliphs' invasion and
conquest of Lower Iraq, less than a decade after Khosrow's death.
Invasion of the
Battle between Heraclius' army and Persians under Khosrow II. Fresco
by Piero della Francesca, ca. 1452
See also: Byzantine–Sasanian War of 602–628
Toward the beginning of his reign,
Khosrow II had good relations with
the Byzantines. However, when in 602 Maurice was murdered by his
Phocas (602–610), who usurped the Roman (Byzantine) throne,
Khosrow launched an offensive against Constantinople: ostensibly to
avenge Maurice's death, but his aim clearly included the annexation of
Byzantine territory as was feasible. Khosrow II, along with
Shahrbaraz and his other best generals, quickly captured Dara and
Edessa in 604, and recaptured lost territory in the north, which made
Byzantine borders go back to the pre-591 frontier
before Khosrow gave Maurice territory in return for military aid
against Bahram Chobin. After having reclaimed lost territory, Khosrow
withdrew from the battlefield and handed military operations to
Shahrbaraz and Shahin Vahmanzadegan. The Sasanian armies then invaded
Syria and Asia Minor, and in 608 advanced into
In 610, Heraclius, an Armenian, revolted against
Phocas and killed
him, crowning himself as Emperor of the
Byzantine Empire. He then
tried to negotiate peace with
Khosrow II by sending diplomats to his
court. Khosrow, however, rejected their offer and said: "That kingdom
belongs to me, and I shall enthrone Maurice's son, Theodosius, as
emperor. [As for Heraclius], he went and took the rule without our
order and now offers us our own treasure as gifts. But I shall not
stop until I have him in my hands." Khosrow then had the diplomats
In 613 and 614, General
Shahrbaraz besieged and captured
Jerusalem, and the
True Cross was carried away in triumph. Soon
afterwards, Shahin marched through Anatolia, defeating the Byzantines
numerous times; he conquered
Egypt in 618. The Byzantines could offer
but little resistance, as they were torn apart by internal
dissensions, and pressed by the Avars and Slavs, who were invading the
Empire from across the Danube River. In 622/3,
Rhodes and several
other islands in the eastern Aegean fell to the Sasanians, threatening
a naval assault on Constantinople. Such was the
Heraclius considered moving the
Carthage in Africa.
In ca. 606/607, Khosrow recalled
Smbat IV Bagratuni from Persian
Armenia and sent him to
Iran to repel the Turko-Hephthalites, who had
raided as far as Spahan in central Iran. Smbat, with the aid of a
Persian prince named Datoyean, repelled the Turko-
Persia, and plundered their domains in eastern Khorasan, where Smbat
is said to have killed their king in single combat. Khosrow then
gave Smbat the honorific title Khosrow Shun ("the Joy or Satisfaction
of Khosrow"), while his son
Varaztirots II Bagratuni received the
honorific name Javitean Khosrow ("Eternal Khosrow").
Sebeos describes the event as:
He [Khosrow] ordered that a huge elephant be adorned and brought to
the chamber. He commanded that [Smbat's son] Varaztirots' (who was
called Javitean Khosrow by the king), be seated atop [the elephant].
And he ordered treasures scattered on the crowd. He wrote [to Smbat] a
hrovartak [expressing] great satisfaction and summoned him to court
with great honor and pomp. [Smbat] died in the 28th year of
[Khosrow's] reign [618–19].
Invasion and defeat by the
In 622, nevertheless with the Sasanians making major progress in the
area of the Aegean Sea, the
Heraclius was able to
take the field with a powerful force. In 624, he advanced into
northern Adurbadagan, where he was welcomed by Farrukh Hormizd, and
Rostam Farrokhzad who had rebelled against Khosrow. Heraclius
then began sacking several cities and temples, including the Adur
Several years later, in 626, he captured
Lazistan (Colchis). Later
that same year,
Shahrbaraz advanced on
Chalcedon on the
attempted to capture
Constantinople with the help of Persia's Avar and
Slavic allies. In this siege of
Constantinople in 626, the combined
Sassanid, Slavic and Avar forces failed to capture the Byzantine
capital city. The Avars did not have the patience or technology to
conquer the city. On top of that, the Persians, who were siege warfare
experts, were unable to transport their troops and equipment to the
other side of the
Bosphorus where their Slavic and Avar allies were
located, due to heavy guarding of the strait by the
Furthermore, the walls of
Constantinople easily defended against the
siege towers and engines. Another reason was that the Persians and
Slavs did not have a strong enough navy to ignore the sea walls and
establish a channel of communication. The lack of supplies for the
Avars eventually caused them to abandon the siege. As this
maneuver failed, his forces were defeated, and he withdrew his army
Anatolia later in 628.
