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charismatic and centralized government. In Sassanid theory, the ideal society could maintain stability and justice, and the necessary instrument for this was a strong monarch.[113] Thus, the Sasanians aimed to be an urban empire, at which they were quite successful. During the late Sasanian period, Mesopotamia had the largest population density in the medieval world.[114] This can be credited to, among other things, the Sasanians founding and re-founding a number of cities, which is talked about in the surviving Middle Persian text Šahrestānīhā ī Ērānšahr (the provincial capitals of Iran).[114] Ardashir I himself built and re-built many cities, which he named after himself, such as Veh-Ardashir in Asoristan, Ardashir-Khwarrah in Pars and Vahman-Ardashir in Meshan. During the Sasanian period, many cities with the name "Iran-khwarrah" were established. This was because Sasanians wanted to revive Avesta ideology.[114]

Many of these cities, both new and old, were populated not only by native ethnic groups, such as the Iranians or Syriacs, but also by the deported Roman prisoners of war, such as Goths, Slavs, Latins, and others.[114] Many of these prisoners were experienced workers, who were used to build things such as cities, bridges, and dams. This allowed the Sasanians to become familiar with Roman technology. The impact these foreigners made on the economy was significant, as many of them were Christians, and the spread of the religion accelerated throughout the empire.[114]

Unlike the amount of information about the settled people of the Sasanian Empire, there is little about the nomadic/unsettled ones. It is known that they were called "Kurds" by the Sasanians, and that they regularly served the Sasanian military, particularly

Many of these cities, both new and old, were populated not only by native ethnic groups, such as the Iranians or Syriacs, but also by the deported Roman prisoners of war, such as Goths, Slavs, Latins, and others.[114] Many of these prisoners were experienced workers, who were used to build things such as cities, bridges, and dams. This allowed the Sasanians to become familiar with Roman technology. The impact these foreigners made on the economy was significant, as many of them were Christians, and the spread of the religion accelerated throughout the empire.[114]

Unlike the amount of information about the settled people of the Sasanian Empire, there is little about the nomadic/unsettled ones. It is known that they were called "Kurds" by the Sasanians, and that they regularly served the Sasanian military, particularly the Dailamite and Gilani nomads. This way of handling the nomads continued into the Islamic period, where the service of the Dailamites and Gilanis continued unabated.[115]

The head of the Sasanian Empire was the shahanshah (king of kings), also simply known as the shah (king). His health and welfare was of high importance—accordingly, the phrase "May you be immortal" was used to reply to him. The Sasanian coins which appeared from the 6th-century and afterwards depict a moon and sun, which, in the words of the Iranian historian Touraj Daryaee, "suggest that the king was at the center of the world and the sun and moon revolved around him. In effect he was the "king of the four corners of the world", which was an old Mesopotamian idea.[116] The king saw all other rulers, such as the Romans, Turks, and Chinese, as being beneath him. The king wore colorful clothes, makeup, a heavy crown, while his beard was decorated with gold. The early Sasanian kings considered themselves of divine descent; they called themselves "bay" (divine).[117]

When the king went out in public, he was hidden behind a curtain,[116] and had some of his men in front of him, whose duty was to keep the masses away from him and to clear the way.[118] When one came to the king, one was expected to prostrate oneself before him, also known as proskynesis. The king's guards were known as the pushtigban. On other occasions, the king was protected by a discrete group of palace guards, known as the darigan. Both of these groups were enlisted from royal families of the Sasanian Empire,[118] and were under the command of the hazarbed, who was in charge of t

When the king went out in public, he was hidden behind a curtain,[116] and had some of his men in front of him, whose duty was to keep the masses away from him and to clear the way.[118] When one came to the king, one was expected to prostrate oneself before him, also known as proskynesis. The king's guards were known as the pushtigban. On other occasions, the king was protected by a discrete group of palace guards, known as the darigan. Both of these groups were enlisted from royal families of the Sasanian Empire,[118] and were under the command of the hazarbed, who was in charge of the king's safety, controlled the entrance of the kings palace, presented visitors to the king, and was allowed military commands or used as a negotiator. The hazarbed was also allowed in some cases to serve as the royal executioner.[118] During Nowruz (Iranian new year) and Mihragan (Mihr's day), the king would hold a speech.[117]

Sassanid society was immensely complex, with separate systems of social organization governing numerous different groups within the empire.[119] Historians believe society comprised four[120][121][122] social classes:

  1. Asronan (priests)
  2. Arteshtaran (warriors)
  3. At the center of the Sasanian caste system the shahanshah ruled over all the nobles.[123] The royal princes, petty rulers, great landlords and priests, together constituted a privileged stratum, and were identified as wuzurgan, or grandees. This social system appears to have been fairly rigid.[78]

    The Sasanian caste system outlived the empire, continuing in the early Islamic period.[123]

    In general, mass slavery was never practiced by the Iranians, and in many cases the situation and lives of semi-slaves (prisoners of war) were, in fact, better than those of the commoner.[124] In Persia, the term "slave" was also used for debtors who had to use some of their time to serve in a fire-temple.[125]

    The most common slaves in the Sasanian Empire were the househ