Third Perso-Turkic War
Third Perso-Turkic War in 627,
Heraclius defeated the
Persian army at the Battle of Nineveh and advanced towards Ctesiphon.
Khosrow II fled from his favourite residence, Dastagird (near
Ctesiphon), without offering resistance.
Heraclius then captured
Dastagird and plundered it.
Overthrow and death
Map of Sasanian
Mesopotamia and its surroundings.
After the capture of Dastagird, the son of Khosrow, Kavadh, was
released by the feudal families of the Sasanian Empire, which
Farrukh Hormizd and his two sons
Rostam Farrokhzad and Farrukhzad.
Shahrbaraz of Mihran family, the
Armenian faction represented by Varaztirots II Bagratuni, and finally
Kanadbak of the Kanārangīyān family. On 25 February, Kavadh,
along with Aspad Gushnasp, captured
Ctesiphon and imprisoned Khosrow
Kavadh II then proclaimed himself as king of the Sasanian Empire,
Piruz Khosrow to execute all his brothers and
half-brothers, which included Mardanshah, the favorite son of Khosrow
Three days later, Kavadh ordered
Mihr Hormozd to execute his father
(some sources state that he was shot to death slowly with arrows).
With the support of the Persian nobles, Kavadh then made peace with
Byzantine emperor Heraclius, which made the Byzantines regain all
their lost territories, their captured soldiers, a war indemnity,
along with the
True Cross and other relics that were lost in Jerusalem
Heraclius then returned in triumph to Constantinople,
Sasanian Empire sank into anarchy from the greatness it had
reached ten years earlier.
Khosrow II in
Islamic tradition tells a story in which
Khosrow II (in Arabic:
كسرى Transliteration: Kisra) was a Persian king to whom
Muhammad had sent a messenger, Abdullah ibn Hudhafah as-Sahmi, along
with a letter in which Khosrow was asked to preach the religion of
Islam. The account as transmitted by Muslim tradition reads:
"In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful.
From Muhammad, the Messenger of Allah, to Kisra, the great
(leader/head) of the Persians. Peace be upon him, who seeks truth and
expresses belief in Allah and in His Prophet and testifies that there
is no god but Allah and that He has no partner, and who believes that
Muhammad is His servant and Prophet. Under the Command of Allah, I
invite you to Him. He has sent me for the guidance of all people so
that I may warn them all of His wrath and may present the unbelievers
with an ultimatum. Embrace Islam so that you may remain safe (in this
life and the next). And if you refuse to accept Islam, you will be
responsible for the sins of the Magi."
Islamic tradition further states that
Khosrow II tore up Muhammed's
letter saying, "A pitiful slave among my subjects dares writes his
name before mine" and commanded Badhan, his vassal ruler of Yemen,
to dispatch two valiant men to identify, seize and bring this man from
Hijaz (Muhammad) to him. When
Abdullah ibn Hudhafah as-Sahmi told
Muhammad how Khosrow had torn his letter to pieces,
the destruction of
Khosrow II stating, "Even so, shall Allah destroy
his kingdom." His words were true as shortly thereafter, the
Persian army faced defeat at the hands of Umar Ibn Al-Khattab.
Artistic depiction of
Pulakeshin II (610–642 CE), the
of India, receiving envoys from the Sasanian Empire, during the reign
of Khosrau II.
The battles between
Heraclius and Khosrow are depicted in a famous
early Renaissance fresco by Piero della Francesca, part of the History
True Cross cycle in the church of San Francesco, Arezzo. Many
Persian miniature paintings depict events in his life, like his
battles or his assassination.
Khosrow was the son of Hormizd IV, and an unnamed Ispahbudhan
noblewoman who was the sister of
Vistahm and Vinduyih. Khosrow also
had two cousins from the
Ispahbudhan family whom were named Mah-Adhur
Gushnasp and Narsi. He had a brother-in-law named Hormuzan, a
Sasanian nobleman from one of the seven Parthian clans, who later
fought against the Arabs during the Muslim invasion of Persia.
However, this is most likely wrong since Kavadh's mother was a
Byzantine princess named Maria.
Khosrow married three times: first to Maria, a daughter of the
Byzantine emperor Maurice, who bore him Kavadh II. Then to Gordiya,
the sister of Bahram Chobin, who bore him Javanshir. Then to Shirin,
who bore him Mardanshah. Khosrow also had other children whom were
named: Borandukht, Azarmidokht, Shahriyar and
Farrukhzad Khosrow V.
All these persons except Shahriyar would later become the monarch of
Persia during the Sasanian civil war of 628-632. Khosrow had a brother
named Kavadh and a sister named Mirhran, who was married to the
Sasanian spahbed Shahrbaraz, and later bore him Shapur-i
Shahrvaraz, while Kavadh married an unnamed woman who bore him
(590/1–596 or 594/5–600)
Farrukhzad Khosrow V
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Khosrau II.
Babai the Great
Kisra legend, an African migration myth that historian Leo Frobenius
argued was based on Khosrow II
Muqawqis, Ruler of Alexandria
Non-Muslim interactants with Muslims during Muhammad's era
Shabdiz Khosrow's highly admired horse
^ a b c d e f g h Howard-Johnston 2010.
^ a b
Muhammad ibn Jarir al-Tabari, History of the Prophets and Kings,
^ a b c d e Shapur Shahbazi 1989, p. 180–182.
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^ Greatrex & Lieu 2002, p. 172.
^ Dinavari, Akhbâr al-tiwâl, pp. 91–92;
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^ Greatrex & Lieu 2002, p. 174.
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and the Rise of Islam. Pen and Sword.
Great King (Shah) of Ērānshahr
Great King (Shah) of Ērānshahr
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
One Thousand and One Nights
Les mille et une nuits
Les mille et une nuits (1704–1717)
The Book of the Thousand Nights and a Night
The Book of the Thousand Nights and a Night (1885–1888)
Le livre des mille nuits et une nuit (1926–1932)
The Fisherman and the Jinni
Sinbad the Sailor
The Three Apples
Old Man of the Sea
Sinbad the Sailor
Ja'far ibn Yahya
Zubaidah bint Ja`far
The Thief of Bagdad (1924)
Aladdin and His Wonderful Lamp (1939)
The Thief of Bagdad (1940)
Arabian Nights (1942)
La Rosa di Bagdad
La Rosa di Bagdad (1949)
The Thief of Bagdad (1952)
1001 Arabian Nights (1959)
The Thief of Baghdad (1961)
Aladdin's Magic Lamp
Aladdin's Magic Lamp (1966)
A Thousand and One Nights (1969)
Arabian Nights (1974)
The Thief and the Cobbler
The Thief and the Cobbler (1993)
(Also numerous Sinbad, Aladdin, and
Ali Baba films)
Scooby-Doo! in Arabian Nights
Scooby-Doo! in Arabian Nights (1994)
Arabian Nights (2000)
Arabian Nights (2015)
Le calife de Bagdad
Le calife de Bagdad (1800)
Abu Hassan (1811)
Ali Baba (Cherubini) (1833)
Der Barbier von Bagdad (1858)
La statue (1861)
Ali-Baba (Lecocq) (1887)
Mârouf, savetier du Caire
Mârouf, savetier du Caire (1914)
Scheherazade Op. 35 (1888)
"The Thousand-and-Second Tale of Scheherazade" (1845)
New Arabian Nights (1882)
Slaves of Sleep (1939)
Arabian Nights and Days (1979)
Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights
Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights (2015)
Stories (Burton translation)
Works influenced by ...